Big Dipper – Ron Klaus Wrecked His House (1988)

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“The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews” (2016)

Here’s the book description for The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews (2016) by Michael N. Barnett:

How do American Jews envision their role in the world? Are they tribal—a people whose obligations extend solely to their own? Or are they prophetic—a light unto nations, working to repair the world? The Star and the Stripes is an original, provocative interpretation of the effects of these worldviews on the foreign policy beliefs of American Jews since the nineteenth century. Michael Barnett argues that it all begins with the political identity of American Jews. As Jews, they are committed to their people’s survival. As Americans, they identify with, and believe their survival depends on, the American principles of liberalism, religious freedom, and pluralism. This identity and search for inclusion form a political theology of prophetic Judaism that emphasizes the historic mission of Jews to help create a world of peace and justice.

The political theology of prophetic Judaism accounts for two enduring features of the foreign policy beliefs of American Jews. They exhibit a cosmopolitan sensibility, advocating on behalf of human rights, humanitarianism, and international law and organizations. They also are suspicious of nationalism—including their own. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that American Jews are natural-born Jewish nationalists, Barnett charts a long history of ambivalence; this ambivalence connects their early rejection of Zionism with the current debate regarding their attachment to Israel. And, Barnett contends, this growing ambivalence also explains the rising popularity of humanitarian and social justice movements among American Jews.

Rooted in the understanding of how history shapes a political community’s sense of the world, The Star and the Stripes is a bold reading of the past, present, and possible future foreign policies of American Jews.

One caveat: The following sentence from above is not accurate: “They also are suspicious of nationalism—including their own.” It is true that some Jews are suspicious of all nationalisms, including Israeli nationalism, a great many other Jews are not.

Given current events in Syria, it would be nice to see this book hit the Amazon charts, but I suspect it won’t.

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The Unbearable Whiteness & Metaphorical Silence of “A Quiet Place”

With Wakanda Mania subsiding, and Get Out a distant memory, the #TooManyWhitePeople hive-mind is pivoting towards direct anti-white hatred. In The New Yorker, Richard Brody writes on ‘The Silently Regressive Politics of “A Quiet Place”’:

The noise of “A Quiet Place” is the whitest since the release of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; as horror films go, it’s the antithesis of “Get Out,” inasmuch as its symbolic realm is both apparently unconscious and conspicuously regressive.

“A Quiet Place” is the story of a white family living in rustic isolation that’s reduced to silence…

The one sole avowed identity of the Abbott parents is as their children’s defenders; their more obvious public identity is as a white rural family. The only other people in the film, who are more vulnerable to the marauding creatures, are white as well. In their enforced silence, these characters are a metaphorical silent—white—majority, one that doesn’t dare to speak freely for fear of being heard by the super-sensitive ears of the dark others. It’s significant that when characters—two white men—commit suicide-by-noisemaking, they do so by howling as if with rage, rather than by screeching or singing or shouting words of love to their families. (Those death bellows are the wordless equivalent of “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”) Whether the Abbotts’ insular, armed way of life might put them into conflict with other American families of other identities is the unacknowledged question hanging over “A Quiet Place,” the silent horror to which the movie doesn’t give voice.

Or, perhaps the metaphorical silence of “A Quiet Place” simply alludes to the difference between the Sunday afternoon tranquility of The Hamptons vs. the not-so-silent Sunday raucous of the South Bronx.

Lastly, with respect to the question of whether “A Quiet Place” is implicitly racist or not, Taylor Swift’s silence on the matter is deafening.

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You Were Never Really Here (2017)

You Were Never Really Here is a trippy, brutal, very impactful, and overall excellent film (current RT score of 88%) by Scottish-born Lynne Ramsay, who both wrote the screenplay and most ably directs the film. Joaquin Phoenix, who always excels in playing damaged goods, turns in a riveting performance as an ex-Special Forces, ex-FBI loner, obviously scarred by the things he’s seen in the Middle East and, domestically, in the realm of human trafficking. As a man walking through his shell of a life with an ominous death wish, Phoenix resorts to becoming an off-the-grid gun-for-hire whose specialty is finding and rescuing missing persons (e.g., underage runaways who are plucked into the seedy world of high-end, Lolita Express/Pizzagate-styled, sex rings utilized by politicians.) His methods are brutal and unrepentant, offset by the love and care he provides for his ailing mother.

There is a false flag reference to Hitchcock’s Psycho, and a clear and obvious allusion to the aforementioned Pizzagate dynamic, wherein nameless, faceless, uber-elite, powers deploy assassins to ‘disappear’ any disruptions of the system. Through his careful process of identity-protection, Phoenix puts layers of intermediaries between himself and his work, which may serve as in illustrative metaphor for the Alt-Right today in its poking, prodding, taunting, and exposure of the corruptions in the bowels of The Cathedral.

You Were Never Really Here is no formulaic revenge flick ala Taken, but an example of brave and original filmmaking. The film pushes the boundaries of narrative and plot advancement, and blends the subjective and objective elements into a stylized, gritty, and fast-paced experiment. While an utter hopelessness saturates Phoenix, the film does land on a faint note of light and hope.

Highly recommended.

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The Cornell Rebellion

In TAC, Jack Howard Burke revisits the continued poignancy of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987).

Bloom’s point on the university is fully brought home when he recounts his experiences as a faculty member during the Cornell rebellion, perhaps the most infamous student protest of the entire 1960s. On April 18, 1969, in an episode burned into the memories of all those who witnessed it, contingents of racially aggrieved student radicals descended on the Cornell campus—shotguns and rifles in hand—to hold the university hostage for 36 hours. The event was reported in news across the world, as numerous professors received death threats and the insurgents actually opened fire on the Cornell engineering building. In the eyes of many, including Bloom, it was—as Thomas Sowell described it in 1999— “The Day Cornell Died.” When the liberal humanities professors blithely, almost eagerly, surrendered to the students’ list of demands—which centered upon the perceived racism directed against black people on campus—Bloom tendered his resignation in disgust. As numerous historians of Cornell have stated, the college was never truly the same afterwards.

How soon before we see a repeat of this?

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Make Russia Great Again

In the NYT (where else), Adam Hochschild reviews the book Never Remember: Searching for Stalin’s Gulags in Putin’s Russia by Masha Gessen (with photographs by Misha Friedman). Hochschild begins his review with the premise that:

Human beings have long slaughtered each other with gusto, but almost always choose mass victims from a group defined as alien.

This is something to keep in mind. Hoschchild then gives a few examples, before asserting that what transpired under Stalin’s reign was something different:

The Nazis killed about six million Jews; Japanese invaders massacred millions of Chinese; European settlers in the Americas enslaved millions of Africans; the list goes on. But the striking thing about Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, as the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen observes in her new book, “Never Remember,” is that “Russians exerted the force of state terror against themselves. … The millions who died anonymously in the Gulag were not necessarily members of ethnic or religious minorities, or even homosexuals: The population of the camps largely corresponded to the population of the country.”

Hoschchild does not, however take a closer look at the milieu of perpetrators in the Soviet example, to see if any ‘group defined as alien’ dynamic might have taken place. Of Stalin’s murderousness:

Although at times the dictator’s venom did target particular groups, like Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and, at the very end of his life, Jews, this is largely true. The mass deaths at Soviet execution sites or in labor camps were a self-inflicted genocide: “Russians had no other nation to blame for their nightmare.”

Hochschild’s only mention of Jews is as victims in the about-face Stalin, in his last years of life, took towards Jews, and makes no mention of the possible, emergent, identifiable, and activist role that Jewish Bolsheviks played during Stalin’s much more deadly ‘pre-about-face’ period. For instance, Hochschild makes no reference to the Holodomor in Ukraine, a genocide if there ever was one, wherein Jews were less the victims per se than a disproportionate percentage of the perpetrators. (The same could be said of the NKVD, the unimaginably brutal Soviet Secret Police.)

When, as Gessen adds, “every museum, indeed every country, ultimately aims to tell a story about the goodness of its people,” how, then, do you remember a system that led to the outright execution of somewhere around a million people and the deaths by starvation or exposure in the Gulag of an unknown additional number, generally reckoned far into the millions? The answer, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is hardly at all…

So, we have here Hochschild taking offense at an alleged white-washing of history by today’s Russian nationals, but not too concerned about any white-washing done on behalf of Jewish Bolsheviks, whether through the perpetual depiction of Jews as victims (in any and all contexts), as well as through the ever-expanding franchise of Holocaust Remembrance™, with museums popping up in every Western country to remind, for example, Americans how the Shoah apparently began on June 6, 1944.

Taking a page from his own ethnic group’s penchant for both pioneering and dominating the Remembrance Industry, Hochschild recommends it for Russia today. Why, just follow the Holocaust template!

But the man with me from the Memorial Society, a human rights group, eagerly talked about how places like this could be turned into remembrance sites with lessons for today, as has happened at Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.

Somehow, I think that isn’t going to happen. It’s not only a question of generous funding, but of a higher-level, purposeful Narrative. No NYT article on communism or fascism would be complete without the requisite Trump association, and Hochschild’s is a case study of Trump Derangement Syndrome. The final paragraph of his review reads:

Gessen and Misha Friedman, who took the grainy, haunting photographs for this book, also visited Butugychag, but found no memorials there. Virtually the only place in Russia where this has happened is a former labor camp outside of Perm, in the Urals, carefully restored over some years. But then something occurred that was never anticipated. Under Putin — whose motto might as well be “Make Russia Great Again” — Stalin’s rule is now remembered as a time of glory and order. Scores of new books and films portray the era in glowing colors, and vintage secret police uniforms are on sale. The husband-and-wife team who spearheaded the restoration at Perm lost their jobs, and the rebuilt camp has now become a site of pilgrimage for those who want to celebrate the old days. It is a grim reminder that once again, as in the 1930s, all over the world authoritarian strongmen are riding high.

Just in case you weren’t clear on the matter.

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Publius Exitus

Publius is leaving for a Hillsdale College gig (one hopes it is the primary reason). Nonetheless, the proximity of these two sentences to each other is most unnerving:

“National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton is leaving the Trump administration, the White House confirmed Sunday night. Anton’s departure comes the day before incoming national security adviser John Bolton starts his new job.”

Boy, if that isn’t enough to put some sweat on your brow.

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Chappaquiddick (2018): Advance Reviews

Richard Roeper writes:

Chappaquiddick reminds us that without the Kennedy name and influence, the man who drove a car off a bridge, swam to shore and left a young woman to die, and then went into hiding and defense mode, should have gone to jail for a long time.

Wow.

The film currently has an 81% score on RT, which is quite good, given the only people who have seen it are professional movie critics, and professional movie critics tend to be liberal.

In Variety, here is a telling excerpt from Owen Gleiberman’s (he is himself a liberal) review of Chappaquiddick:

Around 11:00 p.m., they drive out to the beach. Ted, who’s been guzzling whiskey from a bottle, zooms away from a local cop (he doesn’t want to be caught drunk, or seen with a pretty blonde he may have designs on). He then turns his gaze toward Mary Jo — and that’s the moment he drives off the bridge. It’s a short wooden structure, with no guard rails, and after fighting his way out of the water, he walks, in a daze, back to the cottage. He may be soused, but he’s already in damage-control mode.

At the cottage, when he sees Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), his cousin, friend, and lawyer, the first thing he says is, “We’ve got a problem,” followed by a quick, “I’m not going to be president.” He’s already thinking about himself, and no one but himself. He is thinking, in other words, like a Kennedy. Joe and their other comrade, the Massachusetts Attorney General Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), both tell Ted that he needs to report the crime, and he assures them that he will. But what he knows is that reporting the crime means he’ll be tested for alcohol consumption, so he has to wait. And wait.

The film says that what happened at Chappaquiddick was even worse than we think. Kopechne’s body was found in a position that implied that she was struggling to keep her head out of the water. And what the film suggests is that once the car turned upside down, she didn’t die; she was alive and then drowned, after a period of time, as the water seeped in. This makes Edward Kennedy’s decision not to report the crime a clear-cut act of criminal negligence — but in spirit (if not legally), it renders it something closer to an act of killing.

“Chappaquiddick” is a meticulously told chronicle, no more and no less, and at times there’s a slight detachment in watching it, because it’s too tough and smart to milk the situation by turning Edward Kennedy into a “tragic figure.” In certain ways, he may well have been, and there are moments when we see the sad grandeur with which this disaster hangs on his stooped shoulders, but the movie is fundamentally the portrait of a weasel: a man who, from the moment the accident happens, takes as his premise that he will not suffer the consequences, and then does what it takes to twist reality so that it conforms to that scenario.

It’s not likely that Pumpkinhead felt much guilt beyond the first couple of months of the incident. After all, this is a man who later in life (once his Senate sinecure was firmly established) named his dog… “Splash”.

Forty-eight years later, let’s be clear on what the meaning of Chappaquiddick is. Ted Kennedy should, by all rights, have stood trial for involuntary manslaughter, which would likely have ended his political career. The fact that the Kennedy family — the original postwar dynasty of the one percent — possessed, and exerted, the influence to squash the case is the essence of what Chappaquiddick means. The Kennedys lived outside the law; the one instance in American history of an illegally stolen presidential election was the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. He in all likelihood lost the race to Richard Nixon, but his father tried to steal the election for him by manipulating the vote tallies in (among other places) Illinois. That’s the meaning of Chappaquiddick too.

Zing!

Now that the ‘Liberal Lion’ has been dead almost 9 years, Hollywood’s (((Overton Window))) is allowing such a film to be made.

If they’d only now allow a sequel about the Ted Kennedy/Chris Dodd Chronicles, perhaps something titled Waitress Sandwich.

But, fellow reprobate Dodd now runs MPAA and would probably successfully put the kabosh on that, much as he tried to do with Chappaquiddick. 

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The Kubrick-Trump Connection Explained

From a NYT op-ed commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001:A Space Odyssey:

Indeed, with its prehistoric “Dawn of Man” opening and a grand finale in which Dave is reborn as an eerily weightless Star Child, “2001” overtly references Nietzsche’s concept that we are but an intermediate stage between our apelike ancestors and the Übermensch, or “Beyond Man.” (Decades after Nietzsche’s death, the Nazis deployed a highly selective reading of his ideas, while ignoring Nietzsche’s antipathy to both anti-Semitism and pan-German nationalism.)

There could be a story about new salmon recipes, and the JYT would find a way to reference The Holocaust™.

And, of course, the writer has to shoehorn in a ‘Trump-Russia’ angle into the story:

In Mr. Clarke’s novel, HAL’s aberrant behavior was attributable to contradictory programming. In today’s hyperpartisan context, a mix of machine learning, networks of malicious bots and related A.I. technologies based on simulating human thought processes are being used to manipulate the human mind’s comparatively sluggish “wetware.” Recent revelations about stolen Facebook user data being weaponized by Cambridge Analytica and deployed to exploit voters’ hopes and fears underlines that disinformation has become a critical issue of our time.

We should consider just whose mission it is that’s too important to jeopardize these days. Does anybody doubt that the clumsy language and inept cultural references of the Russian trolls who seeded divisive pro-Trump messages during the 2016 election will improve as A.I. gains sophistication? Of course, algorithm-driven mass manipulation is only one weapon in propagandists’ arsenals, alongside television and ideologically slanted talk radio. But its reach is growing, and it’s a back door by which viral falsehoods infiltrate our increasingly acrimonious collective conversation.

Traditional media — “one transmitter, millions of receivers” — contain an inherently totalitarian structure. Add machine learning, and a feedback loop of toxic audiovisual content can reverberate in the echo chamber of social media as well, linking friends with an ersatz intimacy that leaves them particularly susceptible to manipulation. Further amplified and retransmitted by Fox News and right-wing radio, it’s ready to beam into the mind of the spectator in chief during his “executive time.”…

Even as some devise new medicines and streamline agriculture with them, others use them as powerful forces in opposition to Enlightenment values — liberty, tolerance and constitutional governance.

Democracy depends on a shared consensual reality — something that’s being willfully undermined.

Yes, not only democracy but reality itself is at stake! And FNC is the perfect representation (not the outlier) for said “traditional media”.

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Rothman on “Virtual Embodiment”

For those interested philosophy of mind (how can you not be?) and the possible directions that VR will take, Joshua Rothman has a good piece titled “Are We Already Living in Virtual Reality?”. Rothman visits and experiences firsthand experimental lab work on ‘virtual embodiment’, and also explores this technology’s theoretical implications for personal identity and sense of self, which are largely based on psychologist Philip Johnson-Laird’s 1983 book Mental Models.

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