Monday, December 17, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Curtis Pride, 44.

A little good stuff:

1. The easiest way to get a Plain Blog link these days? Write a pro-reform Senate piece that opposes the current talking filibuster proposal. Here's the Economist's M.S. Is it impossible for the talking filibuster to work? That's the wrong question; the right question is whether there's any advantage in trying to do reform via the live filibuster, and the answer to that is almost certainly no.

2. I'm not going to link to individual posts, but the Monkey Cage has been running several pieces about guns, gun control, and other related issues. Highly recommend, of course.

3. Two more reviews of "Zero Dark Thirty" from two people you should listen to on torture: Andrew Sullivan has a relatively positive response, but Jane Mayer thinks the filmmakers fell short.

4. And as someone who isn't a comparativist and who doesn't spend much time caring about big laws (other than, say, the one about how mayor of New York City is a dead-end job), I was happy to read Jay Ulfelder on "it depends."


  1. About torture in film. I think it's a pretty poor criticism to say that Zero Dark Thirty is somehow bad because what's needed is a bunch of characters standing around denouncing the morality of torture. The highest order of a work of art shouldn't be the need for it to lecture to the audience about high moral principles. Simply portraying the reality of what happened and side stepping the ethical questions, or more accurately, respecting the audience's intelligence to make up their own mind about what's right and wrong, is a perfectly legitimate form for a film to take. The Battle of Algiers follows a similar track. The French use of torture is graphically displayed but it is also explained as an important tool in the counter insurgency strategy developed by Lt Col Mathieu's character. Indeed Mathieu outlines the strategy in a scene where he resembles a college professor giving a lecture to a group of French officers, he essentially argues moral condemnations of torture are silly as they result in "demonstrating a false humanitarianism [that] only leads to the ridiculous and impotence." But The Battle of Algiers is a powerful condemnation of colonialism in general and the behavior of the French during the Algerian War of Independence in particular. If you want people to be against torture you have to respect their ability to make up their own minds about it, not just be lectured to by a movie in some sort of "West Wing" style.

  2. BTW, Inouye has died.


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