2013/06/28

The Heat


Fascinating to see that the first real moment of female bonding in the picture comes when the Boston cop Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) shows off her weapons collection to New York Federal Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock). Lots and lots of laugh-out-load moments.

2013/06/15

The Man of Steel


The Man of Steel reminds me of The Avengers in terms of the widespread destruction that the super-fights cause (Superman battles some fellow Kryptonians, so they have no trouble tearing up the city like tissue paper). I think The Avengers movie does a better job of alternating quiet moments with loud ones. Man of Steel is very, very loud, fast and destructive. In the Guardian, some people utilized an insurance program to look at The Avengers movie and to estimate the cost of the damage that Loki caused to New York City. Comparable real-life costs are “9/11 ($83bn), Hurricane Katrina ($90bn) or the Japanese tsunami ($122bn) to fix.” They estimate the damage from The Avengers fight to be around $160bn. The Man of Steel fight? Whoof. That's got to be in the neighborhood of $220bn at least, as several sections of New York, er that is, Metropolis, end up looking as though they've suffered a really heavy B-52 strike.
Interesting to see that the Clark Kent-Lois Lane relationship is carried out very differently from the usual one. It's a good deal more plausible than the usual one is.

2013/06/05

Troubling to see two kinds of drone strikes


NBC News reports that US drones can launch a “personality” strike or a “signature” strike. The personality strike relies upon intel collected from the field and the target is very specifically identified. Drone operators know the name of the person being assassinated from a distance. That's troubling, but the signature strike is far more troubling. The signature strike depends on following behavior patterns in the person being observed. As a blog post of 2006 observed, our intel services have “been there, done that.” Person A might call Person B. B might call Person C's number. Person A might later call the number for Person C as well. Is this a small group of terrorists keeping in touch with each other? Actually, probably not. These connections actually got a nickname: “Pizza Hut connections.” Person A might indeed be calling Person B because B is a friend, but Person C often turned out to be a pizza delivery place or some similar business that both A and B used. Countless man-hours were wasted running down just such useless connections. Of course “According to President Bush, the NSA spy program was used only for gathering intelligence on citizens suspected of plotting with Al Qaida inside the United States,” and hey, we all know how reliable and truthful Bush was, eh? So, it's really far from clear that the targeting the US Government used was anywhere near as precise in reality as it was in theory.
It certainly sounds from the NBC piece that today's drone strikes are much better planned and that the intel is much more substantiated, but there is the past to consider.

How seriously should we take Politifact?


So, a sort-of, kind-of liberalish columnist publishes this. Gets lots and LOTS of comments. A liberal commenter (Comments are deleted after a few days, so these won't be up for the long term) stated the following:

Almost two and a half years ago, John Boehner and the flood of new Tea Party winners in the 2010 election promised that House Republicans would be the ‘jobs creators’, since President Obama and the Democrats were doing such a slow job at it.
So where are the jobs? Since then:

• Number of Republican-introduced jobs-creation bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives – ZERO.

• Number of Democrat-introduced jobs-creation bills allowed to come to a vote in the GOP controlled House of Representatives - ZERO.

And of course, not one of those GOP members mentions that they blocked an increase in funds for embassy security. But you'd never know if this if you watch Fox religiously.

A conservative commenter responded that Politifact had “ruled” that Republicans had indeed created lots of “jobs bills.” They get this assertion by counting up the number of bills that are labeled as having something to do with creating jobs. Politifact makes an extremely important observation near the end, though:

"Job creation" means different things to different parties.

Most conservatives today are dead-set against traditional forms of government-based economic stimulus known as Keynesian economics, primarily spending initiatives. So if "job creation" is defined to primarily include Keynesian initiatives, then Republicans aren’t going to be sponsoring any "job creation" bills. Instead, Republicans argue that tax cuts and budget cutting will help the economy prosper.

Frankly, if I were the editor of Politifact, I would have started with this undisputed fact (That the parties disagree on what constitutes “job creation”) and would have then explored just what Republicans mean by labeling bills as “jobs bills.” In 100% of the cases where I've seen the term “jobs bill,” it's referred to a bill that's specifically about Keynesian stimulus. I've never seen a bill referred to as a “jobs bill” when the creation of jobs is merely a by-product. Sure enough, the liberal digs into the data and spells out just what these alleged Republican “jobs bills” are all about:

18 of these so-called "jobs bills" reduce or eliminate government regulations in nearly every business sector, especially of energy and pollution


6 give more tax breaks to the same big businesses that are sitting on record profits and not hiring people right now.

One is an anti-union bill.

Another makes it even easier to bring foreign high tech workers into the country to replace American workers at lower wages.

One eliminates imaginary regulations against "farm dust".

And one is the Paul Ryan budget that lays out a 'Path to Prosperity' that includes massive layoffs and gutting social programs.

In other words - not a single job created, but plenty of reduced wages and lost jobs. 

In other words, Politifact's research doesn't go anywhere near deep enough to be meaningful. Labels are affixed to bills by political parties for all sorts of reasons, not merely to be factually descriptive. As a body that “rules” on the truth of political rhetoric, they don't put enough research into the questions they look at to have any serious credibility.

I “rule” that Politifact is a moderately useful source, to be cited when they agree with you, but otherwise to be ignored.