“Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.” (“They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”)
- Gaius Cornelius Tacitus; 56 – 117 A.D.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is the second film based on Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy, set in the dystopian future state of Panem.
“Catching Fire” was preceded by “The Hunger Games,” (2012) to be concluded with “Mockingjay” next year.
“The Hunger Games” was pretty good. “Catching Fire” is better.
The Hunger Games are a high-tech gladiatorial spectacle held yearly by the despotic state of Panem. Each year 24 tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 drafted from each of the 12 districts are made to hunt each other until only one is left. The Games were founded after a rebellion of the grindingly poor districts against the rich and decadent Capitol, which resulted in the destruction of District 13.
Collins has citied inspiration from the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, the tale of the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens Athens was obliged to send to King Minos’ labyrinth in Crete. Reviewers also note Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), and the film “Gladiator” (2000).
Older science fiction fans might notice elements of Mack Reynolds now-obscure novel, “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Princes” (1964).
Panem is New Rome, the latest incarnation of the first western world-state whose rise, decadence, and fall still fascinates us 1,600 years after the sack of the Rome by Alaric the Goth, 560 years after the capture of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II. The name Panem is an allusion to the Latin “panem et circensis,” the “bread and circuses” with which the Roman Empire kept the masses pacified.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) survived the 74th annual Hunger Games. With help from Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), District 12’s only surviving tribute, and fashion designer Cinna (Lennie Kravitz), they skillfully manipulated the audience with a phony star-crossed lovers story, forcing the masters of the games to allow both of them to live.
There’s a problem. For Peeta, it’s not phony. He’s in love with Katniss, who respects him but she’s kind of attached to Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) a boy back home.
There’s an even bigger problem. President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) is seriously teed-off at their defiance. Snow tells Katniss she and Peeta had better toe the party line on their victory tour of the districts or her family…
Haymish tells her the same. Their act is now a permanent fixture of their lives. But he notes there could be worse things.
“If you live to be a hundred you’ll never deserve that boy,” he says.
But Katniss and Peeta are caught up in a rising spirit of rebellion in the districts, at first reluctantly. Snow decides they must be eliminated, in a way that destroys their image as heroes.
Urged by the enigmatic new master of the games Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Snow declares a Quarter Quell where the tributes will be chosen from a pool of all surviving winners.
District 9’s only surviving female winner is Katniss. The only males are Peeta and Haymich.
They must make alliances with other tributes, but who can they trust when all of them know that in the end there can be only one?
Katniss and Peeta must again win the favor of the mob with the help of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Cinna, but this is a two-edged sword. They need the mob on their side, but the favor of the mob means the enmity of Snow.
All of this makes for a great story with dramatic tension to spare and great special effects that nonetheless don’t substitute for good plotting.
But there’s something that’s really starting to get to me about this story, and incidentally creating my own personal dramatic tension about whether I want to read the books now or wait till I’ve seen the final installment.
I know from experience that school children in this country know almost nothing about the appalling history of tyranny in the previous century.
They might know a man named Hitler killed a lot of people in their grandparents’ time. Seldom that Stalin killed murdered at least ten times as many, or Mao even more. Che Guevarra is just a face on a T-shirt to them.
They know nothing about the brutal technology of tyranny, how people are kept poor, fearful, without hope.
“The Hunger Games” trilogy is in fact a pretty good description of tyranny, though set in the future. It’s strange that young people should learn this from young adult fiction, but we may hope this will motivate them to learn some history.
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.
Last Saturday, Nov. 30, was the 74th anniversary of the beginning of a forgotten war, the Soviet invasion of Finland, called the Talvisota in Finnish, and the Zimnyaya Woyna in Russian.
The Red Army, which possessed three times as many soldiers as Finland, 30 times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks, poured across the border in 1939, three months after the beginning of World War II.
The ostensible goal was to take a strip of border territory the Soviets regarded as essential for their security. Leningrad (now again St. Petersburg) was only about 25 miles from the border. Some claim the goal was to totally absorb Finland into the USSR and make it a province of a Great Russian state again.
The Soviets demanded the territory and offered some in exchange. The Finns refused, the Soviets attacked without warning as they had Poland.
The Finns, though vastly outnumbered, had the home field advantage and high morale. The Soviets were hampered by Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937 when the officer corps of the Red Army had been virtually wiped out, leaving only loyal or terrified subordinates in command.
Volunteers from Sweden, Estonia (where the language is essential a Finnish dialect) and America came to fight for Finland. They learned to improvise to make up for lack of materiel. Few now remember how the home-made gasoline bomb came to be named for Vyacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars.
But after four months of hard fighting superior numbers told. Finland had to cede the territory the Soviets demanded, and more.
The peace lasted 15 months. After dividing Poland between them the German’s turned on their former ally and attacked the Soviet Union. Finland saw this as an opportunity to regain lost territory and renewed hostilities, fighting alongside Germany.
This led to one of the greatest ironies of the war. Finnish Jews fought alongside the Wehrmacht, the grandfather of a Finnish friend among them. Several were nominated for the Iron Cross, but refused.
The way my Finnish friend put it was, “When the bastards are coming at you shooting, you don’t inquire too closely about the man next to you shooting back.”
Finland walked a tightrope throughout the war. Their war policy was to make it plain they were fighting the Soviet Union as co-belligerents of the Third Reich, not allies. They generally stopped military operations at their pre-war borders, they declined to advance to Leningrad to complete the encirclement of the city, and ceased operations that threatened the Murmansk route of American aid to the Soviets.
The Finns also flatly refused demands by the Nazis to take any anti-Jewish measures.
The end of the war saw concessions of territory by Finland, reparations paid to the USSR, and the lease of a naval base with right of passage to the Soviets. It also saw brief fighting with the Wehrmacht to expel them from Finland.
But they kept their independence and maintained it throughout the Cold War. They were not a satellite state like the countries of Eastern Europe, and though they had a communist presence in their parliament I can testify from personal knowledge their attitude towards the Soviets was one of open truculence.
When my parents traveled from Finland to Russia back in the 1980s their Finnish tour guide told them, “Some things are better in the Soviet Union. They have a better neighbor than we do.”
One sign of Finland’s commitment to being Western is that virtually all young people in Finland are fluent in English, far fewer in Russian though Russia is next door.
It’s significant also that private gun ownership in Finland is the fifth highest in the world, and in Europe neck-and-neck with Switzerland.
Since I was reminded of this anniversary I’ve been trying to think of lessons that might be learned.
One is of course, that life is complicated. The hammering the Red Army took from the Finns in the Winter War forced them to make significant reforms that put them in better shape for the next round. The Finns relationship with Germany went from enemy to co-belligerent to enemy again within the space of a few years.
Another is that sometimes you have to hold your nose and do something that stinks to survive, but you always have to draw the line somewhere.
But most of all I think, is the virtue of what the Finns call “Sisu.”
It’s hard to translate without being wordy, but it means: guts, toughness, strength of will in the face of adversity, never giving up or giving in despite repeated failure, resilience, grit.
Just the other day I had a Facebook exchange with a friend.
This was an exchange of the kind which reminds me of (journalist) Frank Meyer’s observation, “We find comfort among those we agree with, growth among those we disagree with.”
The fact is, sometimes I spend entirely too much time with people I agree with. And of the people I don’t agree with, a lot of them don’t argue very well. It’s just not very challenging to discuss disagreements with somebody whose contentions begin and end with, “I just feel…”
When you disagree with someone who can support their position well, it challenges your brain, makes you define and refine what you believe and why you believe it.
The Facebook format forces you to do it in tiny bites, which is frustrating but also sharpens your ability to write succinctly.
In this case the point of disagreement came down to the hot button issue of our day, race.
He believes there is a cabal of white supremacists attempting to gin up racial hatred, because they are fearful of coming demographic shifts which will result in whites becoming a numerical minority around the middle of the century.
I think this is absurd, that white supremacy is the obsession of a tiny minority of pathetic losers.
In my humble opinion racial divisions are being ginned up because a voting society can always be dominated by a coalition of minorities. (There is allegedly a mathematical proof of this.) Therefore it is in the interest of at least one party to hinder the assimilation of minorities, foster divisions in society and nourish a sense of grievance.
But after signing off it occurred to me that it may not matter who is right or wrong, if we lose sight of what it means to be an American.
I don’t care what the racial/ethnic makeup of America becomes, so long as we remain American in the only way that counts.
There have been lots of nations which retained their culture but changed their look. The Mongols in the time of Ghengis Khan were not Asians but a Turkic people among whom red hair and grey eyes were fairly common. That changed after the conquest of China when every Mongol warrior brought home a Chinese concubine or ten.
Several North and South American Indian tribes and bands have become more phenotypically white or black due to intermarriage. Gypsies I’ve known in Northern Europe look distinctly different from their cousins in Romania and Bulgaria. Ashkenazic Jews often look far more European than their Sephardic brethren. Examples multiply.
I do believe that fears of demographic shifts are not groundless. I will state here and now that I used to be an open-borders libertarian. I rethought that position after conversations with people in the Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
These postage stamp-sized countries have always lived with the knowledge that a hiccup of history could wipe their nation out – forever. Who now remembers the Lusitanians? Or that the Prussians were originally a Slavic people whose land and very name was taken by the Germanic people who wiped them out?
For the Baltic peoples, a “demographic shift” means their countries become Russian, and they become a historical footnote.
But America is too big for that to happen, isn’t it?
Furthermore, America has always been a mixture of peoples. Samuel Johnson described Americans disdainfully as a bastard race of Scots, Irish, Germans and Indians. Why should any more mixing make a difference?
(After the Revolution perhaps Dr. Johnson had time to reflect that though it’s the purebreds that win the dog shows, it’s the mutts that win the fights.)
It shouldn’t matter – unless we lose sight of what makes us all Americans.
America is almost unique among nations in that our identity as a people is not defined by ancestry, but by our relationship to a set of ideas embodied in a canon of political literature.
The only other examples that come to mind are the Jews and their relationship to Tanach (Torah, Prophets and Teaching), and the Icelanders and their Sagas, historical literature about the founding of their nation.
The American canon is ill-defined but certainly includes the Declaration of Independence, Common Sense by Tom Paine, the Constitution, and The Federalist (a kind of operating manual for the Constitution). I’d say the bookends might be John Locke’s Treatises on Civil Government on one end, and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses of Abraham Lincoln on the other.
I would include Cato’s Letters by Trenchard and Gordon, a whole lot of pamphlets that circulated on both sides of the Atlantic in the 50 years prior to the Revolution, and the anti-Federalist papers as well.
Much of the Hebrew canon is made up of discussion and debate about the proper relationship of men to God and men to men in society. The American canon is a debate about the relationship of men to each other in political society.
In the American canon many historical threads come together. Echos of the Irish Brehon law that “a man is better than his birth.” The Native American notion that one may become a member of the tribe by adoption as much as birth. And the Hebrew tradition that a man can demand an accounting for his treatment by his sovereign – or even his God.
This is what being an American means to me, and if we lose this we – and humanity, lose everything.
We used to have an expression, “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we…?”
You don’t hear it put that way as often these days since we haven’t been back in over forty years.
Nonetheless it’s a fair question.
The United States put no less than a dozen men on the moon in six successful landings between the years 1969 and 1972.
Over a period of 10 years starting in 1904 the United States moved several mountain’s worth of earth and rock to build the Panama Canal, the largest engineering project in history.
In 1935 the Hoover Dam, the largest concrete structure ever built, was completed two years ahead of schedule within budget.
But in 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” which to date has absorbed resources equivalent to several projects of that magnitude.
One has to notice that poverty is still with us though we could have just handed the poor the money spent on them and created the largest class of idle rich in the world.
More recently it’s taken longer than any of those engineering projects to fill a hole in the ground left by the wreckage of the Twin Towers.
And currently we’re watching, with either horrified fascination or smug I-told-you-so attitudes the collapse of an attempt to provide a service that’s been on the market for generations to every man, woman and child in the country.
So if we could put men on the moon, dig the Panama Canal and build the Hoover Dam why can’t we eliminate poverty, educate everybody to a decent and reasonable standard, and get everybody an affordable health insurance policy?
Off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen reasons.
One, the great engineering projects of the 20th century were accomplished by well, engineers. People who tackled concrete problems with factors that could be quantified: amount of matter to be moved, strength of materials, rates of heating, cooling, drying etc.
Two, the organization of the projects was put into the hands of businessmen. Men with experience in the private sector where failure meant losses or bankruptcy and success produced great wealth. Men who’d already organized large-scale enterprises and had the skill and confidence to take on even larger projects.
Three, there was strict accountability for cost overruns and failure to complete assigned tasks on time. And it must be said, run with a certain hard-headed ruthlessness. More than 100 men died building the Hoover Dam, and when a strike was called the project managers stopped construction and began the process of replacing the men until the strikers agreed to return to work.
In contrast the idealistic and well-meaning government projects to accomplish All Good Things these days are conceived by social scientists and managed by bureaucrats.
Though I say it who am one, social scientists deal with human variables which unlike steel and concrete, have minds of their own. They tend to engage in a lot of wishful thinking and airy speculation that goes unchecked by reality.
As a discipline social science was originally intended to be descriptive, not an engineering technology for humanity.
Plus the scale of what the government of the United States is trying to do is staggering.
The national government is trying to create programs to administer services for a diverse population of 316 million people living on 3.79 million square miles, using a top-down, one-size-fits-all, my-way-or-the-highway model of organization.
This somehow seems to escape those who admire the accomplishments of European countries such as Sweden, even as the European model is unravelling.
As an old political science professor of mine put it, “How hard is it to govern a country of nine million blond, blue-eyed Lutherans?”
And bottom line, there’s an old adage in business that we’ve forgotten about when we abandoned the notion of a government strictly limited in its functions and powers.
If you try to do everything, you wind up doing nothing well.
A Texas company Solid Concepts just announced they had made a working model M1911 automatic pistol and test fired 50 rounds through it.
What made this interesting was that the gun was made with a 3-D printer.
Just last year the open-source organization Defense Distributed printed a plastic gun and actually got a few rounds through it, but it broke down very quickly as you might expect.
The State Department then “suggested” Defense Distributed take down their download links for design components as they might possibly be in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Solid Concepts succeeded in printing a metal gun, and then fell all over themselves saying, not to worry this tech isn’t the desktop printer you can buy for about $2,000, this is a much more expensive model.
“The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university),” company spokesperson Alyssa Parkinson said. “And the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3-D printing better than anyone in this business.”
Big deal. Anyone remember what desktop computers used to cost when they first came out, and how little memory and computing power they had? About like your smart phone has now.
I myself have been gritting my teeth, because I’ve been telling anybody who’d listen for the past 30 years this was coming.
The ability to build small arms in small workshops is not new. After the British military disaster at Dunkirk in World War II when a great many of their combat arms were abandoned, they started producing the Sten gun, a stamped metal machine gun with a design so simple it could be produced in garages.
The Polish Resistance used to turn make them in apartments using metal salvaged from bed frames.
Blacksmiths in the Philippines and Afghanistan have turned out replicas of the world’s small arms on hand-cranked lathes for generations now.
For decades it’s been an open secret that any modern machine shop quipped with computer-controlled milling machines could turn out small arms with the right software programs.
The only difference was in the level of expertise needed. New 3D printing technology lowers the skill requirement and puts the ability into the hands of basically everyone.
And it’s going to get cheaper and easier, that’s just the nature of technology.
The more difficult problem actually is the production of modern smokeless powders and primers for the bullets. I’m not certain what the level of tech necessary for this is, but I’m going to guess about the sophistication of your average meth lab.
Bottom line, banning guns from society is a fantasy.
Ban the technology? How well has that ever worked?
And do you want to ban the tech that is going to revitalize manufacturing and make possible wonders such as small business custom car manufacturing?
Enact draconian penalties for possession of firearms?
That’s certainly one option. One that creates an incentive not to submit to arrest and try to shoot it out with the police instead.
And what haunts me is the feeling that once all firearms are banned, why wouldn’t a criminal, or even a very scared citizen willing to break the law, say, “Oh well, hung for a sheep, hung for a lamb. The heck with a pistol, print me a Sten”?
Law enforcement is rightly concerned about firearms with no serial numbers getting into circulation, and guns cheap enough to be used in one crime then destroyed. The existence of a legal aboveground firearms industry at least insured that almost all guns could be identified and a reasonably accurate record of the chain of ownership maintained.
As a society we should have been thinking and discussing the potential consequences of this for a long time now. Instead we’ve been absorbed in what we can now see was an utterly pointless debate about whether society should be disarmed.
We are for better or worse going to remain an armed society, at least in potentia, forever.
From Fox News Politics, “Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday he is a “U.S. citizen by birth” despite being born in Canada, amid questions about whether he is planning to run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
Cruz, R-Texas, said in an interview with Fusion that because his mother is an American citizen he is a citizen as well.”
“I was a U.S. citizen by birth and beyond that I’m going to leave it to others to worry about the legal consequences,” Cruz said.
The article quotes Cruz saying he is in the process of renouncing his Canadian citizenship.
Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada, to a Cuban-born father who became an American citizen in 2005, and an American mother. His parents owned a seismic-data processing firm in the oil industry.
Interestingly as a young man Cruz’s father fought in the Cuban revolution with Castro, and then against Castro and fled to the United States in 1957.
Cruz is a TEA Party Republican and has been endorsed by the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus.
Democrats are going to have a field day with this. As well they should.
From the beginning of the “birther” controversy I have made two points again and again to the point I’m getting sick of repeating myself.
One, there may or may not be something fishy about Obama’s birth documents, but there was a notice of birth in a local newspaper in Hawaii and eyewitnesses, Republican ones at that, who remember the circumstances of his birth at a time when African-American bi-racial children were a rarity.
If I were of conspiratorial mind on this issue, I’d wonder if Obama’s people were stonewalling just enough to keep this thing going to make the right-wingers look ridiculous and divert attention from the real issue. The issue Cruz has just brought up.
Two, the child of an American citizen is an American citizen no matter where they are born.
I know this because my son was born in Poland to a Polish mother. He’s had an American passport since soon after his birth.
But, he also has a Polish passport. He has dual citizenship.
The guy working the passport desk at the embassy explained it to us. They don’t like dual citizenship, almost nobody does. It creates problems. They recognize it happens though.
The practical implications are: my son must enter the U.S. on his American passport, Poland on his Polish passport. Everywhere else he can chose the cheaper visa.
If he comes of military age in either country, and they have a draft, the country he’s in gets him.
And if he gets arrested in either country, God forbid, the other can do nothing.
One can acquire dual citizenship in adulthood. My sister did after long residence in the UK because it was simply more convenient to apply for British citizenship than fill out the legal permanent residence application every year or so. The US and the UK allow that sort of thing.
Or one can arrive in this world a native-born citizen of two countries, as my son did.
And this is what I’ve wondered about the birther controversy. Not whether Obama was not born an American citizen, but whether he ever claimed dual citizenship or had it claimed on his behalf by his mother.
That’s the interesting issue. To the best of my knowledge the Constitution is silent on the issue of dual citizenship. I’m not even sure there was such a thing back then.
Obama simply ignored the issue and ignored the question of whether he has ever traveled on a foreign passport.
Cruz can’t ignore it, it’s a matter of public record.
If Cruz even comes within spitting distance of the Republican nomination in 2016 – it’s going to get interesting.
Note: This is my weekly op-ed for the first week of November.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” – Woody Allen
For those who were wondering what they were going to get up to after Google Glass, Google announced in September a new startup Calico, dedicated to research on combating aging. And though they’re not splashing it all over the media, it’s pretty plain they don’t mean making old folks’ last years more active and comfortable, they mean giving us more years. Lots more years.
Google is reported to be funding this venture to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
This actually doesn’t come as that much of a surprise. Last December I mentioned here that Google had hired Ray Kurzweil, Prophet of the Singularity. Immortality is one of the things Kurzweil says is within our grasp.
I’ve been following the discussion/debate on the life extension project since the mid-60s. During that time I’ve seen the notion go from the obsession of a few lonely cranks to one that’s being taken seriously by reputable scientists.
What we seem to have right now is in the words of one scientist, “a big bottle of hope.”
However that hope is on a bit firmer footing than it used to be. We’ve got a better handle on how to prepare ourselves for a more vigorous and healthy old age. Partly through the classic methods of good diet and healthy exercise and partly through the still controversial use of nutritional supplements.
Moreover, we have new tools available such as genetic analysis which can alert us of future health risks encoded in our genes that we can start planning how to deal with before they show up.
So is Google’s new venture going to give us the long-sought Fountain of Youth?
Who knows? I see three possibilities coming from the next few years of intensive, well-funded research:
1) A breakthrough in life extension adding decades, perhaps centuries to our potential lifespan, with all that implies.
2) Some advances in gerontology but with steadily diminishing expectations as problems prove intractable and the goal of significant extensions in lifespan recede into the indefinite future.
3) Convincing evidence that it’s just not going to happen. Bummer.
What I don’t see is any downside to it. Whatever the result, we won’t be worse off for having asked the question.
A former government agent, now one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals, walks into the FBI headquarters, identifies himself and submits to arrest. He offers to help them catch a seriously bad guy but he’ll only talk to a certain FBI profiler, who started work just that day. (Megan Boone playing FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen.)
They sure know how to hook you on “The Blacklist” and they haven’t let go yet.
James Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, a.k.a. “the Concierge of Crime,” a master criminal with a list of the worst people in the world, some of whose existence the FBI isn’t even aware of. He offers to help the FBI get them all in return for immunity, but on his own terms only.
When confronting one particularly vile criminal, she says, “I thought the FBI had you.”
“The FBI works for me now,” he replies.
Reddington’s personality is essentially a carryover of Spader’s pervious role as Alan Shore on “Boston Legal.” He’s a cynical, witty guy with a rigid personal code of ethics but is not overly scrupulous about the means to accomplish his devious ends.
“You’ve killed three people,” one of his handlers says.
“Nobody’s perfect!” he says defensively.
And that’s the thing about Reddington. He helps the FBI close in on terrorists, human traffickers, and one specialist in disposing of dead bodies by a particular method that earns him the nickname, “the Stewmaker.”
But they all seem to wind up dead.
And dead in ways that just reek of poetic justice. He dumps the Stewmaker into a vat of his own acid while rescuing Keen. He poisons a human trafficker who poses as a great humanitarian with an overdose of the drugs she uses to sedate her captives, then gets her to confess her guilt with the promise of the antidote.
Oops! Too late.
Keen asks, “What if you hadn’t had the antidote?”
“There was no antidote,” Reddington says. “I detested everything about her.”
There are plot complications aplenty.
Special Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) doesn’t like the idea of working hand-in-hand with a criminal at all. But he likes getting results. He’s a strictly by-the-book kind of guy who insists on accompanying Reddington to a meet with a gangster.
So Red introduces him, “This is FBI Special Agent Donald Ressler,” and trusts him to wing it from there!
Keen’s husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) turns out to have a box hidden in their apartment containing several passports under different names and a pistol Keen confirms was associated with a homicide. Furthermore, Reddington appears to know things about them both.
Reddington asks Keen, “What if I told you everything you believe about your life is a lie?”
Of course right away you begin to suspect Keen is Reddington’s long-lost daughter, but that would be too simple. Is she possibly the daughter of an old friend Reddington swore to look after perhaps?
Not even Spader seems to know. Or at least he won’t admit to knowing anything.
“The Blacklist” is doing very well in the ratings and deserves to. The acting is good, the writing is original and there’s lots of room for character development.
I think part of the appeal of “The Blacklist” is we like the idea of scary vicious criminals brought low, but we’ve grown a bit suspicious large crime-fighting organizations like the FBI. So Reddington walks in and blithely takes over the operation. Of course that’s never going to happen but it’s kind of cool to think about.
Another is the vigilante aspect of it. The hell with building a case and arresting them, they’ll only have a slick lawyer get them off. Just kill the so-and-sos!
Of course we don’t really want that either, but it’s kind of fun to think about.
One problem with series based on progressive revelations of Deep Dark Secrets in the characters pasts is that they either have to keep the secrets buried and risk audiences getting impatient, then bored, or reveal the secrets and jump the shark.
I think they’ve got enough of a cast of supporting actors who can be brought forward into greater prominence with their own backstories to keep this going for a while though.
Another is that with plot complications like this you might not be able to jump into the series much past the first season.
Well then, if you have a taste for this kind of thing you’d better get on board. Something tells me this could be the next “Alias” or “24.”
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.
Well the first reports on the effects of Obamacare are in and it’s not looking like the universal blessing promised. And that’s entirely aside from the software snafu.
According to some reports, more people are having their insurance carrier drop them than have been able to enroll in healthcare exchanges. Others are finding their premiums increasing by significant amounts.
It’s difficult to get hard numbers for this as yet and effects seem to be uneven. I walked into a liquor store the other day and talked to two middle-aged men behind the counter who were approximately the same age and I assume in the same state of health.
One told me nothing was changing for him so far. The other said he’d just gotten a notice stating his premiums would be increased 32 percent specifically because of Obamacare.
How did anybody not get this? To lower the cost for the old and infirm, and cover people with pre-existing conditions, the premiums HAVE TO be raised for people who are young and healthy, i.e. those who least need extensive coverage.
And since these are the people mostly likely to not buy insurance (unwise choice) or buy insurance only for catastrophic illness and accident with a high deductible (wise choice), then they must be forced to buy more insurance than they need, at a higher price than they want to pay.
And since the premiums for healthy young people starting out their careers in a depressed economy are likely far higher than the first year’s fine for not buying insurance… well it’s not hard to see what choice a lot of them will be making.
The system is likely to take a serious financial hit the first year, assuming they ever get it off the ground to begin with. The second year of operation is not likely to be much better unless they seriously hike the fines for non-compliance.
Way back when this thing was first formulated and the arguments were going back and forth about what Obamacare would or would not do, I asked the opinion of a recently retired insurance broker.
What he said was, “There were a lot of little things that needed to be fixed in the system. They didn’t need to scrap it entirely and start all over again.”
When I’ve brought that observation up lately I’ve gotten a lot of, “Oh but they didn’t, it won’t change a thing for most people.”
Well, it looks like that’s not going to be the case, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
Let’s go back to economics 101. When you have a demand for goods or services and assuming an inelastic demand, the only way to lower the price is to increase the supply.
Contrariwise, when the supply declines the price rises. And this is the important part, when government legally mandates lower prices you get shortages.
“Inelastic demand” is economist-talk for a demand that stays constant no matter what happens to the price. People are going to buy food regardless of how expensive it gets for example.
A lot of demand for medical care however is not inelastic. If the price rises people are far less likely to go see a doctor for the sniffles.
My father, a retired orthopedic surgeon, used to estimate that about 60 percent of his patients didn’t need to see him. They came in with ailments that were going to get better within a fairly short period of time no matter what he did.
Other physicians in family practice or internal medicine, fields that deal less with actual physical trauma, have told me as many as 90 percent of their patients just need to be made more comfortable while they get better by themselves.
You’d assume when a visit to the doctor gets expensive people would suck it up for minor illnesses, aches and pains. Unfortunately a lot of them turn instead to the emergency room option where the staff can neither turn them away nor effectively collect payment.
We could lower the cost of medical care by increasing the number of medical practitioners. But that might present problems if young people look at the cost of med school and decide the return isn’t worth it.
So what’s the answer?
I don’t know, but I don’t think this is it.
z8_GND_5296 is not what you call a real exciting name, but the reality is exciting enough.
Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory in Hawaii have confirmed the galaxy with that unexciting moniker is the oldest and most distant in the universe found to date.
z8_GND_5296 formed within 700 million years after the Big Bang, making it about 95 percent of the age of the universe. It is about 13.1 billion light-years away, which means that we’re seeing it as it was 13.1 billion years ago when it was young and generating new stars at a furious rate.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. The idea for space-based telescopes has been around since at least 1923. The advantage of a space telescope versus ground-based astronomy is on Earth the atmosphere creates optical distortions we see as the twinkle in little stars, and absorbs much of the infrared and ultraviolet light.
After the Hubble was launched it was discovered its mirror had been ground incorrectly and it wouldn’t perform at the optimal level expected. It still preformed scientifically useful observations though, and in 1993 the first of four servicing missions conducted from the Space Shuttle repaired and upgraded the Hubble.
The things accomplished using the Hubble, though largely unheralded, are breathtaking. Because of the Hubble we now know the rate of expansion of the universe, a phenomenon first discovered by astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) for whom the telescope is named. And that’s only one of many breakthroughs in astrophysics that have come from Hubble observations.
The Hubble is expected to keep operating through at least 2014, maybe until 2020. Considering that Mars Exploration Rover, which landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, is still functioning under much greater environmental stress than the Hubble that’s probably not too much to hope for.
A successor the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled for launch in 2018. It will orbit far higher than the Hubble and benefit from all the advances in space hardware made since 1990. Given what the Hubble has accomplished, we can hardly imagine what will come from the JWST.
The Hubble’s cumulative costs were estimated at about $10 billion as of 2010. For the JWST they’re talking about $8 billion, but with the way the government works one might expect cost overruns.
Nevertheless I am reminded of something I once heard scientist and SciFi author Jerry Pournelle say at a presentation at Oklahoma University once.
Pournelle observed that when the government gives lots of money to social scientists and educators, very often the results are either nothing or downright counterproductive. You give money to scientists and engineers and though there may be massive waste – at least you get something for it.
I wonder if future generations will look back and think we lived in the most exciting time in history, and never noticed it.