On Charlottesville

There has been a group of people who have been making arguments for what may be called white nationalism. They are essentially taking the ideology and updating it with philosophical underpinnings. They’re changing the image of the white supremacist from a compound dwelling, tattooed skinhead to a khaki wearing, clean shaven suburbanite. These new white supremacists are better looking, and when they’re not in a mob I would even venture to say that some of them are polite and well mannered.

This doesn’t make them better than the traditional neo-Nazi. It makes them worse. It makes them worse because they can’t hide behind drug problems or abuse or some other excuse. They’re not running to Nazism because they want to rebel, they’re joining white nationalism because they really believe it. The alt-rights aesthetic makeover and philosophical mask make them worse than neo-Nazis because it makes them more like regular Nazis.

In essence, they’re trying to make hate more attractive; they’re trying to fool you.


This past Saturday, a group of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and their ilk marched on Charlottesville, VA, ostensibly to protest the removal a statue honoring confederate general Robert E Lee. This was a minor goal, if that. Should the statue be torn down tomorrow, they will have accomplished everything they wanted and more.

The name of the march was “Unite the Right.” Since World War 2, Nazi’s have been person non grata in American politics, welcome in no party. While we have by no means been perfect in race relations, we have at least kept naked segregationists out of power for the past five or so decades.

“Unite the Right” aimed to change that. They want a seat at the table; for the alt-right to become a voice within the Republican Party.  David Duke, “former” Klansman and neo-Nazi, of whom former President Bush Sr said “has a long record, an ugly record, of racism and of bigotry,” tweeted to Trump on Saturday that “I would recommend [President Trump] take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”  He was expressing just that, a belief that white nationalists like him are part of the coalition that put Trump in the White House.

On Saturday, Trump (who had campaigned partially on the idea that we need to name Radical Islamic Terror as such to defeat it), denounced these protesters in the gentlest possible terms; condemning not just the protesters but the counter-protesters as well, writing “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

As an aside, for anyone who thinks this moral equivalence is OK, I have three points to make about that:

1. This country has a troubled history of racism; its not an exaggeration to say that a majority of our social problems even today are due to the legacy of slavery, segregation and bigotry, and the lingering insidious racism that millions of Americans are forced to deal with every day. The Klansmen, Nazis and white nationalists represent and seek to reintroduce this evil, the anti-fascists do not.

2. The white nationalists drove a car into a crowd, injuring 19 and killing one. This wasn’t an accidental killing, but rather a white nationalist decided to use his car a weapon. I don’t support the violence of the counter-protesters, but to equate it with the violence used by the white nationalists is just wrong, one side killed, the other didn’t.

3. The white nationalists chanted things such “blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us.” While this is of course horrible, their last chant is the most chilling. “Heil Trump.” (1 ) Of course, no politician is responsible for the acts of all of their supporters. But when a group of Nazis favorably equates the President with Hitler, the President owes it to the nation and himself to denounce the group and make it totally clear that he does not represent that group or its interests.

To his credit; Trump denounced the protestors by name; on a Monday, 48 hours after the murder of Heather Heyer, after just about elected Republican and Democrat in America urged him to.

That denunciation lasted less than a day. Today, Trump held a press conference about something (maybe infrastructure), but during questions, Trump said ” I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee… But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides… You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. O.K.?”

The aim of the alt-right, is to dress up an old hatred in new clothing, and sell it as respectable. They can’t fool me, and I doubt they’re fooling too many people. But it sure looks like they may have fooled the President. Fooled him into thinking that a lack of tattoos somehow means they’re not Nazis. President Trump is either woefully uninformed about what happened (despite saying 11 times that he waited until all the facts came out to make a statement), or he is endorsing some forms of white nationalism and white supremacy.


I have this illusion, about myself. Its that there is nothing left that Trump can do that can shock me, that he has no further capacity to disappoint me. And every so often, he does. Today was one of those days. Its hard to believe, but I guess I still thought that Trump had some decency left in him, that he could recognize evil in most obvious forms.


Alternative Facts

1: Perhaps the first major news story during Trump’s Presidency was estimates about crowd sizes. Sean Spicer claimed that Trump had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.” This turned out to be unverifiable at best, and is almost certainly incorrect (the most accurate crowd size estimates come from aerial photographs, which are prohibited during the inauguration, or photographs from tall buildings, of which Washington DC has very few). Most available evidence shows that Trump had a much smaller audience than Obama, perhaps one third the size. When questioned about public transportation numbers in particular, Spicer responded: “At the time the information that I was provided by the inaugural committee came from an outside agency that we reported on. And I think knowing what we know now we can tell that WMATA’s numbers are different, but we were trying to provide numbers that we had been provided. That wasn’t like we made them up out of thin air.”  (So, just for the record, the administration is uncritically repeating information given from a third party it didn’t name).

2: Trump’s bizarre press conference had him, among other things, say that he had the highest electoral college vote since Reagan, which he didn’t, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton (twice), and Barack Obama (twice) have all had higher margins of victory. When called on that, he said he was “given that information.” How is it that Trump could have possibly gotten this wrong? It’s not like it’s an obscure fact; he had to have been studying the electoral maps and attempting to find paths to 270. Not knowing that Obama had 365 or 332 votes (in 08 and 12 respectively) means that Donald Trump is completely unaware of the most basic facts surrounding the task he dedicated about 2 years of his life to.

3: During a conference with the National Sheriff’s Association, Trump said that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” which isn’t true, the murder rate in America is much lower than the peak it hit in the 1980’s. What did happen is that the murder rate increased from 2014 to 2015 by a lot, the highest increase in 45 years. Now, I can see how somebody would confuse the two, it’s fairly easy to confuse something and its first derivative. Yet the two things are entirely different, have different meanings, pose different problems, and presumably should be attacked with different strategies. The President cited the correct statistic before, so perhaps it isn’t that bad, perhaps he merely mixed his words. But if he didn’t; if he doesn’t understand the difference between the a number and a change in that number, that speaks to a severe lack of understanding of basic statistical principles.

4: In arguing in favor of the travel ban on ABC news, and then twice more (on MSNBC, and during a press briefing), press secretary Spicer spoke of the terrorist attacks in “Atlanta, San Bernadino, or the Boston bomber.” Spicer later clarified that he meant to say Orlando instead of Atlanta; which again could just be that he misspoke, it’s a fairly easy mistake to make, both cities are in the Southeast, and as words they’re quite similar (each have “lan” in the middle). But on the other hand, Spicer’s only job is to communicate. Furthermore, he used it in the same way each time, alongside the San Bernadino and Boston terrorist attacks. Whether it was a simple mistake or a Spicer really did not know what city the terrorist attack happened in, it raises questions about the way information is gathered and disseminated in the white house.

5: Kellyanne Conway, in arguing in favor of the travel ban, cited the “Bowling Green Massacre.” There of course, was no massacre at bowling green, two individuals were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with regards to a plot which aimed to send weapons to Al Qaeda, which is of course bad, and its very good that those men are behind bars, but in no way shape or form was there a massacre.

There are many other untrue statements, exaggerations or miscommunication that the Trump administration or Trump himself has spoken about. (Such as Hillary Clinton giving 20% of the US’s uranium to Russia, for instance). However, these are different, in that there is strategic advantage in getting people to believe, (and/or the truth is confusing enough that the simplified statement is easier to understand than the truth. For instance, the State department approved a deal to sell the company which produces 20% of the US’s uranium to a Russian company; however the company is not allowed to export this uranium; the company can profit from uranium mining, it can’t decide where the uranium goes). With these other statements, Trump is essentially lying to us, and lying is, unfortunately, politics as usual.

What really worries me is that the administration is lying to itself, that it can’t seem to separate truth from fiction on something as straightforward as an electoral vote count. Something which should take all of 2 minutes on the internet to verify, and which Trump and his political aides should all have committed to memory. Every person has a tendency to give more weight to facts which benefit themselves or which reinforce a preconceived position. Yet this administration seems to do it on overdrive; its only been a few weeks, but we’ve already seen a number of instances which Trump and his team have not just been wrong, but have been wrong in a way that has no real benefits to himself, his agenda or his country. The basic inability to not just tell, but determine the truth of easily verifiable statements implies a inability to understand the world in complicted matters, and should be truly worrying to us all.  Trump really seems to be living in a world of his own making, while governing the world we live in.


If there is one person that I would say represents everything typical of dynastic politics in America, it would be Ted Kennedy. His path to power began in 1960, when his father, one of the most powerful men in America, asked the governor of Massachusetts to name a Kennedy family friend to the senate seat recently vacated by Ted’s older and much more capable brother John, as Ted was too young to be a senator. Other than being a lawyer and his political experience serving on his brother’s election campaign, he had few qualifications, and already a troubling past, having been expelled from Harvard College for cheating in 1951 (after serving in the Army for two years, he was re-instated and later graduated from Harvard).

His personal life was characterized by partying and drinking, and most famously the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, where the most reasonable interpretation is that Kennedy’s drinking killed a 28 year old woman. Once he became the democratic senator from Massachusetts, he was virtually unbeatable, having had no serious primary challenges and few challeges from the opposing party.

If there is one person who would represent the idea of citizen rule, or democracy in action or whatever you want to call it, it would be Sarah Palin. A graduate of the University of Idaho, she first ran for political office in 1992, winning a seat on the city council with a grand total of 510 votes. Her career moved her up to mayor, eventually leading to Governor of Alaska and famously the Vice Presidential ticket of the republican party in 2008.

If there’s any reason to be in favor of nobility, it is the above two statements. One the one hand, we had a hard partying loosely ethical man who got to where he was purely on his father’s connections and his family name, on the other, an all American girl who through sheer pluck was able to rise to the top and become one of the most famous, if not powerful, politicians in the country, and most neutral observers agree that the first case was better, that it’d be better to be ruled by Ted Kennedy than Sarah Palin. (ok, time out, neutral is a tough claim here, as its very hard to get truely neutral opinions, and I’m comparing two of the most polarizing politicians of my lifetime, and there are tons of people who would say that Palin is much better than Kennedy was, so if nothing else, this is just my semi-biased opinion).

Kennedy has had very big legisaltive accomplishments: the ADA, Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), the immigration bill of 1965, etc. Basically, if you are a liberal judging him on the basis purely of his legislative conduct (as opposed to personal character), you’d like him. If you’re a conservative, yeah, you wouldn’t, but thats borderline tautological. (perhaps, a more reasonable question is this: is Sarah Palin held in higher esteem by conservatives than Ted Kennedy is by liberals? I think the answer is no).

Sarah Palin is, in my opinion, one of the most intersting persons in contemporary American politics. She splashed onto the scene in 2008 when John McCain named her his running mate, and at that point basically nobody outside of Alaska had much of an opinion about her, in many ways she was the clearest example of a political blank slate, which people could project their ideas or wishes onto. To Republicans, she became the embodiment of Tea Party Republicans (before the Tea Party actually became a thing, mind you), cutting pork, and opposing the “bridge to nowhere,” although in many cases that wasn’t the case (Alaska still received the half billion dollars alloted for the bridge, it was just never built). However, she almost instantly became that, morphing into what others expected to be in a very seemless transition, becoming (at least for a while) the figurehead of the Republican anti-establishment; never squandering an opportunity to criticize the “lamestream media.” What’s most interesting to me isn’t that Palin was able to play chameleon and appear to be whatever the voters wanted, politicians do that all the time. Whats interesting to me is the sincerity of it all, Palin seemed to go beyond adapting or even embodying the nation’s perception of her, she became that perception.

The advantages of nobility are simple, they’re similar to the reasons we have tenure for professors and why judges have lifetime appointments; it mutes the temptation to go with whatever is popular in the moment, to act above the whims of the public. Rule by nobility isn’t so much an idea that there is a class of people better than the commoners but that, not facing re-elections, the nobles are free to pursue long term interests.

But that’s not illustrated by our example. Ted Kennedy, due to his name, position and history, was free to choose some positions not entirely based on the will of Massachusetts, but I doubt he really did this much more than any other Senator; he was a liberal senator from a liberal state. The story of Ted Kennedy is one of being given an office which he did not deserve, and sought to be worthy of the office.

None of this is to say that I support going back to rule by a hereditary nobility; I don’t want to change the government structure based off of a single example, there are also hundreds of things which can go wrong with nobility, and you can make the argument that the virtue of democracy isn’t so much that it produces great leaders, but rather that it prevents horrible leaders.

One thing I’d like to see is the ways that functional nobility work; meaning things like life peers in Britain, or senators for life in Italy, to attempt to gauge whether they have “better” records than elected representatives (although how to measure their records is an open question).

On libertarians

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.  H. L. Mencken

There’s something odd about the libertarian political philosophy. Like all good bad political monikers, it has a conveniently hard to dismiss name. I mean, you like liberty, right? Also, you like Society, Progress, and Democracy. I guess that’s par for the course for Libertarianism. But unlike other beliefs, it seems to be based on a certain set of premises, which form a logical platform that doesn’t change across time and place. If you’re talking about right-wing vs left wing politicians, you can get very different platforms depending on where and when you’re about. A conservative in Massachusetts in 1920 and a conservative in Spain in 1970 are two wholly different animals. I mean, one wanted to re-establish the monarchy. Also, if we’re trying to project into the future, then these terms are equally helpless. What will the conservative position be in 2060? What will the liberal one be? I don’t know.

But the libertarian philosophy is, more than any other, a constant position. The libertarian position right now is pretty much what any libertarian solution would be in any time or any place: reduce the state to performing a few key, essential roles. I don’t know exactly what the challenges we’ll be facing in 2060 will be, but I have a pretty good idea what the libertarian platform in 2060 will consist of. (less government spending, dovish foreign policy etc).

All of the other parties and platforms seem to have evolved into being, carrying with them the baggage of history, being shaped not just by ideas but by events. It wasn’t that long ago that the Republican party was the party for conservatives and progressives, while the Democratic Party was the home of northern ethnic minorities and southern racists. Think about how weird politics is for a second. We have one party which is in favor of stimulus spending, is in favor of gay marriage, and was against the war in Iraq. What does these things have in common? Nothing! (in fact, if anything there should be a slight correlation between favoring stimulus spending and favoring war, as war raises spending). There’s not really any good reason why our positions on a war should be strongly correlated with your position on gay marriage, yet this is pretty much the case, you tell me you view on position x, and I’ll have a pretty good chance of guessing your view on position y, and so will everyone else. This is kind of frightening, because I think that more and more our positions are being determined by our politics in a way that I don’t think has normally happened, and I don’t like it, although I suppose that is an essay for another time.

The exception to this rule is libertarians. They have a simple philosophy which can guide them in all circumstances, which to put in the shortest possible terms is “butt out.” Should we go to war in Iraq? No, lets not get involved. Should we allow two men to marry each other? Sure, it’s not our business. Should the government spend a lot of money on this project? No lets not get involved.

We can further demonstrate this by noticing that the libertarians don’t really have an opposite party (or platform). They will tell you that the opposite of a libertarian is a statist, but there are no actual statists, or at the very least, there are no people who would call themselves statists.

I guess you can make the opposite of libertarianism is communism, that whereas the solution for libertarians is always less government, the solution for communists is always more government. Perhaps, but the libertarian movement (not party mind you) is alive and well in America (yes, I realize that this is a very America centric post), where you can easily count among libertarians (although not members of the Libertarian Party) such people as Rand Paul (Senator), Gary Johnson (former Governor) or Glenn Beck (popular commentator). There is no such communist opposite in America. Also, while Communist regimes didn’t do so well in practice with civil liberties, in theory they supported civil liberties, which means they aren’t in opposition in everything in theory. (I realize that you’re rolling your eyes right now – you might be thinking that I’m saying something as stupid as “in theory, communism works,” which I’m not. I am not in any way trying to defend communism by looking at what it “claims” to believe or what it wants to happen, and then using that as any sort of basis for judgement. Communism has, everywhere its been tried, produced results which range bad to Mordor-on-Earth. What I am trying to do is, by looking at the theories or claims which underly communism, seek to determine motivation if you will of Communism, and compare it to the motivation of Libertarianism, and find some (but not much) areas of overlap.)

The reason that parties have opposites is a fairly simple one. There are many things that Democrats and Republicans agree on: that we shouldn’t go to war with Canada, that slavery is bad, that we should have a standing army, not to quarter troops in people’s houses, etc. It’s just that the things that the two major parties agree on, are, by definition, not part of the debate. So, when looking at all the topics that are under debate, almost all can be split into a Republican/conservative side, and a Democrat/liberal side, those that don’t have backers on either side aren’t part of the discourse, and those that have backers in one party with no detractors in the other quickly become policy.

But libertarianism is not like this, the great irony here is that other political positions developed through decentralized mechanisms over time, the libertarian philosophy is much more the product of human design.

There is one fact about libertarianism that which should be said. You will often hear people say something to the effect of “this election isn’t about ideology, it’s about competency which is why you should vote for candidate X.” Now, in my experience, nobody ever says this about somebody who they don’t already agree with ideologically, but that’s beside the point. With libertarians though, it’s never about competency. An idiot libertarian will reduce the size and scope of government. A genius libertarian will reduce the size and scope of government. With all other forms of government, ability is important. If you fight a war, having good generals is important, if you are instituting a large bureaucracy, its important to get the right people in charge, if you’re centrally planning the economy, well you wan that done by the right team. But in libertarianism, idiocy is no handicap – it doesn’t require smarts to do nothing.

Of course, there are exceptions, libertarians working within a system would want the capability to actually enact their platform through procedural maneuvering or inspiring the troops. And you’d want a libertarian President who couldn’t reduce the government to the ideal libertarian size to be able to manage the government in the meantime. Of course this doesn’t mean that libertarians themselves are dumb, if anything quite the contrary (although I suspect this is mainly due to libertarian not being one of the default choices, you have to be somewhat engaged in the political world in order to be a libertarian, in a way that you don’t to become a Republican or Democrat.)

There are of course essays and website intelligently attacking and rebutting libertarianism , this just isn’t one of them. If I’ve managed to convince you that libertarianism is wrong, then you probably haven’t been reading closely enough. I do think however that the peculiarities of libertarianism mentioned above are at least partially responsible for its relative popularity, and deserve mention and study.

Transformer Politics

It’s a wonderful time to be a movie fan. We’ve had so many wonderful movies come out recently, from the sequel of the Star Trek reboot movie, to the sequel to the Spiderman reboot. Chances are, if you like comic books, you’re going to see your masked avenger on the big screen. And even if you don’t like the movie, you’ll get an entirely new version of that movie soon! Whats that, you didn’t like Brandon Routh as Superman? Well, you can see Henry Cavill as the man of steel.  Tobey Maguire not your taste?  Try Andrew Garfield!

Let take a look on at the top 10 movies of 2014:

1: Guardians of the Galaxy – based on a comic book and a film set in the same universe as who knows how many others

2: The Hunger Gamse: Mockingjay – Part 1. – Based on a book, sequel to other installments of the same series.

3: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Based on a comic book, in the same universe as movie #1, direct sequel to another comic book movie.

4: The Lego Movie: Not based on a comic book! Although it has a comic book character in it. Based on a children’s toy line.

5: Transformers: Age of Extinction. 4th in a series of movies based on a cartoon based on a children’s toy line.

6: Maleficent: A reboot/spin off of a cartoon movie that came out in 1959

7: X-Men: Days of Future Past. Another in a series of movies that are so numerous I’ve lost count of them (let’s see, there were 3 basic X-men, First Class, two Wolverine movies, I think a Magneto movie? is this the 8th movie?) based off of a comic book.

8: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: A sequel to a reboot of a popular movie franchise:

9: Big Hero 6: An animated movie based off a Marvel Comic book.

10: The Amazing Spider-Man 2. A sequel to a reboot of a movie franchise that came out in 2002 and was based off a comic book.

Well, there you have it, 10 movies, 10 pre-existing franchises – most of them based on superhero comic books. (also, as an aside, maybe its time to buy Disney Stock. A full 6 of those movies are based on properties Disney owns).

So what is the point?

I can think of several reasons why this is happening. I do need to mention that part of this is due to the international market of movies now. Action translates much better than comedy or drama, and therefore we get more dumb action movies. But this only explains why popular movies are action movies, not why they are action movies based on pre-existing properties. Another reason is the expensive nature of marketing movies, and movies that are sequels already have a built in fan base, and are thus need less marketing.

These are important and play a role; but I want to talk about two other things that are effecting this.

The first is nerd culture. At some point, nerds became the driving force behind popular culture, which is a clear reversal the past 100 years. For the longest time, nerds had been the lowest rung of the social ladder, and the things that nerds did, watch cartoons after a certain age, care about comics, video games, and the like were considered signs of low status, and for a large part the reason those were low status is partially because they were rare. In high school, and especially after college, it was hard for people to relate to others who had those interests. Therefore, the “marginal nerd,” that is, someone whose natural interests were such that they could in effect choose to be more of a nerd or choose to more typical, chose to be more typical; it served them better in meeting other people, finding mates, getting a better job, etc.

At a certain point, two things happened. One is it became came along and allowed people of any interest to find others with the same interests. While the internet is the biggest single cause of this, there are other reasons as well, the existence of fan conventions is a big one as well. The other thing that happened is the number and pay of jobs requiring “nerd” skills greatly increased; there is now a giant demand for programmers, engineers, financial “quants,” and other jobs which, for whatever reason, nerds seem to be more skilled at. These two things both led that aforementioned marginal nerd to be much more likely to embrace his (or her) nerdy side.

Now, all this is kind of just normal, it may be interesting to think about but not necessary to cause every movie to be about comic books. After all, when disco was in, there were movies with disco soundtracks, movies about disco and movies starring John Travolta; but its not like there were only movies about disco in the 1970s. But with the advent of nerd culture, you see almost nothing but movies aimed at nerds. (and if you think I’m cherry-picking 2014 to make my point, 2013 is eerily similar at the top ten spots: Marvel Universe movie at number 1, followed by hunger games, followed by comic book movies, then a bunch of 3D animated movies, also a spin off of a classic children’s fantasy movie. 2012 was different though, instead of a marvel universe movie followed by a hunger games movie, it was a marvel universe movie, then a different comic book movie, then a hunger games movie.) So what is it about nerds that has this effect? For the most part, its that nerds become nerds by liking stuff a little too much. If they like comic books, they don’t just like comic books, but they have to know and somehow reconcile the whole of the comic book universe’s history. If they like Star Trek, they don’t just like watch the TV show, they learn Klingon. And so on. They are dedicated to their interests in ways that other subcultures aren’t. All this means that they are a gigantic market, they have disposable income and they care deeply about movies; making a movie for nerds is very lucrative.

But again, while this may explain a lot of what of the box office, it doesn’t explain everything. After all, the Twilight movies have done incredibly well, and nerds hate those movies with a passion. Also, the Fast and the Furious movies have done quite well, (most of them guaranteed a top ten domestic gross), and other than being aimed at males, there is nothing nerdy about those movies.

Certainly a lot of it is risk averse behavior by the movie studios. They can refuse to make movies which don’t have a built in fan base, and they can refuse to attempt ground breaking movies set in new fictional universes. But that’s not really what is going on, as these movies are still getting made, it’s just that no one is going to see Jupiter Ascending this weekend, while the whole universe is going to see the Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I think that what is going on here is something that is kind of scary. Our cynicism is so great that we won’t believe what the studios tell us, instead we look to other places such as social media to tell us which movies to see, and we see them. Yet social media is enthralled by its own set of agendas, it’s currency is eyeballs and recommending a movie that doesn’t become popular can be bad for the site. So, whether through careful planning or through Darwinian mechanisms, the most popular sites become those who tell us what we want to hear; it’s not just the studios who can’t shape demand; neither can anyone else. So our movie culture is frozen at some point in the late 90’s.  Paradoxically as the studios have lost their role as gatekeepers and can no longer shape demand, they have become more powerful in influencing what movies we see.

In 1993 a director decided to take a risk, and bought the movie rights to a science fiction novel, from which he made a giant action sci-fi movie. The actors were fine, each played his or her part in the story, but none of them were the draw; the draw was the computer generated dinosaurs. It was marketed to death but made an incredible amount of money.

20 years later, any studio that wants to make a movie about dinosaurs can do so; while the rights to Jurassic Park are proprietary, nobody owns the concept of dinosaurs. Yet they don’t, we won’t see another movie in the mold of Jurassic Park; however we will see probably several more movies with the world “Jurassic” in their title.  In terms of movies, our society values names beyond content, and is almost incapable of creating anything that is both popular and original.

At about now, any responsible essay about the latest trend in movies would have to mention things about how television is the new center for creativity in the popular arts, specifically mentioning premium cable networks and even video streaming sites.  Television has recently given us all sorts of original content: we’ve had crime stories (such as The Wire), fantasy epics (Game of Thrones) period pieces (Mad Men). Even within some of those genres you have incredible diversity. The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and True Detective are all about crime; yet none of them are like ther others in any way except superficially.

But this isn’t an essay about movies, it’s an essay about politics.

In 1992, we had a Presidential race between two people, one was an upstart Democratic governor who had a new vision of the future and represented a change not just in politics but in attitude and culture as well. The other was an experienced Republican technocrat whose resume was a mile long: President, Vice President, Congressman, Ambassador to China, Ambassador to the UN, and director of the CIA, not to mention his business and military experience. Bush vs Clinton was about not just two political parties or two sets of policies, in many ways it was a referendum on what the presidency was about. Was experience more important than vision? Did the country need a new enthusiasm or a steady hand?

Just like we won’t see another Jurassic Park but we will see another Jurassic Park Movie, , we won’t see another Bush vs Clinton, but we may very well see another Bush vs Clinton. As of February 7 2015, the most likely presidential matchup looks to be Jeb Bush vs Hilary Clinton.

Jeb Bush was the two term governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Before that time and since that time, he hasn’t exactly become known for a whole lot. Now it’s very easy to be snarky and take pot shots at somebody whose only accomplishment is being a two term governor. Its a lot more than I’ve accomplished and probably you have as well.   Being a governor is not unimpressive, it is only a few rungs away from the very top of the political ladder, furthermore being reelected is also no mean feat. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m writing this in my pajamas from the comfort of my apartment and I really don’t mean this as a personal criticism of Jeb Bush at all. What I do mean to say is that as elected officials go (which is necessarily an impressive set of people), he isn’t that impressive. There are a number of Republican governors in recent memory (Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal easily come to mind) who are, if not better candidates for President, more representative of a facet within the GOP. The same can be said for various senators (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio come to mind).

Hilary Clinton moved to New York State for the sole purpose of running for Sentator there. After Rudy Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer and withdrew from the New York Senate race in 2000, Hillary Clinton defeated republican challenger Rick Lazio.  She won re-election in 2006, and became Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State. (everything I said about not snarking with regards to Jeb Bush can be said doubly for Hillary Clinton). In the only truly competitive race she ever ran, the 2008 democratic nomination for President, she was beaten. This is, even with my above parenthetical, a little bit unfair, losing the democratic nomination to Barack Obama is kind of like losing a game of basketball to Lebron James, also Secretary of State is a very important position, and Senator is nothing to shake a stick at either. But, at least on paper, I don’t think she is that much more impressive than Kathleen Sebelius (Secretary of Health and Human Services former governer of Kansas), Janet Neapolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security, former Governor of Arizona), or John Kerry (Secretary of State, former Senator) (although you can argue that Kerry already had his chance). My point is that, even if you like Hillary, I don’t think she is so impressive that she should waltz to the nomination in a way that only Vice Presidents of two term presidents typically do.

Just like our movies are dominated by a sort of culture of least resistance, our political culture seems to be heavily influenced by a similar dynamic. Seeking not just to pick a president we like, but a president we think others will like, we are almost forced to pick the familiar name. After all, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. We are unable or unwilling to entertain “new” things, we reach to the familiar, to recreate something from our past, without realizing our that our past wasn’t created by trying to recreate its past.

Now it is entirely possible that we may get to November 2016 and be on pins and needles about whether Rand Paul or Elizabeth Warren will be our next president; and everything I’ve said will have been proved to be mostly bunk. In fact, while I’m on the fence as to whether Hillary Clinton will become the nominee, I am actually doubtful that Jeb Bush will be the Republican nominee. Furthermore, this whole essay is missing the elephant in the room (er, the donkey in the room?), having failed to mention Barack Obama. I guess if we’re comparing people to movies, Obama would be Avatar, something wholly original (at least in terms of franchise/name if not content) who broke lots of records. However, even if we see a Paul vs Warren race (or Walker vs Booker or whatever), I don’t think that it will invalidate the whole of this essay. Instead, it will prove not that the same instincts which govern movies don’t apply to politics, but that we are capable of overcoming those instincts for the truly important decisions we face, (which, I suppose, is a very optimistic way of ending this essay.)