URLs du Jour

2009-06-08

  • Advice for would-be opinionators: If you want to write on the editorial pages of the New York Times, program one of your hotkeys to echo "tax cuts for the wealthy" in a single stroke. This will save you a suprisingly large amount of time, and also decrease wear and tear on your typing fingers. A search for that phrase (in just the Opinion section) gives the disheartening message at the top: "1-10 of 10,000+ Results". That's a lot.

    Of course, you should only use "tax cuts for the wealthy" pejoratively. But even with that restriction, it's useful in any discussion that relates to matters fiscal. The latest example is yesterday's editorial, "Paying for Universal Health Coverage".

    Another way out would be to finance universal coverage by adding to the deficit, the path that George W. Bush took to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy.
    See, you can work it in even tangentially, when you want to quickly stick an "obviously bad idea" label on a proposal.

    The populist appeal of TCFTW is muted somewhat when you go on to advocate "increasing taxes on sugared drinks, alcohol, tobacco and other products that are bad for one's health." Anybody remember how excise taxes impact the poor vs. the rich? (Answer here.)

  • The Politico story begins:
    President Barack Obama is announcing Monday that he is ramping up stimulus spending exponentially in the next three months, allowing the administration to "save or create" 600,000 jobs -- four times as many as during the first 100 days since he signed the bill.
    Note the quotes, and this quibble down in paragraph seven:
    Republicans say the "save or create" metric for jobs is meaningless, since it's impossible to prove or disprove.
    It shouldn't just be Republicans saying this, should it? Because Obama's rhetorical "save or create" mendacity is an obvious plain-as-the-nose-on-your-stupid-face fact, and it shouldn't take a genius Harvard Econ prof to bring it to attention.

    The mention in Politico, even if it's spun as a partisan talking point, is at least progress. Try finding an equivalent note of skepticism in the Reuters story. Or the Washington Post story. Or the New York Times story. Or this LA Times story.

  • George Will threw down the gauntlet in his Sunday column:
    "I," said the president, who is inordinately fond of the first-person singular pronoun, "want to disabuse people of this notion that somehow we enjoy meddling in the private sector." He said that in March, when the government already owned 80 percent of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
    In today's NYT op-edder Stanley Fish hit the same pronoun theme:
    There's no mistaking what's going on in the speech delivered last week. No preliminary niceties; just a rehearsal of Obama's actions and expectations. Eight "I"'s right off the bat: "Just over two months ago I spoke with you... and I laid out what needed to be done." "From the beginning I made it clear that I would not put any more tax dollars on the line." "I refused to let those companies become permanent wards of the state." "I refused to kick the can down the road. But I also recognized the importance of a viable auto industry." "I decided then..." (He is really the decider.)
    Fish purports to show how Obama's speeches have placed more emphasis on the first-person singular pronoun as time goes by.

    I would dearly love to believe that linguistic analysis can reveal Obama's egomania. But one of my other reads is Language Log; there, Mark Liberman subjected both the claims of Will and Fish to simple objective tests and found both severely reality-challenged. The utterances of past presidents (Dubya, Clinton) are shown to be significantly more "I"-heavy in comparable situations. And Obama's speeches haven't increased in their use of the first-person singular over time.

    Also note Frank Rich, who (whatever his faults) actually did the pronoun-counting in speeches delivered June 8 of last year by Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama:

    All presidential candidates, Mr. Obama certainly included, are egomaniacs. But Washington's faith in hierarchical status adds a thick layer of pomposity to politicians who linger there too long. Mrs. Clinton referred to herself by the first-person pronoun 64 times in her speech, and Mr. McCain did so 60 times in his. Mr. Obama settled for 30.

    Obama's policies and proposals are horrid, and do demonstrate massive hubris in attempting to bring broad swaths of the economy under political command and control. It's easy enough to demonstrate this with ordinary argument; it isn't necessary to make stuff up about his speech patterns.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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

At IMDB, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is rated #177 on the Top 250 movies of all time. It got 13 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), and Best Actor (Brad Pitt), winning three. (I would have thrown Cate Blanchett in there too, but that's me.)

But just hearing about the premise of the movie made me doubtful: that's it? Benjamin, unlike most of us, is born old, his mother dying at his birth, and grows younger, year after year. Yes, that's it.

But it's a yarn exceedingly well-told, from the end of World War I up to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The main plot thread involves Benjamin's love affair with Daisy, complicated by the fact that she's aging normally. But there's a wealth of rich period detail, colorful characters, and adventure, as Benjamin grows up (or, I guess, grows down).

There might be Deep Lessons buried in the movie somewhere, but (as near as I can tell) it's pretty homespun: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, quit your bitching, say yes to opportunities, and so on. You can ignore this and enjoy the story.

It's very long, two hours and thirty-five minutes, but engrossing.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:53 AM EDT