Friday, March 15, 2013

Weak tea

Over at Ace's place, they're in love with Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, and think that he embarrassed Dianne Feinstein during a judiciary committee hearing on her proposed gun control bill

I'd love to love Ted Cruz, but this was weak.
1) Feinstein and Leahy and Durbin are right - we absolutely do have speech that is not protected, because we've decided that the negative consequences outweigh the absolutist interpretation.

 2) The idea that the Constitution demands that we allow anyone who wants one an atomic weapon is the absolutist position on the second amendment. Do we really want to be defending that position? I don't. 
Obviously, an AR-15 is not a nuclear weapon. But the absolutist position on the second amendment would include it, just as the absolutist position on the first amendment would include child pornography and "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre." We don't countenance those things; we draw lines. The fight is, has to be, where do we draw the lines. The absolutist, "we don't draw lines" position is lost before it's stated.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013


Instapundit links to an old video about the Chuck Hagel nomination (" Is The Hagel Nomination Kaput?") with the comment that "we sure aren't hearing much about him lately."

Just a guess, but I suspect that it's because he was confirmed two weeks ago.


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

This list of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling is excellent, and makes for interesting reading on its own. Pixar, of course, has been amazingly successful, and story is the reason why. Their visual effects are second to none, but that's not what makes a movie work. If the story doesn't work, the movie doesn't work.

And one of them jumps out at me.
14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
I didn't love Toy Story 3. And when people asked why, the only answer I could come up with went something like this - in all of their previous movies, there was a story burning to get out1. Toy Story 3 felt like a set of characters that they thought they could find one more thing to do with. (Cars 2 suffered from the same problem.)

So it's interesting to see that item on the list, because I think that's what happened with the ones that weren't as good as the rest...

1 - To the extent that my expression of that particular idea was influenced by external works, those works would be the Asher Lev books by Chaim Potok. The question that Jacob Kahn had for Asher was, is there a scream inside you trying to get out.

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Bugs Bunny version of reality

One of the old gags in the Warner Brothers cartoon would have the nominal hero, Bugs Bunny or the road-runner, out on the end of a tree limb with a saw. Upon cutting through the limb, instead of falling, the tree would fall, leaving the pursuer out of luck.

Reality doesn't work that way.

 I ponder this as I consider the western Democratic Republic which has been bequeathed to us. The mid-to-late 20th century America in which so many of us grew up was a place of historically unrivaled wealth and freedom. A place in which people were free to advocate for nearly any position that might interest them. And so, many have chosen positions and issues on which to fight for change, for "progress." For gay marriage, and universal health care, and extreme environmental preservation, for increased redistribution of the wealth, and government support for the indigent, and strict gun control, and the cradle-to-grave welfare state.

But what if traditional marriage, and the freedom to get rich, and the financial incentives that encouraged women to marry before having children, and the fear that failing to work would result in dying in a gutter, and the right to arm yourself to protect yourself, what if those are all the foundation of the free and wealthy society? What happens when the foundation is eroded, cut away, piece by piece? In the long run, if we cut off the branch we're on, the branch will fall...

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Will Obama turn the United States into the world's largest banana republic?"

The always brilliant Thomas Sowell
Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.
Skeptical? Don't be. For just one tiny example, see this from the WSJ:
In its bid to make the sequester as painful as possible, the White House announced Tuesday that it is canceling all visitor tours of the White House "during the popular Spring touring season." This fits President Obama's political strategy to punish the eighth graders visiting from Illinois instead of, say, the employees of the Agriculture Department who will attend a California conference sipping "exceptional local wines" and sampling "tasty dishes" prepared by "special guest chefs."

Yes, even as the White House warns that the modest automatic spending cuts will force the furlough of meat inspectors, two divisions of the Agriculture Department will underwrite the 26th California Small Farm Conference in Fresno next week.
And check out hashtag #sequesterthis on twitter.

None of this is the least surprising, of course.  When given the choice between cutting back essentials or frills, a normal person cuts back on the frills.  But a government will always cut back on the essentials.  Cutting back on the frills reduces its power, while cutting back on essentials increases it, by blackmailing the citizenry into increasing the budget.

And power is the one thing that is not partisan - everyone in government is there because it gives them power. They might deny that construction, but even when couched in the best possible terms - "I want to make the world a better place/help the children/bring about world peace/end discrimination" - it all boils down to power. Want to make the world a better place? Government gives you the power to do that. Want to "help the children"? Government gives you the power to do that. Government is power. The bigger the government, the broader its scope, the more intrusive it is, the more power its functionaries wield. And, having achieved power, those in power will do whatever they can to preserve that power.

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