Author Archives: Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

About Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

Larry Kummer. See the authors page for more information about me, my co-authors,and the Fabius Maximus website.

The Great Wall is a fun film showing us a great Chinese-American future

Summary: The Great Wall is a powerful film misunderstood by critics. It is masterfully produced and acted, with a vision we need to see. About working together for something greater than ourselves, and about the promise of America and China working together as partners.

The Great Wall - poster

“The Great Wall”

Now in theaters. Directed by Yimou Zhang.
Staring Willem Dafoe, Matt Damon, Tian Jing, and Andy Lao.

“The Great Wall” tells the story of European mercenaries searching for the secret of gunpowder who become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China by an elite force against a horde of monsters. The first English-language production for Yimou is the largest film ever shot entirely in China.”

I grow sad reading the critics’ reviews with their inability to be reached by simple emotions and stories. They get excited by films embodying Leftist ideology or post-modern sensibilities (almost overlapping categories). They like especially fine CGI, and nice children’s films. These are people that would hate most classic films, if they saw them for the first time without knowing their reputations. We see this in their reviews of “The Great Wall”. They hated it (a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35%); many appeared to have watched it blindfolded.

A Taotei

It is a simple film the key to a great story. As in the best monster films (e.g. The Thing, in both the 1951 and the 1982 versions), the monsters provide an existential challenge to the group. In this case, an endless horde of monsters (the Taotie) from a meteor attack China. If China falls, so will the world. They are fought at a re-imagined version of the Great Wall by the Nameless Order, an elite force of China’s army of awesome skill, wielding impressive (but appropriate for the time) weapons.

The film has many strengths. The cinematography is fantastic, with skillfully shot combinations of gripping panoramas and close-in shots of the battles. Unlike many films these days, I could always follow the action — knowing who was where, and what they were doing.  The many small touches gave it texture seldom found in American films. Some of these were visual, such as the stack of bloody harnesses of the dead Crane Soldiers. Some were plot notes, such as the monsters’ adaptive tactics (like Afghanistan insurgents, not as dumb as believed).

The settings showed imagination on a scale rarely found in Hollywood. The actors portrayed exception people, but avoided the rug-eating so popular today. Instead they respond to events as actual people do.

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A climate scientist assesses the threat of climate change

Summary: Eminent climate scientist Judith Curry gives a brief assessment of the threat of climate change, starting from first principles — such as the definition of “risk”. It is a timely reminder, as the debate about the public policy response to climate change moves into hysteria.

“US politics could be focused on preventing climate change from destroying all life on Earth. Instead, it’s focused on Vlad Putin & Nordstrom.”

— David Sirota on Twitter (74 thousand followers). He is a radio host based in Denver, nationally syndicated columnist, and Democratic political spokesperson. He says this often, ignoring those pointing out that the IPCC’s Working Group I’s reports say nothing remotely like that. See his Wikipedia entry.

Global Warming

 

The ‘threat’ of climate change

By Judith Curry,
Posted at Climate Etc, 29 January 2017.

Posted under a Creative Commons License

 

A major disconnect in the discourse surrounding climate change is interpretation of the ‘threat’ of climate change.

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle.  It was a very good meeting …One of the best things about such conferences is the opportunity for extended face to face discussions with other scientists.  I had one such discussion that triggered the theme for this post.  This scientist (who will remain unnamed) does not disagree with me about climate change science in any significant way, although he has more confidence in climate models than I do.  In particular, he has publicly discussed the uncertainty issue.

He doesn’t take the ‘heat’ that I do largely because, in spite of these substantial uncertainties, he makes statements about the ‘serious threat’ of climate change, substantial risk of dangerous or even calamitous impacts,  reducing this risk requires a reduction of carbon emissions.

We both agree that there is the ‘possibility’ of extreme impacts if the warming is on the high end of the model projections.  We agree that we can’t quantify the probability of such impacts; it is best to regard them as ‘possibilities.’

So, what is the differences in reasoning that lead us to different conclusions regarding policy responses?

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A philosopher reviews “The Phantom Menace”, a great film with hidden depths

Summary: Today we have a review of The Phantom Menace by philosopher Kelley Ross. He looks beyond the CGI and Hollywood glitz to see the underlying themes. There is much to examine. The depth of the Star Wars films accounts for much of their enduring popularity.

 

Review of Star Wars: Episode I,
The Phantom Menace

Staring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Jake Lloyd.
Directed and written by George Lucas.

Review by Kelley L. Ross,
Posted at Friesian.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

…It is the first movie since Titanic to move me to tears — over the death of Qui-gon. But I must be a sentimentalist, since I also recently found The Sixth Sense just as moving.

Liam Neeson (as Qui-gon Jinn), Natalie Portman (as Queen Amidala), and Jake Lloyd (as Anakin Skywalker) are perfect and convincing in their roles. Neeson is what we always needed to see about a mature, functioning Jedi, going about the business of defending peace and justice. He does it most convincingly, right from the beginning, as we might expect from the man responsible for the portrayal of Oscar Schindler. We see quite a bit more of Neeson in Phantom than we did of Alec Guiness in the original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). Qui-gon is basically present and in charge of most of the action for most of the movie. We become familiar with him in many circumstances and come to know him as a tall, commanding, confident, and noble but also fatherly figure (note the graying hair).

Perhaps after many years of Homer Simpson, Ed Bundy, and contempt for the 50’s ethos of Father Knows Best, it is hard for critics to recognize a real father figure again. This is no buffed up Rambo and certainly no “wooden character,” nor, as McCarthy says, “a basically stolid guy with only moderate charisma.” No way. At key moments Qui-gon is even notable for his affection:  touching on the shoulder with concern and protection Anakin’s mother (caressing with his thumb), Anakin (with both hands, twice), and Padme (during the pod race), and in the end, while dying, lovingly touching the cheek of Obi-Wan. In our day, we might even be afraid to show such affection for fear of being accused of …

  • sexual harassment,
  • child molestation, or
  • being gay.

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Stratfor: can Europe’s banks break free from their doom loop?

Summary: Banks are the financial heart of modern nations, and Europe’s are in trouble. One of its greatest, Deutsche Bank, has severe problems. Here Stratfor looks at the perilous state of Europe’s banks, looked in a doom loop by their holdings of government bonds.

Stratfor

Can the Eurozone Break Its ‘Doom Loop’?

Stratfor, 16 February 2017.

In 2012, Europe’s sovereign debt crisis exposed the “doom loop.” Created by European banks’ tendencies to hold their home government’s debt, the vicious cycle, in theory, starts when markets lose faith in a government’s ability to pay back its debt, precipitating a sell-off of its bonds. The resulting drop in bond prices would then hit the balance sheets of the banks that still hold those bonds, making them more likely to need a bailout from their governments. This, in turn, could further erode investor confidence, leading to additional sell-offs that damage the banks even more. Despite the danger that banks’ practices pose, eurozone regulators have yet to find a way to sever the loop.

In the years since a doom loop nearly led to the eurozone’s collapse, authorities have tried (but failed) to break the bond connection between banks and their governments. A German proposal to limit the amount of their own government’s debt that banks can hold has been hotly contested by Italy and Spain, since implementing it would cause massive disruptions to their economies. Another German-led measure involved the creation of “bail-in” rules, which were adopted at the start of 2016. They required that a troubled bank’s private debtholders absorb its losses first, essentially losing their investment, before government money could be used to bail it out.

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Martin van Creveld: women are a problem in the military, not the cure

Summary: Martin van Creveld examines the reason behind the Israel Defense Forces’ enthusiasm to recruit women. It’s the same reason for the enthusiasm of the US military. Men are increasingly unable or unwilling to serve. He discusses some of the likely consequences of this experiment.

IDF woman soldier

 

Military Women Are Not the Cure,
They Are the Disease

By Martin van Creveld.
From his website, 24 November 2016.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

For about twenty years now, I have been warning whoever would and would not listen about the dangers of feminizing the military. Now, in my own country, the chicks — no pun intended — are coming home to roost. As readers will know, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are the only ones in history to have made women wear uniform even against their will. However, from the end of the War of Independence (1948) to the late 1970s they only did so in a variety of auxiliary Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) that had little impact on the fighting “teeth.” At that point a shortage of manpower generated by the forces’ expansion following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War on one hand and feminist pressures on the other caused the situation to change. Female officers and enlisted personnel increased in both numbers and importance until the IDF was blessed with three small “combat” battalions made up mostly of women. Albeit that they are deployed along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, where hardly a shot has been fired for decades past.

Fast-move forward. For about a month now I have noticed, in Israel’s most important paper Yediot Ahronot, a series of articles about various combat IDF units. How little the public knew about them. How wonderful they were. How important the missions they carried out, and how daring their feats. Which towns provided them with proportionally the largest number of recruits. And so on. Briefly. the kind of stuff you would expect from a military that has difficulties attracting manpower.

Last week, the reasons behind the various publications came out of the bag. What I had suspected all along has now been announced with great fanfare. Year by year, fewer recruits are interested in joining the combat arms. From 2015 to 2016 alone, the figure went down by two percentage points, from 71.91 to 69.8. The decline is less pronounced among women, more among men. Coming on top of the fact that more and more men do not serve in the first place, the IDF has good reason to worry about its ability to fill combat slots as they should be.

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America’s unspeakable problem: African-American’s crime rates

Summary: The most difficult problems for a society are those that we cannot bring ourselves to discuss. For America, that’s the high crime rate of African-Americans. We either ignore it or respond with police and prisons, different ways to close our eyes. We have tried both “solutions”; both have failed. At some point we have to begin dealing with our problems, or they will accumulate and gang up on us.

“Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State’s failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.”
— From H. G. Wells’ A Modern Utopia (1905).

The unspeakable problem.

Breitbart is not the kind of news service I rely on, but occasionally even a blind squirrel finds a nut, as in this Nov 2015 story by Jerome Hudson: “5 Devastating Facts About Black-on-Black Crime“.

“In 2012, white males were 38% of the population and committed 4,582 murders. That same year, black males were just 6.6% of the population but committed a staggering 5,531 murders. In other words: black people -– at just a fifth of the size — committed almost 1,000 more murders than their white counterparts.

“The figures above highlight a horrific truth that black racialists and white liberals routinely ignore: Lawbreaking black Americans, young black males particularly, put themselves in close proximity to (mostly white male) police officers at rates sometimes five to 10 times higher than whites.

“…There have been almost as many deaths in one American city as there have been in the two major wars carried out by the U.S. military this century. Chicago’s death toll from 2001November, 26 2015 stands at 7,401. The combined total deaths during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2015: 4,815) and Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan (2001-2015: 3,506), total 8,321.”

See more disturbing evidence at “Guns and race: The different worlds of black and white Americans” by Richard V. Reeves and Sarah Holmes of Brookings, December 2015. The bottom line…

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California’s past megafloods – and the coming ARkStorm

Summary: To boost our fear, activists and journalists report the weather with amnesia about the past. Ten year records become astonishing events; weather catastrophes of 50 or 100 years ago are forgotten. It makes for good clickbait but cripples our ability to prepare for the inevitable. California’s history of floods and droughts gives a fine example — if we listen to the US Geological Survey’s reminder of past megafloods, and their warning of the coming ARkStorm.

” A 43-day storm that began in December 1861 put central and southern California underwater for up to six months, and it could happen again.”
— “California Megaflood: Lessons from a Forgotten Catastrophe” by B. Lynn Ingram (prof of Earth Science, Berkeley) in Scientific America, January 2013.

Inundation of Sacramento in 1862

Lithograph of K Street in Sacramento, CA during the 1862 flood. From Wikimedia commons.

One of the key events in California history has disappeared from our minds. For a reminder see this by the US Geological Survey.

“Beginning on Christmas Eve, 1861, and continuing into early 1862, an extreme series of storms lasting 45 days struck California. The storms caused severe flooding, turning the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, forcing the State Capital to be moved from Sacramento to San Francisco for a time, and requiring Governor Leland Stanford to take a rowboat to his inauguration. William Brewer, author of Up and Down California in 1860-1864, wrote on January 19, 1862, ‘The great central valley of the state is under water — the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys — a region 250 to 300 miles long and an average of at least twenty miles wide, or probably three to three and a half millions of acres!’

‘In southern California lakes were formed in the Mojave Desert and the Los Angeles Basin. The Santa Ana River tripled its highest-ever estimated discharge, cutting arroyos into the southern California landscape and obliterating the ironically named Agua Mansa (Smooth Water), then the largest community between New Mexico and Los Angeles. The storms wiped out nearly a third of the taxable land in California, leaving the State bankrupt.

“The 1861-62 series of storms were probably the largest and longest California storms on record. However, geological evidence suggests that earlier, prehistoric floods were likely even bigger. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that such extreme storms could not happen again. However, despite the historical and prehistorical evidence for extreme winter storms on the West Coast, the potential for these extreme events has not attracted public concern, as have hurricanes. The storms of 1861-62 happened long before living memory, and the hazards associated with such extreme winter storms have not tested modern infrastructure nor the preparedness of the emergency management community.”

For an account of the flood from that time see this by J. M. Guinn; an excerpt from Exceptional Years: A History of California Floods and Drought (1890).

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