One of the better entries in the Star Trek franchise. I'm locked into buying the so-called "Special Collector's Editions", but the only extra you get here is a second disk full of ho-hum material. No deleted scenes or bloopers.
- Who has the "biggest brass balls in the Senate"? See The Spoons Experience for one opinion.
- At Tech Central Station, John Luik spots more junk science from the Fat Police.
- Via BBspot, a bittersweet story of how Ira Gobler of Gobler Toys tried and failed to be the producer of Star Wars Toys. (Yes, this is the second day in a row with a Star Wars-related post. What's your point?)
Most of the things I've seen written about Bruce Springsteen's new CD mention that it's in the same vein as Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. There's probably a significant fraction of Springsteen fans for whom that directly translates into: "this album sucks."
Well, it's not that bad. Really. There are some decent (non-E Street) musicians that back up Bruce's guitar, harmonica, and vocals. And there's some variety in the songs; I always thought the main problems with Nebraska and Joad were the songs were nearly indistinguishable from each other.
But if you're looking for something like Rosalita or Born to Run, it's not here. Most of the songs are bleak and depressing. (There's DVD video included of Bruce singing his bleak and depressing songs with just his bleak guitar and depressing harmonica in a bleak and depressing farmhouse. Just the thing for your next party.)
Aside: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes did one of these songs ("All The Way Home") back in 1991 on the Better Days album. Listen to both versions, if you can. See if you wonder, like me: how is it possible for Springsteen to screw up his own song this badly?
(Proposed general rule: Southside Johnny's version of any song is usually better than other versions. He's an under-appreciated genius.)
- New Hampshire's own P. J. O'Rourke has an article on Social Security reform over at Cato. 'Nuff said.
- Well, almost 'nuff. John Tierney has taken over from William Safire on the NYT's Op-Ed page, and he's quickly become one of my must-reads. Read his column today on Social Security.
- Half Sigma does the math on hybrid cars. Well, specifically, he compares the Echo with a Prius, and calculates that gas would need to be well over 21 $/gal in order for the Prius to "pay for itself" (compared with the Echo) over a 100,000 mile lifetime. Michael Frank at Forbes compares hybrid and non-hybrid Honda Accords here with a somewhat less dire answer: 2.50 $/gal will make up the price difference there in 100,000 miles. I think I'd want a much faster payback than (even) that, though.
- And Soxblog offers yet another reason he, like I, dropped his Boston Globe subscription.
- Finally, my birthday is coming up. If you want to know what to get me, here's a hint.
Bill Gates may have undue influence with the airport security screeners in Denver, as two Linux mascots were forced to march nekkid through a metal detector. It's a slideshow, go through all the pictures.
(This via Bruce Schneier's blog. The oversight of not putting Bruce on my blogroll has been corrected.)
OK, it's cute, heartwarming, etc. But it's also another example of misplaced anti-terror security resources. And misplacing those resources increase the risk that a whole bunch more Americans will wind up dead someday. So after you go Awwwwww…, maybe you should go Grrrrr…
Salma, that is. She was recently in Frobisher Bay. According to the news article:
"Hello everybody! This is the most exciting place I've ever been in my life!" she said to the cheers of the crowd.
Frobisher Bay is here. If the crowd believed Salma, she's way overdue for an Oscar.
Well, anyway: this is a very short, very readable exploration of the nature of the title topic. Careful distinctions are made: bullshit is not just "lying", and bullshit can even be true. The key point is: a bullshitter doesn't really care about truth.
It would have been easy—way too easy—for the author to come up with numerous actual examples of bullshit from politicians. The author no doubt saw an abundance of fish in that barrel and wisely refrained from shooting.
I don't think it would be much good as a self-help book, though; give this book to a bullshitter, and he'll almost certainly tell you afterwards that it's brilliant, insightful, witty, blah, blah, blah. But that could well be bullshit.
I'm not trying to be profound, this is really trivial, but:
What is it about baseball and spitting, anyway?
I don't notice players in other sports spitting. It would probably be oonsidered unsportsmanlike, maybe even draw a technical foul, to do it on a basketball court; someone might slip, someone would have to come out to clean it up.
I don't watch a lot of tennis or golf, but … no, it's unimaginable. Tiger Woods spitting as he's lining up a putt? No. Not to mention Anna Kournikova.
Probably football players would be able to get away with it, if they could manage not to gob up their facemasks. But, although I don't pay a lot of attention to what football players do between plays, I've never noticed them spitting. Crotch-scratching, sure. Everyone does that in sports. Well, OK, the guys. Never noticed Summer Sanders doing it.
I also assume that baseball players and coaches don't spit inordinately outside the confines of the game. Again, just an impression, I'm not really paying attention, but I would think I'd notice.
So I'm mystified. Chewing might have something to do with it; there's a grand tradition of tobacco-chewing in baseball. Gotta spit there, or so I've heard. But those guys can't all be chewing tobacco during the game. Or can they?
I suppose I could do some research. Google "baseball" and "spitting". But I haven't; there are some things, if I'm going to learn about them, I'd rather learn by accident.
An unpleasant trip inside the mind of a West Texas deputy who happens to be a murderer. As implied by the title, he's the book's narrator. His self-description of his "sickness" isn't very compelling. Are paranoid schizophrenics typically this introspective? But maybe it played better in the 1950s when the book was written.
Nobody beats George Will when he's disgusted. His target today is "therapism," the notion that just about nobody is psychologically qualified to handle life's ups 'n' downs on his own.
Vast numbers of credentialed – that is not a synonym for "competent" – members of the "caring professions" have a professional stake in the myth that most people are too fragile to cope with life's vicissitudes and traumas without professional help.
So there's a decent about of money at stake in promoting said notion; the media aren't particularly skeptical about it. The results are predictable, ranging from amusing (teachers using purple pens instead of red, to avoid stressing their students) to outrageous ("[A] study released in 1990 claimed that half of Vietnam veterans suffered from some [post-traumatic stress disorders] – even though only 15 percent of Vietnam veterans had served in combat units.")
UPDATE: Once you've read Will, Joel Achenbach has a response you might want to check.
Yet another case of someone else saying exactly what I would have said if I could only type faster, and better: writing at Tech Central Station, Radley Balko reacts to the recent news that (a) obesity kills far fewer people than the "experts" previously thought and (b) being "overweight" is almost certainly not a health hazard all by itself, and may even be better for your longevity than being of "normal weight." (Here's a news story about point (a); here's a link to the paper from JAMA concerning point (b).)
Radley lowers the boom on this particular quote from an AP story:
CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figure of 25,814 in its public awareness campaigns and is not going to scale back its fight against obesity.
Radley oh-so-correctly points out that Dr. Julie and her ilk (I love saying "ilk") always manage to err on the side of nanny-statism. When the science seems to indicate high risks that might support intrusive paternalism, they'll use that as a justification; but when the science indicates that risks are much lower than previously thought, that does not matter: full steam ahead with nagging people about what they should and should not be eating. Feh. Bring me many cheeseburgers!
You've no doubt been dying to know what I think about the new Pope. Read today's Bleat from James Lileks. (Which you should be reading without me telling you to.) It's downright scary sometimes how Mr. Lileks writes exactly what I would write on a topic, were I a much better writer.
- Good stuff from Soxblog today. Not that that's unusual. Key quote from this article: "The real surprise about this past week's episode [of Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect] was that compared to Wes Clark, the Dixie Chick actually sounded cogent and insightful."
- Via Dave Barry (of course): the hopes of all Americans rest on the herculean engineering efforts of a commodious (heh) design center in Piscataway, New Jersey.
- Something that this sysadmin found extremely funny from Teddy Wayne at McSweeney's: Yahoo's Mailer-Daemon Automated Reply For Failed E-Mail Delivery is Getting a Little Too Intimate. (OK, part of the joke is that the first e-mail is pretty much the standard qmail failure notice.)
- Prof Bainbridge takes some heat from old and young for openly listening to the greatest rock album ever.
- Why buy one of those expensive travel books that purport to give you the inside scoop on how to get around Walt Disney World? On Tech Central Station, Douglas Kern provides a good short guide containing everything you need to know, and it's free.
Matt Labash of
The Weekly Standard
has a hangs out with Professor Ward Churchill, the
ethnic studies professor from the University of Colorado-Boulder.
He insults my helter-skelter interview techniques, and questions whether I know anything about history. I insult his books, suggesting real scholars cite people other than Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark in their footnotes. Twice, Churchill storms out as if he's ended the interview (in fact, he just needed a Pall Mall). After growing frustrated at my increasingly frequent interjections, as I attempt to turn his dreary monologues into robust dialogues, he grabs my tape recorder once, and lunges for it another time, before I tell him to step back. When I follow him outside for a smoke break, he grows so frustrated at what he regards as my complete ignorance that he commands me to turn off my tape recorder, orders us off the record, and engages me in an exchange that journalistic convention forbids me to report, but which involves lots of colorful language on both sides.
Fascinating stuff you just won't get elsewhere. Read the whole thing, and especially the last six or so paragraphs.
Calling this movie "visually striking" is kind of like calling Jessica Alba "cute". Once I got over the more-than-slightly loopy comic book dialog, I was quite taken up with the stories, and came out exhausted. And a couple of characters make the perfect comment: "Yeesh!"
This is also the second Rosario Dawson movie I've seen in a row. She was scary in both.
Not recommended for anyone under 45, or over 55.
IMAO has the
on dodecahedrons (whatever that means). Unfortunately, he omits my favorite
My angles are many.
My sides are not few.
I'm the dodecahedron.
Who are you?
(From The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.)
- Via Michelle Malkin, another reminder of why I dropped my subscription to The Boston Globe: they just make stuff up.
True story: I rented this movie with the much-honored Sideways. I handed both to the video store clerk at the counter. She looked at them and said, "Oh, this is a great movie. I love The Rock."
That aside, it is an enjoyable action flick with some clever dialog, and a funny performance from Christopher Walken as the villian. The Rock is a better actor than you might expect.
I haven't mentioned my beloved Red Sox yet this year; as I type
they're tied with the Yankees for last place in the AL East. I suppose
it's unlikely either team will stay there.
On the Yankee-hating issue: Soxblog calls the Yankees "annoyingly classy" for their behavior at Fenway's home opener. But Jonathan Last isn't fooled, and has a lengthy quote from Tom Boswell as to why you shouldn't be either.
But, God help me, I find myself sometimes kind of liking Hideki Matsui. Must … resist …
- Eugene Volokh notes that at Iowa State, the cops are more respectful of the First Amendment than the students. Toto, I've a feeling we're not in the Sixties anymore.
- But at UCLA, as Prof Bainbridge points out, the kids score high in (almost certainly unintentional) irony.
- Which reminds me: not that it matters, but I'd love to do a job interview with a UCLA grad so I could say, in my best Steve Buscemi imitation, "I never heard of it! I've heard of Pepperdine! Why didn't you go to Pepperdine?"
- And, oh yeah, I almost forgot: we're all gonna die!
I started watching 24 this season. Some observations, many of which you've probably made yourself:
- On Star Trek, it was a good bet that the random guy
in a red shirt in the landing party was destined for
an ugly death. The tradition continues: any unknown guy accompanying
Jack might as well notify next-of-kin to start picking out
flower arrangments for the funeral.
No matter how dire the situation, there's always time for
bickering with one's significant other about your relationship.
Nobody seems to say "Couldn't we discuss this, say, like, tomorrow?
After we're done saving the country?"
- Whatever happened to Terrorist Kid? Maybe he'll save the day
in Episode 24. He's probably pissed about Terrorist
Mom being killed, even though
Terrorist Mom killed his girlfriend. Talk about mixed feelings.
- Likewise, what happened to William Devane's hippie son? Last I saw,
he was being abused by the good guys. Is that still going on?
Maybe he'll cough up a vital clue in Episode 24.
- Maybe I should just skip to Episode 24, hm?
- The best line on Jack Bauer I've seen is Dave
Barry's: Jack "has the guts to shoot first and also shoot later on."
Some ask "when does Jack eat?" I ask: where is he carrying all that
- So the terrorist plan all along was to shoot down Air Force One
and wait for the football to fall from the sky? And hope they got to it
before the good guys?
Well, OK, so it worked.
Shawn Macomber has put me on his short blogroll. I'm honored and probably more scared than I thought I would be that people might actually begin reading this blog. Oh well. If you're here from Shawn's, welcome, he's pretty good isn't he? I hope you find something worth your while here.
UNH usually comes to national media attention only when someone here does or says something really stupid. We keep our streak alive today. Finding dumb stuff in our student newspaper is about as easy as finding cigarette butts outside the Memorial Union Building. But James Taranto of the always-useful Best of the Web Today brings our attention today to a particularly egregious commentary from our local lefty, Jim Cavan.
Here's my favorite from part two of Cavan's rave:
But now the question becomes: can the "communists" convince these jobless that the fight is theirs as well? Would the "communists" not have gained enough publicity and political clout to be able to extend an ever-growing hand to these potential comrades?
If so, what would this hand entail?
Don't you ever find yourself asking: what would this hand entail? (An ever-growing hand, no less.)
A pretty good buddy movie. Although (I think I saw this commented on when the movie came out) it strains credulity somewhat to think that two guys like Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti would be so irresistable to a couple of hotties like Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.
Also, I did not previously know that Paul Giamatti was A. Bartlett Giamatti's son.
Here's what Andrew Sullivan has to say today:
BUSH'S TAX INCREASES: They're inevitable. This president, who knows how to duck personal responsibility, may not have to preside over them. But his successor will be forced to. The Medicare explosion and Social Security crunch mean something obvious to anyone with eyes to see:
[B]aby boomers' children and grandchildren face massive tax increases. Social Security and Medicare spending now equals 14 percent of wage and salary income, reports Bell. By 2030, using the trustees' various projections, that jumps to 26 percent. Of course, payroll taxes don't cover all the costs of Social Security and Medicare. Still, these figures provide a crude indicator of the economic burden, because costs are imposed heavily on workers via some tax (including the income tax), government borrowing (a.k.a. the deficit) and cuts in other government programs.
Bruce Bartlett, a conservative (or what used to be a conservative), has begin to think of how best to minimize the damage Bush is doing to the economy, and believes a VAT is the least worst option. My only point is that it is absurd to believe that this president has really lowered the tax burden. By spending through the roof, while cutting taxes, all this president has done is borrow. The debt will have to paid off, or inflated or devalued away. But before then, this president's big government spending will require either massive cuts in entitlements (which he has threatened to veto) or massive tax hikes. I have no confidence that either party will cut entitlements. Bush's domestic legacy is that he has made America safe for a vast expansion of government and taxation.
Eek, where to begin? I like graphs. Here's one I generated from the OMB's latest Historical Tables document showing Federal Receipts and Outlays since 1977 (Table 1.2).
and here's what that works out to in terms of deficit spending:
I'm graphing the numbers as percent-of-GDP here. That seems appropriate for historical comparison; also it's probably the best way to look at "damage to the economy". Numbers for 2005-2010 are estimates, by which you should probably read "guesses."
- Bush really has cut taxes. Federal receipts went from 20.9%
to 16.3% of GDP between FY2000 and FY2004. That's the lowest it's
been since 1959.
- On the other hand, Sullivan's calling spending is "through the
roof" is unsupportable. FY2004 outlays are 19.8%, down a smidge from
FY2003 where they were 19.9%. That's a bigger chunk than 1997-2002,
but it's smaller than any year in the 1974-1996 period.
- (As a mostly-libertarian,
I'd like to think that both receipts and outlays
could and should be much, much, lower. But we're talking here about
reality and historical context.)
- The current deficit isn't that big a deal in terms of GDP. In
the time period graphed, the deficits were bigger in 9 out of
the 34 years.
Can you look at these graphs and seriously claim that Bush (all by his lonesome, apparently) "has made America safe for a vast expansion of government and taxation"? Sorry, but I just don't see it. Bad as Bush's spending increases are, they just aren't that far out of historical whack.
Entitlements are a ticking time-bomb for the long term, of course. But blaming Bush solely for the current failure to engage that problem seriously is just ignorant.
Sullivan's Bush-hatred is well-known, and his finger-pointing will only be persuasive to his fellow haters. Bush is at least making an effort at entitlement reform, and more of an effort than he really has to; most Democrats (and some Republicans) are singing a comforting refrain: no current crisis, only minor adjustments needed, la-de-dah.
But that's beside my real point. Look at the graphs, and ask yourself: where do you want the lines to go? What percent of GDP do you think the Feds should be spending in (say) 2030?
Let's ignore, for now, the issue of what they should spend on: entitlements, defense, edyookation, … Fight about how to cut the pie after we decide how big it is. Similarly, ignore the issue of where the money comes from; we can also debate that after it's decided what the target is.
That's a simple question, but it's not simplistic. I'd rather this "simple" question got debated openly before anything else; once we've figured that one, we can tackle the "sophisticated" ones.
Point your finger all you want, Sully, but this is a democracy: the finger should really always point back at us.
Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has a pretty good article at Tech Central Station about … well, not really about Terry Schiavo, but an examination of the wacky ideologies at odds in the case. Creepy on both ends.
Glenn apparently got a good deal of hate mail for his stance on the case, so it's good to see that he remained level-headed.
Let's see if I follow this:
Public employee pension
funds have vast sums invested in private companies,
and the investments are managed by big Wall Street investment firms.
They do this because they aren't stupid:
investments in the private sphere (however "risky") are the best
way to accumulate wealth for their clients' retirement.
Public employee unions have impact in directing
where those sums are invested, and by whom.
So their threat to withdraw investments from a company or brokerage
firm can influence that company's policy.
- According to this article
from the New York Post, (via Prof Bainbridge), they
are in fact attempting to use that clout to browbeat those companies
into not publicly supporting diversion of Social Security taxes into
private, personal accounts.
- In short, they're using the influence generated by their private
investments to try to make sure ordinary shlubs don't get to invest
the same way they do.
Liberal compassion for the little guy strikes again?
Liberal respect for open, free debate?
Well, none of that applies when you're looking to maintain your power. The Post article explains how this makes sense in those terms: the classic pension funds will probably lose their importance under a system of reformed Social Security.
It's that time of year to refresh ourselves with the thought: Gosh, it's great to work at a University.
Adams points to the web page of Jane T. Christensen
(Associate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina Wesleyan College)
- If you've been paying attention at all, you've probably
heard of Professor Ward Churchill (Professor of Ethnic Studies,
University of Colorado, Boulder); here's
his web page.
Recently, one Jacques Pluss, an Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson
University turned out to be a full-fledged Nazi. He's been fired.
But he was fired for taking too much sick time.
It's enough to make UNH's own resident, um, controversalist, Marc Herold (Assoc. Prof. of Economic Development & Women's Studies) look tame in comparison.
Happy April Fools Day. (Or maybe that should be "Fool's" or even "Fools'". I'm not enough of a pedant to look it up right now. Do any of the links below contain pranks? Not sure …
Lefties bewail media concentration, and one of their
prime targets has long been Clear Channel Communications.
But in an article for The American
Spectator, Shawn Macomber describes
how Clear Channel
is partnering with the "progressive" Air America to actually
turn the once-struggling pinko network into sort of a success.
But let's not hold our breath waiting for a retraction or for the folks over at Air America to start advocating the further liberalization of markets. The underdog rhetoric just sells much too well abandon it, especially on the way up.
Is this irony? I'm never sure.
- Meant to link to this yesterday, but Warren Bell has a funny and insightful essay at NRO on the times when you should just say a few simple words. Buried within is probably the best explanation of why I like Dubya, and (maybe) why he irritates others to conniption.
- Also meant to link to this earlier, but here is an interview with baseball stat guy and Red Sox employee Bill James, who gets smart questions and provides smarter answers. Recommended if you like baseball at all.
Ann Althouse has a great post
today about, well, dust. I really liked this:
I read a long time ago that the dust in your house is mostly flaked off skin cells.
followed immediately by:
What would you prefer it to be?
Damn fine writing. As the Blogfather says, read the whole thing.
- Google offers a new service, Google Gulp. (Perhaps only for a very limited time, so click today!)
In Slate, Timothy Noah has been trying to castigate Ari Fleischer's book Taking Heat in a series of articles billed as "an ongoing inquiry into dishonest or insane assertions buried inside Ari Fleischer's White House memoir."
The series got off to a lousy start when Noah tried to pass off a quote from the book as if Fleischer had uttered it himself, when it actually came from Mark Halperin at ABC's The Note. Eugene Volokh nailed the problem quickly, and Slate had to correct the article.
Now in "Fleischer Watch, Part 3", Noah tries to rip Fleischer for saying:
In the coverage of the president's court victory, two words jumped out at me—closely divided. Every network and all the major newspaper accounts accurately noted that the ruling came from a closely divided Supreme Court. The Court did rule 5-4, after all. … But four days earlier, on December 8, the Florida Supreme Court had delivered a major victory to Al Gore in a 4-3 ruling that could have made the former Vice President the forty-third president of the United States. Looking back at the coverage of that ruling, it's hard to find many references to a "closely divided" court.
Noah then attempts to refute:
… I performed a database search on Nexis for Nov. 8-15, 2000, using the phrases "Florida Supreme Court" and "closely divided" and the words "Bush" and "Gore."
It's pretty clear, given the previous paragraph, that Noah should have searched December 8-15, 2000. Probably meant that, too.
This is a much less serious error than that caught by Volokh. But where's the error: did Noah type "Nov" when he meant "Dec" in composing his article, or did he make the mistake in his Nexis search?
I've bounced off a message to firstname.lastname@example.org about this, just for fun. It will be interesting to see what happens. Slate's usually diligent about fixing things.