In the trailer for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”.

This movie really surprised me.  It was made in 1948, around the time of what is called the “Second Red Scare“, when concern about communist infiltration was very high.  Given that, the content of the movie is astounding.

Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) are unemployed guys looking for work.  They convince an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) to help them on an expedition for gold in the Sierra Madre mountains.  The first remarkable thing about the movie is a speech given by Howard in his first scene:

Howard: Say, answer me this one, will you? Why is gold worth some twenty bucks an ounce?
Flophouse Bum: I don’t know. Because it’s scarce.
Howard: A thousand men, say, go searchin’ for gold. After six months, one of them’s lucky: one out of a thousand. His find represents not only his own labor, but that of nine hundred and ninety-nine others to boot. That’s six thousand months, five hundred years, scramblin’ over a mountain, goin’ hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin’ and the gettin’ of it.
Flophouse Bum: I never thought of it just like that.
Howard: Well, there’s no other explanation, mister. Gold itself ain’t good for nothing except making jewelry with and gold teeth.

What’s so remarkable about that, you wonder?  Well, what Howard is describing there is what is known as a Labor Theory of Value–the value of something is determined by the labor put forth to get it.  This is an economic idea that is commonly associated with a fellow named Karl Marx.  And it’s a response to the claim that gold’s value derives from its scarcity–a major component of non-Marxian, liberal economics.

Also in the trailer for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

So, about twenty minutes into the movie, we have gotten a lecture on Marxian economics.  This is all the more interesting because the rest of the movie is devoted to proving over and over that greed for wealth corrupts people–specifically, Dobbs.  Howard repeatedly predicts that the gold will drive men to madness, and does it ever.

Dobbs’s inevitable corruption is fun to watch–that Bogart guy was a pretty good actor, you know that?–and Walter Huston  is excellent, even though his role is fairly predictable.  He is, essentially, an infallible sage, and normally those characters are pretty dull, but Huston imbues him with personality.  What is not clear to me is why he bothered to come along, since he believes almost from the outset that the expedition will be a disaster, and it proves to be exactly that.

It was odd to me that the movie’s most famous, yet often mis-quoted, line: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges” was spoken by a rather poorly-acted, bandit character.  I thought his character was pretty weak.  In fact, I felt that the bandits had too big a role in the film, when all they really needed to do was show up at the end when Dobbs’s luck runs out.

I keep coming back to the economic “moral” of the movie, though.  It’s a very socialist message, what with the capitalist who desires to earn for himself being depicted as either a monster or a buffoon, and the character who opens up describing the labor theory of value depicted as a wise and thoughtful figure.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking: “Well, this is it– Mysterious Man has finally gone completely crazy and is now seeing communist conspiracies everywhere.  He must have been listening to Glenn Beck too much, and he just lost his tenuous grip on reality.”

1950s anti-communist pamphlet

To be clear, I’m not saying I think this movie was some kind of evil communist-Hollywood indoctrination plot.  It was based on a book by a mysterious German called “B. Traven“, who was apparently a socialist.  Well, when your movie is based on a book by a German socialist, you can’t be surprised if some German socialism creeps in.  I doubt John Huston wanted to make Marxist propaganda; he just wanted to make a Western, and the book he adapted it from had some Marxist propaganda in it.

What surprises me is that, despite how popular accusing people in Hollywood of communism was at the time, the film wasn’t banned or censored, and John Huston wasn’t hauled up before the H.U.A.C. to explain himself.  I’m not saying any of that should have happened, I’m just saying it’s weird that the film apparently got released without any censorship or controversy, which is kind of amazing given the zeitgeist.

This is bizarre. He claims to have been doing this for 70 years.

I assume that it’s some sort of hoax, though it’s hard to see how he’s pulling it off.

On the other hand, if it isn’t a hoax and everyone learned how to do it, the decrease in demand for food would probably cripple the economy, so I figure the Indian government will probably hush it all up,send the guy somewhere secret, and hide all the relevant studies in a giant warehouse; like at the end of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So say scientists

To be fair, other scientists say that the world is, in fact, warming. I assume we’ll only know for sure when a) we are all burned alive or b) we all freeze to death.

I’ve always been sort of conflicted about the whole global warming/climate change/whatever debate. On the one hand, it always seemed slightly hysterical and a little too perfect in how well it suited the leftist worldview. On the other hand, common sense suggests that more humans engaging in new kinds of activities is bound to produce some of sort of change in the overall climate. Of course, part of the problem is that I’m not a climate scientist. 

Personally, I’ve been operating on the assumption that human activity affects the climate in ways that are variable and hard to measure, and that it’s a huge oversimplification to call it “warming”. The leftists say that this is a bad thing, and use it as an excuse to push for various changes in society; some of which are relevant, and others which are not. Because it is impossible to tell which is which, conservatives dismiss the entire issue as a hoax so they don’t have to deal with it. The upshot is that one side says human activity is very, very bad for the planet and should be minimized, and one side that says it has no effect.

FYI, my suspicion is that some country will ultimately figure out how to manipulate human activity (more precisely, chemical emissions) in such a way as to control the climate. Whichever country does this will basically rule the world. I suspect that most climate research is actually dedicated to figuring out the relationship between human activity and climate; so as to be the first country to harness this power.  (But remember, I’m not a climate scientist.)

As I have discussed here and here, an attempt seems to be going on to subtly revise history so that people forget George W. Bush was President on 9/11. 

One question I didn’t address in the earlier posts is: Who is doing it? Now, you might think it’s obviously the Republican party doing it, as part of an effort to rehabilitate the image of Republicans as better at National Defense. This is quite likely, although it seems like it would be simpler to demonize Bush, and claim that his Presidency is not typical of Republican ideology. 

But is there any other group that would have an incentive to make this effort?

Everyone in the world is currently whipped into a frenzy over either the undeniable truth of climate change or the obvious fallaciousness of it. 

Most major news outlets behave as if it is already an accepted fact. Except some are pretty sure it is either not happening, or else if it is happening it is part of a natural cycle of some kind and therefore is no cause for concern.

The people who dispute climate science have a wide variety of objections. They generally find some fault with the data itself, or else offer counter-evidence to the theory of global warming. After this, however, many proceed to draw conclusions like this:

“There are serious flaws in this Climate Science. These flaws are so widespread as to indicate that the entire thing is in fact a conspiracy to redistribute wealth and gain greater control over people. Global Warming/Climate Change is a kind of Reichstag Fire for anti-capitalist, totalitarian regimes.”

Of course, the counter-argument is that all of these ideas are being secretly funded by oil companies who are trying to prevent the loss of revenue. If that’s true, the best thing to do would be to encourage the Climate Change questioners to spend more and more effort on campaigning against oil company regulation, so that they will eventually run out of money and then this will all be a moot point.

Really, though, my point is that there’s no way for a layman to be sure about it. Yes, we’re told that an overwhelming consensus that there is man-made global warming exists, but the other side responds that any source which says this is biased in favor of the Socialist conspiracy. The response to this is that the skeptics are taking money from “Big Oil”.

So, how can I be sure? More importantly, how can any non-climatologist on either side be sure?