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Apparently the number of people wanting a ground war with ISIS is sharply increasing. Pres. Obama could, you know, try to argue that these beheadings are intentionally meant to draw us into another protracted ground war, only he can’t because those were essentially the basis for his whole air war in the first place. And now events are overtaking him.

Quite a lot of liberals have had Obama’s back on the ISIS war. I wonder what happens if ground forces become involved. Considering how flawed the strategy of “I’m going to concede this minimal action to my hawkish critics after enormous strain, but this far and no farther!” is on simply a conceptual level, it was only a matter of time before it blew up completely in his face. I guess we’ll see if that happens.

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Always this talk of the threat militant Islam poses to the West. I don’t deny that Europe has real things to worry about, but for America I just dunno. I mean, there is the threat of sporadic attacks, which I’m not minimizing, but apart from that, what is it were terrified of again? Farfetched scenarios where they acquire a nuclear bomb? Nonexistent fifth columnists secretly plotting to implement Shari’a Law? (A worry, by the way, that is utterly banal if one has studied Islam a little and knows what Shari’a consists of.) The implausible notion of militant Islam becoming a mainstream political orientation?

It really is like people just want to live in fear. There’s no reason to.

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This is great fun:

I do think that a considerable portion of the movie could have been improved if Thora Birch’s character Jane had turned down Wes Bentley’s offer at the end. To go from “I got to get out of this place at the first opportunity,” to, “Maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that,” would be an arc, technically. But of course she accepts his offer to be a drug queen in a different city because the movie’s characters have no real motivation, particularly the female ones. In retrospect it’s amazing just how many people were fooled into thinking this was a great movie.

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Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (stream here): Wait, I thought all the odd-numbered movies sucked? Well, here’s (the) one exception. The Search For Spock is a great movie, though it admittedly falls well short of perfection. Production design here is not all that great–the Genesis Planet is clearly just a soundstage, for one thing–and the acting is not nearly as uniformly strong as The Wrath of Khan. But the movie manages its share of powerful dramatic moments that you may well have forgotten about. It has what might be my favorite moment in all of Star Trek: Kirk, while stealing the Enterprise, gets a call from his pursuer on the faster Excelsior, to the effect of, “Kirk, if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.” This isn’t overplayed but if you think about it, it’s an enormously profound moment in Star Trek. This is Kirk’s calling. It’s his entire identity that he’s giving up, basically on an off-chance to save his friend, and he knows it. He also doesn’t hesitate. “Warp speed.” There’s a beauty to this, a depth of character that simply couldn’t exist in the Abrams reboots–when Kirk sacrifices himself in Into Darkness it doesn’t have a tenth of the same impact as this simple moment of sacrifice that is so subtle and underplayed relative to the enormous stakes to us, the audience. The cost of all those special effects and action setpieces, of the glib, mid-twentyteens character dynamics, is simple and powerful moments like these. The destruction of the Enterprise, the death of Kirk’s son David, the ending which even makes the line, “If I hadn’t [done it], the price would have been my soul,” which is rather clunky as written, have a real impact: put simply, this is a powerhouse movie if you know and love these characters. If you don’t love the movie, go ahead and revisit it. It’s better than you remember.

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Jonathan Bernstein makes a fair point here:

Has Obama sometimes arguably overstepped his authority? Probably. He may have even extended it further than other presidents. I’m not really seeing any important extensions of presidential authority, but that’s not really what I’m saying here anyway.

What I am saying is that Republicans have used apocalyptic rhetoric to mount a series of attacks on Obama for exercising the powers of his office in perfectly ordinary ways.

Look, we need the out party to be tough on the White House. That’s part of how the system works. But instead, Republicans have spent most of the last six years reacting to fantasies, and ignoring their obligation to do the hard work of finding real abuses. It really is a disgrace.

Then again, turning the IRS business into an organized conspiracy to destroy conservatism and making Benghazi! into Obama’s Watergate have paid some big dividends in keeping the base worked up. They’ve not done much of anything to harm Obama outside the bubble, but the sort of work needed to find the sort of substance that would hurt Obama with non-FOXers would be a needless expense from much of the right-wing media when spinning paranoid fantasies gets the viewers in there just fine, and it is work that they’re ill-equipped to even attempt–according to Gabe Sherman’s book on Ailes and FOX News, they jettisoned all their actual reporters in 2012.

That’s just it: the political benefits of IRSGhazi! were negligible, probably even a net negative when considering the opportunity cost of not pursuing something potentially more damaging. But the benefits to conservative media were huge. Guess who wins in today’s GOP?


Prison reform should be a no-brainer issue for Democrats. It hurts huge constituencies for the party, destroys lives, wastes potential. If there’s anything that’s the opposite of the liberal dream it’s the American prison system. This article for The American Conservative will just make a liberal sigh:

There was Jeff Tsai, special assistant attorney general for California, who preened about the Golden State’s successful reduction of the state prison population, while failing to mention that 142,000 of such prisoners were merely crammed into county jails, or that the state is now spending $2 billion more on prisons than when Gov. Jerry Brown’s reform began in 2011. Paul Fishman, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, informed the attendees that “nobody really wants us to stop enforcing any laws,” despite a growing trans-partisan chorus against wanton overcriminalization. And Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning think tank, repeatedly intoned the phrase “public-private partnerships,” that New Democrat mantra void of all policy meaning.

Blah blah suburban districts. But who do you think it is that is sending the Republicans who actually are working on this to office? I’d like to say that this is something other than aging Democrats who still see Reagan over their shoulders and refuse to do anything that hasn’t been green-lit by focus groups from here to Timbuktu. I’m open to other arguments.

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The death of the screenwriter of Rebel Without A Cause is a good occasion to highly recommend the movie he wrote, and not only is the whole thing on YouTube for free, I even went ahead and embedded it right here. Time to stop putting it off. I get the sense that it’s more something people are aware of than have actually seen, but if you want to understand the Beatniks, or the Hippies, or really any sort of youth movement with a political bent, this is some essential viewing. Beyond James Dean method acting in a white tee, it’s really a movie about being old enough to recognize just how goddamn corrupt the world is (and how deep the hypocrisies run), but still young enough to not have surrendered to that stuff. Dean, due to his life story, will always be able to embody that on screen, and the movie as a whole holds up incredibly well. He’s a rebel without a cause simply because he has to rebel from the prevailing morality in order to live some semblance of a decent life. And, ultimately, this is how most of these kinds of movements think of themselves–only in retrospect are they packaged with the easily digestible politics that they have ascribed to them by the media, so that Tom Brokaw can make a special of them, and don’t forget that Time/Life collection, etc. This explains incidentally why Occupy Wall Street provoked such bafflement by commentators, who seemed to think that a spontaneous movement ought to already have a fully-defined manifesto of actionable legislation behind them, which is crazy. That the Tea Party essentially did have all that just goes to prove how inorganic and unspontaneous that movement was.