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Messages - Fenring

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General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: January 04, 2016, 10:40:05 AM »
Pete, did Afghanistan attack the US?  Was the UK attacked?

The argument was that the ruling authority in Afghanistan was abetting Al Qaeda. What part of this is hard to understand? As for the UK they were an ally of the U.S. and are fully entitled (even required in certain circumstances) to fight alongside the U.S. when it's attacked.

General Comments / Re: What is a mass shooting?
« on: January 04, 2016, 10:02:18 AM »
Yes, has links to online news articles, so if you are talking about that it has citations of that sort. What I meant was that it doesn't have any citation from official sources such as police or FBI corroborating the facts mentioned in the articles (which we know are not always reliable). The site itself, more damningly, doesn't offer details about each shooting it lists and dares you to click on all the links to figure out for yourself what the nature of each entry consists of. If one has some time on one's hands one can pour through all the articles figuring out the details of each shooting, but that's not a fast process on a site apparently designed to give you a quick glance at all the shootings in one go.

Here's the link to the FBI report I mentioned previously:

And here's the quote from it I mentioned:

This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence — pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public - were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.

As a result, the FBI identified 160 active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Though additional active shooter incidents may have occurred during this time period, the FBI is confident this research captured the vast majority of incidents falling within the search criteria. To gather information for this study, researchers relied on official police records (where available), FBI records, and open sources.

It says nothing about discounting shootings that didn't occur during the commission of another crime, I don't know where you got that. What it does say is that its sole focus is on protecting the public from active shooters (school shootings, San Bernardino, etc.) and not on listing events that pertain to other types of law enforcement (such as tracking known criminal organizations) or accidents. The reason to 'ignore' other kinds of mass shootings is precisely because the term "mass shooting" is being sold to the public as basically meaning someone who takes a gun into public with the intent to shoot the place up, and that is not what things listed as "mass shooting" actually consist of. It's a lie of omission, where what the term really means is never disclosed when figures about '370 shootings' are bandied about. It's dishonest propaganda, pure and simple. The FBI report focuses on exactly what people think of when they think of the term "mass shooting", which is an active shooter scenario. The fact that you would want to include accidents and organized crime in your list of shootings rings of a desire to puff up the number in order to create alarmism against gun ownership - which, surprise surprise, is exactly what's happening right now among Democrats and in the White House.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: January 03, 2016, 08:57:53 PM »
It's actually ludicrous that nations still have difficulty developing something that two nations in 1945 were capable of creating. 70 years ago! The idea of banning a technology that will become easier and easier with time to create - to say nothing of new technologies that may be just as destructive - is only plausible for some finite amount of time. Eventually it will either be so easy to develop such a thing that no one could prevent it, or there will be something else that can be created. Total prevention of nations ever again owning a devastating technology is a fantasy in the long-term. One thing having nukes did do was give us an opportunity to flex muscles and explore the details of how to deal with delicate detente over time. If the first time this was done was with a literal Death Star then one mistake would end the planet. One mistake in 1962 could have been devastating but it wouldn't have literally cracked the Earth in half. The Human race would have survived in some fashion. In the future even this consolation may not be available so it's better to work out how to deal with this now when the states are at least a little lower.

The reason a Death Star should never be allowed to exist is because its very construction is conspicuous and slow. There is a lengthy process that can be halted. When technologies that are much smaller can do almost the same thing one cannot necessarily nip it in the bud forever, and although playing Whac-a-Mole may be tenable for now that's just a band-aid. The question of what answer can serve in the long-term is a good one. Frank Herbert, for instance, along with current minds such as Elon Musk, are of the mind that there is actually no solution to this and that extra-terrestrial colonization is the only real failsafe. I'm more or less in that camp for now.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: January 03, 2016, 02:49:29 AM »
One thing worth noting is that the type of nuclear device currently being given tactical priority isn't the 'world-ender' variety but rather smaller and more numerous tactical nukes that can effectively be used to eliminate reasonably sized areas without devastating an entire region or making vast areas uninhabitable. This still doesn't eliminate the capacity for the world-enders to ever be deployed, but it's not necessary for it to be the case that a nuclear war actually entails armageddon, depending on who's waging that war.

That being said it's not like the technology for the larger warheads has ceased to exist, notwithstanding the fact that they are obviously useless for any purpose other than threatening mutual total annihilation. I'm not sure I agree with the notion that any thought whatsoever of using nukes is automatically insanity. But when discussing mutually assured destruction it does begin to sound like insanity unless one has a tremendous amount of faith in the good sense that both parties involved will never really pull the trigger. Inasmuch as the nuclear powers have never entered war with each other even once since they were nuclear capable it does seem like the deterrent works in preventing full-scale conflict, and instead incentivizes trickery and economic conflict, especially through the exploitation of third parties. From the perspective of the nuclear powers, though, this standoff is still a positive evolution in modern affairs compared to the almost constant warfare the stronger nations engaged in for the 100 years prior to nuclear technology. Is it plausible to thank nuclear technology for this lasting peace, at least in part?

General Comments / Re: What is a mass shooting?
« on: January 02, 2016, 11:31:30 AM »
No, Al, the FBI report does not only include cases where the shooter was committing some other crime. Did you read the report? Go read it again and come back. They quite clearly say what their criteria are: Someone with the intent to kill multiple people, where at least three people die, and they exclude accidents and gang-related things. They absolutely do not specify it has to be part of some other crime. I'm not sure why they wouldn't have included the shooting in the theatre, but do note their study covers the years of (off the top of my head) something like 2000-2010, and does not itself cover the most recent events such as that one. Perhaps they've done a treatment of recent shootings elsewhere, but the document I mention, whose purpose was to track levels of active shooters over a decade (and which does note a slight increase by a few a year), stops several years ago in its data.

And yes, isn't completely nonfunctional and I never said it was. But some of its features are incomplete, making it look slapdash, like someone's home project. I will note again that this sad-looking site is the single source for ALL claims about mass shootings in the hundreds per year, cited all over the internet and elsewhere. By contrast, when I did a search for mass shootings articles, ALL other articles (no exception, not one) mention around 20 for 2015, including sources such as the NYT and other MSM publications, and some articles including the NYT even refute outright the silly "363" number cited all over the place (and sourced from that one site, a massive echo chamber propaganda machine). ZERO independent sources came to the same conclusion as that one website, and when pouring through the data on that website back when I looked into it I concluded to my satisfaction that the intent of whomever compiled it was to accumulate the maximum number of incidents possible in order to beef up the number. The author had an agenda, that being to show how had things are in America. Do you want to place bets on whether this person is a Republican or a Democrat?

Al, the GOP does lie frequently about things, and wills say anything to further their agendas. I hope you won't be caught in the same trap and stoop to this level. is a partisan farce meant to trick the public.

General Comments / Re: What is a mass shooting?
« on: January 02, 2016, 04:29:15 AM »
The conversation from the previous incarnation of Ornery may be a pain to go find, but as a recap I found out that the so-called 363+ 'mass shootings' that were being claimed for 2015 were, in fact, not what people think they are. Rather, many 'sources' of this figure all refer back to one sketchy-as-heck website called, which provides no explanations or citation. Regardless, it was evident upon even simple inspection that while the figure was being used as 'proof' that regular Americans are using guns recklessly it turns out, in fact, that this figure includes events such as gang-related shootings to accidents to altercations with the police. In one case a 'mass shooting' was someone who shot one single bullet that wounded multiple people! Even the FBI's own report on 'active shooters' over a decade viewed as relevant shooters who had intent to kill and who killed multiple people, and specifically did not include accidents or organized crime. The number then became something more like 10-20 per year on average (still very bad), and I realized that the figure given out of 363+ was meant to scare people into clamoring for gun control legislation because of the "out of control" mass shootings, which people take to mean active shooters who are firing into a crowd or a school, but does not actually mean that. With that recap being said, I just came across a headline about Chris Murphy, junior senator from CT (D), who just made a Twitter campaign to raise awareness of the "372 mass shootings" in 2015. Needless to say it shouldn't take a detective to realize that he got his figure from the same old single website everyone else did - (a website that in addition to its other flaws doesn't even work properly).

Here's an article about Murphy's stunt:

It seems to me that this isn't merely a social media meme but is actively being pushed by members of Congress to shove through gun control legislation on a basically false premise by scaring people through a term that they're meant to misinterpret (mass shooting). I am all in favor of some additional kinds of gun control, including the sort of thing Sanders suggests in his campaign, but it strikes me as both hypocritical and ill mannered to push for something that is meant to help people while lying to them to achieve it. It puts anyone pushing this agenda in this way squarely in the camp of their GOP counterparts who lie to achieve other ends. If the Democrats want to claim the moral high ground this isn't the way to do it.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: January 01, 2016, 05:03:06 PM »
Where in what I said did you read this message?
Where you said:
There is an argument to be made that Afghanistan and Iraq 2.0 were illegal knowing what we know now
If it was illegal, there's nothing we can do about it now. The rule is to leave office before your illegal acts are discovered and prosecuted.  No one would hold an ex-President accountable after that.  Ford made sure of that with Nixon.

I never said that, and I don't believe it. What I did say was that we can clearly say now that the justification given for war was invalid. What that has to do with a 'statute of limitations' is beyond me. It was others on this board, and definitely not me, who argued that nothing can be done and it's too late now. My entire CIA vs Bush thread was about asking what can be done. I personally view it as unacceptable that merely getting out of office makes someone immune to answering for their actions.

As for Afghanistan, what was the legal basis for the invasion?  There was no UN authorization, nor was there a plausible reason to invade the country when the government did not participate in the planning or execution of the attack.  An argument based on defense of the US doesn't work, either.  If it did, how would that apply to the UK participation?

UN authorization...what does that mean? Do you mean that a nation is dispermitted to declare war unless some other group of nations permits it? That's absurd. It's true, mind you, that certain kinds of wars go against international law, such as an unprovoked invasion for the purposes of conquest, but that has nothing to do with a war requiring 'UN authorization' to go ahead. The American voters do not have to answer to the U.N., nor does the Congress when it carries out what it thinks is their will. America is not a protectorate of the U.N. empire that it has to ask their permission. That being said it's good when other nations agree that America is in the right, and ignoring this entirely carries with it its own set of problems.

The argument for defense of the U.S. was that the Taliban was aiding Al Qaeda. Very simple. If this was false then it was perhaps another lie, but from the perspective of the Congress and the legality of the war it's moot - the war would have been justified had the information been accurate. To think that a group like the Taliban could abet terrorists in attacking America and not suffer repercussions would only invite further attacks. As for the UK's involvement, are you unaware that Blair had previously agreed to go along with Bush's invasions far before they happened? Even while the debates were raging in both countries Blair and Bush/Cheney were in private communication with each other and had already agreed to go ahead with the two invasions. Iraq 2.0 had been preplanned and agreed upon even before 9/11, so your question about UK involvement is completely orthogonal to the question of whether the war was waged legally or not. The UK's involvement had nothing to do with whether it was legal, justified, or really about defending America; they were going to go along with it either way, and this is turning into a major scandal in the UK right as we speak. Perhaps you've heard about the recent evidence of communiques between Blair and the Bush admin about agreeing to Iraq 2.0 far before it was actually a go? Let's just say the English citizens aren't happy about it and there is a push to have the English involvement be declared illegal (under English law). None of that addresses whether America declared and waged the war legally, though. From the perspective of going through the Congress, naming a reason, and putting it to a vote, it was certainly legal. You can call that a boondoggle, just as you can call the proceedings of legal cases in court boondoggles if evidence is suppressed and other shenanigans, but it's still gone through the legal system for better or worse and it different from a procedure that flouts the system altogether. A badly executed court case is still more legitimate than someone being sentenced without a trial or due process.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: January 01, 2016, 01:28:35 PM »

There is an argument to be made that Afghanistan and Iraq 2.0 were illegal knowing what we know now, but if what we're talking about is abiding by the law and following the proper procedures then they were executed legally.
I think you're basically saying that Bush committed crimes for which the statute of limitations have expired.

Huh? Where in what I said did you read this message?

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: December 31, 2015, 03:44:25 PM »
BTW, including references to fictional outer space movies as if they are somehow relevant to real-world discussions about the gravity of war doesn't do service to your argument, either.

This is bizarre and non-sequitur, especially on a board whose host is a science fiction author.

Was the invasion of Afghanistan legal at all?  International treaties require countries to respect the sovereignty of other nations and to use diplomatic means to settle disputes.  That initial "police action" didn't wait for meaningful diplomatic efforts to commence, and the operation was later magically transformed into a massively military "humanitarian mission" after NATO forces disabled the national government of the country.  If so, do the predicates and legal justifications under which we invaded still pertain? 

Has Congress authorized military actions in either country or just agreed to pay for them?

Congress authorizes military action, obviously. It also has to finance such action, which is a separate but also important thing. As far as whether invading Afghanistan was 'legal' you seem to be speaking of international law. Domestically it was clearly legal, and internationally it also seems clear that when a country is attacked it's fully within its rights to defend itself. In the case of terrorist attack there isn't a clear singular nation to target in response, but the argument made was that the Taliban was helping Al Qaeda and therefore were part of the attack, at least indirectly. The case for this argument rests on the details of whether the Taliban actually did help Al Qaeda or not. If they did then international law would certainly be satisfied in terms of a military response to an attack on America. It is not required by international law to employ strictly diplomatic efforts in response to a direct attack on a nation's soil; such a rule would be utterly ridiculous.

There is an argument to be made that Afghanistan and Iraq 2.0 were illegal knowing what we know now, but if what we're talking about is abiding by the law and following the proper procedures then they were executed legally. I personally think that lying to the Congress about military details should be considered criminal, but since most people here apparently don't agree we'll leave that point aside and therefore should conclude that based on what they knew the Congress voted on and executed both wars legally and within international law. But the main point is that the Congress voted on them, which was not true of Libya. In answer to your point about the circumstances surrounding Obama's decisions on Libya, you should note that following European countries in a war there does not actually legitimize America doing so. Strictly speaking that has no relevance to whether doing so violated the procedures requiring the Congress to declare wars themselves. As some people now jokingly say, America apparently doesn't declare wars anymore when it commits itself to military action, and that in itself says something about how the Congress is now being bypassed on a unilateral basis. Unless you could show that America was in any way materially threatened by Gaddafi I don't think you could claim grounds to employ the military on an emergency basis without going to the Congress first.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: December 31, 2015, 02:08:38 PM »
I pointed out that the last two Democratic Presidents have each engaged in military actions
Why them and not the last 3 (or 4 ( or 5)) Presidents?  They all launched military invasions, whether they boondoggled Congress into going along with them or not.  Rise above and not make this partisan, even if you think that was the intent of the thread.

Not to butt in, but you really discredit your argument by making comments like this. If you view gaining Congressional support for a war as a boondoggle then you really are making Anakin's argument for a strong dictator rather than risking inaction. If your beef is with the Congressional system itself then that is a completely separate argument from the issue of whether Democratic Presidents have effectively flouted the constitution by waging unilateral wars. Seriati's point is that the only danger of having the nuclear codes is if a President has the unilateral power to use them foolishly, and that is it the Democratic Presidents of late that have exercised unilateral power, not GOP ones.

In case you think I'm taking partisan sides you should know that despite my belief that Obama has, indeed, committed illegal military and foreign actions, this is tame compared to what I think Bush/Cheney got away with. The latter two didn't defy the Congress or declare unilateral wars, but they did other (worse) things. This comparison doesn't mean that Obama has done nothing wrong either, even if it's not as bad. But the argument here isn't about who's done the worst things, but rather about who's done the most unilateral things, bypassing oversight and doing whatever they want unquestioned. The war on Iraq was heavily questioned by the Congress, but because of lies told to them they decided to vote a certain way. That made the result bad, but the debate itself did happen and is the right way for things to be done. The solution isn't to do away with the debate (and possible inaction), but rather to prevent people getting away with the lies. Then again multiple people here argued against any repercussions for those who told the lies (in my CIA vs Bush Admin thread) so it seems that either a dictator or a lied-to Congress that then gets bypassed is the desired result by some.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: December 30, 2015, 09:37:03 PM »
Last I checked, Hitler committed suicide. If he didn't, the only possible suspects are Soviets and it's not like they were big on the rules of war.

He did, but if he hadn't I don't think in that era he would have been murdered by his enemies. I'm guessing, to be sure.

Saying a call for assassination is morally equivalent to murder neglects the fact that only one of those necessarily results in a dead person. I'd be kinda surprised if the rebels killed him because Clinton said so.

The difference between the two is merely one's level of success in achieving one's stated goal. Calling for a murder rather than just doing it yourself might be a sign of cowardice or incompetence, but not of moral superiority.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: December 30, 2015, 09:14:51 PM »
Last I checked, the US didn't kill him. IRRC, US intervention was mostly at the behest of European allies, with a fig-leaf of a request for assistance from the Arab League(?). The intervention by Western forces was "supposed" to be much more limited than it was but I think the French and/or British wanted Kaddafi out.

Gaddafi wasn't killed by an American, but Hillary did personally call for his death when she landed in Libya. For me that's enough. Calling for the assassination of the head of a foreign state is morally equivalent to personally killing him in my book. Legally, calling for such a thing in an international war crime and also a breach of the U.S. constitution. The argument to justify this would have to be - as Seriati mentioned - a pressing emergency in Libya where swift action was needed, like Germany in WWII. And even in WWII I believe they would have tried Hitler at Nuremberg rather than kill him outright. I suppose since the Geneva Convention has long since been thrown in the garbage this point may matter little.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 30, 2015, 09:00:06 PM »
While the fact that it decided to make itself accessible to a wider audience than white male kids and geeks with escapist fantasies is a great mark in its favor, the bigger overall victory is one step further toward breaking down the false assertion that you've got to play it safe with leading roles so far as casting decisions go.

I've got news for you - Hollywood has been casting attractive white women as the lead in films since the 30's. This is not new, and treating it like it's remarkable is some kind of combination of sexist and revisionist. The same goes for having a black man in a supporting role, which is sadly an old cliche also going back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Great strides were made in the 80's and early 90's for black people in film and TV, where numerous hit TV shows starring black families became household names (Cosby Show, Different Strokes, Family Matters, Fresh Prince, etc.) and the strong backbone of America view of black people became part of popular culture. The same was true in film where even when paired with a white leading actor the black supporting actor was often taken far more seriously than Finn was taken in TFA. Think back to a series like Lethal Weapon, where Danny Glover was technically the sidekick but actually provided the sane input to the story (involving his common sense, his family, etc.) to balance Gibson's mania in the film. That was quite the role reversal from what we see all too often where the black character is the loose cannon or the comic relief or something equally insulting (see: Chris Tucker). We've come a long way since the 90's...backward. We've regressed, and so has Hollywood. If there was an element of the superficial in Hollywood in the Golden Age, that is true now as well but amplified significantly. Now people cheer when a woman leads a film alongside a black comic relief supporting character who is made to look foolish much of the time. Not only is this nothing new, but it's to an extent a retread of a cliche that we'd do well to leave behind us. I think the historic nadir of black people in film was in Dungeons and Dragons, where the black sidekick was so zany and extreme that he appeared to be in the wrong movie. It was really racist, like the kind of stuff black people were made to do to amuse white people back in the plantation days. Finn is a few steps advanced from this but not that many. I wish he had been given a character and a real role in the film rather than be useless and make extreme faces the whole time. If someone is going to do a favor to the black community in Hollywood this isn't it.

But there is one thing novel about having a female lead in TFA, which is that while almost every genre in film has already seen plenty of female leads - not proportionally equal, but still many - this has not been true to the same extent in dumb action films. The reason for that is pretty obvious - those films have always been marketed to young males. Not only that, but the prevailing wisdom seems to have always been that women don't even like watching movies like that to a significant extent; the amount of rolling eyes I've seen when females were informed of an action flick... But that being said if females want in on the genre all the power to them, I think that's great. Let there be women action stars and I'll be very happy. I've already enjoyed the Resident Evil series which did this, as well as (god help me) Tomb Raider. But if this is the special mark TFA has made - having a female starring in a dumb action movie - then I suppose that's worth something but it's a little sad that such a big deal is being made about a starring role in the lowest common denominator of film other than B horror. I guess I shouldn't wonder that Resident Evil wasn't cheered as a great feminist movie; I guess it was ignored since it wasn't touted as a marvel of casting.

I agree with Seriati completely that if they had wanted to do progressive casting then they could have cast average looking people, or indeed, a black female star. Or heck, there are plenty of options. Have we ever even seen an Asian Jedi? The idea that casting a hot, fit woman in a leading role is 'progressive' is...well, it's just funny really.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 29, 2015, 04:28:05 PM »
I haven't read the article Pyr posted, but you've got my point backwards. Rey gets unwarranted criticism because she's female. People who'd have no problem with a guy being generic action hero are suddenly all up in arms about poor characterization and unreasonable level of competence.

Entertainment is always social and political propoganda.

I think you've got my point backwards. I'm saying that you're calling it unwarranted criticism because she's female. I've seen fun and stupid action movies, and when I come out I might well say "that was fun, but dumb." The occasionally superlative action movie is one where the hero is not merely invincible but is written in a more complex way. A great example of this is First Blood, where the entire tenor of the film is that Rambo does not want to fight any more. His victory at the end is ashes. But for those action movies where the main character is little more than a wrecking ball I shrug and enjoy it if the story and action were good. If that's all I can take away from TFA then that is the main thrust of my criticism; that it was little more than a forgettable Christmas blockbuster. It's true that male characters in dumb movies are not held to this kind of scrutiny, and the reason I criticize Rey is because TFA has reduced Star Wars to that level. No worse, to be sure, but this wasn't supposed to be The Fast and the Furious.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 29, 2015, 03:51:57 PM »
While I can't, obviously, say anything about specific claims made by specific people, I think there would be a lot less fuss about Rey if she'd been a male character. "He" would get more of a presumption of competence that blunt some of the criticism. There would still be complaints, but they'd be of a distinctly different flavor.

This is no doubt true of some people, but to assume that this statement somehow addresses what's being said is, remarkably, more sexist than anything wrongly being said about Rey. "Criticism of her is probably unwarranted because she's a female." Something to this effect. I found Pyrtolin's article to be entirely unconvincing, but the most telling part of the article wasn't any particulars where I thought it was wrong but rather the opening statement when its central thesis was that Star Wars was to be declared a success story for social justice. This avowed statement that entertainment should double as social and political propaganda undermines the article far more than any point it made could have done. It's a sad state of affairs that the moral worth of a film is being weighed against whether or not it aligns with the credo of a progressive social movement. The comparison with Fury Road (even though the article strangely implied that Fury Road quite exceeds Star Wars as a triumph of social justice) is itself saddening since what we're seeing now is film with female characters being co-opted by blog forces who trumpet them as standing for their movement. This is understandable but obviously brings with it a kind of defensiveness where the material becomes sacrosanct and criticism of the female lead unsavory since it feels like it's coming off as a repudiation of the feminist stamp branded on her character.

This is the one area that I think needs to be clear. I don't care about the fact that Rey is a female as such. It's cool to see a female Jedi, and if I wanted to write a SW fanfic I'd almost certainly make the hero female. But I take this film on its own merits and when I'm sitting in the cinema I'm not interested in what the film means vis a vis the larger culture or the implication of having a strong female lead. I'm not sitting there saying "Oh! She's a woman AND she's strong!" I've too far down the fantasy literature gauntlet to care about that any more, although I can see how 'sheltered' people in popular culture might see it as a novelty. I can still inspect this point in hindsight when analyzing the film, but my main concerns have been the content of the film as such exterior to progressive social movements and alternative casting.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 29, 2015, 12:21:36 PM »
The next one absolutely should ground things more, Use the momentum to pull people into the deeper part of the story, but it will fail is it's height of action is its answer to luke lifting the statue or facing himself in the swamp. Because, Star Wars, at its core, is an action franchise. The philosophy gives it some depth and anchors it, but it was born to showcase spectacle and sell toys and breakfast cereal to kids and needs to keep that kind of energy and engagement going even as it get to the point where it can take a moment to present a more nuanced story behind it. Otherwise is strays too far into territory that Star Trek is far more grounded in and better at exploring.

What in blazes are you talking about? Is it your position that the scenes in Empire where Yoda trains Luke is not "Star Wars at its core"? The whole movie is about how rushing into action is spiritually dangerous and can lead to the dark side.

But if this is your real belief about the series it becomes entirely clear why you think TFA is an exemplary Star Wars tale. This is no counterargument to this, other than "you're wrong."

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 29, 2015, 01:25:59 AM »
Wow, JoshCrow, that article is brilliant. I especially liked this concluding remark:

In his prime, George Lucas dramatized complex adult ideas for kids. J.J. Abrams has made a children's film for adults. Behind its dazzling visual wizardry, The Force Awakens is essentially Harry Potter in space. As a commercial brand, Star Wars has never been stronger. But the original concept — visionary, experimental, morally challenging, imperfect but wildly ambitious — has been exiled forever to a galaxy far, far away.

General Comments / Re: Terrorized Americans
« on: December 29, 2015, 01:01:51 AM »
How can hate speech laws be framed as anything other than restrictions on free speech? One would have to argue that 100% unrestricted free speech is a good unto itself, of course, in order to argue that this is a problem. Since I doubt many people think it should be permitted to shout "fire" in a theatre this point seems to be entirely specious. Al, Seriati's point isn't that by championing hate speech laws the left is evil, he just means that they aren't championing civil liberties. He never specified that there cannot be a case where something should be ruled as being more important than civil liberties; that was your hidden insertion.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 28, 2015, 09:24:21 AM »
Star Wars is all about the Demigods and always has been. While greatness might be a universal human trait, doing great things is reserved for the people chosen by fate or who had the right parents.

"Wars not make one great." Kicking ass at the highest level isn't what Star Wars is about, although it's easy for someone to come out thinking it is. That's the allure of the dark side, believe it or not - thinking that being the strongest is the way to win. I know Lucas' ideology and where he came from, and the kinds of characters he believed in. You can argue he screwed up in Star Wars and failed to make the movie he intended, but I can guarantee you he didn't intent to write a trilogy whose takeaway would be "those with the most entitlement and power win while the losers watch from the sidelines and hope they're saved." A cynical person can watch the original trilogy and come to this conclusion, but I'd say such a person would have learned the wrong lessons and taken the quick and easy approach to inspecting why the Empire lost.

General Comments / Re: Who do you trust with the nuclear launch codes?
« on: December 26, 2015, 11:29:25 PM »
I would 'trust' (as much as I can trust a politician not to be a colossal idiot) some of the GOP candidates, including Trump, Paul, maybe Rubio, and in a realpolitik sense probably Bush (curse me for saying so). The Bush dynasty is my last choice imaginable to be given any power but in respect strictly to responsibility to their own ambitions I think they are savvy enough not to blow up the world for no reason.

I have to agree with Greg that I'm not entirely comfortable with some of the "World War III" candidates, though, which include Kasich, Fiorina, Graham, Christie, and possibly Cruz (I say 'possibly' because some of what he says is off the wall but other things he says are considerably more grounded than his colleagues). I might hesitantly add Clinton to this group if she stands by what she says about the no-fly zone, but I'm willing to believe her talk about being tough with Putin is BS in which case she may not be such a threat. Overall I don't think she would support global stability but it might be pushing it to say I think she's a risk factor with the nuclear codes. Like the Bushes she's probably too calculating to blow up the world on an emotional lark.

I think Bernie and O'Malley would be ok with the responsibility as well.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 24, 2015, 01:22:43 PM »
While fancily addressing individual lines and comments I feel you've avoided entirely address the main point I was making, which is that TFA was in no way a film about someone wanting to go out and become who she felt she was supposed to be. Rey was a wrecking ball dragged through events and winning them, but her agency in the matter (i.e. achieving her own goals) was never a part of it until she decided that finding Luke was better than sitting at home. But that's entirely deux ex machina plotting because in any other scenario involving a rebellion and the need for heroes but where Luke wasn't her father her new quest would not have served as an upgrade for her previous life's goal of doing nothing. Luke wanted to become someone, Rey didn't. That never changed even by the end of the film. She's there, but she's not there because she's embraced a new way of life. Look at the contrast in Luke on Tatooine (morose, defeated) versus him when they leave for Alderann (excited, alive). He 'switches on once he realizes he's doing something amazing. When does Rey 'switch on'? I would say she never does. There is never a switch in the film where she turns a corner and steps up. Oh, she picks up weapons and fights, but her attitude never changes from A to Z.

The "refusal to the call" is supposed to be an initial hurdle that a hero faces when recognizing that their life will never be the same once they leave and embark on their great journey. It's the preemptive mourning for the death of who they used to be. In the case of Achilles he knew for certain in advance he would die in Troy so it was more of a literal reason not to go. Rey never got past this hurdle and dived head-first into her path until maybe the end of the movie, and even then I'd say that's iffy. When she picks up the lightsaber to fight Darth Emo her options are to pick up the saber or to have him walk after her and stab her in the back while she's running. Tough choice.

And by the way I'm not discarding canon by saying there's no hard destiny in Star Wars. The force has a will, and its will directs events in the galaxy. But the will of individual people guides events too and neither side has the full say in what will happen. No event is outright predetermined or set in advance; the series makes that completely clear. Palpatine's entire control mechanism was to stack the odds monumentally in his favor, and even then there was never certainty of what any given individual would do. Odds are someone will behave predictably, but they can always choose otherwise. THAT is the point of the series, "never tell me the odds." A person can go against inertia, probability, and expectation and make a choice to go the other way.

You're right on one point, which is that ANH was not made with the later themes in mind since it was a stand-alone film. Lucas tacked a lot on later. But it's wrong to compare TFA with ANH ignoring the others because although ANH was made in a vacuum TFA was not. All the possible themes and backstories were available for perusal for TFA, so any limitation on its scripting would have been self-imposed. ANH had no background to go on as a signpost. And incidentally even ANH questions the value of meeting force with force. Ben chooses to not oppose Vader in the end, saying that Vader's use of violence would make Ben more powerful than he could imagine. Maybe this is a martyrdom metaphor, maybe it was to give Luke license to become his own man, maybe it was just a statement that the light side doesn't have to employ violence in the same way as the dark side does to triumph. Luke carries this particular theme through to RotJ when his victory is one of compassion, not superior firepower. Even the fight against the Death Star tells this message somewhat, although in this sense it's more a Chinese martial arts message about not opposing with maximal force but instead using one's own weakness as an advantage. That is a slightly different message from a non-violent approach but both are in the vein of avoiding using brutality in life and that there are other ways. These themes go way over the head of TFA, and this isn't even taking into account V or VI, which I think we should anyhow since TFA was written with them all in mind. It's not as if Kasdan was instructed to only observe IV when writing the script.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 07:57:30 PM »
Ah, so either you're born to be great or forget about it. Your particular will doesn't really matter- if it was your destiny the world will line up and get you there regardless of what choices you make.

I think you may be mistaking what I meant by "destiny." I did not mean (and neither did Lucas) irrevocable mechanical determinism. Destiny in the sense Star Wars means it has to do with realizing a person's potential. It is quite possible for someone not to find their 'destiny' in this sense, which would be a shame but it doesn't mean they avoided some predetermined future. "Almost in motion the future is." In the context of the literal story Luke was born strong in the force, but the theme for the audience is that greatness is a universal human trait ("luminous beings are we"), not something reserved for those with powerful gifts. It's not genetic, it's not wealth; it's about spirit. The whole point of Empire vis a vis the force is "wars not make one great." It isn't the ability to kick ass that makes a person great; or more generally, not the person's material excellence at some task. It's about self-actualization, whatever that entails.

So we've got two narratives.

"If you're born to it, you'll be great. If you're not great then it just wasn't your thing"


"It doesn't matter how much you've got going for you, you've got to make the effort to expand your horizons and try to succeed if you want to do more than just scrape along"

The first narrative possibly fits TFA, since the only reason Rey goes anywhere and does anything is because of her amazing talent, not because she believes in anything. This doesn't do a great job of capturing Rey, but it can be made to fit in a pinch. The second narrative is a good one for each of us to remember but nevertheless doesn't apply to either TFA or the original trilogy. For some reason you're stuck on this "born with everything" concept when I certainly didn't bring it up and it definitely isn't what any Star Wars movie is about.  Lucas would never have put forward a message that had anything to do with "success." This goes back into Yoda's comment. Life isn't about "succeeding", and the idea that one either turns out to be a success or a failure is a gross capitalist mental trap. Luke's story is about a journey, not about success. He initially thinks it's about success, but he learns very quickly that becoming a better person is about struggling, not about winning.

The story of Luke was that each of us has the potential to be great, if only we listen to our instincts and break free from all the voices telling us we can't do it and we have no choice.
Your second half is more accurate than the first. Luke's story doesn't suggest that anyone can be great. Just that we have no choice if that's our destiny.

There is no destiny in this sense in Star Wars. See above. Destiny means realizing potential, not following a predetermined path. Your construction of destiny here is so woefully wrong that it actually inverts the message of Star Wars. The point is that nothing is predetermined, there is always choice.

Except, as you noted above, Luke didn't have to find it he already had it, he just needed the limiting factors around him removed. Rey actually had to go into herself and find it. To choose to remove _her own_ limitations that only she could face and change. She certainly has a destiny, but rather than being inevitable, her choice and participation in it are required to engage it.

On a literal level they both had the force, so that's a wash. If anything Luke needed far more help than Rey to 'find it' since it took Ben to tell him that he didn't have to be the person his uncle meant him to be. Rey didn't need jack from anyone, she just figured it all out by herself. Now, on a meta level they each had to find a reason to put aside their hesitancy and to pursue what they felt was a dream or a purpose. Luke's reason was learning that his father was a great pilot who fought in the Clone Wars, and he realized he wanted to be like his father. Rey, however, had no reason to leave, and never distinctly chose to. Her only desire was to stay home and be saved. As far as journeys of awakening go she never really began hers on purpose but ended up in a flurry of action by happenstance. Her big choice in the matter was, as JoshCrow put it, not to die. Tough call there.

Luke was already working hard. All of his hard work would have gotten him nowhere if he hadn't been destined to get there. Rey was also working hard, but was holding herself back from actually getting anywhere. Even without a heroic destiny, should could have made something much more of herself, but was hobbled by her own limitations and lack of vision.

You have your stories backwards. Luke was the one holding himself back. He wanted to go but didn't believe he could defy his uncle. Rey didn't want to go at all, and while staying on Jakku she was getting exactly what she wanted. Nothing was holding her back; she was already doing what she wanted to do. It was a lame goal to be pursuing, but nothing was holding her there at all. She had the wrong goal, in other words, and her goal in fact never materially changed until she realized that she could find Luke Skywalker some other way than sitting inside a broken AT-AT. I guess you could call this a lack of vision, but I think it would be better called a lack of ambition. She was entirely lacking all that youthful drive and enthusiasm Luke had. Luke was upset that he couldn't do all the things he wanted to do. Rey was upset but didn't want to do anything. In the sense of 'destiny' Luke had a destiny, meaning he had a person he desperately wanted to be and wanted a chance to try to become that person. Rey had no destiny, because there was no 'inner her' wanting to be freed so she could explore life; at least not that we were ever shown. The result of her being drawn into galactic events wasn't her realizing her destiny at all, but was rather a plot contrivance that effectively thwarted her inner desire. Naturally, given how the film was lazily scripted, everything falls in everyone's lap perfectly and by not wanting to go where she's going or do what she's doing she is thrust inevitably right onto her father's (I mean Luke's!) little island. This is called satire, not a hero journey. A person made into a hero despite wanting to stay home is a joke on the genre, it's like Achilles staying in the laundry basket on that island and having the Trojan War come to him and winning it anyhow.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 04:52:28 PM »

Every time she's presented with the option of what to do and she backs away from it and tries to argue for going home to wait, and has to be dragged back into action by the other characters around her. The struggle with her resentment for being abandoned and her stubbornness about going to sit and wait for the promises made to her to be honored comes through all over the place, right up to the point where she finally willingly takes up the lightsaber and it becomes clear that she's finally decided to move forward instead of looking back. Contrast with Luke who was very much just dragged along by the plot because he had not real agency or choice in that regard. Once the stormtroopers destroyed his home, there was no back for him to go just to follow Obi Wan. He could have run off with Solo at the end, to be sure, but he was already engaged by that point.

You're missing the forest for the trees here. Luke wanted to leave home all along, wanted to join his friends, and wanted adventure. The story is about how he finally managed to realize his dreams. Metaphorically the story is simple: Ben tells him about his real heritage, which is being the son of someone who realized his dreams and who has the same potential to do so as his father. The only thing stopping Luke from having already left was the illusion that he had no choice, represented by his uncle. Once Ben tells him the truth you may note that Luke never sees his uncle again, and suddenly is freed to pursue his dreams. You can paint this as Luke having had his agency taken away from him by the Empire's slaughter, but symbolically Luke's chains were broken the moment Ben spoke with him, even though Luke was hesitant at first. The amazing thing about growth of this sort is that it's not 'volitional' in such a way that one makes an arbitrary choice, like "Um, I could do A or B, well I guess I'll just pick one." Rather, the need to realize oneself isn't an arbitrary decision but feels more like being driven by destiny, where choices made feel more like compulsions than picking and choosing what to do. This is why the killing of Luke's family happens to suddenly after speaking to Ben - the feeling of realizing one has already made a choice without knowing it can be shocking and feel like the death of the life previously imagined. The death of Luke's family, then, isn't him being denied a choice, but is actually the freedom now available to pursue the dreams he had all along. For the rest of the movie Luke is doing what he feels is right and living the life he always wanted to have. The fact that it doesn't end up being as fun and carefree as he had envisioned is also part of his growth arc.

Contrast with Rey, who as you accurately state never wanted to leave home.  Even after getting dragged into events she still wanted to go back home, and throughout the movie sort of blundered her way into amazing events and repeated victories despite her actions not being a realization of her true desires. In fact we know nothing of her true desires other than to stay at home and wait for her parents to return. This is not the story of her learning to realize the potential to be the person she always wanted to be; on the contrary, if she'd had her way should would never have gone anywhere at all. This is not a hero's journey but rather more in the vein of a Shakespearean comedy where characters who have no intention of doing anything noble stumble into a happy ending that they didn't earn. The only extent to which she 'earned' victory in the film was due to her innate invincibility, but not due to growth or strength of character. The renders her victories as little more than deux ex machina inserted to make her win no matter what.

And this leads us to the answer to your question about what the real wish fulfilment fantasy here is. The story of Luke was that each of us has the potential to be great, if only we listen to our instincts and break free from all the voices telling us we can't do it and we have no choice. At its core that story was an inspirational tale designed to show the greatness in even the most common person, if only they can find it within themselves. That's not a fantasy, but a real message about real life. The message is that you can be more than you are, but that it takes hard work, freeing your mind, and allowing yourself to trust that following your ideals and dreams will lead you somewhere special. Now look at the story from TFA, where Rey is already unbeatable and needs no assistance. She must also be coaxed forwards by plot elements at every turn lest she turn around and go home. The wish fulfilment here is simply one of entitlement and vanity. Instead of "I can be great if I apply myself" the moral of TFA is "I'm already great, and I don't need to do anything to prove it."

In America's past, especially post WWII people were proud to have fought for the chance to make something of themselves and to give their children the same opportunity. The dream they won was the ability to become something. Nowadays things are different and the defining dream in America is to be recognized as already being awesome no matter what you achieve or do with yourself. Your identity itself is now supposed to be your defining trait, rather than the journey you've decided to take or the work you've put into changing. The journey has become a looking glass; confirmation has become affirmation. The fantasy of TFA is that you don't need to do anything at all and that you already deserve praise for it. You can just stay at home and yet see yourself as a hero, and you can imagine yourself as being smart and fantastic with no basis other than wanting to bask in your own adulation. It's basic narcissism, in a nutshell, and the reason Rey is a weak character is because all she does is show how awesome she was right from the start, and bad guys beware. It reminds me of a recent Onion article which read something like "Average American overrates own fighting skill by 4000%." This is probably not even inaccurate, and speaks to the general feeling of entitlement to be praised and admired. It takes the fundamental bias of having a unique perspective, which is "I feel that I'm the most important thing in the world", and rendering that feeling into an ontological statement such as "I AM the most important thing in the world, and everyone else should recognize that."

Put another way, the wish fulfilment fantasy of the movie is "you're already a hero, other people just don't recognize it yet." The spirit of this moral is to go about trying to make people notice how special you are, rather than becoming who you need to be and the opinion of others be damned. After all, becoming something is hard work, and you can fail in any number of ways. No one these days wants to hear that, now do they?

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 03:41:59 PM »
Pyr, when you claim that Rey goes through all these changes, are you referring to things you think are implied by the logic of the plot (she went from X to Y, ergo she must have struggled with whether to go from X to Y), or do you mean the film showed us that struggle beyond merely having her participate in the story?

The one time in the film I'll grant they show Rey making a real decision is when, after being handed Luke's lightsaber by orange-Yoda she runs into the forest, only to later reconsider. Then again if faced with a plot contrivance such as randomly walking into a building containing Luke's original lightsaber (and Anakin's) I'd try to flee into another film as well. I'll fruitlessly throw in the nitpick that it can't possibly be Anakin's lightsaber that Ben gave to Luke because that saber was lost on Bespin when Luke lost his arm. The one he ended with in Jedi he built himself. Unless of course we're going to suggest that someone went down that bottomless pit to find the saber Luke lost there! Since I think it goes straight down to the gas planet that strikes me as unlikely, especially since Vader was the only one who knew Luke lost it there and he didn't bother going after it.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 01:17:29 PM »
Not a hallmark, it's the definition of a Mary Sue.

Claims about poor characterization aside, if you want to make the case for Mary Sue, then you've got to make the case for author insert. If you want to make some other claim then pasting "Mary Sue" on it is referencing the wrong trope.

Talk about derailing an argument through subverting terms instead of facing the argument head-on. Here's the Wiki definition of Mary Sue:

A Mary Sue or, in case of a male, Gary Stu or Marty Stu is an idealized fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through extraordinary abilities. Often but not necessarily this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment.

So as usual your option is to either answer the argument as presented, or to create your own definitions in order to pretend that the argument is incoherent.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 23, 2015, 01:01:23 PM »
I'm not saying that Trump's attitude will turn them into suicide bombers for Daesh, I'm saying it'll make it less likely for Muslims to support the Western and more likely for them to see Daesh as something they have to tolerate. If both sides are likely to oppress you for being the wrong religion, wouldn't one rather stick with the religion closest to their own?

Since when did their approval or disapproval amount to anything? Either America goes in, in which case they have no say in the matter, or it doesn't and they can either take on ISIS or not. The idea that their 'support' for either side matters is nonsense. Unless by "support" you mean actively endorse and aid, which would be a different story. But assuming these are the peaceful Muslims we're discussing then they won't do that, in which case we're talking about their passive opinions about events out of their control and in which they have no say whatsoever.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 12:58:18 PM »
Funny you mention it Josh, I recall reading an article that lauded Rey's Mary Sue chracteristics, as she could be a surrigate for all the female fans that have been left out and their chance to "kick butt" like the boys. Except Star Wars was never about the good guys "kicking butt". Luke Skywalker was not Stephen Segal or Captain America. Somebody learned the wrong lessons.

Wars not make one great. *giggles*

Whoever missed this message failed to understand the entire original trilogy.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 12:54:36 PM »
She was a total blank slate. I couldn't tell you the first thing of what she *thought* about the things going on around her, because the movie never slowed down to look into it.

In the early New Hope scene where 3PO is having an oil bath, he mentions the rebellion and Luke excitedly jumps in with "You know of the rebellion against the Empire???!!!!"

It took exactly one line and we already knew a lot about him. He saw that he perhaps idealized or was excited about the idea of the rebellion (and he even had a model X-Wing fighter in his place). We saw that he felt distanced from important events and wanted to be a part of it all. We saw that he didn't get much information on Tatooine but wanted to know more despite being stuck on a moisture farm. It's just one line but it spoke volumes.

In the entirety of TFA we don't even learn this much about Rey. In the whole movie, not one line about her hopes, her dreams, what she admires or hopes to be. The only plot point we get is that she would like to find her parents. This isn't character development, though, it's paper-thin back story. Luke had the same back story, in fact, and yet A New Hope magically found time to have Luke utter this one line (and many more) that showed us who he was. And the funny thing is that Luke really is an 'everyman' character too. A nice farm boy from the boonies, with nothing except for hopes and dreams (and killer aim with a speeder). His journey is a placeholder for the journey each person has to take if they want to grow. They need to lose the things with which they chain themselves even though this is painful to do. They need to go to the darkest places and face what's there, and they need to learn to do all this with calm and not with anger or fear. The difference between this story and a Mary Sue story is that none of us can be a Mary Sue; she's a fantasy, an impossibility. But we can all be a Luke Skywalker, and that's the magic of Star Wars. The force binds all living things, not just amazing people. It's a Hindi/Yoga message, a self-empowerment message, and a political democratic message. The story of a Mary Sue is actually anathema to these themes and cannot coexist with them.

General Comments / Re: Terrorized Americans
« on: December 23, 2015, 12:36:48 PM »
Let's not forget the War on Drugs and the level of poverty in America. Only someone delusional would think they could boil gun violence down purely to the existence of guns without including these areas. Would eliminating poverty and terrible drug laws lead to a reduction in gun violence? How much gun violence is proportionally to do with gangs, altercations with the police, suicide, and other poverty or drug-related issues?

If we dealt with these far more critical areas and the level of gun deaths remained high we could talk reasonably about having narrowed down that maybe the guns themselves are the problem after all. Right now it's more like a conceptual war where many people on the left accept as an unassailable premise that gun ownership is an evil in itself. I see enough Facebook posts about it regularly to know it isn't just some tiny minority of people who feel that way, it's a trending active political idea.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 10:25:28 AM »
Comparing Rey to Luke is outrageous. So many people have commented on Lucas' famous use of the Joseph Campbell structure and how Luke went through the classic hero's journey. He began as someone with potential and as a good pilot, but who didn't know how to handle himself or control his feelings. The turning point for him was Ben's death, where he realized he had to go it alone and make his own decisions. The meat of this is that Ben's teaching would remain with him, metaphorically represented by the force ghost of Ben literally guiding him at the end to trust his feelings. Contrast with Rey, who never took advice from anyone, never needed assistance, never changed from start to finish, had no compelling reason to do any of the things she did, and learned nothing about herself other than that she could use the force. We do not see the beginnings of a Jedi in her by the end of the film, just the same girl who gets even more badass. Maybe this is the thrust of the trilogy - that she never does become like a Jedi despite her power. I don't know. But she goes through zero of the Campbell hero's journey; she's already a hero at the start, just devoid of a mission.

Heck, as simple as the structure of Star Wars was it did some incredible things. We have this dark man Vader who breathes through a respirator and who Ben describes as more machine than man. Then we have Luke who always had his own skills to rely on and then he gets mixed up with the rebellion and they give him an X-Wing fighter. Next thing you know they're barking orders at him (something new to him as well) and in the Death Star trench they instruct the pilots to active the targeting computers. Luke is about to comply without a second thought when Ben tells him to use the force instead of trusting the computer. Luke is guided by his mentor to trust his own senses, not what the computer tells him. This is the defining moment for Luke in A New Hope as he decides to reject the computer machinery and rely on his own body, which stands in stark contrast to the man chasing him in a custom Tie fighter whose very life relies on machines. Do you see how poetic this contrast is, where Luke won't become subject to technology like Vader and the Empire have become? And then there's the other level of that moment, where we think of Imperial propaganda and how all those stormtroopers who are normal guys must be told all kinds of BS about why their cause is noble and just. By rejecting the targeting computer and trusting his own senses Luke is likewise embarking on the journey towards learning things for himself rather than accepting data given to him by others through computers. He will be his own man, not a cog in someone's machine.

So these are just a few points from A New Hope that already make it infinitely better than TFA and which set Luke and Rey apart by light years. It's not even a matter of degrees; she didn't go through any kind of journey at all other than kicking a bunch of ass.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 23, 2015, 10:02:05 AM »
"You mean like Syria? "

Obviously not. WTF, Fenring. I mean like Jordan, Turkey, Shiites Iraq and the Kurds.   

ISIS is most definitely not at war with Turkey. As for the others, I don't see how the U.S. is defending any of them except for maybe the Kurds unless you mean to say that by bombing ISIS the U.S. is indirectly defending all of them. But then again I don't take the current bombing campaign very seriously, although perhaps it upsets ISIS somewhat.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 02:15:38 AM »

There might be some meta-explanation as to why Rey can do the things she does. Maybe she was trained when young and has amnesia. Maybe she's some special force-mimic and can copy any power she sees (actually this is a cool idea, which no doubt means it's not what they have in mind). It's too bad that the way the story is actually structured there is no plausible explanation for what she does. Having to watch a sequel in order to understand the basic action of the movie I'm watching is totally unacceptable writing. They could have given clues in the story that there's a reason she can do these things, but alas she just does them and is impervious to failure.

The final comment of this article is what truly demonstrates the poverty of its argument, which is since none of what happens is Star Wars is realistic anyhow why bother sticking to any kind of logic? Anyone who has to ask this kind of rhetorical question understands plain zero about writing fiction or about what makes the audience assign real gravity to certain things happening and not to others. Incidentally I did not come out of TFA with the Mary Sue thing in mind at all, but between jasonr and the article both are making a decent case for Rey really being just that. I'm starting to get convinced, and especially so since the scripting from start to finish had the feel of fan fiction, down to the references to things in the original trilogy even though the events are now 20 years in the past.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 23, 2015, 01:19:35 AM »
Wow, some of you guys watched this with a chip on your shoulder.

I went in with a new hope, and was instead attacked by a clone. The last thing I wanted was to hate it, believe me.

General Comments / Re: DNC Software Breach
« on: December 22, 2015, 10:32:20 PM »
Let the conspiracy theories roll!

As far as conspiracy theories go this one isn't very far-fetched, especially since Trump has outright said he has a good relationship with Hillary. Campaigns have been unhinged before due to candidates put into the race to deliberately split votes or derail the process. If this was happening now it would by no means be a novelty in campaign strategy.

That being said I wouldn't go as far as Pete to say it's obvious this is happening. I'd leave it at saying that it's a distinct possibility and that I have to wait and see.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 22, 2015, 10:30:05 PM »
I'd be willing to bet that the propaganda war would be a loser after we largely eliminate their long range communication and access to power.  Not to mention, they'd almost certainly end up killing more civilians than we would, after all they rule by fear and every loss they take undermines that fear and makes them more desperate.

For sure. The actual military action would damage them more than they hope will ever happen, and their strategy hinges on American politics not being willing to tolerate the loss of civilian life plus the expense of going there in force. I think one way they utilize American media right now is by showing their people that Americans are considering slaughtering civilians as part of another Muslim intervention action. The irony is that talking about attacking them helps them, but only if that means talking about it and not doing it. Talking about it and then doing it definitely would not help them! Abstaining from talking about them at all would also not help them, but that's not a possibility with the media and politics being what they are. Given the reality of the situation it's fairly easy for them to manipulate Western media.

The one thing about civilians, though, is that if they kill their own people they a) won't report on that, and b) can call them martyrs to the evil invaders regardless of which side killed them. Civilian casualties won't mean anything to them, but they mean a lot to American voters, which is why I compared them to hostages.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 22, 2015, 10:24:12 PM »
DAESH is only at war with France and America because we have chosen to support DAESH's current enemies.

You mean like Syria? That's a funny idea. But I guess you might mean Iran as well, so the answer on this one is mixed. But I definitely don't see a strong case to be made that America is consistently taking sides with their enemies, thereby earning their wrath. Tinfoilhat aside, even assuming everything the MSM reports is true (lol), America has been more of an ally to them than an enemy by taking out Saddam and then trying to depose Assad, whom they also want to depose. I could see them as not appreciating American rhetoric towards them (although I doubt they actually care), but in terms of material contribution for or against their cause America has done very little against after having watered the very earth in which they grew.

By DHAESH's interpretation of Koran, DHAESH can make peace with any country for up to ten years at a time.  DHAESH's current strategy is to scare western countries into backing off for up to ten years at which point DHAESH hopes to be strong enough to take us on.

I've heard you make this point before and don't know where specifically you got it from, but even if there's some clause in the quran about this I have around zero faith that the ISIS chiefs will abide by a rule like this just for the sake of being holy. I think they care about zero for rules other than whatever will gain them power. Aside from the fact that I don't think the leaders are even religious at all, it would be nothing short of hilarious for them to restrict their activities based on some 10 year rule. It sounds like something out of The Pirates of Penzance or The Naked Gun.

General Comments / Re: Terrorized Americans
« on: December 22, 2015, 05:00:10 PM »
You assume that Muslims never do violence for those reasons.
On what basis do you make the claim? That he didn't comment on something that's completely irrelevant to the risk of terrorism? He didn't assume that at all, he was just talking about something else so it wasn't relevant.

WS said that refugees coming to America are more at risk from Americans than Americans are from them. The basis for this claim was the murder rate in the U.S. Pete's point is that WS seems to be excluding the refugees from potentially adding to the crime rate and is instead treating them as if they will merely be passively subjected to violence in America.

Pete is therefore talking about the possibility of refugees adding to the crime rate in this instance, and not about their potential for terrorism. If, for example, the crime or murder rate of refugees is equivalent to the average for America then it would be incorrect to frame the situation as them being at risk from American violence. It would at the very least require a phrasing like "at risk from Americans and from themselves." WS would have to show that such refugees would be less prone to crime than Americans to demonstrate that refugees coming to America are being significantly endangered in America. That being said I'm not sure how Pete calculates the relative risk of crime from refugees versus 'regular' crime among Americans in order to make his counter-claim.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 22, 2015, 04:41:49 PM »
Pyr, if you're saying that ISIS utilizes Western media to aid its efforts then that's a reasonable statement to the point where it's trivially obvious. Al's "reliable source" said that ISIS is in a "holy war against the United States." That is beyond 'self-centered', it's outright false propaganda, and I'd even go further and suggest that the person saying this was knowingly lying in order to promote some agenda. ISIS is neither in a holy war nor is it against the United States. There is collateral damage in various countries as terrorist attacks are made to provoke certain responses, but the only actual war being waged is in the mid-East in order to take territory and generate income.

Let's face it, Pyr, Al's 'source' is full of it. But to be fair the narratives being put forward about ISIS and Syria are so inconsistent and even illogical that it comes as no surprise to me that different candidates are endorsing outright different versions of factual reality.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 22, 2015, 12:38:27 PM »
Ground war against ISIS is no simple matter. They entrench themselves in populated areas, which plays to the kind of question posed to Cruz in the last GOP debate about whether or not he'd 'carpet bomb' major cities to eliminate ISIS. They don't have a standing military that exists outside of populated zones; at least not entirely. A ground war with them would entail a civilian bloodbath since they basically hold the captured populations hostage. What do you do in a major hostage situation? The options are to negotiate, to go in and hope not too many hostages die, or to kill the hostages along with ISIS. None of these are attractive options, and the downside of a ground war with ISIS isn't the propaganda that we're oppressing them, it would be the true statement of fact that we're killing civilians to get to them.

General Comments / Re: What is a mass shooting?
« on: December 22, 2015, 12:01:00 AM »
In the case I speak if, shooter brought two shotguns to kill an appellate judge and then opened fire when he got to the courthouse and realized he would not get through the metal detector unnoticed. He just went after armed guards who in his eyes stood between him and the judge.

I was mostly offering definitional terms to make conversation like this clear. I can't actually assess motives of someone like that personally, although from what you say it sounds like a botched assassination attempt. I'm not sure how that should qualify, but at least there's clear intent to do mayhem, so "active shooter" seems to describe him adequately.

General Comments / Re: DNC Software Breach
« on: December 21, 2015, 11:04:49 PM »
The issue seems to have not been as irrelevant as all that. Hillary's campaign was definitely taking it seriously and Hillary herself even admitted that their reaction was overzealous. In Saturday's debate Bernie publicly apologized to Hillary for his staff member looking at the data which should never have been available in the first place, and then went on to say how he wants a joint investigation by their two campaigns into the NGP VAN screwup that shouldn't have happened in the first place. Bernie also mentioned being upset that the DNC decided to penalize his campaign without even consulting him regarding an incident that they caused. He said being banned temporarily from the software was "crippling" to his campaign, for which I'll take him at his word. He also mentioned that there was no evidence that his campaign's data wasn't made similarly available to Hillary's camp, even though no one there came forward to say so. Recall that it was the honesty of the Sanders campaign that got him punished in the first place. Hillary, while happy to accept his apology, nonetheless seemed entirely unenthused while Bernie was mentioning a joint investigation into what went wrong. You'd think she'd have at least feigned interest in showing him good faith in the matter.

I don't think this issue is the end of the world, but I found the connection between the founder of NGP VAN and Hillary's campaign troubling. I'll be disturbed if this incident is mentioned again by Hillary in further campaigning as a strike against Sanders.

General Comments / Re: What is a mass shooting?
« on: December 21, 2015, 10:56:19 PM »
I think if the shooter was in the process of initiating a murder spree and the police stopped him just in time, culminating in a shoot-out, then I'd count it as a mass shooting on the grounds of the intent of the perp regardless of whether any bystanders were shot. Let's change the scenario, on the other hand, and say the perp got into a scuffle with the law irrespective of any prior motive for violence, and this escalated into him drawing arms and initiating a gunfight. Despite multiple casualties in this latter case I would not call it a mass shooting in the colloquial sense. My reasoning is that the general public accepts the term as designating someone who sets out to inflict mass casualties for some reason or another; a murderous maniac in other words. Many incidents occur that are not of this nature but result in multiple casualties or fatalities, and when these are counted among "mass shootings" they yield wildly inaccurate numbers of how many people are actually out there looking to shoot up a school or an office. The real number of active shooters is still bad (~14-20 per year), but when we hear talk of 363 'mass shootings' per year it's about time to define one's terms a little more clearly. "Mass shooting" doesn't mean the same as "active shooters", but for the sake of comprehension by the public I think these terms should be used synonymously. The FBI stats on the subject are about active shooters, which is the thing people are actually thinking about when they think of Columbine, the movie theater, and San Bernardino. For the purposes of this topic listing multiple killings in gang or mob incidents is plainly ridiculous but is used to engender fear about the current gun laws.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 21, 2015, 10:45:39 PM »
Sec. Clinton’s overall point is correct. Daesh is attempting to convince mainstream Muslims to join a holy war against the United States on the grounds that the US hates Muslims and is persecuting them and wants to wipe them out.

Wow, this clown can't even keep his propaganda straight. I guess when the truth is avoided so regularly it takes a gifted thinker to remember which story to tell when. The goal of ISIS is not to declare war on America, or destroy America, or to triumph over the American materialist infidels. In fact, ISIS seems to not care much about America at all, which is perhaps vexing to some who see themselves as the arch-nemesis of all terrorists everywhere. The story this guy is telling (whoever he is, the link means nothing to my browser) must be the narrative he meant to invoke regarding Al Qaeda. I can see how one could confuse those two, but I guess he missed the memo about Al Qaeda not being America's great enemy any more. In fact they're even eligible to be American assets again now that everyone's forgotten about them.

Funny how this anti-Trump pro-Hillary snippet feeds right into the same fear-mongering that GOP candidates such as Graham are accused of spewing. "If we don't put boots on the ground there they'll put boots on the ground here." Indeed, it seems neither side can keep their story straight. I thought it was Hillary's position that ISIS began as a revolution to depose the tyrant Assad and that they got out of control. Now the story is that ISIS is hell-bent on destroying America. I suppose the next story will be that Assad is hell-bent on destroying America which is why he "has to go."

In order to make sense of all the narratives told so far about ISIS and Syria so far we'd have to employ a multiverse model, since a timeline in one dimension can't nearly fit them all.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 21, 2015, 11:00:23 AM »
Scott, I agree with you that what they essentially did was reboot Star Wars and copy-paste things from other films. Perhaps we should have expected nothing else from Abrams, the reboot king, but I think that it's a huge insult to Star Wars to ignore trying to continue the franchise and to instead make what's effectively a stand-alone best-of mix. This isn't like Star Trek, where the franchise was arguably burned out and where a reboot was perhaps called for to bring people back into it. Star Wars was neither burned out nor did people want the previous story to be halted in favor of a stand-alone story that was illogical in its historical perspective. If there had been no other Star Wars films then much of the objection to the details of TFA would be moot, since the film would have the right to use its own internal logic any was it saw fit. But when seen as Star Wars 7 the events of the movie play as simple rip-offs, cheap thrills devoid of logic, and great inconsistencies in who should be able to do what. And seeing TFA as Star Wars 7 isn't merely a conceit, it has been hailed as the long-awaited sequel and the start of the final trilogy. Abrams gleefully used this framework to market the movie, and although it wasn't called "Episode 7" in the credits it was obviously Ep 7 to everyone going in. "Reboot logic" can't apply to a direct sequel in a universe with 6 movies of internal logic to stick to. If you don't want to stick to that then don't call it a sequel, and say outright it's a reboot. Just call it "Star Wars" and leave it at that. Instead we have what plays like the Star Trek reboot but where cherished characters we know are toyed with, misused, or otherwise strangely omitted, and where basic questions about what happened to the galaxy we knew in Ep 4-6 are never even addressed as being relevant, no less answered.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 19, 2015, 02:50:22 PM »
I seem to recall a certain Democratic candidate running on a platform whose thesis was "yes we can." That seems to me the epitome of an emotional appeal, although I'll grant you that it's an appeal to positive emotions like hope rather than to fear.
What is the counter-factual argument to that :)?

The fact that we didn't. It doesn't refute "we can", but it just means that the emotion appealed to didn't translate into an actual course of action. You can point to the ACA if you like as an example of "we did it!" but I don't see that as the cornerstone of a new America. Obama's Presidency was complete status quo, and I think this letdown resonates even with many Democratic voters who were hoping for real change. Sanders, for instance, appeals to that crowd, and I suspect many who were original Obama supporters are backing Bernie now for similar reasons, hoping he'll be the real thing.

Yes, but if he has no *censored*ing clue how to do it or whether it even can be done, it's worse than foolish for him to claim it and a weakness in his supporters that they somehow believe that "Yes, he can." His motto, in fact, is "Yes, I can!!!

The primaries are a time when candidates throw out ideas and say what they think. This shouldn't be confused with real policy proposals, which are far more arduous to get done. Trump thinks that something needs to be done to fight ISIS on the internet. He's pretty much the only one saying it, and it's not at all a bad idea. If he doesn't yet know how to do this I can only fault him for not being a technologist, but in principle it seems silly to accuse him of not knowing how to do something that frankly should be done. You may as well call out politicians saying we need to find alternative energy sources and yell at them for "not even knowing what those are yet." That's the point of suggesting a new course of action - finding out if and how it can be done. Maybe one day Trump will learn that waging an internet war against ISIS is impossible. That would be too bad, but that doesn't make his position now stupid or make him a liar.

As far as "yes we can" versus "yes I can", I think you'll find the electorate is more interested in a strong leader than a strong electorate. This isn't a healthy mindset but I think it's prevalent. It's the good old line by Anakin in Star Wars Ep 2 where he bemoans the uselessness of the senate and wishes there was a man who could get things done. That piece of clever dialogue (one of Anakin's few good moments) was meant to reflect a growing sense in America of the desire for autocrats as opposed to representation by the people, even if that means Congressional quagmires. In my opinion the blame for this should go towards the electorate, not towards the men willing to step in and provide the strong leader the people apparently clamor for. Too few people come into contact with authors like OSC or Frank Herbert to realize they should beware of strong leaders.

General Comments / Re: The Force Awakens (SPOILER ALERT)
« on: December 19, 2015, 02:14:15 PM »
My review is a lot simpler than jasonr's. In the prequels I could pick out the problems with them and present them in a (sometimes long) list. There is no list for TFA, the entire movie is wrong. Every single part. Nothing is right, intelligent, or original. There were zero (zero) times in the movie when I felt "Yes! that's what I came here to see!" Well ok, just one, the last shot of the film. I liked that - too bad it lasted for what seemed like 5 minutes. I'll confess that I've read the lion's share of Star Wars novels, and for those of us who have we know that some of them are cheap trash that do little more than make references to the movies and try to one-up them. TFA was fan fiction, and the bad kind at that. It's the Kevin J. Anderson kind of Star Wars story. Remember Darksaber? The Sun Crusher? This is what we're talking about here.

Also I've taken to referring to Kilo Ren as Darth Emo, and I suspect you'll agree when you see the film. Did anyone else wonder how he ever got his helmet to fit back on top of his poofy hair? It balloons out when the helmet comes off, making that a good reason to never take it off. Since his hair resembles the poofed out feathers on an ostrich or emu I also call him Darth Emu.

I hated this despicable, worthless film. There were no good characters, the story was almost a scene-for-scene lift from A New Hope, and the action left me bored. They even copied the Death Star Trench, something that I thought was reserved for comedies satirizing Star Wars. I saw the film with a group of 20. In that group a couple of people who were Star Wars fans thought it was good. The rest of us were a mix of Star Wars fans and non-fans (some of them had about no knowledge of Star Wars at all coming in) and of this group you could see the frowns on the faces when the credit began rolling. Everyone agreed that not only was it a bad Star Wars film, it was just a bad film even aside from it being Star Wars. The prequels have highs and lows like jasonr said, and I find parts of them admirable and watchable. I admired nothing and no one in TFA, and the scenery was barren and dreary. I'll always go back to Ep 1 just to watch Liam Neeson, and Ep 3 to watch Ian McDiarmid, but there's nothing to go back to here. It was the worst movie I've seen in the cinema for a long time, and I'll never watch it again.

General Comments / Re: DNC Software Breach
« on: December 19, 2015, 01:58:22 PM »
It was a humorous reference to Sanders' "sick of hearing about your damn e-mails" comment at the Dem debate.

Well, yes, but I assumed he meant something by it as well in addition to merely making the reference. But in any case the matter is now closed with probably no harm done so all is well.

General Comments / Re: Fear trumps facts
« on: December 19, 2015, 01:57:10 PM »
I seem to recall a certain Democratic candidate running on a platform whose thesis was "yes we can." That seems to me the epitome of an emotional appeal, although I'll grant you that it's an appeal to positive emotions like hope rather than to fear. At first glance that would appear to be a vital difference, except for two points: 1) Any kind of emotional appeal can be seen as manipulation, and picking and choosing which kinds of manipulation are 'nice' and which 'aren't nice' seems a little arbitrary. 2) As the ancient Greeks used to say (e.g. Hesiod) hope can be the worst evil of all if it's allowed to be let down. The morale bust on failed hope leaves people worse off than where they started without it.

That being said while I don't disagree that Trump uses manipulative language while sometimes skirting details in his plans, I could point out that in reality it would be foolish to expect a Presidential candidate to already have a fleshed out notion of how to accomplish an 'internet lockdown' until he could actually confer with the FBI, CIA and NSA along with his Presidential strategy team and legal experts. I don't see how it's feasible to expect minute details on how to conduct expulsion and then repatriation of the illegal residents in America without first having serious meetings that only a President could have. Also, I think the 'Muslim ban' is a bit overhyped, since as I understand it Trump's idea is to stop travel of Muslims only temporarily so that the issues of how to vet for terrorists can be solved. Granted this sounds a little far-fetched to me, but in terms of representing the people of America I suspect many people actually do feel this way even though they may be concerned about exclaiming it out loud. It's not that I applaud this position, but if people actually believe it already then for a candidate to seek that vote is sort of just how politics works.

I'd also like to mention that in the fear-anger camp I wouldn't even put Trump in the top four of GOP candidates who employ this tactic as their main weapon. Graham, Christie, Kasich, Fiorina, and even Cruz employ far stronger fear-anger imagery than Trump ever does, and they also have extraordinarily more aggressive methods in mind to deal with foreign policy. Some of these guys are bona fide maniacs like a bomb-de-bomb Trashcan Man. I guess you're singling out Trump because he bothers you in other way than merely his rhetoric and because he's popular, but purely in terms of his rhetoric and ideas I don't think he's the main anger mongerer in the group by a longshot. He's in there, of course, but not the one I'd be talking about if this was my chief concern.

General Comments / Re: DNC Software Breach
« on: December 19, 2015, 12:57:15 AM »
We're sick of hearing about something that just happened? That's an interesting take on breaking news that isn't exactly on the level of the email scandal. I wouldn't have been surprised if most people here hadn't even heard of it, frankly.

General Comments / DNC Software Breach
« on: December 18, 2015, 11:24:10 AM »

This CNN article outlines how the DNC software used by Democrat candidates experienced a software glitch where a campaign could assess data from another campaign when they're not supposed to be able to. The Sanders campaign exposed this glitch and for their trouble they're being denied access to this important software altogether for the time being. The senior data manager of the Sanders campaign claims that he was trying to figure out whether the Sanders campaign information was being compromised in the same way the Clinton data was exposed, and that he was testing to see the nature of the glitch. He denies intentionally using the glitch to observe Clinton data. While he may or may not be telling the truth, it should also be noted that if this glitch did expose data from all candidates then other campaigns may have been doing the same thing but never came forward to say so. Regardless, the Sanders campaign is saying that they didn't 'hack' the software or anything stupid like that, but rather that the software is faulty and that the blame rests with NGP VAN, the private contractor used by the DNC to host the software.

An interesting look into NGP VAN reveals that one of the two founders of NGP VAN is Nathaniel Pearlman:

It turns out Pearlman was the chief technology officer for Hillary's 2008 campaign, and now his company is responsible for the Sanders campaign being sanctioned leading up to the Iowa caucuses. It may be a total fluke, but it's certainly interesting, especially since the DNC itself obviously wouldn't want Sanders to win and chose to respond in this way rather than to cut off access by all candidates until the glitch is fixed. I've never before heard of someone exposing a programming bug and being censured for being the one to discover it, especially when there's no direct evidence of foul play.

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