Ten Miles Square


April 19, 2014 12:12 PM Weekend Film Recommendation: Canyon Passage

By Keith Humphreys


My April-long tribute to Dana Andrews continues this week with an underappreciated 1946 frontier yarn made in glorious Technicolor by an extraordinarily unlikely director: Black and white film noir master Jacques Tourneur! The result is an entertaining, highly original (if blandly titled) Western: Canyon Passage.

The plot, set in mid-19th century Oregon, is not easy to summarize, which turns out to be one of the film’s virtues. Throughout there is a movie-length story thread concerning whether brave, restless entrepreneur Logan Stuart (Andrews) will marry a sweet stay-at-home woman (Patricia Roc) or end up with the sassy, adventurous flame-haired beauty the audience knows he belongs with (Susan Hayward) if only she were not engaged to his friend (Brian Donlevy). But there is much more to the film than that. It’s a slice of frontier life, told through different lenses. Indeed, the film’s highlight is an extended sequence of slight relevance to the love triangle storyline in which the pioneers raise a cabin for a newly married couple. The panoramic tale also includes subplots about the cruelty of “justice” in towns where no police or courts exist, the workings and risks of gold mining-based economic systems and how boredom leads small town dwellers to seek out destructive entertainments (e.g., egging on fistfights, engaging in compulsive gambling). Some critics found Canyon Passage too “plotty” but if you step back from the details and see it more as the story of a entire frontier community, it’s unified and not a bit overstuffed.

That style of storytelling is one sign that Tourneur clearly didn’t want to make a typical Western. Another is that the first closeup doesn’t occur until 15 minutes into the movie! Throughout the film, Tourneur keeps the camera at a distance from his stars (thereby driving producer Walter Wanger batty), which makes the audience think about the many characters in the town as a whole rather than just seeing them as background for the stars.

What makes Andrews’ commanding performance so enjoyable is the way he plays off three other talented actors. His flirty, forbidden jousting with Hayward has palpable electricity, his dedication to his flawed friend Donlevy is both inspiring and sad, and his conflict with a vicious local bully (Ward Bond) is gripping. Bond was a physical powerhouse, and his brutal character here is what Jud Fry would have been in Oklahoma! if he had regularly consumed steroids. The physical confrontation between Andrews and Bond, one of the film’s highlights, left both men bruised and in need of stitches (that’s an juicy detail in the engaging Carl Rollyson biography about Andrews that I recommended here). Other fine performances in the film are turned in by Andy Devine, Halliwell Hobbes and a then-unknown Lloyd Bridges. When such a large cast is uniformly good, you should credit the director, so hats off to Tourneur for his skill.


Whether you find this film to be outstanding or just pretty good may well turn on whether you are a fan of Hoagy Carmichael, who had an enormously successful and unique multi-decade career in Hollywood. He is primarily remembered for his music, but also acted in some movies in the 1940s and early 1950s including in the Andrews-anchored classic The Best Years of Our Lives (my favorite Carmichael role in is To Have and Have Not). Here he plays (what else?) a musically inclined shopkeeper and performs several original songs which he wrote for the movie, including Ole Buttermilk Sky and Silver Saddle. I think his music is pleasing in any event and also fits the movie particularly well, but see what you think.

One other note of praise before closing. This 1946 film was ahead of its time in humanizing Native Americans. Although they eventually go on a murderous spree, it’s clearly a response to the rape and murder of a young woman by a white man. There is also a revealing exchange in the cabin-raising sequence in which Andy Devine explains to the other settlers that the Indians do not object to sharing the frontier with them, but see the building as a statement of personal ownership of the land, which is alien to their culture. Unlike in the usual “good” cowboys versus “bad” Indians movies of the period, the horrifying conflict that eventually breaks out is appropriately portrayed as mutually tragic. That emotional dimension of the story’s climax is one of the many reasons Canyon Passage is a cut way above the typical Hollywood oater.

p.s. For another successful Tourneur-Andrews collaboration, please see my recommendation of Night of the Demon.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

April 19, 2014 12:11 PM Submit to Elsevier With Gusto and Abandon! A Modest Proposal

By Henry Farrell

As long time readers may recall, I am not a big fan of Elsevier and was a public advocate of the position that no-one should submit to Elsevier journals at a time when it was neither profitable or popular. However, reading this article about Elsevier’s new policy of issuing take-down notices against authors who publish their work on university websites has made me change my mind. Now, I think that everyone should submit as much of their work to Elsevier as they possibly can. Any article that has even a modest chance of success. People should bear through the revise and resubmit process as many times as it takes. Once the piece has finally been accepted, then, and only then, should they withdraw the article from consideration, and then publish it on their university or personal website with an “accepted by Elsevier Journal x and then withdrawn in protest,” together with a copy of the acceptance email (containing the editor’s email address etc).

I do foresee a couple of possible wrinkles in this plan. Perhaps disgruntled elder colleagues might frown upon this (although in some fields at least, disgruntled elder colleagues seem entirely on board with pushing against Elsevier). Non-tenured faculty might want to think a little about the benefits and disadvantages before deciding they wanted to do this. This said, I could imagine senior faculty or tenure letter writers who would find this kind of thing wholly admirable, and to be congratulated, not punished (I know that I would). If this campaign actually took off, Elsevier would doubtless try to disrupt it, by e.g. obliging prospective authors to sign a contract agreeing to publish in the journal if accepted. However, I could also see any such efforts backfiring – most journals would be damaged by such a policy, since many academics (especially prominent and well published ones), would see forced contracts as presumptuous and insulting. Doubtless, there are other flaws that readers can point out.

However, I can’t imagine that the journal’s peer reviewers would have much ground for complaint. Their job is to help improve academic work that is eventually publicly circulated (in other words their loyalty should be to the field, rather than to the journal). Journal editors would probably be unhappy, but really, at this point, no-one should want to be the editor of an Elsevier journal. I’m perfectly OK with academic publishers who don’t try to extract monopoly rents, just as I’m OK with various forms of open publishing (I happily do both). But Elsevier relies both on the willingness of scholars to submit work and their willingness to review it, to make extortionate profits by effectively selling academics’ labor back to the academy. Current proposals to target Elsevier seek to withdraw this labor in one or the other way. Another possibility (which is the one I’m suggesting, albeit without a great deal of serious thought) is to subvert the current system and make it unsustainable in other ways, by extracting the kudos that acceptance in some Elsevier journals can bring out from the obligatory signing away of rights that goes together with agreeing to let the journal actually publish your piece. In a world where ever fewer academics discover articles by actually picking up the journals, this kind of strategy is at least thinkable.

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

April 19, 2014 12:07 PM Megan McArdle vs. the Rest of the Red Team

By Mark Kleiman

A previous post asked whether any “conservative” pundit or pol had criticized the armed mob that threatened federal officials carrying out a lawful court order in the Bundy Ranch confrontation. The answer to that question is a (qualified) “Yes.” Megan McArdle points out that Bundy was defying the law in the service of a claim to use resources he doesn’t own without paying for them, and that a civilized society depends on the rule that people “not take up arms to pursue their own self-interest against the rest of us.” She goes on to point out how much less tolerance there would be for parallel activities in an urban ghetto rather than in rural Nevada.

Now, Megan is a libertarian rather than a conservative; still, she clearly inhabits the Red side of the political spectrum. But what’s striking to me is that she seems to be unique. The default position on the Red team is that pointing guns at federal officials carrying out lawful court orders is just hunky-dory. The Republican sheriff of Clark County and the Republican governor of Nevada both backed the actions of an armed mob in defiance of the law.

Is there really no elected Republican, or right-leaning thinker or writer other than Megan McArdle, prepared to defend the rule of law? So far, apparently not. [Update: Yes there are. See below.] Unless and until that changes, it’s going to be hard to take seriously calls for “civility.” I’m prepared to stop saying that Republicans are a bunch of thugs and lunatics the moment they stop acting and speaking like a bunch of thugs and lunatics.

P.s. And where the hell are the national law enforcement associations in all this? Doesn’t the Fraternal Order of Police have anything to say about pointing rifles at cops?

A reader points to three more exceptions: all pundits, still no pols. Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review, Gracy Olmstead of The American Conservative (posting at The Federalist), and Glenn Beck (!)

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

April 18, 2014 2:08 PM Becoming An American

By Henry Farrell

I became a US citizen earlier today.

Most native-born Americans have relatively little interaction with the immigration services. It might come as a relief to those of you who worry about the reputation of the US for racism that even for many of us who are white, well-educated, male, native-English speakers, most of our interactions with the immigration services are quite unpleasant. In my case the worst was being interrogated by an armed man for several hours shortly after arriving at an airport in Pennsylvania about one month post-9/11 and being threatened first with permanent deportation, and then with imprisonment without trial (fortunately, I did not yet know enough about what was possible to take the latter threat seriously); my offense was green-card related, but most of the interview, including the threats, was conducted after the official had already acknowledged to me that I had, in fact, not broken the conditions on the green card. Most other interactions have fallen on a spectrum ranging from hostility to extreme surliness. I remember how good it felt, once, re-entering the US to a greeting of “welcome home” from an immigration officer.

So I didn’t expect that this was going to be a pleasant experience. It has involved three drives to Milwaukee (actually, I love Milwaukee, and welcome any opportunity to go there,—going for 10 minute appointments, though, is non-ideal), the first for fingerprints, the second for the interview, and today’s for the ceremony. In fact, it has been as close to delightful as I could have wished. The fingerprint man chatted away about his daughter’s decision to colour her hair purple. The woman who interviewed me was amused that the magistrate’s court where I received my only criminal conviction has lost its records, and that the police station from which I was released after my only other arrest was uncontactable by email or phone (they did, eventually, respond to my hard-copy letter, telling me that they had passed it on to the LAPD central office—I have heard nothing more); she seemed to regard the nature of the arrests (Miners Strike 1985; Justice for Janitors 1991) as an asset. I anticipated today’s ceremony being transactional at best. There were 80 of us and, while I was alone [1], everyone else had family with them; so, due to security measures of dubious worth, it took us over an hour to get into the Courthouse, so the ceremony began one hour late. But the officers of the court were in celebratory mood, and the judge made it clear that this was the most pleasant of all her duties. I was able, mercifully, to make the oath in good conscience; but the oath was not moving to me at all (and I do not think I was alone in that). Afterwards, once we had all officially become citizens, the judge kindly read the long list of 40 or so countries from which we all originated, asking us to raise our hands when our country was read out. She reminded us never to forget where we came from, and explained that we knew more about the politics, history, and law-making processes than most native-born Americans, but that we should feel that our customs and cultures are welcome as part of the country we have joined. Going through her list she stopped occasionally to greet people. There were more from Mexico than from any other country and when they raised their hands she looked one to another and said, warmly, “We’re so glad that you are here”.[3]

After the ceremony the Frenchman and his wife teased me about being British, and observed that now we are both American we could abandon our rivalry.

I’ve never felt allegiance to the people who rule Britain, so disavowing allegiance to them was no hardship. I’ll never feel American, I am pretty sure of that. But I don’t feel British either; I identify as English, and Wisconsinite. But when I hear my children sing first song below at school, I choke up, just as much as I would if I could ever hear them sing the one after it. Both songs, as Al Stewart would say, proving that most people never listen to the lyrics (or understand them when they do):

So, for now, with the blessing of the judge, a glass of vintage port, an episode of Dr. Who, then I’ll drift off to sleep listening to ISIHAC.

[1] A few days ago 2 of my students [2] joked that they would come for a ride to Milwaukee with me, and I ignored them, thinking they were joking, then panicked that I had been rude; but, mercifully, they had been joking, and introduced me to the term YOLO, which sums up pretty well the way I have not lived my life.

[2] Who could be the subjects of this discussion between Hardy and Steele. They have enthusiasm. Its nice.

[3] I was warned ahead of time about the most anxiety-provoking part of the whole thing—giving up your green card, after never being more than a few feet away from it for more than two decades. I warn anyone who takes this step—the moment of surrender is very traumatic.

April 18, 2014 11:03 AM Will Jeb Bush Get Stopped at the Border?

By Richard Skinner

A lot of the punditry commenting on Jeb Bush’s flirtation with a presidential run has focused on his views on immigration. But where do Republicans actually stand on immigration? Nate Silver argues that Republicans actually have fairly centrist views on immigration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, traditionally a stalwart of the GOP, has pushed hard for comprehensive immigration legislation Large donors, who seem eager for Jeb to enter the race, generally back immigration reform. Of all the leading Republican presidential possibilities, only Ted Cruz wholeheartedly embraces a hard line on immigration - and I doubt strongly that he will be the nominee. Being “soft-liners” on immigration didn’t keep George W. Bush or John McCain from winning their party’s presidential nomination.

On the other hand, House Republicans have seemed pretty opposed to a “path to citizenship.” (Or would they rather just not vote on the issue?) The 2012 Republican platform denounces “amnesty,” calls for stricter workplace enforcement, and does not mention any form of a DREAM Act. Marco Rubio’s presidential prospects took a beating last year when he took the lead on immigration legislation, similar to what happened to John McCain in 2007. Even if Republicans overall hold moderate views on immigration, perhaps those who hold more restrictionist views care about the issue more strongly. (There’s enough variation in polling on immigration to make one suspect that many citizens don’t have real views about it). Polls show that Republicans - especially conservative Republicans - have more hardline opinions relative to other voters. To put it another way, while most Republicans may not be immigration “hawks,” most immigration “hawks” are Republicans.

But what constitutes an immigration “hawk?” There we run into a problem. If I want to know who is “pro-life,” I can ask the National Right to Life Committee. If I want to know who is “pro-gun,” I can ask the National Rifle Association. But there’s no large, respected organization that backs a more restrictionist approach to immigration. The two best known groups both have extremist baggage, leading most politicians to avoid being associated with them. The nation’s most vocal immigration “hawks” have been radio talk show hosts, who have a professional interest in being as provocative and strident as possible. There are no set standards for deciding who has acceptable views on immigration.

The immigration issue could also hurt Jeb Bush if it keeps him from winning support from key constituencies. He’s unlikely to win support from Tea Party activists, but he does have a warm relationship with social conservatives. Many evangelical leaders back immigration reform, but it’s not clear that their followers share those views.

So I have trouble reading the politics of the GOP on immigration. I’m guessing that, while it is not irrelevant, it is not a litmus-test issue like abortion or gun control. But I just don’t know.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

April 18, 2014 8:58 AM Love Soundbites? Thank the Election of 1908

By Seth Masket

We can point to several presidential elections as pivotal ones — 1960 saw the first televised presidential debate, 1952 saw the first widespread TV advertising, etc. But 1908 may top them all.

That year, NPR reports, both major party presidential candidates, William Howard Taft (R) and William Jennings Byran (D), recorded a series of short speeches on wax cylinders produced by Thomas Edison’s National Phonograph Company. These cylinders were then sent around the country so that, for the first time, large numbers of voters could hear the voices of the candidates even when the candidates were nowhere near their state. Better still, a penny arcade in New York reportedly dressed up two mannequins to look like Taft and Bryan and played the recordings sequentially to simulate a presidential debate for visitors.

So the election of 1908 isn’t necessarily the cause of modern soundbites or the reason that the lengthy campaign speeches of the 19th century were supplanted by quick punchy ads in the 20th century. But they’re all part of the same trend. The speeches that were sent out by cylinder were short because the medium was limited and expensive to use. Same with TV ads. What makes 1908 an important turning point is that it reflects the challenges of a truly mass campaign. Candidates could previously travel by rail to much of the nation and give detailed speeches, but they still couldn’t hope to be heard by as many voters as wax cylinders, radio, television, or the Internet would ultimately reach. To really put the candidates in touch with the voters, communication had to be shortened and simplified.

(h/t John Dickerson)

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

April 17, 2014 9:04 PM How Presidential Nominees Are Really Picked

By Jonathan Bernstein

One more important point about presidential nominations.

To say that “the party decides” doesn’t necessarily mean that it will choose another Mitt Romney, John McCain or Bob Dole over more conservative options. It just means that party actors — politicians, campaign and governing professionals, formal party organization officials and staff, activists and donors, party-aligned interest groups and media - will be making the decision. Not (for the most part at least) rank-and-file voters in the caucuses and primaries and not the (“neutral”) media. Nor is the nomination the random result of a convoluted process (as it probably was to a large extent in the immediate aftermath of reform, most notably in 1976 on the Democratic side).

Party actors may disagree over all sorts of issues. The nomination process is how they resolve those differences, either by reaching agreements or, sometimes, by fighting it out.

We hear a lot about a Republican “establishment,” and we’ve been hearing about a “donor class.” I don’t know what those are. The shorthand doesn’t describe real groups within the party. It’s more helpful to think about policy preferences and interests. For example, there is a split on immigration, and we can track how different groups line up. We also can think about groups and their priorities: Christian conservatives, a large group within the Republican Party, care most about abortion and a few other social issues, and their size and strength give them a veto in those areas, but not in others.

Another important split in parties is between those who care primarily about winning, and those who have other principal motivations. Typically, politicians, campaign and governing professionals, and formal party officials and staff, tend to focus on winning above all. Activists and party-aligned interest groups may have other priorities. One of the things ailing the Republican Party is that for many party actors the conservative marketplace warps that traditional split by separating financial incentives from victory in elections .

This isn’t to say that the people who support the more moderate candidate will always win. Those with other priorities are “party,” too. They might prevail, perhaps at the cost of the more ideologically extreme candidate agreeing to run on less extreme platform. And it’s not as if we’re looking at huge policy differences between, say, Chris Christie on one side, and Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee on the other. Even “Tail Gunner” Ted Cruz isn’t ideologically very different from mainstream conservatives. That’s not his trouble.

Rand Paul is the only otherwise viable candidate who really is different. He isn’t going to win, at least not unless the party changes radically. But the rest? It depends on the outcome of a process of coordination and competition within the party. That process includes the party actors’ decision whether to coalesce around the most conservative candidate who has a chance of winning in November or the conservative candidate with the best chance of winning.

[Cross-posted at Bloomberg View]

April 17, 2014 2:39 PM How the Right Stopped Believing in Democracy

By Martin Longman

With the sole (glaring) exception of their success in making abortions inconvenient, the conservative movement is clearly losing the culture war, and losing it badly. So, we should expect to hear more and more talk about how the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are much more about protecting the rights of (political) minorities than they are about representative government. It goes along with the right’s unflinching campaign to shrink the electorate while they freak out about the tyranny of insurance-provided contraception.

For George Will, there is a fundamental schism between conservatives who think liberty comes before democracy and progressives who think “a process, democracy” is the core of a free society.

Mr. Will uses a quote by Justice Stephen Breyer that the Constitution is about “one word, democracy” to suggest that the whole progressive movement feels the same way. What’s closer to the truth is that progressives feel much more strongly than conservatives that an elected majority ought to be able to enact an agenda without being filibustered to death. On what (political) minority rights should be constitutionally-protected there are obviously some differences, but there’s broad agreement on what kind of laws the Constitution forbids. What’s novel is the conservatives’ sudden insistence that the owners of large privately-held corporations should be able to dictate what is and is not covered in their employer-provided heath insurance plans. What’s novel is the idea that Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities should likewise be able to avoid any regulatory scheme that can be interpreted as crossing their church’s dogmatic beliefs. What’s novel is the idea that ranchers can use the assistance of armed militias to avoid paying grazing fees to the federal government.

That last example stems from a recurring spasmodic hostility to the federal government that crops up intermittently throughout our country’s history. But the former two are rearguard responses to a culture that is moving on without the right’s acquiescence. So, the more “traditionally” religious are asserting themselves as an oppressed minority and calling on the founding documents for protection. As part of that, they aren’t limiting themselves to heralding the wisdom and inerrancy of those documents but are going one further and actively diminishing the legitimacy of majority rule. And that fits right in with their efforts to limit the franchise and their obstructive behavior in Congress. Stuck in the minority for the foreseeable future, the right no longer believes in majority rule.

[Cross-posted at Booman Tribune]

April 17, 2014 11:02 AM Catch of the Day: Ted Cruz’s 1979 Groundhog Day

By Jonathan Bernstein

For movement conservatives, it’s always 1979. Catch of the Day to Mike Konczal for noting Tail Gunner Ted’s latest:

Senator Ted Cruz’s speech crystallized just how disconnected the Republican worldview is today. “Where we are right now is eerily, uncannily, like the late 1970s,” he said. “You had Jimmy Carter in the White House and you had the same failed economic policies. Out-of-control spending, taxes, and regulation produced the exact same misery and stagnation. You had the same feckless foreign policy and the same naiveté making the world a much more dangerous place.”

As Konczal notes, “where we are right now” doesn’t bear any resemblance to the Carter era. It takes a great deal of either ignorance or myopia to believe our economic situation is anything like the high inflation environment of the presidencies of Richard Nixon, Jerry Ford, Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Or perhaps it just requires a great lack of interest in any public policy beyond cutting taxes for the rich. The post-policy Republican Party doesn’t care what Reagan actually did, or what circumstances made the particular mix of the early 1980s relatively successful. Finding that out would require taking into account all kinds of off-message details, including (as Steve Benen notes) the tax increases under Reagan. Not to mention that Reagan’s successful fight against inflation involved inducing a deep recession. Does Cruz think that’s the best medicine for this economy?

It’s much easier to conclude that it’s always (mythical) 1979: Hyperinflation is about to break out or is already here, and the correct response is to cut taxes and programs that Republicans don’t like, while talking a great deal about budget deficits.
So: Nice catch!

[Cross-posted at Bloomberg View]

April 17, 2014 8:53 AM Ukraine: Who Are You Gonna Believe?

By Mark Kleiman

For reasons I can only partly fathom, some progressive pundits (though, I’m happy to say, no progressive politicians) have decided to accept a career secret policeman as the authoritative source of information about human rights in Ukraine. For balance, here are the views of a career human-rights advocate, based on the report of the professional staff of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Short version: Yanukovych’s Bikram security police were practicing torture with impunity before he fled the country; the armed anti-government activity in the West came only after months of official misconduct; human rights problems have declined since the change of regime, except in Russian-ruled Crimea, where there are now systematic violations; there has not been systematic right-wing nationalist violence; the Jewish community is not threatened; and pro-Russian forces are deliberately spreading misinformation with the goal of terrifying the Russian-speaking population in the East into thinking that their rights are under attack.

There’s a strange analogy between left-wing denialism about what Russia is up to in Ukraine and right-wing denialism about global warming. In each case, distaste for the possible policy implications of recognizing facts (worsened relations with Russia, environmental controls and energy taxes) leads to refusal to acknowledge the facts. It’s possible to argue that the U.S. should exercise restraint in responding to Russian aggression. It’s plain silly to pretend that Russian aggression isn’t happening.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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