Collisions

Standard

We’re told that Congress is preparing to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible, and that substantial changes to Social Security and Medicare are to follow. According to one narrative, the action with regard to the ACA is because it’s a terrible failure. According to another, it’s because it was enacted by President Obama, which is reason enough in itself. The latter rationale fails to recognize that the Act was based on a Republican plan enacted in Massachusetts by then governor Mitt Romney, and that it insured 20-30 MILLION citizens who hadn’t previously been able to afford health insurance. Figures on the possible consequences of the repeal suggest that 43 million or more people will lose their health insurance, and that something like three million jobs in conjunction with the Act are likely to be lost.

Does this make sense?

There is one advantage to the repeal: wealthy tax-payers, who are specifically targeted to fund the ACA would gain substantial amounts of money (seven million per person?) when those taxes are repealed, and this demographic is, of course, one of the main Republican constituencies. They have others, less wealthy, but seem not to be overly concerned about them.

Disadvantages, besides the loss of health insurance for many people, include damage to the economy through loss of jobs. Do Republicans (at one time considered the fiscally responsible party) care about this? Or does the advantage to the wealthy through tax repeal make up for any disadvantage?

Republicans assure us that there will be a replacement for the ACA, but I have yet to hear what that might be. One of my friends told me she had faith there would be no repeal without an adequate replacement. I told her I wasn’t as optimistic. After all, Republicans have been talking about repeal ever since the ACA was enacted. Why haven’t they been able to agree on what ought to replace it?

One hypothesis is that they don’t WANT to replace it. That’s the extreme view, the one which believes that resistance to the ACA wasn’t just partisan, but also racist, and part of the class war which few people want to acknowledge, especially Republicans, who are currently winning it.

Class war suggests that the vast majority of those opposing Republican initiatives (not including elites of the Democratic party, whose views are not so very different from Republican elites) are not wealthy, and therefore deserve to be scorned and mistreated. Is that too radical a view? I suggest that repealing the ACA, to say nothing of defunding Social Security and Medicare, are actions radical in the extreme, and will not be approved by very many of America’s citizens. If Republicans actually intend these actions, I think they either believe their point of view is more popular than it is (dubious, considering their enthusiasm for suppressing votes by those they consider unlikely to vote for them), or they don’t care if it’s popular or not. That suggests they’re willing to use violence to enforce their desires.

If that’s the case, they no longer believe in democracy, nor do they wish to any longer protect the democratic republic that elected them to high office.

If the above is true, Republicans are unlikely to admit it, even if that’s what they consciously believe. And of course there are rationales for not continuing to maintain a truly democratic (small d) system.

One party is largely composed of the poor and middle class, who aren’t as responsible as the wealthy. If they were responsible, they’d be wealthy themselves. It’s the wealthy who really have “skin in the game”, which is what really encourages responsibility. If you don’t have substantial amounts of property, you can’t be considered a serious citizen. The Founding Fathers believed that, and the expansion of the franchise since is a perversion of their vision. The wealthy show their responsibility by demanding bailouts when their ventures fail, which is certainly an interesting manifestation.

The Founding Fathers also made provision for the institution of slavery, which means that slavery, or its equivalent, is quite acceptable. In turn, this means that if you’re unable to avoid the equivalent of slavery, you’re irresponsible and ought not to have a vote on any issue that affects the whole nation.

Another reason is that democracy, and particularly the version practiced in the USA may be considered inefficient. That is, it’s extremely difficult to get anything done. That the Founding Fathers designed the system to function in this way is beside the point, and need not interfere with the sanctification of the American way of legislation. It should be noted, though, that the Founders did this because they didn’t want it to be possible to pass legislation too easily. From that could come tyranny. Unfortunately, we’ve discovered that tyranny of sorts can come from blocking the legislation process too.

A third reason is that the capitalist economic system is often seen as equivalent to democracy, though it differs in some important respects. One such is that it doesn’t prohibit taxation without representation, one of the main reasons for the American revolution. Capitalism is largely manifested through large corporations (now legally defined as persons) which are responsible only to their shareholders, and no one else. Anyone objecting to that particular definition of democracy runs the risk of being considered a socialist, which is possibly the most dangerous form of treason, although socialism in the form of the aforementioned bailouts seems to be quite acceptable.

As things are presently constituted, the logical end of the proposed changes is the death of many unnecessary people. One may be defined as unnecessary if one doesn’t fill some important function which also pays extremely well. Such functions are now less common than they used to be, since many industrial jobs have now been automated, and only require programmers in order to produce.

Such workers are most desirable, since they don’t require wages, and never get tired. A certain amount of maintenance is sufficient. This makes it possible for wealthy Americans to castigate the poorer ones for laziness without providing them jobs with which they can actually support their families. The days of self-sufficiency pretty much ended with the steep decline in family farms, partly assisted by legislation that made illegal some of the ways they survived, as well as the advent of factory farms, with which smaller organizations couldn’t compete.

Now nearly everyone is dependent on what the large economic players do, and they are very willing to take advantage of that dependence.

Wendell Berry, the writer who is also a farmer, compares the migration of farmers to the cities in America, which began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th, to the migrations in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The difference, he says, is that in the USA the compulsion was economic, while in Russia it was naked violence.

Considering the alienation of the political class from ordinary Americans, violence of one sort or another is by no means impossible in the near future. Republicans are very comfortable with fulfilling the wishes of wealthy elites at the expense of their other constituents. Democrats may be less comfortable, but don’t object to that role.

The stage seems to be set for a variety of collisions. Let’s hope they don’t damage the country and its citizens too much.

The Next President

Standard

After reviewing Donald Trump’s history, it seems obvious that public service isn’t a major motivator for him. He’s always been ambitious, and has evidently been thinking of running for president as long ago as the late eighties. Not seriously at that time, it seems, since he confined his efforts to commenting on the UN and other issues. At least until Barack Obama became president.

The birther controversy was probably initiated by someone else, but Mr. Trump put his face on it. No doubt Mr. Obama was somewhat annoyed about that, because he struck back. When Trump had scheduled a press conference to talk about it, Obama scheduled one at the same time to show documentation for his place of birth. Footage in the documentary on his life shows the TV crew disappearing and Mr. Trump walking away alone.

Obama didn’t stop there. At a function attended by Trump he joked about the birther controversy at length, and Trump had no choice but to laugh along with the rest of the audience. As the narrator of the documentary commented, what Trump hates most is humiliation. Obama had found a chink in Trump’s armor. But Trump had, the narrator suggested, at that moment decided to run for president himself.

His plan went nowhere in 2012, but we know what happened in 2016.

The documentary showed Trump speaking at what was supposedly his first campaign speech. He practically sniffed the air, tuned into what his audience was feeling, and put that into words. When he got a response he knew where to go from there. One of his advantages was in not appearing scripted–because he wasn’t, most of the time. Another was his ability to move an audience. President Obama has that ability too, but his style is much different: cool and rational vs hot and emotional. But hot and emotional was the winning combination this past year.

A lot of people were angry, and willing to vote for someone who promised change, even if it was questionable change. They weren’t interested in voting for experts telling them things they didn’t want to hear. Telling them she wasn’t Trump wasn’t a good strategy for Hillary Clinton. Especially since a lot of people were skeptical of her, whether they should have been or not.

Narrowly he won. President Obama has been walking a line with him since. On the one hand, vowing to make the transition of power as efficient as possible; on the other, stating that had he been at liberty to run, he believes he could have won the presidency again. That’s not an opinion Mr. Trump can be happy hearing, though I’m not aware of his having responded. But it seems clear (after seeing the documentary about him) that Trump saw his candidacy for president as a direct competition with Barack Obama even more than with Hillary Clinton. He won that competition; now he has to win the competition with the view of Obama as a great president. That will probably bedevil him for years to come. He may or may not win applause from Republicans. Winning it from Democrats will be more difficult, and he may settle for making Democrats and liberals (there may be no difference in his mind) as angry as possible. That would play into the desires of his most fervent supporters.

He will say he wants the country to heal, but that’s probably just what he thinks he SHOULD say. He wants applause, but how will he go about getting it? From his nominations for cabinet positions, it appears it’s hard-core Republicans he wants to please. His nominations are people who will likely destroy the departments he wants them to run: a man who favors selling public lands to run the Department of the Interior, a woman with no experience in public education and a record of hostility toward it to run the Department of Education.

If the Republican Congress manages to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and radically cuts both Social Security and Medicare, he will be able to please Republican elites by signing those bills. If he does, though, he will be very publicly breaking a campaign promise, which I doubt will make even his supporters happy.

He wants attention always, and would prefer positive attention, but has also shown a taste for negative attention too, if it upsets people he doesn’t like. On the other hand, he’s thin-skinned, and easily upset by criticism, which he’s going to be getting a lot of. That’s another reason the presidency doesn’t seem to be a good fit for him.

It will be very tempting for a lot of people to try to upset him, since it’s so easy to do. Given his desire for revenge, this may not be the best tactic, though. What may work better is praising him if and when he does anything praiseworthy, on the theory that he may then do more of it. But that doesn’t mean we should let him get away with breaking his promises either, or allowing him to make the presidency into a money-making machine for himself and his family (to say nothing of his cabinet members).

It’s pretty clear we’ve never had a president quite like him. The next four years will be interesting. Let’s hope they’re not also disastrous.

Jackson Heights

Standard

Jackson Heights is a community within Queens, one of the boroughs of New York City. In the documentary of the same name an official (probably the mayor) early in the film says that Jackson Heights is the most diverse community in the world. It certainly IS diverse.

One scene is Muslims in mosque listening to a speech at the beginning of Ramadan. Another is Muslim children in a madrasseh learning Arabic script. Then an LGBT support group, a synagogue in which Jewish people are performing a ritual memorializing the Holocaust, a group of Spanish speaking small business owners complaining about a group called the Business Improvement Department(?) the people think is trying to displace them in favor of national franchises, a gay pride group (complete with a very skillful gay marching band) sponsored by BID.

There’s a scene of a woman in the Housing Authority fielding a call from someone making a complaint, two groups of elderly women chatting (one group in a nursing home, another in a restaurant), a transgender support group, a committee (schoolboard?) consulting with an authority about a problem with local public schools, Muslims butchering fowls according to Islamic law, a woman telling how her sister managed to illegally cross the border and survive, a large Spanish-speaking church (maybe cathedral) filled with people, a group of Hindus performing a ritual, a farmer’s market, a gay bar….and always in the background car or train noises.

How can it be that so many different kinds of people can live so close together without serious problems all the time? Of course there are ordinary problems all the time, but if there were intractable problems between different races, religions, and orientations, one might expect perpetual war between them all, and that’s not what happens. People manage to live together.

Not because they’re all wealthy. Queens isn’t one of the really wealthy boroughs, and Jackson Heights isn’t a particularly wealthy community. It wouldn’t be inconceivable that community life in such a diverse area could turn into a zero-sum game, a war of all against all. That it hasn’t suggests that government in the area has been doing something right. Of course it’s fashionable to say that government is the problem rather than the solution, but without government how do people manage to live together? Historically, when government has been weak, anarchy is the result, which isn’t good for many people (especially ordinary people), and anarchy is often followed by totalitarianism. But the film suggests that ordinary people don’t don’t pick fights with each other much, whatever the reason.

The environment is just about all urban. Nature is present, but contained, if not overwhelmed. We see people in a bar watching a soccer match, but don’t see any athletic activity outdoors, though there must be some.

It’s not like the film tries to paint a complete picture of the community, either. That would be impossible. A Catholic service is shown, but no Protestant or Orthodox churches. We see few east Asians or Eastern Europeans, though I’d guess they were present too.

We don’t know the future of the community, but given the situation, the picture is pretty positive.

 

Vampires

Standard

A program shown on PBS tells of corpses found in Anglo-Saxon villages in England of about a thousand years ago which had been mutilated. Not many of them, but a few, had had their heads removed after death, and placed between their legs. Why? Apparently because they were suspected of vampirism.

The idea of vampires is a pretty old one, and seems to have been common to much of Europe. It died out in England, but not in other places, especially in eastern Europe. The documentary speaks to a peasant in Rumania who had helped unearth a recent corpse which had red around its mouth and a swollen belly, which he and the others had taken as evidence that the person was a vampire. They had opened the grave because a young woman said her uncle, who had recently died, had visited her and sucked her blood. The peasant said he had removed the corpse’s heart and burned it at the village crossroads, after which the young woman got better.

The idea of vampires is identified with Rumania, partly because of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, which is partly set in Transylvania; and partly because a fifteenth century monarch of Rumania, Vlad Tepes, was called Dracula, and is thought to have been a (or the) model for the literary character. Vlad Tepes was certainly not a pleasant man, having been notable for impaling people he didn’t like. That is, seating them on a wooden stake, pushing it up through their rectums into their bodies, then letting gravity slowly kill them. Probably rulers in that time, and maybe particularly in that place, had to be severe in order to survive, but Tepes seems to have been extreme even there and then.

The documentary says that Stoker based his novel on actual folk beliefs about vampires (it was unclear to me whether he added some powers to his character that weren’t part of common beliefs or not), but changed the image of the vampire from a problem found in rural Europe to a well-dressed cosmopolitan aristocrat. That’s the image that got popularized in plays and movies over the last hundred years. The question is, was there ever anything to the vampire myth, or was it simply misunderstanding?

Scientists and historians interviewed in the documentary argue that the idea of the vampire came from ignorance. Red around a corpse’s mouth and a swollen belly are the work of bacteria after death. The interviewees believe that the concept of vampires was used to explain illnesses the peasants were vulnerable to.

One historian notes that in the country away from the fireside the world is absolutely dark at night, except for a candle or torch that could be carried. It would be different in larger towns and cities, but villagers had to fear warriors sneaking up on them as well as storms and illnesses.

Some of the illnesses were pretty fearsome too, like leprosy, tuberculosis, and bubonic plague. We have to remember that nobody at that time had much idea where disease came from, and peasants would be more ignorant than most. If people began having horrible symptoms and dying, there was almost nothing anyone could do. How could they defend themselves against something they utterly failed to understand? In that situation, blaming illness on the dead was as reasonable as anything else. As one historian points out, the suspects usually were people most hadn’t liked when they were alive. The idea seems to have been common in much of the world, too. People living in the Himalayas seem occasionally to have been concerned about vampires as well. In Bulgaria and Italy too.

The hypothesis seems pretty plausible, but I wonder if there may anyway have been something to the old view. Vampires seem to resonate with a lot of people. Whether or not they literally drank blood, it doesn’t seem too strange to think of people who might drain in some manner people of vital energies, perhaps by doing something as simple as constantly demanding attention.

While vampirism as explanation for illness is probable enough, the documentarians didn’t look into the illness of the young woman in Rumania. Was it bacterial or viral? Or psychosomatic? Knowing that would go some distance toward deciding if the traditional idea of vampirism is totally invalid. It may seem totally stupid, but some of our ancient ancestors knew things we no longer know, as shown by some of the monuments we have no idea how to build. It’s not impossible that they knew more than we do in cases like this too.

 

Sexuality Good and Bad

Standard

One of my Facebook friends posted an article about a gay couple who have been accused of molesting several of the boys they adopted. The article is written pretty objectively. It didn’t assume the allegations were true. Some would write it as exemplifying how evil homosexuals are, and this particular friend frequently posts messages about that. I suspect that was his intention this time too. I frequently disagree with him. It would be one thing if heterosexuals automatically behaved better than homosexuals. They do not.

My wife tells me of a girl she knew when they were both in their early teens. The girl told her she and her father were having sex, and showed her the building where this was going on. My wife told me about a day when they were taking a walk and encountered my wife’s brother and some of his friends. One of his friends called the girl away to have sex with her. She went and came back. Another called her, and she went and came back. Then another.

I don’t know, but suspect that the girl had a sad life. It sounds very much as if she didn’t feel she could say no to sex, whether she wanted it herself or not. Because of heterosexuals.

Perhaps we should warn people about the heterosexual agenda, which seems to be about molesting children.

The sentence above sounds counter-intuitive. It’s also at least an exaggeration. Many heterosexuals  are perfectly decent people, contrary to negative stereotypes about them. A lot of people have trouble believing the same is true of most minorities. Almost all of us like scapegoats to blame things on.

It’s easy to assume that gay men like to molest children. Actually, a significant number of pedophiles have sexual relationships with adult women too, and don’t confine their molestation to one gender. Heterosexuals are probably less likely to be used to being used as scapegoats than minorities are. They don’t like it any better than minorities do either, often claiming to be victims themselves, of reverse racism or anti-Christian bias, for instance. They seem not to imagine that anyone else might resent being blamed for bad or even criminal behavior.

Sexuality is, for better or worse, one of the main sources of human motivation, which means that power comes into the equation. If a person can, through being larger and physically stronger than a woman, force her to have sex with him, there are always men who will be tempted to do just that. The same is true in same-sex relationships, especially if men are involved. Testosterone can encourage men to be over-aggressive.

What’s the lesson here? If you’re powerful, you can punish someone for not having sex with you. You can also punish people for having sex in ways or with people you disapprove of.

The American South has long been notorious for racism, and disapproval of mixing the races. It took me a long time to realize that this, and the lynching that took place during segregation (we seem to have other forms of that now), were because white slave owners used black women sexually, and were afraid black men would return the favor. I really should have realized that sooner. As a favorite writer commented, no one erects a taboo against something that isn’t tempting.

A modern example of this was Strom Thurmond, a very conservative and racist member of Congress for a long time. It was reported that one of his colleagues said that he really believed the stuff about miscegnation. Imagine popular surprise then when it came out after his death that he had an illegitimate daughter with a black woman. That suggests he hated himself as well as others.

Reaction formation is the term for a type of behavior which reduces anxiety by asserting the opposite of one’s original feeling. Mr. Thurmond may well have felt humiliated by having succumbed to temptation. According to a news story, he gave his daughter money but never, when she and her mother visited him, called her mother by her name or acknowledged her as his daughter. Her mother had been a servant in his family home suggesting that Thurmond had felt entitled to have sex with her.

There’s some plasticity in human sexuality. That’s been noted in a number of circumstances. One was English public (private) schools, where upper class adolescent boys were segregated from women. Homosexuality became prevalent enough in that class that the word for it in Yiddish meant literally “the English disease”.

Another area was among sailors, especially before technology made voyages much shorter. Sailing between continents took months. Whaling expeditions could last two or three years. Pirates in the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean rarely had access to women. Women were not included in more legitimate voyages either.

A third area is prison. An acquaintance went to prison for a year or two for marijuana, and someone who had been in prison himself advised him to find a protector to have a sexual relationship with. The friend had the advantage of being gay, he did find a friend, and his stay in prison wasn’t too unpleasant.

But that’s not necessarily how it is. In a movie based on a Stephen King novel a prisoner is subjected to rape numerous times, though he manages eventually to get revenge on everyone who misuses him. Apparently, that kind of thing happens too.

What are we to make of people condemning homosexuality? Probably some sincerely believe it’s wrong, often because it’s condemned in the Bible, not imagining that people might engage in such acts because that’s their orientation, or that they might actually love each other. Maybe those condemning simply have never experienced that kind of desire. But if they’re vehement about it, we might suspect something else is going on.

The Bible condemns eating pork and shellfish, and wearing clothes made of two different fabrics. I’ve heard pork condemned, by a Muslim friend, but never shellfish or clothes of more than one fabric. That suggests cherry-picking.

Of course sexuality is one of the most intimate and  pleasurable things we can experience, so the experience can also be corrupted, or condemned for corruption even if unfairly. It’s notable that ancient Greco-Roman culture was quite tolerant of sexuality in general, and perhaps homosexuality in particular. Alexander the Great was certainly bisexual, Julius Caesar had that reputation, Plato seems to have had little interest in women, etc. Why exactly did Jewish and Christian culture condemn homosexuality?

It seems that an anti-sexual movement began about the same time as Christianity (whether Christianity was responsible for it or not) which influenced the new religion. Camille Paglia suggested, in Sexual Personae, that it may have been a reaction to Roman emperors like Nero, who behaved pretty outrageously in homosexual ways, but by no means only in those ways. In the case of Judaism, it’s been suggested that the ancient tradition reacted against some of the rites of the Great Mother religions, which featured homosexual behavior.

For many of us, the behavior seems strange, because unfamiliar. That in itself causes us to fear, but the word itself is negatively highly charged too. I noticed this when I found out my favorite high school teacher was gay, at a time when I was pretty unclear about sexuality in general. My assumption at the time was that most people’s sexuality is what it is. I didn’t feel much choice about MY orientation, so I thought it reasonable to assume most others didn’t either. Obviously, that’s not entirely true, but I don’t think it’s entirely untrue either.

When I used to listen to right-wing radio shows I used to hear the hosts say that homosexuality was a choice. I always wanted to ask them if they’d been tempted. G. Gordon Liddy I recall saying (in what sounded like a tone of wonder) that he had never indulged in homosexual acts while in prison. I never got the opportunity to ask him if he ever wanted to, but I wish I had. Would he have admitted to the temptation, or would he have denied it? I wonder.

A recent post on Facebook told of a woman who, some thirty years ago, decided to take care of people (usually gay men) dying of AIDS at a time when little was known about the disease and little research was being done on it. Many if not most of them had been abandoned by their parents, though often not by their lovers. She said she was deeply touched by the love shown by their partners.

That raises the question of just what constitutes marriage. Is marriage something that has been approved by the community, even though the two people involved no longer care about each other (or may never have)? Or does it have to do with the quality of feeling each person has for the other? I think it’s pretty clearly understood by most that relationships are never unchanging unless they have died. As long as they live, they change. Thus, the quality of heterosexual relationships can be inferior to homosexual ones. It would be more convenient for many if heterosexuality was equivalent to virtue. Unfortunately for we heterosexuals, it is not.

Two Documentaries

Standard

Eagle Huntress takes place somewhere in the area near borders of China, Mongolia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan in the Altai mountains. It’s a Kazakh community, which I gathered was once nomadic, and still is semi-nomadic. Aisholpan, the 15 year old (approximately) main character, and her brother and sister attend school during the week (she looks after them, as she is the oldest), and go home on weekends. The school looks much like an American school, there’s TV and other western technology that the community seems to have pretty well assimilated. But the community also focuses on its own traditions, one of which is hunting with eagles.

Falconry used to be very popular in medieval and Renaissance Europe, but there’s a difference when you hunt with a bird that weighs fifteen pounds (and looks like it might weigh considerably more). Get ready for a bird that size landing on your arm.

Traditionally, only men have hunted with eagles, but Aisholpan wants to do it, and her father and grandfather don’t see any reason she shouldn’t. Her father takes her into the mountains to find an eagle’s nest. She climbs down the mountain wall to it, puts the female nestling into a sack which her father draws up, and climbs back up herself. Then her father shows her how to train the bird. She has to give it food until it can learn how to hunt.

The bird has to learn to come when it’s called and to go after prey. Aisholpan has talent in controlling the bird, and the bird seems to have talent too.

But when some of the older men find out that Aisholpan plans to compete in the annual eagle competition, they disapprove. To their credit, they don’t try to prevent her, and she and her bird win the contest.

The next step is going into the mountains again for the bird to learn to really hunt. It hunts fox, a pretty big animal, and it takes several tries for the bird to actually make the kill, but it eventually does. We don’t know where Aisholpan goes from there.

Another slightly less recent movie is set in the Himalayan mountains, quite a bit further south. The movie begins with a mother installing her nine year old son in a Buddhist monastery as a monk, telling him it’s better. Just how and why is unclear. The implication is that she can’t afford to take care of him, but she’s able to afford a television. Unfortunately, the man who bought it for her dropped it off his horse as he was bringing it, so now it’s broken. Later in the movie she’s able to send him to the town three days away to buy another.

The boy isn’t badly treated at the monastery, but wants to come home. Nine years old is a bit early for a religious vocation. Instead, he gets to go with his uncle to town to get the TV and visit his sister, who works in an office there–except that when they get there it doesn’t seem to be an office. We see a number of young women up on a stage, and though nothing definite is said, the implication seems to be that she’s a prostitute.

The boy returns to his village, and the last scene we see is his mother and a crowd of other people watching what sounds like a wrestling match. We’re left to wonder what they make of it.

Of the two movies, Eagle Huntress seems to show a community in control of the western technology it uses. We don’t know if that community is more or less isolated than the one in the Himalayas, and it may be that the movie set in the Himalayas elected to show us different things than the other. If we can judge from what is shown, though, young people from that community aren’t especially well educated, and if the boy’s sister is indeed a prostitute, that doesn’t seem like a good situation. She tells her brother that she boards at the institution where she works, which makes it seem as if she’s little better than a slave. We don’t get enough data to be sure, though. Nor do we know if her situation comes about because of collision between eastern and western cultures. That seems to be the implication, but we can’t be sure.

The first movie seems to show a balanced culture in which western technology is used, but not overused–as far as we can see. What’s the real story there? It would be nice to know.

Basketball on Christmas

Standard

I don’t know that much about basketball coaching, and I never became a very good player, but I do enjoy watching a good game. I got to see most of two of them on Christmas day.

The first was the Knicks against the Celtics. The Celtics seem to be pretty good, and the Knicks seem to be a lot better than they have been, but not exactly elite yet. Boston beat them, which was what I preferred, and probably has a better shot of getting to the playoffs, but that wasn’t the best game.

The best game was Cleveland against Golden State. Two recent champions going at it, and both looking extremely good. Good offense, good defense on both sides. I didn’t get to watch the whole game, as dinner intervened, but certainly enjoyed what I got to see.

For one thing, I had never seen Kevin Durant play, though I’d certainly heard of him the last few years. He looked like a good scorer, rebounder, and passer, and I look forward to seeing him play more often. LeBron James still looks fine too (aside from the occasional errant pass), and so does Kyrie Irving, who made the winning shot at the end, so that both teams I rooted for won.

I watched the first half, but then had to eat dinner, and didn’t get back until the final minutes of the game. The announcers said that Cleveland had fallen behind by fourteen points and come back. They were just behind when I turned the set on, and I got to see Kyrie Irving drive from backcourt to forecourt in the final seconds and put up the winning jump shot without any problem.

The game itself isn’t very significant in terms of the whole season, but it’s Cleveland against one of the best teams in the league, whom they might have to face again. They could easily have lost this one, but now know how to win. In the first half they missed a lot of jumpers, but never let that bother them, and just kept running their offense. They have two stars and they have role players who know what they’re doing. There wasn’t any lack of effort, and there wasn’t any confusion.

I’ll be interested to see some of the other elite teams, like San Antonio without Tim Duncan and Oklahoma City without Durant. Golden State acquiring him may insure another championship for them, but I don’t think it will be automatic. Cleveland showed they can compete in that game. There may be some other teams who can too.