URLs du Jour - 2014-12-16

  • Jonah Goldberg is a master pundit. His Friday "G-File" mail is great PG-13 fun to read, and often preview his more respectable op-ed columns.

    Example: last Friday's G-File was subject-lined with: "Jonathan Gruber’s Pants Inferno". Sample:

    In almost every exchange, Gruber fell back on language you’d expect from a stockbroker tied up in an S&M dungeon. I did it because I am a flea! A worm! I am no master of the universe, I am nothing! Punnnniissshhh meee!

    All that was missing were some riding-crop and melted-candle-wax welts, and maybe a shorn scrotum. Hey man, it’s a defense.

    But it’s not a good one. You can blame your arrogance for calling the American voters stupid, but you can’t blame your arrogance for claiming that the bill was designed to hide taxes and deceive the public. If I stab someone 34 times, the jury might want to hear about my arrogance, but whether I’m arrogant or humble, it doesn’t change what I did — and apologizing for it doesn’t clarify where the body is buried.

    But the argument carries over to the less raucous version in Jonah's op-ed, "Jonathan Gruber should've been Time's Person of the Year". The word "scrotum" does not appear. The sober conclusion there:

    […] Gruber's arrogance goes beyond the personal. He represents the arrogance of the expert class writ large. They create systems, terms and rules that no normal person on the outside can possibly penetrate. They make life and living more complicated and then get rich and powerful off of their ability to navigate that complexity. Time and again they sell simplicity and security and deliver more complications and insecurity, which in turn creates demand for more experts promising simplicity and security the Gruberians never deliver.

    So read both, and give thanks for Goldberg.

  • Could P. J. O'Rourke's employer, The Daily Beast, make him write about Lena Dunham? Find out the awful truth at "They Made Me Write About Lena Dunham". Part of Peej's research was to watch an episode of Dunham's HBO series, Girls.

    The young people in Girls are miserable, peevish, depressed, hate their bodies, themselves, their life, and each other. They occupy apartments with the size and charm of the janitor’s closet, shared by The Abominable Roommate. They dress in clothing from the flophouse lost-and-found and are groomed with a hacksaw and gravel rake. They are tattooed all over with things that don’t even look like things the way a anchor or a mermaid or a heart inscribed “Mom” does, and they’re only a few years older than my daughters.

    The characters in Girls take drugs. They “hook up” in a manner that makes the casual sex of the 1960s seem like an arranged marriage in Oman. And they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit.

    It’s every parent’s nightmare. I had to have a lot to drink before I could get to sleep after watching this show about young people who are only a few years older than my daughters.

  • I like the homepage at MagicLeap.com. Neal Stephenson is involved with them somehow, so it—whatever "it" is—could be indescribably wonderful.

  • Also check out Kevin Clark's wonderful article about Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck's "trash talk".

    Luck has become famous for congratulating—sincerely and enthusiastically—any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as ”great job” or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.

    Weird is a welcome relief from most of the NFL news this season. If the Pats falter, I think I'll be cheering for the Colts.

  • And I think you will laugh at least twice while reading through VAViper's collection of warning labels.


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The Bookwoman's Last Fling

[Amazon Link]

I've been following John Dunning's mystery series about cop-turned-bookseller Cliff Janeway for a number of years. This one, which came out in 2006, looks as if it will be the last; his website says problems originating from a "large benign brain tumor" have prevented further books. Here's hoping he's having a good life otherwise.

Cliff has been called up to a remote ranch to evaluate the book collection of the late horse trainer H. R. Geiger. (Not to be confused with the disturbing artist H. R. Giger.) What Cliff finds is the remnants of an extremely dysfunctional family (and family business), with surviving offspring and employees squabbling over the estate, now in legal limbo.

The title's "bookwoman" is Candice, Geiger's lovely young wife who predeceased him by several years. When Janeway gets a chance to examine her collection, he discovers that a number of rare and valuable volumes have been snitched and replaced with crap. And (eventually) it develops that he's expected to determine whether Candice's death was due to foul play.

Janeway needs to untangle a Ross McDonald-like tangle of bad behavior going back decades. He goes undercover, doing horse-work with a trainer in order to plumb memories of Candice, H. R., and their relatives and associates. It all works out to an untidy conclusion.

I have to say: it was a long read, over 500 paperback pages. Could have easily trimmed 150-200 of them without loss to plot, character, or setting. But it's clear that Dunning loves the world of horse-racing just as much as his normal rare-book world. It's funny: there's more discussion of horse stuff here than there is in the typical Dick Francis novel, and Francis was supposed to be the horse guy.


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URLs du Jour - 2014-12-10

These posts don't often have a unifying theme. But (you may have noticed) it's been an apology-filled few days. So:

  • Iowahawk calls it the "latest dispatch from Planet College". As Robby Soave says:

    Smith College President Kathleen McCartney thought she was showing solidarity with students protesting racism and police brutality when she sent a campus-wide email with the subject line, "All Lives Matter." But the anti-racism slogan popular with students is actually the more selective "black lives matter."

    Prez McCartney apologized. Abjectly. Of course.

    At today's institutions of higher learning, you have to utter your stupid slogans using exactly the right words.

    (I thought there might also have been a perception that Prez McC was making a subtle point about abortion. But it seems that misconception was not seriously entertained: nobody thought she was implying that unborn babies' lives matter. At Smith? Be serious!)

  • University of Iowa President Sally Mason found herself apologizing as well. Was her apology even more craven than President McCartney's? It's a close call, I think.

    University of Iowa (UI) students, faculty, and administrators are speaking out in support of the censorship of a statue created and displayed on campus by visiting professor Serhat Tanyolacar that they say constitutes “hate speech.” Tanyolacar’s piece comprised a seven foot tall sculpture of a Ku Klux Klan member whose robes are crafted from newspaper articles about racial violence. Many members of the UI community, however, ignored the intended anti-racist message of the piece and instead demanded that the university take action against what they perceive as a racist display—and the university is complying.

    President Mason apologized, as did UI's Office of Strategic Communication (is there also an office of Tactical Communication?). As did the artist.

    To any mind not inclined to be offended, the "sculpture" was clearly intended to be anti-racist (albeit lamely). But, as at Smith, a lot of Hawkeyes decided to ignore intentions and get outraged instead. The Iowa City collective IQ dipped about 10 points, and gutless self-censorship won. Yay!

    Hopefully, Iowa's football team will show more spine next month against Tennessee in the Bowl Formerly Known As Gator.

  • Lena Dunham also apologized. (Although that apology is buried in, to quote Treacher, a mass of "self-pitying claptrap".)

    But anyway: when Lena wrote that passage in her recent book accusing a library-employed, Oberlin College Republican named "Barry" of raping her back in her college days, she didn't mean the actual library-employed, Oberlin College Republican named "Barry". That was—and I am not making this quote up—"an unfortunate and surreal coincidence."

    I must admit, I would have liked to see this played out in court, with Lena paying "Barry" a very large sum, enough to send his kids to … well, probably not Oberlin. But it appears he's gonna let her off the hook.

  • MIT Professor J. Gruber also got his apology out yesterday.

    He delivered a mea culpa of sorts in his opening remarks on Tuesday for what he called his "mean and insulting" comments, explaining some of his remarks while trying to take some of them back. After once saying a lack of transparency helped the law pass, Gruber said Tuesday he does not think it was passed in a "non-transparent fashion." He also expressed regret for what he called "glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting comments." "I sincerely apologize for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion," Gruber said. "I knew better. I know better. I'm embarrassed and I'm sorry." He said he "behaved badly" but stressed that "my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act."

    Enough? But let me tell you what made me chuckle.

    One of my favorite old sitcoms was "WKRP in Cincinnati". It opened with a driver fiddling with his car radio, briefly hitting a news station:

    "And the senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity."

    Compare with this Newsweek paragraph (quoted by Jennifer Rubin):

    Gruber could not fully explain his comments about subsidies through the federal exchange—comments that Democrats fear will become grounds for the Supreme Court to gut the law. But Gruber repeated Tuesday that he always assumed in all of his economic models that subsidies would be available for plans purchased through the federal exchange. He also offered one theory on why he might have made those comments.

    Or: "The professor, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain…"


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Free

[Amazon Link]

The author, Alfred Mele, is a philosopher based at Florida State; he specializes in the "free will" topic. As you can tell from the book's subtitle (Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will), he's decided to argue for the survival of the concept. (Which, he argues, is a choice he's freely made.)

It is a very slim book, under a hundred pages even counting References and Index sections. (It's an actual book, though, and I am counting it on the my list.) It is aimed (fortunately for me) at the layman, and the style is chatty and accessible.

So we have a philosopher at odds with "science", specifically recent research in neurophysiology, psychology, and sociology: it seems like the odds wouldn't be on his side. But (to my mind) he does a good job of arguing that all those experiments do not prove the non-existence of "free will". Instead, the anti-free willers (Mele argues) are setting the bar for what they consider to be "free will" absurdly high, all the better to debunk it. If we define "free will" reasonably well ("modestly"), it appears that the concept survives.

To be sure, a number of experiments show that we can (for example) fool ourselves about the timing of our choices; for example, a famous experiment's neural monitoring demonstrates that a subject's "decision" about when/whether to push a button can actually be made a few hundred milliseconds before the subject is conscious of the decision.

But, Mele argues, even if such observations apply to some types of "decisions", the experiments fail to show that they apply to all decisions. The human decisions where experiments seem to demonstrate "unfree" will are those based in mental processes we share with animals: instincts, reflexes, appetites, herd behavior, etc. Conscious, rational decisions are another story.

It has long seemed to me that arguments that free will is illusory are self-refuting: if you're summoning rational arguments and evidence to get me to change my mind on the matter, you're already kind of admitting that I have a choice to do so or not. So I'm on Mele's side.

I suppose to be fair, I need to read something on the other side. This book seems like the best bet. One reviewer says " Read it: you have no choice." We'll see.


Last Modified 2014-12-10 5:26 AM EST
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URLs du Jour - 2014-12-04

  • income quintile net transfers One would hope that the people who prattle on about the continuing need for "the rich" to pay their "fair share" of taxes would read Mark J. Perry's post with the lengthy title: "New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share". But, alas, they probably won't.

    Key graphic at your right. I would like to ask (say) President Obama: how tall does that blue bar have to be in order for you to pronounce it "fair"?

  • And one would hope MSM bigwigs might read Mollie Hemingway's "Dear Media: This Elizabeth Lauten Nonsense Is Why Everybody Hates You". But (again), alas, they probably won't.

    If you don't know what the "Elizabeth Lauten nonsense" is: (a) good for you, it's stupid; (b) Mollie will provide you background. But it's only the latest instance of the MSM's blatant double-standards, bias, and hypocrisy in deciding what is to be considered "news".

    Disclaimer: I'm not a hater myself, but I'm a disrespecter.

  • And one would hope that anyone who believed a word of what Lena Dunham claimed about getting raped by "a Republican" at Oberlin College would read John Nolte's article "Investigation: Lena Dunham ‘Raped By a Republican’ Story in Bestseller Collapses Under Scrutiny". But (once again), alas they almost certainly won't.

    Ms. Dunham claimed that her assailant was the host of a show "Real Talk with Jimbo" on a local radio station, almost certainly the campus radio station. Nolte's efforts to check whether such a show existed were stonewalled down the line, but not before the current station manager deemed Nolte's efforts to check Dunham's story were "irrelevant" and "could create a conflict of interest on campus regarding sexual assault."

    I'm thinking that if Dunham's story could have been verified on this detail, Oberlin would have been a lot more cooperative.

    And John Nolte should be widely commended for doing actual investigative journalism. But he won't be.

  • A little astronomical geekery: a gentleman named Michael Zeiler is looking forward to the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse and after visiting his blog, perhaps you will be too.

    The highlight is an eight-inch by ten-foot (!) graphic (if you printed it full size), that shows the path of the moon's shadow as it will travel across the country from Oregon to South Carolina. It is an amazingly fact-packed, beautiful visualization. (You'll learn, for example, that "Hotels in Oregon in the center of the eclipse path between Salem and Albany are scarce or already reserved.")

    The April 8, 2024 eclipse will be closer to us here in New Hampshire, but, um, who knows how mobile we'll be then?

  • Pun Salad's public service notice du jour: Taylor Swift is not singing about "all the lonely Starbucks lovers."


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For Us, The Living

[Amazon Link]

Three-word review: it's not good.

This was Robert A. Heinlein's "first novel", written around 1939. He and his wife Ginny burned their copies of the manuscript shortly before his death. But one copy he loaned out to a would-be biographer was unearthed, and it made its way into publication in 2004.

Based on reviews, I was (obviously) in no hurry to read it. But it nagged at me: to have read every Heinlein novel except this one was too much of an imperfection to bear. So I picked up the paperback a few years ago, and it eventually got to the top of the to-be-read queue, and… well, it took a long time to read because I kept finding better things to do. As I said, it's not good.

There isn't much of a plot, but here's the idea: in 1939, Navy pilot Perry Nelson accidentally drives his car off a California seaside cliff, getting pretty smashed up on the rocky beach below. But (somehow) his conciousness gets transported to a different body the year 2086. He's rescued by the lovely Diana, who introduces him to this strange future world. After a few missteps, he finds a good niche and lives happily on from there.

There are seeds of Heinlein's future stories here: moving express sidewalks ("The Roads Must Roll"); Coventry, where incorrigable anti-social types are exiled; ubiquitous flying cars; the threat of Nehemiah Scudder's theocracy (he was victorious in Beyond This Horizon, defeated here); and so on.

It comes complete with an alternate history, one where FDR was beaten by Arthur H. Vandenberg in the 1940 Presidential election. (In actual fact, FDR stomped all over Wendell Willkie that year.) No World War II for the US, but Europe went dark for awhile. Gradually, the US transformed itself into (essentially) Utopia, a free, prosperous, socially liberated land where a lot of people are naked all the time, cheerfully inhaling vast clouds of tobacco smoke.

The details of the brave new world are tediously laid out in endless pedantic lectures that Perry endures cheerfully. (Me, not so much.) Everybody remarks on the backwardness of 1939 compared to the glorious present. After a while I heard these lectures in my head as being delivered in a high-pitched irritating nasality from bad 1930s movies. The key concept is a wacky socialist sub-ideology called Social Credit, which … well, I kind of skimmed over that part, but Heinlein's lecturers go on and on and on and on describing it, demonstrating its obvious superiority via a simulation game involving chess pieces, playing cards, and… yes, I skimmed over that too, muttering "When. Will. You. Shut. Up. About. This."

I shouldn't be too hard on Heinlein's technological predictions, of course. But: in his 2086, there's no Internet. Or computers. Or even lousy calculators: at one point Perry whips out a slide rule. (Kids who don't know what those were: click here.) If you need to get information from one place to another, you put it in a capsule and (shades of ex-Senator Ted Stevens) send it through a series of pneumatic tubes. And, although rocket ships are used for long-distance air travel, space exploration is just getting started.

And then there's sex, which is uninhibited and free from all those 1939-style taboos. The 2086 people just don't get Perry's hangups, especially when he falls in love with Diana, but can't abide it when her ex-flame shows up.

So, bottom line: a painful read, but at least I can say I've read 'em all. And I'm glad he kept at it.


Last Modified 2014-12-07 5:40 PM EST
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URLs du Jour - 2014-12-03

  • [I HATE TEA (PARTIES)] The Official Store of the Democratic Party has decided to shed all that phony we-are-all-Americans rhetoric, and is selling the "I HATE TEA (PARTIES)" travel tumbler". It's a cool $30.

    A message-free mug will only set you back, what, $7 or so? But if you're a Democrat, apparently your party apparat thinks you're willing to shell out more than that in order to perfectly express your blind hatred.

  • Kevin D. Williamson unveils "The BET ME Challenge":

    If I were inclined to violate my own libertarian leanings, I’d lobby the new Republican majority in Congress to enact the Better Expertise Through Monetary Exposure Act of 2015 — the BET ME Act. The purpose of the BET ME Act would be two-fold: First, it would impose accountability on pundits and self-appointed experts of all descriptions by requiring them to wager a month’s pay on the real-world outcome every time they published a prediction.

    Second, and consequently, it would surely eliminate the national debt in a matter of months.

    As Kevin notes, there are Constitutional issues. But…

    I've occasionally avocated a similar proposal for politicians and their legislation:

    • Each bill going through the legislature must explicitly describe, precisely and objectively, the foreseen benefits it will accomplish.

    • Then—this is the critical bit—if at any point any of those benefits fails to materialize, the legislation will immediately and automatically go out of effect.

    I.e., force advocates of the bill to bet its continued enforcement on whether it will do what they claim it will. (It would be OK to claim that the bill would have no measurable benefits, but why then would anyone vote for it?)

    Is there any doubt that if this provision had been in effect in 2009, ObamaCare would have been gone by now, and its advocates even more embarrassed than they are?

  • For example:

    [About to be ex-] Sen. Tom Harkin, one of the co-authors of the Affordable Care Act, now thinks Democrats may have been better off not passing it at all and holding out for a better bill.

    Harkin spent 5 terms, 30 years, in the Senate. And it took him all this time to admit he was really bad at the job.

    Peter Suderman, by the way, deems Harkin's musings "a revisionist liberal fantasy". Not that there's anything unusual about revisionist liberal fantasies.

  • And another example comes from Walter Olson at Cato:

    Economic sanctions, when they have an effect at all, tend to inflict misery on a targeted region’s civilian populace and often drive it further into dependence on violent overlords. That truism will surprise few libertarians, but apparently it still comes as news to many in Washington, to judge from the reaction to this morning’s front-page Washington Post account of the humanitarian fiasco brought about by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law’s “conflict minerals” provisions. According to reporter Sudarsan Raghavan, these provisions “set off a chain of events that has propelled millions of [African] miners and their families deeper into poverty.” As they have lost access to their regular incomes, some of these miners have even enlisted with the warlord militias that were the law’s targets.

    But I'm sure Dodd and Frank are quite proud of their handiwork.

  • At Reason, Ira Stoll looks at the recently-defunct "green" Xunlight Corporation, the latest "example of how government at all levels—state and federal—and in both parties—Republican and Democrat —wastes taxpayer money by subsidizing politically connected businesses." Worth reading, especially if you think one party's more guilty than the other on this issue.

  • I liked Jonah Goldberg's essay on integrity when it was in my dead-trees National Review and now it's out from behind the NR paywall. He bemoans the ever-more-popular Nietzschean concept that one must "look within" for one's moral compass.

    Such saccharine codswallop overturns millennia of moral teaching. It takes the idea that we must apply reason to nature and our consciences in order to discover what is moral and replaces it with the idea that if it feels right, just do it, baby. Which, by the by, is exactly how Lex Luthor sees the world. Übermenschy passion is now everyone’s lodestar. As Reese Witherspoon says in Legally Blonde, “On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life.” Well, that solves that. Nietzsche-Witherspoon 1, Aristotle 0.

    As usual, Jonah draws multiple lessons from pop culture. Check it out.

  • Finally: Readers on Pun Salad's "Default" view might be interested in my takes on some recent reads: The Up Side of Down by longtime blogger Megan McArdle (aka "Jane Galt"); and The Norm Chronicles by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter.


Last Modified 2014-12-05 11:17 AM EST
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The Up Side of Down

[Amazon Link]

I've been reading Megan McArdle ever since she emerged from obscurity as "Jane Galt" on her "Live from the WTC" post-9/11 blog. So checking out her first book, The Up Side of Down, was an easy pick.

The book is (roughly) about failure. As the title implies, it's not all bad! Good news for those of us whose personal lives and professional careers have had a few jarring bumps along the way. (I might especially recommend the book to anyone in the midst of such a setback.)

Megan (I call her Megan) tells the anecdote that undergirds her philosophy of failure:

There is a famous story of a rich old man being interviewed by a young striver, who asks him for the secret of his success. “Good judgment,” says the magnate.

His eager young follower dutifully scribbles this down, then looks at him expectantly. “And how do you get good judgment?”

“Experience!” says our terse tycoon.

“And how do you get experience?”

“Bad judgment!”

It's funny because it's true.

The book is wide-ranging (some might say "rambling"), but there are all kinds of "shit happens" events that happen to people. There are mistakes, malfeasance, miscommunications, … None are much fun, but they oft contain the seeds of future success.

"Wide-ranging" might be an understatement: for example, there's an interesting section on bankruptcy. (No, I'm not kidding.) It turns out the USA's bankruptcy laws are very lenient compared to European countries; given our hardnosed reputation compared to the mushy socialists of Eurpe, that's kind of surprising. Megan argues this is a good thing: the important part of this particular mode of financial failure is that one can start afresh and do better the next time around.

Another chapter finds Megan investigating a response to a totally different brand of failure: Hawaii's Project HOPE is a probation setup for criminals who need to be weaned from the bad habits that brought them afoul of the law. Monitoring the offender is ongoing; infractions are dealt with promptly and without uncertainty—it's back to jail for at least a few days. This, Megan argues convincingly, is much more effective than the standard setup on the mainland. It's also cheaper, since (in the long term) recidivism is decreased.

This is standard investigative/advocacy journalism, but Megan is not reluctant to bring up examples from her own life: her rocky romances (again: not kidding); getting out of debt and getting back into it by buying a house; her professional setbacks (going from a Chicago MBA to Bloomberg journalist is not a typical career path). And even the story of her mother's dicey encounter with appendicitis; the diagnosis was botched, the hospital staff didn't always follow sterile practices, and so on. (I happened to read this part concurrently with reading about medical risks in The Norm Chronicles, so, yes, stay out of the hospital if you can. It's not the safest place to be.)

Megan's a fine journalist-style writer (although she never lapses into the dread USA Today-ease breeziness, thank goodness). I'll mention one quibble: on page 65, a paragraph begins:

Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign against a probably fictional "welfare queen" tapped into middle-class America's growing belief that […]

Two serious things wrong here:

  1. "Welfare queen"-in-quotes implies that's a term Reagan actually used at the time. He didn't, as near as anyone can tell. (He did use the term once in one of his post-campaign radio commentaries, as an example of what other people were calling her.)

  2. The person Reagan referred to wasn't fictional at all.

I blogged about the Reagan "welfare queen" mythology here.


Last Modified 2014-12-08 3:28 PM EST
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A must-see-in-theatre for us, as I'm sure the filmmakers coldly calculated.

At the end of the previous movie, our reluctant heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) had been rescued from near-death by revolutionaries eager to take down the oppressive government of Panem as symbolized by its ruthless sadist leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). But one of Katniss's boyfriends, Peeta, remained behind. Katniss is pretty irate about that. It's apparent that she loves Peeta slightly more than she does her other boyfriend, Gale.

The revolutionaries are based in "District 13", long-supposed to have been destroyed by Panem. But they're living in a deep underground complex, full of weaponry and spirited people. They are led by President Coin (Julianne Moore) with assistance from Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and some other folks from previous installments. Coin wants Katniss as an inspirational symbol to lead the revolt. Katniss is more concerned about getting Peeta back to safety, and she uses that as a bargaining chip.

As a number of reviewers observed: for a two-hour movie, not too much happens. There are a few conflict scenes where the ruthless forces of Panem take on the plucky dissidents. But the main plot driver is a mopy Katniss pining for Peeta's safe return.

So: it's OK, but clearly just setting up moviegoers to shell out for another ticket next November. And, God willing, we'll be there. I haven't read the books, so I (honestly) don't know how things turn out. At times it appears the District 13 allegedly-good guys are nearly as power-hungry as the Panem thugs, and some of the scenes where Coin addresses her minions give off a Triumph of the Will vibe. So maybe it will turn out to be one of those meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss deals? Don't tell me.


Last Modified 2014-12-08 3:29 PM EST
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URLs du Jour - 2014-11-24

  • Kevin D. Williamson detects in President Obama a case of "A Small Man in a Big Office". It's a very interesting take on how character, or the lack thereof, manifests itself, either on the playing field or in elective office:

    I have seen a high-school football coach refuse to shake the hand of his opposite number after a football game in response to perceived affronts to sportsmanship, and that’s a serious thing. (They take it seriously in that other kind of football, too.) It’s basically Sampson biting his thumb at Abraham in the opening of Romeo and Juliet. “When good manners shall lie all in one or two men’s hands, and they unwashed, too, ’tis a foul thing.” You don’t shake hands with somebody who has behaved dishonorably.

    I do not think I would shake hands with Barack Obama.

    That's a thought experiment I doubt either Kevin or I would get a chance to test in real life, but I think I'd probably go the same way.

  • There is P.J. O'Rourke content at the Daily Beast: "Why 2016’s Hopefuls Are Hopeless", a quick look at both parties' likely presidential candidates. Jeb Bush, for example:

    He’s got everything.

    He’s young (for a Republican), just 61.

    He was a Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Texas. Hook ‘Em, Horns!

    He was a successful businessman.

    And a successful two-term Governor of a state where the balloting incompetence and idiocy is absolutely vital to the GOP.

    He’s fluent in Spanish. His wife is Hispanic. His children are too! He’s sure to move, temporarily, from Coral Gables to Houston so he can choose fellow Floridian Marco Rubio as his running mate. Kiss the Latino vote goodbye, Democrats.

    John Ellis Bush has just one problem. Perhaps you can take a “Bush-league” guess what it is. But don’t worry. Jeb is all set to legally change his name to “Scott Walker.”

  • You probably saw or heard about this past weekend's Saturday Night Live opening sketch that was openly non-reverential to President Obama and his immigration moves a few days ago! Heresy! At Breitbart, John Nolte noticed that the Washington Post actually spent time fact-checking the sketch. (Something nobody can remember happening in response to the approximately 2,396 anti-Ford/Reagan/Bush/GOP SNL sketches over the past 40 years.)

    And at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey lists a few things the WaPo could also correct, for example:

    • There are actually very few people with cone-shaped heads, and they rarely talk like robots.
    • Don’t Fear The Reaper didn’t really need more cowbell.
    • Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house.

    And more.

  • And finally, a couple of seasonal links. Reason reports that the latest attack in the War Against Christmas has been beaten back:

    It's a Christmas miracle! An elementary school in a Boston suburb that was going to cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker has decided allowing kids to see a Christmas tree on stage will not destroy the non-Christians in the audience.

    It's usually wise to check that these stories aren't coming from some wackily paranoid right-wing source, but not in this case: link above goes to WHDH, the Boston NBC affiliate.

  • But the season would not be complete without perusing Dave Barry’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide.

    [Amazon Link]

    But what if you want to go “old school” this holiday season? What if instead of giving your loved ones high-tech devices that will, in time, become obsolete and useless, you’d prefer to give gifts that are already useless?

    In that case, you have come to the right place: our annual Holiday Gift Guide, which has been a beloved American holiday tradition dating back to the dawn of time. Each year, we scour the entire solar system, looking for unique and tasteful gift ideas. Each year, we fail utterly and wind up with a collection of random crap we found on the Internet. This is our holiday gift to you.

    My "favorite" would have to be "The Meat", which is one in a series of toy action figures from to the Rocky movies. Pictured (with handy Amazon link) at right. No, your right.


Last Modified 2014-12-10 12:16 PM EST
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