Fake Outrage at Mitt Romney

Via Big Lizards we get the story that Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was caught using an Unacceptable Phrase in a recent speech, in reference to his takeover of the Big Dig Project:

The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can," he told a crowd of about 100 supporters in Ames, Iowa.

In case you don't quite see it, the phrase was "tar baby". The story helpfully points out:

Black leaders were outraged at his use of the term, which dates to the 19th century Uncle Remus stories, referring to a doll made of tar that traps Br'er Rabbit. It has come to be known as a way of describing a sticky mess, and has been used as a derogatory term for a black person.
I blogged about this kind of thing back in May when White House press secretary Tony Snow was "caught" using the exact same phrase. Let me (tiresomely) summarize what I've said in the past:
  • It's clear from the context that Romney was using the term in the "sticky mess" sense.

  • While it's no doubt true that the phrase "has been used as a derogatory term for a black person," Romney was (also clearly) not doing that.

  • In fact, those last two points should be—and undoubtedly are—clear to everyone and anyone with a lick of intelligence who thinks about it for more than half a second.

  • Hence the claim that "Black leaders were outraged" is almost certainly a complete falsehood. More accurately: Black leaders decided to pretend they were outraged at Romney's words.

  • Why? Probably to cause exactly the result that occurred: Romney apologized profusely. Many (not all) racial/ethnic "leaders" seem to enjoy displaying faux outrage over "slurs" that everyone knows are imaginary. It's a meaningless symbolic ritual that only serves to boost their egos.

It would be neat if mainstream news sources reported it that way. I'm not holding my breath, though.

It would also be nice if Mitt Romney had enough of a spine to make these points himself. He'd almost certainly gain more votes than he'd lose.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:05 AM EDT
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"Food First" Puts Ideology First

One of my daily reads is BBSpot, because its proprietor has a "Daily Links" feature that often points to the offbeat and interesting. The other day, though, it linked to a page titled "12 Myths About Hunger" from an organization called "Food First." Which, in turn, irritated me enough to generate this blog entry.

A number of the FF "myths" are OK, some even good. But there's a huge festering sore down at Myth 7:

Myth 7:

The Free Market Can End Hunger

Reality: Unfortunately, such a "market-is-good, government-is-bad" formula can never help address the causes of hunger. Such a dogmatic stance misleads us that a society can opt for one or the other, when in fact every economy on earth combines the market and government in allocating resources and distributing goods.

In just a couple sentences, FF demonstrates its own dogmatism, an unwillingness to even consider the merits of the "myth" it's pretending to discuss.

Let's grant FF's blindingly obvious insight that there are no pure examples of either a 100%-market or 100%-statist economy. So? We can't compare the track records of relatively free-market countries versus unfree countries?

Answer: sure we can. And the results are pretty obvious and unambiguous. We'll look at them below, but let's continue with Food First, first:

The market's marvelous efficiencies can only work to eliminate hunger, however, when purchasing power is widely dispersed.

So all those who believe in the usefulness of the market and the necessity of ending hunger must concentrate on promoting not the market, but the consumers!

In all of the myth-analysis, this is only one of two exclamations; FF must find this to be an especially powerful point. And, in the trivial sense that it's better for consumers to have money than to not have money, it's correct. But it turns out that FF only sees one way this can happen, through the visible fist of a Robin-Hood state:
In this task, government has a vital role to play in countering the tendency toward economic concentration, through genuine tax, credit, and land reforms to disperse buying power toward the poor. Recent trends toward privatization and de-regulation are most definitely not the answer.
In short, FF puts its blind faith in government to somehow determine the "right" amount of expropriation (which they euphemize as "land reform" and efforts to "disperse buying power".) Needless to say, they are silent on any example of this actually working anywhere.

A good antidote to FF's socialist hand-waving is found in the report Economic Freedom of the World report from the Fraser Institute. They crunch an impressive amount of actual data, and their conclusions are convincing. Here's an incomplete list:

  • Countries with more economic freedom have substantially higher per-capita incomes.

  • Countries with more economic freedom have higher growth rates.

  • Countries with more economic freedom have higher levels of investment per capita.

  • Countries with more economic freedom have lower levels of unemployment.

  • Life expectancy is over 25 years longer in countries with the most economic freedom than it is in those with the least.

  • The amount, as opposed to the share, of income going to the poorest 10% of the population is much greater in nations with the most economic freedom than it is in those with the least.

  • Infant mortality is much lower in countries with high levels of economic freedom.

  • Adult mortality is much lower in countries with high levels of economic freedom.

  • The incidence of child labor declines as economic freedom increases.

  • Access to improved water increases with economic freedom..

  • More economic freedom is related to greater "human development" as measured by the United Nations.

  • More economic freedom is related to less "human poverty" as measured by the United Nations.

  • With fewer regulations, taxes, and tariffs, economic freedom reduces the opportunities for corruption on the part of public officials.

Bottom line: if you really care about getting large masses of people out of poverty and misery, history demonstrates the single most effective tool is a healthy dose of economic liberty.

It is hard to believe that groups like FF are totally unaware of that. So why are thy so down on the free market? I think a clue is in their mission statement:

The purpose of the Institute for Food and Development Policy - Food First - is to eliminate the injustices that cause hunger.
Ah. FF's true battle is against (ideologically-defined) "injustice". Poverty and misery—not so much.

Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:07 AM EDT
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UNH's Very Own Conspiracy Theorist Speaks Out

UNH professor William Woodward recently penned a incoherent and rambling op-ed in our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. (Free registration may be required.) Entitled "U.S. urged to suspend support for Israel," it is a one-sided screed that blames Israel for, well, everything. Hamas/Hezbollah terror is airbrushed as "understandable in this context." It's an unfocused paste-together of recycled and tired anti-Israel propaganda and slogans.

What really stood out for me, though, was the tagline:

William R. Woodward is a Quaker, a professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire and a member of Seacoast Peace Response and N.H. Peace Action.
Foster's didn't see fit to mention that Professor Woodward is also a member of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth", a lunatic conspiracy group that holds (among other things) that the World Trade Center was brought down by "controlled demolitions" and that 9/11 "may have been orchestrated by elements within the administration to manipulate Americans."

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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-27

  • Say you're a famous New York Times reporter, and you want to talk to New Hampshire's Secretary of State, William Gardner, about the scheduling of the the state's 2008 Presidential Primary. Well, you'd just find the number for a William Gardner somewhere in New Hampshire, right? I mean, in such a dinky state, there couldn't be more than one guy named William Gardner, right?

  • Via Inside Higher Ed: it's being reported that Gregg Turner, former math professor at New Mexico Highlands University has been given $170,000 by the university to (essentially) "please go away without suing us." This follows closely upon payment of $200,000 to former university president Manny Aragon for a similar reason.

    Based on information from a previous story, this makes over $300,000 that NMHU has paid out largely in "diversity"-related lawsuits.

    I haven't mentioned this before, and I haven't noticed anyone else make this connection, but I think this Gregg Turner is the same Gregg Turner who founded the "Angry Samoans" rock band, and was more recently a member of the "Blood Drained Cows". (So, in case it immediately occurred to you that those would both be great names for rock bands: you're corrrect.)

    Gregg (I'm pretty sure the same Gregg) is also kind of a spittle-flecked lefty moonbat. On the Lamont/Lieberman tussle down in CT:

    Defeating Lieberwhore will fire a salvo that could, in turn, detonate the status quo and consolidation of constipated power. I encourage everyone with a whisper of conscience and a ray of expectation that things might turn around, to make, in some substantive way, their presence felt in this primary contest. "If Hitler's Cock could choose it's mate, it would ask for Sharon Tate!" Again, perspicacious those sushi napkins from '81: we gotta get rid of Sharon Tate and send Ned Lamont to the Senate. When that sewage is cleaned up, we deal with Hillary and Feinstein, Biden et al, take back the Democratic party, incarcerate Bush and Cheney and send the rest of the Republican gestapo to day camps with continuous LSD force feeds a la WILD IN THE STREETS... I dream big.
    Of course, maybe he's a really good math teacher. Anyway, he's got some walkaround money now.

  • Tomorrow, June 28, is System Administrator Appreciation Day. I'm giving you advance warning so you can go out and buy the balloons and party hats. As they say: "If you can read this, thank your sysadmin."


Last Modified 2007-04-18 4:20 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-26

  • Another day, another whiny demand for more government money. Specifically, Sui Lang Panoke, a "first-year graduate student at American University working toward a master's degree in public administration" writes a WaPo op-ed, advocating a "federal need-based grant program for graduate students."

    Read that, then read Neal McCluskey at Cato@Liberty to see Ms. Panoke's argument sliced and diced.

    But I'll add a tidbit of my own. Ms. Panoke states:

    We are failing to redistribute the wealth in America, and the divide between the upper and lower classes is widening.
    But Ms. Panoke's imagined program pretty clearly redistributes the wealth upward, by taking the taxes of ordinary Joes and Janes and dumping them more or less directly into the pockets of university personnel, who are far from the downtrodden "lower classes". Ms. Panoke might herself be vaulted out of the "lower classes" once she gets her MPA, but I'm darned if I can see why this should happen on the taxpayer dime.

  • Via BBSpot, check out the 95 Theses of Geek Activism if you're a geek. Maybe even if you're not a geek, but nevertheless aspire. I don't agree with everything, and you probably won't either, but it's very good anyway.

  • Speaking of geeks: Jeopardy! all-time champ Ken Jennings has a oddball sense of humor that not everyone appreciates. (See, for example, this clue-impaired story at the WaPo. Idjits.) I sympathize, sometimes I find myself in that boat. There is nothing, for example, like having someone take one of your jokes as a grave personal insult, and complain to your boss about it.

    Ken is also very perceptive.

  • Finally, a fish story, as the people of Freeport, Maine are defended against the dread Koi menace. They may want to think about changing their town's name from "Freeport" to "Unfreeport". (Via theAgitator.)


Last Modified 2007-04-18 4:21 PM EDT
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Bradley Impresses

Despite getting recent mediocre report cards from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste and the Club For Growth, my local Congressman, Jeb Bradley, has recently scored a perfect 19-for-19 record voting for the anti-pork "Flake Amendments" as pointed out by Andrew Roth at Club for Growth. He's one of only 21 (by my count) to have gotten a perfect score on this measure. So good for him.

Maybe all that cranky e-mail I've been sending him had some effect.

Anyway, if you'd prefer your own Congressman to vote against pork, check out Andrew's list, and be prepared to cheer, or weep. (And if you blog about it, and you're a shameless link whore like me, you can let Andrew know, and he'll link back to you.)


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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-25

  • I've been successfully nagged by close relatives and health professionals to undertake regular gym trips. Greg Mankiw brings his skeptical economist's eye to the claims about exercise's benefits. He quotes an NYT article:
    Over all, each hour spent exercising (up to 30 hours a week) adds about two hours to a person's life expectancy, according to the Harvard Alumni Study, which has tracked deaths among 17,000 men for more than two decades.
    You should check what Greg says about this, but he doesn't mention what really stood out: 30 hours a week! That's three-quarters of a fulltime job! Do a lot of Harvard alumni really have that kind of free time?

    Of course, if I'm reading this right, they only looked at dead Harvard alumni … anyway, maybe I'll skip the gym tonight.

  • Bryan Caplan went to Comic-Con. Among other things, he reports this q-and-a between Samuel L. Jackson and a fan in the crowd about the upcoming movie Snakes on a Plane:
    Audience Member: But is the behavior of the snakes at all... realistic? Is that really what snakes on a plane would do?

    6,500 Fans in Unison: Boo! Boo!

    Jackson Are you high? Because we asked every [expletive] snake expert in the world, and every [expletive] one of them said that this is EXACTLY what snakes on a plane would do!

    So there you go. It's a scientifically accurate must-see, like March of the Penguins.

  • According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, at Elon University, they apparently have psych profs teach freshman about "globalization." (No word on whether they have math profs teaching poetry.) Dan Drezner deems the article "one of the more useless acts of self-flagellation about globalization I've seen in quite a while." Very much worth reading, and sufficient reason to attend Tufts over Elon, if you're in the position to make that choice.


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Observations on a Small Town Paper

[Rep Murtha in NH]

Our hometown newspaper, Fosters Daily Democrat, wrote up (FRR) Congressman John Murtha's recent visit to a Hampton Falls, NH fundraiser for the local Democratic Party.

Observation One: judging by the picture they ran, someone at Fosters seems to be unfond of Congressman Murtha. (It was black and white in the print edition, which didn't improve it.)

Observation Two: from the article:

Murtha was not alone in addressing the crowd, which also included three candidates looking to unseat Congressman Judd Gregg in November, should they make it through the September primary.

The candidates are, in fact, hoping to replace Jeb Bradley, who's was first elected to this seat in 2002. Judd Gregg is currently one of NH's US Senators, who still has over four years to go in his current term. Guess Fosters' editors took a long weekend.

Observation Three: all three Democratic candidates present put themselves firmly on the record in favor of Murtha's "run away" strategy in Iraq.

Interestingly, Fosters contradicts the Boston Globe's story on this, with respect to one of the candidates, Jim Craig. Here's Fosters:

Manchester native Jim Craig was the last of the congressional candidates to speak. Craig said after hearing Murtha's message from the Congressman himself, he supports his plans and the redeployment of the troops.

and here's the Globe:

Not all local Democrats side with Murtha's call for a deadline to withdraw, including state Rep. Jim Craig who is running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District.

So, what's the story here, Jim? Is your position on Iraq really so confusing (or, um, fluid) that two reporters came away with opposite impressions?

(The Globe link is via Raven, who's really unfond of Murtha, and will use borderline PG-13 language to tell you so.)


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:25 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-24

  • Gene Expression interviews Charles Murray. A number of questions deal with his latest book, In Our Hands, about which I blogged here.

  • Neal McCluskey from Cato@Liberty casts a skeptical eye at whether you really need a postsecondary degree to get a good job, quoting conflicting sources. Sage advice, mixed with a little cynicism:
    The reality is that no one knows: As politicians and economic forecasters have proven time and again, with billions of people worldwide conducting countless business transactions all the time, no one can predict with any certainty what the future will hold. We can, however, confidently predict one thing: Denizens of the ivory tower will themselves get better jobs when increasing numbers of people consume their products, and when politicians give them ever-greater amounts of taxpayer money.These facts, more than anything else, should make everyone suspicious of ubiquitous college-or-bust predictions.
  • Hey, did you hear the joke about the Nobel Peace Prize winner who said she wants to assassinate President Bush?

    Sorry, that wasn't funny.


Last Modified 2008-05-20 2:48 PM EDT
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Congressional Report Cards

Via Hit&Run, two lonely-voice-of-sanity organizations have issued their Congressional "report cards" for last year, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste and the Club For Growth. You'll want to git on over to those sites and be prepared to fire off e-praise or e-vitriol to your elected representatives.

In my case, I was mostly pleasantly surprised: CCGAW rated New Hampshire's delegation at 74%, tied with Oklahoma for first place. (Not surprisingly, Massachusetts came in with the lowest score, 10%, with Vermont tied with North Dakota as second-worst at 11%.) Senators Sununu and Gregg scored 95% and 75%, respectively. Congressman Jeb Bradley came in at a needs-improvement 62%, below average for Republicans (73%)

Turning to the Club for Growth: Senator Sununu scored 100%, in a three-way tie (with Sens DeMint and Kyl) for first place. We'll award him a gold star. Heck, make it two. Senator Gregg scored only a 99%. And, finally, Congressman Bradley got only a 55% from CfG, putting him in 157th place in the House.

I think I'll drop Jeb a note encouraging him to do better. A good rule of thumb seems to be: check how Dennis Kucinich is voting, and go the other way.


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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

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

This movie stars, and was directed by, Tommy Lee Jones. It's a little arty for me, maybe a tad pretentious too. For example, in case we missed the point of the title The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, each burial is announced with a bilingual title card.

But anyway, Tommy Lee plays Pete, friend of the eponymous Melquiades. Melquiades winds up dead in the first few minutes of the movie, the victim of negligent homicide. Complicating things: (1) Pete has promised Melquiades that he would return him to his home town in Mexico for burial; (2) the local legal authorities aren't very interested in bringing the killer to trial. So Pete sets out to keep his promise and administer some impromptu justice.

I'm not sure if I was supposed to laugh at the hijinks involved in all this, but I did so in a couple of places.

Fans of The Band may want to avoid this, because Levon Helm is in it, and doesn't look very good at all.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:32 PM EDT
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The Man Who Invented Florida

[Amazon Link]

Another wonderful entry (number three) in Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series.

Doc plays a relatively minor role in this one, though; he's got his research to do. The crime and intrigue from the first two books are absent. The focus, instead, is on a handful of colorful characters. Doc's scheming uncle claims to have discovered a fountain of youth on his property. He's also, unfortunately, a suspect in the disappearance of a state environmental consultant, a surveyor, and a TV poet/fisherman. (Really.) All in all, a great yarn, and very funny in places.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:28 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-21

  • We blogged about the marvelous benefits "diversity" had brought to New Mexico Highlands University last week. The NMHU regents have now successfully negotiated an exit for president Manny Aragon, which involves him pocketing a $200K check, and maintaining 18 months of health insurance coverage. One regent estimates the cost of Aragon's two-year presidency at $700K. In addition, the linked article claims that NMHU has spent $133,973 over the past two years, large amounts of that due to "diversity"-based lawsuits.

  • Red Sox Manager Terry Francona has placed pitcher Tim Wakefield on the disabled list for a broken rib. What? How did that happen?
    Francona said Wakefield doesn't remember how he injured himself. It might have been from sleeping on it wrong.
    Sleeping on it wrong? It's not hard to put two and two together here: clearly, Bernie & Phyl are to blame.
    Before reporting to Fenway Park for yesterday's game, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield finished shooting a TV ad for Bernie & Phyl's Furniture, with the company's owners, Bernie and Phyllis Rubin. The ad will air next month. Wakefield tries to strike out Bernie to win a free Sealy mattress.
    Consumer alert: you can break a rib sleeping on a free Sealy mattress from Bernie & Phyl's.

    (Apologies to non-Red Sox fans, and those lucky enough to have never seen a Bernie & Phyl's TV ad.)

  • Back on Tuesday, I callously ridiculed the New York Times for its drastic money-saving moves, which Wall Street rewarded with a one-day 2.2% share price drop to $22.67.

    Well, it's been three trading days since then, investors and analysts have had a long quiet time to consider the situation, and … NYT closed today at $21.98, down another 3.1% since Tuesday. Standard & Poor's also downgraded the NYT credit rating from "A" to "A-" today. Please consider Tuesday's gloating to be cut-n-pasted here.

  • Geez, Raven, see if I invite you to my funeral. We're getting a bounce house.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:08 AM EDT
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Happy Happy Joy Joy

What's the happiest place on earth? If you're like me, you've known for a long time that the answer is: Disneyland. However, you may have heard that recently the New Economics Foundation, based in the UK, came up with a different answer: Vanuatu! Which, I'm pretty sure, does not even have a Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Something's wrong.

The NEF's "Happy Planet Index" website is here. Their motto is "economics as if people and the planet mattered." Hmmm, Watson … might this be a small clue that their notion of happiness is skewed by ideology? And, indeed, what the NEF claims to measure is "the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world." They even have a formula:

HPI =
Life satisfaction x Life expectancy

Ecological Footprint

Other things being equal, the "Ecological Footprint" divisor allows NEF to automatically (and so "scientifically") deem primitive, poor, low-energy-use societies "happier" than wealthy modern ones. People living in a country don't actually have to be that happy; they simply have to live in a way that the NEF thinks they ought to be living. That will make the planet happy! Damn animists!

Will Wilkinson has a masterful takedown of the NEF ranking here; ever polite, he deems the NEF's study "egregiously dumb".

There is simply no non-crazy sense in which Vanuatu is the world's happiest country. And there is no credible empirical reason for docking countries on any kind of index of human well-being for producing a lot of wealth. The evidence says that the happiness of poor populations like Vanuatu's would skyrocket with swift economic growth. But growth is exactly what NEF is trying to limit. Their pseudo-study encourages us to be complacent about the poverty of Vanuatu, which is, after all, the "happiest" place on our "happy planet," on the basis of the fact that they use almost no energy. If you really care about the well-being and happiness of the world's poor, then agressively misleading publicity stunt studies like this one, and the people who author them, deserve nothing but our scorn.
Tim Worstall is, if anything, less polite:
I'm sure that this Index will make it across the pond at some point and be hailed as a new and excitingly meaningful way of proving that the Industrial Revolution was all a bad idea. When it does, you'll now be forewarned for the exercise was constructed to prove exactly that. Machines bad, wealth bad, progress bad. The authors are really not sure that we should ever have left the Stone Age.

And—wait, it gets even better—the NEF didn't actually find out how happy the folks in Vanuatu were. According to Carl Bialik ("The Numbers Guy") in the WSJ Online: the data used to measure happiness around the globe were "satisfaction scores" accumulated by the World Values Survey, but unfortunately, Vanuatu was left out. So …

To fill in that gap, New Economics extrapolated Vanuatu's happiness score from happiness surveys in Africa and Asia, and made some adjustments based on the unique demographics of Vanuatuans.
I. e., they just kind of made it up.

The important point is not (particularly) that this survey was tendentiously question-begging; that kind of thing happens all the time. But, since the yarn fit in well with environmentalist religion, the media picked it up and ran with it uncritically. Good to keep in mind, since it's the kind of thing that happens a lot.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:39 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-19

It's the 200th day of 2006. You may still have time to celebrate; please do so appropriately and responsibly.

  • Jacob Sullum is steamed up about the DFW airport arrest of David Carruthers, the CEO of BetOnSports, a British online gambling firm.
    How would the U.S. react if an executive of an American media company were arrested in Beijing for violating a Chinese law against subversive online speech, or in Tehran for creating indecent Web content viewed by Iranians?
    My advice: if you're violating a country's laws, don't go there. Even if the laws are stupid. Maybe especially don't go if the country is either a Communist dictatorship or a lunatic theocracy.

    Radley Balko is also irate.

  • Oh, but maybe Jacob's point was that the US is turning into a theocracy. Ohhhh, I get it. Although there certainly doesn't seem to be any danger of that in Everett, Washington, where the local Superintendent, Carol Whitehead, squashed an attempt by the Henry M. Jackson High School wind ensemble to play "Ave Maria" at the school's graduation ceremony. To compound the stupidity, a lawsuit by the young alto saxophonist against Ms. Whitehead is in progress.

    (Via Joanne Jacobs; as one of her commenters says: "I suppose the Superintendent has also instructed the football team not to call any Hail Mary plays if they happen to be a touchdown behind in the closing seconds." Heh!)

  • Via GeekPress: funny math. I laughed. May help to know some math.


Last Modified 2007-04-18 4:19 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-18

  • Danny Westneat at the Seattle Times throws some well-deserved scorn and ridicule at the Department of Homeland Security:
    A federal inspector general has analyzed the nation's database of top terrorist targets. There are more than 77,000 of them — up from 160 a few years ago, before the entire exercise morphed into a congressional porkfest.
    Read the whole thing; you'll either get a laugh, or get seriously depressed. The report referred to is here (54-page PDF). It's a case study in how political pressures throw well-intentioned projects out of whack, wasting resources, and undoubtedly making us less safe.

    (Via Bruce Schneier.)

  • The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) serves the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudon Counties in Virginia; as well as the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church. According to the Census Bureau, the median household incomes for these entities are (respectively, as of 2003): $43215, $76546, $53659, $66943, $82481, $89890, $59156, $67073, and $79232.

    All, save for DC itself, considerably higher than the US 2003 median household income of $43318. And yet, Your Congress yesterday voted to throw One Point Five Billion Dollars at WMATA. We're talking some serious reverse-Robin Hood action here. Background, from the Heritage Foundation's Ronald Utt, is here.

    (Mine own Congressman, Jeb Bradley, voted no on this, so good on him.)

  • The New York Times today revealed that it plans to shrink the width of its physical newspaper by 1.5 inches, close a New Jersey printing plant, and drop 250 jobs, all to save money. ("All the News that Fits" used to be an overused parody of the Times's motto, but now … it's funny, because it's true.)

    As a stunning vote of confidence in these drastic measures to improve the bottom line, the NYT's stock price closed at $22.67 from its $23.18 close yesterday, down 2.20% for the day. Good move, guys!

    (See the American Thinker for informed comment.)

  • On a lighter note, Blender magazine has composed a list of "The 25 Biggest Wusses … Ever!" The title turns out to be a little too inclusive; they only consider popular musicians from the last 40 years or so. But the descriptions are acidly funny and mostly on target. If you're like me, you'll go through the list both nodding in agreement and wincing about the wimps you once liked.

    Their number one pick, though, is … James Taylor! That's simply outrageous, and makes me want to throw my Birkenstocks through Blender's front window! James is no wimp, he kicked a heroin habit; that should give you a non-wuss pass for life.

    Which reminds me of one of my favorite sitcom incidents, from Ted Danson's Becker. Becker is yakking with his blind African-American friend, Jake. Becker happens to remark that he likes listening to James Taylor.

    Jake replies: "James Taylor … how white are you, anyway?"

    Yeah, I'm pretty white too.


Last Modified 2006-07-19 7:44 AM EDT
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Nine Lives

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

Every so often, I'll take a chance on an arty flick. A mistake in this case, but that's OK. The movie is a sequence of nine vignettes, each concentrating on a woman that's in the throes of some crisis. In a tricky move, each one is shot with a single camera with no cuts. There are some big names involved: Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Kathy Baker, Sissy Spacek, and the Princess Bride herself, Robin Wright Penn. Some characters from one episode show up, or are mentioned, in another. But mostly the overlap between the individual parts isn't too relevant (with a couple major exceptions). I may have missed some.

The problem (and I'm sure it's my problem) is that, in many cases, the characters aren't very interesting or sympathetic.

However, the last scene is particularly touching. So if you take the plunge, hang on until the end.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:33 PM EDT
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Drawing the Line

Cathy Young's syndicated column today opines on the University of Wisconsin's decision to let instructor Kevin Barrett teach his 9/11 "inside job" conspiracy theory as part of a course titled "Islam: Religion and Culture". Cathy comments:

Defenders of the course say that academic freedom is at stake. But does academic freedom really protect the teaching of what Farrell politely calls ``unconventional" views? How about a course expounding on Flat Earth theory and presenting ``compelling evidence" that the moon landing was faked? Or, better yet, how about a course called ``Germany: History and Culture," in which the instructor presented his ``unconventional" view that the Holocaust is a myth and Hitler was a misunderstood great leader?
I note that people tend to ask these questions a lot more often than they answer them. Not that I think crackpottery has any place in the classroom. But say it's your task to draw a bright line between crackpottery and mere "unconventional views". How are you going to do that? Is answering that question really as easy as Cathy seems to think?

Probably not. But Ann Althouse (a UW prof) has also read Cathy's column, and has a pretty insightful comment:

To be fair, I think most liberals and lefties around here -- not that I'm talking to everyone -- just want to keep their distance from this character. The strategy is to move to a high level of abstraction and talk about academic freedom. I'd like to see them use their free speech to say some more robust things and to engage with the horror that ordinary citizens feel when they see something this repulsive being taught at what they think they should be able to embrace as their public university.

The official reaction from the provost must feel snooty and elitist: You people need to appreciate abstract principles. But when the tables are turned, for example, in the case of affirmative action, the university will say exactly the opposite: You people naively refer to abstract principles, but you don't understand the subtle, contexualized problem.

It's no wonder people get so mad at us. And it's no wonder right wingers find rich raw material to exploit. Why don't the good, serious, scholarly, sane liberals and lefties at the University of Wisconsin speak to the citizens who are watching us?

For an absolutist First Amendment view, see Samantha Harris at FIRE's blog:
The First Amendment exists precisely to protect highly controversial speech. The Supreme Court has said that free speech "may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger." … Kudos to UW for standing up for the First Amendment in the face of tremendous public pressure. As noxious as Barrett's views may be to most of us, he is entitled to express them without fear of government sanction (make no mistake about it, being fired from a government job for publicly expressing a controversial viewpoint is indeed government sanction). Let us never sacrifice the freedoms that define us as a nation simply to avoid confronting hurtful or offensive ideas.
… which is fine, as far as it goes, but by referring to Barrett's views as merely "controversial" and (even) "noxious", Ms. Harris sidesteps the issue of whether Barrett's views are also false, deceitful, and irrational. (Which, well, they are.)

And Barrett isn't merely expected to "express" those views; he's expected to teach them in a college classroom as part of his paid professional duties. On the taxpayer's dime. (And, of course, the tuition-payer's dime too.)

Of course, public universities are legally required to be especially sensitive to First Amendment issues. But does that really extend to putting every possible moonbat into a classroom? We're back to Cathy's questions: if a chemistry instructor becomes enamoured of the phlogiston theory, does he belong in front of students?

Alas, also like Cathy, I've got more questions than answers. I wish that (a) there were a set of "bright line" tests to distinguish crapola from the "unconventional"; and (b) college administrations that could be relied upon to implement those tests fairly. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to find either one of those.

Prof Althouse sagely points out to Wisconsin students: "You have the power to strand Mr. Barrett in an empty room." I'll add, to prospective Wisconsin students: you have the power to turn the campus into a ghost town. Just go somewhere else.


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Derailed

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

If you're ever tempted to be unfaithful by a mysterious and sultry woman who looks like Jennifer Aniston, this movie will discourage you somewhat. You'll probably wind up being menaced by a French-speaking psycho.

Other than that, it's a pretty good thriller, although you have to drop your skepticism filter a few notches to buy into some of the twists and turns of the plot. Clive Owen is relentlessly dour through the entire spectacle, as his life slowly hurtles to seemingly inevitable ruin.

The "unrated" DVD is about 5 minutes longer than the R-rated theatrical release, but beats me if I can figure out what they might have added; it's still a pretty solid R. My theory is that they did this to appeal to potential customers hoping to see, um, something more from Ms. Aniston than you would see in a typical Friends rerun. Consumer alert: don't be deluded! This doesn't happen!


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:45 PM EDT
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

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

The Salad family is not totally immune from the lure of the summer movie blockbuster. So we went to see Pirates. The plot, as many have pointed out, is incomprehensible. Exactly why people are doing things is unclear. Things are brought forth with great portent, then (sometimes literally) dropped. (I'm talking about the dirt jar. What was up with that, anyway?)

And the entire movie has a smell of cold contractual obligation to it, which isn't unusual for unnecessary sequels. A good many scenes seem to have been inserted as a launching pad for the video game. The characters have lost depth compared to the first movie, they're not quite as interesting.

Still, the special effects are stunning. Even if the actors are going through the motions, the people designing the movie pretty clearly aren't.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet: stay through the credits for a pretty good final gag.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:32 PM EDT
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Diversity Bites University

Inside Higher Ed brings us the torrid story of how diversity politics is playing out at New Mexico Highlands University, based in Las Vegas, NM.

Now, it is Inside Higher Ed, so you'll have to do some between-the-lines reading and euphemism-translation to figure out what's going on. For example, the opening:

As the U.S. population grows increasingly brown, it is difficult to find a college official who isn't firmly in favor of striving for a diverse faculty.
Ignoring the non sequitur, you'll have to figure out that this really means that very few college officials are interested in making hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions solely on academic work and professional qualifications.

At NMHU, that meant that when they were looking for a president a couple of years back, the five finalists for the position were, well, not really that "diverse":

From a pool of five Latino males, they selected Manny Aragon, a former New Mexico state senator. He had long been a political champion of higher education issues and was known for his familiarity and resonance with the Latino population, in particular.
… and also had no experience in academic administration. But still, he was able to wangle a $165K salary, a house, a car, and what this writer calls a "slush fund." For a university with about 3500 students, that's not too shabby.

The idea was that Aragon was supposed to turn NMHU around from its recent history of declining enrollment, deficits, and accreditation problems. That didn't happen.

Instead, NMHU found itself censured by the American Association of University Professors for the dismissal of one professor and denial of tenure to another. Both identified as "white" by Inside Higher Ed. The dismissed prof has filed a federal lawsuit.

Earlier this year, NMHU paid a cool quarter-million dollars to settle a gender and racial discrimination suit filed by a former staffer (identified in the linked article as "Anglo").

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the Regents who hired President Aragon are now looking to dump him. To add to the misery index at the school, Aragon is refusing to go quietly. And (as I type) numerous New Mexico courts have gotten involved to tie the issue up in knots.

Interestingly enough, you won't find squat about any of this at the university's "News & Info" page (Although you'll find that the university's float won first prize at the Fourth of July Fiesta Parade in Las Vegas. Good for them.)

I rarely sermonize here, but: as long as educational institutions are willing to to put their thumbs on the scale, preferring some ethnic and racial groups over others in the name of "diversity," we'll continue to see this kind of sad story. Over and over again.


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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-13

  • First, check out Shawn on the Big Dig. In related news, Mrs. Salad has forbidden me to use the tunnels to get to Logan Airport. She's apparently convinced that driving through Saugus and Revere is less risky, even though my cardiologist might disagree.

  • Bruce Schneier has an interesting post on an alleged large overlap between identity thieves and methamphetamine users:
    Supposedly meth users are ideally suited to be computer hackers[.]
    … and hence (again, supposedly) use their hacking skills for ID theft, to get more money, so they can buy more meth. Good plan! Schneier points to a New York Times article which quotes one Richard Rawson, a UCLA researcher:
    "Crack users and heroin users are so disorganized and get in these frantic binges, they're not going to sit still and do anything in an organized way for very long," Dr. Rawson said. "Meth users, on the other hand, that's all they have, is time. The drug stimulates the part of the brain that perseverates on things. So you get people perseverating on things, and if you sit down at a computer terminal you can go for hours and hours."
    I'm, like, totally out of the illicit drug scene, man, but:

    1. As a low-grade hacker (in this sense) myself, it's kind of frightening to think there's something out there that could enhance my productivity and probably wreck my life. Hmmm … well, don't tell my managers about it, they'll probably go out and get me some.

    2. Highfalutin UCLA researchers say "perseverate" when they could have just said "persevere." It's like saying "utilize" instead of "use." Sheesh.

  • Check out Radley Balko's most excellent column at Fox News, where he discusses student loan debt.
    The solution is to put more consumer pressure on higher education by getting government out of the business of paying for it. Competition made America's colleges and universities the best in the world, not government subsidies. Increasing the government's role in higher education will devolve our institutions of higher learning into something akin to the public schools.
    OK, that's kind of an eat-your-peas topic, but along the way, Radley eviscerates CBS News, a couple of whiny self-indulgent yuppies, and (most especially) the tedious Ms. Anya Kamenetz. So it's both (a) good, and (b) good for you.

  • [Katie! Aieee!]

    Yeah … I think I saw a similar scene in a vampire movie once. Or was it Jaws?


Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:13 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-12

  • I think it was in third grade when my teacher, Mrs. Merklein, introduced us to the concept of the Permanent Record. Our grades would be in there, of course, but also a detailed history of our conduct and attitude. And it would follow us around Forever (for, yea, 'twas Permanent). And the strong implication was made that it would be waiting for us at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter would peruse it on our arrival.

    Well, Kip Esquire has information and commentary on an actual Permanent Record scheme, "a massive federal database of college students -- including transcripts, financial aid and post-academic pursuits." He's not keen on the idea.

  • Tim Lee at the Technology Liberation Front points out a very good paper from Ed Felton of Princeton (PDF) on "Network Neutrality". He quotes the paper's two-paragraph conclusion, and I will too:
    The network neutrality issue is more complex and subtle than most of the advocates on either side would have you believe. Net neutrality advocates are right to worry that ISPs can discriminate—and have the means and motive to do so—in ways that might be difficult to stop. Opponents are right to say that enforcing neutrality rules may be difficult and error-prone. Both sides are right to say that making the wrong decision can lead to unintended side-effects and hamper the Internet's development.

    There is a good policy argument in favor of doing nothing and letting the situation develop further. The present situation, with the network neutrality issue on the table in Washington but no rules yet adopted, is in many ways ideal. ISPs, knowing that discriminating now would make regulation seem more necessary, are on their best behavior; and with no rules yet adopted we don't have to face the difficult issues of linedrawing and enforcement. Enacting strong regulation now would risk side-effects, and passing toothless regulation now would remove the threat of regulation. If it is possible to maintain the threat of regulation while leaving the issue unresolved, time will teach us more about what regulation, if any, is needed.

    But that's just the bottom line, go read the whole thing. It's especially good on explaining the technical issues involved at an accessible level. Maybe even Senator Stevens could profit.

  • The Ankle-Biting Bull Dog bemoans:
    Let's see - Social Security is going broke. Spending is out of control. Medicare is going to drain our economy. The tax cuts haven't been made permanent. The pension reform bill has been stalled for years.

    So what does the US House of Representatives decide to spend time doing today? Passing a law telling Americans that they can't pay online gambling debts with credit cards. And if that wasn't bad enough, and blocking access to gambling web sites. Yes, once again the government has stepped in to "protect us" from ourselves.

    And it wasn't even close: 317 to 93 in favor, with both New Hampshire congresscritters voting on the side of the Mommy State. Jacob Sullum weighs in with a column here.

  • Fans of intentionally bad writing—and we are legion—will want to hie on over to check out the winners of the 2006 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. In the Pun Salad spirit, we offer this free sample:
    As Johann looked out across the verdant Iowa River valley, and beyond to the low hills capped by the massive refrigerator manufacturing plant, he reminisced on the history of the great enterprise from its early days, when he and three other young men, all of differing backgrounds, had only their dream of bringing refrigeration to America's heartland to sustain them, to the present day, where they had become the Midwest's foremost group of refrigerator magnates.

  • True Fact Department: the Google gives an unexpectedly large number of hits for floccinaucinihilipilification.

  • On the other hand, the hit count for the Oprahfication of America continues to decrease, only 108 today. This confounds the one of the few predictions I've confidently made on this blog: I thought it was a meme that would take off. Instead, it's headed for obscurity.


Last Modified 2007-04-18 4:17 PM EDT
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An Unfinished Life

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

OK, so it's kind of a chick flick, but I liked it anyway.

Jennifer Lopez plays widow Jean, on the lam from her abusive boyfriend with her young daughter in tow. She's at the end of her rope, so her only option is to move in on Einar, the irascible father of her dead husband, played by Robert Redford. There is much bad blood there, because Einar blames Jean for his son's death. Morgan Freeman gets thrown in as Mitch, a crippled ex-cowboy living with Einar. There's also a bear.

I found things a little melodramatically predictable, but the movie works fine anyway. The script is witty, the characters are well-developed, sympathetic, and interesting, and all the actors turn in first-rate performances. That's to be expected from Redford and Freeman, of course, but J-Lo is a real pleasant surprise, going toe-to-toe with the old pros.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:33 PM EDT
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Everything I Needed to Know In Life I Learned From Animal House

I believe the dialog went something like this, as the Deltas had just been put in a desperate situation by Dean Wormer:

Hoover: We've gotta do something.
Boon: He's right.
Otter: You're right… We've gotta do something.
Boon: Absolutely.
Otter: You know what we gotta do?
Otter & Boon together: Toga Party!
Similarly, we can imagine the meeting of the Gilford, New Hampshire School Board, when confronted with state statistics showing only 55% of their 10th grade students at a proficient-or-better level in reading, and 37% at a proficient-or-better level in math.
School Board Member 1: We've gotta do something.
School Board Member 2: He's right.
School Board Member 3: You're right… We've gotta do something.
SBM2: Absolutely.
SBM3: You know what we gotta do?
SBM2 & SBM3 together: Astroturf!
Via Skip at GraniteGrok, who has concerns.

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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-10

Sorry for the light posting over the past few days.

And sorry for the previous sentence, which arrogantly presumes that you've been disappointed with the light posting over the past few days.

  • One of the Chicago Boyz, Lexington Green, has a good post containing the quiet gem:
    The Americans took Lord Coke's ghost out for a joy ride, with no end yet in sight.
    Doesn't that make you kind of wonder what the rest is about? Check it out, as a belated Independence Day treat.

  • I still read Andrew Sullivan's blog, but his reaction to the Pete Hoekstra story over the weekend is yet another thumb on the "why do I bother" side of the scale. Taking Representative Hoekstra's complaint (made in a leaked letter) about alleged lack of information provided by the administration to his Congressional oversight committee, Andrew pens:
    Eventually, even the most loyal Republicans will discover that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal treats them all with contempt, the same contempt they have for limited government, the constitution, and the rule of law. Hoekstra asks a salient question, however. What else don't we know about what these pseudo-monarchs are up to?
    In other words, he's mainly echoing the New York Times/Washington Post thrust of the story, adding in the usual overdose of hyperbolic vitriol and witless name-calling. (Continued here, by the way.)

    Compare and contrast the Minuteman (here and here), from whom you can actually learn some things about the story that were omitted and misstated by the Times and the Post, and flew right over Andrew Sullivan's head.

  • Instapundit once pinpointed the time of death of Reason "as a libertarian magazine" at 1:17pm Pacific Time on December 31, 2004. As a sad reminder of that death, today the corpse's website publishes the essay "Imagine No Gasoline" by Jonathan Rauch. It is in the form of an open letter to President Bush:
    Here is the idea: Propose an international treaty whose signatories would agree to eliminate gasoline from their transportation systems by a date certain—say, in 30 years. Seek initial support from Europe and Japan, but open the treaty to any country that cares to join. Specify only that the treaty should allow signatories to reach the goal in any fashion they please and that it should allow for tradable credits against whatever interim targets it sets. That way, countries can act at different speeds and in different styles. Then let the negotiations begin.
    Notice the reference to "their transportation systems"? The obvious unstated assumption is that a "transportation system" is something to be owned and operated by the big Central Planner, tweakable and settable on demand. This is not the sort of thing a magazine once dedicated to "free minds and free markets" should take seriously enough to publish. The Soviets had their dismal Five Year Plans; Rauch proposes a Thirty Year Plan.

    Now, Rauch is not an idiot. Well, that could be an overstatement. He's not a total idiot. It's not hard to identify many well-known problems with dependence on an oil supply that comes from countries with illiberal regimes, and he does so.

    But there's no indication that his prohibitionist "solution" is any more well thought out than, well, Prohibition.

    Andrew Sullivan, making his second appearance in this blog today, maintains his current streak of muddle-headedness by deeming Rauch's scheme "[s]ane, market-oriented, empirically sound policy." Sure, as "market-oriented" as any other policy that would mandate countless regulations, economic disruption, bans, and (almost certainly) price controls.

  • And our international correspondent, Salad Daughter, happened to be in Ascoli Piceno, Italy when the Italians won some sort of soccer match yesterday. In the kind of hard-hitting, insightful journalism you have come to expect from this blog, she reports that after witnessing the celebration, she's going to wait awhile before drinking from those piazza fountains again.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:17 AM EDT
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Red Eye

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

This is a pretty neat edge-of-your-seat thriller directed by horror guru Wes Craven, involving some pretty intense interactions between passengers on a late-night plane flight between Dallas and Miami. The movie has a clever sense of humor, and there are many little touches throughout that bump it well above the average formulaic fare.

DVD extras include a gag real and some interviews in which Mr. Craven seems to be a totally normal guy. Amazing.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:32 PM EDT
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Wrong Reason

I love Reason magazine; I've been a subscriber for roughly thirty years. I also love government-bashing, because it's almost always richly deserved.

However, a Joel Miller article from their July issue (recently put up on their website) just gets it wrong. The thesis is expressed in the title and subtitle:

The Politics of Sky-High House Prices
How government jacks up the price of owning your home.
I've heard authors often don't write the headlines for their articles, but this is a particularly poor start in two ways.

First, and probably less important: it's not that owning your home is expensive. Buying a home is expensive, an important distinction. To Miller's credit, the article is clear about this.

Second, by pointing the finger squarely at "government", Miller manages to muddy a relatively clear process:

  1. In most communities, existing property owners tend to be a large and politically savvy constituency;

  2. Existing property owners might disagree about 42 other issues, but they tend to be united in their support for maintaining (and, if possible, increasing) their property values;

  3. In contrast, potential homebuyers tend to be a diffuse and relatively politically powerless bunch;

  4. Hence, it's not surprising, and in fact it's pretty darn obvious, that government policies are going to tilt toward the interests of existing property owners, and hence drive up property values.
It's a lot easier to point to "the government" as the bad guy; not so easy to point at a bunch of upstanding citizens who simply want one of their major investments (probably their single largest investment, in fact) to behave well. A lot of Miller's article seems to assume "government" is establishing zoning restrictions, onerous environmental regulations, and ubiquitous red tape, just by malice, coincidence, or incompetence. But as anyone who's sat through a town meeting will tell you: those things don't happen without a unified strong pressure to make them happen.

Now, to Miller's credit, he does point to this process, but it's buried pretty far down in the article:

With so much wealth created by government-exacerbated scarcity, the housing market has become increasingly politicized, to the detriment of the people who can least afford it. "A century of experience with regulation of various kinds has taught us that regulation typically favors the affluent and the organized over the less affluent and less organized," said American Enterprise Institute fellow Steven Hayward, testifying before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 1999. "There are few groups less organized or represented than the people who would benefit from houses and jobs that do not yet exist. … I think we are being naïve if we fail to recognize that growth management schemes can easily become the machinery of negation by existing residents."

Hayward provided an example of "negation by existing residents": Several months before his Senate testimony, homeowners in Fairfax, Virginia, protested at a county commission hearing that their prices were stagnant because the government was "allowing too many houses to be built." This tendency is especially problematic when you consider that planning commissions and other local government bodies tend to be dominated by the more powerful, established members of a community. New homebuyers, especially younger families, may be denied a house or forced to move further out principally because planners want to artificially enhance their own property values.

At least Miller mentions it; but, really, this process needed to be the focus of his article, not simply squeezed in near the end. This is the thorny nub of the problem. And it's not likely to vanish, since government regulation in this area is extremely well-entrenched and viewed as legitimate.

(Full disclosure: I'm a homeowner, although not as value-obsessed as some.)


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User Support Note

Just another helpful note in our occasional series: When e-mailing your technical support staff, there are a number of things that won't help get your problem solved:

  • UPPERCASE SHOUTING.

  • Lots of exclamation points!!!

  • Sarcasm, unless it's clever.

  • Profanity, unless it's really %&#*@!$ clever.

  • Irrelevant details about how important you are to the smooth functioning of the organization.

Rest assured, your technical support staff have long since come to (mostly) ignore that stuff. Their professionalism is so high, it comes out their ears. Sometimes literally.

Help is on the way, as prompt and effective as it would have been if you were polite and respectful. Probably. Almost.

However, you may be blogged about later.

(Previous notes here and here.)


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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-05

  • We blogged about good and bad apologies before, making the point that "I'm sorry if people were offended" is one trademark of a weaselly apology. Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log hilariously observes the "air quote" can be used effectively by baseball managers to emphasise the non-apology nature of such constructions.

  • And as a total coincidence, a radio host in Ulster expressed July 4 wishes that President Bush "rot in hell." That was followed up by a "BBC spokesman" saying … wait for it … "We apologise for any offence caused."

    Not only weasels, you'll note, but they also spell funny. The article doesn't mention if any air quotes were used by anyone involved. (Via Instapundit.)

  • Shelby Steele observes that if you're going to sin in public, you'll be better off sinning into your era's moral relativism instead of its puritanism, with two presidential data points provided. At the American Spectator, Paul Beston throws in another couple data points from the world of baseball, one being the air-quoting manager to which we referred above.

  • Thomas Sowell takes issue with last week's deification of Teddy Roosevelt by Time magazine. After reading it, you may idly wonder about the practicality of reconfiguring Mount Rushmore: put Reagan up there, take Teddy down.


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In Our Hands

[Amazon Link] This is Charles Murray's Real Big Idea, his plan to rip out all the various entitlement and welfare programs run by the government, and replace them with a simpler, flat, yearly cash grant to each American citizen.

He calls this The Plan, which:

… makes a $10,000 annual grant to all American citizens who are not incarcerated, beginning at age 21, of which $3,000 a year must be used for health care. Everyone gets a monthly check, deposited electronically to a bank account.
Murray's arguments for this are impressive and detailed. You can read a short version here (from which the above quote comes); if you don't want to get hold of the book, that's probably the best place to start. A friendly interview with St. K-Lo is here at National Review Online.

Then, you might want to check Harry Farrell at Crooked Timber, who has a number of interesting observations and criticisms from a moderate-lefty perspective. (On the other hand, if you're interested in a largely thoughtless attack consisting mainly of ad hominem and invective, then Ezra Klein at The New Republic is your go-to guy.)

All in all, much recommended for folks worried about increasingly unaffordable entitlements. I wonder whether the current political climate, which seems to rely mainly on fervent wishing that we can somehow maintain the status quo, will allow serious discussion outside of think tanks and journals.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:27 PM EDT
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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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

Millions of people were killed during the Cultural Revolution in China. You'll be happy to know that sort of thing is pretty much absent from this movie, which follows a couple of kids—a would-be dentist and violinist—sent to a tiny village up in the mountains for Maoist re-education. They both fall for the "little Chinese seamstress" of the title, the daugher of the local tailor. They also are in love with Western culture, a pretty dangerous habit for that time.

The whole movie is beautifully shot. Some comedy comes from their efforts to disguise Mozart and Flaubert from the Red Guard, transforming them into paeans to Mao. The movie wraps up with a flash-forward to the present, where the now-adults return to the village as it's about to be drowned by the Three Gorges Dam.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:26 PM EDT
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Happy Independence Day!

You say you're 230 years old? Wow, you don't look a day over 221!

  • If you're looking for interesting July Fourth mythbusting and trivia, check Janice Brown's Cow Hampshire. She also recommends this short essay from on the Declaration, and Pun Salad seconds that in a totally enthusastic manner.

  • Or, if you're in a more partisan mood, check out Patterico's analysis of the late Katherine Graham's admission:
    Her example was the disclosure, after the bombing of the American embassy in Beirut in 1983, that American intelligence was reading coded radio traffic between terrorist plotters in Syria and their overseers in Iran. The communications stopped, and five months later they struck again, destroying the Marine barracks in Beirut and killing 241 Americans.
    Comments Patterico: "So as the Fourth of July approaches, be proud that we live in a country where newspapers can make stupid decisions that can get us all killed."

    Myself, I have mixed feelings about that.

  • Over at Cato@Liberty, Will Wilkinson makes the case for a Declaration of Cognitive Independence.
    So, this Independence Day, why not pick up a political book you know you'll disagree with. Or write a short essay giving the best argument you can think of for a position you find abhorrent. Or really listen to what your annoying brother-in-law thinks about the war at the family picnic. We could all be a little more rational, and a little more free, if only we really wanted to be. Dogmatic, whole-hearted commitment does feel good. But there is more to life than feeling good. There is truth, for one thing. And there is freedom—self-command. We're all jerked around by our own minds. But we can be jerked around less.
    Good advice. Although neither of my brothers-in-law is particularly annoying.

But no matter what, no matter where you are, try to get out tonight and watch some stuff explode. (I haven't actually checked, but I believe that is one of the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration.)

And if you do that at UNH's Cowell Stadium in Durham, New Hampshire, come on by and say hi. (UPDATE: Uncertain weather, may not happen.)


Last Modified 2006-07-04 5:09 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-03

Not that it matters, but: one of the deadest places to work in all of the USA is an institution of higher education on Monday, July 3. I think I could hear the crickets chirping outside.

  • The big news in the blogosphere is Senator Ted Stevens' comments on Net Neutrality, containing gems such as:
    I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

    Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially. …

    They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

    It's a series of tubes.

    And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

    Senator Stevens has been the object of derision, to put it mildly. See, for example, Meryl Yourish, Slashdot, and GeekPress. And, on other issues, Pun Salad has deemed Stevens a moron, a fiscal profligate, and someone we wished we could vote against. So we're not exactly fans either.

    But you should also check out Don Luskin's contrarian take:

    If unscrupulous political opponents can't attack what you stand for, they'll attack the way you express yourself. … [Stevens,] speaking out against the left-wing regulatory horror called "net neutrality" -- is speaking extemporaneously, and he makes lots of stupid mistakes (says "internet" when he means "email", he gets the techspeak slang wrong when he says "tubes" instead of "pipes", and so on). So he is held up to ridicule by the left, even though everything he says is basically correct. Actually, he is held up to ridicule because everything he says is basically correct.
    So you can make the call on whether Senator Stevens' lack of felicitous expression makes him wrong on this issue.

  • Ranking at a 9.5 on the Bizarrometer is this story:
    He may have Sympathy for the Devil, but Keith Richards also jams for Jehovah.

    The 62-year-old Rolling Stone is a guest guitarist on My Soul is a Witness -- a collection of African-American spirituals released without fanfare last month.

    The book and CD project is the brainchild of Richards' sister-in-law, concert vocalist Marsha Hansen.

    It's true! You can buy it right here. And if you play it backwards, you can hear Mick Jagger recite selected verses from the Sermon on the Mount, and urging you to accept Jesus as your personal savior.

  • Oh, yeah: heh. Major heh.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 6:19 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2006-07-02

  • Mark Liberman at Language Log remains on the Weisberg Watch, and analyzes whether the recent dearth of Bushisms at Slate indicate a change in editorial behavior. His conclusion: probably not.

  • Pun Salad previously noted the travesty in the Superman Returns trailer:
    Perry White asks: "Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?" All that stuff? Could director/writer Bryan Singer possibly be such an asshat?
    Apparently the answer is yes. Although screenwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris apparently deserve a major heaping of scorn as well.

    One reason cited for the "… and the American way" deletion is to appeal to the international market. Ah. Well, good luck with that, guys.

  • Doug at GraniteGrok (best NH blog name ever, by the way) is all over the story of the Nashua, NH man arrested for videotaping policemen on his own front porch. The story is teetering between outrageous and ludicrous. The Nashua top cop is quoted:
    "We don't get it right all the time. Although I am not condemning the officers . . . I don't have all the facts. If it turns out when I do have them all that we erred, then I will be the first to admit it."
    Truth, Justice, and the Nashuaian way!


Last Modified 2006-07-02 8:50 PM EDT
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A Prairie Home Companion

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

Q: Are you a fan of Garrison Keillor's radio show?

A: I used to like it OK, but it got a little politically tedious.

Q: Where did you see the movie?

A: The Portsmouth (NH) Music Hall, about the only place in the area you can go see smaller-release movies.

Q: Do they validate for the parking garage?

A: No.

Q: What strikes you most about Garrison Keillor's acting style?

A: It was made for radio. He seems to be constantly thinking about something else. If I had to guess, it's: how the hell did I wind up in a Robert Altman movie?

Q: Meryl Streep is in it, right? What did you think about her?

A: Her midwestern accent seems to vanish about halfway through the movie. Other than that, she's great. Does her own singing, and it's not embarrassing.

Q: Any other big stars?

A: Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph. They're all pretty good.

Q: So it's not just a filmed version of the radio show?

A: No, although a few other radio show regulars appear, and they're doing the radio show, sort of, in sort of a parallel universe to our own. Tom Keith, the sound guy, gets his scene.

Q: So, was it politically tedious?

A: No, they left that out. Also left out was any reference to Lake Wobegon, no skits, no commercials. Put in: Guy Noir as an actual character, a mysterious woman floating around the theater, and a lot of fictional behind-the-scenes stuff.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 2:31 PM EDT
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