Friday, January 27, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: Who Is the Last Jedi?

They say that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t day anything at all.

Business Insider went full Econ 101 with its editorial page this week.  It’s a useful primer, but it made me wonder what percentage of people who actually read Business Insider don’t already understand the points the magazine was trying to make.
To start, Paul Ryan’s tax plan:
Ryan's "Better Way" tax plan calls for something called "border adjustments." Without getting too deep into the weeds, it's basically a tariff on goods brought into the United States for sale. In other words: imports. will be taxed...
Think of your favorite clothing brand that manufactures its jeans in, say, Vietnam. If the US begins to add a tax on those imported jeans, they will become more expensive. The retailer isn't going to eat the cost of that tax. You are.
But a stronger dollar would help offset this. It would make the jeans — relatively speaking — less expensive. It's a plan that plays on our economy's strength: consumption.
Bottom line, we all still like to buy stuff, though this plan might succeed in raising a little money while perhaps leveling the playing field for homegrown production.  
This is a problem for Trump. For his ideal American economy, we need a weaker currency so that more countries can afford to buy our exports.
"Our companies can’t compete with them now because our currency is too strong," Trump told the Wall Street Journal. "And it’s killing us."
Suffice it to say that Business Insider, liberal rag that it surely must be, is not bullish on the idea of abandoning our current economy’s fundamental principles in order to try to out-China China.  This is doubly true when China itself is trying to out-American the United States.  

If that doesn’t make sense, go read the article.
[T]here are different interpretations of what the new administration might be thinking.
One is that Tillerson can be taken both seriously and literally: that the United States government will attempt a blockade as a way to force Beijing to respect last year’s ruling by an international tribunal, that China’s claim to the waters encompassed by its “nine-dash line” was not supported by the international law of the sea.
Personally, I'm still wondering what the possibility of thermonuclear war in the South Pacific 
does to Navy Football's recruiting this year.  But it's just idle curiosity.  Mostly.
[T]here is another possibility: that Tillerson and Spicer are in fact indirectly referring to concerns about Scarborough Shoal, a partly submerged chain of reefs and rocks close to the Philippines that China seized in 2012…
The Obama administration… was reported to have told China in 2016 it was prepared to physically deter any attempts to build on the shoal, and had deployed ships and aircraft to the area to back up that threat.
I’m guessing it’s the later, but if the Enterprise Carrier Group disappears in a mushroom cloud, you'll know I was wrong.

What if Luke Skywalker is the "last Jedi" because he has no intention of training Rey to become one because she will be the first of something else. A new order that follows a different path…
While the Jedi have always been good guys in the Star Wars universe, if the prequels taught us anything, it's that when the Jedi were in charge, they were actually a bunch of dicks. They're a religious order with political power who have decided they automatically know better than everybody else. At various points, they suggest staging a military coup on the Galactic Senate and executing an enemy without trial. The Jedi are completely detached from any semblance of emotion. They believe that emotion and peace cannot exist together. In one telling scene, Yoda specifically tells Anakin that he should not even take the time to miss somebody who has died, never mind feel bad that they are gone.
We already know that the Sith are gone, eclipsed by the Knights of Ren and the Dark Side political philosophy of the First Order.  The idea, then, is that the Skywalkers are the ones who finally move the Galaxy Far, Far Away beyond what has always been a false dichotomy of emotion-versus-acceptance and into a more natural balance of good-versus-evil, with each side having a claim to the virtues of passion and peace. 

The original Star Wars is a Greek myth trapped in a science fiction universe with elements stolen from samurai films, westerns (themselves often influenced by samurai films), and World War II aerial photography.  All of which was both instantly familiar but crazy and new back when it debuted.  More recent Star Wars films, however, have doubled down on specific elements without trying to recreate the entire pastiche.  The Force Awakens focused on Star Wars mythology and on the series’ various fantasy callbacks.  Rogue One was effective because it was basically a War Movie.  Given what we just heard from Hamill, I’m guessing that The Last Jedi is going to go all samurai on us, perhaps giving us some Star Wars/bushido social theory and maybe a new space-warrior ethos as well.  This makes particular sense for Luke because bushido was by definition a lonely philosophy, known for the price it extracted from families as part of their service.  Lucas called this out directly with the prequel trilogy, and if it’s not central to the series’ resolution as well, I’ll be extremely surprised.

This plot-line would make a great Star Wars movie,
starring Ashoka Tano.
As a primer of the samurai genre, I’ll be watching 13 Assassins on Netflix, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and The Magnificent Seven.  If you’ve got recommendations for other samurai movies, I’d quite like to hear them, though I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure I’m ready to wade through a half-dozen 60s-era foreign language films, particularly if I have to read subtitles.
Last year, the government in Seoul hinted that there had been numerous defections from the military and diplomatic service, as well as among officials charged with raising money for Kim himself.
The South Korean government, and some analysts, have portrayed the defections as signs of cracks in Kim’s regime, which has endured despite repeated predictions of its imminent collapse. A former intelligence official told The Post that about 100 elite defectors have been debriefed at a secret residential center run by the government.
“There is no sense of solidarity or loyalty between Kim Jong Un and senior officials,” Thae said. “Senior officials know that this system can’t continue.”
Even when I was there back in 1999-2000, we heard talk of managing the eventual collapse.  But that collapse, if it ever comes, still seems a long way off.  Unfortunately, it’s liable to be catastrophic when it actually occurs.
5. Pondering the Imponderable

Also this:

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Have a nice weekend!

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