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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Links - 21st December 2019 (2) (Joker)

Rachel Miller - "Okay I've pinpointed exactly what it is that bothers me about a Joker movie.
I don't want to watch a movie that shows us the trauma that drove the Joker insane.
I don't want to watch a well-intentioned but unstable man get bullied until he turns into a mass murderer.
I don't want to watch a man get rejected by women as an excuse for his future of domestic abuse.
I don't want to be shown what a poor, unfortunate underdog this man was who was sadly forced by circumstances and that nasty Batman to take up a life of crime.
I don't want to have sympathy for a man best known for his robbery, murder and arguable rape shoved down my throat for two hours.
I don't want this to be sold as a relatable story that can happen to anyone with a bad enough day, and I don't want to be around any of the lonely white boys who relate to it.
Do you see what I'm getting at?
I don't know if there ever is a good time for a movie that paints mass murder as the logical conclusion of a socially isolated, debateably neurodivergent white man being failed by the system, but I feel as though this is not fucking it.
I don't want to see a movie that idolizes the Joker when there are plenty of easily armed fuckboys who already think he has the right idea, without adding a tragic backstory to elicit sympathy.
I ALSO don't want the narrative line to be drawn between mental illness and mass murder, as is so often done in modern eras to Batman villains, and as is so common with the Joker in particular I don't want it to get highlighted and underlined in Sharpie as well.
God I'm sick of the Joker."
Empathy is only good when it's for the right people

Sophia Narwitz on Twitter - ""I don't think the Academy should honor a film with such controversial elements." Oscar voters weigh in on #Joker"
"Two years ago you gave an Oscar to a film where a woman fucks a fish."

Dataracer on Twitter - "2019: The Joker is problematic & will inspire white incels to commit mass murder.
2013: I love the Joker. You can't spell slaughter without laughter.
Heather Antos is completely full of crap."

Unofficial Artist formally known as Diversity and Comics Yaboiposting - Posts - "Why are these people so afraid to acknowledge that some white guys aren’t exactly living a perfect life? Unlike crazy SJWs, a white guy saying he feels depressed and beaten down by society, more than likely is not saying he wants first place in the Oppression Olympics. They just want their lives to get better and not dwell in victimhood. Not everyone wants to watch cartoons about weirdo lesbians where bad guys aren’t really bad guys ( a la Steven Universe and She-Ra). Some people want real stories and real conflict. If anything, the Joker will “deradicalize” angry white guys by showing them they’re not a lone in their suffering and it’s best to not let it go as far as the Joker takes it. He may be the Protagonist of this movie, but no one has implied he’s a hero (shit, the movie is not even out. We don’t ever really know the whole plot.)"
On the above
Comments: "“I want to see everyone represented in movies! I want everyone to be able to see themselves in the characters! Except people I don’t like!”"
"Somebody spoonfeed me some safe, morally unambiguous drivel that perfectly aligns with my values or else I'll complain on the internet"

Joker: Joaquin Phoenix movie gets eight-minute standing ovation at Venice premiere - "Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s nemesis and directed by Todd Phillips, the new movie is already sparking awards buzz, with Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera saying it is headed “straight to the Oscars”.The Independent’s reviewer Geoffrey Macnab described the film as “powerful and original” and said Phoenix plays the character “in a way that makes him seem both sympathetic and very creepy”.Variety’s film critic also praised the movie, writing: “Phoenix is astonishing as a mentally ill geek who becomes the killer-clown Joker in Todd Phillips’ neo-Taxi Driver knockout: the rare comic-book movie that expresses what’s happening in the real world.”"
Too bad the protagonist is the wrong colour

Sarthak Raj Baral's answer to Do you think the movie Joker (2019) will bring the game back in DC's favour against Marvel? - Quora - "Oh, it can do so much more than that.But not because of Joker’s stellar reviews, not because of Phoenix’s supposedly transcendent performance and not because of the movie’s box office potential. The MCU has also had movies that have achieved most of those things.Joker is in a position to finally develop into the movie that altogether transcends its comic book origins.Why do I say that? Because it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.It became the first comic-book movie to win the top award at a major film festival... Venice Film Festival is the oldest and the second largest film festival in the world.The jury there do not care about political correctness or the commercial prospects of the movie – they awarded the Grand Jury Prize to Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Spy.That decision indicates something important - The jury care only about the artistic integrity of the movies they screen."

Dataracer on Twitter - "Joker had a 89% on Rotten Tomatoes after winning the Venice Film Festival.
SJW film critics have down voted it to 78% with politically motivated reviews.
"Very real violence by today's young men. Has a bad moral compass. As social commentary Joker is garbage. Will be divisive.""

Joker Premiere Disinvites Journalists Amid Criticisms of Promoting Violence - "Director Todd Phillips has fielded similar questions despite saying his film doesn’t glorify violence and wasn’t created to “push buttons.”... “The movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world invocations, options, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world that’s been around for 80 years,” Phillips continued of his Gotham City-set Joker. “The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, ‘Oh, I just saw John Wick 3.’ He’s a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”... In a statement published on Tuesday, WB said that “neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”"
And to think people mocked Singapore for classifying the Da Vinci code as NC-16 so as not to mislead children

Unofficial Artist formally known as Diversity and Comics Yaboiposting - Posts - "Brie Larson: "I don't need a 37 year old barely-employed journalist to tell me what didn't work for him about "Joker". It wasn't made for him.""

Army issues warning about potential mass shooting incidents with release of upcoming “Joker” movie - "Military commanders in Oklahoma were warned of the potential threat of violence at the theatrical release of the upcoming “Joker” movie, though law enforcement officials are not sure which theaters may be affected... “I would just argue that you might want to watch the movie,” Phillips told the website IGN. “You might want to watch it with an open mind.”"

Everyone in Joker Audience Waiting for Right Moment to Do Mass Shooting - "“I came here to do a shooting myself,” he stated before hitting a vape, swigging Mountain Dew, and exhaling the vapor. “I came all strapped up. I had my AR-15, my Mossberg Shockwave, I even had two Berettas I was gonna shoot at the same time like The Matrix, then I noticed another guy getting out of his car with an AR-15! I was like, ‘Hey man! Back off. This one’s taken!’”Stefano Costa, 22, a comic book store employee, was also dismayed to find out he had been beaten to the punch."

'Joker' producer defends movie over mass shooter fears - "The executive producer of “Joker” has defended the movie over fears it may incite mass shooters — insisting people cannot “run” from the ugliest sides of society.“Look at what I consider some of the most important films: What have they done? They’ve held up a mirror to our society, and there are times when people don’t want to see that reflection, they want to run from it,” Michael Uslan told the Asbury Park Press... Uslan pointed to other key movies that have told troubling stories of violence, including “Mean Streets” and “A Clockwork Orange.”“If anything, I believe movies can shake people up and bring issues to attention, whether it’s about guns or the need to treat mental illness or the need for civility and for us to start talking with each other instead of at each other again”"

Joker filmmaker enrages 'woke culture' proponents by (accurately) blaming the tyranny of outrage for death of comedy - "What Phillips called "woke culture" - a pathological eagerness to avoid insensitivity that weaponizes the worst excesses of political correctness - has made comedy all but impossible because it has made the cost of failure too high. A single failed joke can cost a comedian their livelihood if it offends the wrong people - and who can create when their hands are tied?... he is far from the only "f***ing funny guy" who has done the risk-benefit analysis and found comedy to be not worth the penalty for offending modern audiences... It was safe to bomb in comedy a decade ago. One could make an "edgy" joke, miss the mark, brush off the boos from the audience, and try again. Now, miss the mark and offend someone when the right person in the audience is filming and your career could be over in 24 hours. Numerous comedians have spoken out about the pressure this puts on their performances... Comedy veteran Mel Brooks called political correctness "the death of comedy" two years ago, pointing out that "comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks." And things have only gotten worse since 2017 regarding "cancel culture," with woke commandos performing deep-dives into old tweets and old routines from Kevin Hart and Sarah Silverman, forcing Hart to resign from an Oscar-hosting gig and getting Silverman fired from a movie project.  In both cases, the "offensive" material was not considered particularly controversial at the time.Monty Python's John Cleese was one of several comics who were already refusing to perform on college campuses in 2016, thanks to the stifling PC climate, observing that the desire to avoid offense had mutated into "the point where any kind of criticism of any kind of individual or group can be labelled cruel." Now, the suffocating blanket of "wokeness" has escaped the campuses and infiltrated the comedy clubs. Performers walk on eggshells, living in fear of stumbling onto an ever-multiplying snarl of cultural third rails. George Carlin's seven dirty words were nothing - "woke culture" has declared entire books' worth of words off-limits.Even political comedy has gotten wealthy and complacent. Big-name comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert don't want to risk their seven-figure paychecks by "taking the piss out of the ruling class," progressive political comedian Jimmy Dore has pointed out. Dore has slammed TV comedians for limiting themselves to "low-hanging fruit" like President Donald Trump without touching the system that produced him. Saturday Night Live - a show that, in its early years, hosted exciting, edgy talent willing to take risks - has become the Orange Man Bad Show, with its 45th season premiere featuring three whole segments about Trump's impeachment. Not coincidentally, ratings dropped 30 percent for the younger demographic and 15 percent overall compared to the previous year. Even bland mainstream comics like Jerry Seinfeld have said political correctness is hurting comedy and have echoed Cleese's fear of performing at colleges.  If even sitcom hacks are afraid to perform, what does that say about "woke culture?" Ironically, 'Joker' - the film that has Phillips in the hot seat and the wokesters up in arms - is the story of a failed standup comedian who turns to crime after the comedy world, and the real world, beats the stuffing out of him, literally and metaphorically. Perhaps the woke masses canceling performers left and right should take note - robbing artists of their creative outlet could have unforeseen consequences."

"Joker" Director Todd Phillips Blames "Woke" Culture For Leaving Comedy - "“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” Phillips said. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’""It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right?" he added. "So you just go, ‘I’m out.’" Phillips said the idea for Joker — an antihero comic book origin story in the vein of Taxi Driver set in a dark and gritty 1970s Gotham — stemmed from a desire to want to remain irreverent, but not funny... Phillips blamed the controversy around the movie on the "far left.""

Director Todd Phillips Says "Far Left" Responsible for Joker Backlash - "“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity,” Phillips stated in the new interview. “I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye opening for me.” The controversy around the first R-rated Bat-movie seems to have taken Phillips slightly off guard, as he said he didn’t intend for “the movie to push buttons.” He explained, “I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’”"

Why the Joker Has Provoked a Backlash - "Given that ultra-violent R-rated movies are released almost every week—The Joker contains far fewer on-screen deaths than other recent releases like Rambo or Angel Has Fallen—to little fanfare and without provoking anything remotely like imitative crime, why are so many movie critics decrying the supposed moral vacuity of The Joker?Let’s dispense with the veneer of worry. Underlying many of the negative reviews is the insidious suggestion that some unhappy sucker might decide to imitate the Joker.  However, as with video game violence, there’s no evidence that movie violence causes real-life violence. In fact, crime tends to drop on weekends on which violent R-rated movies are released. These claims are the result of moral panic, pure and simple... Some folks have made bizarre references to the Aurora shooting from 2012, which took place at a theater showing another Batman movie, despite the fact that claims that the shooter was inspired by the Joker have been debunked.Some of the reviews seem to almost be rooting for the occurence of a horrible imitative crime to provide an I told you so moment.  It’s probably human nature to want to be right when predicting a tragedy, if that will somehow confirm one’s own moral stature. If anything, however, all the hype about possible violence might provide more of a motivation for violence than the movie itself... I suspect that all the pearl-clutching over imitative violence is a smokescreen for the real objection: the movie’s moral ambiguity and its subtle hints that society, on both left and right, is making things worse for people in pain. Moral righteousness has historically been the purview of the right, but, in recent years, the left have been catching up in the realm of moral entrepreneurship.  Much of the progressive movement has begun to adopt simplistic narratives of good and evil, often based on identity politics. Some elements of the far left have been voicing bigoted statements about race and gender—just of a different variety from those of the alt-right.One undercurrent causing all this chatter is the popular myth that mass homicides are mainly perpetrated by white men with racist or misogynistic motives. In fact, the ethnic composition of mass homicide perpetrators is similar to that of the general US population... The Joker exposes this societal indifference and suggests that, even if evil people bear the ultimate responsibility for their choices, societal elites also deserve some blame for doing next to nothing to help those who are struggling. The right have been criticized for this for decades, but all the tittering about incels, toxic masculinity and other unhelpful concepts on the part of the far left is only increasing hate, rather than helping us develop a sense of shared community.The Joker is a morally nuanced story that calls upon us to understand how the protagonist came to be who he is, and how society contributed to that transformation. Dan Brooks rightly notes that the critics’ hand-wringing over the film’s impact on the masses (an impact to which the critics themselves are apparently morally immune) is a kind of condescension: “Critics, after all, are the ones warning us that millions of undersexed morons are about to watch a movie they won’t understand. And it’s critics telling us, in a tone of concern for their fellow man, that these losers are total misanthropes.” This kind of movie criticism isn’t much better than Robert DeNiro’s cruel mockery of Arthur Fleck’s failed attempts at stand-up comedy... Too often, we look for ways to be virtuous at others’ expense. We should never condone violence. But The Joker suggests that we could do a better job of identifying people before they reach that point and getting them effective, evidence-based help. That would take determined effort on our part and tax money. So perhaps—like too many characters in the film—we’ll find it easier to simply point and laugh."

Media Horrified By Lack Of Violence At Joker Screenings | The Babylon Bee - "“We found one incident of a guy cheering too loudly at the fictional violence,” said CNN reporter Terrance Shelton, “but that was it. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing we can glom onto and spin into a hot take that reinforces The Narrative. I’m shaken to my core.”Journalists have already been shaken by many attacks on the press. Much of this has come from President Trump, but a lot also from reality, which has specifically gone after many of their hyped predictions and disasters. “We had expert opinions saying that the Joker movie was just adding fuel to the fire with all that’s going on,” said New York Times writer Glenn Peterson. “And once again, reality has defied experts. That’s not right.”Now that opinion writers' fears have been disproven, the pundits whose predictions were completely wrong and who have demonstrated they have no grasp of how reality actually works are expecting the harshest punishment for such a journalistic failure: absolutely nothing."

Joker Review: Joaquin Phoenix Overacts So Hard It's No Fun - "Phoenix is acting so hard you can feel the desperation throbbing in his veins. He leaves you wanting to start him a GoFundMe, so he won’t have to pour so much sweat into his job again. But the aggressive terribleness of his performance isn’t completely his fault" - Stephanie Zacharek (20 on Metacritic)
Ghostbusters Review: Busting Ghosts in the Here and Now - "The movie glows with vitality, thanks largely to the performers, who revel in one another’s company" - Stephanie Zacharek (80 on Metacritic)
Moral of the story: do the opposite of what this 'film critic' says you should do

FBI Says They Are Closely Monitoring Social Media Posts About "Joker"

Unofficial Artist formally known as Diversity and Comics Yaboiposting - Posts - "Media: “Joker is going to cause an Incel revolt!”
Disney Niqqas:
'Five teenagers including 13-year-old girl arrested after 'machete' brawl during Frozen 2 viewing'"

Unofficial Artist formally known as Diversity and Comics Yaboiposting - Posts - "Media: DO NOT let your kids watch Joker
Here are some alternatives:
- Drag queen story hour
- LG*T education at 6 yrs old
- learning masturbation at 7
- Going to Pride parade at 5
- Identify as Trans at 3"
Too bad @undyingtemplar2 got banned from Twitter

Fear of a White Joker: When Did the Left Stop Caring About Crime's Root Causes? - "Todd Phillip’s Joker is one of the most culturally significant films in recent memory. It has been praised and attacked with a fervency that is rarely inspired by the mainstream fruits of Hollywood. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a modern blockbuster that has generated such attention and concern. Virtually every major media outlet has published some extended commentary on the work, whether it be a film review of the standard format (which are now rare) or an impassioned op-ed delineating how the film is either the cause or consequence of some terrible social phenomenon. Inevitably, the word “Trump” appears early and often... To progressive members of the literati, the phenomenon of interest is the omnipresent sociopathy of the white male, in all its sexual repression, social ostracization and malignant cruelty. Though nearly identical attitudes are easily found at Vice, CNN and numerous other outlets, Richard Lawson’s take in Vanity Fair exemplifies the perspective most forcefully... it is unclear why any of us should not endeavour to understand the motivations of disaffected white men (or any kind of men—for it’s not clear why Fleck’s character could not, with some small plot changes, be of any ethnic background imaginable) who end up committing acts of violence. The key to reducing violence amongst any demographic is in ascertaining the specific attributes of violent individuals. Skin colour is a crude and categorically ineffective indicator in this respect. Indeed, generations of progressives have properly argued this truth, typically in the face of racists who have alleged some particularly malign criminogenic trait at play in the minds of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, “Orientals,” Muslims or Jews. The use of a phrase such as “hideous knot” suggests that Lawson has no interest in understanding mental illness, isolation or “the culminated rage of masculine identity” (whatever that is), and that he would prefer to imagine all of these as simply being ingredients in some disgusting stew of human malignancy that is more properly called “evil.” His real complaint about the film is that, by prompting curiosity in regard to why people do bad things, it might distract audience members from the simple, morally urgent task of denouncing men such as Arthur Fleck in a purely normative manner, as a priest denounces sin... The spectacle of so many prominent writers demanding that we suppress our understanding of criminal violence, rather than nourish it, represents, at the very least, a terrible waste of journalistic talent... Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) demands sympathy. (This is the fact that upsets Lawson.) As his backstory is developed, and as he is revealed to be the unlucky inheritor of an absolutely terrible deck of cards—genetically, environmentally and socioeconomically—Fleck’s descent into erratic, violent behaviour becomes easier to understand and accept. He is somebody who, through no real fault of his own, is pushed to the breaking point. This is the sort of instructive lesson in “root causes” that progressive advocates of criminal-justice reform have properly emphasized for generations. To view the Joker’s behaviour as evil, full stop, is natural: From early in life, fairy tales teach us to divide the world into good and bad. But Lawson is not a child, and Vanity Fair isn’t a book of fairy tales... it is incumbent on adult viewers—especially those who present as professional critics—to push their reflex beyond the level of pointing at the screen and saying “bad man.”... At root, our conflicted response gets to the heart of the age-old philosophical question of whether free will, good and evil can even exist in a deterministic universe. None of this has anything to do with race, except in the mind of a person who walks into a movie theater already obsessed with the question of skin colour... Fifty years ago, the place of Lawson would have been taken up by a conservative who worried that a sympathetic portrayal of a black man who lapsed into criminality might subvert the public appetite for law-and-order policies."

‘Joker’: A Cinematic Marvel, and a Statement About Society - "Of the pantheon of great cinematic psychos—from Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” to Alex DeLarge in “A Clockwork Orange,” to Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” to Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”—no film does more fully to examine the entire origin of its lead character and his complete transition into a maniac the way “Joker” does... There truly are no heroes to be found in “Joker,” but there are more than enough villains. No, the film does not really sympathize with Fleck as he eventually turns to murder and unintentionally sparks a city-wide series of violent riots; but the film makes clear that if there is a true catalyst for the evil that transpires, it is the brokeness of that society as a whole... “Joker” is a film that points blame in all directions, from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor; everyone holds some responsibility for the degradation of society when it gets to the point where no one cares for another anymore. Those who may support the anti-elite message are angered at the equal blame that is placed on the criminals and the common people, while those who support the vilification of the angry mobs are similarly bothered by the anti-rich sentiments... For a media that profits on ratings, few things drive ratings more than magnifying the kind of partisan conflicts and socio-political divides that are currently plaguing our nation. If a message like these few lines were to be driven home to millions of Americans as effectively as they are in “Joker,” it could go a long way toward easing such tensions within our society, and the media has nothing to gain from that. And yet despite the backlash, and despite how truly disturbing and uncomfortable the film is and was intended to be, the people have spoken: “Joker” is already proving to be a smash hit, producing the biggest October opening in film history, and far exceeding box office expectations with over $200 million worldwide in its opening weekend alone... If “The Dark Knight” proved that regular people can become heroes in response to a bleak and unstable society, then “Joker” proves that regular people can become villains for the same reason."

Todd Phillips gives blunt response to Joker critics - "While it can certainly be argued that Joker is a product of the time in which it was made — as are all films, really — the flick drew its primary inspiration from the works of Martin Scorsese, in particular the 1976 classic Taxi Driver and the underrated 1983 psychodrama The King of Comedy. These films (which both happen to star Robert De Niro, who appears in Joker) are bleak, unflinching portraits of very troubled men, men who eventually resort to violence as a way of coping with slights, real and perceived, they have endured from the world at large.It should be noted that Taxi Driver is often regarded as being among the very best films ever made. When it was released, there wasn't exactly a thunderous chorus of voices wondering whether it was going to inspire a wave of psychotic loners in the vein of De Niro's Travis Bickle, who in the film is seen stalking multiple women, nearly following through with a plan to assassinate a presidential candidate, and finally engaging in what could only be termed a mass shooting... "If your kid is capable of being pushed over the edge by anything Gene Simmons has to say, you're just not doing your job as a f***in' parent."... Phillips argued that there is a distinct difference between asking an audience to identify with a character, and asking them to understand that character.The director opened his remarks by taking a not-so-subtle shot at critics who have demonized the film without even having seen it. "I really think there have been a lot of think pieces written by people who proudly state they haven't even seen the movie and they don't need to," he said. "I would just argue that you might want to watch the movie, you might want to watch it with an open mind."... Phillips also made the excellent point that complicated artworks will necessarily provoke complicated responses, and that this isn't a bad thing. To Joker's critics who wanted a more black-and-white, unambiguous take on the iconic DC villain, Phillips had some simple advice: "If you want uncomplicated art, you might want to take up calligraphy, but filmmaking will always be a complicated art." Phoenix then chimed in to take issue with the notion that any artwork could be directly blamed for the behavior of an individual, an argument that is painfully familiar to anybody who has ever been a fan of rap music or video games. "I think that, for most of us, you're able to tell the difference between right and wrong," Phoenix said. "And those that aren't are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don't think it's the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that's obvious." The star then questioned whether it should be the burden of the artist — be they filmmaker, video game programmer, or musician — to take into consideration every possible effect that their work might have on any given individual. "I think if you have somebody that has that level of emotional disturbance, they can find fuel anywhere. I just don't think that you can function that way," he said. "The truth is [that] you don't know what is going to be the fuel for somebody. And it might very well be your question. It might be this moment, right? But you can't function in life saying, 'Well, I can't ask that question for the small chance that somebody might be affected'… I wouldn't ask you to do that.""

Matt Binder on Twitter - "beginning of october: the joker movie is going to cause mass shootings
end of october: the joker movie is gentrifying a staircase"

‘Joker’ Will Top $900 Million As Biggest R-Rated Film In History
The SJWs failed to stop this film. Looks like going against the SJW crowd earns you more money than kowtowing to them

Box Office: ‘Joker’ Becomes The Most Profitable Comic Book Movie Ever - "it will have a new global cume of around $957 million by tonight. That will be 15.3x its $62.5 million production budget, which will make the Todd Phillips-directed and Joaquin Phoenix-starring drama more profitable, in terms of budget versus global gross, than Jim Carrey’s The Mask ($351 million on a $23 million budget in 1994)... In a skewed way, Joker represents every studio’s dream, in that it’s a mid-budget, 2-D title that’s pulling top-tier blockbuster business without relying on China... When it tops $1 billion worldwide in the next week or so, it’ll be the cheapest movie to do so, with a budget just under the $63 million spent by Jurassic Park back in 1993."

As a psychiatrist, I was blown away by the latest Joker - "The film poses an important question vocalised in no uncertain terms by the Joker at its climax. "What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? ... You get what you f---in’ deserve," he proclaims as he murders the talk show host before him... The Joker (or Arthur) appears to have a complex mix of diagnoses, including pseudobulbar affect – a rare condition consisting of uncontrollable laugher or crying, and possibly a psychotic illness, evidenced by his apparent hallucinations about the subject of his affections (played by Zazie Beetz). In addition, he displays features of certain personality traits that are not technically considered to be mental illnesses – psychopathy (he feels no empathy for the victims of his violence) and narcissism (which makes him crave attention and adulation by any means necessary).Phillips has clearly done his research and illustrates the path to the development of these conditions elegantly. We are told Arthur suffered early life trauma – horrific abuse as a child at the hands of his mother’s partner including head injury, which is a risk factor for serious mental illness including pseudobulbar affect. He also has a family history – his mother has delusional disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, and he experienced abandonment as a child and the absence of a father figure, which can predispose to certain psychiatric conditions... We are not laughing at Arthur nor distancing ourselves from him; instead we are forced to empathise with the protagonist... some mental illnesses can at times make people do tragic, awful things because they are scared, paranoid or desperate. But what are we going to do about it? Fund services that can help and treat them with sympathy and respect, or deprive them of assistance, discriminate against them and leave them and others to suffer the consequences?"

Academic Freedom

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Academic Freedom

"‘[There is a view] that genuine research and debate is being stifled if it doesn't fit a narrow, politically correct, mostly leftist view of the world. Either way, the atmosphere in some colleges is so toxic, a group of academics are setting up their own journal that would publish papers anonymously, to protect their careers, and even, they say, their lives’...

‘We absolutely have to laugh at anyone in power because anyone in power hates to be laughed at. It really undermines their authority. And I think the universities have become overtaken by these kind of woke activists and we need to point the finger and laugh at them and make them seem silly’...

'In recent times, we have experienced a strange situation which the argument doesn't really matter. But what matters is attacking the person. So finding scapegoats that people want to insult or abuse. And that's a distraction from the argument. So at some point, we need to decide whether it's better to engage with the argument or with the person and I think the argument is a much better choice.'…

‘Surely, the credibility and validity of the argument is directly linked to the credibility and validity of the person making it and having a journal where you don't know who it is is making it will damage that.’...

‘If really want to understand if an argument is good or bad, we don't really need to know the person is. And like a lot of philosophy is about engaging with people who died hundreds or thousands of years ago, we still engage with the argument. So the person doesn't really matter… It's really hard to tell what is going to be controversial or not in this current climate’...

‘Academic freedom is really my point. That if, it seems that you want to expand freedom for some groups, but you're very content to limit it for others. And I wonder what makes you, you and I could argue about what the right arguments are. But what makes you so sure that you have the balance right? Where's your kind of moral metric on that?’

‘Well, in the case, if you want to talk about the Noah Carl case, which is what I was referring to in Cambridge, we're talking about over 800 academics and students, many of them experts in their fields who had drawn on really quite a wealth of knowledge to essentially reject the methodology that he was using to argue that some races… are superior to others. And in fact, what we have is plenty of knowledge to produce to show not only that race is a social construction, but in fact that the body of sciences that we use to argue for racial hierarchies are grounded in very poor science and have served very dangerous political ends’…

‘You mentioned that there is a huge scope for discussion within academia at the moment. On the other hand, though, we do have routine no platforming as a policy where people are either not invited or disinvited after they have been invited, or they're just not invited in the first place because it might violate certain codes. And of course, no platforming started as against Neo Nazis. But the problem is, I don't trust students these days to know what fascist means. Isn't there a real concept creep? If fascism doesn't necessarily mean what it used to mean, can’t it be used just to silence the person you don't agree with?’...

‘What I would say is that these are students. Germaine Greer is still happily out there expressing their opinions, I don't think it's done a huge amount of damage to her ability to express her opinions’

‘But don't you find it disturbing when phrases like racist, fascist, etc, are used against people who simply don't qualify for those epithets?’...

‘Can I see from the students’ perspective, I've got three children at university, each of them paying 9250 pounds a year to keep the University going… shouldn't they as consumers expect an environment that meets their shared values, that keeps them safe?’

‘Well, I think this is a bit of a red herring actually, because I think this is really a sign of the times that you would equate paying with intellectual comfort. We could turn that that argument round quite neatly. And we could say that precisely because you paid so much money, you deserve to have intellectual challenge and intellectual challenge comes with being made to feel uncomfortable. It actually comes with being offended.

I would go so far as to say to students, if you haven't been offended, intellectually, politically offended during your time at university, you should quite frankly ask for your money back... I think the number one intellect-, the number one duty and responsibility, the moral responsibility of the university is intellectual. And it's to do with the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, and if you start cutting that down, and limiting it by what might be perceived to be offensive, then you really don't get very far at all.

If you think back through time, all ideas that have caused people to question, the way that we live, to question the paradigms that we have for understanding the world had been perceived as incredibly offensive. If you think of evolution, for example, that was considered incredibly offensive to Christian benefactors, and funders of universities. So if we were to apply a rule that says we're not going to offend benefactors and funders, we'd quite frankly be still living under, I believe in creationism.’...

'The way the debate’s kind of run so far today is that we've looked at academic freedom as being threatened from the left and we haven't talked at all about the threat to academic freedom from the right and in fact, the most prominent case of an academic losing a job is Stephen Salaita, prominent scholar of Indigenous Studies, who was fired from his position at the University of Illinois in 2014, because he criticized the actions of the Israeli state'...

‘I'd like to raise again, the question of Noah Carl, who's a specialist in intelligence research, who this year as you know, lost his job after there was a petition by a number of academics, over 600 academics and you yourself signed that, that petition. It did strike me though that the majority of signatories on that petition came from fields outside of his own field of specialism. So I'm interested in what qualifies someone to decide on where the limits of academic freedom lie.’

‘So that petition was to call for an investigation into the hiring of Noah Carl. And what followed was an investigation by the Cambridge College that he was working at, and I've read through the notes from that investigation. It's very thorough to me, and they've decided that there were errors along the way. So you know, regardless of the fields that those academics were in, most of us have some specialism within race, kind of critical race theory, for example, which does bear on the research that he does’

‘But the word racism was used repeatedly in that partition’...

‘There does seem to be an overwhelming left wing bias at universities. I don't think anyone would deny that. Is that a source of concern for you?’

‘It's not a source of concern for me, no… I'm on the political left, but my views vary wildly to those of colleagues. The left is a very big place. And I think going back to an earlier point that was made, we might wonder whether the daily work of thinking through issues deeply and paying attention to structural features of the world leads one towards greater empathy for people with diverse social identities, which ultimately amounts to being on the political left. So I think that's probably a factor. It's also the case that academics spend lots of time talking to and teaching students. And that tends to keep us fairly engaged with the experiences of young people. And I think that probably attracts a group of people who are socially progressive, but also keeps us socially progressive’…

‘I'm thinking of the case of Professor Nigel Biggar who caused a big storm for questioning whether maybe there were some positive aspects to colonialism. And surely there should be, haven't you lost the argument if you don't allow the argument to take place?’

‘So this, this comes down to a question of what a platform does. And I think it's really important to recognize here that when you invite somebody to speak at a university or you publish their written work, you tell the world something about that person, you indicate that that person's knowledgeable, that they're authoritative, that they're credible, and that their perspective’s worth listening to. And so even before they've said whatever it is they intend to say, which you can, of course challenge once they've said it, they're already seen as an expert, and that the evidence for that expertise is the belief that they ought to be heard. So the invitation from a university or the platforming of their writing. And that's very difficult to shift then. So if somebody says something that is extremely damaging, the fact that they were allowed to say it is also going to be part of the harm that's done. So it doesn't matter if people do ultimately argue against it and have the opportunity to do that. There's credibility granted to that particular view.’...

‘I think there's a distinction that's made in this literature that perhaps will be instructive here. And that's between what's called dignity safety and intellectual safety. And I think it's really important that students feel that their dignity is going to be respected, and people generally feel that their dignity is going to be respected’...

‘I don't feel my dignity is respected most of time on the Moral Maze, let alone when I'm in an intellectual argument, and especially not when I was at university. Should we really want dignity and intellect to be conflated?’

‘Well, let me finish making that distinction. So having one’s dignity respected is simply that the groups to which one belongs to, social groups to which one belongs will not be humiliated in the course of a discussion. But intellectual safety should not be respected. We should be questioning each other's views, we should be making each other feel uncomfortable, but we shouldn't be making anybody feel personally humiliated. And for me, the foremost reason for that is because people cannot learn when they feel humiliated.’...

‘Miriam Francoise’s arguments that, that allowing academic freedom led to ideas being expressed, which gave scholastic credibility to, well, in the extreme genocide and the Holocaust, colonialism and other things were trotted out as well’...

‘It just struck me that she seemed to be saying that she, she gets to decide what the parameters are. And then she gets to apply it sort of across the board. And I don't think that's right. And I don't think there is a consensus about... there is a consensus about genocide being wrong... the trouble is that she's sort of arbitrarily suggesting, you know, me and the woke crew get to decide that these things called power structures and all that kind of thing exists. A kind of thing, which should in itself be up for debate. And then as a consequence of that, we get decide, to decide who gets to speak and who doesn't. This is the problem with all of this to me, is who is the authority here? I don't know who that is.’…

‘I think there is a sort of autocracy lurking at the heart of this that is very unaware of itself. And I think just as much as we've had assumptions about what academia should do, and not do that were too constrained in the past, but we now have, sort of what, I'm questioning everything. I'm questioning the structures of society and therefore there's a kind of fresh autocracy or thought that comes from that viewpoint’…

‘Joanna Williams had another example of an extremely controversial idea, that led to all sorts of consequences. It was fiercely controversial at the time. Evolution.’…

‘And that is the point isn't it? That is why you want freedom. And that is why you want people to be able to express ideas and to take the risk of being iconoclastic. I just think that every generation imposes its own limits. And again, I come back to the domination of social science.

The name Nigel Bigger came up as an example of so, as an academic who'd written, I wouldn't say about the positive sides of colonialism, he simply questioned the one moral narrative about it, and I was interested that the speaker who spoke about that, spoke about him, brought up critical race theory. Well, that's a different discipline. He's history, critical race theory is a different discipline.

So much of what we've heard this evening is a conflict between or within disciplines. And people are really trying to stake out within academia, their own area of influence and power and say: no more. And this then leads to a fascinating contradiction of people who say, the far right must not be allowed to say this, but I'm being stopped from saying this about Israel.’

‘It didn't really make the point that students are being stopped from talking about things and nobody seems to be talking about the fact that they are being prevented from speaking about issues like you just mentioned.’...

‘Do you think there's a distinction to be made between those propagating obvious untruths? Holocaust denial is an obvious one, and those who seem to be part of the continuing debate about whether you know, whether there are any aspects of colonialism that were positive or some of these gender issues?’

‘The best way to demolish a bad argument is through further debate. And we saw that with the case of David Irving, where the person who took him to task was Richard Evans, and completely demolished his argument. And that was, that was the end of it, and no one takes it seriously anymore. Once you censor or no platform or prevent them from speaking, all that does is kind of dignify, give them a sense of martyrdom. And that's actually not helpful, I think in terms of academic debate’…

‘What do you make of our last witness who seems to think that anybody who thinks about an issue is bound to be left wing?’

‘She had this idea that being on the right you can't have empathy’...

‘I'm sorry to have to keep batting away but that's a limitation of her particular discipline and field of study. If you stepped outside of it into philosophy, if in fact you looked at the issues from any other perspective, you might reach a different conclusion’...

'One’s dignity I'm afraid gets batted in intellectual debate, and quite right too'"

Noah Carl is in fact an excellent example of how the intolerant left is destroying universities and why they shouldn't be allowed free reign, given that they (deliberately?) misunderstood and defamed him

Strange how if Germaine Greer is no platformed in a campus but is free to speak in society, we shouldn't worry about *academic* freedom

Making students consumers has interesting side effects

Amusingly, whataboutism aside, the Salaita case was not of him being fired but of his having a conditional offer of employment withdrawn due to donor pressure because of alleged anti-Semitism and because students said they wouldn't feel safe. Somehow having a conditional job offer withdrawn is the same as being fired (someone should tell Kavanaugh). And presumably it's worse for universities to act in response to donor pressure than complaints from one or two easily offended individuals. And allegations of anti-Semitism are one of the only ones that can be questioned

Apparently knowing critical race theory means you are an expert in intelligence

"Diversity" doesn't include ideological diversity. In fact, ideological diversity is A Bad Thing

Looks like academic freedom is only for those on the left. Presumably the millions lost under Communism think their deaths were justified, since universities are apparently endorsing Communists and Marxists by giving them platforms

If "dignity safety" is a thing, then one can never say anything remotely controversial about social groups. So much for academic freedom

Links - 21st December 2019 (1)

Muslim porn star reveals why she refuses to quit despite being 'banned from Pakistan' - "A porn star who claims she is 'banned' from Pakistan after conducting 'adult scenes' in Islamic dress said she is still a practicing Muslim and prays regularly - despite the potentially conflicting demands of her job.Nadia Ali - who first got into the adult industry as a dancer two-and-a-half years ago before moving into escorting then becoming a porn star - admitted that she experiences 'conflicts' between her religion and work but that she views it as a 'stepping stone' for her work in the beauty industry."

Star Wars Battlefront 4 Concept Art Reveals Dark Side Luke - "The art showcases dark side versions of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Mace Windu, as well as light side versions of Maul, Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and more, including an intriguing Emperor Vader variant of Anakin Skywalker. There's even an Evil Chewbacca that looks... interesting."

Half Of Americans Are Spending More Than They Earn, But Don't Realize It: Survey - "About half of 3,000 Americans polled in a recent survey said that they're spending more than they earn at least a few months each year. However, just 10 percent said they were living beyond their means... Part of the problem may be that a lot of Americans don't see saving as part of their lifestyle. Half of those surveyed do not set monthly savings goals for themselves, according to the Rasmussen survey. Of those who are spending more than they earn, 36 percent are dipping into savings, 22 percent use a credit card and 8 percent are borrowing money in other ways... Just 44 percent of Americans understand that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan, rather than their debt or financial resources... Only about half of those surveyed by Rasmussen said that they have a monthly budget."
For all the complaints that the American middle class is being screwed by elites/Republicans/globalisation, this suggests that it's really Americans' spending habits, financial knowledge and how they treat money that are at fault

Why Financial Confessionals Go Viral - The Atlantic - "The hypothetical couple were making $350,000 a year and just getting by, their income “barely” qualifying them as middle-class. Their budget, posted in September, showed how they “survived” in a city like San Francisco, spending more than $50,000 a year on child care and preschool, nearly $50,000 a year on their mortgage, and hefty amounts on vacations, entertainment, and a weekly date night—even as they saved for retirement and college in tax-advantaged accounts... The country’s 10 percent really do feel strapped... urban professionals—they are almost always urban professionals—describe spending on $7 lattes and $70 bikini waxes and $70,000 private-school tuition. Some describe themselves as middle-class. Many describe themselves as unable to save... families earning six figures are considered middle-class in San Francisco because the cost of living is so high... “If the amount of money you’re saving each month doesn’t hurt a little, you’re not saving enough.”"
Presumably the problem is that they don't earn enough and they've been screwed by capitalism

Here are the three 'stupid' things millennials waste money on, says Shark Tank star Kevin O'Leary - "It’s no secret that millennials are in debt. Massive debt. The average American aged 25 to 36 years old is in debt to the tune of about $42,000, and most of it isn’t even from student loans — it’s from credit card spending... statistics show that millennials are still spending money on the things that experts say would constitute huge savings if they were avoided — things that Shark Tank personality and O’Shares ETFs chairman Kevin O’Leary says are utterly, totally stupid...
1. $4 Coffee... the average American spends about $1,100 per year on coffee, or about $92 a month — which it says is about 30 percent more than a third of Americans spend on investing...
2. Shoes... women appear to be the worst offenders — shoe retailer DSW found last year that 75 percent of women in the U.S. own more than 20 pairs of shoes, while the average man reportedly owns 12 pairs. Credit card comparison app CreditDonkey reports that the average person buys 7.8 pairs of shoes per year. And a report by Psychology Today found that, indeed, of all the pairs of shoes owned, most people regularly wear only three to four.
3. Jeans
Nobody should own more than three pairs of jeans, O’Leary believes. “If you have more than three pairs of jeans — one black, one white and one jean original — you’re an idiot”...
The celebrity investor says you’ll save 10 percent of your salary if you just listen to those rules alone. “Then you invest that and the market gives you 7 percent a year,” he added. “The average salary in America is $58,000, you save 10 percent a year, you have $1.25 million in the bank when you’re 65.”"

Shaun Roberts's answer to Why are most people broke? - Quora - "As someone in the financial service business I have seen a lot of people go broke or stay broke. They all have some common elements.
1. They follow the herd. They buy houses too young, have children and get married too young because they are in a rush to keep up with their friends and they are constantly pressured by their families (who are also broke).
2. They load up on debt starting with student loans and credit cards they receive in college when they have little income...
3. They start saving too little, too late. They also save wrong. Cutting out a $5 cup of coffee a day will not solve your financial woes. Putting 20% of your income away before you even see it will...
4. They are never willing to sacrifice... They don't want to cut big lunches and dinners from their routine, or they have to have 5 star vacations instead of 3 star ones...
5. They are always looking for the “big score". They are going to invent something, be the top seller on Amazon, or grow marijuana. Nobody broke just gets a part time job to supplement their income. They all want to be rich, just like their Facebook friends.
6. They can't hold onto money. As soon as they build a small savings some “emergency" comes up that they just have to use their money for. Money is truly “burning a hole in their pocket".
7. It's always someone else's fault...
8. They just don't learn from their mistakes and they refuse to take responsibility...
9. They don't invest in themselves...
10. They don't stick with anything...
11. They always worry about what they don't have instead of appreciating what they do have."

The Poorest 20% of Americans Are Richer on Average Than Most European Nations - "after accounting for all income, charity, and non-cash welfare benefits like subsidized housing and food stamps, the poorest 20 percent of Americans consume more goods and services than the national averages for all people in most affluent countries. This includes the majority of countries in the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), including its European members. In other words, if the US “poor” were a nation, it would be one of the world’s richest... US households receiving food stamps spend about 50 percent more on sweetened drinks, desserts, and candy than on fruits and vegetables. In comparison, households not receiving food stamps spend slightly more on fruits & vegetables than on sweets."
If it is fueled by debt or low saving, this is not a good thing

Why Americans don't use electric kettles - "Most homes in the US operate on 100-127 volts, whereas the UK and many other countries use between 220 and 240 volts. The lower voltage in the US means that electric kettles would not heat water as quickly as they do in the UK. As a result, they haven't caught on in the US."

Canadians may pay more taxes than Americans but there's a catch - "in terms of total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, in 2010, the U.S. collected a slightly lower than average amount of taxes from its citizens ($11,365 USD per capita). Canada collected a slightly higher than average amount ($14,693 USD).The average for OECD countries was $12,911 USD... Middle-class Canadians probably pay more in taxes than middle-class Americans... They also must contend with higher sales taxes and a higher cost of goods, especially in the wealthier provinces, which affects buying power... Canadians may not pay that much more than Americans — and, on occasion, as a nation, they have even paid less — but they do get a lot more from their government in terms of social services. That’s part of what makes Canada one of the Top 10 happiest countries on earth, ranking seven spots higher than America... Government involvement in paying for health insurance has been shown to both lower prices and help citizens live longer: “The 10 countries with the highest life expectancy depend on voluntary insurance for an average of less than six percent of their costs, and government spending for nearly half.”... Perhaps that’s why so many Americans, as well as the president, feel that Americans pay more than anyone else in taxes: Because while many U.S. residents pay nearly as much, or in some cases more, than our neighbors to the north, Canadians in general can get so much more in exchange."

The Canadian Beer Banned for Being ‘Too Cheap’ - "Saskatchewan’s local government deemed the generic brand “illegally cheap.” Beer Beer, priced at $10.80 for a 12-beer case, was $2 less than competing beers. “It wasn’t expensive enough,” Tibbles said.Drummond Brewery threw money at the problem — literally. In response to the reprimand, the brewery began packing $2 bills into each case of Beer Beer destined for Saskatchewan. It was a creative solution, but the liquor board didn’t buy it. “All we ask is that everybody play by the rules to give our brewers a fair chance to compete,” Darrel Cunningham, then provincial minister responsible for the liquor board, told The National.Beer Beer was pulled off the shelves, victim of a 45-day ban in Saskatchewan"

Mainstream media one of the sources of misinformation in Canada, reveals major report - "those who get their news from mainstream outlets are more likely to give incorrect answers to questions about basic governmental policy issues.“Survey respondents who read or watched more traditional news media were less likely to express uncertainty about policy questions than those with low consumption, but more likely to give an incorrect response”"

Londoner’s Dungeons and Dragons game has lasted 38 years, and counting - "Fifty players, 38 years, 20,000 miniatures, one dungeon master and an epic story that’s spanned multiple worlds."

SpongeBob' is a 'violent,' 'racist' colonizer, says University of Washington professor - "For a recently published academic journal, the professor, Holly M. Barker, wrote an article "Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom," in which she offers a different take on the affable sea sponge."SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland"... Marker stated that as an "American character" allowed to inhabit an area that natives had no choice but to leave, SpongeBob showed his privilege of "not caring about the detonation of nuclear bombs."Marker also points out the cultural appropriation of Pacific culture, with Hawaiian-style shirts, homes in the shapes of pineapples, tikis and Easter Island heads, and the sounds of a steel guitar perpetuating stereotypes of the region... Other issues for Marker: a perceived imbalance between male and female characters, and the name "Bob" representing an everyman rather than a culturally appropriate characterIn the article, Marker claims that because of these themes, children have "become acculturated to an ideology that includes the U.S. character SpongeBob residing on another people’s homeland.""
"Not sure how a sea sponge with a squirrel and starfish as best friends could be racist"

NPR on Twitter - "When should you start talking to your kids about race, religion and social class? At six months, experts say. In one study, infants as young as six months old showed a preference for members of their own race and against those of different races."
"NPR says we’re biologically hardwired to prefer our own race and that children must be brainwashed from before they are even able to speak if there is any chance of them being manipulated into denying factual racial differences into adulthood."

From Satire to Reality: Monty Python Predicts Woke Culture - "It’s telling that the Pythons satirize religion and what we today call wokeness in the same film. There is, after all, a religious component to woke culture. There are dogmas, myths, taboos and a tendency to moralize. And dissenters are denounced, or called out, with a fervour reminiscent of the persecution of witches and heretics in centuries past... Monty Python star Terry Jones is probably right to say that Life of Brian “couldn’t be made today,” partly because some of the scenes make light of transgenderism. Leaving aside the fact that Brian’s mother is played by Jones, a man, part of the humour in the stoning scene, for example, comes from the fact that the stone-throwing crowd is made up of women disguised as men, since only men are allowed to participate in stonings. However, being women (biologically female), they have a hard time maintaining their cover... The People’s Front of Judea is, in many ways, a fictional precursor of the modern woke left. Take the 2019 National Convention of the Democratic Socialists of America. In a viral video, we see a young delegate raise a “point of privilege” regarding the noise level in the auditorium. “Guys,” he says, “can we please keep the chatter to a minimum. I’m one of the people who are very, very prone to sensory overload.” A moment later, he is admonished by another delegate to “stop using gendered language to address everyone.”What is also striking about the footage is how much time is spent discussing procedural formalities... Monty Python understood that what we today call wokeness—excessive political correctness at the expense of reason, open inquiry and free speech—is incompatible with an enlightened society."

Sixth Circuit Deals New Blow to University Speech Codes - "There was a time, in the recent past, when universities were in the grip of a kind of speech-code fever. Even as recently ten years ago, after a wave of litigation striking down campus speech regulations, the vast majority of American colleges and universities still kept clearly unconstitutional speech codes on the books. They kept losing in court, yet they still couldn’t quit their codes. Fast-forward a decade and that’s changed. Between 2009 and 2019, the portion of surveyed American universities with what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education classifies as “red light” speech codes has shrunk from 74.2 percent to a mere 28.5 percent, and a total of 17 states have enacted some form of campus free-speech legislation. But the impulse to censor dies hard, and some schools have been nothing if not creative in their efforts to control speech without explicitly and clearly running afoul of the law. Witness, for example, the phenomenon of the “bias-response team.”"

Friday, December 20, 2019

Links - 20th December 2019 (2)

Why a Great U.S. Economy Doesn’t Feel So Great - Bloomberg - "Over the longer term, Americans have been suffering from steadily falling mobility. Only about half of 30-year-olds now make more money than their parents did at a similar age"
This is why continual economic growth is important, though many people including environmentalists mock it - people want to earn more than their parents

Will & Grace stars Debra Messing and Eric McCormack call for Hollywood to blacklist those attending Trump fundraiser - "Will & Grace stars Debra Messing and Eric McCormack have called for Hollywood to out and blacklist anyone attending a forthcoming fundraiser for Donald Trump."
The tolerant left strike again

Hollywood conservatives say more stars stay quiet to avoid public backlash, being blacklisted - "Celebrated singer and actor Pat Boone noted in a recent interview that conservative stars in Hollywood are wary of publicly discussing their personal politics for fear of public backlash.“There used to be more of us,” the 84-year-old told The Hollywood Reporter Monday. “Tom Selleck, Jon Voight, Bruce Willis, who were outspoken, but they’ve been browbeaten and ridiculed, which is the main instrument on the left to shut us up.”... Bryan added that the political divide in Hollywood reminds him of high school cliques.“The party of tolerance and acceptance is only accepting if you agree with them”... “Eyes Wide Shut” actress Julienne Davis told Fox News one of the riskiest decisions of her life was coming out “of the conservative closet.”“Since then I haven’t fared well,” she said. “My ‘unfriendings’ on social media have been many – from acquaintances and close working associates to good friends – including even my best friend. It is interesting to note that all of them just stopped calling and quietly ‘ghosted’ me, and then later unfriended me. Unfriendings aside, the written and very public insults from Hollywood peers on social media and elsewhere have been numerous. I’ve been attacked with obscenities, called a racist, and had one person tell me he hoped I would die.” Some agree being vocal about their conservative views can put their careers at risk. In October 2017, just weeks after James Woods revealed he was blacklisted in Hollywood because of his conservative beliefs, the Oscar-nominated actor said he was retiring from the industry.He claimed being a proud conservative made it difficult for him to find work in Hollywood.Woods was a Democrat until at least 1998 when he broke ranks with the party after former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He declared on Twitter that he switched parties because of his disgust with the former president.“Every single #Democrat without exception stood behind a convicted perjurer,” tweeted the 71-year-old. “That was the end.” Woods added there are many conservative stars who don’t speak up because “the blacklist against conservatives in Hollywood is very real.” And actors could lose more than work in Hollywood for speaking out. In 2016, John Rhys-Davies, best known for his role as Gimli in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, told Fox News his views have cost him friends... Davies added he feels it is the actors' responsibility to explore other beliefs and to constantly question, which can actually enhance their performances when taking on a variety of roles that are different from their real-life personas. Instead, Davies claimed many of his actor friends believe their political opinion is the only right one. “I love my fellow actors but sometimes I think that their opinions are wrong,” he explained. “True art asks uncomfortable questions and if you find yourself agreeing with everyone around you all the time, you should wonder what your significance as a citizen and as an artist is. But that’s not really important. What matters is that a civilization is kept alive and vital by debate.”"

Man's Uber ride cost $2700 after he dozed off and woke up other side of country - "A man has been left furious, claiming his Uber left him with a $2800 bill after a driver took him on a 480km-round-trip to the UK's midlands, instead of his home south of London.Musician Chris Reed said he had ordered an Uber after a late night out, but fell asleep in the back.He was expected to be taken home to Croydon, just 20km south of London. Instead, when he woke up, he was in Lincolnshire, nearly three hours north of London."

'Shy and awkward' student, 19, faces JAIL after sex assault conviction - "A 'shy and awkward' student is facing jail after he touched a teenager 'in an attempt to befriend her.'Jamie Griffiths, 19, Googled 'how to make a friend' then came into contact with the 17-year-old during two attempts to engage her in conversation... Griffiths was convicted at Manchester Magistrates' Court and will be sentenced later this month. The offence carries a maximum sentence of ten years jail if dealt with at a crown court and he faces being ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register... 'As soon as he moved I moved and said: 'stop' and he touched my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away... She said she encountered Griffiths a second time: 'He suddenly moved to walk in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, touched me on my side and walked off... 'She was walking towards me and I recognised her and I knew that she was a student at the school, I didn't say anything but I really wanted to - the words just didn't come out. I touched her but I believed that it was the arm I was touching.'I smiled at her, I was just trying to be friendly. I tried to get her attention and she ignored me. Touching someone's arm to get their attention I would have thought was normal. I was looking for a friend.'"
Apparently the arm and side are sexual organs

Diners walks out of Laughing Buddha restaurant Maidstone, complaining of bad service - "Jin Cheng admits to losing his cool when the group complained about the food and slow service at his Chinese eaterie.One customer, who was so irate at the delays at the Laughing Buddha, stormed into the kitchen and started shouting at the chef.Mr Cheng told the group they should leave if they didn’t want to pay - and all 36 got up and walked out after finishing their food and drinks... one customer who didn’t walk out posted a review describing his experience on the night as ‘absolutely shocking’.They wrote: 'Had the worst dining experience of my life."

Parents fury as pork sausages are banned from the school menu and replaced with halal meat - "Parents have condemned a school's decision to ban all pork products from the menu and replace other meats with halal versions.Pupils aged between three and 11 at Brinsworth Manor Infant and Junior Schools in Rotherham - which Ofsted identifies as having only a small number of pupils from minority ethnic groups - will no longer be able to enjoy sausages, bacon or ham... parents have branded the decision 'a scandal' as only twenty per cent of the 600 pupils are Muslim and the decision to provide halal meat was up to individual schools in the town... 'My daughter has been anxious about the change as she has concerns about if it is humane killing. I believe in animal welfare rights and standards of meat production that halal does not follow... 'I feel as strongly against eating meat that had been blessed in the name of a god I don’t believe in and the animal killed in a way I do not agree with, as Muslims do against eating non-halal meat.'The children love pork and it’s a scandal to take these meats off the menu to please, what I consider to be, a low number of children who require halal meat.'The majority of the children are now having school meals that are made for the minority. The halal children have always had the vegetarian and fish options. '... The school governors at both schools are understood to have agreed to the menu change to ensure the meals are more inclusive."

Vegetarian GCSE student disqualified for 'obscene racial comments' about halal meat in RS exam - "A GCSE pupil was disqualified after examiners mistook her vegetarian views on Halal meat for Islamophobia.Abigail Ward, 16, who attends Gildredge House school in Eastbourne, East Sussex, was told by exam board OCR that she had made 'obscene racial comments' while answering her Religious Studies exam in June.On the subject of halal butchers, the student had written, '...which I find absolutely disgusting.'... Her mother, Layla Ward, said the examiner has been 'over-zealous, over-righteous'. Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, the 36-year-old said the family were shocked by the decision to disqualify her daughter, and the exam board has since been overturned the decision.She said:  'Abbey is an animal lover and a very strict vegetarian.'It made me angry … when asked a question in the exam, you can't even express your feelings... A Daily Mail investigation found this week that OCR - which oversaw 163,000 A-level entries this year – offered A-level ‘assessor’ roles to a reporter in two subjects in which she had no qualifications... OCR insisted the reporter would have been put through ‘robust’ training and ‘standardisation’ tests before actually being given any papers to mark, but did not explain why its staff had failed to check references before approving the application."

Spalding single dad Jon Coupland outraged after police storm Jury's Inn hotel with daughter 13 - "A single father was left outraged after police stormed his hotel room because he checked in with his teenage daughter.Jon Coupland, 58, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, travelled to Nottingham for work earlier this week.He checked in to the Jury's Inn with his daughter Jessica, 13, after she asked to come with him so she could take advantage of the city's shops.But he was horrified when minutes after check-in, police officers stormed their room following reports of 'suspicious behaviour involving a child'... 'I am absolutely disgusted by the behaviour of the hotel and the police. We were made to feel very unwelcome and they knew I was her dad but they kept asking questions.'I felt that it was like what happened before all over again. They would not have done this if my daughter wasn't half Thai... The ordeal brought back bad memories of when Jessica was six and Mr Coupland was falsely accused of abusing her.Social worker Suzi Smith falsely claimed she saw the single father sexually assault his daughter and he was handcuffed, publicly humiliated and interrogated by police for hours.Mr Coupland claims Ms Smith made the allegation after he criticised the way she handled the custody battle between him and Jessica's mother, Kajchi Jiraekkaphob, an illegal immigrant from Thailand... He was later given an £86,000 compensation payout.On Wednesday they decided to leave the hotel and stayed at the Premier Inn instead where they had no problems."

Why Thousands of College Grads Start Their Careers at a Rental-Car Company - "Enterprise is one of the biggest employers of college graduates. It sees soft skills as critical. Many accounts of where graduates land focus on the extremes: The art-history graduate working as a barista and living in his parents’ basement. The polished Ivy League alumna scoring a six-figure job on Wall Street. The iconoclast who developed an app and dropped out to start a lucrative company in Silicon Valley. College, according to those tropes, is, respectively, a waste of money, an amplifier of privilege, or simply irrelevant.The more common postcollege destination, though, looks a lot more like working at Enterprise. And according to Enterprise, college does matter, a lot.To the company, a college degree matters mostly because it suggests that a candidate has acquired the right mix of skills to succeed in an entry-level job —and to move up the ladder from there. Its hiring philosophy and practices —which have been in place for decades —can tell us something important about what a B.A. truly signals.But the company doesn’t see higher education the way higher education sees itself. Enterprise doesn’t pay much attention to where prospective trainees went to college, what they studied, or their grades. The company does care, though, that they finished college: Trainees are required to have a bachelor’s degree. Why? The big benefit of a bachelor’s degree is soft skills... While a bachelor’s degree is often the baseline credential for an entry-level job, employers don’t traditionally recruit from the broad category "college graduates." They recruit a subset of them. The big bank has a preference for business majors. Plenty of employers use hard GPA cutoffs to narrow their pools. And elite destinations —think investment banks and management-consulting firms —focus on a handful of feeder schools.This approach takes advantage of the fact that higher education has already sorted students. But it also assumes that the sorting has been done effectively.Such an assumption risks doubling downon the inequities that play into where students go to college and what they study. And it risks missing a candidate like Sheck, who brings more to the table than his résumé might suggest... Casting a wider net makes particular sense for Enterprise. Its entry-level workers, who earn $40,000 to $50,000, are generalists, which makes the specialized knowledge conferred by a college major less crucial. And, in a model many employers have abandoned, the company invests in training its new hires."We almost kind of give you a master’s degree in rental"... Enterprise Rent-A-Car regularly ranks among the top companies in hiring for entry-level positions, which are defined as permanent, salaried jobs that require college degrees"

Bell Epoque - "O’Brien’s incredulity, however, speaks volumes about the academic mainstreaming of fringe anti-American theories. Critical race theory has next to nothing going for it as a descriptive analytic of how American jurisprudence works. It doesn’t fit the facts of American life from Brown v. the Board of Education, to court enforcement of the Voting Rights Acts, the Civil Rights Act, or hundreds of other pieces of legislation. Critical race theory is weirdly and wildly wide of the mark in either explaining how Americans have made and interpreted their laws for at least the last fifty years, and arguably long before that. CRT might have been useful as a historical frame for interpreting the Jim Crow era, but even then it fails to provide any sort of reasonable account of the 14th Amendment and Reconstruction. But CRT is not a theory about the Jim Crow era: it is a theory about the present. Its pretense, as Pollak accurately says, is that the Civil Rights Movement was hollow and that we continue to live in a nation the laws of which are pervasively racist.Of course, there are few theories aggressively disdainful of American society, however manifestly absurd, that lack a cheering section in contemporary academe. So “critical race theory” does now have a place in the curriculum. Indeed, it is now widely taught in law schools and in some undergraduate programs. That doesn’t make it any less absurd. It just specifies what kind of absurdity it is: an academic one, brought to us originally by a radical Harvard law professor and sustained by faculty members committed to the promotion of grievance ideology. And given academic racial politics, it is more or less exempt from “critical thinking,” serious academic criticism, or the simple scorn which is its rightful due."
From 2012

How votes for all (including non-citizens) devalues the vote

It seems there're quite a few people who believe that voting eligibility should depend not on your citizenship, but simply on whether or not you pay taxes.

So a country's permanent residents and even those with work visas should be allowed to vote.

Some might even extend this to illegal immigrants - and even illegal immigrants who don't pay income taxes, since sales taxes are also taxes (furthermore, I cannot imagine the young, the unemployed and the elderly, most of whom will not be paying income tax, being denied the right to vote based on their not paying income taxes).

The logic, presumably, is that if you live in a country and contribute to its financial well-being, you deserve to have a say in what your tax dollars are used for - and ultimately the future of the country, since you live in it. This is a further step in the argument that foreigners should get just as many benefits as citizens and permanent residents (see: Citizens and Permanent Residents vs Foreigners for why they shouldn't, even for benefits) and in the end, leaves even less distinction between citizens and non-citizens than ever. Coincidentally (or maybe not), I saw this proposal being floated in relation to the topic of Brexit, and this is by no means a fringe proposition - in the UK the Labour Party tried a version of this, and attempted to allow EU nationals to vote in UK general elections.

Besides the various other problems with this proposal (for one, those proposing it tend to favour open borders, and for another it's pretty easy to see how this is a cynical attempt to flood the electorate with new voters who'll support left-wing policies), without the right to vote, the only reasons one might want to become a citizen, then, are national pride, consular assistance and possibly protection from being deported in extremis. Then again, to liberals, in developed countries nationalism isn't kosher (note that only developed countries would ever consider giving non-citizen the vote), they are against deporting people and for all we know they would want non-citizen residents to benefit from consular assistance too. On reflection, though, if you believe national borders are obsolete, there's no reason you would want any distinction between citizens and non-citizens.

More fundamentally, this proposal devalues voting by tying it purely to economics rather than higher concepts of belonging and nationhood. This is ironic given that the left has traditionally sniffed at arguments predicated on economics.

Someone objected that investor visas are already tied to economics, in the sense that you can "buy" a visa, which a few years later can give you citizenship and thus the right to vote, but at least in theory spending money is not enough - you're supposed to *invest* it. And then, in the UK for example (since this is the country in whose context this objection came up), for the visa to remain effective, you need to show that you have earned income from your investment, which means you're not simply buying it.

Besides which, the citizenship arising from the investment visa is both a second order effect (not a direct consequence of the visa) and time delayed (you can only get citizenship after a few years on the visa), which means one cannot sensibly call investor visas tying the vote to economics. Practically speaking too, investor visas are so hard to get that the effect on the franchise is not going to be significant - even if one waits around to get one's citizenship. This is in contrast to giving all taxpayers voting rights.

Related posts:

Citizens and Permanent Residents vs Foreigners
Why giving the young more votes has implications you will not like

Links - 20th December 2019 (1) (WeWork)

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Wednesday's business with Dominic O'Connell - "[On WeWork] 'Fear of missing out. Fund managers dive into these stocks because they are worried that one of them might be the next Google, Amazon - whatever it is. And there's a lot of money. There's a lot of cheap and easy money around'
'Well Dominic, you said that about Slack as well and they did a direct listing... It's down about 30% from its direct listing price. I think the point with WeWork is that some of the things you've seen in the prospectus are so wildly absurd and unusual that fund managers, who are naturally going to be cautious about the money that they are responsible for are going to take a skeptical view of it. I mean changing human consciousness might be an admirable goal for the Dalai Lama, but for a company with a long track record of burning cash and asking for much more it's maybe not the top priority"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Wednesday's business with Dominic O'Connell - "‘The name of the game, you know, going back to the very earliest pioneers in Silicon Valley has always been that these companies lose money in the name of growth. But that doesn't mean that every company losing any amount of money for as long as they want in the name of growth is the same thing. When Uber went public, there were tons of Uber investors who got up saying this is the next Amazon, everyone criticized, that Amazon lost money too. But if you compare the actual companies at their time of IPO, they're very different stories. Amazon lost money until it dominated a core market and then used that dominant position in that market, which was profitable, to then expand into other areas and invest in what it's doing. Uber on the other hand, is losing more and more money, quarter after quarter. Its growth is slowing, which is the big thing you can't do if you're going to lose this much money. And there is no end to this money losing in sight. And it hasn't even dominated its core market. You compare something like Amazon, which you know, rivals only a company like Walmart in its ecommerce dominance. Uber isn't even the most dominant ride sharing company in China, which is the biggest rideshareing company on earth. And it utterly failed. And what it said it was existential which was getting into autonomous vehicles, because they attempted to steal billions in trade secrets from Google to get there. I mean, two companies couldn't be more different in terms of focus, execution and having a plan
‘Where do you think WeWork fits into this range of companies? Is it more of an Uber or more of an Amazon?’
‘Well, if there's such a thing, it is a more extreme Uber than Uber. It’s hard for everyone to believe. I mean, it is losing more money. It has a worse business model that's based on you know, short term loans and real estate and things that could fluctuate at any moment. On top of that WeWork has even worse corporate governance than Uber did. Remember, one of the big complaints with Uber was this sort of untouchable base of Alpha Bros. And the fact that the founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick controlled the whole board. Well, the company had to get rid of that structure in order to go public. WeWork still has that structure and arguably is more corrupt. Most of the headlines we've seen about investors rejecting this deal haven't actually been about lousy business model and losing money. It's been about how bad the corporate governance is’"

WeWork is a prime example of 'counterfeit capitalism' - "WeWork describes itself as offering the '"space-as-a-service" membership model that offers the benefits of a collaborative culture, the flexibility to scale workspace up and down as needed and the power of a worldwide community, all for a lower cost." In other words, the company sublets office space... The old business model, in case it's not obvious from this McKinsey-ified chart, had been to make stupid graphics to show investors in hopes that they give ex-CEO Adam Neumann more money. The new business model will be to beg investors to give money to the new co-CEOs, who will radically change the company by wearing suits to investor presentations instead of ill-fitting t-shirts... The company is losing an enormous amount of money and has no path to profitability at scale... Neumann was an untested CEO with an unlimited line of credit. As I read more stories about him, I noticed reporters dance around his personality. They call him "quirky," "charismatic," "unorthodox," and so forth. These are code words for something else. Consider a few descriptions of how he and his family behaved. His wife, a New Age guru who was the chief impact officer, would fire employees because she "didn't like their energy." They banned employee expensing of meals with meat (employees later saw Neumann eating meat)... Mass layoffs followed by an expensive alcohol fueled party hosted by a celebrity reflects a problematic leadership style, to put it mildly. Neumann paired poor judgment with self-dealing. By now the story of Neumann's corruption is well-known; he has pulled roughly $700 million from the company, owns buildings personally he leases to WeWork, and flies around on private jets... I don't think there's a better example than [WeWork] of using philanthropy as moral cleanser. It is something Anand Giridharadas has written about as a pivotal element of modern capitalism.
Clickbait title aside, this is a good summary of how market discipline exposed WeWork. Apparently VCs throwing their money away is supposed to show that capitalism is broken. And the complaints about predatory pricing don't hold water either, since apart from Amazon and Walmart the other companies have not succeeded in dominating their markets (and anyway both have maintained their low prices despite having market power)
This is a good example of CSR as marketing tool - and why we should be skeptical about it

With WeWork and Theranos, line between charm and fraud doesn't exist - "The brand era manufactured the notion that inanimate objects could take on animate characteristics. Objects and companies could be personified — likable, young, cool, patriotic. Corporate comms execs began to scale the charisma and vision of the founder. Overpromise and underdeliver has become a means for access to cheap capital ("We'll have a million autonomous Teslas on the road within 12 months"). You could fake it till you make it. The lines between charm, vision, bullsh*t, and fraud have become so narrow as to be one line.The MDMA of capitalism is the corporate communications exec. According to LinkedIn, there are more corporate comms personnel working for Bezos at Amazon (969) than journalists working for Bezos at the Washington Post (798). When firms are still searching for a viable business model, the temptation to go full yogababble gets stronger, as the truth (numbers, business model, EBITDA) needs concealer... we looked at the S-1 language of a bunch of tech firms and made a qualitative assessment of the level of bullsh*t. Then we looked at their performance one year post-IPO. We believe there is an inverse correlation that may be a forward-looking indicator for a firm's share performance... Adam Neumann's real innovation, so far, is cooking a drug that appears to have no hangover or side effects. WeChrist shat in the punch bowl. People in hazmat suits showed up, gave him $700 million, and asked him to leave — they'll take it from here and try to clean up his mess. Mr. Neumann wasn't fired, he was liberated. The con artist formerly known as Adam is leaving with more money ($700 million) than the firm is currently worth."

WeWork and the rise and fall of fauxtech - "the definition of “tech” has been stretched, geographically and epistemologically, like a linguistic rubber band by louche self-promoters like the WeWork founder. WeWork’s S-1 uses the term “technology” 93 times. The company went as far as leasing space in Salesforce Tower for a “West Coast headquarters” where it houses its own software engineers and designers, developing what it calls “purpose-built technology” to run its locations. It even hired a YouTube veteran, Shiva Rajaraman, to run this operation, giving it the reputation-by-resume veneer investors look for. Let’s get this straight: WeWork is a real estate company. It rents offices and desks. It does so on more flexible contract terms than most traditional landlords, which startups find appealing and, increasingly, so do larger companies... It’s easy to see why entrepreneurs desperately try to spin their businesses as tech. Investable cash is sloshing around the world, trying to find a home where it will grow in value. Some of that lands in venture capital and private-equity funds, which have to put it to work... losing money doesn’t magically turn a food or finance operation into tech. I’ve argued before about why we need to stop parroting problematic terms like “platforms” that serve to obfuscate what companies actually do. Airbnb rents out homes. Uber provides rides. Twitter lets strangers mock you on the internet. Before you call something “tech,” try stating its real business in plain English. If we had refused to accept WeWork as anything but a real estate play from the get-go — if the private-money marketplace had rejected collective delusion — the company would be smaller today. Perhaps even profitable. It wouldn’t be a tech company. But isn’t that better than being a laughingstock?"

WeWork and the Great Unicorn Delusion - The Atlantic - "Neumann insisted that WeWork change its name to the We Company, a title he had already trademarked, thus allowing him to charge his own company nearly $6 million for the shotgun rechristening... If you wake up on a Casper mattress, hail a Lyft to get to your desk at WeWork, use DoorDash to order lunch to the office, hail another Lyft home, and have Uber Eats bring you dinner, you have spent your entire day interacting with companies that will collectively lose nearly $13 billion this year. Most have never announced, and may never achieve, a profit... What investors and founders may characterize at conferences as an aggressive campaign of global expansion reads as something very different on a simple profit-and-loss statement: ridiculously huge losses... the media-tech frontier has closed, and many investors are looking for the next mountain to scale. In the past two years, the so-called FAANGs— Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google—have seen their price-earnings ratios collapse by more than 60 percent; big tech companies are now trading near their lowest multiples in history"
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