March 25, 2012

Time Capsule: Red Mike’s review of Starship Troopers

Filed under: Humour, Media, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:51

Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is still one of my all-time favourite science fiction books. For that reason alone, I avoided going to see Verhoeven’s film “adaptation”. To more than make up for that, here’s a great review of the film … by that, I mean the review is great, not the film:

We start off with a news report from the surface of the planet Klendathu, the bugs’ home world, where you will instantaneously flash on that Korean-war era song,

    “Hear the sound of runnin’ feet
    It’s the old First Cav in full retreat
    They’re haulin’ ass,
    Not savin’ gas,
    They’ll soon be gone.”

Things are bad and getting worse, as a mob of Mobile Infantry types mill about, getting in each others’ lines of fire, screaming things like “Run for your life!” or words to that effect. It isn’t until later in the film that you discover that milling about is the only formation they practice regularly, and aimless running is their chief tactical mode.

[. . .]

Our heroes head to the surface, where they mill about some more. The concepts of formation, organization, and command and control appear to have been lost. They top a rise and stand in dumb amazement, one thumb in their mouth and one in their ass playing switch, as they see giant bugs expand with gas, then lift tail toward the sky and blast a blue-white fart of anti-spaceship gas up to where the fleet is in orbit.

Our guys stand shoulder to shoulder, firing at the mass of bugs, using a set of tactics that hasn’t worked well since Gettysburg. Actually, the guys at Gettysburg were a bit better better equipped for what they were doing, since they had artillery (a concept that has been lost, apparently) and weapons with an accurate range of over eight feet. Other lost concepts that would have proved Really Helpful here include close air support, mortars, air-dropped mines, barbed wire, fire, maneuver, cover, concealment, objectives, and useful orders. (I mean, “Kill everything that has more than two legs” is really neat, but “Go to coordinates XXYY, and set up a perimeter. Your covered arc runs from AA through CC. You’ll be linking up with Unit Name on your left and Other Unit Name on your right. Hold the position until you’re relieved by Unit Name. At that time go to YYZZ and await further orders” would have actually been helpful.) Nor, for that matter, do we have armored fighting vehicles, heavy machineguns, shoulder-launched missiles, or other stuff (a spray can of Raid?) that might have come in handy.

[. . .]

We go bug hunting again. And after an engagement that proves that a British Square from Waterloo would have done better than the MI at fighting bugs, we win anyway. We have a party! Dizzy and Johnny finally get it on. (I have to comment that I really liked the Special Effects in this film. Especially Dizzy’s left special effect and her right special effect. Carmen has even bigger special effects, but she never whips her shirt off so it’s hard to be sure.)

Bryan Caplan: John Stuart Mill was over-rated

Filed under: Books, History, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:32

Mill isn’t one of my favourite philosophers: I read On Liberty as a teenager, but most of it didn’t stick with me (probably more a reflection of my age than the work itself, I agree). Bryan Caplan makes a case for him being far more famous than he deserves:

One especially cringeworthy example: In the span of two pages in On Liberty, Mill names one “ultimate” principle and one “absolute” principle. His Ultimate Principle:

    It is proper to state that I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right, as a thing independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions…

His Absolute Principle:

    The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion.

You might think that Mill would argue that his Ultimate Principle implies his Absolute Principle — or at least that that the two principles never conflict. That would be silly and dogmatic, but consistent.

[. . .]

Unfortunately for Mill, neither his Ultimate nor Absolute Principles leaves any role for mere “capability.” You could say, “If free and equal discussion will improve a person, you should respect his liberty.” When words work, there’s no reason to resort to beatings. But after free and equal discussion fails to open the eyes of a person capable of free and equal discussion, why not try coercion? No matter what a person’s “capabilities,” Mill’s Ultimate Principle commands coercion and his Absolute Principle forbids it.

Britain’s stealth decriminalization of marijuana

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:18

An interesting post at The Economist on the recent changes to law and police practices in Britain in regard to cannabis cultivation and consumption:

Small growers are squeezing out both importers and the well-connected, often Vietnamese, gangs that once dominated domestic production. The big cannabis factories set up by the latter, with their telltale heat hazes, are fairly easy to spot. Smaller operations are often uncovered only when the electric lights start fires, or when local teenagers mount a burglary.

The police and the courts can neither keep up with the surge in small-scale production, nor are they desperately keen to do so. Last month the government published new sentencing guidelines that advised judges to treat small cultivators less strictly. Attitudes to smokers are softening, too. The reclassification of cannabis in 2009, from class C to the more stringent class B, was oddly accompanied by a more liberal approach to policing consumption. Users caught on the street are rarely arrested; rather, they are issued “cannabis cautions” (a reprimand which doesn’t appear on a criminal record) or fined.

[. . .]

Strangely, this lackadaisical approach is not encouraging people to take up the reefer habit. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the proportion of people who admit to having used cannabis in Britain has fallen more quickly than in any other European country over the past few years. Just 6.8% of adults told another survey that they used cannabis in 2010, down from 10.9% eight years earlier. The herb is now ubiquitous and effectively tolerated — and, perhaps as a result, not all that alluring.

Reason.tv: 3 Reasons to End Obamacare Before it Begins!

Filed under: Economics, Government, Health, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:36

There are more than ten reasons to oppose bill C-10

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:05

But I guess we have to start somewhere. Trinda L. Ernst has an article in the Toronto Star which compiles the top ten reasons to oppose the Conservatives’ most recent “tough on crime” bill:

Bill C-10 is titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act — an ironic name, considering that Canada already has some of the safest streets and communities in the world and a declining crime rate. This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.

Bill C-10 will require new prisons; mandate incarceration for minor, non-violent offences; justify poor treatment of inmates and make their reintegration into society more difficult. Texas and California, among other jurisdictions, have already started down this road before changing course, realizing it cost too much and made their justice system worse. Canada is poised to repeat their mistake.

[. . .]

Canadians deserve accurate information about Bill C-10, its costs and its effects. This bill will change our country’s entire approach to crime at every stage of the justice system. It represents a huge step backwards; rather than prioritizing public safety, it emphasizes retribution above all else. It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.

H/T to Bren McKenna for sending me the link.

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