URLs du Jour - 2014-10-28

  • Hillary is trying to walk back the "Don’t let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs" line in her Friday speech. On Monday:

    “I shorthanded this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades,” said Mrs. Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

    “Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in an America where workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out — not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.”

    Shorthanded? She would have done better to call it a "speak-o". I shouldn't need to point this out, but her Friday remarks are not "shorthand" for her Monday remarks.

    Friday: transparently false left-wing demagogic bullshit.

    Monday: focus-grouped banal meaningless bullshit. [Amazon Link]

    With Hillary, as with her husband, dishonesty is the default setting. The late Christopher Hitchens nailed it years ago when he titled his book about the Clintons No One Left To Lie To. Except he was wrong. In low-information America, there are plenty of people left to lie to. And Hillary's taking full advantage.

  • Writing at Patterico's Pontifications, I think JVW could be indulging in sarcasm:

    So, dear reader, it’s really your fault if you didn’t understand the full context of Hillary!’s remarks in Massachusetts. It is most certainly not a case where Hillary! was caught pandering to a far-left audience which probably hopes to replace her with their own local sweetheart Elizabeth Warren as the 2016 nominee for President. This is just another instance where perhaps she slightly misspoke or where maybe her statement just needed a little bit of clarification.

    The links will jog your memory, if your memory need be jogged.

  • I'm not the biggest fan of Jen Rubin, the WaPo's "conservative" blogger, but she's on-target here:

    This latest gaffe confirms that when Clinton’s lips move she is telling us what she thinks her base wants to hear, not sharing any original or sincerely felt position of her own. Moreover, her utter lack of spontaneity has now become a primary characteristic. As one Capitol Hill Republican put it, “She overcompensates when she’s in uncomfortable territory.” Like trying to be a populist. Or trying to attack the corporations whose trough she has fed on for millions of dollars in speaking fees. Or trying to appear nonchalant about a challenger from her left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who actually believes anti-business rhetoric.

  • As Ms. Rubin notes, Hillary is trying, however ineptly, to tap into the "you didn't build that" meme used by President Obama and Senator Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren. It's wildly appealing to many of our "Progressive" friends, but as Ross Kaminsky notes, it shouldn't be so to anyone else.

    As with so many liberal themes, it is easier to rile up voters with jabs at the rich (the irony of which, coming from Hillary who just took $225,000 from an irresponsible UNLV to give a single speech, is almost too much to take) than it is to explain why most of “the one-percent” deserve our praise for getting rich rather than our scorn for not sufficiently “giving back.” After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (and many thousands of others who aren’t household names) did not take anything from us.

    Rather, they have improved our lives dramatically, lowered our costs for things we buy or tasks we must complete, given us access to more information than Encyclopedia Britannica’s editors could ever have imagined, allowed us to communicate, network, and even play with each other in fantastic new ways, and, pace Hillary Clinton, directly and indirectly created lots and lots of jobs.

  • On a lighter note, Wired has helpful advice for cat owners: "Why Your Cat Thinks You’re a Huge, Unpredictable Ape". And it's longer than the obvious three-word answer: "Because you are."

  • And Iowahawk has your Tweet du Jour:


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URLs du Jour - 2014-10-27

  • Hillary Clinton said something unspeakably vile:

    “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton said during a Boston rally for Martha Coakley, who’s running for Massachusetts governor. “You know that old theory — trickle-down economics. That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

    Why "unspeakably vile" and not "breathtakingly stupid"? Because she knows better. Her remarks were just demagogic boob bait, a desperate attempt to convince low-info voters in Massachusetts that government (generally) is their only path to prosperity and (specifically) electing Martha Coakley is their only hope.

    Amusingly, Jonathan Allen pulls telling quotes from Hillary's recent book—only a few months old!—that contradicts her newfound doltish populism. She's also darn proud of the cozy corporate welfare relationship between Boeing and the Export-Import Bank.

    What can she say? "It's not trickle-down when we do it"?

  • Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux is equally disgusted with a different Clinton "don't let anybody tell you" assertion:

    Don’t let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I’ve been through that. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s [by signing a bill that raised the national minimum wage].

    I really like Professor Boudreaux's rebuttal, so much so that I'll quote him a little more extensively than normal:

    Workers whose take-home, monetary pay rose as a result of a minimum-wage hike in the 1990s were not given that raise by Bill Clinton.  Rather, Bill Clinton was complicit with Congress in using threats of violence to force thousands of employers throughout America to give raises to some of their workers.

    I write these words from a coffee shop in Fairfax, Virginia.  If I were to point a gun to the head of the man who is now standing second in line to buy coffee and order him to purchase cups of coffee for the two young women standing in front of him in line, no one would say that “Don Boudreaux gave cups of coffee to some women today!”  Rather, anyone who saw me commit this crime would call the police or, perhaps, justifiably take me down with a swift kick to my groin.  My actions would not be praiseworthy.  Quite the opposite, of course.

    Yet when politicians in grand buildings commit essentially the same sorts of aggressions against innocent people, we tolerate their criminal actions – and we also tolerate such actions being described as praiseworthy, noble, and helpful.  Political titles, buildings, and ceremony mask the underlying coercive reality of what politicians do, and it deafens us to the lies – such as that Bill Clinton gave people raises – told about their predations.

    I would like to think that a prevaricating pol like Hillary whose only guiding principle is her lust for power would be doomed to political failure. Hope I'm right, fear I'm wrong.

  • Jed Babbin analyzes the recent call by the (Democrat) Vice Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to begin scrutinizing political-advocacy speech on the Internet, the way it currently monitors broadcast and print media. And comes to the obvious conclusion: the FEC is a clear and present danger to the First Amendment and should be dissolved.

    Congress has limited the amount of political speech, and the courts have only fine-tuned the limits to suit the political atmosphere. The only limit on political speech should be that foreign individuals, companies, and government should continue to be prohibited from donating to campaigns. Their political speech isn’t protected by the Constitution. Ours is. We are going to have to stand up to defend it again and again.

    Also see Noah Rothman at Hot Air.

  • Speaking of things to shut down: Chris Edwards makes the case for terminating the Department of Homeland Security:

    [President Bush's 2002] promise of creating a lean and efficient DHS did not materialize. The department’s spending doubled from $27 billion in 2004 to $54 billion in 2014. Its workforce expanded from 163,000 employees in 2004 to 190,000 by 2014. And far from being efficient, DHS agencies are some of the most poorly managed in the federal government.

    My recollection is that Dubya was stampeded into creating DHS post-9/11. He should have followed his initial instinct there.

  • On a lighter note, Wired has a beautiful article: "Regular Guy From Boston Decides to Map the City’s Entire History". That almost sounds like something from the Onion, but it's about Ed McCarthy, a Beantown EMT and ambulance driver who, in his spare time, puts together gorgeous information-filled maps. Pictures included.


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Gamble

[Amazon Link]

Amazon points out that I bought this back in late 2011. They don't add, but could: You sure took your sweet time getting around to reading it. It's on the Kindle, and Amazon Knows All.

You'll note from the cover that the late Dick Francis's name is much bigger than that of the actual author, his son Felix. Dick died in 2010, and this is Felix's first solo effort. (They shared authorial billing on four books.)

I tend to be a sucker for these efforts to keep a beloved author's name alive. (Examples: Joe Gores doing Dashiell Hammett; Ace Atkins doing Robert B. Parker; Benjamin Black doing Raymond Chandler; Spider Robinson doing Robert A. Heinlein.) You can view it as a cold-blooded dollar grab from gullible fans, and I suppose there's something to that. But I have to admit: Felix Francis does a very good job here. If I didn't know better, I'd say: yup, this is Dick Francis.

As Francis novels tend to do, this starts off with a bang. A literal one, in this case: an unknown assassin guns down Herb Kovack at the racetrack as he's strolling to the stands with co-worker (and ex-jockey) Nick Foxton. Nick, the story's narrator, is naturally horrified. He and the late Herb have perfectly boring jobs as investment advisors in a respectable firm. What could possibly have been the motive?

Well, we find out eventually. Nick is caught up in the investigation, but can't provide much help to the cops, other than finding a vaguely threatening note in the deceased's coat pocket. He's nonplussed to discover that Herb's will has named him to be both beneficiary and executor, which leads him to uncover and delve into Herb's mysterious financial dealings. And a number of other things are going on: Nick's girlfriend is acting oddly secretive; there are indications that the firm's investment in a Bulgarian light bulb factory may not be on the up-and-up; a female trainer Nick used to work for is unexpectedly amorous; a jockey whose portfolio Nick manages suddenly demands an immediate cash-out, and soon afterward becomes involved in a nasty hit-and-run accident. Could any of these things be connected?

Bottom line: Felix is doing a fine job writing "Dick Francis" novels. Sympathetic and interesting heroes, twisty plots, inventive action. So I'll be reading some more.


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Godzilla

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

It could be that I'm growing up. ("About time!" — Mrs. Salad) But I was prepared to have a rockin' good time watching this big-budget resurrection of everyone's favorite Japanese nuclear-powered monster. But instead, meh.

It turns out the movie really should have been titled Godzilla vs. the MUTOs. MUTO == Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. There are two, boy and girl, initially discovered in pods, in the Philippines by a mining operation in 1999. The boy MUTO travels to Japan to destroy a nuclear reactor and go into a 15-year hibernation. The girl MUTO remains empodded and is toted off to Yucca Flats Nevada, since she's also radioactive.

There are people, too. Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) is married to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and have young son Ford. Sandra and Joe work at the doomed nuke; Sandra perishes heroically during the MUTO's attack.

Flash forward to the present day: Ford is all grown up, and Joe has turned into an Ahab-like obsessive trying to pierce the government coverup of the disaster. Ford arrives in Japan just in time for the reawakening of the boy MUTO, which (of course) wreaks more havoc, bumping off Joe. It then sets off toward America to reunite with the female.

Then Godzilla shows up, because he really doesn't like MUTOs; he's relatively benevolent toward people, even though they have a history of trying to kill him. The three monsters also take in the tourist sights, destroying Honolulu and Las Vegas on their way to rendezvous in San Francisco.

Well, that's enough plot. The overall themes are: incompetence of the Japanese and American governments and armed forces; also, nukes are bad. Most of the action takes place in the dark, which makes it difficult, at least on home video, to discern what's going on. Some of the special effects are impressive, but three stars are generous.

That spooky Ligeti music from 2001 is employed at one point, but the monolith doesn't show up.


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URLs du Jour - 2014-10-22

  • Blood pressure too low? Well, Senator/Doctor Tom Coburn has released the final edition of his annual Wastebook, detailing 100 examples of how the Federal Government fritters away your money. And that will get those diastolic and systolic numbers right up there.

    Many are small potatoes ($25K to UCLA for an undergraduate course exploring “the nature of human laughter and humor”), some are huge ($4.2 billion lost on bogus tax returns, while the IRS spends time trying to intimidate conservative 501(c)(4) groups) The bottom line is: the Feds have no right to complain about having enough money to develop vaccines and build bridges as long as stuff like this is going on.

  • Next time someone tells you not to worry about self-defense in the big city because it's the cops' job to protect you: make them read the story of Joe Lozito, who managed to subdue his would-be killer with his bare hands after being stabbed in the face on an NYC subway car. Then the police showed up.

    But Lozito explained to Cracked.com that the cops were present all along, hiding behind a door during the fight to the death, because they were too afraid to confront the stabber until he had been defeated[.]

    Lozito tried to sue, but it failed: legally, police are not obligated to protect people from harm. You thought otherwise? Read the whole thing.

    [Although if any of the Reagan family were there—including Erin or Linda, even Jack, Sean, or Nicky—I am sure it would have been a different story. Their only drawback is being fictional.]

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

    Background, if necessary, here. There's apparently no Hank Schrader action figure which totally sucks.

    The not-yet-available Gus Fring figure has removable glasses. But, as near as I can tell, not a removable face.


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URLs du Jour - 2014-10-21

Lots of good URLs today. Click through, Read The Whole Thing, hit back-arrow to come back, lather, rinse, repeat. You won't be sorry.

  • I hardly ever watch TV news, but a combination of factors led me to put on Fox News last night, and so I was treated to the video spectacle of the Keene (NH) Pumpkin Fest Lady Ruth Sterling trying to manhandle freelance reporter Jared Goodell. (Apparently she was objecting to his coverage of the weekend pumpkin rioting.)

    The Free Keene folks have put up a longer clip:

    Reason has more. Notably, Ms. Sterling demands to know if Mr. Goodell is a "Free Stater", apparently considering this a term of opprobrium for people who like the Free State Project. (Yes, even though our state's motto is "Live Free or Die".)

    What's with Keene anyway? It's the town that …

    • gave us State Rep Delmar Burridge, who responded to a constituent's request to favor a marijuana bill by cc:'ing "two members of the Keene Police Department in case you want to change your ways and act legal and save your friends.";

    • gave us State Rep Cynthia Chase who deemed the "Free Staters" to be "the single biggest threat the state is facing today" and encouraged people to let them know they "are not welcome here."

    • contains a local branch of the University System Near Here, Keene State, which sports a red light speech code rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (as does UNH);

    • and of course, their Police Department has a frickin' tank. (I'm not sure if that was called out over the weekend. I think Free Keene would have mentioned it if it had been.)

    Any way we could give Keene to Vermont, perhaps in exchange for two towns to be named later?

  • Jared Goodell (as near as I can tell) is on the fuzzy boundary between "Official Media Journalist" and "Some Dude With A Video Camera". That makes a natural lead-in for Nick Gillespie's interview at Spiked Online, where (among other things) he argues against the distinction.

    ‘In a good way’, [Gillespie tells the interviewer], ‘the press in America is not licensed or regulated, nor does it have to seek certification from the state before it’s allowed to do what it does. I think that’s extremely important because one of the pressing issues in the US, and I think elsewhere, is that the press has a seemingly different relationship to government, to state power, to corporate power, than mere citizens. And a lot of people push this as a positive thing. As a result we have press-shield laws so that reporters won’t be put in jail for refusing to name their sources. They have been given certain exemptions from legal process. And I think that’s very disturbing.’

    And [I'm sure my buddy Nick would agree] it goes the other way too: the Pumpkin Lady should not feel entitled to shove someone around just because he didn't show up in a van with a satellite dish.

  • This NYMag interview with Marc Andreessen is interesting and provocative all the way through. Andreessen identifies himself politically as a "[George] McGovern libertarian" almost guaranteeing that he is going to take a position that will irritate anyone at some point. Here's his response to complaints about the high-tech sector's alleged lack of diversity:

    […] I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect, and there are two reasons to believe that that’s the case. No. 1, these companies are like the United Nations internally. All the diversity studies say that the engineering population is like 70 percent white and Asian. Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.

    No. 2, our companies are desperate for talent. Desperate. Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs. The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.

    According to Wikipedia, Andreesen voted for Obama in 2008, and Romney in 2012. So maybe we could put his politics in the "mugged by reality" category.

  • At Forbes, Rich Karlgaard highlights a recent paper that estimates the effects of US federal regulation to be "negative and substantial", shaving "about two percentage points on average over the period 1949-2005".

    That may not sound like much, but it adds up. For example: "GDP at the end of 2011 would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 trillion if regulation had remained at its 1949 level."

    Even if you cut the paper's guesstimate of regulation's cost in half, it would still making us significantly poorer, as Karlgaard details:

    • Per capita income would be $101,000, not $54,000.

    • Per capita wealth would be $480,000, not $260,000. It would probably be higher than that, since savings rates might be higher.

    • The U.S. would have no federal, state or municipal debts or deficits.

    • Pensions would be solid. So would Social Security.

    … and more.

    This isn't a particularly new observation. It's been over a century since Hugh Walpole advised: "Don't play for safety. It's the most dangerous thing in the world." In a more modern context, the obsession of minimizing risk at any cost has made us poorer and (hence) less safe.

  • And finally, a small humblebrag, somewhat outside the normal blog subject area: throwing caution to the winds, I recently installed the Fedora 21 Alpha Linux release on my home workstation.

    All went basically OK until they issued a 3.17 kernel update from the initial version 3.16. And my wireless card stopped working.

    Booting back to the 3.16 kernel got things working again. Still, wtf? I finally screwed up the courage to submit a bug report. And (good news) smarter people than I found and fixed the bug, and the fix will make it into Beta.

    So if you run Fedora 21 Beta, and use a wireless card with a Broadcom 4318 chipset, and it works, you can thank… well, you can mostly thank those good folks who maintain the Fedora kernel. But at least I kicked off the process.


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To See What Is Right, and Not To Do It, Is Want Of Courage Or Of Principle.

I read about this in a recent issue of National Review, but here's a straight news story:

The University of Chicago has suspended negotiations to renew its agreement to host a Confucius Institute after objecting to an unflattering article that appeared in the Chinese press. The decision follows a petition, signed by more than 100 faculty members this spring, calling for the closure of the institute. The petition raised concerns that in hosting the Chinese government-funded center for research and language teaching, Chicago was ceding control over faculty hiring, course content, and programming to Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, which is also known as Hanban.

Since then, Penn State has dumped its Confucius Institute program. The American Association of University Professors has recommended "universities cease their involvement in Confucius Institutes unless the agreement between the university and Hanban is renegotiated". I'm slightly amazed that I find myself linking to an article in The Nation subheadlined:

Confucius Institutes censor political discussions and restrain the free exchange of ideas. Why, then, do American universities sponsor them?

But (as indicated above) it's not just left-wing AAUP/Nation types sounding the alarm. The "This Week" blurb in National Review cheering the Chicago decision, was even more straightforward: "Confucius Institutes are learning centers that are funded, staffed, and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party." (Yes, that's a bad thing.)

It's an unusual issue that unites National Review and The Nation.

Why am I interested? Because the University Near Here has a Confucius Institute too. I've heard nary a peep, pro or con, about it. We lead a sheltered life.


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Trophy Hunt

[Amazon Link]

This fourth entry in the Joe Pickett series is another well-written page-turner. (Read mostly on the iPad Kindle app so maybe I should have said: "well-written screen-swipe gesturer".)

While fishing with his daughters, game warden Joe makes a grisly discovery: a dead moose, seemingly mutilated with extreme care and expertise. An atmosphere of dread hangs over the scene

Maybe it's aliens, and the Joe Pickett series is about to take a turn into 1930's style science fiction? Not really.

But the mutilated corpses continue to pile up, including a couple of humans, and that broadens the investigation beyond Joe's employer, Wyoming Game & Fish. Joe's old nemesis, the corrupt Sheriff Barnum, is brought in, as is the FBI agent from the previous book, who also dislikes Joe.

Joe has no special expertise in detective work, but he's dogged, diligent, and motivated. There are a lot of twists and a semi-ambiguous ending that flirts with semi-supernatural James Lee Burke-style explication.

C.J. Box (once again) brings Joe's family into the mix, and does a fine job of giving Joe's wife and daughters unique and interesting character traits. From the past entries in the series, we know that Box isn't shy about visiting danger and tragedy upon the Picketts. This makes reading Box an excercise in trepidation. We're pretty sure Joe's going to make it to the end, but who knows about anyone else?


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Muppets Most Wanted

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A nice little Muppets movie. Lots of cameos.

The plot kicks off at the end of the previous movie; the Muppets reunited after many years. (As Kermit would say: Yaayyyy!) But what do they do next? Instead of following Kermit's wise counsel to take it slow and hone their craft, the rest of the gang gets taken in by the shrewd conniving "Dominic Badguy" (Ricky Gervais) and go on a world tour.

But—little do they suspect—Dominic is the co-conspirator of Constantine, the most dangerous frog in the world, recently escaped from a Siberian gulag. (Apparently they still have those.) Constantine bears a close resemblance to Kermit, and before you can say "I bet I know what's going to happen next", Constantine has taken Kermit's place and Kermit has been hauled off to Siberia by Gulag warden "Nadya" (Tina Fey).

So while Dominic and Constantine use the Muppet tour as cover for a series of brazen heists, Kermit attempts to deal with his new life as a Zek. (His fellow inmates include Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, Tom Hiddleston; Stanley Tucci plays a guard.) As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

There's some funny stuff, and (darn it) I like these guys. So, while it lacks the inspired lunacy of Jim Henson, I still had a decent time.


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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-16

  • Reason is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to the major political parties:

    I hear you saying: only four each? It's a graphic, so they probably had space limitations.

  • But it's not just the Dems and Reps. Ellen Carmichael notes the "Freedom Socialist Party" in Seattle, which supports a $15/hour minimum wage, is looking for a Web Content Manager, and offering… $13/hour.

  • You might be surprised at the tastelessness of some of the Getty Images you get when searching for "shit". Today's embedded image is one of the less objectionable.

  • Kevin Williamson has an unusually good knack of piercing through delusion, euphemism, and cant. A recent example is his brief refutation of an assertion in a Slate review of a pro-abortion book. The reviewer, Hannah Rosin, notes only 7-20% of Americans want to "totally ban abortion", so why is it still an issue politicians tiptoe around?

    The number of people who wish to ban abortion in all instances is not small; it amounts to, as Rosin notes, about one in five Americans. The flip-side proposition is held by about one in four Americans — until you start talking specifics, in which case it falls down to about one in ten. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some cases, but they also support significant restrictions beyond those currently enacted in law. The actual “absolutism” — the unrestricted abortion license through the third trimester — is in fact a distinctly minority inclination, held by about 10 percent of the population.

    Read the whole thing. It's short.

  • Your Tweet du Jour:


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