Thematic Analysis of Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr FoxI watched Fantastic Mr Fox. I thought it was wonderful. So I watched it a second time. And it all made sense. It is an allegory about class. The three farmers represent the power elite. The other humans represent the liberal class — as defined by Chris Hedges in Death of the Liberal Class. And the animals are the working class. So let me go through this because it probably isn’t obvious.

The hardest characters to understand are the non-owning humans: the liberal class. We aren’t talking the middle class. We are talking about the upper half of the upper class: the people in the top 10% of incomes. These are the people who are supposed to keep the power elite (the top 0.1% — more or less) from getting out of hand and taking everything for themselves. And in so doing, they prevent the working class from rebelling. But like in our own time, this class has totally lost track of this first duty. All they do is allow the power elite to take more and more by oppressing the working class.

The three farmers are a very accurate representation of the rich in our society. But this kind of representation is so out of favor that it has an anachronistic feel to it. This is probably because the farmers are the one thing that I most remember being the same from the book. And the book was written in 1970. You know: when powerful labor unions still existed in the US and UK — when workers still saw their wages go up with productivity and took it for granted. I know that the rich don’t think of themselves as Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. It’s called cognitive dissonance. It’s what allows people to have billions of dollars while others starve and then use those billions to buy elections so that they can acquire more money. Now that I think about it, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are too good a representation of these “people.”

Now clearly, Mr Fox has his personality issues. He’s a narcissist. Yet most great leaders are. Does he create a better future for all the other animals? I think the answer is less muddled in the book. There, Mr Fox is only stealing chickens to feed his family. And in the end, the animals seem to be in a better place. In the film, the farmers’ attacks on the animals are really the fault of Mr Fox’s narcissism. And at the end, the animals are living in the sewer and stealing from the grocery store. I’m not sure that is a long-term strategy for success. But it is clear that the animals had no choice after the farmers started their campaign against Mr Fox.

The film provides the other alternative by way of the wolf: the animals could separate themselves from human civilization. In other words, unlike the truly ridiculous notion in Atlas Shrugged where the rich “go on strike,” the workers actually could leave. And it would shutdown everything else. Of course, that isn’t the case in Fantastic Mr Fox because unlike in the real world, the humans do not depend upon the animals (workers). So on that point, the allegory breaks down. But those are the choices for the working class. We can flee or we can fight. We workers have enormous power if we stick together. Because there is no doubt: the system is broken. The farmers are destroying our homes, without a thought to the fact that they are only harming themselves. Even for their sake, we need to stop them.


As a film, it is really charming. And it is totally Wes Anderson. I was curious about it because he’s not known for animation. But it looks exactly like you would think it would. And it is filled with flights of fancy. It’s just a wonderful film, even if you don’t care about the politics.

Top 10 Reasons Global Warming Is a Hoax

    Paul Bibeau

  1. I had to put a jacket on. Yesterday.
  2. It was snowing at that one place where it usually doesn’t snow, and they showed it on Fox, and Steve Doocy seemed really surprised. He raised his eyebrows in that way he has of letting you know this is not what he expected.
  3. There are bloggers following this stuff on the internet in places where they’ll also sell you gold and gas masks, and they can show all kinds of stuff the scientists said would happen, but then didn’t happen.
  4. Every time they have a guy telling you it’s true on TV, or in an article, they have another guy telling you it’s false. Every time. What does that say?
  5. Some of those bloggers have degrees that sound technical.
  6. You could see your breath just last week.
  7. Also on Fox they had that guy who used to play that character you liked in that show you watched, and he was not convinced at all about this.
  8. The senator said so, and he’s spent his life talking to experts from energy companies who study this kind of thing. They come to his office when they bring the money, and they leave really impressive Powerpoint presentations about it.
  9. This one time my friend Steve was out at the lake house, back when we were both 12, because Steve’s friend Troy found a Playboy there, so we were looking for it on our dirt bikes, because Troy said it wasn’t even torn up or anything. But it was really hot, and that was like, years ago. So I went back last summer, and it was much cooler.
  10. Jesus just wouldn’t dick us over like that.

—Paul Bibeau
10 True Facts That PROVE Global Warming Is A Hoax

The Early Childhood Education Bandwagon!

Nicholas KristofLast week, Nicholas Kristof wrote, Beyond Education Wars. His argument: education reform has “peaked,” is “tough,” and will be a “long slog.” Its “low-hanging fruit has already been picked.” And perhaps most of all, “The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited.” Now Kristof isn’t suggesting that we give up altogether on education reform, but rather refocus on early childhood education. He also cherry picked some data to make it seem as if education “reform” (as opposed to the real thing) has actually worked. Or at least that it has in principle — like a couple of successful charter schools are prototypes that can be replicated by the engineers.

I’m not against early childhood education. It is indeed an important thing. But to push it as an alternative to reforming our educational system is ridiculous. Regardless, Kristof’s main reason for wanting to switch is political. “Early education is where we have the greatest chance of progress because it’s not politically polarized.” Ah yes, the ultimate apologia for those who do the work of the power elite: let us at least do what “can be done”! And what “can be done” just happens to be those things that don’t upset the power elite — and in many cases are things that help the power elite. Thus we get policies that weaken teachers’ unions but don’t do a thing to equalize education funding.

In addition, Kristof shows an amazingly immature attitude toward the whole process of reform. Check out this jaw dropping explanation of why early education rocks and later education sucks:

My perspective is shaped by what I’ve seen. Helping teenagers and adults is tough when they’ve dropped out of school, had babies, joined gangs, compiled arrest records or self-medicated.

But in Oklahoma, I once met two little girls, ages 3 and 4, whose great-grandmother had her first child at 13, whose grandmother had her first at 15, whose mom had her first at 13 and now has four children by three fathers. These two little girls will break that cycle, I’m betting, because they (along with the relative caring for them) are getting help from an outstanding early childhood program called Educare. Those two little girls have a shot at opportunity.

Forget the Thomas Friedman “I once met…” nonsense. He’s write that helping teenagers and adults once they’ve slipped out of the education system is hard for the education system to deal with. One might think one of the challenges of education reform would be to deal with such problems earlier. One might also think that the problems of school dropout, teen pregnancy, criminality, and drug use go quite a ways outside what we ought to depend upon the education system for. But I guess that gets into that area where something might be expected by the “zillionires,” so let’s just ignore it and do those things that “can be done.”

But it is the second paragraph that is most telling. He’s betting that the two girls will break the cycle?! And the reason is this one program that seems to be good but which has hardly been proven. It’s charter schools all over again! Back when, it was charter schools that were going to fix all the problems of education. That didn’t work out, so now people like Kristof want to abandon education reform and move onto early childhood education because there’s a cure-all called Educare! It will solve all our education problems! Don’t worry about poverty, racism, and the actual mechanics of teaching! Two years of Educare will solve all our problems!

Peter Greene at Curmudgucation provided a good description of this, Nicholas Kristof’s Tourist Balls. He likened the entire “reform” movement to tourists who come into a town and want to change everything and then leave the place a mess after a short period of time because they find that there are no easy answers. Then they move onto the “next shiny object.” That’s about right.

One thing that comes out in the comments to Greene’s article is that this is also an economic issue. The education “reform” movement has seen that the opportunities to monetize K-12 education are drying up. So now they are looking for ways to do the same with pre-K education. But I don’t doubt that there are a lot of really earnest people in the movement who only want what is best for the kids. And I’m certain that Kristof is one of these earnest people. But they are “useful fools” — people the power elite use to push their interests. And it is their interests that are pushed in all this “reform.” Now we will have our toddlers in corporate provided programs, so they do better in corporate run schools, so there is a large, well educated work force so corporations can have their pick of the best workers at the lowest prices.

Petraeus and Sterling: Different Kinds of Leakers

Jeffrey SterlingDo you remember that time that a classified document was released that caused the United States to lose a battle? Or that time Americans died because of a leak? Or when a hangnail got infected and a government official had to go on antibiotics? The reason you don’t remember any of these things is because they never happened. The government doesn’t get angry about leaks because it harms the country or even the government itself. It gets angry because those leaks usually embarrass government officials. You ought to have wondered about that after the Clinton administration declassified a bunch of documents that the Cheney administration later reclassified.

But more than this, the most important documents are classified not because government officials are afraid that foreign entities will find out about them but rather because they are afraid that Americans will find out about them. It took forty years for information about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to be released. It certainly wasn’t because the Vietnamese couldn’t learn the truth about our error. It was that the American people would not be pleased to know that our big push into the Vietnam War was based upon nonsense — that the justification for the Spanish-American War was better.

As a result, one of the absolute worst legacies of Obama will be his use of the Espionage Act of 1917 and his war on whistleblowers. That really will create a great narrative for the history book. The young and idealistic constitutional law professor comes into office and abandons everything he once claimed to be in favor of. This is why we shouldn’t elect Boy Scouts as presidents. Once the spooks get at them, the naive fall apart. Can’t risk anything going wrong by being liberal about freedom of the press![1] This is why the US press freedom ranking has been dropping.

David PetraeusIf you are like me, you got a good laugh out of David Petraeus getting probation for his unconscionable leak of top secret information. We never thought he would get anything more. After all, he is the right kind of leaker: a very powerful older man who used the information to impress and bed an attractive younger writer. Boys will be boy, right?! We can’t hold that against the man!

But it is different when you are someone who is really concerned about wrongdoing by the government. If you leak information about that, then you need to be punished — and severally. That’s why John Kiriakou was given two and a half years when Petraeus was given nothing. One of the big claims for not punishing Petraeus is that none of the names he leaked ever made it out. Well, that was true of Kiriakou too. But again, it doesn’t matter. Kiriakou was the wrong kind of leaker. He wasn’t a high ranking member of the government who was doing it for personal reasons. He was doing it out of a sense of right and wrong. You can’t respect that!

Now Jeffrey Sterling is looking at 19 to 24 years for the information he provided to James Risen for his book, State of War. He didn’t leak any names at all. The government, of course, claims that Sterling caused all kinds of harm to the United States. When does the government claim anything else (except in the case of highly placed leakers just trying to bed a younger woman)? I don’t think Sterling’s leaks hurt the United States at all. Regardless, it will be a major miscarriage of justice if he gets two decades in prison while Petraeus gets none. And Sterling’s lawyers are arguing just that.

Sterling is scheduled for sentencing on 11 May. Expect to see him sentenced to something between 19 and 24 years. The courts can’t make a special exception just for him. After all, he’s the wrong kind of leaker.

[1] I know Obama hasn’t gone after the press directly. The systemic attacks on leakers is a constitutional loophole. Without leakers, the press will be allowed to write anything it wants based upon government press conferences. And at that point, you might as well have a government controlled press.

Morning Music: Funeral March

Chopin Vol 2 - Vladimir HorowitzDespite this morning’s music, I am not depressed. Although picking the Funeral March is a result of my recent depression. As you may recall, I was watching a lot of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And in the eleventh episode, “The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom,” there is a recurring skit about a group of undertakers. Most of these use some part of the Funeral March.

Now, for classical music nerds, the Funeral March is actually the third movement (“Marche Funèbre: Lento”) from Chopin’s Piano Sonata No 2. You may remember that I’m not much of a fan of Chopin. But he did have a gift for melody, even if he was often far too interested in showing off.

Today, we have the whole piece performed by Vladimir Horowitz at the White House. But I’ve cued it up to start at the Funeral March. The whole thing is worth listening to. Although it is a bit chaotic.