I went to watch the newest Crash Course video from the Vlog Bros. And by the way, I’ve come to think that they aren’t nearly as good as I had once thought. John Green, in particular, is very interesting and funny, but not very informative. In particular, I didn’t think his recent Renaissance video was good, insightful, or right. But that is a matter for another day.
Corporations are things owned by people. This is what Mitt Romney meant when he said, “Corporations are people, my friend!” (Don’t you love the condescending tone of that “my friend”?) I don’t accept this, of course. Another example of how wrong this is, is that we can’t set up our cats as employees, pay them, and then have them give $2500 to a candidate of the cats’ choice. If corporations are people because they are owned by people, why aren’t pets people because they are owned by people?
This is why it’s vital to bring yourself face-to face with the implications of mass uninsurance — not as emotional manipulation, but to force you to decide what forms of material deprivation ought to be morally acceptable. This question has become, at least at the moment, the primary philosophical divide between the parties. Democrats will confine the unfortunate to many forms of deprivation, but not deprivation of basic medical care. Republicans will. The GOP is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world to hold this stance.
It is a good article that you really should read. He doesn’t go into the implications of this belief, however. I think about this all the time. The fact that I do not have access to healthcare probably means that I will die many years—perhaps decades—before I normally would. So that whole thing about rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is just a lie. All modern Republicans and a large share of Democrats are more conservative than the men who founded this country.
Before getting to the burning question of whether Bugs Bunny is a rabbit or a hare, let’s take a step back and take a look at this colorful character.
A Brief History of Bugs Bunny
On 30 April, all the way back in 1938, Bugs’ Bunny was born. Well, sorta.
Note that I used an apostrophe after what has become his first name. It is in reference to the director of the first cartoon to feature the character, Ben Hardaway, whose nickname was Bugs. Thus, animators started referring to the nameless character as “Bugs’ bunny” (and later “Bugs’s bunny”) — not a name, a description. But the name stuck, even if the apostrophe didn’t.
The cartoon in question is Porky’s Hare Hunt. But the bunny in that film is not much like the Bugs Bunny we have grown to love.
For one thing, he sounds like Woody Woodpecker — literally. In 1940, Mel Blanc moved the voice from the one character to the other.
Also, this early character doesn’t have the intellectual sophistication that he will eventually develop. (Although he’s still way smarter than Porky Pig and most humans I know.) He’s mostly just a spaz, like Daffy Duck in his early versions. (He was first introduced in the similarly titled, Porky’s Duck Hunt.)
In addition to this, Bugs doesn’t look the same. He’s quite short — again, like the early Daffy Duck. And he is all one color. But there is a continuity. It’s kind of like the ship of Theseus: if all parts of a ship are gradually replaced, is it still the same ship? There isn’t one answer to that; it is just a way of thinking about what is is.
But in the case of Bugs Bunny, I think we can say that this little Woody Woodpecker laughing bunny is indeed a form of the iconic character.
This is not the consensus view, however.
Porky’s Hare Hunt was from the Looney Tunes series, and Bugs Bunny really is a Merrie Melodies character. Thus, most people consider the first appearance to be in the 27 July 1940 film A Wild Hare:
And he evolved from there. Frankly, I believe at some point he crossed a line and became uninteresting. It’s hard to set a precise moment, because there is no such moment. But it was when Warner Bros Cartoons went postmodern. That’s when there was Bugs Bunny the actor and Bugs Bunny the part he played.
Not that good postmodern cartoons weren’t made. Duck Amuck is one of the best things Warner Bros Cartoons ever did.
It’s more that Bugs Bunny became so sophisticated and so in control that he lost his zany. But there’s a lot more great Bugs Bunny than meh.
Is This a Question Worth Asking?
As far as I know, I was the first person on the internet to ask and fully answer the question, “Is Bugs Bunny a rabbit or a hare”? People go their whole lives without asking the really important questions.
It was a question that had burned in my mind since I was a child. Rabbits and hares look similar, but they are very different animals.
But I was surprised that almost to a person, my friends found the “rabbit or hare” question absurd — just Frank being Frank. However, since I published this article back in 2012, it has been one of the most popular pages on this site of 8,000 pages.
Clearly: a lot of people had the same question.
And several years after this article was first published, a number of other people published similar articles. There’s even a video that deals with the issue, although in a roundabout way.
Bugs Bunny: Rabbit or Hare?
So let’s get to the question: is Warner Bros Cartoons’ most famous character a rabbit or a hare? The question must be answered!
Is a Bunny a Rabbit?
I know what you’re thinking: his name is Bugs Bunny, so he must be a rabbit. And yet, most of the cartoons have titles like Hare Brush and Fallin’ Hare and Bill of Hare.
What’s more, just look at the titles of the two films that people argue about being the first to feature Bugs Bunny: Porky’s Hare Hunt and A Wild Hare (both embedded above).
An Ill-Defined Term
And the truth is that “bunny” is an ill-defined term. But not because it isn’t defined as (generally a young) rabbit. Rather, because most people lump rabbits and hares together.
So the situation is far from clear.
A Little Biology: Rabbit vs Hare
Before we get into this, I should tell you a little bit about rabbits and hares.
Despite the fact that they look quite similar, they are, in fact, not just different species, but different Genera.
In fact, rabbits (and I always kind of knew this because you just can’t trust rabbits) are in 8 different Genera.
This depends on the exact kind of rabbit. Most Americans will know the rabbits in the Sylvilagus Genus, which includes the cottontail rabbit.
Hares are all in one genus: Lepus.
Rabbits have 44 chromosomes, while hares have 48. So they really are fundamentally different.
So rabbits and hares are only in the same family: Leporidae. So they are as related as humans are to gorillas — very related, but far from being the same.
Two cottontails (rabbit)
What’s In a Name?
Part of the problem is that five of the 32 types of hare are called jackrabbits. (Five different kinds of rabbits are called hares.)
This reminds me of all the confusion about the dormouse. The dormouse is not a mouse. In fact, they aren’t even the same Family; you have to go up to the Order (Rodentia), which they share.
When I was younger, I wondered why the jackrabbits I see everywhere here in Northern California seemed so different than domesticated rabbits. It is because they are only distantly related. And personally, I find hares much more interesting, even if I’m personally more like a rabbit.
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (hare)
What Does This All Have to Do With Bugs Bunny?
Perhaps the most obvious difference between hares and rabbits is how they are born. Hares are born with hair (Ha!) and are fairly independent. Rabbits are born blind and hairless.
Unfortunately, his does us no good in our search for the truth about Bugs Bunny, because no film survives from his early days. But all hope is not lost.
Because of the fragility of young rabbits, they are forced to live underground in burrows. And Bugs Bunny lives in a hole. This almost seems like a smoking gun. See this Pete Puma cartoon:
We have seen that Bugs lives in a hole in many other episodes. This does suggest that Bugs is a rabbit. It is about the only thing that does, however. And The Flintstones live in houses, not caves. The hole seems clearly designed to give Bugs Bunny a sense of place, and in later episodes a sense of his being human-like (note that neither hares nor rabbits easily outwit humans).
Bugs is gray, and hares tend to be grayish. Bugs has long ears, and hares have longer ears. Bugs is fast, and hares are very fast (jackrabbits can run up to 40 miles per hour). Bugs is quick witted, and so are hares — they have to be given they live out in the open. But by far, the most compelling evidence that Bugs Bunny is a hare is that hares do not live in groups — they are loners.
The argument for Shorty is perhaps better. For one thing, he looks like a rabbit. And he doesn’t speak English like hares normally do.
Conclusion: Is Bugs Bunny a Hare or a Rabbit?
In the end, I suppose we shouldn’t depend upon cartoons for our biology education. Bugs seems to be both a rabbit and a hare. But the evidence points more toward him being a hare.
What is clear is that the crew at Merrie Melodies saw hares and rabbits as interchangeable. Given that Warner Bros Cartoons was based in Los Angeles, California, the main experience of the people working there was likely the jackrabbit — a hare that is called a rabbit.
And obviously, given that Bugs Bunny was first paired with Elmer Fudd, and Elmer Fudd was first paired with the proto-Bugs Bunny (Elmer’s Candid Camera), of course they would use “rabbit” to make fun of Fudd’s speech impediment (it was 1940).
I think Bugs Bunny looks and acts more like a hare than a rabbit. But what he really looks and acts like is a cartoon character. One of the very best.
Now all I have to do is get the scoop on that Trix “rabbit.”
As my regular readers know, I like Chris Hayes. He’s smart. He’s knowledgeable. And he’s cute as a button. If I had a son, I’d want him to be just like Chris Hayes, even though I know he would be much more like Ezra Klein. I was really looking forward to his new book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy. Alas, it was a disappointment.
I think that Hayes is fundamentally misreading the history of our country. There haven’t been more failures over the last 30 years because the elites are worse than they used to be. Rather, in the past, we had elites on the left and the right. As long as that was the case, they kept each other in check. But since Carter (and especially since Clinton) the left has largely joined with the right.
Hayes is part of this problem. In the final (and best) chapter, he talks about how the anger on both the right and the left can be harnessed to fix our political problems. But I think this passage is very telling:
In fact, the two most energetic and important political movements of the aughts draw their popular constituency from the upper middle class: people with graduate school degrees, homes, second homes, kids in good colleges, and six-figure incomes.
Hayes, and I dare say most of the staff at The Nation and MSNBC, has a skewed sense of what “upper middle class” means. I think in terms of quintiles—and so does Hayes. The bottom 20% are the upper class; the next are the lower middle class; the next are the middle class; the next are the upper middle class; and the last are the upper class. It doesn’t matter to me how you want to subdivide that last category, if you are in it, you are upper class. It makes no difference that even Bill Gates has problems admitting that he is rich, if you are in the top 20%, you are upper class. This means if your household income is over roughly $90,000 per years you are upper class. I’m sorry if this puts editors at large at The Nation into that category. Yes, Chris, you are upper class, and until you admit to this, you won’t be able to remove the very real blinders of your class.
The other thing that has happened recently is that people like Hayes have accepted the idea that we are a meritocracy. We are not. We never have been. The idea that we can create a society in which there is equality of opportunity is as absurd as the idea that we can create a society in which there is equality of outcomes. The dumb child of a rich man will almost always do better than the smart child of a poor man—at least as long as we have an economic system that looks anything like the one we now have.
This always reminds of Tevye in Fidler on the Roof singing “If I Were a Rich Man.” He notes that all the men of the villiage would come to him for advice. Why? “‘Cause when you’re rich they think you really know!” And even though Hayes admits that many of the elite should be traded in for new models, he still holds onto this idea that the elites were and could be again the “best and brightest.” It is a shockingly naive, and self-indulgent, belief—very much like the rich and famous who discover libertarianism because it tells them just what they want to believe about themselves: that handsome devil in the mirror is the best!
Despite all of this, Twilight of the Elites is a well written and thoughtful book. If you can get past its basic assumptions, there is much to like. The biggest of these is Hayes’ solution that we must strive for both equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. I don’t tend to favor middle-way solutions, but this one strikes me as rather good. Unfortunately, it is about as likely to be implemented in the United States as is socialism. I won’t be holding my breath, nor will I be expecting an intellectual awaking from the Tea Party.
Update (24 June 2012)
I really like this quote from the first chapter of the book:
And sure enough, the military is now the most trusted institution in all of American life, according to every poll on the topic, having managed to gain confidence from the public over the course of the decade. In the 2009 General Social Survey, the majority of Americans reported “a great deal” of trust in the armed forces. The only other institution that has seen its reputation improve and also commands “a great deal” of confidence from most Americans is the police. So while our legislative branch, the foundational pillar of our republic, is the least trusted institution in the country, out standing army and police forces are the most. Increasingly, we trust the men with the guns, not the men in suits.
The sound you hear is the founders rolling over in their graves.
 Hayes has a strange believe that the Tea Party folk are starting to wake up to the dangers big business pose to personal liberty. I think this too is extremely naive. We really need to look at the psychology that drives people. There is a reason that people would watch passively while hundreds of billions of dollars were given to the banks, but who organized the moment a black president tried to give healthcare to poor people. That shows this is not that they are unhappy about elite failure.
I was listening to my Jacques Brel channel on Pandora. I am used to a lot of (too much) Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf. But suddenly, I was hearing Billie Holiday. Billie Holiday?! I switched over to my Pandora tab and immediately, I was face to face with… an ad for Santa Rosa singles between the ages of 30 and 39.
I don’t understand this. I am 48 and I know they know this. Why do they think I am looking for such young women? And why would I want one in Santa Rosa? I’m only here to prove to myself how low I can sink:
It’s when the body at the bottom
That body is my own reflection
But it ain’t hip to sink that low
Unless you’re gonna make a resurrection
That’s from Jim Carroll’s City Drops Into the Night.
Finally, I get my bearings and I see the song is J’ai Deux Amours by Madeleine Peyroux, a wonderful singer who doesn’t always channel Billie Holiday, but certainly does on the Careless Love album. Her last name appears to be pronounced like “Peru” but with a guttural “r.” Here is a nice bit of live music from her:
Up next on Pandora was Brel’s Les Bonbons. Does anyone have any insight into this song? It seems to be a meditation of the ephemeral nature of love: Je vous ai apporté des bonbons; parce que les fleurs c’est périssable. (I brought you candy; because flowers are perishable.) That seems to go along with the, “Hey! There’s my current girlfriend! There’s your current boyfriend!” Followed by, “Okay, go away with him. Hey Germaine [his old girlfriend], I brought you candy!” It’s all quite delightful. Ah, to be Frenchish.
 I’m sorry, but there seems to be no live version of the song:
Last week I read Ha-Joon Chang’s exceptional 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Frankly, I’m smitten with Chang. Andrea claims I have some kind of man-crush on Paul Krugman. There is no doubt that I am very impressed by this ability to make economics understandable, his insightful explanations of what is going on now, and his breezy writing style. But he is distinctly more conservative than I am. What’s more, he is more in the mainstream of economics and more committed to a lot of its questionable paradigms. Chang is different.
As the title of this book indicates, he discusses 23 myths of economics—free market economics, to be specific. Everyone should read this book, especially conservatives. I have a feeling that most conservatives would find the book compelling, because it shows that a lot of the “free market” rhetoric that is taken for granted on both the right and left in this country is nothing more than mythology. It will provoke that great conservative question, “You mean they’ve been lying to me all these years?!”
In the first chapter Chang takes on the very idea of a free market. He also discusses a repugnant attitude that we see among free market economists that they are just following the facts:
So, when free-market economists say that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict the “freedom” of a certain market, they are merely expressing a political opinion that they reject the rights that are to be defended by the proposed law. Their ideological cloak is to pretend that their politics is not really political, but rather is an objective economic truth, while other people’s politics is political. However, they are as politically motivated as their opponents.
Later as an example showing that people in rich countries are overpaid relative to people in poor countries, he presents bus drivers in Sweden and India. The Swedish bus driver makes 50 times as much as the Indian, but most likely the Indian is actually a better driver given the poor roads and unexpected obstacles like cows. Regardless, who could believe the Swedish bus driver is really 50 times as productive as the Indian?
He goes on to quote Warren Buffet:
I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you’ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later. I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well—disproportionately well.
Chang especially hates this idea that we live in an information or post-industrial world. Here he provides the example of Switzerland:
[M]any people think that Switzerland lives off the stolen money deposited in its bands by Third World dictators or by selling cowbells and cuckoo clocks to Japanese and American tourists, but it is actually one of the most industrialized economies in the world.
One issue close to my heart is this idea that the United States is the richest country in the world. We’re number one! We’re number one! These are the cries of a dying empire. But Chang notes that a big part of this perception outside the United States has to do with our inequality:
One reason why we get that impression is that the US is much more unequal than the European countries and therefore looks more properous to foreign visitors than it really is—foreign visitors to any country rarely get to see the deprived parts, of which the US has many more than Europe.
What is most impressive about 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism is that Chang goes after all of the counter arguments. Many times while I read it I thought, “Yeah, but…” And the next thing in the book would be an argument that destroyed that counter argument. The book is also highly readable. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Here are the 23 Things:
There is no such thing as a free market
Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners
Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be
The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has
Assume the worst about people and you get the worst
Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable
Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich
Capital has a nationality
We do not live in a post-industrial age
The US does not have the highest living standard in the world
Africa is not destined for underdevelopment
Governments can pick winners
Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer
US managers are over-priced
People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries
We are not smart enough to leave things to the market
More education in itself is not going to make a country richer
What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States
Despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies
Equality of opportunity may not be fair
Big government makes people more open to change
Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient
Good economic policy does not require good economists
Tim Burton’s phone rings. It is Richard Zanuck and he is agitated. “You’ve got to start shooting Dark Shadows. The people at Warner are concerned about a new Twilight picture. They’re ready to pull the plug.”
“The script’s not ready, Dick,” Burton responds. “It’s in tatters. “Seth’s been playing around with different approaches. Today it’s a romance, yesterday it was a comedy, tomorrow it’ll be Gothic horror. We’re just not ready!”
“It doesn’t matter!” Zanuck says. “Just shoot the fucker and we’ll fix it in the editing room.”
Skip ahead a year.
Tim Burton is in Chris Lebenzon’s editing studio. The phone rings and Lebenzon hands the phone to Burton. “It’s for you,” he says. “It’s Dick.”
Tim takes the phone and Zanuck screams at him, “The Warner guys are freaking out. We have to have this film in theaters by the end of next month. All the publicity’s in place…”
“The film isn’t close to finished,” Burton cuts him off.
At least I hope that’s how it went, because otherwise I can’t explain the mess of Tim Burton’s newest film. I should note that I don’t know anything about the original series Dark Shadows, except that it was my brother’s favorite show and it terrified me when I was five. But I figured that the film Dark Shadows would be something else completely and I entered the theater with high expectations.
The film started off bad, because I immediately sided with the antagonist, Angelique Bouchard, played with much gusto and perverse sexuality by Eva Green. I guess I’m kind of an outcast, but can’t a spurned lover kill a guy’s parents and turn him into a vampire without everyone saying she’s somehow bad? Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, one of these Capitalist Barons who inexplicably exist in our “free market” economy. With all due respect to one of my favorite authors, I have come to despise characters like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley who have the luxury of being noble given that nothing else is required of them.
And so it is with Barnabas. Angelique is in love with him. Barnabas is not so noble that he won’t have sex with her, but he is much too noble to lie to her and tell her he loves her. Instead, he is in love with Josette du Pres, played as the insipid character of male fantasy by Bella Heathcote. Fortunately, she gets killed right at the start of the film. Unfortunately, she floats around as a ghost for the rest of the film.
Angelique locks Barnabas in a coffin where he is trapped for 197 (?) years when some workers dig him up and release him. It is now 1972 and much hippy hilarity ensues. It would probably take me a couple thousand words to describe what next happens because the film bounces around more or less randomly. Let me provide just a few of the plot elements:
The Collins family is down and out and Barnabas saves it.
The matriarch tries to keep the family from knowing Barnabas’ secret.
Barnabas learns about love.
The scoundrel father of the little boy is banished.
Barnabas falls for another insipid character of male fantasy played by same actor.
Insipid character is given an unnecessary back story.
Semi-obligatory music video of home renovation.
The live-in doctor tries to become a vampire.
Did I mention the daughter is a werewolf?
This is all over the place, hung on the spine of the main story, itself completely disappearing from the film for ten minutes at a time. That story: the fight between Barnabas and Angelique. And this too is very poorly constructed. However, and this is important: Depp and Green light up the screen when they are together. It is just a shame that they have so little to do.
Having said all of this, I’d like to see it again some time. The film is a mess. It could so easily have been good. But even still, it is playful. Johnny Depp is always fun to watch. The film is good looking. The special effects on Angelique were quite impressive. And there are isolated scenes that really work.
But The Raven was ten times as good with one-sixth the budget.
Update (Less Than an Hour Later)
Despite myself, I seem to be writing what are more or less film reviews recently. I am sorry about this. What’s more, I seem to have really missed the mark on this film, because I agree with most of the people who “reviewed” the film. There is one thing that I talked about—and was the thing I thought most about while viewing—that no one touched upon: its repugnant treatment of class.
When Barnabas is first released, he kills all of the workers for the favor they did him. Later, after learning about love from a group of hippies, he kills all of them for the favor they did him. He also kills the doctor for the sin of trying to become a vampire. The only one who notes the hypocrisy of this is the evil Angelique. There is a kind of droit du seigneur element to all this: Barnabas is above the law because of his position (as Lord rather than Vampire, but it hardly matters).
What’s more, Angelique’s story is entirely about class. She is a servant and I gather that this more than anything is why Barnabas cannot love her. After she buries Barnabas, she goes on to be successful in business, almost completely taking over the industry that the Collins family once controlled. The set up here is classically British: the vulgar peasant getting above her station and eventually getting her comeuppance. (See, for example, one of my very favorite films: Gosford Park.)
Am I over thinking this? I tend to think not. Humans are storytellers. And one of the most profound uses of storytelling is social control. Just look at the Bible! I don’t think that Burton was setting out to make a film that told working people to know their place. But it is certainly the case that neither Burton nor Seth Grahame-Smith are great thinkers. They soak up the intellectual environment in which they live. If they thought about it, they might see the repugnant ideas they push. But they never do think about it.
Lots of politics today. Matthew Yglesias asks a very smart question, “If the unemployment and inflation rates were reversed, would the Fed do something about it?” You see, the Federal Reserve has a double mandate: minimize inflation and maximize employment. Right now, the inflation rate is less than 2%—far less than its historical level. The unemployment rate is over 8%—far more than its historical level. And yet the fed does… Nothing!
Yglesias asks if the Fed would do something if unemployment were less than 2% and inflation were over 8%. And the answer is, “You bet your second house in Nantucket!” However, Yglesias doesn’t explain why this is, probably because he doesn’t want to soil his reputation as a thoughtful political observer. I have no such reputation to soil, so I will tell you.
Bennie and the Feds aren’t doing anything because the current situation is great for them and all of their friends. You see, if you are wealthy and have lots of cash, inflation is terrible. You money loses value. If you are poor and in debt, inflation is great. Your debt gets reduced without even paying it down.
Similarly, if you are rich and own a company, high unemployment is great because you can get the best workers for the lowest prices. But if you are poor and unemployed, high unemployment is terrible for obvious reasons.
Bennie and the Feds are not doing the job they are paid to do. They are supposed to maximize employment and minimize inflation. Yet all they do is minimize inflation. They should be fired.
Melissa Harris-Perry—who is Beautiful, Intelligent, Learned—had a nice segment on her show last weekend. She discusses this idea that a business career is a great (or even) good background for someone becoming the POTUS. It is a good discussion:
One thing that isn’t discussed is an idea that Paul Krugman has been hammering on for years: running the country is totally different from running a business:
For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.
This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift, or even the inflationary impact of increases in the money supply (which is real when the economy isn’t in a liquidity trap.)
The fact is that I understood that when I was child. We Americans are so vested in the romantic hero archetype that we just can’t see the world as it is. And we are paying a very high price for this.