URLs du Jour

2008-07-24

  • Reports Hans Bader at OpenMarket:
    An enormously costly mortgage bailout bill passed the House 272-to-152, with strong support from liberal lawmakers. It will soon pass the Senate by an even bigger margin and become law. President Bush, following the advice of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, has wimped out and dropped his threat to veto it.

    The bill will bail out the mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has used intimidation and deceit, and spent millions of dollars on high-priced lobbyists, to thwart efforts to rein it in, even after its management engaged in a massive accounting scandal that rivaled Enron.

    "Other than that, though, it's fine." No, actually, that's a lie, there's more, and it's worse. I just stopped quoting Hans after two paragraphs. Go read the whole thing.

    Both New Hampshire's silly congresscritters voted for this mess, and—this is really painful—our Senator Sununu has announced his support.

  • Will Wilkinson has a good response to a recent LATimes article on whether Americans are "losing faith in free markets."
    This kind of crisis of confidence occurs every time the economy temporarily heads south — which it inevitably does from time to time. What does this tell us? It tells us that people do not understand the economy very well. And what do stories like Gosselin’s tell us? That most journalists don’t either.

  • If you don't want to go through the hassle and expense of seeing The Dark Knight, you can get a pretty good picture of how our finest protect us from the slimy underbelly of society via this week's Rochester (NH) Police Log. Sample:
    Friday, July 11

    3:45 p.m. — A Cornerstone Court burglary victim is unhappy with the subsequent investigation, not having been contacted by detectives. She will call every time she finds something missing, even if this equates to 50 times a day.

    Saturday, July 12

    9:19 a.m. — On Rangeway Drive, a vehicle has been broken into and a GPS unit stolen. An abandoned beer can is no compensation.

    7:02 p.m. — On Farmington Road there is "a horrendous noise" coming from the Pink Cadillac. Dispatch has a hard time understanding the complainant due to loud musical din in the background.

    10:58 p.m. — Eight people yell obscenities at customers using the Walgreen's Drug Store drive thru.

    Much more at the link.

21

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

21 is based on a thin reed of fact: an MIT-based team of students really did have a surreptitious scheme in the 90s to visit casinos and try to beat the house at blackjack. A book was written about the team by Ben Mezrich; you can read his Wired article based on the book here. However, the book was described in the Boston Globe earlier this year as being "embellished beyond recognition."

So they took this already-fictionalized version of the true story, and further gussied it up with sex and violence (although at a strictly PG-13 level). Bottom line: don't believe anything.

Worse, it's a pretty lousy movie. The main character, "Ben", is apparently supposed to be sympathetic. At the start of the movie, he's a straight-A MIT senior already accepted at Harvard Med. In short, he has advantages that 99.99% of his peers lack. And, as a result, he's … shallow and whiny. About his lack of funds. About his lack of a social life. Boo hoo. Any sane person watching the movie would want to slap him silly.

Ben's math wizardry becomes known to Professor Rosa, played by Kevin Spacey. And, after initial misgivings, he joins up with Rosa's gang. He's wildly successful, which changes him from a whiny shallow geek into a whiny shallow high-roller, who neglects his studies and treats his previous geek friends shabbily. He reneges on his previous promise to quit after winning the $300K necessary for Harvard. Of course, this turns out to be a bad call, and eventually results in a serious beatdown from seriously pudgy Laurence Fishburne, representing casino security. So Ben has another character transformation, repentant, but still whiny. And stabs Prof Rosa in the back. [Sorry, that's kind of a spoiler, but you shouldn't care.]

The movie has no detectable humor, save for lame stereotypes about Asians and geeks. Kevin Spacey delivers some of his lines with snap, but this just makes them seem slightly less stupid than they are.


Last Modified 2012-10-11 4:15 PM EST