URLs du Jour

2009-12-14

  • More reckless demagoguery from President Obama.
    During a taped interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama blasted banking executives for opposing tighter regulations on Wall Street and for awarding themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses after they had repaid federal bailout money.

    "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama said.

    Well, thank goodness he voted against it! Oh, wait, he didn't.

    The original link is from USA Today, and they are not shy about quoting someone who points out the blindingly obvious:

    High unemployment is creating a political problem for Obama's team and "they're trying to make political points whenever they can," [banking consultant Bert] Ely said.
    During the campaign, Obama decried the "same old Washington games", but he's playing one of the oldest: when you're out of ideas, find a scapegoat to divert attention.

  • Charles Lane makes a lot of sense:
    With unemployment stuck around 10 percent, President Obama has pledged "to take every responsible step to accelerate the pace of job growth." Here's a thought: Instead of trying to "create" jobs by tweaking this tax break or increasing that spending program, why not stop doing things that destroy jobs?
    His three specific recommendations are right out of the loony-libertarian (i. e. Pun Salad's) playbook:

    1. End federal protectionism and price supports for sugar.
    2. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act.
    3. Reduce the federal minimum wage.

    You wouldn't be surprised to get those recommendations from (say) the Cato Institute or Reason, but (amazingly) Charles Lane is a member of the Washington Post editorial page staff, and that's where his article appears. What's next? Will the WaPo start competing with the Wall Street Journal for right-wing/libertarian readers? Cool!

  • Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Harvey Silvergate is promoting his new book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. Today's topic is so-called "honest services" fraud, a little gotcha in federal law that (during a recent Supreme Court session), Justice Breyer observed could make lawbreakers out of an estimated 140 million Americans every single working day.

    Silvergate is a relatively rare figure: an ACLU-liberal guy who consistently champions civil libertarianism. Good for him.

  • If you get warm-n-fuzzies when you spend a little extra for picking up "Fair Trade" coffee at your local store, you may not want to ruin them by clicking here.

  • Also at Marginal Revolution, Professor Tabarrok has a Paul Samuelson Memorial Blog Post: Asteroid Deflection as a Public Good. Professor Samuelson wrote Pun Salad's college econ textbook; fortunately, the damage was short-lived.

  • At the Freakonomics blog, Stephen Dubner posted a brain-teaser last week: name goods and services that are legal when done for free, but quickly become illegal when money changes hands.

    There's an obvious one—at least for those of us with minds in the gutter—but there's a big one that not a single one of the very smart commenters to the original post mentioned. See if you can get it before Eric Morris tells you what it is.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 8:44 AM EDT

Anatomy of a Murder

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

As I type, Anatomy of a Murder clings to a spot on IMDB's best 250 movies of all time, at #244. It had its fiftieth anniversary this year.

It's Jimmy Stewart's movie, and (to a lesser extent) Lee Remick's. Jimmy plays small-town lawyer Paul Biegler, recently voted out of the prosecutor's office, content with fishing in the waters of Michigan's scenic Upper Peninsula. Biegler's semi-retirement is shattered when he's roped into playing defense attorney for an Army lieutenant Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara). Manion shot (five times) a bar owner who had allegedly raped and beaten Mrs. Manion (the aforementioned Lee Remick). But what really happened? And (more importantly) can Jimmy Stewart play enough legal angles to generate reasonable doubt about the sanity of the perpetrator?

Jimmy and his co-workers are the only remotely likeable characters in this movie, and I found myself rooting for him. Lee Remick does a remarkable transformation, as she's introduced as an obvious drunken slut, de-floozied for the trial, popping back again into her normal promiscuous mode at the end. (She was outrageously overlooked by the Oscars, but got a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.) There are a lot of other great actors here, including George C. Scott, Eve Arden, Arthur O'Connell, and Orson Bean.

Random notes:

  • Even though Lee Remick was snubbed, the movie still got 7 Oscar nominations.

  • Jimmy Stewart's character smokes those repulsive Italian cigars later made even more famous by Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti westerns.

  • According to the IMDB, the movie was actually filmed in and around scenic Ishpeming and Marquette, apparently during the approximately three-week window of decent weather they get each year. My guess is that the cigars were necessary to dissuade the mosquitoes.

  • The DVD has the movie's original trailer, which is pretty good, with director Otto Preminger hamming it up with "Robert Traver" (the pseudonym of Michigan State Supreme Court judge John D. Voelker), who wrote the source novel.

  • The movie was pretty racy for 1959; it even was banned in Chicago. There's nothing that, nowadays, couldn't appear in your average gritty prime-time TV crime drama. This ages the movie: some things are meant to "shock" the audience, but go right over the heads of modern viewers.

  • Whoa, Duke Ellington has a cameo, playing the piano with Jimmy Stewart. He did the (Grammy-winning) soundtrack.

  • A non-cameo role, that of the trial judge, is played by Joseph N. Welch, famous in real life for the "Have you no sense of decency" shootdown of Senator McCarthy in 1954. He's good, also getting a Golden Globe nomination.

  • I was persuaded to put the movie in my Netflix queue by Kurt Schlichter's recent appreciation at Big Hollywood. If you're not convinced by me, he might do the trick.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 8:37 AM EDT