Barackrobatics 101: You Can Keep It

President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 27, 2010:

Our [health care] approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.
President Obama, remarks to House Republican Retreat, January 29, 2010:
For example, we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your -- if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge. [emphasis added]
Faithful readers—there are maybe one or two out there—will know that Pun Salad has been a little obsessive on the "you can keep it" topic. Although the pundit quoting Obama at the second link deems it a "stunning admission", it's only "stunning" in that:
  1. President Obama has finally admitted what every other skeptical observer of Obamacare has known since the proposal firmed up; the "you can keep it" pledge was a lie.

  2. Although he's (apparently) trying to pretend that the "pledge" was only violated by "provisions that got snuck in" in last-minute wheeling and dealing, that's simply untrue. (The AP debunked Obama post-SOTU, but ABC News did the same thing this summer, as did CBS. Bob Herbert got around to noticing it in December. Both FactCheck and the Obama-tilted Politifact found the claim to be truth-impaired long ago. And this just scratches the surface.)

  3. But—still—admitting the lie less than 48 hours after uttering it (hopefully, one last time) on national TV… well, that takes chutzpah.

Notice, however, the (probably unintentional) phrasing. What Obama didn't say was:
… we said from the start that it was going to be important our legislation guaranteed that if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, …
Instead, longer-winded but more accurate, he said:
… we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your -- if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, …
The only thing that was "consistent" was the deceptive talking point: what they were "saying to people".

And, indeed, through whatever propaganda mechanisms consistent talking points are promulgated, that was an entirely successful effort.

  • There's still a White House page devoted to propping up the "you can keep it" lie, featuring the insufferably smarmy Linda Douglas, "communications director" for the Administration. (You might want to check that link as soon as possible, before their wizards notice that President Obama has admitted it was, er, inoperative.)

  • My own state's (Democratic) senator, Jeanne Shaheen, claimed (falsely) that "if you have health coverage that you like you should be able to keep that" was a "requirement" for supporting the bill.

  • My own (Democratic) Congressperson, Carol Shea-Porter, has a page that still (falsely) claims that the House-passed legislation implemented the "you can keep it" pledge.

  • You can read the same lie in a USA Op-ed by Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, ironically under the subheadline "Let the facts Be heard".

  • Senator Max Baucus, same lie.

  • It wasn't just politicians; both the AARP and Consumer Reports were only too happy to be sock puppets in spreading this bit of reassuring fiction.

  • And, trust me: again: we're just scratching the surface. "You can keep it" was repeated by multiple sources, over and over; you can Google it.

And I guess this is what's impressed me most about the "you can keep it" lie: how many people, almost certainly knowing that it was propagandistic bullshit, nevertheless repeated it to us with a straight face.

That's good to remember, because the same bunch will certainly use this same tactic again. Maybe not on health care, but definitely on some other pressing issue. After all, it almost worked this time.

Barackrobatics 101: Dimewatch

We scholars of Barackrobatics use sophisticated analytical tools (primarily the Firefox 'Find' Functionality) to discover trickery in the president's rhetoric. So, given the transcript of the State of the Union speech, we have …

And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person, not a single dime.
As usual, when the president says "dime", there's flimflam involved. Two points:
  • Note the difference from his campaign pledge:
    I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.
    As the AP's Calvin Woodward pointed out, that "firm pledge" lasted a few months, as long as it took Congress to legislate a tax increase for him to sign.

  • That wasn't an income tax increase, however, so Obama's SOTU claim is technically true. But the lack of income tax increases hasn't been due to Obama's lack of trying. David Boaz on the "voracious" attempts to suck money into goverment hands:

    Last year I tried to compile a list of all the taxes President Obama and his allies were maneuvering to impose. But each week brings new ideas. Just recently we’ve heard about a bank tax, applying the Medicare tax to capital gains and other “passive” or “unearned” income, raising the Medicare tax rate, raising or broadening the capital gains tax, an income tax “surtax,” a tax on tanning – and of course the tax on private health insurance to pay for the expansion of government insurance has moved to the top of the list.

    But there's more at the link.

There were other feats of Barackrobatics in the speech. Calling the bank tax a "fee":
To recover the rest [of the TARP funds], I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks.
And when is a tax increase not a tax increase?
But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year.
Hey, it's not a tax increase! We're just not continuing your tax cut!

[Previous discussions of Obama's use of the word "dime" here, here, here, here, and here. Not that we're obsessive.]

Following

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

You can keep rough track of what's where by checking whether Bill has shaved and/or been beaten up. Bill's at loose ends; as a hobby, he takes up the semi-innocent pastime of following random people.

Chistopher Nolan wrote/directed a couple little movies named Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. You're welcome. But one day, a guy who identifies himself only as "Cobb" catches him. The guy playing Cobb, Alex Haw, was really good, I thought. IMDB claims that this is his only movie credit.

It's about Bill, an unemployed would-be writer. And Cobb draws Bill into a twisty little plot whose nefarious reality is only revealed … Anyway, don't follow people. It's creepy, OK? But this, back in 1998, was his first "real" movie. Following is shot in artsy black-and-white.

There's an option on the DVD to play the scenes in chronological order, but I didn't find it necessary. It also presents its scenes out of chronological order. In the movie's honor, I put the sentences in this blog post into random order. (Similar to Memento, where Nolan put the scenes in reverse chronological order.)

And also The Prestige and Memento. I liked it quite a bit. It's not at all creepy or sexual, he insists. (There's a strong implication that the "writer" part might be self-delusion.)


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:20 AM EDT

Moon

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

Here's what I thought when I finished watching Moon: this would have made one of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever. It made me wish Zombie Rod Serling was around, so he could watch it and agree with me, before eating my brain.

In the near future, Earth's energy problems have been permanently solved by shipments of helium 3, mined on the moon. (Believe it or not, this is not a totally farfetched idea.) Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, is a lonely astronaut stationed on the far side of the moon, tasked with the maintenance of a mining site. The hard work is performed by large automated mining platforms wandering the lunar surface, and Sam merely has to do the odd repair, and transfer the helium 3 containers into unmanned earthbound shuttles. He's assisted by "GERTY", a chatty AI robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Although technical snafus prevent him from talking live to his earthbound family, he can send and receive recorded messages. And he's looking forward to the end of his three-year contract, at which time he can return.

Sam Rockwell plays "clueless schlub" roles pretty well, and that's extremely appropriate here. Without getting too spoily: he soon becomes aware that his situation is not exactly as presented.

Trivia: Moon was written and directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie. Back when he was a kid, he was known as "Zowie Bowie", and was a prime example of the wacky names rock stars gave their kids.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:19 AM EDT

Somewhere in the Quisling Clinic

… there's a shorthand typist taking seconds over minutes:

  • We made the WSJ's "Best of the Web Today" by submitting this headline from Foster's Daily Democrat:
    Contaminants not found at former Farmington auto trim site
    A Bottom Story of the Day. But BOTWT aficionados know that they just haven't Looked in the Last Place yet.

  • Oliver Hirschbiegel, director of Downfall, is OK with all the parodies of the Adolf-gets-bad-news bunker scene in his movie: "You couldn't get a better compliment as a director."

    And I'm sure you've asked yourself what happens if you search YouTube for "Hitler finds out".

    All this makes me wish I'd liked Downfall more.

  • Rene's Apple is a new addition to the blogroll. The proprietor has thrown me some links, much appreciated. (As are longtime linkers Skip and Amy.)

    But Rene's Apple has a neat bookshelf display, and two of the authors thereon are Walker Percy and Keith Laumer. Which kind of dropped my jaw; there might be some other folks with similar tastes, but I bet not many.

  • Speaking of books, here's someone's idea of The 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All Time. Lots of good memories there; I was surprised by how many I'd read.

    On the other hand, there's no Zelazny. (Or, for that matter, no Laumer.) So it's wedged.


Last Modified 2011-02-04 1:31 PM EST

And So On And So On

And scooby dooby dooby:

  • Even the New York Times can't help but notice President Obama's rhetorical switch we mentioned a couple days back: A year ago it was all about choosing "hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord". And now…
    The president used the word “fight,” or some version of it, more than 20 times.

    Mr. Obama vowed to “never stop fighting for policies that will help restore home values.” He promised that he was “not going to stop fighting to give our kids the best education possible.” He pledged he would not “stop fighting to give every American a fair shake,” to continue fighting for a new Consumer Protection Agency and for openness in government. And of course, Mr. Obama pledged to fight for jobs.

    “So long as I have some breath in me, so long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you,” Mr. Obama said. “I will take my lumps. But I won’t stop fighting to bring back jobs here.”

    If even the NYT is calling attention to Obama's latest phony rhetorical gambit, I'd say it's transparently obvious to everyone save the True Believers.

  • Mark Steyn provides a pithy and relevant observation:
    Presumably, the president isn't stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it's dispiriting to discover he's stupid enough to think we're stupid enough to believe it.
    Actually, that's just one of many. RTWT.

  • Drew Cline chronicles the latest mental meanderings of my own Congressperson, Carol Shea-Porter. When asked why Congress was so dysfunctional, she pointed her finger directly at 441 penises in the House and Senate chambers:
    "If we sent the men home we could get something done," she said after telling how the women members complain in the restroom about the men. She wasn't joking. Women "collaborate," she said, so they would be able to solve the country's problems if only they didn't have the men around to prevent them from working together.
    I used to make a half-hearted effort to write Ms. Shea-Porter, like any civic-minded citizen, to make her aware of my views. Now I'm thinking that I, and any other of her constituents with a Y-chromosome, needn't bother.

This Is No Social Crisis

… just another tricky day for you:

  • I'm slightly tempted to sign this MoveOn.org petition, composed in response to Scott Brown's election to the US Senate:
    Voters want real change. It's time for the Democratic Party to stop siding with corporate interests and start fighting for working families.
    It would be nice if Democrats interpreted this as a call to shut off the corporate welfare spigot. Unfortunately, that's almost certainly not what MoveOn wants, and that's not what we're likely to get.

  • Instead, we'll almost certainly see more "fighting"; it must have focus-grouped well at some point.

    • WaPo news story:
      Obama weaved angry us-against-them rhetoric throughout the day, telling a town hall audience that he "will never stop fighting" for an economy that works for the hard-working, not just those already well off.

    • Yesterday:
      Decrying the "army" of Wall Street lobbyists challenging his proposals for financial regulatory reform, President Obama said "if those folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have."

    • From The Hill today:
      "It's going to be a fight, you watch," Obama said. "[Critics are going to ask] 'why's he meddling in the financial industry?' 'It's another example of Obama being big government.' No. I just want to have some rules in place so when these guys make dumb decisions you don't have to foot the bill."

      "I don't mind having that fight," Obama added.

    • And he's being encouraged by pundits: Eugene Robinson:
      The president can surrender and blame Republicans for killing health-care reform yet again, or he can fight tooth and nail on behalf of the 46 million Americans who remain uninsured.

    • Or E. J. Dionne, a couple days ago:
      Obama needs to resolve the contradictions that are plaguing him, and to come out fighting. The president may not be entirely comfortable with this, but now he's fighting for his political life.

    All that soothing hope-n-changeyness is so 2009. In 2010, Obama's motto is: "I'm looking for someone to slug." So much for earning that Nobel Peace Prize…

  • A related headline: Obama Seen as Anti-Business by 77% of U.S. Investors.
    U.S. investors overwhelmingly see President Barack Obama as anti-business and question his ability to manage a financial crisis, according to a Bloomberg survey.
    Based on the above, I'm sure he could get that number up to 85%-90%!

  • On an unrelated note, here's vocational guidance from Professor Margaret Soltan:
    If you can’t imagine starting a marijuana growing business at home, you’re probably not cut out to be a professor.
    … she may not be totally serious.

Walkin' On Sunshine

… and don't it feel good?:

  • Mr. Kristol notes the condescension in this Obama interview.
    Here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country. The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they're frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.
    In short: Voters are motivated by their childish temper tantrums. Clever politicians, like Scott Brown and me, take advantage.

    As if on cue, Mr. Will makes a related point:

    The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously. The protracted health-care debacle has highlighted this fact: Some liberals consider the legislation's unpopularity a reason to redouble their efforts to inflict it on Americans who, such liberals think, are too benighted to understand that their betters know best. The essence of contemporary liberalism is the illiberal conviction that Americans, in their comprehensive incompetence, need minute supervision by government, which liberals believe exists to spare citizens the torture of thinking and choosing.
    Again: they think we're children. Good to know. Good to remember.

  • The Supreme Court finally notices that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation violated the First Amendment. The vote was 5-4; it should have been 9-zip. But the bottom line is that we're living in a slightly freer country today than we were yesterday.

    The folks at Bench Memos and Volokh are all over this; if you're interested, click over and just keep scrolling.

  • John Edwards finally admitted what just about everyone else knew: he's the bio-daddy of super-cute toddler Frances Quinn Hunter, whose mom is not Mrs. Edwards. The admission wasn't made because Edwards was struck by a lightning bolt of compulsive honesty; instead, his coverup was crumbling.

    Here's a great headline: Does the National Enquirer Deserve a Pulitzer for Breaking the John Edwards Scandal?. Can you imagine how many MSM heads would explode if that happened?

  • Speaking of great headlines, here's one from Reuters:
    White House says bears part of blame for Senate loss
    … an analysis I have not seen elsewhere.

  • Josh Marshall reports:
    Speaker Pelosi just said "I don't see the votes for [passing the Senate bill] at this time."

    In other words, plug pulled. Health care reform over.

    Neat. All that's left is to drive a stake through its heart, bury it deep, and dance on its grave. Could someone let me know when and where that ceremony is scheduled?


Last Modified 2010-01-21 6:04 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2010-01-20

  • You can read the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom here, and an accompanying WSJ op-ed here. It's depressing news for USAians:
    The United States is losing ground to its major competitors in the global marketplace, according to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom released today by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. This year, of the world's 20 largest economies, the U.S. suffered the largest drop in overall economic freedom. Its score declined to 78 from 80.7 on the 0 to 100 Index scale.
    We're now in eighth place, behind Canada, for goodness' sake.

  • Consider the ratio:
    Number of people who have watched a Downfall parody
    Number of people who have watched Downfall

    … that has to be in the thousands. Maybe tens of thousands?

    Anyway: two that came to my attention today:

    If you've seen one, you know pretty much how these will go. Still funny, though.

  • Do you have one or more cats? You might want to check out How To Tell If Your Cat is Plotting To Kill You. In my case:

    Is your cat plotting
to kill you?

    That's it! No kitty treats tonight!


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:25 AM EDT

The Book of Eli

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

If you're in the mood for a post-apocalyptic thriller with religious overtones, with some good acting, in theaters right now… well, then, this is not a bad choice at all.

Approximately 30 years previous, some sort of war/environmental catastrophe killed off most of humanity and other living things. The remainder live in the world envisioned by Hobbes, the life of man being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is a pilgrim on a mission to transport a valuable cargo west (no spoilers here, sorry).

He's taking his time, obviously. (But the Israelites also took an inexplicably long time getting from Egypt to the Promised Land, so I guess it's an occupational hazard.) Eli has developed survival skills that serve him well against the ragtag gangs of thieves, murderers, and rapists he runs into. But then he happens across a town run by strongman "Carnegie" (Gary Oldman), and that's a bit more of a challenge.

Of all the kids on That 70's Show, I would not have guessed that Mila Kunis would wind up being the most versatile movie actor. She's pretty good here.

Of course, when you go to the movies you get previews. My impression was that there are a lot good actors appearing in a bunch of upcoming cheesy movies.

  • They are remaking the (British) Death at a Funeral, moving it to America, and making the cast mostly Black. Except Peter Dinklage, the amazingly good, albeit height-impaired, actor will reprise his role.

  • Jake Gyllenhaal is the hero in Prince of Persia.

  • Liam Neeson is in both Clash of the Titans (playing Zeus) and The A-Team (playing George Peppard). In one of them he actually shouts "Release the Kraken!"

  • Mel Gibson is going to kick some ass (and, apparently, have the worst Boston accent ever) in Edge of Darkness.

… nothing that can't wait for DVD.

Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:18 AM EDT

Today's Other News From Massachusetts is Damn Lousy

Robert B. Parker, my favorite novelist, has passed away at the age of 77. I've been reading his books for about thirty-five years, and always looked forward to when a new book was on the way.

I met him once at a bookstore in Mashpee, MA, where I got a signed copy of Gunman's Rhapsody, and babbled some fanboy clichés at him. He was gracious and funny.

I'll miss him.


Last Modified 2010-01-19 10:24 PM EST

Four Limericks About the MA Senate Election

Good news: it's over, and it's once again safe to watch Massachusetts TV stations; the most irritating thing you'll see is Cathy Poulin in a Bob's Discount Furniture commercial.

On to the limericks. Although I was sorely tempted, not a single one refers to Nantucket.

Number one:

There once was an AG from Mass.
Thought into the Senate she'd pass
With a (D) by her name
Ted's seat she would claim
But her campaign soon ran out of gas.

A bit bland. Second try:

Oh, woe to thee, Martha Coakley
Your campaign turned into a jokely
A guy named Scott Brown
Turned your state upside down
Put the blues on your home's karaokely

OK, it's tough to find things to rhyme with "Coakley". Sorry. (It's even tougher to find things that rhyme with Martha. Nothing rhymes with Martha.)

But let's not concentrate on Martha. Here's a brief biography of Scott Brown:

Scott Brown attended B. C.
Where he grabbed himself a J. D.
Cosmo deemed him a hunk
Barely covered his junk
I hope he'll stay clothed in D. C.

Second link might not be safe for work. Oops, too late.

I can't say I'm unhappy with the result, though. Here's the sophisticated political analysis/advocacy you've come to expect from Pun Salad:

Today we must all offer thanks
For Brown's in the Senate ranks
His opponent flung poo
Pissed off Catholics too
And thought Schilling a fan of the Yanks

That's it. I promise: no poetry for awhile.

Barackrobatics 101: It's a Tax, Max

For some reason, Pun Salad has long been fascinated with the rhetoric of President Obama and his minions. One of our early catches was his use of the word "dime", on which we blogged here, here, here, and most recently here. It's safe to say that when the President says "dime", it's a signal that the truth content of his speech is about to plummet.

And the indicator remains reliable: Obama was in Boston on Sunday, trying to resuscitate the Senate candidacy of Martha Coakley. Somewhere in the middle, he switched on Demogogic Populist Mode:

It was your tax dollars that saved Wall Street banks from their own recklessness, keeping them from collapsing and dragging our entire economy down with them. But today, those same banks are once again making billions in profits and on track to hand out more money in bonuses than ever before, while the American people are still in a world of hurt. Now, we've recovered most of your money already, but I don't think "most of your money" is good enough. We want all our money back. We're going to collect every dime. (Applause.) That's why I proposed a new fee on the largest financial firms -- to pay the American people back for saving their skin.
[Emphasis added.]

I didn't watch the speech, but Byron York deemed it "lackluster", also "halting, wandering, and humorless." But at least one blogger (who, darnit, I can't recall) noted that the above bit was where the President actually seemed to come alive. Others noted that Obama didn't want to talk much about an actual supposedly-important issue: the increasingly-unpopular Obamacare. Instead we're being treated to a sneak preview of Barackrobatics, version 2010.0: phony populism.

We've already pointed to the WSJ critique of the substance of this proposal: the entities tasked with "paying the American people back" are the ones who have already repaid the TARP money with interest. GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac: all exempt, and will never pay back their TARP funds.

But it's worth pointing out another dazzling feat of Barackrobatics: calling it a "fee", avoiding (for some reason) the dreaded word "tax".

Obama went on:

But instead of taking the side of working families in Massachusetts, Martha's opponent is already walking in lockstep with Washington Republicans, opposing that fee, defending the same fat cats who are getting rewarded for their failure. Now, there's a big difference here. It gives you a sense of who the respective candidates are going to be fighting for, despite the rhetoric, despite the television ads, despite the truck. (Laughter.) Martha is going to make sure you get your money back. (Applause.) She's got your back. Her opponent has got Wall Street's back. (Applause.)
Emphasis added. Nope, can't call it a tax. Especially when Coakley's opponent, Scott Brown, has been painting her as anxious to increase taxes; it would be inconvenient to have Barack Obama enthusiastically agree with him.

Jim Harper has an invaluable post that debunks this nomenclature. If I may paraphrase "Yes, it's a tax. You're not fooling anyone, Mr. President."

Harper was once responsible for making this distinction for legislative purposes; it's more subtle than one might think. And, he notes, that even the NYT isn't fooled by the Administration's "fee" misnomer:

President Obama laid down his proposal for a new tax on the nation's largest financial institutions on Thursday, saying he wanted "to recover every single dime the American people are owed" for bailing out the economy.
Yup, there it is again: "dime".

(Also worth reading: Prof Althouse's analysis of the Obama speech. She is not kind.)

The First Rule

[Amazon Link]

I've long been a Robert Crais fan. I buy in hardcover, and incoming books automatically go to the top of the to-be-read pile. Actually, they don't make it to the to-be-read pile; I just start reading, and call in sick to work.

(In case anyone from the University is reading: just kidding about that call in sick thing.)

Anyway: this novel concentrates on one of Crais's continuing characters: Joe Pike. Crais introduced Pike years back as the sidekick to Elvis Cole, the World's Greatest Detective. (That's what he calls himself, but it's arguably true.) Pike was the stoic but deadly yang to Elvis's chatty, wise-cracking yin; he'd be called in when Elvis needed stealthy backup and massive amounts of well-aimed firepower. Recently, Pike has come into his own; in this novel, Elvis is the sidekick.

The premise is a truly horrific crime: a home invasion where (seemingly) all inhabitants are brutally murdered. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the head of household was once a member of Pike's "team": a semi-mercenary group of consultants tasked with security in various world hot spots. And (worse) one of the victims is a kid who had been named after Pike.

What follows is a pretty good detective novel, interlaced with episodes of quick action and a few dizzying plot twists. You don't want to mess with Pike.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:18 AM EDT

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

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

This movie is based on a wonderful book we used to read to the kiddos when we were all much younger. And by "based on", I mean: it has the same title. And some of the book's fantastic images are echoed in the movie. Other than that, though, it's not very similar. But still not bad.

For one thing, the movie has a protagonist: inventor geek Flint Lockwood. He's aching to use his knack for gadgetry to come up with an invention that will earn him the popularity and honors denied him ever since back in grade school when he invented Spray-On Shoes. Which unfortunately, were impossible to remove.

"I wanted to run away," Flint reminisces. "But you can't run away from your own feet."

He finally thinks he's got it when he comes up with a machine that turns water into food. Launched into the clouds, it causes all imaginable food to rain from the sky onto the temporarily blessed town of Chewandswallow. But then things go wrong.

The movie is fast-paced and clever, and contains all kinds of small gags, many of which I'm sure I missed. There are also a host of colorful characters In addition to Flint (voiced by SNL's Bill Hader), there's Sam the weathergirl (Anna Faris), Flint's dad (James Caan), town bully "Baby" Brent (Andy Samberg, also from SNL), the Mayor (Bruce Campbell), and local hardnosed cop Earl (Mr. T!).


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:21 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2010-01-16

  • The Washington Post documents one must-include phrase for our (at least) four year Obama Drinking Game: 'Let me be clear'. (There's video narrated by reporter Alec MacGillis, entertaining, but also a good argument that some reporters should stick to the keyboard.)

  • Genius Harvard Econ Prof makes a (weak) case for Obama's bank tax proposal. If I may summarize: it's like insurance for future government bailouts for big banks, even though it's being sold as a payback for past bailouts. Mankiw argues that the taxpayer will always bail out too-big-to-fail banks, so equity demands that banks pay for this extra protection.

    I don't really buy it, but Mankiw may convince you.

  • The editorial writers at the WSJ are more convincing to me, though.
    The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama's new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending?

    Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington's year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it.

    The WSJ also points out a number of "too big to fail" entities that wouldn't be hit by the tax: GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac.

  • Mark Steyn writes about the MA senate race for the Orange County Register. I liked this especially:
    You don't need to have been in an actual coma. Subscribing to The Boston Globe, the unreadable and increasingly unread Massachusetts snooze-sheet, has much the same effect. As the house organ of a decrepit one-party state, the Globe endorsed Martha Coakley with nary a thought using its Sober Thoughtful Massachusetts Election Editorial template ("[INSERT NAME OF CAREERIST HACK HERE] For Governor/Senator/Mayor/Whatever") and dutifully obscured what happened when one of the candidate's minders shoved to the sidewalk a reporter who had the lese majeste to ask an unhelpful question. If you're one of the dwindling band of Bay Staters who rely on the Globe for your news, you would never have known that a Massachusetts pseudo-"election" had bizarrely morphed into a real one – you know, with two candidates, just like they have in Bulgaria and places. On Friday, the paper finally acknowledged that something goofy was happening: As the revealing headline put it, "Race Is In A Spinout." As in "spinning out of control"? You mean, out of the control of the party and its dopey media cheerleaders? What they really mean is that the Democrats' coronation procession is in a spinout.
    Yeah, that reminds me of the Globe, and why I stopped subscribing to it. But read the whole thing.

  • On a related note, Curt Schilling confirms that he's not a Yankees fan.

Obama's Phony Promises: Yet Another Example

Cato@Liberty is all over the release of a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which looked at the positive effects of the very expensive Head Start program.

And basically… there aren't any long term positive effects: "virtually all academic effects disappear by the end of 1st grade." Adam Schaeffer quotes the HHS report here:

Looking at effects on participants does not change the overall patterns found in the main analysis, which show that Head Start improved children's language and literacy development during the program year but not later and had only one strongly confirmed impact on math ability in a negative direction. (For the 3-year-old cohort, kindergarten teachers reported poorer math skills for children in the Head Start group than children in the control group.)
And Andrew Coulson notes that the mainstream media coverage of this report of expensive failure has been…
Nada. Zilch. Rien du tout, mes amis.
Now: Candidate Obama's website still has the promise:
Obama and Biden review the federal budget line by line and eliminate programs that don't work work or are unnecessary.
Here's Obama in his first debate with John McCain:
We've got to eliminate programs that don't work, and we've got to make sure that the programs that we do have are more efficient and cost less.
Here's Obama in his second debate with John McCain:
I want to go line by line through every item in the federal budget and eliminate programs that don't work
And here in a January 11, 2009 interview with George Stephanopoulos:
Well, you know, these are going to be major challenges. And we're going to have to make some tough choices. Now what I've done is indicated to my team that we've got to eliminate programs that don't work.
… and I'm pretty sure the Google could dig up some more examples; Obama seemed to have an internal hotkey programmed to regurgitate the phrase on demand.

So, Mr. President: Head Start doesn't work. What are you going to do about it?

Fearless prediction: nothing. So far the only education program that the Obama Administration has successfully eliminated is one that did work: the voucher program that allowed poor D. C. kids to attend private schools.


Last Modified 2011-02-04 1:29 PM EST

"Help Us, Scott Brown. You're Our Only Hope."

No, I haven't heard a campaign ad with that actual phrase. But some have come close.

Our cable provider serves us up a lot of "Massachusettes" stations. Which have essentially become unwatchable, because every other ad is a Scott Brown ad. Or an anti Scott Brown ad. And they're the same ads, over and over.

That's not much of an exaggeration. The Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat, Martha Coakley, has basically given up on trying to persuade people to vote for her. Instead, the ads point out that Scott Brown is a puppy-blending, kitty-kicking Republican. This parody, by a Beantown talk station, isn't too far off the mark:

(Via Campaign Spot, which also has some actual ads, if you'd like to share my pain.)


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:17 AM EDT

This Is What They Call a Metaphor

From Politics Daily:

The produce used on the Food Network's Jan. 3 Iron Chef of America two-hour special White House show was billed as being from the White House garden. But the show did not disclose that "stunt double vegetables" were used and not produce from the First Family's garden.
Somehow I'm not shocked at the phoniness. But it will be interesting to compare and contrast the coverage this actual phoniness receives with the bogus "fake turkey" story that even now is repeated by the clueless to slag Dubya.

Fearless Prediction on Carol Shea-Porter's ObamaCare Vote

Patrick Hynes' Now! Hampshire got an Instalink a few days back for this big news about my very own Congressperson:

One thing is clear: Unless Sen. Harry Reid and President Barack Obama back down on the excise tax in the health reform bills being merged in a secret conference committee, Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) will not vote for the final bill, the New York Times reports.

And that's not the only feature of the final bill Shea-Porter is likely to oppose.

The first link doesn't work; my guess is that this story is the one in question. Sure enough, it contains:
The House [version of the ObamaCare] bill, meanwhile, passed by only a five-vote margin, and at least three Democrats who voted for it -- Mr. Courtney, Phil Hare of Illinois and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire -- have said they would oppose a final bill if it contained an excise tax [on so-called "Cadillac" insurance coverage] like the Senate version.
A previous Now! Hampshire article on Shea-Porter's likely vote said:
Influential liberal blog Fire Dog Lake is reporting that Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea- Porter (NH-01) has "vowed to vote against any bill that does not have a public option."
Follow the link to Fire Dog Lake, however, and it appears it's been modified (without explanation). The relevant text now reads:
Carol Shea-Porter vowed to vote against any bill that does not have a public option has an excise tax, so she looks to piss off both liberals AND conservatives with a "yes" vote.
Hm, so what's the real story? Again, playing follow-the-link we get to:
This tough talk [from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka about the excise tax] was buffeted [?] by a labor liberal in Congress, Carol Shea-Porter, who over the weekend said she would vote against any bill which included the excise tax. While 190 Democrats have signed a letter rejecting the excise tax, I don't recall any member of Congress making this claim before. Shea-Porter, while generally a liberal, won her seat in 2006, and faces a fairly tough re-election battle. This movement on the health care bill may be as much about November as it is about any firmness on the excise tax.
… and the link goes back to the original Now! Hampshire story.

But wait, it gets worse. Later in that same article, there's an un-timestamped update:

UPDATE: Shea-Porter spokeswoman Jamie Radice just emailed a statement saying that the Congresswoman has NOT made an ultimatum on the excise tax:
"Both in private and in public, Congresswoman Shea-Porter has never said that she would vote for or against a final health care reform bill if it contained an excise tax. She has spoken out forcefully against this tax, which is contained in the Senate's health care reform bill, but she is waiting to see what the conference report looks like before making any final decisions. She remains in support of the House version."
So, um, there you go. She says she never said it.

My guess: she got leaned on, and she caved, on both the public option and excise tax issues. And my fearless prediction: if her "yes" vote is necessary to pass the monstrous legislative turd excreted by the current closed-door negotiations, she'll provide it.


Last Modified 2010-01-17 8:00 PM EST

Ball of Fire

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

A 1941 screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks, from a Billy Wilder screenplay, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The main question: how could I have waited so long to watch it?

Cooper plays Professor Bertram Potts, the youngest member of a gang of eight scholars diligently working on a multi-year encyclopedia project. The project is funded, it's explained, by a benefactor who was outraged that the Encyclopedia Brittanica failed to properly credit his invention of the electric toaster. They live a monastic existence in a Manhattan brownstone. Potts is writing an article about slang, but a chance visit from a garbageman makes him realize that his grasp of the subject is woefully out of date.

So Potts goes out into early-40's New York, soaking up the colorful language of the street, poolhall, subway, and ballpark. He winds up at a nightclub, where the star performer is one Sugarpuss O'Shea (Miss Stanwyck). Potts wants Sugarpuss badly—for research purposes, of course! She's reluctant, but (as it turns out) the DA is after her to testify against her mob boss boyfriend. So she decides to hide out with the encyclopedists, with hilarious results.

There are a lot of things to like here. Nobody played brassy bad girl roles (with or without the optional "heart of gold" accessory) better than Barbara Stanwyck. Coop's pretty good at light comedy too. The dialogue is clever, and must have been considered pretty racy for 1941. The supporting cast contains lots of actors any old-movie fan will recognize, and they're all great here: Dana Andrews, in a rare comic role as the mob boss; Dan Duryea and Ralph Peters as his bumbling henchmen; Charles Lane as an officious lawyer; Henry Travers (Clarence himself), S. Z. Sakall (Carl himself), and Richard Haydn (the Caterpillar himself) as professors. And more.

And also Gene Krupa and his band. Whoa.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:17 AM EDT

Update: Emperor Still Naked

(Recycling an old post with new data and some new links.)

Just about a year ago, shortly before the inauguration, the incoming Obama economic team issued a (PDF) report, "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan," advocating passage of the "stimulus" legislation before Congress. Central to the argument was Figure 1, showing their prediction of the unemployment rate with and without the plan (click for original size):

[Projections]

There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical then (see Greg Mankiw in the January 10 NYT, David Harsanyi in the January 30 Denver Post, or this handy collection of links from the Cato Institute.)

But "they won", the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan was passed and signed. Over the past year, some bright person ("Geoff" at Innocent Bystanders) has periodically overlaid actual unemployment data points on the original graph. Geoff's latest article is here, but the graph speaks for itself (click for big version):

[vs. Actual]

Geoff also posts a graph of the absolute employment numbers, and it's even more disheartening.

Some recent "stimulus" news:

  • In the WSJ, William McGurn notes the absence of the word "stimulus" in recent Administration rhetoric, starting with President Obama's advocating what most people call a "second stimulus".

    Not once did he use the word "stimulus." If you search under "speeches and remarks" on the White House Web site, it will tell you that the last time the president used the word "stimulus" in public remarks was in an offhand reference in a speech about clean energy in October. A month before that he used the term once in a speech that was about the stimulus.

    McGurn documents the expunging of the "S-word" from the communications of official Administration spokesmodels.

  • But that's not the only Barackrobatic rhetorical flip. ABC's Jake Tapper points out that the much derided "jobs created or saved" metric that President Obama once thought so vital has been thrown under the bus.

    The Obama administration has taken some heat and mockery for using the nebulous and non-economic term of jobs being "saved or created" by the $787 billion stimulus program.

    So it's gotten rid of it.

    In a little-noticed December 18, 2009 memo from Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag the Obama administration is changing the way stimulus jobs are counted.

    The memo, first noted by ProPublica, says that those receiving stimulus funds no longer have to say whether a job has been saved or created.

    "Instead, recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars," Orszag wrote.

    Via Allahpundit at Hot Air, who notes that, if anything, this new standard is even phonier than the "jobs created or saved" measure.

  • Also noting the ineffectiveness of the stimulus was this AP story yesterday:

    A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth."

    An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed.

But I'm sure the Administration's predictions for their other initiatives, like ObamaCare and Cap-n-Trade, are right on the money. What could possibly go wrong?


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:16 AM EDT

I Was Told There Would Be No Spelling

OK, so it's a really tough word, but …

As U.S. Senate candidate Martha Coakley went on the attack Tuesday with a sharply-worded television ad attacking her Republican rival Scott Brown, the rush to production led to a misspelling of the state she hopes to represent in Washington.

[…]

At the end of the advertisement, where a candidate must disclose who paid for the ad, the copy read "paid for by Massachusettes (sic) Democratic Party."

Confession: when I have to spell that state's name, I always check it with the Google. ("Did you mean: Massachusetts" "Oh, yeah, guess I did.")

Where Eagles Dare

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

While I wait for Netflix to send me Inglorious Basterds, The Hangover, Zombieland, or even Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, I decided to see if this 1968 flick held up against my teenage memories. It did, although the seams showed a little more …

It's World War II, and Richard Burton ("Major Smith") leads Clint Eastwood ("Lieutenant Schaffer") and five other teammates to (ostensibly) rescue a captured American general held in a remote Bavarian castle from the clutches of the Wehrmacht. It's a long-shot mission, and it doesn't help when two members of the squad get killed nearly right out of the chute. Will Burton and Eastwood prevail? As the kids say: three guesses, and the first two don't count. This is not one of those movies with deeply flawed heroes ridden with angst about shooting Nazis. Or blowing them up. Or stabbing them. Or … well, you get the idea.

The plot is convoluted, unfortunately to the point of ludicrousness. Don't think about it too hard. (I also read the Alistair MacLean book back then; I seem to recall that it was slightly less far-fetched.) Although the heroes are in nearly non-stop peril, they are aided mightily by the Imperial Stormtrooper-level marksmanship of the Germans, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of their own (improbably effective) bullets and explosives.

Trivia: the Movie Body Count site lists Where Eagles Dare as the movie where Clint Eastwood's character kills the most people. Yes, there's a website for everything.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:16 AM EDT

Dave Barry Observes …

… that a headline-writer waits an entire career for a moment like this.

(The story is from 2007, but still: best headline of the last decade.)

Maureen Dowd Flays Captain Obvious

At the New York Times, Maureen Dowd seems to have lost patience with Barackrobatics:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.”
Ms. Dowd's column is entertaining, but (for most of us) doesn't break any new ground; most of us right-wing knuckle-draggers have long been pointing out Obama's empty rhetoric. What took her so long to break out of the spell?

Not that she's perfect:

Unlike the Republicans, who have yet to take responsibility for a single disastrous thing they did, President Obama said “ultimately the buck stops with me.”
Probably it's required for an NYT columnist to do this, but a couple seconds with the Google found this (from 2005):
On the eve of Iraq's historic election, President Bush took responsibility Wednesday for "wrong" intelligence that led to the war, but he said removing Saddam Hussein was still necessary.
And this (also from 2005):
President Bush struggling to find his footing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina said Tuesday that he accepted responsibility for shortcomings in the federal government's response and prepared to address the nation from Louisiana on Thursday evening.
I've little doubt I could find other examples, too. But it's pointless. Dowd "knows" that Republicans didn't "take responsibility", and this particular meme is buried deep enough to be immune to facts.

Nevertheless, the fact that Dowd is snapping out of her Obama-induced trance is a welcome sign.

Another Economist Notes the Obvious

Steven E. Landsburg bemoans the ideologically-driven silence of NYT columnist Paul Krugman.

Once upon a time in America, whenever an administration spokesman spouted economic nonsense, you could rely on Paul Krugman for a sneer, a blast of outrage, and frequently an imputation of the basest motives. That time ended on approximately January 20, 2009.
Landsburg is only too happy to step up to the plate, analyzing recent utterings by Obama's top spokesmodel, Robert Gibbs. (In this case, involving the "green jobs" fallacy. Check it out.)

Neither the economic illiteracy of the Obama Administration, nor Krugman's partisan criticism is anything new, but they deserve to be harped upon. Recently, Greg Mankiw pointed out Krugman's distortion of history in relation to the brief, happy repeal of the federal Death Tax.

Google Makes Baby Jesus Cry

OK, so we all know that the Google hates America (sometimes). But does it also hate Christianity? Wouldn't be surprised, but more likely it's just doing clumsy, albeit politically correct, tweaking of its "hate" filters.

Note to Some Buddhists: You're Doing It Wrong

Actual USA Today headline:

Comments by Fox's Brit Hume upset some Buddhists

Fluke

[Amazon Link] Christopher Moore specializes in bringing the fantastic into sharp collision with the everyday world with humorous consequences. This book seems, at least at first, to be an exception. The only thing slightly out of the ordinary is when a whale researcher happens to note that the humpback he's observing has rather unusual tail markings: the words "BITE ME!" in foot-high letters.

No, this isn't a spoiler. It's chapter one, also (you'll notice) on the book cover.

The book follows said whale researcher, Nate Quinn, and his scientific teammates: Clay, his partner; Amy, their new research assistant; and "Kona", an even newer hireling, perpetually stoned, dreadlocked, speaking in a "mix of Rasta talk, pidgin, surfspeak, and …, well bullshit." Further investigation reveals Kona actually to be one Preston Applebaum from New Jersey.

One of Amazon's features is a list of "Statistically Improbable Phrases" (SIPs). They say: "For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements." For Fluke, the Amazon SIPs are: "snowy biscuit, whale cops, whaley kids, whale huggers, cetacean biology, humpback song, torpedo range, whale researchers, whale calls, dive computer, whale ship, back orifice, water guy, whale song, whale tail". That might give you a flavor of what follows.

Christopher Moore is a fine writer, and there's at least one well-turned phrase on each page, usually inducing at least a chuckle. Killer whales are "just four tons of doofus dressed up like a police car." When Nate has a very close encounter with a humpback, he observes that getting shoved into baleen plates by the whale's tongue "was like being smashed into a wrought-iron fence by a wet Nerf Volkswagen." Good to know these things.

A very fun read.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:26 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (and a Joke)

2010-01-07

Argh, I think I overdosed on politics. Some Obama-free content for you today:

  • I previously mentioned Hard Case Crime and its delightfully retro covers. Browsing through their website, I found this upcoming title by a promising writer.

    I already own a … more sedate version of the novel. But this is mighty tempting.

  • Adrian Beltre is coming to the Boston Red Sox. Read this story from Surviving Grady and try to pick the place where I started laughing. (This shouldn't be hard, if you remember that my sense of humor is about the same, maturity-wise, as when I was nine years old.)

  • A co-worker (who blogs here) passes along the following computer security joke:
    During a recent password audit at a company, it was found that a [person presumed to be stupid regardless of hair color] was using the following password: "MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento"

    When asked why she had such a long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least eight characters long and include at least one capital.

  • Ever wonder how a web design goes straight to Hell? To find out, I suggest reading How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell.

URLs du Jour

2010-01-05

  • Another day, another corrupt bargain revealed in Obamacare:

    Early versions of the Senate’s far-reaching health care bill said that small businesses with fewer than 50 workers would not be penalized if they failed to provide insurance. That was before labor unions in the construction industry went to work and persuaded Senate leaders to insert five paragraphs.

    Their provision, added to the 2,074-page bill at the last minute, singles out the construction industry for special treatment, in a way that benefits union members and contractors who use union labor.

    In this one industry, the exemption from the penalty would be much more limited, available only to employers with fewer than five employees. Construction companies with five or more workers would generally have to provide health insurance or pay a penalty — an excise tax of $750 per employee.

    This "special" provision has nothing to do with health care, everything to do with using the power of the state to kick non-unionized construction firms in the teeth. The sleazy deal was actually pointed out back when the Senate passed the bill just before Christmas, but deserves wider attention.

  • Interesting article from Patrick Hynes at Now! Hampshire, reporting (entirely anonymous) folks speculating that my Congresswoman/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter is reconsidering her decision to run for the US Senate seat being vacated by Judd Gregg this year. Previously, NH's other representative, Paul Hodes, was the only other major candidate on the Democrat-side.

    I am a lousy political pundit, but that would be pretty cool: having both Congressional seats open would make them much easier for the GOP to recapture, and I don't see how Shea-Porter would fare any better against a decent GOP opponent than Hodes is doing. It would be nice to have Jeanne Shaheen be the only elected Democrat in DC from New Hampshire… But it's probably too good to be true.

    This is via Campaign Spot; I would love to read Now Hampshire! first-hand, but their RSS feed doesn't timestamp their articles, with <pubDate> tags, making it impossible for my site-reader to detect new content. (Please, guys, if you're reading this: how hard would it be to add timestamps?)

  • As long as I'm bitching about RSS feeds, consider big-time semipro blogger Patterico. His feed just stopped being updated on September 5 of last year.

  • Another pet peeve: blogrolls that contain links to websites that haven't been active for months and even years. Example: Instapundit puts a link in his "Recommended" category to my old Usenet buddy, Mike Godwin, the coiner of "Godwin's Law".

    (Which I've always secretly hoped/feared he invented in response to one of our discussions on rec.arts.books, but I can't back that up.)

    Anyway, Insty's link points to http://www.godwinslaw.org/, which used to be Mike's blog. But at some point, that URL was redirected to the Wikimedia Foundation blog. Mike now works for Wikimedia, but the blog has (as near as I can tell) zero Godwin content.

    So, bloggers: check your blogrolls every so often, OK? And if you come across a defunct site, feel free to replace it with Pun Salad.

  • If you (a) have a camera and (b) are maybe a little forgetful, you might want to take this suggestion for getting it back if and when you misplace it.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:27 AM EDT

(500) Days of Summer

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

As I type, (500) Days of Summer is #224 on IMDB's list of the top 250 movies of all time. I usually say "I don't know about that", but in this case, I say … yeah, maybe. I had a great time watching it.

As the title implies, the movie covers 500 days, although does so out of sequence; each scene is helpfully numbered so you know where you are, though. Synopsis-wise, I can't do much better than the lines uttered by the omniscient narrator at the movie's start:

This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie The Graduate. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage she'd only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.
Well, more accurately, it's half a love story: his half. Tom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Summer is played by Zooey Deschanel; they're both great. They could have come across as whiny and self-absorbed—and they are, to a certain extent. But they remain sympathetic. The script is clever, and there's one wonderful scene at the zenith of the relationship, where Tom's happiness manifests itself in a production song and dance number, complete with animated bluebirds.

Things don't remain that sunny, though, and (in particular) Tom is destined for a long dark night of the soul. He's miserable, but the movie remains pretty funny.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:14 AM EDT

Only You

[2.5
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another inexplicable gift DVD that wound up in my collection, which I finally got around to watching.

Only You pairs a fine actress (Marisa Tomei) and a great actor (Robert Downey, Jr.) and (even) a pretty good supporting actress (Bonnie Hunt) and wastes their time in prefabricated romantic piffle.

Ms. Tomei plays Faith, who, when she was a child, was told by a Ouija board that her life-soulmate was named "Damon Bradley". A bit later in life, a gypsy fortune-teller at a carnival tells her—the exact same thing. But now, present-day, she's about to get married to a podiatrist, whose name is not Damon Bradley.

But then she receives a mysterious phone call to her fiancee; the caller can't make the wedding, because he's off to Venice. And the caller's name is … you'll never guess … Enzo Cerusico!

No, just kidding: it's Damon Bradley. Ms. Tomei and Ms. Hunt drop all the wedding plans and hasten off to Venice in pursuit. And Robert Downey, Jr. awaits there.

Now it's not awful, but someone needed to tell the moviemakers: (a) just having people shout and rush around frenetically is not inherently funny; (b) Marisa Tomei is beautiful, but seeing her parade in one fashionable outfit after another is not inherently interesting; (c) having Ms. Tomei and Mr. Downey Jr. re-enact an Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck scene from Roman Holiday is most likely to make people wish they were watching Roman Holiday instead.

Oh, yeah: Joaquim de Almeida is also in this movie, and I think it's the only movie I've seen him in where he doesn't play a murderous villain. I kept expecting him to kill Bonnie Hunt, but—spoiler, sorry—he doesn't.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2010-01-03

  • A completely predictable outcome, reported with surprise and sorrow by the New York Times:
    The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.
    But I'm sure they'll do a better job with health care. Or energy policy. Or airline security.

  • Speaking of which, Mark Steyn makes a point Pun Salad has made itself, but does so with his usual combination of wit and we're-all-doomed. Sample:
    On Christmas Day, a gentleman from Nigeria succeeded (effortlessly) in boarding a flight to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Pretty funny, huh?

    But the Pantybomber wasn’t the big joke. The real laugh was the United States government. The global hyperpower spent the next week making itself a laughingstock to the entire planet. First, the bureaucrats at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) swung into action with a whole new range of restrictions.

    Against radical Yemen-trained Muslims wearing weaponized briefs? Of course not. That would be too obvious. So instead they imposed a slew of constraints against you. At Heathrow last week, they were permitting only one item of carry-on on U.S. flights. In Toronto, no large purses.

    Um, the Pantybomber didn’t have a purse. He brought the bomb on board under his private parts, and his private parts weren’t part of his carry-on (although, if reports of injuries sustained in his failed mission are correct, they may well have been part of his carry-off).

    … but you'll want to read the whole thing.

  • When Congresscritter Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" during a speech on Obamacare by the president, he was widely excoriated. Only a few months later, however, and even a reliably liberal New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert, is (more politely, of course) getting around to noticing the same thing:
    The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.

    Those who believe this is a good idea should at least have the courage to be straight about it with the American people.

    Hey Bob, thanks for (finally) noticing the "you can keep it" lie. But it and other falsehoods have brought Obamacare to the brink of passage. Why should they stop lying now, simply because you're asking nicely?

  • The Granite Geek points out that the Granite State, and also the rest of the planet, is at perihelion today, a mere 147,098,040 kilometers from the sun. So, enjoy. Although, as you may have noticed, it's not making us much warmer.

    There's another practical effect, though: perihelion makes tide amplitude bigger (although I'm not sure how much). Add to the near-full moon, and the low-pressure storm, you got yer coastal flooding. It's not a great day for a stroll on the beach.

    "Perihelion" is a pretty word, though. If you didn't know better, you might think it was a flower: "He bought her a bouquet of daisies, asters, and perihelions."


Last Modified 2010-01-29 4:05 PM EST

The Big Heat

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

A movie from back when they could get away with the tagline: "A hard cop and a soft dame!" 1953, to be specific. Directed by Fritz Lang.

Glenn Ford plays Dave Bannion, the aforementioned hard cop. He's not only hard, he's also one of the few honest cops in his city. Investigating the suicide of a fellow officer, he's suspicious that there's more to the pat case he's presented with. The victim's wife is obviously lying about her husband's motivation. A mysterious mistress shows up, talks to Dave, then is quickly whacked. And then it gets really bad for Dave.

Lee Marvin plays his role of smooth sadistic hitman well; Gloria Grahame (the "soft dame") plays his ill-fated girlfriend, and she has all the best lines. One is pretty famous: "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better." The DVD includes appreciations from Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann.


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2010-01-01

Happy New Year! (As always, Pun Salad bravely defies the secularists who insist on using non-Gregorian calendars. Down with the war on New Year's!)

  • Pretty neat to see how those digits rolled over from '12/31/2009 23:59:59' to '01/01/2010 00:00:00'. Just like they do every year.

    But, as John Tierney notes, there's an even rarer event coming up tomorrow, and you'll want to be prepared: Tomorrow's date is palindromic: if you write it in mmddyyyy format ('01022010'), it reads the same backwards and forwards.

    If you want to celebrate, I suggest you spend the entire day speaking only in palindromes. You can say 'yay' when something nice happens, 'poop' when things go poorly, 'wow' when you're amazed. Greet mom, dad, and sis. Insult folks by calling them a boob or a kook. Drive a racecar, helm a kayak, read sagas. When you're asked for your dining preferences: "Go hang a salami; I'm a lasagna hog."

  • Okay, so the Transportation Security Administration might not be doing a good job of keeping explosives off planes, but they're ruthlessly efficient at taking down bloggers:
    At 7:00 p.m. on December 29, armed TSA agents banged on the door of photojournalist and KLM Airlines blogger Steven Frischling’s Connecticut home. “They threatened me with a criminal search warrant and suggested they’d call up my clients and say I was a security risk if I didn’t turn over my computer to them. They said ‘we could make this difficult for you,’” Frischling told me in a telephone interview the following afternoon. By then, TSA had removed Frischling’s computer from his home, made a copy of his hard drive, and returned the computer to him.
    Frischling's transgression was posting a TSA security directive detailing new stupid restrictions on airline passengers. ("Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.") Frischling observed that the memo was circulated to thousands of airline personnel all over the world.

    Yesterday, Frischling was told, in effect: "Uh, never mind." Instapundit has more on that anticlimax, with a suggestion that the bullying lawyers involved be hit with ethics charges.

  • In other your-money-down-a-rathole news, GMAC got another $3.8 billion from Your Federal Government.

  • The lovely and talented Victoria Jackson plays Molly Far, a 1773 American colonist plagued by her visions of a terrifying future:


Last Modified 2012-10-05 5:13 AM EDT

Avatar

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

As I type, Avatar is #26 on IMDB's list of the top 250 movies of all time. I don't know about that, but it's pretty amazing, although the amazing stuff is joined with a lot of stupid stuff.

Unless you've been in a cave, you probably know the story. Our hero, Jake, is a paralyzed vet, who gets to inhabit the body of a alien humanoid, the better to interface with the Na'Vi, ostensibly the most intelligent species on the planet Pandora. The idea is to induce the Na'Vi to relocate away from a vast deposit of the valued mineral "unobtanium", conveniently located right under one of the Na'Vi holy places. Jake's loyalty is tested when the humans in charge of the operation reveal themselves to be genocidal psychotics, and just about everyone else is content to meekly follow their lead.

The good things about this movie are very good indeed: writer/director/guru James Cameron has created an amazing visual feast of a world, and some scenes are simply jaw-dropping. And I love Sigourney Weaver. Unfortunately, I'm in agreement with fellow right-wing lunatics John Podhoretz and Ross Douthat: all the fantastic world-building is married to a "blitheringly stupid" and clichéd plot.

However, I'm more inclined to be charitable to the filmmakers: there are only so many plots, after all. Conflict is a necessary ingredient to slam-bang action, and if you're not gonna make the aliens be the bad guys, it pretty much means the humans have to be. Sorry.

So: go see it, switch off your brain, suspend disbelief, have fun.

Consumer alert: Pun Son and I saw Avatar in 3D, and I must admit I got a little nauseous around the 2-hour mark. I previously saw Up and Monsters Vs. Aliens in 3D with no problem; I may have been sitting too close to the screen for Avatar. But you may want to pop some dramamine before entering the theatre.


Last Modified 2014-11-30 2:01 PM EST