Thor: Love and Thunder

[3 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The latest Marvel movie became a free-to-me streamer on Disney+, so I bit. Bottom line: I'm sort of glad I didn't pay to see it in the theater. (By the way, the company that owns our local Regal Cinema megaplex just went bankrupt. Just thought I'd mention that.)

The movie begins with a downer: Gorr, a very pasty humanoid played by Christian Bale, watches his young daughter die as his god ignores his plea for miraculous salvation. And then the god shows up with a luxurious oasis, and mocks Gorr for thinking he gives a rat's ass about him or his daughter. Gorr is righteously pissed, and there's a fortuitous god-slaying sword near at hand, and… well, there's your plot. Gorr acquires the means and motive to go on a god-slaying crusade. Not just his god, but all of 'em, including those comparatively decent Asgardians.

Thor has been hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it's nice to see those guys again. But it's clear that their relationship is getting a tad strained. They agree to part ways, and Thor returns to the Earthbound remnants of Asgardian glory, now ensconced in a scenic Norwegian fjord…

Also meanwhile, Thor's ex-girlfriend Jane is dying of cancer. She travels to the previously-mentioned fjord, where the remains of Thor's old weapon, Mjölnir, are being kept as a tourist attraction. Miraculously…

Well, Thor and Jane soon find themselves in a desperate struggle with Gorr and his forces. Epic battles ensue, allies are (unsuccessfully) sought, et cetera.

There's a lot of jokiness involved, somewhat at odds with the girlfriend-cancer and dead-daughter themes. But it's funny, nevertheless. The director/co-writer, Taika Waititi, also wrote/directed Jojo Rabbit, with a similar horror/humor mix. That one worked better for me.

URLs du Jour


  • Her Majesty was a pretty nice girl. RIP, Queen Elizabeth II.

    I might not have posted about her passing, but I'm currently reading The Aristocracy of Talent by Adrian Woolridge, a look at the nature and history of meritocracy. It's one of those insightful and thought-provoking books that have you looking at current events differently.

    And of course, if you do that, you can't help but observe the Queen's position was not due to merit in the slightest. It was simply an accident of birth and long-running, somewhat arbitrary, history; her life trajectory had nothing to do with talent or character. It was a reminder of how things played out in pre-meritocratic days.

    That must be a damned odd situation to find yourself in. ("I'm what now? Royalty? How did that happen?")

    That said, she played her preprogrammed role well, by all accounts. (Well, nearly all accounts.)

    For an interesting take on American media reaction, I recommend Philip Greenspun, who wonders How can the death of a 96-year-old dominate the news if we are facing multiple emergencies? He presents a screenshot of the QEII-dominated New York Times front page, and says waitaminnit:

    Of course, it is sad that a 96-year-old has died, but this is the newspaper that has told us we’re facing a “climate emergency” (Biden will fix), a public health emergency (COVID-19), a second public health emergency (racism), a public health crisis (racism, again), a global health emergency (monkeypox), a domestic health emergency (monkeypox, again), a non-health emergency (homelessness), a kids’ mental health emergency (give them a computer while their school is closed for 1.5 years and then give them therapy), etc., etc.

    Yes, those are all links to the NYT's recent "emergency"-screaming headlines. Why, it's almost as if they don't believe their own hysteria.

    [You don't need a clue about our headline's inspiration do you?]

  • Speaking of emergencies: Some are eminently predictable but politically convenient to ignore. And yes, I'm talking about what Timothy Taylor is talking about: Social Security: On Hold Until 2034?

    For the last 30 years, the actuaries who draw up the long-run projections for Social Security have been forecasting that by the 2030s, there were be inadequate funds to pay promised Social Security benefits. There is no secret here–but nothing has been been done. Douglas Arnold describes the situation and makes some judicious predictions about what is likely to happen in “Fixing Social Security: The Politics of Reform in a Polarized Age,” (Milken Institute Review, Third Quarter 2022). It’s an excerpt from Arnold’s just-published book of the same title. Arnold writes:

    We should not be surprised if Congress does nothing to fix Social Security before 2034, when the trust fund runs dry. Although experts first identified the long-term solvency problem nearly three decades ago, and opinion surveys have repeatedly shown that fixing the problem is one of the public’s top priorities, legislators have never voted on a proposal to fix it — not in committee, not on the floor, not in the House, not in the Senate. … And the principal reason for congressional inaction is clear: insolvency is a long-term problem without short-term consequences. Everything will change in 2034. Suddenly, insolvency will become an urgent problem with enormous consequences. Absent congressional action, an estimated 83 million Social Security recipients — 18 million more than today — will face automatic benefit cuts of 21 percent. Another 8 million people filing for Social Security benefits that year will face similar reductions from what they would otherwise collect.

    It’s worth emphasizing that Arnold’s comment that “legislators have never voted on a proposal to fix it.” Apparently, both parties would prefer to have the Social Security issue linger, rather than find a way to take credit for fixing it. This seems especially striking to me because addressing the coming shortfall in Social Security is pretty straightforward. The same actuaries who point out that the system isn’t financially sustainable as it stands also offer financial estimates of a list of possible policy choices. I’ve written about these kinds of proposals before (for example, see here and here) and won’t run through them again here. But I sometimes say that if a bipartisan group was locked in a room one morning and told that they wouldn’t be served food until a compromise was reached, I think the group could easily be out with a plan before lunchtime.

    Speaking of that: we recently got snailmail from the AARP, attempting to scarify us about the TRUST act, legislation proposed by Mitt Romney to (approximately) set up the scenario described in that last quoted paragraph: task bipartisan committees to examine unsustainable government trust funds (including Social Security's) and recommend fixes. And those recommendations would have to be voted on.

    Well, the AARP was aghast. Their mail didn't bother to explain the TRUST proposal even perfunctorily, just calling it evil. They included prefab forms that we could use to demand our congressional representatives oppose the proposal.

    Oh, and they also asked us to send them money, so they can keep scaring old people like us.

    I'm pretty sure the AARP is following the strategy Taylor describes: wait until 2034 or so, when the SocSec crisis is imminent, and the viable options will be much more constrained. That's irresponsible, but they don't care.

  • Speaking of funny accounting games… Alex J. Pollock and Paul H. Kupiec take a look at the asymmetrical treatment of Federal Reserve Operating Losses and the Federal Budget Deficit. It's really green-eyeshade stuff, but…

    The Federal Reserve remits most of its operating profits to the US Treasury. Federal Reserve remittances are government revenues that directly reduce the federal budget deficit. But what is the budgetary impact of Federal Reserve System losses? The Federal Reserve System has not had an operating loss since 1915, so history provides no guidance as to how these losses will impact the official federal government deficit.

    In 2023, the Fed will likely report tens of billions of dollars in operating losses as it raises interest rates to combat raging inflation. Will Fed losses increase the budget deficit as logic dictates they should, or will they be treated as an off-budget expenditure? Given the “transparency” of federal budgetary accounting standards, it is not surprising that a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report suggests Federal Reserve operating losses will be excluded when tallying the official federal budget deficit.

    You'll want to click over to read about the thorny concept of "deferred assets". Sounds shady. I'm not one of those "End the Fed" libertarians, but… well, maybe I should take a closer look at that.

  • Yeah, how did that happen? John Murawski takes to the pages of the Federalist to describe How America's Elites Decided Vicious Anti-White Racism Is A Good Thing.

    In a 2021 lecture at Yale University titled “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” psychiatrist Aruna Khilanani described her “fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a favor.”

    Around the same time, a scholarly article in a peer-reviewed academic journal described “whiteness” as “a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which ‘white’ people have a particular susceptibility.” The author, Donald Moss, had also presented his paper as a continuing education course for licensed therapists who would presumably treat patients with this condition. The paper advises: “There is not yet a permanent cure.”

    This is a sampling of the new racism that is gaining purchase in American society even as its advocates relentlessly punish speech they deem harmful and threatening to people of color. It parallels the acceptance of anti-male rhetoric that casts masculinity as “predatory” and “toxic,” or just casually demeans males as oafish and clueless, which allows the Washington Post to give a megaphone to Northeastern University professor Suzanna Danuta Walters to ask: “Why can’t we hate men?” (Her conclusion: We can and we should.)

    I'm one of those fuddy-duddies who think that a perfectly good definition of "racism" is "invidious stereotyping on the basis of race". Or was, anyway. That has long been passé in polite progressive company.

  • No, not that F-bomb. The other one. Steven Hayward recounts the long history of Democrats and the F-Bomb.

    President Biden recently charged that Republicans were becoming “semi-fascist,” and this, too, began with FDR. In his 1944 State of the Union speech, Roosevelt said “if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s [invoking Republican Warren Harding’s campaign slogan in 1920]—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” (Emphasis added.) The Democrats had their new f-bomb, and began mass producing it.

    Harry Truman was happy to extend this charge. “PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL,” read the front-page New York Times headline of October 25, 1948:

    “CHICAGO, Oct. 25 — “A Republican victory on election day will bring a Fascistic threat to American freedom that is even more dangerous than the perils from communism and extreme right ‘crackpots,’ President Truman asserted here tonight.”

    The Democrats’ “fascism” slur went into overdrive when the GOP nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. California Governor Pat Brown said Goldwater’s acceptance speech “had the stench of fascism. . . All we needed to hear was ‘Heil Hitler’.” San Francisco Mayor John Shelley said that Republicans “had Mein Kampf as their political bible.” Most of the media was happy to amplify this chorus. Columnist Drew Pearson wrote that “the smell of fascism has been in the air at this convention.” The Chicago Defender ran the headline: “GOP Convention, 1964 Recalls Germany, 1933.” (The good-natured Goldwater remarked about himself after that “If I had had to go by the media reports alone, I’d have voted against the sonofabitch, too.”)

    I remember when I was a college student out in California, the then-governor was regularly called "Ronnie Raygun, the fascist gun in the west." Ah, college.

    I left a comment on Hayward's post, my usual observation you may have seen before:

    Well, if nobody else is gonna quote Orwell, I will:

    The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

    -- "Politics and the English Language", 1946.

    So, yeah, something George noticed was occurring across the pond, 76 years ago.