Logic is a Wreath of Pretty Flowers That Smell Bad.

  • If you're like me, you've always wanted a big foam hand appropriate for those occasions where you're cheering on the Vulcan Science Academy in the big tridemensional chess tournament. Here you go.

  • In physics news, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has finally gotten up to speed. And, as always, if you'd like to know whether the Large Hadron Collider has destroyed the world yet, you can check that out at: http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/.

    (According to CERN, there are at least seven different ways in which you don't have to worry about the LHC destroying the world.)

  • The MinuteMan has done a great job in covering the inconvenient fact that the ObamaCare legislation, as passed, did not actually provide one of the main benefits its supporters claimed: guaranteed "coverage" of children with pre-existing conditions. His latest installment is here, and its a lurid tale of Democrat incompetence/bullying/posturing put together with the cowardly acquiescence of the health insurance companies. Fun! Unless you're a fan of the rule of law, in which case you might find it a tad depressing.

  • Betsy Newmark notes some depressing news contained in a recent poll. Although specific Democatic initiatives, like ObamaCare, may be deservedly unpopular, one implementation scheme is undeservedly popular: the notion that, somehow, "the rich" can pay for ever more government goodies delivered to the Rest Of Us.

    The Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of Americans among both major political parties think raising income taxes on households making more than $250,000 should be a main tenet of the government's efforts to tame the deficit. More than 70 percent, including a majority of Republicans, say those making more than $1 million should pay more.

    Betsy also links to an Alan Reynolds op-ed in today's WSJ that describes just how stupid, impractical, and dangerous that idea is.

    President Barack Obama's new health-care legislation aims to raise $210 billion over 10 years to pay for the extensive new entitlements. How? By slapping a 3.8% "Medicare tax" on interest and rental income, dividends and capital gains of couples earning more than $250,000, or singles with more than $200,000.

    The president also hopes to raise $364 billion over 10 years from the same taxpayers by raising the top two tax rates to 36%-39.6% from 33%-35%, plus another $105 billion by raising the tax on dividends and capital gains to 20% from 15%, and another $500 billion by capping and phasing out exemptions and deductions.

    Add it up and the government is counting on squeezing an extra $1.2 trillion over 10 years from a tiny sliver of taxpayers who already pay more than half of all individual taxes.

    It won't work. It never works.

    We are in a heap of trouble.

    (Reynolds' article is behind the WSJ subscriber wall, but you can use the Google Two-Step to read the whole thing: search for the the article's title and then click on the first link provided.)

  • Two words: Peeps Dioramas. You can thank me later.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:09 AM EDT

A Serious Man

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

Not a bad movie to watch around Passover! And it's from the Coen Brothers. Nominated for two Oscars (Best Movie and Best Original Screenplay), it didn't win, but still…

Other than the brief opening, a little Yiddish fable set in (roughly) centuries-ago Eastern Europe, the movie is set in 1967 and an anonymous Minneapolis suburb. The hero—although maybe not the title character—is Larry Gopnik, a physics professor, family man, observant Jew, and an all-around decent guy. What could go wrong?

Well, you might want to brush up on the Book of Job. Just hitting the high points here: Larry's wife is cheating on him, and wants a divorce. His son is a both a potty-mouth and a pothead. His daughter is a potty-mouth and an airhead, a stereotypical Princess in the making. His deadbeat brother has moved in, whose life is centered around (1) a bizarre work of crackpot math, and (2) draining a pesky sebaceous cyst on the back of his neck. One neighbor views him with contempt tinged with hostility; the other is a beautiful and mysterious woman who sunbathes nude in her backyard. (Oh yeah, you might aslo want to brush up on the Second Book of Samuel.) At work, he's up for tenure, the tenure committee is getting anonymous accusations of moral turpitude, his students are bored, and a flunking Asian student attempts to bribe him for a good grade.

Also: the Columbia Record Club is on his ass. You don't want that.

The movie is very darkly funny, and (frankly) one of the reasons it works so well is its immersion in 1967 Midwestern Jewish culture. There are a lot of unknowns in the cast, but also a bunch of actors you've probably seen before (George Wyner, Richard Kind, even Fyvush Finkel in a small role). A special treat was Simon Helberg as a very young, green, Rabbi—hey, that's Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. Everybody's wonderful.

Something I learned: Jews, when consternated, are as likely as Christians to exclaim Jesus Christ! I'm still working on the theological implications of that: do they think they're avoiding a Third Commandment foul when they do that? (Or Second, if you number them that way?) If so, does it work?


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:08 AM EDT

Mr. Owl Ate My Metal Worm

  • The UMaine student newspaper reports that their athletic program sucks up a cool $7 million per year. I've never seen the equivalent number for the University Near Here, but how much different could it be? (Via University Diarist.)

  • Some have taken to calling it Krauthammer's Law:
    Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
    Will Wilkinson illuminates another data point in verification of Krauthammer's Law: the spat between Matt Yglesias and David Boaz about "Earth Hour". In which, as expected, Yglesias deems Boaz evil and … yeah, Yglesias is stupid.

  • Note that, while some call that epigram above Krauthammer's Law, what Krauthammer calls "Krauthammer's Law" is: Everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise. Explanation:
    For all its tongue-in-cheek irony, Krauthammer's Law works because when I say "everyone," I don't mean everyone you know personally. Depending on the history and ethnicity of your neighborhood and social circles, there may be no one you know who is Jewish. But if "everyone" means anyone that you've heard of in public life, the law works for two reasons. Ever since the Jews were allowed out of the ghetto and into European society at the dawning of the Enlightenment, they have peopled the arts and sciences, politics, and history in astonishing disproportion to their numbers.

    There are 13 million Jews in the world, one-fifth of 1 percent of the world's population. Yet 20 percent of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, a staggering hundredfold surplus of renown and genius. This is similarly true for a myriad of other "everyones" -- the household names in music, literature, mathematics, physics, finance, industry, design, comedy, film and, as the doors opened, even politics.

    Pun Salad is irrevocably goyish, but wishes its past, present, and future Jewish friends a Happy Passover. Arnold Kling provides a short Passover sermon with a libertarian bent:
    As we approach Passover in 2010, many people are unemployed. But in a free society, government does not create jobs.

    Pharoah created jobs for us. Moses led us away from those jobs. Even though those jobs helped to complete public infrastructure. Even though they were green jobs, where we used our muscles and our backs instead of fossil fuels.

    Read the whole thing. It's short.

  • What do you suppose aibohphobia is the fear of? Hint: if you made it past this post's headline, you don't have it.

    Fortunately, as Stan Kelly-Bootle points out, it's curable.

Last Car to Elysian Fields

[Amazon Link]

This is the thirteenth entry in James Lee Burke's series of novels about New Orleans detective Dave Robicheaux. One of the notable things about Dave is that the books put him through several different kinds of Hell; this one ups the ante some, as Dave has lost many of the support pillars that have held him up over the past few books: his wife, Bootsie, his old house, his side business. And even his adopted daughter Alafair has gone off to college in Oregon. So things aren't going well for him, and the volcanic black rage that's always bubbling underneath his surface threatens to engulf him this time.

The case is the usual mix: a Catholic priest has been targeted by a very colorful hit man; a poor black family has been gypped out of their land by an oil tycoon, who's now using it as a toxic dumping ground, and their genius blues singer relative went to the state pen years back and, as far as anyone's admitting, vanished from the planet. There's a mysterious woman from Dave's past, three kids have burned to death in a car crash after visiting a drive-by dacquiri stand, …

I don't think I ever quite figured out why the hit man was after that priest. Doesn't matter.

Without spoiling things, this could have easily been Dave's last appearance. But they keep coming, and I plan to keep reading.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:08 AM EDT

The Asphalt Jungle

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

Consumer alert: yes, that is Marilyn Monroe up front on the DVD box. But in actual fact, her role is pretty small, not big enough to make the opening credits.

The story is set in an anonymous midwestern city, one of the more depressing hellholes you'd ever want to see; the citizenry seems to consist mainly of crooks, cops, and floozies. The main character, Dix (played by Sterling Hayden), is a low-level stickup artist. His hooliganish talents get him a spot on a heist team hoping to knock over a jeweler for a fortune in gems and metal. The plan is masterminded by Doc, an elderly crime wizard just out of the joint.

Dix is the hero, of sorts: yes, he's a crook, but he's an honest crook: he's loyal to his associates and true to his word. Unfortunately, his associates don't return the favor, and things go very wrong.

The wonderful Jean Hagen has a big role as "Doll", one of the previously-mentioned floozies who desperately wants to be an Honest Woman, and unwisely hitches her wagon to Dix's doomed star. Before she was Lina Lamont ("a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament"), Ms Hagen did quite well playing this sort of role. She does not say Ehnd I cayyyn't stehnd im! in this movie, unfortunately.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:08 AM EDT

There Was Little We Could Say and Even Less That We Could Do

… to stop the ice from getting thinner under me and you:

  • I had the misfortune of leaving the TV on after the local news, and so saw Diane Sawyer tut-tutting about the violent threats to pro-Obamacare Democrats. According to NewsBusters this is a "story" I could not have avoided had I flipped the channel to CBS or NBC. It's become a Democrat talking point, eagerly echoed by the MSM.

    One of the datapoints invoked was—eek!—a coffin allegedly left on the lawn of Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan.

    But, as it turns out, one of the perpetrators of that dastardly deed was blogger Jim Hoft, and he has an (unsurprisingly) different slant on the story. Check it out.

  • I'm sure there are a small fraction of anti-Obamacare folks who are unpleasant wackos. Bound to be. But I'd willing to bet a lot of the vilest acts being reported are Alinskyite false-flag tactics when they aren't imaginary.

    Most of us are simply waiting, with as much patience as we can muster, for Election Day. A mere 222 days away. But who's counting?

  • We've mentioned before (a) then-candidate Obama's "firm pledge" to not increase taxes on those making under $250K; and (b) his repeated assertion that, under ObamaCare, "if you like your plan, you can keep it". The passed legislation manages to break both those promises with respect to flexible spending accounts, as described by Thomas Cheplick of the Heartland Institute.
    The overhaul of the U.S. health care system recently signed by President Obama sets severe new limits on the use of flexible spending accounts, including a $2,500 cap on FSA contributions and restrictions on using FSAs to purchase over-the-counter medications.

    Although much of the president's plan would phase in over time, many of these restrictions are set to take place next year, causing chaos to benefits-plan administrators and human resources departments throughout America.

    … including those of the University Near Here, I might add.

    John Berlau describes the tax increase:

    … one of the first things millions of Americans will "see" is an effective 40 percent tax hike on the over-the-counter medicines - from an antihistamine such as Claritin for allergies, pain relief medicine such as Tylenol or Excedrin, Pedialyte to prevent their kids from becoming dehydrated when they are sick, and even prenatal vitamins if they are expecting another one.
    Don't get sick, or old.

  • I assume not everyone subscribes to Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter, so you may be missing out on random observations like:
    When did every television channel forget its purpose in life? MTV doesn't show much music, the History Channel shows programs that have little or nothing to do with history, there are non-animated shows on the Cartoon network, and SyFy's new spelling fits because its programming directors appear to have no interest in science fiction. Comedy Central isn't all that funny, plenty of A&E's shows seem neither artistic nor entertaining, and you can watch hours of The Learning Channel and actually lose knowledge. (Any given program on Lifetime only feels like it drags on for decades.)

    Yet Fox News has plenty of foxes.

Barackrobatics: I Said No Tax Increases. This One's Brand New!

Let's not forget:

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.
And in the news today, we have:
The Obama administration is turning up the heat on tanning salons across the country with the passage of its new health care bill.

To help fund the $940 billion health care overhaul, a 10% tax on individuals receiving indoor tanning services was tacked on, and the initiative is expected to generate $2.7 billion over ten years.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:07 AM EDT

Incredible as He Is Inept

… whenever the history books are kept:

  • I can't get all excited about Vice President Biden's potty mouth. How could I possibly respect this guy any less than I already do? I get Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter and I appreciate his observation there:
    This guy has the impulse control of a kindergartener after a binge on candy corn and Slurpees.
    But Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times noted the real scandal:

    Biden is fond of quoting poets in public, usually Irish ones and often in the Mideast for some reason. But today the man who was a senator while Obama was in the sixth grade chose another nationality.

    Here's what he said, according to the White House transcript:

    As I said just before the president signed the healthcare bill, I quoted Virgil, the classic Greek poet, who once said, 'The greatest wealth is health.' The greatest wealth is health. Mr. President, you've made us a nobler and wealthier nation by providing for the health of your fellow citizens.

    Here's the problem, as loyal Ticket reader Mike points out:

    Virgil wasn't Greek. He was Roman. Very Roman. So Roman, in fact, that the author (70 BC-19 BC) of the "Aeneid," among other famous works, is buried in Naples.

    And (even bigger problem), this is one of these quotes that nobody can seem to find in primary sources. From Meghan Clyne's takedown of Bidenesque rhetoric:
    … sure enough, Virgil is credited with the quote in thousands of Google hits, QuoteGarden.com, and even boxer shorts for sale on Amazon.com. But good luck finding the phrase anywhere in the Latin poet's actual writings. A search of the phrase (or even similar terms)--in English and Latin--in databases of Virgil's poetry yields nothing. Richard Tarrant, a professor of Latin at Harvard, says: "I'm not familiar with the quote (which sounds like something my mother used to say), and offhand I would doubt that it comes from Virgil." Two classicists at Cornell, while unable to prove that the poet never said anything like it, "doubt whether this quote comes from Virgil." One, Barry Strauss, adds: "It sounds more like a fortune cookie than a poet."

    There are few things more wonderful than the phony intellectual who can't manage to keep his mask on straight.

  • Bryan Caplan makes his opening argument for the "separation of health and state":
    Government already plays such a large role in health care that it may be hard to understand what "separation of health and state" means. Let me be clear: In my ideal world, we wouldn't just abolish Obamacare. We'd abolish Medicare, Medicaid, regulation of health insurance, medical licensing, and the Food and Drug Administration... for starters. Unlike many opponents of the latest legislation, I'm not saying, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."
    That's likely to strike many readers as heartless, foolish, scary. All the more reason you should Read The Whole Thing.

  • Captain Ed has audio and transcript of Congressman John Dingell explaining why ObamaCare implementation will take a while:
    Let me remind you this has been going on for years. We are bringing it to a halt. The harsh fact of the matter is when you're going to pass legislation that will cover 300 American people in different ways it takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people.
    Emphasis added. You know, I bet a lot of people who find the Caplan quote above scarifying wouldn't blink an eye about Congressman Dingell. It's a funny old world.

  • Worthwhile reading is Timothy P. Carney's article for the Washington Examiner, contrasting President Obama's allegation that "we pushed back on the undue influence of special interests" in passing Obamacare with, well, reality:
    Standing behind Obama at the bill signing Tuesday were Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the leading Senate and House recipients, respectively, of health-sector political action committee money in this election cycle. The 2008 champs of health PAC fundraising, Max Baucus and Charlie Rangel, were also on stage.

    And the man with the pen in his hand had received more money from drug companies and health insurance companies than any politician in the history of the country.

I count 223 days until Election Day. Can I stay utterly pissed off until then? Yes I can.

Reform Proposal: Legislative Suicide Clauses

You should read Megan McArdle's post predicting the objectively measurable effects of ObamaCare. She's doubtful that the claims of ObamaCare supporters about mortality rates, medical bankruptcy rates, cost inflation, etc. will be fulfilled.

Which reminded me of something I've batted around my brain for a few years now: legislation should have self-executing suicide clauses. Bills making their way though Congress should have a section describing either:

  1. the specific and objective benefits the legislation will bring about, over a specified timetable; or

  2. a disclaimer that the legislation predicts no specific benefits. (In which case, hopefully, everyone will ask why it's even proposed.)

If specific benefits are claimed, then the legislation will be automatically repealed if those criteria aren't met; the legislation must specify how the repeal will be carried out.

For example, during the Health Care Summit last month, President Obama claimed that "family insurance premiums in the individual market would decrease 14 to 20 percent".

Had this proposal been in place, the obvious retort would have been: "Oh, yeah? Let's put that test in the legislation's suicide clause. So if premiums don't decrease by at least 14 percent [over whatever timeframe you're imagining], Obamacare is automatically repealed. Deal?"

"Uh, er, well,…"

This would quickly separate the True Believers from the Bullshitters. Nancy Pelosi claims the bill will "create 4 million jobs, 400,000 jobs almost immediately"? Either put that in the Suicide Clause, Nancy, or shut up about it.

This simgle reform would cause advocates to get much more modest and realistic in their claims. And the public would then be able to judge far better than now whether a law would be worth passing.

Halfway Full Of Fishing Rods

… and a tickle on our backs:

  • My home state makes the big time, as Reason.tv chronicles the battle between Kim Ong, owner of Kim's Spa & Nails in Derry, New Hampshire, and New Hampshire's Board of Barbering, Cosmetology, and Esthetics. Kim's sin was to offer fish pedicures. Comments Reason, reasonably:
    That's right, the state that lets adults motorcycle without a helmet or drive without a seat belt won't tolerate tiny fish nibbling at the dead skin on your feet. This is just one small example of a larger problem. Most people have no idea how many local, state, and federal regulations entrepreneurs struggle against, notes Adrian Moore, an economist with Reason Foundation. "Every day new businesses try to start but find out they're not allowed to because of some regulation or it's too expensive because of some regulation," Moore says.
    I hate to see my favorite magazine making fun of my favorite state. I pledge a $10 campaign contribution to any and all bona fide candidates to the NH legislature who will promise to disband the Board of Barbering, Cosmetology, and Esthetics.

  • My local fishwrapper, Foster's Daily Democrat, commits, once again, its occasional sin of reporting opinion as fact. A recent article covered a Portsmouth gathering in support of the late "Granny D's" position on campaign finance "reform". Present were an array of activists; music was provided by the Leftist Marching Band. The Foster's reporter, Geoff Cunningham Jr., couldn't help but get caught up in the cause, irksome sentence emphasized:
    Meanwhile, the effort to push for fair elections continues. Task Force Chair and state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said her group is looking to join Maine and Connecticut in establishing a public fund that could be drawn upon by those looking to run for state office.
    God yes. Why should politicians need to rely on people voluntarily giving money to their campaign when they can just arrange to to tap into a taxpayer-funded spigot?

  • Speaking of Granny D, I wasn't aware until recently that she was a 9/11 Truther; her obituaries avoided mentioning that. As charming as the old lady was, she had a few rabid bats in her belfry.

  • Further bit of trivia: that's the same statement Van Jones, President Obama's ex-"green jobs czar" signed, one of the reasons he's the ex-czar. He was embarrassed enough to have his name removed (it was #46) when it came to light last year.

  • A rare bit of good news: Bastiat's "broken window fallacy" was illustrated in Sunday's episode of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. What's next, Blondie taking on the perils of trade protectionism? Prince Valiant on the folly of the minimum wage and occupational licensure?

  • Today's post title from here; actual lyric here.

Up in the Air

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

This was nominated for 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, two Supporting Actresses, and (derived) Screenplay. Didn't win any of 'em, but … still, that's pretty good.

It's the story of Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney. He works for a company that handles mass employee firings at other firms. (I'm not sure how the economics works: how many companies are in enough financial trouble to do mass firings, but still have enough money lying around to hire Clooney's company?) Bingham's job requires him to spend most of his life away from his nominal hometown, Omaha. The opening scenes of the movie establish exactly how well choreographed his routine is: he navigates airports, security checkpoints, hotels, and restaurants with breathtakingly precise efficiency. And Bingham is just fine with his life: no wife and kids, no personal commitments, no strings.

Bingham is also pretty good at his job. His task is to let people know it's time to clean out their desks, but he wants to inspire them to see that as a push to a life where they might actually capture their true life's ambition a little better. (Whether he's doing that to minimize unpleasant reactions, or a genuine desire to help, who knows?)

But two complications arrive, in the form of our two Supporting Actress nominees: Bingham meets beautiful Alex, also a road warrior, who seems to be a kindred spirit, dedicated to a rootless life. And Bingham's company hires young hard-charging Natalie, who's determined to minimize the travel on which Bingham thives; she proposes a plan by which all the firing will be done via Internet video conferencing from Omaha.

It's a swell movie, well outside the usual cookie-cutter romantic comedy formula. The dialog is clever and insightful. And Clooney manages to make his character sympathetic and interesting.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:07 AM EDT

Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

… nobody knows but Jesus:

  • Last week, Pun Salad flayed Michael Moore for his idiotic attempt to link all the news on the New York Times front page to evil "capitalism". One of the stories was the alleged use of private contractors on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Over at Big Journalism, best-selling novelist Brad Thor has not one, but two, posts debunking that NYT story. Not only did the story fail to support Moore's thesis, there's plenty of reason to treat it with extreme skepticism on mere factual grounds.

    You mean the New York Times lets ideology drive its news coverage? Shocking, I know, but…

  • I let Kimberly Strassel comment on the ObamaCare legislative process this morning. How about we bring in Mark Steyn for his prediction of the likely long-term result?
    Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side …
    "Other than that, though, it's fine!"

  • Let's see, think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts… OK, how about this cautionary tale of how your out-of-office e-mail auto-reply might wind up on a road sign?

Ms. Strassel Says It Well

… in today's Wall Street Journal:

Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and yesterday the same machinations pushed it across the finish line.
Fortunately I didn't watch it live, instead opting for DVD episodes of Hawaii Five-O and The Bob Newhart Show. In the former, McGarrett actually said "Book 'im, Chin" instead of the more common "Book 'im, Danno.' I'm glad I didn't miss that.

Michael Moore Still A Lying Idiot

While I was looking at something else, a recent article by Michael Moore caught my eye. Headline: "The Pure Greed of Obama's Phony Health-Care Reform". Yeah, he doesn't like it; not left-wing enough.

But the introductory part of his article was (unintentionally) funny.

It was amazing. Every story on the front page of Monday's New York Times told the story of the Age of Greed during which a system known as capitalism is slowly, but surely, killing us:

Whoa, really? Let's look:

  • Moore's first example:

    You might think from Moore's blurb that the article detailed how insurance company money was being spent (somehow) to influence legislators, specifically Democrats.

    Here's what's in the article about what those greedy insurance companies are up to:

     

    That's right: nothing.

    On the other hand, the article does contain, a description of how the pro-Obamacare side is ramping up its ad buys:

    The new money from Pharma, the association of drug makers, as well as contributions from labor unions and other groups helped equalize the advertising fight. This week, officials said, the groups backing the legislation will focus extensively on the insurance industry with this theme: "When insurance companies win, you lose."

    So one of the main points of the article is totally different from what Moore implies. It's not insurance company greed, it's drug company greed. And labor union greed. And one of their primary tools is demagogic Moore-like insurance-company bashing.

    And, of course, in their support for Obamacare, Pharma is not pushing for "capitalism", as Moore would have you think. Instead this is part of their closed-door deal with Obama hammered out last summer to insure a steady flow of income from taxpayers. It was so "capitalistic" that the Wall Street Journal hated it.

    The article discusses the anti-Obamacare side too, typified by Employers for a Healthy Economy, a US Chamber of Commerce-led coalition. They're spending a lot of ad money, too. But (as near as I can tell from the list on their web page), the coalition doesn't have any insurance company members at all.

  • OK, so does Moore get any closer to reality in his second example?

    … an article with vague and not particularly well-supported allegations about improper use of information gathered for the military by private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The main source for the allegations seem to be two other "profiteers": Eason Jordan (yes, the guy who had to quit CNN in disgrace) and Robert Young Pelton (who's been looking at private military contractors for years).

    I'll be generous and give Moore a fractional point here, although even if the allegations are true, it hardly supports Moore's charge that "capitalism is slowly, but surely, killing us". It would be more accurate to say that capitalism is helping to kill suspected terrorists.

  • On to Moore's third example:

    There's no profit in repairing our infrastructure: "Repair Costs Daunting as Water Lines Crumble"

    Yes, it's yet another article on Our Crumbling Infrastructure, in this case water/sewer infrastructure. There's a focus on the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority.

    The connection to "capitalism" here is non-existent. The DC system is a heavily regulated utility, and (indeed) the article details how the utility's director had to defend the rate hikes needed to get started on a realistic upgrade path against vociferous objections from politicians.

  • Fourth example:

    Yes, Moore is using China as an example of how capitalism is "killing us". And specifically, the article points to how China's government holds its currency value lower than—guess what—market forces would otherwise set it.

    And this "capitalism" really isn't "killing us"; instead it's artifically subsidizing American consumers buying Chinese goods while keeping Chinese wages artificially low.

  • Moore's fifth example:

    You mean NAFTA didn't improve life in Mexico: "Two Drug Slayings in Mexico Rock US Consulate"

    The article describes the brutal murders in Ciudad Juárez over the weekend; there's nothing at all in the article about NAFTA, let alone how it caused the recent surge in violence. NAFTA came into effect in 1994, sixteen years ago. But apparently for Moore, there's nothing bad that happens in Mexico that NAFTA somehow doesn't cause.

    Reading further in the article, a more proximate cause is pretty easy to find: Mexico's escalated drug war, "which has led to spiraling levels of violence" is of relatively recent vintage, and (guess what) it's "backed by more than $1 billion in United States money."

    So it's capitalism that's killing us? Please.

  • Moore's final example is his most ludicrous:

    What happens when Big Food profits from hurting kids: "Forget Goofing Around: Recess Has New Boss"

    This article is about new efforts by some schools to organize school recess activities; there's some controversy, because at least one quoted expert thinks recess should be more laissez-faire. But, judging by his "Big Food" comment, I'm pretty sure that's not what has Moore exercised.

    No, the article (tangentially) mentions that one of the rationales of the program is to "address concerns over obesity." And we all know that our kids would be as svelte as Karen Carpenter were it not for "Big Food".

    Moore, of course, is still being duped by "Big Food".

What sort of weird-ass psychic prism must Michael Moore read the newspaper through to view these stories as being uniquely about "capitalism"? I dunno.

Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:20 AM EDT

My Lost Theory, Which Is Mine, Is Mine

The latest episode of Lost had the Smoke Monster, in the guise of John Locke, bemoaning to Kate about how tough it was to have a crazy mother.

The primary plot driver in Lost seems to be the SM's conflict with "Jacob", who's keeping SM bottled up on the island. And it's a conflict that's been going on for (at least) centuries.

So a light bulb went off. Bad feelings for mom. An ongoing hatred for Jacob. All those years of Sunday School weren't a total waste. Could the SM really be… this guy?

But then I Googled it, and guess what? There's probably no semi-plausible Lost theory that other people haven't already put forth and discussed to death.

(Post title a reference to this.)

Won't You Come To Florida For a Vacation?

… the tan developer beckons from the television:

  • Your quote du jour is via Jeffrey Miron:
    "You want to know what socialism is? I have a degree in engineering and I'm selling fried chicken at two AM, that's what socialism is."
    Cuba libre, baby.

  • David Brooks defines the "Slaughter Solution" that's being used in the House to try to pass ObamaCare:
    a tricky legislative device in which things get passed without members having the honor or the guts to stand up and vote for it.
    If you'd like to know where your CongressCritter came down on the whole honor/guts issue, here you go. Ma belle Michelle has choice words and plenty of links to other commentary.

  • To reinvigorate our dormant "Aieeee, We're All Gonna Die" category:
    Orange Dwarf Confirmed to be On Likely Collision Course With Our Solar System
    And they ain't talkin' about an Oompa-Loompa.

Sins of the Assassin

[Amazon Link]

This is the second entry in a trilogy; I blogged about the first book, Prayers for the Assassin, here.

The author, Robert Ferrigno, has set his series in a near-future dystopia. Nuclear explosions in New York City and Washington DC have led to an Islamist takeover of most of the US, most of the remainder being the "Bible Belt", roughly the old Confederacy. (Map here.) Our hero is Rakkim, the super-deadly "Assassin" of the title. After the events of the first book, the Islamic Republic has been shaken. A threat is detected in the Bible Belt, where the search is on for a powerful weapon hidden away by the previous regime. Rakkim's task is to infiltrate the Belt, either stealing the weapon or rendering it harmless.

There's a prodigious level of inventive violence, intrigue, betrayal and suspense, and dollops of sex in between. Ferrigno is a very good writer, and (if you're willing to suspend disbelief a bit) he's crafted a very complete and thought-out world. Life is very cheap, global warming has messed things up a lot, but you can still get a cup of coffee in a diner.

Ferrigno's villains are nasty indeed, and most of them will (apparently) be back in the final book of the trilogy. Which is out now in hardcover; the paperback is due out in August, which I have on order from Amazon.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:06 AM EDT

All You Gotta Do Is Ring A Bell

… step right up:

  • On the ObamaCare front, the Democrats seem intent on prolonging the agony. Ms Rubin ably sums up the state of play as of late this morning, where the final bill has not yet come out:
    So days before voting -- or not really voting -- to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don't really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It's remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It's all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The "details" -- the Constitution and the substance of the bill -- will just need to take a back seat.

  • If you don't know where your Congresscritter stands on ObamaCare, by the way, the Washington Post has a list. (Update: sorry, can't find a good link for it now. Trust me.)

    Surprisingly, my own Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter, is listed as 'Undecided'. Unfortunately, I think this means something like: "I'd like to avoid voting for it, because my constituents have been telling me overwhelmingly they hate it, but if Nancy says I have to, I will."

    Still, if you're in her district, it couldn't hurt to phone her office or send her mail to keep the pressure on. (When I mailed, I got a boilerplate non-response response. Sigh.)

  • In the "Life Imitates the Simpsons" category, we have the US Attorney General:
    Osama bin Laden "will never appear in an American courtroom," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told House members at a hearing Tuesday.

    "Let's deal with the reality here," Holder said in response to questions from Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.). "The reality is, we will be reading Miranda rights to a corpse."

    … sounding very much like McBain:
    McBain is a movie action hero played by fictional actor Rainier Wolfcastle, a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis … Some of his movies include, McBain: You Have the Right to Remain Dead
    Professor Althouse has more serious comments about the increasingly absurd AG.

  • The main difference between Cracked and The Onion is that you can often actually learn something from Cracked. Today's data point is "6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact".

  • This is the funniest commercial currently on TV:

    "It's an oyster, with two tickets to that thing you love." That cracks me up every time.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:05 AM EDT

Ponyo

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

The latest animation from the Japanese master, Hayao Miyazaki. It's been slightly Americanized by the good folks at Disney: voices performed by people like Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett and Betty White.

Ponyo is a fish, or at least she starts out that way. Posessed of an independent streak, she sets out to explore the world without the permission of her dad, the once-human wizard Fujimoto. (Yeah, I'm not sure how that works either.) She immediately gets in trouble, trapped in a jar; she's rescued by 5-year-old Sosuke. They quickly establish a bond, and Ponyo resolves to become human and stay on land.

The magic she requires to do that, however, sets Mother Nature seriously out of whack. We're talking storms, floods, the Moon falling out of orbit. It takes a good deal of heroism on Sosuke's part to resolve things.

As usual with Miyazaki, all this is played out with fantastic style and sly humor. My descriptive skills are lacking, because just about everything I can think of sounds like a cliché: "a feast for the eyes"; "visually breathtaking"; … Just go ahead and get it.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:05 AM EDT

Day Job Peeve

Imagine a commercial product that:

  1. scans for viruses and other malware in files and incoming e-mail;

  2. requires periodic updates of its "definition" data files;

  3. provides a script that can be used to download said updates;

  4. but said script is provided only in the body of their PDF manual;

  5. even though their software package distribution contains 15 other files, you're gonna have to cut-n-paste that (relatively important) script out of their PDF file, a tedious and error-prone process;

  6. and, yes, the script does run over multiple pages so you have to cut-n-paste a pagefull at a time to avoid the PDF header/footer formatting, making things slightly more tedious;

  7. and (by the way), the documentation recommends that you "decompress" the newly downloaded definition files to (I quote) "accelerate the time for subsequent initializations";

  8. but their documentation shows only the Windows command to accomplish that feat, even though it's the documentation for the Unix version of their product;

  9. and (why, no) the aforementioned script doesn't perform that (relatively important) function.

Yes, McAfee, I'm talking about you and your "VirusScan for Unix" product. Sheesh.

Paranormal Activity

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

Whoo, scary movie. The gimmick is similar to that of The Blair Witch Project: it's not a movie at all, but "recovered" video. An opening credit "thanks" the San Diego Police Department for the footage. Oh oh.

The video is of Micah, his live-in girlfriend Katie, and their comfortable house. Katie has long been haunted by a demon—the sort of thing that could happen to anyone, really—and she feels that it's becoming more frisky than normal. When she confides this to Micah, he hopes to "document" demonic doings by obsessively recording everything that goes on, including all-night taping of their bedroom. (Well, not everything. Katie insists that the camera be turned off during some non-paranormal activities.)

Bad things happen, of course. Micah's determined to Figure Things Out, Katie would (apparently) prefer to Just Muddle Through, and this causes increasing friction. Even a little bit of malevolent supernatural threat can strain a relationship.

Even worse, Micah apparently pronounces his name "mee-cah" instead of "my-cah". It's like having a big old "Kick me, Demon" sign taped on your back.

The movie was awesomely cheap to make (IMDB says $15,000). But (at least for me) it was pretty effective. While relatively few people tromp off to make a documentary about witches in the remote forests of Maryland, unexplained noises in a dark house at 3AM is something every homeowner can imagine happening to them.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:05 AM EDT

But Now You're Sad, Your Mama's Mad

… and your papa says he knows that I don't have any money:

  • Citizens contemplating claiming that they're of the "American" race on the census (discussed here) should check out Hans A. von Spakovsky's comments at the Corner. His opinion is that it might, theoretically, get you fined. (And with the US Government in dire financial straits, who knows what desperate revenue-raising measures they might attempt?)

  • Prof Drezner gets a little tired of a Barackrobatic tic, exemplified by this speech excerpt:
    I know there are differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans, between business and labor, about the right approach. But I also know we are at a moment where it is absolutely necessary for us to get beyond those old debates.
    Drezner lashes out:
    First of all, a quick message to Jon Favreau: Jon, this going-beyond-old/stale-debates thing gets tedious if you use it for every friggin' policy initiative.
    Drezner's links are cruel indeed: using the White House's own search engine to reveal the overuse of these old, stale phrases about those old, stale debates.

    Drezner also makes some more serious points about the likely ineffectiveness of the policy Obama was introducing: the "National Export Initiative".

    PS: Jon Favreau, Obama speechwriter, is not to be confused with Jon Favreau, the Hollywood actor/writer/director/producer. And when I say "not to be confused", I mean I thought they were the same guy until I looked it up.

  • Another Professor, Don Boudreaux, comments more succinctly on the National Export Initiative:
    A headline in today's Wall Street Journal reads "Obama Details Effort to Double Exports Over Five Years."

    Translation: "Obama Details Effort to Increase Corporate Welfare Over Five Years."

  • Geeks of a Certain Age will want to check out:

    Don't blink, or you'll miss Jeff Bridges.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:04 AM EDT

If You Take Requests

… I've got a few for you:

  • The good news is that House Democrats probably no longer have the votes to pass Obamacare on a straight up or down vote. Strong evidence is their exploration of the so-called "Slaughter Solution" for passage, a lagniappe of legislative legerdemain, a portion of parliamentary prestidigitation, or (as John Dickerson in Slate, describes it) a method to :
    allow the House to vote on the Bill B [its "fix" for the Senate's version of Obamacare] and, after doing so, simply consider the Senate health care bill … as passed. There would be no actual up-or-down vote on the underlying bill.
    The bad news is: this cowardly scheme might actually work. Because, obviously, Democrats consider this a must-do, no matter what sleazy, underhanded tactics they need to use. Daniel Foster has more. And even more.

    It's your stupid fault, voters. You voted for these slimy weasels. What did you expect they'd do?

  • This ignores the other sleazy, underhanded tactic being explored by the Democrats, this time on the Senate side: "reconcilation". This would (arguably) allow the Senate to avoid filibusterization on the further road to ObamaCare. This tactic is advertised as no big deal, having been used in the past by the GOP. A nice debunking of that talking point by James Joyner is available. What's the bottom line?
    The bottom line is that using reconciliation as an end-around to avoid filibusters is exceedingly rare, having happened at most 7 times since 1980. Of those 7 cases, all were budget or tax measures. So, using reconciliation to avoid a supermajority on health care reform would simply be unprecedented.
    Unfortunately, "unprecedented" is not the same as "impossible and won't happen." See "slimy weasels" comment above.

  • However, this is encouraging: "Ruling Kills an Option for Moving Health Bill". But I have about as much faith in politicians sticking to rules they've agreed to beforehand as I do in the Tooth Fairy. So we'll see.

  • And, as an entry in our occasional "not that the Republicans are much better" feature, please check out Dafyyd and his merciless flaying of GOPites who are undying fans of free market capitalism, unless it happens to involve …
    The bureaucratization of space exploration is one of the most disheartening aspects of contemporary society: Here we sit, verging on the sixtieth anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein's classic, "the Man Who Sold the Moon" (1951); and our "leaders" at NASA still scoff at the preposterous thought that private rocket ships, free-market space colonization, and entrepeneurial expansion to the stars can actually work... maybe even better than Michael Griffin ordering his civil servants to innovate, on schedule.
    I know it hurts to admit it, but on this particular point, President Obama is on target, the Congresscritters who view NASA as a jobs program for their states and districts are wrong.

  • On a lighter note, Dave Barry reveals his experiences as a joke writer for this year's Oscar telecast. Dave is the closest thing we have to a Normal Guy, and if you've ever wondered how the preparations and backstage stuff might appear to a Normal Guy, check it out. Although the only joke Dave specifically mentions is one that was cut, I thought I detected Barry Content:

    • Steve Martin's introduction of Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana: "Now we'd like to introduce two beautiful actresses. Because frankly, we're sick and tired of bringing out all these ugly actresses."

    • And introducing Sandra Bullock: "Please welcome my longtime dear friend, and by that, I mean I've never met her."

    At least in Hollywood, they're honest in their phoniness.


Last Modified 2010-03-12 5:55 AM EST

I'll Be Out In A Minute

  • I'm not much of a hockey fan, but I do appreciate a good visualization. (Full size version and explanation, if you need it, at the link.)

    [The Big Flush]

    I'm just guessing, but Molson Canadian may have been involved. (Via GeekPress.)

  • Like probably every parent of a Certain Age, I have read Goodnight Moon approximately 2,148 times out loud. If you're (a) in that process now and (b) a Star Wars geek, check out Goodnight Forest Moon before the Margaret Wise Brown estate sues.

  • Fortunately, I'm on very effective blood pressure medication, otherwise this New York Times story might have been a killer.
    In an effort to end the foreclosure crisis, the Obama administration has been trying to keep defaulting owners in their homes. Now it will take a new approach: paying some of them to leave.
    Sure. Nothing says "we don't know what we're doing" better than contradictory programs.

    But the real widowmaking paragraph comes later:

    To bring the various parties to the table -- the homeowner, the lender that services the loan, the investor that owns the loan, the bank that owns the second mortgage on the property -- the government intends to spread its cash around.
    Emphasis added. Yes, "its" cash.

    You might want to get that bitter taste out of your brain with some Milton, with his timeless observation on spending Other People's Money.

  • Fans of Barackrobatics—Pun Salad's term for our President's rhetorical stylings—will want to read Five Words Obama Won't Say by William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal.

    Unfortunately, that link is "Subscriber Content". Here's what works for me: Google the article title and (at least for now) the first link will—somehow—take you to the unclipped article. Mr. Murdoch, tear down this wall!


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:20 AM EDT

I'm Not a Pigeon, and I'm Not Going In That Hole

At the Corner, Mark Krikorian proposes a method for filling out Census Question 9:

[Question 9]

To wit:

[Question 9 Answer]

If you find the government's long tradition of slicing up the citizenry by genetics odious, this has great appeal. But will you get in trouble? I'm not a lawyer. Don't sue me. But here's a relevant answer from the 2010 Census Constituent FAQs:

The Census Bureau collects race data in accordance with guidelines provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and these data are based on self-identification. The racial categories included in the census form generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and are not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or socio-cultural groups. People may choose to report more than one race to indicate their racial mixture, such as "American Indian and White." People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino or Spanish may be of any race. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include both racial and national origin or socio-cultural groups. You may choose more than one race category.
Emphasis added. The "self-identification" bit tells me: you are what you think you are. They're not going to hold you down, extract a DNA sample, and run it through autosomal analysis. Works for me.

The go-to document on pigeonholing Americans by criteria Your Federal Government deems important was emitted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) back in 1997; you might find it funny, sad, or both. Let me cannibalize a post I wrote on it back in ought-5.

The OMB dictated:

  • The Five Official Races: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White. (This year's Census slices some of these up a little further, but you must have these five to be OMB-compliant.)

  • The Two Official Ethnicities: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino." (The Census sliced this up a bit too.)

  • How to tell: "Self-identification is the preferred means of obtaining information about an individual's race and ethnicity, except in instances where observer identification is more practical (e.g., completing a death certificate)"

  • What order to ask: "When the two question format is used, the Hispanic origin question should precede the race question." (And, indeed, the ethnicity question is number 8 on the Census form.)

It goes on and on in excruciating sensitivity and detail, but most of all, in pointless arbitrariness. ("A Cape Verdean ethnic category should not be added to the minimum data collection standards." Darn!)

You can see the 2000 Census results on race/ethnicity here. Fun (and to me surprising) fact: only about 48% of Hispanics self-identified as "white"; only 2% said "black". But really surprising (and, I would imagine, kind of embarrassing to the Census Bureau) was this: about 42% said "Other". In other words, a huge chunk of Hispanics looked at the Five Official Races, and said: "Nope, none of those."

Overall, 6.6% of the respondents back in 2000 checked off "Other" for race; for 5.5%, that was their only choice. I don't see any record of what they wrote in the little boxes underneath, but I'd like to think a healthy fraction wrote "American".


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:04 AM EDT

Black Dynamite

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

I wanted to like this a lot better than I did. Your mileage could definitely vary, based on your devotion to old-school 70's "blaxploitation" movies that featured African-American guys fighting The Man and loving The Women. If you have a nodding acquaintance with the oeuvre of Rudy Ray Moore, Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, Ron O'Neal, … well, check it out.

It's a loving spoof. The title character, played by Michael Jai White, is a baad mother—shut your mouth! … Hey, I'm just talkin' about Black Dynamite.

Anyway, B. D. is a well-known badass, and the murder of his brother sets him on a long trail of revenge. This includes plenty of Kung Fu (and Michael Jai White's pretty good at it), gun fights, knife fights, throwing star fights, nunchuck fights, explosions, explosions, explosions, … Eventually the trail leads right to The Man himself, Richard M. Nixon. (Sorry, spoiler.)

Part of the joke is that the movie consciously emulates the genre's traditional amateurishness, ludicrous dialogue, and low budgets. For example, the same stock footage of the old exploding car going off a cliff is used twice. A boom mic shows up at the top of the screen now and then. OK, I get it.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:04 AM EDT

Golly Gee What Have You Done To Me

Well I guess it doesn't matter anymore:

  • Here's something I didn't know: Paul Anka wrote that song.

  • All the other cool bloggers (like Amy and Skip) are posting the local TV station's coverage of my (New Hampshire) Congresswoman's fundraiser (held in Boston, Massachusetts). Let me not be left out:

    Even in the brief spot, the newscaster finds time to mention that (a) the event was closed to the press's prying eyes; and (b) although Speaker Nancy Pelosi was filmed entering the venue, Congresswoman Shea-Porter chose to use a different entrance away from the cameras. The overall message was probably not one Democrats would have preferred.

    Pun Salad value-added: the fat-cat event was held at Beantown's Liberty Hotel; if it looks a little drab to you, no wonder: it used to be the Charles Street Jail. According to Wikipedia, previous guests included "James Michael Curley, Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti, suffragists imprisoned for protests when President Woodrow Wilson visited Boston in 1919, and World War II prisoners from the German submarine Unterseeboot 234." All indications are, however, that both Shea-Porter and Pelosi were allowed to leave on their own recognizance.

  • President Obama, February 25, 2010, in response to John McCain at the "Health Care Summit":
    Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over.
    NPR, today:
    President Obama is back in full campaign mode to drum up support for health overhaul.
    CNN, today:
    Obama repeated his assertion that the plan under consideration includes the best Democratic and Republican ideas. The time for debate has ended, he argued.
    If I may paraphrase: "No campaigning, unless I'm doing it. The debate is over, but just for my opponents."

  • On a releated note, Keith Hennesey posts matched pairs of headlines, one current, one from last year. Example:
    AP: Obama's health care pitch to Democrats: Trust me
    AP: Obama makes last-minute appeal to Democrats for health care votes
    Rand Simberg takes the obvious shot:
    Apparently the White House has never learned about the definition of insanity -- to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results.

  • Mark Steyn explains why the stakes are so high for both sides:
    I've been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture.

    It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible.

    Democrats are betting that there are no U-turns on the Road to Serfdom.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:03 AM EDT

The Hangover

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

It took about three months for Netflix to send this to me, but I was in no hurry.

It's the story of an ill-fated bachelor party set in Vegas. The revelers are an odd-quadruple: Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a schoolteacher who plans to use his students' field-trip deposits to finance (apparently) some gaming; Stu (Ed Helms) is a dentist so brutally henpecked by his girlfriend that he tells her the gang is going to the Napa Valley; and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is the more-than-slightly loopy brother of the bride-to-be. Doug, the groom, seems normal; but he makes up for it by going missing at some point during the festivities. When the other three wake up the Morning After, there's a mysterious female leaving the premises, their hotel room is trashed, there's a chicken wandering around, and a tiger in the bathroom. And nobody can remember what happened.

The rest of the movie follows the three amigos as they seek their missing buddy in order to return him to LA in time for the nuptials. Their amateur detective work in retracing their steps causes them to run across all sorts of colorful characters they don't remember. It's raunchy (MPAA says: "pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material"), but fun.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:03 AM EDT

Slimy Money Update

I posted yesterday on various Granite State Democrats accepting campaign money from Charlie Rangel's PAC, including mine own Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter. As it turns out, the NH GOP was also on the case, both reporting yesterday that she was refusing to return the "tainted" contributions, and then, later, noting that she had.

The GOP references a Union Leader story that (as near as I can tell) isn't on their website. It says that the other two politically active recipients of RangelCash, Jeanne Shaheen, and Paul Hodes, "have officially refused to return the tainted campaign contributions".

(The GOP also is griping about the $10K Katrina Swett got from the Rangel PAC in 2002. That seems to be a stretch.)

But in other news, Congresswoman Shea-Porter continues to get attention from places like Hot Air, where Captain Ed notes her sock-puppetry. It's hard to deny the plain fact of her voting record, and she doesn't:

Ed links to a Union Leader article (this one's web-available):

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will raise money for New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter later this week in Boston.

The Granite Status has learned the Shea-Porter campaign has sent out invitations to a fund-raising reception featuring Pelosi and Shea-Porter on Friday at The Liberty Hotel on Beacon Hill.

In case it's not obvious to our non-local readers: the fundraiser for the New Hampshire Congresswoman will be held in Massachusetts.

Not that I blame her. A fundraiser held in upscale Beacon Hill is likely to be far more remunerative than one held in—say—hopelessly déclassé Manchester. And I'm sure Squeaker Pelosi is a lot more popular down there.

But if I were a GOP operative, I'd be drooling; the campaign ads write themselves.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:03 AM EDT

I Hear the Sound of a Gentle Word

… on the wind that lifts her perfune through the air:

  • This is interesting:
    At least three Democratic congressmen have given to charities $26,000 in campaign contributions they received from embattled House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel of New York following inquiries by this newspaper [the Washington Examiner].
    According to OpenSecrets, NH pols receiving Rangel cash in the 2008 election cycle were Paul Hodes ($5K), Carol Shea-Porter ($10K), and Jeanne Shaheen ($10K). Were I a GOP candidate, I'd start raising a stink.

  • The nanny state has a long history. Katherine Mangu-Ward relates the status of one small skirmish between the nanny and her charges, the issue of raw (or, as its fans like to call it, "real") milk. It's a usual story of our alleged public servants throwing themselves between willing buyers and sellers.

    More information and advocacy can be found at http://www.realmilk.com/, including where-to-buy links. It's legal in New Hampshire—LFOD, baby—and my nearest source is practically within walking distance, so I might wander over to strike a blow for liberty and atherosclerosis.

  • Bubba the Love Sponge vs. Awesome Kong. That would be a movie I'd rent. But it's real life. Try reading this without smiling:
    Bubba, who legally changed his name in 1999 to Bubba the Love Sponge, (a name that even appears on his drivers license and passport), admitted …
    I am in awe of anyone who would even consider that name change, let alone go through with it. Treacher has more. Those are two people between which you don't want to be caught.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:02 AM EDT

Stagecoach

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

John Wayne. John Ford. What more do you want to know? For some inexplicable reason, I'd never seen this one. IMDB says this was John Wayne's eightieth movie. He still had about ninety left to go.

The movie isn't just John Wayne, though. He's part of an ensemble cast that have been jammed into a stagecoach taking a perilous trip through Indian country, where the fierce Apaches, stirred up by Geronimo, have been on the attack.

A couple travellers are being run out of town by the bluenoses: drunken Doc Boone and "Dallas". (Dallas's sins aren't explicitly mentioned, but the movie makes it pretty clear that her profession is the one where "with a heart of gold" is often appended.) There's Mrs. Mallory, a prim and proper lady from the east in search of her Army officer husband; she has an Undisclosed Condition; Hatfield, a southern gambling gentleman; Peacock, a meek whiskey salesman, to whom Doc Boone attaches himself like a limpet. And more.

But then the "Ringo Kid"—Mr. Wayne—shows up; he's busted out of jail, and he's off to settle a score with the Plummers, who drygulched his father and brother, and set him up for his prison term.

The storytelling is masterful, and the characters are deftly drawn by the script, and impeccably acted. Thomas Mitchell got a well-deserved supporting-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Doc Boone. The movie would have probably won more Oscars if it hadn't been competing against a few other little movies: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington … 1939 was a pretty good year for going to the movies.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:02 AM EDT

Evan Thomas Has a Point, Kind Of

A number of posters in the dextrosphere have been pointing with disdain to this Newsweek column by Evan Thomas. (For example, Hot Air linked to it with the blurb "It's not our politicians who are terrible, it's the public.")

Now I know: Newsweek is horrible. Geraghty's Morning Jolt e-mail today describes it as:

It's reached the point where you avert your eyes and try not to notice the mag. If you slip up and mention that you used to read it, you try to deflect the vaguely disapproving looks by explaining that it was a totally different magazine then, and you don't know what happened to it since.

As if to illustrate Geraghty's point, Thomas's article is accompanied with a link to a photo essay titled "Town Hall Face"; Newsweek apparently thought it would be fun and illuminating to gather a bunch of unflattering pictures of irritated people publicly confronting their elected leaders. Ho ho! Newsweeek might not be interested in old-fashioned news reporting any more, but it's happy to feed your typical lefty's burning need to feel superior to right-wing knuckle-draggers.

But Thomas's article is not unmitigated dreadfulness. For example, late in the article, Thomas wonders if there's anything Obama can do to "cut through the Gordian knot tying up health care?"

Actually, there is. Obama is well informed enough to know that sky-high malpractice-insurance rates and defensive medicine drive up health costs. There is debate over how much, but any doctor will attest to the costly fear of a lawsuit. Almost all objective medical experts agree that something should be done to cut back the vast jury verdicts won by clever trial lawyers in medical-malpractice cases. But the Democrats have declined to even try. Why? Because trial lawyers are among the biggest campaign contributors to the Democratic Party.

Thomas deserves at least a half-cheer for making that observation, which might surprise and outrage his typical readership.

But his main point is that "we" are to blame:

The problem is not the system. It's us--our "got mine" culture of entitlement. Politicians, never known for their bravery, precisely represent the people. Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards. They cannot bring themselves to raise taxes on the middle class or cut Social Security and medical benefits for the elderly. They'd get clobbered at the polls. So any day of reckoning gets put off, and put off again, and the debts pile up.

Now, Thomas rambles and babbles quite a bit. (Later he spends a few sentences on increasing personal debt, waistlines, promiscuity… you get the idea. Kids today, they're no damn good, and their music, it's just noise. True fact: Thomas is five days older than I am. I hope I don't sound like this in five days…)

But there's a kernel of something approaching truth there: we elected these bozos. (Well, not me. But when the votes were counted, they wound up on top. Recommended reading: Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter.)

But let's concentrate on this key sentence:

Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards.

Thomas can rail against the cowardice and selfishness of others, but his own (probably unconcious) dishonesty shines through when he describes what he wants politicians to do as "asking".

Evan, baby, grow up. This is government. And government doesn't "ask". It demands, regulates, prohibits, controls, fleeces, forbids, assesses,… but it doesn't ask.

That aside, neither do I believe that government is either willing or able to detect obvious "short-term sacrifices" that will infallibly lock in "long-term rewards." Where is the evidence for that?

And if you're asking an 80-year-old Medicare recipient to make a "short-term sacrifice"… just exactly what "long-term benefit" do you plan on offering her in return, Evan?

Were I grading, I'd give Thomas a solid C-. Shows some promise, needs much work.

Much more believable on the "entitlement" mentality is Mark Steyn, in his most recent column, looking at the recent Greek riots:

We hard-hearted, small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government. Once a chap's enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest. He's got his, and to hell with everyone else. People's sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense.

I wish Evan Thomas would read that and let it roll around in his brain for a bit.

Irrelevant aside: Here is something I didn't know: Evan Thomas is the grandson of Norman Thomas, who ran six times for president under the banner of the Socialist Party. Not that it matters, just found it an interesting bit of trivia.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:01 AM EDT

Do You Take Me For a Fool, Do You Think That I Don't See

… that ditch out in the valley that they're digging just for me?

  • I've long harbored a sneaking suspicion that the secrets of life, the universe, and everything were concealed within the lyrics of Steely Dan songs. Protein Wisdom tries out that theory with Obamacare, and it works out pretty well.

  • Planet Moron turns its attention to the FCC report "Broadband Adoption and Use in America".
    If you are like most Americans, three questions probably pop into your mind:

    1. Am I paying for this?

    2. Seriously, am I paying for this?

    3. Because if I'm paying for this, I'm going to be really ticked off.

    Via the Technology Liberation Front.

  • One of the day-job things I do is a daily scan of Freshmeat, a site devoted to keeping track of new releases of software packages of interest to (mostly) the Linux/Open Source community. Most package blurbs tell you what vitally important niche the software admirably fills. So the description of the latest release of the programming language Txr kind of stood out:
    Txr is a baroque and painfully hard to use language inspired by, among others, the idea of reversing "here document" generation into "here template" extraction. Since its inception in September 2009, it has grown hair, such as functions that aren't really like normal functions, and try/catch/finally exception handling. If a complicated Txr query fails on your sample input, just give up. Don't even think about trying to understand the debug trace output, and the mailing list is likely to be of little help, since pretty much only the author reads it. It is recommended for those who are faced with some simple, boring little problem that is dire need of compounding.
    The Txr home page is here.

  • The A. V. Club explores personal pop-culture rules:
    What are your pop-culture rules? That is, the up-front guidelines that will prevent you from seeing/reading/listening to something, or that will guarantee that you'll see/read/listen to it even if reviews or word of mouth or past experience with the creators have been negative?
    Various answers at the link. I have some rules of thumb for movies:

    AVOID: Nicholas Sparks; Woody Allen, unless he starts being funny again; Steve Martin "family" movies; any movie where it looks as if the trailer has every single funny bit in it.

    MUSTS: Anything with Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, or Batman in the title. Bill Murray. Bruce Willis. Needless to say, any involvement whatsoever by Mr. Clint Eastwood.

    How about you?


Last Modified 2010-03-02 11:35 AM EST