WALL·E

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

As I type WALL·E is number 9 on IMDB top 250 movies of all time.

Hm, maybe.

Unless you've been living under the proverbial rock, you know the story: the last working robot on earth gets a sleek, shiny visitor from outer space.

It's indescribably wonderful. Just go see it. What follows is trivia.

Some ill-tempered conservatives are disrespecting the movie for its alleged eco-freak propagandizing. This is misguided. See Lileks. (And note that at least one eco-freak propagandist is moaning about the movie not being strident and alarmist enough. Can't win, Pixar.)

And, for a good time, also check out the BuyNLarge website.

Sigourney Weaver does the voice of the "Ship's Computer". Is she in danger of getting typecast? No matter. NASA should immediately hire her, and wire her voice into all future mission software. If I'm going to hear a self-destruct countdown, I want to hear it from Sigourney.

There's one plot hole, I think: why would a robot programmed to look for life on earth be so consarn quick with her blaster?


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:13 AM EDT
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The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

[Amazon Link] [3.5
stars] [IMDb Link] True confession: in my misspent youth, I did a considerable amount of (literal) misspending in the video arcade. I was never very good. This documentary is about the people who were very good, and still are.

It's all about competitive video gaming, the effort to set new scoring records on vintage arcade machines. Specifically, Donkey Kong. And this is one of those documentaries that shows you a hidden world of intrigue, rivalry, and dubious obsession of which you might have otherwise have been blissfully unaware. The filmmakers mostly just let the principals ramble on about their field, and the movie sometimes seems to be going for the cheap laugh at their expense.

On the other hand, the movie makes it clear that the competitors are operating at an undeniable pinnacle of achievement, requiring outstanding reflexes, coordination, and memory. Yes, it's an achievement set in an artificial universe of arbitrary rules programmed by obscure geniuses decades ago. Yet, can we not say the same thing of Major League Baseball? Hm.

A good portion of the movie was filmed right here in New Hampshire, at Funspot at Weirs Beach. (The largest arcade in the world.) Unfortunately, you only get the merest glimpse of outdoors; it might as well have been in Nutley, NJ.

Irony: One of the places I used to play was the long-gone Funspot in Dover, NH. I returned this DVD to the Blockbuster store which stands in the very location Funspot used to occupy! No, wait, that's not irony, that's just a very strained coincidence. Never mind.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:12 AM EDT
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Reservation Road

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

As Lincoln said: People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

It's the story of two fathers, one of whom kills the other's son in a hit-and-run accident. One has his life gradually eaten away by guilt, the other one by an obsession with vengeance. Eventually things get resolved, end of movie.

Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo play the dads, Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino play the moms. The movie was written and directed by Terry George, whose previous work was Hotel Rwanda. So there's no shortage of talent here, it's a very serious movie. It's just not very interesting. Maybe it needed more Jennifer Connelly. Maybe more gunplay. Maybe the whole thing should have taken place on a spaceship.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:11 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2008-06-29 Update

Every so often, something … phony happens with the Google Hit Machine. Like, for example, today:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2008-06-22
"Barack Obama" phony753,000+533,000
"John McCain" phony636,000+439,000
"Bob Barr" phony10,600-35,400

Did McCain's and Obama's hit counts really go up over a factor of three? Did Bob Barr's hit counts really go down over a factor of four? The Google doesn't lie, but sometimes I think it counts funny. Anyway:

  • Charles Krauthammer notes Barackrobatics on (a) the FISA compromise; (b) NAFTA; (c) public campaign financing; (d) Iranian negotiations; (e) Pastor Wright. OK, so Obama's just another "calculated and cynical" pol, but:
    I merely note with amazement that his media swooners seem to accept his every policy reversal with an equanimity unseen since the Daily Worker would change the party line overnight -- switching sides in World War II, for example -- whenever the wind from Moscow changed direction.
    It's an overworn cliché, but that won't stop us: the watchdog press turns into a lapdog press pretty easily.

  • One such media swooner is Noam Scheiber of the New Republic. Noam looks at
    … the sum total of Obama's recent pronouncements and maneuvering--on the FISA bill, on the Supreme Court's child rape decision, the DC gun-ban decision, his campaign-finance opt-out, his joint forums stiff-arm …
    … and basically says, no big dealio.
    To the extent that it draws attention from these insinuations, the "typical pol" charge may even help him somewhat. Thanks to his race, his eloquence, and his relative youth, Obama's just never going to come across as completely typical. In some sense the bigger risk is not being typical enough.
    "Typical pol" is one thing; "typical phony liberal pol in the Mondale/McGovern/Carter tradition" is another. Will that play this year? Maybe.

  • We intend to stick to our term Barackrobatics for describing this phenomenon. However, we're happy to note the increasing web presence of another term: "Obamafuscation", which is getting (as I type) 412 Googles; that's approximately 411 more than you get for Barackrobatics, so it may take the day, neologistically speaking. The MinuteMan is fond of the term, for one thing. Here he notes the following triple-yutz:
    "That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position," Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.
    "Inartful". Heh.

  • Phony fans will want to check out "For some voters, style trumps substance" from J. Scott Orr of the Newhouse News Service. There's depressing news on that front for McCain. Never mind about terrorism, taxes, supreme court nominations, and all that boring stuff, what about body language?
    When it comes to body language, Obama has an advantage, said Ginny Pulos, a New York media consultant and expert on the subject.

    But McCain has improved dramatically with experience, she said, losing some of the rigidity and a phony-looking grin that detracted from his presentations in prior years.

    Actually, I was under the impression that McCain was still using the phony-looking grin. From an analysis by a speech coach made earlier this month:
    McCain displayed an awkward, phony smile. His coaches are telling him to smile, but he hasn't figured out how to make a smile sincere. Smiling is a universal expression of warmth and approachability. Be sure to keep your non-verbal behavior in alignment with your message. How to smile sincerely.
    Remember our motto, Senator: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." You need intensive coaching so you your smile looks less phony.

  • On that score, Obama's a master in comparison. Returning to the Orr article:
    "Credibility is established when our words, the tone of our voice and what we are doing with our body are all in alignment, all working together. Obama has that mastered," [body language expert Ginny Pulos] said.

    "If you watch what he's doing with his body as he speaks, his hands are outstretched, his palms open, so you get a feeling of sincerity. Sometimes he touches his chest, which signals that he is talking from his heart," Pulos said.

    Suuuure he is.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:00 AM EST
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Experimental Results — 2008-06-29

This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 2:00AM on AMC: Patriot Games (Harrison Ford)
  • 5:00AM on TBS: The Whole Ten Yards (Bruce Willis)
  • 10:00AM on TNT: The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
  • 12:30PM on AMC: Patriot Games (Harrison Ford)
  • 11:30PM on TNT: The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
The Fugitive is a great, great, movie. But has anyone on God's green earth not seen it?

Anyway: our theory stands unrefuted for the past nineteen weeks.


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Everglades

[Amazon Link]

This is the tenth book in Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series. The events of previous books have gotten Doc into kind of a funk: he's drinking too much, not exercising much, and becoming an unreliable friend. But an old friend shows up out of the past: her husband has gone missing under strange circumstances, and he's been involved with a cult with a charismatic leader. But it turns out the charismatic leader is a fraud and has a psychopathic underling. So we're off to the races.

As usual, Doc Ford channels a good bit of Travis McGee, and sometimes it seems a little forced. Doc's friend Tomlinson is also along for the ride, and they pick up Frank, a private eye from New Jersey early on. The interplay between them is pretty good; unfortunately Frank won't be around in later books.

The ending is thrilling and satisfying, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:16 AM EDT
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Persepolis

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link] An animated movie that, among other things, validates the Who Theory: when you Meet the New Boss, you shouldn't be unduly surprised that he's the Same as the Old Boss.

The autobiographical movie Persepolis follows the early life of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian girl who's outspoken and precocious. As the movie starts, the Shah's in power, and Marjane is a grade schooler. She's initially loyal to the Shah, based on the propaganda she's heard at school. But her family (seemingly made up of mostly Communists) soon "educates" her about the imperialist origins of the regime, and she learns about the imprisonment of dissidents, etc. But then the Iranian Revolution occurs and—guess what—things get much, much worse.

Despite her Commie family, Marjane doesn't seem too political herself; her main inspiration seems to come from Grandma, who bequeaths her a fiercely individualistic streak. And, despite the film's grim environment, the movie isn't strident; there's a considerable amount of humor, and Marjane shows a lot of self-deprecating wit.

She loves Western music; in one scene she goes out in search of a rumored Iron Maiden tape, and runs the gauntlent of street hustlers selling bootlegs. One Fundamentalist thug sneers that Michael Jackson represented the decadence of Western culture. I had to admit he might have had a point there. Fortunately, we got better.

The animation is mostly black and white, and the style based on Marjane's graphic novels. It's interesting.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:17 AM EDT
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5-4

There's nothing like a bunch of 5-4 Supreme Court decisions to clarify one's mind on the stakes for the next election. I join with my fellow troglodytes in cheering the result in the D. C. gun ban case and the Millionaire's Amendment case; and I thought yesterday's decision striking down the death penalty for child rapists was a stinker, as was the outcome of Boumediene v. Bush a couple weeks back.

On the wrong side on all four cases: Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Consistently on the side of the angels: Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia. (Kennedy always on the "5" side, right or wrong.)

The tedious Bill Moyers quotes the major candidates on their favorite current Justices, a reasonable indicator of the kind of Justice they might nominate, should they get the chance:

JOHN MCCAIN: I have my own standards of judicial ability, experience, philosophy, and temperament. And Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito meet those standards in every respect. They would serve as the model for my own nominees if that responsibility falls to me.

[…]

BARACK OBAMA: I think actually Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg are very sensible judges…I think that Justice Souter who was a Republican appointee, is a sensible judge. What you're looking for is somebody who's going to apply the law where it's clear.

The math isn't particularly hard here. Here's Ed Whelan with more on Obama's stated philosophy:

Although Obama has served in the Senate for barely three years, he has already established a record on judicial nominations and constitutional law that comports with his 2007 ranking by the National Journal as the most liberal of all 100 senators. Obama voted against the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, and he even joined in the effort to filibuster the Alito nomination. In explaining his vote against Roberts, Obama opined that deciding the "truly difficult" cases requires resort to "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy." In short, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." No clearer prescription for lawless judicial activism is possible.

Note that Obama has expressed his disagreement with the Court's decisison in the child rape case. That's a real cheap disagreement, especially when he's more or less committed to (should the opportunity arise) nominating Justices who would vote the same way. As Prof Althouse puts it:

So, Obama has (cleverly or sincerely) deprived McCain of an issue, it seems. And yet the most relevant question is Supreme Court appointments. You might think that it's rather predictable that Obama, given the opportunity to nominate a new Justice, will choose someone who would almost surely have joined today's majority. Ask him: You've said you oppose the Supreme Court's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, but does that mean you will try to pick Justices in the mold of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. See? You don't need to ask. You already know the answer.
Ah, but there's always a kicker in this election. She continues:
But don't be too confident that McCain would choose Justices who would have joined today's dissent. I wouldn't bet on that either.
The thing is: we pretty much have to bet, one way or the other. Yes, McCain might nominate another Souter (as George H. W. Bush did), or another Stevens (as Gerald Ford did). But Obama is near-certain to nominate in the Ginsburg/Breyer mold.

If McCain were smart, he'd flog this issue relentlessly.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-25

  • Instapundit quotes Jerry Pournelle approving John McCain's reward offer for significant improvements in battery technology for hybrid or electric cars. I'm more convinced by the criticism of David Harsanyi:

    Some campaign ploys are a cry for attention. Others just empty promises. And sometimes, candidates prove that they have absolutely no clue what's going on.

    Congratulations, John McCain, you've scored a natural hat trick.

    Via Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek, who's quoted by Harsanyi.

  • Greg Mankiw notes agreement between strange bedfellows on whether speculators are to blame for high oil prices. One of them is previously-mentioned very-left Paul Krugman; the other is very-libertarian Alan Reynolds, who concludes:

    The urge to blame speculators is as big a waste of time as blaming oil companies. Americans want more oil and gas - not more hot air from politicians.

    Ah, but the supply of the latter is always greater than demand. So it's cheap. That's Econ 101.

    For more: McQ at QandO is equally excoriating on this and other red herrings:

    So while going after speculators and price gougers and not filling the SPR get tossed around as solutions to the gas price problem, Democrats continue to refuse to address the real problem of supply and demand. They continue to block all efforts to begin the process of putting more oil on the market. Hopefully voters who may be paying over $6 for gas at some point in the future if nothing is done to expand the supply, will reward Democrats (and those Republicans supporting them) with the retirement they deserve.

    That would be nice, although I'm not hopeful.

  • But not all us right-wingers are pooh-poohing the it's-all-the-speculator's-fault meme. In fairness, check out Noel Sheppard at Planet Gore. I'm not persuaded: he's relying on testimony from tame economists before a Democrat-controlled House committee, set up to take whatever partisan gains they can get. But make up your own mind. As if you wouldn't do that anyway.

  • From the "Must be More to the Story" Department, an article about Stephen Hawking's refusal of a knighthood contains this mystifying paragraph:

    "Professor Hawking does not like titles. In fact he dislikes the whole concept of them," a spokesman told The Times.

    Could Professor Hawking be a Cretan?

  • Is America a great country or what? Ice-T has gone from an original gangster to contestant on Celebrity Family Feud. He was up against (so to speak) Joan Rivers last night. The mind reels at how the American Dream unfolds for some.

    I missed it. Don't want the mind to reel too much at my age. I watched a Mannix Season One DVD from Blockbuster instead. <voice imitation="cranky_old_codger">Joe Mannix could kick Ice-T's ass. Either on the streets or on Family Feud</voice>.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:11 AM EDT
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I Took an Online Quiz And …

91% Geek

(What, you thought it would be higher?)


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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-24

  • Not yet countered at Fight the Smears: Obama's first general election ad takes credit for legislation providing "healthcare for wounded troops", but the reference is to a bill to which he had neglible input and for which he didn't show up to vote. That's audacity!

  • Want something to write your Congresscritter about? How about: "Senate Housing Bill Requires eBay, Amazon, Google, and All Credit Card Companies to Report Transactions to the Government"

    Hidden deep in Senator Christopher Dodd's 630-page Senate housing legislation is a sweeping provision that affects the privacy and operation of nearly all of America’s small businesses. The provision, which was added by the bill's managers without debate this week, would require the nation's payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government.

    FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey commented: "This is a provision with astonishing reach, and it was slipped into the bill just this week. Not only does it affect nearly every credit card transaction in America, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, but the bill specifically targets payment systems like eBay's PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout that are used by many small online businesses. The privacy implications for America's small businesses are breathtaking."

    Financial privacy has been degrading for decades, but this is a pretty big chunk out of what remains.

  • A dispiriting number of our local users have fallen for old-style phishing spam. Here's an actual sample:

    Dear University Email Owner,
    
    This message is from University Communication  messaging center to all
    University email Email owners.We are currently upgrading our data base
    and
    e-mail center.We are deleting all unused university email
    to create more space for new one.
    
    To prevent your account from closing you will have to update it
    below so that we will know that it's a present used account.
    
    CONFIRM YOUR EMAIL BELOW
    Email Username : .......... .....
    EMAIL Password : ................
    Date of Birth : .................
    Country or Territory : ..........
    
    Warning!!! Email owner that refuses to update his or her
    Email,within Seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her
    Email permanently.
    
    Thanks,
    University Team
    UNH. BETA
    

    Now, I'm sure no Pun Salad readers would fall for that, but you might want to clue in your less-savvy friends, say by hitting them in the head with a brick. I'd like to post the following somewhere prominent:

    warning sign

    … but I'm afraid management would object to that wording. (Warning sign generator is here.)

  • George Carlin died! What can I say? Gosh!

    Seemingly every other m*#@@f##(@* blogger is posting his dirty-word stuff, and that's fine. But (showing my age), I remember the first time I saw him, doing his "Wonderful WINO" routine. And thanks to the magic of the Internets, here 'tis, from the old Hollywood Palace variety show, introduced by—whoa—Jimmy Durante:

    Also, Sean Higgins has a juxtaposition that seems callous at first blush, but, hey: George Carlin would probably have found it amusing.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:20 AM EDT
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The "Enron Loophole" and the Dogs Not Barking

Disclaimer: computer geeks like me are … well, maybe not the last people you want to consult on economic issues, but we're pretty far down the list. Nevertheless, let's see if we can contribute anything useful in the current brouhaha about the "Enron Loophole".

If you don't know what the Enron Loophole is, Google is your friend, at least in the sense it will lead you to a lot of people talking about it. For example (as I type), there's a news story headlined "Obama calls for 'Enron Loophole' to be closed"

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed Sunday that Congress close the so-called "Enron Loophole" that Democrats blame for contributing to high gasoline prices.

Obama made the proposal just as his chief spokesman blasted former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, a close friend and campaign adviser to Republican presidential contender John McCain, who Democrats say created the loophole in 2000.

Ah, it's beginning to make a little sense. A WSJ blog notes:

In a conference call, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine, an Obama adviser, said “Everyone believes there’s too much speculation in the oil market. A lot of the price of oil I think people put at the doorstep of speculators.”

There are a lot of warning flags here. First, partisan points are scored, always a signal that the truth is almost certainly not the driving force behind this. In addition, we note the obvious scapegoating of "speculators," a relatively tiny number of easily-demonized investors who perform a function that only a minuscule fraction of the citizenry understand. It's great political theater: Congress gets to "do something" about oil prices, hopefully impressing the rubes voters without actually making any tough decisions that would directly impact large numbers of people.

Also note Corzine's comment about "too much speculation". Sure. Governor Corzine knows what the "right" amount of speculation is, and that regulatory legislation will get it exactly right. And if you believe that, I have approximately 932 e-mail messages from Nigeria that will make you a fantastically wealthy person.

And finally, the term "Enron loophole" is Lakoff-style "framing": setting the terms of the debate by rhetorical capture of an ad-worthy term. Nobody likes "loopholes"; everybody knows we're supposed to despise Enron. (And I guess we're not supposed to ask, despite having that loophole going for them, how they nevertheless crashed and burned.)

Onward: also high on the Google hit list is www.closetheenronloophole.com, a website set up to advocate government action to, well, close the Enron loophole. The site reeks of demagogic populism:

oil_speculatin_fatcat

Families and small businesses! Victimized by that fancy-dressin' coldly aloof guy with the cigar! The site is hardly reticent:

Profiteering speculators and investment banks care little about establishing a price for energy based on supply and demand fundamentals – they care about turning a PROFIT.

Yes, that's an all-uppercase dirty-word PROFIT. Who are the brave profit-disparaging folks behind this website? Aaaallll the way down at the bottom of the page:

pmaalogo

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America. They have a their website here.

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) is a federation of 46 state and regional trade associations representing approximately 8,000 independent petroleum marketers nationwide.

Hmmm. On the face of it, not exactly a bunch of grassroots citizens rising up in righteous anger. But they also have "Platinum Partners":

  • Altria Corporate Services/Philip Morris, U. S. A.
  • BP Products North America, Inc.
  • CITGO Petroleum Corporation
  • Chevron Products Company
  • ConocoPhillips
  • ExxonMobil
  • Federated Insurance Company
  • National Biodiesel Board
  • R. J. Reynolds
  • Shell Oil Products US
  • UST, Inc
  • Valero Marketing and Supply Company

Ah, yes. The normal coalition of left-wing socialist wackos who treat PROFIT as a dirty word.

My BS detector is beeping like mad. But there's one more test. Does Paul Krugman join in the partisan scapegoating? Let's check his NYT blog. Here's a gem:

Some correspondents have asked me what I think about the Congressional testimony of Michael Masters, who told a Senate subcommittee that “index speculators” — institutions that buy commodity futures as an investment — are responsible for the [oil] price surge.

The short answer is that I think his testimony is just stupid.

As a second data point, note that another reliable Democratic partisan, Brad DeLong, simply quotes Krugman on this issue without quibbling.

DeLong and Krugman are the dogs that don't bark on this issue. If they could join in the GOP-bashing chorus about oil speculation, they'd do it. As near as I can tell, they're not. What does that tell you?


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:23 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2008-06-22 Update

The phony boomlet for Bob Barr collapsed this week, leaving our two major party candidates in firm control of the phony campaign:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2008-06-15
"Barack Obama" phony220,000+1,000
"John McCain" phony197,000+1,000
"Bob Barr" phony46,000-14,000

Pun Salad would like to propose a new word to describe Senator Obama's rhetorical efforts to justify his shifting positions on a variety of issues:

Barackrobatics

It generates zero Google hits as I type ("Did you mean: Blackrobotics"). So you saw it here first, unless you didn't.

  • David Brooks delivers a column devoted to the phony thesis:
    … as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.
    Examples follow: "present" votes in the Illinois Senate; Reverend Wright; his "new politics" meme; his public financing pledge. Brooks deserves a pundit point for avoiding the "throw under the bus" cliché here.

  • On the same day Brooks' column appeared, Obama's "Fast Eddie" persona decided to provide another data point for Brooks' thesis.
    "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?" - Barack Obama on what he thinks the GOP strategy will be.
    He not only smears McCain and his campaign as vile racists, he does so (admittedly) before there's any actual evidence; because he "knows" what they're "going to" do. Using the Brooksian formulation: post-racial politics are now also under the truck. (The New York Times detailed back in February that a significant faction of Obama's advisors have no problem in playing the race card.)

    Many people have linked to and quoted Baldilocks' short and eloquent response:

    Most people couldn't care less about your name and your color, Senator Obama. They fear being lead by you because you have no substantive legislative record, you're a chronic liar and, after explicitly stating that you choose your friends carefully, you have repeatedly and systematically made friends with people who hate this country.

  • Another neat bit of Barackrobatics this week: after throwing NAFTA under the truck during the primaries, now it's back out. Fortune's Nina Easton reports her interview:
    In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.

    "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

    Hey, protectionists: have you noticed the tire marks on your back yet?

  • One more data point: the Kucinich/Shea-Porter/Hodes wing of the Democratic Party looked to Obama for help on defeating the FISA compromise, and the only thing they're hearing is the whine of fast-approaching tires:
    "I think we do a grave disservice if we try to convince people that Obama is really going to work to get amnesty [for the telecom companies that helped out with terrorist wiretapping] out of the bill. Reid is already saying it's just theater -- they know it's going to fail -- it's just a way, Reid said, to let people "express themselves." It's all designed to let Obama say, once he votes for this bill: "Well, I tried to get amnesty out." He's going to vote for amnesty -- and his statement today seals the fate of this bill. Why sugar coat that?"
    Doe-eyed innocence betrayed, is why!

  • To be fair, McCain did his best week to keep himself in the running:
    “He’s one John McCain in front of white Republicans. And he’s a different John McCain in front of Hispanics.”
    But he's just going to have to try harder to keep up with Obama.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:01 AM EST
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Experimental Results — 2008-06-15

This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 12:00PM on A&E: Die Hard (Bruce Willis)

That's it?! Hm. Nevertheless:

Theory status: unrefuted for eighteen consecutive weeks.


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Untraceable

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

I wonder if this movie was proposed to the studio bigwigs as: "It's Saw meets Apache Web Server Security!" Maybe.

Diane Lane plays intrepid FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh. Her usual gig has her working the night shift in the Portland, Oregon office, ferreting out cyberscammers with her trusty honeypots, calling in the cops to knock down doors once she's established at-least-semi-probable cause. (Civil libertarians might quibble. Most who have been on the receiving end of internet crooks will cheer, maybe wishing she'd called in an air strike instead.)

Soon enough, though, she's investigating a local serial killer with a new gimmick: he executes his victims on-webcam with elaborate sadistic mechanisms; the more people watch, the quicker the end comes. And—as you might guess from the title—the killer's site is untraceable.

I'll give the screenwriters credit: when they have Jennifer explain the untraceability, they have her use actual network terminology, like "IP address", "TTL", and "name servers" in superficially plausible ways. But—don't worry, folks—if it were that easy, the bad guys actually out there would be doing this sort of thing to Google and Amazon, not piddling around with mass murder.

Also, I don't find it credible that the cops and the FBI can't locate a internet video feed that they know is originating somewhere in Portland.

But never mind. Other than the dubious technical mumbo-jumbo, it's a competent, by-the-numbers cliché-laden thriller. (When a character leaves a message for Jennifer, saying he thinks he has a case-breaking lead, just needs to flesh it out a bit, everyone in the room knew that he wouldn't be having many more lines after that.)


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:15 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-20

  • The House roll-call on passage of the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008" is a litmus test on how seriously your Congresscritter takes the ability to spy on the bad guys. Andrew C. McCarthy calls it "a flawed deal, but a good one". The vote math goes like this:

    • It passed 293-129;

    • Republicans voted in favor 188-1;

    • Democrats voted 105-128 against.

    Both NH representatives, Paul Hodes, and Carol Shea-Porter, voted against, making it pretty easy to tell where they fall on the moderate/kneejerk lefty spectrum. Note to the GOP: it might make a pretty good campaign issue.

  • Glen Reynolds didn't say it, so I will: They told me that if George W. Bush were elected, demonstrations embarrassing to the politically powerful would be repressed, and they were right!

  • The Guest Pun/Cooking Tip of the Day comes from Mr. James Lileks:
    Because the lard works in mysterious ways.
    Indeed!


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Capote

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

This movie was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar; Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote. 91% on the Tomatometer. But I'm like: eh.

The movie covers, roughly, Capote's In Cold Blood period, from the grisly Kansas murders to the hanging of the perpetrators. He's intrigued by the initial description of the slaughter in the New York Times and pesters William Shawn, head honcho at New Yorker to send him out to Kansas with the more conventional Harper Lee as an assistant. He worms his way into the community; when the killers are caught, he's able to get access to their jail cells.

Capote is drawn to one of the criminals, Perry Smith, and secures them better legal representation after the initial conviction. Even back then, justice could be delayed by endless appeal to various courts. Eventually, Capote is torn: he likes Smith—he really likes him—but he can't finish the book until Smith is executed. Dilemma! Much mental anguish and drinking results, and Capote comes off as a little narcissistic shit.

Chris Cooper has his usual outstanding performance as (this time) a cop who pretty much exemplifies Midwestern decency. A little taken aback by Capote's flamboyance, he nevertheless accepts him into his home. But he never takes his eyes off the horrific crime and its victims, and his motivation is simple: to see justice done. I have a much easier time understanding him than I do understanding people like Truman Capote.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:18 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-19

  • Our comrades to the north at GraniteGrok have a couple of amusing YouTube clips of Senatorial candidate Jeanne Shaheen euphemizing her support for the "Employee Free Choice Act." (Which would allow a union organizing drive to avoid a secret ballot election.) Citizen ambush journalism at its best, and she's looking a little peeved about it.

  • Of course, we pretty much already have that "Employee Free Choice" in NH, thanks to our newly Democratic legislature, and the union trying to organize me and my co-workers is extremely pleased about it:
    Under the new system, which we are using here at UNH to organize staff, you vote once – when you sign your card – regarding whether to support a staff union. It’s like voting by mail-in ballot. And it’s completely democratic, as well as anonymous.
    Of course, it ain't "completely democratic" without a secret ballot, and as for a signed card being anonymous—sorry, I don't think so.

  • Speaking of local threats to liberty, the amazing New Hampshire Liberty Alliance has posted its "2008 Liberty Rating for the New Hampshire House and Senate". Granite Staters should go look to see how your reps are doing, freedomwise. My House Reps scored a D, an Incomplete, and three "Constitutional Threat" ratings. My Senator, Iris Estabrook, is also a big fat Constitutional Threat. That's pretty bad, but it's at least easy to know who to vote for: anyone but the incumbents.

  • From a Chicago Tribune story about the efforts of some University of Chicago faculty to not name a new research center after the Nobel Prize-winning, libertarian econ hero Milton Friedman:
    In a letter to U. of C. President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors—about 8 percent of the university's full-time faculty—said they feared that having a center named after the conservative, free-market economist could "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity."
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    (Via University Diarist.)

  • Oh yes. I've always suspected this.


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Rochester (NH) Police Log (Good Parts Version)

From our local newspaper's website, some of the activities of Rochester, New Hampshire's police between May 27 and June 2:

Tuesday, May 27

6:20 a.m. — On Old Dover Road, a man reports one vehicle has been smeared with feces and the other was spat upon.

6:45 a.m. — A coyote is clunked on the Route 202 bypass.

9:33 a.m. — A neighborly dispute on Salmon Falls Road features spitting on a driveway.

10:12 a.m. — At the station a man reports getting a strange message on his cell phone, to whit: "It looks like she's dead." These dire words have come from a phone in Dover. Police there track it to a city landscaper and discover he was talking about a dead sprinkler head. So she may be restored to life.

10:46 a.m. — Sidewalk cyclists on the Square are told they should not pedal there.

11:17 a.m. — A man who took his motorcycle to Winter Street for a repair finds the repairman has left town with "everything including his motorcycle."

2:57 p.m. — The animal control officer is on the trail of a loose beagle on Western Avenue.

4:10 p.m. — During a disturbance at Salmon Falls Estates, a kid's bike is thrown around and yelling is noticed.

4:27 p.m. — A man gets an iffy check from Ontario and asks if it's a scam. He tries calling the bank, and then shreds the paperwork.

6:23 p.m. — Music crankers win a warning on Periwinkle Drive.

Wednesday, May 28

1:09 p.m. — At Royal Crest Mobile Home Park a cat is up a tree; arborists will pluck it off, if they can collect a fee.

8:12 p.m. — A dead dog on North Main Street is reclassified as a raccoon.

8:38 p.m. — Fireworks on Congress Street prevent young schoolchildren sleeping.

9:31 p.m. — A lady's sister's ex-boyfriend screams and pounds doors and windows. Later, slashed tires are discovered.

Friday, May 30

1:21 a.m. — After someone jumps into traffic near North Main Street bridge, a person is taken to Frisbie with a bump on his head.

11:22 a.m. — Two strange sheep munch in a Dry Hill Road yard, but then move along.

6:09 p.m. — There is a black bear in an Oak Street yard laying at the base of a tree. Someone has invited a bunch of buddies over to see it. It later ambles off, but then a food delivery guy reports "a seven-foot bear near Hansonville Road and Oak Street."

8:17 p.m. — There is gunplay near Peaslee Road.

11:27 p.m. — A party rages on Main Street, Gonic. No officers are available to handle the call. Rage on, McDuff.

Saturday, May 31

12:15 a.m. — At the end of Meaderboro Road, a gentleman in a blue hoodie is jumping up and down and running in and out of the roadway. This is thought to be suspicious.

3:18 a.m. — On Liberty Street, two men (one shirtless, of course) are yelling at each other.

12:22 p.m. — A man who was in a fight near the Dynasty heads for home on a bike, clutching a six-pack.

3:43 p.m. — A purse has been stolen from a car on River Street. The victim waits for a while in a car in the police parking lot before getting "irritated" and hanging up on two dispatchers.

4:07 p.m. — On Mill Street, a dead deer has been dragged into a back yard. Now there are buzzards and flies around it.

6:39 p.m. — In the East Rochester area, a teenager has eight pairs of underwear stolen.

8:23 p.m. — At the Dynasty, a woman reports her ex has taken $100 from her.

8:51 p.m. — The core of the noise from a graduation party on Quail Drive is traced to a young drummer whom police advise to stop.

Sunday, June 1

12:49 a.m. — Loud music is coming from Penny Lane, who is a street, not an entertainer.

8:51 a.m. — A dog visits Aroma Joe's on Milton Road daily for a bone, but they are concerned for its safety.

8:53 a.m. — A Moores Court man who allowed a girl to stay at his place overnight has awoken to find her and his white Chevy Cavalier have gone.

6:31 p.m. — A dog bite man to Frisbie goes, then speaks to the mutt's master, who says that trespass law he knows. Rapprochement? A disaster!

8:31 p.m. — Two ladies slug it out on River Street.

11:24 p.m. — A man steals a 30-pack from Cumberland Farms on Milton Road and escapes on foot, despite baggy jeans.

Monday, June 2

10:07 a.m. — At the station, a woman reports she has a check for $3,000 which is likely fraudulent.

10:54 a.m. — Near Citizen's Bank a biker is seen to dismount and punch a van driver before taking off again.

1:06 p.m. — The Baxter Lake golf cart has been stolen again, possibly by the same youngster.

7:49 p.m. — On Yellowstone Lane a woman reports that her son was clonked over the head with a bottle by a relative a couple of days ago.

7:57 p.m. — At the station a man reports a woman he used to live with is leaving messages on his lawn.

I can't help but think that someone is getting away with something here. Hope it continues.

Last Modified 2008-09-12 1:27 PM EDT
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Advice to Racists

Yesterday's Blogometer noticed a Talking Point among the hive of lefty bloggers it samples and summarizes. (It's under "MCCAIN III: Does He Really Want These People On His Side?"):

Yesterday we briefly discussed McCain's 6/14 meeting with disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. The Politico's Ben Smith reports that Paula Abeles, the Clinton supporter who organized this meeting, previously worked on behalf of Thomas Jefferson's white descendants in an effort to exclude Jefferson's possible black descendants from family gatherings …
After quoting Ben Smith, the 'Meter notes: "Liberal bloggers are buzzing about the revelations". And they are. Some snippets about Mrs. Abeles: she's one of the "people who don't like black people"; she's "deeply racist and out-of-the-mainstream"; a "stone racist"; who couldn't "think of a single non-repulsive, non-spiteful, non-racist thing to do."

And of course, McCain comes in for collateral damage: "Only the best supporters for McCain"; "she's the person the McCain camp wanted to work with"; "hasn't the McCain campaign figured out about Google yet?"

Yes, fine. The McCain campaign should be more careful about the folks with whom they associate. (Although the anonymous McCain aide in the Politico article is credible when he notes "We typically don’t vet people who are simply expressing an interest in supporting the campaign") I have no idea whether Mrs. Abeles is a "stone racist" or not, in her heart of hearts; it's certainly true that her previous actions allowed her enemies to paint her as one.

The interesting thing is to me: none of this came up when she was a Hillary supporter. But now everybody notices she's the worst person in the world.

Hence my advice to racists: be loyal Democrats. Your racism will be safely invisible unless and until you happen to say nice things about Republicans.


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Stalin's Ghost

[Amazon Link]

This is the sixth Arkady Renko novel from Martin Cruz Smith. Arkady is an investigator with the Moscow Police, but his superiors have little use for an honest detective. So he's put to the task of investigating sightings of Joe Stalin at the Chistiye Prudy station of the Moscow Metro. He's also investigating a possible murder-for-hire enterprise run by a couple of his co-workers, war heroes from the Second Chechen War. And finally, he's trying to hold together the sort-of family cobbled together from the previous book: girlfriend Eva, and the young chess prodigy Zhenya. As usual, Arkady's doggedness endears him to nobody, and puts him in dire physical peril.

Martin Cruz Smith is pretty dogged himself; his books are always impeccably researched and convey a powerful portrait of Russia and its people. One subplot involves the "diggers", groups that make a semi-hobby of digging up victims of World War II, carefully assigning them nationalities and probable causes of death. German soldiers executed by Russians, or Russians executed by Germans? Machine-gunned, or a single shot to the back of the head? It turns out that MIA Soviet soldiers were presumed to have defected to the Nazis, and their families subjected to disgrace; finding the right corpse can absolve things even today.

Russia: it's not like where you and I live.

Smith's also very good at modifying the usual genre-detective wisecrackery with dark Russian humor. It's a mix of Tolstoy and Chandler.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:22 AM EDT
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I Took an Online Test and …

How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?

Created by OnePlusYou

So eat it, Hal. That's plenty of time. (Via BBspot.)


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:14 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-16

  • In case you're not tired of hearing about the MSM trying to pin the Michelle Obama "whitey" tape rumor on conservatives, you can check out Allapundit at Hot Air and/or Michelle Malkin for more details and links.

  • Today's WSJ has an amusing story of extreme sliminess, even by the lax standards of the US Senate:
    Take Senator Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat whose office issued a Friday statement saying that "I never met Angelo Mozilo."
    That's true. Senator Conrad's statement is here. He may have assumed that claiming he'd "never met" Mozilo would deter further inquiry. Oops:
    What he did not say then but admitted under later questioning by a Journal reporter is that, although he may not have had a face-to-face meeting with the Countrywide CEO, Mr. Conrad had called Mr. Mozilo and asked for a loan. The result was a discounted loan on his million-dollar beach house and a separate commercial loan of a type that residential lender Countrywide did not even offer to other customers, regardless of the rate.
    Senator Conrad isn't lying. He's just candor-impaired!

  • An article that should be (but won't be) read by every politician: Who's Making Windfall Profits?
    Let's proceed with a game I'd like to call ... Pick the Profiteer! Your choice will indicate the industry that's clearly making more than its fair share. We'll tax those excess profits to subsidize the unreasonable prices that consumers pay for the industry's products. Sound good? Here are your choices …
    Can you, on numbers alone, pick out the unconscionably greedy oil company from the innocents, whose only crime is being successful?

    And if you can't, why would you expect legislators to be able to? (Via Club For Growth.)


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The Phony Campaign — 2008-06-15 Update

The big mover this week has been Mr. Barr, but he's still got a long way to go to be competitive.

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2008-06-08
"Barack Obama" phony219,000-1,000
"John McCain" phony196,000+1,000
"Bob Barr" phony60,000+20,600

So let me rant about something else: I try not to get all hot and bothered by the antics of the MSM, but ABC News has managed to look phonier than the candidates this week. There's a story up today by John Hendren headlined "Michelle Obama in for 'Very Ugly Stuff'". It begins:

Like Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton before her, Michelle Obama is becoming the would-be first lady conservatives love to hate.
The point ABC wants you to get here: conservatives are haters. Always have been.
The conservative National Review recently showed a stern-faced Michelle Obama on its cover, under the headline, "Mrs. Grievance."
Well…

NR Cover

Over, under, details, details.

The National Review story is from Mark Steyn. Steyn is a merciless satirist, and Mrs. Obama gave him enough material for a pretty good article (full article for NR subscribers only). He's not a hater.

The Tennessee Republican Party questioned her patriotism.
We'll get to the Tennessee GOP below.
Michelle Obama has become a favorite target for critics, drawing many to compare her arrival on the national stage to Hillary Clinton's after she infuriated conservatives when she said, "I could have stayed home and baked cookies."
Yes, there are those nasty conservative haters again, this time they're "infuriated."
It's likely to get worse.
"Those nasty infuriated conservative haters are likely to make things worse."
"It's going to be very ugly stuff," Democratic strategist Tad Devine said. "They're going to try to depict her as someone who is angry, outside the mainstream and not proud to be an American."
Yes, ABC News used the verbatim words of a "Democratic strategist" in its headline.
How did a 44-year-old Harvard Law School graduate become so demonized? One reason is the increasingly viral quality of the Internet.
If you're keeping score, ABC's picture so far is: infuriated conservative haters, generating demonizing ugly stuff.
"In an environment now that is increasingly polarizing and nasty, charges can be made, often unsubstantiated charges through the Web," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "We're in an environment now where being a first lady is a lot tougher job than it used to be."
That's probably true, although the unwary reader might miss that Rothenberg's even-handed quote doesn't substantiate the article's one-sided thesis. You will not learn from ABC about the current lefty effort to reanimate relatively ancient (but true) charges about Cindy McCain. That would cloud the story of hateful conservatives vs. innocent Michelle Obama.
Google "Michelle Obama" and the term "whitey" and you'll find conservative bloggers claiming a video shows her using the racially tinged term at Trinity Church. No tape has ever surfaced. But the claim helped prompt the Obama campaign to launch its own Web site, FighttheSmears.com.
Well, go ahead: Google it yourself or click right here. What you'll find is some conservative bloggers repeating the rumor, with varying degrees of skepticism; but you'll also find that just about the only person actually claiming the video exists is Larry Johnson, fervent Hillary supporter. A lot of the links to "conservatives" (for example, Michelle Malkin, Charles Johnson, or Geraghty's Campaign Spot at that hateful National Review), instead of giving credence to the story, deem Larry Johnson to be an extremely dubious source.

But that would complicate ABC's neat little smear against conservatives.

Much of the criticism stems from Michelle Obama's artless statement early in the campaign that, "For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country."

The campaign immediately clarified that to say that she meant she was prouder than ever. And she was defended on "Good Morning America" by first lady Laura Bush, who said, "I think she probably meant 'I'm more proud,' you know, is what she really meant."

Mrs. Bush is a very, very, charitable woman. But Mrs. Obama used the "artless" phrase a couple times, not something one does if one "really" means something else entirely:

But the statement was lampooned in a Tennessee GOP advertisement that juxtaposed her statement with those of supposedly ordinary citizens, one of whom played pool in a room lined with rifles who said, "I've always been proud to be an American."
Love that "supposedly". Hey, this is the web, judge for yourself:

Even John McCain, who was himself the target of a malicious smear campaign in the 2000 primary that claimed he had fathered an illegitimate child, when asked about attacks on her, said, "I've never met her, Mrs. Obama, she's a talented and a very effective person."
Gosh. Even John McCain.
On "Good Morning America" recently, candidate Obama offered this warning: "These folks should lay off my wife, all right?"

The candidate was expected to offer a very different view of his wife, and his family, in a Father's Day speech in Chicago today, with wife Michelle at his side.

Bottom line: unsurprisingly, Obama would like to use his wife as a prop/surrogate in his campaign while giving her a free pass against any sort of critical examination. Instead of treating this as an issue on which reasonable people can differ, ABC "News" puts itself firmly into "Obama lapdog" mode: it's Barack and Michelle against the "very ugly" stuff peddled by the infuriated, demonizing, malicious conservative haters.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:00 AM EST
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Experimental Results — 2008-06-15

This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 12:00AM on A&E: Die Hard (Bruce Willis)
  • 2:30PM on AMC: Firefox (Clint Eastwood)
  • 5:30PM on AMC: Hang 'em High (Clint Eastwood)
  • 6:11PM on USA: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Harrison Ford)
  • 8:00PM on AMC: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Clint Eastwood)

Theory status: unrefuted for seventeen consecutive weeks.


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Memories of Tim

I'll quote myself from earlier this year, when I saw Tim Russert at the Manchester Radisson:

Also, on my way out, I noted—really—Tim Russert hastening the other direction down a hallway, cellphone clamped to his ear. I smiled in recognition. And even though this only took at most a couple of seconds, I could tell he was totally accustomed to being recognized in public; he smiled back and gave a nod that said: "Yes, I am that guy on TV; thanks for acknowledging that, but please don't try to engage me."

I hope he was able to interpret my nod equally as well: "Wouldn't think of it, Tim. Just going home. Too bad about the Bills."

Now, I wish … well, I'm not sure what. Maybe said "Go see a cardiologist!"

He was less than a year older than I. Although that probably shouldn't make me feel different, it does.

Pejman has an excellent post.

Tim Russert was taken from us far too early. Sundays will never be the same and during the course of this political season, a whole treasure trove of insights and analysis will be missed by lesser journalists and pundits, or will be discovered by the public eye far too late simply because Tim Russert is no longer around to offer them.

He was taken from us far too early. But while we wish that his life could have been longer, we rejoice in the fact that it was so filled and so fulfilling.

Rest in Peace.

Amen.

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Update: Yes, Google Still Hates America

Yesterday's Slate article "Does Google Hate America?" about the company's reluctance to dink its logo in any way that might upset lefties:

Saturday is Flag Day. Will Google do right by America and stand up for Old Glory? [Google's Web-master manager Dennis] Hwang won't say. "The randomness is very important to us," he says. "Otherwise it wouldn't be any fun." You can be sure the right will be watching.

And the answer is…

google logo

Note to Dennis Hwang: that was predictable. Google's "randomness" keeps flipping the coin the same way.

Note to others: have a good Flag Day.

[US Flag]


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:28 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-13

  • Pun Salad loves the Google. But the Google does not love Pun Salad, nor America.
    Few keep a closer watch on Google than the editors of National Review. For years, they have monitored Google's doodles in search of value judgments about America. When Google ignored Memorial Day in 2006, editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg wrote on NRO's Corner, "It's kind of sad. They change their logo for all sorts of holidays and occasions. Just last week they paid tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. But Memorial Day doesn't seem to rate anything at all." In 2007, online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote, "What, no Easter? I wasn't expecting a risen Christ, but at least an Easter bunny?" Last June 6, Lopez sniffed, "So today is the D-Day anniversary. Today is the day RFK died 40 years ago. So Google is celebrating Diego Velazquez's birthday, natch."
    That's from a Slate article, which Glenn Reynolds describes, accurately, as a "rather dismissive treatment." He quotes himself:

    Google has come under criticism from people on the left — and right — for its cave-in to Chinese demands for censorship. From "don't be evil," Google's motto has seemed to be "don't be evil unless there's a really big market at stake."

    "Indeed." But they've also put themselves in a tough no-win position. For example, Flag Day is tomorrow. So Google can choose to (continue to) irk patriots by ignoring it. Or they can annoy (for a change) America-haters here and abroad by putting up some Red White and Blue. (Also, as a bonus, they'd be accused of caving under pressure from us right-wing troglodytes.)

  • And (via Blog Hero Carl Schaad) it's not as if the Google actually believes in that "Don't be evil" stuff anyway.
    In an on-stage interview with writer Ken Auletta of the New Yorker magazine, [Google CEO Eric] Schmidt said "Don't be evil" is meant to provoke internal debate over what constitutes ethical corporate behavior, rather than representing an absolute moral position.
    Well, you know what Jesus said: "Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from what might be constituted, after internal debate, as unethical corporate behavior."

  • Internationally-renowned Dave Barry rarely links to New Hampshire local news items—it's pretty hard for us to compete with Florida in amusing outrageousness—but he liked this item and so do I:
    PORTSMOUTH — After using a stolen credit card to buy a belt in a mall store, a Dover man filled out a job application in the same store, fast-tracking the police work that led to his Tuesday fraud conviction.

    Fandi Pradipta, 18, of 304 Plaza Drive, Dover, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Portsmouth District Court to a Class A misdemeanor charge of fraudulent use of a credit card.

    In addition to his punishment by the court, Fandi can look forward to years and years of his prospective employers Googling his name.

  • And finally: fifty punny stores. We'll sample one appropriate to Pun Salad:

    lettuce_eat

    Beware: some puns are Not Safe For Mom. (Via BBSpot.)


Last Modified 2008-09-12 1:40 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-12

  • Rumors (finally) debunked: Obama's birth certificat{e,ion}.

  • Larry Kudlow points out why, for all McCain's good points, he's pretty dreadful on energy issues.
    When asked about gas prices at the pump, and whether they could go any lower, Sen. McCain said he didn’t think so because “You’ve got a finite supply, basically, and a cartel controlling it.” This is exactly wrong. There is no finite supply, or if there is we are 100 years away from it. I don’t know who has put this thought into the senator’s mind, but it is a bad thought in terms of energy and a bad thought in terms of the politics of this campaign.

    […]

    Incidentally, in the Today Show interview, the senator takes a whack at oil-company profits, suggesting they should return some of these profits to consumers. And he would consider voting for a windfall profits tax. And then he used the phrase “obscene profits.”

    This should be a great issue for Republicans. It's not hard to mount rebuttals of populist economic know-nothingism offered by Democrats. But when the head candidate has essentially Democrat-lite positions on it, it gets harder.

  • Something a little unusual for newspapers: a "reconsideration" at the New York Sun of Karl Polanyi's anti-capitalist book The Great Transformation, first published in 1944. None of its predictions were borne out, it's littered with bad history and and worse economics. And yet, it's still quite popular in academia!
    Polanyi's popularity thus represents the triumph of yearning and romanticism over science in disciplines like sociology. "The Great Transformation" ultimately offers more insight into the nature of the professoriat than it does to societies they study. As entertainment, while it has its moments of elegance, it lacks the perverse majesty and literary sparkle of other critiques of market society, such as Marx's "Kapital." Nor does it have the whacked-out crazy energy of Naomi Klein's recent "Shock Doctrine." But still those stacks of books await the undergraduates, proving that the free market in goods works better than that in ideas.
    (Via Will Wilkinson, who refers to Karl as "(the Bad One)" Heh!

  • David Ortiz found something to do while on the DL for tendon problems: he became a US citizen. I found this strangely amusing:
    Before Wednesday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he didn't know that Ortiz had become a citizen.

    "Is that why he had his sport coat on?" Francona said.

    Tito's pretty much all baseball, which is as it should be.

    The Boston Globe has a picture gallery of the events yesterday. Fans will also want to check out the Globe's gallery of Big Papi's sixteen walk-off hits for the Red Sox.

    Ortiz has 10 walk-off homers for the Red Sox. The all-time leaders for walk-off homers are Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson, and Babe Ruth; they have 12 each. Our Ortiz is an awesome Ortiz.


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Shattered

[Amazon Link] [1.0
stars] [IMDb Link] Sometimes we get movies for no better reason than: Mrs. Salad likes Pierce Brosnan. But if a movie goes direct to basic cable (TNT in this case) and to DVD a few weeks later, there's almost always a pretty good reason.

Abby and Neil are a seemingly happy, successful yuppie couple with an adorable daughter, Sophie. Eventually—it takes a real long time for this movie to get going—Pierce Brosnan shows up to terrorize the couple, putting them through an array of demeaning demands and tasks. His motive is unclear, only revealed at the end of the movie.

There's a lot of shouting, not much acting.

The movie's original title is Butterfly on a Wheel, a somewhat obscure reference to Alexander Pope's poetic line: "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?", meaning, as Wikipedia says, why would anyone put so much time and effort into achieving a trivial result? That's a very appropriate title; probably it was changed so that people wouldn't ask the same question about the movie, or its plot.

By the way: hubby Neil is played by Gerard Butler, who also played King Leonidas in 300. Butler must be a great actor, because Leonidas is a total testosterone-soaked he-man, and Neil is a wimpy and effete loser.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:22 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-11

  • There's new P. J. O'Rourke content out there on the Internets today, and its topic is my favorite Senator, John E. Sununu.
    I went to see Senator Sununu at his office in the Russell Building and said that I assumed he had a political philosophy. "I like to think so," he replied. "But it's not something I have written down on an index card."

    As a gut reaction conservative myself, I take the senator's point. In fact, however, Senator Sununu could write his political philosophy on a small piece of paper: "I have a deep-seated belief that America is unique, strong, great because of a commitment to personal freedom--in our economic system and our politics. We are a free people who consented to be governed. Not vice-versa." (Italics added for the sake of the multitudes in our government's executive, legislative, and judicial branches who need to fill out that index card and keep it with them at all times. And if the multitudes are confused by "Not vice-versa" they may substitute, We aren't a government that consents to people being free.)

    If only there were 50 more Senators like him.

  • Cato's Chris Edwards has a brief post on Obama's reality-based economic rhetoric:

    Candidate Obama just added some skilled economists, but that didn’t prevent him from making ridiculous claims about recent economic policies in a speech yesterday. Take one Obama statement: “our president sacrificed investments in health care, and education, and energy and infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs.” Obama is wrong on every point in this remark.

    Click over for details. Chris makes the point that those actual economists don't stop the candidate from talking claptrap. I'd like to add the additional point that the only place you'll see the claptrap debunked is in places like Cato. The NYT and WaPo?—fuhgeddaboudit.

  • That's the most common spelling of "fuhgeddaboudit", by the way. Yes, Pun Salad is anal enough to care about these things. We might misspell "their" as "there", but we try to get the big words right.

  • But it's not only economic issues. Glenn Reynolds deems Obama's "new kind of politics" "shamelessly dishonest." Usually that sort of rhetoric comes from the more rabid members of the VWRC; when it's coming from Glenn, you might think that saner Democrats might realize there's a problem there.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-10

  • Via Drudge, there's a report in the Times that the Obama campaign has set up an Internet "war room" to fight anti-Barack rumors.
    A crack team of cybernauts will form a rapid response internet “war room” to track and respond aggressively to online rumours that Barack Obama is unpatriotic and a Muslim.
    Well, fine. But (a) I thought we were going to cool it with the "war" rhetoric when there was, you know, an actual war going on; (b) the Times doesn't mention anything about the current hot rumor-mongering. To wit: asking the Google about Obama "birth certificate" garners 81,500 hits. The indispensible Geraghty has a rundown on the scurrilousness, which the Obamanian War Room seems to be "fighting" by hunkering down and wishing it would all just go away. ("Gosh, exactly the same way they plan to fight the War on Terror!")

  • West Greenwich, RI has to fret about fishers; Coloradans are concerned about cougars. But here in quiet Rollinsford NH, our current major worry is snapping turtles. If confronted, residents are advised to back away… slowly. (First two links via Instapundit.)

  • Speaking of Rollinsford, Janice Brown has the goods on the Rollins family; Rollinsford is named after one of them (Edward H.); Janice concentrates on another, Frank W, the inventor of Old Home Week.

  • Jeopardy! Hero Ken Jennings is painting an alphabet mural on his daughter's bedroom wall, illustrated with kid-lit characters. It's remarkably good: check out A-C, D-G, H-L, M-P, and Q-V. Ken could not only kick my ass in Jeopardy!, if there were a game show called Parenting!, he'd kick my ass on that one too.


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Spare Change

[Amazon Link]

This is the sixth entry in Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall series. Sunny is a female private investigator working in Boston. In this entry, she is working with her father, ex-cop Phil Randall. Twenty years previous, Phil failed to solve a string of murders committed by the "Spare Change Killer." Now it appears the killer is back to his old tricks; both Phil and Sunny are called in to play roles in the massive investigation.

Sunny has really evolved as a character. In early novels, she seemed more or less a female version of Spenser, the star of Parker's long-running major series of novels. But Sunny has become more introspective after going to see her shrink, Dr. Susan Silverman. There are ruminative monologues where Sunny mulls on her relationship with family and ex-hubby Richie; this is something that Spenser would not be caught dead doing. (Of course, now that I've said that, maybe he'll start up in the next book.)

Parker has started to play at (as they say in Ghostbusters) "crossing the streams" between his series; they are all set in the same universe, and characters from one series pop up in another. The last book had Jesse Stone play a major role. (And Sunny appeared in Jesse's previous book as well.) Here, in addition to Susan, long-time Spenser buddies Quirk, Belson, and Healy make an appearance. Is it only a matter of time before Sunny and Spenser himself meet? Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Sounds bad, but it could be interesting.

Anyway: a good entry in the series, with a thrilling (but unbelievable) climax.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:16 AM EDT
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The Warrior

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

This movie is sllloowww moving. I tried watching it in the evening sitting on the comfy sofa; I kept falling asleep.

And now I'm about to confess something that will bring horror and loathing to all true cinephiles:

I watched it again, but this time with the speed cranked up to 1.5x forward. And it worked: no nod-offs, and the movie held my interest all the way through, took about an hour.

The movie's protagonist is Lafcadia, in the title role of "The Warrior". But he isn't really; as the movie opens, his job is to carry out summary executions at the whim of his employing warlord, and to lead the warlord's gang of thugs as they rape and pillage in defenseless towns that have incurred the warlord's displeasure. He's just the ancient Indian version of a hired gun.

But he has a mystical experience in his last assignment, and vows to give up the trade. Unfortunately, this turns his ex-boss, and his previous comrades, into sworn enemies. He decides to get out of town with his beloved son, but things don't go at all smoothly for them.

The movie was shot in India, in desert and the Himalayan mountains. The photography is spectacular. And, as noted, it's up on the screen for a long time.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:16 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2008-06-08 Update

Barring surprises, we're left with our three November candidates:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2008-06-01
"Barack Obama" phony220,000+5,000
"John McCain" phony195,000-8,000
"Bob Barr" phony39,400-8,500

  • I'd like to say that Hillary went out on top, but in fact she slipped to 217,000 hits this week, which would have put her in second place. I know we're gonna miss her. At Wizbang!, Cassy Fiano notes the particular phoniness of her "exit" speech:
    First of all, let's be clear about everything here. Yes, Barack Obama is the nominee. However, Hillary didn't actually concede. I don't know what the point of that move is, as we all know that Obama's the nominee, but I guess she's hanging on to one tiny thread of hope that she might still get it.
    Well, we'll see.

  • In probably the second-best news for Obama this week, he seems to be on the verge of losing his support from the incarcerated rap star demographic. Namely, Prodigy (half of the hip hop duo Mobb Depp):
    "I wanna like Obama, but he's all about the world government, world banking, war and stuff like that. You know what I'm sayin'? He's a phony," P told BallerStatus.com. "I wish nothing but love and happiness for him. But he's either gonna be assassinated to create chaos and bring about Martial Law or he'll live and then years down the line, at the end of his term everybody will see that he's just like the rest of these plastic Presidents, who does absolutely nothing good. Just another puppet for the Royal family."
    For those of us who find it difficult to keep up, the article helpfully points out that "Prodigy is currently serving a three and a half year prison term for a gun charge dating back to 2006." He expresses fondness for Ron Paul, but the "Royal family" comment might indicate that he's been spending some time with the Lyndon LaRouche gang at the pen.

  • Over at Counterpunch, Tim Wise employs his vast knowledge of feminine psychology in an article headlined (and I am not making this up) "An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who Are Threatening to Withhold Support from Obama in November: Your Whiteness is Showing".

    Yes, Tim knows why Certain White Women ("You know who you are.") are shying away from Obama, and he'd like to tell them about it.

    If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

    And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

    Calling people racist phonies is … an interesting strategy to get them to vote for your guy. Who knows, I suppose it could work.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:00 AM EST
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Political Hypocrisy

[Amazon Link]

Since Pun Salad makes so much of phonies, especially those running for president, it seemed natural to check out Political Hypocrisy by David Runciman. Those looking for cheap laughs at the expense of hypocrites needn't bother; the book is a serious treatise on how views on hypocrisy have evolved over the past 400 years or so in Britain and America.

Runciman takes it a chapter at a time, in roughly chronological order. He starts out with Hobbes and Mandeville, then moves on to the American founding fathers, concentrating on Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams. There's a chapter on Bentham, followed by an analysis of Victorian authors Trollope, Morley, and Sidgwick, then (most appropriately) George Orwell. A concluding essay wraps things up, and Runciman comments insightfully (for a Brit) on the current crop of American presidential candidates.

Runciman makes the valid-enough point that we are all hypocrites, since we know the good, and uphold the good, and yet do not often enough do the good. Most Christians know this, for as long as they've been able to understand Romans Chapter 7. So hypocrisy is a potentially universal charge, and one that just about anyone can make, and (hence) such charges are likely to be extra-hypocritical themselves.

What a muddle! But Runciman does his best, making fine philosophical distinctions among various phyla of hypocrisy, and showing that it's (OK, fine) a necessary evil—and sometimes a positive virtue—in liberal democratic polities. That doesn't mean we should be resigned to it, but it helps much to be aware of the nature of the beast.

Most interestingly for recent events, Runciman considers the hypocrisy of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He makes the point that they're hypocrites of completely different flavors.

All politicians lie, but some, like Bill Clinton, are able to lie easily because they are able to persuade others, and themselves of their underlying sincerity. Bill Clinton was a faith-based politician, his faith being limitless faith in his own goodness of heart. Hillary Clinton is nothing like this; her public persona is too obviously an artificial construct, designed to protect her from her own weaknesses as a politician and a human being (notably a lack of warmth), of which she is clearly all too aware. This is why, in a semi-confessional age, it will be considerably harder for her than for her husband to get elected. But it also means that there is less danger in her case that there was in her husband's of becoming self-deceived. With Hillary Clinton there seems little possibility that she, any more than anyone else, will lose sight of the fact that she is a hypocrite. Hillary Clinton appears to be a mixture of what Mandeville calls "malicious" and "fashionable" hypocrisy, of personal ambition and a desire to pander to the electorate.
Explains a lot, I think.

But—reader, beware—it's not all as punchy as that. For full appreciation, the book (early chapters especially) require a familiarity with British political history that I didn't have. The chapter on Orwell was probably easiest going, since I, and I presume many readers, know Orwell's work and history better than (say) Mandeville's.

Runciman makes the interesting point that, for all Orwell's concerns about hypocrisy, his 1984 dystopia is one in which hypocrisy has been stamped out. Big Brother is a brutal liar, but he's not at all concerned with hiding this reality behind a mask. When the populace is told "we've always been at war with Oceania", there's no effort to "spin" the truth that way. Truth is irrelevant and everyone knows it.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:18 AM EDT
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Across the Universe

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

One of my favorite one-liners from P. J. O'Rourke: "Earnestness is stupidity sent to college." This movie has been to college. A commenter at IMDB claims it to be a breeding between Hair and Moulin Rouge. I'd say: more like Billy Jack and Help!.

Primarily, it tells the stories of Lucy, Jude, and Max, young people of the late 1960s. It is a Beatles musical; the participants routinely break into song, sometimes with elaborate choreography and massive production and special effects. (So, why is one of the kids named "Jude"? Duh, so one of the big climactic songs can be "Hey Jude". Didn't see that coming at all.)

Pluses: It's got a Beatles soundtrack (albeit overproduced and ponderous), so it can't be awful. Salma Hayek shows up as a nurse, writhing to "Happiness is a Warm Gun", so that's pretty good. Bono and Eddie Izzard have small roles as "Dr. Robert" and "Mr. Kite", respectively. (Whoever knew Bono could be funny? He is here.) And Joe Cocker has a blink-and-you'll-miss-him bit as well. (About long enough for me to say: "Hey, I think that's Joe Cocker!")

So it could have been pretty good, except for all the plodding earnestness. Its driving theme is Idealistic Free-Spirited Youth vs. Authority, where Authority is represented by murderous white soldiers, thuggish white cops, and Uncle Sam in Vietnam. It's 60's history as told by the Oberlin College class of 1974.

(To its slight credit, the movie alludes to the Weather Underground, which is accurately portrayed as blowing itself up with idealistic, free-spirited bombs meant for others.)


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:19 AM EDT
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Experimental Results — 2008-06-08

This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 4:00PM on AMC: Look Who's Talking (Bruce Willis)
  • 6:30PM on TNT: Die Hard with a Vengeance (Bruce Willis)
  • 9:00PM on TNT: Deep Impact (Morgan Freeman)
  • 11:15PM on TNT: Die Hard with a Vengeance (Bruce Willis)

Theory status: unrefuted for sixteen consecutive weeks.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-06

  • As I type, the Red Sox magic number for winning the AL East stands at a nice round 100. After last night's game ("good parts" ably recounted by Red of Surviving Grady) you have to wonder who'll be left standing in October.

  • Bad news: the unemployment rate is up. Missing from most MSM news stories: the term "minimum wage." Captain Ed is on the ball though.

    When the minimum wage increase was under debate last year, many of us warned that it would have precisely this effect. Now we see it unfolding before our eyes. Will the Democrats acknowledge the error and take the blame for hundreds of thousands of jobs lost to their economic meddling — or will they try to shift the blame to the Bush administration for no good reason at all?

    Suggested verbiage for Dems: "Sure, you're out of work. But thanks to us, you're out of better-paid work."

  • In at least temporary good news, the Lieberman/Warner Cap-n-Trade bill is dead for the year.
    Apparently three days of debate was enough for what many senators called "the most important issue facing the planet."

    With little chance of winning passage of a sweeping 500-page global warming bill, the Senate Democratic leadership is planning to yank the legislation after failing to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed to move the bill to the next stage. After a 48-36 vote on the climate change bill, the Senate is likely to move on to a separate energy debate next week.

    But you really shouldn't feel too relieved:

    Democrats did not go into the debate expecting passage of the legislation, but they did celebrate a marginal increase in support for the cap-and-trade system for emissions that was the centerpiece of the bill. Similar legislation in previous years did not even come close to getting 50 votes in the Senate, so Friday morning's vote was a moral victory of sorts. Several senators who missed the vote, including Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), would have voted for the bill, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said on the Senate floor this morning, meaning the legislation had the support of the majority of the Senate.

    The debate in many ways was about setting the stage for a more serious climate change effort under the next president. While President Bush would have vetoed any cap-and-trade bill this year, both McCain and Obama back some form of mandatory emissions reduction, so this debate will gain serious traction again next year.

    "We're getting ready for the next president of the United States, who we know ... will be hospitable to this bill," Boxer said.

    Great. The roll call is here. (Senator Sununu, how could you?)

  • But there's not even temporary good news on the stupid Farm Bill, which passed the House and Senate with veto-proof margins. Comments Dan McLaughlin at Red State: "Like all really horrendous things to come out of Washington, this load of legislative fertilizer has broad bipartisan support." (But Senator Sununu was one of the few Republicans to vote against it. You're forgiven for the Lieberman/Warner vote, Senator!)

  • The coveted Pun Salad Read the Whole Thing Award for today goes to this interview with Mr. Clint Eastwood in the Guardian. Topics are varied, including Spike Lee, Dirty Harry, and a little bit of politics:
    But though he has been associated in the public mind with Republican viewpoints, he's something of an individualist. "I don't pay attention to either side," he claims. "I mean, I've always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else's hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they'll misuse it on ya."
    Yesssss! Too bad neither major party is bothering even to pay lip service to that notion any more.

    Sensitive souls beware: Mr. Eastwood uses occasional strong language. Are you gonna tell him he can't?


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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-05

  • Via the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, a nice simple chart showing the new regulations proposed by the "Boxer/Lieberman/Warner Climate Change Bill."

    boxer

    Clicking the image will take you to the (60x40 inch) PDF. Written your state's Senators yet?

    (Via Power Line.)

  • The old Somerset county jail in Skowhegan, Maine is being replaced, and the county commissioners are soliciting proposals for its future use. The group "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA) has stepped forward with an idea: make it the "world's first Lobster Empathy Center":

    "A prison is the perfect setting to demonstrate how lobsters suffer when they are caught in traps or confined to cramped, filthy supermarket tanks," PETA wrote in a June 2 letter to the commissioners. "The center will teach visitors to have compassion for these interesting, sensitive animals while also commemorating the millions of lobsters who are ripped from their homes in the ocean off the coast of Maine each year before being boiled alive."

    That makes me hungry. Is that wrong?

    (Via Tim Blair in Australia.)

  • NASA has a "You Are Here" map. Associated galactic news update here. (Via GeekPress.)


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:20 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-03

  • Not a huge deal, but from a CNN article headlined "Clinton sorry for 'scumbag' remarks, spokesman says":

    CNN Blooper

    Ahh, Bush, Clinton, what's the diff? Who can keep all these scumbag presidents straight, anyway? [Update: CNN has fixed it, but the pixel-grab don't lie.]

  • Another MSM observation on the same topic from Greg Mitchell:
    Apparently the great Grey Lady is still a bit modest. In its account of the Huffington Post scoop on Bill Clinton's tirade against Todd Purdum, The New York Times today quoted some of the ex-president's epithets, including "sleazy" and "slimy" but drew the line at "scumbag."

  • However, this classic article from Slate notes the word's appearance in an April 2006 NYT crossword puzzle. On a Monday, the day for easy ones; it caused a minor outrage. The history of the Times with respect to "scumbag" is provided in some detail.

  • On a completely different topic: the guy that beat me (and, um, a few thousand other contestants) in the New Yorker cartoon contest a few weeks back reveals his winning secrets. He also notes that the cartoon was plagiarized from the sainted Jack Kirby; tsk!

    For the record, my entry was:

    "Our building's on TV? Why?"
    You'll have to click over to the article for that to make sense.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 1:41 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-06-02

  • The Wall Street Journal calls it "easily the largest income redistribution scheme since the income tax." George F. Will calls it "an unprecedentedly radical government grab for control of the American economy." Ben Lieberman, a Heritage policy analyst says it "promises substantial hardship for the economy overall, for jobs, and for energy costs."

    It's the Lieberman/Warner bill to implement "cap-and-trade" for carbon emissions. It's a massive shift of economic decision-making out of the private sphere and into the willing hands of the state. And it's going to be a huge hidden tax on just about everything.

    You might think that's a good idea, but check out the links in any case. It's definitely something to write your state's Senators about. I've written mine.

  • P. J. O'Rourke visits the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and its new exhibit, "The Ancient Americas."
    A very wordy inscription details the theories of when and how humans arrived in the New World. Translated from the academese: "We dunno." An encomium to the Ice Age hunter-gatherers follows. "People like us," it concludes, "prospered in ancient times." We did indeed--if your idea of prosperity is fastening a "Clovis people" spearpoint to a stick and stabbing long-horned bison, giant grand sloths, wooly mammoths, mastodons, and New World horses until they were all extinct. The economic boom didn't extend to casual wear and sports clothes. Ice Age or no, everyone in the talentlessly painted murals is naked. Nipples seem to have been vague and smudgy in ancient times, and a mastodon or giant ground sloth was always getting in between mural viewers and your genitals.

  • A breathtaking Mars picture, via BBspot. Make sure you "click to enlarge." Whoa.

  • Things I know today that I didn't know yesterday: there are a surprising number of YouTube videos with cockatiels whistling the theme from the Andy Griffith Show. [Via Protein Wisdom, which notes the passing of the theme's composer.]


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There Will Be Blood

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

As I type, There Will Be Blood is number 63 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. Please. I wish I liked it that much, but … eh. Sometimes I watch a movie with a big why should I care about this? attitude, and sometimes that question just never gets answered to my satisfaction.

But that puts me in a distinct minority, and on the other side are a bunch of movie lovers and critics. There's no denying the talent of the filmmakers and actors, and there's no question that they made pretty much exactly the film they wanted to make. So don't let my so-what response to the movie stop you from seeing it. (As if it would.)

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview. At the start of the movie, he's a hard working silver prospector. But he accidentally strikes oil in one of his mines, and that sets him on the path to riches, but also psychological and personal destruction. Along the way there's quite a bit about religion (of the old fashioned bible-thumping fire-n-brimstone variety). And also of Daniel's (apparent) yearning for family, in which he is disappointed.

But now I know what that whole "I drink your milkshake" thing is about.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:15 AM EDT
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Today, I'm a Fan

Of the Red Sox, of course. Of Manny Ramirez, of course. But let's give a shout out to the classy Woo brothers.


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The Phony Campaign — 2008-06-01 Update

How about we add in a new candidate:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2008-05-25
"Hillary Clinton" phony219,000-7,000
"Barack Obama" phony215,000-8,000
"John McCain" phony203,000-13,000
"Bob Barr" phony47,900---

  • The Libertarian Party nominated our newcomer, Bob Barr, to be its Presidential candidate this year. Bob has done a number of things in the past some folks in the LP find distasteful: he voted for the PATRIOT Act, he wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, and was a strong supporter of the War on Drugs. But, as Chad and Jeremy would say, that was yesterday, and yesterday's gone. Despite that history, the sole Google news hit for "Bob Barr" phony is this Wonkette article, and the "phony" part is referring to…
    Poor old John [McCain] is getting less than 75% of the vote these days in a primary he supposedly won months ago. This is because conservatives hate him, because he is a phony Mexican-loving elitist liberal.
    Sigh, yeah, we know. But what does Bob have to do to get some phony respect? We'll keep our eyes open, at least until we decide to close them.

    The Wonkette article, by the way, refers to the Libertarian Party as "Libertards" and the Ron Paul supporters in the GOP as "Paultards". Not simply lame namecalling: uncreatively repetitive lame namecalling.

    Now, I never read Wonkette much, but I was under the impression it was once slightly less obviously stupid than that. Was I wrong?

  • Of course, the big news is Barack Obama's resignation from Trinity United Church of Christ. It is, as Mr. Steyn puts it: "pews you can lose."

    A mere 75 days ago, Obama thought Trinity was swell:

    Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.

    Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

    But as of today, he's decided he's had enough of that embodiment, because, well, he's moved on. In his resignation letter to the church's pastor, he paints that as a favor he's doing the church:
    We also have come to appreciate your ministry and both think you have been, and will be, a wonderful pastor for years to come. But as you know, our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Rev. Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views.

    Our larger concern is that because of my candidacy and membership at Trinity, these controversies have served as an unfortunate distraction for other Trinity members who seek to worship in peace, and have placed you in an untenable position as you establish your own ministry under very difficult circumstances.

    But, as he noted in his press briefing:
    My suspicion at [the time of Rev. Wright's remarks to the National Press Club], and Michelle, I think, shared this concern, was that it was going to be very difficult to continue our membership there so long as I was running for president. The recent episode with Father Pfleger I think just reinforced that view that we don't want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in a church.
    So, if I may summarize: "Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety, and I don't want to have to answer for that."

  • Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Hillary's still making phony news.
    In the course of her presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton has bemoaned the triviality of elections, noting that they seem to devolve at times into a contest of whom America would rather have a beer with.

    “We tried that once and it didn’t work out so well,” she has said, referring to George W. Bush’s apparent victory in the drinking-buddy primary over Al Gore (never mind that Mr. Bush long ago stopped drinking).

    But desperate times call for desperate measures, so …

    After an event Wednesday night in Rapid City, Senator Clinton added a notch to her belt on the drinking-war front when she strode to the back of her plane nursing a generous tumbler of amber-colored liquid. The substance was the subject of much debate among the press corps, but no one had the nerve to ask the candidate directly.

    Bourbon, it turned out. (Makers Mark, specified Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman.)

    I suggest a combination debate/drinking contest, where each candidate has to down a shot each time they use the word "change". Is it too late for that?


Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:00 AM EST
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Experimental Results — 2008-06-01

This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 12:00AM on TNT: The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
Slim pickings again this week, although that's a darn good movie.

Theory status: unrefuted for fifteen consecutive weeks.


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