Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Moody's Analytics: Hillary Clinton Will Win Presidency
Come to think of it, I've never seen MoodysGuy and LAGuy in the same room . . .
Only The Beginning
"The Door," episode five of this season's Game Of Thrones, started out a bit weak but turned into a fine episode. It also did some stuff we've never seen before and explained a lot of origins, including things we didn't know needed explaining.
She spurns his offer of protection. She'll take Winterfell without him. He notes great-uncle Blackfish has used the Tully forces to take Riverrun--a lot of geography this episode. She might want to seek out his help (assuming he's telling the truth--we've seen no evidence of what he says). She's not interested in that, either. He walks away.
This is what I mean by a weak start. This scene may be a big moment for some, but it makes no sense. First, Littlefinger is smart--if he thought there was any chance he might be in danger, even if he truly felt bad about what he'd done, he'd have a few knights hanging around to protect him. (Cersei pulled a power play on him in the first season, threatening to have his neck slit--you think he'd vow at that point never to be without some muscle around.) Second, as angry as Sansa is, she knows she doesn't have the forces she needs right now. She's being offered the men necessary to retake Winterfell and she says no.
Worst of all, this scene seems to exist as an answer to all the fans who were unhappy about her treatment at the hands of Ramsay. Sansa isn't complaining to Littlefinger, she's talking to us directly so the producers can explain they get it. All I can say is boohoo--everyone gets treated badly on this show, let's not make Sansa a special case.
Now we cut to Braavos, where Arya is sparring with the Waif, and losing. Another weak start to a sequence. For the first four seasons, Arya was the star of the show--she had one mentor after another, each one creating great moments, but for the last season and a half she's been stuck at the House Of Black And White, endlessly preparing for we don't know what. Time to move on. Luckily, it looks like that might happen.
Anyway, Arya's job is to kill an actress, so we go with her to watch a play, and see something unlike anything yet on the show. We've occasionally caught glimpses of commoners singing songs or telling jokes about--who else--royalty. But here we have a lengthy scene where performers tell the story, in burlesque, of Robert Baratheon, Joffrey, Cersei, Tyrion, Tywin, Ned Stark and Sansa--everything we saw in season one. Arya is much taken with it until her father appears, portrayed as a dolt from the North. Now it's not so funny. Arya, of course, was there when her Ned's head was chopped off.
She goes backstage to meet the troop. (We start this scene with a close up of a penis. I'm sure there are screen grabs out there right now.) Arya returns to Jaqen and figures she can poison the actress's rum. But she questions the mission--she guesses the younger actress playing Sansa wants to kill her competition. Jaqen tries to explain she's got a job to do, and servants of the House don't ask questions. Sounds like a weak argument to me, but Arya better do it--either she brings in a new face, or donates hers.
Now we're at the Kingsmoot. I've been worried the Iron Islands are becoming Dorne North, but to my surprise the plot is getting good. As expected, Yara puts herself up for King (or Queen). Others say why have her when Theon, the King's male heir, is around? In a way, I was hoping Theon would jump in and screw over his sister, but nope, as expected, he backed her, figuring she knows what's best. (If he's just gonna be an advisor, I'd prefer he stayed with Sansa..)
So he wins the Kingsmoot and is drowned in a baptism-like ceremony. He's dragged onto the shore and after a while spits out the water and comes back to life. Another origin tale--this is why they say "what is dead may never die." Once he's up and running, the first order of business is to kill his niece and nephew. However, while he was busy dying, Theon and Yara took sailed off with all the ships. So Euron says let's build new ones and chase them. Sounds like a plan, though how long will it take? Six months? A year? I don't even see that many trees around.
No matter how long it takes, now we've got some real action. Theon and Yara are sailing around as essentially free agents, perhaps wishing to return to Pyke and take out Euron, perhaps to loot the coast, or perhaps even to help Sansa. Who knows? Meanwhile, Euron wants to kill them. Best of all, he wants to join up with Dany and get in the big game. That's the kind of plotting I can get behind.
Jorah says he'll kill himself before it completely takes over, and starts to walk away. Dany stops him, saying he hasn't gotten permission to withdraw. She commands him to seek a cure. Good for her. However, does this mean he's out of the show? I can't imagine following him around, aimlessly asking people if they know a good greyscale doctor.
He also mentions he loves her. We all knew that, though he's never acknowledged it to her directly (though he did overstep himself now and then). Anyway, a little late to do anything about it now that he can't touch her. He still makes a better match than Daario, though, who is dull and annoying. I'd rather he have the greyscale. Anyway, I guess Dany's on the march--probably back to Meereen first. I hope she doesn't get stuck there again, but she's at least got to get back her dragons.
Brienne and Sansa walk off. Sansa wants to send her to meet Blackfish, even though she'd rather stay and protect Sansa--guess she's like to improve on her poor record of protecting those to whom she swore an oath. She doesn't mind Snow (though he's a bit brooding--his attitude has become a running gag, though it's also clear now they know what happened to him), but Mel and Davos, no thanks. And she's creeped out a bit by Tormund. I think they make a lovely couple.
Out in the courtyard everyone says goodbye as they ride toward their various destinations. Tormund's still looking at Brienne, even if she's not giving out much of a vibe. Edd is left behind to run things--so I guess he's Lord Commander, no vote taken, no questions asked. Not too much to protect, I guess, now that Jon invited the Wildlings over.
A memorable episodes. Unpromising scenes turn into pretty amazing material. We had nothing from King's Landing (probably just as well) which meant no Cersei, Jaime, Clegane, Qyburn, Olenna, Margaery, Loras, Tommen, High Sparrow, Unella, Pycelle and a bunch of others. Nothing from the Sand Snakes (who have become the Jar Jar Binks of the show?). No Ramsay or Rickon. No Samwell or Gilly. (With all the trouble up North, shouldn't Jon send a raven telling him to return, or at least asking for counsel?) No Dragons. No Bronn--I'm starting to wonder if he'll show up this season.
We're at the halfway point, and things are moving. Bran is out and ready to fight, even if he doesn't know how. Sansa and a bunch of others are ready to take on Ramsay. The pressure in King's Landing is starting to boil over. Arya has an assignment. Dany is ready to move on. Euron is ready to move on Dany. And the White Walkers are ready to destroy everything.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Did she say it in Latin?
I was watching the movie Lucy--a surprise hit from a couple years ago that starts out fun but falls apart along the way. The plot is about a woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who acquires amazing powers by using 100% of her brain..
We've all heard the idea that we only use 10% of our brain. It's in popular culture. I suppose a lot of people believe it. But it's one of those facts that, if you bother to think about it, makes no sense. It may speak to us as a metaphor--about not reaching our full potential--but that doesn't make it true.
Which brings me to my main point. I've often heard you won't do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn't regularly do already. I even had a friend note this last week when we were discussing the subject.
I don't see how this can be true. Perhaps you won't do completely outrageous things, like kill someone (though maybe you can at that). But certainly those people up on stage making fools of themselves are doing something they wouldn't do under normal circumstances. They express all sorts of emotions, including negative and unpleasant ones, when they're under. Is that a fun thing to do? Often hypnotists, when bringing you back, say you'll remember the experience you just had as a pleasant one. That suggests it might be an unpleasant memory otherwise, so why would you have done it if you didn't have to, except for the fact the hypnotist suggested it.
I don't know what's the difference between the brain of someone under hypnosis and someone who isn't--it's a black box or me. All I know is I've seen its effects. And they're not necessarily pretty. Maybe it was hypnotists who came up with this line about how you won't do what you don't want to do, so people would agree more readily to be hypnotized.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Psychiatry From A Distance
The Atlantic cover story, "The Mind Of Donald Trump," is the kind of article you see on a regular basis, where a politician is put on the couch. These pieces are simplistic, though generally harmless, and occasionally insightful. This latest, by Dan P. McAdams, has some interesting details, if not exactly shocking conclusions--Trump is an extrovert and narcissist who's not especially interested in being agreeable.
The trouble with this sort of analysis is the conclusions tend to track with the writer's pre-set politics. McAdams, in fact, already has a book out that purports to be a psychological portrait of George W. Bush. I haven't read it, but seeing his short profiles of Bush and Obama in the Trump piece make me question how insightful he is.
Obama, on the other hand, was fairly introverted for a President, very low on the neurotic scale, and quite curious. And whereas Bush made a bold but questionable decision to invade Iraq after 9/11, Obama
inherited a devastating recession, and after the 2010 midterm elections, he struggled with a recalcitrant Republican Congress. What kinds of decision might he have made had these events not occurred? We will never know.
You don't have to be a psychologist (in fact, it's probably best if you're not) to see McAdams' politics lurking behind these allegedly objective appraisals.
Let's imagine how someone with different politics from McAdams might look at these two and get a completely opposite reading.
First, Bush. Here's a guy who's very open. He was a popular, wheeler-dealer governor of Texas who knew how to work both sides. He read widely, and listened to advisors before making decisions. Once President, he was willing to go across the aisle, sometimes to the detriment of his popularity within his own party (such as his extension of Medicare and his immigration proposal). Furthermore, he regularly went to Congress to get permission for many of his biggest moves, and often found bipartisan support--for the War in Iraq, to pick one example.
Yes, he was making bold moves, but that's to be expected after a game-changing event like 9/11. In fact, his stance on Iraq was fairly consistent with American policy. It was President Clinton who decided America should support regime change--we were essentially at war with Iraq already, and maintaining a tenuous truce where we kept Saddam Hussein militarily boxed in. The Democrats of Clinton's day spoke openly of the need to do something about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. It's not surprising that Bush, after 9/11, would go to Iraq. If anything, it's surprising he took so long. First he went to Afghanistan, and it was a year and a half after 9/11 before he began the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq--supported by Congress and the American public. (It's true many on the left were unhappy about it. This seems to have helped lead to the claim that Bush was incurious--they lost the argument and figured it must be because he wouldn't listen to them.) In fact, if Bush hadn't invaded Iraq, it could have been a problem in his reelection--it's easy to imagine someone like John Kerry saying he had the military experience to deal with Iraq, while Bush doesn't seem to have the stomach for it.
He won the White House and when Republicans in Congress tried to negotiate, he famously told them "I won." In other words, his idea of compromise was everyone agreeing with him.
He wasn't good at listening to his advisors, either. He thought he was the smartest in the room, no matter what the subject. By the end of Bush's term, things had turned around in Iraq, and the country was essentially pacified. This lower level of violence continued for the first few years of the Obama presidency. His generals advised him to keep a certain level of troops in the country, but incurious Obama knew better. He pulled out all troops and, as predicted, the country--indeed, the entire region--descended into chaos. (He also attacked Libya against the advice of military advisors--and did it, unlike Bush, without getting permission from Congress.)
But the best example of his unbending attitude and lack of openness was Obamacare. We don't have to wonder what kind of decisions Obama might have made with a Congress predisposed toward him, since that's what he had for his first two years. This Congress was not just Democrat, but filibuster-proof. He could pass just about anything he wanted, and not give in even slightly to the Republicans. Which is what he did.
Obamacare was unpopular from the start. The vast majority of Americans liked their health care plans and didn't want them monkeyed with. Obama made countless speeches promoting his new insurance plan (even saying things that weren't really true, which he either didn't care about, or wasn't curious enough to find out about), but couldn't make his program popular. Indeed, the public kept begging the politicians not to pass this bill--they even elected a Republican senator in Massachusetts to stop it. But Obama was not in the mood to listen, and did everything he could to see the law was rammed through, despite the will of the public, despite the arguments against it, despite parliamentary procedure.
Afterwards, the law remained unpopular, but Obama had the personality type that can't admit mistakes and kept insisting it was working, and that the public wanted it. It even contributed to the Democrats' loss of Congress. Now he had a true chance to show his openness, because if he wanted to get things done, he'd have to negotiate with Republicans--but he was so stubborn, and sure he was right, that he didn't feel the need to give in. Indeed, he referred to all disagreement with his policies as "bickering" which needed to end, so very little got done.
I'd like to see The Atlantic publish that and then read the comments.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Oh. The Jews again. Of course
His concern is not with the people but rather the expansion of the state and serving the needs of the bankers who control governments from above.
This must be some of that Left that LAGuy is always citing to show balance.
Wall To Wall Waller
Happy birthday, Fats Waller. He died pretty young, but made a lot of people happy while he was around.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Woke up unusually early this morning to run a few errands.
Of course had to have coffee and it was too early for my favorite place, so I went to an all night wicker store, er, McDonald's, and was greeted by an amazingly chipper and cheerful voice. Now, I'm no virgin (barely), so I'm well aware of how this works. Nevertheless, one of the most impressive and creepy things about simulation technology is how it's becoming so plausible. Screw Turing, we're talkin' Pris here. Except for the fact that it was unlikely, it was quite possible that a chipper young thing would show up at the window.
When I get to the window, nobody. Anywhere. Wait a full minute. Nothing. I'm sitting there thinking it's a scene out of Quentin Tarantino, and I start the countdown for how long I'll wait and what my risk is sitting there.
Nearly to the end, getting ready to drop it into gear, and who should walk around the window but John Candy, pulling his pants up on his snazzy uniform, seeing me out of the corner of his eye and looking with irritation at the back of the store and apparently seeing the same thing I saw.
So now the question is, do I let this guy serve me coffee? Sure, why not. They've got a sign that says employees must wash hands, I'm sure. Then I drove off. I suppose he's still alive, but Quentin has a better sense of drama than I do.
Then on my way back from my errand I hear another world class voice, this time on the radio. It's advertising a city. To tourists. A city in Michigan.
Ypsilanti . . . "east of Ann Arbor."
Indeed. West of Detroit. North of Toledo. South of Flint. Sort of catty corner to Ft. Wayne.
F*** you, a**hole
On The Road Again
Broadcast TV has changed in the last couple decades. With so many choices, numbers that used to get a show canceled--say, 10 million viewers--now make it a hit. One of the last shows that was a mass hit of the old kind is Cheers, which said goodbye to the airwaves (as far as new episodes) 23 years ago today, May 20, 1993. It was the second-most watched series finale after M*A*S*H (not to be confused with AfterMASH), with a mind-boggling 84 million viewers.
Cheers eventually got a bit tired, but the audience never did--it was a top ten hit in its eleventh and final season. It was lead actor Ted Danson who decided to call it quits. He felt his character, Sam Malone--an ex-pitcher and ex-alcoholic who's always chasing after women--would become pathetic if he got too old.
Good call. But it also meant the show knew it would be ending. So its creators, Glen and Les Charles, wrote the finale "One For The Road" with that in mind. Diane returns for a while and all the regulars get to move on.
There was a ton of promotion, and to play it up even more, a live broadcast with Jay Leno interviewing the cast immediately following. However, the actors had been drinking throughout the broadcast--perhaps before as well--and were barely coherent. In many ways, it provided the entertainment that had been missing.
The finale has been repeated many times, but I don't think NBC has ever shown what happened next. I wish they would, just so I could compare it with my memories.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Gentlemen callers. I feel so objectified.
Who Is He
We would be remiss if we didn't note today is the birthday of the great performer and songwriter Pete Townshend.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
A few days ago ColumbusGuy threw down the gauntlet. After posting about Cass Sunstein and getting some comments, he wrote:
Okay, DG, and any other Guy who cares to, here's the simple challenge:
I've got a dollar that says there is no such instance in all that time. It ought to be easy enough to do. Just a single instance would serve to negate the proposition.
Fair enough. Here's my response.
Sunstein defended the reasonableness of the Bush administration suspending the Clinton administration's rules on arsenic in drinking water, even though the Bush move was highly unpopular. Sunstein wrote about cost benefit analysis of such issues and was attacked on the left for his views.
Here's the law review article.
I hope that settles it, but if you want more, how about his controversial stances on Bush's security regime? For example, he wrote "under existing law, President George W. Bush has the legal authority to use military commissions." He also supported the legality of the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping.
He was attacked on the left for this stuff as well.