If you got an A in Questioning Authority, you flunked.
Pun Salad's first post was five years ago today. Many thanks
All the bloggers out there who inspire, amuse, and provoke thought.
Those few, those proud, who now and again send us a link. That's
All the politicians, pundits, artists, and authors who provide
source material. Even the lefties: if they went away, this
blog would just be a list of books I read, movies I watched,
and banal observations about the weather.
Cathy Poulin, the official, but unaware, and (most importantly)
uncompensated mascot of Pun Salad. Google searches for Cathy
comprise 98.6% of Pun Salad traffic.
Most importantly: you, because you're reading this.
It's a small world, but darned
pretty. Hope you were smiling and looking up when they took that.
If you take cold comfort from evidence that it's not just
American politicians who legislate first, and are surprised by the
"unexpected consequences" later, here's a data point from Old Blighty:
Last year, the British government decided to lift the top rate of income
tax from 41 to 52 percent. Last month, Lord Myners, the UK Secretary of
State for Financial Services, said that the policy would raise not
nearly as much revenue as had been expected.
Funny how that works.
A nice New York Times article about Jeff Bridges.
Not all of his movies are worth watching, but he's almost always
the best thing in them. He's nominated for an Oscar for his role
in Crazy Heart; it's his fifth nomination with (so far) zero
point zero wins.
But if he doesn't win this year, I noticed that he's
playing—whoa—Marshal Rooster Cogburn
in an upcoming remake of True Grit, directed
by—whoa!—the Coen brothers. That could be very cool,
and wouldn't it be great if he got the Oscar playing the same role
for which John Wayne got his?
Perhaps all this Bridgesmania will grant my
other Jeff-related wish: that they would issue
Hearts of the
West on DVD. I saw it once, thirty-five years ago, and I'd
dearly like to see it once more.
They keep coming, and I keep laughing, especially since this
relates to the Day Job:
Any resemblance to an IT Department at a University Near Here is
Wowzers, kids! President Obama has this big "bipartisan meeting"
coming up to… well, do something about Obamacare.
Hopefully it will be as persuasive as were the last eight months
or so of hectoring, back-room deals, gimmicks, and propaganda.
But in preparation for this big push,
the White House rolled out a new slick website.
And if you click around a bit, you'll find a page aimed at those
who have employer-provided health insurance, and there you'll find…
There's fine print. Let's see if they do any better there:
Nothing in the health reform bill will require you to change your
coverage. What the bill will do is strengthen the coverage you get at
work by making it easier to understand and adding some clear rules to
rein in the worst insurance company abuses.
Left unsaid is: nothing in the "health reform bill"
guarantees that you won't have to
change your coverage. And there's plenty of stuff in the bill
that places new restrictions/mandates/regulations on employers
and insurance providers; turning the existing market upside down
will inevitably cause drastic changes in coverage for millions
of employees; they will not be "able to keep it".
Language explaining what's in your plan will have to be simple and clear
so that you know what your benefits are and what's covered.
That's nice. And I believe it too, because
the government has a great track record of
mandating simple and clear language.
But it's not at all relevant to the "you can keep it" point.
Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to place a lifetime limit
on the amount of care they pay for. And in some cases insurance
companies with excessive overhead costs will be required to give you a
rebate. And, if your adult children are living at home up to age 26
they can be covered under your family policy.
And your six-year-old daughter can have a pony that never poops.
But other than you getting showered with these expensive benefits, absolutely
nothing will change if you don't want it to!
More honest observers note that the details of the President's
recently-announced plan make it even less likely that the "you can keep
it" pledge will be a reality. Phillip Klein at
AmSpecBlog points out new restrictions—over and above those
in the House/Senate versions—on "grandfathered" plans, and
All of the new requirements proposed by Obama would increase premiums,
and by definition, alter the composition of those insurance plans. The
White House would argue that it is changing the policies for the better.
But the entire point of having "grandfathered plans" was to protect a
class of policies from changes imposed by the new legislation. Put
another way, the provision to allow people to keep their "grandfathered
plans" is rendered meaningless when the federal government is dictating
what is in them.
Obama's "you can keep it" lie has been obvious for a long time. He even more
or less admitted it last month.
And yet, that doesn't stop
him from repeating it. It might be worth your while to read Victor Davis Hanson on what he calls "the Obamarang":
All politicians fudge on their promises. But this president manages to
transcend the normal political exaggeration and dissimulation. Whereas
past executives shaded the truth, Barack Obama trumps that: on almost
every key issue, what Obama says he will do, and what he says is true,
is a clear guide to what he will not do, and what is not true. It is as
if "truth" is a mere problem of lesser mortals.
Amy Kane reacts
to a commie-radio Travel Commentator naming Portsmouth, NH as one of eight romantic
cities and towns. In North America.
Yeah, me neither. (I assume he's never been to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.)
Here's Amy pointing out one major drawback:
Rain, which is intermittently torrential today, is one reason. And it's
not nice rain. Soft rain. Paris rain. Irish countryside rain. It's cold
hard New England rain. It's made of granite and ice and the tormented
souls of Puritans. Sometimes it comes with a howling wind from the North
Atlantic and then picks up some additional wet chill from the
100-foot-deep Piscataqua River - a cold river made of a hundred cold
rivulets and mountain streams, and studded with sharp rocks, deadly
whirlpools and nuclear attack submarines.
Prof Bainbridge observes
that polls, specifically polls that purport to gauge public attitudes on
health care legislation, never seem to ask the right questions.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
And if your only competence is campaigning, well,
President Barack Obama's top advisers are quietly laying the groundwork
for the 2012 reelection campaign, which is likely to be run out of
Chicago and managed by White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina,
according to Democrats familiar with the discussions.
Running for it is way more fun than, y'know, being it.
After it spent about a month at the top of my queue, Netflix finally got around
to sending me The Hurt Locker. Worth the wait!
The movie covers a few weeks in the life of an Army squad that arguably
has the most dangerous job in the world: bomb disposal in Iraq. They've
recently added a new guy, Sgt. James; this is because a previous guy,
Sgt. Thompson got blown up in the opening scene.
Sgt. James joins Sgt. Sanborn, a by-the-book guy, and Spc Eldridge, a
youngster who's having psychological difficulties with the constant
threat of sudden death. To the consternation of his teammates,
James turns out to be a loose cannon, an
adrenaline junkie (a point that the movie makes with no subtlety
whatsoever). But he's also extremely good at his job.
If you want edge-of-your-seat suspense, this is your movie.
But my fellow right-wing troglodytes will want to know whether
it's yet another entry in the string of Hollywood-leftist antiwar
screeds. I'd say: yes, kinda. But your mileage may vary, and I thought
it was still very much worth watching. For further discussion
I recommend Andrew Klavan,
John Nolte, and Mark Hemingway.
The main roles are played by relatively unknown actors. You'll notice
some familiar faces who make brief appearances. For example, Evangeline
Lilly was onscreen and off practically before I got a chance to say
"Hey, that's Kate from Lost!"
Not to be confused with the biopic of Christopher 'Biggie' Wallace.
This one has Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman,
and Claude Rains. IMDB ranks it #127 on its list of the top 250
movies of all time. Directed by Hitchcock, written by Ben Hecht,
and no rap music that I could discern.
Mr. Grant plays good-guy spy T. R. Devlin, who recruits Alicia Huberman
to infiltrate a group of
postwar Nazis who have holed up in Brazil, and are up to
something nefarious. She's the daughter of a just-convicted Nazi
sympathizer, but her real occupation is Miami party girl/floozy, and
maintaining a 24x7 alcoholic fog.
But soon they're flying off to Rio, and… well, look, it's Cary
Grant and Ingrid Bergman, you think they aren't gonna fall
for each other? In Rio? But it's not happily-ever-after for them, because
Alicia's assignment turns out to involve turning her feminine wiles
upon Alex Sebastian (Mr. Rains), chief Nazi slimeball and
Understandably enough, friction is generated between Devlin's professional
duties and his personal feelings. He doesn't communicate this well at
all to Alicia, who stomps off and throws herself into Sebastian's
arms, and, it's strongly implied, other body parts as well. She rapidly
finds herself in all kinds of peril.
The DVD I got from Netflix was digitally restored, and included a number of
good extras, including a charming excerpt from the 1979 American Film
Institute tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, where the post-movie
history of a small but vital prop was revealed.
President Obama will call for new government power to regulate
insurance-rate increases as part of comprehensive changes to the
health-care system that the White House will unveil on its Web site
Monday, senior officials said.
So the guy who promised to bring the nation (at long last) into the 21st
century is revitalizing one of the worst ideas of the previous
century: price controls.
Maybe there are enough idjit legislators who (a) don't remember the
Nixon/Ford/Carter era's experiences; (b) who can't predict the Econ-101
consequences; or (c) don't care about either of those things, because
they hope they can bamboozle the electorate into thinking they're "doing
something" about health care costs.
I hope not. Obama deserves to crash and burn, but I hope he doesn't take
the country down with him.
Pun Salad maintained a "Phony Campaign" watch in 2007-2008, tracking the
Google hits for accusations/acts of phoniness from/by our presidential
candidates. (Example here.)
This year, according to Andrew Stuttaford,
Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is taking an early lead in the 2012
Phony Campaign, based on the
Governor's speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
[…] when I read that the governor "appealed to the tea-party movement,
calling its critics a 'brie-eating' elite from 'Ivy League schools' who
don't like 'Sam's Club Republicans' who 'actually like shopping at
places like Wal-Mart,'" I thought just one thing: The guy's a phony.
With all due respect to the Governor, if he's looking to win the Phony
Campaign, he'll have lots of competition. It's a marathon, not a
S. E. Cupp reviews
the "Passover Box of Plagues" favorably. You can get it
from (I am not making this up) "OyToys.com";
unlike Ms. Cupp's, it comes in a pyramid-shaped box, and is billed for
ages 3 and up. (Which I am also
not making up.)
You don't want to be too
funny at Redmond Junior High School.
Pun Salad Manor was recently nudged by its cable provider into
upgrading to a digital TV package. (It was either that or no more NESN.)
There's a smattering of new stuff. Waaaay
up on Channel 284 was Fox Business, which is the
new home of John Stossel. The first "Stossel"
show I watched had Congressman Paul
Ryan invoking Hayek's
Road to Serfdom
in the introduction; later,
Reason magazine's editor, Matt Welch showed up. Awesome. I'm
Here's a sample from last month, where Stossel describes an instantiation of crony
If you prefer your blood pressure to be raised via print instead,
Stossel's associated column is here;
but you'll miss MSNBC's Rachel Maddow's smiling endorsement
of a politically well-connected
business getting fat on the taxpayer teat.
Speaking of Hayek, David Boaz has a good summary of what he calls the
Boom". Boaz quotes heavily from this WaPo
column from Bruce Caldwell, who edits Hayek's collected works.
He reports that The Road to Serfdom, had
always been an OK seller, about 600 copies per month.
But then, in November 2008, sales more than quadrupled, and they haven't
slowed down since. What's more, the Kindle edition went on sale in late
May 2009 and is now the best-selling book that the University of Chicago
Press has offered in that format. This would be a pretty good sales
record for a contemporary author, but it is nothing short of amazing for
a book originally published in 1944, and by an economist, no less.
Hm, November 2008. What happened then? Oh, right.
Caldwell also prepends the famous Hayek
vs. Keynes rap video. A bit econ-wonky, but it's seven and a half
minutes good clean fun. Crank it up, yo.
Since Robert B. Parker passed away last month, I read this with an extra
twinge of poignancy: There won't be many more unread Parker books,
and you're reading one of the last.
This appears to be the next-to-last novel in his Jesse Stone
series. Jesse's still the police chief in Paradise, MA, and he's still
tottering on the edge of alcoholic
self-destruction, due to his devotion to
trampy ex-wife Jenn. But (fortunately for the reader) he has other problems: a
local school principal has inexplicably held a pre-dance panty
inspection for the girls in her charge. (It doesn't help that
the principal is married to a politically well-connected lawyer.)
One of the girls, impressed with
Jesse, asks him to investigate a swingers' club that her parents
And (finally) there's a peeping tom afoot in
town, and he's threatening to escalate his tactics.
Not too much detecting going on here: Jesse pretty much has the primary
bad guy handed to him on a platter. There is a lot of shrink-talk about
the nature of obsession, with an indirect parallel made between
the peeper's need to look at nekkid ladies, and Jesse's attachment to
Jenn. That can be tedious.
Our favorite lady detective from Boston, Sunny Randall, reappears in
Jesse's life, and helps him (apparently) make some progress in
his personal life.
Cinderella Man inexplicably bombed at the box office back in
2005, despite having two big stars, Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger,
and a director who knows how to make crowd-pleasing commercial
Ron Howard. (And it even has two actors from the "That Guy"
list, Bruce McGill and Ron's brother Clint.) Should have been big,
but as they say in the movie biz, nobody knows anything.
It's the story of real-life boxing legend
James J. Braddock, played by Mr. Crowe. As the movie
opens, he's doing OK, making decent money in the fight game. But a few
years later, we're in the midst of the Great Depression, and Braddock
has to deal with injuries; he's widely considered to be a has-been.
He struggles to find work, pay the bills, and keep
his family together. But… guess why they called it Cinderella
Man? By dint of his courage, honesty, and talent (and a dogged
manager played by Paul Giamatti), he manages to stage an
against-all-odds comeback. The climax is his championship
fight against Max Baer (who's inaccurately
depicted as a murderous swine).
Funny line: between rounds, a bloody
Braddock is admonished by his manager: "You
gotta stop some of those left hands!" Braddock replies: "You see any getting
past my head?"
everybody's good here, and the movie looks great.
Since it's based on
a true story, if you know anything about boxing, you know how it comes
out. It's a little long, clocking in at 144 minutes. It got a also-ran
mention in National Review's list of the "Best
Conservative Movies" of the past 25 years.
Another one of my favorite authors, Dick Francis, has passed
the ripe age of 89, in the Cayman Islands. For way too long, I avoided
his books because I knew they were set in the horse racing world.
Big mistake; they're about intrepid, admirable people going up against
adversaries and adversity at long odds, and prevailing. That works well
for me with
or without horses. The NYT
obit quotes John Leonard: "Not to read Dick Francis because you
don't like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don't like
Larry Thornberry in the American Spectator also pays
If you've never read Francis, and you'd like a taste, with not too much
horse in it, I recommend
Proof, which got me started.
Why the transfer of decisions from those with personal experience and a
stake in the outcome to those with neither can be expected to lead to
better decisions is a question seldom asked, much less answered. Given
the greater cost of correcting surrogate decisions, compared to
correcting individual decisions, and the greater cost of persisting in
mistaken decisions by those making decisions for themselves, compared to
the lower costs of those making mistaken decisions for others, the
economic success of market economies is hardly surprising and neither
are the counterproductive and often disastrous results of various forms
of social engineering.
Unfortunately, the folks in control of Your Federal Government
don't show any signs of understanding that insight, let alone being guided by
At the Corner, Jonah Goldberg goes
to town on recent reports on how the White House plans to
turn around its "communications strategy". It reminded me of the
old saw: when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like
a nail. The Administration
has long been criticized for being in permanent campaign mode, primarily
because the campaign was their only real success, election campaigns
the only thing they really know how to do. That's their hammer.
And they plan to … guess what?
Read the whole thing to find out, but I'll quote Jonah's fine-tuned
clash of pop-culture references:
The gist of all of this is that the White House has concluded it needs
to hone precisely the strategy it's had all along. This is a new
streamlined, retooled, cowbell 2.0 strategy. Faster, more efficient and
more selective bell-ringing will turn things around for the White House.
Moreover, they're telling us in advance how they're going to crank this
cowbell to eleven.
I can't wait for Obama to intone "Message: I care"
at a New Hampshire
town hall meeting.
This is Pun Salad, so: "Bye, Bayh."
(20,500 hits as I type, probably more by the time you read.)
A commenter at IMDB has a pretty good 5-word review: "Film noir meets
Frank Capra." But if you like woman-falls-for-man-with-a-secret-past plots, it's
got that. If you like police procedurals, it's got that. And if you like
courtroom drama, it's got that too.
And, yes, this is the second Charles Coburn movie I've seen this month.
Good catch. He's very good here, as a diligent cop—although he's
not particularly believable as a cop. Charles Coburn deserves
a spot on the "That Guy" list.
But he never played that young guy; his first movie role came in
1933, at the age of 56. And he kept working in movies and TV roles
right up until he passed away in 1961, at the age of 84.
Oh, right. The movie. What's it about? Well, Brian Donlevy plays
well-to-do hard-charging businessmen Walter Williams.
His only soft spot is for his wife; she turns
him into a moony romantic. Unfortunately, she's only in it for the
money, and she plans to get it by having her illicit lover
The murder plot doesn't hatch in the way they expect, though. Walter
ends up in Larkspur, Idaho, disillusioned with life and love. But then
he meets a girl…
The movie is a lot of fun, and any Bay-area Lileks would have a field
day with the many scenes shot in late-1940s
San Francisco, Sausalito, and Larkspur.
The latter is actually in California. There's a great scene where
Walter, having joined the local fire department, jumps on the back of a
firetruck as it bolts out of the station and races down the street.
And, channelling my inner Lileks,
I found the fire station is still around.
The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's
copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that
virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film.
Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are
either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor
quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more)
copies of the film.
There are a lot of versions available at Amazon (and, I assume,
elsewhere), so caveat emptor. Still, even a lousy copy is better
than none. The one I got from Netflix … well, I don't remember
hearing one of the IMDB quotes ("In this
world, you turn the other cheek, and you get hit with a lug wrench."), and my
DVD player had some difficulty with it.
Specifically, that was in Dover, New Hampshire, on September 12, 2008:
And 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.
In my earlier too-long post
about Nancy Thomas and UNH's "Democracy
Initiative", I quoted this paragraph from her Inside Higher Edarticle
that claimed a need to suppress provocative and impolite tactics used by
conservative university students:
We need to be clear about what these acts [by conservative students]
are: attention-seeking tactics
that intimidate faculty, students, and guest speakers, distort facts,
reduce public issues to simplistic sound-bites, and inhibit the
thoughtful exchange of ideas and deliberation, both in and out of the
classroom. The students named in the Times are not trying to offset
liberal bias - they are trying to prevent learning and chill, if not
stop, civil discourse.
By odd coincidence, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
today has an account
of an actual attempt to prevent discourse by a guest speaker at UC
Irvine earlier in the week.
On Monday, a few dozen people disrupted a speech by Michael
Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, who was speaking at the University of
California, Irvine (UCI), in the UCI Student Center for a
public lecture on "U.S. Israel Relations from a Political and Personal
Perspective." The lecture was sponsored by 10 campus bodies including
the Department of Political Science and the School of Law, as well as
the Consulate General of Israel and three other off-campus bodies.
Indications are the perpetrators of the
disuption were not local right-wing knuckle-draggers, but UCI's
Muslim Student Union. Ambassador Oren refused to be suppressed,
calmly waiting out the hecklers. Indications are that the disruptors
might face disciplinary action from UCI, as well as criminal charges.
Unlike Ms. Thomas's fantasies, actual disruptions against
civil discourse in academe (a) aren't typically
perpetrated by conservatives and (b) can be
well-handled by existing procedures.
When I saw the word hyrdofracking, I was pretty sure
it referred to some Cylon torture technique on Battlestar
Galactica. ("We'll see if Adama doesn't talk after a few sessions in
the Hyrdrofracking Chamber!") But it's a real word. (Via University Diarist.)
This sounds like one of those improv stunts where the performers
shouted suggestions from the audience and build a skit around. Except in
this case, they built …
Bowlingual: iPhone app translates what your dog barks, posts it to
Up next: an iPhone app that monitors your blood pressure,
detects when you're irritated, and automatically
composes a standard blog post
ridiculing whatever's in your web browser window.
(Via Granite Geek.)
Hey, that's us! And, unfortunately, it's yet another embarrassment for
the University Near Here, a reminder that it's
hostile to the free speech rights of students. It starts:
The New York Times last month reported a story about several politically active students
who crossed the line from what the Times called "high jinks" to
allegedly committing a federal felony (by breaking into the office of
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to learn whether the Senator's office
was deliberately not answering phone calls). While this criminal
activity is nothing short of outrageous, I assume it is an aberration.
It is, however, connected to a bigger problem.
Aside: Ms. Thomas reveals her somewhat casual attitude toward accuracy
when she bills the arrested desperados as "politically active students".
After reading the NYT article she links, it's pretty clear that
they aren't current students. Still, I suppose if you're pitching an
article to Inside Higher Ed, it helps if you can make that
connection, even if you have to fudge a bit.
But, for better or worse, the legal system will determine
the fate of James O'Keefe and his merry men.
So what's the "bigger problem" that has Ms. Thomas so hot and bothered?
Turns out, it's free speech:
These students [sic] are part of an organized group of conservative
students whose tactics are already well-known on many college campuses:
selling cookies at reduced rates to women and students-of-color in
protest of affirmative action; sneaking video cameras into classrooms
and campus forums and posting out-of-context excerpts, often
anonymously, as evidence of liberal indoctrination on campus; hosting a
gun raffle; researching and publicizing campaign contributions of
faculty members and staff. High jinks? Really? Check the campusreform.org
Web site, which advises, "Why take action? Because it will shock your
opposition." Is that why activism matters, to shock and discourage
others? Are faculty members and other students "the opposition?"
Why, it's nothing less than the college division of the Vast Right Wing
Conspiracy! But, other than that, what's the problem?
We need to be clear about what these acts are: attention-seeking tactics
that intimidate faculty, students, and guest speakers, distort facts,
reduce public issues to simplistic sound-bites, and inhibit the
thoughtful exchange of ideas and deliberation, both in and out of the
classroom. The students named in the Times are not trying to offset
liberal bias - they are trying to prevent learning and chill, if not
stop, civil discourse.
Gee, attention-seeking tactics? So what?
But other than that, what can we pull out of this hodgepodge
of unsupported assertions?
Ms. Thomas imagines that there are ideal
rules for the Marketplace of Ideas, University Subsection.
Under those rules, participants would never be "intimidated"; no
facts would ever be "distorted"; nothing would be "simplistic";
everything would be "thoughtful" and "civil"; "learning" would ensue;
All we need to do is to stop those guys from violating the
And Ms. Thomas, and her like-minded ilk, will be the happy enforcers.
In other words, the typical academic excuses for suppressing
inconvenient/impolite exercise of speech.
No problem, there, right?
Recently, everyday citizens, columnists (including Tom Friedman, also
in the Times), newspaper editors, and President
Obama have amplified their call for the end of partisan gamesmanship and
tactics that promote vitriol, conflict, and stalemates at the national
level. It's time that colleges and universities demand the same of their
The link is to a recent Thomas J. Friedman column where he wistfully
points out China's "authoritarian decision-making process that is
capable of making tough choices". Just the role model we need for
University free-speech referees! Who, Ms. Thomas advocates, will
"demand" certain behavior from their subjects if they dare to
exercise their Constitutional rights.
Ms. Johnson then confidently intones:
We know what we should do:
… and then lists three vague, jargon-laden, feelgood proposals
her ideal acceptable college-based
"public discourse" can occur. Not coincidentally, I imagine,
all three involve greater job opportunities for people like Nancy
Thomas: creating "structured learning opportunities"; setting up
"certificate programs", "summer institutes", etc.; dragooning members of
the "broader community" into "discussions about pressing issues." But
(above all) ensuring that no "high jinks" break out.
Initial link is via Phi Beta Cons, where David French nicely rebuts Ms. Thomas's article.
The Democracy Imperative's website, hosted on UNH servers, is here. If you would like to rot
your brain in an effort to find out …
… well, they seem to talk to each other. A lot. They meet. They present.
They make bunches of bulleted lists. But, above all, they write: paragraph
after paragraph of self-important
word-stuffed gasbaggery that will leave you less
after reading it. Check it out!
On the site's home page, you'll read:
Our mission has changed! We dropped “deliberative” from our tag
line and mission statement. To learn why, click
Oh my! What was the reasoning behind that momentous decision? At the
link, you'll read a few hundred words… and still not know exactly
why. Apparently it was holding them back from doing something they
decided they wanted to do? Maybe.
Periodically, we send out notices about a “teachable moment” in
the news and we suggest you convene dialogues about that topic (e.g.,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform). We do that
not only because we want to encourage dialogue. We do it because we
think the ruling (in this case) is very, very bad for democracy. So
we’re advocating for a position.
It's not particularly surprising that Ms. Thomas (who, as near as I can
tell, is the "we" in the quoted paragraph) disapproves of
the outcome of Citizens
United. As evidenced by her article, she doesn't see the First
Amendment as one of the cornerstones of democracy; instead it's an
inconvenience to be ignored when the wrong people use it in ways of
which she disapproves.
The Club for
Growth blog notes inconsistency in NH Senator Judd Gregg's
position on the so-called "individual mandate" for health care
insurance. Apparently he was for it before he was against it. And now
he may be for it again. Might be time to send him a letter.
But Judd's on his way home after his current term, which has set up
a mad scramble on the GOP side to replace him. (The Democrats seem have
to have settled on 2nd District Congressman Paul Hodes.) Drew Cline
the recent polling by the Survey Center of the University Near Here, and
finds that things are looking pretty good for the Republicans to retain
the Senate seat and also to switch NH's two House seats from Blue back
to Red. Unless they screw it up, an ever-possible development.
Or maybe they're just trying to cheer me up. If you like your polling
data raw, the Survey Center's 49 page PDF report is here.
Dana Milbank of the Washington Postdraws
attention to recent remarks by President Obama:
"Bipartisan cannot mean simply that Democrats give up everything that
they believe in, find the handful of things that Republicans have been
advocating for and we do those things," he told reporters at an
unscheduled news conference. "That's certainly not how it works in my
marriage with Michelle -- although I usually do give in, most of the
Believe me, Mr. President: that's not an analogy you want to make. The
Mrs. won't be flattered by the comparison. And nearly every
Republican will be making an off-color
guess about about what you want to do to them in the name of
Adam Leech reports in the Portsmouth Herald that local officials have
turned down "free money" from the federal government, because building a
new water treatment plant with stimulus funds will be too expensive.
Major cost-boosting items when you accept "stimulus" funds are the
Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" requirement and "Buy American"
requirement. And then the extra administration cost in reporting
"jobs saved or created" back to the Feds…
I was sure I was mishearing those lyrics, and we'd all have a good laugh
when I found out what they really were. But as it turns
I never really thought of the Eagles and Steely Dan as
inhabiting the same universe.
Ace Associated Press reporter Emily Fredrix reports
on the Super Bowl ads. Only problem is, notes
John Hinderaker, Emily was kind of making stuff up.
Ann Althouse has a lot of funny stuff about the Super Bowl ads, but
here she echoed something I've thought about quite
a bit too, sparked in this instance by the Who at halftime:
This is a music act from 40+ years ago. Imagine if in the first Super
Bowl, in 1967, the half-time show featured musicians who peaked in 1927.
No. It's not imaginable. The strange dominance of My Generation is
"How do you think he does it?" "I don't know."
A word I will try to work into the next buzzword-laden management
meeting I'm roped into attending: mistakeholders.
On a related note, scientists are verifying something I've always
believed: you really can be bored to death.
I'm a bit ashamed to admit this is the first book I've read by Mark
Helprin; his name haunts most of the "Books All Good Conservatives
Should Read" lists, including this recent one at
National Review. But—hey!—I'd heard of him,
and I'd noted some reviews of Digital Barbarism; so when I spied
it in the New Book stacks at the library of the University Near Here,
I grabbed it.
The tone is set immediately, in the book's preface, page
xi, sentence one:
Even were this book to begin in medias res, which, as an essay-memoir,
it does not, a reader might benefit from a brief guide to the terrain
In medias res? Really? Helprin, to say the least, does not talk
down to his readers. And it's not a book you can breeze through;
Helprin's prose is dense, filled with literary allusions, historical
references, and gratuitous snippets of non-English
that (I'm pretty sure) smarter people than me will stumble over.
But (in a sense) the book really does begin in medias res. (Hey,
look it up; I did.) It's
at least round three in an ongoing debate between Helprin and
(generally) the enemies of intellectual property and (specifically)
Lawrence Lessig and the Creative Commons bunch. It was sparked back in
Helprin wrote an op-ed
for the New York Times, where he argued for an extension of
copyright terms beyond the current 70 years past the death of the
author. This unleashed a firestorm against Helprin.
Part of the problem
was the NYT's headline: "A Great Idea Lives Forever.
Shouldn’t Its Copyright?". Helprin notes that, as a
Constitutionalist, he agrees with the notion of a finite copyright
period; he just was advocating its extension beyond 70 years. But that
It would perhaps have been comforting that the Times's inaccurate
choice was the face that launched three-quarters of a million protests,
but it wasn't. Certainly, a large number of people read just the title
and then proceeded happily to vent their rage, but, in Lewis Carollian
twilight, even those "analysts" who purported to have read the text, and
those who actually did read it, read into it what was not there, and
based their arguments, rebuttals, and abuse on something that did not
exist, as if the didn't really need a text to set them off, which they
didn't, although they said they did, because that, anyway, used to be
This effect will not be unfamiliar to anyone who's written something
controversial in a place where it can be read, and commented upon, by
any idiot with a keyboard. And it was more than just plain misreading:
one thread of commenters seized upon the fact that Helprin's novel Winter's
Tale was based upon Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale; if
Helprin advocated perpetual copyright, how does he have the nerve, the
sheer gall to leapfrog off another writer's work like that?
Only problem, as Helprin points out: despite the similarity in title,
his novel didn't have anything to do with the play. But that didn't stop
So I'm inclined to side with Helprin, but the book is not really the
defense of copyright, let alone intellectual property generally,
that the topic deserves. You can see part of the problem from the quoted
paragraph above. As accurate and well-written as it is, it's not much of
an argument to point out that a lot of your opponents make stupid
Helprin bills this book as an "essay-memoir". The memoir parts
are interesting, and (unsurprisingly) well-written. But they can
distract from the fact that the essay bits are unfocused and incomplete.
I can recommend the book as a good read (but not light reading).
Over at the Technology Liberation Front, Adam
his review of Digital Barbarism (which I find on-target),
and also provides a feast of links
for the interested.
Mrs. Salad's six-word review of Zombieland: "Shoot, shoot, shoot.
Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw."
That's pretty accurate; I liked it a lot better than she did, but your
mileage may vary;
have to have a high threshhold for gore, violence, and bad language.
The film's protagonist is "Columbus", a likeable nerd who has somehow
survived the zombie apocalypse by meticulously discovering and following
a long list of rules. (The role is played by Jesse Eisenberg, who I found whiny
in Adventureland; he's
much better here.) Columbus forms an unlikely partnership with
"Tallahassee", played by Woody Harrelson. Tallahassee's goals differ
slightly: he's out to kill as many zombies as possible, and also to
satisfy a craving he's developed for
Soon Columbus and Tallahassee encounter two young unzombified
and "Little Rock" (Emma Stone, and Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail
Breslin.) They form an unstable partnership as well.
Everything is pretty much played for laughs here, and much of the dialog
is clever and funny. (A considerable amount is not clever, but still
funny.) A number of commenters/reviewers note that it's
like an Americanized Shaun of the Dead, and that's about right.
There's a wonderful cameo performance midway through the movie
that I will not spoil. But
the actor involved cements my opinion of him as a massive good sport.
PALO ALTO, CA—Alzheimer's researchers at Stanford University
published a study this week showing that the degenerative brain disease
is beginning to affect the baby boomer generation, causing many to
remember the 1960s even less accurately than they normally would.
Welcome to Miami! Get ready for a fun
Super Bowl week, because you're going to see some serious
partying ``Miami Style'' -- people eating, drinking,
singing, shouting, fighting, discharging firearms,
sacrificing animals, sinking motor yachts and dancing naked
around burning buses. And those are our police
Go Saints! Or Colts! I don't care! I'm just hoping Pete Townshend makes
it through halftime without breaking a hip.
Florida-based "Protect Our Children" wants the NFL to reconsider letting
"The Who" perform, and even sent 1,500 "sex offender advisory" postcards
to homes and schools, warning residents to watch out for Townshend.
… and also Cousin Kevin.
A funny-yet-serious post from Steve Landsburg, who
Congressman Donald Schwerbitz, who represented South Dakota back in the
1960s and 70s, was a visionary environmentalist who sponsored the first
legislation designed to reduce our national carbon footprint. It was
Congressman Schwerbitz who recognized that carbon emissions are caused
primarily by breathing, and he proposed to cut those emissions in half
by requiring every American to wear a device that plugs up one nostril.
Steve notes that the Schwerbitz spirit is still alive and well
today, and writing op-eds in the Washington Post.
President Obama came up to Nashua, NH yesterday. You may have heard
about his slam at Las Vegas.
During the president's town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, he
discussed the need to curb spending during tough economic times. "When
times are tough, you tighten your belts," the president said. "You don't
go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a
bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."
(For all I know, when he's in Nevada, he tells people there not to go
to New Hampshire.)
Now, if you hear some of the critics, they'll say, well, the Recovery
Act, I don't know if that's really worked, because we still have high
unemployment. But what they fail to understand is that every economist,
from the left and the right, have said because of the Recovery Act, what
we've started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have
either been created or would have been lost.
Yes, he's back to the whole "jobs created or saved" bit, and upping the
ante—note the clever use of gambling terms here—by claiming
that this is a number every economist ("from the left and the
right") has supported.
As Mark Steyn wrote
a few days back: "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."
over a week ago, three different White House advisers gave three
different estimates of jobs "created or saved" by the Recovery Act.
These were people working for Obama who couldn't even present
a consistent story. Is it likely that independent economists would
do a better job?
As I type, even Obama's own Recovery.gov website
is only reporting 599,108 jobs "funded" by the Recovery Act. And
Tapper of ABC News pointed out) they are using a more generous estimate
than the "created or saved" criteria.
[I]f the project is being funded with stimulus dollars – even if the
person worked at that company or organization before and will work the
same place afterwards – that’s a stimulus job.
(Tapper's piece, by the way, was meant to note the passing of the
widely ridiculed "jobs created or saved" formulation, based on the
recommendation of OMB Director Peter Orszag. But, as noted, Obama
is still using it.)
“Government job creation is an oxymoron,” said Bill Dunkelberg,
chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business. It
is only by depriving the private sector of funds that government can
hire or subsidize hiring.
That’s why “jobs created or saved” is such pure fiction. It
ignores what’s unseen, as our old friend Frederic Bastiat explained
so eloquently 160 years ago in an essay.
[S]chool districts (the main source of the jobs that were formerly
described as "created or saved") can simply divide their federal money
by the quarterly compensation for teachers and report the result as jobs
"funded" by the Recovery Act, even if no teachers would have been laid
off in the abence of the money. If a public housing authority uses
stimulus money to replace windows in one of its apartment complexes, and
the project involves three guys from Ace Windows and Doors working
full-time for a month, that counts as a job for that quarter, even if
all of the guys would have been employed without this particular
contract—and even if the housing authority would have replaced the
windows without the federal grant. It also sounds like it is now
officially OK to count raises for existing employees as jobs, as a
number of recipents erroneously did last time around.
I could keep going, but it's shooting fish in a barrel.
Obama's claims are nonsense. Obama knows they're nonsense. He's making
anyway. What does that say about him?
As you'll notice, the DVD publishers consider Marilyn Monroe the
selling point here, putting her, um, profile on the box. (I guess that's
two selling points. Ha!)
But there are three bigger reasons that will snag classic movie lovers:
it has (1) Cary Grant and
(2) Ginger Rogers. And it's directed by
(3) Howard Hawks. Marilyn is pretty good here, but hers is a minor
Cary and Ginger play Barnaby and Edwina Fulton, a staid and respectable
middle-aged couple. Barnaby, a scientist,
is preoccupied to
the point of absent-mindedness over his current research: a drug
he hopes will reverse the vicissitudes of aging. Oxley, his boss,
is eager to market it as a fountain-of-youth potion.
Marilyn plays Miss Laurel, Oxley's scatterbrained secretary, not hired for her
typing skills. (When Barnaby remarks that she's come to work early,
she replies: "Mr. Oxley's been complaining about my punctuation, so I'm
careful to get here before nine.")
They're testing on chimps; in a very amusing scene, one of the monkeys
gets loose and, undetected, mixes together a random collection of
ingredients and dumps it in the water cooler; this actually happens to
work. Soon Barnaby is acting much younger than his age, carrying
on with Miss Laurel. It's a hoot.
In fact, it gets to be a trifle too silly for me, which means that
it will peg the meter for many.
I hear you asking: does Ginger Rogers have a
dancing scene? Yes, she does, dragging Cary Grant around the floor.
He's no Astaire.
Also: this may be the single best acting performance
by a chimpanzee I've ever seen.
I've never been a fan of "It's the X, stupid" construction.
So I'll instead summarize Steve Landsburg's illuminating
post this way: It's the spending, you attractive, intelligent,
and amusing person,
This is why it's so frustrating to hear talk of blue ribbon commissions
assigned to the task of "debt reduction". "Debt reduction" can mean less
spending, or more taxes, or some combination thereof. But to raise taxes
solely for the purpose of debt reduction is to mask the problem, not to
solve it. Debt is not the problem; spending is. Hysteria about the debt
Read the above link before you go to Keith Hennessey's analysis
of President Obama's proposed budget. Keith has produced
excellent graphs (both more revealing and prettier than mine),
but the point is the same: Obama proposes a massive and
permanent increase in
Federal spending as a share of the total economy. No shock, unless
you were actually taking his rhetoric seriously.
Here's the problem: for me,
Gregory Peck is Horatio Hornblower; Atticus Finch;
Captain Ahab; Marlowe in The Guns of Navarone; and so on.
So I have a hard time believing him in this role: New York City
sportswriter Mike Hagen.
He's not bad, mind you. But…
While in California, Mike meets Marilla (Lauren Bacall).
They are mutually smitten and tie the knot. But the joke is that they
really don't know that much about each other. Mike is a regular joe,
immersed in the sports world, while Marilla is a fashion designer,
with plenty of high society friends. That might be enough conflict for a
plot right there, but (a) Mike, for some reason, finds it necessary to
lie incessantly to Marilla about his previous girlfriend; (b) Mike's
also writing about a local mobster's influence in the boxing scene, and
the mobster's none too pleased. All these things work themselves out
eventually, but it takes awhile.
It's not dreadful, but a lot of the jokes fall flat.
White, the lonely Maytag repairman, as a snitch! Edward Platt, the
Chief himself, as the gangster irked with Mike! And Chuck Connors as one
of his henchmen!
Pretty Pictures of the Federal Budget (FY 2011 Version)
The Federal Budget for
Fiscal Year 2011
We continue the tradition
(because we've done it before, in 2005,
2009) of producing
some simple graphs from the tables provided.
Here's a graph of Federal receipts and
outlays since 1977, expressed as percent of GDP;
post-2009 numbers are estimates:
Here's what that works out to in terms of deficit spending:
Standard disclaimer: if you're thinking this is simple-minded, you're
right. In my defense,
the percent-of-GDP seems appropriate
for historical comparison; it seems to be (arguably) a good measure
of what we can "afford"; and, if you believe
"damage the economy", then it's a pretty good proxy for the level
Good news: FY2010 outlays are predicted to be "only" 25.4% of GDP;
last year's estimate for FY2010 outlays was 27.7% of GDP.
That's only good news if you're an idiot. 25.4% of GDP is still
the highest outlay level since 1945. (As recently as FY2007 it was
only 20.7% of GDP.)
FY2011 spending is projected to only shrink slightly below FY2010: 25.1%.
FY2009 and (predicted) FY2010 receipts are 14.8% of GDP, the lowest
The deficit is estimated to peak at 10.6% of GDP in FY2010, also the
highest it's been since 1945. (As recently as FY2007 it was 1.2% of
The bad news is that federal government outlays
consumed 18.2 percent of economic output when Bush took office. In
other words, […] the size and
scope of government has increased dramatically since 2001. The worse
news is that the long-run
spending forecasts show a cataclysmic expansion in the burden of
government. The "optimistic" estimate is that the federal government
will consume more than 30 percent of GDP by 2050 and 40 percent of GDP
And the even worse news is: anyone who has been paying attention will
not find this surprising at all.
Just like Bush, the president proposes minuscule savings through a small
number of program terminations and reductions. But overall spending
continues to rise, and in a $3.8 trillion budget the president's
disingenuous attempt to "cut" anything amounts to little more than a
rounding error. The president also proposes to freeze non-security
discretionary spending for three years, which he falsely claims will
"help put our country on fiscally sustainable path." In reality, last
year's stimulus and appropriations spending binge will mean actual
outlays for this tiny portion of the overall budget will still be higher
than what Obama inherited.
Quibble: Cato folks don't like Dubya's fiscal
policy much, but the deficit in FY2007 really was 1.2% of GDP.
I'd be pretty happy to trade that number for today's.
Unquoted opinions expressed herein are solely those of the
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