UNH Students Knock on Woodward

Seacoast Online reports that a UNH group calling itself "Students for Academic Integrity" is circulating a petition to "remove" our local 9/11 conspiracy theorist, psychology professor William Woodward. Little Green Footballs also notes this with a pointer to a story at WMUR, New Hampshire's big TV station.

I haven't seen the petition, but if it really does call for Professor Woodward's firing, it's bound to be an ineffective waste of time. The University's defense against that is pretty easy: we don't fire professors in response to petitions, sorry, but thanks for sharing your views, go away.

Look, folks: we can deal with nutty professors. UNH people with even short memories will remember Ted Loder, who was devoted to UFOs and the coverups keeping the truth about them from the masses. But Ted (I'm pretty sure) never did that stuff in the classroom. I would wager that any decent sized University has its share of … um … unconventional thinkers on the faculty.

So the spotlight on Woodward is simply misplaced; instead, it should focus ("like a laser beam") on the badly broken system that allows academically worthless topics to be "taught" by unqualified instructors. It would be a lot more interesting if the students demanded some straightforward answers from UNH higher-ups as to (a) the guidelines they follow for permitting gonzo conspiracy theories into the classroom; (b) why these theories are being presented by (specifically) a psychology professor in a psychology classroom.

"Academic freedom" doesn't cover that. Even the American Association of University Professors, who have the greatest interest in expanding the scope of "academic freedom" as widely as possible, state in their classic "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure":

Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.

It's a sad state of affairs where the University won't deal with this issue other than hiding behind bland generalities. And it's frustrating when Woodward's opponents can't figure out how to mount an effective challenge that could nudge the University into doing something that would really regain some of its squandered academic integrity.


Last Modified 2006-09-29 7:08 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-29

  • Reihan Salam is one of the fortunate few who have managed to see Mike Judge's movie Idiocracy, and he writes about it in Slate.

  • The Club for Growth encourages a Senate vote against the Amtrak Reauthorization bill. You might want to click the link, evaluate the arguments, and e-mail your Senators.

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man? Yes, I absolutely could see that.

  • Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys; don't give them Wayne for a middle name, either. (UPDATE: I also dropped a note about this to Dave Barry, who graciously blogged it with an acknowledgment. It's extremely gratifying to have one's name misspelled by Dave's very own fingers.)


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:02 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-28

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued an official statement for Ramadan. She also issued one for (last) Christmas. GraniteGrok compares and contrasts.

    From the latter, by the way:

    And as the bible teaches us, to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship, to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us. Let us vote no on this budget as an act of worship and for America's children.
    Aha! Injecting religion into politics! So when will Andew Sullivan start including Nancy Pelosi in his continuing diatribe against the Vast Christianist Menace?

  • Are you a far leftist? [And reading this blog? How masochistic do you think your readers are?-ed. Never mind.] You might be interested in Arnold Kling's latest where he describes his idelogical trajectory from "Far Left to libertarian".
    I think that quite a few libertarians have travelled that route, and yet I cannot think of anyone who has gone the other direction. This leads me to suspect that:

    1. Far Leftists and libertarianism have much in common.
    2. Libertarians know something that Far Leftists do not.
    So check it out, see if it resonates.

  • Ken Jennings calls Kevin Clash "the most successful and iconic African-American performer in TV history, right up there with Cosby, and yet no one even knows his name." I didn't know his name so I clicked the link … and said, "Well, I'll be darned."

  • Iowahawk. 'Nuff said.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:03 AM EDT

Pun Salad is Irked@UNH.edu

UNH's student newspaper, The New Hampshire, routinely prints "news stories" which are barely-veiled efforts at promoting some cause or issue. Yesterday's (9/26/2006) issue had a couple of articles in that vein; by themselves, they are pretty much business as usual. Juxtaposed, however, I thought they demonstrated something kind of striking.

The first article considers the "trials" of UNH's resident 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Professor William Woodward.

For the past month, UNH psychology professor Bill Woodward has been thrust into the national spotlight for sharing his controversial view that the U.S. government played a role in the September 11 attacks.
While "fair" on the surface, quoting both sides, the article facilely presents the issue as one of "academic freedom" and the right of Woodward to present "controversial views." He's just "stirring the pot."

Totally missing: any hard questions.

  • Are any professorial "controversial views" OK in the college classroom? Holocaust Revisionism? Homosexuality as sinful? Faked Moon landings? Intelligent Design?

  • Apart from that, why in the world would anyone find it appropriate for 9/11 conspiracy theories to be presented in a psychology class, or to think that they can be competently put forth by a psychology professor? Are physics professors going to start devoting class time to the great Vince Foster murder coverup?

    (Professor Woodward's students, at least the ones quoted in the article, have no problem with this sort of thing. This isn't surprising; it's much easier to listen to a prof's wacky opinions than, y'know, actually learn something about psychology.)

I don't want to see Professor Woodward fired, but the University would be perfectly within its rights to insist that he stick to his own discipline in the classroom. (Say, if he taught conspiracy theories (a) in the context of Richard Hoststadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" and (b) offered himself as a prime example.)

But all that's old news, and most of UNH is doggedly closing its eyes and wishing real hard for the issue to go away.

Bringing us to the second article, this one about a recent showing of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's frightfest on global warming.

This past weekend, MUSO packed MUB Theater II with a wide-eyed audience, some with mouths agape, concerned for our earth's future. "An Inconvenient Truth," the environmental film narrated by Al Gore, which explains the dire consequences of global warming, was followed by a discussion conducted by three UNH professors after Thursday's show.
The rest of the article is about as balanced as the above excerpt, which is to say, not at all. It's a lovefest for Al up here; the only indication of contrary views are made simply to accuse the holders thereof of dishonesty, and to warn impressionable young minds away:
During Thursday night's showing, Cameron Wake, professor of climate changes, validated Gore's facts explaining that, "the number of real scientists who don't believe this have dwindled down to zero." He also added that the ones opposed to global warming awareness are "mouthpieces for big oil companies. You shouldn't listen to them anyway."
Anonymous character assassination, in other words; in case anyone attending happens to run into the views of (for example) this guy, he's been preemptively smeared and discredited. No need to pay any attention!

Lest anyone miss the correct political implications, a couple other profs were eager to drive those home:

UNH professor Stacy VanDe[v]eer explained to the audience that only with federal regulations would a significant amount of CO2 be reduced. Therefore, it is important to ask candidates what they are planning to do to help the environment. "It's important to tell them, not just each other," said VanDe[v]eer. Carmela Amato-W[ie]rda, UNH materials science professor, reminded the packed theater of approximately 170 people to "be aware of the facts before you vote" and to spread the word to everyone possible.
I.e., one-sided political advocacy at a university-sponsored function, echoed uncritically by the newspaper. Again, this is business as usual for The New Hampshire (including not spelling the professors' names correctly).

But the two articles taken together are a pretty good indication of the state of intellectual ferment here at UNH. Kooks on the left are protected, and huzzahed for being "controversial" and "stirring the pot." Any viewpoints from the right, responsible or kooky … well, you're just not going to see that sort of controversy or pot-stirring here, thank you very much. Those sort of people are simply "mouthpieces" anyway.

I suppose I wouldn't mind this so much if not for the irritating mixture of cluelessness and self-righteousness displayed in the double standard.

URLs du Jour

2006-09-26

  • The NYT editorial writers have a deep and abiding faith in regulation.

    • Yesterday, they opined that "Congress still has done nothing to protect Americans from a terrorist attack on chemical plants." But it turns out that the only method of "doing something" acceptable to the NYT is to subject the chemical industry to new onerous regulations; invoking "security" is just a cynical cover. Angela Logomasini at CEI's Open Market blog shows that the NYT is largely following the Greenpeace line on this issue.

    • This followed Sunday's editorial looking with alarm at the meltdown of the Amaranth hedge fund, bemoaned "largely unregulated" hedge funds generally, and concluded—you'll never guess—"regulators need to act now."

      Michael Giberson injects some reality into this hysteria at the Knowledge Problem blog. Even the $6 billion dropped by Amaranth was about one-half of one percent of the total assets held in hedge funds. And if there's one financial area where people go in with eyes wide open to risk, it's hedge funds.

    • And today, the editorializers are positively spittle-flecked over current legisative proposal HR5092, which would marginally cut down the regulatory power of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives with regards to gun dealers.
      House sycophants of the National Rifle Association are aiming this week to hobble the federal government's power to revoke the licenses of rogue gun dealers who arm the underworld.
      It's probably worth pointing out that this is a pretty shameless ripoff of a Brady Campaign press release on HR5092:
      H.R. 5092 would make it virtually impossible for ATF to shut down rogue gun dealers, including those who repeatedly violate federal law.
      If you want to see the NRA's take on HR5092, that's here.

    Regulation: if you're the New York Times, there's nothing it can't do.

  • Wikipedia article du jour: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Really. (Via MargRev.)

URLs du Jour

2006-09-25

  • A probably unintentionally funny article at the NYT on Saturday about the censorship woes NBC is facing:

    • On one hand, they've purcased the rights to "VeggieTales", a previously video-only cartoon show, where explicitly religious themes were routinely incorporated by its chlorophyll-enhanced cast. But the network has decided that all that religious stuff needs to be cut out of the broadcast version.

    • But on the other hand, they've got a Madonna concert coming up in which the aging pop star sings on a cross. (As the always-helpful NYT puts it, "in imitation of the Crucifixion of Jesus." Gee, ya think?) The president of NBC Entertainment has been quoted as saying he has "no problem" with that. Controversy is ongoing.

    Bottom line: It's easier to get religious stuff on NBC if you prefix it with "sac-".

    But I also enjoyed Madonna's quote from the article, in reference to her stunt:

    … it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing.
    Yup, just can't keep that guy off the cross.

    But when will Andew Sullivan start including Madonna in his continuing diatribe against the Vast Christianist Menace?

  • One of the Democratic soundbite memes for the upcomimg election seems to be "Medicare for All!". For example, the D candidate for the local congressional seat, Carol Shea-Porter, plugs it at her website:
    There are several plans being talked about right now, and I certainly would support any bill that would alleviate the suffering, but the plan I favor is Medicare for all.
    And Paul Krugman can always be counted upon to do his bit for the cause:
    If we had a universal system — Medicare for everyone — … we'd almost certainly spend less on health care than we do now.
    The Google gives (as I type) 62,400 hits for "Medicare for All" and kicks in another 4,910 for "Medicare for Everyone". As a marketing tactic, it's pretty good, if a bit cynical. Medicare is popular and a known quantity, not like that scary "single payer" thing.

    But Arnold Kling pokes a big hole in this particular trial balloon:

    One thing about Medicare for all as that you would need taxes to pay for it. In fact, our existing Medicare system needs more taxes than we now collect in order to pay for it, and the future gap between promised spending and tax revenues is projected to be in the trillions of dollars. Medicare is the fiscal Titanic, and Krugman says that it is time to add passengers.
    Glug!

  • Heads up, Granite State fans! I'm probably the last to know that the latest entry in the Die Hard movie franchise is titled Live Free or Die Hard. Excellent! I'm there.

Munich

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

Sometimes I think I should automatically preface all these little movie notes with "Well, I just got around to seeing X."

Well, I just got around to seeing Munich. As you may have heard, it's the story of a small group of agents set out to kill those directly and indirectly responsible for the murder of Israel's Olympic athletes in 1972. Not content with being a simple thriller, there's piles of dark moral ambiguity and angst, as the good guys find out that actually going out and killing people is not similar at all to your typical Schwarzeneggerian movie plot. But overall, even if you find all the handwringing a little tedious, it's still a very competent flick, because, well, it's Steven Spielberg, after all.

The movie hits the viewer over the head with very big and unsubtle references to the "replacements" for the terrorists the good guys are killing. This very sophisticated worldview regards terrorists kind of like an infinite box of Kleenex: as one is used up, another one inevitably pops up to take its place, indistinguishable from the original. Waah! It's all so futile!

Spielberg has a little "preface" on the DVD, which (frankly) comes off as very defensive against charges that the movie was too much on the anti-revenge/moral equivalence side, and too fact-challenged. He makes much of the fact that the book on which the movie was based has "never been refuted." That's not very convincing. Wikipedia has an entry (spoiler-filled) that summarizes the controversy.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:58 AM EDT

Magic: Dave Barry Turns Philosopher into Idiot

In the tradition-encrusted Coughlin Hall of Marquette University, on the door of room 132F, graduate student Stuart Ditsler had posted the following quote:

As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.
That sentiment was a bit too hot for the department chair, James B. South, who marched over from his office (room 132) and ripped it down.

The author of the quote that shocked the philosopher into censorious action: that dangerous radical, Dave Barry.

In explanation, Chairman South sent an e-mail missive to the inhabitants of room 132F:

I had several complaints today about a quotation that was on the door of CH 132F. I've taken the quotation down. While I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I'm afraid that hallways and office doors are not 'free-speech zones.' If material is patently offensive and has no obvious academic import or university sanction, I have little choice but to take note.
The story, from which the above quotes are taken, is from a "Viewpoint" column in the Marquette Tribune, written by John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette. Professor McAdams also has a blog, bless him, and more can be read on the story here and here. Other relevant points alleged by Professor McAdams (and, as near as I can tell, undisputed by anyone):
  • Political cartoons (anti-Bush, anti-"values voter") had been posted on office doors without Chairman South ripping them down.

  • The "office doors are not free-speech zones" was a policy invented for this occasion by Chairman South. Nobody had heard of it before, and nobody's found an official version.

  • Chairman South has declined to answer questions on the matter.

Chaiman South's personal web page is here. You can find out a whole bunch of neat stuff about him; his top five favorite Terry Pratchett novels, for example. And apparently a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What he leaves out: he's a buffoon, prone to wielding power in petty and arbitrary fashion when encountering humorously overstated political opinions.

Last Modified 2006-10-19 7:36 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-22

  • Tens of millions dead (mostly pregnant women and children), massive illness and poverty. It's a good idea to remember the wonderful people who brought that present to the world.

  • But at least the Large Hadron Collider will not actually destroy the earth, despite rumors.

    Well, to be more accurate, physicist Greg Landsberg says the chance of planetary annihilation "is totally miniscule." Uh, Greg, you mean there is a miniscule chance? (Via GeekPress.)

  • The Economist imagines what flight attendant announcements would sound like on a truthful airline.
    Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.
    Good for a chuckle. Unless perhaps you're flying in the near future.

  • Best blog article title du jour goes to Donald Luskin, in his posting about Angelina Jolie taking on the role of Dagney Taggart in the upcoming movie version of Atlas Shrugged: We the Lipping. Heh! At Pun Salad, that's objectively funny!


Last Modified 2006-09-22 7:03 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-21

  • David Boaz was appalled by the views of Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr as heard on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show." So much so that he did some research to make sure Nasr wasn't some kind of fringe extremist wacko:
    [Nasr is] a distinguished professor at a leading American university. He holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and philosophy from Harvard and is the author of more than 20 books, from publishers including Oxford University Press. His university held a conference honoring him, titled Beacon of Knowledge. The website of the Seyyed Hossein Nasr Foundation declares him "one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, religious and comparative studies in the world today." So it seems fair to say that Nasr is not an oddity; he's a recognized Islamic scholar.

    Nevertheless, Nasr also firmly believes that the Pope's statements about Islam from a few days back are appropriately viewed as "acts of violence" which are appropriately answered by (actual) violence and coercion. After Rehm described attacks on "churches, embassies and elderly nuns":

    Asked for his reaction, Nasr said that such violence was "not unprovoked—it is provoked." "Because words are violence?" asked Rehm. "Of course," replied Nasr, "of course."
    Great. There's a recipe for peace and tolerance!

    I wonder how much of Nasr's illiberal worldview springs from his Muslim background, and how much comes from the modern American academic environment? Tough to say, since both are hotbeds of suppression of "offensive" speech.

  • Continuing in roughly the same topic, you might remember how, back in September of 2001, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was raked over the coals for allegedly suppressing dissent and free speech. A typical response came, for example, from Paul Krugman (as quoted here):
    After 9/11, the administration's secretiveness knew no limits—Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, "need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions.
    Or Frank Rich:
    Fear itself—the fear that "paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance," as FDR had it—was already being wielded as a weapon against Americans by their own government.
    Other examples are easily obtained via the Google. Now, in fact, such allegations were tendentious and lazy misreadings of what Fleischer actually said. For a good knock-down, see Christopher Hitchens' recent article in Slate (from which the Rich quote comes).

    Now I said all that to say this: Ex-president Bill Clinton appeared on Larry King Live last night, and said—guess what?—about the Pope's statement.

    I think it was unfortunate … And we -- every time one of us, particularly someone as august as the pope says something like that, we make the task of the moderates in the Muslim world more difficult.
    May I summarize? Bill Clinton thinks that we should "watch what we say." Anyone want to hold their breath waiting for Krugman, Rich, and the rest of that crowd to get as outraged with Clinton as they did with Fleischer? Me neither.

  • But that's enough about double standards and craven attempts at free expression suppression. For now anyway. What I'm really interested in is: can Ken Jennings promote the neologism celebrinerd into everyday use?

  • And continuing in the game show theme, Wikipedia has an impressive amount of information on the Monty Hall Problem. The entry gives support to the intriguing theory that Monty Hall is a celebrinerd! (Via Achenblog.)

  • And, finally, continuing in no theme whatsoever: the Human Resources Department at Los Alamos National Laboratory is woefully overstaffed. A LANL employee comments at Dave's blog.

URLs du Jour

2006-09-19

  • With respect to the continuing uproar about whether the Pope should apologize for his recent comments about Islam, there's an interesting contrast between an article at Language Log from Eric Bakovic entitled "Apologize Already" and a WaPo op-ed column from Ann Applebaum entitled "Enough Apologies".

    To be fair, Bakovic is mainly ranting that the headlines he sees in his RSS reader often fail to match the details given in the actual articles. He seems content to merely assert that the Pope should give a "direct apology"; no need for any actual argument.

    Applebaum, on the other hand, is pretty convincing for the other side:

    … if stray comments by Western leaders -- not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values -- are going to inspire regular violence, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.

    On the third hand, if you'd like to fantasize, and don't mind some really bad language, you can check out what Treacher suggests for His Holiness:

    In a televised statement this morning, Pope Benedict XVI lashed out at critics of his earlier comments on Muslims, referring to said critics as a "pack of crybaby snake-charmers" and recommending they perform various humanly impossible feats of flexibility and colonic accommodation.

  • Another clash of opinion involves the junior half of New Hampshire's senatorial couple, John Sununu. Andrew Sullivan huzzahs Senator S. for coming out joining with Republican "dissidents" on the Geneva Convention issue.

    One word about Sununu: he really is one of the last Goldwater conservatives in the Senate. I'm not surprised by his vote on Geneva, but I'm heartened nonetheless. He's an under-reported Republican defender of individual liberty - a rarer and rarer species these days in the authoritarian Christianism of the GOP.

    Leave it to Andrew to drag his "Christianism" hobbyhorse into it. Meanwhile GraniteGrok is less than impressed:

    Great- he now joins the usual Republican trouble-makers that can always be counted upon to thwart the president at his ever[y] turn in his attempts to defend America against a new kind of enemy- McCain, Graham, Susan Collins, et al. Why does he do this? Don't we have enough Democrats representing the side of softness in the new world war? Sununu did the same thing during the Patriot Renewal- he held out to the end in order to dilute a necessary terror prevention tool asked for by the president. What, does he not trust President Bush?

    My impression is that, agree with him or not, Senator Sununu has principled reasons for not handing Dubya this particular blank check.

    Then again, there's Treacher.

    But check it out, the Bush regime doesn't want to tell you about the other torture techniques he's devised...
    • The Faux Shirt Stain: Interrogator points at suspect's chest: "Look, you've got something on your shirt." When suspect looks down, interrogator brings up index finger, tweaking suspect's nose. Interrogator laughs. This grievous affront, a loss of honor in the eyes of Allah, administers massive psychic trauma to suspect. Repeat as needed.

    There's more.

  • Bryan Caplan gets off a pretty good libertarian inside joke:

    People thought I was crazy to to write - let alone try to publish - "The Economics of Szasz."

    Heh! Harrr, harrr, harrr!


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:59 AM EDT

My Timbers are, Indeed, Shivering

Pun Salad is breaking its normal publication schedule to point you to a dandy video resource for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Both links via Dave, of course.)

California Girl

[Amazon Link]

I had never read a T. Jefferson Parker book before. This one won the 2005 Edgar Award for Best (mystery) Novel; that was the main reason I picked it up. And it's (of course) quite good.

If a bit tiring and long. Most of the book is set in late 1968 in California's Orange County. All three surviving Becker brothers, a cop, a reporter, and a pastor, are involved in the murder of Janelle Vonn, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with whom they'd been involved since childhood.

There are cameos from Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary, and Charles Manson. The Southern California of the late sixties is painted with a broad brush: drugs, Birchers, drive-in churches, the sexual revolution, everything gets trotted out. T. Jefferson is a pretty good writer and keeps everything going for about 400 pages, but the ending is a little flat.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:00 AM EDT

Finding the Words

I try to keep things light and smart-ass around here, even when a particular topic shocks and disgusts me. That's my comfort zone.

But the news today just doesn't fit with that.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Gunmen killed an Italian nun and her bodyguard Sunday at the entrance of the hospital where she worked, officials said — an attack some feared could be linked to Muslim anger toward Pope Benedict XVI.

The nun, who has not been identified, was shot in the back four times by two gunmen armed with pistols, Dr. Mohamed Yusef told The Associated Press.

Even if I don't do outrage that well, it's easy enough to find the right words:
Animals. Cowards. Barbarians.
Also especially appropriate are the words of Kathy Shaidle, reacting to a Muslim newspaper editorializing about the Muslim faith "purposely maliciously demonised by mischievous elements in the Christian West."
Here's a clue: stop flying airplanes into buildings, stop shooting nuns in the back, stop setting fires everytime your itty bitty wittle feewings are hurt over the slightest of slights -- and we'll stop with the "demonising", m'kay?
After a decent interval, anyway.

The Matador

[Amazon Link] [1.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Good performances from Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, and Hope Davis save this movie from total dreckdom, but, really, what's with the movies' fascination with hit men? Especially when, as here, they spend most of their time yakking? Especially when, as here, the yakking has an astronomically high "wit"/humor ratio. I hate that.

You, dear reader, might like this better than I; certainly the professional critics did. But (probably unlike most professional critics) fell asleep for numerous stretches, and I don't seem to have missed much besides more I'm-the-clever-screenwriter dialog.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:59 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-15

  • Constitution Day is coming up on Monday, September 18 this year. Kip Esquire notes the not particularly subtle irony of the Federal law requiring that
    Every school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787. [Or, when the 17th is on a weekend, somewhere around then.]
    This is one of those things that you can feed to a Star Trek computer to make it catch on fire. Contradiction! Contradiction! Like Kip, Pun Salad loves the Constitution, but, also like Kip, does not love such Federalism-trashing laws. Here is what UNH did for Constitution Day last year. As near as I can tell, UNH is not doing anything this year, in apparent defiance of the law. This is either a brave act of civil disobedence or (much more likely) someone just forgot.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education provides a Constitution pop quiz; perhaps it's not too late for UNH to print up a few thousand copies and airdrop them over Durham.

    UNH is celebrating International Housekeepers Week, however.

  • Speaking of Star Trek, the digitally-remastered versions of the original series will start running at a TV channel near you this weekend. First up is "Balance of Terror", which Yahoo TV tells me I have the choice of watching at … Sunday morning at 3:05am … or … Monday morning at 2:05am. Hm, how big a geek am I?

  • Janice Brown has dug out a gem, written by a pie-eyed visionary in 1875. Probably would be considered a geek today.
    A hundred years [h]ence! Who that is born to-day will live to see it--a daily balloon to London, an afternoon trip to Florida? Will the docks now echoing to the hiss of steam be filled by strange, unearthly shapes, with wings and fans and g[au]dy bags of gas? Will freight trains, drawn by noiseless power, pass swiftly beneath the sea, and parcels dart like lightning. Stranger things than these have happened in a hundred years, and some may live to see still greater wonders. And yet we cannot change the face of nature.
    "Predictions are difficult, especially about the future."

  • But meanwhile, there are Real Men of Genius in Parsippany, NJ. (Via Club For Growth.)


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-14

  • It is possible to earn partial credit. Please make an effort to show the way you arrive at your solution.

    1. Professor Peter Ratener at Bellevue Community College writes a word problem on a math quiz featuring a person named "Condoleezza" dropping a watermelon off "the 300-foot Federal Building".

      1. How many seconds will it take a student to associate "Condoleezza" with our current Secretary of State?

      2. How long after that will the student remember that our current Secretary of State is black, and notice the linking of a watermelon with a black person?

      3. At what approximate speed will the shit hit the fan at Bellevue Community College?

      This is a self-graded question. Answers at Inside Higher Ed and FIRE.

  • Like some kind of cosmic law was being followed, just when I was feeling more disgusted with Democrats than with Republicans …
    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is trying [to] use a bill authorizing U.S. military operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, to prohibit people from using credit cards to settle Internet gambling debts.
    Via Radley Balko, who deems it, accurately, shameless.

  • Time has more on Mike Judge's movie Idiocracy, which Fox is assiduously trying to get people to ignore. ("Heh, he said 'ass.'")
    The problem is, Idiocracy is so aesthetically displeasing—its vision of the future so purposely, gaudily, corporately ugly—that even showing a second of it made people refuse to see it. Judge's unslick look might work for hand-drawn cartoons of hicks or a movie that takes place in poorly lit cubicles, but it's not so great for a sci-fi action comedy. It just doesn't look or feel like Talladega Nights or Dodgeball. Even though Fox probably made a million dollars' worth of trailers and ads, they empirically knew from testing that every dollar they spent on ad time for Idiocracy would be wasted.
    Mmmmkay, I'm gonna need to defer to that. Mainly because I have no choice. I have, however, found that the Idiocracy DVD is queueable over at Blockbuster Online. Even though they have the release date as 12/31/2007, I've put it right up at number one. Maybe they'll slip up and mail it to me early.

URLs du Jour

2006-09-13

  • Constrained Katie responds to the racial pigeonholers at Georgetown U. If only more would follow her eloquent example.

  • You can have a War on Drugs. And you can have a War on Terror. But if you try to do both at the same time, you shouldn't be surprised when serious policy contradictions result. Jacob Sullum explains.

  • New Hampshire's official state motto is "Live Free or Die". Pun Salad does not have an official blog motto, but if it did, "Don't Die Doing Something Stupid" would be one of the top candidates. The Straight Dope has a good example.

  • To the MIT pranksters: nice job. To your Caltech rivals: dudes, get off your butts.

  • Many of the laughs in the movie Talladega Nights were caused by one Sacha Baron Cohen, playing gay racecar driver Jean Girrard. ("My husband Gregory and I want what any couple wants. To retire to Stockholm and develop a currency for dogs and cats to use.")

    But one of his other roles has infuriated the government of Kazakhstan to an extent that Mr. Cohen will be the subject of talks between Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev and US president George W. Bush.

    It's apparently really easy to piss off Kazakhstan. Who knew?

URLs du Jour

2006-09-12

  • If you had any doubts that Keith Olbermann is an asshat, Ann Althouse will remove them.

  • Quote du Jour from Frank Miller (yes, that Frank Miller) on patriotism:
    Patriotism, I now believe, isn't some sentimental, old conceit. It's self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation's survival. Ben Franklin said it: If we don't all hang together, we all hang separately. Just like you have to fight to protect your friends and family, and you count on them to watch your own back.
    (Via Michelle, ma belle. And, yes, it's on the NPR website.)

  • And, speaking of patriotism, I've been fond of this Arlo Guthrie song for a number of years:
    Living now here but for fortune
    Placed by fate's mysterious schemes
    Who'd believe that we're the ones asked
    To try to rekindle the patriot's dreams
    I'm not sure what Arlo would think about a guy like me liking it, though. Nevertheless. If you'd like to get your mitts around a great performance of the song, Amazon will oblige you.

  • But it's not all high-minded music appreciation here at Pun Salad today. Do you like motivational posters? Do you hate them? In either case, haven't you often wished someone would parody them using images from Star Trek or 24? Me too.

URLs du Jour

2006-09-11

No deep thoughts or five-year-old memories from Pun Salad today. You're welcome. Other people are doing that far better than I. (Including, of course, the usual suspect for that sort of thing.)

  • However, let it be noted that at 01:49:50PM on September 11, 2001, Glenn Reynolds posted his analysis which … well, I'm still seeing the same points made today, from people who are pretending they're saying something insightful and new.

  • Last month, James Fallows, writing in the Atlantic Monthly was confident enough to say we could "declare victory" in the war on terrorism.
    … I talked with some sixty experts about the current state of the conflict that bin Laden thinks of as the "world jihad"—and that the U.S. government has called both the "global war on terror" and the "long war." …

    … the overall prospect looks better than many Americans believe, and better than nearly all political rhetoric asserts. The essence of the change is this: because of al-Qaeda's own mistakes, and because of the things the United States and its allies have done right, al-Qaeda's ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced. Its successor groups in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt, or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.

    So, great, right? Not so fast! Sunday's LA Times has an article from Doyle McManus.
    Five years after Sept. 11, is the United States winning the war against Al Qaeda? President Bush says yes, but most experts—including many inside the U.S. government—say no.
    Both McManus and Fallows quote "experts", and their experts lead them to dramatically opposite conclusions. What are poor non-expert schmoes like (certainly) me and (maybe) you to conclude? Are they interviewing different experts? Or are they just picking and choosing "expert" opinion that happens to coincide with the desired theme of their respective articles? Fortunately, it's not as if the future of Western civilization depends on the answer, or anything… oh, nuts.

  • Where would you expect to find more insight and wisdom?

    • In the obnoxiously loud cell-phone conversation of a drunken girl; or

    • the words and activities of the press corps assigned to cover Mohammed Khatami's address at the Kennedy School of Government?

    Shawn Macomber has an answer that will shock and amaze you! Or maybe not.

  • Michelle (ma belle) points out the September 11th commemorative activities of the King County (Washington) Library System, which involve (among other things) the musical stylings of Tickle Tune Typhoon supporting "friendship, peace, cooperation and caring for all living things."

    Or, if you're not into libraries, man, and you were in Seattle this morn:

    A healing drumming circle will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. at Golden Gardens Park. People are urged to bring a drum or rattle, and a chair or blanket to sit on.
    Michelle deems this "beyond parody," which seems spot on.

    And, for the record: "Tickle Tune Typhoon" is a lousy name for a rock band.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:04 AM EDT

United 93

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

A powerful movie, despite the fact that you go into it knowing pretty much exactly how it's going to end and nearly everything else that happens. The actors range from obscure to semi-obscure, although I was able to spot Gregg Henry (the oily Val Resnick in Mel Gibson's Payback). (And, although I didn't notice her, little Denny Dillon, a Saturday Night Live cast member a quarter-century ago, also appears as a passenger.) The lack of recognizability drives home the point that the heroism on 93 wasn't Willis- or Schwarzenegger-style, but just ordinary folks doing what the entire might of the US government could not: saving (probably) the US Capitol building and (almost certainly) hundreds of lives on the ground.

The general lack of slick special effects also helps generate a you're-really-there atmosphere. The confusion on the ground is painful to watch; so is the complacency in the air, as a warning against cockpit intrusions is received, but inadequately appreciated.

One moving scene near the end shows both terrorists and passengers saying prayers. In less-skilled hands, this could have been a cheap and stupid anti-religious trope suggesting that only happenstance had made one side the bad guys. Instead (for me, anyhow) it just hammered home the differences between murderers and victims.

And, yes, I watched this instead of the ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11; according to Dean Barnett (here and here) this was the correct choice.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:00 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-09

  • Gosh, UNH professors seem to be making news lately. Raven is not impressed with the latest one.

  • But Raven, bless her, also points out one of the funniest online videos I've seen recently. (Apparently there's still one person in France with a sense of humor. Who knew?)

  • And Will Wilkinson continues to make more sense than a bushel of economists on the issue of inequality.
    I think part of the problem is that nominal inequality is confused with material inequality.differences in material living conditions. But while nominal inequality is increasing, material inequality continues to decrease. As market competition pushes prices down,  goods at the bottom of the price range more and more closely approximate goods at the top of the price range. (Which is why efficiency and equality are complements.) Food is probably the most striking example of material equalization. If you compare the diets of the top and bottom quintiles 100 years ago with the diets of the top and bottom quintiles now, you.ll see that we have become immensely more equal, not less. My favorite pair of jeans, which I bought at Wal-Mart for $16, is a close substitute for jeans that cost 5 times more.
    But that's only one good point among many; read the whole thing. Really.


Last Modified 2006-09-09 7:16 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-08

  • While the RepubliKKKans are busy trampling civil liberties, thank goodness the Democratic Party is ever respectful of First Amendment rights. Oh, wait…

  • But at least they have a good plan to keep Social Security solvent and un-"privatized"! Oh, wait…

  • Via BBSpot, more on Mike Judge and Idiocracy.
    There's no reason why someone as brilliant as Mike Judge should be at the mercy of a bunch of marketing tools, or taking seven more years between movies. But there's also no reason he should have allowed himself to get trapped in this situation all over again.even down to working with the same studio. He should be mad as hell. He should be knocking down their cubicles. After all, isn't this what he taught us to do?
    Sorry, Joss Whedon. Mike Judge is my master now.

  • I've mentioned Paul Hsieh's Geek Press before, but today he's on a major roll. He notes the 40th anniversary of Star Trek (today!), provides an excellent list of logical fallacies, and what happens when you ask the Google to find 'Confidental "do not distribute"'. Check it out.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:05 AM EDT

Rumor Has It…

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

This movie rubbed me the wrong way; even the usually pleasing sight of Jennifer Aniston couldn't save it. Review-type spoiler: the fictional characters in this movie think fictional characters in another movie—specifically, The Graduate—are based on them. Even more specifically, Shirley McLaine thinks she's Ann Bancroft, Kevin Costner thinks he's Dustin Hoffman, and nobody thinks she's Katherine Ross, because (it turns out) she died. Ms. Aniston plays her confused daughter who's trying to resolve a personal crisis by straightening out her family history.

There's a lot of dialog that thinks it's funnier than it is. Performances are pretty flat, except for Richard Jenkins, playing Jennifer's dad; he actually seems to care about giving a nuanced three-dimensional performance.

And Kevin Costner's character gave a speech that referred fawningly to Che Guevara. This knocks the asshat score up quite a bit.

Otherwise, the word that kept going through my mind while watching this was: plastic. Ironic!


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:59 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-07

  • There's a pretty good article at Inside Higher Ed about 9/11 conspiracy theorists by Scott McLemee (including UNH's own). Among other things, McLemee describes his previous investigation of James Fetzer, who, before he was a 9/11 conspiracy nut, was a JFK assassination conspiracy nut.

    At PhiBetaCons, David French has a pointful comment:

    For the university leftist, trained and conditioned to see America as the root of evil in the world and isolated from the larger national community in their campus enclaves, 9/11 represented a catastrophic blow. And not merely because of the obvious human toll, but because it stood as a horrific and public rebuke to their ideas regarding the virtue of the oppressed and led to a (in their view) terrible turn in domestic politics. It is a short mental trip from hating reality to denying its existence.

  • Why yes, UNH does use Blackboard. Who knew they were so evil? Yeesh.

  • At Wired, Lore Sjöberg creates the Ultimate Blog Post for a number of popular blogs. For example:
    Slashdot: AMD, SCO patent MP3 over TCP/IP, sue ATI, EA. Microsoft probably responsible somehow.
    Heh!
    Cute Overload: A kitten licks a puppy while the puppy licks a bunny.
    Awwwww!

    Pun Salad is unaccountably omitted, but I think it would look something like:

    Pun Salad: Knock-down analysis of New York Times story demonstrates conclusively that everyone would be better off if all levels of government were 90% smaller. Also, Steve Martin would start making great movies again, and Thomas Sowell would be invited to give the UNH commencement address.

  • Over at "Ain't it Cool News", Quint demands that Fox Studios do something smart with the movie Idiocracy. It's directed and written by Mike Judge, who also directed and wrote Office Space. Despite that pedigree, Fox is apparently reluctant to release the movie in anything more than a handful of theatres. (Via Galley Slaves, where Jonathan V. Last plaintively asks "But shouldn't having made the funniest movie of the decade count for something?" You'd think so; but that's show biz, I guess.)


Last Modified 2006-09-11 6:39 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-09-06

  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer makes a convincing case for Al Gore being full of crap in his recent statements on media ownership.
    … Mr. Gore wants us to believe that democracy is dying and that the blame for it falls on "controlled, centralized" media. I guess such apocalyptic rhetoric helps grab attention for your cause but, in reality, such comments are completely off that off-the-mark and bear no relationship with reality whatsoever.
    Perhaps Al was more on the mark with ManBearPig.

  • Pun Salad figures you can not go far wrong by mindlessly imitating Instapundit and Joe Malchow, who both quote the following paragraph from an editorial from the Examiner:
    Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That's the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.
    This is the primary (heh) reason I will never, ever, vote for John McCain for anything. (Or Russ Feingold either, but let's face it, that was not gonna happen in any case.)

    Also see Jacob Sullum:

    It seems Americans now need permission to speak out on political issues and petition the government. I'd suggest a constitutional amendment protecting those rights, but I thought we already had one.
    "Indeed."

  • Patrick Hynes checks out the race for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire Congressional District One, which is Pun Salad's very own district. He detects potential moonbattery in candidate Carol Shea-Porter, who is running against the more establishment candidate Jim Craig. The primary is next Tuesday. (Also running: Gary Dodds and Dave Jarvis. Dave's website is probably the least, um, conventional.)

    I have no special insight to add, save the observation that Ms. Shea-Porter's national security page contains the allegedly sage advice:

    America should heed the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt, who said, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."
    This sounds more like what granola-eating tree-huggers advise in traversing wilderness areas than a guide to foreign policy. But it turns out also to be a long-standing misquote of TR, committed in the past by John Kerry, Bill Clinton, and Gerald Ford; it should be "Speak softly…"

  • Professors beware the hot new trend: students putting your lectures on YouTube. Shockingly, the linked-to videos do not demonstrate a uniform excellence in pedagogy. Instead, ridicule seems to be a dominant theme!

  • But if you want to play that game, turnabout is fair play, kids. Professor Steven Dutch of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay is unimpressed with what he's hearing from some students, and lists his Top Ten No Sympathy Lines (Plus a Few Extra). (Via Joanne Jacobs.)


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:06 AM EDT

The Huffington Post Hates Physics. And Economics. Oh, and America.

Witness witless Jamie Court at the Huffington Post, who huffs "'Hot Gas' Shorting Drivers $2.3 Billion And Who Cares?". Sample:

When you are filling up this Labor Day Weekend, if the temperature is more than 60 degrees, you are getting ripped off by about three cents per gallon in one of America's most longest-standing, outrageous ripoffs. That's roughly $2.3 billion per year.
Oh dear. "Most longest-standing." What's the problem?

Well, it's that—as you may remember from some course you took—matter expands when it gets warmer. As you may also remember, "matter" includes, specifically, gasoline. According to this NIST document, gasoline expands by a factor of 0.00069 for each increased degree Fahrenheit. When (say) you pump a given volume of 75-degree fuel, you're getting about 1% fewer gasoline molecules than you would at 60 degrees. (Conversely, when you pump 45-degree fuel, you're getting about 1% more.)

It takes a guy like Jamie, however, to look at this physics and detect a Big Oil Conspiracy. "US fuel pumps do not adjust for temperature, unlike their Canadian counterparts," he intones ominously. (Why does he specify 60 degrees as the point at which the outrageous ripoff begins? Because the American Petroleum Institute set that long ago as a standard temperature for measuring the density of petroleum products. It's an arbitrary temperature, picked for convenience, but Jamie thinks it's been handed down by the fossil-fuel gods, or something.)

What Jamie glosses over: this is a matter of regulation. Gas stations price by actual delivered volume because they are required by your local state government to measure fuel that way, with pumps regularly inspected for accuracy to make sure they're measuring that, and nothing else. State and federal taxes are also levied against actual delivered volume. (Aha! The government benefits from the "ripoff" too!)

So? That could easily change. For example, since Jamie thinks that varying-density gasolines should not have the same price, a workaround would be to charge by weight instead. End of "ripoff."

But that's hardly the only way to do it. We could charge by the Joule: how much energy would be released by the gasoline you're pumping? Or—here's one Al Gore could get behind—we could force stations to charge per carbon atom, since a lot of those will wind up in the air floating around as CO2.

But the key point is, despite Jamie's outrage, none of this really matters. Obviously there would be some major administrative and infrastructure costs in switching over to a new pricing scheme for gasoline, but after that, consumers would be paying …about the same as they would have anyway. Because gasoline prices are set by supply and demand, not by tweaks to the pricing scheme. If Jamie's desired "adjustment" happened, we wouldn't suddenly and magically save the $2.3 billion he trumpets; how could that even begin to be true?

Jamie's unstated assumption is that there's some number Out There, which is the True Price for gasoline. And—obviously!—if you're paying more than the True Price, you're being ripped off! That's economic illiteracy, but the Huffington Post doesn't care.

URL's du Jour

2006-09-04

  • Happy Labor Day, oppressed masses! Instapundit has a collection of links to cheer you up.

  • Like UNH, Ann Althouse's University of Wisconsin is dealing with its own 9/11 moonbat. Professor Althouse, long a longly voice of sanity in Madison, muses on the conspiracy mentality:
    Is anyone surprised by fact that people with advanced degrees believe conspiracy theories? Although plenty of sensible people get advanced degrees, the pursuit of an advanced degree is something that appeals to the kind of person who wants to load a lot of material into his brain and do things with it. Someone like that is more likely to get into conspiracy thinking -- things are connected! -- than the ordinary person who wants to get through with school and get out in the world and do things there. The sizzle and ferment of the inside of the head isn't what most people want. And they're suspicious of academic types with good reason. There are a lot of screwy people in academia.
    No foolin'.

  • And this is just wrong in so many ways. So wrong, In fact, I'm not sure how long it can last in its present form, so click quick. (Via Dave Barry.) [Update: darn, they fixed it. Somewhat replicated here.]


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:07 AM EDT

UNH Embraces Diversity in Everything. Except …

As usual, the new school year brings a raft of slick marketing detritus into the mailboxes of University of New Hampshire employees. Which is how I laid my hands on the announcement of the "Saul O Sidore Memorial Lecture Series 2006-2007." The theme of this year's lectures is:

Violence Against Women:
Complicating the Legacy of Andrea Dworkin
For those who don't get UNH junkmail, the lecture series also has a web page, where you can read about the lecturers and take in the following gem:
Lectures will be followed by facilitated dialogues run by and for men, women, and all people.
Yes, after specifiying "men" and "women," it's necessary here to append "and all people." We don't want to exclude anyone recognizably human at the University of New Hampshire. Not on the basis of your self-defined gender identity, anyway.

Anyway: this year's lectures revolve around the late Andrea Dworkin. Professor Marla Brettschneider states the rationale:

The life, ideas, legendary status and vilification of this extremely controversial thinker eerily resonates with the situation on the UNH campus in the past year. Dworkin's life work commands interdisciplinary attention. The uncanny coincidence of her death at the height of a chaotic, runaway discourse, threats and assaults on women and those deemed "feminists" at UNH presents a unique opportunity to wed interdisciplinary scholarly examination to a serious practical need on our campus.
It's eerie! Uncanny! But in any case, we've been bad, so we deserve it. (Please take Professor Brettschneider's allegation of "threats and assaults" as incredibly overblown.)

People with longish memories might remember Dworkin coupled with law prof Catharine MacKinnon in an anti-pornography campaign back in the 1980s. As a user of the World Wide Web, you probably have a pretty good idea of how that worked out.

In addition to that, Dworkin was a hedgehog, in an Isaiah Berlin sense: she knew One Big Thing. And that One Big Thing was… well, perhaps a few sample quotes will help you figure it out:

A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.

Men have defined the parameters of every subject. All feminist arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made credible or authentic by the power of men to name.

Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination.

If you find this kind of rhetoric insufferably tendentious, worthlessly overbroad, and essentially incoherent: well, you're right. But you're also missing the point. You simply can't argue against such assertions; the people that make them aren't interested in debating them. They're interested solely in marking out their territory, signalling fellow believers. About all you can do is shake your head and walk away.

Or you can mark your own territory; this can be fun, and nobody does it better than Camille Paglia:

MacKinnon and Dworkin are victim-mongers, ambulance chasers, atrocity addicts. MacKinnon begins every argument from big, flawed premises such as "male supremacy" or "misogyny," while Dworkin spouts glib Auschwitz metaphors at the drop of a bra. Here's one of their typical maxims: "The pornographers rank with Nazis and Klansmen in promoting hatred and violence." Anyone who could write such a sentence knows nothing about pornography, or Nazism. Pornography does not cause rape or violence, which predate pornography by thousands of years. Rape and violence occur not because of patriarchal conditioning, but because of the opposite, a breakdown of social controls. MacKinnon and Dworkin, like most feminists, lack a general knowledge of criminology or psychology and hence have no perspective on or insight into the bloody, lurid human record, with its disasters and triumphs.

And it's not just Camille. Cathy Young dug out more quotes in a Boston Globe op-ed after Dworkin died:

To put it plainly: Dworkin was a preacher of hate. Her books are full of such declarations as, "Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman." ("Patriarchy," of course, covers contemporary Western societies.) "Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but especially for women's lives, can run wild." "Hatred of women is a source of sexual pleasure for men in its own right."
[Cathy Young also bemoaned the "Dworkin Whitewash" at Reason's Hit&Run blog, using language that probably wouldn't make it into the Globe.]

Needless to say, neither Camille Paglia nor Cathy Young will be giving any of the Sidore Lectures this year. That would "complicate" the legacy of Andrea Dworkin a bit too much.

No male lecturers, either. Although (see above) it's promised males will be allowed to run "facilitated dialogues." Other than that, however, we'll be getting a "diverse" array of lefty feminists from academia, who seem to have been picked to make sure the all the racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation bases were covered.

While our local 9/11 conspiracy theorist is getting all the current limelight, this kind of stultifying intellectual conformity is business as usual in the modern university. That's the real scandal.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 6:07 AM EDT

Inside Man

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

Note to would-be bank robbers: if knocking over a bank were this easy, everyone would be doing it. Don't be carrying out the plan seen here, because it would be real embarrassing to discover movie plot holes that way.

Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Clive Owen in this cat-n-mouse crime caper. I will see just about any movie that has Denzel Washington playing a cop in it. Here, he's being investigated for a missing $140K, and we're not quite sure how much he knows about it.

(Hey, here's an idea: Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington in a movie about two ethically-challened burned-out cops who seek redemption against long odds. That script would just about write itself, wouldn't it.)

Mr. Lee can be a bit heavy-handed on matters racial, but he shows he can do it with a lighter touch too, and not without some humor.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:59 AM EDT

16 Blocks

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

Bruce Willis has become the go-to guy to cast if you're making a movie about a burned-out loser cop looking for redemption against long odds. Well, good for him; I like Bruce Willis.

And this movie's pretty decent too, as boozing-cop Bruce is tasked with getting Mos Def from the police station to a courthouse a short distance away (guess how far?) against a short time deadline and a seemingly infinite supply of bad guys.

The director is Richard Donner, who's made a lot of big-budget blockbusters (e.g.: Lethal Weapon [1234], Superman (I|II), Conspiracy Theory). 16 Blocks is small in comparison, but moves right along. You know how this is going to play out eventually, but it's still fun watching them work out the details.

There's an alternate ending on the DVD, but they chose the right one for the movie.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 5:59 AM EDT