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Showing posts from April, 2016

Netflix Queue: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Three thoughts about E.T., coming up after the trailer....

1. My family watched E.T. tonight — for me, the first full sit-through since I originally saw the movie as a 9-year-old in 1982. Back then, popular movies stuck around in the theaters for a few months; they didn't do all their business the first week or two. So after months of increasing word-of-mouth, my parents took us to see. I remember crying when E.T. died and shouting with joy when the kids took off into the air on their bicycles.

My 7-year-old son didn't get teary-eyed tonight. But the adults did. And when Elliott and ET took the air and sailed "across the moon," my boy did, in fact, shout out with delight. What can I say? It made me happy the movie can still connect, and it made me happy that my blockbuster-blitzed son isn't already jaded.

2. One thing Spielberg does in the movie is create the world as a children's world. Something I'd never noticed before: Except for Dee Wallace, as E.T.&#…

Netflix Queue: No, Punisher isn't "Daredevil's" most moral character

I actually enjoy Marvel on Netflix better than most of what the company brings to the big screen. So this piece at The Federalist caught my eye:
The Punisher, who murders dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the second season of Netflix’s “Daredevil,” is actually the most moral character on the show.  Daredevil, who’s willing to break every law and ethical rule on the road to putting villains in useless prisons but unwilling to go any further, willingly participates in a vicious cycle that makes a mockery of justice. Allowing the revolving door of crime to continue ad infinitum is naive at best and immoral at worst. The Punisher realizes this and attempts to end the cycle instead. Through murder, of course.

Now, we're talking about comic book characters here, so this probably isn't a topic worth dwelling on too long but a counterpoint is needed here. If your viewpoint is that there's good and evil and evil can only be overcome by being destroyed, maybe the writer — Steph…

The NYT says American productivity is stagnant. Here's a theory why.

The New York Times observes that American productivity is stagnant, and considers three theories why.
During the 2008 recession, labor productivity soared. Was this because employers laid off their least productive workers first? Because everybody worked harder, fearful for their jobs? Or was it a measurement problem as government statistics-takers struggled to capture fast-moving changes in the economy? We don’t know for sure. None of the Times' three theories use this armchair psychoanalysis to consider one obvious reason American workers aren't more productive these days:

It isn't friggin' worth it.

Since the end of the Great Recession, Americans have become more and more aware — aided by growing discussion of income inequality and movements like Occupy Wall Street — of two very salient points:

• For decades, American productivity has soared.

• During those same decades, worker wages have stagnated.

Here's The Atlantic, reporting in February 2015:
Though producti…

What Vox gets wrong about Mississippi's anti-LGBT law.

Vox's explainer gets a little too cute today in discussing state-level LGBT laws:

What if I told you Mississippi's law doesn't actually allow anything new?

Now, the new law does technically allow discrimination against LGBTQ people: It lets bakery owners, for instance, cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples seeking to buy a wedding cake.  But even before the new law was passed, this type of anti-LGBTQ discrimination was entirely legal in the state, because neither Mississippi nor any municipality in the state included sexual orientation or gender identity in its nondiscrimination protections. So it was already legal for Mississippi businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, whether they cited religious beliefs or just said they don't like gay or transgender people. This is both true — and good on Vox for helping readers understand that gays don't have protection in many places — but also kind of missing the point.

No, gays didn't have t…

No, Curt Schilling is not a free speech martyr.

Some angry talk these days from my conservative friends about ESPN's firing of famed pitcher Curt Schilling after Schilling posted some anti-transgender comments to social media the other day. "Progressive America is sending a message," National Review's David French wrote. "In the institutions it controls, there is no distinction between the personal and professional. Keep dissent to yourself. All your words belong to your boss."

I don' think that's quite the lesson to draw here.

This is what Curt Schilling posted:

It's a distasteful, near-pornographic image — one that, even if it said something like AMERICA IS THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD or VOTE FOR BERNIE SANDERS might've caused most people a bit of faint-heartedness.

Now, understand too: Schilling had already been suspended last fall for THIS post:

Too me, the sentiment is objectionable without being pornographic. This is the incident I might've criticized ESPN about. But Schilli…

How to solve the problem of bathrooms and gender: Privacy for everybody!

My memories of sixth grade: Moving to a new town, starting middle school, and being herded into group showers with a bunch of naked boys I’d just met.
It’s not a pleasant memory. After a lifetime of being educated on modesty, I suddenly found myself thrust into the most immodest of situations: The requirement that we take showers at the end of our P.E. classes. The boy’s locker room at my new middle school was cramped and had one big shower with a half-dozen nozzle for considerably more than a half-dozen boys. Exacerbating the discomfort? Some of us were hitting puberty faster than others.
Some of us, like me, were hitting it a little later.
That wasn’t the only upsetting feature of the experience. There was the kid who, after showering, put his socks on before putting his underwear. Who does that? Worse yet: My experience with an older kid — I think he’d been held back at least once — who had, to my tender eyes, the body of man: He loomed over me, freakishly hairy in all the spots you’…

"How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk": Why I hope Bernie stays in the race a little longer.

The decision between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in next week's Pennsylvania primary has been a tough one for me — though my heart says "Bernie," my head says "Clinton," largely because I believe he can't deliver on his vision but that she can, at the very least, defend and cement Democratic gains of the last eight years.

But NYT Mag's story, "How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk" reminds me that I think she's shown some awful judgment on the foreign policy front, and it includes this — to me — chilling sentence:

Well then.

Here's my problem: That awful summation doesn't change my earlier assessment. But I'm not interested in supporting her hawkishness. What's a dovish lefty to do?

Root for Bernie to hang around a little longer, I think.

There's been some talk this week, after Clinton's win in the New York primaries, that Bernie should bow out for the greater good of the Democratic Party. I don't think that&#…

About Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill....

Dems: Hey, you know, all the people on our currency are dead white dudes. Maybe we should put  a woman or somebody of color on the $10 bill.


Dems: OK.

Rs: ....

(The end.)

Philly Bucket List: The Rocky Steps

We’ll be leaving Philadelphia to return to Kansas this summer: “Philadelphia Bucket List” is an occasional series of posts about what we’ll miss about this great city.

Everybody knows the Rocky Steps. Everybody who visits Philly has to visit the Rocky Steps. Why?

Do I really have to say? Because of this:

We visited soon after arriving in Philadelphia, of course. Everybody does. There's always somebody — often multiple somebodies — charging up the steps, then raising their fists in triumph at the top. Homeless guys hang out and offer to take pictures; there's a guy in a sweatshirt and porkpie hat, slightly Stallone-ish, who offers to be in the pictures.

None of that is why the Rocky Steps are on my list.

This is why:

Two months after my mom died in 2013, my dad came to visit us for the first time without her.

He and I walked and talked for a few days, stopping every now and again to sob. As deeply as I felt the loss, his pain (I know) was absolutely searing. One of our walk…

This is what America is coming to: Our bullying douchebags versus their bullying douchebags.

This is being presented by some of my lefty friends as good and laudable:

Here's an explanation from Tulane's "The Tab":

Members of the Tulane football team were seen removing the sandbags as frat members yelled at them  This past week Kappa Alpha fraternity placed a wall of sandbags around their house as part of their annual fraternity tradition.  A member of the fraternity then defaced the wall, writing “Make America Great Again” on it. I'm no Trump fan, but this stinks. Let's be clear: It's not freedom of speech to tear down somebody else's property because it says something you don't like. If this is the road we're going down, democracy is screwed. Football players versus frat boys? Forget principle, we're just seeing who can turn out the biggest douchebag bullies. Guess what liberals? That's a battle you're probably going to lose. Don't go down this road.

Is Bruce Springsteen's Boycott of North Carolina the Same Thing as a Baker Refusing Service to Gay Couples?

No, but a lot of people seem to think so.
A petition on has garnered nearly 500 signatures in support of Bruce Springsteen’s decision to cancel an April 10 concert in Greensboro, NC.  “Bruce Springsteen has a right to his deeply held beliefs. He has a right to control his business and refuse to do business with those he disagrees with,” the petition reads.  Additionally, the petition author Dennis Burgard argues that like Springsteen, “every business person” is entitled to the right to deny services where and when it violates their beliefs. Get it?

OK, so here's the difference between Bruce and that Christian baker, florist, whatever: 
If North Carolinians come to a Bruce concert in any other state, they won't be refused at the door while everybody else is let in. And in North Carolina, he's not refusing to play for any specific portion of the population  while playing others — he's withdrawing his services entirely within the state. The differences are clea…

Is Bruce Springsteen "Illiberal" Not to Play a Concert in North Carolina?

Since we're in the season of flinging charges of "illiberalism" around, let's take a look at the latest — a screed against the so-called "LGBT Mafia" by Daniel Payne in The Federalist:

Aided by media that are both incompetent and often transparently biased, along with a burgeoning corporate culture that has discovered the economic benefits of public moral preening, we have what Stella Morabito aptly terms the “LGBT mafia:” a profoundly illiberal social movement rather single-mindedly determined to stamp out even minor and inconsequential dissent from its orthodoxy. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting worse.  (Snip, regarding passage of "religious liberty" bill in North Carolina): In response to this incredibly reasonable and commonsense bill, Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro; dozens of corporations signed a protest letter; PayPal withdrew plans for an operations center in Charlotte; the composer Stephen Schwartz vowe…

Hey Bruce Arians: I'm a Dad Who Won't Let My Son Play Football

This guy:
Arians came to football’s defense yet again on Friday here at the Cardinals training facility. He delivered the keynote address to over 130 high school football coaches at the “Arizona Cardinals High School Football Coaches Clinic,” and, as always, Arians was full of passion and energy for the sport, and he didn’t hold back any punches when speaking on stage in front of the men.  “We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots,” Arians said. “It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.” Well. It's not just moms.

Philly Bucket List: The Philly Orchestra

We’ll be leaving Philadelphia to return to Kansas this summer: “Philadelphia Bucket List” is an occasional series of posts about what we’ll miss about this great city.
The first time I heard the Philadelphia Orchestra was in September 2008, on Dilworth Plaza — now Dilworth Park — at City Hall. My son had been born weeks earlier and we were crazed with a lack of sleep; an outdoor concert seemed an appropriate way to allow us to have a cultural experience in our new city where an infant would be appropriate.
I remember a couple of things about that night. First: It was kind of chilly. Second: An officer had been killed in the line of duty that day. Mayor Nutter took the stage and said the death nearly caused him to cancel the concert. Instead, the orchestra opened with addition to the evening’s program: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

An affirmative reason for voting for Hillary.

I don't mean to be ostentatiously ambivalent, here. I'm trying to work this out, and doing some thinking by writing.

But my reasons for voting for Hillary tend to be defensive: I think she's better-positioned to beat a Republican candidate and has a better temperament for leading despite the obstacles of a Republican Congress than does Bernie.

That raises a question, though: Is there a good, affirmative reason to vote for Hillary?

I thought about it. Started a  list. But most of the reasons I'd affirmatively vote for Hillary Clinton could be applied to any generic Democrat. (I.E. Supreme Court appointments.) But affirmative reason to vote for Hillary over Bernie?

This is what I came up with:

 She'd be the first woman president: It's not the only thing. It's not even, from my perspective, the most important thing. But it's important. How amazing would it be to get my 7-year-old son, born two months before Obama's election, to the age of 16 — almost v…

Is Bernie More Electable?

From the comments:
The polls I've seen show Trump doing better against Clinton than Sanders. Said another way, people seem to be willing to vote for Sanders over Trump to a greater extent than they are to vote for Clinton over Trump. So in terms of who can win the general, it seems the better choice is Sanders. I've heard this several times. I'm skeptical.

I think, quite simply, that the GOP has been so hung up on its internal battles that it hasn't turned its attention to Bernie yet. But when it does, I fully expect the full extent of the GOP's "turn the Dem candidate into an America-hating demon" forces against him. It's possible Sanders could still win the election — Obama and Bill Clinton both survived the process and won the presidency. But I'm not sure he'll be much more electable once Republicans decide to target him in earnest.

Sanders could possibly beat Trump more easily than Clinton could today; will that still be the case in Novemb…

It could be worse. It's not 1968.

A friend posted this at Facebook this morning:

It's is a good reminder to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that as batshit insane as this particular election season seems, this is not 1968, with the country seemingly spinning out of control and major public figures being assassinated. Trump is a threat to good order, but we haven't reached those heights.

Is it cynical to support Hillary in the primary?

Yesterday, I wrote why I am - begrudgingly - leaning toward Hillary over Bernie in the primary. A Facebook friend admonishes me:
We throw around this label "hawk" without much thought for what it means - it's a vaguely distasteful moniker. What kind of body count do you imagine is tied to Clinton's particular "foreign policy experience"? How much suffering? And to what end? Whose ends? You usually write as a sort of demonstration of the conscience of the center-left. But in this piece you devolve into the sort of nervous gamesmanship that has for decades undermined progress on issues you obviously care about.  The suggestion - and lots of Bernie fans are making it - is that Hillary essentially disqualified herself with support for the Iraq War. I'm ... sympathetic to that argument. And I'm even sympathetic to the "nervous gamesmanship" allegation my friend lobs at me.

But I don't think nervous gamesmanship is necessarily a bad thing. A…

I'm thinking Hillary over Bernie. Here's why.

I haven't finalized my voting decision yet — I'm still in play — but with about three weeks to go before the Pennsylvania primary, I find myself leaning towards support for Hillary.

It's a close call. Hillary Clinton voted to invade Iraq. And her performance as secretary of state suggests that she's altogether more hawkish than I would prefer. I used to think that her hawkishness was a political pose — meant more to disarm Republicans than as a guide to actual policy. I don't believe that anymore, or at any rate I don't think it matters anymore: She functions as a hawk, therefore her internal beliefs don't matter all that much.

I've said before my heart remains closer to Bernie Sanders, and that remains true. America, I think, is headed for an economic reckoning — the problem of economic inequality is probably the problem of our time, and he's the candidate who seems to take it most seriously.

So why the lean to Hillary?