Who’s the real free trader around here?

From America: A Prisoner of Our ‘Allies’. Hits the nail right on the head over tariffs, and much else beside.

The political class is screaming bloody murder over Trump’s performance at the G-7 meeting in Canada, where he reportedly spent most of the time detailing how much the US was paying for the defense of our vaunted “allies,” not to mention the high tariffs imposed on American goods. He then proposed a “free trade zone” in which member countries would drop all tariffs, subsidies, and other barriers to trade: the “allies” didn’t like that much, either. Nor did the alleged advocates of free trade here in the US give him any credit for ostensibly coming around to their point of view. Which reminds me of something Murray Rothbard said about this issue: “If authentic free trade ever looms on the policy horizon, there’ll be one sure way to tell. The government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail.”

PDT is a specialist in uncovering hypocrisy and there’s plenty of it around.

[My thanks to Max for posting this in the comments.]

Amadeus discussed at Ace of Spades

Probably my favourite movie of all time. This is a complete steal of TheJamesMadison’s discussion of Amadeus at Ace of Spades. If you don’t know the movie, it’s time you did yourself a favour. Reading what Madison wrote will not spoil a second of the actual film.


65. Amadeus 01.jpgI’ve revisited the first six films in my personal Top Ten of all time chronologically from The Passion of Joan of Arc to Apocalypse Now, so now we get to the 80s, the single most represented decade in my list. And the first movie in that decade is Milos Forman’s Amadeus.

Re-Introductions and Introductions

When I first discovered Amadeus, I loved it, and I showed it to my father. We watched it together (one very nice thing about him was that he’s willing to watch almost whatever I try to put in front of him), and his reaction was much more tempered than mine. He said, “You’ll like it less as you get older.” Not that he didn’t like the film, but he just didn’t love it like I did.

I didn’t watch this movie for at least seven years until this week when I finally revisited it. I was a bit terrified. Was my dad right? Would I finally rewatch the film and decide that it’s simply not as good as my younger self had determined?

Thankfully, I loved the film as much as before, and that started with one particular moment about ten minutes into the film. Salieri, having attempted suicide, is sitting alone in a cell in a sanitarium playing some small tunes on a harpsicord. A priest comes to hear his confession. Salieri wants nothing to do with the priest until the priest insists that all men are equal in God’s eyes. That attracts Salieri’s attention.

He starts by trying to draw the priest into his story by playing some of Salieri’s old tunes, music that the priest should be familiar with because he studied music in Vienna in his youth. The first tune passes over the priest’s head, much to Salieri’s distaste. And then we see this:

It’s a simple cut to a tracking shot, and it completely pulls me into the film.

Salieri plays the first few bars of the music. He takes his fingers off the keys to revel in the sound in his head. We, of course, hear it, but the priest does not. The cut takes us to a live performance of the music sung by a woman, gaudily dressed, on stage. The camera pulls back to reveal a man conducting an orchestra. As this man turns, the camera changes focus from the woman to him, revealing Salieri, decades younger, and at the height of his influence and power.

It’s such a simple cut and dolly, and it sells two things. The first is the basic structure of the movie. We’re going to see what he’s talking about. The other is character based. His telling of his story really starts with Salieri at the height of his influence and popularity. He’s adored by music lovers, and he’s firm in his commitment to his art. That simple cut and dolly puts such a smile on my face every time.


65. Amadeus 02.jpgAntonio Salieri is the protagonist of the film, and Mozart is the antagonist. Not to say good guy and bad guy, but Salieri is obviously the one driving the plot in the film. He hinders and helps Mozart, driving him from success to failure.

Mozart, though, is a delight and played by Tom Hulce (who lost the Best Actor Oscar to F. Murray Abraham for his performance as Salieri). He’s an effortless genius who’s been spoiled to the point that he can usually get away with any manner of vulgarity. This is evident when he first approaches the Emperor Joseph II and admits that his idea for an opera (in German!) he will set in a harem. The courtiers around the emperor gasp at the mere thought, but the emperor hides a small smile. He’s obviously entertained by Mozart’s brashness, eventually giving in to every wish Mozart has in terms of his art.

The scene that that plays out in is where Salieri begins to truly hate Mozart. Not only is Mozart vulgar, as opposed to Salieri’s own reserved modesty (which he offers up to God, along with his chastity, in order to praise Him through music), but Mozart is also effortlessly gifted. The second scene that I want to highlight is below (the clip is chopped up from a larger scene, but it contains everything necessary for this discussion):

Salieri worked hard on that little march of his. He played with the harpsicord for every note, trying to craft something as an appropriate welcome to the wunderkind. Then, presented with the music sheet, Mozart waves it off. He’s already memorized it after one hearing. Not only does he then prove that he can recreate Salieri’s simple tune perfectly, but he, on the fly, improves it tremendously (eventually turning it into something that actually comes from The Marriage of Figaro). Salieri had worked diligently and reverentially to produce the piece that this creature (as Salieri calls Mozart) instantly turns into something so much better.

Salieri’s dismissive attitude towards the priest’s contention that all men are equal in God’s eyes comes into full view in an instant. Salieri isn’t equal to Mozart. God obviously prefers Mozart considering the difference in talent and perceived holiness between the two men.


65. Amadeus 03.jpgThe last scene I want to highlight is the writing of the requiem mass as Salieri assists Mozart after the production of The Magic Flute (quick aside, Ingmar Bergman made an absolutely marvelous production of The Magic Flute, and you should find a copy at your local library).

Salieri, a lover of music who understands the stark contrast between his ability and Mozart’s, wants Mozart to write his own Requiem mass and then to take credit for it. Left alone with him, Mozart’s wife having left Vienna in disgust at Mozart’s inability to focus on making money in favor of potentially empty promises, Salieri dictates Mozart’s work. Together, they compose a few bars of music for every instrument in the piece. They build it layer by layer. Voices, horns of different types, strings. It all comes together, sometimes just sounding like noise, but once it all comes together the audience can hear the confluence of the different pieces to create the harmonious music in its entirety.

The fact that Salieri is behind and can’t understand until it’s spelled out for him is marvelous. He knows enough to aid Mozart, but he’s obviously completely out of his depth. Mozart seems to speak in a different language the deeper into the composition they get. Let’s take a look!

The Movie Entire

65. Amadeus 04.jpgThe movie itself is obviously much more than the three scenes I’ve highlighted, and what really carries it is Salieri himself. He’s such a wonderfully complex character who balances his hatred of Mozart the person with his love of Mozart the artist.

He often lies to Mozart. He lies about trying to help Mozart at court, only to be thwarted by circumstance. He lies about how he’ll try to help him with an appointment. But he can never lie about how he feels regarding Mozart’s music. Whenever Mozart asks Salieri what he thought of Mozart’s newest work, all pretense falls from Salieri and he tells the honest truth, that it was magnificent.

In addition to Salieri, Constanze, Mozart’s wife, looks like someone who would be completely out of her depth in regards to anything serious, but the fact that she’s the one who sees things clearly offers Mozart a firm base from which to operate. When she leaves, Mozart loses all of the support she offered and falls into the hands of Schikaneder and Salieri.

The court is a joyful little comic delight. Most of them are as opposed to Mozart as Salieri. They use every ounce of their power to keep Mozart in check, but the Emperor Joseph will walk in and completely overturn anything with the smallest of suggestions (“Let me hear the scene with the music.”) that put Mozart back on top.

The movie really is not what one would expect from a three hour film about a classical composer (side note: The Director’s Cut really is a Director’s Cut and probably is the superior version of the film). It’s light and joyful where it needs to be. It’s got surprising contemporary touches like Mozart’s pink wig which evokes mid-80s punk rock. The movie really does fly by, never feeling like three hours, and is one of the most fun times I ever have had at the movies, so to speak.

A Small Note on Historical (In)Accuracy

Thank you, Lisa. If I didn’t think of you as a joyless scold before, I certainly do now.

Some may remember, but I don’t insist much on historical accuracy from films. I don’t expect history lessons from movies, but I do expect to be entertained.

Amadeus is bad history. Mozart had six kids, not one. Salieri didn’t help Mozart write the Requiem. Salieri wasn’t a celibate. There’s so much in this film that’s not historically accurate.

And yet, the movie is filtered through Salieri the character. It’s a telling of the events through an unreliable narrator. It really gives the film credence to be as historically inaccurate as it wants to be. And, probably because of its complete disregard for actual history, the movie is a fantastic entertainment and explores what it means to be an artist.

Which side are you on?

Trump blasts Canada’s Trudeau for ‘false statements’…
Rough talks sour G7 mood; Confrontations…
Trump refuses to back declaration calling for tariff reductions…
Holds rare solo news conference, defends bashing press…

Comes with this:


I actually cannot understand why anyone with sense would have preferred Hillary to PDT but by now, if you are not completely persuaded that Trump is our last chance for the West to hold itself together, then your political judgement is good for nothing. Like this in particular:

“The EU understands that the only way with Trump is strength,” said one European official. “If you give in now, he will come back tomorrow for more.”

Hope things continue with his meeting with Kim (the other Kim) on Tuesday.


From Wikipedia: under the heading University:

The word “university” is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars.”[1] While antecedents had existed in Asia and Africa, the modern university system has roots in the EUROPEAN medieval university, which was created in Italy and evolved from Christian Cathedral schools for the clergy during the High Middle Ages.

Meanwhile, the Ramsay Centre finds it cannot even give away millions of dollars to a university to set up a program in Western Civilisation, the very place where universities began. First the ANU and now this. From The Australian: Sydney Uni hit by backlash while looking to the West, that is, while examining the possibility of setting up a course of study under the heading Western Civilisation.

University of Sydney academics have reacted furiously to the news, with more than 100 — including refugee and pro-Palestine activist Nick Riemer, fellow boycott Israel campaigner Jake Lynch and Tim Anderson, who courted controversy by defending Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad — signing an open letter signalling that they are “strongly opposed to the university entering into any arrangement with the Ramsay Centre”.

The letter, written by Dr ­Riemer and history professor Adrian Vickers, refers to “political leanings” of the Ramsay Centre board, chaired by former Liberal prime minister John ­Howard and including Tony ­Abbott. It accuses it of propagating a “conservative, culturally ­essentialist, and Eurocentric ­vision” and claims its program embodies “chauvinistic, Western essentialism”. “We are deeply disturbed by the possibility of Ramsay Centre courses being part of our institution, to say nothing of the significant and justified reputational damage that the university collectively, and its academics derivatively, would incur as a result,” the letter says. “We belong to a multicultural and hybrid society in a world traversed by serious geo­political and social animosities. Collaborating with the chauvinistic Western essentialism that the Ramsay Centre embodies would be a violation of our crucial role in promoting a ­society of diversity, inclusiveness and mutual respect.”

As for finding a society that promotes “diversity, inclusiveness and mutual respect” I hope they have a list of places from which these sorts of things can be learned.

PERVERSE OPINIONS: A number of commenters mentioned PVO’s article in The Oz today so thought I would have a look. Here are the top comments starting from the first and working my way down. I agree with all of them, although they are a bit temperate for my liking.

I read this article with mounting disbelief. For a man who claims a belief in the virtues and benefits of Western Civilisation, his argument boils down to one simple fact. Abbott should not have exercised his right to speak because it would upset an angry nest of bull ants. Claiming that Abbott gave them the excuse to do what they intended to do anyway is as peurile as it is immature. In essence PVO’s argument crystallises into the undergraduates plaint that ‘Abbott made us do it’. Give us a break. The NTEU and the SRC simply used Abbott as an excuse. They had no intention of letting the Ramsay proposal go ahead. And, if it had they would have white anted it anyway. Our universities are publicly funded institutions. They are not personal fiefdoms. Each and every one of us has an interest in them and and a right to speak about them that includes those who the Left choose to dislike.

The Left’s fear of Abbott borders on the unhinged.

‘It was Abbott wot done it.’ Yep, undergraduate stuff, once again. This stuff is lightweight.

Well of course it’s Tony Abbott’s fault! It just had to be. PVO is utterly laughable.

The weather here on Lake Como has been unseasonably wet & stormy. I am sure that with a little imagination this ‘journalist’ could find a way to blame Tony Abbott. If he did a good enough job maybe I could sue!!! To think that people are being paid to write articles such as this defies description. Tony Abbott must be very sore after the kickings which this man has managed to give him.

Gee that man Tony Abbott is mighty powerful! Supposedly because of just one sentence in his erudite article published in a conservative-leaning magazine , a University knocked back millions of dollars. In reality, its VC didn’t have what it takes to stand up to bullies who want to limit intellectual boundaries. However there is an excellent outcome – passionate PUBLIC discussion about Western Civilisation, and Tony Abbott has hit the spot yet again.

If Abbott is blame for the rejection of Western Studies supported by the Ramsay Centre how do you explain the established hate of all things western and conservative in our universities,that is so sensitive that one Statement is used as an excuse to reject the studies. The problem is not Tony Abbott,the problem is entrenched and generational anti western academics riding roughshod over weak and like minded administrations. Government should defund these state universities, pay funding assistance to students to use at private universities that provide diverse studies without political bias.

Western Civ

From today’s Oz:

A female suicide bomber who killed dozens of Israeli soldiers has graced the front cover of a University of Sydney student newspaper, and Jewish students who ­complained about the cover have been “condemned” for ­censorship.

Hamida al-Taher killed more than 50 people, mainly Israeli military personnel, when she blew herself up in Southern Lebanon in 1985. The special edition of the University of Sydney’s student newspaper Honi Soit, produced by the student women’s collective a fortnight ago, put her on the cover and called her a “martyr” in an issue dedicated to the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”.

The student queer collective’s edition of Honi Soit on April 16 was criticised for having a picture of a petrol bomb on the cover and supporting a boycott of Israel.

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students has called for an apology over the covers. “They are particularly disturbing to Jewish students as they display a blatant disdain for Israeli victims of violence,” AUJS national political ­director Noa Bloch said.

“By disseminating publications that sacrifice respectful dialogue … it inevitably causes distress among Jewish and other students who support Israel.”

The University of Sydney’s ­Student Representative Council passed a motion, 11 to 10, against AUJS on Wednesday night for complaining about the publication.

“This SRC condemns AUJS for suggesting the university should intervene to censor a student-run publication,” the motion reads.

“This SRC congratulates those who put together the women’s ­edition of Honi for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter ­(opposing) the ­illegal Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine.”

Taher was a member of Syria’s Arab Socialist Ba’ath party, which is accused of killing thousands.

SRC women’s officers Madeline Ward and Jessica Syed said they did not intend to upset anyone with their cover but stood by their anti-Israeli position. “We are saddened some were upset by the picture — this was not our intention. The policy of the University of Sydney SRC and our collective is pro-Palestine.”

You tell me, what is North Korea really up to?

Political calculation is an art and a gift. It cannot be taught and much of it is luck. Yet here we are with the whole world watching so who is to say whether this is right or not: All signs point to North Korea preparing a bait-and-switch. Certainly not “all” signs, but some definitely are. The question is, how will this unfold? We want the North Koreans to abandon nuclear weapons. They want their little shop of horrors to survive with no outside interference. You all follow the news, so what’s going to happen? What should the United States and its allies do?

As a template in this sort of thing, the until-now Secret Transcripts of the Israeli “Security Cabinet” from 1967, which made all policy decisions leading up to the Six Day War and then after it was over, have just been released after fifty years. The SC was made up of the leaders of every party in the Knesset. This is how the documents are described:

The Six-Day War: classified documents unsealed 50 years after the conflict reveal: Jerusalem conquered almost by accident; Israel’s National Religious Party, forerunner to the settler movement, lobbied for military de-escalation at every turn; and nobody in Israel’s security cabinet seems to have seen the country’s most momentous war coming.

You already know what happened, but even so these are fascinating. Read them through and listen to the deliberations that were undertaken in real time. There are two halves, pre-war and post-war.

Part 1

Part 2.

Political calculation is the way everything in politics must be since the future will always be an unknown while everything has to be weighed up since there are no facts about the future. You can only hope for level-headed decision-making but no one gets it right every time while some are worse than others. Fifty years from now we will know what had happened in North Korea, and then we can read the transcripts of how the Americans were weighing things up. By then, who knows, Pyongyang may have become the richest city in the world.

ANOTHER TAKE ON NORTH KOREA: From Pushing North Korea and Iran to the brink:

By now, this much should be obvious to anyone paying close attention: Mr. Kim regards deliverable nuclear weapons as the great equalizer, the means by which he can keep America at bay while he plots to rule the entire Korean peninsula. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants such weapons in pursuit of an even more ambitious objective: dominating the Middle East and spreading what he calls the Islamic Revolution around the globe. “Death to America” is a longer-range goal, one that Mr. Kim would heartily endorse.

Nothing is obvious to me, but I hope what is clear to those involved reflects the underlying actual reality.

The politics of the environment

Steve Hayward who wrote the article discussed on the decline but sadly not the fall of the politics of climate change wrote an earlier and related article on Conservatism and Climate Science. This is the core of the issue discussed:

The conservative ambivalence or hostility toward the intersection of science and policy can be broken down into three interconnected parts: theoretical, practical, and political. I begin by taking a brief tour through these three dimensions, for they help explain why appeals to scientific authority or “consensus” are guaranteed to be effective means of alienating conservatives and spurring their opposition to most climate initiatives. At the root of many controversies today, going far beyond climate change, are starkly different perspectives between left and right about the nature and meaning of reason and the place of science.

This is his final conclusion found at the very end:

Liberals and environmentalists would do well to take on board the categorical imperative of climate policy from a conservative point of view, namely, that whatever policies are developed, they must be compatible with individual liberty and democratic institutions, and cannot rely on coercive or unaccountable bureaucratic administration.

Nice thought, except that for liberals and environmentalists, who are largely the same group, the very aim is to achieve coercive and unaccountable bureaucratic administration. They are not interested in the issues or in finding the dimension of the problems involved and seeking solutions to whatever problems there are. Their only interest is taking control over our lives and running things themselves without interference.

The political calculations behind the Six Day War

The Secret Transcripts of the Israeli “Security Cabinet” which made all policy decisions leading up to the Six Day War and then after it was over. The SC was made up of the leaders of every party in the Knesset. This is how the documents are described:

The Six-Day War: classified documents unsealed 50 years after the conflict reveal: Jerusalem conquered almost by accident; Israel’s National Religious Party, forerunner to the settler movement, lobbied for military de-escalation at every turn; and nobody in Israel’s security cabinet seems to have seen the country’s most momentous war coming.

You already know what happened, but even so these are fascinating. Read them through:

Part 1

Part 2.

Political calculation is the way everything is since the future will always be an unknown so everything has to be weighed up. You can only hope that such level-headed decision making continues.