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The “Problematic” Nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

LibertarianInstitute - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:39

This article will contain plot spoiler content for the new Star Wars movie.  Also, the US Government is using your tax money to help kill thousands of innocents across the Earth.  But, anyway, spoiler warning.

I just saw the new Star Wars movie.  The plot is a mess, but that’s a discussion for another forum.  What I find most interesting about the plot is how it tickles public perceptions about war.  There are some serious problems here that need to be unravelled

When George Lucas made the original Star Wars, he deliberately referenced many real world themes in his tale of cosmic conflict.  Specifically, he conceived of a group of ragtag freedom fighter rebels opposing a vast military empire in order to represent his views about the United States military adventurism in places like Vietnam (this nypost article is very interesting, noting that Lucas viewed American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars as a thematic trilogy – he was involved with each – commenting on the impact of the war on American society).  Nevertheless, cinematically, Lucas borrowed imagery from movies about WWII in order to present his story of space combat.  Thus, the “good war” which justifies American power in the world is used to invoke the idea of righteous soldiering, and yet the object – the adversary – to that soldiering is US power itself.  This small irony metastasizes in the most recent Star Wars movie.

The most recent film, The Last Jedi, is directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper).  I don’t know his politics.

Before explaining the problems with the movie, I have to cover the plot background.

The original Star Wars trilogy was about a small group of rebels who overthrew a Galactic Empire which ruled through military might.  The hallmarks of the Empire’s power were large space battleships with laser canons which could annihilate continents, and a Death Star super station which had the ability to destroy entire planets.  The trilogy ended with the unambiguously evil Emperor (literally, a magic space wizard using the powers of darkness) being killed, and the Death Star and much of the Imperial fleet destroyed.

George Lucas added to this trilogy, about 15 years ago, by introducing a trilogy of prequel films.  These movies contributed a notion of galactic politics and conspiracy.  It turns out, the Chancellor who was using emergency war powers to fight a threat (cough – Iraq), was actually a bad guy who had orchestrated the emergence of that threat and controlled it behind the scenes.  This Chancellor made his war powers permanent, to become the Emperor.

And now, two years ago, Disney corporation took the reigns of the property, and have made a sequel trilogy following up after the events of the original.  This sequel trilogy proposes that after the defeat of the evil Empire, somehow, some remnant of it ran off to consolidate power and reform, and reemerge.  The “good” republic which emerged after the Empire’s defeat is summarily defeated with little fanfare in the first of these movies.  The movie which just came out is the second in the trilogy.

Two movies into this trilogy, very little information is given about this new evil threat.  They are called the “First Order”, have big, mean looking ships, and seem to just be a rehash of the old Empire.  They were painted as an emergent threat just one film ago, but now it seems they are treated as the uncontested rulers of the galaxy.  Like I said, the plot is a mess.

What has been said of this adversary, is that they’re “basically the Nazis”.

The good guys of the new films are called “the Resistance”, which I suppose is something different than a rebellion.  In the first film, it’s stated that the republic is officially neutral concerning this new, evil empire.  Appeasement is what I assume they are trying to criticize.  Therefore, these new copy and pasted “rebels” (copied from the plot of the original trilogy) aren’t sanctioned by the official government, despite being on their same side (hence, “resistance”).  However, at the start of this new film, the official government is defeated, and the Resistance itself is no more than a half dozen ships and a few hundred people.

The movie does strange things to advance the plot of this situation.  First, it doesn’t give context for this new order.  Do they have an ideology?  What is it?  How many ships do they have overall?  Does all of the galaxy obey them?  What was the point of fighting a war against the Empire in the original trilogy anyway?  It didn’t seem like a very long-lived victory.

A brief mention is given to the fact that many people are getting very rich supplying arms to the new order.  An even briefer mention suggests that the same arms companies are supplying both sides of the conflict and it’s all a big sham.

The only explanation for how the defeated Empire could reemerge after their defeat last time around is that they have a new, all-powerful space wizard leader now (more powerful than the last, I guess).  He is surreptitiously killed in this film, with little explanation as to who he was or what his motivation was.  The goals and motivation of the new order, who their leadership is now, and so forth, are equally unclear.  As I said, this is two full movies into a three movie plot arc.

There’s more to complain about pertaining to the plot, but it has little to do with politics or war.

A notable scene at the beginning involves a “bombing run” against a space battleship.  The bombers and their crews are set up to look very much like you’d imagine an old B-17 flying over Europe to appear.  The ships don’t look that way, but the way they move, swerve, the way bombs fall from them – it all evokes the imagery of the mighty 8th.  So, it’s fightin’ the Nazis again, I guess.

But what’s the point?  That’s what’s problematic about this movie.  It invokes war themes, and evokes war imagery, but to what end?

I suppose this could be a simple matter of that thing where “millennial SJW” writers have a hard time connecting to adult ideas.  Star Wars is about war right?  Or something or other?  People, like my great uncle, they care about that stuff right?  Didn’t my teacher say Nazis were bad.  I heard people care about fightin’ Nazis.

And so, from that, they wrote a plot that they imagined people would care about.

By the end of the film, almost everyone from the Resistance is dead.  There are about two dozen people left.  The “First Order” is left with an impulsive, uncertain madman at the helm, still with an unclear overall purpose (impose order?) – but apparently they rule the galaxy.

Why did all those people have to die?

In theory, the background politics of Star Wars is fairly sophisticated.  The political bodies of the galaxy don’t control the galaxy per se.  What they control are access to the hyperspace trade routes to the known parts of the galaxy (Suez, Panama canals).  It would be far too costly and impracticable for a political entity to control each and every planet itself with a direct police presence.  This is why, in the original trilogy, the Empire needed a Death Star.  Planets needed to police themselves, in their compliance with Imperial mandates.  The Death Star was a threat to the few who willfully disobeyed.

In this new Star Wars, who exactly is it that this new order controls?  Planets directly?  Trade routes?  The films do briefly mention the use of child slavery.  So, is it that they do this at all, or is the problem that they seek to impose it on the whole galaxy?

My impression, reading very deeply between the lines, is that it would be likely that most planets in the galaxy have shrugged their shoulders and said, “fine, we’ll pay a tax and fly your banner from our statehouses,” but are otherwise left alone by this “order”.

See, it’s important how it actually works.  The idea of two opposing sides of a battlefield meeting, and clashing, is very primal for human beings.  It triggers a mess of different emotions.  But, what is rarely asked is: what’s the point?

The real life Hitler had military ambitions which were – just economically – above and beyond anything his military machine was capable of supplying through spoils of war.  The only exception would have been if some of the conquered areas welcomed Nazi rule.  If you look at Belarus, some of the Soviet defectors, and the Baltic States, you see examples of people oppressed by the Soviet power who sided with the Nazis to gain liberation.  Frankly, a limited nationalist state in Russia, comprised of friendly Slavs, was completely consistent with Nazi geopolitical aims.  In Latvia today there are still memorial marches where locals dress as the Waffen SS. Maybe I could compare this to the way Texans view the Alamo.

Let me pause to discuss where I’m going here.  In my opinion, Nazi ideology was beyond offensive.  Specifically, and I mean specifically, the problem was that Nazism seeks to use state power to achieve social order and progress.  Everything bad about it derives from that.  If you’re a political problem, then the solution is a bullet through your head.  See?  What wasn’t as deep of a problem, with Nazism – in my opinion – was its ideological trappings.  Sure, racism is offensive and sucks.  But racism doesn’t kill people.  State assertion of power is what kills people, and racism is just a vector.

People on the left today say: “punch a Nazi”.  This means that we shouldn’t allow Nazi ideas to be openly preached.  Why?  Because that’s how you prevent Nazism.  That’s – ostensibly – how Nazism was defeated in the 1940s.  But this is so wrong.  Nazism emerged out of a political environment in which many groups from both sides of the spectrum were using political street violence against each other.  Many of them declared an end to speech.  You defeat Nazis by defending free speech, not by banning discussion of Nazi ideas.

And this brings us to the idea of using Nazi stand-ins as the object of one’s war violence.  What are “resistance” fighting?  Against the charging of overly high tariffs on trade corridors – which then goes to fund slavery?  Against the phenomenon of some planets being turned into labor colonies?  Because in context, there are different ways for societies of people to react to different repressions.

War is political.  Politics involves the coordinated interests of groups of people, and where they align and/or clash.  War fits into that spectrum awkwardly, like a proverbial elephant.

War imagery evokes emotional responses.  But there’s little sense which follows from it.

In the latest Star Wars, I don’t know who they’re fighting, what this enemy’s purpose is, what the scope of its power is, what the specific grievances are, what the Resistance’s purpose is, what its goals are, what it will do once it wins (since the last victory seems to have been short lived).

Totally absent from the spectacle of The Star Wars is any meaningful dissection of war itself and what its purpose is.

We can take for granted that there are always “good guys and bad guys”, who must inevitably fight.  And that’s all war is.  But man – look guys – I’m not an ancient Babylonian warrior priest, okay.  That kind of thing isn’t my religion, and so I find it hard to accept with a straight face.

Star Wars is really popular.  So, it has to affect how people think about war – especially kids.  What do think this new film is trying to say about war?  I can hardly tell.  Bad guys kill people?  Good guys believe in themselves?

Underneath it all is a commentary that says: hey kids, war just happens you know, can’t control it, it’s just part of the fabric of life, just be a good guy and punch Nazis if you can.

Can you imagine if political correctness wasn’t a thing?  We’d have a “new order” of the evil Allahu Akbarians terrorizing the mighty and free New Republic of the Galaxy.  Liberals, for all their hypocrisy, have at least suppressed cheap cultural war propaganda during this terror war.

The one glimmer of hope in this new Star Wars story comes from a character who briefly mentions the exploitative nature of war as a scam and charade.  Perhaps the final movie of this new trilogy – due to release in just two years – will conclude the story on this note.  Perhaps the “good guys” will realize that fighting war is rather pointless, and will instead struggle for their values through means other than industrial conflict killing.

I don’t know how they’d pull it off at this point, but that would be something.

 

The “Problematic” Nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was first posted on December 15, 2017 at 7:39 pm.

Relief Rally in Gold Mining Stocks

TheDailyGold - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:16

 

 

In recent days the gold stocks (GDX, GDXJ) traded within 1% of our downside targets of GDX $21.00 and GDXJ $29.50. Last week we wrote: “the miners are getting oversold and a bounce could begin from those levels.” GDXJ troughed first last week at $29.84 while GDX printed a low of $21.27 on Monday. From their September peaks down to those lows, GDX and GDXJ had declined nearly 17% and 21% respectively. They are oversold, nearly touched good support and now the rate hike is behind them. We expect a rally in the sector well into January.

With a rebound underway we should turn our attention to potential upside targets. GDX closed the week at $21.99. It has resistance at $23.00 including its 200-day moving average at $22.83. GDXJ closed at $31.46. It has resistance at $33.00. Its 200-day moving average is at $33.49. In case we are being too conservative, our optimistic upside targets would be GDX $23.50 and GDXJ $33.50.

 

 

While mid to late December has been an excellent buy point over each of the past four years, we do not expect the gold stocks (this time) to match those fabulous returns. The gold stocks are not currently as oversold as they were in each of the past four years. The bullish percentage index (BPI), a breadth indicator is currently at 21.4%. Aside from the December 2015 low (which came in January 2016 at a BPI of 12%), the BPI at previous lows did not exceed 10%. Furthermore, a look at the rolling rate of change for 100 days and GDX’s distance from its 100-day exponential moving average shows that GDX currently is nowhere close to as oversold as those four previous points.

 

 

Another reason we should not expect a sizeable rebound is metals prices do not have much room to rally before running into strong resistance. Gold closed the week at $1257. It faces long-term moving average resistance at $1266-$1268 and very strong resistance above $1280. Silver meanwhile could find strong resistance at $16.60 to $16.75. Its 200-day moving average is at $17.01 and declining. Silver closed the week at $16.06.

 

Precious metals and gold stocks especially have begun a rebound that should last at least three or four more weeks. Due to a lack of an extreme “long-term” oversold condition (like in each of the past four December’s) and the presence of nearby overhead resistance, we would not expect sizeable gains. Another reason is strong fundamentals for precious metals (namely declining real interest rates) are not yet in place. With all that being said, some values are starting to emerge in the juniors and the sentiment in the sector has become encouraging from a contrarian standpoint. Conditions are improving but it remains early to be outright bullish on the sector. In the meantime, the key for traders and investors is to find the oversold companies with strong fundamentals with value and catalysts that will drive buying. To follow our guidance and learn our favorite juniors for 2018, consider learning more about our premium service.

Jordan@TheDailyGold.com

 

Attorney General Sessions has lukewarm praise for FBI after Trump attack

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:37
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on Friday offered a tepid endorsement of the nation's leading law enforcement agency, which has been under attack by President Donald Trump and other Republicans.

Final Republican tax bill slashes U.S. corporate rate, voting next week

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:37
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans on Friday unveiled the final version of their dramatic U.S. tax overhaul - debt-financed cuts for businesses, the wealthy and some middle-class Americans - and picked up crucial support from two wavering senators ahead of planned votes by lawmakers early next week.

Final Republican tax bill slashes U.S. corporate rate, voting next week

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:37
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans on Friday unveiled the final version of their dramatic U.S. tax overhaul - debt-financed cuts for businesses, the wealthy and some middle-class Americans - and picked up crucial support from two wavering senators ahead of planned votes by lawmakers early next week.

Republican tax bill retains U.S. electric vehicle tax credit

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:34
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A compromise Republican tax bill released late Friday does not eliminate a $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit as Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives had previously proposed.

Myanmar faces mounting calls for release of Reuters journalists

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:09
UNITED NATIONS/YANGON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was demanding "the immediate release" of two Reuters reporters arrested in Myanmar "or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance."

Jordanian billionaire feared detained in Saudi Arabia: Media reports

MiddleEasteye - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 18:58
Language Undefined

Unconfirmed reports say the Arab Bank's Sabih al Masri, who is also a Saudi citizen, was detained in Riyadh on Wednesday

Breaking: National Archives Releases Yet Another 3,500+ JFK Files

Who What Why - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 18:49

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today released its sixth 2017 batch of records that may in some way relate to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The agency’s press release states that this latest cache includes 3,539 documents. It appears that 1,240 files are labeled “withheld-in-full,” meaning the public has never seen these documents before, and 2,259 labeled “withheld-in-part”, meaning they had previously been released to the public, but with some information blacked out. Yet another 439 files on their index give no indication at all of their status.

The documents from this release appear to originate from a mix of government agencies including the FBI, CIA, Army, NSA, and various congressional committees — although approximately 35 percent of the documents listed are not labeled in NARA’s index with an originating agency.

NARA stated that this would be the last release for the year:

At this point, with the exception of 86 record identification numbers where additional research is required by the National Archives and the other agencies, all documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act have been released either in full or in part. Any information subject to section 5 of the Act, which has been redacted from documents in any of the six public releases this year, remains subject to further review by the agencies and the National Archives, in accordance with the President’s direction. The National Archives will release additional documents in 2018 based on the outcome of the reviews conducted pursuant to the President’s direction.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the drama surrounding JFK records release, by law all of the remaining JFK assassination records — those never seen before, and those previously released with redactions — were supposed to be released in unredacted form on October 26. The anticipation was high, and was fueled by tweets from President Trump announcing the release. But it didn’t happen that way.

Instead, the president granted the various agencies a six-month “re-review” period in which they could assure themselves no sensitive information would be revealed that needed to stay redacted for “purposes of national security.” The deadline for this re-review period is April 26, 2018.

Notwithstanding this hold-back, since October 26, NARA has released a total of five separate batches of JFK files to the public. But there’s a catch: Many of these files have not yet been “re-reviewed,” meaning that further redacted material could be unveiled. And that is the case with the files released today — both the “withheld-in-part” and “withheld-in-full” portions still contain redactions. Some files are more redacted than others (see our previous story on the November 3 release and the heavily blacked-out CIA file on David Sanchez Morales — considered by some experts a likely participant in any covert operation against Kennedy, if there was one.)

It remains to be seen what percentage of the redactions the various agencies will unredact by the April deadline.

Thus far, only a few of the documents have drawn keen interest — in part, perhaps, because of the unlikelihood that any “smoking gun” documents ever existed, or if they did, the likelihood they have already been removed from government files. Still, experts and aficionados expect to find “breadcrumbs” that, put together, can help paint a better picture of what did happen on November 22, 1963 in Dallas. Polls have consistently shown that the public doubts the conclusion of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, was responsible.

WhoWhatWhy’s research team has been diligently sifting through these documents since the first release, sorting and analyzing them to try and understand their significance. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from JFK (National Archives), National Archives building (National Archives) and National Archives Logo (National Archives / Wikimedia).

The post Breaking: National Archives Releases Yet Another 3,500+ JFK Files appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

Factbox: Trump on Twitter (December 15) - Quantico

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 18:13
The following statements were posted to the verified Twitter accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump, @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS.

Leading U.S. antitrust senator urges hearing on Disney, Fox deal

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 17:45
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Senate antitrust panel, urged the subcommittee on Friday to hold a hearing on Walt Disney Co's plan to buy a number of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc businesses.

Procter & Gamble confirms Nelson Peltz will get a board seat

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 17:40

Procter & Gamble Co. shares ticked higher in the extended session Friday after the consumer goods company certified that activist investor Nelson Peltz secured a seat on its board. P&G shares rose 0.8% to $92.58 after hours. In a statement, P&G said "results between Ernesto Zedillo and Nelson Peltz were extremely close, with Mr. Peltz receiving almost 50% of shares voted." The company continued: "Because the election results were so close, and because a large number of shareholders voted for Nelson Peltz to be a Director, the Board has engaged in numerous discussions with Mr. Peltz regarding a Board seat." P&G said it will work with Peltz, who will join the board on March 1, as it does not agree with such strategies as "taking on excessive leverage, or substantially reducing R&D spending, or advocating for a break-up of the Company, or moving the Company out of Cincinnati." Last month, Peltz won an elected board seat, which the company considered to be a preliminary result.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Foreign Policy Focus #131 – Putin!

LibertarianInstitute - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 17:10

On FPF #131, I address several claims of Russian Aggression. I refute a tweet from Mitt Romney. I explain how the Crimea crisis started with a US coup. I detail how Russia was welcomed into Syria, and the US continues to stay in the country without an invitation. I talk about Putin’s trip to the Muslim world. I also update Yemen and North Korea. 

Articles 

  • US Amb. to the UN Nikki Haley claims to have proof Iran is supplying the Houthi with missiles. [Link] Trista Parsi responds. [Link] Iran issues a statement claiming the US evidence is fabricated. [Link]
  • The House is looking at a sanctions bill against Iran for their alleged role in the Yemen Civil War. [Link]
  • Doctors Without Borders finds the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya killed 6,700 people. [Link]
  • The US government will provide additional weapons to the Lebanese Army. [Link]
  • IS was armed with weapons the US gave to Syrian rebels. [Link]
  • Two US F-22s intercepted two Russian fighter jets over Syria. [Link]
  • The White House walks back Tillerson’s statement that the US is ready for talks with North Korea. The White House reaffirmed that Trump sees talks with North Korea as pointless. [Link]
  • The US Ambassador to Yemen prevented critical humanitarian infrastructure from reaching Yemen. The ambassador has also been unwilling to present the Houthi with an acceptable offer. [Link]
  • A Saudi airstrike killed at least 39 people in Yemen. The airstrike hit a police building and prison. [Link]
  • The Houthi and factions loyal to the deceased former president Saleh are close to making a deal. The Houthi have released several journalists who were loyal to Saleh. [Link]
Foreign Policy Focus #131 – Putin! was first posted on December 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm.

U.S. lawmaker probed on sex reports, second congressman denies charges

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:54
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Friday it had begun an investigation into public reports that Democrat Ruben Kihuen engaged in sexual harassment, and a second lawmaker denied a former aide's allegations of sexual misconduct.

U.S. lawmaker probed on sex reports, second congressman denies charges

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:54
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Friday it had begun an investigation into public reports that Democrat Ruben Kihuen engaged in sexual harassment, and a second lawmaker denied a former aide's allegations of sexual misconduct.

Fitch upgrades Portugal credit rating to investment grade

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:42

Fitch Ratings hiked Portugal's credit rating two notches to BBB, returning it to investment-grade status. Large institutional investors like pension funds are often required to abstain from buying bonds ranked below investment-grade. The move would also make its sovereign paper eligible for entry in benchmark bond indexes and could, therefore, draw billions of dollars of inflows. The ratings company justified its move saying they expected government debt levels to fall. Portuguese bond yields touched a three-year low on Friday on anticipation of an upgrade. Debt prices rise when yields move higher.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Senate Democrats to force vote on FCC net neutrality repeal

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:38
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. Senate Democrat said on Friday he would force a vote on the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal the 2015 landmark net neutrality rules.

Senate Democrats to force vote on FCC net neutrality repeal

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:38
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. Senate Democrat said on Friday he would force a vote on the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal the 2015 landmark net neutrality rules.

Campbell Soup in 'advanced talks' to buy Snyder's-Lance: report

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:14

Campbell Soup Co. is in "advanced talks" to buy snack maker Snyder's-Lance Inc. , CNBC reported late Friday, citing sources familiar with the potential deal. The acquisition could be announced as early as next week and would be Campbell's largest, the report said. The deal could be delayed or fall apart, the sources said. It would value Snyder's at about $50 a share, according to the report. Shares of Campbell Soup were flat in late trading Friday after gaining 2% at the end of the trading day, while Snyder's-Lance shares rose 5% after finishing the regular session up 5.3%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Republicans finish tax bill, gain support from Rubio, Corker

Reuters US Politics - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:14
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican negotiators in the U.S. Congress put the finishing touches on a sweeping tax overhaul on Friday and picked up support from two more wavering senators as they raced toward votes on final approval next week.

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