Friday, June 29, 2007

Battle of Algiers, again

Saw Battle of Algiers again today. Great stuff, and so resonant with US in Iraq. You've got your torture, and your generic willingness to forego legality at the altar of lethality and alleged effectiveness. You've got Mathieu telling the media to toe the line (though US MSM ca. 2007 would never dare to ask such tough questions, nor politicians to give such frank answers). You've got moral ambiguity all over the place. You've got your major power unleashing and eventually losing to forces that it seemed not at all to understand. Etc. Really strong film.


'nuff said.

Parlez-vous EU?

This here is some classic EU-speak. Still, it's amazing and imporant to see ridiculous, artificially-precise and seemingly legalized procedural arcania representing the presumptive response to disagreement -- as opposed to, oh, I dunno, war.
In addition, until 31 March 2017, if members of the Council representing at least 75% of the population or at least 75% of the number of Member States necessary to constitute a blocking minority as provided in Article [I-25(2)] indicate their opposition to the Council adopting an act by a qualified majority, the mechanism provided for in the draft Decision contained in Declaration nº 5 annexed to the Final Act of the 2004 IGC [shall apply]. As from 1 April 2017, the same mechanism will apply, the relevant percentages being, respectively, at least 55% of the population or at least 55% of the number of Member States necessary to constitute a blocking minority as provided in Article [I-25(2)].
From Council Conclusions to the recent summit, via James Wimberley at The Reality-Based Community.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Midnight Express

Saw Midnight Express for the first time a few nights ago. I guess it looked interesting based on the Blockbuster online description.

Feh. Didn't like it. Was not persuaded or in the least moved by the main character's descent into madness. Poorly acted, phony feeling, in particular in the rendering of the Turkish as monsters, but also in Billy Hays's initial indifference to being imprisoned. Didn't really get the point of the British-educated guy in section 13 (the nuthouse part) ... whole thing just felt lame and overdone to me.

One of imdb's commentators refers favorably to it as a "delicious, homoerotic S&M-tinged slice of the 70's", which I guess is about right. (Not the 'delicious' part, mind you, NTTAWWT.)

Wait, Oliver Stone was involved? Shocking that it would be lame.

Oh well. Two thumbs down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Judgment at Nuremberg

Saw "Judgment at Nuremberg" for the first time last week. Loved it. I wish our current regime would take a look at this and see how those accused of even the most heinous acts should be treated. The way we treat our captives expresses who we are, not who they are.

I like the way the movie builds up our sympathies for Dr. Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, only, at the end, to remind us that he was, indeed, guilty. However bad the system in which we find ourselves, and however much we try to rationalize doing bad things because alternatives are even worse, we are still responsible for the bad things we do. Janning had choices and he chose to do some very bad things.

Anyway, good flick.

Generous Americans

We give lots more in charity than Europeans do. Not at all surprising to me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

On the Road

Just read this for the first time. Loved it. Have a few quotes that I'd like to single out but don't have the book in front of me. Anyway, a neat American adventure that's utterly without a purpose, which purposelessness, of course, makes it deeply suspect in today's America.

Of course have seen it said many times, but I was struck by how much this anticipated Kesey's trip. Also read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test a few months ago, and of course it sounds like Neal (Dean Moriarty) didn't change a lick in the 15+ intervening years. What a wild man.

FWIW, I see that Naropa University is doing a Kerouac Festival next week. Looks like fun!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


David Rieff brilliantly takes down some of Anne-Marie Slaughter's romanticism about America and its role in the world. I love the ideals she lays out, but his empirical critique is spot-on, IMO.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What's the hortatory subjunctive of "shut the fuck up"?

I was no fan of Slick Willy, and found his "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" to be a real low in the annals of democratic (small 'd') accountability.

But this is probably just as bad.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Planet of the Apes

So was surfing this morning and caught the middle part of the first "Planet of the Apes" movie. I am sure that others have picked up on this (not that it's particularly subtle), but I love the idea that Chuck Heston is on the side of science, with the apes subjugating science to religion (with Dr. Zaeus both Minister of Science and "keeper of the scrolls"). It makes for pretty funny viewing in light of the christianist position against evolution and the general anti-science stance of a chunk of not just our population, but our "leadership".

Ha ha!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Economist on economics of immigration reform

Neat little piece in the June 2nd "economics focus" feature, entitled "Guests v gatecrashers". Bottom line:
illegal immigration might cost native-born residents some 0.07% of GDP.

But that net cost, if it exists at all, is clearly less than the price of keeping illegal workers out. Since 2001 Congress has more than doubled the amount of money spent on securing the borders and enforcing immigration laws. Mr Bush's 2008 budget proposes spending $13 billion, or 0.1% of GDP. The senators' plans would be even more expensive. A needlessly cumbersome guest-worker plan and a costly war on gatecrashers are bad ideas—even if you don't give a fig for the welfare of would-be migrants.

Yes, I think our concern about illegal immigration is largely misplaced and racist.