URLs du Gore

2007-02-28

  • If you are both (a) a global warming alarmist and (b) a flatulent cat owner the owner of one or more flatulent cats, you might be interested in an article headlined "Global Warming Alarmists Can Offset Their Cats' Flatulence". I hope Al Gore knows about this.

  • Speaking of Oscar-winning Al, you may have noticed the recent brouhaha attending recent revelations about his extravagant energy usage, as well as his defense. Iain Murray has an insightful short post estimating that Al is paying about $6K/year extra for the privilege of using "Green Power", allowing him to claim that his "carbon footprint" is zero. Observes Iain:

    Rationing energy has consequences. The price mechanism means that the rich can enjoy their lifestyles and the poor have to make sacrifices. Those sacrifices come with social costs of their own.

    That's a deceptively simple paragraph that relies on insightful readers (like you!) to draw some obvious conclusions. Treat it as today's mental exercise.

  • Speaking of Iain, he also blogs at the Planet Gore group blog, which today contains a classic Katie Couric fact check from Chris Horner. First Katie's quoted from her very own blog:

    … after a period of time of not conceding global warming even exists, President Bush used the term "climate change" for the first time …

    and then Horner, after spending maybe two whole minutes pointing and clicking, was able to find a White House transcript from June 2001 quoting Dubya:

    Good morning. I've just met with senior members of my administration who are working to develop an effective and science-based approach to addressing the important issues of global climate change.

    Horner is appropriately derisive toward Her Royal Perkiness, but manages to avoid the phrase "lazy partisan ditz who can't be bothered to fact-check anything that's remotely critical of George W. Bush, continuing the fine tradition of past CBS news anchors." Consider that your Pun Salad value-added.

  • Still not enough Gore for you today? Well you won't want to miss this important announcement:

    Are you concerned that your profligate personal lifestyle is harming the environment? Losing sleep over the long-term ecological damage resulting from those greenhouse gases constantly emitted by your family, your cars, your pets, and your shrubbery? Do you want to become carbon-neutral, but just don't know how?

    Well rejoice, sinner! Carbon atonement is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Malibu set -- with the Iowahawk EcoPals Network! This unique new system lets you, the average Joe planet rapist, cleanse your tortured psyche of the stain of enviro-guilt for as little as $9.95 per year! If enough of you follow this simple three step program, we can save the world for our children -- who will soon be frolicking with healthy polar bears atop Earth's reforested glaciers. Act now before it's too late!

    Indeed! And a selection of eight bumper stickers are also available at the link.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:40 PM EDT

Blogiversary 2: Revenge of the Salad

It's been a full fiftieth of a century since the first entry at Pun Salad. So, like last year, a few notes (some … ahem … recycled from last year):

  • It's been fun. It's still fun. Really. I plan on sticking around.

  • Thanks to all readers. Whether you're periodic or sporadic, Islamic or Catholic, Nordic or Judaic, geriatric or bariatric: hope you found something interesting here. You're a fine bunch.

  • Incoming mail has been 100% positive, kind words, illuminating comments. Polite corrections. It's much appreciated.

  • It was nice to have been e-interviewed recently by Conn Carroll of the Blogometer.

  • Also especially honored to have been named last year as one of New Hampshire Magazine's "Best of NH 2006". Although (as I type) http://www.nhmagazine.com takes you out to lovely Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What's up with that?

  • Thanks specifically to the good folks who've found it worthwhile to blogroll/link me: Janice Brown at Cow Hampshire; Amy Kane down on Atlantic Ave; Doug and Skip up at Granite Grok; Bill Gnade over at Contratimes; Ninth State; Shawn Macomber; Joe Malchow; Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey; the WitNit; and Constrained Katie Newmark. (Let me know if I missed you, please.) What a bunch! I'm honored.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:43 PM EDT

The Science of Sleep

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

Young creative screwball Stéphane moves from Mexico to France after his father dies; his mother has enticed him there with promises that she's landed him a job as a graphic designer. Unfortunately, the job turns out to be awful, simply making calendars using pictures others have taken. He gets involved with a couple of girls that live down the hall from his new apartment.

That's not particularly interesting, but Stéphane has an active dream life, which the movie is pretty good at depicting with cheap, but charming, special effects. It's often unclear whether scenes are in the dream-world, or reality, or a mixture of both; Stéphane and his co-characters don't behave particularly rationally in any case.

Summary: the movie is some fun, but makes it difficult to care an awful lot about what happens to the characters.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:41 PM EDT

When You're Losing the Game, Change the Rules

There's a great George Will column today on HR 800, the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act". It is a rather blatant payback to organized labor for its support in the recent elections. Will notes:

… union membership declined, yet again, in 2006, by 326,000. … The percentage of employees in unions fell from 12.5 to 12, down from 20.1 percent in 1983 and 35 percent in the 1950s. The growth area of organized labor is among public-sector employees, 36.2 percent of whom are unionized, compared with just 7.4 percent of private-sector employees.

The evidence is pretty clear, in other words, that unionization is increasingly irrelevant to ever-larger numbers of the private-sector workforce. So HR800 is a panicked response to put some very large thumbs on the unions' side of the scales as they hope to "persuade" people to join up.

Most outrageously:

It would allow unions to organize workplaces without workers voting for unionization in elections with secret ballots. Instead, unions could use the "card check" system: Once a majority of a company's employees signs a card expressing consent, the union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all the workers.

You might think that a bill labeled "Employee Free Choice" would demand secret balloting rather than a non-secret checkoff system where mob pressure would be effective. You would be wrong.

Will's article is well worth checking out. Another good recent article on HR800 is Bryan O'Keefe's, who points to something even more ominous:

According to the EFCA, when a nonunion company is unionized through the card-check method, management and labor would only have 90 days to settle a contract. After that, the union could force the newly unionized company into government-supervised mediation.

If union and management still have not reached an agreement in another 30 days, a government-appointed arbitrator would set the final binding contract terms.

O'Keefe points out how dreadful an idea this is; arbitrators are wholly unlikely to impose contracts based on marketplace realities. The result is forseeable:

The likely result is that even more companies will be forced to close shop and move jobs offshore. It's a mystery how this type of government policy would help the middle class that organized labor speaks of so often.

Well, frankly, it's not a mystery. If you follow the money and power, and ask "cui bono?," it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.

I'd like to suggest that you write your Congresscritter and ask them to vote against HR800, but in fact it has about 230 co-sponsors in the House. (And one of the co-sponsors is my own representative, Carol Shea-Porter. I guess it's a pretty safe bet she's not looking for my input on the matter.)

(O'Keefe link via Unconstrained Katie's Mom.)


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:06 PM EDT

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated has made a number of reviewers go weak in the knees (83% on the Tomatometer). It's about the MPAA's movie-rating system; filmmaker Kirby Dick despises it, and his film is a broadside against it.

Since libertarians are concerned about all that First Amendment and censorship stuff to an above-average degree, you might think libertarian-oriented websites would embrace Dick's movie. Not so, Tonto! Adam Thierer at the Technology Liberation Front sat through the film and, as near as I can tell, just got madder and madder as it went along.

Although Adam (at least vaguely) can see merit in one of Dick's points that excessively violent movies should be rated comparably to those with explicit sex …

The rest of it is just a tedious and baseless screed against the MPAA's rating system based on the preposterous notion that private ratings are somehow tantamount to censorship. Indeed, what is most frustrating about the documentary is Dick's absolute refusal to seriously discuss whether or not this voluntary ratings system — warts and all — is actually worse than real government censorship. Moreover, he doesn't bother seriously debating the deterrent effect of the MPAA's ratings system, which many argue has helped deter government efforts to regulate movie content. Dick interviews a few experts in the film who suggest that this fear has been overblown and, amazingly, one of them even argues that he thinks a government-based ratings system would be better because it would supposedly be more transparent and film makers would get a fairer hearing.

It's interesting to see these kinds of fissures between (what I'll call for lack of a better term) thoughtful and thoughtless libertarians. Adam, one of the former, reveals Dick as one of the latter.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:44 PM EDT

A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now

[Amazon Link]

This book by Peter Wood is an attempt to explore a question much on America's mind of late: why the heck are these people so pissed off all the time? Wood's thesis is that today's anger is a different species from what we've seen boefore. The "new anger" is an emotion that's all about the celebration of oneself: it's self-righteous, and often its primary purpose is it's own display. In a word, tedious. But nonetheless a topic worth checking out.

Wood investigates just about all relevant facets of our culture, driving up and down the entire length of American history. Some are expected: popular music, movies, politics, and (important for us narcissists) the blogosphere. But there are lengthy digressions into unexpected territory, most notably the sociology of self-service storage.

In short, it's great fun. Wood's style is accessible and appropriately light; it wouldn't do to get angry about the upsurge of anger in America, after all.

I'll quibble, however: if you're going to delve into movie anger, you need to have Sidney Lumet in your index, not George Lucas. Lumet's oeuvre includes 12 Angry Men and Network, both angry classics, the latter with perhaps the archetypical angry guy, Howard Beale, ranting "I'm mad as hell, … and I'm not going to take this any more!."

And, while musing on pop music, Wood does mention Elvis Costello. But inexplicably fails to quote:

Oh, I used to be disgusted
And now I try to be amused.

But those really are just quibbles. Wood's book is a good read, and you'll learn interesting things along the way. And if it makes you less angry, all the better.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:04 PM EDT

Edmond

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

William H. Macy plays Edmond Burke, a seemingly successful cog in Manhattan's corporate machine. One day, a perceived slight from a superior, followed immediately by a glimpse of an illicitly-canoodling couple in an elevator, sends Edmond to a fortune teller. This, in turn, causes him to walk out on his wife and embark on a short and seedy odyssey of self-discovery, which ends very badly for him and a number of people he encounters.

The screenplay is by David Mamet, based on his one-act play. So (unsuprisingly) just about everyone's dialog is stilted and unreal. It's hard to say what the point of the movie is. Is Mamet trying to paint some broad lessons of masculinity, race relations, corporatism, violence, etc.? That's a tough point to make, since just about everything Edmond and his co-stars say on these topics is preposterous windy claptrap.

Or is the movie really about self-discovery? If so, then the implied answer is unequivocal: that might not be a very good idea, dude.

I noticed that there's only one letter difference between the title character's name and that of Edmund Burke, the great 18th century Whig statesman. Better minds than I will have to dig out the thorny question of whether there are any intentional lessons to be gleaned about Edmond's slide into self-destruction from Reflections on the Revolution in France.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:39 PM EDT

And Her Biscuits Are Flaky, Too [Repost]

[Welcome, Blogometrists; I've punched this politics-soaked post from a few days ago back to the top for your EZ-reading pleasure. To our regular readers … well, I hope you like reruns.]

A number of pundits have referred to the "September 10 Mentality". Dubya alluded to it in a debate with John Kerry (although he, perhaps predictably, managed to mutate it into "pre-September 10th mentality." It always struck me as a little unfair to apply the term with a broad brush; who doesn't realize that we turned a corner on September 11, and there's no going back?

Well, to name two: Dennis Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth. Not only do they exemplify the September 10 mentality, they embrace it, and give it big sloppy wet kisses. In an effort coordinated with his presidential candidacy, they've established the "9/10 Forum" which is (if I may characterize) based on the idea that if we close our eyes and wish real hard that 9/11 never happened, maybe we can go back to those wonderful days when America was universally loved and admired as a beacon of hope, etc.

[Note (2008-01-25): the link above is no longer functional, and there are no recent mentions of the "9/10 Forum" found by the Google; the idea probably became too stupid and embarrassing even for the Kuciniches.]

States Elizabeth, in paragraph one of the link provided above:

From a family (grandmother, mother, me and now my husband Dennis) of Librans, the symbol for which is the scales, my mother and I always joked that we spent our lives in constant flux in search of balance but rarely finding it. Librans, in this constant seeking for justice, appreciate fully moments of beauty and opportunity in every experience that allude to balance and justice.

Quick, someone call Jerome Armstrong! Somebody needs to ask Congressman Kucinich just how much weight astrological insights would be given in his proposed administration, and it would seem Jerome would be ideal for this task.

I am personally a Taurus, but I don't think that's where my ability to detect bullshit comes from.

The Kuciniches recently appeared at the RiverRun Bookstore in lovely downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Elizabeth's segment was CSPANned and YouTubed:

[Elizabeth's segment was removed from YouTube; the CSPAN video is not embeddable, but it's here.]

And—sorry—I cannot resist transcribing Elizabeth's brief speech, using a Rosie O'Donnell-style free verse format:

hi everyone
thank you so much for being here
it's lovely to be with you
um
the 9/10 forum as Dennis has described
really is
about reconnecting with our highest aspirations
our highest aspirations of who we were
and who we thought we were
the highest aspirations we had for our families
our communities
our country
and our world
asking the question
who were we before 9/11
who was i
what did i dream
how did i see myself
how did i see
the world
how did the world see me
it's looking at rediscovering who we are
using an appreciative technique
which is the idea that
when we align our strengths
then the weaknesses fall away
they become irrelevant
we don't have to worry about them
when we constantly look at the problems in the world
we'll always find more problems to solve
so that's a cul-de-sac
9/11 has become a cul-de-sac
a cul-de-sac for our emotions
a cul-de-sac for everything
to do with our policies
and everything that we create now
we can move beyond that
it's about rediscovering
who we are
what we want
what our highest aspirations were
what the founding mothers and fathers of this nation
had
in mind when they created this country
this amazing place that the rest of the world
used to
look at
as being a beacon of light
of hope
of vision
we can recreate this together
through rediscovering who we were
who we are
through narrative
through sharing stories
what is your highest aspiration
when was a time when you felt most courage
when was a time when you felt most community
when you belonged
when you were there
sharing these stories which are individual to ourselves
not working on theory
but working on our own experience
we actually reaffirm our collective experience
the true experience of who we are
once we've rediscovered that
we can move forward and think
well what is it that we want to carry into the future
what are the building blocks
that we want to
to build upon
to create the vision
of where we want to go
in our own [?] community
and our nation nation nation nation
well thank you for having us
and back to my husband heh

Darned if a part of me doesn't want to see Kucinich elected; the straight network news would start looking like Daily Show/SNL parodies, and the parodists themselves would be at an utter loss.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

History Doesn't Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes.

In the Obama-Clinton-Geffen brouaha, those of us without a dog in the fight can mostly chuckle at the political-junkie version of a celebrity hair-pulling match on the red carpet. Joel Achenbach is amusingly snarky toward Hillary.

I, for one, note the quote from Howard Wolfson:

How can Senator Obama denounce the politics of slash and burn yesterday while his own campaign is espousing the politics of trash today?

and think, geez, he really should have gone for the full rhyme there.

"… is espousing the politics of trash and churn today?"

"… is espousing the politics of thrash and unconcern today?"

"… is espousing the politics of splash an intern today?"

"… is espousing the politics of stash the fraudulent tax return today?"

Just sayin'. Howard, call me. I do this stuff for free now, but that can change.

Second thought: they really should have a cable channel for politicians' antics, similar to what E! does for entertainers. They could call it "P!"


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2007-02-22

  • On Februrary 22, you could do worse than read David Boaz's small tribute to George Washington, and be thankful for our country's good fortune.

  • This article is mainly notable for the serious case of the unawares exhibited here:

    "I am probably the most progressive liberal person in the world and I am personally offended by the sign," said Janet Stillman, executive director of the Wallingford Neighborhood Office.

    I'm relatively certain 95% of the readers thought to themselves at that point: "… and I know why." (Via my CPF Dave.)

  • And this is also real good: Al E. in very tiny bits. (Via Club For More.)

  • Janice Brown has everything you need to know about loons. No, the birds.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

More Lincoln Quote Abuse

Drew Cline points out an article in Dartmouth's student newspaper covering the visit of That Side of New Hampshire's congressman, Paul Hodes. Drew focuses on this bit:

[Hodes] proposed that the Federal Reserve should not concern itself exclusively with inflation, but should also take into account the growing gap between rich and poor and jobs that are being lost overseas.

"I'm a free-market guy, but Lincoln said that government must do what free-markets can't do for themselves." Hodes said.

Emphasis added. Congressman Hodes is probably mangling this quote:

The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities.

In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.

Let's see… some of the things individuals can't do, or can't do as effectively as the state, are: institutionalized slavery, genocide, Amtrak, and global thermonuclear holocaust. There are probably other examples.

Lincoln's words are clearly meant to describe a "necessary" test for state action; treating them, as Hodes does, as a "must do" blank check is silly, and shows no understanding or appreciation of the concept of limited government.

And it's more than a little weaselly to hide behind a Lincoln quote, even a mangled one; if Hodes thinks the Fed should (somehow) redistribute wealth and (somehow) force companies to hire more of Us and less of Them, then he should just make the argument directly.

In his comments, Drew points out, philosophical points aside, the general dubiousness of the proposal and also comments on that "but". Our previous Lincoln quote-abuse comments here.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

Also, Subcutaneous Electronic Devices are a Turnoff

It was with a combination of amusement and dismay (but mostly amusement) that I surfed through the Fashion4Nerds.com website. Among my faux pas caught by the website: my red ski jacket; my ski mitts; my backpack; my white socks; my tucked-in plaid shirt; my baseball cap; my fancy Casio digital watch; my on-belt pager; …

And that's just today.

At least I'm in compliance with rule number 3 on the pants page: "Always wear a belt."

Because, otherwise, where would my pager go?

I shared the website with Mrs. Salad. Her immediate response: "Ah, it says here that they're asking a bunch of 20-something women about this stuff. You're not looking to impress the young chicks are you?"

"No, of course not. But, you know, you bought me all of those plaid shirts …"

Well, you're not looking to impress the young chicks, are you?"

"Ah. No."

So there's that. I pass the website and its advice along to any of our younger male readers. And I plan to continue wearing a belt, and take my chances with the prospect that it might drive young women wild.


Last Modified 2007-02-22 8:08 AM EST

"Don't Just Do Something, Stand There"

The article summary at American.com reads:

The federal government sometimes takes obscure actions that actually help the economy, big-time. Matthew Rees selects five of the best ever.

Now, I'm a pretty libertarian guy, but even I can mumble "public good" and realize there are some pretty good empirical and theoretical arguments for state action in some cases.

But on reading the article, it turns out that Rees's five "best ever" obscure actions can be classified as: deregulation, tax deferral/cut, free trade agreement, deregulation, and deregulation. The best "actions" turn out to mostly involve the government ceasing its actions, or deciding not to do anything in the first place.

Here I was, looking for a challenge to my dogmatic libertarianism, and came away with reinforcement. Sigh. Well, I can learn to live with disappointment.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

Oy Vey!

The Guardian reports on another milestone in the slow-motion demise of the socialist dream:

Nearly a century after it was founded, Israel's first and most famous kibbutz has voted to give up its early socialist ideals and to privatise itself.

The article reports that about two-thirds of Israel's kibbutzim have adopted privatization in the last few years.

(Via Cafe Hayek, "where orders emerge.")


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

Best Blog Headline of the Day

And the winner is … Patterico!

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

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

Time has been kind to The Ballad of Cable Hogue, which boasts a 91% Tomatometer rating, and a decent 7.3/10 at IMDB. I didn't like it quite that much, but it's certainly watchable and agreeably quirky.

Cable Hogue is played with irascible and gruff humor by Jason Robards; co-starring as Hildy, the prototypical hooker with the heart of gold is Stella Stevens. (She's really pretty good here, too.) David Warner, Strother Martin, and Slim Pickens also show up.

This is a Sam Peckinpah movie, and it's a change of pace from his more typical shooting gallery movies. He made it in 1970, just after The Wild Bunch. Even though a couple guys are shot, that's more or less a diversion from the broad comedy and love story in the main plot thread.

The DVD contains a lengthy interview with Stella Stevens; not surprisingly, she got along pretty well with everyone except Peckinpah. She mentions that the movie was a total washout at the box office, which explains why I missed it back then.

College courses in economic/political philosophy might want to show the first twenty minutes or so as an example of free-market property rights and capitalism evolving out of a Lockean/Humean state of nature. Just an idea.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:41 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2007-02-18

  • As an ex-physics geek and a sometimes SF geek, I found this exploration of the practicality and likelihood of manned interstellar travel really good; it should be accessible to anyone who doesn't get the vapours at seeing a hyperbolic arccosine in an equation. (Via Slashdot, whose poster seems astounded that the article uses "actual physics and math." As opposed, I guess, to just making stuff up.)

  • A number of my local blogger buddies have officially Lost Patience with our congresscritter, Carol Shea-Porter, who's been less than two months on the job. First, Drew Cline posted (without comment) her remarks on opposition to the "surge". Then Ed Mosca used the transcript to fisk her "illogical and pointless rant." And Patrick Hynes today comments on a Manchester Union Leader report that Shea-Porter herself is calling up constituents who dare write letters to newspapers criticizing her positions; one woman reports being on the receiving end of a 20-minute harangue.

    Pun Salad is happy to report that it has not lost patience with Carol Shea-Porter, because you can't lose something you never had. If Carol Shea-Porter calls me, I fully expect that our Caller ID feature will save me from picking up the phone.

  • And speaking of the amazing Patrick, Instapundit nominates this young blogger to take over recent vacancies in the John Edwards campaign.

    Mainstream political bloggers freaking suck. What a bunch of egomaniacs. They are worse than politicians.

    Ugh.

    Wednesday night, Feb. 13, I traveled to the Dole Center and watched in horror as four rich (though several insisted to me that they are NOT wealthy; however, by world standards they ARE ALL disgustingly wealthy), middle-aged, white men and one, rich, middle-aged, white woman talked about political blogging and how blogging is changing America and how awesome bloggers really are!

    Those individuals represented two Democratic Party perspectives (Jerome Armstrong of www.mydd.com and Joan McCarter, mcjoan, of www.dailykos.com) and three Republican Party perspectives (Patrick Hynes of www.anklebitingpundits.com, Scott W. Johnson of http://www.powerlineblog.com/, and  Erick-Woods Erickson of www.redstate.com).  ALL FIVE OF THEM SUCK HARDCORE.  AND the moderator of the event was yet ANOTHER RICH, MIDDLE-AGED, WHITE MAN.

    "Unfortunately" for Edwards, she's more into Kucinich. I don't find that to be an utter shock.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:08 PM EDT

And Her Biscuits Are Flaky, Too

[Reposted here.]


Last Modified 2007-02-22 8:53 PM EST

Lying About Lying About Lincoln

Here is, in its entirety, a recent Andrew Sullivan post titled "Lying About Lincoln":

It says everything you need to know about the state of the Republican Party: that they would knowingly lie about the words of the greatest Republican president in American history.

This is irritating. Why? Follow the link. It goes to a TPM Cafe post about a recent speech on the floor of the House of Representatives by Don Young (R-Alaska) where he attributed this quote to Abraham Lincoln:

Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

This quote is, indeed, bogus, as a little querying of the Google will tell anyone. For example, here is a Washington Post article examining the controversy. The TPM article links to a Factcheck.org article with even more detail. Young was wrong and stupid to use the quote.

But:

  1. Sullivan turns this single Republican example into "everything you need to know" about Republicans generally. For anyone with all hinges attached, that's a ludicrous overreach.

  2. Worse, there's no evidence presented at the TPM article that supports Sullivan's slanderous "knowingly lie" charge. In fact, Sullivan's charge is exactly the opposite of the TPM author's explicit point that he doesn't know whether Young was intentionally recycling this bogus quote.

Since we don't share the prejudices of either TPM or Andrew Sullivan, we can ask the simple question that any reasonable person would: is it likely that Young and his speechwriters knew about the bogosity of the quote—which would mean that they would also certainly know the bogosity was relatively well-known—and then decide to use it anyway? What would be the point of doing that? None whatsoever; there's no upside, and an almost certain downside when you're caught.

So Sullivan's "knowingly lie" charge is evidence-free and almost certainly false.

But I should point out that the title of this post is not to be taken literally; Sullivan is not deliberately "lying" about this, or at least I doubt it. And the reasoning is the same as I applied to Young: Sully would have to be incredibly stupid to lie about something that's so easy to check by clicking the link he provides in his own article.

No, almost certainly this is a result of ideological self-delusion, the knee-jerk willingness to jump to a desired conclusion, to "know" your opponents' evil dishonesty in your own mind, and "see" supporting facts in an article that doesn't, in actuality, contain them.

In short, it's example number 463 in a continuing series: "Why We Don't Take Andrew Sullivan Seriously Any More, and Are a Little Ashamed That We Ever Did."

People with blogospheric memories going back more than a few months may recall the equally bogus "Jefferson quote" uttered by, among others, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Nadine Strossen of the ACLU:

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Now (similar to the Lincoln quote) this would be idiotic even if it weren't bogus; but it is. The definitive history of the quote is offered by Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy here and here.

There may have been some folks at that time who had mirror-image reactions to Sullivan's: who said something equivalent to "It says everything you need to know about the state of the Democratic Party: that they would knowingly lie about the words of the greatest Democratic president in American history."

But the vast majority of responses were in the derisive ridicule category. That's the appropriate treatment for Young. And Andrew Sullivan.

Brendan Nyhan has more.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:08 PM EDT

The Black Dahlia

[Amazon Link] [1.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This got pretty negative reviews; I thought it was OK. Set in post-WW2 LA, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart play cops who are assigned to investigate the Black Dahlia slaying; Scarlett Johansson plays a woman with a turbulent past who's trying pretty hard to turn things into a love triangle. Things are complicated by other unresolved cases.

Much of the good stuff is at the beginning, where the movie is hardboiled and noirish. And Scarlett Johansson is, as always, extremely easy on the eyes.

Things go downhill some as the movie grinds on. The plot twists around itself a couple times. Scarlett Johansson never really gets to do anything except look good. The ending is over the top, but you kind of expect that in a Brian De Palma movie.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:42 PM EDT

Happy Anniversary, Bernadette

Every so often I stumble across something on the good old Web that makes me sit up and say: Whoa! I should have known that!

For example, I didn't know, but should have, that the voice of the ravenous Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors (1986 version) was provided by Levi Stubbs, former lead singer of the Four Tops. In addition, I wouldn't have expected to learn that at the New Republic website, in an article explaining why Dreamgirls didn't deserve an Best Picture nomination in the Oscar competition.

Thinking about Levi Stubbs made me think of "Bernadette"; his inspired vocal performance is one of the many reasons "Bernadette" is my favorite Four Tops song. (And one of my favorite songs, period.)

And it turns out that today, February 16, 2007, is the fortieth anniversary of the release of "Bernadette". If you have the means and opportunity to do so, might I suggest that you dig it out and crank it up?

I thought of "Bernadette" when reading about astronaut Lisa Nowak driving 900 miles from Houston to Orlando in a diaper to confront her romantic rival. It's pretty clear that, given the right (or, more accurately, the wrong) circumstances, the singer could wind up doing something like that. Stubbs sings like his heart is being ripped out; even though Bernadette belongs to him now, the situation is less than stable.

You can read the lyrics to "Bernadette", and a thought-provoking analysis, right here. The pseudonymous author claims it as "a disturbing portrait of a man overwhelmed by concurrent feelings of obsession and desire." A Bob Dylan connection is also made.

Which made me say: Whoa! I should have known that!

Here is the Wikipedia article on Levi Stubbs.

Levi Stubbs and his wife Clineice have been married since 1960 and have had five children. In 1995, Stubbs was diagnosed with cancer, and therefore does not now tour.

But he's still with us, celebrating his 70th birthday last June. It's a good day to be thankful for the talent he chose to share with us.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

Affirmative Action: Euthanize it, Don't Euphemize it.

Great volumes of tears are emitted in an article at Inside Higher Ed today, bemoaning … well, check it out for yourself:

A decades-old, popular program in which colleges prepare minority high school students for journalism degrees and careers in the field will no longer focus exclusively on minority students.

What they mean to say is: the program will no longer exclude white students. This change came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) on behalf of Emily Smith. According to the CIR description:

In early 2006, during her sophomore year in high school, Smith learned about a summer journalism "workshop" at Virginia Commonwealth University from a newspaper article. She went to the web site mentioned in the paper, downloaded the application and sent it in. …

Emily met all of the qualifications for the workshop except for one -- she was the wrong race. She didn't know race was a qualification because the application materials didn't ask her to state her race.

In April, Emily received an e-mail message telling her she had been accepted to the program. Five days later, Bonnie Davis, Co-Director of the program called Emily's house and spoke with her mother to make sure she had received the e-mail accepting her into the program. Then, two days later, Davis phoned the Smiths again and this time spoke with Emily. Davis asked Emily her race. Emily said she was "white." Davis told her she was "sorry" but the program was for minorities and she "couldn't come."

Oops. Not only is that behavior hurtful, insensitive, and arbitrary, but it's also almost certainly illegal. At least Virginia Commonwealth and the (sponsoring) Dow Jones News Foundation weren't confident enough in the legality of the program to defend it in court. Instead, they wisely decided to settle. Emily gets into the program, plus $25K in legal fees.

What's interesting about the IHE article are the euphemisms employed to fog up the simple reality of what was going on in the program. For example, that "focus" mentioned above shows up again later:

Under the agreement, all 27 programs [sponsored by the Dow Jones News Foundation] — which in the past have focused on minority students — will be opened to white students.

Ah, if only the segregationists in the sixties had adopted such nuanced language: "Sorry, Mr. Meredith; we're focused on white students here at Ole Miss."

The article interviews a couple of people who think racial discrimination is perfectly OK, as long as you're discriminating against white people. For example, Cristina Azocar, director of the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University:

said she was disappointed and that the CIR lawsuit would hurt efforts to diversify journalism education and journalism.

As pointed out by CIR, a 100% whites-excluded program is actually pretty non-diverse. But such is the nature of euphemistic language: the whole point of it is to insulate us from the plain truth.

[More links and commentary from LaShawn Barber here.]


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

A Belated Report on Senator Obama at UNH

Your faithful blogger was unable to attend Barack Obama's town hall meeting in the University of New Hampshire's basketball gym on Monday. But Pun Daughter was more adept at scoring a ticket than I was. I asked her for a report, and here 'tis, only lightly edited:

BARACK WAS TA DIE FOR. I was impressed. I thought he gave great answers to the questions he was asked. There were quite a few students there and I'm assuming most of them were not Political Science majors so it's nice to know people are getting informed. He said some great stuff about education and getting the fighting stopped (which, I totally approve of because I think war is so lame). Obama BARACKED my world...I have bumper stickers to prove it.

So there you go. You'll note, I hope, that there's no political indoctrination going on here at Pun Salad World Headquarters.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

Unimpressed

  • Chris Edwards is unimpressed with Mitt Romney's announcement of his presidential candidacy:

    Like Bill Clinton or George W. Bush on the campaign trail, Romney combines throw-away lines about how government is too big with appeals to fix health care, education, and many other things. "We" need to fix society. "Our" schools and "our" children need help.

    Right. With all the politicians blathering about "our" children, I didn't notice a single one of them showing up at my house offering diaper-changing help.

  • David Freddoso is unimpressed with Rudy Giuliani:

    If Giuliani's stances on babies, guns, and gay marriage do not sink him in the Republican primaries, he will probably suffer in a general election campaign from the fact that there is so much evidence in the public record that he is a total jerk.

    For that matter, it's doubtful that a devout Yankees fan will carry a single New England state.

    (Many readers will contend that "devout Yankees fan" and "total jerk" are redundant. I, myself, would not go that far!)

  • Harold Meyerson is unimpressed with Hillary Clinton's skatearound of the Iraq issue, and digs back into NH-primary-meltdown history for parallels:

    A specter was haunting Hillary Clinton as she campaigned in New Hampshire this weekend: the specter of Ed Muskie.

    As the ancient or merely studious among us will recall, the Democratic senator from Maine, who'd been Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968, entered his party's presidential contest in 1972 as the front-runner. His prospects were dashed in the New Hampshire snows, however. … The Democratic base was in no mood for temporizing on Vietnam.

    Party voters wanted out, and they wanted a nominee who'd been right on the war (almost) from the start: McGovern. Sic transit gloria Muskie.

    Meyerson may be "ancient or merely studious", but he can't beat Pun Salad on pedantry: his column fails to point out that Muskie actually won the NH primary that year. True enough, however, it was "perceived" as a defeat, since he "only" beat McGovern by nine percent.

    Meyerson does mention Muskie's alleged crying in the Manchester snow, which seemed to me to be the real nail in his candicacy's coffin at the time. What are the chances Hillary will be caught out that way? Slim to none, I think; she may have had her tear ducts removed.

  • Nathan Gonzalez is unimpressed with Barack Obama's habit of voting "present" during his tenure in the Illinois Senate:

    For example, in 1997, Obama voted "present" on two bills (HB 382 and SB 230) that would have prohibited a procedure often referred to as partial birth abortion. He also voted "present" on SB 71, which lowered the first offense of carrying a concealed weapon from a felony to a misdemeanor and raised the penalty of subsequent offenses.

    In 1999, Obama voted "present" on SB 759, a bill that required mandatory adult prosecution for firing a gun on or near school grounds. The bill passed the state Senate 52-1. Also in 1999, Obama voted "present" on HB 854 that protected the privacy of sex-abuse victims by allowing petitions to have the trial records sealed. He was the only member to not support the bill.

    … and more examples follow. Gonzalez observes, accurately enough, that the President almost never has the option of voting "present."

Bottom line to all these data points? Probably one we've made before: people looking for inspiring leadership from the current crop of candidates are likely to remain "unimpressed."

Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:06 PM EDT

Sad News from DC

The Guns 'n' Butter blog is reporting a story with a local angle, involving my (I guess, former) Congressperson:

WASHINGTON -- A month after she voted to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, first-term Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., was laid off in a cost-cutting measure by House leadership.

Typically, Congress itself is immune from wage and price control legislation it passes, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, having vowed to make this Congress the most honest and ethical in history, has ordered that Congress subject itself to the same regulations as everyone else, no matter how burdensome.

To quote Woody Allen: I really have mixed feelings about this.

In slightly more real news, the Arizona Republic reports on the result of Arizona's minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $6.75 last month:

Some Valley employers, especially those in the food industry, say payroll budgets have risen so much that they're cutting hours, instituting hiring freezes and laying off employees.

The new policy is not without winners, and the reporter found one:

Liliana Hernandez brings home noticeably more under the new law. The 18-year-old, who attends Metro Tech High School in Phoenix and works part time at Central High School, is saving the extra money, maybe to put towards buying a used car.

… but everyone else mentioned in the story was either making more than the new minimum already, or involved in employment cutbacks.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:08 PM EDT

Where There's Smoke, There's FIRE

College administrators at San Francisco State University (STFU, oops, SFSU) are about to get a tutorial in First Amendment Law 101, courtesy of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Why?

Well, the College Republicans at SFSU held an anti-terrorism rally last October, in which they stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags. These flags "allegedly" bore the name of Allah in Arabic script. Complaints resulted, and the College Republicans have been summoned to appear before a review panel, a first step in possible disciplinary action.

Observes FIRE:

Now, it's well-known to just about everyone with any knowledge of the First Amendment that burning an American flag is protected political expression. We have to assume that SFSU knows this too, and has managed to reason out that if you can cause whatever damage you like to an American flag, you can certainly do the same to the flags of Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other country or organization. So, when Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle asked SFSU spokesperson Ellen Griffin why the complaint was being pursued, she got this answer: "I don't believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag. I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah."

It's not recorded whether Ms. Griffin also admitted that just about anyone with half a brain would find that distinction ludicrous. Here's hoping for a quick resolution to this that somehow involves a maximal amount of well-deserved ridicule directed at the SFSU administration.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:42 PM EDT

I Blame Speaker Pelosi

  • If you've ever wanted to read a news story containing a sentence beginning "The state has ordered 500 talking urinal cakes…," you may click here.

  • In what seems to be the briefest blink of an eye, Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month is nearly half over.

  • My own sympathy for drugged-out moms who die leaving behind five-month-old daughters of dubious paternity is limited. But nevertheless, I found Larry Miller's article on his Anna Nicole Smith encounters more interesting than anything else I've read about her.

Schneier Swings Away

I don't always agree with Bruce Schneier, but his recent Forbes article on Microsoft Vista is an over-the-Green-Monster-seats home run*:

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And you need to pay a decent amount of money for all that, too. "Other than that, though, it's fine!"

It would be a real good idea for people in IT decision-making positions to start thinking real hard about how to move their enterprises away from Microsoft domination.


* Why, yes, I am looking forward to baseball season. Today was Truck Day.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:08 PM EDT

Laura

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

The TV gods have inundated us with fresh episodes of 24, House, Bones, Lost, Monk, and those Thursday-night NBC comedies, which puts DVD-watching on the back burner most evenings. But we did manage to squeeze this one in.

Laura is billed as a film noir, but I think that's a pretty uneasy fit. It stars Dana Andrews as a tough police detective; Gene Tierney as Laura, the ostensible murder victim; Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, and (the Vulcan High Priestess herself) Judith Anderson as suspects. The twist here—I guess, more accurately, the initial twist here—is that the detective falls in love with Laura, just from seeing her portrait hanging in her apartment.

The acting and dialog is stagy; I refuse to believe anyone in the real world says those things that way, not even in the Forties. Dana Andrews is low-key throughout; it's a good thing other people keep pointing out that he's obsessed with Laura, because I never picked it up from him. The plot offers enough red herrings to stock a fish market, and there's not a lot of detective work going on; eventually, it's time to pin the murder on someone, and they do that kind of arbitrarily.

Still, it's clever and flashy and fun. The DVD includes A&E Biography episodes covering the lives of Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, both pretty interesting.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:41 PM EDT

Jarring Juxtaposition

For a baby boomer, this USA Today article about the inexplicable failure to nominate Bob Dylan's Modern Times for a Best Album Grammy contains a little cognitive stunner:

Given the Grammys' fondness for veterans, Dylan's absence is befuddling. Like Clint Eastwood, Dylan is navigating the late stage of his remarkable career with stunning productivity and consistency.

If you'd told me in (say) 1966, the year The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Blonde on Blonde came out, that I'd be reading those two sentences in 2007, I'd have laughed in your face. Clint and Bob—not really inhabitants of the same universe.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:06 PM EDT

Blogroll Update

Just a few:

All are highly recommended for your own periodic visits.

Apologies

With respect to the recent kerfuffle over candidate John Edwards hiring/firing/hiring Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan for his campaign staff: Jim Geraghty makes a couple of good points. First, they'll be able to hold "Catholics for Edwards" meetings in the church furnace room. Second is a more general point about honest apologies:

Sigh. Why? Why can no one say, "I'm sorry I offended you," instead of "I'm sorry you were offended"? The former says, "I did something wrong." The latter says, "I'm sorry you're too sensitive." Why, why, why?

Indeed. Either you're:

  • Sorry for what you did;

  • Not sorry for what you did.

There's no middle ground there. Pick one.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:06 PM EDT

Thoughts on the Death of Anna Nicole Smith

At Planet Fitness, watching Fox News with no sound:

"Well, I guess she lived a full life. … Geez, looks as if Greta van Susteren is having a hard time keeping a straight face here. … Although I guess that could be a Botox thing. … I hope they get somebody competent to do the autopsy."

Later, at home:

"Wonder if Jeff Goldstein has anything on this? … Yes, he does. … Classy, not like the old days.

No, I'm not proud of myself.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

The FCC: Kill It!

In keeping with the federal budget theme of the past few days, Adam Thierer at the Tech Liberation Front asks a really good question: "Why Does FCC Spending Keep Growing?" He has a nice bar chart showing the FCC's budget authority 1996-2008. And then shakes his head:

Seriously, I just don't get it. Why does the FCC's budget keep growing without constraint? Why does it need $313 million and nearly 2,000 bureaucrats to regulate industries and technologies that could do just fine, thank you very much, without endless meddling from DC. It seems to me like all those unregulated rivals are doing just fine without the FCC serving as market nanny, so why not cut the flow of funds to the FCC for awhile and see what happens?

Yeah! The FCC was established in 1934, an time when Americans were looking wistfully at both fascism and socialism and wondering, gee, maybe there's something to that stuff. We're smarter now—at least we'd like to think so—but the barbarous remnants of those failed ideologies continue to haunt us. (Aided, of course, by the power junkies in Congress and the Executive who can't bear the idea that they're not needed to "benevolently" run things.)


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

The Google Says Pun Salad is Your Go-To Blog For …

Grepping and Awking the past month's server logs, people got here via googling:

  • british jokes taking the piss out of accuweather. Someone will have to explain to me what that's supposed to mean, though.

  • "Positively 4th Street" trotsky. Apparently the old Dylan song is about the old commie? Who knew?

  • eva mendes getting slapped on ass 2fast 2furious. I'm sorry, that's not here. I mean, I'm really sorry that's not here.

  • girl riding mechanical bull at murray state nude. Honest, I wouldn't know anything about that either. Now if it were Eva Mendes, …

  • deadly octopi. An Australian species has venomous suckers that can prove fatal to humans. Not that this is the best place to go to learn that.

  • urdu jokes bad wording. I wonder if our visitor was looking for Urdu jokes with bad wording, or Urdu jokes about bad wording. If anyone has PG-13 examples of either, please send 'em in.

  • guaranteed to shake christian belief. Not likely. We run a Baby Jesus-friendly website here.

  • [Cathy
Poulin] But by far the most common way people get here via the Google is by looking for something about Cathy Poulin, the woman appearing in TV ads for Bob's Discount Furniture, pictured at right.

    I think I will make her this blog's official obsession.

    I've noticed that, in recent ads, Bob has started calling her "Cathy", a change from her usual anonymous, yet irritating, presence. And, God help me, I'm actually starting to not be annoyed by her. If this were a movie comedy, I'm sure we all know where this would be heading. Fortunately, it's not.

    She'll be appearing on Saturday, February 17th at the new Bob's in Farmingdale, NY, so all you wackos dear readers that come here looking for Ms. Poulin will want to make your arrangements now.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:09 PM EDT

Cato Folks Talk Sense on Budget

There are two excellent posts on Dubya's proposed budget at the Cato@Liberty blog. The first, from Stephen Slivinski, cuts through the whining and hoopla, and does some simple calculations on the real (after-inflation) budget growth between FY2006 and (proposed) FY2008, and also between FY2001 and FY2008. He concludes:

Bush's new budget still does next to nothing to strip away most of the massive budget increases in domestic programs he signed into law since 2001. It's the fiscal equivalent of a recovering alcoholic patting himself on the back for merely drinking six beers a day instead of eight.

Being a perpetual Panglossian, I'm just happy that he's holding himself to six beers, rather than upping the ante to ten. But other than that, Stephen's on target.

The second article is from David Boaz, who's also unimpressed with both the proposed budget, and the headlines it's garnered in the MSM. (E.g., the Boston Globe: "Bush budget puts pinch on domestic spending") Quoting from an older article of his:

I think we have what dancers call a pas de deux going on here. Or maybe in honor of our Texas president and his aversion to all things French, we should just call it a Texas Two-Step: The president pretends to cut the budget, and Democrats pretend to believe him.

That's a broad bipartisan consensus! A uniter, not a divider!


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

Arnold Kling on Liberaltarianism

Arnold Kling has a fine article at Tech Central Station outlining reasons why libertarians should maintain their ties to conservatives, instead of following the Brink Lindsey "Liberaltarian alliance" idea.

This is a wish-I'd-written:

I find it a challenge trying to persuade religious conservatives to loosen the relationship between their religious beliefs and their political agenda. However, I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.

Good point.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:05 PM EDT

Pretty Pictures on the Federal Budget

A couple years back, I posted an ill-tempered screed in response to an Andrew Sullivan rant about the federal budget, using the invaluable Historical Tables document emitted yearly by the Office of Management and Budget of Your Federal Government. They released this year's budget documents today, and what better time than to recycle that post? I'll eliminate the references to Sullivan (which you can read, if you want, in the old post), and update the data and my opinions appropriately.

I looked at Table 1.2, which contains total budget receipts and outlays as percent of GDP back to 1930. Here's a graph of that data since 1977; post-2006 numbers are estimates:

[Federal In and Out]

Here's what that works out to in terms of deficit spending:

[Federal Deficit]

Click on the graphs for their fullsize versions. Data is here and my Gnuplot script is here. If you'd like to see the data extended back to 1930: here's the receipt/outlays graph and here's the deficit graph.

Note that, as befits a total non-economist, this is about the most simple-minded thing I could have possibly done. But the percent-of-GDP seems appropriate for historical comparison; it seems to be (arguably) a good measure of what we can "afford"; and, if you believe deficits "damage the economy", then it's a pretty good proxy for the level of damage.

Here's some stuff I noticed:

  • The overall trend in federal spending (by this measure), despite bumps, seems to be downward since 1983. Sure, spending increased a lot under Dubya. But (again, by this measure) not totally out of historical whack.

  • On the receipts side, despite fairly wide swings, the trend seems to be pretty flat over this period, somewhere around 18%.

  • Nostalgic for the late Clinton years? Only if you really think it's a good idea for the Feds to be taking a record cut out of the peacetime economy: 20.9% of GDP in FY2000.

  • People who bemoan the savage, nasty, brutal Bush tax cuts? Well, sort of: receipts declined from the high FY2000 level to 16.3% of GDP in FY2004, a level not seen since 1959. But (on the other hand), that was pretty short-lived. Two years later, things were back to a roughly "normal" level.

  • It's (similarly) hard to get apocolyptically excited about recent ups and down in the deficit; the 20-year trend is mostly downward.

  • As a mostly-libertarian, I'd like to think that both receipts and outlays could and should be much, much, lower. But we're talking here about reality and historical context.

  • Entitlements are a ticking time-bomb for the long term, of course.

But my main point is the same as it was in 2005: Look at the graphs, and ask yourself: where do you want the lines to go? What percent of GDP do you think the Feds should be spending in (say) 2030? Let's ignore, for now, the issue of what they should spend on: entitlements, defense, edyookation, … Fight about how to cut the pie after we decide how big it is. Similarly, ignore the issue of where the money comes from; we can also debate that after it's decided what the target is.

That's a simple question, but it's not simplistic. I'd rather this "simple" question got debated openly before anything else; once we've figured that one, we can tackle the "sophisticated" ones. Why aren't presidential candidates being asked such questions?


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:11 PM EDT

Hillary's a Taker

The past few days the presidential campaign seems to have all about who can come up with the worst idea. (Or, to put it a little more exactly: who can raise Paul's blood pressure the most.)

Now: everyone says Hillary Clinton has to appeal to moderates to make her campaign succeed. But she recently called for confiscating the profits of oil companies. Comments Fey Accompli:

That's great, Hillary. Glad you've been comparing notes with Hugo Chavez. Good one.

Does this kind of stuff really fly with today's likely voter?


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:07 PM EDT

Breaking News

[Amazon Link] [1.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

A Hong Kong-based crime movie used to be a reliable way to spend ninety minutes or so lost in fast-paced action. But this one is kind of slow and stodgy. About 5 minutes in, I was thinking: these guys are the worst shots in the world. Because a remarkable number of bullets are fired without effect, even at seemingly point blank range.

The movie also wants to engage in a bit of social commentary, as the higher-ups in the police department want to recover from some embarrassing behavior of officers in the initial shootout. This isn't very interesting.

For film buffs, the first seven minutes is a single tracking shot, with a dolly zooming up and down, in and around the action. That's interesting, but I think I would have preferred to just watch Touch of Evil again.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:40 PM EDT

Get the Linux Genuine Advantage™!

Check out the Linux Genuine Advantage™ website. It's rare that you such a perfect marriage of satire and Linux/Perl coding. What is it? Well:

Linux Genuine Advantage™ is an exciting and mandatory new way for you to place your computer under the remote control of an untrusted third party!

And it actually is! You can view the source code: a decently-commented Perl script which should make any Linux sysadmin quake in his or her boots. Or you can download the thing, and get Makefile, INSTALL, and README files in addition.

But you'd be foolish to actually install it; read the FAQ instead.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 3:06 PM EDT

In For a Penny, In For a Nickel

In the "It's Crazy, But It Just Might Work" department: Austan Goolsbee reports on the possibility of the government waving a magic wand and decreeing that pennies would hereinafter be worth five cents. Before you laugh and shake your head at yet another divorced-from-reality article in the New York Times, read it, and also the actually serious (PDF) article by François R. Velde, an economist with the Chicago Federal Reserve, in the Chicago Fed Letter.

This is via, appropriately enough, the Freakonomics blog. One of the commenters there points to this guy, who's amassed a million pennies and is at a loss as to what to do with them. Wouldn't it be neat if their value went from $10,000 to $50,000 overnight?

I haven't seen it pointed out elsewhere, but adopting this plan would eliminate a stumbling block to the introduction of a dollar coin into everyday commerce, not just as a wacky addon to ordinary currency: there would be an extra coin cup freed up in ordinary cash registers across America.

And, of course, the move would also be an educational experience, as we'd be reminded of what the word "fiat" in "fiat money" actually means.


Last Modified 2007-02-03 11:52 AM EST

Groundhog Day

[Amazon Link] [5.0
stars] [IMDb Link] It's that time of year again, as I carve out a couple hours to watch Groundhog Day. If you've managed to live your life so far without seeing it … well, to quote James Lipton: "Go right now to a place where videotapes or film are sold or rented, and buy it or rent and watch it. It is delightful."

Or watch it again. And again.

In addition to the usual movie links above, the Wikipedians have a pretty good article about the movie. Jonah Goldberg's appreciation from 2005 is now online in its entirety.


Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:40 PM EDT