The Dark Knight Trilogy

It is easy to read too much into any movie. Especially when talking about a super hero fantasy, the genre where explosions are much more reliable than philosophical insights. However, for those of us looking for meaning in the world of banality that is Hollywood, the Dark Knight trilogy is as rich as anything else that has come out in the last many years.

Batman Begins was about fear, revenge and of how far justice can go. Through the well-known tale of Bruce Wayne and the tragic death of his parents, it shows how Wayne loses himself in the search for revenge. It also shows how good intentions can easily turn into accepting anarchy – i.e., the League of Shadows ‘burn it down and rebuild later’ idea. Actually, Wayne’s renunciation of the League of Shadows is perhaps the most defining point in Batman’s morality: the idea that justice is not an end on itself but instead a tool to save the innocent. At the end of the day this is a movie about how Batman decides to tame his own anger and how his ‘right wing’ believes are controlled by his empathy for Gotham’s citizens.

The Dark Knight is a more complex movie, which develops the theme of justice by looking at what good and evil are. The Joker is presented as the antitheses of Batman: the enabler of evil, an agent of chaos who is not interested in anything else but to disrupt society for the sake of it. It also adds Harvey Dent, the ‘white knight’ who is in many ways the ‘realistic’ version of Batman himself. The main point of the whole story line here is to show how difficult and imperfect justice is and how that justifies the existence of Batman while at the same time the existence of Batman does not solve the imperfection of justice. The Joker exploits that permanent imperfection by forcing Batman to choose between Dent and Rachel (can be seen as personal interest versus the common good). That moral conundrum is enough to completely destroy Dent: while he understands Batman’s choice he cannot accept Rachel’s death. Dent’s belief in righteousness is gone and he becomes an amoral agent who decides to act purely based on luck (“The only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”) The movie ends with the reinforcement of the power of symbols. Batman sacrifices good standing with society in order to save the legend of Harvey Dent.

The Dark Knight Rises is maybe the less complex movie of the trilogy but still an interesting one. The initial part is dedicated to show how Batman and Gordon are displaced by their own success (‘war heroes in peace time’). Wayne is also paying the price for all the physical damage inflicted by fighting crime for so long. The new villain is Bane, who we learn later is another incarnation of the League of Shadows and their continuous goal of destroying Gotham to ‘cleanse’ the world of its decay. Also new to the plot is the Cat Woman, who is an amoral character that goes back and forth between good and evil based purely on personal interest. She seems to thrive in this peaceful time and in the end she helps to enable the return of evil. That resurgence of evil is enough to bring Batman and Gordon back into action but they struggle to react (a message about the dangers of accommodation). There are several side plots about how different people deal differently with difficulties (Talia al Ghul versus John Blake) and also about how cat woman finally decides to help Batman (even though her amorality seems to persist).

The most interesting side note here is how Bane and Talia implement their destruction plan: by manipulating Gotham’s underclasses into revolting and destroying the current system in the name of ‘social justice’. This was an incredibly surprising move in my opinion, given the recent history of all the ‘Occupy’ movements and the pervasive left wing bias of Hollywood.

At the end of the day however, Dark Knight Rises ends in a similar way to Batman Begins: evil is eliminated, balance is re-established and justice triumphs over chaos. There’s even the usual ‘coming next’ hook with the identification of Blake as Robin.

Overall, I found the trilogy incredibly entertaining. This is really as good as it gets as far as pop culture mixing up with deeper subjects. There’s definitely a right wing overtone (maybe lefty’s see it differently?) but the beauty is mostly in the execution. I just hope we can get something else this good in the near future.


Levels of violence

One can only imagine how wars in the past would have looked like on TV or internet. How many kids did Genghis Khan slaughtered? How many women were raped and killed during the American civil war? We really have no idea.

We have a very skewed view of what war really is. We live in times of peace where even our wars are somewhat civilized. During the worst times in Iraq, we still had a very contained and scoped kind of violence by historic standards. Yes, beheadings are brutal but still women and children were for the most part spared (or at least not intentionally targeted). It did help that we didn’t have American citizens there but in any case, the point is that with some exceptions that war still maintained some resemblance of ‘civility’.

What we see now in Syria is a good counterpoint. Killing women and children has become the rule, not the exception. Unless something happens, I predict the situation to get even worse.

Why would we have that difference? My take is: the less military power involved, the more brutal a war is.

Think about it. What was the ‘cleanest’ war ever fought in a large scale? The cold war. Both the US and the USSR knew that the other had enough power to completely destroy them. So every time violence occurred (and it did) the level and scope of that violence was controlled by the threat of escalation. The outcome was known from the start.

What makes something like the Syria civil war so damaging is the lack of power from both sides. Both government and rebels only have small weapons, and no side has a clear advantage. So what do they do? They escalate, trying to gain an edge. How do you escalate when you have no military power? You use terror.

The world has a very, very clear choice in Syria. We can watch as they grind into a slow, brutal carnage or we introduce a larger power in the mix. Will less people die if we intervene? Probably not, at least in the short term. Democracy is not cheap on blood. However, there is such a thing as different levels of violence. If we don’t intervene, expect to get a little glimpse of how wars in the past were fought. It will not be pleasant.

How is this working out for you my dear bleeding-heart-Bush-lied-people-died Liberal? Can you watch all of this without a tiny bit of shame?

Clinton condemns Syria ‘atrocity’ in Houla

When Liberals say that we should ‘divide the pie’ they are (purposely?) misleading the public into thinking that wealth is something that is just out there and can be physically divided. Even worse, the idea that wealth is a like a pie gives the false impression that the economy is a zero sum game. That is, if I am wealthy (have a large slice) someone else will necessarily be poor (have a smaller slice).

The fact is that wealth is not static. It is a continuous cycle, constantly being generated every single day. Our world would not last a month if everybody simply stopped turning the wheels. Most importantly, liberals don’t seem to understand that nowadays wealth is a lot different than what it used to be. Before the industrial revolution wealth was land. Countries went to war for it, farms (and our existence) depended totally on it. After the Industrial revolution, the equation started to change. You had small factories producing more wealth than large plots of land. Energy and information became the bottleneck. Now in the information age, people are wealth. If someone broke into my company’s office, there wouldn’t be a lot to be stolen. A few computers you can find at your local store, some desks and cheap paper. Hardly worth the trouble. My employer makes money purely on brains. Software is the closest we ever got to translating pure thought into products. There is no way to steal or redistribute that.

Therefore, what makes companies powerful nowadays is how they deploy their resources into ‘harvesting brains’. That is by the way why recessions are so powerful: it is not the direct losses from bubbles that cause the damage but the fact that companies across the board will decrease their investments in the economy (which in turn decreases jobs, which in turn decreases consumption, which in turn lowers tax collection). By the way, this is the main point in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: the fact that the world’s producers (i.e., the 1%) are the motive power behind our society.

So when Liberals go about the need to tax more, or the evils of inequality, they should ask themselves if that is really an evil in the first place. As long as they keep looking for pies to be divided, they will be missing the point. You need to teach people how to build ovens.

People who deal with the world solely based on feelings are bound to make things worse.

Throughout the world injustice still exists. Poverty creates vicious cycles. Poor public education handicap kids’ potential in criminal ways.

However, to identify a problem is the easy part. To understand the dynamics that actually keep those problems in place is the real challenge. Now, even if you are clueless to what is the cause of something it is very easy to understand when a false reasoning is being used.

Karl Popper understood this well. He defined a concept called “Falsifiability”. In a very high level, Popper believed that something can only be considered scientific if it could be proved false. Belief in God for instance, is not scientific because it cannot be proven false. Using a real life example: if you believe that the cause of poverty is high unemployment, you would have to accept that your theory is false if you had some society where there is very little unemployment and poverty still exists.

Now, the current theories around racism all fail the falsifiability test. The easiest way to prove this is to ask your friend who believes in these theories: what would have to happen tomorrow to prove to you that racism is not an issue anymore? Would having the same percentage of poor being white be enough? Should we have the same percentage of black and white NBA players? Would having a black man being the most powerful man on Earth be enough?

Same thing applies to the idea of race itself. What would it take for someone to belong to a race? What would it take for me to prove that I am not a member of a certain race? What would it take to call affirmative action as ‘done’ or the need or affirnmative action as not valid anymore?

Chances are that these people would have no answer for these questions… They will tell you that they don’t need to know these answers! For them, the fact that “we have a lot of black men in prison” is proof enough but again, they would never accept having less black in prison as proof of the absence of racism. In other words, the definition of what they call racism itself is not scientific. Therefore, it is scientifically impossible for us to find any kind of true solution for it.

It is not surprise that certain groups of people remain in a vicious cycle of poverty and under achievement. You cannot solve a problem before you understand it.

Jack Tramiel passes away

He is not as well known as many other ‘giants’ of the early computing days but Jack Tramiel was a crucial player back then. Not only he created Commodore International (and its iconic C64) but later at Atari he released the great Atari ST. Both were huge milestones for the home computer market and I still have both of them here, feeding my 80s nostalgia.

Tramiel was born to a Jewish family in Poland, destroyed by the Holocaust. He immigrated to the US and embodies the true meaning of the American dream: from rags to riches, guided only by his own mind and will.

He died today at the age of 83.

Well, if I am asking this you already know the answer.

Some additional information here. It is really no surprise to me that the US has such a crazy system. The US is still the most free and productive nation in the world. Our liberals have a much larger target to shoot at then other countries do.

Question is for how long.