Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thrones Props Oops

For those eager to get a giggle at the expense of our most recent former President – or those wishing to rail against the bias of the Fourth Estate – the Jaded Consumer offers a link to this apology from HBO for the appearance of the former president's severed head in a scene in its popular series Game of Thrones.

The explanation from the producers is actually more along the lines of quality control than vitriol:
What happened was this: we use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can't afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush.
from io9 (with photo)
The head is depicted from the rear left quarter, and has a very different hairstyle than one would have associated with George W. Bush. But the rented head's profile is definitely the ex-President. One would think that images of famous personages would be covered in the contracts between the studio and its suppliers. Enough mistakes like this with a sitting President might result in a visit from the Secret Service. Mistakes along these lines involving people who are controversial for different reasons could easily result in trouble with sponsors.

It's hard to imagine a famous living personage's image being delivered in a bulk rental of miscellaneous parts. Ahh, well.

Now back up and compare the United States to a lot of foreign nations. Isn't it nice to live someplace where this kind of thing doesn't result in summary execution? What a country!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anti-Obama Site Gets Rhetoric Backward

On Yolohub is a page listing what purport to be 70 Facts Obama Doesn't Want You To Know. But the authors didn't think particularly carefully about their list. Consider this list item:
93 - The United States now ranks 93rd in the world in income inequality.
Income inequality has been cited as a link to numerous ills. It is associated with literal ills such as population health performance metrics. It is also thought linked to metaphorical ills such as the social cancer of inherited class, the meaning of liberty – "free" to live under a bridge or to be evicted by a jury of one's peers? – and the practicality of the social mobility that defines the classless society and makes possible our meritocratic fantasies. Income disparity is part of the problem the United States faces with its (laughable) health policy and (absent) health services allocation model.

But why would Obama be concerned about Americans learning that the United States ranks 93rd in income inequality? Disparity between the haves and have-nots is a classic Democratic concern and, if elevated to a frontline issue, could easily be spun to get him re-elected. As a longtime consumer of political propaganda from both parties, I must give that list item an F.

What exactly was the author of that page thinking in including income disparity rankings in a list of things the President would want concealed?

There may be perfectly good reasons to vote against the President in the next election – and room to argue that policies supported by the President work against American enterprise and American quality of life – but the mere fact of income disparity is not traditionally a reason for the public to turn on Democrats. Income disparity was (unsuccessfully) raised as a reason to vote against Bush, and it is now being used in headlines calculated to embarrass the Republican's nominee in the next election. Income disparity – by itself, without elaboration of policy argument – is a Democratic issue Obama would prefer people heard about.

Whether the Democratic Party have a policy with the capacity to improve income disparity is, naturally, another matter entirely.

Economics and Warfare

Recently I was approached in my day-job capacity to provide services to a munitions and military technology startup. I hadn't appreciated the growing nature of the arms and tactical training industries before familiarizing myself with the client's operations, but it made the next news link much less surprising:

A Russian vessel carrying war matériel to Syria made an about-face when its insurer "informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage". War profiteers require profit to thrive, but big capital investments like ships aren't trivially risked.

Bravo for capitalism, without which a private insurer could not have halted a genocide-supporting arms shipment. Under the Soviet regime, there would have been no insurer: a government-owned vessel would have been delivering government property on behalf of the government. Say what you will about the thugocracy in Russia, the ugly side of capitalism is still capitalism.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taliban Bars Vaccines Over Drone Strikes

According to a new press release, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan demand that American drone strikes halt or polio vaccines will be denied to civilians subject to their control. This curious threat – linking disease eradication in the Taliban's own backyard to American military behavior – continues a common theme of Islamofascists* that recently included the poisoning of 160 schoolgirls because they committed the offense of being girls seeking education. The basic premise of the Islamofascist movement is understood fairly clearly once it is evident that the health and education of the population are less valuable to the movement's proponents than the solidification of their military despotism.

The principal difference between Afghanistan and Iran in this is that Iran spent a few years unable to make spare parts for US-made military equipment, and learned the value of engineers (and thus schools) to the movement.

* Islamofascism may not be a word, but is intended to describe a brand of fascism conducted in advancement of a strain of purported Islamism that includes doctrinaire claims of a religious right to operate a despotic police state that oppresses contrary elements by declaring them religiously forbidden and thus subject to reprisal on religious grounds without need of courts, due process, or even evidence. Iran has offered an example of Islamofascism for several decades, and now supports genocide in Syria to prevent the threat of successful Islamic democracy.