UNH Goes Even Leftier for MLK Day 2009

My employer, the University of New Hampshire, has announced the agenda for its 2009 celebration of Martin Luther King Day, to which they are devoting two full weeks, from January 22 until February 5.

(I blogged about 2006's events here and 2007's here. Having nothing new to say, I skipped 2008.)

You might guess that, starting a couple days after the inauguration of President Obama, UNH might present a largely celebratory, unifying event, and some mention might be made of the progress made since King's day, exemplified by the election of a president who (as he once put it) "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

Boy, would you be wrong.

Now, some things remain unchanged: the University will once again sponsor a "Spiritual Celebration" at the local community church, something it would never do for an actual religious holiday. As usual, everything is dripping with sanctimony and tendentious rhetoric about "social, political, and economic justice." And while the events are billed as being in support of "University's goal to cultivate an inclusive learning community of mutual respect and a shared spirit of inquiry," just as in previous years, the sole voices invited to participate are those from the left wing. (More on that in a bit.)

This year's theme is "One in 100: Dismantling a Prison Nation". It springs from the claim that the US has "more than one in every 100 adults confined behind bars." As you can guess from the wording, there's no indication that there just might be some room for sane discussion on the issue. It's the newest cause, there's only one side, and dissent will not be on the agenda. For example, the "Educational Panel" is billed this way:

A_____ D____, while advocating for a shift from punitive to restorative justice in the way our criminal system addresses crime, asks the question, Are Prisons Obsolete? Through productive conversations with a prison warden, a social worker, legal professionals, and academic scholars, audience members will have a chance to examine the social, economic and political implications of answering YES.
Fortunately, for the sake of the "learning community", the answer has been worked out ahead of time. It's "YES."

But I've left out the best part. By which I mean: the worst part.

A_____ D____ above is Angela Davis, described on the page as an "UC Berkeley professor and internationally known civil rights activist".

One obvious botch: Davis was at UC Santa Cruz (from which she recently retired) not Berkeley. And the remainder of the description is notable for what it doesn't say. Among the high points, culled from Wikipedia and David Horowitz's Discover the Networks page:

Angela Davis was a doctrinaire big-C Communist for many years, winning the Lenin Prize from East Germany in 1979. She ran with perennial CPUSA candidate Gus Hall for Vice President on the party's ticket in 1980 and 1984. She remained with the Party until 1991 (Horowitz says she was expelled, Wikipedia says she "broke" from the Party); the issue was the USSR coup of "hard liners" against Gorbachev, which the CPUSA supported, and Davis opposed.

But another claim to fame was her appearance on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List in 1970, only the third woman to achieve this honor. She earned her spot having bought the guns used in a hostage-taking at the Marin County courthouse, including the shotgun used to blow a judge's head off. She remained at large for a couple months, but was apprehended in New York. A year and a half later she was acquitted of murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges.

As noted, since then Davis has gravitated to the usual employer of last resort for violence-associated leftists lacking more traditional job skills: in the Bill Ayers/Bernardine Dohrn tradition, higher education welcomed her with open arms. At UCSC since 1991, she brought down a six-figure salary as a professor in the—I swear I am not making this up—"History of Consciousness" Department. (Horowitz claims that historian Page Smith established this program "to demonstrate that the Ph.D. is fraud.") And of course, she continues to rack up $10K-$20K per speaking engagement. (I don't know how much she's getting from UNH.)

Since her Communist days, Davis claims now to favor "democratic socialism". However, she "points to Cuba as an example of a country which successfully addresses social and economic problems." So she probably has a slightly different conception of democracy than what we're used to.

Even more than usual, UNH has chosen hard-left polarization and divisiveness for MLK Day 2009. Davis's personal association with violence and with an ideology that provided death, repression, and privation for those unfortunate enough to come under its control make her an especially lousy choice.

I am disgusted.

The people who made this decision should be ashamed.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-29

  • I have mixed feelings about this story describing efforts to make a movie based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation. I blogged about re-reading the book here: while I loved Asimov, the talk/action ratio in his books is very, very high. (At Granite Geek, David Brooks has a similar reaction.)

    Apparently a movie based on The End of Eternity is also a possiblity; that might work better.

    But the same old questions come to mind whenever they talk about making movies out of classic science fiction works: where is the movie version of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Stranger in a Strange Land? The Door Into Summer? And why couldn't they have played Starship Troopers straight?

  • This isn't much of a URL; you can only read the first 100 words of a front page WSJ story about Robert Rubin, but the lead paragraph is probably enough:
    Under fire for his role in the near-collapse of Citigroup Inc., Robert Rubin said its problems were due to the buckling financial system, not its own mistakes, and that his role was peripheral to the bank's main operations even though he was one of its highest-paid officials.
    Hey, Citibank? One of your card-carrying customers here. Although I lack even a diploma-mill MBA, I have an suggestion: stop paying huge salaries to people who are peripheral to your main operations.

    Just a thought.

  • Many, many programmer jokes. I'd heard this one, but I still get a chuckle:
    Q: How do you tell an introverted computer scientist from an extroverted computer scientist?

    A: An extroverted computer scientist looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

    (Via BBSpot)

  • And a belated link to the latest Rochester (NH) Police Log. I appreciated this note of resignation:
    Monday, Nov. 10

    8:38 p.m. — Someone drives "like a maniac" on Rochester Hill Road. There are hundreds of suspects.


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Fedora 10 Impressions

Posting has been light the previous few days because of… Thanksgiving? No! Well, at least not that much. Instead, a lot of my time has been devoted to explorations of Fedora 10, a new version of the Linux distribution I use at home and work, released earlier this week. Some random notes:

  • I opted for fresh installs on unused disk partitions. Although an "upgrade" path is available, the docs say "In general, fresh installations are recommended over upgrades." And for once, I decided to go that way.

  • That's fine, although my old Fedora 9 systems had accumulated months worth of tweaks, addons, and customizations. And also some forgotten now-worthless experimental cruft. So: distinguish the "good stuff" from the cruft, and carefully fold it back into the familiar-yet-new system. Maybe come up with better ways to do things, like integration of my mail program (Mutt) with LDAP and a local address book. This is an ongoing process. Fortunately, to the certain sort of geek I am, it's also fun.

  • Booting the installation DVD still did not recognize the USB keyboard on my work system, a Dell Dimension E510. I was presented with a nice, attractive menu from which I could select… nothing. Fortunately, it had the default behavior I wanted, after waiting for a minute.

    (There's apparently a workaround if you're fast enough with your fingers before the GUI menu appears. I didn't really need it.)

  • It finally did the right thing with my Dimension's display chipset (ATI Technologies Inc RV516). This has been a major toothache with previous versions of Fedora.

  • But post-install, the system locked up twice, necessitating a finger on the power button. Both times after I had left for the day. Grrr, major inconvenience.

    Possible source of the problem: I had deleted the installed GNOME screensaver, and installed the superior 'xscreensaver' and associated packages. My speculation is that there was some weird incompatibility with the X video driver and one or more of the packaged screensavers, which triggered the lockup. After (regretfully) removing xscreensaver, and reinstalling GNOME screensaver, the system has remained up. Albeit with a lame screensaver.

  • In contrast, my home system (an older Dell Dimension 4500) installed with only one hitch: installing from multiple CDs, the system demanded Disk 2 be inserted, but refused to eject Disk 1. Arrgh. After some fumbling, the only solution was to shut down, resulting in an unbootable system. Fortunately, starting the install up again worked fine.

Bottom line: I can't recommend Fedora to non-geeks, but I like it.


Last Modified 2008-11-30 6:20 AM EST
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Hellboy II: The Golden Army

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

Everyone's favorite argument for nurture over nature returns! Again, it's pretty good, with generous helpings of humor, imaginative design, and great special effects.

Long ago, the supernatural world warred with mankind. They were aided by the titular "golden army": a juggernaut of invincible robots. But eventually peace was declared, and the robots were stored away at an undisclosed location, never to be used again.

Which brings us to the present: the bad guy, elf prince Nuada, has re-declared war on humanity—I hate it when that happens—and determines to reactivate the golden army. All he has to do is to figure out where they are, and grab onto the three pieces of the magic crown that allows them to be commanded. And guess who is tasked to stop him?

But the golden army is like Chekov's gun: you can't put it out there without it eventually going off. This climactic scene doesn't happen until the very end, though. The journey to get there is a lot of fun.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:26 PM EDT
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The Big U

[Amazon Link]

Why yes, I did read two Neal Stephenson books in a row. Good catch.

Specifically, after reading his latest book (Anathem), I read his very first book, The Big U, which came out in 1984. Even after nearly 25 years, its sharp satire of college life still resonates on a large number of notes. The computer technology is dated, of course, but otherwise…

The Big U follows a loose collection of students, faculty, and staff through a (tragically truncated!) academic year at American Megaversity, an institution of higher learning completely contained in a single huge building, the Plex. There's Sarah, president of the student body; Casimir, physics geek; Bud, a new professor; Septimius Severus Krupp, Megaversity president; and a host of others.

It starts out as kind of a Tom Wolfe-style satire of faceless bureaucracy, commodified education, political correctness, and various student types. But around December, things get a little weird. Then things get very, very, out of hand, and stride boldly into territory into which Tom Wolfe has never ventured.

Eventually, even I started to recognize some obvious real-world parallels between Stephenson's portrayal and a certain actual institution about 75 miles south of here. A quick Wikipedia check said: yup, Stephenson wrote this while a student at Boston University.

It's also said that Stephenson is "not proud" of this novel. While—OK, sure—it's not Cryptnomicon, taken on its own terms, it's perfectly fine and worthwhile.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:27 PM EDT
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Mongol

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

I hear you asking: are there hordes? Yes, indeed, there are hordes. You can't title a movie Mongol without including hordes. It would be like not having kangaroos in Australia.

There's also throat-singing, of course.

It's the story of Genghis Khan! It begins in his youth: as a nine-year-old named Temudjin, his dad takes him on a trip to a neighboring tribe to pick a bride. And it winds up (minor spoiler for historical illiterates) when he defeats his rivals to give birth to the Mongol Empire.

The movie portrays GK as kind of a big sentimental softie when it comes to his family and friends. Frankly, I doubt it. But this won over Mrs. Salad, who (I was surprised) really liked it. And there's plenty of horde-vs-horde blood-splattery for the guys. Fun for the whole family.

It was filmed mostly in Mongolia. It's in Mongolian, with English subtitles. (Although at least one commenter at IMDB scorns the language as being "pidgin" Mongolian, it's probably authentic enough for most.) The actors are also mostly Mongolian, except for the one playing the adult Temudjin (he's Japanese), and the one playing his blood-brother-turned-enemy, Jamukha (Chinese). In other words, authenticity-wise, this movie compares well with The Conqueror, which starred John Wayne as Genghis.

The actor playing Jamukha, by the way, is very, very good.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:27 PM EDT
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Sad News

Although the country at large has been pacified, the war is still carried on in remote enclaves run by petty tyrants.

The War Against Christmas, that is. The remote enclave is Florida Gulf Coast University and the tyrant is President Wilson Bradshaw:

FGCU administration has banned all holiday decorations from common spaces on campus and canceled a popular greeting card design contest, which is being replaced by an ugly sweater competition. In Griffin Hall, the university's giving tree for needy preschoolers has been transformed into a "giving garden."
[To clear up the Professionally-Written sentence in the paragraph above: it's probably the sweaters that are ugly, not the competition itself.]

Last Modified 2008-11-27 7:29 AM EST
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I Was Wrong

  • I thought stories about federal farm policy could not outrage me further, but I was wrong:

    WASHINGTON – A sports team owner, a financial firm executive and residents of Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia were among 2,702 millionaire recipients of farm payments from 2003 to 2006 — and it's not even clear they were legitimate farmers, congressional investigators reported Monday.

    They probably were ineligible, but the Agriculture Department can't confirm that, since officials never checked their incomes, the said.

    Not enough to raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels? Try this:
    The investigators said the problem will only get worse, because the payments they cited only covered the 2002 farm bill subsidies. The 2008 farm legislation has provisions that could allow even more people to receive improper payments without effective checks, they said.

  • I thought the War Against Christmas was over, but I was wrong: there are apparently still skirmishes going on:
    An annual parade of boats on a Long Island river that dropped "Christmas" from its name has apparently lost lots of supporters.
    To clear up this Professionally-Written Associated Press sentence: I think it was the parade that dropped "Christmas" from its name, not the Long Island river.

    Anyway, I liked this from later in the story:

    The change was made after some residents complained the name wasn't inclusive enough.
    Is that irony? I can never tell. (Via Protein Wisdom.)

  • I thought it was just me, but I was wrong: an actual story on the strange allure of the Progressive insurance girl. Yes, the one with the big tricked-out name tag.


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Tropic Thunder

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

Written, directed, and starring Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder follows the travails of a big Hollywood war movie, filmed on location in Vietnam, based on a best-selling memoir. The production is troubled: a novice director can't control his actors, cameras, or special effects. So the director gets the bright idea to dump the actors in the remote jungle, filming them surreptitiously as they make their way back to civilization. Things go very wrong.

There's a lot of star power in the movie: Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, and a host of cameos. Each is a wicked satirization of Hollywood vanity, vapidity, venality, and vulgarity. It's pretty funny.

True fact: this movie satirizes insensitive attitudes of aforesaid Hollywood types toward the mentally retarded. But some people kind of short-circuited that to "this movie makes fun of the mentally retarded." Honest.

As a result, the DVD includes a tail-end public service announcement, and so does this post:


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:28 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-23

  • It's that time of year again, good people. By which I mean: time for Dave Barry's Annual Holiday Gift Guide.
    Why do we give gifts during the holiday season?

    We do it for a reason that is as timeless as humanity itself: women. Women have an overpowering biological need to mark pretty much every occasion, including sunset, by wrapping a gift and giving it to somebody, along with a card.

    Why do women do this? We put that question to some leading psychologists, who responded: ``We think maybe they're insane.''

    Pun Salad guarantee: If you do not laugh out loud during your perusal of this article, you will receive double your money back, minus a nominal restocking charge. And we will suggest that maybe you missed reading about the "Gassy Gus Flatulence Game."

  • A local friend who watches the weather in Durham, NH, home to a University Near Here, reports some chilling information:
    We are living through record-breaking cold this week, the coldest daytime highs for this run of days in the Durham record, going back to 1893! These daytime highs would be below normal even for the same days in January, which are climatologically the coldest days in the year!
    In (possibly) related news:
    NBC Universal made the first of potentially several rounds of staffing cuts at The Weather Channel (TWC) on Wednesday, axing the entire staff of the "Forecast Earth" environmental program during the middle of NBC's "Green Week," as well as several on-camera meteorologists. The layoffs totaled about 10 percent of the workforce, and are among the first major changes made since NBC completed its purchase of the venerable weather network in September.
    We previously noted the efforts of TWC's "Heidi Cullen, Climate Expert" to revoke certification of meteorologists who dared to express skepticism about global warming. The report says that "Cullen's future role at the network is not known." Here's hoping!

  • I was going to blog on the silliness of reactions to Sarah Palin doing a video interview with turkey, um, processing going on in the background. But just go read Captain Ed and pretend I said it, OK?

    But, on a related note, Jarvis DeBarry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune got a little suspicious of a letter-to-the-editor.

    A letter arrived at this newspaper via e-mail last week that bizarrely links the incoming president's improbable rise to the world's most powerful office to the writer's idealistic desire that Americans enjoy a meatless Thanksgiving dinner.

    "Barack Obama has risen from humble beginnings to the power of the Presidency," the letter begins. "But, every one of us has the Presidential power to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving."

    Some intrepid investigation revealed the letter was fraudulent. If you see the above phraseology in your local paper's letters column, the staff probably got suckered.

  • Yeah, like most sane people, I think I'd rather be Governor of New Mexico than Secretary of Commerce.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-22

  • P. J. O'Rourke pleads at the Weekly Standard:
    Hello? Bailout people? Mr. Secretary of the Treasury Paulson? Aren't you forgetting somebody? Like me? I'm a print journalist. Talk about financial meltdown! Print journalists may soon have to send their kids to public schools, feed dry food to their cats, and give up their leases on Prius automobiles and get the Hummers that are being offered at such deep discounts these days.

  • Andrew J. Coulson ponders the hypocrisy involved in President-elect Obama sending his kids going to the private Sidwell Friends school while he steadfastly opposes private school choice programs.

    And while many reports will no doubt trumpet the $25,000+ tuition at Sidwell Friends, implying that this is extravagantly beyond what is spent in D.C. public schools, they will be mistaken. As I wrote in the Washington Post and on this blog, D.C. public schools also spent about $25,000 per child in the 2007-08 school year.

    It’s not that president-elect Obama is against spending a lot of money on other people’s kids — he’s just against letting their parents choose where that money is spent.

  • I love watching House. Almost as good: Michael Swaim's article describing how to write your own House episode.


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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-21

  • Mandatory sexual harassment training will soon be coming to a University Near Here. Or so I've heard.

    Out in the People's Republic of California, it's the law. One professor at UC Irvine, Alexander McPherson, is refusing. Why?

    First of all, I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment.

    What's more, the state, acting through the university, is trying to coerce and bully me into doing something I find repugnant and offensive. I find it offensive not only because of the insinuations it carries and the potential stigma it implies, but also because I am being required to do it for political reasons. The fact is that there is a vocal political/cultural interest group promoting this silliness as part of a politically correct agenda that I don't particularly agree with.

    Your faithful blogger is way more gutless than Professor McPherson, and hence will meekly submit to the Fascist thought police indoctrination training. Might make fun of it though. They can't get me for that. Can they?

  • Marc Sheppard looks at Obama's recent (taped) speech to the Governors Global Climate Summit and deems it "an arrogant concentration of misinformed alarmist hokum". Other than that, though, it was fine.

    Jacob Sullum also listened to the speech, and was also unimpressed. Obama, he writes,

    … continued trying to distract Americans from the enormous cost of making substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by promising "five million new green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced." Not only is this number pulled out of thin air; it's nothing to be happy about. As I've noted, the manpower required to transform the economy so that greenhouse gas emission targets can be reached is a measure of the cost involved. Obama makes it seem as if we should try to maximize this cost, promising that green jobs will "steer our country out of this economic crisis."

    Sullum notes (as we have) that this is "pretty much the opposite of the truth." That's a very diplomatic wording.

  • Due to various boneheaded domestic economic proposals, we've been quoting a lot of Bastiat lately. This sort of thing indicates that Bastiat-quoting may be a worldwide growth industry:

    Chinese candle exporters will be hit with extra charges when selling in Europe to punish some producers for selling below cost, the European Union said Saturday.

    For Bastiat fans, that's a big fish in a small barrel, and Vindico provides the gun. (Via Pejman.)

  • Joel Achenbach is in Seattle and taking pictures. And one caption deserves a Pun Salad quote:

    If a bay falls into a gulf and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:29 PM EDT
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Verizon Employees Access Obama's Phone Records

Reports the WaPo:

Verizon Wireless said last night that a number of its employees have "accessed and viewed" President-elect Barack Obama's personal cellphone account without authorization.

I have some prime suspects in mind. Starting with that guy in front:

[Suspects]


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:29 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-20

  • New Hampshire's own "Jay Tea", estimable long-time blogger at Wizbang has moved on to blogging at Contentions under his actual name, J. G. Thayer. This makes Contentions even more of a must-read, although I'm wondering whether Mr. Duckie will be allowed into the high-class joint.

  • The Rochester (NH) Police Log reports some pre-election shenanigans:
    Monday, Nov. 3

    9:17 a.m. — On Tonka Street, tomatoes are thrown at a house, and the homeowner understandably sees red.

    10:59 a.m. — A miniature pinscher runs around Gonic with a leash attached. Later, Cocheco Valley [Humane Society] calls to say someone has brought it down, but that someone from the city should pick it up as they are not contracted to hold Rochester dogs. Police say they will not respond and that CVHS should not have accepted the dog. Now they are stuck with it.

    2:49 p.m. — A male and female are reportedly fighting near Hanson Pines, but police find it is some sort of boyfriend-girlfriend wrestling courtship ritual.

    3:40 p.m. — At the Community Center, DCYF calls to say a man by the tennis courts is urinating in a cup, and 10 minutes later, the agency calls again to say he is now exposing himself... but when police arrive just before 5 p.m., he is no longer hanging out.

    Much more at the link.

  • Results from submitting Pun Salad to the dispassionate analysis of Typealyzer:

    ISTP - The Mechanics

    ISTP
    The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

    The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

    Yeah, that's me. Vroooom! Like Megan.


Last Modified 2008-11-20 7:37 PM EST
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Hellboy

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

Here's the story: I got this movie as a freebie from Blockbuster a few years back. But Mrs. Salad refused to watch it with me, so it sat on the shelf for a long time. The arrival of Hellboy II on DVD finally pushed the issue; you can't watch Hellboy II if you haven't seen Hellboy! So I skulked off to a remote corner of Pun Salad Manor, and:

The movie opens in rainy 1944 Scotland, where some pesky Nazis, aided and abetted by a resurrected Rasputin, are opening up a interdimensional portal to awaken the seven Gods of Chaos, who will come and destroy most of humanity, with Adolf One-nut ruling over the smashed remnants of civilization. Thanks to FDR's paranormal advisor, Professor Bruttenholm, and a platoon of American soldiers, that doesn't actually happen. Instead the portal merely poops out a young demon, who turns out to be friendly enough when you give him chocolate bars. The professor and the soldiers name him Hellboy.

The scene then shifts to roughly present-day. Hellboy has grown up, considers Bruttenholm to be his father, and helps continue the fight against evil supernatural monsters and their human allies. This battle is carried on in secret, largely unnoticed by humanity in general, although public enough so that Hellboy has obtained mythical status, like Bigfoot. It develops that the 1944 victory was only temporary, and the same baddies are back in play to make another try at the Gods of Chaos.

Hellboy is played by Ron Perlman, outwardly tough and gruff, but with a gooey sentimental core. The movie is a visual feast, with spectacular special effects and imaginative sets and action pieces. Bottom line: a lot of fun.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:30 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-19

  • Mr. Jason A. Czekalski of Rindge, NH has an interesting letter to the editor in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, this morning:

    Today I heard an interesting idea that I would like to share with everyone: a plan to finally solve all of the financial woes of the American People. This is not some pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. It is within the ability of the U.S. Government at this moment.

    The idea is to take a part of the $1 trillion bailout and distribute it directly to the people. No, not some piddling $1,000 tax rebate. I mean a real bailout: $1 million to every man, woman, and child in America. That's approximately $300 million, or less than one-third of the bailout. Think of it: America, the nation of millionaires.

    If President-elect Obama hasn't already picked a Secretary of the Treasury, he might want to check out Jason A. Czekalski, who has the kind of, er, creative accounting skills that have been sorely lacking in previous appointees.

  • Here's a neat article showing per-state, per-vote, TV ad expenditures by the presidential candidates in the recent election. (Yes, did you hear? We had one.)

    New Hampshire was one of three states where Obama spent more than $10 per vote received. ($11.18, to be exact.) In contrast, McCain only spent $6.94 per NH vote. (Via Protein Wisdom.)

  • Let it not be said that Pun Salad is into automatic knee-jerk Obama-bashing. Pun Salad agrees with everything the President-elect says here.

  • But let it be said that Pun Salad thinks The Big Bang Theory is a wonderful TV show. It's about time that geek culture got some prime-time love. Some people have put up a fansite. So, for example, if you missed Sheldon's rules to Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock, it's there:

    It's very simple. Look -- scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and as it always has, rock crushes scissors.

    The CBS geniuses have YouTubed it:

    And—whoa!—you can play online here.

    And, if you missed it, you can also watch the lads play Klingon Boggle.

  • Which segues nicely to: the new Star Trek movie trailer is viewable here (Quicktime), and the movie site has been upgraded from "neat" to "awesome". May 8 is (as I type) 170 days away …


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:31 PM EDT
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Run Fatboy Run

[Amazon Link]

[3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Simon Pegg stars as Dennis Doyle. (No, not the 1975-77 Red Sox second baseman. That is a story for another movie.)

As the movie opens, it's his wedding day, and the bride is the lovely (and pregnant) Libby, played by Thandie Newton. But he gets cold feet and runs off, leaving Libby screaming in dismay and anger.

OK, so there are at least three unbelievable things right there.

We jump to five years later; Dennis's son is—well, five; Dennis is still a slacker, but he gets periodic visits, and he and the kid adore each other. Libby has taken up with prosperous, handsome, slick American, Whit (Hank Azaria), and this makes Dennis feel a tad competitive. Whit is a runner, and so Dennis vows to run in and complete an upcoming marathon.

This is all extremely predictable, but it's still quite funny, thanks to the talents of Simon Pegg and the rest of the cast.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:32 PM EDT
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Quantum of Solace

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

I noticed a few critics had a sour reaction to this movie, but I thought it was great.

It picks up where the previous movie, Casino Royale, left off. (I'm not sure how much sense Quantum of Solace would make to someone who hadn't seen Casino Royale.) Bond has just captured the mysterious Mr. White, but a bunch of baddies are desperately trying to prevent him from getting to a safe haven. The movie begins in the middle of the action with Bond's trusty Aston-Martin getting pursued by automatic weapon-wielding adversaries through crowded Italian mountain roads.

Daniel Craig is a great Bond in my book, and I like the new seriousness and grittiness he brings to the role. Judi Densch returns as M; here she's still developing her relationship with Bond, who has yet to earn her complete trust. Jeffrey Wright also returns as Felix Leiter, and he becomes a little more three-dimensional as well.

Running down the checklist:

Exciting battles and chases on land, sea, and air.
Exotic locales, both glamorous and seedy/sordid.
Unlikely and convoluted plot.
Ruthless mastermind villain.
Babes.
Q and his associated gadgetry.
Miss Moneypenny.
"Clever" puns about sex or killing people.

Although the puns are gone, 007 does maintain a dry-as-desert wit, sparingly and appropriately deployed. I find this a plus.

The movie also maintains a Bond tradition of ludicrously-named female characters, although you have to hang around for the credits to discover this.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:48 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-17

Make of this single anecdotal datapoint what you will: while driving around our local malls this past weekend I saw plenty of traffic and packed parking lots. I have memories of four previous recessions, and this doesn't look like them, at least not yet.

  • Although no Pun Salad readers are idiots, you might know someone who needs an answer to this question: Are you an idiot to keep paying your mortgage? (Via Instapundit.)

  • Jim Manzi refutes arguments that the Big 3 automakers deserve a bailout because, gee, this time they're on the verge of getting their act together. Honest. Real Soon Now.

    On the same topic, see Skip at Granite Grok and also Kip Esquire. There's no excuse for the bailout.

  • Monty Python fans will want to check out "Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch", a news story about a 4th century joke book:
    The 1,600-year-old work entitled "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," one of the world's oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said Friday.

    "By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

    The Cleese/Palin version still seems funnier somehow. The book's website is here. (Via GeekPress.)


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The Incredible Hulk

[Amazon Link]

[2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

My comic-reading days are long past, but even back then, I was never a huge fan of The Incredible Hulk. I never found him too sympathetic or believable. [You mean less believable than those other guys, like Spider-Man and Iron Man? Yes, that's right.] Unfortunately, that carries right over to today's superhero movies; I passed on the 2003 Ang Lee Hulk, and I only picked up this one because of the decent reviews. Eh.

The movie picks up shortly after Bruce Banner has been transformed into the on-again, off-again green-skinned monster, and has escaped his captors to live a quiet life in Brazil seeking a cure for his condition. Edward Norton plays Banner well, Liv Tyler appears as his girl Betty Ross, William Hurt is General "Thunderbolt" Ross, Hulk's nemesis and Betty's dad. Tim Roth plays the villain Blonsky, a soldier tasked with returning the fugitive Banner, who becomes obsessed with his target, eventually demanding and receiving his own superpowers, which doesn't turn out well at all.

In its favor, the movie has a number of recognizable inside gags: Betty buys Bruce some purple stretch pants; Lou Ferrigno appears as a security guard; Stan Lee has his usual cameo; the late Bill Bixby shows up on a Brazilian TV rerun of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father". When in Brazil, Banner has an amusingly tough time mistranslating a classic line from the old TV show. (No spoilers, but it's the third one here.) There's probably more I didn't pick up.

This movie is also not the best advertisement for the sanitary practices in Brazilian soda bottling plants.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:34 PM EDT
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Get Rich Quick By Breaking Windows

We seem to be headed into an era of willful economic foolishness, so you should bring yourself up to speed on the Broken Window Fallacy. Wikipedia has an entry here. It was originally described in a typically pungent essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850; you can read the original French version ("Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas") here, or an English translation ("What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen") here. Or you can read an Americanized version from Henry Hazlitt here. Or you can put up with my brief description:

A crowd gathers in front of a shopkeeper's shattered storefront window, which has been broken either by carelessness or malice. They decide to look on the bright side of things: surely the money the shopkeeper will spend on repair will be a great benefit! The money will go to the glass merchant and installer. This will help their businesses, allow them to employ more people, allow those people to take the spouse and kids to Disney World, which will in turn help Disney, and the merchants in the Greater Orlando Metropolitan Area. It's win, win, win, all the way down!

Bastiat said: hey, wait a minute. (In French, of course.) These would-be street economists are concentrating on the visible effects of the destruction. But they conveniently ignore the invisible effects: what would have happened with the shopkeeper's money had he not needed to spend it on window replacement. He might have bought shoes for his kids, or a couple good books, or … Each one of those purchases would have had its own beneficial cascade.

Once everything is taken into account, the broken-window universe is the poorer one; there's one fewer good window, and the shopkeeper has lost the time it took him to arrange for its replacement. There's nothing to cheer about.

This is one of those parables that, if you let it, changes your thinking permanently. It's so obvious that you start wondering: how could anyone have ever believed differently?

Ah, but they did. And they still do.

For example, my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, yesterday ran a story with the following headline: "UNH's Gittell: Thousands of renewable energy jobs forecast". Opening paragraphs:

New Hampshire could have as many as 25,000 new renewable energy jobs in 10 years if President-elect Barack Obama's plan to invest $150 billion in green energy is approved by Congress.

"Policies make the difference in this area," said Ross Gittell, a University of New Hampshire economics professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics in Durham, during his presentation Wednesday at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Now, Ross Gittell is not only a fellow UNH employee, he is speaking within his area of expertise and award-winning employment. Whereas, I, most emphatically, am not.

Nevertheless: if the paper is reporting his speech fully and fairly, he is completely caught up in the broken-window fallacy. He's pointing proudly to the "seen": many new peachy jobs to be had at the tail end of the $150 billion money spigot that Obama and a presumably willing Congress will open up.

And he's diligently ignoring the "not seen": whatever that $150 billion would have done instead, had it been left in the hands of taxpayers to spend or invest according to their own lights.

An article in another local publication, Seacoast Online, also reported on Prof Gittell's talk, and is both more opinionated, and unintentionally revealing, about the stakes:

What became clear during Gittell's presentation at the Portsmouth Public Library on Thursday was that while there is a work being done by individuals, businesses and municipalities on sustainability, these efforts are not coordinated or focused on creating jobs.

It is critical that some organization, perhaps the [Rockingham Economic Development Corporation, a local non-profit], create a subcommittee that brings all these efforts together in order to develop a plan for, first, getting access to the promised federal money and, second, making sure that money goes toward the development of viable, high-paying jobs in the new green sector.

If I may summarize: if and when that cash starts getting sucked out of taxpayer pockets, we'd better be sure our political ducks are in a row in order to get "our share".

And our local economy will start its grand transition from producing goods and services that people actually want, to wheedling government dependence, producing whatever the politicians think people should be buying.

Good luck with that. It's been a failure ending in poverty and corruption everywhere else, but hey, I'm sure Obama and his Democratic team will be able to make a go of it.

Supplementary reading today: George Will expounds on American-brand socialism:

Either markets allocate resources, or government -- meaning politics -- allocates them. Now that distrust of markets is high, Americans are supposed to believe that the institution they trust least -- Congress -- will pony up $1 trillion and then passively recede, never putting its 10 thumbs, like a manic Jack Horner, into the pie? Surely Congress will direct the executive branch to show compassion for this, that and the other industry. And it will mandate "socially responsible" spending -- an infinitely elastic term -- by the favored companies.
He's not optimistic we'll come to our free-market senses anytime soon either.

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The Tall T

[Amazon Link]

[3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This is part of a box set of Westerns directed by the legendary Budd Boetticher. This one was a B-picture, released (according to IMDB) as a double feature with Hellcats of the Navy, which starred Ronald Reagan and his not-yet-wife Nancy. Cool!

Randolph Scott plays Pat Brennan, an affable rancher, trying to make a go of his new place after years of working for other people. But he finds himself in the middle of a stagecoach robbery that quickly turns into a kidnapping scheme, masterminded by Frank Usher (played by Richard Boone). The victim is Maureen O'Sullivan, who's married to weasely John Hubbard, in a performance that might have been the inspiration for the character of Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

Both Boone and Scott have faces that seem to have been carved out of granite, and the movie touches ever so lightly on their shared bond of masculine honor. (It's a bond you can share even if you're a thief, kidnapper, and cold-blooded murderer. Go figure.)

The extras on the DVD are pretty good; there are a whole bunch of Hollywood vets willing to tell stories about Boetticher and provide insight into his filmmaking style: Robert Stack, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdonovich, Taylor Hackford. And (in a bit of magical Hollyword weirdness) Clint Eastwood sitting next to Quentin Tarantino. Awesome.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:34 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-13

  • Guilty secret: I am a New Yorker subscriber.

    For the cartoons, I swear.

    The latest issue arrived yesterday:

    [New Yorker Cover]

    Get it? Over the Lincoln Memorial? The moon turned into an "O" in the title? Which stands for… Get it?

    Are we in for (at least) four years of tedious sycophancy? All signs point to yes. Here's Roger Angell:

    When the news came, not late on Tuesday night, we did some hugs and high fives at my place, drank a little champagne, and dampened up at the sight of Jesse Jackson in tears amid the crowd of a hundred and fifty thousand or so in Chicago.

    It's like a print version of MSNBC. But if you keep reading, there's a pretty good story of Angell's (single) black Harvard classmate, buried amongst the guilt-tripping sanctimony.

    At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux is appropriately terrified by the cover's symbolic secular theology, and deploys a Mencken quote in defense. (Remember those movies where they held up a cross to fend off a vampire? Same kind of deal.)

  • Will Wilkinson is horrified by another objet d'art in the same vein. Aiieee!

  • I plan on making a rare visit to an actual sit-down movie theatre to see Quantum of Solace pretty soon. If you're a 007 fan, you might enjoy Cracked takes on 7 Methods for Coping with Tragedy (Courtesy of James Bond) and The 15 Most Cringe-Worthy James Bond Puns. As usual with Cracked, the humor is rated sophomoric-R. Right up our alley, in other words.

  • A selection from this week's Rochester (NH) Police Log:

    Wednesday, Oct. 29

    4:26 p.m. — On Norway Plains Road, a man reports the theft of a pair of work boots and an Obama sign. A well-heeled Republican is not suspected.

    Never fear, your faithful blogger has an airtight alibi.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:36 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-12

  • General Motors, apparently baffled on the whole concept of making cars that people want to buy, is going to Plan B: get Your Federal Government to divert some more taxpayer money their way. Just $50 Billion or so. This is in addition to the $25 Billion "loan program" already approved. Because, gee Dad, that was so last month.

    Megan McArdle has a couple good posts on that, one yesterday, one today. From the latter:

    Bailing out the auto industry offers no net gain to society. It is a straight transfer of resources from one sector to another: we tax money, or borrow it from a finite pool of capital available to the nation, and spend it on auto workers. The people who pay the taxes, or the people who would have borrowed that investment capital, now have less to spend. Whatever they would have bought goes unbought; whoever would have made it goes unemployed. To coin a phrase, what is made on the swings is lost on the roundabouts We have the illusion of a gain only because that other group of people is invisible. Even if we don't bail out GM, they will not be visible--we will never know who didn't lose a job or a business because we declined to spend one squillion dollars saving the Chevy Cobalt.

    Simple enough, right? At the WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. also makes a lot of sense on one piece of GM's woes.

    You have in GM's Volt a perfect car of the Age of Obama -- or at least the Honeymoon of Obama, before the reality principle kicks in.

    Even as GM teeters toward bankruptcy and wheedles for billions in public aid, its forthcoming plug-in hybrid continues to absorb a big chunk of the company's product development budget. This is a car that, by GM's own admission, won't make money. It's a car that can't possibly provide a buyer with value commensurate with the resources and labor needed to build it. It's a car that will be unsalable without multiple handouts from government.

    "Handouts from government" is an unfortunate euphemism for the WSJ; what Holman means is "coerced funding from taxpayers."

  • In case you maintained some small illusions of the usefulness of the Federal Election Commission and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" legislation, let Dafydd disabuse you, as he reacts to the news:

    The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

    Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.

    Well, OK, that last part is a bit schadenfreudian.

  • Pete Townshend channels H. L. Mencken in a pre-election concert:

    We hope you get what you want tomorrow. And we’re here to share in your misery.

    (Via sharp-eyed Sean Higgins at jeremylott.net.)


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:36 PM EDT
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Anathem

[Amazon Link]

I'm reminded of a book title of a few years back: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Except heartbreaking isn't the right word for Anathem; it's more like breathtaking or awe-inspiring. Also very heavy. It's over 900 pages, including glossary and supplementary material, with a lot of funny language and unfamiliar settings and situations. It's kind of a project, and there's a lot of Stephensonian red meat for the geeky. (You don't have to know what a directed acyclic graph is to enjoy the book, but if you do…) It's also very funny in spots. I found it worthwhile, and did something I rarely do: put it back in the pile to be read again someday.

Anathem is set on a planet named Arbre. Society is divided between the sæcular world—normal, everyday folk—and the mathic world, made up of monastery-like "concents" where the "avout"—groups of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists—devote their lives to theory. Interaction between the two worlds is minimal and tightly controlled to maintain social stability. There's also structure within the concent: it's divided into maths: unarian, decanarian, centenarian, and millenarian; with rare exceptions, the inhabitants are only allowed exit during their "Apert" which happens (respectively) every year, ten years, hundred years, and thousand years.

That's a very simplified description; it's much more complicated than that. Stephenson builds this world in amazing detail, not only its present, but going back thousands of years, imagining how social structures, science, and philosophy developed.

Our protagonist/narrator, Erasmas, is a decenarian who became avout ten years previous. So he still has memories of and connections to the sæcular. He's curious, brilliant, and brave. Without spoiling things, Erasmas slowly becomes aware of facts that threaten to shake Arbre to its very foundations. He gets caught up in events, sending him on a truly grand adventure.

Part of the fun is making the language connections. Arbre's "Adrakhonic Theorem" is what we call the Pythagorean theorem; Occam's Razor is "Gardan's Steelyard". Oddly, "rafters" are rafters, "t-shirts" are t-shirts, and—hmmm—despite the fact that Arbre is an alien world and an odd society, it's not that odd: the inhabitants seem very human. What's up with that? Is this some kind of Star Trek deal, where a limited production budget means that the aliens have to be kind of human? Or is it just the author's limited imagination?

Nope. Read it and see.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:37 PM EDT
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Veterans Day

veterans
day

Click for the big version, or go here for some really big versions (and other good stuff).

And we've dumped on the Google in the past for blowing off patriotic holidays, but they have their act together today:

Google Logo


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:38 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-10

  • Two good "what went wrong" links today:

    • At Phi Beta Cons, Carol Iannone:
      Obama, the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history, actually addressed the American people as a whole, and when he evoked the language of class, it was to speak of the middle class. And while Obama spoke of his victory as the triumph of American principles, McCain spent most of his concession speech rehearsing American's sins. What an irony for Obama to win with what should have been a Republican approach, but it shows how utterly the party lost its way in recent years. The good news is that now they will be forced to rethink and rebuild.

    • At the WSJ, Scott Rasmussen:
      Barack Obama won the White House by campaigning against an unpopular incumbent in a time of economic anxiety and lingering foreign policy concerns. He offered voters an upbeat message, praised the nation as a land of opportunity, promised tax cuts to just about everyone, and overcame doubts about his experience with a strong performance in the presidential debates.

      Does this sound familiar? It should. Mr. Obama followed the approach that worked for Ronald Reagan. His victory confirmed that voters still embrace the guiding beliefs of the Reagan era.

    So, to some extent, Obama won by hitting Republican themes and sentiments more convincingly than Republicans did.

    So that could be good news: there's little indication that the country has moved "leftward" in any important sense.

    Bad news: there's no indication that the GOP is going to learn that lesson anytime soon.

  • Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports:
    Over the weekend President-elect Barack Obama scrubbed Change.gov, his transition Web site, deleting most of what had been a massive agenda copied directly from his campaign Web site.
    Now, that's change I can believe in. (Via Wizbang.)

  • WSJ, October 9, 2007:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats will continue to abide by their strict budget rules.

    “We are committed to paygo,” Pelosi said at a lunch with reporters. “I would like to make it the law of the land.”

    Paygo, or pay-as-you-go, budget rules require Congress to offset any new spending or tax cuts with spending reductions or additional revenues. Democrats reinstated the rules when they took control of the House and Senate this year.

    WSJ, November 10, 2008:

    As Congress gears up to pass another spending "stimulus" bill, there's one political silver lining: Democrats are being forced to abandon the pretense of fiscal conservatism known as "pay as you go" budgeting.

    Late last week the leader of the House Blue Dog Coalition, Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper, announced that with Barack Obama about to enter the White House, "I'm not sure the old rules are relevant anymore." Why not? Because, Mr. Cooper said, "It would be unfair to the new President to put him in a budget straitjacket."

    When I was a youngster, cartoons would occasionally demonstrate that a character was flimflammed by morphing his head into a large lollipop, helpfully labeled "Sucker". I'm thinking about how that applies to people who voted Democrat on the fiscal responsibility issue.


Last Modified 2008-11-12 12:50 PM EST
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-09

  • P. J. O'Rourke writes on our prospects in the Weekly Standard:

    Let us bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone--gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that's headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.

    P. J. is pessimistic and pissed off. And, as always, he gets the coveted Pun Salad Read the Whole Thing award for the day.

  • Everyone in God's Green Blogosphere is linking to Greg Mankiw's advice to President-elect Obama, and Pun Salad is no exception. Prof Mankiw is the runner-up for today's RtWT award, so if you have time… It's good advice, and to the extent that Obama follows it, he's likely to anger a whole lot more Democrats than Republicans. So how likely is that? Still, Obama is allegedly smart, and he does have some good economic advisers.

  • Mark Steyn has more on the Newsweek allegations about Sarah Palin's October 15 visit to New Hampshire. He points out that the McCain people were arguably shirty to the GOP's (doomed) gubernatorial candidate, Joe Kenney.

  • At QandO, McQ has more on the Obama "national service" proposal. If you're not dissuaded by the sheer collectivism of the proposal, maybe some of the utilitarian details will do the trick.

  • Please also note that Obama's to-be White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is unlikely to be a brake on any new sweeping new coercive programs. As Jim Lindgren points out, Rahm loves the word "universal", and among the things he loves to stick it in front of is "citizen service."

  • Cracked deals in its usual sensitive and sober way with "6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Retarded) Point." (Especially recommended to people who were impressed by the movie Into the Wild.)

    So don't be like them.

  • And also, please: don't be like Becky.

    This cracks me up every time it's on TV.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:38 PM EDT
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Man of the Century

[Amazon Link]

[4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

A unique entry in the small "screwball fantasy" genre, this movie was very much under the radar when released in 1999. (As near as I can tell from IMDB, it grossed slightly over 65 thousand dollars in three recorded box-office weekends. That's not just under the radar, that's under all other forms of electromagnetic radiation too.)

But James Lileks wrote about it, liked it, and that was good enough for me. (You'll want to check out Lileks' take; he has movie clips, lots of additional insight, and also uses the term fin de siecle properly, something beyond the skills of Pun Salad.)

The hero, "Johnny Twennies", lives in late-90s New York. But he dresses, talks, and acts as if he were the star of a 1920s talkie, full of fast-talking wisecracks and patter. And he's in a mess of trouble: his girl is getting a little fed up with his Hays-code morality; the paper he works for is in danger of going under; and he's on the track of a mysterious mobster whose thugs are threatening him.

It's rated R; while the strongest invective Johnny will utter is an exasperated "Applesauce!", most of the other characters aren't shy about using the less restrained lingo of modern New York.

There are a number of recognizable people along for the gag: the late Frank Gorshin, the late Bobby Short. Anne Jackson plays Johnnie's mom.

Both Mrs. Salad and I had a great deal of fun watching. Movies like this are a fine argument for doing the DVDs-by-mail thing with Netflix or Blockbuster; it's almost certainly never going to show on TV, and if it ever was on the shelves of your local video rental shop, it's long been displaced by the dozen copies of Lethal Weapon 4.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:39 PM EDT
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Newsweek Yarn About Sarah Palin in NH Considered Dubious

At the Weekly Standard blog, John McCormack fact-checks a Newsweek story story about Governor Palin. The allegation in question:

The day of the third debate, Palin refused to go onstage with New Hampshire GOP Sen. John Sununu and Jeb Bradley, a New Hampshire congressman running for the Senate, because they were pro-choice and because Bradley opposed drilling in Alaska. The McCain campaign ordered her onstage at the next campaign stop, but she refused to acknowledge the two Republican candidates standing behind her.
Hey, that was… October 15! I was there.

John points out some problems:

  • Bradley was not running for the Senate; he was running for his old House seat.

  • It's doubtful that Sarah Palin would be reluctant to appear with Bradley because of his ANWR position, since McCain—her running-mate, remember?—had pretty much the same position.

  • John Sununu has (in fact) a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee, matching up with his 0% rating from NARAL (used to be: "National Abortion Rights Action League")

I will add a couple of my own observations:
  • While I think it's correct that Sarah didn't share the stage with anyone, the stage in the Dover High School gym was pretty dinky, and in the middle of the gym, audience on all sides. Having anyone up there during the speech would have been distracting and tricky to choreograph.

  • Both John Sununu and Jeb Bradley gave pre-speeches, and Bradley actually introduced Palin for her speech. If there was a snub here, it was lost on your humble blogger, and I'm pretty sure everyone else in the gym missed it too.

  • Also: while Bradley opposed ANWR drilling (and a lot of other energy-development stuff) while he was in Congress, during his 2008 campaign he adopted a pro-ANWR drilling stance (as ably recorded by Granite Grok.) In other words, at the time of the rally, he was actually closer to Palin's position than McCain's.

  • Bradley is also considered pro-life, getting a measly 30% from NARAL for his votes in Congress.

That's a lot of dubiousness contained in two measly Newsweek sentences. I don't buy it; it has the smell of fourth-hand unchecked storytelling.

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Involuntary Servitude: Not Focus-Grouping Well

Since Pun Salad made a big deal out of this yesterday, it's worth pointing out that the "America Serves" page on President-elect Obama's "change.gov" website was drastically revised yesterday to remove the "require" verb.

Interesting! I wonder what happened? I suppose a full-fledged Congressional investigation into the Constitutional threat is not in the cards. Until then, the following folks have observations and links galore, check 'em out: Instapundit; Betsy Newmark; Sweetness & Light; the Volokh head conspirator; AllahPundit.

Libertarians who supported Obama are still bleepin' idiots, though.


Last Modified 2008-11-08 2:14 PM EST
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Notes on a Scandal

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

A sordid little drama about what happens when you make poor decisions.

There's Cate Blanchett playing Sheba, a new art teacher at an English school where the students are (in the words of the narration) "future plumbers, shop assistants, and doubtless the odd terrorist too."

Yes, the narrator is kind of a lunatic. She's Barbara, a poisonous old repressed lesbian, played by M herself, Dame Judi Densch. She's attracted to Sheba, and clueless Sheba is initially accepting, inviting Barbara to lunch with her family.

But Sheba has her own problems, in addition to being a poor judge of character; she's depressed over her dead-end career, antsy in her saintly existence as wife to her much older husband, and mother to a daughter (surly) and son (Downs syndrome). She finds herself attracted to a 15-year-old boy, and…

Well, what do you think happens? Hint: it's not everybody living happily ever after.

Dame Judi and Cate act up a storm (both got Oscar nominations), but unless you're into watching acting for its own sake—although there's nothing wrong with that—this is pretty melodramatic and predictable, once the plot pieces have been set up. Decent dialogue, especially the Barb-narration, which reveals more to us about Barb than she herself realizes.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:40 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-07

  • Kip Esquire has a dandy post analyzing the proposal of powerful House Democrats to do away with the tax advantages of 401(k) (and also, I assume, 403(b)) retirement plans. If that weren't outrageous enough, the proposed replacement is extremely similar to Dubya's defunct Social Security "privatization" plan—the one Democrats screamed was risky and demonic.

    Of course, there are some big differences: the Democratic plan is compulsory while Bush's was optional; Bush didn't propose gutting 401(k)/403(b) tax advantages; and the Democratic plan prohibits workers from self-maintaining their investment portfolios, instead forcing them into buying government bonds (which are less risky, but also provide anemic historical returns). In short, we're talking financial nanny-statism here.

    If you're not already doing so, it might be a good time to start reading Don Luskin's blog: The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid.

  • For example, Don does some pretty simple math on President-elect Obama's proposal to "enact a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate."
    Let's say there are 100 million "families," whatever that word means in this context. $1000 each is $100 billion dollars. Last year the total earnings for the S&P 500 energy sector -- which includes a lot more than "oil companies" -- was about $140 billion. Are Obama and Biden saying that 71% of the energy sector's profits are "excessive"?
    I wouldn't make plans for that $1000 just yet.

  • In the "Now They Tell Us" Department: Obama's vague paeans to "community service" during the campaign have turned concrete and mandatory.

    Ilya Somin wrote a series of posts last year at Volokh about mandatory national service. In addition to the general increase in coercion, there's that pesky Thirteenth Amendment issue to get around.

    It's always encouraging to see a newly-elected president trashing the Constitution before he even assumes office.

    Oh, and for any self-styled libertarian out there who supported Obama: you are a bleepin' idiot.

    [Update: the explicit mandatoriness has been removed from the website. More on that here.]

  • Coming soon to a University near you: Margaret Soltan writes on the UC Irvine professor who is refusing to take mandatory sexual harassment prevention training, possibly costing him his job. Lots of links, not recommended for those prone to hypertension.

  • And this week's Rochester (NH) Police Log has its share of animal and human antics:
    Friday, Oct. 17

    1:27 a.m. — Two teenagers are allegedly having sex in Woodman Park. Police arrive in a commendable eight minutes but encounter nothing.

    7:32 p.m. — A moose wanders along Route 125 in Gonic.

    8:12 p.m. — The moose is now at Gonic Fire Station, but Fish & Game won't come unless something clunks into it.

    Saturday, Oct. 18

    5:42 a.m. — On Cleveland Street, a skunk has its head stuck in a receptacle. Police call the animal control officer but she does not respond. An officer manages to remove the jar, and is recommended by The Rochester Times for a bravery award.

    11:40 a.m. — A state trooper moooves cows from the middle of Route 16.

    1:45 p.m. — A Chestnut Street cat owner seeks advice on how to get his cat out of an empty property. An officer gives him several hints.

    6:44 p.m. — A moose stands at the airport fence and figures how to get through.

    Tuesday, Oct. 21

    8:57 a.m. — A Richardson Street resident has a bone to pick with a chiropractor's patients, regarding their parking habits.

    5:52 p.m. — A piano truck from Londonderry is parked outside the Party Supply store on Wakefield Street for over an hour. The storekeeper asks who they are waiting for and is told it is none of her business and that she should go away, a rude response which strikes the wrong chord with her.

    Wednesday, Oct. 22

    12:03 p.m. — A sign bearing the message, "I am a bitter gun owner and I vote" has appeared on Columbus Avenue to the annoyance of someone, who is told that the sign is protected under free speech rights.

    Thursday, Oct. 23

    3:14 p.m. — At the station, a newcomer to Rochester says he inadvertently drove the wrong way down Pine Street and was confronted by a tall man with one eye (but a sharp one) who thumped his truck with a fist.

    Friday, Oct. 24

    8:39 p.m. — There is a report of a large dead cat on Salmon Falls Road that is causing motorists to swerve. Police recategorize it as a large dead skunk.

    Saturday, Oct 25

    1:25 a.m. — A cow ambles down Old Dover Road.


Last Modified 2008-11-08 2:13 PM EST
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Post Election Thoughts

  • "Hey, this glass isn't even close to half-full."

  • Pun Salad would like to associate itself with the remarks of Saint Mary Katherine of Ham: Congratulations to President-Elect Obama.

  • One pony in this roomful of manure: we now have years to continue our so-far futile efforts to get the Pun Salad-invented word "Barackrobatics" (rhetorical efforts to justify one's shifting positions on a variety of issues) into the Googlable lexicon.

  • Most saddening loss: Senator Sununu. He deserved a better electorate.

  • Most irritating win: Carol Shea-Porter. Another two years with this toothache of a Congresswoman.

  • For those hoping for Sarah Palin to make a presidential run in 2012: who was the last losing vice-presidential candidate who went on to win the presidency? This was a bit of trivia going around our workplace this morning.

    If you don't want to rack your brain today, there's a blog post with the answer. Suffice to say: it's a very rare occurrence, and (hint) the last time was 1920.

  • If you're feeling despondent, take hope from these words from Peter Lynch:
    Betting against America was a bad bet in the past. It'll be a bad bet in the future.
    True enough! But I also have to append the standard disclaimer:
    Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


Last Modified 2008-11-05 6:11 PM EST
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URLs du Election Day 2008

Thank goodness. It's safe to watch TV again. Why is it that normal ads seem wittier and more honest than political ads?

I promised some Mencken quotes. Here's one:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
Here's another:
Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.
Mencken is chicken soup for the souls of cynics and sore losers. (I may be both.)

Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has an long and even more cynical Mencken excerpt. I'd say "enjoy", but that's far from the right word.

Some final political notes:

  • Dixville Notch, NH has gone for Obama 15-6. Don't want to depress you, but this is the first time in forty years the Notch has voted Democrat.

    In other news, New Hampshire is changing its motto to "Live Free or Don't".

  • I didn't vote for John McCain, but he can be a mensch.

  • In fairness, I am compelled to add that he can also be kind of a schmuck.

  • Could you tell me again which party has the heartbeat-away vice-presidential nominee who can't string together two coherent thoughts in a row?
    My sister is smart, runs every one of my campaigns; is beautiful; graduated with honors from college; is homecoming queen. But she’s a … she is what I call a ‘girl-boy’ growing up, you know what I mean?
    Damn. Those hair plugs must have penetrated into his brain.

  • And finally…

    Billy Dee Williams is a massive good sport.

Tomorrow, assuming our hangover is not totally debilitating, we will diligently look for ponies.

Last Modified 2008-11-05 6:01 AM EST
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-03

I think we have (approximately) one more day of our "You can't say you weren't warned" theme here at Pun Salad.

  • There will be big tax cuts for the middle class under President Obama! Well, unless you buy food. Or electricity.

  • A belated entry into our "how are libertarians voting" category: at Volokh, Randy Barnett provides data points from Reason founder Manny Klausner and Mike Rappaport. The Sowellian "disaster vs. catastrophe" dilemma appears, and it's well worth reading in its entirety for the liberty-minded.

  • The same goes for Shawn Macomber, who points out Peter Suderman's case for not voting at all.

  • Obligatory quote from Catch-22:

    Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile, "But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way."

    "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?"

  • I also am reminded of a back-when-he-was-funny quote from Woody Allen:

    More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

    I think I'll be looking up a couple of Mencken's quotes on democracy in the next few days.

  • You'll want to check "The 6 Most Insane People to Ever Run for President" by Adam Brown at Cracked. One may be on the ballot in your state.

    (I can hear you saying: "Only one?" Wiseass.)

  • Lileks. Screedblog. 'Nuff said.

  • And I should just point out that my employer, the University of New Hampshire, has had a whore-free faculty for many, many months now.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:40 PM EDT
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Panic Room

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

This is a neat little thriller that slipped by us when it first came out. But it was on the tube recently, and a UFO (unexpected familial obligation) forced me to miss the ending. I hate that. So into the Blockbuster queue it went.

Jodie Foster plays Meg, in the process of splitting up with her unfaithful husband. As revenge, she moves with her daughter into a huge expensive brownstone, to be purchased by aforesaid hubby. As you might guess, it has a panic room, a fortified space with lasers and TV monitors. (Doesn't appear to have plumbing, though.)

As you also might guess, Meg and her diabetic daughter need to use the panic room on their very first night, as three desperate criminals break in to abscond with some loot that the previous owner was alleged to have stashed away. (Want to try to guess where? Ah, you're right.)

Fortunately, Meg pees ahead of time.

Jodie Foster has become kind of an action movie star lately, and it's a good fit for her. The home invaders are played by Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and Jared Leto; Yoakam is well-cast as the creepy, psychotic one.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:41 PM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — Final Results

Phony hits for all candidates crashed further and faster than the stock market this week, but they didn't crash quite far enough for Barack Obama to avoid being the winner of our little contest.

Congratulations! If that's the right word:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2008-10-26
"Barack Obama" phony282,000-640,000
"John McCain" phony271,000-663,000
"Bob Barr" phony12,900-20,000

We usually look at current phony events, but since this is our last in the series, let's take a longer range view:

  • Our first tally of phony hits, gathered August 8 of last year, is here. Interestingly, today's counts for Obama and McCain aren't that different from those gathered back then, nearly fifteen months ago. Although I have no idea what that might signify, if anything.

  • Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" result for Obama is a blog post by Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post written back in July of 2006. Cilizza made the hypothetical case for an Obama presidential candidacy in 2008. (Telling quote: "We tend to doubt he will make the race").

    The phony component is contributed by commenter "bill":

    Obama is phony as the day is long. Typically Clintonesque in that he espouses a "moderate" line; yet when he finally does speak he's somewhere to the left of Chuck Shumer. Phony. Phony. Phony. Of course with the Democratic Party looking something akin to picnic day at Haight Ashbury, I suppose anyone who even sounds "moderate" is attractive to the media. One caveat: look what the Dems did to Lieberman when he had the audacity to leave the far left plantation - they turned on him.

    To repeat: that was over two years ago. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Or so I'm told.

  • On the other hand, the "I'm Feeling Lucky" for McCain is a YouTube vlog from Jackie Mason from January of this year, a time when Mason was utterly disgusted with McCain's misrepresentation of Romney's statements on "timetables" in Iraq.

    Jackie is … unique. Nowadays he's more favorably inclined to Maverick.

  • And we haven't shown Bob Barr a lot of love here, but his "Lucky" link is also a YouTube result, where he speaks of phony conservatism:

    That's the kind of thing you won't hear from Obama or McCain.

So?

You often see comments to the effect that voting for a third-party candidate is "throwing away" one's vote. I don't really get that:

  1. It's not as if my vote will decide the fate of New Hampshire's four electoral votes.

  2. I don't get any particular psychic thrill from voting for the winner.

  3. A vote for the third-place guy is no more wasted than a vote for the second-place guy.

Also I pledged over two years ago in this very blog to never, ever, vote for John McCain for anything.

So I think my choice is pretty clear. I'd say "make up your own mind," but I'm pretty sure you, good reader, do not need my advice or permission to do that.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 2:00 PM EDT
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The Visitor

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

I'd been seeing Richard Jenkins in movies for many years, but I first noticed him in an otherwise-dreary Jennifer Aniston movie (Rumor Has It...), where he played Jennifer's dad. He has an amazing little speech near the end of the movie that made me sit up and take notice. And ever since, I've been watching for movies where he appears. This is the first one, I think, where he plays a lead role.

He plays Walter, an econ prof at a college in Connecticut, emotionally shut down and stagnant after the death of his pianist wife. Apparently he's trying to learn to play the piano to somehow reconnect with her memory; it isn't going well.

Much against his wishes, Walter is sent to deliver a paper at a conference in New York City. He decides to stay in the apartment he keeps, but hasn't visited in years. To his surprise, it's occupied by a couple of illegal aliens, a drummer from Syria and his girlfriend from Senegal. (They're surprised too, since they were being scammed into paying rent.) Being a decent sort, Walter allows them to stay until they can make other arrangements. But gradually their relationship builds, fueled by his increasing fascination with drumming; it turns out to have been just the thing to bring him back to emotional life.

It's a nice little movie, especially if you like culture-clashes and character redemption. Richard Jenkins doesn't disappoint, communicating volumes about his character with the barest hints of eye movement and lip twitches.

Unfortunately, the plot then enmeshes with a PC saga about immigration and a harsh, unfeeling bureaucracy. OK, they probably had to do something, but this is pretty predictable.


Last Modified 2012-10-09 1:44 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2008-11-01

We're pretty much in continuous "you can't say you weren't warned" mode here at Pun Salad.

  • Saint Mary Katherine of Ham noticed an element in one of Senator Obama's recent speeches:
    Exxon-Mobil announced that it had made the greatest profits of any corporation in the history of the world: $14 billion in one quarter. That's all your money. You are -- you are paying it at the gas station.
    Her response (in its entirety):
    Barack, once a person gives his money freely in a voluntary exchange of currency for a commodity, that money does not belong to him anymore. It's not surprising that the Prince of Redistribution does not understand this concept, but it is surprising that he openly talks about it, even in reddish states he'd like to win.
    Indeed. And I would bet that, if you tricked him into speaking candidly about government revenue, Obama would reveal the opposite attitude: That's not your money, kid. In fact, it never was. That's state money.

  • Senator Obama's non-candid words about taxation aren't quite that blunt, but almost. We keep coming back to Frédéric Bastiat's essay "The State", and its classic aphorism:
    The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.
    Here's Obama:
    "The point is, though, that -- and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class -- it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America."
    We'd never figure out how to make all those boats rise by ourselves. Certainly once we start sending a whole bunch more money to the state, they'll send it to just the right places to make that happen.

    Also, everyone will get a pony.

  • Progressives invented the term "trickle-down economics" to deride the idea that lowering tax rates on higher-income earners would benefit the economy as a whole. As Obama's remarks indicate, the "trickle-down" label is more honestly applicable to his own theory of government-induced prosperity: the main difference is that the state is the entity doing the trickling, rather than the free and private decisions of people spending their own money.

  • And a lot of people have noticed Obama's following statement:
    "John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic," Obama continued. "You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness."
    In Obamaland, refusing to believe in Bastiat's "great fictitious entity" is selfishness.

  • Thomas Sowell is also unimpressed:
    After the big gamble on subprime mortgages that led to the current financial crisis, is there going to be an even bigger gamble, by putting the fate of a nation in the hands of a man whose only qualifications are ego and mouth?

    Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.

    Professor Sowell wins the coveted Pun Salad Read the Whole Thing Award for this fine day.


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