Cognitive Dissonance, NIH Version

I saw the following articles one after another:

  • "NIH Doesn’t Know Which Federal Facilities It’s Sending Taxpayer Dollars To" (Washington Free Beacon).

    The National Institutes of Health has no system in place to track which federal facilities are receiving taxpayer dollars.

    A Freedom of Information Act request obtained by the Washington Free Beacon revealed that the health agency, which has a budget of over $30 billion, does not keep track of government agencies that receive funding.

    And then…

  • "Social Science is Busted. But the NIH has a Plan That Could Fix It" (Wired).

    Today, a tiny office in the sprawling edifice of the National Institutes of Health released a strategic plan. The 58-page document, complete with bullet points and clip art, spells out a direction for behavioral and social science research—including psychology, economics, and sociology—for the next four years. And while it doesn’t directly shunt funding around, the plan is a bat signal for social scientists across the nation: It shows what the NIH is interested in and (likely) where grants will follow. And that could ultimately shape the direction of behavioral and social science itself.

So, yes: an agency that can't keep track of where taxpayer money is being directed also has a plan to not only (a) direct the money hose onto various fields of social science, but also (b) "fix" things in those fields, something the would-be recipients have been woefully inept at doing themselves.

I'm currently reading Illiberal Reformers by Thomas Leonard, which does a masterful job of relating the Progressive Movement's mindset around the dawn of the 20th century: full of unwarranted hubris, and an overweening desire to "fix" their own era's share of woes. Oddly—by which I mean "totally as expected"—many of the intellectual leaders of the initial wave of Progressivism deemed themselves Economists.

And now a new wave of today's state-based Progressives are on the march to fix their broken field. And others. The hubris hasn't changed, it's just moved.

Disclaimer: Decades ago, I did a stint at NIH, involved in research for my doctorate. I never got my doctorate, and the experience caused me to run at full speed away from anything involving research. I was lousy at it.

Also note: cognoscenti always refer to it as "the NIH", because it's "the National Institutes of Health". For some reason, this doesn't work for NASA: you never see "the NASA". Who could explain, or at least discuss this stylistic weirdness? Oh, right: Language Log.

Last Modified 2016-11-26 8:23 AM EDT

Hacksaw Ridge

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Pun Son and I saw this in the Newington Mall multiplex, our theatre of choice. Sensitive souls should note the MPAA reason for its R rating: "intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images". If anything, that's understated. War is Hell.

It's the mostly-true story of Desmond Doss, a small-town Virginia kid (played by Andrew Garfield, who overdoes the Virginia bumpkin thing), whose early traumatic experience with internal family violence has turned him into a Conscientious Objector, but one who decides his duty lies in signing up with the World War II Army. This distresses his family, and also his sweetie back home. And that distress is well justified, as his unit gets shipped to Okinawa. Resulting in… well, you can reread the MPAA description again.

Graphic violence aside, it's pretty much a standard war movie, focusing on Desmond's journey from Virginia, through boot camp (where his CO status is threatened, and he's the target of abuse as a result), and eventually to Hell.

Vince Vaughn plays Desmond's sergeant for both (inital) laughs and (later) drama. Nice, but…

Hugo Weaving, Elrond himself, plays Desmond's tortured-soul father. If he doesn't win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, there ain't no justice.