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Month: December 2002

The voice of the people

I was thinking about doing my year’s best film list, so I wandered over to IMDB to look at their list of the top movies of 2002 by popular vote. It’s just weird.

I am not surprised that some movie fans decided to push their favorite flick to the top of the charts. Duh; it’s an online vote. That’s what happens. But from all appearances, we have a bunch of separate groups all pushing frantically without any hint of trying to pull down someone else. You’d think that the Nine Inch Nails fans might want to cement their number 1 position by voting against the obscure Polish flick, maybe. And where are all the people who hate Michael Moore? How did Bowling for Columbine rack up a 9.0 average over 4,986 votes?

Southern man

Annnnnnd it’s more on the Confederate flag issue.

It’s an important article to read for two reasons. First, it describes how white supremacists have hijacked the Sons of Confederate Veterans. These days, the SCV is into talking about how much blacks enjoyed fighting for segregation. This is real. This is not a random accusation from the left wing. This is a major, important Southern organization being coopted by virulent racism.

Second, it also makes it clear that the Sons of Confederate Veterans weren’t all racists or rednecks. Those who formerly ran the SCV are outraged and are working to take back their organization — as they should. These are men who are proud of the Confederate flag, and who are also working against racism.

On stupid rat-bastards

As pretty much everyone who cares knows by now, Sean Penn recently visited Iraq and was promptly used by Saddam Hussein for propaganda purposes. You have to hope he wasn’t surprised by this. I thought it might be interesting to see what he actually said, though, since it’s been somewhat under-reported. Quotes are from various sources; search Google (for the next 30 days or so, at least) for cites.

“I am a citizen of the United States of America. I believe in the Constitution of the United States, and the American people. Ours is a government designed to function

Irony, thy name is Korea

Glenn Reynolds notes that North Korea supports US unilateralism, but somehow fails to miss the irony inherent in the idea that this new supporter of Bush’s policies is one of our biggest foreign policy headaches. Me, I find it amusing. “You were right, guys; the North Koreans are in our corner!”

OK, OK, some real commentary. This is kind of interesting. Who does North Korea want uninvolved? Answer: Japan and of course South Korea. Japan in particular is likely to be more worried about North Korea than we are, because Japan is a lot closer and definitely within North Korean missile range. In fact, Japan is strongly considering sanctions against North Korea. That’d have a fairly major impact. North Korea would love it if the US discouraged Japan from taking action. Japan’s more likely to take painful action (from the North Korean standpoint) than is the US.

Meanwhile, South Korea is criticizing North Korea for ignoring the world community; it’s no surprise that North Korea would react to that by taking the opposite position.

Building expectations

I cannot believe that they’re giving Alfonso Cuaron the reins to the Harry Potter movie franchise. I honest to god officially can’t believe it. Not that I think it’s a bad thing, but I have to wonder: how many of his movies has J. K. Rowling seen?

The thing is, I watched Great Expectations over the weekend, and it just blew me away. Cuaron had the chutzpah to turn Dickens into a sensual, almost erotic reverie. It’s a movie about passion, and passion lost, and passion recovered. It’s a movie about how much people mean to one another: Finn to Estella, Estella to her mad aunt Ms. Dinsmoor, Finn to his brother-in-law Joe, and so on.

It’s thematically a match for Y tu mama tambien, which generated buzz based on the forthright sexuality of the story and earned that buzz based on its quality. However, that movie, too, was about human relations. It’s just that Cuaron knows full well that sex is often an important component of such matters.

What surprised me in Great Expectations, though, is that Cuaron is willing to acknowledge the tension that can exist between the young. There’s a scene where Finn and Estella kiss at a fountain, at a very young age. It’s daring in today’s society. It’s not in any way repellent or voyeuristic; it’s just the first note in the emotions that grow between them.

So… I guess I should go rent A Little Princess and see how he handles kids there. I love his movies. It’s just not clear to me that he’s going to be a good match for Harry Potter — or, I should say, the third Harry Potter movie. I have no doubts that Rowling is going to tackle romance in the later novels, but man, it’s not exactly a strong component of Prisoner of Azkaban. What’s a lush, romantic director like Cuaron to make of Hogwarts?

Marching under a different flag

Daily Kos asks how Southerners get away with displaying the Confederate flag. Well, you know, it is a symbol of Southern pride. Recognizing that is just as important as recognizing that US arrogance pisses off the rest of the world, sometimes.

The issue here is that the Confederate flag has two meanings, and the second darker meaning is not inherently associated with the first. It’s not safe to assume that those who care about the first meaning also care about the second. It is possible to be proud of one’s heritage without being proud of slavery. It’s futile to tell an entire region that their entire heritage is crap because of one prominent blemish.

It is equally important for those flying the flag to recognize that it’s deeply painful to another group of people. Maybe I don’t associate the flag with slavery; that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to make that association.

Beating people over the head isn’t going to solve the problem. Gotta step back, say “I understand that you are flying the flag for reasons other than racism” or “I understand that the flag has very bad connotations for you,” and work from there.

Chop 'em up neatly

Kevin Drum challenges us to come up with a two-axis system of political temperament classification that makes sense. OK, I’ll bite.

Preferatory, I’ll note that I think it’s important that the ends of the axes are non-pejorative. The Libertarian quiz fails because the questions are slanted. Any useful system can’t be biased towards one result. That’s propaganda, not political science.

So: axis one is Freedom vs. Safety. What’s more important to you? There’s no “right” answer to this question, in my book. I have my own strong preferences. That’s me. Someone else might have different preferences. Note that this isn’t a question about rights; I might think that everyone has a natural right to be safe but personally prefer to give up that right for the sake of freedom.

OK, but what about the question of freedom for /me/ vs. safety for /you/? You can’t talk about freedom and safety in the abstract. You have to acknowledge that sometimes the question is whether you’re willing to compromise someone else’s freedom in order to secure your safety. Do you think it’s OK to remove the Afghani government (compromising their freedom) in exchange for greater safety for the US?

I was thinking that this is the Personal vs. Global axis, but I’m not sure if there’s really a range there. I can’t think of a case in which you’d take someone else’s freedom in order to increase your own; same goes for safety. It’s easy to find cases where you compromise someone else’s safety for your freedom, or their freedom for your safety, but if you’re already on one side or the other of that axis then there’s no difference between the personal decision and the global decision.

There’s the nugget of something there. I think the question of whether you consider rights to be universal or personal is important. Just not sure how to phrase it.


Yeah, so I hesitated for about half a second before pointing to NationStates. Now you, too, can run your own country with whatever policies and attitudes you like. On my first day as ruler of the Free Land of Velodrome, I was faced with an animal rights issue: “The increasingly militant Animal Liberation Front struck again last night, freeing dozens of chickens bound for delicious snack packs.”

I had to agree with Billy-Bob Longfellow, who said “These nuts have got to be stopped. They need to face the fact people want snack packs, no matter how many innocent chickens must be sacrificed. Besides, chickens would do the same to us if they had the chance.” Sure, my economist argued that we should just tax meat-eating, but I’m not a tax and spend kind of a guy.

I’ve created a region named Blogistan. Anyone who likes is welcome to join me. (Don’t be clicking that until after you’ve made a nation, sport.)

This seems somehow much healthier than squabbling over Patty Murray. Maybe it’s just me.

Special Delivery 1

This Christmas, my mother gave my brother and I complete sets of something that my great-great-grandfather (my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather), Jarvis A. Wood, wrote every Christmas for the last several years of his life.

They’re little booklets in ivory covers, about half the size of a mass market paperback and perhaps forty pages thick. The words “Special Delivery” are embossed on the front, along with hashmarks in later years to mark the volume number.

The first one, which I’m looking at right now, is printed in red and green — mostly green, with lovely use of spot color. Inside the front cover there’s a little sketch of a tag, inscribed “Tag! You’re it!” It’s also signed, by hand, “Uncle J.” Turn the page, and there’s the title page in front of you. A photograph of the author is glued to the left hand page.

If you’ll allow me the liberty, I’d like to share some of his writing with you. I find myself struck by his eloquence, and his turn of phrase. He was a minister, and worked in advertising, so perhaps his skill with the word is not entirely surprising. The year is 1912; it’s Christmas. Turn the page again.