URLs du Jour


  • Shawn Macomber echoes Todd Seavey's list of Ron Paul's relentlessly libertarian positions, and so will I:
    • abolish the Federal Reserve
    • end Federal involvement in drug enforcement
    • abolish the income tax
    • dismantle the entire welfare state
    • get the U.S. out of the U.N.
    • restore the gold standard and/or allow private currency production
    • end all subsidies
    • eliminate virtually all Cabinet-level agencies
    As the young whippersnappers say these days: w00t! If not for his ostrich views on terrorism … not bad at all.

    Todd Seavey's article, linked to by Shawn, is also a real good read, funny and rambling.

  • If Ron Paul is eliminated from consideration, you might find yourself asking: "Hey! Is Fred Thompson a small-government conservative?" Find out one Catoid's take on that question in the post "Is Fred Thompson a Small-Government Conservative?" (Spoiler: he's far from perfect, but he might be the best bet for serious-about-terrorism libertarians.)

  • We've been real tough on REAL ID here, so let's give some equal time to James Jay Carafano, writing at NRO. He bemoans the fact that, even though REAL ID was passed "with bipartisan support", the current Congress is waning in its enthusiasm, and may repeal it.

    James could have added, but didn't, that numerous state legislatures are refusing to implement it. He could have also mentioned, but didn't, that REAL ID was a rider snuck onto a must-pass military appropriations bill. A stand-alone REAL ID bill had previously stagnated.

    But that's neither here nor there! Because James' primary point is that Congress can be notoriously squishy when it comes time to get tough on previous commitments. He makes a good argument that similar fates await the "tough" enforcement and border security provisions of the comprehensive immigration reform bill.

    Anti-REAL ID guru Jim Harper responds more fully to James' article here.

  • Perhaps the quote of the month is via Powerline:
    "The line between what is prostitution and what is immigration was blurry," Rybak replied.
    You know, my eyesight isn't what it used to be, either. Still …

  • Some long-overdue linklist maintenance: I've added some comics (Lio, Liberty Meadows, and the wonderful Wondermark); a couple of humor sites (Guns 'n' Butter and Lore Sjöberg's Alt Text); James K. Glassman's American.com; Planet Gore from NRO; the too-sporadic Ninth State; Mr. Fairness himself, Brendan Nyhan; the liberaltarian Brink Lindsey. And last, but not least, a new link to Shawn Macomber's bright and shiny (and—best of all—functional) new blog. Have at 'em.

  • By the way, Patrick Hynes is a class act.

The Do-Something Congress

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1252, a bill aimed at "gasoline price gouging." How bad was it? Let's sample opinion from around the web:

  • Robert J. Samuelson in today's WaPo glories in the contradiction of politicians who decry the high price of gasoline, while near-simultaneously fearmongering on global warming:

    Americans want to stop global warming. They want to cut oil imports. They want cheaper energy. Who will tell them that they can't have it all? Not our "leaders."

  • Over at the Club For Growth, Andrew Roth has compiled a sampling of critical editorial opinion. Even the reliably slightly-liberal USA Today has strong words:

    This is becoming a spring ritual, as predictable and irritating as pollen borne on a late May breeze. Prime driving season arrives, gasoline supplies can't keep up with the demand, prices rise, and politicians play on the public's anger to curry favor. An allergic reaction is in order.

  • You wouldn't expect our own state's Union Leader to like the bill, and you wouldn't be disappointed:

    The price-gouging bill is a backdoor attempt at price controls, which inevitably fail and inevitably hurt consumers in the process. The public can always vote on prices with their cars.

  • We've previously quoted George F. Will on the issue, but we'll go back to the will again:

    Pelosi announced herself "particularly concerned" that the highest price of gasoline recently was in her San Francisco district -- $3.49. So she endorses HR 1252 to protect consumers from "price gouging," defined, not altogether helpfully, by a blizzard of adjectives and adverbs. Gouging occurs when gasoline prices are "unconscionably" excessive, or sellers raise prices "unreasonably" by taking "unfair" advantage of "unusual" market conditions, or when the price charged represents a "gross" disparity from the price of crude oil, or when the amount charged "grossly" exceeds the price at which gasoline is obtainable in the same area. The bill does not explain how a gouger can gouge when his product is obtainable more cheaply nearby. Actually, Pelosi's constituents are being gouged by people like Pelosi -- by government. While oil companies make about 13 cents on a gallon of gasoline, the federal government makes 18.4 cents (the federal tax) and California's various governments make 40.2 cents (the nation's third-highest gasoline tax). Pelosi's San Francisco collects a local sales tax of 8.5 percent -- higher than the state's average for local sales taxes.

And there's more, lots more, out there.

Support for HR 1252 is either sheer demagogic posturing, or total economic illiteracy. (Shorter: Dishonest or stupid. Pick one. Or, possibly, both.) Mine own Congresscritter, Carol Shea-Porter, voted for this travesty. So did New Hampshire's other representative, Paul Hodes. As did all but one of the Democrats who voted. As did, disgustingly, over a quarter of the Republicans who voted.

Could we please get some adult supervision here, before these bozos do some real damage?

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:34 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


It turns out that today is "Respect the Disassociated Press Day" here at … no, wait, I got that wrong … it's "Disrespect the Associated Press Day" here at Pun Salad!

  • First off, Captain Ed notices the AP committing serial inaccuracy in their allegatation that President Bush "rejected" the Kyoto Accord. He prints the entire sense-of-the-Senate resolution rejecting Kyoto, passed 95-0 back in 1997, which, for viewers at home, was well before the Dubya era.

    Even if I hadn't already written about this, I could have found this in about ten seconds simply by doing a search of the Internet. The Wikipedia entry is well-researched, and even an advocacy group manages to get this correct. Why can't the AP? Now that two of their reporters have found it impossible to accurately recount the history, it seems less likely that it reflects incompetence and more likely that it reflects a bias -- especially since that vaunted system of fact-checking and editorial oversight has once again allowed misinformation into print.


  • It's always good for a wince when one of our local loons (no, not talking about a bird here) makes the national news:
    Mitt Romney's visit to New Hampshire started on a sour note Tuesday when a restaurant patron declared he would not vote for the Republican presidential contender because of his faith.

    "I'm one person who will not vote for a Mormon," Al Michaud of Dover shouted at Romney when the former Massachusetts governor approached him inside Harvey's Bakery. Romney was kicking off the second of two day's worth of campaign visits in the lead primary state.

    Al reveals himself as a Hillary supporter later in the article. I don't know that Senator Clinton has a total lock on the religious bigot vote, but (in any case) I fervently hope it's not as large as this story makes it seem to be.

    By the way, Al's previous appearance in the news is here, almost five years ago: "Volunteer, 72, keeps city streets clean", about how he daily wandered the Dover byways, picking up trash as he went. I'm not absolutely sure it's the same "Al Michaud", but I'd bet some money on it.

    In keeping with our theme, today's story is from the AP, and their headline seems more than a bit off-kilter:

    Romney Criticized for Mormon Faith in N.H.
    Shouldn't that be more like: "Romney Encounters Ill-Mannered Democratic Crank in N.H."? (Via Dean Barnett, who also comments about the AP's cavalier attitude toward the matter. Also see Hugh.)

  • And what is it about the AP and New Hampshire, anyway? Joe Malchow compiles reactions to a recent AP story about newly-elected Dartmouth trustee Stephen Smith. Summary:
    Left, right, and center, Dartmouth has spoken clearly: The AP just doesn't know what it's talking about with respect to our small college.

  • An article at NRO by Byron York has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it. York describes the argument prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is making to Lewis ("Scooter") Libby's sentencing hearing in support of a stiff jail term. Fitzgerald is arguing that Libby obstructed the investigation of Very Serious Laws indeed: the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the Espionage Act.

    Even though Fitzgerald has not charged anyone with breaking either law. Even though no evidence was presented at Libby's trial that such crimes even occurred, let alone by Libby.

    This is jurisprudence worthy of the Queen of Hearts. To tie this into our theme: here is an AP story on the matter. To their credit, although they lack York's sharp analysis, they do manage to juxtapose two telling paragraphs:

    Libby "lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation concerning the disclosure of a covert intelligence officer's identity," Fitzgerald wrote. "He has shown no regret for his actions, which significantly impeded the investigation."

    No one was charged with the leak itself, including the initial source of the disclosure, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Fitzgerald was aware early on that Armitage was the original source of the leak.

    A very serious investigation of a leak, where the leaker was already known, and not charged with any wrongdoing. Yeah, throw away the key.

Letters from Iwo Jima

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Perhaps an odd choice for a Memorial Day weekend movie, but such are the mysterious workings of the the Blockbuster Online rental queue.

As General Patton said: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." This movie is all about the other bastards, the Japanese ones, mostly dying on the dinky island of Iwo Jima.

The movie won one Oscar, and was nominated for three others: Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), and Best Writing (Original Screenplay). I came away saying: fine, but Ken Watanabe (who played commanding General Kuribayashi) deserved a nod too; he's amazingly good.

One quibble is that the movie doesn't do a very good job in conveying basic facts about the battle. In the movie, it seems Mount Suribachi is overtaken nearly immediately, but the famous flag-planting didn't happen until the fourth day after the landing. The movie's final battle happened in late March of 1945, about five weeks after the landing; the movie doesn't give you a hint of that timespan. But that's why we have Wikipedia.

As you probably know, this movie is a companion to Flags of our Fathers, told from the American side. Haven't seen that one yet, and will probably wait a bit until I recover from this one.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:29 PM EDT

Dead Again

[Amazon Link] [5.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This 1991 movie is a sentimental favorite of mine; at one point last year the DVD was going for $6.99 at Amazon, so I bit. (It's since gone up to $9.98 new, still a pretty good deal.)

Kenneth Branagh directed, and starred with his then-wife Emma Thompson. They both play dual roles. In scenes set in the late 1940s, they play composer Roman Strauss and his musician wife Margaret; in the opening scenes, Roman is about to be executed for Margaret's murder. In the modern-day scenes, they are private eye Mike Church, and the mute amnesiac Grace; Mike has been dragooned into trying to find out her identity.

The movie itself is a combination of straightforward mystery and supernatural mumbo-jumbo, which could have easily been a disaster; but Ken and Emma are at the peak of their powers here, and made it work for me. Things are helped along by good supporting performances from Derek Jacobi, Wayne Knight(!), Robin Williams, and Andy Garcia.

And Emma Thompson never looked more beautiful.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:28 PM EDT

Memorial Day 2007

Jeff Emanuel gives you four young men to remember.

URLs du Jour


  • Thirty years ago today, I was in the Uptown Theatre in Washington DC. And James Lileks remembers where he was too. Slashdot has lots of fun links.

  • The WaPo has an interesting story today on folks who "declare e-mail bankruptcy": swamped with too many unanswered messages in their inbox, they just give up and start over. Or not start over, in some cases, just swearing off e-mail altogether.

    Pardon the strong language, but most of those folks are latecomers and wimps compared to Geekfather Donald Knuth. Read his explanation of his dropping e-mail back in 1990:

    I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I'd used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.
    (You can also read his rationale for spelling it "email" instead of "e-mail." I'm not convinced.)

  • How to lose the immigration debate: imply that your opponents are bloodthirsty lunatics, or just garden-variety bigots.

    (As one of the commenters to the latter article says: "You lost me at 'Some people just don't like Mexicans'". Which happen to be the first six words in the article.)

  • Republicans of a libertarian bent (or libertarians of a Republican bent) may be interested in Ross Douthat's musings on how well the "libertarian" label fits on Rudy Giuliani vs. Ron Paul. My own take: libertarianism aside, I'm not sure Dr. Paul isn't a total wacko.

URLs du Jour


  • The National Republican Congressional Committee has established an entertaining website: The Real Democrat Story. They've targeted 21 freshman Congresscritters, including mine own, Carol Shea-Porter. She has her "personalized" page here.

    It's good clean hyperpartisan fun, but it mainly demonstrates that—get ready—Congresswoman Carol votes with the Democrats a lot! For a typical example, here's one damning accusation:

    Carol Shea-Porter voted against providing affordable health care to uninsured working families. (House Roll Call 10)
    Wha?! But click through to the voting tally, and it turns out the bill was "Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Tenth Congress", all Democrats voting one way, all Republicans the other. I'm supposed to be shocked that she voted with her party on a straight party-line vote? Sorry, I'll pass.

  • John Derbyshire has an insightful and entertaining review of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle tomes at The New Atlantis. If you've been wondering whether to undertake the project of reading those approximately 2600 pages (of unlarge type and unwide margins), Derbyshire's review might help make the choice.

  • Iowahawk forwards the results of a recent Pew Research study: "Midwest Lutherans Largely Reject Violence". As an ex-Midwest Lutheran myself, I'm happy to see that solid research on that misunderstood minority is finally debunking long-held stereotypes and prejudices about being "violence-prone" and having "bad coffee in the church basement." For example:
    "If there is one headline here, it's how remarkably moderate the Lutheran community is," said Pew director Andrew Kohut of the survey, which was co-sponsored by the Council on American-Yooper Relations. "It really paints a picture of a dynamic culture in or somewhere near the American mainstream."

    Kohut pointed to one of the study's key findings that only 29% of all respondents agreed that "bloody, random violence against infidels" was "always" or "frequently" justified, versus 56% who said such violence was "seldom" or "never" justified. The approval of violence rose slightly among younger Lutherans and when the hypothetical violence was targeted against Presbyterians, but still fell well short of a majority.

    Presbyterians … don't get me started.

    [Oh, yeah. If you missed the thing the Hawk is lampooning, a straight news story is here.]

URLs du Jour


  • Is the ACLU turning into just another "free speech for the people we agree with" organization? Wendy Kaminer thinks so. At Phi Beta Cons, David French agrees and comments:
    In fact, in the arena of student speech (particularly university student speech), it seems that there could and should be left/right consensus on the First Amendment framework. There's just no constitutionally defensible reason to protect the expression of one side of a political/cultural/religious debate while labeling the other side "harassment." If nothing else, there is one compelling reason for the left to embrace free speech on campus: People like me would have to find new jobs.
    And I'd have to find other stuff to blog about.

  • Are the folks at Jeopardy! meekly acquiescing to China's domination of Tibet? Bill Poser at Language Log thinks so. (Playing along at home last night, I also yelled out the "wrong" answer, but—I swear—I'm not just posting this due to sour grapes. Commie bastards…)

  • The new NH-02 congressman, Paul Hodes, made the news! Unfortunately, the headline is "Freshmen fail first ethics test". (Via Wizbang!.)

  • We did the Al Gore stuff yesterday. But when an Ann Althouse post contains a quote like this:
    [Gore was] eating like a maniac: I watched him inhale the clam dip at a reception like a man who doesn't know when his next meal will be coming.
    … it's pretty much a must-link. Even when the quote is fourth-hand via Maureen Dowd.

  • Perhaps this decade's most useful page: the Parody Motivator Generator. Sensitive souls may want to avert their eyes from my effort, lest they weep.

    [Parody Motivator Generator]

    Y'all can do better! Let's see 'em. (Via GeekPress, of course.)

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:35 PM EDT

URLs du Gore


I see no controlling legal authority that forbids me from doing so, so:

  • Bill Gnade bills himself as "incurably Algore-aphobic." Hey, me too! Al's new book, out today, is entitled The Assault on Reason; Bill is preemptively unimpressed:

    Al Gore's book is, like so many deeds and screeds of too many today, mere psychological projection. Mr. Gore is going to point out the sins of others not knowing (apparently) that such sins are his own. … And the only sins any one of us is truly expert in is the sins that are indeed our own. The Assault on Reason is a child's game of distraction: Look! What's that behind you?! Mr. Gore hopes you will ignore what is in front of your face, just so he can slink away.

    Bill also has a fill-in-the-blank challenge going. I can't improve on what's already there, but I bet you can, so click on over.

  • Anklebiter B. T. also has comments on Al's "'Assault on Reason' world tour" and his "sycophant enablers in the media". Conclusion:

    The more Al Gore speaks, the easier it is to see who is really carrying out an "assault on reason". And since he advocates we watch less TV, I say we start watching less TV about the same time This Week comes on, so our reasoning can recover from assaults like the one perpetrated by Al Gore and his sycophants.

    B. T. has a long memory, which informs his views on this matter.

  • Joanne Jacobs notes that Al's movie An Inconvenient Truth is making progress toward being renamed An Unavoidable Bore, at least by today's schoolkids:

    • A Bronx Assemblyman wants it to be shown to every student, every year, starting in the first grade.

    • A Northern Ontario high schooler reports that he was required to watch it four times over the past academic year, in four different classes.


  • OK, this last one is not about Al, but was there ever a better headline about John Edwards than:

    (Via Protein Wisdom.)

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:37 PM EDT

The Children of Men

[Amazon Link]

I liked the movie, so I grabbed the book from the UNH library.

The main thing I noticed—probably so much so that it interfered with taking the book on its own merits—was how much major surgery on the plot and characters was involved for the movie.

In both book and movie, the basic premise is that people have long-since stopped having babies, for reasons nobody knows. This causes increasing social dysfunction and political tyranny. Things change when (also inexplicably) a young woman becomes pregnant; everyone wants to use her for their own purposes. Theo, the protagonist, becomes the protector of the woman and they undertake a long-odds journey to ensure the baby's safety.

But just about everything else is different. Movie-Theo is a bureaucrat and a drunk; book-Theo is a college literature professor. Both had a child whose death precipitated the breakup of his marriage, but in the movie the child just got sick; in the book, it's a car accident caused by Theo. Book-Theo just happens to be the cousin of the "Warden", the dictator in charge; Movie-Theo's ex-wife just happens to be the leader of a group of rebels.

These and a host of other changes change everything on motivational and character levels.

Ross Douthat thought the book much superior to the movie; I think both are fine on their own terms. If anything, I think both understate the kind of chaos that would actually occur if there were no more children born.

Update: I was impressed by the movie/book differences, but you might want to check out Mark Steyn, who was dismayed by them.

Another update: they are, for some reason, all over this book-vs-movie thing at The Corner today, with a lot of links. If you're interested: here; here; here; here; here. After reading those links, I'm reminded that I'm a superficial Philistine.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:28 PM EDT

Letter to my Reps

Here's what I sent to New Hampshire's senators, and my—sigh—Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter:

I hope you will oppose the so-called "compromise" Kennedy/Kyl immigration bill.

I recently read that it got rid of any requirement for illegal immigrants paying their back taxes and penalties to the IRS. This transforms a merely bad bill to one that's completely unacceptable. It's a kick in the face to just about any law-abiding taxpayer.

Just say no. The status quo is better than this bill.

I'm not sure how effective this will be—I'm pretty sure that voting-wise, Congresswoman Shea-Porter listens to Nancy Pelosi far more carefully than she does her constituents—but it couldn't hurt.

From the story linked above:

"I can tell you, most law-abiding taxpayers would find that provision totally distasteful," [spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union Pete Sepp] said about the decision not to seek back taxes. "I doubt that many citizens are willing to swallow that special treatment."
I think that's a definite contender for Understatement of the Year.

28 Weeks Later

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

I coulda gone to see Spider-Man 3, but Pun Son is a devotee of zombie movies, and I'd heard good things about this, so …

Unfortunately, nothing special for me here. It's competently made, but (personally speaking) I don't enjoy movies with plots of the type which this is, of which I can't tell you, because to tell you would involve a major spoiler. If you catch my drift, and it's OK if you don't. I liked the predecessor better.

Well, no big deal. It's not as if I set fire to those sixteen dollars, I guess.

And your mileage may vary; Reihan Salam, for example, deemed "one of the best movies I've ever seen, and certainly the best I've seen in a long while." He goes on (accurately enough) about the acting talent, but it seems to me the acting here runs the limited range between (a) terrified and (b) incredibly pissed off, with one small foray into (c) brave but doomed.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 5:20 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • If Fred Thompson is writing his own stuff, it's pretty impressive. Any other candidates quoting Thomas Sowell?

  • Life lesson: your genius in one area (e. g., music) does not mean you'll be any good at all in another area (e. g., performing for kindergarteners without coming across as weird and scary).

    Still, give the man respect for trying this at all. Kids are a tough crowd. All he was really trying to do was, baby, to be friends with them.

  • Geoffrey K. Pullum speculates on the probability of his dropped keyboard generating an accidental Unix/Linux shell command. A must-read for every geek who might be in that situation, although here at Pun Salad Manor it would more likely be the result of meandering kd;lyb tds as4 Hey, get off! … cat paws.

URLs du Jour


"Energy Efficient Edition"

  • The scandal of washing machines that don't wash, thanks to Your Federal Government, has made it to the New York Times, thanks to John Tierney. (Via Instapundit)

  • I don't play Second Life, but someone's figured out that all those avatars tromping around virtual reality use real servers using real electricity. Iain Murray speculates:
    Now some people are suggesting a carbon tax on electricity. If we use Sir Nicholas Stern's figure of $85 worth of damages per ton of CO2, the average Second Life player should pay $140 to the government per year to account for his or her destructive geekery.
    "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that avatar behind the virtual tree."

  • Of course, if you really are willing to sacrifice geekily for the environment, you can use Blackle instead of Google. As their "about" page explains:

    Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen." Roberson et al, 2002

    In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

    Well, exactly.

  • When a Heather Mac Donald essay begins:
    There may be jobs requiring greater mendacity than a college affirmative action officer - college president comes to mind - but there can't be many.
    … it's pretty much a must-read here. Ms. M. posts an actual e-mail exchange with UCSD's chief diversity officer, Jorge Huerta; if you haven't gotten your minimum daily requirement of educrat bafflegab, check it out. (Via Katie's mom.)

  • Has it really been only a year? Seems like longer! Brendan Smith's essay at Weekend Pundit looks at the momentous event that forever divided New Hampshire's past from its future:
    In the 21 years I've lived in New Hampshire there has never been one more filled with excitement than the last one...and the best is yet to come.

    Of course you know what I'm talking about....this month we celebrate the first anniversary of the pumpkin becoming the official state fruit of New Hampshire.

    Sarcasm may be involved here … not sure.

Last Modified 2007-05-19 4:45 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Iowahawk excerpts the newly-reorganized Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Lileks is there, and he's in good company. Including guess who:
    When I got to the precinct the flatfeet had already booked the perp. A slack shouldered little Norwegian weasel with a mop of greasy blond hair and a pair of jittery eyes. His name was Olafson. The hairs on the back of my neck told me something was wrong.

  • Today's "progressives" seem to be fully in favor of "progressing" right back to a couple decades ago by reanimating the long-dead "Fairness Doctrine." This would put Your Federal Government right back in the odious business of making sure no Unfairness reached your tender senses by way of the broadcast media. Derek Hunter at Politico has a good short article on the history and current controversy. Bottom line:
    The return of the Fairness Doctrine has nothing to do with fairness. It has everything to do with shutting down opposing viewpoints. When Republicans were in charge, they didn't move to regulate into silence voices that spoke out against them. The power of government should not be used to silence opposition. That, by any reading of the First Amendment, is un-American and unfair.

  • George Will looks at Nancy Pelosi's latest comments on gasoline prices and energy policy and finds them short on substance, long on demagoguery:
    Pelosi vowed, as politicians have been doing since President Nixon set the fashion, to achieve ``energy independence.'' Such vows are, as Soviet grain production quotas used to be, irrational reflexes that no serious person takes seriously. Pelosi baldly asserts that ``energy independence is essential to reducing the price at the pump,'' but does not say how.
    … perhaps because any elaboration of that idea would make its foolishness even more obvious.

Send Your Underwear to the Undersecretary!

Pun Salad was all over the recent Consumer Reports article reporting that new Federal regulations mandating "efficient" clothes washers are forcing consumers to choose between spending $900 or more, or buying something that doesn't actually get your clothes very clean.

Since this was Consumer Reports, when forced to make a call between being on the side of government or the consumer, their choice was pretty easy: they "wholeheartedly support" the regulations.

Fortunately, there's an actual pro-consumer group that noticed this, and has the wherewithal to produce a campaign, complete with YouTube goodness:

Unfortunately the young lady has a voice that can most politely described as "grating". Yet, her suggestion is charming: send a pair of your underwear to—heh!—the Undersecretary of Energy, Mr. Dennis R. Spurgeon. (If you choose to do that, please observe the USPS regulations on the mailing of hazardous substances. Especially if you have one of those new washers.)

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:40 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


Pun Salad doesn't play very hard at inside-baseball politics, leaving that sort of thing to the ever-growing Granite Grok Media Empire. But the New Hampshire Presidential Primary is a mere (tentatively scheduled) 251 days away as I type. Dagnabbit, it's time to start paying attention. So:

  • I don't mind voting for candidates with less than zero chance of winning. So I was thinkin' about voting for Ron Paul, arguably the most libertarian candidate. Unfortunately, he's got a blame-America-first isolationist streak that flatly disqualifies him.

  • And I'm darned if this isn't the cutest lil' political graphic I've seen lately:

    [Cute graphic since removed from the "RudyMcRomney" site]

    They're "RINOs"—get it? Heh!

  • Everybody and his mother has linked to the cool Fred Thompson video, so why should I be an exception?

  • Also cool is Bruce Willis, who went to geeky extreme measures to prove he was really he. To tie it into our theme today: I'm up for a Thompson/Willis ticket in 2008. (OK, the Willis part is only semi-serious. But still, they worked well together in Die Hard 2.)

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:43 PM EDT

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Judges, Either

FIRE has the whole sad story of the censorship of a humor magazine at Brandeis University. Especially poignant is knowing the school's namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote:

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
… but Brandeis U decided to go with that whole "enforced silence" thing instead.

[Yes, the Brandeis athletic team name is the "Judges". No word on how offensive that might be to actual judges.]

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Jumbos

If you're a student at Tufts University, you might read any or all of the following paeans to free expression in your official student handbook:

You should anticipate controversial dialogue about issues important to you and that you may be shocked when another student voices an opinion radically different from yours.We should cherish the opportunity to be learning in a place where controversial expression is embraced.
Tufts is an open campus committed to the free exchange of ideas. It is inevitable that some programs and speakers will be offensive to some members of the community. That offensiveness will not be seen as a reason to prevent the program. In fact, the university will strive to uphold the right of a campus organization to invite speakers or hold programs, even controversial ones, and to hold them without interruption.
The university is committed to free and open discussion of ideas and opinions.
As it turns out, students affiliated with the conservative student publication The Primary Source appear to have taken all those supportive statements a little too seriously. Back in December, they printed a Christmas carol parody ("O Come All Ye Black Folk") critical of racial quotas in admissions. (Later, they apologized.) Then last month, they published a lampoon of Islamic Awareness Week ("Islam/Arabic Translation: Submission") containing accurate but incendiary information about Islam's history of violence and bigotry.

That was quite enough for Tufts' Committee on Student Life, which brought The Primary Source up on charges and found it guilty. As I have found myself saying quite a bit: FIRE is all over this story. They comment:

Tufts' actions here completely contradict its strong promises of freedom of speech. Tufts administrators might think they are helping students by protecting them from expression that—despite being perceptive or funny—offends in some way. But Tufts has done its students a disservice by insulating them from free speech.
(The link goes to their latest blog posting on the topic, but click around for more.)

Eugene Volokh has been equally apalled by Tufts' actions:

In this case, the punishment for the speech is a ban on one newspaper's ability to publish anonymous speech—while other newspapers that express favored views remain free to shield their contributors from social ostracism and other retaliation through anonymity. It requests "that student governance consider the behavior of student groups," which is to say the viewpoints those groups express, "in future decisions concerning recognition and funding."

But more importantly, the ruling finds that the speech violated general campus rules that make such speech "unacceptable at Tufts" and require "prompt and decisive action." Though it looks like no individual students are being disciplined in this instance, if the Tufts Administration accepts the ruling, it will send a clear message that students who express "attitudes or opinions" like this will be seen as violating campus anti-harassment rules, and will be subjected to "prompt and decisive action," which campus rules say may involve "the disciplinary process," against individual students as well as against organizations. After this decision, what should Tufts students feel free to say in criticizing religions, or in criticizing affirmative action?

I'd say that a sensible Tufts student would be chilled by this outcome.

Finally, at Phi Beta Cons, David French raises an obvious point: if you're in the process of choosing a university for yourself or helping a student do so, it might be a good idea to look askance at private schools; whatever lip service they might pay to freedom of expression, students simply lack the First Amendment guarantees they have at a public university. (It pains me as a free-marketeer to write this.) Prospective students of the sort to dissent from the prevailing campus orthodoxy might want to ponder:

As is becoming increasingly clear, you are gambling quite a bit (up to $50,000 each year, including room, board, and other expenses) on schools that have no regard for you, your rights, or your future.
… not that public universities are shining examples of respecting your rights, mind you; but if they try to pull a Tufts on you, you can sue them, and you'll win.

Interestingly, I haven't noticed any insider blogging on this incident from Tufts professor (and self-described small-l libertarian) Daniel Drezner. Also see comments from Michelle (Ma Belle) Malkin.

[Title explanation: the Tufts mascot is an elephant, and their athletic team nickname—really—is the "Jumbos". Personally, I find this offensive to People of Weight.]

URLs du Jour


  • Bobby "Boris" Pickett passed away last month. Mark Steyn has, almost certainly, the definitive word on Bobby's novelty hit song from the 60's, "The Monster Mash", large amounts of which any American man or woman of a Certain Age will be able to recite by memory. Amazing fact: the pianist on the record was Leon Russell. Whoa.

  • Speaking of the 60's: there's recently been a cluster of stories about the "Mercury 13", female pilots who underwent astronaut testing back then. (Example from USA Today.) James Oberg has the goods on how shoddy all this mainstream journalism has been. (Via Instapundit.)

  • In the really important news: the magic number for the Boston Red Sox is, as I type, 118.

Hard America, Soft America

[Amazon Link]

It's a shame that I didn't read this book when it was new, but better late than never. Subtitled "Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future", it sets up a neat dichotomy. On one hand we have the results-oriented, sharp-eyed, fast-moving "Hard"; on the other, we have the touchy-feely, sentimental, compassionate, it's-all-good "Soft". Mr. Barone ranges wide on this topic, showing how it explains things in diverse areas like finance, education, welfare, and military policy. Barone isn't without sympathy for "Soft America" but he's clear that most of the activity that makes the US healthy, wealthy, and wise is on the Hard side.

The book is relatively short and easy to read, and ages well. Although it was written after the start of the Iraq invasion, and before the 2004 elections, most of the examples still ring true.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:30 PM EDT

Catch and Release

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I don't know if I've mentioned this lately, but these things I do aren't movie "reviews", exactly. Consider them more like movie "impressions". I think "reviews" would require a little more work than I'm willing to do, and a lot more expertise than I actually have. In addition—this was especially the case here—sometimes I don't always give my full attention to the movie.

So: my main impression from Catch and Release is: boy, that Jennifer Garner sure has a nice smile.

Also: Kevin Smith doesn't totally embarrass himself here, playing a straight role in someone else's movie.

And: it's about time someone set a movie in Boulder, Colorado, home of Celestial Seasonings tea. I toured their factory once; it's more fun than you would think. The Mint Room is quite an experience; it's like a rock concert for your nose.

Oh yeah, the movie: it's the story of our plucky heroine, whose fiancé has kicked the bucket a few days before the wedding. Her life a financial and emotional wreck, she moves in with her fiancé's buddies. As it turns out, the dead guy was keeping secrets, and that drives much of the subsequent plot.

Bottom line: a not-unpleasant diversion, but the characters aren't unusually likeable or interesting, and their problems aren't all that gripping.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:30 PM EDT

Blood Diamond

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Movies set in modern-day Africa tend to be depressing. This is no exception. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a South African veteran of the war in Angola, nowadays working as a diamond smuggler between Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sierra Leone is in the throes of struggle between revolutionary thugs and government thugs; the war is financed by the diamond smuggling.

In one of those movie coincidences, a native fisherman (played by Djimon Hounsou, the only unambiguously good main character in this) both (a) has his child conscripted by the revolutionaries, and (b) discovers a diamond as big as the Ritz, which he buries for safekeeping, and (c) lets this secret slip to Archer while they're in the slammer, and (d) Archer runs into a beautiful journalist lady, played by Jennifer Connelly.

So they all, working at cross-purposes, wind up on a quest to get the diamond and the kid. Leo punctuates everthing he says with "huh" and "right" in an (as far as I know, good) Afrikaaner accent. Jennifer seems to be channelling Tea Leoni. Arnold Vosloo, who was Marwan in 24 a couple years back, and the Mummy, in The Mummy, shows up (unsurprisingly) as a real bad guy.

There are a lot of scences of brutal savagery and carnage, all attached to a morality tale of how the diamond trade is to blame for it all. The movie's honest enough to make this simplistic and convenient premise not too believable.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:31 PM EDT

The Holiday

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

This movie has a lot of things wrong with it. It's way too long. It's obviously contrived. It's extremely talky; in the show/tell spectrum, it's all the way over on the "tell" end. Worse, the talk is the pretend-witty style that's not very witty at all. And—oh oh—it's an unabshed chick flick; the movie revolves around Californian Amanda and English Iris (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, respectively), who have done been treated bad by the men in their lives, and how they each find their way out of that mess. On an Internet-based whim, they decide to swap houses for a couple weeks; isn't that what you'd do in their position?

So, it could have been pretty bad. But pulling things up quite a bit is Kate Winslet, who made her unlikely role solidly believable. Jack Black does a very good job as Miles, her (eventual) love interest in California. Eli Wallach shows up in a supporting role as a retired screenwriter she befriends.

So, basically watchable. I didn't laugh too much, but I didn't fall asleep either.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:31 PM EDT

Children of Men

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

As science-fictional dystopian thrillers go, this is probably one of the best. The setting is England in 2027, and due to reasons unexplained, no children have been born anywhere in the world for the past 18 years. Society is visibly disintegrating, random violence is rife, the government only holds onto power via scapegoating and totalitarian brutality. Slick ads for suicide kits appear on TV.

Our unlikely hero is Theo, played by Clive Owen, a drunk whose politically-active ex-wife drags him into an audacious scheme. Owen does a great job of portraying an ordinary schlub getting swept up in circumstances. (And the circumstances just keep getting more and more nightmarish as the movie goes along.) Also great—as he is just about always—is Michael Caine playing an aging hippie pothead, trying to wisecrack his way through apocalypse.

If you're a fan of "show, don't tell" movies, this will reward you amply. The moviemakers put a lot of detail in the background, relying on the viewer to observe and deduce. (I like it when I catch things; I also worry that I've missed three things for every one caught.)

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:31 PM EDT

Fake Outrage III

We previously mentioned (here and here) the phony outrage tactic deployed by progressive types when Republicans say something they can construe as racially insensitive. The examples above occurred when Tony Snow and Mitt Romney (each) used the term "tar baby". In both cases, no racial overtones existed, but—in both cases—a host of Deep Thinkers pretended to be offended, and pointed with fake dismay at the obvious racism that use of the term "revealed."

But sometimes the folks who enjoy playing this game really have to stretch, which just makes the fakery all the more obvious. A shining example was recently highlighted on the front page of the Huffington Post. The current miscreant is Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), who, on the House floor, attempted to quote "successful Confederate general" Nathan Bedford Forrest, on the topic of military strategy:

Git thar fustest with the mostest.
Why is this bad? Well, Because the person being quoted, one Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. (Although he distanced himself from the KKK shortly after the founding.)

Now, Forrest was not being approvingly quoted on his KuKluxery or racism. Nevertheless, the lefty poster at least pretended to consider it "rather scandalous." And his very first commenter was positively eager to be a poster child for Godwin's Law:

I guess the Republicans really are the same kind of people as those who perpetrated slavery and the Holocaust, except without the opportunities to do so. At least that's what it seems like.
Sure it does.

Now, note that, at least according to Wikipedia, Poe's quote of Forrest was actually a widely-spread misquote, originating in an early-twentieth-century article in the New York Times. (Apparently an accurate quote would be "to git thar fust with the most men.") Does this absolve Poe in our blogger's eyes? Oh, heck no:

What's worse than quoting the founder of the KKK on the House floor? Quoting him incorrectly.
The blogger did not add, but could have: "…according to the official rules that I just made up."

Note that the Huffington Post has seen fit to post two articles by an actual ex-Klan member, just within the past month. Any lefties out there pretending to be outraged at that?

Last Modified 2007-05-09 5:07 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Out at UC-Fresno, there is a lonely beacon of good-humored sanity named Craig Bernthal, and his short (unexerptable) essay on the "National Survey of Student Engagement" he was asked to complete is a classic. So go read it. (Via Stuart Buck.)

  • Continuing in the higher-ed vein: there's a school called "Harvard" about 90 minutes south of here; one of their law professors, Charles Nesson, together with Wendy Seltzer, advocate that Harvard resist recent demands from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to "point fingers at their students, to filter their Internet access, and to pass along notices of claimed copyright infringement."
    Instead, we should be assisting our students both by explaining the law and by resisting the subpoenas that the RIAA serves upon us. We should be deploying our clinical legal student training programs to defend our targeted students. We should be lobbying Congress for a roll back of the draconian copyright law that the copyright industry has forced upon us. Intellectual property can be efficient when its boundaries are relatively self-evident.
    No word on whether Harvard is going to take Professor Nesson's good advice. Here at UNH, the decision has been made to act as a conduit for the RIAA. (Harvard link via GraniteGeek.)

  • In the News That Makes You Go Wha?! Department: James Lileks' employer, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is intent on reassigning him to write "straight local news stories."

    Using my vast talent for polite understatement: this is a poor match for his talents and a tragic misallocation of the newspaper's resources. (Not that I care about the newspaper so much.)

    Hugh Hewitt comments and has links to other comments. And Dave Barry saith:

    This is like the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats.
    "Indeed." Lileks says he doesn't mind if his readers contact the Star-Tribune's Reader Representative, and I've done so.

  • Speaking of my close personal friend Dave: he had a review of an e-mail etiquette guide in the New York Times yesterday. Sample:
    I do almost all of my communicating by e-mail. I've been known to e-mail people who were literally standing next to me, which I know sounds crazy, because at that distance I could easily call them on my cellphone. But I prefer e-mail, because it's such an effective way of getting information to somebody without running the risk of becoming involved in human conversation.
    Hey, me too!

    Good for fellow-blogger Dave, getting published in the NYT is a real step to perhaps becoming an actually successful professional writer someday.

  • It's hard to believe that this guy is the same guy as this guy. But he apparently is.

Happy Feet

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

There's this kid penguin, Mumble, who's a dancer when everyone else in his tribe are singers. This makes him an outcast, and he goes on an odyssey of discovery, adventure, and (eventually) a long-shot quest to save the penguin food supply.

This is pretty good kid stuff even for adults. Animation is great, the voices are fantastic, music fine (although somewhat obscure—Earth, Wind & Fire?). I laughed a lot. There's an environmental "message" attached, but (fortunately) not in an overly didactic way.

It's rated PG "for some mild peril and rude humor," although the peril didn't seem too mild to me. Seals are scary!

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:32 PM EDT

Consumers Screwed, Consumer Reports is OK With It

The current issue of Consumer Reports (June 2007) has a scary cover line:

 don't wash
What?! That's outrageous! Surely Consumer Reports will bring these corporate fraudsters to heel! Our ire rising, we flip immediately to page 42:
Not so long ago you could count on most washers to get your clothes very clean. Not anymore. Our latest tests found huge performance differences among machines. Some left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing. For best results, you'll have to spend $900 or more.
Oh boy, another big-business ripoff, screwing over the little guy? "Oh, you wanted a washer that would actually get your clothes clean? Well, ma'am, that's going to cost a little more. Actually, a lot more. Step this way…"
What happened?
More accurately, what the hell happened?
As of January, the U.S. Department of Energy has required washers to use 21 percent less energy, a goal we wholeheartedly support.
…light dawns…
But our tests have found that traditional top-loaders, those with the familiar center-post agitators, are having a tough time wringing out those savings without sacrificing cleaning ability, the main reason you buy a washer.

Put another way: manufacturers used to make relatively inexpensive washers that actually worked. But (thanks to Your Federal Government) that's against the law now, so either prepare to shell out a lot more money, or pray that the Unwashed look somehow comes back into fashion.

Given the current environmentalist upsurge, you should also probably be prepared to make such choices over and over in the future, as "ecofriendly" regulations raise prices on future consumer products that won't work as well as the items you're replacing.

One would think that an organization that purports to be a champion of the consumer might look a little more critically at government regulation, specifically the kind that raises prices and decreases consumer product quality. Consumer Reports, however, has rarely seen a government regulation that it didn't like, and this is no exception. (If it were a corporation doing this—well, of course, they'd be apeshit.)

It would be neat if we had a magazine that said: "Wait a minute; why don't we deregulate washer energy usage, and let consumers decide what to buy, based on their own relative preferences for clean clothes, energy efficiency, and up-front cost? And we'll provide accurate information to help them make an informed decision!"

But that wouldn't be today's Consumer Reports. Maybe they should give up their name and let an actual pro-consumer group be Consumer Reports instead?

Last Modified 2007-05-06 10:50 AM EDT


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

So, is Dreamgirls any good?

No, it's pretty bad.

But it got a 78% on the Tomatometer!

I think those people are idiots.

But James Berardinelli said that "Dreamgirls is a wonderful entertainment: a musical that, while not skimping on the music, delivers a multi-layered storyline featuring complex characters."

Please. It's way too long, the characters are clichés, so is the plot. (Infidelity, drug abuse, self-destructive jealousy, ambition, greed. It's like they have a checklist.) With one exception—see below—acting is from bad to mediocre. (It's nice that Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar, but—c'mon.)

But the music is good, right?

No, it's beyond awful. It's allegedly supposed to be 60's and 70's-style Motown. It doesn't sound like that at all. The lyrics are insipid.
We are a family
Like a giant tree
Branching out towards the sky
We are a family
We are so much more than just you and I
We are a family
Like a giant tree
Arrrgh! Shut up!

If you get trapped into watching this movie, my suggestion is to build a Holland/Dozier/Holland playlist on your iPod, and when someone starts singing in the movie, turn the video volume down, and your iPod volume up. I would rather listen to "Baby Love" 200 times in a row than any of these songs ever again.

[Update: OK, one exception.]

But you gave the movie two stars?

Two words: Eddie Murphy. When he's on the screen, Dreamgirls becomes a different movie. A much better one. Is there any way to program your DVD player to just show the Eddie Murphy scenes? Do that.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:31 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Lileks' Bleat is today, as it is almost always, a meandering mess of wonderfulness. Remembering Wally Schirra, nice pictures, Uncle Ben's office, Carel Struycken's (Mr. Homn's!) panoramic photographs, fish sticks, piano recital, Dairy Queen, thoughts on the GOP debate, verbal jousting with Gnat. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it sure works for me.

  • The 128-bit integer censorship incident from earlier this week continues to reverberate. Tim Lee continues to have some interesting things to say about it. Here he talks about the issue in relation to hacking and civil disobedience (with a lengthy excerpt from a Paul Graham essay). And here he points out that making fun of the attempted suppression of "just a number" is easy, but it's not quite so simple. In ComputerLand, everything's "just a number."

  • I went to see Grindhouse yesterday, and had a difficult time describing it. However, I happened upon a review that did a much better job. Sample:
    This is [Quentin Tarantino's] first directing job and the dude KICKS ALL SPECTRUM OF ASS. He kicks ass that isn't even in the ass area. Like, his director skills are so stripper-with-chainsaw good they make you grow asses on other parts of your body that he then kicks. I hope he directs more movies. I would see them, burn down the theater, and then call the fire department so I could tell all the fireman about what a kick-ass movie it was. When they started to attack me with axes, I'd fly away because Quentin's movie would have given me ninja flight.
    I think it's safe to say that if you think the above is funnier than it is stupid, you might like Grindhouse. (Note: much worse language at the link, but if you're offended by bad language, don't even think about going to see Grindhouse.)

Last Modified 2017-12-05 2:30 PM EDT


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

Quite frankly, this movie should only be seen by guys between the ages of 55 and 57.

The movie is a tribute to old B-movie double features, with phony trailers, and simulated grainy and damaged film stock. And piles and piles of gratuitous gruesome violence, disturbing images, bad language, and lots of cheese.

There are a lot of oddities here: good actors acting as if they were mediocre actors; a lot of pointless and lengthy dialogue, especially in the second feature; but—also in the second feature—the movie turns into less of a self-aware parody of a movie, and actually turns into a movie. Weird.

I was also the only person in the theater watching this.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 5:22 AM EDT

We Win, They Lose

[Defunct Javascript widget from "wewintheylose.com"]

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:46 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:47 PM EDT

The Mangrove Coast

[Amazon Link]

This being number six in the "Doc Ford" series by Randy Wayne White. It's an unusual outing for Doc. He discovers a dead body on page seven. Then there's about 200 pages of flashback, explaining how he got to that point. Then about 80 pages from there setting up the climax. And then the wrap-up is about 20 more pages; almost all of the action happens in those last 20 pages.

I am not one to second-guess authors, let alone truly gifted ones like White. But that's pretty far off the normal course of the typical mystery/thriller genre. According to the official website, the "ending of The Mangrove Coast has been called one of the most shocking in mystery fiction." I don't know about that, but it's certainly different; you might find it depressing. (If you pay attention to clues dropped here and there, you won't be too surprised by the big revelation at the end.)

Along the way, even though there's little action, things are pretty entertaining. White does a great job of letting Ford's first-person narration tell you more about him than Ford knows himself. Some sections reminded me greatly of the one-man bull sessions from John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:29 PM EDT