Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Hacksaw Ridge" is Extremely Bloody, But Seriously Moral

Mel Gibson makes gorefests, and this film is no exception.

However, the true story of Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector in World War II who won the Medal of Honor as a medic for saving many wounded under fire is worth the time.

The core story is about moral courage, as both different than, and inspiring to, physical courage.

As we face a rising tide of fascism around the world, we may need both.

Friday, December 09, 2016

This Moment is What the Electoral College Was Intended For

If I were an elector, I would not vote for Donald Trump.

If Hillary Clinton won the electoral college, that would not be a constitutional crisis.

It would be a constitutional triumph.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Poor People Spend Money in Socially Useful Ways

A new meta-analysis looked at what poor people spend on if you just give them money.  The worry is that they would waste it on cigarettes and booze.  However, "not one of the 19 studies found that cash grants increase tobacco and alcohol consumption and many of them found that it leads to a reduction."

This is similar to the argument that I find persuasive for raising the minimum wage:  poor people put the money right back into circulation, buying stuff they need.  This employs other people, and is a more likely stimulus to the economy than giving more money to rich people.  Plus, the poor peoples' lives are better.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Country Music on the Right Way to Live

On Tuesday mornings I get to talk on WKYB, Danville's country radio station.

Peter Lewis did a semi-serious analysis of the standard themes of top country songs, from the '60s to today.  He boiled them down to four:  It's all over; It's not working out; Love and devotion (which he originally coded as Sappy love songs); and Right way to live.

The first three categories are primarily about romantic relationships, but include frustrations with jobs and a few other relationships.

The last one is the one I am particularly interested in.  In Lewis' calculation, these songs covered Things were better back then, Me and my rowdy friends (the land of the current bro-country party songs), and Let's get back to basics.  This is the category for analyzing the social structure.

Now, no popular genre addresses the social structure directly - it is too boring as an emotion, too far removed from narrative, and too big for most people to readily grasp.  Instead, these songs tend to call up the wisdom of small towns, farms and factory hard work, marriage and parenthood, and patriotism.  They are, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, against cities, elites, and status-seeking.

Lewis' analysis reveals that the first two categories - the "tears in my beer" songs - have declined, while the latter two have risen.  His conclusion: modern country fans are more interested in healthy relationships, motivational speeches, and having a good time than sadness and misery.

On the whole, this is a good development, I think.  But we do need to keep thinking critically about the macro-processes of the social structure.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Grump about Trump

I try to stay positive here, but there are a few things about the incoming administration that worry me.

I fear that Mr. Trump so values his business empire, and has so little taste for actually governing the country, that he will constantly use his office to advance his private interests.  This is not a matter of bribery, exactly, but rather of shaping US policy to benefit his business, with the connivance of foreign governments.

I fear that the Trump presidency will be the most corrupt administration ever.

In a related note, I think his daughter Ivanka is really the brains of the operation.  Her recent announcement that she will be moving to Washington confirms my suspicion that she will not only be running the Trump businesses, but will also be de facto First Lady, hosting for and advising the Trump White House.  In fact, she seems more committed to living and working in the capital than her father does.