Govt. petition to recognize nonbinary genders on legal documents

Dear everyone who reads my blog: Please go and sign this petition.  It's a really tiny change that's a huge deal to a lot of people, and there's no good reason not to make the change. All the petition asks for is for US legal documents (like similar documents in Australia, New Zealand and the UK) add a check box for "None of the above" in the "Gender" question.

Legal documents in the United States only recognize "male" and "female" as genders, leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option. Australia and New Zealand both allow an X in place of an M or an F on passports for this purpose, and the UK recognizes 'Mx' (pronounced "Mix") as a gender-neutral title.This petition asks the Obama administration to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary, and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

Here's the link.  Go sign it.  Now.

On widespread disagreement

In his 1978 book "What Is the Name of This Book?," Raymond M. Smullyan repeats a riddle from his childhood:

4. Whose Picture Am I Looking At?

This puzzle was extremely popular during my childhood, but today it seems less widely known.  The remarkable thing about this problem is that most people get the wrong answer but insist (despite all argument) that they are right.  I recall one occasion about 50 years ago when we had some company and had an argument about this problem which seemed to last hours, and in which those who had the right answer just could not convince the others that they were right.  The problem is this.

A man was looking at a portrait.  Someone asked him, "Whose picture are you looking at?"  He replied:  "Brothers and sisters have I none, but this man's father is my father's son." ("This man's father" means, of course, the father of the man in the picture.)

Whose picture was the man looking at?

Often, when I get in long arguments about politics or science or the internet or any number of other things that people strongly differ on, someone (usually someone butting in, who wasn't listening, but occasionally the person I'm arguing with) says, "There is no right answer, people have different opinions and that's that."

Now, these people are clearly wrong.  A system can be complicated, and it can be easy to come to incorrect conclusions when trying to understand that system.  People can over-or-under-emphasize the importance of certain details, or fail to imagine certain actors in the system complexly, or for any number of other reasons become firmly convinced that their conclusion is right, even if it's not.

Lately, it's been reminding me of this riddle.  I have a lot of trouble with this one.  I've known it for years, and I still have trouble holding the whole thing in my head firmly enough to produce the correct answer.  I might have even defended that wrong answer, when I first heard the riddle.

But the wrong answer is definitely wrong.  There can be no difference of opinion about it, only people getting it right or wrong.

In real life, problems are more complicated than that.  Some people may be more right or wrong than others, or disagree about how to act on the knowledge of the correct answer.  People may be bitterly divided over small or large issues.  But in real life, like in this riddle, even if the wrong answer is really persuasive, and has a lot of very vocal supporters, it's still wrong.

Here's the solution to the riddle:

[spoiler]

From the book:

A remarkably large number of people arrive at the wrong answer that the man is looking at his own picture.  They put themselves in the place of the man looking at the picture, and reason as follows: "Since I have no brothers or sisters, then my father's son must be me.  Therefore I am looking at a picture of myself."

The first statement of this reasoning is absolutely correct; if I have neither brothers nor sisters, then my father's son is indeed myself.  But it doesn't follow that "myself" is the answer to the problem.  If the second clause of the problem had been, "this man is my father's son," then the answer to the problem would have been "myself."  But the problem didn't say that; it said "this man's father is my father's son."  From which it follows that this man's father is myself (since my father's son is myself).  Since this man's father is myself, then I am this man's father, hence this man must be my son.  Thus the correct answer to the problem is that the man is looking at a picture of his son.

If the skeptical reader is still not convinced (and I'm sure many of you are not!) it might help if you look at the matter a bit more graphically as follows:

(1) This man's father is my father's son.

Substituting the word "myself" for the more cumbersome phrase "my father's son" we get

(2) This man's father is myself.

Now are you convinced?

[/spoiler]

Eff yeah France: free birth control for teenagers

Slate reports:

NPR reports that France is adopting a new regulation making contraception and contraception counseling free to girls 15 to 18, with an added provision that doctors must offer this care without notifying parents. Unlike here in the U.S., the free contraception is covered by the state and not a girl's insurance, giving her a further layer of privacy protections. The government hopes that by protecting young girls' privacy, it can increase contraception use and reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

So: Straightforward, almost boring health care policy story about a government taking sensible, cost-effective measures to curb a public health problem. But the story isn't really about health care policy—the underlying narrative here is that the French are yet again making American politicians look like a bunch of out of touch prudes. (Americans don't need the French to point this out: Just wander into an American abstinence-only classroom to hear sexually active kids being told that anything short of waiting the 15-plus years between puberty and the average age of first marriage to have sex is a ruinous choice that will end with the fornicator unable to feel love or dead from AIDS.)

Everybody sensible knows that American politics can't hold up its current bad decisions and wrong positions.  Eventually all the people who care about them will die, or America will slip below first-world status and we'll have a schism, or the NRA will shoot everyone.  Or we'll elect some sane people soon.  Don't want to rule that out.

It's nice to know that, while we flounder, the rest of the world continues to move forward.

Review: Pirate Cinema

Okay so first of all, I read this book for free, thanks to Cory Doctorow's policy of posting all of his books free online. I decided that I'm going to buy a copy, and since I've already read it and can get the text online whenever I want, I'm going to take Doctorow's suggestion on his website and buy a copy for a school.  Y'know, when I have money.  It's on the list. Pirate Cinema is a fantastic novel.  It's about a teenager in England who gets his family kicked off the internet for making fan videos about his favorite actor.  In order to spare his family the shame and risk of a pirate son, he runs off to London to live on the streets -- where everything goes pretty well.

I mean, he's homeless, and he suffers some serious consequences for that fact.  But this novel is just a little bit optimistic, and a lot  aspirational -- this is a book about teenagers doing amazing things.  I love books about teenagers who do amazing things.

It gets a little preachy at times, which is fine with me because I like preachy and I agree with the message -- it's definitely a political novel.  But it's the best kind of political writing -- the kind that makes clear the fact that the small-seeming decisions made by big governments pretty much always mean life or death to someone, somewhere.

Check it out, for free or for money.

Syria Offline

An entire country has been pulled off the internet. I admit I haven't been following the events in Syria as close as I should have been, but yesterday I found out that the Syrian government appears to have shut down as much of the internet as they possibly can.  As of today, that includes some smaller internet services, not just the five major ISPs.  I've been following this liveblog on the topic:

Starting at 10:26 UTC on Thursday, 29 November (12:26pm in Damascus), Syria's international Internet connectivity shut down. In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet.

Google is doing their part to help out, linking up Twitter with phone service so that anyone with a phone line can get voice messages out.  That news is via cnet, who also posted a video of the internet service being cut of, connection by connection, created by CloudFlare.

The voting map is less red than it seems

(via Vondell Swain on Tumblr) I just reblogged this on Tumblr, but it deserves more attention, so I'm posting about it here, too.  Someone named Chris Howard on Facebook posted this image:

The map in the top middle is the one I saw on election night.  The map on the top left is the way it would look if you broke down the wins by county.  It actually kinda looks more red, doesn't it?  Over on the right, you have it in shades of purple based on the split -- most of the country looks pretty divided, and it seems to make sense that more of it skewed blue.  But it still might not look totally fair that the Democratic president gets to run this apparently very right-leaning country.

Then, the big map on the bottom, shows another level of overlay -- the counties are washed out based on population density.  Suddenly, it becomes apparent that those handfuls of counties that skew blue are where basically all of the people are.

Cool political maps

(via io9) Buzzfeed has a really cool set of maps that shows how this election would have broken down if the circumstances of various past points in American history had limited the voting populace (only white people, only men, etc.)  Here's one of them, how the election would have gone if only men (regardless of race) had been allowed to vote.

Check out the rest here.

The Fiscal Cliff

The Washington Post has written about the serious political and economic risk that's coming on January 1st of next year if the American government doesn't do something about it -- their article is called Recession imminent if 'fiscal cliff' on tax hikes, budget cuts not averted, CBO says.  I love the Washington Post's headlines.  They're so rarely insane and hyperbolic. Meanwhile, the rest of the media is calling it Taxmageddon.

In its report Wednesday, the CBO warned that the nation would be plunged into a significant recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January.

The massive round of New Year’s belt-tightening — known as the “fiscal cliff” or “Taxmageddon” — would disrupt recent economic progress, push the unemployment rateback up to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013 and produce economic conditions “that will probably be considered a recession,” the nonpartisan CBO said.

This issue was brought up in the comments of this blog, a couple weeks ago.  Commenter 12Centuries responded to my post, Barack Obama's Tax Calculator:

Well this is actually not true. It’s propaganda from a campaign site, and people assume there will be zero bias? The analysis is ignoring many factors. On January 1, (called Taxmageddon in the media, google it) taxes are scheduled to go up for 114 million middle class families by an average of $1,600 when a number of tax cuts expire.

A typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200 on those factors alone.

In addition, EVERY one of the existing income tax brackets will be ratcheted up, starting with the lowest 10% bracket, which will be hiked to 15%. The 25% bracket will jump to 28%; the 28% bracket will go to 31%; the 33% bracket will be replaced by a 36% bracket and the 35% bracket will soar to 39.6%.

On top of all that, the tax calculator on Obama’s website doesn’t take into account a single drop of the new healthcare taxes, as the administration doesn’t consider them to be taxes, although the Supreme Court does, and you’ll still have to pay for them on your tax return.

THAT is accurate. Don’t believe the hype.

Now, that commenter was wrong.  It's not hype or propaganda for a tax calculator which compares two tax plans to present the results based on the assumption that those tax plans are instituted.  She or he did, however, correctly point out that the media is calling it Taxmageddon, and that it will be very bad if it happens.

Personally, I think the responsible thing for the Obama administration to do is to let it happen -- unless Congress is willing to let them pass a sane tax policy.  The economic policies that the Republican party treat as dogma have been proven, for decades, to not work.  It's better for the American people to suffer the short-term problem of their refusal to create a sane spending plan than to cave to their demands, and institute policies that would help sustain the long-term decline of America as a country of significance.

Mainstream Republican views [TW: rape]

Tyler Oakley reblogged a post from Tumblr user AGV notes, titled Top 5 Quotes About Rape from Republican Men:

These are the best (worst) GOP rape quotes I could find - but message me if you have more. Let’s hold these people accountable.

1. Todd Akin: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down” - mid 2012 Senate Campaign

2. Claytie Williams: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” - mid 1990 Gubernatorial race in Texas 

3.  Chuck Winder: “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.” - March 2012

4.  Ken Buck: “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse … It appears to me … you invited him over… the appearance is of consent.” -October 2010

5. Rick Santorum: “I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you… rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” - January, 2012

PEOPLE: WE SHOULD ALL BE FURIOUS. WE SHOULD ALL GET PISSED OFF AND BE VOCAL ABOUT IT. WE SHOULD ALL VOTE.

These aren't fringe nutjobs, they're people with a lot of popular support.  Three of those quotes are from this year.  There are a lot of people in this country who seriously support this party over the other leading party.

Even if these are considered fringe views by a lot of Republicans -- even if these quotes lead a lot of voters to think, "That's a little over the line, but it's not a dealbreaker."  It's still terrifying.  These quotes are so far away from okay that if you think they're just over the line, you're too far gone.

These quotes represent such a massive detachment from reality, compassion and empathy that it's absolutely clear that these people are not fit to govern.  It's not okay for politicians to be this far off on this.  Like it's not okay if a science teacher denounces germ theory, or like it's not okay for the police to deal cocaine.

It's not just stupid.  These aren't just bad people.  They're people who explicitly lack the qualifications to perform the jobs they're asking for.

To however many people this reaches, if you understand how nuts this is, please, please remember to vote.

I'm more conflicted than I thought

Yesterday I wrote that I wasn't sure whether analyzing Paul Ryan's suit was frivolous. It turns out, that conflict runs a lot deeper than I realized:  This article started out with the headline, "I'm NOT conflicted about whether this is important," and featured two articles that popped up on my Google newsfeed this morning:

Don't get me wrong, these publications' coverage is horrible, in the case of the E! Online article, it's super fracking[1. BTW, does anyone else feel like it's sort of perfect that the main curse word from Battlestar Galactica is being used to describe a natural gas extraction process that causes air pollution, radioactive water, and earthquakes?] creepy.  But the basic premise, that the style decisions of the super-scrutinized are worthy of analysis, is the same.

There are three major areas of conflict, in my mind:

  • These are all people asking for our attention.  Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, to prove they're capable of doing a massive job at the top of our government; super-celebrities, to make themselves sufficiently marketable that their mere name is enough of an asset to any creative work with which they're involved that they get bigger paychecks.  In both cases, it's awful that this is our relationship to those roles in society.  But in both cases, it's also a feature of our society.
  • The style decisions of the super-scrutinized have resonating influences throughout the whole of our culture.  By this point, the amount of attention we pay to them is good and important, though it's also self-reinforcing.  These people are building the narratives of our culture, and their stylistic choices establish the costumes of those narratives.
  • Directly adjacent to that point, the way we pay attention to the style decisions of the super-scrutinized reinforces the harmful cultural norms of our society.  The Paul Ryan and Robert Pattinson articles are about sexiness and relatability, stemming from their conformity to the norm, and the Miley Cyrus article is about the remarkable fact that at least one person is standing up for a super-scrutinized person trying to resist that norm.

The first bullet-point reminds me of an article I read yesterday about rape culture, called The missing stair.  While I wrote that bullet point, I felt the end of that article itching at me:

This isn't just about individuals, either.  Everyone who says "I don't want to be a victim-blamer, but girls should know frat parties aren't safe places" is treating rape culture like a missing stair.  Everyone who says "it's an ugly fact, but only women who don't make trouble make it in this business" is treating sexual harassment like a missing stair.  Everyone who says "I don't like it either, but that's the way things are," and makes no move to question the way things are, is jumping over a missing stair somewhere. [Emphasis mine.]

And while I wrote the last one, I remembered a Ze Frank video, in his 2006 series, "The Show."

We need these narratives, and these people giving us touchstones to build these narratives.  Life, it turns out, is way too big and complicated for anyone to handle working out entirely from scratch.  But it also seriously hurts a lot of people when we don't question them, or think about whether the narratives we're using tell the truth about the people who fit into them.

This was always a problem for the people moving within the narratives, but I think it didn't used to be such a problem for the people setting the trends -- those people where characters in books, plays, poems and mythologies.  We don't have to worry, for example, about how Romeo feels that everyone on earth imagines him as a hopeless romantic, or whether it hurts Darth Vader's feelings that people only ever see him as the bad guy.

As every child star grows up this generation, it seems like they have to face the impression that their transition from child to teenager to adult is a symbolic struggle on behalf of all culture, whether between innocence and corruption, or childhood and maturity, or stagnation and fluidity.

I know very little about Miley Cyrus and Robert Pattinson, so I can't speak to the nature of their struggles.  But I will say that I'm not 100% certain that it's not important, and shouldn't be noticed.

I'm conflicted about whether this is important

The Washington Post has published a 700 word analysis of the wrinklyness of Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan's suit.  In it, they explore the possibilities that he's trying to evoke a religious feel, that he's reaching for "Look at me, I'm totally unkempt and messy like normal people, not some plastic corporate executive," that his suit was chosen carefully to balance against Romney's image, and that he just didn't happen to wear a very good suit. I honestly don't know whether this is frivolous reporting.  I mean, it's nice that the media are taking the dramatic implications of subtle narrative choices when it comes to the presidential race, which is very important.  On the other hand, these subtle narrative implications disappear when it comes around to the actual issues these politicians will be governing about.

Is there any way we can pull this kind of pedantic nitpicking into public analysis of policy decisions?

Cracked on Gun Control

I may not be very good at it myself, but there are few things I like more than an argument I think is stupid being called stupid.  Not wrong, or questionable, or inaccurate, or fallacious, but stupid. On the one hand, I don't totally like the idea of shaming people out of the debate.  It strikes me as unsavory.  But on the other hand, (a.) everyone's doing it -- no side of any large argument doesn't use mockery as a tactic, and (b.) some people really do need to be shamed out of the mainstream debate.

The thing I linked to there is called the Overton Window, a concept in politics that argues there is a range, that moves based on popular opinion, of positions politicians can have.  For example, on race: reinstituting race-based slavery is well outside the Overton window.  Segregation is also very far out.  Repealing the civil rights act is outside the window, but politicians like Ron Paul have advocated for it, and their popular support drags that window back.

When we start to get towards the other side of the window, through the acceptable range that now predominantly consists of "doing nothing," things like new proactive government efforts to break multi-generational cycles keeping white people up relative to everyone else, and keeping people of color down, have to compete with a political dialogue that challenges the legitimacy of explicitly stating that discriminating on the basis of race is wrong.

On gun control, organizations like the NRA flood the dialogue with insane, fringe, indefensible arguments that, though they hold no real weight logically, hold back the political discussion by forcing politicians to compromise with people who think that giving everyone guns would make the world a better place.

That's all to say that

Cracked has an awesome column on stupid gun control arguments.

Norway does justice right

(via Boing Boing) The New York Times reports on the Norwegian government's decision to treat the trial of Anders Breivik, the terrorist who orchestrated multiple violent attacks in July 2011:

One year ago Sunday, Norway experienced one of the worst extremist attacks Western Europe has witnessed since World War II when Anders Behring Breivik systematically killed 77 people and injured hundreds of others.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s reaction was unequivocal. He declared that Norway’s strongest weapon in responding to this was to employ more openness and more democracy.

Norwegians took up his call. Neither politicians nor the media turned it into a partisan political issue. The public reacted with grief but did not call for extraordinary measures. And the state chose to prosecute Brevik in an ordinary public court with full media coverage.

[...]

Virtually all modern forms of extremism accuse liberal Western democratic systems of being hypocritical and, ultimately, weak. Al Qaeda portrays the West as anti-Islamic imperialists masquerading as promoters of democracy. Right wing extremism suggests the West is committing cultural suicide through its lax judicial system and naïve multiculturalism.

Both have committed horrific acts designed to bait us into betraying our values and making them martyrs. In fact, it is remarkable to see the many similarities between these two sorts of extremism in their disdain for diversity and their indiscriminate violence against civilians.

In this context, it is a mistake to treat crimes committed by extremists as exceptions, subject to special processes. They must be held accountable in accordance with and to the full extent of the law. Hiding suspects from public view merely dehumanizes the perpetrators and undermines any moral or judicial lessons.

By contrast, prosecuting extremists who have committed crimes in a public courtroom makes it all the more shockingly clear that their horrific acts were undertaken by human beings, and that all of us must work every day to combat the ideas of extremism.

The whole article is amazing -- a beautiful outline of the ways in which a country ought to handle tragedy, ways radically in opposition to the way we handle it in the US.  I couldn't help thinking, while I was reading the post, "Wouldn't it be great to live in one of the grown-up countries like Norway?"

Here's a link to the article.

 

SourceFed on Quote Approval

Last week I covered the New York Times revealing that they, and essentially everyone else in the mainstream media, have been granting quote approval to politicians they want to interview.  That means the politicians get to alter or veto anything the journalists want to say they said, reducing the role of the media to a distribution system for press releases. SourceFed posted a video about it today, which I felt I should share because this is a huge deal that needs a lot of attention.  Like, it's really not okay.  The failure of journalists' integrity is a catastrophic loss for our democracy.

The Dark Knight Rises: Initial Thoughts

Okay, so I caved.  I couldn't wait until Tuesday, so I re-arranged my Friday to make room for a matinee showing.  Short version of the review: it's amazing, a brilliant end to an excellent trilogy.  Nolan took the best of the superhero genre, and made it into a set of films that are better than any other superhero films yet produced.[1. I haven't seen the new Spiderman yet.  Just saying.] Everything that follows is going to contain spoilers, below the fold.

I want to talk about the movie in a few different contexts, and I think it's best if I break them up into separate categories.

The political implications

Yes, I am one of those people who think that Nolan's Batman movies can be read as allegory for our times.  Certainly not only as allegory, but I do think the perspective is valid.  Nolan at least used the political and cultural fears of our time to drive the characterization of his villains.

Broadly speaking, the center of Nolan's Batman narrative is: everyone agrees that the world is awful.  Gotham is a scar for the human race. It's a wretched hive of scum and villainy.  People who live there are not very nice.

The good guys are the guys who believe there's a glimmer of hope among the horror.  They believe that the system works, in theory, and good people can pull it together for the good of humankind.

The bad guys aren't the corrupt, the mobsters and criminals, though.  The bad guys are the people who think things have gone so far bad that everything should be scrapped -- that civilization needs to be wiped clean, and if there's anyone left at all, those people will have the chance -- only a chance -- to build a world that's better.

But everyone's lost faith in the system.  The Dark Knight Rises makes that clear when Gordon takes a stand for lying to the people in order to get farther along, about how the rules can become shackles.  But those transgressions are all made in the hopes of restoring the functionality of the system.

The bad guys of the new film -- Bane and Catwoman -- represent two different levels of desire for collapse.  Catwoman has a fine-tuned sense of injustice, but all she wants is redistribution of wealth, and leniency for the survival-crimes of the poor, rather than our present state -- special increased consequences for them.

Bane, on the other hand, has completely abandoned belief in the existing system.  He wants to tear it down to its very core, a complete wiping clean.

Bane's prison is a vivid metaphor for this kind of belief -- Gotham is the prison, and the glimmer of hope just serves to make it more miserable.  No one has ever gotten out.

Except one child, born in the pit, born of extraordinary parents but orphaned by violence.

That escape, that struggle, represents hope.  Gotham's orphan who crawled out of the pit is an avatar for faith in humanity's decency.

Nolan and the Batman mythos

My favorite Batman book is Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?"  -- in it, Neil postulates how the Batman story ends.  If you haven't read it, this section contains spoilers.

The ending Neil imagines is Batman's funeral, and all his friends and villains show up.  Each one tells a different story.  The story of how they were responsible for Batman's death.  In it, the story of Batman is portrayed as dark, warm, campy, psychologically weird, every way Batman's story has been told.

Batman never dies old.  He never retires, never fights cancer or drifts off in his sleep.  Batman only ever dies because if you're Batman, eventually, one night, something goes wrong.  And in "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader," every time, Batman is reborn.  Because the reward for having been Batman is, you get to keep being Batman.  And every time, you get those few years of happiness, growing up with your parents.

That's why I couldn't stop myself crying when Nolan's Batman manually flew a nuclear reactor off the coast to save Gotham from its explosion.

But Nolan didn't end up going that way with it. After a heart-wrenching montage of Bruce Wayne's affairs being wrapped up, inconsistencies start popping up.  And at the end, we see Alfred, looking across the restaurant in a cafe in France, seeing Bruce Wayne. Happy.  No longer haunted.

And he ended up with Catwoman.

The answers Nolan gave at the end of his movies are all the right ones.  They're also answers that he could only give because he refused to leave his series open to continuation.  He told the Batman story he wanted to tell -- a route I hope other Superhero franchises follow, letting the brilliant artists in their fields have their own crack at the whole thing, separate from the great intertwining canon.

A note on the Colorado shootings

I don't know what to say about this, but I feel compelled to.  The story of Nolan's Batman trilogy is a story of faith in humanity rewarded. That faith requires not that everyone be good, but that the good outweigh the bad, and that we let the bad plant the seeds for good.

My deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families, by which I mean everyone in the theater.  I hope that we as a country and as a fan community are able to pull together and honor the memory of those who died, and the humanity of those who still suffer, as best we can.

I trust that humankind is better than the man with the guns last night.  I hope that's what shines through.

The new Batman movie is not an attack on Romney

(via Phil DeFrano) Rush Limbaugh has accused the creators of the new Batman movie of naming the main villain after Bain Capital, the firm that Mitt Romney ambiguously worked for around the time of his being governor of Massachusetts.  By his timeline, the secret-member-of-the-liberal-conspiracy director Christopher Nolan knew about the results of the Republican primary which ended on July 14, 2012, before he started production on the film fourteen months earlier, in May 2011.  He also knew that the major talking point around Romney criticism at the time of the film's release would be his fuzzy relationship with Bain Capital.

Let's assume he didn't know anything prior to that point -- that Chris Nolan can only see 14 months into the future.

He then decided either (a.) to radically re-write and re-cast the central villain of the new movie, so that he can use the member of the Batman rogues' gallery with the most politically resonant name, or (b.) to change the already chosen villain's name back to Bane, but not all the way to Bain, because he'd changed it at some point prior to that, or else this wouldn't be a conspiracy.

He decided not to change the basic nature of the villain, keeping with the obvious Occupy Wall Street overtones in the trailers, which are confirmed by the character's creator, probably just to keep it subtle.  Of course, that clever man Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme.

In his coverage of Limbaugh's rant, Phil DeFranco points out that people listen to Rush Limbaugh, and after the show, they feel like they've been informed.  I'm not saying that you can't get news from a conservative commentator.  But this kind of trash is just insane, and Rush Limbaugh isn't some fringe element, he's a household name.

The Dark Knight Rises may well have political under- or overtones.  I hope it does, and I'm looking forward to writing about it.  If it does, they'll probably lean conservative -- the Batman mythos, as much as I love it, is intrinsically paternalistic and authoritarian.  I probably won't be seeing it until next Tuesday, and I'll cover it then.

But this simple word-association style commentary is the kind of thing that chokes our national dialogue.

New Illdoc video -- "Mitt Romney Scares The Crap Out Of Me"

This.

In the hypothetical debates about the Republican primaries last semester at school, I supported Romney.  My argument was, basically, he's probably harmless compared to the other candidates.  Jay Smooth nails it in this video when he explains that Mitt Romney is scary, not because he's got radical, strongly held opinions, but because he's got no strongly held opinions, and will just let the politics of those around him filter through him and into policy.

The thing that worries me most about this is that we do seem to have reached a point, in our governmental dialogue, when one party needs to use Trojan Horse tactics to get its policies past the general populace.  Mitt Romney is that Trojan Horse, and there are a whole bunch of Greek warriors waiting inside him to kill us in our sleep.[1. I am very tired.  I am not confident that metaphor works.]

The solution I'd love to see:  Dramatic changes to our democratic system.  I'm not saying we should do away with Democracy[2. I'm not in love with it, but I don't think anyone's come up with a better system yet.] but the mechanisms by which we run our Democratic Republic are several hundred years outdated.

For a start, here's a CGPGrey video about Alternative Voting, which would do a great deal towards dissolving the two-party dichotomy problem we have: