HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

July 9, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


On Ebert and Roeper we were given a list of the ten best movies of the year so far. I have seen only one of them, which, surprisingly, was 300. The award gave me a moment's respite from the guilt I have felt for liking it as well as I did.

In the  New Yorker, Louis Menand has a restrained review of a book by Bryan Caplan titled The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics. The reason is not that voters are idiots or ignoramuses, though Caplan implies they are both. The reason rather is that voters are prejudiced in favor of actions economists see as irrational. The latter are the only persons who understand what good policies would be. Mr. Caplan is, believe it or not, an economist.

On the Discovery Channel I watched a program in which leading earth scientists told us what would happen if a comet eight miles across and going 135,000 miles an hour rammed into the earth at the Yucatan Peninsula. The results would be very droopy. Most humans, all around the world, would die, many of them in very unpleasant ways. There's no indication that a comet of that size is going to strike the earth any time soon. But if one does, and if you've seen the program, you'll know what hideous things are going to happen to you a few hours before they actually occur.

I heard quite a bit of speculation about whether, since Scooter won't spend even an hour in jail, his after-release probation will be canceled. Quite a few people seem to believe that that since the probation is designed to keep check on Scooter's behavior after her gets out of jail, it can't kick in unless he first goes into jail. The White House, we were told, didn't think about that.

On Independence Day, the network news programs all reported that the temperature in Las Vegas had reached 128 degrees. There was much awe about how hot it was, but no hint that the elevated temperatures had anything to do with long-term climate change. Just about everything on the news is sui generis. Nothing ever seems to have been caused by anything else.

On HBO, I saw a film from 1999 named Forces of Nature. It left me reflecting that no movie which features a laundromat with a sign on its back wall saying "Jesus is a truck headed for God's Wherehouse" can be all bad. And that was true of Forces of Nature. It wasn't all bad.

The most interesting note from recent history I encountered was that in the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration actively opposed a resolution in the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission which sought to denounce Iraq for using chemical weapons. Why do you suppose the Gipper wanted to do that? No axis of evil then, I suppose.


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