Have you ever wondered what a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief
from the Cato Institute might look like if P.J. O'Rourke helped write
no more. Trust me, it's hilarious, and you don't need to know your
amici from your curiae to have a good time.
It's written for a current case, "Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus", a suit challenging Ohio's law that (to use USA Today's language) "bars candidates and issue groups from lying in their campaigns."
After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular- humanist professors of Chicano studies.
Indeed. Double your money back if it's not the funniest thing you read all day. (As a bonus, it makes serious points in defense of the First Amendment.)
Continuing the funny: excerpts from Dave Barry's new
(Dave muses on his daughter Becoming A Woman)
(Dave reviews 50 Shades of Gray). From the former:
If it were up to me, our house would be surrounded by giant (but humane) traps baited with some kind of bait that would be attractive to 13-year-old boys, such as fireworks or shorts that are even baggier than the shorts they’re already wearing. Every now and then we’d hear the loud THWONK of a steel door slamming shut, indicating that a 13-year-old boy had come too close to the house. I would then go outside and, after a stern warning, drive the boy out to the Everglades and release him into the wild.
I know how he feels.
And it keeps getting funnier, assuming your ribs are tickled
another example of President Obama's illegal,
politically-motivated rewriting of Obamacare. Key point:
The explanation for the rumored delay is purely political. There's not even a pretense of a policy justification.
In other words: it's designed to keep as many Democrats as possible in elective office. Because if they implemented the law they actually passed, it would send (for example) Jeanne Shaheen back to Madbury.
Here's hoping that happens anyway.
Both xkcd and Slashdot look at the
amazing (and somewhat sad) story of the spacecraft ISEE-3/ICE,
launched in 1978 (almost 36 years ago), explored the outer
magnetosphere, encountered a couple of comets. The mission was declared
over in 1997.
And NASA turned it off.
Or tried to. But now its solar orbit is bringing it near Earth again, and—to everyone's surprise—it's still alive!
But—here's the sad part—NASA can't talk to it any more; the transmitting equipment it used is long gone, and it's too expensive to reconstruct it.
URLs du Jour — 2014-03-04
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-28
Frank J. wonders
(among other things):
So are the Koch brothers a real thing or just the name the left has given the screeching demons inside their heads?
Both. I think the answer is both.
Jonah Goldberg ponders
the recent uproar about Arizona's failed effort to
legalize a business's (theoretical) refusal to do business with a
customer for religious reasons. (Which got translated in most media
Future historians will likely be flummoxed by the moment we’re living in. In what amounts to less than a blink of an eye in the history of Western civilization, homosexuality has gone from a diagnosed mental disorder to something to be celebrated — or else.
Indeed, the rush to mandatory celebration is so intense, refusal is now considered tantamount to a crime. And, in some rare instances, an actual crime if the right constable or bureaucrat concludes that you have uttered “hate speech.”
"Progressives" used to whine about religious types "imposing their morality" on others. Now the shoe's on the other foot.
Tom McGuire is a fine responder
to this morning's NYT editorial advocating a hefty minimum wage
increase. The editorial asserts: "Paying workers more can help companies
lower turnover and improve productivity."
You really should Read the Whole Thing™, but Tom's response is neatly summarized by his headline: "From The People We Look To For Business Advice".
Last Modified 2014-03-01 11:10 PM EST
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-27
Pun Salad is nine years old today. If you'd like to see the brave
first post, it's right
here. The major change since then is my move off the network
of my (then and current) employer, the University Near Here. Which
allowed my current blatant commercialism (tasteful Amazon links,
which I hope you'll use to buy, buy, buy). Also, I figured out
how to do RSS feeds along the way.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
A. Smith, writing in the WSJ, notes the docile response
of the MSM to the IRS targeting of conservative/libertarian
501(c)(4) groups for legal harassment.
The mainstream press has justified its lack of coverage over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups because there's been no "smoking gun" tying President Obama to the scandal. This betrays a remarkable, if not willful, failure to understand abuse of power. The political pressure on the IRS to delay or deny tax-exempt status for conservative groups has been obvious to anyone who cares to open his eyes. It did not come from a direct order from the White House, but it didn't have to.
Smith outlines the history, and demonstrates the IRS's efforts were almost certainly in response to demands from the President and other powerful Democrats. Including New Hampshire's own Senator Jeanne.
You'd think the press might take a bit more interest when unbridled government power is used to silence opposition. Especially when it's cheered on by elected officials.
Speaking of which:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that the conservative Koch brothers are "un-American."
This was reported at the Washington Post website, in a lead paragraph, so good for them. Senator Harry, however, is simply following other prominent members of his party (e.g., Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi; Jennifer Granholm) in applying the "un-American" smear to his political opponents.
Years ago, back when I listened to radio stations,
a local DJ was a fan of guitar hero "Johnny A".
I quickly became a fan too; Johnny (or should I call
him "Mr. A"?) can make an electric guitar do just about
anything he wants to do. And (fortunately) what he wants to
do is to make amazing
music. Rock, blues, jazz, surf, country, classical: it's
all one to Johnny.
Johnny is about to release his third studio album. He is raising funds to promote it through PledgeMusic, and I gratefully plunked down a pledge this morning. And I never do this sort of thing.
As I type, they've blown well past Johnny's original funding goal, but that's OK. I encourage you to check it out. Get his album, you won't be sorry. Or, if you have a few kilobucks rattling around, he'll even come to your house and play a set for you.
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-26
Ann Althouse has a terrific
of posts inspired by NYT food cop Mark Bittman's op-ed
touting a recent book by (CUNY professor) Nicholas Freudenberg.
But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public
The headline of Bittman's column is: "Rethinking Our ‘Rights’ to Dangerous Behaviors". The sneer-quotes around "Rights" should tell you nearly everything you need to know about the Bittman/Freudenberg thesis. Big corporations are profitably selling us unhealthy stuff, so government must step up, etc.
Bittman likes Freudenberg’s debunking of notions of "rights and choice," because he agrees that "we need... more than a few policies nudging people toward better health." As Freudenberg told Bittman: "What we need... is to return to the public sector the right to set health policy and to limit corporations’ freedom to profit at the expense of public health." Oh! Did you see that? Freudenberg said "right." He said "right" in the context of government, and he spoke of returning this "right" — a right to control people — to government. He's saying "right" where the legal term is actually "power." He wants government power at the expense of rights. And the fact that he speaks of the "return" of power to the government is either deceptive or unAmerican. We are free and have a right to do what we want until we give power to government. If the laws that restrict us are repealed, it makes sense to speak of returning rights to the people, but it's wrong and really offensive to characterize new restrictions in terms of returning a right to the government.
Pun Salad went on kind of a anti-Bittman kick a few years back (for example: here; here; here; here; here; here; here; here; here). But Bittman kept saying the same thing over and over, and I realized that if I wanted to respond, I'd have to say the same thing over and over. So I got off that merry-go-round. But I'm glad that Professor Althouse has stepped up.
The GOP has a new tax proposal out. At the WSJ, Congresscritter
Dave Camp, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, gives
the highlights: two brackets (10% and 25%), a surcharge on "the
rich", and "simplifying" the code. And at NR,
Eliana Johnson discusses
the proposal's efforts to curb IRS abuses.
Mark Calabria at Cato is (on the other hand) not a fan of the proposal's "Bank Tax".
Barton Hinkle has some fun with the new Obama budget proposal.
“With the 2015 budget request,” The Washington Post reported last week, “Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency.”
Well, it’s about time! The end of austerity cannot come soon enough, as far as your humble correspondent is concerned. And a quick look at the historical budget tables shows why: In 2008, the federal government spent just a hair under $3 trillion. After six years of President Slash-and-Burn, spending has shrunk to almost $4 trillion. If we keep cutting like this, it will be down to $5 trillion before you know it.
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-25
Glenn Kessler of the rabidly right-wing Washington Post
sadly notes that President Obama's assertions about Obamacare's benefits continue
to be truth-impaired. To wit, his recent claim that
“We’ve got close to 7 million Americans who have access to health care
for the first time because of Medicaid expansion.” After doing some
rudimentary research, Kessler concludes this is a Four-Pinocchio
In any case, no matter how you slice it, it does not add up to 7 million. It is dismaying that given all of the attention to this issue, the president apparently does not realize that the administration’s data are woefully inadequate for boastful assertions of this type.
That's an overly charitable interpretation. Mine is: he's lying. Because he thinks he can get away with lying.
A perceptive point made by Thomas Sowell:
It seems as if, everywhere you turn these days, there are studies claiming to show that America has lost its upward mobility for people born in the lower socioeconomic levels. But there is a sharp difference between upward "mobility," defined as an opportunity to rise, and mobility defined as actually having risen.
I smell the social-engineering mentality behind this confusion. In that view, the mass of people can and should be pushed/nudged/regulated/controlled/etc. into furthering grand societal goals imagined by their betters. The obvious corollary: if those grand societal goals aren't being accomplished, it can only be due to insufficient pushing/nudging/regulation/control/etc.
Need I encourage you to read the whole thing? Didn't think so.
Ricochet headline du jour is "The
Duke Porn Star Is a College Republican".
And it gets even better with the first sentence, which starts "Well, she's actually a libertarian…"
Now that's diversity, kids. Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown has a positive reaction here.
Kevin Williamson recalls
a historical Republican who also had to deal with others' poor opinions.
“She drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a Republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.” That was one schoolgirl’s description of Mary Fields, a.k.a. Stagecoach Mary, who is an obvious candidate for induction into the inaugural class in the American Bad-Ass Hall of Fame. Miss Fields was a freed slave who worked for some years as the foreman of a Catholic mission in what was then the Montana territory, hauling freight through blizzards and fighting wolves to defend the nuns’ cargo.
There's a link to an Ebony article where Gary Cooper (yes, that Gary Cooper) tells Mary's story.
A lot of appreciations of the late Harold Ramis are out there.
I especially liked this
one where Matt K. Lewis shares Charles Murray's plug for Ramis's
Groundhog Day in his latest book. (The
Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior,
Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life, which I've just pre-ordered.)
It was never sold as a smart or important film, but, instead, as a Bill Murray comedy. In this regard, Murray says that reminds him of Huckleberry Finn: ”In the very beginning of the book, there’s a notice to the reader, something about ‘anyone attempting to find a moral in this book will be banished,’” Murray says. “Mark Twain is saying to his readers,’ hey, this is just for fun.’ And Groundhog Day was similar in this regard. It was presented as a really fun Bill Murray movie.”
As far as I know Bill and Charles Murray are not related. Also see Jonah Goldberg's classic 2005 essay on Groundhog Day.
And if you have 28 seconds, enjoy the odd chemistry between Ramis and Annie Potts in Ghostbusters:
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-24
I seem to have been watching a lot of "comedy" movies lately that
generate, at most, an occasional amused snort.
So when I heard that Harold Ramis had passed away, I went to his IMDB page. And just the "Writer" category has: Ghostbusters; Groundhog Day; SCTV; Caddyshack; Meatballs; Stripes; and (last but not least) Animal House.
The world just got significantly less funny. RIP.
I've been a Tom Wolfe fan ever since I used to sneak peeks at
my dad's copies of Esquire back in the 60s. George
Neumayr has a good interview with him
over at the American Spectator website. For example, this
story about hanging out with
Muhammad Ali and his retinue:
Most of [Ali's] hangers-on had nothing to do with boxing. One night we went to a nightclub. There must have been a dozen people at a big table and everybody was ordering drinks and every kind of food. When the waiter brought the desserts, Ali got up and stretched, said it was a little stuffy in the restaurant, and left. I was pretty quick to get out too. That was the kind of thing that that story was full of. Ali just didn’t want to pay the bill.
I missed Breaking Bad in its first run, but AMC had a marathon
of all 62 episodes at the end of 2013, and that is precisely what TiVo
is good at. Mrs. Salad begged off, but I finally managed to watch them
all when she was asleep or out of the house.
Holy cow, what a fine show. Only problem is, when I'm out in the real world… That guy over there with the metal-band shirt? Meth addict! Two guys just sitting in that car? Meth dealers! That restaurant that nobody ever seems to go to? Money laundering for the meth trade!
It's probably a good thing I read Jacob Sullum's "Meth Mouth and Other Meth Myths." Bottom line:
Over-the-top warnings about methamphetamine—encapsulated in the slogan "Meth: Not Even Once"—aim to scare people away from a drug that might harm them (but probably won't). By contrast, Hart argues, exaggerating the hazards posed by methamphetamine causes definite damage by encouraging harsh criminal penalties (such as a five-year mandatory minimum for five grams), fostering distrust of accurate warnings about drugs, suppressing useful information that could reduce drug-related harm, driving users toward more dangerous routes of administration (as efforts to reduce meth purity, if successful, predictably would do), and justifying ineffective policies that impose substantial costs on large numbers of people for little or no benefit (such as restrictions on the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine, a cheap, safe, and effective decongestant that is now absurdly difficult to obtain). In other words, hyperbole hurts.
Although Breaking Bad's overall theme is probably still on point: becoming a drug criminal is probably not good for your family, friends, or your own self.
Back in 1968, computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote a letter
to the editor of the Communications of the ACM (Association for
Computing Machinery). Begins:
For a number of years I have been familiar with the observation that the quality of programmers is a decreasing function of the density of go to statements in the programs they produce. More recently I discovered why the use of the go to statement has such disastrous effects, and I became convinced that the go to statement should be abolished from all "higher level" programming languages (i.e. everything except, perhaps, plain machine code). At that time I did not attach too much importance to this discovery; I now submit my considerations for publication because in very recent discussions in which the subject turned up, I have been urged to do so.
The editor, Niklaus Wirth, stuck on the title "Go To Statement Considered Harmful"; the "Considered Harmful" phrase took on a life of its own.
But after 46 years, the go to statement is still claiming casualties, as this Wired article about Apple's recently-revealed iOS vulnerability in its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) code. If you know any C or C++, you'll get a chuckle out of the bug.
URLs du Ragnarök
As the title says, people are predicting Ragnarök, the Viking apocalypse today.
(Aka, Götterdämmerung, Twilight of the Gods, etc.)
My heritage is Norwegian, so I'm genetically inclined to give
this a little more credence than that Mayan stuff back in 2012.
If you need to brush up on what to expect, Wikipedia
is probably your best bet.
As I type, it hasn't happened yet. (I think I would have noticed the total submersion of the planet in water.) But the Norse Gods have the whole dämm day to get it done, and they may be running on Oslo time.
But if that whole end-of-world thing doesn't happen, and you're
feeling glum about it, where might you move to cheer up? According
your best bet is North Dakota. And whatever you do, stay out of West
My own state, New Hampshire, dropped out of the top ten, coming in eleventh place. It was eighth last year. I blame Maggie Hassan.
On a more serious note, Jonah Goldberg's column
this week looks at the would-be-amusing-if-it-wasn't-so-sad
academic world and its devotion to muddled thought and conformity
Cancel the philosophy courses, people. Oh, and we’re going to be shuttering the political science, religion, and pre-law departments too. We’ll keep some of the English and history folks on for a while longer, but they should probably keep their résumés handy.
Because, you see, they are of no use anymore. We have the answers to the big questions, so why keep pretending there’s anything left to discuss?
At least that’s where Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, seems to be coming down. Her school invited a famous left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.
“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”
Read the whole thing; if you believe that "children are our future", then things are glum indeed, even if you live in North Dakota.
For example, the University Near Here recently announced:
Anne Lawing, dean of students, and Alberto Manalo, associate professor of environmental and resource economics and vice chair of the faculty senate, will co-chair the search committee for the associate vice president for Community, Equity and Diversity, a new position President Mark Huddleston announced in his State of the University address Feb. 4.
It is unclear where the AVP for "Community, Equity and Diversity" will fit into the current
rat's nestcarefully designed organization of vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, associate vice presidents, deans, provosts, vice provosts, senior vice provosts, assistant provosts, associate provosts, officers, special assistants, directors, executive directors, deputy directors, senior directors, and senior associate directors.
But I'm sure the compensation will be more than adequate. And the new AVP will no doubt join the chorus of voices singing about how dreadfully the UNH is underfunded.
If you need some cheering up after that
(especially if you live in West Virginia, or are about to be
murdered by Norse Gods), I can recommend
a WSJ-provided excerpt
from Dave Barry's new book
Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other
Topics He Knows Very Little About
We live in ridiculously convenient times. Think about it: Whenever you need any kind of information, about anything, day or night, no matter where you are, you can just tap your finger on your smartphone and within seconds an answer will appear, as if by magic, on the screen. Granted, this answer will be wrong because it comes from the Internet, which is infested with teenagers, lunatics and Anthony Weiner. But it's convenient.
Indeed. Especially useful are Dave's helpful steps for grilling a steak, jump-starting your car, and surviving in the forest.
Last Modified 2014-02-23 6:07 AM EST
Senator Jeanne: A Deer in the Headlights
[Inspired by yesterday morning's mail from Jim Geraghty.]
Tuesday, the Washington Post featured a story from "Kaiser Health News":
Some Democrats have now joined their Republican counterparts in asking the Obama administration to moderate scheduled Medicare Advantage payment cuts for 2015.
Wha? Well, cut to the letter wherein this request is made to Ms Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS). Sure enough, one of the signatories is:
Yup, that's one of my state's Senators, Jeanne Shaheen. Our other Senator, Kelly Ayotte, also signed, but that's not important to my point.
Which is this: the Medicare Advantage cuts are (in fact) part of Obamacare.
And Jeanne cast one of the deciding votes for Obamacare. It wouldn't have passed without her.
Worse: there was a separate vote that would have prevented these changes (see vote 72 description here). Like all but two Democrats, Senator Jeanne voted in favor of keeping the Medicare Advantage cuts in the final legislation.
In short: Jeanne should have known these cuts were coming. She voted for them. (And she voted, separately, against preventing them.) Now (as I type), 256 days away from Election Day, she wants backsies? Her letter to the CMMS Administrator is a good indication that she's aware her Obamacare support is sinking her polling numbers. (Her near-mindless voting record in support of President Obama continues to this day.)
Back in 2009, Jeanne was fully invested in the "if you have health coverage that you like you can keep it" lie; in fact, she has not yet memory-holed her response to "Emil from Salem" where she proclaimed this was "a requirement that I have for supporting a bill".
Last Modified 2014-02-21 9:48 PM EST
URLs du Jour — 2014-02-19
Frank J's "random thoughts" are always superior
to my (allegedly) non-random ones. Sample:
Government didn’t step in to save Firefly, so unless something on PBS or NPR is better than Firefly, I don’t see why my tax dollars should go to it.
On target. So check out the rest.
Hennessey, like me, thinks Senator Ted Cruz has noble goals,
but finds him wrongheaded on strategy, specifically his approach to
the recent vote to raise the debt ceiling "cleanly".
But having the right policy goal isn’t enough to succeed, to change policy. You also need a legislative strategy with an endgame and some chance of success. As best I can tell Senator Cruz didn’t have one last fall and he didn’t have one earlier this week. His tactical legislative moves, then and now, need to be considered in that context. The same is true for his public comments surrounding those legislative moves. His objection this week served only to expose that Republicans were boxed in, forced to choose between facilitating passage of a bill they didn’t like and an even worse policy outcome. And they were boxed in because they could not build sufficient support for a unified legislative strategy that had a chance of success.
And Thomas Sowell sees Cruz as … not a team player.
Senator Ted Cruz has not yet reached the point where he can make policy, rather than just make political trouble. But there are already disquieting signs that he is looking out for Ted Cruz -- even if that sets back the causes he claims to be serving.
Scott Sumner takes apart the recent White House effort
to defend the 5-year-old ARRA "stimulus". Summary: "every bit as
embarrassing as you might expect." But details abound, including:
3. Instead of comparing actual to predicted results, they have lots of graphs showing the success of fiscal stimulus based on models of the economy that simply assume the policy was successful. How is that supposed to convince anyone?
Apparently the report is aimed at people who are predisposed to believe anything the White House says.
And, stolen from PowerLine:
Last Modified 2014-03-04 3:37 PM EST
Fauxcahontas Reinvention: Doubling Down When You're Already Busted
The blurb on the front page of the Puffington Host was intriguing (as blurbs, of course, are meant to be): "Elizabeth Warren Seeks To Reinvent The Post Office".
Could it be something interesting? One of those blue-moon events where a left-wing politician actually has a good, innovative idea? Senator Warren, after all, has the seat previously occupied by Teddy Kennedy, who uncharacteristically championed airline deregulation in the 1970s.
So could Senator Warren be possibly proposing a market-friendly reinvention of the United States Postal Service? It would be a fine idea. The USPS loses billions every year; even its weak revenue stream depends on a government-enforced monopoly; it is hidebound by Congressional micromanagement, a bloated unionized workforce, and its own anticompetitive culture.
And a market-friendly reform wouldn't even be that revolutionary. The United Kingdom turned its Royal Mail into a private for-profit corporation last year. Sweden (of all places) allowed private competition with its state-owned postal service 20 years ago. The people who keep track of such things classify the United States as having one of the least competitive, least-free market postal systems in the world.
So could ex-Harvard prof Elizabeth Warren actually have come up with even a half-good idea in this area?
You may have guessed the answer from the title on this post: no.
Instead, Senator Warren proposes to make the already too-socialist USPS — more socialistic! The bright idea is for the USPS to start offering "basic banking services" (identified in the article as "bill paying, check cashing, small loans"). The excuse is the (alleged) 68 million Americans "underserved" by the current banking industry.
This is the "progressive" answer to government-engineered failure: let's keep doing that, and add on more things to fail at.
This isn't difficult to understand. If banks, credit unions, or other denizens of the financial system could make money serving the "underserved", they would do so. In a relative heartbeat.
The Rube Goldberg process is pretty well understood. Percived problems are (a) politically "solved" by over-regulation; this causes (b) traditional operators to abandon services that can no longer offer profitably. (c) The gap is filled, often less satisfactorily with less traditional firms. (In this case: payday lenders, pawnshops, check-cashers that take a significant cut off the top.) These firms are then (d) vilified as "predatory" and "greedy" by the same pols whose actions brought them into being. Which (e) causes more "solutions" to be proposed, and we're back to (a) again.
Is the USPS equipped with any sort of magic wand to do a better job? Almost certainly not. The only reason this isn't a flat "no": they could benefit from a government-mandated unlevel playing field, getting exemptions from regulations that private firms are forced to follow.
More likely, though: this scheme would just add another money-losing operation to USPS's current business. Congresscritters love to micromanage USPS now; the appeal of extending such fiddling-power into any new services would be near-impossible for politicians to resist.
Senator Warren references this article from The New Republic, which is shot through with the same socialistic fallacies. But in addition, the article muses that this is one area where Obama might follow through on his promise to issue diktats without legislative action. Fascinating that old rag should be so enthusiastic about the executive wielding power unencumbered by Constitutional niceties.