Review of “Inside Out”: fun for kids & disturbing fun for adults

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Inside Out. Kids love its great story and fine graphics. Adults love it for more interesting and perhaps disturbing reasons. Read on to learn more.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Inside Out - Poster

Where Were Sullen, Bitter, Grumpy, and Cynical in Inside Out?

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
23 July 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Growing up, we ‘70s kids had 3 revolutionary social-emotional concepts rammed down our impressionable youthful minds by pop culture and the public school system (or both, in the case of Sesame Street and the multi-media, post-hippie, self-empowerment Free to Be You and Me):

  • Be yourself, no matter what other people think.
  • Nurture and maintain your Inner Child all your life.
  • Get in touch with your feelings.

(Tied for fourth place were “Don’t go in the water” and “May the Force be with you.”)

Those messages arrived in sharp, reactionary, post-‘60s contrast to the stoic American Pioneer culture of our parents and grandparents, whose hard-bitten mantras (at least in my rural Midwest) were more along the lines of Don’t stand out, Grow up and be responsible, Work hard, Bury your hardships (and a large number of your family members) and move on, and Keep your damn feelings to yourself. In fact, much of 20th-century literature, film, and television was a steady Modern, then Post-modern, effort to undermine exactly those repressed and repressive societal and emotional restraints.

All of which, in part, helps explain why adults (ranging from college kids to post-grad media hipsters to young parents of their own young children) have lost their damn minds this summer in over-the-top praise of Pixar’s (admittedly well-crafted and highly entertaining) animated feature Inside Out. Or, to put it less fairly, “Just what we need: Another kids film that makes adults bawl over a ‘lost’ youth they’ve never really grown out of. Don’t you have to fully leave childhood before you can miss it?”

Okay, I’m being overly snarky about Inside Out, so I want to be clear on two points: Yes, it’s a delightful film, and No, I’m certainly not saying we as a culture should go back to being stoic, emotionally closed-off lumps of repression. But I can’t help but feel that as a culture (and with all the sweeping hypocritical generalities that statement entails) our “embrace your emotions” pendulum may now have swung about as far to the touchy-feely left as it needs to, with poor Inside Out as Exhibit A.

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Testing Skeptical Science: is Roger Pielke Sr. a climate misinformer?

Summary: A post last week examined a darling of the Right, Zero Hedge. This post takes an equally harsh look at a darling of the Left, Skeptical Science. Both show how our stronger loyalty to tribe than truth encourages our information providers to feed us a mix of fact and politically appealing misinformation, shaping our beliefs and maintaining internal cohesion of the tribe (and our distrust of the “others”). We’ll remain gullible and easily led until we learn skepticism and demand more accuracy from those we trust.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Truth is strong enough to overcome all human sophistries.”
Timarchum by Aeschines (389–314 BC).

The Truth is Out There

Smearing scientists is a staple on both sides of the climate wars — the debate about the public policy implications of climate change. Such smears not only overflow the comment sections of popular websites, they’re often seen in the writings of major players on the public stage.

For example, see the 40 “climate misinformers” listed on John Cook’s Skeptical Science. It’s one of the climate-focused websites most widely cited on the Left, known for its flamboyant claims.  This post examines the first of 4 SkS page about eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr.

Before examining the details of SkS’s content, note the vast amount of work that went into creating it. The 4 pages about Pielke Sr. are one of 40 about “climate misinformers” — which is one of 10 “resources”, which are just one part of the SkS website (which has aps for iPhone, Android, and Nokia). This shows a major difference between the websites of climate “warriors” and “skeptics”. Despite claims that the skeptics have vast funds from evil oil, their websites are a ramshackle pile of contributions from volunteers (however skilled). Several the climate warriors have professional-quality websites.

About a misinformer

What was are the myths of Roger Pielke Sr.? How do SkS’ claims look today? The SkS page (it’s undated) gives ten quotes which they call “myths”. Not one of their rebuttals looks correct. A lot of the SkS content is like that, which is why people so often report their critical comments get deleted (no Smackdowns page there). I’ve slightly expanded some of Pielke’s quotes, and made small edits for clarity (e.g., numbering the myths).

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The first step to protecting the world from its many dangers

Summary: The daily news bombards us with stories about severe risks to us and the world. Countless well-meaning special interest groups publish incendiary stories, which journalists uncritically repeat. We can’t afford to prevent or mitigate them all, so we do little or nothing. Here’s a first step to rational action: list and describe each to see the big picture. Let’s start today! List your top fears in the comments, ranked high to low.

Supernova

Supernova; bad news if within 50 light-years of us.

Contents

  1. So many dangers.
  2. Doom fatigue.
  3. A solution.
  4. For More Information.

(1)  So many dangers

“Apocalyptic and misanthropic environmental narratives, as Clive Hamilton represents them, have had an important role in stirring up the public. But they have also contributed to widespread resignation and cynicism. So far, they have fallen short of mobilizing enough people to bring about real political change. ”

NYT Journalist Andy Revkin.

That’s the heart of the problem. The daily bombardment of doomsday warnings leaves people feeling helpless, with the natural result of ignoring all warnings. Worse, to cut through the noise scientists’ press releases become ever more shrill, with ever less context.

How many have we had this month? The over-the-top New Yorker about the doomed NW USA: “The Really Big One” by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker — “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”

That’s topped this week by James Hansen and 15 other climate scientists predicting (in the Huff Post’s words) “Catastrophic Rise In Sea Levels”, with “sea levels rising as much as 10 feet in the next 50 years.” For those who prefer journalism, the Washington Post notes that this is far above the IPCC’s likely projections, other climate scientists are skeptical, and the paper is not peer-reviewed. It’s also science by press release, with the hysterical headlines preceding publication of the paper.

Even that’s topped by this press release from the U of GA:  “Earth’s ‘battery’ draining too fast to sustain life” — “Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable.”

Add these to the top of your pile of past warnings, such as … We face a world full of foes, from terrorist sleeper cells in your town to great powers bent on world conquest (China and Russia). But even our foes will go broke as the world’s resources are exhausted: peak oil, peak fresh water, even peak phosphorous.

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The advertising glut dooms the social media industry

Summary:  The internet is a mirror in which we can see important aspects of America. Businesses funded by speculation (greed) struggle to survive in an era of few opportunities and falling investment, while high technology and rising inequality reshape America. The social media stocks are in this maelstrom, as virtual advertising space grows faster than their audience and advertisers dollars. Publishers grow desperate, try ever more intrusive ads. Few will survive.

Bubble cloud

Contents

  1. The race for internet revenue.
  2. Speculation.
  3. Inequality.
  4. Analysis of the ad-supported internet.
  5. For More Information.
  6. Great books about bubbles.

(1)  The race for revenue on the internet

The evolution of the internet is best seen in terms of what pays for it: banner ads, then pop-up ads, then auto-run video ads, and now “integrating” the content with the advertisements (these tends often end by debasing the product). It is an evolution to increasingly intrusive ads, forcing people to either spend more of their time killing the ads — or installing ad blockers (which are in a Red Queen race with the developers of ad technology).

Don’t blame the managers of these companies. That’s as foolish as blaming airlines for the poor service that accompanies the cheap fares we demand. We don’t pay for most of the information and many of the services we get on the internet. As Andrew Lewis said: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” So we have no grounds to complain.

The managers know the futility of this race they’re locked into, but they’re desperate.

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The Cult of the offense returns: why we’re losing the long war, & how to win

Summary: We cannot escape history. It offers lessons to guide us. It’s deployed as propaganda to mislead us. Successful strategy requires distinguishing between the two. Our long war, so far a series of defeats, provides examples of both. We can do better in the future if only we’d pay attention.

“As we shall show, defense is a stronger form of fighting than attack. … I am convinced that the superiority of the defensive (if rightly understood) is very great, far greater than appears at first sight.”
— Clausewitz’s On War, Book 1, Chapter 1.

 

Contents

  1. The Cult of the Offense Returns.
  2. The allure of a losing strategy.
  3. Learning from the Revolution.
  4. For More Information.
  5. Clausewitz gets the last word.

 

(1)  The Cult of the Offense Returns

A reader brought to my attention Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History by the late scholar John David Lewis (2010). It’s an excellent example of history as political propaganda, of the kind Victor David Hanson deployed to build support for our defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan (e.g., Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power). The genre uses cherry-picked examples overlaid with moralism, telling a story made convincing by lavish use of historical detail to tell one side of the story.

Lewis advocates unceasing belligerence to our foes, always attacking. It’s a commonplace in history, often leading to ruin. It’s become the geopolitical strategy of American neoconservatives, ignoring lessons from American history about the frequent superiority of defense over offense.

De l’audace, encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace et la Patrie sera sauvée!” (Audacity, more audacity, always audacity and the Fatherland will be saved!)

— George Danton in a speech to the Assembly of France on 2 September 1792. He was the first President of the Committee of Public Safety. The radical Jacobins on the Committee took his advice, sent him to the guillotine for “leniency” to the enemies of the Revolution, and audaciously soaked the Revolution in blood — wrecking it.

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Stratfor: what the Iran deal means for oil prices

Summary: Here Stratfor discusses one of the big economic and geopolitical questions about the Iran deal, much more important the deal’s effect on Iran’s conjectural nuclear program (30 years of a nuke coming really soon). Low prices have depressed the economies of key nations such as Russia and the Gulf States (plus oil-producing areas of the US). If new oil from southern Iraq and Iran depresses oil prices even more we might see some shocks of a kind unimaginable in the heady days of $100 oil.

Stratfor

How the Iran Deal Will Affect Oil Markets in the Short Term
Stratfor, 16 July 2015

The nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers will naturally have consequences for global oil markets as Iran, the world’s third-largest oil producer before the Iranian Revolution, eventually exports more oil. Prior to the implementation of sanctions in 2012, Iran was a major crude oil and condensate exporter to Asia, Europe and others — in fact, exports totaled 2.6 million barrels per day in 2011. Today, that figure has fallen by almost 600,000 bpd to Europe and another 600,000 bpd to Asia. Iranian exports now hover closer to 1.4 million bpd, 1 million bpd of which is crude oil.

The July 14 deal paves the way for sanctions to be relaxed by early 2016, enabling anyone to buy oil from Iran. While Iran maintains that it can increase oil production by 500,000 to 600,000 bpd within one month of the removal of sanctions and increase exports to 2.5 million bpd within three months, Stratfor sees these figures as overly optimistic. Iran does, however, have at least 35 million barrels of crude oil and condensate in storage that it could use to increase exports in the interim before its oil production rises again. 2016, consequently, will likely be another year where a healthy oil supply tamps down any oil price recovery.

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Attacks by Muslims in America start a new phase in our long war

Summary: The recent surge in attacks by Muslims in America mark a new phase in our long war, one long predicted and potentially horrific. We have run wild killing at will in the Middle East. Here are some thoughts about the consequences of this inevitable blowback.

Flames of War Propaganda Video

 

Contents

  1. Blowback.
  2. Escalation.
  3. Muslim violence.
  4. For More Info.
  5. Preparation.

(1)  Blowback

Slowly, a new phase in our long war has begun. While we continue operations in Afghanistan, reenter Iraq, look for ways to get involved in Syria in Ukraine, and expand our involvement in Africa — the blowback I (and many others) predicted has begun with attacks in the “homeland”. On Thursday morning Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez (24) shot four U.S. Marines at a military recruiting center and a Navy training reserve center in Chattanooga, TN. It wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.

On 1 June 2009, Carlos Bledsoe killed 23-year-old Pvt. William Long and wounded 18-year-old Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula at an Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. The best-known case is, of course, Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and wounded 32 at Fort Hood, TX, on 5 November 2009. Since then there have been other attacks by Muslims on members of western military forces.

This year has seen a pick-up in our foe’s activities in America. In April Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud was indicted for planning to attack a (unstated) US military base. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud planned to attack a base in Texas. Glen Greenwald describes other attacks

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