Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 26, 2011 - October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saving Netflix

Wristcutters: A Love Story. Four stars. And it has Tom Waits. Make that five stars.

. So Netflix stock is plunging because the company tried to separate its DVD business from its streaming business. Seemed reasonable to me, but customers are revolting. Thing is, there's no limit on the streaming business. You can watch whatever you want, in any quantity, without incurring additional charges. And there's good stuff there. So why should streaming be a permanently free add-on to the DVD mail service, which is routinely excellent on its own?

Why I'm recommending three streaming movies I don't think you'll find anywhere else, at least not easily. What links them? They're all brilliantly conceived and all have some kind of Christian connection without a particle of preachiness. A contrarian type of person could interpret all three as satires. What of? That would be in the eye of the beholder, wouldn't it?

Wristcutters is the trailer up top. As dark as dark can be but maybe not completely. I'll say no more except 'watch it.'

The Troll Hunter is the third subtitled Scandinavian movie I've recommended here. (The first two were Lights in the Dusk (Finnish) and The Sea (Icelandic.)) This one's a Norwegian documentary, sort of. As deadpan serious as the first two. You'll laugh your ass off.

The Last Exorcism is another documentary. It follows a phony evangelical exorcist who is determined to expose his own frauds before retiring to a career in real estate.

Don't watch any other trailers and don't read up on the film. Watch it cold. It's very well done. (And please respect the right of other readers to do the same...)

Some other time, I may get into the various other offerings of Netflix streaming, which are profuse. But start with these.

P.S. Don't want you Tom Waits fans tearing your hair out. Here's the studio version of the link in the caption.

Does that cheer you up? Me too. It's kind of the 21st Century rendition of Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World. If you know what I mean. The pace and the voice are similar. Only the words are a little different.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Your Turn

You just gotta hate him, right?

SAME OLD NEWS ISN'T GOOD NEWS. Some sites call this an open thread. I don't. I call it directed discussion. I deliberately withhold my personal opinion to make you spout yours. It's a leap of faith. A trio of stories some of you can be counted on to care about, even if they're not front page news.

The first I could subtitle "Calling Lake!" New info on the Global Warming front:

For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.

The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.

“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal....

Muller and his fellow researchers examined an enormous data set of observed temperatures from monitoring stations around the world and concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius — or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s.

This agrees with the increase estimated by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Muller’s figures also conform with the estimates of those British and American researchers whose catty e-mails were the basis for the alleged “Climategate” scandal, which was never a scandal in the first place.

The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick” graph — showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.” Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical.

Muller found that skeptics are wrong when they claim that a “heat island” effect from urbanization is skewing average temperature readings; monitoring instruments in rural areas show rapid warming, too. He found that skeptics are wrong to base their arguments on the fact that records from some sites seem to indicate a cooling trend, since records from at least twice as many sites clearly indicate warming. And he found that skeptics are wrong to accuse climate scientists of cherry-picking the data, since the readings that are often omitted — because they are judged unreliable — show the same warming trend.

If you're not interested in discussing AGW, there's a vigorous pundit debate underway about Herman Cain. Richard Miniter thinks he could win:

Forget the eye-rolling. Let’s look at the numbers. Herman Cain is ahead of Romney in virtually all of the polls conducted in the past two weeks. In both Iowa and nation-wide Cain leads Romney by 30% to 22%,according to Public Policy Polling, a respected pollster. Meanwhile the latest NBC-Marist poll puts Cain ahead of Romney in South Carolina by 30%-26%, and shows Cain and Romney neck-and-neck in Florida. Cain leads in Ohio by 15%, and in Hawaii by 12%. Only in New Hampshire does Romney stubbornly hold a solid double-digit lead (15%).

Still, Cain could finish a strong second in New Hampshire. Cain is the second choice of Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum voters, polls show. If some or all of them are out by the time New Hampshire Republicans go to the polls, Cain will benefit. Only Huntsman voters would shift to Romney...

If Cain can survive the sudden media attention, his support among Tea Partiers will solidify and grow. Once he won the Florida Straw Poll, he suddenly seemed electable to Tea Partiers. So he caught an updraft and is now the front-runner. He will stay there until the Tea Party loses confidence in him (and possibly elevates Gingrich).

Cain has a compelling Horatio Alger story, a warm sense of humor and sharply defined ideology. The media might call him just a “pizza guy.” They called Reagan just an actor.

And the Reagan analogy is coming up, again and again. The New Republic’s Walter Shapiro wrote: “…Cain is certainly not an extremist out of the Robertson and Buchanan playbooks. He is a cheerful conservative in the Ronald Reagan mold.”

But Mark Steyn is reluctantly determined to sound like a grownup:

Don’t get me wrong, I like Herman Cain. I like “Imagine There’s No Pizza”: It would be the greatest presidential campaign song since “Tippecanoe And Tyler, Too.” I like his sunny disposition: Mien can be determinative — it’s why Rick Santorum is right on almost everything, and going nowhere. I like Cain’s electrified fence gags, on the general principle that no sane person should climb into the straitjackets of the politically correct enforcers.

And yet, and yet. . . . The foreign policy, hostage-trading, abortion stuff is becoming more difficult to ignore. I don’t think Charles Krauthammer’s assertion that Cain’s “winging it” fully explains it, nor does the Pundette’s that he is “incoherent.” Cain’s boast that he can’t name the president of Beki-beki-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan gets closer to it. It’s a cute line, notwithstanding that parochial braggadocio is easier to carry off when you’re a soaring hyperpower rather than a multi-trillion-dollar sinkhole whose citizens’ future is increasingly mortgaged to foreigners of one degree of unsavoriness or another.

But the ’stan shtick is a glimpse of the greater truth – that there are whole areas of public policy in which he simply has no interest. None. You ask him a question and from the recesses of his mind swim up half-recalled phrases from some panel discussion he caught once long ago, and he hopes he grabs the conservative line (“I’m proud to stand by Israel,” “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” “life begins at conception,” whatever) but just as often he doesn’t (with Gretchen Carlson this morning: “No, abortion should not be a part of the political discussion”).

His fans say he’s being set up with “Gotcha” questions. But these aren’t the Hoogivsastans way out on the fringe of the public policy map. They’re the first stops on the central thruway of American politics, and have been for most of Cain’s adult life. And it’s becoming harder to avoid the obvious truth that he hasn’t given them a moment’s thought.

And for those who are fatigued with the political horserace, I have a third line of controversy. Tim Tebow:

After Tebow's first start of the season on Sunday, the debate remains open for all but the most fanatical in either camp.

The Floridian combines a Johnny Unitas throwback hairstyle with a running back's physique, a winning smile and a take-home-to-Mom politeness, all wrapped up with home-schooled Christian values.

That makes him a marketing and branding dream for the Denver Broncos, the NFL, television and all manner of sponsors.

But there are those who think he might prove to be the NFL's version of Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova -- popular, attractive and talented but not cut out for the weekly grind of the professional circuit.

For three quarters of the game at the Miami Dolphins, the critics appeared right. Tebow's passing was poor, he needed too much time to read situations and he just never looked comfortable.

Then, with time running out, he took the game by the scruff of the neck and the Tebow that had delighted fans of the 2008 Florida Gators national championship winning team -- brimming with confidence and willing to improvise -- re-emerged and won the game for his team...

The key phrase is "fanatical." Which I think is more on one side than the other. I used to like Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network, a shrewd and well spoken ex-player/commentator. But his recent commentary on two players has made me suspect that his football insights are compromised by deep cultural biases. He has a tendency to jeer at particular players, regardless of their performances. First with Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom Dukes apparently cannot forgive for having gone to Harvard. He notoriously called Fitzpatick a "seat-warmer" for whatever real quarterback the Bills would ultimately draft. Then, after an overlong suspenseful buildup, he sarcastically claimed he was on the the Fitzpatrick bandwagon (with an option to jump off) when the Bills went 4-0 early this season.

On Sunday he surpassed himself. Commenting over the highlights of the Broncos' last minute come from behind victory over the Dolphins, he was over the top in attributing every part of the comeback to Tebow -- Tebow with the onside kick, Tebow with the kick recovery, Tebow with the game-winning field goal. It was nasty, and it was obviously personal. At every turn, he compared Tebow's prior failures in the game to the performance of Aaron Rodgers, as if not being Aaron Rodgers right now were proof of a youngster's inborn incompetence.

Compare this with the way so many ex-players, including Dukes, have treated the return of Michael Vick. He made a mistake. He paid his debt to society. He deserves a second chance.

So.... uh.... why doesn't Tebow even deserve a first chance? What, uh, mistake has he made? He hasn't slaughtered dogs? He hasn't killed someone in a DUI accident? He hasn't committed a drug/gun/domestic abuse felony? No. He's a Christian missionary who actually seems to live his faith. He's derided as a virgin. What a creep. No wonder he has to be ridiculed in his first ever NFL start.

Exceptions in the punditry class, to be fair, have included Chris Berman, who defended Tebow against a scornful ESPN crew, and Terry Bradshaw, who early in the season acknowledged an NFL prejudice against unconventional talents and -- based on the fledgling exploits of Cam Newton, who was also supposed to be a Tebow-like bust -- promised to open his mind to the possibilities of youngsters.

But when it comes to Tebow, I think there's more going on, and I don't think it's all about football.

As I say: Your Turn. Do these three stories have something in common? Your call. But if you can't get fired up about any one of them, that would be on you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Republican Debates

Who forgot about Beth Phoenix... er... Newt Gingrich?

FULL CIRCLE? So Romney and Perry are slapping at one another like jealous cheerleaders. Great. Romney was wanting Anderson Cooper (?) to save him from his Rick Perry confrontation. He was almost stamping his feet. Rick Perry was in the mode of "I'll say no every time you say yeah" and "I'lll say yeah every time you say no. And your Mormon mother wears army boots." Presidential. Right. Bunch of girls gouging each other with their fingernails.

They think they're carving up the Republican electorate. Herman Cain thinks he's mopping up the blood they spill between them. How can we be in this much of a mess? The president is a disaster. All we need is a credible candidate. But Romney's a liar. Perry's a dunce. (Even I can't stand that mush-mouthed Texas twang...) Cain's an amateur in a year when, let's face it, amateurs aren't exactly what the electorate wants.

Which leaves us where we were four years ago. With the only man who can be absolutely counted on to annihilate Obama in the debates.

Boy, am I depressed.

How to Win
(N at all SFW)

We keep forgetting the "Government by the people" part of the arrangement.

IT'S SIMPLE. Stop pining for a leader. Seriously. Stop. It. This podcast explains what we really need.

You can read a half-reliable transcript after the jump.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Obaminator

No wonder the neo-McGovernites are confused.

THE CURSE OF MEMORY. Ah. The irony. The man who won the Nobel Peace Prize before he'd been president even a few months has precious few accomplishments to brag about. Domestically, he's turned a recession into what looks to be an FDR-style generational depression. In foreign policy, he's concluded no peace treaties of any kind and has succeeded in pissing off such long-term allies as the U.K., Germany, and Israel.

So what's his claim to fame? He's managed to engineer the violent deaths of three leaders of the muslim world he kowtowed to in his apologetic "outreach" to Islam:  Bin Laden, Awlaki, and Qaddafi. And some members of his own party are hopping mad about his kill order on Awlaki because he was an American and absolutely in line with the Democrats on matters of foreign policy. How could Hating America First be a killing offense?

It wouldn't be so funny if he had any other foreign policy successes. But he doesn't. Just last week, the Germans told him to piss off and mess out of the E.U.'s ongoing financial meltdown. "Like we need your advice, Mr. Deficit...) And we understand the Mexicans are very understanding about the Fast & Furious program that killed one Border Patrol agent and 200 Mexicans. Although the Iranians do appreciate the fact that his sanctions against an intended act of war on U.S. soil amount to holding their man-purse in the teacher's drawer until the end of the day's classes.

But with all the sixties nostalgia that's going on, we can't help thinking of the old chant outside the Johnson White House: ""Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?"

Hey, hey, BHO! How many hits are still to go?

No wonder the Republican party leadership is too nervous to point out that the jobs bill is exclusively about government jobs. I mean, drones work just as well over the Maryland suburbs as they do over Afghanistan.

We won't know for sure until he announces that his 2012 campaign slogan is, "I'll be back."

With a pronunciation of the letter "a" that matches his pronunciation of "Pakistan."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We're Not Doing Our Job.

I TOLD YOU NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.... I don't care what all the other polls say. Generic Republican beats Obama. Herman Cain beats Obama. 64 percent hold Federal Government More to Blame than Wall Street. OWS protesters know Nothing about Economics. Here's the real kick in the teeth:

A new survey shows that Americans overwhelmingly support the self-styled Occupy Wall Street protests that not only have disrupted life in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington and cities and towns across the U.S. and in other nations. Some 59 percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the protesters, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree; 10 percent of those surveyed didn’t know or refused to answer...

When it comes to the question of how to pay for the Democratic jobs bill, most respondents were more than willing to place a special burden on the wealthy. Those surveyed were asked about a possible 5 percent surtax on those earning more than $1 million annually...  A whopping 68 percent of adults support the Democratic surtax to pay for the cost of their jobs plan. Only 27 percent opposed the tax, while 5 percent didn’t know. Men and women split almost identically on the issue, and black non-Hispanics were more supportive of the surtax than white non-Hispanics, with 84 percent supporting the idea...

Throughout the fall, the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll has revealed an electorate that’s extremely critical of Congress and wary of embracing any particular policy prescription for getting the American economy growing more briskly. The millionaire’s surtax has cut through the clutter. Although it may not be surprising that 90 percent of Democrats support this Democratic proposal, it’s notable that 71 percent of independents do and even 37 percent of Republicans like this kind of a tax increase.

When it comes to those Wall Street protests, there’s also a populist streak: Remarkably, nearly one-third of Republicans --31 percent -- completely or mostly agree with their aims. The sour economy has sparked some class resentments in unexpected places, it seems. Those stirrings are unlikely to come to fruition in this divided Congress, but there’s no indication they’re going away anytime soon.

All those idiot friends and acquaintances of yours whom you blithely assume have at least some idea of what's going on don't know anything at all.

Get to work. Do the unthinkable. Talk to them. About politics. The country you save may be your own.

CORRECTION. Serendicity again. Found this critique of the National Journal poll. No big deal. But then, this afternoon, I received an honest-to-God local polling call myself about our upcoming county elections. It was the push poll to end all push polls. Clearly slanderous statements about the Republican candidates for freeholder were read off, followed by the bland question, "Does this make you more, or less, likely to vote for this person?" Even the pollster began to laugh when I interrupted him to finish the next intended slander by accusing the Republican of abusing his Pomeranian in the front yard of his palatial home. At the end, he thanked me for "not blowing up at me like the lady I talked to last did." I told him it wasn't his fault. At least he has a job. I guess he'd like to keep it.

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