Friday assorted links


For discerning people, the Internet has reduced the effects of propaganda across the board because it's possible to hear all sides of the story if one is at all diligent. I am pleasantly surprised by the commentary in some media sites, which question the government narrative, often with good examples. The recent Syrian war is a good case study. There were lots of competing videos, photos, and even engineering debates on such issues as the role of the White Helmets, Assad's alleged gas attacks, the conduct of the OPCW, the US's baffling military strategy, the role of Russia in nearly ending the war, etc. I have seen tons of skeptical commentary with regard to, e.g., the alleged poisoning of the Skirpals by the Russians, the Uyghur issue in China, and of course global warming. While MSM talking heads were broadcasting superficial information about all these events, foreign news outlets and random experts were debating on a much deeper level. I'm certain some of the independent observers were paid by some government, but cross-examination generally gets to the heart of the matter. That's why I've tuned out the MSM. It's lightweight and prone to repeating what the host government's position is, in all countries.

You haven't listened to them in the US then. If Trump says grass is green, they'll go on for a week that it's blue. Which is as bad as always taking the administration's side.

After college I worked for Green Peace after which I worked at Amnesty People wanted to contain … excess waist water, bombs, automation, deterioration; but opinions on political violence never seem to change. What's the government response. If my tax dollars are competing with nonprofits and ngos, isn't a lending model better.

Trump usually says grass is blue.

Go away Fredo

That was easy.

Better bluegrass than any of the blue gasbags.

#7. If the author doesn't consider Luke Skywalker a "Chosen One", I don't think the author understands what that term means.

The portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars (as opposed to what developed later) was a naive country bumpkin who stumbled on a message intended for someone else.

I agree that Luke was realistically a "Chosen One" even in Star Wars. But it was only later in the series, particularly the second trilogy, where it all became a case of preordained nobility battling each other. At that point the nobility was all nobility by blood. The force was no longer something that could be tapped by everyone by dint of effort, but only those who were born to it.

The third trilogy staring Rey was a farce. She's an annoying Mary Sue that can do everything better than anyone else.

"The force was no longer something that could be tapped by everyone by dint of effort, but only those who were born to it."

Yet, with an entire Galaxy at play and rebel fighters trying to overthrow the governemnt, the only one who taps the force is the male child of the Emperor's right-hand.

That part makes some sense. The Emperor made a good effort to exterminate the Jedi, so it makes sense that one of the few outposts left would be kids of someone high up, plus the guy who hid the kid in the first place. Still not sure why they'd put Leia in such a powerful position, but Lucas is notorious for ret-cons.

To be fair, the non-Jedi aspects of Star Wars were always the best, in the movies and in the books. In the original trilogy the Rebellion was something going on whether the Jedi wanted to take part or not. It was giant space ships, explosions, chases, cat-and-mouse games between a smuggler and a fleet--all really cool, really exciting stuff. The Jedi were boring.

"Still not sure why they'd put Leia in such a powerful position, but Lucas is notorious for ret-cons."

Because Lucas' desire to shoehorn everything into a story where all happens because of a ten or so players (the Skywalkers and a few friends) was surfacing.

"Yet, with an entire Galaxy at play and rebel fighters trying to overthrow the governemnt, the only one who taps the force is the male child of the Emperor's right-hand."

Yes, that's a good point.

I think from the perspective of the viewer watching the First movie however, Luke is far less of a "Chosen One". He wasn't Darth Vader's son at that point. That was a reveal near the end of the second movie.

I never thought that the Force could be tapped by anyone through just effort. I thought there had to be some minimal amount of "the right stuff" (midicholorians) to be a potential Jedi. You can do a lot of cool things (for good or bad) with the Force - I would think more people would put in the effort to learn it if they didn't need some latent ability to learn it. Because Star Wars fans are fanatical, they've estimated the number of living Jedi before the purge to be 10,000 - in the entire galaxy. That seems like a low number if it just required effort.

I would argue that there are more individuals than just Luke who have the ability to tap the Force. In Episode IV Leia seems to use it when Vader says that her resistance to the mind probe is considerable. Granted, that's his daughter, but in the two book trilogies that follow Return of the Jedi (Zahn and Anderson trilogies), it's clear that there are Force sensitive individuals in the galaxy. That's particularly true in the Anderson series when Luke is seeking out trainees. It's mentioned how those people used those abilities in a limited fashion in their lives. I would consider that similar to Anakin in Episode I when he is pod racing - he has some special talent that other humans do not, thus he is a potential trainee.

The difference between Luke and the other individuals is that he actually received training. One could argue that the others might have tried to pursue training or develop their skills on their own, but if you know the Emperor and Vader hunted down all the Jedi would you really want to develop your skills and become a target? Perhaps better to use your limited skills and do well enough for yourself, particularly if the Empire isn't really causing you problems.

"I thought there had to be some minimal amount of "the right stuff" (midicholorians) to be a potential Jedi."

In the Extended Universe it's vague. Everyone has SOME potential, but most have just a very low potential. Most training went to those with much higher potential than the background rate. Which makes sense: the training is intense even for those with a lot of innate ability, so unless you really, REALLY wanted to be a Jedi it wasn't an appealing option. There are several species that are innately Force-sensitive, and a few that are innately the opposite (some salamander with an impossible name negates the Force around it, for example).

I have never liked the midicholorian nonsense. It negate the whole concept of the Force as presented in the original trilogy, and the consequences would be tremendous in-universe. It would mean that someone had to have seeded the galaxy, because the odds of the same species arising independently on nearly every planet are, essentially, zero (while some interbreeding appears to be possible, it's going to be too limited to be a viable vector). It would also mean that every single species of sentient being in the galaxy (plus non-sentient organisms, plus a few rocks in some of the books) was compatible with that specific organism, which is obviously nonsense. Not many diseases transfer from chickens to humans; none that I know of transfer from pine trees to humans. Personally, I think they did it as a slap in the face of the EU fans--the EU has a test already, and inventing their own nonsense was a way for the movies to distance themselves from the fans, something that they went to some trouble to do.

Sure, but my point is that, from the beginning, it was clear that it was not just a matter of effort. The Rebel Alliance knows it can't just gather a hundred of rebels die-hards, let Yoda teach them the ways of the Force and make them march into the Emperor's quarters.

Movie-goers may not have been completly aware of that back then, but Luke was a hero because of who he was, Darth Vader's son. In this regard, he is little different from Rey or, by the way, Superman.

+1, The counter arguments have convinced me that Luke would have to be considered a Chosen One. I think my prior argument of judging the character from the perspective of just the first movie is a weak argument.

I admit the first (second?) trilogy took its sweet time to show how special Luke really was. He is a less blatant example of the Chosen One than Rey is. I guess someone feared fans wouldn't like the third trilogy if there weren't a superhero(ine) there from the beginning.

To be fair, it probably has much less to do with Hollywood's heroic stereotypes than with the corner Star Wars painted itself into. The first movie was mostly about a hillbilly boy who gets involved in the rebellion against the Empire. He meets an old warrior/mage, he saves a princess and helps in a war operation. But after six movies about the Skywalker family, the Force and the Dark Side, Star Wars became as much about magic powers only a tiny group can ever hope to develop as Star Trek is about space.

The original Star Wars story is about a rural teenager who becomes radicalized by a fanatical religious organization and transforms into a terrorist who blows up a government facility and murders hundreds of thousands of people.

Star Wars is pure Turner Diaries.

No, he was a freedom fighter fighting the totalitarian Empire.

None dare call it treason.

My point exactly.

Yeah, pretty cringe. Luke's powers were heritable, but today, science teaches us that that's awkward, therefore impossible.

If you're looking for ordinary, Arthur Dent is your man. All hail The Sandwich Maker.

I don't think stories necessarily need "ordinary" men. But I think it's more of a classic American tale if the hero's abilities rest on their merit and not their birth right.

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was a great character. She was a farm girl. But she wasn't ordinary. When confronted with an unexpected situation and an evil enemy, she bravely fought back using her wits, courage and tenacity.

Sarah Connor in the Terminator was a waitress. John McClane in Die Hard was a worn out cop headed towards a divorce.

Those were all ordinary people who rose to the occasion and did heroic things.

The modern Star Wars and super hero movies are chock full of characters who have super natural abilities and were born to be better than your average man.

In general, Jedi did not have kids. So, generally, Jedi Knights did not inherit their powers. We can't really say whether or not they were generally inherited except for our n=2 sample size of Luke and Leia, who probably inherited their powers mainly for plot reasons rather than Lucas thinking about these things in a sensible way.

I don't know which is worse, multi page star wars discussions or Brazilian propaganda.

I don't think Brazil engages in propaganda. The government just reports the facts and allow people to make up their own minds.

#3 I like their well-chosen point in time for their statistics and the absence of reference.

It is not that simple.

1) Brazil is bigger than the whole Western Europe or the Lower 48. It is a huge country, densely populated by a dynamic society. It is deceptive to compare its number of murders with tiny countries'.

2) About 2.5% of the events reported as homicides were actually related to criminals dying fighting the police in Rio de Janeiro State. A few other states probably have similar number. It makes as little sense to consider those as homicides as it would be to report the deaths of Americans on D-Day as part of American viole rates.

3) Brazil actually has experience dramatic decreasing of its homicides rates.

4) Brazil's federal government has elaborated a security plan to be approved by Congress.

5) Federal troops are already acting in a few key Brazilian cities.

6) Rio de Janeiro State is implementing a plan of surgical strikes against criminal gangs.

Sorry, Thiago, violent crime is ubiquitous all over Brazil, mostly due to young black men in the enormous underclass. They lack jobs, decent health and dental care, adequate public education, and hope. This is true in São Paulo, Rio, Salvador, Recife, Natal, Manaus, Belém, or any other city.

My entire extended family of in-laws has been victimized by muggings, car jackings, purse snatchings, and property crimes of all kinds.

The most telling information is the way the middle and even some of the working class live - in apartment buildings with 24x7 security, surrounded by high walls topped with razor wire. Some live in tiny imitations of American suburbs - small houses with small yards surrounded by razor wire topped walls with a shared gated entry with 24x7 security. Security guards patrol the houses within 24x7.

Woe to the complacent. A brief period of inattention could ruin or even end your life.

It is not that simple. Evidently, there are problems, but crime is retreating fast under Brazil's President Captain' Bolsonaro's crackdown. All things considered, it is clear that Brazil is winning the war against crime. Just this year, more than 1,000 criminals died fighting Rio de Janeiro State's police.

Well, I have never been to Brazil, but I have heard great thing about the its leader, President Capitain Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro sets fire to Brazil and expects everybody to pay for it.

Not at all. He didn't start the fire.

You, all of you, are too funny Thiago!
I'm gonna go play with the mouse now.

I really do not what you are talking about.

The little fascist is so incompetent that he can't get control over which people get murdered.

Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro is not a fascist. He is a nationalist. Under his leadership, homicides rates are falling like stones.

Data required. Oh and fascist vs nationalist: potatoes, potatos

Not at all. A nationalist wants to defend its country. A fascist hates the outgroup.
According to leading newspaper O Globo, homicides fall 20% in the first four months of this year.

"A nationalist wants to defend its country."

That's a cute lie.

Nationalism is collectivism. It subverts the individual to the collective, which in this case happens to be the nation. That's why it's evil.

No, it is not. Quite the opposite. Nationalism channels the individual's strength to the common good.

Nationalism is fascism's little retarded brother.

Does that homicide count include the murders by police and other government forces?

Yes, but probably shouldn't. It is a war. America's killings in Afghanistan don't show up on the America's homicides rate.

So what you're telling us is that President Captain Bolsonaro is at war with his own people?

Not at all. He is at war with the criminals. Criminals are at war with their own people. He who spares the the wolf, dooms the sheep.

On 7: Luke Skywalker wasn’t ordinary. He had strong technical skills, a desire for adventure, an anti- Empire ideology, an impressive family lineage, and an ability to strongly connect with the force. Donald Trump isn’t ordinary either.

Admittedly, I only skimmed this post, but it’s pretty clear that the writer objects to Rey and Hilary because he doesn’t like the idea of women achieving power based on merit, rather than endowment. Heaven forbid that an ordinary women do extraordinary things. Presumably, his dream of a new Skywalker era would not put Princess Leia at the center.

Harry Potter and Sir Galahad aren't exactly women...

Maybe read the whole thing. It's the exact opposite of what you're saying there. Princess Leia was a PRINCESS, of course she's supposed to do extraordinary things. I think there is already Mary/Gary-Sue backlash happening and of the fire-backs at this chosen one trend is One-Punch Man (and my hero academia to some extent as well).

Point taken, up to a point.

On second look, this characterization is wrong, and I am guilty of political typecasting; the writer notes that several of his novels have ordinary women as main characters, although he apparently has issues with women running the country. Trump was born into the NY elite, and beat the political odds, but he’s still ordinary; Hilary has a prosperous background too, but she’s “a chosen one.”

Perhaps the larger problem for the author is that people who do remarkable things are special, in an endowment sense, even if the sources of their specialness are not always clear, or widely recognized.

"although he apparently has issues with women running the country. "

The author doesn't say any such thing. He specifically alludes to Hillary Clinton as a "Chosen One". He doesn't say or imply that women can't run the country.

The author prefers ordinary people to “chosen ones.” Trump is clearly a “chosen one,” in terms of background and political skill, but he is characterized as “embarrassingly ordinary,” in order to create a contrast with Hilary. If the author doesn’t have a problem with female leadership, why create a false contrast to make Trump look better?

"If the author doesn’t have a problem with female leadership, why create a false contrast to make Trump look better?"

The author doesn't like Hillary Clinton. Why do you keep extrapolating from that to the author has a problem with female leadership?

It's a bizarre extrapolation for an author who has written multiple novels with female protagonists.

"The protagonist of The Weird of Hali: Dreamlands is an elderly professor at a small Massachusetts college who’s coping with terminal cancer. She has no superhuman powers, no mythic identity, no grandiose destiny, not even a spandex suit and a cape, just a fair amount of curiosity and a stubborn streak. "

"The one lead character who’s got abilities that stray a little past the human—Jenny Parrish, the protagonist of The Weird of Hali: Kingsport—is otherwise a very ordinary young woman, notably mostly for a bookish streak and an unusually plain physical appearance. "

Hillary definitely had her problems, but compared to Trump she was a paragon of personal, and political virtue. That was clear in 2016, and it’s even clearer now. The election was a litmus test; g*t*p or a woman president. Being anti-Hilary meant being anti-women.

You are either With us or Against us!

"If the author doesn’t have a problem with female leadership, why create a false contrast to make Trump look better?"

Because, while women are just fine, Hillary was a piece of shit.

Hillary was quite literally the "chosen one" of the Democratic Party elite, who shamelessly rigged the primaries in her favor.

And unless one is an anointed successor to whom obeisance is due, the ability to produce $675,000 out of a brief speech to Goldman Sachs is surely a kind of superpower.

'who shamelessly rigged the primaries in her favor'

And then, unbelievably, she lost to McCain in 2008.

Are you denying it happened in 2016? The superdelegate business and all the shenanigans exposed by the DNC email leaks. Providing Clinton with debate questions ahead of time. The endless premature burials for Sanders in the mainstream media. Right from the start: the Iowa caucuses were a dead heat, but all the individual coin flips somehow went in Clinton's favor.

It's clockwork. When confronted with a fact that challenges his world view he tries to move the goal posts around to avoid confronting it.

There's no evidence in those leaks that anything was rigged. Bernie lost outright because Hillary got millions more votes, period, end of story.

"There's no evidence in those leaks that anything was rigged. "

The Washington Post disagrees:

"Many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. Basically all of these examples came late in the primary -- after Hillary Clinton was clearly headed for victory -- but they belie the national party committee's stated neutrality in the race even at that late stage."

Donna Brazile stated:

"Brazile sums it up near the end: “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”"
Furthermore, Bernie Sanders has claimed on multiple occasions that the primary was rigged. Elizabeth Warren has gone on record stating that she thinks the DNC rigged the primary in favor of Hillary.

"Basically all of these examples came late in the primary -- after Hillary Clinton was clearly headed for victory"

Silver's point exactly. It's meaningless.

“If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”"

Handwaving and excuses. The voters were not controlled by any campaign. They had their say and they chose Hillary.

Now you're just moving the goal posts.

First you said there was no evidence of rigging in those leaks. Now you've changed the argument to: The rigging came late in the primary and therefore it doesn't matter.

The rigging was so late it's just moot. It's like moving the goalposts after 50 touchdowns. And it's still not 'rigging' it's just shady. Nothing new really and no reason to believe Hillary would not have won anyway.

If the debate moderators give Trump the questions beforehand....

Would Cytotoxic claim the election was rigged?

Inquiring minds.

Somehow Russian spending of $100,000 in Facebook ads and allowing the public to read DNC emails is a Stolen Election and Illegitimate President.

But giving candidates questions to a debate is “just shady.”

The nomination process isn't the same as a general election.

#4. I definitely feel like I can't take "mental notes" anymore. I'm constantly thinking of stuff I need to remember to look up, or buy, or do, later when I get a chance, and then completely forget about them. Not generally really important things like forgetting to buy plane tickets for a planned vacation, but things like where I hear about some sort of useful object or fun activity that I should check out and see if we should buy/do. Like someone telling me about a good vacation spot. I'm starting to have to write that stuff down otherwise I'll forget it exists.
Also making doctors appointments for kids, or remembering I need to get a chimney sweep to clean out the fireplace before winter. It's like the number of mental notes I can take is more limited so I have to keep an actual todo list instead of just remembering everything I need to do.

Also, as far as his article is concerned I also have that word-crossing problem sometimes, but I'm not sure if it's cognitive decline related - it might be as your vocabulary expands you have to manage accessing more words with the same neural structure, so it's easier for wires to get crossed. There's less room for error. Or sometimes I'm thinking faster than I can type and the wrong word comes out because I'm thinking of a different word four or five words ahead of what my fingers are typing.

I'm not sure if my memory is less or if I simply care less.

Do you know the key to remembering names? Caring.

I've always been poor with peoples names, regardless. To some extent it's caring, but I can say a name 3 or 4 times and then have forgotten it a week later. Usually I have to see something to remember it.

However, technology helps, I keep a Farley file on my phone. And to Hazel's point, I don't even try to "remember" secondary events anymore. I just immediately put them into my phone Calendar with a reminder.

yeah, I suck at names and faces. I have to meet someone at least three times before I remember their name. Once a friend of mine grew a beard and I didn't recognize him. Then he shaved it and I didn't recognize him again. I was like "what, you're not BJ, no way. He's way older, and he has a beard."

"Do you know the key to remembering names? Caring."
Works for hearing too.

2. Consider that the media/political class in the US and most capitals worldwide were tied into knots for two years because of a third hand account of some pissing prostitutes coming out of Russia.

Subscribe to the Washington Post today for our perception and skill at recognizing Russian Propaganda! You can trust us, of all people!

5. This is nothing new. A "blue ticket" has been the means of exile for anti-social outsiders for a long time. However, in small villages where most of the people are related this doesn't happen to life-long residents. Relatives are tolerated, even if especially obnoxious. Blood is thicker than water.

#2: NSS

#3: have banks been "pulling back" or is it lack of demand? I thought Tyler's Complacency critique was predicated in part on small business formation plummeting. Still, nothing wrong with trying out new business models for lending, so good luck, Stripers.

#4: maybe the guy needs to exercise more. I feel considerably sharper, mentally, when I'm getting regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise like running/biking/etc.

#7: I bailed on this after like three paragraphs. Get to the effin' point.

"#7: I bailed on this after like three paragraphs. Get to the effin' point."

+1, the post was meandering .

10 first-person pronouns in the first handful of sentences never bodes well.

10 first-person pronouns in the first handful of sentences

Welcome to Western Prose in 21st Century. It's a good exercise in writerly self-discipline to avoid "I" in all that one writes. And a great differentiator.

1. Should read: “The gullible culture that is Rolf Degen.” Any jump in anything, let alone sex/masturbation, on that scale leads one to suspect the questionnaire accounts for the jump.

Or just a change in what's culturally acceptable. (either in communicating personal information, or in actual behavior). Tattoos, pubic shaving, oral sex...fads or change in culture? IDK

In all seriousness, why should the historically unprecedented wealth of pornography currently available to men of all ages, and all incomes, not lead to a Great Age of Masturbation?

It's perfectly reasonable to believe that the average man today is masturbating his brains out, and this is having many secondary social effects, not only in relations between the sexes.

3. I assume it will work much like a bank lock box arrangement, with all of the borrower's cash flow from internet sales flowing through Stripe, which will withhold the debt service payments due Stripe. With the intertwining relationship Stripe already has with its customers, one wonders if Stripe will cross the line, Stripe becoming inseparable from its customers with all of the legal consequences that flow from that. Just as our friends here at MR believe restrictions on monopoly are an impediment to economic growth, they likely believe conflict of interest is old fashioned. [Well-advised banks go to great lengths to create a wall between the bank and its customer's business, for fear that decisions and actions of the customer will be attributed to the bank. I suspect that conflict of interest is such an integral part of the way tech does business, few participants give it much thought.]

#7. The superhero genre of comics predates Star Wars by at least a generation, and Luke IS special. He's got super powers, he can use the force.

So Green is just totally mistaken that this has been going on for only 20 years or that Star Wars has anything to do with it. And everything after that, well, he's just going off the rails.

Though as long as we're on the subject I have been wondering why people like superhero stories, of which there have been an endless supply lately. We finally decided to delve into Jessica Jones this week, because my husband likes superhero stuff, and I put up with it for his sake.

But it kind of baffles me. I'm pretty surer I don't have superpowers so I have a hard time relating to the protagonists in these shows, or caring about their problems.
Take superman for instance. It's all about a guy who has amazing powers, he's like literally the most powerful man in the world, and how he has to disguise himself as a dorky journalist, and can't get close to the hot chick Lois Lane he's in love with as a result.
It's sort of a narrative that seems designed to appeal to insecure men by feeding their ego with dreams that underneath their dorky exterior, they really have amazing superpowers. But nobody actually has superpowers, so instead of making guys feel secure in being normal, it provides a false sense of superiority. That's what's called arrogance or hubris. In the story, Clark Kent can't win the love of Lois until she falls in love with the false persona of Superman first, implying that women won't love you for who you are, so you have to fake a persona in which you are "special". Which obvioiusly is not a path to real intimacy.

I could go on about all the badness involved in the superhero genre in other ways, but I just have to ask why other people enjoy superhero comics and movies. What do you get out of it?

It is not the simple. Superheroes' stories, just like the stories of the heroes of yore, such as Achilles and Heracles, inspire the youth to aim for the highest standards.

To protect Brazil's youth, Rio de Janeira City's Mayor, Mr. Crivella, has ordered an investigation into homesexual propaganda in comic books.

Aren't you basically confirming the idea that it's propaganda then?
Is it a good idea for elites to be telling the youth what sort of standard to aspire to? Who decides what that standard is? Achilles and Hercules were warriors. Superman and other recent heros fight crime. Captain Planet saves the planet ... all of these things contain ideological content.

I think children are straightforwardly drawn to heroes. Nobody told me to admire Speed Racer (or was it the charismatic Racer X?) but I would rise like one compelled in the pre-dawn dark to steal through the house, turn on the TV and watch "Speed Racer" before school - with the volume turned almost all the way down, so that in order to hear it - "Speed! Speed!" - my face was about 6 inches from the screen, and I had to kind of scan it back and forth like a cathode ray tube.

It is a positive kind of propaganga, like telling children to brush their teeth and look both ways before crossing.

"So Green is just totally mistaken that this has been going on for only 20 years or that Star Wars has anything to do with it. "

It's certainly older than that, so I think Green is mistaken in pointing to Star Wars. And I don't think Star Wars is any turning point. However, it's clearly become more prevalent post Star Wars. IE non-stop Super hero movies, Harry Potter, etc.

The argument reminds me of Heinlein's 'competent man' (which goes back to at least the 50's and maybe the 30's.

"In literature, the competent man is a stock character who exhibits a very wide range of abilities and knowledge, making him a form of polymath.

Many non-superpowered comic book characters are written as hyper-competent characters due to the perception that they would simply be considered underpowered otherwise. Batman, for example"

I've always vastly preferred the ordinary character or even the 'competent man' versus the Super Hero with super natural abilities.

Oops, I meant Greer. I think it's Greer.

I do also like "competent man" characters, although not so much Batman. Batman isn't just competent he's also super rich and intelligent. Whereas Heinlein's characters are competent but otherwise quite ordinary people.

Superman sucks. He's the worst superhero. But superheroes aren't necessarily bad or feeding off of insecurity. Captain America in TWS was an exemplar of his principles.

#7 was a clunker for another reason: this person seems to really venerate the ordinary. Why? What is so great about the ordinary?

Today’s presidential candidates seem all to be claiming something like superpowers. Trump claimed that only he could “Make America Great Again.” The Dems are all seriously claiming that they can do the otherwise impossible: provide every possible benefit for free, transform the energy sector by decree, produce full employment by eliminating industries that don’t support them (fossil fuels, internal combustion, the insurance industry), ensure a meaningful life for every drug addict by giving them $1000/month, “tax the hell,” and on and on.

...if we stopped treating the president like some godlike superhero who we elect to save us all and give our lives meaning.

Hazel, these characters weren't designed to appeal to *men*, they were designed to appeal to small boys. It's not designed with plausibility in mind. They also do the character a few dozen different ways to cope with the fact that it's not so plausible.

Your analysis is weirdly tainted by your animus here. Explain Batman - billionaire playboy... with a secret identity - in the same terms. Yet Batman, and a plethora of others, appeals to nerds *more* if anything than Superman. (Sure you could quite easily find some of the "problematic" crowd to agree with it, though, nonetheless).

#2 - the article states "Our research shows it only influences neighboring countries’ citizens on subjects *they know little about*"

This is very different from concluding propaganda is not all that effective. Propaganda doesn't often change people's existing opinions (not much does) but it will influence opinions about unfamiliar topics.

For that purpose propaganda can be very effective, and the article notes this.

Agree 100%. Russia has been able to push points of view completely at odds with reality. We take for granted that Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia, whereas all the evidence point to the contrary. Or that Assad fights terrorists whereas he freed thousands of Jihadis from jail. Such wrong perceptions hurt Ukrainians and Syrians.

Finally, the presidential elections was decided by 90,000 votes between Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. It could well have been swung even by not all that effective propaganda. Nate Silver suspects that Wikileaks' dumps and Comey's letter were decisive. Both seem to originated from Russia's (mis)information.

THANK CHRIST. Reading your comment is like coming up for air. You especially hit it out of the part wrt Assad and the jihadis....also want to note that he and the Russians were very very reluctant to fight ISIS for the longest time.

What's disturbing is also how far back and where it goes. I remember in the heat of Russia's aggression against Georgia in 2008 that the Cato Institute was essentially repeating Kremlin talking points in at least one article I read from them.

> We take for granted that Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia, whereas all the evidence point to the contrary.

Say what?

Crimea actually was part of Russia until 1954, when Khrushchev out of the blue decided to give it to Ukraine. At the time, under centralized Soviet rule, that was simply an administrative boundary change without any political or cultural or linguistic significance.

With the bloody war in the Donbass that came later, it's easy to forget that the Russians took over Crimea without firing a shot. They achieved what the Americans in Iraq could only dream of: they were welcomed as liberators by a very large majority of the population.

I'm not saying that the end justifies the means, but let's simply acknowledge reality: the biggest demographic group in Crimea certainly did want to be part of Russia.

And where is the evidence?

1. In 1991's independence referendum, 57% of Crimeans voted to exit the USSR. So much for a majority willing to stay with Russia.
2. No opinion polls had ever shown a majority for joining Russia. A poll taken a month before the invasion showed only 45% of respondents in favor of secession.
3. The referendum was a travesty. it was called after as Russians were holding the Crimean MPs at gunpoint. Results showing 87% turnout and 89% majority are not believable: Russians make up only 59% of Crimea's population and other groups are sternly opposed to Russia. A Russian human-rights group estimates that only between 30% and 50% of voters turned up consistent with the opinion polls I mentioned.

Crimea's takeover was bloodless because Russia acted swiftly and Ukraine was caught off guard. In the Donbas, Russia has instead decided instead to fuel an insurgency and Ukraine had time to mount a response.

My thoughts goes to Crimea's dissidents who suffer in jails and psychiatric hospitals. There were no human-rights violations under Ukraine.

In 1991 no other region in Ukraine voted less than 83% in favor of independence, so the 54% vote in Crimea shows how very different it was politically and demographically.

In any case, public opinion very soon shifted. In 1994, elections were held for the post of President of Crimea (an autonomous republic within Ukraine) in which a pro-Russian secessionist candidate won with 72.9 percent of the vote. Ukraine's response was to abolish the office of President of Crimea and reduce Crimea's autonomy. Ukraine itself organized that election, by the way, so you can hardly claim the results were fraudulent.

The Maidan overthrow of Yanukovich had a very polarizing effect. If support for secession was as high as 45% just before those events, it certainly swung much higher, in part because one of the very first actions of the post-overthrow Rada in February 2014 was to pass a bill restricting the use of the Russian language by abolishing the 2012 "law on regional languages". It was vetoed by the acting president at the time, but a far more draconian language law did come into effect in 2019. There would be very little support for rejoining Ukraine if a referendum was organized today.

I am not being an apologist for Putin's takeover, I am just pointing out that it is laughable to claim that that takeover was not supported by a strong majority of Crimea's population. Russia's takeover was bloodless because the local police, army and security services defected en masse along with the rest of the population.

Still it's speculation.

But we're wondering too far from the point of this post. So I guess the discussion will continue another time and in another place.

4. "The reason why Flowers for Algernon was such a magnificent story is that we’re all Charlie Gordon. We all start out dumb, get smart, and then get dumb again."

It won't be too long before we only get dumb again at death - not the years preceding it.

Death? Don't know about you but thanks to modern science I have no intention of ever dying.

'Russian propaganda is not all that effective'

Which is why they tend to roll tanks, or bomb things too.

The most effective Russian propaganda is meta. Instead of convincing everyone in order to sway elections, they convince everyone that they are swaying elections.

'The most effective Russian propaganda is meta.'

The most effective Russian propaganda is in Russian, as most Russians believe they deserve to own the Crimea (which at least is somewhat open to discussion, particularly with that Soviet era twist), and that the Ukranians are simply fascists threatening Russia when all Russia wants is peace - and a chunk of the Ukraine that should belong to Russia anyways.

That Russian propaganda in other contexts can be clumsy and easily played was wonderfully demonstrated by the French, who actually do seem to have a clue how to counter attack against Russian attempts to influence Western politics in a most effective way - by making the proven Russian efforts look laughable. Estonia does something similar.

In the U.S., in contrast, we seemingly feel that a former KGB officer would never use methods that the Soviets practiced for generations, something about as laughable as Russian ineptness in a number of European countries.

Just like they did back in the good ol' days in '56, amirite?

2. Misleading clickbait headline. The article is actually about the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, where a very large fraction of the population watches a Russian TV channel in Russian. What applicability does this have to the US, where approximately zero people directly consume content produced in Russia in any language?

Also, they say, "To find out how much Russian media affected public opinion, we compared the attitudes of those who did — and did not — speak Russian and watch Russian news." But knowledge and usage of Russian is stronger in the big cities than in the countryside.

The WP article links to a Kyrgyz blog article which ranks TV channels by ratings, which shows that channels with Russia-produced content dominate the ratings much more in the capital city Bishkek than in the country as a whole. Channel One, in particular, is in first place in the ratings in the capital but only in third place in the country as a whole; on the other hand, the most popular channel in the country as a whole (KTRK) only comes in sixth place in the capital.

So rather than measuring the effect of "propaganda" they are probably just seeing a rural-urban divide.

Ethnic divide essentially.

Not really. There are only about 20% Europeans in the capital and about 5% nationwide. There is fairly extensive use of Russian by ethnic Kyrgyz themselves in the capital.

#4...How uplifting. In any case, speak for yourself. While you can, I guess. Best of luck.

#7: The story of Last Jedi is quite overtly against "chosen one" mythology, and explicitly focuses a lot of attention on the fact that Rey is the child of alcoholic nobodies. Combined with the Force-using slave boy who grabs the broom at the end of the movie, its very overt theme is that the Force is not just for special anointed ones. This writer's reading of the movie is indefensible.

This writer seems indefensible, period. This person really seems to love protagonists that are 'low' ie not gifted, not special, even dumb like Charlie Gordon.

Isn't it obvious that Kylo Ren lies to Rey when he says she's nobody? She's obviously Luke's daughter, and that's what the title of the next movie alludes to (The Rise of Skywalker, duh). This is so obvious I'm sad I have to say it.

I'd be willing to wager a bit of actual money that this is false, if you're interested.

4) This guy might just be feeling a little too self-conscious, which makes it hard to get in the flow and do anything well. I'd visit the mound and tell him to just rock and fire.

I fondly recall a character in some novel about a newspaper or magazine, an old guy who insisted on still touch-typing his stories -- but every keystroke was one to the left of where it should have been. Someone on the copy desk just translated it all for print rather than having him fired.

2. Why is MSM propaganda so effective in US?

3. Stripe Capital.
We are moving toward an automated S/L facility. Easy to do if the clients are risk equalized. Also it is profitless in the end, income comes from ads.

4. Quantifying my cognitive decline.

fuggetabout finland
what about the cannibal culture that is swedish sociology!

cant wait to hear barnie sanders& warren
come out for cannibals against climate change!

#7: I agree with his overall point, and he should've mentioned "The Lion King" as another movie with an annoyingly monarchical Chosen One.

But as others have mentioned, the essay pretty much negates its value by being overlong and meandering, and with weird arbitrary choices of which characters are Chosen Ones and which ones are Ordinary. One can halfway agree with him describing Luke Skywalker as Ordinary -- but only if one ignores every single other film in the series. And Hilary Clinton as a Chosen One? If that myth ever existed, which it didn't, it was busted in 2008.

One of the reasons that I prefer Star Trek to Star Wars is because the main characters aren't royalty, or the children of the masters of the universe, or the like. But we can't quite describe them as truly Ordinary, Captain Kirk wasn't exactly a boring Everyman and characters such as Spock and Data were very much born with special powers.

And he should've mentioned part of the appeal of Chosen Ones when they're characters such as Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, arguably Peter Parker/Spiderman, etc.: an ordinary kid, often picked on or neglected, often in a nowhere home or town or planet, turns out to have superpowers and be destined for greatness. The appeal to children longing to escape their current situation is obvious.

But it's also a reason for disliking these books and movies that feature Chosen Ones, it's an inherently childish conceit that your current life sucks but you're secretly a Chosen One who will someday Show Them.

#4: From his description of his problems with words, and how those problems are worse than they used to be, it sounds like a fairly significant decline. His idea to keep a journal is a good one but he might want to do two kinds of writing each day. A more polished work (his writing was fine in this published example), and a more extemporaneous scribbled-down writing. It appears that, at least at this stage of his decline, his polished writing still holds up but presumably his raw writing will show the signs of decline that he describes.

And yes, Flowers for Algernon is a good cite. Send not to ask for whom the flowers are ...

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