Crazy Chester Followed Me

… and he caught me in the fog:

  • The New York Times interviews close-personal-friend-in-my-imagination Dave Barry, with pictures of his home, including his toilet. You don't want to miss that. If you've ever wondered about Dave's writing technique:
    Writing Technique: Get coffee. Stare at the screen. Write a bunch of things that aren't any good. Then comes that moment when I'll say, "That's still not any good."
    Great minds think alike: that's very similar to my blogging technique.

  • Jonah Goldberg asks: What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama? Key quote:
    … Yes, Obama's agenda is socialist in a broad sense. The Obama administration may not have planned on seizing the means of automobile production or asserting managerial control over Wall Street. But when faced with the choice, it did both. Obama did explicitly plan on imposing a massive restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the use of state fiat--and he is beginning to do precisely that.
    Can't say we weren't warned.

  • David Boaz notes that there's an important difference between "pro-business" and "pro-market," as exemplified by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Congressional Scorecard. He quotes Tim Carney:
    Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., had the most conservative voting record in 2008 according to the American Conservative Union (ACU), and was a "taxpayer hero" according to the National Taxpayer's Union (NTU), but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says his 2008 record was less pro-business than Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.

  • Bruce Schneier has some fun with Ally Bank, which invites its customers to come up with both secret questions and answers, with the idea that a bank employee, in order to verify your identity, will read your secret question to you over the phone to see if you come up with the corresponding secret answer. Suggestions:
    Q: Do you know why I think you're so sexy?
    A: Probably because you're totally in love with me.

    Q: Need any weed? Grass? Kind bud? Shrooms?
    A: No thanks hippie, I'd just like to do some banking.

    I'm not sure they thought that through.

Barackrobatics: Dimewatch VIII

It's been almost a year since Pun Salad started its occasional analyses of President Obama's use of the word "dime" in his public pronouncements. It's developed into a reliable indicator that the other words in the immediate vicinity are some combination of dishonest, misleading, or nonsensical.

That tradition was proudly upheld at the Ottumwa, Iowa Town Hall on April 27. Near the tail end of of a rambling 900-word answer in response to a local businessman's gripes (emphasis added):

THE PRESIDENT: […] So what we've been trying to do is use the SBA, the Small Business Administration. We've doubled SBA loans to small businesses. We are now -- we've told Congress what we'd like to do -- it turns out all those big banks are actually now paying back the money that we gave them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good!

THE PRESIDENT: It is very good. With interest, by the way. (Applause.) They've already paid back the majority of it, but my attitude is I want them paying back every dime. And that's why we've got a bank fee that we're going to impose on them until they've paid taxpayers back every dime of the money they got. (Applause.)

President Obama's entire answer is about as incoherent as this excerpt. But, as expected, the bits near the word "dime" are especially truth-challenged.

First, about the SBA loans: if you can stand to read a sycophantic CNN article about them, you'll see that (indeed) 2010 loans are so far about double 2009 loans. But you'll also see that 2010 is running well behind 2008. "Doubled" loans sound impressive, but it's less than meets the eye.

Read a more skeptical source, and you'll find even more problems with the presidential rhetoric: most businesspeople find other problems, including taxes, regulation, and governmental red tape, much more pressing than an inability to obtain credit; SBA guaranteed loans have embarrassing levels of default, leaving the taxpayer on the hook to the creditors; the SBA is also relatively insignificant in the overall credit market, accounting for around 1% of small business loans.

But never mind, because the President leaps to a different topic, which allows him to throw the friendly audience some demagogic red meat: the "big banks" and the "fee" he's putting on them, something he proposed a few months back. The WSJ critique is still on target, and shows how divorced the President's speech is from reality: (a) it's a tax, not a "fee"; (b) it's only on the "big banks", not on other TARP beneficiaries like GM, or Chrysler; (c) most of the big banks have already paid back their TARP bailouts; (d) many institutions that were bailed out via non-TARP funds—notably Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—are exempt; (e) even the Congressional Budget Office admits that the new taxes will be borne by banks' customers, employees and investors.

But earlier that day, President Obama was in the Rose Garden, delivering remarks at the first meeting of his Tax Increase "Fiscal" Commission. And there it was again (emphasis added):

And I kept my promise to pass a health reform bill without adding a dime to the deficit.

Certainly he pretty much has to say that now, because he repeatedly "pledged" not to sign a bill that added (yes) "even one dime to our deficit over the next decade."

Unsurprisingly, repeating a lie doesn't make it any truer. A recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (allegedly held back from the public before the ObamaCare vote) encourages the opposite view: that the bill will add a lot more dimes to the deficit, without actually saving anyone anything on their health care costs.

(Previous episodes of Dimewatch here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:36 PM EDT

Mystery Street

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

A pretty decent police procedural. A better title could have been CSI:1950 Boston; because it's never quite clear where Mystery Street is located (between Mt. Vernon and Pinckney, maybe?)

As the movie begins, we follow Vivian, a Scolloy Square, um, performer, as she hassles an unseen paramour on the Cape. She dupes Henry, who's depressed and drunk, into letting her drive his car to Hyannis. Once there, she gives Henry the slip to meet her lover, but things don't work out as she expects. And, months later, a beachcomber comes across her skeleton.

This brings in the cops, primarily Pete Moralas, played by Ricardo Montalban! ("Khaaaaan!") He gets help from Harvard Med School guys to analyze Vivian's remains, and his diligent police work soon turns up… Henry, the wrong guy. Meanwhile, Mrs. Smerrling (Elsa Lanchester! Hissss!), Vivian's ditzy but avaricious landlady, has inside information she's not telling Pete.

This movie was, in fact, the first commercial movie mostly shot in the Boston area. ("Ah, so that's what Harvard Square looked like back then.") The climax takes place at "Trinity Station", which got wiped out by the Mass Pike, near the current Back Bay Amtrak/MBTA station.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:35 PM EDT

Niger Innis at the UNH

[Innis Ticket]

Your humble blogger went to see Niger Innis at the University Near Here last night; his appearance was sponsored by an odd-couple of student organizations: the College Republicans and the Diversity Support Coalition. I estimated attendance at 50-60 people; not enough to fill the Strafford Room at the Memorial Union Building, but a decent turnout nonetheless.

Mr. Innis is the National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the oldest civil rights organizations in America. His father, Roy Innis, has led the group since 1968. CORE has been controversial for being more friendly to Republicans than your typical civil rights group.

Mr. Innis expressed his gratitude for the invitation (and further gratitude for being invited up to UNH in April, instead of say, November or February). He was a pretty good speaker, assured and voluble.

The major part of his speech concerned energy policy: specifically the disparate impact of proposed "cap and trade" legislation and EPA greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations on the poor. Attendees were given a one-page handout from the Affordable Power Alliance (PDF available here), full of scary (and for all I know, true) statistics about the EPA's GHG regulations. For example, that they will "Increase the poverty rate for African Americans by 2025 from 24% to ~30% -- an increase of 20%".

Almost as a postscript, Mr. Innis then tackled the issue of Tea Party "racism". He pooh-poohed it; he noted that he had been to a number of Tea Party rallies, and he was invariably treated "like a rock star". He noted that alleging racism was nowadays a cudgel used to shut off debate and delegitimize one's opponents.

After the speech, Mr. Innis took questions from the audience. Most, but not all, were supportive. (This is a university, after all.) One attendee took exception to his characterization of pro-cap-n-trade environmental groups as the "Green Mafia"—after all, didn't the Mafia kill people? This lead to a general discussion about civility in political discourse. As usual, many are only concerned with it when it's conservatives doing the discoursing.

Another questioner wanted to make the argument that the Tea Partiers were (indeed) racist. Mr. Innis rebutted him with the (by now) familiar debunking of the March 20 incident where it was alleged that n-word slurs were hurled at members of the Congressional Black Caucus who marched through a Tea Party gathering.

I had to leave before the Q-and-A wound up, unfortunately, but Mr. Innis dealt with even semi-hostile questioning with easy humor. A good guy. Both the College Republicans and the Diversity Support Coalition deserve the University's gratitude for bringing him on campus.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:35 PM EDT

Crisis of Abundance

[Amazon Link]

The subtitle: "Rethinking How We Pay For Health Care". The author, Arnold Kling, is one of the libertarian bloggers at EconLog; he's also an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, who published this book back in 2006. It's short, 87 pages plus front- and end-matter. Although Arnold's an economist, it's written very accessibly for the lay reader. To use an old cliché: he tells you what he's going to say, he says it, and then he tells you what he said.

Arnold ably lays out the issues; although the book is four years old, all of the same issues confront us today; in fact, they've been made even more painfully obvious. Key is his deft presentation of the trilemma confronting anyone daft/hubristic enough to redesign the "health care system". Principles that "must" be satisfied:

  • Unfettered Access. Consumers must be completely free to select any treatment that the health care provider and patient agree would be beneficial.

  • Insulation. Consumers must be protected from the financial and emotional burden of paying for health care procedures. They should have the security of knowing that health care will be provided by private insurance and/or government.

  • Affordability. The health care system must not absorb an inordinate amount of resources. Health care spending should not crowd out more valuable public- or private-sector needs.

Arnold notes that it's pretty clear that the three principles are incompatible in the real world. It must have been frustrating when nearly all players in the ObamaCare debate fudged and obfuscated that simple truth, continuing to assure the American people that they could have all three principles, presumably delivered by friendly ponies that eat rainbows and poop butterflies.

Still, there's always a chance that we could come to our senses and start looking for saner solutions to financing health care. Arnold's policy suggestions are modestly stated, but in fact would vastly improve our future: shift responsibility for health care spending back to individuals; allow innovative health-care insurance products that might provide access to high-cost care more efficiently; consider deregulation of the provision of health care.

All it would take to start down that path are honest and courageous politicians… oh, wait.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:34 PM EDT

Act of Violence

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

The movie's title does not lie. There is an Act of Violence, although you have to wait until the very end of the flick for it. Up until then, it's atmosphere, dialog, suspense, and perspiration. And shadows. Lots of shadows.

Van Heflin plays Frank Enley, a veteran settled into his postwar real estate developer life in sunny Santa Lisa, California with wife Edith (hey hey, it's Janet Leigh!) and a bratty kid. But off in another city, Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan with a bad limp) has noticed Frank's picture in the paper—apparently they routinely highlighted small-town California real estate developers in the papers back then—and immediately packs his .45 and hops a Greyhound for Santa Lisa.

It turns out that Joe and Frank were in the same German POW camp, and Joe blames Frank for his limp, and a lot more. Frank is justly terrified, and goes on the lam to evil old downtown LA. But that only delays the confrontation, and Frank falls in with a bad crowd, typified by Pat, a hooker with a heart of charcoal, played by Mary Astor.

Speaking of Ms. Astor: This movie was made only seven years after she played Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon, and you can compare and contrast. It was a rough few years for Mary, or maybe she was just a great actress.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:34 PM EDT

You Tell Yourself You're Not My Kind

… but you don't even know your mind:

  • So much for being President of all the people. In describing President Obama's video "rallying the troops" for the 2010 elections:
    Obama speaks with unusual demographic frankness about his coalition in his appeal to "young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again."
    Looks like Pun Salad, not belonging to any of the named groups, is being written off. OK, that's a safe bet, but still…

    (Via David Bernstein at Volokh, who notes that he's never heard a Tea Partier "make anything remotely resembling this blatant appeal to racial demography.")

  • Over at Granite Grok, Skip gets a chuckle from a "self-described libertarian" NH legislator whose big idea is… state-run slot machine parlors.

    I'm libertarian enough to think that prostitution should be legal, but—please—maybe the whores shouldn't be state employees. Too ironic.

  • A few years back, Richard Clarke gained his fifteen minutes of fame when he made the useful charge (to Democrats) that the Dubya Administration was asleep at the switch in the months leading up to 9/11.

    But before and after that, Clarke was on a cybersecurity binge, warning about the threat of offshore hackers targeting critical computer and network infrastructure. His latest book, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It is reviewed at Wired. First, Clarke's scary scenario:

    Chinese hackers take down the Pentagon's classified and unclassified networks, trigger explosions at oil refineries, release chlorine gas from chemical plants, disable air traffic control, cause trains to crash into each other, delete all data -- including offsite backups -- held by the federal reserve and major banks, then plunge the country into darkness by taking down the power grid from coast-to-coast. Thousands die immediately. Cities run out of food, ATMs shut down, looters take to the streets.
    But the title of the review gives away the punchline: "Richard Clarke's Cyberwar: File Under Fiction"
    So much of Clarke's evidence is either easily debunked with a Google search, or so defies common sense, that you'd think reviewers of the book would dismiss it outright. Instead, they seem content to quote the book liberally and accept his premise that cyberwar could flatten the United States, and no one in power cares at all. Of course, the debunking would be easier if the book had footnotes or endnotes, but neither are included -- Revelation doesn't need sources.
    Bad book by a self-promoting gasbag.

  • If you're considering doing this:

    [Tax Cheat]

    … you better read Beldar's legal analysis first.

  • I'm a sysadmin, and I love computers. But not all sysadmins feel the same way. For example, this guy:
    I hate computers. No, really, I hate them. I love the communications they facilitate, I love the conveniences they provide to my life, and I love the escapism they sometimes afford; but I actually hate the computers themselves. Computers are fragile, unintuitive things -- a hodge-podge of brittle, hardware and opaque, restrictive software. Why?
    I think the answer is: because they're (a) stupid, but also (b) mind-bogglingly complex. Gratification lies in accepting reality, and getting them to do what you want in spite of those limitations.

    There are days when I go home saying, "I never want to look at another computer again for as long as I live." This usually lasts for a half hour or so.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:34 PM EDT

Ride Lonesome

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

Netflix has Inglorious Basterds, The Princess and the Frog, and The Blind Side on an (apparently) infinite waitlist, so I'm diving down for older movies that their algorithm says I'll like. This one is right on the money: a 1959 Cinemascope epic western, directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott. When they say "they don't make 'em like that any more", this is what they mean by "that."

Here, Mr. Scott plays Ben Brigade, a bounty hunter who's tracked down a goofy murderer named Billy John (played by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane hisself, James Best). Brigade (seemingly) wants to get Billy John back to Santa Cruz to hang. Complicating that: the rest of Billy John's gang has fetched brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) to intercept Brigade on the way. And Brigade quickly picks up some unwanted fellow travelers: Boone and Whit (Pernell Roberts and James Coburn), a couple of brigands who would prefer that they be the ones to turn in Billy John; and lovely Mrs. Lane (Karen Steele), who has been recently widowed, courtesy of some marauding Native Americans.

The movie offers spectacular scenery and a neat twist ending. As often happens in Boetticher/Scott movies, there's an interesting relationship between the hero and his nominal adversary (Pernell Roberts in this case): while they're on different sides of the law, and one may end up shooting the other, there's a mutual recognition of a shared bond of masculine honor.

Mr. Scott does his own stunts. He's very good on a horse. As usual, he seems not to be acting.

Karen Steele gets photographed mainly in profile for reasons that are immediately clear to any guy over thirteen. She's not a bad actress, but … hey, where have I seen her before? Oh, yeah: here.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:33 PM EDT

If You Want To Really Roll

… you got to do the thing with soul:

  • There's P. J. O'Rourke content at the Weekly Standard, where he explores the vital question: why is President Obama so annoying?
    The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. We sit once more packed into the vast, dreary confines of a freshman survey course—“Rocks for Jocks,” “Nuts and Sluts,” “Darkness at Noon.” At the lectern is a twerp of a grad student—the prototypical A student—insecure, overbearing, full of himself and contempt for his students.
    Bonus P. J. from his recent appearance on Stossel:

  • Thad McCotter (R-MI) came to the Manchester NH Tea Party event on April 15, and I was impressed by his low-key optimistic keynote speech. (You can see it at GraniteGrok.)

    So I was sad to see that he's sponsoring some new dumb Internet legislation

    Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R) has introduced a bill to create a take-down regime for personal information akin to the widely abused DMCA process. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act established a system where copyright holders could as a practical matter force content off the Internet simply by requesting it.

    McCotter's proposal would similarly regulate every Internet site that has a comment section. He thinks it's going to protect privacy, but he's sorely mistaken. Its passage would undermine privacy and limit free speech.

    Say it ain't so, Thad!


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:33 PM EDT

Another Saturday Night

… and I ain't got nobody:

  • I occasionally pick up the dead-trees student newspaper at the University Near Here when I get on campus. A recent issue had an ad plugging an upcoming speaker, asking "IS THE TEA PARTY RACIST?"

    I believe my exact thoughts were: "Oh oh."

    But, as it turns out, the speaker is Niger Innis, he's sponsored by the College Republicans, and he'll be speaking Monday night at the MUB, although not for free. It's a refreshing change from the usual ideological monoculture at UNH.

    (Mr Innis almost certainly encountered more racism at MSNBC than at your average Tea Party event.)

  • Perhaps the greatest punchline of all time is Shaw's: "We've already established what you are, ma'am. Now we're just haggling over the price." Don Boudreaux generalizes the joke to WaPo columnist Michael Gerson, who wrote a column objecting to ever-increasing nanny state intrusions. Gerson's right …
    But by supporting the ‘War on Drugs,’ Mr. Gerson discards his ability to stand on principle against the state’s nannying intrusions. Even if Mr. Gerson is correct that drug legalization will result in more “addiction” that “robs people of liberty,” why is it appropriate for government to stop me from losing my ‘liberty’ to addictive substances but not appropriate for government to stop me from losing my life to sodium or to transfats?

  • An amusing paragraph from this AP story about the Obama administration's broken promises about improving government transparency:
    The administration has stalled even over records about its own efforts to be more transparent. The AP is still waiting — after nearly three months — for records it requested about the White House's "Open Government Directive," rules it issued in December directing every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public.
    It's a story from last month, but irony ages well. (Via the Agitator.)

  • Pun Salad would be remiss if it did not link to this very geeky visual pun. (Explanation here; via, as you might expect, GeekPress, which also noted useful instructions on how to make your own iPad.)

Recycled Outrage

For reasons best unexplained, Pun Salad Manor receives the AARP Bulletin. This caught my eye on the cover of the April 2010 issue:

Outrage
Woman Loses
Home Over $68
Dental Bill
PAGE 6

Whoa, that is an outrage. I turned to page 6, but you can read the article on the web here.

Summary: Ms. Capri Ramos of Salt Lake City was billed $67.72 for a dentist visit over 15 years ago. Unpaid, the bill was turned over to a collection agency. A judge ordered Ms. Ramos's house sold to pay the debt; it went up for auction in 1996 and was sold to "Jarmaccc Properties" for $1550. (Ramos had purchased the house for $51K.) Two years after that, Ramos learned that the house's title belonged to Jarmaccc, and she's been trying to get it back.

OK, really? I googled "Capri Ramos", and one of the first hits was this ABC News story. Headline:

Woman Loses Home Over $68 Dental Bill

I. e., exactly the same headline used by the AARP Bulletin.

I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism; the stories are different enough, although the AARP version seems to be a Cliff's-Notes version of the ABC one.

The date on the ABC story caught my eye: May 22, 2008, nearly two years ago. Hence the title of this post. If, for space-filling purposes, the AARP needs to exhume stories of that age, dust them off, and present them as fresh, there's a silver lining: these "outrages" must be pretty darn rare.

Once you look beyond the scare headline, the story gets a lot more complex.

First, Ms. Ramos is still living in the house the headlines claimed she "lost". And she's still making mortgage payments on it. Arguably, both headlines are misleading.

Beyond the headlines' accuracy, the stories are one-sided, relying heavily on Ms. Ramos's version of events. Even so, they still invite skepticism. Most of the important things happened, it seems, without Ms. Ramos being aware. The AARP story says she "never received a subsequent bill" from the dentist; she says "she was not notified" of the original legal proceeding; she learned of her title loss "on a fluke". The ABC story notes the same obliviousness toward her legal and financial situation, and (to ABC's credit) quotes a couple folks who express skepticism.

And once you get beyond the MSM accounts, the story starts to get even more complex. If you enjoy reading PDF legal opinions, here's one from the Utah Court of Appeals from a few months back; it granted Ms. Ramos a another opportunity to undo the original 1996 sale. The history the court recounts is messy, hardly the simple morality tale AARP wants to sell you.

But the bottom line is: pay your bills, pay attention. Getting your name in the AARP Bulletin as the victim of an "outrage" is not an adequate reward for irresponsibility.

His Kind of Woman

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

The relevant item from the IMDB trivia page is:

In later interviews, Robert Mitchum admitted that much of the script was made up as they went along.
Ah, that makes sense. Also: "[Howard] Hughes also organized a screenwriting team which extensively rewrote the film and added many pages to the first script."

As you might expect from Hughes' active involvement, it's an oddball little movie. Robert Mitchum plays the hero, a gambler down on his luck, who's dragooned into a charter flight down to a remote Mexican resort. He meets a number of colorful characters, including Jane Russell as a singer with mysterious background; Vincent Price as a famous ham actor; Jim Backus, in his best Mr. Magoo voice, as a shady investment broker.

But it soon becomes clear that Mitchum is down there at the behest of Raymond Burr, playing a gangster in Italian exile, who's finagling a method to get himself back into the USA.

The movie is basically film noir, with a hefty sprinkling of screwball/slapstick comedy. That's kind of a weird mix, especially when Vincent Price organizes a ragtag army to rescue Mitchum from Burr's clutches.

Everybody's pretty good though, especially Mr. Mitchum and Ms. Russell, who have chemistry.

I think just about everyone in this 1951 movie has passed on, save for Ms. Russell. She's outspoken, and she's my kind of woman:

My father was a Republican, and he couldn't stand what Franklin Delano Roosevelt was doing to the country. I always say I'm a mean-spirited narrow-minded right-wing, conservative Christian ... I start out with that, and if you don't like it, you can lump it. I am not politically correct.
They really don't make 'em like that any more.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:33 PM EDT

Up On the Hill, People Never Stare

… they just don't care:

  • The coveted Pun Salad Read The Whole Thing (If You Haven't Already) Award goes to Mr. Barone's recent column:
    But public policy also helps determine the kind of society we are. The Obama Democrats see a society in which ordinary people cannot fend for themselves, where they need to have their incomes supplemented, their health care insurance regulated and guaranteed, their relationships with their employers governed by union leaders. Highly educated mandarins can make better decisions for them than they can make themselves.

    That is the culture of dependence. The tea partiers see things differently. They're not looking for lower taxes; half of tea party supporters, a New York Times survey found, think their taxes are fair. Nor are they financially secure: Half say someone in their household may lose their job in the next year. Two-thirds say the recession has caused some hardship in their lives. But they recognize, correctly, that the Obama Democrats are trying to permanently enlarge government and increase citizens' dependence on it.

    When President Obama gets befuddled at Tea Partiers ("You would think they'd be saying thank you."), it simply shows, as the cliché goes: he just doesn't get it. He needs it explained to him at the ballot box.

  • But you should also read Glenn Reynolds' uncharactaristically long post reminding us what a slimeball Bill Clinton was (and is) about exploiting the Oklahoma City bombing 15 years ago for his political gain; and how Obama seems determined to follow in his footsteps.

  • In related news, the Rothenberg Political Report rates both NH congressional seats as "Pure Toss-ups". 198 days before Election Day, and counting.

  • Commentary's blog, Contentions is pretty good, but contributor Anthony Scaramone's occasional posts collecting pithy comments on recent news would be worth reading all by themselves. Sample:

    Comet eaten by the sun. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg insists calorie content be displayed prominently.

  • The famed Dr. Boli, um, participated in "World Homeopathy Awareness Week" (which is over, sorry if you missed it) with a fine collection from his archives.

    But even better, some homeopaths wrote him, to "correct certain popular misconceptions about their science." Those corrections and his responses are here.

Tea Party Wrapup

Here's the main thing I learned: I would make an absolutely lousy reporter. After the wireless went out, I variously scribbled notes on paper and in Notepad, and they are pretty much worthless. I missed the names of a lot of speakers, and didn't get any pithy quotes from anyone.

Oh well. Things I noticed:

  • Overall attitude of the attendees and speakers leaned toward "pissed off". You know that old Elvis Costello song with the lyric: "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused"? I didn't see a lot of people that felt that way.

  • Based on nothing but looking around the small park, I'd guess that turnout was about the same or slightly less than last year. I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong, though.

  • I spent most of my time sitting at the Blogger's Row table, because, well, it was sitting, and otherwise I'd be standing. (A list of attending bloggers, unfortunately not all of whom I met, here.) And I kept hoping that WiFi would magically return.

    But this meant I didn't wander around the park like last year. Based on my limited observations, I didn't see any obvious lefty infiltrators. The signs were strongly worded, many of them chuckle-inducing, but I didn't see any remotely racist, and only a couple that might have been vaguely birther.

    Probably the worst sign was held by an elderly gent: "BARACH [sic] ENEMY OF USA". Misspelled and overheated. I remarked to a co-blogger: "That's the one that'll probably wind up on the local news." I didn't check to see if I was right, though.

    My favorite sign was: "ARE YOU BETTER OFF NOW THAN YOU WERE 4 TRILLION DOLLARS AGO?"

    [DTOM]

  • A number of folks had cool Gadsden flag t-shirts for sale. Unfortunately, everyone ran out of XL pretty quick. I'm not saying the crowd as a whole could stand to lose a few pounds, but…

  • But I didn't have to spend money, because there were plenty of freebies: I could have had dozens of "Lynch Lied" bumperstickers. (And so can you. Their website is here.) I got a "1.20.13 End of an Error" sticker too. Jim Bender, candidate for US Senate, dropped by a DVD in support of his campaign. Karen Testerman, running for Governor, was also brave enough to press the flesh on Blogger's Row.

  • Grant Bosse was the intrepid Master of Ceremonies, and he (at least) was able to crack a few good jokes in between introducing speakers.

  • The speakers were good, but there were a lot of 'em, and things got a little repetitious.

    [Eek]

  • Pun Friend Skip Murphy gave a stemwinding speech, inviting audience participation on repeating the truism: "the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen". True, and worth mulling. (Skip was, in general, busier than the button on a fat man's vest. I swear I saw him, somehow, in three different places at the same time.) He even managed to snap a picture of me. Click to embiggen, although why would you want to?

  • Tom Thompson, son of the late ex-Governor Meldrim Thompson, was there to introduce the keynote; Tom had a very large ax to illustrate his dad's old "Ax the Tax" slogan.)

  • The keynote speaker was ex-Senator Gordon Humphrey who sat firmly on the "disgusted" side of the Costello scale. He also had a prop: a toilet labeled "IRS". The symbolism was clear enough.

  • Probably the other big star of the party was Republican Congressman from Michigan, Thaddeus McCotter. He gave a very brief, low-key speech. Uninformed speculation from Chris Cameron of Angry Seafood/Radioactive Liberty: Thad's gonna run for President in 2012. You know what? So far, he's got my vote.

As I type, there's exactly 200 days to go until Election Day. Here's hoping that events like this can help that day turn out better than in previous years.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:38 PM EDT

Jock Finances at UNH

A couple weeks back, Pun Salad noted actual students committing acts of journalism at the University of Maine, reporting that the athletics program there was losing $7 million a year, a loss made up from general revenues. At the time, I wondered what the numbers from the University Near Here might look like.

Well, thanks to USA Today, here's an E-Z access database so we can answer that question; it contains data for all NCAA Division I schools. Some factoids:

  • For the 2008-09 academic year, UNH kicked in about $7.7 million in "Direct institutional support" for its athletics program.

  • In addition, the program is subsidized for another $9 million by "Student fees".

  • These two items are by far the biggest contributors (about 69%) of athletic revenue. For example, only 9.57% of revenue came from "Ticket Sales".

  • Despite all that money coming in, athletic program expenses still managed to outpace revenue by a cool $892,812.

I found the USA Today database via this post at University Diaries, a quoted letter from a UMaine physics prof. Like UNH, Maine is currently undergoing a period of fiscal woes and belt-tightening. His conclusion:

The bottom line is the academic programs are being forced to support a bloated administration and a not particularly successful athletics program -- with the possible exception of hockey. This is unsustainable, and the Academic Program Prioritization Working Group had no chance of "achieving sustainability" since they were directed by administration to focus solely on proposing cuts to academics.
What's that old saying? "As Maine goes…"

I Can't Take the Way He Sings

… but I love to hear him talk:

  • Barackrobatics du Jour: Jacob Sullum notes President Obama engaging in a bit of lying historical revisionism about his (Dover NH) campaign pledge to not raise any taxes for families with incomes under $250K.

  • Speaking of the president, you may have heard about what he said yesterday about the Tax Day protests:
    President Barack Obama said Thursday he's amused by the anti-tax tea party protests that have been taking place around Tax Day.

    Obama told a fundraiser in Miami that he's cut taxes, contrary to the claims of protesters.

    "You would think they'd be saying thank you," he said.

    Howard Portnoy has a complaint about the tone:
    For a man who rode to power on the false promise of post-partisanship, Obama has missed no opportunity to insult and enrage those who exercise their constitutional right to disagree with him.
    Steve Landsburg, on the other hand, takes exception to the substance:
    The reality is that President Obama, like President Bush before him, has rather dramatically raised government spending and therefore has raised your taxes. To say otherwise is like saying you got your new swimming pool for free because you put it on your credit card.
    Small enough words there, Mr. President?

    Or, as we've said before: "It's the spending, you attractive, intelligent, and amusing person, you."

  • A few days back I looked at a Foster's Daily Democrat article that slimed the "Oathkeepers Project of Maine" as one of the groups that "poisoned" political discourse. In the American Conservative, Jesse Walker looks at the national Oath Keepers group, and finds an awful lot of nothing much to worry about.

  • Having solved all other pressing national problems, New Hampshire's Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has joined the battle against airline carry-on baggage fees. Drew Cline calls Jeanne "dim", but I think you have to be pretty darn smart to find the "right to free carry-on luggage" in the Constitution.

  • On the other hand, Senator Shaheen might indeed be dim compared to the sheer blue-star brilliance of California Congressman Henry A. Waxman, who represents Beverly Hills and other localities. Because he's so smart, he's discovered that Congress has the power to pontificate upon what substances Major League Baseball players may or may not chew during ballgames.
    At a hearing Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and Health Subcommittee chairman Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, called on baseball and its players to agree to bar major leaguers from using chew, dip or similar products during games.
    The concept that some things might be none of their business seems to be lost upon your typical Democrat in a position of power.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:32 PM EDT

Tea Party in Manchester

Gosh, this is fun. I'm incredibly honored to have been asked by Skip at GraniteGrok to be part of "Blogger's Row". My fellow rowmates, besides Skip, are from Radioactive Liberty, Weekend Pundit, America's Watchtower, News from the North Woods, Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes, and ConChrist.

Sun's pretty bright for this cheap-ass laptop though. Power is a shared 6-outlet power strip, and we're leeching Wi-fi from the Manchester Public Library. (Thanks.) So I'll try to make this my first—maybe last—live blog, updating as things happen. But don't be surprised if I'm less coherent than usual. It's definitely not my normal blogging environment.

Right now, about 15 minutes before the scheduled start, this little one block square park is filling up. There are a lot of signs from GOP candidates: Ashooh, Guinta and Giuda, Kimball, Ovide. And even a few Ayotte!

[Update: <sarcasm>well, that went well.</sarcasm> Just as I was typing, the Manchester Public Library hotspot went away, and didn't come back. More later.]


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:31 PM EDT

Quote du Jour

From Homer J. Simpson, watching TV news coverage of last-minute tax filers at the Springfield Post Office:

Will you look at those morons? I paid my taxes over a year ago!
Via GeekPress.

Hope to have something about the Tea Party in Manchester NH later.

I Got Knocked Down and My Head Was Swimmin'

… I wound up with the Dean of Women:

  • Now! Hampshire reports that things could get interesting at the Tea Party gatherings tomorrow:
    New Hampshire Democrats are engaged in a statewide search for liberal activists willing to attend so-called tea parties on Thursday and carry signs expressing racist or fringe sentiments, a Democratic source with knowledge of the effort tells NowHampshire.com.
    The source is anonymous, so this could all be bullshit. Still, it might be a good idea to engage any "racist or fringe" Tea Partiers in conversation. "Hey, didn't I see you at the Strafford County Democratic Committee workshop last month?"

    Prof Althouse has similar advice at greater length. One of her commenters suggests:

    A vicious beating of racist sign-bearers would help, but I'd wear an SEIU, Che, or Obama t-shirt to do it.
    I'm pretty sure that's not serious.

  • [NewYorkSocietyForTheSuppressionOfVice] Sad news for the Womyn's Club at the University Near Here:
    A group of University of New Hampshire students were told Monday they wouldn't be allowed to burn pornographic materials on The Great Lawn Thursday as previously planned.
    Instead they plan to use shredders. Doesn't quite send the same message, but otherwise the Womyn join a long tradition, and you do what you can.

  • In other higher ed news, the Daily Beast lists the 100 Happiest Colleges. The University Near Here did not make the list, probably due to the lack of porn fires.

    Neither did UNH make the DB's list of the 50 Most Stressful Colleges.

    Interesting fact: there's a lot of overlap between the lists. For example, dear old Caltech was #9 on the Stressful list, and #8 on the Happiest list.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:30 PM EDT

If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It

Well, unless

In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the "personal health insurance coverage" of senators, representatives and their staff members.

For example, it says, the law may "remove members of Congress and Congressional staff" from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.

Gosh, how could that have happened? Relevant quote:
But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
"Be careful what you set your heart on, for it will surely be yours." Daniel Foster explains how this happened. But the bottom line is: it was their job to get it right. They didn't. Fire 'em.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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

I've noted before that I'm underwhelmed by director Wes Anderson; he's a critical darling, and I'm sure he's a heckuva guy, and I keep falling asleep during his movies. But this, I thought, might be different: instead of an unfunny comedy about a rich dysfunctional family, this movie was a stop-motion animation of a Roald Dahl book for kids. Netflix's prediction engine said I would love it. IMDB rated it high, as did Rotten Tomatoes.

Well, sorry Wes. It's not bad, but… eh.

The title character is voiced by George Clooney; Meryl Streep voices his wife, Mrs. Fox. (One of my heroes, Bill Murray, is in there too.) They are trying hard to maintain their foxy identities while living on the edge of civilization; this is difficult when Mr. Fox seems compelled to swipe domesticated birds from the local farmers. (Predictably, the farmers are the unattractive villains, even though Mr. Fox is ripping them off.) The conflict quickly grows into a small-scale war, with quite a bit of destruction on both sides.

And there's lots of good music. I especially liked the song that played over the end credits. "I don't like a lot of that new-fangled music," I said to myself. "But that's pretty good."

It turned out to be "Let Her Dance" by the Bobby Fuller Four, their first top 40 hit … back in 1965. So much for my cutting-edge musical taste; depressingly, it's wedged firmly in the sixties.

I picked up "Let Her Dance" at iTunes anyway. It really is a fine song.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:30 PM EDT

Charlie Bass: A Few More Reasons To Vote For Someone Else

Pun Salad tends to concentrate on its own dreadful Congresscritter, Carol Shea-Porter. But New Hampshire has two Congressional Districts: NH-02 is currently represented by just-as-bad Democrat Paul Hodes (who plans to run for the US Senate seat currently occupied by Judd Gregg).

One of the GOP candidates for the NH-02 seat is its previous inhabitant, Charlie Bass. (Hodes beat him in 2006.) He's making fiscally conservative noises about "big government" and "out of control" spending. Over at GraniteGrok, Skip gathers a bunch of reasons why conservatives might want to look elsewhere. Looking back at my archives, I have a few reasons of my own:

Charlie may have realized that his "moderation" didn't save him from his 2006 defeat. But there's no sign that his newfound fiscal conservatism is principled.

Last Modified 2013-04-22 12:52 PM EDT

And Every Word We Sang

… I knew was true:

  • Both James Taranto and Matthew Hoy bring attention to the now-you-tell-us coverage of David Leonhardt, New York Times reporter. Leonhardt:
    How can we learn to say no?

    The federal government is now starting to build the institutions that will try to reduce the soaring growth of health care costs. There will be a group to compare the effectiveness of different treatments, a so-called Medicare innovation center and a Medicare oversight board that can set payment rates.

    Taranto is funny:

    It seems as though this is a pretty strong argument against ObamaCare. But we need to encapsulate it in a pithy phrase. What would you call governmental institutions that empower bureaucrats to decide when to deny medical treatment--panels, as it were, that have the authority to determine when a patient's death is necessary for the health of the fisc?

    Coming up with a suitable term is a high-powered intellectual challenge. Our thinking cap is on, and we'll get back to you as soon as something dawns on us.

    If Taranto is too subtle, Mr. Hoy will spell it out for you:

    Last year, when one iteration of the health care bill introduced us to "comparative effectiveness panels" that would decide on what sorts of medical treatments would get paid for under the new health care regime, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin referred to them as "death panels."

    That earned her a "Pants on Fire" and "lie of the year" designation from Politifact.com. The political elite derided her as a demagogue and a simpleton.

    Apologies to Ms. Palin won't be forthcoming.

  • I think Beowulf Burlington would be a fine name for the hero of a best-selling series of action novels.

  • I took the Gandhi or Angelina? quiz at Mental Floss and did about as well as I would have if I'd answered at random.

Die Trying

[Amazon Link]

The second Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. These books are fun. Nothing more. But also nothing less. There's something to be said for that.

In this one, Reacher gets involved sheerly by coincidence. Walking by a Chicago dry cleaner, he helps out a young woman with a bum knee. But nearly immediately, she's swept up by a gang of violent kidnappers; Reacher's taken too. This turns out to be rather good luck for the young woman, very bad luck for the kidnappers. Because Reacher is someone you don't want within miles of your nefarious plot.

Style: lots of short sentences. Packed with testosterone. This one's written in third person. The one before this was in first person. (Why? Well, here's why.)

Doesn't matter. There's always reason to keep turning pages, because the next action scene is, I promise, at most a few pages away. They are imaginative and usually produce an impressive body count. The plot is ludicrous, with villains that are clever and deadly one minute, inept the next. My favorite bit: the hyper-resourceful Reacher can rattle off every city that contains a Federal Reserve branch. I don't think Lee Child ever met a deus ex machina he didn't like.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:29 PM EDT

An Education

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

Nominated for three Oscars: Best Movie, Best Actress, and Best Derived Screenplay. Didn't win any, but that's not too shabby!

It's a coming-of-age story, set in the London area in the pre-Beatles 60's. Young Jenny is a brilliant student, being micromanaged by her father into Oxford. Only problem is, she's bored and only sees more stultifying drabness in store for her on the path she's on. Salvation comes in the guise of David, a much older fellow who offers her a lift home in the rain. This starts off a relationship that Jenny sees as an escape from her bourgeois existence.

But David has secrets of his own. Everyone's shocked when they find out the big one. Everyone except, well me. And probably you, too. Saw it coming a mile off.

Emma Thompson has a small role, and she's always worth watching. And David has a friend with a girlfriend—I've seen her before, who is that? Ah, the credits reveal all: that's Rosamund Pike, last seen as the treacherous Miranda Frost in Die Another Day. She's good!


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:29 PM EDT

New Hampshire is the New California, Part II

If it were not for Dave Barry I would have been unaware of this Union Leader story, datelined Hampton, NH, which does indeed have a photo caption that ends with "along with neighbor Kali Burns, who was dressed as a gorilla."

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

… I really think so:

  • I have been remiss:

    [Tax Day Tea Party]

    Click the image to embiggen; click here for info. Skip of GraniteGrok has kindly invited me to sit in the "Bloggers Row" he's setting up. Which, for some reason, brings to mind that old Star Wars quote: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." So: you must be cautious. Please drop by and say hi.

    In addition to Manchester, there are events planned in Portsmouth and Concord.

  • From the safe distance of Florida, Dave Barry notes recent New England craziness: (1) the egg drop in Rochester (the commenters remember WKRP in Cincinnati pretty well); and (2) the Women's topless march in Portland, Maine. What are we, California?

  • For years I went to Webshots for my wallpaper needs. Since 2007, they've been a commercial offshot of the American Greetings card company, and (bless them) have ramped up their efforts to make some bucks off the site. ("Get Unlimited Screensavers and Wallpapers, only $19.99 a year") The download format is Windows-proprietary (although there are ways around that), and no free high-res pictures. You need an account. Ads and upgrade offers are intrusive.

    But I recently discovered that National Geographic has a photo site too. As you might expect, the pictures are spectacular. As you might not expect, they're free, mostly 1600x1200, and they're plain old JPEG. There's no nagging, accounts, etc. If you're looking for a super-safe-for-work wallpaper source, it's right there.

  • Frank J observes:
    We currently have the most women ever in space at once (four), in case you were wondering why the earth seemed so quiet.
    For your convenience, here's a brief article on how to respond to sexist comments.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:28 PM EDT

Ten Influential Books

Everybody's doin' it. Here are mine, in principal-author order. Beware: lots of libertarian-themed stuff, and my literary tastes are low-to-middlebrow. (And some would argue about the middlebrow bit.) Nevertheless:

[Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link] [Amazon Link]

Comments, explanations, apologies:

  1. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne. This is the one book that I'm a little embarrassed about including, but I can't deny it was influential. Some kids have an intellectual fling with Ayn Rand, but for me it was Harry Browne. Here, he puts forth a semi-Objectivist, anarchist, politics-eschewing, self-help Philosophy of Everything. Intoxicating to a young moron!

    The book decries politics as a waste of time; but a few years later, Browne was a two-time presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party. The book emphatically denounces marriage as an intolerable restriction on your personal freedom; but a few years later, Browne got married. The book (written in 1973) argued that the US was headed for inevitable financial collapse; bad as things got, that didn't happen. So maybe, just maybe, there's some problem with the book's arguments.

  2. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by Richard Feynman, Robert Leighton, and Matthew Sands. Back in the early 60's, colorful genius Richard Feynman taught freshman and sophomore physics at Caltech, using a "from scratch" approach completely different from the then-current textbooks. The lectures were quickly transcribed, edited, and published in three volumes. My high school library had a set, and (pretty much as a result) I became a physics major; and when I went to college, I essentially lived with the big red books for a couple more years. The lectures capture the joy of figuring things out, and convey the beauty and mystery of how the world works. Physics didn't work out for me in the long term, but the important stuff is still up there in my head somewhere.

  3. Proof by Dick Francis. Ostensibly a mystery, and it is, but it's also a complex story about character, courage, family, friendship, heartbreaking loss, and hidden talent. I've often thought that if I were to write a novel—not that I see much chance of that—I'd like to write something similar to Proof.

  4. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. A great yarn of fighting for independence on the Moon. Mannie, the one-armed computer jock, develops a friendship with Mike, the lunar supercomputer that runs the show up there and has, apparently by sheer accident, "woken up" into a true conscious intelligence. Another book that nudged me onto a libertarian path.

  5. Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A Heinlein. Yes, another Heinlein. It tells the story of Alexander Hergensheimer, who's far from the typical Heinlein hero. In fact, he's kind of a jerk. But he's roped into walking on fire in Polynesia, and (somehow) this starts bouncing him back and forth to multiple universes, where he meets Margrethe, the love of his life; it makes Lost look like a missed turn on the way to the supermarket.

    It's a fun read, but also convinced me to get married to my Margrethe, undoing the commitment-phobia that Harry Browne put in place. So it easily gets included on an Influential list.

  6. Software Tools by Brian Kernighan and P. J. Plauger. I'd been a very amateur programmer for a few years, but this book knocked me off my physics career trajectory and sucked me into an obsession with getting computers to sit up and play tricks at my command. Which is, for better or worse, what I've been mostly doing since. You will not believe what these guys were able to torture a Fortran compiler into doing.

  7. The Gift of Fire by Richard Mitchell. Richard Mitchell was a professor of classics at (then) Glassboro State College in New Jersey. He made his name as the "Underground Grammarian", poking wicked fun at the self-important and deluded figures of (mostly) education and (occasionally) politics. But this book steps away from that formula, and delves into …

    Oh, heck. You know what? Of all the works listed, this one is online, free and legal, and you can read it right here. Check it out, see what you think.

  8. In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government by Charles Murray. A relatively short and very readable meditation on that mysterious phrase in the Declaration. There are a number of libertarianish tomes on this list, but I think I'd pick this as the one that comes closest to explicating my political philosophy. At least for today, and probably for the rest of this week.

  9. Programming Perl by Larry Wall and Randal L. Schwartz. I spent years writing coding in Pascal, C, Basic, and Shell. My friends, Larry Wall showed me a better way.

    Note: this is the first edition. I can't recommend you buy it as a reference, because it documents a very obsolete, bug-ridden version of the Perl language. But it explicates that version very well, in much the same way as The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie did for that language. (I might have included Kernighan and Ritchie if this list were longer.)

    But in addition, the book also discusses issues of programming language design and proramming philosophy all with wit and clarity. See his three virtues of a programmer for a quick example. This sort of thing got squeezed out in later editions. Understandable, but regrettable.

  10. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White. Look: as bad as my prose can get, if I hadn't read Strunk and White back in college, it would have been much, much worse. So: on the Influential list it goes.

    Not everyone likes it though. This guy, for example, is currently on kind of a jihad against it.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:27 PM EDT

It Might Get Loud

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

A documentary about an old guitarist (Jimmy Page, 66), a middle-aged guitarist (U2's The Edge, 48), and a young guitarist (Jack White of The White Stripes, 34). They meet, they talk guitars, the do a short jam session at the end, playing Robbie Robertson's "The Weight".

I really wanted to like it better. It's at its best when the musicians relate their life stories: where they got their first guitar, what they did before fame struck, how they put together their distinctive sounds. The common thread is (as you might expect) their fanatic devotion to their craft, their 24x7 obsession in pursuit of their vision, making things ever more right.

Where it gets (unintentionally) amusing: it's really easy for musicians to get inarticulate and/or pretentious, and these guys are no exception. Then things start sounding like a Spinal Tap parody. At one point, when asked about his inspiration, Jimmy Page meanders on about "the creative spark". Gee, really?

Still if the guys had been guitarists I really liked… say Clapton as the old guy, Mark Knopfler representing middle age, and… um… Brad Paisley for the young guy. That would have been great. I would have put up with much more bullshit to hear those guys jam.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:20 PM EDT

My Local Paper Smears My Fellow Tea Partiers, and My Fellow Townspeople.

On page one of the Sunday edition of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, (which, on Sunday, is called "Foster's Sunday Citizen") is an article by Adam D. Krauss headlined "Poisoned Politics?".

If you can't see where this is going already, the subtitle gave further hints: "Experts raise concern about angry discourse." Oh oh.

I'm not in the mood for a full-style fisking, but how about a quick Q-and-A about the article?

  • Is this yet another Foster's news article that presents unbalanced partisan commentary as "news"?

  • Why yes it is.

  • Who are the "experts" to which the subheadline refers?

  • One is Jim Leach, ex-member of Congress, ostensibly still a Republican although he endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in the 2008 election. He is currently the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a job widely viewed as a reward for that endorsement; he has no obvious qualifications for the position.

    The Foster's article notes that Leach is currently on a self-styled "civility tour", lecturing Americans on our supposed lack of manners in criticizing our current Federal elected officials. Power Line identifies Leach as "something of a schoolmarm, both pompous and insipid." At National Review's Bench Memos blog, Matthew Franck describes Leach's civility tour as "transparently partisan, an act not of civility but of servility—to the president who appointed him."

  • Any other "experts"?

  • Yes, the widely noted report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) "Rage on the Right" is quoted uncritically. Specifically, the bit that deemed the Tea Party movement as "shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism." More skeptical readers found the SPLC report to be fearmongering.

  • So what's the problem?

  • In its implication that intemperate language and actions are confined to the right, mostly motivated by racism and paranoia, and directed against innocent (apparently all Democrat) public servants, the Foster's article displays (at best) a conveniently short memory, and a reading of current events that ignores some inconvenient facts. And it feeds into the ongoing attempt to delegitimize honest conservative/libertarian criticism.

  • Is there a good example of blatant bias that is also unintentionally funny?

  • Yes. My own Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter is quoted sympathetically as referring to some of her more demonstrative critics as "bullies" who need to be taken "out of the sandbox".

    A mere five paragraphs later, when trying to demonstrate out-of-control angry rhetoric, the article refers to a Saco, Maine resident and veteran, Brad Watts, who dared label politicians as "bullies". This was at an "Every Day is Veterans Day" event co-hosted by the Maine Center for Constitutional Studies and the Oathkeepers Project of Maine.

    The article helpfully pointed out that "residents raised concerns" about the latter gathering. Nobody was guoted as raising concerns about my Congresswoman for her similar name-calling language. (Something she's done in the past, also without being criticized by Foster's.)

  • But aren't the Maine Center for Constitutional Studies and the Oathkeepers Project of Maine dangerous wackos?

  • Perusal of the MCCS website shows they're pretty far out of mainstream, but they're approximately the flipside of 9/11 Truthers, with a heavy Ron Paul influence. There's no indication they're dangerous.

    I can't find a website for the Oathkeepers Project of Maine, but the national Oath Keepers site is here. They are a group made up of current/former military and law enforcement personnel, pledging to disobey "unconstitutional" orders. Not surprisingly, that kind of rhetoric can draw some nutballs. But even there, the group itself is essentially fringy, and the crazoids are a fringe on the fringe.

  • Did the article have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to attempt to make its point?

  • Of course. One of its prime examples was the reaction of residents of my very own home town, Rollinsford, New Hampshire, to a recent epidemic of flooded basements. A selectman who had to deal with the irked citizenry was spooked enough to be quoted as seeing "parallels at the local level with what's happening nationally."

  • Rollinsford? Oh no! Was the basement of Pun Salad Manor flooded?

  • "Flooded" would be an overstatement, but we did get more water down there than we've previously seen in over two decades of residence. This is about as much fun as a root canal without novocaine, and my sympathies are with the residents who had it much worse.

  • What advice would you give to the quoted Rollinsford selectman?

  • Same as Harry Truman would: if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And it wouldn't hurt to remember that your job description is "public servant." And (furthermore) you should probably get used to the new Obama-era paradigm: government is supposed to guarantee that nothing bad will happen to us, ever.


Last Modified 2013-04-22 12:54 PM EDT

It's a Small World, After All

  • Were you wondering if the outrage over Sarah Palin's map "targeting" various Democrat members of Congress for electoral defeat using crosshair imagery was phony and hypocritical? Why, yes it was.

  • At the Corner, Daniel Foster notes that the head of the Family Research Council suggests that his members avoid donating to the Republican National Committee, due to the fact that they'd probably blow that money on S&M lesbian strip shows. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if your tastes run that way, why not keep the money and spend it on that yourself?) Sarah Palin has asked to be disinvited to an RNC fundraiser.

    Meanwhile, Ace notes the Republican Party is already going wobbly on Obamacare repeal. Prominent among the wobblers is Senator John Cornyn, who chairs another organization likely to ask for your dollars, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

    Ace links to a Club For Growth list of candidates who have pledged to "sponsor and support" repeal legislation. (New Hampshire candidates who've signed are: Rich Ashooh, Kelly Ayotte, Bill Binnie, and Frank Guinta.) Ace's implied suggestion, and my explicit one, is to direct your dollars to people actually interested in fixing things, not merely in regaining their hold on the politics-as-usual process.

  • Strange Maps alleges that the entire US population could fit into New Hampshire, and the resulting population density would be "only" about the same as the allegedly inhabitable Brooklyn, New York.

    "The state would be ruined, though," Strange Maps helpfully points out. So don't do that. (Via Granite Geek.)

  • By sheerest coincidence, I also read this post by Reason science guy Ronald Bailey, who comments on a New Scientist editorial attempting to counter the "impression that greens and environmental scientists are authoritarian tree-huggers who value nature above people."

    Which made it all the more serendipitous that the Strange Maps blogger noted that if all the people in the US did move to New Hampshire, "the rest of the country would be green and pleasantly devoid of people!"

    Gosh, I'm not sure where the impression comes from that greens value "nature" over people.

  • Which reminds me. (Contains at least one barely-bleeped bad word.)

  • Some of my co-workers find Google's rebranding, announced today, "weak" and "lame", but I'm easily amused, and I hope you are too:

    [Topeka!]

    Explanation/further joke-milking here.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:19 PM EDT