Who’s Stopping Thorium?

“Too good to be true”. I think we all have an innate suspicion of stories that sound like the stories about the possibilities of thorium.

Scientists discover an abundant, cheap chemical element that can produce energy safer and more reliably than any other substance. It doesn’t produce ugly by-products that can be used in bombs. It doesn’t produce emissions. It can be used in numerous small reactors that can be buried in the ground and managed remotely. It’s will be so cheap, they won’t bother to meter the electricity.

We used to hear this kind of talk about nuclear energy. Thanks to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now Fukushima, we don’t now.

Anyone my age or older probably remembers hearing about some amazing carburetor developed secretly by General Motors that could give cars incredible fuel mileage, but which was suppressed by GM and the oil industry and the government, for obvious reasons.

I’m not saying definitively that there never was such a carburetor. And I would never say it wasn’t likely that the oil industry– if they could– would have suppressed it. I’m skeptical that if such a device really were possible, that someone else somewhere else (India? China? Japan?) would have not have developed it as well, and we’d know about it. Almost every brilliant innovation in industry was developed in fits and starts in many different locations by many different people. There is almost no invention of which you could say, without this particular person, it would never have happened.  [Skeptical?  Check out most of Thomas Edison’s “inventions”: almost all of the important ones, and almost all of the unimportant ones, were being worked on elsewhere at about the same time– or even before!]

Any reasonable, well-informed person would immediately conclude that thorium is all pie in the sky. If it were true, we don’t doubt, nobody could have stopped it. The benefits are too wildly important. China or India would have developed it. Come on…

So, when I read about thorium, that’s what I ask myself. If it was really as good as claimed, is it really possible that it would have been resisted.

If it’s possible to believe that, here is why: to develop an efficient, effective thorium reactor, you need to invest billions of dollars and years of research and development. No individual researcher can hope to prove that thorium is viable by himself. But to get the kind of funding you need to prove it, you need the collaboration of the powers that be– the Senators and Congressmen who are all arguably in the pockets of billion dollar industries– oil and conventional nukes, and the military-industrial complex.

The military-industrial complex rejected thorium because it did not produce, as a byproduct, the plutonium needed to develop weapons of mass destruction. Hyman Rickover, who ruled the U.S. nuclear energy program in all of it’s facets, wanted that deadly plutonium very badly. He wanted the U.S. to be able to kill millions of people if it had to. It if really, really had to. Because it would never do so if it didn’t really, really have to.

So we got thousands of nuclear missiles and bombs, enough to kill the entire world over and over and over again until no possibility of human life existed ever again. And our lousy, dangerous nuclear power plants.

When I think of it that way, I don’t think you’d have to be especially paranoid to conclude that it is quite possible that thorium really is at least as promising as it’s proponents say.

You would have to believe that the powers that be, for understandable reasons, stopped it.

Now, in the realm of understandable reasons, the most understandable is self-interest.

You also have to understand that as promising as Thorium is, it would take years and years and billions of dollars to develop it… precisely what was invested in uranium instead, because the U.S., leading the way, decided it needed nuclear bombs more badly than public safety. Ditto the Soviet Union.

So why, in the face of global warming, isn’t it being promoted today? Well, it is, in India and China. Stay tuned.


Read this and tell me it doesn’t sound too good to be true.   Is there a downside we don’t know about?   Wiki on Thorium.

Wired on Thorium

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to believe that the oil and nuclear industries would both stop at nothing to prevent development of thorium reactors.

Indeed, India now does have a thorium reactor development project under way, and China appears to be working on one.

Some skeptics, at least, argue against thorium because … well, why?  Because we’re already here is why.

In the U.S., Senators Harry Reid (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) have co-sponsored a bill that would allocate $250 million to the Department of Energy for  research into thorium reactors.

The primary challenge, they say, is that the special containers for the thorium can degrade due to exposure to radiation and salt.  It will take some research to find a solution.

It’s in the nature of new, promising technologies that proponents exaggerate, in their minds, the benefits, and minimize the challenges.


Molten Salt Reactor

The Perfect Car

To me, you are just perfect.

My dream car. At least, when I was 14, this is the car I dreamed of. I saw a dark, maroon version of it in a movie once– I forget which one. Probably some kind of spy film. I remember that it was occupied by a very large, bald man and he was coming to kill the hero. He wasn’t the real bad guy– just a henchman. That’s the car I dreamed of owning some day.

I saw this in an ad a few years ago. I suddenly realized that, if I had really wanted to, I could have bought it right then and there. It was about $14K.

Anywhere, here, for my own personal contemplation, the actual car.  Fourteen thousand dollars.  I could have bought it, but I’m old and more sense than that.


Identity Theft

Some notes on property rights and identity, from an article in the New York Times, March 28, 2011

Ownership of a person’s identity after death is regulated by the states. Each one does it differently. In New York all such rights expire upon death. So, because Marilyn Monroe was legally a resident of New York State when she died, any one can use her likeness or identity for any purpose.

You can’t use Einstein’s likeness or identity without permission, and without paying a fee.

There is no legal mechanism by which a person who disdained endorsements in his or her own life can prevent others from selling their name or image after death. Too bad Chaplin, Hendrix, Einstein. If Einstein had expressly declared in his will that he didn’t want his face and name to be used to hock automobiles– too bad. It’s like the courts would have nullified his wish.

Guess what– the right of publicity is taxable. So the heirs of a famous person’s property may have to sell those rights simply to pay the taxes on the value of those rights. That seems very wrong. The law essentially seems to require that a person’s good name and image be despoiled.

In fact, that seems repellent. Are the courts actually insisting the government has the right demand the commercial exploitation of deceased celebrities, because, that, in fact appears to be the case. (Unless the tax only kicks in if the property is sold. That actually makes more sense. The Times article was not clear on the point.)

Did you know that it is accepted tenet of will law that a person cannot demand the destruction of property or assets in his or her will?

Well, he or she can “demand it”, but courts will generally rule against it.


On “Book of Mormon” by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Some connected with the production have been monitoring the reaction of the Mormons, but so far, the church has put out one bland statement, and some Mormons who have seen the show told reporters they were pleasantly surprised. At least it doesn’t dwell on polygamy, they said, and its ribald humor seems braced by traditional values and affection for the Mormon characters. NY Times March 27, 2011

Braced by “traditional values”?

From Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the authors of “South Park”? Well, yeah, I suspected as much.

You might think that the creators of an animated series that famously uses every expletive in the book and has an unhealthy fetish for excrement might be rather liberal on social, if not economic, issues.

But Stone and Parker’s secret is that they believe that swearing really is transgressive, and that’s why I think they think it’s really so funny, and never stops being funny, to them, even after the 25,487th time.

I have no idea of why they thought “Team America: World Police” would be funny to anybody. Sometimes people forget what happens when you parody something that is already a parody of itself, like Sean Penn, or Michelle Bachman, or Kim Jong Il. You look clumsy and mean. Which characteristics of Kim Jong Un are you going to exaggerate for comic effect? That he actually believes that for all the ranting and raving from America he could count on America doing absolutely nothing to stop him, even as he starved his own people to death? Because there is no oil under North Korea? Let’s make fun of him. Let’s have him try to get a nuclear bomb, knowing full well that only an insanely amoral and psychotic country would ever use one.

And the parodies of Hollywood liberals might have been funnier if Parker and Stone were not equally amusing as heartland redneck conservatives who know better than Hollywood liberals because, geez, Dick Cheney says these guys are really bad– are you stupid or what? Don’t you know that there really are bad people out there? Don’t you know that global warming is a hoax?

It’s not that there isn’t some amusement to be had at the expense of Hollywood liberals who believe that making a serious movie with Denzel Washington in it qualifies as enlightened or progressive. But it’s not as funny as Stone and Parker think it is because the underlying progressive outlook doesn’t look much worse than their own smug right-wing attitudes, as when they mocked Al Gore for believing that there was such a thing as “global warming”.

It may well have been the worst, least interesting movie I saw that year. Why or why doesn’t someone do a parody of the kind of humour that relies on bodily function jokes for a cheap laugh whenever they realize that their political or social commentary has become dull and lifeless?

In earlier South Park episodes, which were funny and original at times, a character would sometimes voice the moral of the story at the end in a clever, self-mocking tone, as if Stone and Parker were just too cool to not be self-mocking. I suspect they’re not, really.

And there was implied sex…

The language was also very offensive, and there was also implied sex. From a Christian point of view, I was very, very disappointed. My Ratings: [1½/3]  —Annie, age 21

From www.Christiananswers.net, a review of the film “The American President”.

Jeter’s Batting Stroke

The idea that Derek Jeter can somehow shorten his stroke or change his batting stance in order to restore some of his lost effectiveness is ridiculous.

Baseball players, like most athletes, achieve success by optimizing every aspect of their game until they are competitive with the best athletes in the world in their sport. This happens in their late teens and early 20’s. By the age of 30, most athletes are in decline.

There is nothing for Jeter to find in his batting stroke or his stance, or his head, or his diet, or his preparation, or his discipline, or anything. Jeter lost his real effectiveness years ago. Like Cal Ripken, he was allowed to trade his moderately decent offensive skills for a few more cycles in the field and the illusion of defense. The illusion of defense is easy. Nobody knows if you should have had that runner at first but didn’t because you were too slow, or your arm was too weak. Nobody knows if you should have reached that ground ball to the left that got through. Nobody knows if you should have been able to turn that double play. All the average fan knows if whether or not you fumbled the ball, or if you got a hit. Even mediocre shortstops can catch most of the balls they can reach.

Because I am a Blue Jays fan, I hope the Yankees do everything they can to gratify the peanut galleries and keep Jeter out there, day after day after day, at shortstop. I promise you: he will come out of his slump if you give enough at bats.

Blue Jays fans understand the difference a less famous but more talented defensive player can be: Devon White replacing Lloyd Moseby. It was a revelation. I didn’t know balls hit into the alleys could be caught.

That said– please don’t come back at me with “well, Jeter’s having a pretty good season, isn’t he? The adjustment worked.” Jeter had a sub-par season last year. Most players who have a sub-par season– like most teams that have a sub-par season– will bounce back to some extent. That won’t change the essential equation: Jeter’s defensive effectiveness is long gone, and .280 with 18 homes runs won’t obviate the Yankees’ need for a new shortstop.

I would also bet that long-time, faithful Yankee fans will be a little startled when the new kid gets to play. Habituated to Jeter, they will be a bit surprised to see ground balls that they thought were going through snatched up and turned into outs.

Update September 2011: as you may have noticed Jeter has brought his batting average up to a respectable .290 or so. However, he still only has 4 home runs, and not much else to show for it. So, essentially, my assessment here holds.

Other exhausted talents: I’m glad to see Tampa Bay struggling after signing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Had the Blue Jays signed either of them, I would have been seriously depressed.

The Blue Jays 2011 version have a respectable club. Everything depends on which way the talent breaks: they have a lot of young players, especially starting pitchers, who could be fabulous, or merely good. Romero, Murrow, Cecil, and Drabek — nobody knows if these are tomorrow’s stars or tomorrow’s 4th and 5th starters on average teams.

They play in what continues to be the toughest division in baseball, a disproportionate share of their games against three of the best teams in the American League. According to baseball writers, Boston will win the World Series, the New York Yankees will struggle with Tampa Bay for the wild card, and even the Orioles are ready to move up. So the Blue Jays, in 2011, are up against four of the best teams in baseball.

I’m appreciative of the fact. The Jays are entertaining to watch lately. But they are up against a few very good, very well-financed teams, so I doubt they will finish any higher– or lower– than 3rd, again. And again. And again.

Their only real hope is that Boston and the Yankees have serious pitching problems– and they might.

The American League Eastern Division is probably, this year, the division of death.

3000 Hits

3000 hits, by the way, is really remarkable but not for the reasons most people think it is: what is remarkable is that these players– decent hitters, all– were so successful in avoiding serious injuries. You have to be good to get 3000 hits but you also have to be pretty lucky. Chances are pretty good that there are more than a few hitters with 2000 career hits or less who were actually better players than Derek Jeter… when they weren’t injured.

1960’s Princesses

Among all the princesses and all the mermaids and all the goddesses of late 60’s popular culture, she may well have been the most entrancing: Michelle Phillips, fine-featured, blonde, green eyes.

She married John Phillips at 18. Aesthetic member of the Mamas and the Papas. Inspiration for “California Dreaming”. Sang backup for Leonard Cohen on one of his tours, 1970. Married, briefly, to Dennis Hopper, one of the few genuine psychos of all the Hollywood psychos.

And married again and again: five times.


“Go Where You Want to Go” is a slight song, typical of the John Phillips’ Mamas and Papas: melodic, cleverly-arranged, and ephemeral. And pretty and alluring like Michelle’s face– you wonder and hope there’s something rich and satisfying beneath that pouty face.

The haunting parts of the song are the voices of the girls, Michelle and Cass:

You’ve been gone a week, And I tried so hard
Not to be the crying kind
Not to be the girl you left behind

Actually, the really haunting part is the “with whomever”:

You gotta go where you want to go
Do what you want to do
With whomever you want to do it with…

Listen carefully– I hear something authentic in the yearning voices on that line.

Cass was in love with Denny Doherty but he did not reciprocate, and Denny and Michelle had an affair a year or so after this song was recorded and she was kicked out of the band in June 1966 for a few months (that’s how you fire your wife. Note that Denny was not kicked out of the band.)

Is that what we also hear in Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, the insinuations of real desire, real longing into the voices? She returned to the group at the end of August in the same year and dubbed over her replacement’s vocals. To this day, no one is quite sure which vocals on “The Mamas and the Papas” are hers and which are Jill Gibson’s.

Barry McGuire called Cass Elliot a “stallion”. She must have rued the cruelty of fate putting such a monumental voice and hunger into a package that was not Michelle Phillips– oh, life is unfair!

Or just real sadness, as you, as Neil Young put it, “try to make arrangements with yourself”. That’s a pretty good description of 20-somethings trying to manage their lives– the components of happiness are often there, circulating, waiting, not-waiting, hesitating. Sometimes holding out to see if something better might come along. The movie “St. Elmo’s Fire”, frustratingly, took the raw material of poignancy and ambivalence and turned it into melodrama and sentimentality and mush and I almost feel haunted by the potential for something interesting in the elements they placed before us and failed to deliver on. “Once”, on a smaller scale, delivers more, because there are no fireworks but real unresolved urges, missed opportunities, and uncertainties.

Hollywood loves to blueprint relationships for us. In real life, as in “Once”, it may not be clear to us where a relationship might or should end.

Michelle is the last surviving member of the band. Cass Elliot– she of the voice as beautiful in sound as Michelle’s face in light– died of a heart attack in London at age 33 after three “stand-out” performances at the Palladium in July 1974. John Phillips burned himself out, deep into drugs and alcohol and waste, and died of heart failure in 2001. Denny Doherty died in Toronto of an illness January 19, 2007.

The TV record, now strung out on Youtube, is cruel: most of their performances seem to be lip-synched. Their opportunity to shine at Monterrey with their signature song, “California Dreamin'”, was fatally marred by a lack of preparation and massive drug abuse: it’s one of the most disappointing live performances of an important song by a successful pop group ever. You can’t hide the embarrassment. Most of the video archives simply dub the studio recording over it.

But it wasn’t their most preposterous live performance ever– that came on “Hullabaloo”, with go-go girls popping out of bathtubs, and the band visibly ridiculing the dance moves.

John woke Michelle up in the middle of the night in New York City in 1963, I think it was, because he had a great idea for a song and needed her help to finish it. She has admitted that she basically just wrote down the words for him, and chords, and maybe helped with a few phrases, for which she, nevertheless, still receives a healthy income: the song was “California Dreamin'” of course. The first two lines– and the hook– “California dreamin'” made the song what it is:

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey
I’ve been for a walk on winter’s day

The distilled moment of 20-something ennui and disconsolate self-absorption. Think of those lines when you’re young and maybe in love and maybe not and maybe you could do better and maybe not and the evening didn’t go all that well and you’re not sure if maybe you shouldn’t move on and try some other future and all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey… and the wind is blowing your hair and the leaves and you feel such delicious desolation that it’s almost tragic, and it’s definitely deep, and you feel alive.

In the early 1960’s– nobody seems to have a definite date– The Mamas and the Papas went to the Bahamas to work on their music and ran out of money. Desperate, they went to a casino and Michelle threw 17 straight winners at craps to get them enough money to fly back to New York.

It is remarkable that they resisted the temptation to continue betting.

The essential dynamic of gambling is this: when you are losing, you will keep trying to win back what you lost, believing that your luck is likely to change for the better. When you are winning, you will feel lucky, and human nature will drive you to want to win more and more and more.

The inviolable statistical fact about gambling is that the longer you gamble while winning, the more inevitable it is that you will eventually lose everything you won, and more.

That’s why it is so astonishing that John Phillips decided to quit while they were ahead and use their winnings to fly back to New York.

Want to get rich? Own a casino.

In 1967, Cass Elliot had a child– out of wedlock — , a daughter. She refused to identify the father.


Republicans and Military Service

I have observed many, many times how the most militaristic Republicans seem to have almost never actually served in the military–John McCain being a notable exception– but then, real Republicans still don’t like him.

Someone told me that Ronald Reagan served. I couldn’t believe it so I checked. By golly, it’s true. Reagan was a captain… eventually… in the cavalry! And then in the Army Air Force Motion Picture division.

He never left California, except to go to New York to raise war bonds. But then, during election campaigns, he seemed to remember events from the movies as if they had really happened. Or maybe he realized that he was in a movie, about a long-ago, far-away, dreamy America of white picket fences and crime-free small towns… and look– there’s Opie.

Suggestion for Democrats: try to add an amendment to any bill that takes away collective bargaining rights that no executive or manager with the same organizations, institutions, or companies, can earn more than 4 times the highest wage of the lowest-paid 25% of employees.

Censorship: Republicans Win Again– “The UnQuiet Americans”

The US release of this movie was delayed for more than a year by the terrorist attacks on the USA of 11 September 2001. The producers were concerned that it would be seen as anti-American. [IMDB Trivia on “The Quiet American” (2002)]

Think about that. In America, the free, the land of liberty, where we don’t censor the media, where people are not imprisoned for their thoughts– well, they didn’t used to be–, and which never tires of singing their patriotic hymns, a movie about American involvement in Viet Nam was held out of the theatres and almost shelved completely because it would be seen as anti-American.

A number of thoughts spring to mind.

1. Did the producers (Miramax) believe that, given the right time and place, the film would not be seen as anti-American?

2. Isn’t the entire point of the film that American involvement in Viet Nam was a disaster, for democracy, for freedom, for humanity? Isn’t pointing out the hypocrisy of American values in this particular historical situation sort of “anti-American”?

3. Can’t Americans take criticism? Well, not all of them. The Republicans and the Texas State School Board would basically like to just shut those critics up, purge them from our school books and legislatures, and ban them from the airwaves.

4. Why is Miramax, a private company, cow-towing to this minority opinion?

I don’t actually believe that most Americans support the idea of banning a film because some segments of the population simply don’t want to hear criticism of U.S. attitudes (because “The Quiet American” is more than criticism of policy: it’s criticism of attitude). But that minority who do support the idea can screech very, very loudly. That’s why the Republicans have been winning so many battles with Obama lately: they just start screeching.

I just read today a commentary about movies: did you know that almost all of the nominees for best foreign film at this year’s Oscars dealt thoughtfully with the subject of the clash of values between Moslem and Western communities?

And not a single nominee for Best Picture did. Even the recent films, like “The Hurt Locker”, that dealt indirectly with Islam didn’t bother to explore Islam very much at all.

Elizabeth Warren

This is code. This article (linked in my left column) about Elizabeth Warren, the real deal, a government official who actually wants to help people and enforce fair regulations on industry, is designed to enlighten the Republican guard while sailing over the heads of the average tax-payer, mortgage-owner, working stiff. Boehner will get it. James Dobson will get it. Someone will explain it to Sarah Palin. George Bush will see it and say to himself, “one of these days we should really do something for the little guy. Well, maybe next time.” People in the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the FBI will get it. Obama is now a genuine threat.

What Elizabeth Warren is doing is standing in the way of this continual process of extracting maximum wealth from working people and transferring it to wealthy investors and executives with large corporations and banks. This process has been going very, very smoothly since 1975. It’s not a conspiracy really: just a lot of smart people who are quite astute about how their interests are served. They are not served by interfering with the bank’s abilities to extort as much money as possible from mortgage owners who have already been nearly bled dry the last round of bamboozlement.

So the banks have long known that credit cards, with their virtually unregulated systems of fees, charges, usurious interest rates, obfuscation and confusion, are a massive profit center, while sober, serious, thoughtful mortgages are merely profitable. What if you could apply the same kind of skullduggery used the suck consumers dry on credit cards to mortgages? Extraneous fees? Check. Hidden charges? Check. Bait and switch interest rates? Check.

It’s not a conspiracy in a formal sense. It’s really very simple: if you are a banker or investor or businessman (no no — I’m an entrepreneur!) , you just call your congressman, inform him that as a civic-minded individual you’d like to make a contribution to his re-election campaign, his PAC, or his “leadership foundation” or whatever it’s disguised as, and you’d like to have lunch some time to chat about some issues that “are important to Americans”, that are “related to prosperity and a healthy business environment”, that will “encourage investment”, and “strengthen our democracy”.

You talk about excessive government regulation, like, say, some crazy bill that makes it difficult for banks to offer low cost mortgages to people without the wherewithal to sustain a mortgage of outsized proportions. This bill will deprive tens of thousands of lower-income families of the thrill of owning a home– and indentured servanthood!

You might even suggest the language to put into the bill. Why not? You’re paying for it. Have lawyers come up with a few phrases.

But now you have Elizabeth Warren, who is on to you. And who asks, why are the large corporations and banks allowed to prey on unwitting consumers with impunity? The Republicans say, why not? Warren says, an average reasonable person should be able to understand a contract he or she is signing. You’ve tricked people. You’ve ruined lives.

The Republicans will not be shy or tentative about defending these exposed necks, these arteries. They understand fully that if you give even one millimeter, people might think there is something to the implication that they are being cheated. In fact, the Republican strategy has been to respond to challenges by demanding– screeching, really– even more, and wailing about the collapse of American democracy if they don’t get it.

They must look at the concessions made by the unions in Wisconsin– before they were even threatened with decertification– and chortle: that was the big mistake. You might as well have bitten off your own scrotum and offered it to them on a saucer– the Republicans will demand your kneecaps as well.

Is it working? Does it look like Obama is going to offer any bold initiatives anytime soon?

Other than Elizabeth Warren, not much. And she will be gone soon as well. The vampires are circling looking for the slightest weakens. Unfortunately, they will probably find what they need. She is doomed.

It will start with op-ed pieces like the one in the Wall Street Journal. Then there will be sniping from the Fox weasels. Then some “scandal” of sorts, maybe some unhappy underlings reporting that she is bigoted or irrational. She is thin-skinned. She has an agenda.

The most important step will be to delegitamize her by casting her as some kind of “fanatic” or “extremist”. You want to drive her a little crazy first with constant irrational attacks and then hope she loses it for a moment in public. Then you appear, calm, rational, measured, and declare that consumer protection is too important to be entrusted to unbalanced individuals.

No, you don’t want to shoot anybody. That’s not nearly as effective.

2011-09-13 How come I was right? Geez– sometimes I scare myself. The Obama administration has given up trying to give Warren the position she deserves and she is now running for the Senate instead.

With all due respect for Senators, this is a step down, a concession to the ruthless determination of the moneyed classes to have their way with the American consumer. Here she can safely propose as many new regulations and policies as she likes: they will all be killed in committee.

PBS on Elizabeth Warren (Frontline)

The last person to seriously take on the banking / mortgage industry?

Eliot Spitzer.

I predict that Elizabeth Warren will not last out the year.

This just in (March 19):

And thus the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.

NY Times, March 19, 2011

He who shrieks loudest:

How is it done?

Look at NPR’s Vivian Schiller. Why on earth did she resign over the alleged scandal of a fund-raiser who had already resigned expressing his own personal opinions (which he was clear about) about the Tea Party? Why do the Republican’s get hysterical about an NPR fund-raiser having strong opinions about the Republicans while they constantly demonize Democrats, compare Obama to Hitler, and question the legitimacy of his birth? And get away with it? Because they scream louder, more hysterically than anyone else?

Why on earth? What the hell kind of insane country is this?

The Wall Street Journal Talks Jihad


It is striking how the movie “Rango” makes use of the most innovative, daring, cutting-edge technologies to bring you a story that, in most respects, is insipid, boring, and predictable.

Surprise, surprise: it’s nothing more than a remake: Walter Mitty as a lizard, with portions of Chinatown thrown in, along with “A Fistfull of Dollars”. Add in “Puss’n’boots” from Shrek, except now he’s an accordion-player in a Mexican band. The girl, Beans, is not much. She is merely the canvas upon which Rango paints his courage.

There’s a point to that. The adventure seems to take place entirely within Rango’s imagination. It’s makes sense that his imagination has synthesized elements of old movies into a hodgepodge of scenes and incidents that seem disconnected to each other– watch when they suddenly form a posse to go after the water thief.

It’s still disappointing. It’s a moderately interesting rehash of Hollywood kitsch. I just wish someone would put as much effort into developing an original, interesting story and characters as they do into the technology. Boom boom flash flash

This happens consistently, from “Shrek” to “Toy Story” to “Madagascar”.

Rango’s romantic interest, Beans, is “spunky” in that tired, harmless, anesthetized manner of the Disney template: all the important action is carried by the male character, even when he wimps out.

And that is the most tired, depressing moment in the movie: Rango wimps out, trudges off slowly to funereal music, gives up. Well, in the most conventional of American cultural conventions, giving up is the worst sin of all so he must be, he will be, he inevitably will redeem himself, good triumphs, nobody is hurt (Rango never kills anyone), and the threatening horizon of narrative originality is vanquished again.