URLs du Jour (8/29/2005)

  • Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards are a bad joke. See James Glassman's article at Tech Central Station for why.
  • URL du Java: see this article to wipe out any guilty feelings you might have about that morning cuppa joe. It turns out it will help you live forever through the miracle of antioxidants! Starbucks: your health food store.
  • I don't do a lot of "current events" blogging. But vis-a-vis Hurricane Katrina, a number of folks have recalled this contibution from a man named James Wolcott, some sort of editor for a magazine named Vanity Fair.

    I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke.

    I wonder if Vanity Fair's circulation will drop in the Gulf Coast area post-Katrina?


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:03 AM EDT

The Singing Detective

[Amazon Link] [2.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

This is a very abbreviated version of the English television miniseries, moved from London to LA, and Michael Gambon replaced with Robert Downey Jr. And called "Nick Dark" instead of "Philip Marlow" for some reason. Mel Gibson has an amusingly daffy role as Dark's shrink. There's a raft of good acting performancess here: Downey, Adrien Brody, Robin Wright Penn, Jeremy Northam, Carla Gugino, and many more. But …

Given the choice, go with the miniseries. They kind of cheaped out on the movie. You'd think that speeding things up would make them more interesting? Nope. There's no time to get interested in any of the characters.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:53 AM EDT

The Sign of the Book

[Amazon Link]

This is the fourth book in the John Dunning's "Bookman" series, with Cliff Janeway, an ex-cop turned book dealer as the protagonist. Janeway's lawyer girlfriend Erin has been contacted by her ex-best friend Laura to help defend her against a murder rap. The victim is Laura's husband; Laura had "stolen" him from Erin years ago. Erin asks Janeway to check it out, and, predictably, mayhem ensues.

I really liked the first book in this series, Booked to Die; the second and third, while good, let me down a little. This one, however, I liked a lot. It's full of interesting characters and tense situations, held together by sharp writing.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:52 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (8/26/2005)

  • I bet you were wondering whatever happened to Adrian Cronauer, memorably played in the movie Good Morning Vietnam by Robin Williams. Well, Rich Mullen will tell you.
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein tries her best to reinforce the "humorless feminist" stereotype. (Via Michelle.)
  • If you're ready for some serious stuff after all that wackiness: Charles Murray's Commentary article "The Inequality Taboo" is online

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:03 AM EDT

Sliming and Smearing

My subjective impression is that the "left side of the web" has increasingly adopted a trope of accusing The Other Side of "sliming" or "smearing" its hero du jour. Sometimes "swift-boating" is added. Mother Huffington manages all three here:

And despite everything Cindy Sheehan has been through in the last year and a half, including weeks of sliming and smearing and swift-boating by Bush's attack machine, …

Cindy Sheehan is of course the latest. Searching for "smearing Cindy Sheehan" gets 38,200 Google hits; "sliming Cindy Sheehan" garners 18,800 (although Google helpfully asks: "Did you mean: slimming Cindy Sheehan"). And "swift boating Cindy Sheehan" gets a whopping 76,400 results. Truly a herd of independent minds at work … Other smearees: John Wilson, Valerie Plame, John Kerry (obviously), Richard Clarke, Max Cleland, …

Sometimes the words go the other way: Dubya was not "swift boated" when 60 Minutes used forged documents to disparage his National Guard service, but I found some brave folks that called it a "smear". John Roberts was "slimed" when NARAL emitted an ad implying he was on the side of folks looking to blow up abortion clinics (but only 255 hits for "slimed 'John Roberts' NARAL"; not that popular a meme).

And (apparently) it's a "smear" to point out that Mama Sheehan is wildly extreme in her rhetoric; that John Kerry did not spend Christmas in Cambodia; that John Wilson hasn't been especially truthful in his public statements. All true, but smeary.

No real point, other than to note the tediously consistent rhetoric, and to point out that it's getting a little old, tiresome, and predictable.

But (via Instapundit), let me note Mark Kleiman's takedown of a real slime attempt. Damn, that Juan Cole is a piece of work.

On Conservative Political Philosophy

Here's a joke you've almost certainly heard: Two hikers, one has a new pair of running shoes. The other asks why; he says it's in case they meet up with a grizzly bear. The partner laughs and says, "You can't run faster than a grizzly." The other replies, "I don't have to; I just have to run faster than you."

So that's kind of how I feel after reading Austin Bramwell's "Defining Conservatism Down", the cover story in the latest issue of The American Conservative.

[The cover tease, by the way, is "How the Right Got Bigger & Dumber". That seems much more inflammatory than the actual article.]

It's a densely argued piece, probably way over my head. I keep thinking I'm missing something, anyway.

From the beginning:

Had conservatism a Cassandra, she might, amidst the current mood of triumph, point out that whereas 50 years ago the American Right boasted several political theorists destined to exert a lasting influence, today it has not one to its credit. In the 1950s and '60s, James Burnham, Richard Weaver, Leo Strauss, Harry Jaffa, Russell Kirk, Friedrich Hayek, and Willmoore Kendall (among others) were all at the apex of their powers. No figure of similar stature remains.

And from the end:

Original thinking often flourishes under conditions of intellectual marginality. Unfortunately, the conservative movement, having discovered a mass audience, risks squandering the intellectual marginality that once made it so interesting and daring.

In future years, it may take a smaller, elite group of right-wingers to animate conservative ideas once more.

The thesis is, apparently, that there used to be a lot more excitement in conservative political philosophy than there is today. Fine. I'm not sure why that's important, even after reading the article. See above joke: conservative political philosophy doesn't have to hit some Platonic ideal of "exciting"; it just has to be more exciting than its competitors. And I don't see where Bramwell considers things on this level at all.

Here's another thing I found a little puzzling. Discussing the "somewhat occult genre" of "libertarian apologetics":

To put it bluntly, the genre is a failure. No economic model can prove that government interference in the economy by nature tends to do harm. While economics can show that some government programs will fail—rent control, say, or confiscatory tax rates—it cannot show that all government programs will fail.

An obvious strawman. Most libertarians aren't anarchists; it then should go without saying that they do not believe "all government programs will fail." And (generally speaking) most libertarian-leaning people think that when the state "interferes" in the economy by providing defense and law enforcement (including protection of property rights and contract), it's a net win. [I know that all those things can, in theory, be provided privately as well. Not the issue.]

The entire essay is kind of like that: Bramwell knows the names, and occasionally offers insight, but the occasional blockheadedness, as above, causes me to doubt his seriousness.

I keep saying: so what?; and not finding the answers in the essay.

It's probably worth reading though, so go do so.

UPDATE: Arnold Kling has a more high-minded discussion of Bramwell's article at Tech Central Station. Very much worth reading.

URLs Du Jour (8/24/2005)

  • Constrained Katie has a mighty fine article discussing Forbes magazine's "dunce of the week: the National Education Association. This honor was bestowed on the NEA for its Wal-Mart boycott; Katie also links to and excerpts this Boston Globe op-ed from Michael Reitz. Key para:

    If the NEA's position on Wal-Mart were based solely on what is best for students, then surely the union would give some credit to a company whose low prices make school supplies, back-to-school clothing, and lunchbox snacks affordable for millions of families. Instead, … the NEA is concerned first and foremost with labor issues. By boycotting Wal-Mart, the NEA is expressing support for the unions trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to organize Wal-Mart workers; as the Boston Globe column argues, the boycott is a "union solidarity move". It is also trying to punish the Walton Family Foundation for supporting school choice efforts--efforts that challenge the teachers unions and all other members of the educational establishment.

    Yup. The NEA is barely even trying to pretend they're interested in education any more.

  • In my book, former Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith is a hero of liberty and free speech. Not surprisingly, he's widely despised by politicians of both parties. John Samples has a good article on Mr. Smith on the occasion of his return to professoring at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Via Bruce Schneier: In Britain, leaving your Bluetooth-enabled laptop in your car is kind of like putting a big "Steal Me" sign on it.
  • Klingon Fairy Tales. Say no more, I'm there. (Via Geek Press.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:05 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (8/22/2005)

  • Mrs. Salad got a chuckle from this morning's inept radio newsreader. It seems they said that, after a stroke had left her unable to talk, a therapist was working with Coretta Scott King on "singing". Of course, they meant "signing", right?

    Well, wrong. ("I'll be darned.") Best wishes to Mrs. King.

  • Frank J. issues an appeal to the President.
  • Kevin Hassett has a great idea: take the Federal Telephone Excise tax and shoot it in the head. If you didn't think you could be outraged by the Federal Telephone Excise Tax, then try the article, it might do the trick.
  • Depressing URL du jour: Prof Bainbridge laments the Vioxx verdict and points out (via a quote from Prof Epstein) that stupid jurors kill people.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:05 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (8/18/2005)

  • The WaPo chronicles the demise of "healthy" items at restaurant chains.

    The national restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday added a low-fat Blueberry D'Lite yogurt parfait to its menu more than a year ago to capitalize on the apparent growing appetite among consumers for healthful fare. The parfait joined more than 40 better-for-you offerings, along with listings of calorie and fat contents for everything on the menu. … But diners didn't bite. So Ruby Tuesday has eliminated the Blueberry D'Lite, along with several other healthful dishes ditched after a lengthy period of slumping sales at the chain. Calorie and fat information was dropped except on the healthful items that survived and were moved to the back of the menu.

    Not that I care what happens at Ruby Tuesday; I've been to one in Portland, Maine, and one in Orlando, Florida, got crappy service and mediocre food both times, so I won't be back. Other than that, however, when reading the article … it's like they're looking over my shoulder when I dine out. I think (or maybe I'd like to think) I'd look for healthier restaurant food if I did it more often. But if it's a once-a-week thing, I'm usually successfully tempted to spend my money on something I'll really enjoy. Which usually means something with lots of calories, fat, and salt.

  • I usually have a less-than-ideal shopping experience when I go to the local Wal-Mart, but (unlike Ruby Tuesday), I always go back; good prices and decent selection trump their inept and surly staff. (But, hey, if you work at Wal-Mart, I'm sure I'm not talking about you. I've probably just been unlucky.) And I'm glad to have Wal-Mart as an option. A good column at Tech Central Station my Ryan Sager details how the good citizens of New York City are being protected against the evils of Wal-Mart.

    What Wal-Mart's opponents can't win through organizing or in the marketplace, it seems, they now seek to achieve through the raw exercise of political power.

    Read the article to find out how that works, and how it works to the ultimate disadvantage of the little guys. (You mean the leprechauns? Why, yes I do.)

  • Also at TCS, an excellent essay from Tim Worstall on the proper attitude toward politicians:

    My reaction to politicians tends to wander around a little between what I consider to be the only three possible options. Laugh at them, ignore them, or experience a (so far repressed) desire to have them tap dancing on air from the nearest lamp-post.

    Read the whole thing, and then …

  • Repeat after me: "Interfolded delicatessen paper."

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:06 AM EDT

Sanjuro

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

Another Kurosawa movie with Toshiro Mifune as the title character. He's a world-weary bad-tempered Samurai who decides to save a hapless group of do-gooders trying to weed out corruption in their little town.

Unfortunately, the do-gooders' adversaries turn out to be much more dangerous than they thought. And the do-gooders ae very inept at working in a world of danger and intrigue. Humor and mayhem result.

I have to admit: the movie did not hold my unflagging interest. And (as long as I'm admitting things) the "they all look alike" effect is strong here, so I got confused a lot about what was going on. I may have to give it another chance someday.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:54 AM EDT

A Very Long Engagement

[Amazon Link] [4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

This is an honest to goodness classy movie, in French. Fun to watch with Mrs. Salad, who speaks French, and pointed out numerous discrepancies between the dialog and the subtitles. Stars Audrey Tatou as Mathilde, and I think I'd watch just about anything she was in.

Mathilde's boyfriend is one of five French soldiers being sent to their near-certain doom as punishment for trying to get sent home by self-wounding. (Although one of the guys was simply trying to hit an overly-friendly rat with his loaded pistol; apparently his superiors didn't think anyone could be so stupid.) But Mathilde doesn't believe her boyfriend actually perished, so the movie is the story of her efforts to find out what really happened.

If anyone needs to be reminded about War being Hell, this is a pretty good movie for that. Depictions of WWI trench warfare are as grim as it gets.

Also chilling is a scene where a hospital has been set up in a blimp hangar. Complete with a hydrogen-filled blimp. You don't have to be psychic to predict what's gonna happen there.

Jodie Foster has a small role. I didn't know she was in it at all, and said: "Geez, that looks a lot like Jodie Foster." Credits roll, and: "Oh, it was."

Among all the bleakness, there are major welcome touches of whimsy. Mathilde plays the tuba, often. When she needs sympathy, she'll put herself in a wheelchair; when she's done, she rises, saying "It doesn't only happen at Lourdes." When the family's flatulent canine lets one go, Mathilde's mom responds with a small smile, and says to herself: "Doggie fart, gladdens my heart." (Mrs. Salad informs me this doesn't rhyme in French, but it should, shouldn't it?)


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:54 AM EDT

Lame Slate Article on Evolutionary Psychology

Today's article from Amanda Schaffer has the provocative title:

Cave Thinkers: How evolutionary psychology gets evolution wrong.

And so you'd expect some kind of thorough debunking, right? Wrong. It takes as its leaping-off point a recent assertion from John Tierney that men are generally more competitive than women, and are that way due to the way their psychologies evolved.

Tierney's peculiar, pseudo-scientific claim—not the first from him—reflects the extent to which evolutionary psychology has metastasized throughout public discourse. EP-ers' basic claim is that human behavior stems from psychological mechanisms that are the products of natural selection during the Stone Age. Researchers often focus on how evolution produced mental differences between men and women. One of EP's academic stars, David Buss, argues in his salacious new book The Murderer Next Door that men are wired to kill unfaithful wives because this response would have benefited their distant forefathers. Larry Summers took some cover from EP this winter after his remarks about women's lesser capacity to become top scientists. And adaptive explanations of old sexist hobbyhorses—men like young women with perky breasts and can't stop themselves from philandering because these urges aided ancestral reproduction—are commonly marshaled in defense of ever-more-ridiculous playboys.

This kind of thinking about innate differences between the sexes makes some folks uncomfortable. And you can see it in the language above: "peculiar", "salacious", "sexist", "ridiculous". The signal is clear: this is not gonna be an objective look at EP pros and cons. The matter is settled, as far as Ms. Schaffer is concerned. And she's not too concerned with Tierney's alleged "pseudo-science;" that's just the hook. Her real ire is directed at real scientists.

Evolutionary psychologists have long taken heat from critics for overplaying innate characteristics—nature at the expense of nurture—and for reinforcing gender stereotypes. But they've dismissed many detractors, fairly or no, as softheaded feminists and sociologists who refuse to acknowledge the true power of natural selection. Increasingly, however, attacks on EP come from academics well-versed in the hard-nosed details of evolutionary biology. A case in point is the new book Adapting Minds by philosopher David Buller, which was supported by a research grant from the National Science Foundation and published by MIT Press and has been getting glowing reviews like this one (paid link) from biologists. Buller persuasively argues that while evolutionary forces likely did play a role in shaping our minds, the assumptions and methods that have dominated EP are weak. Much of the work of pioneers like Buss, Steven Pinker, John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, Martin Daly, and Margo Wilson turns out to be vulnerable on evolutionary grounds.

Really? Well, we'll see. First warning sign, of course, is that we have a philosopher going up against actual scientists. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that. But if you can't find any scientists that will make the point you want to make, doesn't that say something about the scientific merit of your argument?

But the actual objections that Schaffer lists are weak themselves.

  • "To begin with, we know very little about the specific adaptive problems faced by our distant forebears." True. But if that was a stopper, you might as well not do evolution at all, period, let alone evolutionary psychology. This is a crashingly silly objection.
  • "In addition, we are probably not psychological fossils. New research suggests that evolutionary change can occur much faster than was previously believed." However, following the link makes clear that this assertion is currently speculative, at best. There's no evidence actually presented saying we're not "psychological fossils;" it's just a hopeful guess.
  • "Finally, the central, underlying assumption of EP—that humans have hundreds or thousands of mental problem-solving organs produced by natural selection—is questionable." It's obviously questionable; any scientific hypothesis is. But has it been scientifically debunked, like phlogiston? Uh-uh.
  • "In fact, considering how much dramatic change our forebears faced, it makes more sense that their problem-solving faculties would have evolved to be flexible in response to their immediate surroundings. (A well-argued book from philosopher Kim Sterelny fleshes out this claim.)" Again, this is a scientific issue; if Ms. Schaffer can't find a reputable scientist that can debunk the EPists with alternative hypotheses, her argument is ultimately unpersuasive.

In short: this alleged rebuttal to Evolutionary Psychology is prejudiced, at best vague and speculative, and not overly scientific.

Ms. Schaffer does (seemingly accidentally) hit on something, though:

…EP's conclusions can be quite difficult to falsify.

This is, of course, meant to be devastating. Ms. Schaffer doesn't seem to realize that the anti-EP hypotheses she's pushing are no less difficult to falsify.

But in fact, the "unfalsifiability" criticism applies equally well (such as it is) against evolution generally. EPists aren't doing anything out of the scientific mainstream. If you're going to aim your philosophical big guns on Evolutionary Psychology, it's really going to be difficult not to shoot at Evolution as well.


Last Modified 2014-10-03 3:46 PM EDT

The Lost Coast

[Amazon Link]

Roger Simon's series detective Moses Wine takes a trip to Northern California, trying to save his radical environmentalist son from getting arrested for a tree-spiking that killed a logger.

Moses is, as always, self-pitying and tedious. I remember Richard Dreyfuss played him in the movies years ago; good choice. His son takes after his father, so I'd nominate, oh, say, Sean Penn to play that role.

No, Sean Penn's too old. How about Zach Braff?


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:53 AM EDT

Submerged

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

One of the interesting side effects of doing the Blockbuster online DVD rental is, they give you two coupons per month for a "free" rental at their bricks-and-mortar stores. So on Friday evening, I find myself at the store without the slightest idea about what to rent. Hence, this movie.

IMDB gave it a piddling 3.9/10 stars. It's not that bad; it's funny in spots, a stupid but intriguing premise about mind control, and has colorful villains, all of whom get their comeuppance, thanks to Mr. Steven Seagal.

OK, so Steven Seagal has gotten old and fat. So have I, and I'm actually 20 days younger than he. He's doing better than I at keeping his hair, so I give him some respect for that.

This movie should not be called Submerged because only about 15 minutes is spent on a sub. The sub is not particularly important to the plot.

But when did you last see a movie set in Uruguay? How did they pick that? (According to the IMDB, however, it was actually filmed in Bulgaria. So how many movies have you seen that were filmed in Bulgaria?)


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:54 AM EDT

On Cindy Sheehan

If you're permitted to read language that you would not hear in a PG movie, Stephen Green has an apt analogy to Cindy Sheehan's desires to meet with the President again.

Not So Fast, Kowalski

John Podhoretz and Jim Geraghty distribute some healthy skepticism over the charge that the 9/11 Commission ignored the evidence obtained by Able Danger that (allegedly) found Mohammed Atta and a Brooklyn-based Al-Qaeda terrorist cell in 2000.

The Killer

[Amazon Link] [4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

One of John Woo's classic shoot-'em-ups, with a great cast, most notably Chow Yun-Fat as the sensitive hit man. About halfway through he promises his blind sweetie that he'll stop killing people; this promise lasts maybe ten minutes. The IMDB estimates the body count as 120, but that seems low to me.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:54 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (8/11/2005)

  • Did the 9/11 Commission ignore key facts on hijackers? Michelle (ma belle) Malkin answers that question in a post entitled "9/11 COMMISSION IGNORED KEY FACTS ON HIJACKERS". Key quote:

    The 9/11 Commission was supposed to give the America people a complete, unbiased story of the government failures that led up to the September 11 terrorist attacks. But the Commission now admits its acclaimed Final Report ignored key information provided by a U.S. Army data mining project, Able Danger, which identified Mohammed Atta and several other hijackers as potential terrorists prior to the September 11 attacks. The Able Danger team recommended that Atta and the other suspected terrorists be deported. That recommendation, however, was not shared with law enforcement officials, presumably because of the "wall" between intelligence activities and domestic law enforcement.

    So there you go. She's all over the story, with plenty of links.

  • At Cato, David Boaz laments resurgent Republican statism.

    Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 by declaring that Democrats had given us "government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." Now, intoxicated with their own power, they have forgotten those words. They too use the powers of the federal government to lavish money on favored constituents, summon us before congressional hearings to explain ourselves, and intrude into our most local and personal decisions.

    Someday, someone might be able to convince me that Democrats wouldn't be worse. That hurdle once looked insurmountable, but nowadays …

  • And George Will has finally lost patience with Jimmy Carter. (Says Jonah at the Corner: "Carter is on all fours looking for his teeth."


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:08 AM EDT

AP Botches Census Reporting

The AP reports:

Texas has become the fourth state to have a non-white majority population, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday, a trend driven by a surging number of Hispanics moving to the state.

Except that's not what the Census Bureau said, exactly:

Texas has now joined Hawaii, New Mexico and California as a majority-minority state, along with the District of Columbia, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. … (The minority population includes all people except non-Hispanic single-race whites.)

See the difference? The AP's interpretation is that Hispanics aren't "white". But, in fact, a goodly slug of Hispanics are "white" (or, more precisely, consider themselves to be "white", which is, for the Census Bureau, the only thing that matters). We've blogged about this before, but for some reason it's escaped the AP's notice.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:09 AM EDT

URL du Jour (8/10/2005)

Anyone out there remember Señor Wences? (Anyone?) Well, Guido Daniele has him beat. (Via Geek Press.)

Marc Cohn

One of my favorite singers, Marc Cohn, was shot in the head yesterday. Not while walking in Memphis, surprisingly, but in a Denver parking garage. And not while driving a silver Thunderbird, either; but in a tour bus. He was not with his True Companion, fortunately, but with his manager.

The reason I can be so flip about this: he's fine. Despite being shot in the head. He went to see the Medicine Man, he with the Healing Hands, and was treated and released from a Denver hospital. After being shot, yes, in the head. (Jesus!)

Saints preserve us.

I don't keep very good track of entertainers' personal lives, even ones I like, and Marc Cohn always struck me as kind of a scruffy type, and it's been a long time since his last album. So when I saw the "Marc Cohn Shot in Head" headline (Jesus!), the worst flashed through my mind: has-been musician falls into world of crime, drugs, and violence with tragic consequences.

But it turns out he's married to ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas. So that probably puts a lower bound on down-and-outness right there. And he's got new records coming out (according to his fansite). And he was on a successful tour with Suzanne Vega when … he survived being shot in the head.

So he's doing OK. I'd wish him luck but … I guess he's already got plenty. I hope the publicity helps him sell more music.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:01 AM EDT

High and Low

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

This Kurosawa film is based on a 87th Precinct novel (King's Ransom) by the late great Ed McBain (really Evan Hunter). Moved, of course, from McBain's thinly-disguised New York City to Japan.

It's rather tedious in the beginning, as all the action (or lack thereof) takes place in the house of a shoe tycoon. The tycoon is on the cusp of a major business coup, which will (I am not making this up) allow him to prevail over both the hidebound CEO of the shoe business and his craven colleagues who want to flood the market with cheap flashy footwear. But then a kidnapper absconds with the tycoon's son. But, oops, wait a minute, it's actually the son of the tycoon's chauffeur. But the kidnapper still wants the ransom; and paying the ransom will bankrupt the tycoon. So…

This all takes a long time to set up, and it's all done with dialog and stagy, unimaginative scenes.

But once the film breaks out of the tycoon's house, the pace picks up and things get more interesting. And by the end, the film turns nightmarish.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:52 AM EDT

Diversity Follies

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy comments (following up on KC Johnson's comments) on Columbia University's $15 million "diversity initiative" who will hire white men if and only if they "in some way promote the diversity goals of the university". Both Zywicki and Johnson think this will (of course) not bring about an increased diversity of political opinion at Columbia. It's hard to disagree. Wouldn't it be nice if "diversity" proponents were straightforward and honest in admitting this?

One of the goals in Columbia's announcement (also excerpted in Todd's post) is "Deepening and Extending the University Dialogue"; examples given are three guest speakers all echoing the "diversity" party line. I can't help but suspect that "deepening and extending" the "dialogue" will simply involve bringing more speakers saying exactly the same things.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:09 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (8/7/2005)

  • Pretty cool: an online pedometer based on Google maps.
  • Will Wilkinson detours slightly from his usual philosophical musings and demands that Dubya fire Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Radley Balko has more details. Hey, I'll see you and raise: fire her, and everyone else at the DEA, and don't hire replacements.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:10 AM EDT

More on ID vs. Evolution

I keep finding great comments on the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution kerfuffle triggered by Dubya's recent comment. Latest example is from Sissy Willis (via Instapundit):

[I]t's hard to tell the difference between the fundamentalists' no-prisoners approach and that of the P.C. thought police on the other side of the cultural divide.

So true. I will, however, take issue with Sissy on this:

But don't confuse some people with the facts. They'd rather get it wrong from the start and run with it if it furthers their agenda. Take "Intelligent Design" proselytizer Paula Weston, who concluded, based upon a willful misreading of Darwin, that his theory of evolution "provides fuel for racist attitudes."

No doubt Ms. Weston is easily refuted on other matters; her website is "Answers in Genesis", so I imagine it's pretty much fish in a barrel over there. But you don't have to willfully misread Darwin to get a snootful of his own overt racism, never mind finding fuel for racist attitudes. One of Sissy's commenters helfully points to The Descent of Man, which contains among other gems:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked,* will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

Ouch! Of course, very few if any modern Darwinistas would agree with this, unless you get them drunk.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:11 AM EDT

Tides of Light

[Amazon Link]

This has been on by TBR pile for years, and I finally made myself sit down and get through it. The reviews at Amazon and elsewhere are ecstatic, but I found it very slow going, full of purposelessly florid writing.

It's frustrating not to like a book that you should like. There are some neat things, as the book's protagonists encounter a world that a cyborg race is gutting with a cosmic string for a large-scale engineering project. Our main hero finds himself in the midst of an undergraduate physics problem as he gets dropped through a hole cut all the way through the planet.

But I kept finding myself not caring very much what happened either to the humans or the cyborgs.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 9:55 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (8/5/2005)

  • Michelle, ma belle, has a good rundown on the NYT's investigation into the adoption records of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' kids. She entitles it The Muckraking N.Y. Times, though I would be sorely tempted to use two or three more pungent and profane adjectives.
  • On a related note, Sensible Mom makes some lucid (and, it seems to me, absolutely correct) observations on the huge double standards evinced by the media in covering lefties versus righties:

    The media treat every liberal cause as noble and every conservative cause as mean-spirited, and therefore, ethical lapses by liberals are overlooked, quickly forgiven or completely ignored for the "better good." That mindset is at the core of all media coverage. You can see it happening with the Air America story. The media, as a group, agree with the liberal agenda and assume that the intention of liberal organizations are honorable. Therefore, it is presumed that an ethical breach by a liberal is an anomaly and not worthy of investigation or criticism, especially if it will cripple the agenda in any way.

    Contrast that with their treatment of conservatives where any hope or possibility of wrongdoing is investigated with gusto. In this role, the media puff out their collective chests and pursue the "truth" at all costs. Today, we see the NYT investigating the adoption records of John Robert's children. They call it a standard background check, but it isn't. No one needs to know about their adoptions to consider his nomination. What the NYT is doing is what they always do -- they are holding a conservative up to a higher standard than anyone else.

    But do go read the whole thing. (Via Prof Bainbridge.)

  • Lee Harris, writing at Tech Central Station, has a moderate and sensible article in response to Dubya's comments about Intelligent Design (ID) from a few days back. And the American Spectator website reprints an article from their magazine written by Dan Peterson, sympathetic to ID.

    I'm skeptical of ID, but anti-ID folks don't do themselves any favors when they confront ID advocates with question-begging, contempt, and name-calling instead of evidence-based arguments. Examples abound in Peterson's article.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:11 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (8/4/2005)

  • I need another drink.
  • But Deepak Chopra is way ahead of me.
  • Speaking of which, how can Arianna complain:

    There's an old saying that when the facts are against you, argue the law. But the Bushies have gone one better: when the facts are against them, they argue the very existence of facts. …

    when all she needed to do first was to read Deepak:

    In essence, every act of observation transforms the Universe. Since observation cannot happen without interpretation, every interpretation becomes a reality. For us Human Beings, this has enormous implications, because we are linguistically programmed. Language does not describe, it creates. It conceives, governs, constructs, and becomes reality. Many times in many conversations, even with intimate friends, I have found myself in a quandary because we were using the same words but they meant different things to us. On looking up the dictionary, I found we were both right! Freud remarked "neurosis is the inability to tolerae ambiguity and ambivalence." Our current need for certitude as a society may be an indication of our collective neurosies where we always want to see things as black or white, right and wrong, etc.

    Arianna, baby, your house guru says that reality is created by your language! How can you complain about Dubya?


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:12 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (8/3/2005)

When science and politics collide interact, the results aren't often pretty. Examples abound today.

  • Dubya recently allowed as how he thought, with respect to evolution versus intelligent design, that "both sides ought to be properly taught." (But you might want to read the relevant part of the transcript instead of the various news stories.) Instapundit called this "pathetic"; he, of course, has many links to others discussing the matter, including this more thoughtful response. I also like David Klinghoffer's thoughtful article on Intelligent Design at NRO.
  • Michael Fumento pooh-poohs the hoopla over embryonic stem cells; he alleges that adult stem cells work better, and don't involve "ripping apart embryos."
  • At Cato, an old but timely article by Patrick Michaels takes on the common doom-n-gloom wisdom that global warming is causing more and fiercer hurricanes.
  • And at the American Spectator, George Neumayr says that Democrats' attitude toward science is pretty much governed by whether their policies are supported or not. (In this, cynical me says, they share a characteristic with many Republicans.) Case in point is whether the abortificent RU-486 is "safe"; it's not, says Neumayr, it greatly increases the risk of septic shock. So there.
  • But if you're tired of political science, go see a movie: Shawn Macomber casts a cold eye on sentimental reactions to March of the Penguins.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:13 AM EDT

Krugman, Hack

Via Don Luskin: Wilson El Feo points out (in two posts here and here) that Paul Krugman, ostensible economist with ostensible expertise in trade policy, did not find time to write a single column about CAFTA.

Actually (to be fair) Krugman did manage to write a single dismissive paragraph about CAFTA, after it had been passed, in his August 1 column. But that's really the exception that proves El Feo's point: Krugman has lost interest in anything save hyperpartisan Bush-bashing.

[Update 2017-11-29: Krugman finally got around to writing, briefly, about CAFTA in his blog when Hillary's position(s) on trade became an issue during the 2016 primary season.]


Last Modified 2017-11-29 11:39 AM EST

URLs Du Jour (8/1/2005)

Ah, we made it to August.

  • Hugh Hewitt points out some significant omissions in Senator "Chuck" Schumer's list of questions for Judge Roberts to answer before the Senate Judiciary Committee: nothing about Kelo (or eminent domain generally), nothing about Goodrich (or gay marriage, or the Full Faith and Credit clause generally). Looking on my own at Schumer's List, I don't see anything about Raich either; although there's a section about the Commerce clause. Comments Hugh:

    The left never seems to understand that their grandstanding highlights exactly those qualities which most disqualify them from power. Schumer wants attention to his questions and the hearings in which they will be asked? We can only hope that all the networks give him gavel to gavel coverage.
  • Continuing in the SCOTUS vein, also amusing is Power Line's evisceration of Howard Dean's brain-dead comments on the ideological provenance of the Kelo decision:

    The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is 'okay' to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is. We think that eminent domain does not belong in the private sector. It is for public use only.

    So that leaves us to wonder: does Dean know the dissenters in Kelo were Thomas, Scalia, O'Connor, and Rehnquist? If not, OK, he's an idiot. If so, he apparently thought his audience were idiots, and could be easily fooled by this faux-populism. Let's see, to whom was he speaking? … oh, the College Democrats of America. Hm.

  • And still continuing in the SCOTUS vein, Andrew at Confirm Them detects Senator Christopher Dodd hallucinating about the Privacy Clause of the Constitution.
  • But let us abjure partisanship for a bit; the folks at Cato show why the recently-passed Energy Bill is bad, and ditto for the Highway Bill and the Gun-liability legislation. All three had heavy Republican support, so it's pretty depressing for us folks who had briefly hoped, way back when, that the GOP could be trusted with the car keys. The one slightly good thing: my very own Senator, Judd Gregg, voted against the Highway Bill, unafraid to be on the small end of a 91-4 landslide. (My other very own senator, John Sununu, couldn't manage to make the vote.) And both Sununu and Gregg voted against the Energy Bill. So good on them.

    And (by the way) The Smartest Woman In The World agrees.

  • And, via Galley Slaves, the inspiring story of how the author of a series of dirty joke books turned into a certified 99.44% humor-free feminist. Well, maybe not that inspiring.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:14 AM EDT