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Archive for December, 2007

Regarding Charlie Wilson’s War

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 28, 2007

I strongly recommend the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, in general US release as of a week ago. Although it wasn’t as moving or artistic as Atonement, which I saw a few days earlier week, I found plenty to think about (and many good laughs) from this based-on-a-true-story movie. It also has the unusual property of being fun and educational (i.e., illustrative of historical facts) without being “wholesome” or a “feel-good movie” (it is definitely neither of those). For those lukewarm on the subject matter, Charlie Wilson’s War includes first-rate acting from Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, an off-the-charts performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, clever directing by Mike Nichols, and an excellent screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (writer of The American President and A Few Good Men, creator of The West Wing).

More discussion and minor spoilers after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts and literature, Politics | Comments Off on Regarding Charlie Wilson’s War

Fire on the Evening News: Benazir Bhutto Killed

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 27, 2007

I slept until 3 pm today because I haven’t been feeling well. I woke up to learn that Benazir Bhutto, prominent Pakistani opposition leader and one of the most well-known female political figures in the world, was assassinated.

My greatest condolences to Ms. Bhutto’s family, to her friends, supporters, and followers, and to the people of Pakistan.

More thoughts another time when I’m feeling better.

Posted in Politics | Comments Off on Fire on the Evening News: Benazir Bhutto Killed

Blogging Holiday

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 20, 2007

I have been blogging Not At All the past week or so for two reasons: 1) my parents and sister will be out of the country from Christmas until after New Year’s, so I’m spending time with them before they leave, and 2) my laptop broke, so keyboard time has been severely reduced. I’ll be back soon.

Only two weeks until the Iowa Caucus!

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Blogging Holiday

Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 9, 2007

Catholics used to complain that anti-Catholicism was the anti-semitism of the intellectuals, but this was before the intellectuals went back to anti-semitism.

The Right Coast blogger Tom Smith, while arguing that The Golden Compass (the newly-released movie based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy) is anti-Christian and anti-Catholic.

Here is Roger Ebert’s review of the movie. Ebert, who is himself Roman Catholic (albeit one who is theologically agnostic about he existence of God), does not find either the movie or the book trilogy to be objectionable.

Posted in Arts and literature, Random Thoughts, Religion | Comments Off on Remark of the Week

Runner-up for last week’s “Remark of the Week”

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 9, 2007

Everyone’s a consequentialist if the consequences are bad enough.

Economics journalist Megan McArdle, responding to George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan’s question about why so many self-professed libertarians supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Her point concerns the fall of the USSR and the recognition (by libertarians and others) that US Cold War military actions in Europe–unlike in Southeast Asia–created substantially positive net outcomes.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Runner-up for last week’s “Remark of the Week”

McCain on farm subsidies

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 9, 2007

John McCain confirmed today that he still holds the position that made many (including myself) pay close attention in the Republican Presidential Primary eight years ago: opposition to US federal farm subsidies.

During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked about McCain’s low poll numbers in Iowa. Senator McCain admitted difficulties in that state, explaining his poor appeal,

I don’t support ethanol subsidies. I don’t support farm subsidies; I think they should be phased out.”

It’s good to know that McCain hasn’t abandoned one of his signature issues despite its unpopularity. It’s even better that one of the major candidates (other than long-shot Ron Paul) accepts the basic economic fact that farm subsidies enrich agribusiness and other non-poor farmers, harm citizens through higher taxes and higher food prices, and cripple farmers in poor countries who would could earn a living by selling agricultural products for the US market if they could compete fairly.

Here is more from that same interview, mainly about McCain’s response to an attack mailing by Mitt Romney:

Posted in Economics, Politics | Comments Off on McCain on farm subsidies

Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 2, 2007

People strike back at what they perceive to be injustices. Having a lot of money is not an injustice. To repeat an idea from my review: people hated the Robber Barons because they were robbers and barons, not because they were rich. The labor movement was strong when it was perceived that firms were making superprofits that could be more equitably shared with the workers. Gender inequality and racial discrimination are opposed because they are unfair, not because they lead to an unequal division of wealth.

–Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Herbert Gintis, regarding his (negative) review of Paul Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal, and his view that American “liberals” are unproductively obsessed with the concept of economic inequality.

Unfamiliar observers should note that Gintis is about as far to the “left” politically as it is possible to be in the US without being a full-fledged Marxist (he would probably consider himself a Marxian-inspired heterodox economist). He is however, an insightful and fair-minded thinker who has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t care about developing good rhetorical points for political debates, but rather about studying social problems such as poverty and poor schooling so that these problems can actually be ameliorated.

Posted in Economics, Politics, Random Thoughts | 2 Comments »

All About Strikes

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 1, 2007

While the Hollywood writers strike and the Broadway tech and stagehand strike paralyze the US entertainment industry, the news writers of CBS have voted to strike after working for 2.5 years without a contract. The Hollywood writers have resumed negotiations with the media companies, but no progress has been made and insiders are not optimistic.

Public-sector and pension reforms initiated by new French President Nicolas Sarkozy have provoked a large transit workers strike in France, which students and civil servants of various types joined last week.

Here are some thoughts from The Economist‘s Free Exchange Blog about strikes and negotiation.

While you’re waiting for your favorite TV shows or plays to resume (or if you’re stuck in traffic in Paris and have an iPhone or laptop), please enjoy this video of Billy Joel and his band performing the song “Allentown” in 1998 (before he started to lose his voice).

Posted in Economics, Politics | 1 Comment »