Blogiversary III: The Search for Salad

Pun Salad is three years old today. Hope you're having as much fun reading as I am writing.

Poulin] Our web logs continually show that many, many people come here looking for Cathy Poulin. Hence, we are today declaring Cathy to be the unofficial (and, more important, unpaid) mascot of Pun Salad.

For the uninitiated: Cathy appears often in TV ads for Bob's Discount Furniture in New England, New Jersey, and New York, usually as Bob's even-more-annoying sidekick. (Although Cathy is a very nice person in real life, not annoying at all.) I can't find an actual ad, but here's an engaging parody. The actress has Cathy's timing and hand gestures down pat:

Video removed at some time since 2008. Sigh. But I found one with Real Cathy:

She's not very annoying there. Or maybe I've just grown accustomed.

Google also, by the way, has Pun Salad on the first page for hold me like you did by the lake on naboo so long ago when there was nothin but our love no politics no plotting no war.

"Naboo." Heh.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:27 AM EDT


William F. Buckley, Jr. has passed away. As I think he said from time to time: herewith, a few thoughts:

He was a major shaper of my political thinking. I devoured The Unmaking of a Mayor, the story of his 1965 campaign for NYC Mayor. From him, I learned you could be smart, witty, and still be a conservative.

Although I never got the "smart" and "witty" parts as well as he did.

Soon after that, in 1967 or so, I started reading National Review, as I have done with only minor breaks since. And so I got introduced to folks like Frank Meyer, Russel Kirk, James Burnham, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Thomas Sowell, and on and on.

It's widely known that Mr. Buckley made conservatism "respectable", by trashing the John Birch wing. (He also made Ayn Rand and her followers steamin' mad by publishing Whittaker Chambers' negative review of Atlas Shrugged.)

It's safe to say (as I did about Milton Friedman) that William F. Buckley, Jr. played an important role in making the country freer, safer, and more prosperous than it would have been otherwise. And for that, we owe him much gratitude.

I Took an Online—Hic!—Test and …


[Explains a lot-ed. Shaddup!]


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

This is a nice little movie based in the culture of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. The hero is Moshe, who's down on his financial luck, dodging the landlord. Worse, the Succoth holiday is coming up and there's no money to build the traditional succah, a temporary dwelling, in the courtyard outside. Let alone buy the four customary "species": branches of myrtle, willow, and palm, and (most important) a nice citron.

But then everything changes: Moshe and his wife get a windfall of cash; a succah becomes available. Also, unexpected visitors arrive from Moshe's less-virtuous past: two convicts who decide not to return to prison after their furlough expires. Moshe interprets these as the ushpizin, honored guests that appear during Succoth. To put it mildly, they behave in ways that test his faith.

The movie's in Hebrew with English subtitles. It's a fun and interesting look at a different culture, so if you're in the mood for a break from more slick commercial fare, it's worth checking out.

I suspect that I may be the only person on the planet who watched Resident Evil: Extinction and Ushpizin as a double feature.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:12 AM EDT

Dingell Saves Us from Jarvik!

Pfizer has decided to stop its advertising campaign featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik endorsing Lipitor. (If you haven't seen the ads, congratulations: you almost certainly watch TV shows that skew to a younger demographic. I, on the other hand, have seen them so often, I've effectively memorized them.)

The ad withdrawal appears mainly due to Congressional pressure, in the form of Congressman John Dingell (D-MI). Among the ad campaign's sins:

One television ad depicted Dr. Jarvik as an accomplished rower gliding across a mountain lake, but the ad used a body double for the doctor, who apparently does not row.
Oh no! And here I was going to (a) pressure my doc into prescribing me Lipitor, and (b) buy a racing shell. My plans are now a shambles!

Another criticism: while Dr. Jarvik has a medical degree, he's not certified to practice. While he invented the artificial heart, he's not considered to be a cardiologist.

On the other hand: um, so what? It's a safe bet he knows more about heart ailments than does Congressman Dingell.

In any case, the Jarvik ads added up to outrageous violations of advertising regulations that don't really exist except in the whims of powerful Congressmen like Dingell.

Lipitor ads will be back someday, without Dr. Jarvik, and they'll almost certainly be as effective. But Dingell has exercised his arbitrary censorious power, gotten his name in the papers, and that's almost certainly where he gets his thrills.

Resident Evil: Extinction

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

I went into this kind of expecting that it would be utterly awful, and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's videogame-inspired, and an obvious grab for the dollars of undiscriminating fans, but I found myself watching the whole thing with interest.

This is the third entry in a series; my list says I watched the first two back in 2004, giving the first one zero stars, the second one 1.5. So either the series is improving, or my I'm feeling unusually generous. I didn't remember much of anything about those previous entries, except their zombieness.

Anyway, this movie is set in a future when the zombies have pretty much destroyed everyone. Heroine Alice is wandering the American desert; so is a caravan of a few dozen survivors. Deadly enemies are everywhere: not only zombie humans, but also zombie ravens. Also insane non-zombie humans. Also the evil corporation that set everything off initially.

Eventually Alice meets up with the survivors, and they hatch a plan to aim toward a possibly-mythical Alaskan refuge. This involves a stop in Las Vegas, which the desert has begun to reclaim. I think we're meant to be impressed by this, but it really looks like a cheap movie set.

The movie leaves things open for yet another entry in the series.

Last Modified 2016-07-15 8:27 AM EDT

Experimental Results


Testing my Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 2pm on FX: I, Robot with Will Smith.
So far, so good. Although I would have done a little better if I'd included the Hallmark Channel in the theory: two old Clint Eastwood westerns on today: Hang 'Em High and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.


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

This is a pretty good movie, directed by Danny Boyle, who also did 28 Days Later and Millions.

The premise is that our sun is fading out, dooming humanity. This can only be fixed by blowing up a Manhattan-sized bomb near the solar surface. Such as the one carried by the Icarus II.

It's the Icarus II because it's on the same mission as Icarus I, which dropped into silence seven years previously, and presumably failed. (If this makes you suspect that the Icarus I will show up eventually, congratulations.)

The movie is deemed "psychological" science fiction, presumably because a good fraction of the crew are nuts in the beginning of the movie, and it only gets worse. Critical miscalculations cause an escalating series of technological catastrophes. Since humanity's fate hinges on the mission, almost all the crew have a big "KILL ME, I'M EXPENDABLE" sign on their backs, and they're all aware of the implications.

The lovely Michelle Yeoh plays one of the crew, but she does not kick anyone's ass.

There's a lot of arty photography and quick-cutting, which often hides what's going on; I always suspect this is a method to avoid bloating the special effects budget. (Also a giveaway: the ship has "artificial gravity".)

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:24 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2008-02-22 Update

Big changes as Obama springs into the lead in phony hits, as well as everywhere else:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony530,000+366,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony248,000+139,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony228,000+21,000
"John McCain" phony179,000+20,000

In phony-related campaign news:

  • We all know that candidate websites are kind of phony, but William Jackson of Government Computer News discovers that misspelling a URL can send web surfers into an entirely new realm of phoniness, as he reports on a recent talk given by Oliver Friedrichs, director of emerging technology at Symantec Security Response:
    Hundreds of Internet domains have been registered based on variations of legitimate campaign Web site domain names, creating the possibility of confusion, misinformation, illicit profit or hacking. They also could be used to intercept misdirected e-mail, Friedrichs said. "This is really scary."
    Scary, Oliver? I'll give you scary: President Hillary Clinton! Boo!

  • Why is Senator Obama riding so high all of a sudden? It could be just a glitch. Or more people might be feeling the same way as young Ben Shapiro:
    At no less than six of Obama's recent rallies, fans have reportedly fainted. Those incidents were caught on video or audio. In each, Obama -- who never even thinks to put down the microphone or ask a campaign aide to take care of the matter -- narrates to the crowd as medical volunteers show up to minister to the stricken. In two of the videos, he picks up a bottle of water and offers it to the poor, overcome admirers.

    I don't mean to suggest that all this is staged. I'm saying it straight out: It's staged. Obama is supposedly Mr. Authentic -- the man who naturally radiates charisma and magnetic charm. His pheromones are so powerful they strike unwitting audience members into a stupor. He's the Beatles. He's Elvis. More than anything, he's the new JFK, a young, vibrant leader who will lead America into a bright new future.


    A strong charge from Mr. Shapiro! Maybe the New York Times will put its crack investigatory team on it! Based on the Times' current practice, this should happen in 2016 or so.

  • Of course, there's the latest attempt from Hillary in last evening's debate to try to find some kind of Obama-bashing strategy that won't seem stupid or mean:
    She looked to score with a canned putdown of Obama when a question arose over whether Obama had too liberally borrowed others' words for his arena-packing speeches.

    "Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in - it's change you can Xerox," zinged Clinton.

    Unfortunately for Senator Clinton, the Texas crowed booed this.

  • Also unfortunately for Senator Clinton, Daniel Drezner was listening to the debate, and he has a really good memory:
    Hillary Clinton, later on in the same debate: "You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country."

    Jack Stanton speech, in Primary Colors (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 162: "Y'know, I've taken some hits in this campaign. It hasn't been easy for me, or my family. It hasn't been fair, but it hasn't been anything compared to the hits a lot of you take every day."

    This turns out to have probably been further, um, borrowed, from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Does that make it more phony, or less?

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:16 AM EDT

License to Wed

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

I'm being very generous in awarding License to Wed the same number of stars as the number of times I laughed while watching. Half star because I was laughing at something else.

The idea is that Ben (played by John Krasinski from the sitcom The Office) and Sadie (Mandy Moore) are engaged, and she's got her heart set on getting married in her family's local church. But to accomplish this, they must first pass a marriage prep course from Hell, given by the church's unorthodox pastor, Reverend Frank, played by Robin Williams.

What's wrong with the movie? Just about everything, although I imagine it could have been worse if the cast were picked up off random Hollywood street corners. The characters aren't interesting, likeable, or believable. Nothing they do onscreen is character-driven, probably because they have no character. Given the premise, everything is predictable and unimaginative.

It got an 8% on the Tomatometer. I should have listened. The end credits include outtakes involving various cast members dissolving in fits of uncontrollable laughter, which probably means that everything not in the movie was funnier than what was left it. Ironic.

Here's a game for movie fans: what was the last non-animated Robin Williams movie you liked? IMDB makes it easy for you to check. For me, it was Jumanji.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:12 AM EDT

But Some Call Him the Gangster of Love

Actual headline at the UK's Daily Mail:

Bush branded 'cowboy of space' after decision to shoot down malfunctioning satellite
[Joke stolen from Mr. Lileks who has much more, as usual.]

Quotes du Jour

In 1984, George Orwell wrote:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever.
In honor of Castro's resignation of power, a number of people are recollecting John Derbyshire's corollary:
Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.
Update: Drew Cline collects some recent comments demonstrating the truth of Derbyshire's observation. The phrase "Commie tools" is used.

Last Modified 2008-02-21 6:28 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: the frog from Hell.

  • I try to remember to capitalize Hell. "Because it's a place. Like Scarsdale."

  • One relatively fresh kind of Hell is the Security Question. Josh Levin wrote an excellent Slate article a few weeks back on the topic.

    Verizon wants to know my favorite ice cream flavor, Google's got designs on my library card number, and Wachovia needs my favorite all-time entertainer. Yahoo! is asking where I met my spouse, and Bank of America wants the details of the honeymoon. Like those squiggly pictures of letters and numbers, weird personal questions have become ubiquitous totems of online security. If you tell the bank your favorite grade-school teacher or cartoon character, the thinking goes, it'll be easy to confirm your identify when you misplace your account number. This thinking is dumb.

    Go read to find out why it's dumb. Alternatively, you can read Lore Sjöberg's take on the matter here here. "It's funny because it's true."

  • And, speaking about funny-but-true things, Jim Geraghty transcribes a bit of Michelle Obama's speech:
    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
    Jim asks: "Does anybody on the left side of the aisle find this rhetoric a little creepy?" I'm not on that side, but, yeah.

    I'm not sure why, but it also reminds me a bit of the ad for Happy Fun Ball.

    Yes, it's Happy Fun Ball! The toy sensation that's sweeping the nation! Only $14.95 at participating stores! Get one today!

    Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Happy Fun Ball.

    Caution: Happy Fun Ball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.

    Happy Fun Ball contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.

    Do not use Happy Fun Ball on concrete.

    Exercise for the reader: interchange "Barack Obama" and "Happy Fun Ball". Those of you who wish to play it the hard way, stand upside down with your head in a bucket of piranha fish.


Seen at Joel Achenbach's Achenblog today:

Here's a depressing piece in the NYT about fishermen in Jamaica poisoning a stream. It's tragic, and it's not really just a Jamaica story: It's a tale of what happens when you have a completely unregulated free market.

Now you can click over to the NYT piece; somehow missing is any indication that the Jamaican fishermen were acting under the nefarious influence of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. They're harvesting shrimp from Jamaica's Rio Grande river by dumping in agricultural pesticide, and grabbing whatever rises to the surface. (The article notes that they sometimes also use an American favorite, dynamite, to the same effect.)

This is not a result of an "unregulated free market" of course; Jamaica doesn't have an "unregulated free market." Heritage's Index of Economic Freedom ranks Jamaica at number 45 out of 157 countries, with relatively poor scores on "Property Rights" and "Freedom from Corruption."

Instead, it's yet another instance of Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" where free access to a communal resource results in over-exploitation and pollution. It happens under all types of economic systems; ask any Russian. My bet would be that relatively free-market societies tend to handle such problems better than others through a mix of property rights, torts, and (when necessary) law and regulation. (This (different) study on comparative economic freedom seems to bear me out on that.)

The NYT article quotes Kimberly John of the Nature Conservancy, and there's more from her at the Nature Conservency site.

Both articles make it clear that what's failing in Jamaica isn't the "free market". In fact, the Nature Conservancy article mentions that stream monitoring is being conducted by "national park rangers"—this is not happening in Galt's Gulch, but a national frickin' park.

River-poisoning is as illegal in Jamaica as it is in America, but enforcement and punishment is lax. One allegedly-ex poisoner interviewed for the article was released the first time he was caught; on his second offense he got a "community service" sentence. Again, not particularly a "free market" problem.

I've been a Joel Achenbach fan for a long time, own some of his great "Why Things Are" books, but this drive-by shooting at the free market is just ignorant and disappointing.

Indoctrinate U

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

This documentary takes aim at a pretty fat target: the leftist political orthodoxy on American university campuses, and how it plays out to the detriment of students. There isn't a lot here that will surprise (say) a frequent reader of the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The campus's political monoculture generates plenty of double standards and hypocrisy. Although lip service is paid to equality and integration, we get affirmative action and racial balkanization. They're all for diversity, except for ideological diversity.

And the self-proclaimed champions of tolerance turn out to be remarkably adept at humorless persecution of viewpoints at odds with theirs. One early scene shows Ward Connerly being shouted down at a speech, lest his views on affirmative action reach sensitive ears.

The filmmaker, Evan Coyne Maloney, has a keen eye for all this. We follow him into campus Women's Centers as he asks hapless inhabitants the directions to the "Men's Center". He records interactions—can't exactly call them interviews—with uncooperative administrators, many of whom call out the campus constabulary in response. This could have been tedious if overdone, but it worked for me.

There are also some talking heads mustered in support of the movie's thesis. Glenn Harlan Reynolds makes a brief appearance. K. C. Johnson, who was actively involved in the Duke lacrosse team travesty appears quite a bit.

I found myself amused and outraged in about equal amounts. All in all, much worth seeing.

Last Modified 2014-11-30 3:29 PM EDT


[Amazon Link]

Another fine outing from good old Dick Francis, a follow up to Break In (which I blogged here).

Break In's protagonist, jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding, is beset by numerous problems. He races for Princess Casilia, whose husband is being pressured by an evil French businessman to sell out. He's engaged to the Princess's niece, the lovely Danielle, but fears he's losing her to Prince Litsi, a dashing, handsome, rich sophisticate. And he's still being persecuted by his old family nemesis Allerdeck. And someone is killing the horses he rides with a humane "bolt" gun—hey, just like in No Country for Old Men.

I say this a lot: I avoided Dick Francis because I don't care about horses that much. That was a mistake.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:24 AM EDT


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

This was a good movie with some laughs and excitement. It's a PG-13 fantasy, which means (in this case) that some characters sleep with each other, and some other characters kill each other with varying degrees of gruesomeness. It's not for the kiddos, or for those who would prefer their fantasies more along the lines of Live Free or Die Hard.

The premise is that the normal-world remote English village of Wall is separated from the magical land of Stormhold by, well, a wall. One with a gap in it. One brave Wall adventurer dodges the gap guard, visits the adjacent magic village, gets seduced by a comely slave wench. Nine months later a baby arrives… the action picks up again when the baby grows up and ventures back into Stormhold for reasons of his own.

The plot is complex, and there's a lot to keep track of. (That's the downside of movies that have magic in them: everything grinds to a halt while it's explained what the magical rules are. Why P can do X magically, but Q can't do Y.)

Claire Danes is in this as a literal fallen star, and she's fine. Robert De Niro plays a gay pirate, and shows that he can embrace offensive homosexual stereotypes just as well as Robin Williams.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:24 AM EDT

A Sunday Theory

If your cable lineup includes FX, TBS, TNT, USA, A&E, Spike, and AMC …

Then there will be no Sunday in the forseeable future when you will not be able to watch a movie containing at least one of Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, or Morgan Freeman.

Or The Hunt for Red October. I think that's been on forty times in the past three months.

Last Modified 2008-02-17 6:12 PM EDT

And the Grammy Goes To …

Here's some pretty big news: I actually know a Grammy winner:

Dr. Kevin Short, professor of mathematics at the University of New Hampshire, won a Grammy Award Sunday night for his role as a mastering engineer in the restoration of a 1949 wire recording of a live Woody Guthrie concert. Short and his wife, Michelle, attended the star-studded award ceremony in Los Angeles Feb. 10.
Wow! Maybe I can get Professor Short to make me part of his posse, as we crawl the nightclub scene in exotic Durham, NH… and, well, maybe not.

Still, it's huge. Congratulations to Kevin, even though Woody was kind of a (at least small-c) commie.

Voting Your Aesthetics

George F. Will aims some well-chosen big words:

Last week, in his 10-thumbed attempt to prevent his wife's Louisiana loss, Bill Clinton said that Obama has made "an explicit argument that the '90s weren't much better than this decade." The phrase "explicit argument" was an exquisitely Clintonian touch, signaling to seasoned decoders of Clintonisms that, no matter how diligent the search, no such thought could be found, even implicitly, in anything Obama has ever said. In his preternatural neediness, Clinton, an overflowing caldron of narcissism and solipsism, is still smarting from Obama's banal observation, four weeks ago, that Ronald Reagan was a more transformative president than Clinton.
"Overflowing caldron of narcissism and solipsism." I like that. George has some leftover words for Hillary ("she should tweak her fable in future tellings"), Democrat superdelegates ("more equal than others") and Huckabee ("a whiff of lunacy or charlatanry"), so go check 'em out.


If you're a rightwing geek, you might enjoy both this collection of rightwing valentines, and this collection of geeky valentines.

Hope you're with the one you love this fine day.

It's 98 Days Until …

"You're a teacher?!"

"Part time."

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:38 AM EDT

The Heartbreak Kid

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

The critics didn't like this much (29% on the Tomatometer), but I thought it was OK. I dimly remember seeing the 1972 version, and I remember not liking it so much. However, my movie tastes may well have changed in the 36 years between seeing the original and the remake.

The general plot is the same: young man gets married, becomes disenchanted with his new bride almost immediately. During the honeymoon, he meets and falls for someone else, and most of the movie concerns the humorous/sad details of the resulting romantic trajectories, deceptions, and misunderstandings.

Details are a lot different though. This version is directed by the Farrelly brothers, which means that it's (to quote the MPAA) "Rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language." Elaine May directed in 1972, so I wonder how she feels about that.

Fun Fact: in the 1972 version, Audra Lindley—Mrs. Roper from the old sitcom Three's Company—played the mother of the groom's new love. Here, the corresponding role is played by Polly Holliday, Flo from the old sitcom Alice. Inspired casting!

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:21 AM EDT

I Don't Watch So-called Reality TV Shows, But …

… if Bruce Springsteen shows up on Rockstar Curling, I'll make an exception. (Via MCPF Dave Barry.)

The Phony Campaign

2008-02-11 Update

And then there were four:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony207,000-12,000
"Barack Obama" phony164,000-6,000
"John McCain" phony159,000-5,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony109,000-7,000

  • Our previous front-runner, Ron Paul, is gone. Well not exactly. To use the term used by nearly everyone, he's scaling back his campaign. Also common: he's "shifting his focus". But let's look at the actual announcement. Key sentences seem to be:

    With Romney gone, the chances of a brokered convention are nearly zero. But that does not affect my determination to fight on, in every caucus and primary remaining, and at the convention for our ideas, with just as many delegates as I can get. But with so many primaries and caucuses now over, we do not now need so big a national campaign staff, and so I am making it leaner and tighter.

    Congratulations to Dr. Paul! That's a very phony way of saying "I give up."

  • As Dr. Paul points out, Romney's gone too. Peter Keating describes how anti-Mormon feelings among evangelicals, fanned by the Huckabee campaign, doomed Mitt's chances:

    The New York Times Magazine quoted Huckabee as saying he didn't know much about Mormonism and asking, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Huckabee later said he was speaking out of unfamiliarity, with no harm intended. Sure he was. Just like the commenters on Huckabee's website who slammed Mormonism for weeks afterward were, too.

    But Keating can't resist the p-word:

    Obviously, there are reasons beyond faith for the failure of Romney's campaign. The guy's a puling phony, and McCain and Huckabee are both funnier and better under pressure.

    Puling? Ouch.

  • But was Mitt really an unusually big phony? Lefty Jon Chait detects major phoniness in the GOP front-runner:

    The prevalent view of McCain is that he is a generally conservative figure with a few maverick stances and an unwavering authenticity. Nearly every liberal editorial board that has made a Republican endorsement has chosen McCain, and nearly all have offered variations on the same theme. "Voters may disagree with his policies, but few doubt his sincerity," editorialized The Boston Globe. "The Arizona senator's conservatism is, if not always to our liking, at least genuine," concluded the Los Angeles Times. This is the consensus: McCain's basically a right-winger, but at least you know where he stands.

    Actually, this assessment gets McCain almost totally backward. He has diverged wildly and repeatedly from conservative orthodoxy, but he has also reinvented himself so completely that it has become nearly impossible to figure out what he really believes.

    Examples aplenty. This is from the New Republic, but even so people with conservative/libertarian/GOP sympathies will find it hard to read without a bottle of Zoloft nearby.

  • If you can't bear to read Chait because he's too liberal, check out Mona Charen and Brad Smith. (This last link via Quin Hillyer, who advises: "Read it. Read it. Read it.")

  • But anyway, with Dr. Paul gone, Democrats are solidly in front of the Republicans phony-wise. And, as lefty Mike Taibbi points out in a recent Rolling Stone article, there's a very good reason for that.

    Before the 2006 elections, Democrats told us we could expect more specifics on their war plans after Election Day. Nearly two years have passed since then, and now they are once again telling us to wait until after an election to see real action to stop the war. In the meantime, of course, we're to remember that they're the good guys, the Republicans are the real enemy, and, well, go Hillary! Semper fi! Yay, team!

    How much of this bullshit are we going to take? How long are we supposed to give the Reids and Pelosis and Hillarys of the world credit for wanting, deep down in their moldy hearts, to do the right thing?

    Look, fuck your hearts, OK? Just get it done. Because if you don't, sooner or later this con is going to run dry. It may not be in '08, but it'll be soon. Even Americans can't be fooled forever.

    For me, the funny thing is that the aging editorial staff at Rolling Stone has probably heard the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" approximately 53 bazillion times, and yet they do keep getting fooled again. And they're soooo mad and pottymouthed when they briefly wake from their delusions.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:01 AM EDT

I Took an Online Test, and …

No surprises here.

[I am Iron Man]

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:43 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Iowahawk goes to the car show. Quote:
    Tammi Jo loved this Nissan minivan concept, sort of a disco death star for intergalactic gangsta soccer moms.
    I'm not a car guy, but the Hawk can make anything worth reading.

  • Depressing post from Eli Lehrer at the blog:
    I'm at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and I'm discouraged. I'm a pro-life, pro-gay, pro-market, pro-gun conservative who hates terrorists and central planning with equal vigor.
    Hey, me too!
    In the past, going to CPAC has energized me. I've headed co-sponsorship efforts, served as an MC in general sessions, and appeared on panels. In the past, the conference has left me with the idea that a movement of freedom-loving Americans who respect tradition can really make a difference. Now, I feel like I'm watching a crackup in progress.
    Yeah. It's pretty grim out there.

  • Fortunately, there's always the option of spending the next few years in an alcoholic stupor. [You mean that's not how you've been spending the last few years?-ed. Shut up!] And Tim Harford notes there's a good way to do it on the cheap.
    Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have shown that a person's enjoyment of wine can be heightened if they are simply told that it is an expensive one.
    The only trick is, I guess, that someone else has to buy it and tell you it's expensive. (Tim also has other examples of this phenomenon.)

  • We had a bit of fun with John McCain's indecision as to whether he was ignorant about economics. Certainly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton haven't been caught in that kind of inconsistency. But, as Greg Mankiw points out, both are sponsoring "comparable worth" bills in the Senate, and comments:
    I may be wrong, but I don't think many mainstream economists would defend this kind of legislation, regardless of party affiliation.
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Or so I've heard.

"Nothing. What's a motto with you?"

An interesting dustup caused by a contest post at the Freakonomics blog; the challenge is:

Write a six-word motto for the U.S. of A.
As I type, there are slightly under 1000 comment entries. I've read a few, and my impressions are the same as Lileks': wading through all the snarky half-witticisms is "like licking a corroded battery." (Read Lileks' entire essay, it's good.)

Little Green Footballs also takes a dim view: "the vast majority [of Freakonomics comments] are competing for the most downbeat, defeatist, self-hating motto possible." And his comment thread is bumping up against a couple thousand.

My favorite is an oldie but a goodie:

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave
Possible objections, and my response:

Objection 1: This shows you to be a jingoistic right wing yahoo.

My Response: That's right, baby. Kiss my shiny red, white, and blue ass.

Objection 2:That's not six words.

My Response: I'm not entering the stupid contest. Also, see my response to Objection 1.

(Headline source here, for the poor benighted souls who don't recognize it instantly.)

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:44 AM EDT

Without Caring What the Words Mean

The Blogometer excerpted an endorsement of Hillary Clinton from someone named Taylor Marsh:

Hillary Clinton embodies every fight I've ever waged. Every battle I've ever engaged. She is the embodiment of hope for all women, as well as anyone looking for a better life, a fairer break, young, old, poor and poorer. She's got the passion and she's got plans to make them happen.
All the mushy gushiness speaks for itself. But my question is: to what does the penultimate word "them" refer?

Nothing, right?

From George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language":

The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
It's been well over sixty years since Orwell wrote that, but he certainly saw Ms. Marsh coming.

URLs du Jour


Depressed and/or bored by recent political news? Hey, me too! So a pretty much politics-free post today.

  • Remember that story that everyone, including me, posted yesterday about Maine middle-schoolers getting detentions for intentionally farting? Never mind! (last item)

  • I am way out of Ken Jennings's league, trivia-wise, but I'm with him in spirit. His latest posting is (roughly) about people with wildly different life accomplishments. I would not have guessed that, for example:

    [Nina Wilcox] Putnam not only co-wrote the story for Boris Karloff's The Mummy—she also designed the IRS's 1040 form! The horror…the horror…

    Indeed. And yet, I feel somehow smarter knowing that.

    Ken's exaggerating, though, when he says that Fred Astaire was 85 years old when he was in Funny Face. He was only about 57, which is … er, uncomfortably close to my current age.

    Never you mind what I said before; this Jennings kid is a young smartypants whippersnapper. Deserves a good beatin', says I.

  • I liked this quote, seen at Little Green Footballs, attributed to Daniel J. Boorstin:

    The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

    "The Illusion of Knowledge" would be a pretty good name for a rock band blog.

  • If you feel like you'll be wanting to rage against the machine in the foreseeable future, you'll want to check out Cracked's "25 Most Nonsensical Protest Signs". You'll want to know mistakes to avoid.

    My favorite:

    [destroy the computer]

    (The rainbow flag in the protester's other hand should clue you that this is a parody; confirmation on that is here.)

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:46 AM EDT

Pretty Pictures on the Federal Budget (FY 2009 Version)

The Fiscal Year 2009 Budget is out! Yay!

It's a Pun Salad tradition (because we've done it twice before, in 2005 and 2007) to produce some simple graphs out of Table 1.2 ("SUMMARY OF RECEIPTS, OUTLAYS, AND SURPLUSES OR DEFICITS (-) AS PERCENTAGES OF GDP: 1930-2013") from the Budget's Historical Tables document.

Here is a graph of that data since 1977; post-2007 numbers are estimates:

[fed in and out]

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

[fed in minus out]

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.

As I said last year: if you're thinking this is simple-minded, you're right. In my defense, 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.

I also have made these points before:

  • The overall trend in federal spending (by this measure), despite bumps, seems to be downward since 1983. There are obvious increases under Dubya, but (by this measure) they are not totally out of historical whack.

  • Receipts bounce up and down, but they seem to center around the 18-19% range.

  • Hence the eyeball-trend on the deficit graph is also downward since 1983.

For all the massive hoopla about spending and taxes over the past couple decades, the interesting thing is the lack of strong trends (as opposed to short-term blips) in the graphs. Yes, taxes were historically high in the late 1990s, but they came back down again. Yes, they were historically low early in this decade, but they came back up again.

I almost wish I could be more cynical about this. For example, the OMB predicts a surplus in 2012. I hear you speculating, as I did: "Ha, I bet last year they predicted a surplus would arrive in 2011!"

Nope. They predicted a surplus in 2012 last year too.

Similarly, the last "actual" numbers for outlays and expenditures in the FY2009 budget are for 2007, when receipts were 18.8% of GDP and outlays were 20.0% of GDP. Said cynical me: "Surely their past estimates for 2007 were way too optimistic, lowballing expenditures and overstating revenue."

Again, nope. In the previous four years, their estimates for receipts 2007 were below the 18.8% figure. They overestimated outlays in the previous two years. There's not a lot of evidence to indicate a persistent Pollyannism at the Office of Management and Budget.

That's not to say that this years budget is free of chicanery and deceit. At Cato, Chris Edwards opines on "Bush's Dishonest and Spendthrift Budget." (Major crimes: not counting the "stimulus" being debated in Congress in the budget; only looking at one year of AMT relief when it's clear that everyone thinks an AMT fix should go beyond that.)

And—I've mentioned this before too—in the long term, beyond the horizon of the OMB budget, entitlements are a ticking time bomb. My favorite 50-year-old Harvard econ prof, Greg Mankiw, has a really good column on the topic, which you should read right now.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:47 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Attention, students of Camden-Rockport (ME) Middle School: intentional farting will get you a detention. (Via ABP.)

  • OK, so most of our readers are not Maine middle-schoolers. But if you're one of our European readers, you might want to check out P. J. O'Rourke's effort to explain American politics to you. Sample:
    The difference between American parties is actually simple. Democrats are in favor of higher taxes to pay for greater spending, while Republicans are in favor of greater spending, for which the taxpayers will pay. In foreign policy, Republicans intend to pursue the war in Iraq but to do so with a minimal number of troops on the ground. This is not to be confused with the disastrous Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld policy of using a minimal number of troops on the ground to pursue the war in Iraq. Democrats intend to end the war, but they don't know when. Democrats are making the "high school sex promise": I'll pull out in time, honest!

    OK, so most of our readers are not European either. But I assume you're smart enough to see the name "P. J. O'Rourke" and click anyway.

  • Certainly this is too good to await one of our periodic Phony Campaign posts:
    John McCain said he would take public election funds and abide by the FEC's spending caps, so, naturally, John McCain will not take public funds or abide by the spending caps.
    Sometimes I imagine Fred Thompson out there muttering: "I can't believe I lost to this guy."

The Phony Campaign

2008-02-04 Update

We got rid of another two rows in our phony table, those for Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards. Senator Edwards was our most reliable go-to guy, phonywise, and he will be missed.

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Ron Paul" phony257,000+51,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony219,000-14,000
"Barack Obama" phony170,000+2,000
"John McCain" phony164,0000
"Mitt Romney" phony143,000-6,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony116,000-9,000

  • Ron Paul jumps out to a big lead once again. But it's not all due to an increased perception of Ronulan phoniness. For example, Juliet Eilperin, blogger extraordinaire for the Washington Post was recently at a McCain campaign event where a Ron Paul rally broke out. She spoke to one Todd Haupt ("who lost his real estate business last year and now sells health drinks"):

    … Haupt -- a registered Republican who lives in St. Peters, Mo. -- made it clear that he sees McCain as a phony.

    "McCain is another President Bush. He's not what he says," he said, ripping into one of the senator's most frequent linguistic habits. "I hate when he says, 'My friends.' McCain is not my friend."

    Todd has a low threshhold for phoniness. More power to him.

  • The LA Times quotes former President Clinton trying rather desperately to tap into the isn't-partisanship-awful rhetoric that's previously been Senator Obama's exclusive shtick:

    "We have to find a way to choose without division," Clinton told congregants at Brookins Community AME Church in Leimert Park. "To disagree without discord. To celebrate the shattering of all these phony categories that have kept Americans apart too long."

    As phony-watchers, we appreciate Bill's newfound aversion to divisiveness, which marks a welcome change from … oh, his entire political career up until yesterday. Bill's awarded double bonus phony points for transparently phony oratory that actually includes the word "phony".

  • And as for the Mrs.: in full "let's see if we can fool 'em twice" mode, she's crying again. Harry Katherine Mam is appropriately cynical:

    She might as well have been wearing a neon sign over her head saying "Women voters, look here for empathy and new, improved, life-like feelings!" I say the tears are just like a talking point; she keeps repeating them for newcomers to the race.

    Pun Salad's motto—well, one of them, anyway—is: "When in doubt, assume phoniness."

  • But what about Saint/Senator Obama? Well, Steve Chapman is getting whipsawed; his fatal mistake was to pay way too much attention to what Obama was saying on the marijuana issue:

    On Thursday, The Washington Times reported that in 2004, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Obama came out for decriminalizing marijuana use. That usually means eliminating jail sentences and arrest records for anyone caught with a small amount for personal use, treating it more like a traffic offense than a violent crime. But in a show of hands at a debate last fall, he indicated that he opposed the idea.

    When confronted on the issue by the Times, however, the senator defended his original ground. His campaign said he has "always" supported decriminalization.

    It's a brave position, and therefore exceedingly rare among practicing politicians. Which may be why it didn't last. Before the day was over, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying he thinks "we are sending far too many first-time non-violent drug users to prison for very long periods of time" but "does not believe that we should treat offenses involving marijuana with a simple fine or just by confiscating the drug." Recently, he had told a New Hampshire newspaper, "I'm not in favor of decriminalization."

    Anyone else reminded of that old Miller Lite commercial with Billy Martin? "I feel very strongly both ways."

  • And Clayton Cramer is even less forgiving of Obama on gun issues:

    He was here in Boise over the weekend for a rally, and emphasized that he is not trying to take anyone's guns. He's a liar.

    The link goes to a page that includes the Obamanian quote: "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities." Doing that without taking anyone's guns? Senator, that's phony!

  • Ah, but can we let Mitt Romney go unscathed here? No. Read the Instapundit on Romney and savor Glenn's usual understated conclusion: "I'm beginning to question his sincerity."

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:16 AM EDT

If You're Interested

My day job involves some programming, and sometimes I write something that others might find useful or fun. The latest example is a CGI script called remind.cgi, which runs on the very same Linux workstation used to bring you Pun Salad. I use it to display my monthly calendars in a web browser. It's a back-backend for the wonderful remind program from Roaring Penguin Software. ("Back-backend," since it's a backend for another backend that someone else wrote.)

Anyway, if any of that makes sense to you, feel free to check it out.

Last Modified 2008-02-04 9:20 AM EDT

Top XLII Facts About the Super Bowl

Some actually true.

  1. Super Bowls are numbered with Roman numerals to honor Roman Gabriel, legendary quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams.

  2. If you are more likely to have a computer on your lap during the game than a platter of chicken wings, InformationWeek provides The Super Bowl Laptop Companion for you.

  3. It is a myth that there is a significant increase in wife abuse on the day of the Super Bowl. This effect has only been observed in Buffalo, New York in the early 1990s. Even Tim Russert gave his spouse a less-than-friendly whack on the backside in 1994 after the Bills fell to the Cowboys for their fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss. But other than that, it's not generally true at all, really.

  4. Miami Dolphins placekicker Garabed Sarkis "Garo" Yepremian probably had the most memorable Super Bowl blooper play in 2004, when he appeared in an ad for erectile dysfunction medication during halftime.

  5. In the not-debunked-yet category, we have this health bulletin:

    For die-hard fans of the New York Giants and New England Patriots, this Sunday's Super Bowl won't be just a game. It may be a health hazard.

    Heart attacks and other cardiac emergencies doubled in Munich, Germany, when that nation's soccer team played in World Cup matches, a new study reports.

    With all due respect, if watching a Super Bowl game can kill you, you are not a "die-hard fan". You are a die-easy fan.

  6. Many people find the TV commercials more interesting than the game. In Super Bowl XXXIX, a particularly clever Budweiser commercial was accidentally played during a third-quarter second-and-14 play by the Philadelphia Eagles, and nobody actually noticed.

  7. Speaking of the Eagles, one of the things I learned in reading Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism was that the Eagles were named after the "Blue Eagle", the symbol companies were expected to display to show their obesience to the National Industrial Recovery Act in the 1930s. It was probably the US government's greatest effort to corporatize the economy; it involved a lot of scary propagandizing and intimidation, similar to what was going on about the same time in Germany.

  8. The Washington Redskins get a lot of grief for their team's name; would that the Eagles got similar treatment.

  9. Craig Morton quarterbacked in Super Bowl V for Dallas and Super Bowl XII for Denver; in these two appearances he threw one (1) touchdown pass and seven (7) interceptions.

  10. Steve and Zak DeOssie are the 10th father-son combination to have been on Super Bowl teams.

  11. However, New England Patriot Randy Moss is the clone of Washington Redskin Art Monk (Super Bowls XVIII, XXII, and XXVI); that's a first.

  12. It's well-known that Green Bay fans are called "cheeseheads". Not so well-known: Minnesota Vikings fans are dubbed "suicidal".

  13. Fans speculate that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was "jinxed" when girlfriend Jessica Simpson came to the game. Just to be safe, New England coach Bill Belichick has had Gisele Bundchen shipped to a point in the Indian Ocean approximately 1200 miles southeast of Madagascar.

  14. Bill Simmons spent the first four paragraphs of his Super Bowl ESPN column describing how hard it is to have an undefeated season … in the "Madden" video game. This allows Bill to deduct the cost of his video console on his 2008 taxes.

  15. An AP story from yesterday:

    With the Super Bowl fast approaching, a senior Republican senator says he wants the NFL to explain why it destroyed evidence of the New England Patriots cheating scandal.

    "I am very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in a Thursday letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

    Specter backed down later that day when it was explained that it was too late to get either the Steelers or the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

  16. The letters in "Arlen Specter" can be rearranged to spell "Sen. Rectal Rep"

  17. The NFL attempted last year to register the term "THE BIG GAME" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

  18. This is also actually true:

    The [NFL], which owns both the Super Bowl name and the broadcast, has restrictions that limit TV screens to 55 inches at public viewings, except at venues like bars and restaurants that regularly broadcast sporting events. Airing the game at events that promote a message, including a religious message, is forbidden.

    It's also said that church-based events have been renamed to "Big Game Fellowship" or "Superb Owl" parties to avoid legal hassles.

  19. More Super Bowls have been played in New Orleans than in any other city. Unless you count Miami.

  20. You'll want to check out this careful collection of three music videos made by Super Bowl players and … oh yeah, a Miller Lite commercial.

  21. [SBIX Logo] Franco Harris made a bit of a stir in 1975's Super Bowl IX. He threatend to boycott because he deemed the game's logo to be "just way too girly". But he relented, and went on to be named MVP as the Steelers crushed the Vikings 16-6.

  22. Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears won the MVP award when his Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Despite this, he's not as despised in New England as is his twin brother, Bucky 'F.' Dent.

  23. If you're in the mood, you might want to check out The XLI Worst Super Bowl Moments.

  24. The northernmost Super Bowl was XXVI, played in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Buffalo Bills were playing, which means the other team won.

  25. If the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills were to play each other in a Super Bowl, experts speculate that the universe would end as the laws of physics, causality, and esthetics would collapse in upon themselves upon the victory of one team. Either that, or the game would go into sudden-death overtime, forever. When asked, Stephen Hawking admitted: "It's a theoretical possibility."

  26. [Gentle Ben] Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins vowed at the beginning of the season not to shave his beard until and unless the Patriots lost. His teammates are appreciative:

    There are some small animals in there," Pats offensive lineman Dan Koppen said of Mankins. "There's food and all sorts of stuff growing in there, too."

    If I saw Mankins aimed at me across the line scrimmage, I think I would immediately turn and run back to the locker room and hide.

  27. Two strangers are at the Super Bowl, with great 50-yard line seats. There's an empty seet between them, though. One guy asks the other, "Is anyone sitting here?"

    The other shakes his head. "No, it's empty."

    "I can't believe anyone in their right mind would turn down a chance for this seat!"

    "Well, it's my wife's seat. We've been going to Super Bowls for thirty years. She passed away. This is the first Super Bowl she missed in all that time."

    "I'm sorry to hear that. But couldn't you find someone else - a friend, a relative, or even a neighbor to take the seat?"

    The man shakes his head, "No. They're all at the funeral."

  28. My favorite quote from a Super Bowl MVP to a Supreme Court Justice: "Come on, Sandy Baby, loosen up. You're too uptight." (John Riggins to Sandra Day O'Connor, 1982)

  29. Here is Letterman's "Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear At Your Super Bowl Party". Number 10:

    "I'll take your coats and Michael Vick will take your dogs"

  30. There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl. Thanks, perhaps, to Garo Yepremian.

  31. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will be the big act at halftime. From the USA Today report on his press conference:

    Asked if he knew that Hillary Clinton had addressed a political rally to refrains from Petty's former hit American Girl after winning the New Hampshire democratic primary, Petty said he'd only been informed in the days afterward. He also declined to publicly back a presidential candidate, saying, "You wouldn't want to take a guitar player's advice."

    Tom is an OK guy in my book.

  32. Although Kevin Rousseau comments somewhat snarkily: "I guess Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were busy."

  33. Lingerie Bowl V has been cancelled.

  34. But if you can't stand Tom Petty—well, first, what the hell is your problem, dude?—but if you can't stand Tom Petty, there are other things on other channels. My favorite:

    Spike's idea is to show an eating contest featuring the likes of Eater X, Tim "Gravy" Brown" and rising star (in the eating world, anyway) Joey Chesnut. Spike will telecast an undercard of hard-boiled-egg consumption (world record: 65) as well as a ham-eating main event.

  35. If you watch the Super Bowl for the ads, you can get a description here. There's going to be an Iron Man preview—yay!— in the second quarter.

  36. Also there's this mysterious description of the spot from the "White House Office of National Drug Control Policy"

    Drug dealer loses teen business to prescription drugs.

    What's that about? Good thing, or bad?

  37. Perhaps it's related to this suggestion from Robert Knight, who's less than amused by a certain subcategory of prescription drug ads:

    Maybe FOX, CBS and NFL executives should try sitting next to a 9-year-old child while the guy explains on screen that men should consult doctors if "an erection lasts more than four hours."

  38. Almost certainly no ad will be better than this one:

  39. There were 12 fumbles in Super Bowl XXVII: 4 by the Dallas Cowboys, and 8 by the Buffalo Bills. (7 were lost, 2 by the Cowboys, 5 by the Bills.)

  40. Among the people predicting a Giants win tomorrow: Plaxico Burress, Dionne Warwick, and Fran Tarkenton. Yes, former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Yes, former great singer, and former shill for the Psychic Friends Network, Dionne Warwick.

  41. Among the people picking the Pats: … well, just about everyone else, sorry, Fran and Dionne.

  42. Finally: Teddy Bruschi is frickin' awesome.

Last Modified 2012-10-14 10:31 AM EDT