Film review: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

I watched this film that has garnered a number of awards and eleven nominations for this year’s Academy Awards. It takes the intriguing scientific concept of the multiverse as its basic premise, that the universe splits and branches at various points and hence there are a huge number of parallel universes, of which ours is just one, that have different degrees of similarity to our own depending on how long ago those universes split away and evolved independently. As far as we know, if the multiverse exists, there seems to be no known connection between the various universes but in this film, the main characters can move between them.

Given the acclaim that the film has received and that the multiverse is the driving idea, I anticipated enjoying it but found the film to be a huge disappointment. It started out trying to make some points about why some people are moving from universe to universe (because they are trying to stop a very bad person from doing some very bad thing) but about two-thirds of the way through, the screenwriters seemed to lose interest in that and instead turned the film into a fairly standard family drama involving the strained relationships in families and the way they play out in the various universes.
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What Republicans want to cut

Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy is due to meet with president Joe Biden on Wednesday. What about? It depends. According to the White House, the talks will be about raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a default. According to McCarthy, it is about what kind of budget cuts Biden will agree to in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he is looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling ” when the two meet Wednesday for their first sit-down at the White House since McCarthy was elected to the post.

McCarthy, R-Calif., said he wants to address spending cuts along with raising the debt limit, even though the White House has ruled out linking those two issues together as the government tries to avoid a potentially devastating financial default.

Asked whether he would make a guarantee, McCarthy said, “There will not be a default,” though he suggested that declaration depended on the willingness of Biden and Democrats to negotiate.

The White House on Sunday confirmed Wednesday’s meeting on “a range of issues.” It said Biden looked forward to “strengthening his working relationship” with McCarthy and to asking about the speaker’s plan on spending, noting that the first House bill passed by Republicans this year to slash IRS funding would ultimately increase the deficit.

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The toxic culture in US police departments

Video of the brutal death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers following a traffic stop has been released. I have not seen it and will not watch it because it is reportedly horrific and I have no stomach for such things. This article describes in detail what happened.

Before the release, his mother RowVaughn Wells said that she will not watch the video. This is hardly surprising. If I, who have no connection to the victim, think it would be too painful to watch, imagine what it would be like for a mother to see her son beaten and kicked to death. She and the rest of the family appealed for calm and urged people not to riot in the wake of the release. People seemed to have heeded their call and the protests have been peaceful. That is a relief because if the protests had turned violent, media attention would have shifted from the murder of Nichols to the violence. Wells seems like a remarkable woman. She has even said that she feels sorry for her son’s killers.
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Greedy, selfish, rich jerks

Evan Osnos exposes the many ways in which the ultra-wealthy shield their income from taxes even when they die, using loopholes that are not available to ordinary people. They do this while claiming to be philanthropists by putting their names on things, which are also forms of tax avoidance. But one the main ways they avoid taxes is by means of creating elaborate trusts that ensure that their children and their children pay little or no taxes on their inheritances when they die. These trust fund babies continue their tax avoidance schemes. The consequences are apparent.

And yet, in recent times, the fortunes of many prominent American clans have soared…. In 1978, the top 0.1 per cent of Americans owned about seven per cent of the nation’s wealth; today, according to the World Inequality Database, it owns eighteen per cent.

A century ago, American law handled the rare pleasure of a giant inheritance with suspicion. Instead of allowing money to cascade through generations, like a champagne tower, we siphoned off some of the flow through taxes on estates, gifts, and capital gains. As the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1927, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” But, since the late seventies, American politics has taken a more accommodating approach to dynastic fortunes—slashing rates, widening exemptions, and permitting a vast range of esoteric loopholes for wealthy taxpayers. According to Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the average tax rate on the top 0.01 per cent has fallen by more than half, to about thirty per cent, while rates for the bottom ninety per cent have climbed slightly, to an average of twenty-five per cent.

That lucrative maneuvering is the realm of specialized attorneys, accountants, and money managers, many of whom work for family offices: in-house financial teams that typically include a dozen or so full-time attendants… They tend to have no public presence—Gordon Getty’s family office is known, inconspicuously, as Vallejo Investments—but by some estimates they control about six trillion dollars in assets, a larger sum than is managed by all the world’s hedge funds.

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Football kills and you cannot make it safer

The recent incident in an (American) football game where Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after getting hit hard in the chest during a tackle has once again highlighted how dangerous this sport is. Football authorities and fans tend to quickly label these as isolated events and any actions they have taken in the wake of them have focused on extra protective gear or changing the rules to reduce some dangerous practices.

But Irvin Muchnick writes that those remedies merely skirt the fundamental issue and that is that this sport kills.

One month and a day before Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin came frighteningly close to becoming the second in-game fatality in NFL history, he was ejected from the Amazon Prime Thursday night game for an illegal hit on New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. See it for yourself on YouTube. Hamlin, a defensive safety, blasted Meyers helmet-to-helmet, preventing a touchdown catch in the end zone. As everyone reading this undoubtedly knows, on the aborted Jan. 2 edition of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Hamlin made a clean tackle against a Cincinnati Bengals receiver, and then collapsed seconds later, likely from commotio cordis, or percussion-induced cardiac arrest.
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Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Elaine Chao

Elaine Chao was the secretary of transportation during almost the entirety of the Trump administration, only resigning after the events of January 6th 2021, just two weeks before its end. She held the position of labor secretary during the administration of George W. Bush. She is married to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. She is also the child of Chinese immigrants and came to the US as a child. Her family also founded a massive shipping company. This latter feature opened her up to charges of using her official government position to benefit the family shipping business but this kind of influence-peddling is now routine. The idea that one should go to great lengths to prevent even the appearance of any impropriety is now seen as some kind of quaint old-world fantasy.
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What the Speaker holdouts achieved

In order to get the votes to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy had to agree to a lot of the demands made by the most extreme members of the so-called Freedom Caucus.

Some of those concern committee assignments. Legislation must pass through the various and committees and subcommittees before they reach the floor for a vote. Draft legislation (the initial versions of which are often prepared behind closed doors with the help of lobbyists who tilt them to favor their bosses) are supposed to get hearings in these subcommittees with public input. Members of Congress desire seats on those committees that are of prime concern to wealthy constituents because then those constituents’ lobbyists will pour money into their campaigns in order to get their vote. Since these committees are much sought after, many of those seats are assigned by seniority, meaning that the longer one has been in Congress, the better your chances of being placed on the desired committees or, even better, chairing them. But some of the Freedom Caucus members have demanded seats ahead of senior members and you can be sure that McCarthy is going to face some anger if he shoves aside senior members to appease the extremists.
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Here we go again with the debt ceiling dance

Once again, we are being told that there is a danger that the US may default if Congress does not raise the limit on the debt ceiling that allows the Treasury to borrow money to meet its obligations. The debt ceiling was formally reached last week but the Treasury is shifting money around in order to cover the shortfall. That room for financial maneuverings runs out around June.

The country has been through this before, usually when a Democrat is president and the House or the Senate is controlled by Republicans who like to use this issue to create difficulties for the president. When Trump was president, the ceiling was raised with little fuss. Of course, Trump is now urging his followers to use the debt ceiling as hostage.

On Monday, Trump, whose influence over the party was shaken somewhat by poor midterm election results for his endorsed candidates but who remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, called on House Republicans to leverage power “by simply playing tough in the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations”.

Posting on the social media network he set up, Truth Social, Trump pressed all wings of the Republican party, including those rebels who initially voted against McCarthy, to join the negotiations: “It will be a beautiful and joyous thing for the people of our country to watch.”

The debt ceiling issue is one that seems made to be exploited by grandstanding politicians. To understand it, one must realize that what is called the ‘power of the purse’ is given to the House of Representatives. What that means is that all spending bills must originate in the House. It then goes to the Senate that can make changes which then have to be reconciled with the House and the reconciled bill is then sent to the president for their signature.
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Are we living in an Age of Unreason?

I have been thinking about how future historians will characterize the period through which we are living and the label ‘The Age of Unreason’ popped into my mind as a suitable one (at least for the US). The reason is that I marvel at the kinds of things that people currently believe and are doing that seem so detached from reality and untethered to reason. Here is a short list of things that immediately came to mind and I am sure that there are others.

Anti-vax: Vaccines are some of the greatest inventions in medicine, saving countless lives all over the world. The rapid development of the vaccines for covid-19 was a stupendous achievement. And yet, we have people refusing to take it because they think that Covid-19 was an intentionally planned outbreak and part of some plot and are willing to trust completely untested and sometimes dangerous alternatives. Some of these people are even giving up on Trump because he does not buy in to all their claims.
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