Political Beliefs

I wrote this elsewhere, but I’m rather proud of it. I suppose it’s a companion to the one on religion.

The following are some of my political beliefs.

On fiscal issues, I think the government should spend money efficiently, in contrast to libertarians who think there should be no role for government, as well as the big government types and redistributionists (the latter category includes many social conservatives who want government subsidies in order to maintain an inefficent rural way of life).

Socially, I do believe that certain things that are currently illegal should be allowed to consenting adults. I am pro-life, although I think certain steps should be taken to significantly reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies before outlawing abortion becomes a workable policy, if ever.

I think gay marriage should be legal, but individuals who do not support it should not face fines/ jail time/ civil lawsuits if they don’t want to participate.

I think immigration reform is necessary. I don’t believe people who have come to this country illegally should be deported, but they’re not entitled to full citizenship. I’d prefer some middle ground where they don’t get voting rights or various entitlements. Legal immigration should be determined by the country’s need, although I think the numbers of people we accept should be higher.

I’m cautious about raising or lowering the minimum wage. I’d favor Earned Income Tax Credits as a way to provide more money to people with greater need/ dependents.

I am concerned about public sector unions, as the government does not have sufficient incentives to control costs.

I think linking health insurance to jobs has been a disaster since it makes it harder for people to move/ change employers. The ACA, or whatever replaces it, should offer more bare minimum plans as a way to lower costs, and should raise costs for older Americans, who have more need for medical procedures.

I think tort reform is necessary. A system where the loser of a civil suit pays the expenses of the winner will avoid frivolous lawsuits.

I support the death penalty, although I don’t care that much about various aspects that make it more palatable to the average American (IE- lethal injection VS firing squad.)

I have a low tolerance for bullshit, hence my concerns about political correctness. I prefer to have discussions about the least popular aspects of someone’s political beliefs. Social conservatives should explain why they want policies that make premarital sex riskier. Supporters of affirmative action should explain why they want less Asian Americans in selective schools.

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When People Should Be Kicked Out of the Academy

Premiere Vicky Cristina Barcelona LA, Los Angeles, USA

Harvey Weinstein has been kicked out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is probably the right move. Now, there are calls to kick out some others, with references to Academy members Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Mel Gibson.

A particular problem with Weinstein was that he abused his power as a major player in Hollywood in order to harass and assault women. There isn’t as much a concern that anyone’s on a slippery slope in kicking him out, since his crimes were horrendous and related to his status in Hollywood. He should be removed from the organization, as should be anyone caught doing anything similar.

That seems to have been their standard in the past. The only other person expelled from the Academy is an elderly Godfather bit player who shared screeners. A producer of The Hurt Locker was disinvited from the Oscars because of violating campaigning norms. Offenses as a member of the group result in expulsion, rather than crimes and general misbehavior.

Cosby’s days as a member are probably numbered, given the extent of the allegations against him, and the way he used his celebrity to protect himself. I could see Polanski getting expelled, because there have been new allegations (even if the crimes occurred a long time ago.) He has also been convicted.

Gibson seems relatively safe, since he has avoided trouble, and his offenses weren’t related to his status in the industry. There would also be a slippery slope with him, as well as an invitation for more angry calls to kick out people for saying something stupid (IE- the next time a conservative celebrity says something inarticulate on race, or a liberal celebrity says something that could be construed as calling for violence.) The allegations against Woody Allen are horrifying, but fewer in number, and there isn’t sufficient evidence.

There has also been some chatter about revoking Weinstein’s previous awards, and maybe doing the same for others who have been accused of abuse in the past. Rose McGowan referred to Casey Affleck’s best actor Oscar as “a dirty Oscar.” This is a different area, as the only thing that should matter is the quality of the individual work. Whether Casey Affleck is scum should have no bearing on his performance (unless he got credit for playing a scumbag). If the Academy felt Shakespeare in Love was a better movie than Saving Private Ryan, that shouldn’t be changed by Weinstein’s crimes. It may give an incentive not to reward lesser work, so that if there’s ever a need to justify it, they could talk about the artistic merit rather than anything else.

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A Weird hashtag

There’s some concern online about a really dumb hashtag (#gasthesynagogue), a nasty response to a situation in St Louis in which protesters fled the police and were often protection in a synagogue. Haaretz has a piece on this.

Looking at the hashtag, the overwhelming majority of the posts seem to be people outraged that anyone could say something so reprehensible. As a result, it seems misleading to imply that the popularity of the hashtag indicates massive antisemitism.

As a weird thing, one of the people who seemed to use it unironically seemed to be one of the people complaining about it. His comments about how nasty it is were covered in a Medium article.

troll a

Except another comment of his wasn’t so sympathetic.

troll b

The first comment on this came from a guy with 120 followers on twitter. The next came from someone with 633 followers. The next social influencer had 723 followers. And then you had the response.

It seems that trolls are having gun, and some are panicking at the implications of a handful of people being dumb on twitter. I’d have assumed it was well known that there are some idiots on the internet, but clearly there’s a need for further education on that.

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Thursday Throwback: What was the point of the Veepstakes chase?


NBC has an article about the efforts of various news organizations to find out who Mitt Romney’s running mate would be before he announced that it was going to be Paul Ryan. They also described Paul Ryan’s efforts to mislead news organizations.

Moe, now accompanied by an NBC satellite truck and crew, was still at the Wisconsin congressman’s house. She’d spoken to Ryan earlier that day and accompanied him home from a memorial service for victims of the Sikh temple shooting in his district. Arriving home at around 2:00 pm ET, Ryan had sheepishly admitted that he’d forgotten his keys and trekked into the backyard to dig around for a spare.

That was the last time anyone in the press saw the Wisconsin congressman until he appeared in Norfolk as a vice presidential nominee.

Because after a week of smoke and mirrors to keep secret the most-sought-after answer in American politics, he did just about the simplest thing in the world.

Paul Ryan walked casually into his backyard — and kept walking. Out of reporters’ sight, navigating through a familiar forest, he emerged to a car waiting to take him to the airport.

And then to Norfolk.

And it’s a showcase of one of the problems with the news media: the race to get information that will be available to everyone soon enough.

The rush to be the first to report these details has sometimes resulted in catastrophic mistakes. The New York Post reported that Dick Gephardt would be announced as John Kerry’s running mate in 2004. NPR and several other news organizations reported that Gabriel Giffords had been killed in the Tuscon shooting, neither of which happened.

Romney wasn’t going to keep his running mate secret. He was not going to announce that his choice for Vice-President was going to be Candidate X, an individual he assures the nation meets the constitutional requirements, whose identity will be revealed to the public after the election. For the media, it was a lot of effort to be the first to report something that was guaranteed to be public knowledge rather quickly.

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Did President Trump Say Finland and Russia Have Gotten Along For 100 Years? Nope.


Yesterday, there was a comment on twitter on something stupid President Trump allegedly said about Russia and Finland. James Oliphant, a White House correspondent for Reuters, posted the following.

Trump said Russia and Finland have gotten along for “a hundred years.” The USSR invaded Finland in 1939.

The tweet has been retweeted 8,185 times and liked 16,535 as of the writing of this blog post.

My family’s rather sensitive to stupid things that President Trump has said about Russia, because of the stakes involving Estonia, where my mother as well as my father’s parents are from. We were pissed off at Trump for saying something so historically illiterate.

However, the transcript suggests he was making a different point. This came just after he mixed up two female Finnish reporters.

Q    Mr. President Trump, what kind of role do you see as Finland having in the U.S.-Russia relations?  Do you think Finland could be of assistance, helping U.S. get better relations with Russia?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I hope that we do have good relations with Russia.  I say it loud and clear, I’ve been saying it for years:  I think it’s a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships with Russia.  That’s very important, and I believe someday that will happen.  It’s a big country, it’s a nuclear country, it’s a country that we should get along with, and I think we will eventually get along with Russia.

Finland is respected by Russia.  Finland has been free of Russia, really — just about one of the few countries in the region that has been — for 100 years.  And Russia has a lot of respect for Finland, so that’s always good.  But I think Finland is doing fine with Russia, and I hope that the United States will someday be able to have a very good relationship with Russia also.  I think that’s very good for world peace and for other things.

Thank you.

The video (about 27 minutes in) confirms that the transcript hasn’t been edited.

Obviously, saying that Finland is free of Russia for 100 years, is different from saying they’ve gotten along for 100 years. This criticism of Trump is based on something a reporter heard incorrectly. So far, it hasn’t been corrected.


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If Obama was white

white obama

A common accusation from the left is that President Obama was targeted because of his race. Lee Siegel’s op-ed piece in the New York Times a few years ago was one example, suggesting that Romney was doing well because he is the blandest, and whitest candidate, in the Republican primary.

And yet, as became immediately apparent in 2009, millions of Americans were unwilling to accept the basic democratic premise that Mr. Obama legally and morally deserved to sit in the White House — and that was before they confronted his “socialist” and “un-American” policy agenda.

Mitt Romney knows this. He knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president. I am sure that Mr. Romney is not a racist. But I am also sure that, for the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate. For these sudden outsiders, Mitt Romney is the conventional man with the outsider faith — an apocalyptic pragmatist — who will wrest the country back from the unconventional man with the intolerable outsider color.

It’s difficult to tell how Republicans would react to a different Democratic president, as there have only been two other Democrats in the White House in the last 47 years. Both were Southern Governors.

To be fair, much of what excited Democrats about Obama (his international background, his role as an activist in Chicago) scared the hell out of the people who disagree with him politically.

In many ways, his race helped Obama in the primary. That factor distinguished from the other 99 Senators, and helped cut into Hillary Clinton’s support, especially in the early primary state of South Carolina. So one reason it’s somewhat difficult to imagine a white Obama is that another freshman Senator would probably not have beaten Hillary Clinton in the primary.

Hillary Clinton probably would have been a different President, in some good ways and some bad ways (if she had actionable intelligence about Osama Bin Laden’s location, the military would have acted on it before the 2010 midterms). Plenty of Republicans have hated her for twenty-five years, so there would have been plenty of vitriol against her. On the other hand, she had more experience in politics at a national level, and more of a history of working with Republicans.

Republicans might respond differently to a John Edwards type President (assuming there were no John Edwards type scandals) but that’s for cultural reasons, more than racial reasons. A Southern Senator from a right-of-center state will tend to be more moderate than a Chicago politician.

So if a white male state senator from Chicago had given the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention (which might have been possible, as a way to scare Mike Ditka away from seeking the Republican nomination) and become Senator from Illinois, and then president, I don’t think the reaction would have been different.

There are some cultural problems with Obama, but that’s complicated. We do have a constitutional requirement for a President to be born in the United States, which suggests a preference against outsiders. Someone who grew up overseas does go against the spirit of that.

According to Richard Woolfe’s Renegade, Clinton pollster Mark Penn identified the lack of American roots as something that could sink Obama in the 2008 primary.

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new life. Save it for 2050. It also exposes a very strong weakness for him- his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and his values.


It didn’t work.

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Movies Watched in 2017 Part 5


This is the conclusion of my effort to watch at least 100 films, 10 from each decade. There have been four previous entries: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

I kept track of certain details of films I watched (IE- how many were superhero movies?) New movie just means I haven’t seen it before, even if it may have come out before my parents were born.

Movie #84/ 2010s Movie #13/ New Movie #66: Dunkirk
I get that seeing it on an Imax big screen was a rare opportunity, but it was significantly cheaper to see it in my local theater, and it still impressed the hell out of me. It’s an excellent war film about three sides of a British military campaign (stranded soldiers, civilians trying to help, pilots) with all the strands coming together beautifully.

Movie #85/ New Movie #67/ 1930s Movie #9: Grand Hotel
This Best Picture winner is famously groundbreaking as the first major film to feature a lot of A-list stars, and generally fun. Parts of it may be very dated, but Lionel Barrymore is a standout as a gentleman thief.

Movie #86/ 1950s Movie #11/ New Movie #68/ Japanese Film #4/ Criterion Edition #19: High and Low
This Kurosawa film is an excellent procedural, exploring the investigation and the people affected when an attempt to kidnap a wealthy man’s son results in the capture of his chauffeur’s kid, forcing a businessman in the middle of a hostile takeover to make a major sacrifice. It then takes some very interesting turns.

Movie #87/ 1990s Movie #6: Apollo 13
This was a solid science disaster movie, with an excellent cast (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinese, and Academy Award nominees Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan, showing intelligent people solving life and death math problems, during a media frenzy .

Movie #88/ 1990s Movie #7/ Superhero Film #7/ Animated Film #5: Batman- Mask of the Phantasm
This is an excellent distillation of what is great about Batman, combining parts of some of this best comics adventures into something new and exciting. It doesn’t come across as an extended arc of the animated series (even if that could still make for a great story) because the choices for the Dark Knight are so monumental.


Movie #89/ New Movie #69/ Silent Movie Era #9/ Criterion Edition #20: The Lodger
This is an excellent Hitchcock thriller, initially about the reasons a family might have to be worried about a lodger whose absences coincide with the strikes of a serial killer, that takes a turn when the lodger becomes the target of a lynch mob.

Movie #90/ 1940s Movie #8/ Criterion Edition #21/ French Film #4: Beauty and the Beast
Strikingly beautiful adaptation of the fairy tale.

Movie #91/ New Movie #70/ Silent Movie Era #10: The Jazz Singer
I can be appreciate the significance of the film (although it was quickly outdated) and it is often joyous, but it refers to a frame of reference that just doesn’t exist any more, with a rather one-sided family crisis at the core.

Movie #92/ New Movie #72/ 1930s Movie #10: Dark Victory
It’s a film famously lost in the shuffle in 1939 that probably would have otherwise gotten a boatload of Oscars and now hovers in the top ten in the best year of cinema. The story of a dying heiress is elevated by a wide-ranged performance by Bette Davis, who has to handle all the stages of grief. One thing the film pulls off is twisting the direction. There are numerous concepts that could be an entire film but the characters then choose to go in a different direction. Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan are two of the supporting players, elevated by their subsequent significance.


Movie #93/ New Film #73/ 2000s Movie #8/ French Film #5: OSS 117- Lost in Rio
A fun James Bond/ Hitchcock pastiche by an actor-director pair that would later dominate the Oscars.

Movie #94/ 1990s Movie #8/ Science Fiction Film #7: Dark City
It’s a twisted sci-fi noir that has an excellent sense of world-building and set design, even if the final confrontation is a bit cliched.

Movie #95/ 1940s Movie #9/ Criterion Edition #22: To Be Or Not To Be
Very funny theater satire that turns into a military conflict, as a ham actor has to impersonate German officials in order to uncover a spy during World War 2.

Movie #96/ New Film #74/ 1960s Movie #8: The Americanization of Emily
Smart military satire, with a uniformly great performance by Julie Andrews, and a slightly uneven performance by James Garner (much better at reactions than speeches). There’s a final morally dubious decision, although it can lead to interesting discussions, suggesting writer Paddy Chayefsky knew what he was doing.

Movie #97/ 2000s Movie #8/ Animated Film #5: Ratatouille
This is just a reminder of how brilliant the guys at Pixar are, taking a ridiculous concept (a rat that wants to be a cook), and making it about something (the need to create rather than to take; loyalty VS friendship) and elevating minor characters in unexpected ways; it’s one of my favorite moments in film when Anton Ego takes a bite into the ratatouille.)

Movie #98/ New Movie #75/ 1940s Movie #10: Man Hunt
This is a bold thriller about a British hunter chased by Germans that moves a lot quicker than I thought it would, and ends in a very powerful daring way.

Movie #99/ New Film #76/ 1960s Movie #9/ Science Fiction Film #8: The Village of the Damned
It’s a creepy concept executed well, and in a relatively manner of fact way.

Movie #100/ 1980s Movie #9/ Science Fiction Film #9/ Superhero Film #8: Superman II (The Donner Cut)
Give the chaotic origin it’s a miracle it exists at all, although the flaws can’t all be blamed on the process. It alternates between dopey and brilliant.

Movie #101/ 2000s Movie #9/ Musical #5: Walk the Line
This is an excellent biopic/ showcase for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Watching it again I do get a sense of how deeply flawed Phoenix’s Johnny Cash is, although that’s more to the film’s credit.

Movie #102/ 1960s Movie #10: Lawrence of Arabia
I had the opportunity to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, and it was so worth it. It is easily one of the most beautiful films ever made, with some of the most action-packed long shots I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting to watch it now in the context of discussions of cultural appropriation and white saviors, although the film is nicely agnostic about the extent to which Lawrence’s contributions are positive, and notes the shortcomings in the British approach.

Movie #103/ New Movie #77/ 1990s Movie #9: Thelma and Louise
This is a tragedy, but remains a fun movie, about two friends who find their options increasingly limited as the result of some bad decisions, and cruelty from others.

Movie #104/ 1980s Movie #10/ Science Fiction Movie #10: John Carpenter’s The Thing
It’s fun to watch this a second time, when several plot points are more clear. The arctic base is one of the great locations for a science fiction thriller, and the twists are excellent.

Movie #105/ 2000s Movie #10/ Superhero Movie #9: Batman Begins
This was a very well-made superhero origin story, that is elevated by awesome moments you’d expect the director to save for the sequel (Gordon driving a batmobile.) It is actually about something, sets up the world really well, and even the shortcomings have explanations (Batman endangers civilians, but it fits with the recklessness of a young man on an impossible mission.)

Movie #106/ New Movie #78/ 1990s Movie #10/ Criterion Movie #23: Metropolitan
A very smart and witty film about self-absorbed rich young people in Manhattan in the 1980s. What elevates is their realizations that they may be anachronisms, but that their status isn’t to blame for their failures, and that their hanging out is just a temporary phase. Excellent low-budget debut feature.


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