URLs du Jour

2009-02-17

  • Today's moan-inducing pap comes from WaPo op-ed coumnist Eugene Robinson fawning over Barack Obama: "President of Everything". He's done so much so far! But so much left to do!
    All Barack Obama wanted was to be president. He may have to become an auto executive, a banker, a mortgage broker and who knows what else before this crisis is done.
    A more thoughtful person (i.e., not Eugene Robinson) might note that Obama's qualifications for the presidency were, at best, marginal. His qualifications to be "auto executive, a banker, a mortgage broker and who knows what else" are non-existent.

  • Back on Febrary 10 I put up what, as far as I knew, was a quote from Arnold Kling on the stimulus, which he delivered at a Heritage Foundation gathering:
    I think about the stimulus as an economist but I feel it as a father. Barack Obama is destroying my daughters' future. It is like sitting there watching my house ransacked by a gang of thugs. That's how I feel, now back to how I think.
    I didn't see anything wrong with that. But some saw the word "thugs", and (apparently) made a leap that Kling was race-baiting.

    Because, y'know, some people automatically assume thugs to be of the African-American persuasion. And those people projected their racist assumptions onto Kling. A cheap way to bemoan the "ugliness" of the debate, without needing to deal with Kling's actual criticism.

    The Heritage Foundation has provided Kling's accurate quote, with additional context:

    I think about what's going on as an economist but I feel it as a father. My wife and I have three daughters between the ages of 19 and 25. And when I see what's being done to their future I'm really angry. Back in September when they were talking about taking $700 billion dollars to unclog the financial system I wanted to yank Henry Paulson out of the TV screen and say to him: "Keep your hands off my daughter's future." But he got away with it. For me it felt like sitting there watching my home being ransacked by a gang of thugs. And now we've got a new gang of thugs and they are doing the same thing. So that's how I feel, now back to how I think.
    Clear enough? Anybody out there confused about the color of Henry Paulson's skin?

  • I finally got around to noticing this AP article about seat belt laws. The controversy is whether to enact "primary" seat belt laws, enabling the police to pull you over and ticket you solely for your lack of buckleduppedness. The Feds want this to happen, and money is involved. The article's primary focus is on Ohio:
    … which would get $26.8 million if it changes its law. Currently, officers in the state must first have some other reason to stop drivers over before issuing seat-belt citations.
    Woo! $26.8 million is a chunk. But later in the article:
    Ohio faces a $7.3 billion projected budget deficit over the next two years compared to current funding levels…
    So enacting the primary seat belt law would allow Ohio to make up 0.37% of that deficit.

    There's a New Hampshire connection:

    In addition to Ohio, the other states considering the change are Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Hampshire.

    […]

    Only New Hampshire still has no seat belt requirement for all adult drivers, costing that state $3.7 million in grants in 2007.

    I always buckle up, but (needless to say) I despise this Federal blackmail and nanny-statism. The New Hampshire bill is HB 383. As near as I can tell from the General Court website, it's due to be voted on tomorrow, February 18 by the NH House. I have little optimism that my representatives will vote the way I'd like, but I've sent them e-mail.

Appaloosa

[Amazon Link]

[3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

One of the DVD extras reveals the movie's origin: on holiday in Ireland, Ed Harris read the Robert B. Parker novel Appaloosa, and just decided to go ahead and make the movie. He directs, stars, produced, and has a screenplay credit.

Now that's a fan.

Harris plays Virgil Cole, and Viggo Mortensen plays his partner, Everett Hitch; together, they make a living from travelling from town to town, getting hired by the locals to put down any and all slimy black-hatted evildoers killing and abusing innocents. They're very good at that.

Things develop a little differently when they try to implement this simple recipe in the town of Appaloosa. The bad guy is bad enough: Randall Bragg (played by Jeremy Irons, not bothering to drop his accent) has killed the previous town marshal and two deputies. Virgil and Everett start methodically harassing and shooting members of Bragg's gang, their standard operating procedure. But a complication arrives on the train: widow Allie French, played by Renée Zellweger, captivates Cole. This complicates the Virgil/Everett relationship, and (soon) it intrudes into the effort to bring Bragg to justice.

I've watched a lot of adaptations of Robert B. Parker's work (the Spenser series, TV movies based on Spenser and Jesse Stone), but this seems to be the closest Hollywood has come to "getting Parker right." The dialogue between Virgil and Everett is terse and understated, communicating volumes, reflecting each character's deep understanding of the other. So: good job, Ed Harris.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 7:53 PM EDT

Identity Crisis

[Amazon Link]

This book is from Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute; it discusses the public policy implications of "identification" systems used by businesses and governments: how they make sure that the "you" they're dealing with today is the same "you" from yesterday, last month, or three years ago. Since my day job involves (in part) trying to make sure that unauthorized people don't gain access to resources and information to which they aren't entitled, this was (arguably) right up my alley.

Harper starts with the basics: identification is something we do every day in ordinary life, and civilization is built on it. Unforunately, fraudsters are rife. (Harper could have, but didn't, how old identity fraud is: see Genesis 27 on how Jacob tricked Isaac by posing as Esau.) I'm used to seeing identification systems classified as "something you have" vs. "something you know". Harper uses a finer classification: "something you are" (e.g., biometrics); "something you've been assigned" (names, Social Security Numbers); "something you have" (ID cards); and "something you know" (passwords).

Since Harper is a Cato guy, he's free-enterprise friendly and government suspicious. He makes a convincing case that government has gone down the wrong road with too much reliance on a single number (the SSN) and a single ID mechanism (the driver's license, which, at the time the book was written, was threatening to grow into REAL ID). He also swipes at the post-9/11 TSA airport hassle, which is "security theater" meant to reassure the rubes that the government is "doing something" about airline security, while not thwarting any actual terrorism.

Harper advocates doing away with the effective government monopoly on many forms of identification, instead adapting decentralized systems developed by private enterprise. (One example: Clear, a biometric card that can speed up your process through security checkpoints.) He argues that customers should demand more privacy in their business dealings (or, at least, get clear benefits for surrendering a known bit of anonymity); businesses should, on their end, develop solutions to adapt to such demands.

My own employer has, for nearly all students and employees, long piggybacked on the Social Security Number for its own identity management efforts; now, chastened, we're in the costly and time-consuming process of coming up with something else. If only Harper's book had been available years ago, this is a mistake we could have avoided.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 7:53 PM EDT