Why I’m not blogging about the Super Committee

The deadline is not next week.  The deadline is actually 2013 when the cuts are actually scheduled to take place.  Now, if somehow Congress was locked in for 2013 by what happens– or more likely fails to happen– next week, that would be one thing.  But they’re not.  Sure it makes for some nice drama for journalists– complete with a countdown clock in the Post homepage– but it’s pretty artificial drama.   If there’s no deal, Congress (and President Obama) have until 2013 to come up with something to prevent these cuts from happening.  Not surprisingly, Republicans will likely have the upper hand.  Yglesias nicely sums up the actual state of affairs:

The strange thing about the “super committee” process is that it’s been clear from the beginning that the Democrats will end up surrendering one way or the other. That’s because of the way the “trigger” has been structured. The automatic cuts are supposed to be evenly divided between domestic programs that Democrats want to protect and defense programs that Republicans want to protect, but Democrats also favor protecting those defense programs. Almost from the beginning you’ve heard Leon Panetta and others deploring the terrors of the trigger. That means Democrats have merely re-created the original debt ceiling problem for themselves. They don’t want to agree to an all-cuts deficit reduction, but they really don’t want to experience the alternative.

Republicans, by contrast, have no problem with the defense trigger. As Dave Weigel writes, super committee failure merely means “21 [Democratic] senators are vulnerable to truth-remixing Crossroads GPS ads about how they literally pried guns out of the hands of soldiers.”The two interesting questions are as follows. One is whether Democrats will surrender duringthe super committee negotiations or wait until the super committee deadlocks and then surrender on separate legislation to reverse the defense cuts. The second is whether in the latter scenario, Democrats will get any of the non-security trigger cuts rolled back alongside the defense ones.

No matter what happens, I can guarantee you that we’re not going to see defense spending cut in half.  Democrats can talk all they want about the horror of automatic cuts to the CDC, FBI, NIH, etc., but Republicans have never really shown much interest in a functioning domestic government beyond the Defense Department and law enforcement.  And I’m sure they’d be willing to let some criminals have it easy before they raised taxes $1.

Photo of the Day

Well, I’ve become addicted to National Geographic photographs now.  Since this blog is stuff I like/stuff that interests me, you’re going to get more photos.  Don’t worry, I promise they’ll all be either amazing photos, funny, or politically relevant.  Anyway, this is one of the finalists for last year’s National Geographic contest:

On a related note, this photo reminds of the Fantastic Mr. Fox– far and away my favorite Wes Anderson film.

Two Fish in a tank

Two fish are in a tank.  One says to the other, “hey, can you drive this thing?”  I loved that.  A great example of humor in semantic ambiguity.  Heard the joke from the final author of this while being interviewed on Quirks and Quarks.   It was a really interesting story about now being able to determine patients with “locked in syndrome” via the much simpler and accessible EEG than an fMRI.  Apparently, you can tell if a person “gets” a joke by brain patterns.   Or to put it in scientific terms:

What makes us laugh? One crucial component of many jokes is the disambiguation of words with multiple meanings. In this functional MRI study of normal participants, the neural mechanisms that underlie our experience of getting a joke that depends on the resolution of semantically ambiguous words were explored. Jokes that contained ambiguous words were compared with sentences that contained ambiguous words but were not funny, as well as to matched verbal jokes that did not depend on semantic ambiguity. The results confirm that both the left inferior temporal gyrus and left inferior frontal gyrus are involved in processing the semantic aspects of language comprehension, while a more widespread network that includes both of these regions and the temporoparietal junction bilaterally is involved in processing humorous verbal jokes when compared with matched nonhumorous material

Interesting stuff.

How Robin Williams ruined animated films

Well, not exactly.  But in the good old days– prior to Aladdin (one of my very favorite Disney movies, actually), animated films relied on voice actors, not celebrities.  In general, I’ve always thought this was a change for the worse.  Over at the Atlantic, Scott Meslow has a very nice post on what have long been my inchoate thoughts on the matter:

As with almost all contemporary animated films, Puss in Boots is being sold on a laundry list of big-name Hollywood actors. In fact, the celebrity voices behind the film are so integral its marketing strategy that the cast is the last thing you see before the release date in the film’s trailer: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Amy Sedaris. It’s so common to see big names attached to a big animated blockbuster that audiences have begun to take it for granted.

But animated films weren’t always like this. Quick—name the voice behind Snow White inSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs. No luck? What aboutPinocchio? Or Cinderella? OrOne Hundred and One Dalmatians? Or even a film as recent as 1992’s Beauty and the Beast? Hats off if you managed to come up with Paige O’Hara (Belle) and Robby Benson (Beast)—but you’re in the great minority of filmgoers.

When did celebrities take over the world of voice acting? Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin. Though Aladdin boasted some of the world’s most seasoned voice actors—including Frank Welker, whose astonishing range of characters include Scooby-Doo, Kermit the Frog, and Transformers‘ Megatron—there was one man who stood out from the rest of the cast: Robin Williams, who voiced the film’s hyperactive Genie.

Robin Williams was perfect at the Genie, but alas, he let the Genie out of the bottle for using celebrities for animated films based solely on marketing considerations.

Metaphor of the day

Slate’s John Dickerson on Newt’s rise to #2 in the Republican field:

Being the non-Mitt Romney candidate in the Republican field is like being the No. 3 leader of al-Qaida: You don’t keep the job for long.

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