In a woeful dereliction of blogger duties, Pun Salad won't be watching,
let alone blogging, the State of the Union speech tonight.
Can't stand constant applause interruptions, don't much like
political rhetoric, even from guys I generally like.
Sorry. But Gene Healy has some more
substantive reasons to dislike the State of the Union at Cato.
Paul at Power Line
notes the confirmation of
Justice Alito, and also notes the new rules established by the
Democrats for confirmation politics:
Under the Alito rule, Senators will vote against highly qualified nominee for no reason other than that they expect the nominee to rule contrary to their preference on major issues. Under the Alito rule, the president's party, in effect, must control the Senate in order for the president to have top-notch nominees of his choice confirmed. When the the president's party doesn't control the Senate, only compromise nominees acceptable to both parties can expect to be confirmed.
As I said before: "Good luck with that. Let us know how that works out for you."
And Sandy O'Connor is on her way back to Arizona. Good for her, good for constitutional jurisprudence.
Is it wrong of me to speak the way I do about the Google?
Nevertheless: a parody
at the Weekly Standard: Googling "human rights" in China.
More seriously: James DeLong makes a case
that Google is not being evil. See if he convinces you.
Speaking of the Google:
Someone wound up at Pun Salad after querying
"who is the girl in the Bob's Discount Furniture Ads." Really.
But Pun Salad lives to serve. Look here for the Official Word: her name is Cathy Poulin, she is BDF's Director of Public Relations. Irritating, isn't she? BDF ads are part of the price one has to pay for watching the Red Sox on NESN.
Suggestion: next time you see Cathy and Bob, imagine you're watching one of these commercials instead.
- Via Dave, we have a helpful legal tip: if you have outstanding felony arrest warrants, it's probably a bad idea to run for governor of Minnesota as the nominee of the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans party.
Day off today, so I hied it on over to the Barrington Cinema to see King Kong before it vanishes. It was just me and one other guy in the theatre.
I was not prepared for how much I would like this movie. I'd listened too much to quibblers. Actors are great, the script is great. You may have heard it's long; plan your bladder capacity appropriately. You won't want to miss anything.
And I don't want to be too clichéd here, but the special effects are awwwwwwesome. You will believe you're watching a big darn monkey frolic in the jungles of Skull Island and the streets of New York City. The special effects are (however) always subservient to the story and the chracters; no obvious "video game moments," which is a welcome change from the usual in the blockbuster genre.
I'll go see anything Peter Jackson does from here on out.
Debra Burlingame weighs in on the wiretapping
controversy at Opinion Journal. Powerful argument. Concluding paragraph:
The public has listened to years of stinging revelations detailing how the government tied its own hands in stopping the devastating attacks of September 11. It is an irresponsible violation of the public trust for members of Congress to weaken the Patriot Act or jeopardize the NSA terrorist surveillance program because of the same illusory theories that cost us so dearly before, or worse, for rank partisan advantage. If they do, and our country sustains yet another catastrophic attack that these antiterrorism tools could have prevented, the phrase "connect the dots" will resonate again--but this time it will refer to the trail of innocent American blood which leads directly to the Senate floor.
Ms. Burlingame is the
widowsister of the pilot whose plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Somehow I don't think her views will get equivalent media play to those of, say, Cindy Sheehan.
(Yes, I still think the Patriot Act could use a little trimming, and I still like Senator Sununu's efforts to do that.)
How pro-choice are you? A WaPo article describes
how quickly those in the "pro-choice" camp
can jettison their
slogan when some of the people involved
don't make the right choice.
The Google has removed the
"Does Google censor search results?" section
from its FAQ page, apparently due
the inconvenient fact, well, that it does now censor
search results. But here's the cool part: the old inoperative
page is still retrievable from the Google cache. Say
Anything has the Google goods. (Via the Corner.)
Is this irony? Sometimes I get this wrong, but it seems like it should be irony.
OK, maybe David Duchovny is on a short ride to undeserved
obscurity, but (a) he is married to Téa Leoni;
(b) in this
article, it's revealed:
He's got two more screenplays he would like to see made. One called Yoga Man and another Bucky (expletive) Dent. He is quick to admit he will have to change the latter's title.
To any Hollywood movers and shakers who might be reading this: I'd stand in line to see a movie called Bucky [Expletive] Dent. (Via Surviving Grady.)
A nice illustration of Unintended Consequences provided by the Wall Street Journal, Kevin Drum, and Professor Bainbridge. The WSJ printed an article describing a massive shift in the past decade to dual pension systems, one for ordinary employees, another for higher-ups.
For decades, executives relied on the same pension plan as other company employees, so they had an incentive to make it generous. The shift toward a dual system started in 1994, when Congress passed a law intended to limit the cost to taxpayers of runaway executive pay. The law barred companies from taking a tax deduction on compensation in excess of $1 million a year for any current employee. The result: Companies began setting up supplemental pension plans that encouraged senior managers to defer compensation.
Kevin points out the story contains "a hearty dose of cognitive dissonance for well-meaning liberals." Populist legislation intended to "do something" about "runaway" executive pay largely brought about today's dual-track system.
Prof Bainbridge notes Kevin's cognitive dissonance and brings on a couple of additional observations:
First, the 1994 tax change was effected not by some generic "Congress" but by Bill Clinton and the Congressional Democrats over GOP objections. Second, the Democrat tax change also was a major factor in the Enron, WorldCom, and other scandals of the tech bubble period.
Good points all.
Unfortunately, the original WSJ article only mentions the 1994 legislation in passing; the main thrust is summed up in the lead paragraph:
Rankled by the rich retirement payouts many troubled companies make to executives, Congress is moving to block such companies from funding the lavish packages.
I. e., unintended consequences of past populist tax legislation cause problems, bringing demands for more populist tax legislation today; which will no doubt have its own set of unintended consequences; which will bring more demands for populist tax legislation in the future.
It's the circle of legislative life. If they didn't do this, they'd have to go home, and that's no fun.
This movie is probably one of the more well-known Kurosawa films
for a silly reason: it was one of the sources George Lucas
ripped off adapted in Star Wars. Specifically,
the movie follows two hapless fellows, Tahei and Matakishi,
one short, one tall,
who are swept up in historic events beyond their control.
Also there's a snotty
princess being rescued by a brave and loyal hero. (Toshiro Mifune, of
George Lucas appears in a brief talking-head segment on the DVD. He acknowledges
stealing paying homage to the movie in
turning Tahei and Matakishi into R2D2 and C3P0; he says the
whole princess thing is more or less coincidence. OK.
The movie itself is pretty funny. Tahei and Matakishi are greedy and cowardly buffoons, endlessly bickering. They're also exceedingly stupid, which makes it easy for Mifune to manipulate them.
One of the perquisites of being a staff member at the University of New Hampshire is frequent unsolicited e-mail from various high-up administrators, telling you about things they think are important. Or things they want you to think are important. Or things they want you to think they think are important. Or … well, you get the idea. Sometimes it's difficult to believe that anyone really thinks the mail is important.
It would be technically easy to filter out these messages, but there's always the chance they could send something actually important.
And that's how I wound up reading this message:
To: Important message for the UNH community <UNH.Announce@lists.unh.edu>
Subject: MLK Campus Celebrations
[ This message is being sent to you from Ann Weaver Hart, ]
[ President. This mailing has been approved by Kim Billings, ]
[ University Spokesperson. ]
To the campus community,
I invite all of you to join me in honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work to advance social justice, community service, and respect for all people. Campus events take place next week, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
Background: The University takes the official MLK holiday off, so obviously that would be a bad day to do this sort of thing. For those of you wondering if the University does this sort of thing for any other holiday: no, of course not. You don't know much about how Universities work, do you?
I'm not going to gripe overmuch about the vague feelgoodness of being for "community service" and "respect for all people." But have I mentioned how I feel about that phrase "social justice"? Why yes, I have. So I won't repeat myself, but … arrrgh.
We have opportunities every day to carry out some aspect of Dr. King's messages at UNH and in the broader community. This year's theme reflects the importance of every person in creating change: "Lift EVERY Voice."
Note: every person, every voice. Gee, how inclusive! A fair question might be: how will this quest for inclusiveness actually play out? Well, let's see:
This year, I want to invite everyone to think about how their voices and actions matter. Join me January 31st and February 1st, as we honor Dr. King with a spiritual celebration, candlelight vigil, a panel discussion on civil rights, and a keynote featuring law professor and cultural commentator Patricia Williams. Please visit the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs' website:
for more details.
Ann Weaver Hart
Well, since President Hart invited: let me think about how my voice and actions matter … OK, done.
The mail includes the schedule. It's also at the OMSA site.
January 31, 2006
6:30-8:00 pm, Durham Community Church
An inter-faith celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King, enjoy gospel music, poetry, and more! Special guest speaker Kalamu ya Salaam. Reception to follow.
Needless to say, this is the only event of the year for which the University deigns to sponsor an "inter-faith celebration" where you can listen to gospel music. Will someone call the ACLU about this bulldozing of the wall of separation between church and state? I don't think that would be a good bet.
Who is, you may ask, Kalamu ya Salaam? He seems like a nice enough guy, certainly easy to query the Google about. If you want to get a sense of where he's coming from, this page seems definitive. Looking for an interesting essay … ooh, how about "Impotence Need Not Be Permanent"? Sample:
Whoa. Wasn't quite what I expected. The violence stuff … not too MLK-like, is it? Hopefully the Inter-faith Spiritual Celebration won't include Kalamu doing his dominance-destroying thing in between the gospel tunes.
So let's move right along to the next event:
February 1, 2006
2:00-4:00 pm, MUB Strafford Room
Please join us for an interactive dialogue with engaging panelists Patricia Williams, Kalamu ya Salaam, Harvard Sitkoff, and Hannah El-Silimy. Panel moderated by Professor of History and American Studies, Alexandra Cornelius-Diallo.
"Civil Rights in an Era of Civil Wrongs". Hm. Sounds like an underlying assumption just might have been made there. I would wager nobody there will be interested in debating that underlying assumption.
Kalamu will be among the "engaging panelists."
We'll look at Patricia Williams in a bit.
Harvard Sitkoff is a UNH history prof, a veteran of the sixties civil rights movement, and a hard-working scholar with numerous publications. For our purposes, it's regrettable that he doesn't seem to have much that he's written on the web. (Sorry, in these modern days, library research is out!) My semi-educated guess: Prof Sitkoff may be the token right-winger in this bunch, which is to say, a standard 60's-era liberal.
Hannah El-Silimy: querying the Google pops up an MLK-day Concord Monitor op-ed she co-wrote with Arnie Alpert; from there, we learn that she and Arnie are on the staff of the New Hampshire Office of the American Friends Service Committee. From the op-ed:
Well, OK. The obvious rejoinder: no matter the perceived dehumanizing effect, the term "illegal" does accurately reflect the fact that these folks are breaking the law by being in this country. But no matter. Once again: Hannah's not likely to be making waves from the right in the "interactive dialogue."
Alexandra Cornelius-Diallo: also a UNH prof. Here's a description of her American Studies course this semester "Seminar/Resistance & Revolution: African American Men & Women's History and Culture" (found on the description of UNH's Race, Culture, and Power minor):
Sounds like a blast. Inexplicably, Alexandra considered Martin Luther King apparently not important enough to be included in her course description, while finding room for "Ghandi," Mao, Che, and Lumumba.
February 1, 2006
7:00-8:30 pm, Paul Creative Arts Center-Johnson Theatre
Patricia Williams is a Professor of Law, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award," and author of Seeing a Color-Blind Future, The Alchemy of Race & Rights, and The Rooster's Egg. Williams is a renowned cultural commentator. Currently, she writes the column, "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" for The Nation and teaches at Columbia University.
Patricia's probably the biggest luminary at the "celebration." Sounds like she's not going to be confused with Condoleezza Rice anytime soon. Most of her Nation columns are behind a subscription wall, but there are some teaser paragraphs. Sample:
Nope, doesn't sound like something the Secretary of State would say. Once Patricia's keynote is done, we're on to:
8:30 pm, Outside the Paul Creative Arts Center
Join us in the warmth of a candlelit community making its way from the Paul Creative Arts Center to the Memorial Union Building
Ah, there's nothing like the faux-religious overtones of candlelight to give your march through campus a delicious frisson of moral superiority! Once we reach the MUB:
February 1, 2006
After Candlelight Vigil, MUB Rockingham Lounge
Talk informally with Patricia Williams and get your book signed.
This is as conservative as the celebration gets, folks: Patricia will be engaging in some free-market capitalism by selling copies of her book. Here endeth the two-day celebration.
Summary: despite President Hart's call to "lift EVERY voice", it's pretty clear the ideological spectrum of this event will span the range from left to hard-left. If you're not in that ballpark, don't bother; you're not invited.
Glenn Reynolds gives his unpretentious
behind hoping John Shadegg becomes House Majority Leader.
My Congresscritter, Jeb Bradley, has announced his support for Blunt. Hope he changes his mind before voting.
One of the more amusing contretemps of the past few days is
the snitfit directed by the lefties against Chris Matthews of
MSNBC's Hardball, NBC's Tim Russert, and the Washingon
Post; it appears these acolytes have not been reliable enough
messengers for the True Party Line, and now must be punished for
their heresies. Stephen Spruiell at NRO's Media Blog has a good
with pointers to the various outraged screeds; he has followups here and there.
to a story
in the Calgary Herald which is headlined "Gore accuses big oil of
bankrolling Tories." Quoting Al "No Controlling Legal Authority" Gore:
"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."
The remainder of the article essentially gives great reason to think Gore's assertion is an evidence-free demagogic smear. A spokesperson for "oilsands giant" Suncor Energy essentially responds: "Wha? Where da heck is he getting dat, eh?" (My paraphrase.) An advisor to Sierra Club of Canada is quoted as saying he "isn't certain of how much oil companies and their executives donate to the Conservatives." If he's uncertain, how likely is it that Internet-Creatin' Al is certain about it? Not very.
When both James
Lileks and Dave Barry recommend a magazine
article, you should just go read it. If you haven't done so
already: Gene Weingarten
on The Great Zucchini.
You owe it to yourself to see Michelle Malkin's collection
of artfully-altered logos of the Google. Here
and also here.
Germans love David Hasselhoff! Here's why.
close personal friend Dave Barry.)
A couple of
Urban Legends regarding
the Department of Homeland Security:
Snopes has listed as "Undetermined" the claim that
the DHS is "secretly putting restrictions on what customers can remove
from safe deposit boxes in case of 'national disaster.'" But they provide
a number of reasons to be very skeptical.
(Via Kenneth Gregg at Liberty &
Stuart Buck examines reports
of "a new federal police force with the
power to violate the Bill of Rights."
No, it's not the Federal Election Commission; it's the
"United States Secret Service Uniformed Division", to be subject
to the supervision of the DHS. Stuart provides links to
various folks reacting with fear and loathing: Talk Left;
Reports; and the once-sane Paul Craig Roberts
(who is reprinted uncritically by Mark Crispin Miller).
All very disturbing! But Stuart points out that the Secret Service Uniformed Division has existed in form since 1860, and has existed in name since 1977. It's not being given any new powers. The new legislation simply reorganizes the existing US Code.
An impressive debunking.
- Snopes has listed as "Undetermined" the claim that the DHS is "secretly putting restrictions on what customers can remove from safe deposit boxes in case of 'national disaster.'" But they provide a number of reasons to be very skeptical. (Via Kenneth Gregg at Liberty & Power.)
Speaking of Snopes, I was tickled by one legend there titled "Draft
Claim: The U.S. military will be reinstating the draft by Spring 2005.
Status: Probably not.
Probably not? Oh well, I have problems keeping pages up to date too. (I've dropped them a note, maybe they'll fix it soon.)
And speaking of myths—we were, weren't we, sort of?—James
Thayer at the Weekly Standard examines recycling, an activity
often mandated by laws "based on myth and followed as faith."
Especially poignant is the detail that the average Seattle
household spends 16 minutes a week recycling:
And what are those 16 minutes spent doing? Sorting, extracting, rinsing, bundling, and stomping. In Seattle, household batteries can be put into the garbage, but not rechargeable batteries. Plastic soda bottles can be recycled, but not plastic flower pots. Plastic shopping bags go into the recycle bin (bundle them first), but not plastic produce bags or plastic freezer wrap bags. Plastic cottage cheese tubs, yes, but not plastic six-pack rings. Frozen food boxes go into the recycle bin, but not paper plates. Cardboard, sure, but not if a pizza came in it, and make sure to flatten the box. And remove any tape. Cereal boxes, yes, but pull out the liner. Typing paper, of course, but sort out the paper punch holes, as those little dots can't be recycled. Hardback books, okay, but wrestle off the covers. Metal hangers, yes: aluminum foil, no. Tin cans, you bet, but rinse them, and push the lid down into the can. No loose lids can go in the recycle bin. And no confetti.
So at least it's a fun 16 minutes.
"Heh. Indeed. Read the whole thing."
Harry Belafonte: vile or ludicrous? Rich Galen makes the case for
Don't miss the Secret Decoder Ring.
I think I'm beginning to love Cathy Seipp. This article
manages to be hilarious about the serious topic of journalistic
ethics. As I've always kind of suspected, New York Times
reporter David Cay Johnston really is a self-important
humorless weenie. Cathy's World added to the linklist at right, and
what took me so long?
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back Department: According to an
Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.
This, after admirably resisting a subpoena from the US DOJ for disclosing search requests. Why is the Google more obsequious to Commie dictators than its own government?
Continuing in the censorship topic: a great
article with a great title ("Shut Up, They
Explained: The left's regulatory war against free speech") from Brian C. Anderson
at Opinion Journal (reprinted from City Journal, where Anderson
is an editor).
This is an up-to-date examination of the efforts to regulate
political speech on the Internet and elsewhere. McCain-Feingold
is the usual whipping boy, but Anderson also details efforts to
bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
The ultimate pipe dream of the reformers is a rigidly egalitarian society, where government makes sure that every individual's influence over politics is exactly the same, regardless of his wealth. Scrutinize the pronouncements of campaign-finance reform groups like the Pew-backed Democracy 21, and you'll see how the meaning of "corruption" morphs into "inequality of influence" in this sense. This notion of corruption--really a Marxoid opposition to inequality of wealth--would have horrified the Founding Fathers, who believed in private property with its attendant inequalities, and who trusted to the clash of factions to ensure that none oppressed the others. The Founders would have seen in the reformers' utopian schemes, in which the power of government makes all equally weak, the embodiment of tyranny.
Bottom line: "equality" is often the enemy of liberty. And the purveyors of "equality" never seem to worry overmuch about the inequality of power necessary to enforce "equality." Gee, wonder why that is?
Many blogospherians are way too copacetic about this stuff; as long as the FEC deigns to hand out "exceptions" and "exemptions" to certain kinds of web content (i.e., theirs), they seem to be happy. As long as my ox isn't being gored … let's all deplore the dreadful eavesdropping on the phone conversations of suspected terrorists! I hope that Anderson's article gets wide play, and causes some real debate on the regulation of political speech.
And still continuing with the censorship topic,
we have a new effort from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
(CSPI) and others to sue Viacom and Kellogg for daring to advertise
food products for children on TV. Jacob Sullum examines
the lawsuit and finds it wanting.
This lawsuit, which CSPI and its allies plan to file under a Massachusetts consumer protection statute prohibiting "unfair or deceptive acts or practices," is really about censorship. By threatening onerous damages, CSPI aims to achieve through the courts what it has unsuccessfully demanded from legislators and regulators for decades: a ban on food advertising aimed at children.
And over at TCS, John Luik looks at the alleged science behind the lawsuit and finds it wanting.
Arise and resist the nanny-statists, comrades! They'll be coming for our beer commercials next!
Ann Althouse compares CNN/USA Today/Gallup polling
on confirming Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, pre- and post-Judiciary
Committee hearings. The result: the pro-confirmation percentage went
from 49% to 54%; the anti-confirmation percentage went from 30% to
… drum roll … 30%. All that ranting by Kennedy,
Leahy, Biden, et. al. did not budge the anti-confirmation
numbers one bit. Wonder if they have a Plan B?
Also interesting is how the "rules" change when a Republican is doing the nominating. John at Power Line notes the difference: the Clinton-nominated Breyer and Ginsburg racked up confirmation votes of 87-9 and 96-3 respectively; GOPers were expected to, and largely did, vote for qualified candidates irrespective of ideological orientation.
I (unlike John) wouldn't go so far as to claim the Democrats are "trash[ing] our institutions and traditions for the sake of political gain." Yeah, maybe they are, but so what's new? But they pretty clearly are clearing the path for all such nominations to be viewed as purely partisan matters in the future. To which Pun Salad can only say: "Good luck with that. Let us know how that works out for you."
If you're looking for a pointer to insightful analysis
of the Canadian election, perhaps accompanied by a light-hearted
apologies, but geez, what were you thinking? Maybe you shoud ask the Google
about that instead, eh?
Mary Anastasia O'Grady comments on Cindy Sheehan's continuing
efforts to get back into the media spotlight, this time by
attending Hugo Chavez's World Social Forum in Caracas:
Indeed, the Sheehan tour to Caracas belongs in the "you-can't-make-it-up" category: A bitterly outspoken American citizen who has made a career of lambasting her president, she travels abroad to celebrate with a dictator who has thrown his own critics out of work and even put them in prison, stripped the pres of its freedom, destroyed property rights and militarized the government. His political supporters are known to be armed and dangerous and many Venezuelans in poor neighborhoods have reported that they are afraid to disent from the Chavez agenda. Venezuela's arms build-up is frightening his neighbors and threatening regional stability.
I previously recommended Max Borders' explication
of "rights by
agreement", which he proposed as a superior alternative to
Ed Feser's advocacy of
"natural rights". Today, Ed is back
and brings his philosophical
shotgun to bear on contractarianism. As I said
a few days back: I am, as always, deeply persuaded by the last thing I
But how can we pretend to understand morality with any kind of rigor unless we first understand the roots of consciousness and rationality? Which we don't, I'm pretty sure. Maybe I should drop Max and Ed a note about this.
And finally: Aieeee! We're all gonna die! Today's harbinger
of global-warming doom is Professor James Lovelock, who cheerfully
[B]efore this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.
And he has a book to sell that will tell you all about it. (Rejected as cover blurbs: "The feel-good story of the year!" "Wacky laff riot!")
Call me pessimistic, but Pun Salad probably won't live long enough to be snuffed out by global warming. Nor the Salad kids. Nor their kids. Nor …, well you get the idea. Roy Spencer at TCS is also skeptical.
I noticed a thread concerning "post-PC humor" at Andrew Sullivan's blog, specifically this post, in which Andrew approvingly quotes e-mail from a concerned reader.
While I do agree that post-PC is a sign of a healthy and tolerant culture, I believe that there is a segment of the population that in fact is not in on the joke. Instead, I think that some see the over-the-top prejudice so common in post-PC humor as reinforcement of their own prejudices and in the worst cases, hatred.
Summary: we're laughing for the right reasons; they're laughing for the wrong reasons. Apparently this is a huge concern with post-PC humor. All us enlightened, tolerant folks are beyond being offended by provocative humor dealing with sex, race, religion, etc. But we're still concerned about … those other people. The ones not "in on the joke."
As an example, Andrew's reader quotes from a Time article on the self-destructing Dave Chappelle:
[Chappelle] was taping a sketch about magic pixies that embody stereotypes about the races. The black pixie--played by Chappelle--wears blackface and tries to convince blacks to act in stereotypical ways. Chappelle thought the sketch was funny, the kind of thing his friends would laugh at. But at the taping, one spectator, a white man, laughed particularly loud and long. His laughter struck Chappelle as wrong, and he wondered if the new season of his show had gone from sending up stereotypes to merely reinforcing them. "When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable," says Chappelle.
I would expect that would be a pretty fine line to draw for a comic: let's write jokes that will be controversial and edgy, but ones that only nice people will laugh at. God forbid we should amuse a bigot! One longs to grab Dave by the shoulders, shake him, and say: "Dave, don't worry so much about people laughing 'loud and long'; worry if they're not laughing."
Andrew's reader continues with his own Chappelle-show data point:
It's difficult to quantify, but the best example I can give is when I watched some Chappelle skits with some southern relatives of mine who would be charitably described as racist. I couldn't figure out why they were laughing at what was clearly a sketch written to make fun of people with attitudes and beliefs exactly like theirs (The blind, black KKK sketch). I noticed they were laughing not only at the wrong time, but for what appeared to be for the wrong reasons. Later, when they were quoting what they considered the "funny" parts of the skit, it wasn't what everyone "in on the joke" was quoting.
It's difficult to quantify, but it's my speculation that this yarn may have been punched up a bit to "prove" the gulf in humor perception between the elite and the unwashed. Andrew's reader reminds me of the stuffy Army officer wonderfully played by the late Graham Chapman on Monty Python. Expressing his unhappiness with the silliness of the sketches, he harrumphed:
Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do. … Except perhaps my wife … and some of her friends. … Oh, yes, and Captain Johnson. … Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do. But that's beside the point!
Chapman, as you may know, was gay; nevertheless, he had no apparent compunctions about playing stereotypical flaming "poofters", and I've never seen a shred of evidence that he ever worried that members of his audience were laughing "for the wrong reasons" or "at the wrong time." And how many of the audience were laughing, but simultaneously glancing from side to side, worrying that some of their neighbors weren't "in on the joke"? None, I'd wager.
Wake me up when "post-PC humor" catches up to "pre-PC" 1970s British TV sketch comedy. Until then, I'll be holed up with my Python DVDs.
- True fact: You can learn enough economics from South Park to refute a Harvard economist. Lawrence H. White offers an example. (Via EconLog.)
- Victoria Toensing's WSJ op-ed on FISA and its ineffectiveness is now available online.
- Coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, Jay Tea at Wizbang reminisces. (Also see his note about New Hampshire's other major connection to the space program: Smilin' Al Shepard.)
I have very fond memories of joining the Science Fiction Book Club as a greasy geeky teenager, paying ten cents (plus shipping and handling) for a fat hardcover titled The Foundation Trilogy by the great Isaac Asimov. That book had pretty shoddy binding and is now lost forever, but the memories remain. I recently decided to read the Good Doctor's SF novels in order, and it was time for this one.
It holds up pretty well. It isn't "really" a novel, but five short stories exploring the founding and early history of the Foundation, ostensibly designed by psychohistorian Hari Seldon to shorten the age of barbarism following the fall of the Galactic Empire from 30 millennia to one. Asimov advances the plot mainly via conversations between characters; very little "action." For an easily-distracted reader like me, it's kind of surprising this works as well as it does.
The main difference: suspension of disbelief is quite a bit tougher when you're in your 50's.
This movie, rented on the urging of Mrs. Salad, is a run-of-the-mill psychological thriller, redeemed somewhat by Dakota Fanning, who does an outstanding job of playing a Creepy Little Girl role.
Robert DeNiro is (of course) good too, although the script pretty much calls for him to one-note his Concerned Father performance through most of the movie.
It's a mediocre script, though, with people showing up who might as well have "Red Herring" buttons pinned to their shirts. Even at 100 minutes (according to the IMDB), it seems to be too long. The DVD includes 4 alternate endings, but none of them are noticeably better. Not recommended for viewing by small children or cats.
Mostly unserious on this beautiful Saturday in New Hampshire.
But first, improve your mind with Cringely's research
on the history of national security wiretapping.
Intercepting communications for purposes of maintaining national security is nothing new. From before Pearl Harbor through 1945, EVERY trans-Atlantic phone call, cable and indeed letter was intercepted in Bermuda by the Coordinator of Information (COI) in the White House and later by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Sir William Stephenson revealed this in his autobiography, A Man Called Intrepid. They literally tapped the undersea cables and shipped all post to Europe through Bermuda, where every single call was monitored, every cable printed out, and every letter opened. FDR and Churchill needed intelligence and they took the steps they needed to get it.Via Slashdot.
Norm McDonald was right: Germans love David Hasselhoff! But
you? (Via Galley Slaves.)
Shadeggelic: 148 hits and climbing.
(The Google also asks: "Did you mean: shaggedelic" No!)
- As the (1971 version) Oompa-Loompas asked: What do you do when your kid is a brat? Now there's an answer: little Veruca may simply be an "Indigo Child". Joanne Jacobs has the bird's-eye lowdown. (Obviously Pun Salad's previous scorn was ineffective in killing this idea. It is easy to overestimate Pun Salad's effectiveness at anything.)
- It was twenty-five years ago today … James Pinkerton annotates Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address "as a way of reminding ourselves what went right, what wrong -- and what changes, still continuing to this day, he set in motion."
- John Samples says: Harry Reid is Right. That's got to be worth a look, in a man-bites-dog sense.
- For the second day in a row, Dafydd has e-mitted a goodie, this time with respect to the "72 hour exception" to the FISA rules, much ballyhooed on the left. He compares the demagogic allegations of Al Gore with the facts brought out by John Hinderaker and Victoria Toensing; Al comes out poorly in comparison.
Protein Wisdom is displeased with Star Jones'
foreign policy thoughts.
… if the Oprahfication of America has taught us anything, there is no "conflict" so complex that it can't be reduced to fears of erectile dsyfunction and then cured by the sobering rhetorical bitchslap of a TV talk diva who has managed massive weight loss.Asking the Google about the Oprahfication of America gives 244 hits as I type, an increase of 20 compared to eight days ago. Assuming exponential growth of this meme, this reflects a doubling-rate of about 65 days. (Er, assuming I still know how to do the math.) So we'll check this again around March 26; I'm thinking we'll see slightly less than 500 hits then.
- Diane Keaton writes at the Huffington Post about
"The Upside of Turning 60." Cut-n-pasting
into this word-frequency app
reveals that her essay has 343 words, of which the most
common (23 occurrences) is "I", easily beating second-place "of"
(13 occurrences). There are also 5 occurrences of "my",
4 of "I've", 4 of "myself", 3 of "me", and one lonely "I'd".
She also mentions filming Godfather III—she must have felt those three I's would fit into the overall theme of her essay. I would imagine she pronounces it "Godfather I, I, I."
So y'all can decide for yourselves whether to click on over there.
Civil-libertywise, I've argued that bugging the communications
of suspected terrorists is eminently defensible, even if the
calls have a domestic component; but subpoenaing
the Google for "1 million random Web addresses and records of all
Google searches from any one-week period" isn't. The rationale, such
as it is:
The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.The administration should either give the DOJ something better to do, or downsize them.
If you're feeling in a philosophical mood, Max Borders
at TCS has a article contrasting "natural rights" with "rights by agreement."
He prefers the latter; the article is in response to a
previous one by Ed Feser, which takes the
opposite tack. Both very smart, and if you're into this sort
of thing, they are excellent introduction to the issues.
I am, as always, deeply persuaded by the last thing I read. (My motto: "seems reasonable to me!")
Over at Big Lizards, and semi-related
to the above item, an interesting post from Dafydd about
those who pick political positions from a "Ideological
Crazy Quilt" as opposed to deriving them from sound, core, bedrock
… If a person has no animating principles, he can simply pick one position from column A and two from column B, selecting them based upon expediency, the nature of the Now. The ideological sampler becomes an ideological crazy quilt, "a thing of shreds and patches" hastily stitched together, the banal seascapes sewn right up next to the hellish glimpses of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.And then he quotes Yeats. Damn fine writer, that Dafydd fella.
In this mad worldview, the position du jour is the primary source, and any "principles" must simply be deduced from what the subject does. Sensationalism, sensualism, solipsism, and nihilism are the four main branches of this epistemology; its followers comprise adrenaline junkies, decadent dilettantes, ultimate egoists, and visionaries of the Void. Nowhere is coherence. All is higgledy-piggledy:
I tend toward a more prosaic idea: nearly all real-world politicians have a primary core "animating principle" of obtaining and wielding political power. It's not that they choose principles from a crazy quilt; it's that their other principles can easily be trimmed or jettisoned in service to their primary desire of getting elected, or otherwise making decisions for other people.
- In the sysadmin universe, when an unexplained network outage occurs, it's common to quip: backhoe musta cut the fiber. But according to a recent Slashdot story, it's not a joke, it's actually pretty common: The Backhoe, The Internet's Natural Enemy.
- Stuart Buck has the goods on the all-powerful president assuming monarchial powers, refusing to enforce legislation passed by Congress! But: oops, wrong president.
Maybe someday I will shut up about 24. But not today,
as there is a pretty good article at Slate where James Surowiecki
writer Michael Loceff.
Once, just once, I'd like to hear the following dialog on the show:
"I'm kind of busy. Can this wait until tomorrow?"
"Oh, sure. Sorry."
Could be worse. I could be an American Idol fan.
Added to the linklist at right: the rabid Ankle-Biting
Pundits; the gentle libertarian philosopher/economist
the Liberty and Power
blog at History News Network; and two blogs I think
are based up in the lakes region of the great state of New Hampshire: Weekend Pundit amd
John Stark Review.
Any blog named after John Stark is an automatic must-read for me.
Brief history lesson for non-NHers: John Stark is the source for our state motto "Live Free or Die." Which, quite frankly, is the best state motto. (Maryland: "Fatti maschii, parole femine." Roughly translated: "the guys do stuff while the ladies talk." C'mon.)
With Michelle Damon gone to the Dark Side with her husband Johnny,
Surviving Grady is casting around for an appropriate
substitute for the upcoming
Red Sox season. Their candidate:
In a wish-I'd-written, they point out, accurately:
"she's one of the reasons God invented
As Jerry Remy might say: good call.
(Warning: guys, it contains a picture that is only
semi-safe for work, and if you're married, might be risky at home
And Michelle Damon, is not, I repeat not an ex-stripper. Despite anything you may have heard, or seen with your own eyes.
- Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek muses on the pictures that don't make it into the New York Times.
- William Tucker at the American Spectator impressively recounts the long history of the Roger Keith Coleman death penalty case in Virginia. This is the one where very belated DNA testing reaffirmed the guilty verdict; good thing, too, since Coleman was executed back in 1992.
La Shawn Barber predicts disparate treatment
for remarks made by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in reference to
God's predliliction for unleashing misfortune
on those who displease
Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.
Pun Salad is all about color-blindness, so we'll merely repeat the trite comment we made a few days back in reference to Pat Robertson: God save us from those who claim to know the mind and methods of God.
Among those using MLK day to take partisan shots: Hillary "Cattle
at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. Via Michelle (ma belle), we get a choice quote:
Mrs. Clinton added that the House has been "run like a plantation" under Republicans. "And you know what I am talking about," she said. "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary point of view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument."Sure, Hillary, that was the problem on the typical plantation. Democratic Congressmen—treated exactly like slaves in Dubya's America!
And have you heard the one about the Nazi history professor at
Fairleigh Dickinson University? If not, Inside Higher Ed
has the story here
and the prof's own story is here.
("Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to be a Neo-Nazi")
The concluding paragraph is … well, I have no words:
In conclusion, if there is any lesson I hope to impart to the historical community, it is that we historians will never grasp history as a felt and sensed discipline without an attempt to live a historical era as the British Romantic Poets lived the joy, and the torment, motivating and rising from their verse.
Thank goodness I am not a member of the historical community. Wonder if there's any way to grasp system administration as a felt and sensed discipline?
Seen in the comment agglomeration for last evening's episode
of 24 at Dave Barry's blog:
Chloe gets more attractive the more people she shoots.One of the great things about the Web: often you get a feeling you can't quite put your finger on; just look around, and someone else will have expressed it better than you ever could.
Your fearless blogger, being a University employee, was of course home today. And channel-surfing. And, as fate would have it, I hit C-SPAN at high noon, right when Al Gore was about to speak at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. ("So let me get this straight. They don't let Marian Anderson sing, but do let Al Gore speak. What's up with that?")
A Tiny Voice then whispered in my ear: "A diligent, respectable blogger who even pretends to be interested in political issues would watch this and blog about it."
So I did. Damn that Tiny Voice. Transcipt here.
Ex-congressman Bob Barr was supposed to introduce Gore, but after a long delay it was clear that the video tomfoolery that they had set up to make this possible just wasn't going to work. So the desired air of non-partisanship was dispelled somewhat.
Gore decried what he termed Dubya's "wholesale invasions of privacy." Nobody stood up to ask him if he knew or remembered anything about Echelon. Make no mistake: he has no problems with us shooting terrorists or blowing up al-Qaeda members; he just doesn't think we should tap their phones if they happen to be talking to someone in the USA. That's impermissible.
Gore said "It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored." Also pretty amusing for those of us who remember the phrase "no controlling legal authority".
Oh, and Congress has really gone downhill since he was in it, due to the icky Republicans. And you shouldn't confirm an icky Republican Supreme Court Justice that believes (as far as anyone knows) in a strong Executive branch, as long as the icky Republicans run it. And a bunch of stuff that was pretty much more of the same. This kind of dissipated that whole non-partisan make-believe into thin air.
Thanks much, Tiny Voice. That's an hour of my life I won't be getting back. Maybe I'm not cut out for this kind of blogging …
This is the first Michael Crichton book I've read since The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man back in, well, a long time ago.
The thesis is, roughly speaking, that environmentalists are a bunch of earnest dupes, led by a small group of cynical, greedy, power-hungry activists. OK, so that's probably not too far off from the truth. The (hopefully) fictional part is that the activists are extremely ruthless, willing to sacrifice the lives of many to their higher good, and have also learned how to stage a variety of environmental catastrophes in their spare time, and plan to do so in order to scare the rest of the world into Doing Something Now, for example ratifying the Kyoto Treaty. Our heroes, woefully outnumbered, aim to discover the triggering points for these disasters and thwart them.
You might expect a right-wing laissez-faire troglodyte like me to like this book a lot better. But the characters are (approximately) 2.1-dimensional, spouting predictable, flat dialogue. (One buffoonish character is a thinly-disguised Martin Sheen. I guarantee Martin Sheen won't be playing this role in the movie, but he'd be good.) A lot of didactic passages remind me of good old Ayn Rand. This may be the only novel you ever read with this many footnotes and graphs. The characters careen from one peril to the next: Antarctic crevasses, flash floods in Arizona, targeted lightning bolts, tiny deadly octopi, and South Pacific cannibals. And more. That kind of stuff works better in movies.
But darn it, it is a major page-turner. Crichton knows how to make you want to see what happens next, despite all the groaning you might have to do on the way. The flaws, such as they are, are thouroughly professional flaws; you'll see 'em in just about any mass-marketed prefab best-seller. And when our characters visit Antarctica, you can believe that Crichton's been there, and looked down the crevasses himself.
Crichton's appendix "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous" is very much worth reading. You can (however) read it here. I've previously raved about his talk, "Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century." You can find that, and others, here.
… To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound
("Shed a Little Light", by James Taylor.)
What I don't enjoy about this holiday: the tedious punditry that, as predictably as a skipping record, tries to arrogate the MLK legacy to current political causes. The Boston Globe was always reliable in this regard … lemme see here … ah, it's James Carroll's turn this year:
In honoring King today, America knows full well how far short the nation still falls of the vision he articulated. In the year that he died, a federal commission convened to examine the roots of urban riots declared that the United States was, in fact, two societies, separated by race. Nearly forty years later, that remains true, and it did not take Hurricane Katrina to show it. The effective segregation of schools is as stark as ever. Incarceration rates of African-American males are astronomical. Gunplay in cities overwhelmingly targets young people of color. An institutional triage writes off huge proportions of poor black youth. Among middle and upper classes, social interaction between the races is rare. Even as ''race" has been recognized as an artificial social construct at the service of a dominant class, it remains as much a marker of identity as ever.
Standard lefty boilerplate, pretty much. Even the slightest amount of critical thinking will undermine it.
To focus on a single point: most people who have bothered to look at the issue know that the "gunplay" that "overwhelmingly targets young people of color" is also overwhelmingly from young people of color. Carroll probably knows that too, but to acknowledge that important, but inconvenient, fact would mess up his easy, preachy, narrative.
The primary problem Carroll sees is apparently "complacency." He uses the word five times in a short column, implicitly referring to modern-day white folks who don't buy into the standard-issue racial guilt trip with sufficient gusto. We're supposed to gulp, I suppose, and say mea culpa.
But the real complacency is Carroll's, I think. Comfortable in the liberal cocoon and self-soothed by morally-superior memories of his participation in sixties-era "struggles", he doesn't have to think too hard about the current realities of black-on-black crime, or come up with any actual solutions, beyond finger-pointing.
Also note Carroll's playing of the Katrina card; it's now enshrined as part of the progressive lexicon as a telling example of white indifference to black woe. But, also on today's Globe op-ed page, Cathy Young demolishes what she calls "Katrina's racial paranoia." She also points out how this durable myth may wind up hurting African-Americans in the future.
So let's be optimistic on Martin Luther King day: Carroll's stuck in the past. People like Cathy Young are the future.
This movie got pretty dismal reviews (40% on the Tomatometer) and a lackluster 6.8 IMDB rating. But I liked it quite a bit. You probably know the sci-fi premise already, but if you don't you won't get it here: just get it and watch. It's kind of fun figuring out what's really going on at the THX1138-style beginning.
About 45 minutes into the movie, though, it's completely clear to everyone what's going on, and the movie turns from what might have been Thoughtful Social Commentary into Big Loud Dumb Fun Action Thriller. And, frankly, that's probably for the best. Long stretches where the dialog is mainly: Run! Get down! They're over there! This way! Take 'em out! Aieee! But it's still pretty good, even then, because the movie has taken its time about making the characters believable and sympathetic.
The actors are top-notch, better than the movie really calls for: Ewan MacGregor, Scarlett Johannson (very easy to watch), Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean at his slimiest, and the always fantastic Steve Buscemi in a brief but important role. (Also Shawnee Smith, previously seen in Saw.)
Just sent an e-missive to my Congresscritter, Jeb Bradley:
I hope you'll vote for John Shadegg for Majority Leader. For purposes of distancing the Republican Party from scandal and undue influence, and bringing it back to the ideals of smaller Federal government and spending restraint, he seems like the best choice.
… so we'll see how that works out. More info at Instapundit.
I wouldn't have expected Catherine Seipp to write about
Richard Feynman, but she did, and the results
What you don't necessarily get about Feynman from reading about him: he was utterly unpretentious, and talked like a Brooklyn cabdriver. If you didn't know he was a genius, you wouldn't pick it up from his mannerisms. I sat next to him at dinner once, and (since it was expected of those in such a setting) I asked him a physics question. Which, by the way, I now realize was not a very smart question, and I'm too embarrassed about that to repeat it. He answered my dumb question, however, with grace, clarity, and detail. One of life's high points.
Update: So I'm reading Instapundit, and—holy crap—he's quoted and linked to this entry. As I've seen on other blogs, but never quite imagined I'd ever type: Welcome, Instapundit readers. Thanks to Glenn. I am not worthy.
- Glenn Harlan Reynolds, pbuh, has a reaction essay to Jaron Lanier; Glenn is much kinder to Jaron than Eric Raymond, was, mainly because he focuses on points where he and Lanier concur.
Radley Balko lists the "pettiest, silliest, most intrusive, God-awfullest
legislation set for either a vote, or set to take effect this month"
in the great state of New Hampshire.
Remote control toy boats may soon be required to obey the same speed limits as lifesize watercraft. Bonus points to the lawmaker who introduced this one for invoking "the children" in urging its enactment.Also, peonage is apparently enough of a threat here in New Hampshire to make our legistators introduce a bill to ban that (here, not in Massachusetts, as Radley incorrectly states).
The pumpkin as state fruit? Why not? Obviously this will mend a glaring hole in our panoply of state symbols.
Although Radley doesn't provide a link, his article is apparently based on this Boston Globe article. None of the laws have been passed, looks like they're all currently in committee, and who knows what will happen, although I'd wager a small sum that the answer is "nothing" in most cases.
My personal favorite, not mentioned by Radley: straight ahead on red! Vroom! Live Free or Dieeeeee!
And in the wish-I'd-written Department, we have Joel
I don't want to make too much of this James Frey case, and get all hysterical and high-horsey and sanctimonious. But any ethical person would find the whole thing to be a harbinger of the end of Western Civilization.After a decent period elapses, I might steal that. (The rest is good too, go read.)
- Would-be playwright Roger L. Simon pens a brief Beckettesque scene inspired by the Alito hearings and the generated headlines.
The always-perceptive Ann Althouse points to a New York Times
article about "indigo children" which—literally—must be read to be disbelived.
Indigo children were first described in the 1970's by a San Diego parapsychologist, Nancy Ann Tappe, who noticed the emergence of children with an indigo aura, a vibrational color she had never seen before. This color, she reasoned, coincided with a new consciousness.
Oh. Sure. Are you sure "reasoned" is the right word to use there?
The Pun Daughter is a Serious Reader, and had read the
best-selling, but factually-challenged,
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.
She loved it. I'd rather not think too hard about why.
So I pointed her to the (by now well-known) Frey exposé at the Smoking Gun website to her. She was outraged! But at the Smoking Gun. ("I had to stop reading," she said. "It was so mean!")
And she's apparently not alone. Andrew Sullivan watched Frey on Larry King last night, and deemed it "the best television I've seen in forever." The Oprah called in! Andrew's brief one-paragraph take on the utterly bizarre experience is much worth reading.
In related news, asking the Google about the Oprahfication of America gives 224 hits as I type. This number will only go up.
Freakonomicist Steve Levitt also comments on Frey:
My suggestion is that the next printing should just call it fiction. It is a great book, it just isn't non-fiction. I still will make my kids read it when they are 15.
15? OK, then!
But never mind that, because my close personal friend Dave Barry
has posted a quick refresher on what happened last season on 24
and speculation on what's in store for this season. The phrase "hot new
girlfriend" is key.
All true geeks know, however, that it's extremely unlikely Jack's new girlfriend will be as hot as Chloe.
Nicole Kidman plays Silvia, who used to live in the fictional African country of Matobo, until most of her family was killed; now she's a translator at the UN. There, she overhears an assassination plot against Motobo's murderous dictator. She dutifully reports this to Secret Service Agent Tobin, played by Sean Penn, who morosely checks it out. (He's morose because his wife was unfaithful, and is now dead.)
It's not the most riveting of movies. It tries to make up for it by being extremely earnest. I think I missed a few minutes slumbering. And it's set in the Fantasyland where the UN is actually interested in doing something about murderous African dictators. Usually in these movies there's a shocking twist where you find out what's really going on; I think I must have missed that. But that's OK.
But thanks to the IMDB I can report one bit of dialog I liked: Silvia is taking a polygraph test. She asks: "When will I know the results?" Tobin replies without hesitation: "Straight away. You know when you're lying, don't you?" Heh.
If you're interested in how Alito's confirmation
hearings are going, Prof Bainbridge should
be one of your primary go-tos. Just click and start scrollin'.
But two nuggets I especially liked: this one
(to which everyone's been linking, because it's hilarious)
and this (more serious) one that describes
why the Democrats are having such a hard time getting traction
with their critical questioning:
… even I know that a basic rule of examining a witness is to [let the] witness talk. In order to hang a witness, after all, you've got to give him enough rope. Instead of letting Alito talk and, perhaps, twist slowly in the wind, the Democrats (and the GOP too, of course) simply can't shut up.Fortunately or not, asking a Senator to be brief is somewhat akin in difficulty to asking a cat to chirp like a canary. AnkleBitingPundits has actually (and with a certain amount of glee) done the math.
is back after a couple weeks of
light posting. Especially good is yesterday's Spanning the
Globe, in which the phrase "the fashionable Boston suburb of Fall
River" is used. This made milk come out of my nose—and I wasn't
even drinking milk. (Mrs. Salad is from Fall River. We used to
go there all the time. With any luck,
we'll never have to go back.)
Also good is his mention of Kate O'Beirne's Women Who Make the World Worse and his noting of the major snitfest it caused at the Kos site.
One of the things that makes liberals so much fun to goad is it's so damn easy and so damn predictable.So damn true, in my humble experience.
Eric Raymond's reply to the previously-mentioned Jaron Lanier's Cato Unbound
essay is up and running. Lead para:
I'm finding it difficult to reply to Jaron Lanier's essay, because I'm finding it difficult to extract an actual point from the text.Devoted Pun Salad readers will recall my own reaction was similar.
Declan McCullagh points with alarm at a new law that says
"annoying someone via the Internet is now a Federal crime".
If you're like me, … well, if you're like me, I guess I'll be
seeing you in the federal pen.
But Orin Kerr says: hey, wait a minute.
This is just the perfect blogosphere story, isn't it? It combines threats to bloggers with government incompetence and Big Brother, all wrapped up and tied togther with a little bow. … Skeptical readers will be shocked, shocked to know that the truth is quite different.Go read Orin, and then go back to annoying people on the Internet.
Addendum: woops, not so fast there. Prof Volokh is more concerned about the new law than is Orin.
Speaking of annoyances, one Stephen Schlesinger has penned a short blurb
at the Huffington Post entitled How Extensive Was the Eavesdropping?. Sample:
Given the Nixonian-type tricks committed by this administration toward Democrats over the past five years (e.g., the Swift Boat attack on Senator Kerry's presidential campaign), one thought instantly springs to mind -- was it possible that the NSA was inadvertantly or deliberately being used to intercept conversations of Democrats -- not terrorists -- to find out what they were planning to do to counter the policies of Bush and his party? Or, alternatively, is it possible …Yes, it's an entire post consisting of hot-button evidence-free speculation and innuendo. Swift Boats! Nixon! Rove! Apparently, Schlesinger and his cohort are beginning to realize there's not a lot of political mileage to be gained from what Dubya and the NSA actually did. So let's now get incensed about what we fantasize they might have done. Pathetic.
Russell Roberts of Cafe Hayek was bugged by a WaPo op-ed
by Harold Meyerson, which contained the comment
In today's America, where business has largely abandoned the guarantees of security it used to provide its employees, a similar abdication by government was clearly not what the public sought.Russell observes: "You do hear the claim all the time. But is it true?" He points to yesterday's Sebastian Mallaby column, also in the Post, which asserts, plausibly, that evidence for the claim is "slight". (You might also want to see Russell's first post about Meyerson's column here.)
For the pervasive insecurity that is inextricably part of today's capitalism has become the dominant fact of modern life.
- And the Torch detects hypocrisy at the American Historical Association. Kind of like detecting silicone at the Emmys, but still worth reading.
Pun Salad, now with new and improved ISO 8601 formats for dates! Assuming I remember to do that from here on out.
- This t-shirt speaks volumes about the wearer's impressive courage and sense of humor. And she's also pretty easy on the eyes.
Lileks' Bleat is always worth reading, but you really must
check out today's graphic, which will make any non-Photoshop
wizard say: how the heck did he do that?. Also has a
wish-I'd-written on the spam messages that slip by
They're all for mortgages. Yes, nothing cements my confidence in an online mortgage provider like a letter whose misspellings are intentional attempts to defeat my filters.Excellent point, and not only because I've often thought the same thing. How effective can it possibly be to send intentionally-misspelled spam like that? Doesn't it just scream "dishonest scam" to any sentinent reader?
Anyway, Lileks has an ideal penalty for spammers, illustrated.
If you want to have your thoughts provoked, Jaron Lanier has
an essay over at "Cato Unbound". Title: "The Gory Antigora: Illusions of Capitalism and Computers."
Responses are promised from Eric Raymond, John Perry Barlow, Glenn
Reynolds, and David Gelernter.
Myself: I don't really get Lanier's point. It doesn't help that Lanier's writing style is rambling and pretentious. When he makes a point I understand, it seems either (a) trivial when shorn of fancy language ("Human cognition has been finely tuned in the deep time of evolution for continuous interaction with the world." Duh.) or (b) wrong ("As it happens, I dislike UNIX and its kin because it is based on the premise that people should interact with computers through a 'command line.'" I don't think UNIX has a single premise, and in any case, that's not one of them.)
If you don't want to wait for the Raymond/Reynolds/Barlow/Gelernter responses, Slashdot has an article, and the comments there, as always, vary widely in quality. Many people seem dubious.
- Note that yesterday's decision to refer to myself only in the third person has been jettisoned today. What was I thinking?
anti-Alito editorial is evidence (according to Ed Whelan) that the writer is "just plain
stupid as well as dishonest." Stuart Buck is more charitable,
deeming it merely "quite unfair." (But Pun Salad is
pretty sure a previous version of the post deemed it
a "flat-out lie."). Ann Althouse is content merely to
that the NYT's current seemingly "open-minded"
editorial position on Alito will be followed up
with a post-hearing opposition, following the
model they established with John Roberts.
Addendum: Prof Bainbridge fills in the missing context from the NYT editorial.
In the meantime, the Saturday edition of our local paper, Foster's
Daily Democrat, essentially reprinted a press release from
the anti-Alito folks, devoting about
650 words and a picture
to their recent activism in York, Maine. Unintentional humor: the
activism consisted of three (count 'em, three) people standing
by the road waving signs. The "reporter" didn't even bother to
nail down the day of this massive protest. But he did manage to
report their allegations about Alito without checking for accuracy
or seeking alternative views.
For example, one activist speculated that Alito might vote to uphold New Hampshire's parental-notification law in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The reporter simply repeated this, apparently unaware that new Supreme Court justices traditionally do not participate in decisions on cases already argued.
But the paper was happy to publish URLs to the activists' various websites.
(Free registration is apparently required at the Foster's website if you want to read this sterling example of journalism online.)
- Joe Malchow unloads upon the race question on college admissions forms as Pun Salad did here. Also commenting: Discriminations and Todd Zywicki at Volokh.
- Yes, as you may have noticed from
the previous items,
Pun Salad has decided to start referring to itself in the third
person. Doug Giles points this out as a danger
sign of … something involving bulldogs and poodles. Pun Salad, frankly,
doesn't understand it, but it sounds bad. Therefore, it shall be
only done ironically; remember, Pun Salad is only pretending to be
annoying and pretentious. (As they
say: I'm just keeeeeeding!)
Coming soon: parenthetical comments from an imaginary editor. All the cool bloggers do that. [You mean like this?-ed. Yes. But I said "coming soon," not now.]
- God save us from those who claim to know the mind and methods of God.
- Are you a Communist dictator trying to prevent dangerous ideas about freedom and democracy from getting into your country? Hey, you've got a willing partner at Microsoft.
- The Florida Supreme Court (SCOFLA) struck down the state's school voucher program; Ted Frank at Point of Law doesn't think much of the decision, which, Ted says, was reached "by manufacturing a nonsensical interpretation of a state constitutional clause out of thin air." Constrained Katie has more.
- Are your phone records for sale? Find out the exciting answer in this Chicago Sun-Times story headlined "Your phone records are for sale".
[And now for something completely different … ]
A lively subculture debates Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Asking the Google
about "'Death Star' vs. Enterprise" gives 42,600 hits.
Most seem to think the Death Star would win in a walk. But (dude!) just look at the screen history: Death Stars had two appearances, and a pretty mangy crew of Rebels blew it up both times. The Enterprise (in its various forms) has been in dozens of serious shoot-'em-ups, and always manages to come out on top (albeit blowing itself up once, in Search for Spock, and a post-victory crashlanding in Generations).
In short: the Enterprise guys always seem to find a way to win; the Death Star guys always seem to find a way to lose. Smart money's on the Enterprise.
The main question here: why did anyone feel the need to remake The Longest Yard? It doesn't have much new to say. Many of the scenes, and a lot of the jokes, are exact duplicates of the 1974 movie.
("The 1974 movie." As in, nearly a third of a century ago. Egads, I feel old.)
Nevertheless, they did remake it, and the result is OK, once you get beyond the inherent unbelievability of Adam Sandler as an ex-NFL quarterback. Burt Reynolds returns, playing the older movie's Mike Conrad role. ("Let's be careful out there.") I've always been a big Ed Lauter fan (honest) and he's back too, as one of the warden's golfing buddies. (Quick recap: James Cromwell plays the Eddie Albert role; Cloris Leachman plays the Bernadette Peters role; Chris Rock plays the James Hampton role; William Fichtner plays the Ed Lauter role; Courtney Cox plays the Anitra Ford role; Dalip Singh plays the Richard Kiel role very convincingly.)
But if you have to see only one version of this movie, see the older one.
I almost gave this another half star simply for Courtney Cox's dress. Uh, I don't believe she had those in Friends, friends.
Deep thoughts from Marginal Revolution,
pointing to this year's Edge Annual Question.
Which is (from Stephen Pinker):
WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?It really is good thought-provokin' reading. One hundred nineteen people give their answers. Among them: Paul Bloom, Paul Davies, Paul Ewald, Paul Steinhardt, John Allen Paulos, the aforementioned Stephen Pinker, and Michael Nesmith.
The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?
For you youngsters saying "Michael Nesmith? Who dat?": see, in the Sixties, there was this TV show called The Monkees, and Michael Nesmith was … oh, never mind. Anyway, Michael's "Idea" is not so much Dangerous as it is Incomprehensible. But you might like it. And there's a small picture of what he looks like these days, very respectable.
Via Dartblog, a great post
from Coyote Blog that describes "huge land mines" that lie in wait should
Democrats get serious about using "privacy" as an "organizing theme"
for future campaigns, as some suggest they should.
One decent-sized quibble: Coyote is really talking
more about general libertarian issues than (specifically)
privacy rights. But his general
idea is correct: both major parties are pretty bad on libertarian
issues; if they were to start taking more libertarian stances on some
issues, it leaves them wide open for criticism for not taking
libertarian stances on other issues. Unfortunately, history says
hypocrisy, inconsistency, and
maybe don't matter a lot to voters.
And if Democrats start claiming that "privacy" includes your right to have unmonitored phone chats with al-Qaeda operatives in foreign lands? As the Minuteman says: "Good luck. Let us know how that works out in '06."
But hey! If we live under a government infested with hypocrites, does that
make the US a hypocracy? Heh. I made up a new word! I'll be
Asking The Google about "hypocracy" gives (as I type) 306,000 hits; approximately 305,998 are misspellings. Proving that it's tough to come up with an original thought on the Internet these days, one makes the case for the neologism "made up" above. Peter Epps, however, is pretty adamant that it's just illiteracy, and calls the previous link the product of a "doubtlessly moonbattish" person. Oh well. Don't want to be famous for that.
- And—stop me if you've heard it—here's an extremely funny blonde joke.
An interesting article appears at Inside Higher Ed entitled "Identifying the Racial 'Unknowns'". Lead paragraph:
Over the past decade and a half, the number and proportion of college students opting not to reveal their race when asked have shot up, to 5.9 percent of all students in 2001 from 3.2 percent a decade earlier. The increases have raised two major questions: Who are these students, and why are they declining to identify themselves? The answers have implications for college officials and policy makers on a wide range of issues, including affirmative action and student life.You can read the article to find the alleged answer: a "sizeable" number of unknowns are "white." The study that they base the article upon, a 20-page PDF, is here.)
But what's striking about the article (and the study) is the sheer peevish cluelessness aimed at these kids who decline to state their race. How dare they make the lives of diversity-mongers more complex, by refusing to fit themselves into the neat little boxes and classifications designed by well-meaning bureaucrats?
The study is (unfortunately) utterly predictable in its recommendations: more frequent and intrusive questioning of students to determine their "race", standardization of "racial" categories, etc. One wonders why they don't simply advocate mandatory DNA testing of all applicants to get a final, objective measure of their "race".
Because otherwise, you see, we just won't know for sure.
Wouldn't it be nice if—instead of treating these "unknown" students as irritants—Universities would start celebrating the increased number of their customers who maybe want to get beyond the race obsession? Who maybe want to be treated as individuals, not as beans to be counted and pigeonholed by their presumed genetic makeup? Who maybe find the Jim Crow-era notion of "official" racial categories to be utterly odious? Or who maybe just think their genetic "race" is none of their University's fargin' business?
That happy day is not likely to arrive, of course, as long as "college officials and policy makers" can continue to make a good living off of racial classification. As opposed to, say, teaching kids useful, beautiful, and interesting stuff without regard to their nose-color.
- James Joyner has a Good Article at TCS Daily on the Markos Moulitsas rant I mentioned yesterday. The title is "The Triumph of 'Angry and Stupid'".
- Long long ago, when I was working at ComputerLand in Rockville Maryland, I sold James Galbraith (son of John Kenneth) an Apple ][ computer. A nice guy, but ever since then, when his name has cropped up in various publications, I've been invariably disappointed. Latest data point is his Mother Jones column, in which he tries to link that icky non-scientific "Intelligent Design" with Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand", and (by extension) anyone else who has a laissez-faire bent. This nonsense is ably dissected at TCS Daily by Max Borders.
From the I-didn't-know-that file,
Ann Althouse reveals: Dion married "Runaround Sue." They're still
married. This unusual behavior
is in contrast to, say, Johnny Cash.
If your reaction to this item is: "Dion? You mean Celine Dion? Married someone named Sue?" Just move along to the next item, youngster.
Matthew Hoy points to a column by Bob Unger, editor of the (New Bedford, MA)
Standard-Times, which originally
broke the phony story of a UMass-Dartmouth
student being questioned by Homeland Security agents for having
the temerity to request Quotations from Chairman Mao
via Interlibrary Loan. Gullibility, paranoia, and Bush Derangement
Syndrome seem to have played major roles on all levels.
Quibble: Matthew thinks the student's identity should be revealed; I tend to think otherwise. The student's crime was in bullshitting his professors, which is bad, but he almost certainly didn't forsee his fib would be blown all over the Internet.
At the Corner, Byron York has unearthed
an article from "enormously influential left-wing blogger Markos
Moulitsas." Moulitsas's rant will no doubt be extensively quoted on
the blogosphere's right side, because it's totally wacko. The article,
titled "Why are conservatives so afraid?", has the thesis that
anti-terrorist actions of the Bush administration are based entirely on
These blowhards pretend they are macho even as they piddle on themselves in abject terror from every "boo!" that comes out of Osama Bin Laden's mouth. They like to speak about how tough they are, even though they send others to fight their battles and couldn't last a day in places like Iraq, or Sudan, or the El Salvador of my youth, or any other war-torn nation.Bottom line: they aren't real men, like, well, Markos Moulitsas.
This spittle-flecked rhetoric is only interesting inasmuch as it illuminates the nature of the American left's continued slide into name-calling irrelevance. They're almost completely reactionary now, defined only by their reflexive hatred of Bush, and anyone who ever agrees with him. (You might be able to find examples of this on the right side of the net as well, but I doubt whether those examples would approach Moulitsas's prominence.)
It is obviously extremely important for the Kossites to brand their opponents as cowards. Why? I suspect it's because they've lost every other argument. If your only alternatives are (a) abusive, unprovable, and irrelevant ad hominem, or (b) not saying anything at all … well, it's clear what path Moulitsas has chosen.
Horsefeathers salutes Denzel Washington. Read the article, you will too. (UPDATE (1/4/2006): An old Usenet ally, Gary Strand, points out that Snopes has a more accurate version of the story.
I should have a sign:
Good story? Check Snopes before repeating.… posted on the top of every screen I use to blog.)
This "thriller" movie is full of arty photography and elliptical dialogue. Both are often without purpose. Aaron Eckhart plays an FBI agent in a professional death-spiral, teetering on the edge of sanity. Carrie-Anne Moss is woefully underused as his partner. Ben Kingsley plays someone who's gone over that sanity-edge thing, but he has pretty good reasons.
The key premise of the movie is literally unbelievable. It takes a real long time to get from beginning to end, and Aaron Eckhart's character spends lot of walking around looking at stuff and eating aspirin. Don't try watching this if you're sleepy. Or do, if you're needing to nap.
This came up on the stereo just now, by sheer coincidence. Since it's day-appropriate, I feel obligated to share:
What we want is a brand new year(Pete Townshend, "New Life"; from The Iron Man: A Musical)
Open your heart and set us free
What we need is a brand new life
We'll decide on our own destiny
What we want is a brand new life
For brother and sister, husband, wife
Single and lonely, living in fear
What we want is a brand new year
Happy New Year, Saladeers! Sorry, I have nothing appropriate to the day: no retrospectives, no resolutions, no predictions. But:
Oh, OK, I lied: my close personal friend Dave Barry has written
only year-in-review article worth reading for the Miami Herald:
It was the Year of the Woman. But not in a good way.
Back in my Usenet days, I commented to the effect that "social justice"
was the type of "justice"
that penalizes people
who haven't done anything wrong, and rewards people who haven't had any
wrong done unto them. In other words: George Orwell, call your office.
Hayek famously titled the middle volume
of his Law, Legislation, and
Liberty trilogy The Mirage of Social Justice.
Unfortunately, despite this devastating criticism from both me and Hayek, this hazy (yet insidious) concept has wormed its way into academe anyway, where it's embraced without criticism. And vague concepts enshrined as policy leave the door open to abuses of power. Tara Sweeney at "The Torch" notes the case of Prof. Thomas Klocek at DePaul University:
At a September 15 activity fair, Klocek got into an argument with some members of two student groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead. Klocek, a religious studies scholar trained at the University of Chicago, expressed informed opinions on the Middle East and the argument grew mutually offensive. DePaul administrators responded by suspending Klocek without a hearing, prohibiting him from contacting the press, and threatening to monitor his classes when he was reinstated.Klocek's dean justified this heavy-handedness by pointing to the fact that DePaul had "defined commitment to social justice as one of its core values."
Tara comments: "Here we see social justice being used as justification for suppressing academic freedom, and as an excuse to bypass any semblance of fairness."
Asking the Google to find the phrase "social justice" at UNH websites reveals a depressingly large number of hits.
- Kausfiles points to yet another instance where the fabled LA Times fact-checking process passed on a bogus report from "sources" as fact. This is fast becoming a dog-bites-man kind of story, isn't it?
And the Public Editor at the New York Times
a difficult time hiding his frustration with his bosses:
THE New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency.Of course, one of the reasons for the stonewall might be that jail time could be involved.
For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making.