August 21st, 2014

100 best animated films

I’m a sucker for these “100 best” lists, even if I’ve never heard of the people doing the choosing.

So I couldn’t resist this one, where I discovered I’d never even heard of most of the animated movies they’ve listed, except for the Disney ones and a few of the Pixar ones.

The fact that they chose “Pinocchio” as number one puzzles me. I saw it as a child and liked it, but no more than any other Disney favorites, which for me were “Snow White,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Cinderella,” “Fantasia,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” The last, with its surrealism, and Lady and the Tramp, with its adorable dogs, may have been my special favorites. Somehow I was fortunate enough to completely miss “Bambi,” which reportedly has traumatized several generations of children. Not me.

But animation and cartoons in general tend to puzzle and disturb me. I’ve written about the problem before, here:

Cartoons were…my nemesis. I didn’t like them, although they were ubiquitous on TV. I didn’t like watching the creature being flattened and then springing back up again. I didn’t like the characters walking off cliffs and not realizing it for a moment, and then falling. I didn’t like the pummeling and the mayhem; I felt it as more real than I knew it should be perceived. And in some strange way I sometimes even had trouble following the plot.

Was that because I wasn’t interested? Or was it because I was repelled, or because I was particularly cartoon-challenged? Probably a combination of all three, because the phenomenon persisted into adulthood and involved even some cartoons whose content didn’t especially repel me. I used to like animated Disney movies, but have never liked Pixar, in part because the images seem “wrong” to me in some difficult-to-define way.

Sometimes there’s too much going on visually in cartoons, too; I get distracted. I sometimes fail to get the joke in non-animated cartoon squares (like the ones in a magazine) because I focus on the wrong detail or misinterpret details in odd ways.

There’s much more at the link, including an interesting discussion in the comments section, where I add, “I have an uncanny valley the size of the Grand Canyon.” And if you wonder what the uncanny valley is, here’s where I talk about that.

And now I have to say that this entire post has made me realize that at this point there’s hardly a topic that interests me that I haven’t written about before—and quite a few that don’t really interest me, too. That’s what happens when you’ve been blogging for almost ten years.

Ten years! When I started, if you had told me I’d be doing this for ten years I would have said you were a lunatic. Now I sometimes wonder whether I’m the lunatic. But no, merely eccentric and verbose—and interested in a lot of things.

August 21st, 2014

Other cases of killings by police that have been ignored

The Michael Brown case has become a cause célèbre, much like the Zimmerman case in the scope of its fame and even worse in the extent of civil unrest it has caused.

The Brown case has many other things in common with Zimmerman’s, although in the former it was an actual police officer rather than a civilian neighborhood watch guy doing the shooting of an unarmed and yet apparently aggressive black youth: race, grieving parents, initial allegations of an innocent victim and later evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the victim, injuries to the person wielding the gun which indicate it may have been bona fide self-defense, demands for “justice” (i.e. prosecution of the killer), and of course the early entry of the professional racemongers and the liberal press on the scene to stir up the maximum amount of reactive outrage.

There is no question that both cases have become famous because of the race of the shooters and victims: white (or “white Hispanic”—oops!) vs. black. The youth of the latter also plays into the mix, and of course their unarmed status.

There are many cases where some of those elements can be seen, but because the all-important cross-racial (white officer, black victim) aspect is not present the controversy remains relatively local and relatively quiet. One such incident was the killing of Dillon Taylor outside a Salt Lake City convenience store on August 11, 2014.

Many important details of the Taylor case are unclear because they haven’t yet been released, in part because there is no national furor for authorities to do so; most people have probably never even heard of Taylor. One huge difference between Taylor’s death and that of Brown is that the officer who shot Taylor was wearing a body camera, so we can suppose more of the truth will someday be known. Taylor had a record, and was reported to have been waving a gun, but his family says he never was known to have a gun.

Yet another difference is that Taylor was white and the officer who shot him black (or at least, “not white”), although that latter fact was never mentioned in initial press reports. It’s probably irrelevant, too, to anything except the differential coverage of the case versus the Brown or Zimmerman cases. Does anyone doubt that had the races been reversed in Taylor, the coverage would have been far more intense, and the races of the officer and victim emphasized from the start?

Here’s another killing by police that most people have never heard of. Here the victim, Christoper Roupe, seems to have been completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever. It was mostly likely an instance of mistaken perception by a jumpy officer—a woman, by the way—who killed a 17-year-old whose only crime appears to have been answering the door with a Wii remote controller in his hand, although the officer alleges it was a gun (or that she thought it was a gun?).

About a month ago the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. As far as we know, the officer involved is still on the force.

And as far as I know, there are no big demonstrations demanding “Justice for Christopher Roupe!.”

August 21st, 2014

Now, here’s a theory

A comment speculating on the causes of the Ferguson riots, seen at NY Magazine:

This whole thing (Ferguson, etc.) is being orchestrated. The question is… who’s doing it? The Koch brothers? The tea party? Someone’s behind it. It’s waaaay too choreographed.

August 21st, 2014

“Bring back the welfare stigma”…

writes Daniel Payne at The Federalist, commenting on the fact that the city of Richmond, Virginia seems to be advocating a free lunch for all in its public school system:

Ah, “stigma:” one of the last great impediments to full-blown government dependency. With all due respect to Bedden, he and the rest of Richmond Public Schools are doing a grave disservice by attempting to remove the “stigma” associated with free government handouts…

Not to tread too heavily on too many sensitive progressive ideals, but there should be a stigma surrounding government dependency; that’s not to say we should adopt a campaign of aggressive public shaming for anyone who goes on the dole, only that we shouldn’t create an atmosphere—especially amongst children—in which “free lunch” is a no-big-deal kind of thing.

I guess Richmond never heard the term “There is no free lunch.” The city wants to change it to, “There is nothing but free lunch!”

Because I was raised in a time when welfare of all kinds was not only less common, but was a badge of shame for most people who received it, I’ve often thought that the relative absence (or complete absence?) of stigma these days was one of those situations where the pendulum has swung way, way too far. The current sense of entitlement to “other people’s money” is now vast, and is harmful to our society as a whole, both financially and culturally. But it persists and grows because, the greater the number of entitled people on some form of welfare, the more getting a handout seems normal and nothing to be upset about—and of course because the entire operation benefits the Democratic Party, the left, and the government bureaucrats whose livelihoods depend on it.

So although I tend to agree with Payne, I don’t really see how it could be done. Shame is now a nearly-verboten concept, reserved for people whose thoughts are insufficiently PC.

A sense of personal responsibility used to be cultivated by that great triumvirate of religion, schools, and family (you could also add “popular culture”—i.e. movies, books). As all those things have been taken over by a combination of leftist principles, populist psychology, and PC thought (the latter two coming under the rubric of the first), “judging” people has become passe.

Having compassion for the poor and wanting to help those who are down on their luck is laudable. A handout for all is not. We seem to be losing the distinction between the two.

And discussions such as the above always seem to remind me of this speech from “My Fair Lady” (actually, from the original “Pygmalion” by Shaw):

August 21st, 2014

I can’t help but be happy…

…at this news.

Welcome back from the valley of death. We still don’t know if the experimental drug worked, though.

August 20th, 2014

About James Foley’s final statement

[UPDATE 11:00 PM: For anyone who thinks Foley was a terrorist sympathizer, or that he was not a courageous man, please read this tribute from a fellow-writer and American named Herschel Smith. It begins:

Journalist James Foley (he corresponded with me as Jim) has been beheaded by ISIS. I choose not to remember him from the recent photographs, but as the wonderful young man he was. As a note to ISIS, I don’t believe a word he had to say while under duress. I knew him better than you did. You wasted your time with his confessions, or charges, or whatever you forced him to say.

Read the whole thing.]

A lot of people have wondered why James Foley would have read an anti-American statement before he died. As commenter “kit” writes:

I read the anti American, pro terrorist statement they asked Foley to read. I also saw exerpts from his twitter account that seemed he was in sympathy with the terrorists. If he knew they were going to kill him, why would he want to die like a traitor? I would want to go out cursing Islam. He read a horrible anti American statement, instead.

Why would that statment be his Mom’s proudest moment of her son?

In my first post on Foley’s killing, I mentioned the statement and indicated that we can only guess as to why:

… [I]t is difficult if not impossible to know whether [Foley] meant his words or not. Perhaps Foley thought that if he read the statement his captors might spare his life, although his words indicate that he fully expected them to kill him. If the video is for real—and so far there is no indication whatsoever that it is not—his statement would have to have been made while he was under an extraordinarily extreme form of coercion and dread.

So my first answer is that I don’t judge anyone who is subjected to circumstances like that for whatever he/she may say. Of course, extreme bravery and resistance is desirable, as with Fabrizio Quattrocchi. But that is the exception rather than the rule, and cannot be expected or demanded; very very few people are capable of it.

I also have read at some sites that Foley was a Muslim sympathizer and an America-hater, but the evidence presented has not convinced me that this was really the case, and when I skimmed his Twitter feed (cited by some as indication of his terrorist sympathies) I saw nothing there that would suggest such a thing. But even if it turns out to be true (which I doubt), that would have nothing to do with the fact that his death, and the manner of it, is an outrage. It also does not change the fact that, as I wrote in that first post, he was under such a degree of coercive pressure and fear-inducing control that I refuse to judge him harshly for what he said while under that duress.

But having had some time to think about it and to read many people’s comments, I believe that the most likely explanation is that the terrorists had made him rehearse that scene many times, reading the script without being killed. This would have had the effect of calming a victim into thinking this was just another mock execution, no different than the others—a ploy that would be a bit akin to the Nazis placing fake showers in the gas chambers to lull their victims into docile cooperation, or Jim Jones’ forced rehearsals for the mass suicide of his followers many years later:

…[Jim Jones] had many rehearsals for the killings, which had the effect of getting people used to what would be happening and more ready to accept it, as well as more doubtful when the real thing began to happen that it actually was the real thing; maybe it was another rehearsal?

Kidnappers have their victims completely at their mercy, and their victims know that. So another possibility is that Foley was told that if he didn’t read the statement he would be tortured to death rather than killed quickly, and the video would be taped and shown to his family. If so, he probably would have calculated it would be better to cooperate, and that those people who mattered would understand that he was under duress when he did so, and that he might have done it to spare them further pain.

I’m sure those are not all the possibilities, either. But there is no reason to conclude that Foley meant what he said, or that he wasn’t brave. As for his grieving parents, who are under extraordinary and extreme stress as well, not for one moment are they going to be judged harshly by me when they say that his end was a courageous one and that his life was courageous as well.

[NOTE: After I wrote this post I read more of the statement from Foley's parents. They seem incredibly brave to me under the circumstances, and their statement indicates that they are (and that he was) proud Americans.]

August 20th, 2014

Fox reports that Officer Wilson was beaten by Michael Brown

[Hat tip: Geoffrey Britain]

Fox News is now reporting that Darren Wilson was severely beaten by Michael Brown during their confrontation:

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer whose fatal shooting of Michael Brown touched off more than a week of demonstrations, suffered severe facial injuries, including an orbital (eye socket) fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun, a source close to the department’s top brass told

“The Assistant (Police) Chief took him to the hospital, his face all swollen on one side,” said the insider. “He was beaten very severely.”…

Wilson…was left dazed by the initial confrontation, the source said. He is now “traumatized, scared for his life and his family, injured and terrified” that a grand jury, which began hearing evidence on Wednesday, will “make some kind of example out of him,” the source said.

The source also said the dashboard and body cameras, which might have recorded crucial evidence, had been ordered by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, but had only recently arrived and had not yet been deployed.

Too bad about those cameras; what poor timing.

The article also says that St. Louis County police, now in charge of the investigation, have refused to confirm or deny the story. They say they will present all evidence to the grand jury when the time comes.

[ADDENDUM: If this report turns out to be true, cue some in the "Wilson is a murderous racist" crowd to say that Wilson punched himself in the eye and broke his own socket, or had a fellow racist officer do it for him.]

August 20th, 2014

Try to grab a police officer’s gun…

…and prepare to die if you fail to obtain it.

It is reported that Michael Brown went for Darren Wilson’s gun, and almost got it. We don’t know if that is true, but if it is, it would have been part of the justification for Wilson’s later use of deadly force against Brown. Here is why:

…[M]any police officers who are killed by gunshot are shot with their own weapon that has been taken from them by assailants. Every police officer in the nation, likely in the world, is aware of this reality.

An attempt to seize an officer’s pistol is nothing short of an out-and-out declaration that you intend to slay that officer. Wilson would have been unquestionably entitled to use deadly force against both Brown and his accomplice to prevent this seizure from occurring.

Chief Belmar stated that in the struggle in the car over the gun, the weapon discharged…[A] police officer’s holster (as any good holster) completely covers the gun’s trigger. Thus, the only way the gun could have been discharged during the struggle would have been if the pistol had already come out of the holster.

Because of the threat to police officers of being shot with their own guns, they are trained in techniques of weapon retention…But what if the assailant possesses, as here, considerably greater strength than the officer? Or there are multiple assailants, as here, who collectively can easily overwhelm the officer? Where the cascade of trying to keep the gun in the holster is doomed to fail because of such circumstances—in other words, the assailants are sure to eventually overpower the officer, obtain the weapon, and kill the officer with it.

If Wilson managed to retain control of his weapon after a struggle, and Brown retreated but then came at him again, the use of deadly force to stop Brown would have been justified by a combination of Brown’s previous behavior showing his intent to get the gun, and his size, strength, and final charge towards the officer.

This is just common sense. Unless you are an extreme pacifist who believes that people should offer themselves up for martyrdom rather than kill another person who is attacking them, or unless you believe that Wilson was required to instantaneously figure out an alternative way to stop Brown’s approach, there is no other conclusion to come to. But angry mobs whipped up into outraged grievance by professional racemongers and excused by enablers are unlikely to use this sort of logic.

August 20th, 2014

The quest for violent images drives traffic

Beginning last night I noticed I was getting about two and a half times my usual traffic.

As usual when I get a traffic uptick, I checked my sitemeter. Instead of finding a link from some larger blog, I saw that almost all the extra traffic seemed to be coming from Google searches. But these searches, unlike most, didn’t tell me what the search terms were. Some just showed the link “”

It was puzzling. But when I looked more carefully, I saw that most of the traffic was coming in on this page, the one with a post title that has the words “video,” “beheading,” and “James Foley.”

In other words, all that extra traffic—which has not lessened so far—is from people searching for the video of James Foley being slaughtered. They will be disappointed, because they won’t find it here.

It’s an impressive amount of traffic despite the fact that I don’t link the video, and if you search Google you’ll see I’m not high in their list of articles about it. In fact, I gave up even looking before I saw a link to my blog. So, if I’m getting that much traffic from it despite all that, can you imagine how many millions (billions?) are eagerly searching for that video?

It’s impossible to tell whether they’re celebrating the act, looking for a bloodthirsty visual thrill, wanting to confront the horror in order to best fight it, or just curious. Most are from the US, although there’s a slight increase in foreign visitors and especially from Scandinavian countries, the UK, and Holland.

I suppose it’s just human nature to want to see the horrific. Personally, I’ll pass on it; once seen it cannot be unseen. And I don’t believe I need to see it to understand what we’re up against.

August 20th, 2014

Tablets vs. textbooks

I’m not sure what I think about the tablets vs. textbooks debate. But my guess is that tablets are the wave of the future, whatever I might think.

The actual text of textbooks has already become pretty awful, banal and PC and anti-American all at the same time. But I don’t think tablets will necessarily be better, although a broader range of material ought to be available on them. At any rate, I’m more interested in what the kids are reading than the medium by which they read it.

Of course, I was educated during a time when it was textbooks all the way. What I remember is how heavy my books were, and how my arms would ache as I carried them to school—especially if it was also cello day (try being a kid carrying a huge stack of books plus a cello). Our school books didn’t even begin to fit into our desks—those old dark wooden ones with the inkwells—and so we had to share our seats with a stack of them.

This sort of desk, this sort of seat:


Not only did we sit on those seats with a bunch of books sitting next to us, but we had to stand to recite. And since the girls had to wear skirts or dresses, and sometimes the skirt would get caught under a book, that could wreak havoc when we would stand up and all those carefully-placed books would came crashing down, our version of a failed tablecloth trick.

In first grade we had an ancient teacher (I think she really was ancient, she didn’t just look old to my very young eyes) who every morning would walk down the rows checking us for clean fingernails and whether we had remembered to bring a handkerchief.

A cloth handkerchief. That’s how old I am.

August 20th, 2014

Dershowitz: the indictment of Rick Perry is like the Soviet Union

Strong words from liberal Alan Dershowitz:

“The two statutes under which [Perry] was indicted are reminiscent of the old Soviet Union — you know, abuse of authority,” Dershowitz said Monday. “The idea of indicting him because he threatened to veto spending unless a district attorney who was caught drinking and driving resigned, that’s not anything for a criminal indictment. That’s a political issue.”…

Similar cases of using the criminal justice system to attack political adversaries are cropping up in other states, including Alaska, New York, and Virginia, Dershowitz said, adding that the practice has to end because it makes people “very suspicious of criminal justice and of the legal system.”

“Right now, we are seeing it. It’s beginning to spread. And that’s why it’s so important to put a stop to it now, and to say the criminal law is reserved for real crimes, not for political differences where a party in power or out of power gets revenge against the other party. That’s just not the way to use the criminal justice [system],” he said.

Dershowitz said he cared “deeply about the integrity of our legal system.” He said he is also “outraged” by a conviction against former Texas GOP Rep. Tom Delay, which was overturned in 2013. He said he had been involved in similar cases “all over the world,” and that he hated “to see it come to the United States of America.”

Dershowitz is a Democrat who cares “deeply about the integrity of our legal system.” He’s a smart man, too, and in some ways even brave, because he isn’t afraid to buck the left on this and on a few other issues, such as the Zimmerman case, and Israel/Palestine. But he has a huge blind spot and cannot connect the dots, because he cannot see that those who care about the integrity of our legal system are far more likely to be on the right than the left.

The Perry indictment has been such an egregious abuse of prosecutorial power that, at least this time, Dershowitz has some company on the left—for example Jonathan Chait and the NY Times. They probably fear a backlash to this particular overreach on the part of the Travis County prosecutor, and so does Dershowitz (it makes people “very suspicious of criminal justice and of the legal system”), but Dershowitz’s objections go further than that. He makes the connection between the left’s actions and those of the Soviets, and understands the deeper danger of their methods, which might be a farce but are no joke whatsoever.

Dershowitz is careful to add that he would never vote for Perry. My guess is that he would never vote for any Republican, and certainly not for a conservative. It is a line he cannot cross, and probably will not ever cross, even though he can clearly see what his party is doing and that it is dangerous. Republicans are the enemy, the other, and it is too difficult to go over to the dark side.

A mind is a difficult thing to change. I predict that his never will, if it hasn’t by now.

August 20th, 2014

Lookin’ good, Rick

As mugshots go, pretty nifty, even without the trendy glasses:


He could turn the perp walk into a strut.

The Democrats might come to regret this one. Even Mother Jones calls him a “handsome devil.”

Tom DeLay had a similar idea for his mug shot. But DeLay is no Perry in the male pulchritude department:


ADDENDUM: And I found this at American Digest:


About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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