Barackrobatics: Dimewatch X

Pun Salad has noticed (for about a year now) that President Obama's use of the word "dime" is a reliable signal of dishonesty, deception, delusion, or general incoherence. Last Thursday's news conference proved to be no exception to the rule. Speaking from prepared remarks about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused.
Emphasis added. And as expected, we don't have far to look for something jarringly out of place. For the very next thing the President uttered was:
And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak.
Hm. BP totally screwed up in a massive show of deadly incompetence, and we're relying on them to fix things.

The entire press conference was permeated with that kind of rhetorical schizophrenia. Obama accepts full responsibility, except that everything was really the fault of some Bush holdovers he hadn't got around to ferreting out yet. The Federal government's response was fast, except when it was slow. It was competent, except when it wasn't. We're relying on BP expertise, except when we aren't.

And, hey, didya know that the Secretary of Energy has a Nobel Prize in Physics?

The real Barackrobatic howler (pointed out by Taranto):

My job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill.
I can't improve on Taranto's comment:
Obama's job description is fascinating. He has been depicted as a proponent of "activist government," but this may be a bum rap. Now he tells us he thinks that if he somehow gets people to think about him and how much he's thinking about what he thinks they think he should be thinking about, his job is done.
President G. H. W. Bush was roundly mocked for saying "Message: I care" during his 1992 re-election campaign. (Just down the road a bit, in Exeter N. H., as it happens.) It was taken as a gaffetastic acknowledgement that his Administration was more interested in shaping public perceptions than actually doing anything.

But don't expect similar treatment for Obama when he says a similar thing. Albeit less coherently.

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


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Hope I Die

… before I get old:

  • Happy Birthday to Mr. Clint Eastwood, turning the big Eight-Oh today. From the Big Hollywood comments:
    I know what you're thinking. "Did he turn 80 or only 79?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this cake has almost two full 44-packs of Magnum Birthday Candles, the most powerful candles in the world, and you would have to blow so hard to put 'em out your head came clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
    Also, stay off his lawn.

  • There's P. J. O'Rourke content over at the Weekly Standard, in which Peej modestly proposes a new feature that might help the dying newspaper sector, the pre-obituary: "official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were." One missed opportunity is Paul Newman:
    Paul Newman (1925-2008) was not, in and of himself, a bad person. But he deserved to be damned to his face for lending charm to the smirk of liberalism. And after he’d become an immortal only a heartless writer would have pointed out that for an entire generation of young people, Paul Newman is, mainly, a salad dressing.
    Ouch. And I forgive P. J. for slagging The Who, still 50% alive.

  • George F. Will dismisses President Obama's proposal for government spending reform as "frugality theater":
    Obama's Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act confirms the axiom that the titles of bills, like the titles of Marx brothers movies ("Duck Soup," "Horse Feathers"), are utterly uninformative. The act would aggravate a distortion of the Constitution that has grown for seven decades, enlarging presidential power by allowing presidents to treat spending bills as cafeterias from which they can take what they like and reject the rest.
    Will notes that the proposal (a) might be unconstitutional; (b) would almost certainly be ineffective; (c) and would encourage Congressional irresponsibility. "Other than that, though, it's fine!"

    At Cato, David Boaz adds on his own commentary:

    But Will doesn’t take the cheap shot of dubbing the bill the RUSe Act. He left that for us. A ruse is “a wily subterfuge” or “a deceptive maneuver” — a perfect description for this misleading bill offered in response to growing public concern over federal spending.

  • One more Memorial Day link? Don't miss this fine poem at GraniteGrok by Derek MacMillen Kittredge, about greeting returning troops at Pease.


Last Modified 2010-05-31 6:59 PM EDT
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Iron Man 2

[5.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A rare solo trip to the megaplex, as Mrs. Salad had no interest in seeing Iron Man 2. A decent crowd was in attendance for the Sunday noon showing.

In this episode, Tony Stark/Iron Man is initially riding high, having brought to the world a Pax Ferricanus. (Yes, I made that up.) He's also super-obnoxious about it, which is only bearable by our knowledge that he's about to be brought down more than a couple pegs. In drab and snowy Moscow, Ivan Vanko (played wonderfully well by Mickey Rourke) is his opposite number, looking for vengeance against the Stark family for perceived injustice to his father. A grandstanding U. S. Senator (Gary Shandling) is looking to expropriate the Iron Man technology. A rival arms dealer (Sam Rockwell) aims to take down Stark by fair means or foul, and he's kidding about the "fair" part.

And Tony has his own little problem he's keeping to himself.

As always, Iron Man is the true geek hero. Tony Stark has no superpowers, other than his scientific/engineering genius, undiminished by his hard-partying ways. And nobody's quicker with a wisecrack. It's a lot of fun, marred only by the sloppy, perfunctory inclusion of the Black Widow character, played by Scarlett Johansson.

But I can give no fewer than five point zero stars to a movie where the hero upbraids a Senator: You want my property? You can't have it!

I saw the teaser trailer for Super 8, produced by Steven Spielberg, directed/written by J. J. Abrams. Apparently it involves Roy Neary driving his repair truck into a train shipping one or more very mean aliens from Area 51 to Ohio. I would buy my ticket right now, if I could, but it's not coming out until next summer.

In other trailer news: The A-Team looks awesome; The Last Airbender looks spectacular, but could well be spectacularly stupid; Adam Sandler's Grown Ups is a good bet to be dreadful.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 2:00 PM EDT
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Memorial Day 2010

Mark Helprin has a suggestion for how we might best honor the fallen of the past, present, and future. Check it out.


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Jim Wallis Hides His Own Shortcomings Again

Jim Wallis is CEO of "Sojourners", a lefty religious organization. A few months back, I quoted him:

I have never really trusted those who are intolerant and condemning of other people's shortcomings. It makes me suspect they are likely hiding their own.
Which makes his latest screed, "How Christian is Tea Party Libertarianism?" a display only interesting its hypocrisy. It's a very weak attempt to mash up libertarianism with the Tea Party movement, and accuse that imaginary agglomeration of being "un-Christian".

This won't be a point-by-point rebuttal of Wallis. Not worth it; he's largely ignorant of both libertarianism and the Tea Party, and it shows. Are they really as synonymous as Wallis implies? No, but making a careful distinction between the two would complicate his argument, flawed as it is.

Wallis capitalizes "Libertarian" consistently, apparently also unaware of the distinction between big-L Libertarian and small-l libertarian; he probably wouldn't have made the same mistake with Democratic/democratic or Republican/republican.

And Wallis's "Libertarianism" is unsullied by any reference to actual libertarian thought: no damning quotes from Reason magazine, or the Cato Institute. Wallis would rather confront the "un-Christian" enemies he constructs out of his own fantasies.

Wallis gets so deep into battling his libertarian strawmen, he can pretty much divorce himself from reality at points. For example, he accuses libertarians of belief "in the myth of the sinless market". —without, of course, bothering to find even one supporting quote. And he's quick to jump on the implications of that nonsense:

But such theorizing ignores the practical issues that the public sector has to solve. Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean?
Gosh, I'm sure glad the "public sector" has successfully disallowed companies like BP from spewing oil into the ocean.

Oh, wait a minute…

All us Bible school dropouts will recognize Wallis as the kind of guy Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

I'm a poor Christian, but I'm happy to use Jesus's standard of judging others by their own measure. So I'm pretty comfortable deeming Wallis (once again) a hypocritical idiot whose dishonest moral preening should set any decent person's teeth on edge.

Last Modified 2010-05-31 10:45 AM EDT
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Predictions Are Hard, Especially About the Future

A dire warning issued today from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

An "active to extremely active" hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year according to the seasonal outlook issued today by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center - a division of the National Weather Service.
Oh oh. But wait. They've been doing this for a while.

Here's their May 2009 prediction:

NOAA forecasters say a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year.
But in November's 2009 season wrapup:
The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season officially ends today marking the close of a season with the fewest named storms and hurricanes since 1997 thanks, in part, to El Niño.
Well, how about 2008? May Prediction:
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center today announced that projected climate conditions point to a near normal or above normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year.
… and November summary:
The 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially comes to a close on Sunday, marking the end of a season that produced a record number of consecutive storms to strike the United States and ranks as one of the more active seasons in the 64 years since comprehensive records began.
May 2007 prediction:
Experts at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center are projecting a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above normal this year--showing the ongoing active hurricane era remains strong.
November 2007 summary:
As the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season officially comes to a close on November 30, NOAA scientists are carefully reviewing a set of dynamic weather patterns that yielded lower-than-expected hurricane activity across the Atlantic Basin. As a result, the United States was largely spared from significant landfalling storms.
May 2006 prediction:
The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced to America and its neighbors throughout the north Atlantic region that a very active hurricane season is looming, and encouraged individuals to make preparations to better protect their lives and livelihoods.
November 2006 summary:
As the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season comes to a close today, NOAA scientists announced that seasonal activity was lower than expected due to the rapid development of El Niño - a periodic warming of the ocean waters in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific which influences pressure and wind patterns across the tropical Atlantic.
May 2005 prediction:
Hurricane forecasters with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are predicting another above-normal hurricane season on the heels of last year's destructive and historic hurricane season.
November 2005 summary:
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is the busiest on record and extends the active hurricane cycle that began in 1995 -- a trend likely to continue for years to come.
Summary: Too-pessimistic forecasts in 2009, 2007, and 2006. Arguably too optimistic in 2008. About right in 2005 (Katrina's year), but wrong in predicting that high activity would "continue for years to come".

This is not much to brag about. When you're only asked to predict "Above average", "Average", or "Below Average", you'd expect to be right 33% of time by just guessing. (And note that, even by that standard, NOAA fudged a bit on their 2008 prediction: "near normal or above normal".)

Nevertheless, it's never a bad idea to be prepared. Here is the official National Hurricane Preparedness Week website.


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Mystic River

[Amazon Link]

Clint Eastwood made this book into a depressing (but good) movie. Unsurprisingly, the book is also depressing (but good), written by one of my favorite authors, Dennis Lehane.

It's set in a dingy blue-collar tight-knit Boston neighborhood, a rat's nest of crime and general dysfunction. A brief opening section is set in 1975, when youngsters Jimmy, Sean, and Dave are engaged in boyish horseplay in the street. A couple predators drive up, pretending to be cops, and bamboozle young Dave into getting into their car; they drive off, leaving Sean and Jimmy vaguely aware that something very bad has happened to their buddy.

Things shift to 25 years later, and the childhood buddies have drifted apart. Dave has (ostensibly) recovered from his childhood trauma; Jimmy, after a brief career as a thief, has been released from the pen and is going straight, with a new wife and some kids; and Sean is a detective with the state police, just coming off a loose-cannon suspension. When Jimmy's daughter is brutally murdered, the twenty-five year old chickens come back to roost.

Lehane is a colorful, evocative writer; practically every page has some pyrotechnic prose that brightly illuminates some bit of character, setting, or plot.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:59 PM EDT
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Nine Queens

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

We've been riding a wave of pretty good movies over the past few weeks, mostly because I've decided to trust Netflix's algorithm for judging what I'd like. This one's no exception, a taut little con-artist movie from Argentina, fortunately subtitled.

The movie opens with young Juan pulling an amateurish change raising scam on a slow-witted Esso station clerk. It works, but—since he's apparently stupid and greedy—he tries to pull it again when a new clerk comes on duty. This doesn't work well at all, but he's miraculously rescued by Marcos, who turns out to be an experienced grifter, willing to take a newbie like Juan under his shady wing.

As you might guess, Juan and Marcos team up and undertake a big con. And (as you also might guess, if you've seen more than zero movies in this genre) their finely-tuned plan nearly goes off the rails a number of times, things aren't what they seem, and double crosses, triple crosses, … n-tuple-crosses are likely.

The Argentinian atmosphere is interesting, and it's a lot of fun to follow the twisty plot.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:59 PM EDT
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Crazy Heart

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

Continuing our Oscar catchup: this one was nominated for three, and won two: Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, and Best Song. Maggie Gyllenhaal was the nominee for Best Supporting Actress.

All well-deserved, but it spoiled my Dream Oscar Scenario: Jeff Bridges winning his first acting Oscar for playing Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the upcoming Coen-Brothers-directed version of True Grit; the original movie and role being where John Wayne nabbed his long-overdue Oscar 40 years ago.

That would have been cool. But what about this movie?

Bridges plays "Bad Blake", a country music has-been. His career is spinning down the toilet, and so is his life, due to chronic alcoholism and general inability to form enduring personal relationships. He meanders from gig to gig, living on bad food, whiskey, cigarettes, and the occasional one-night stand with women entranced by his past fame.

But then the aforementioned Ms. Gyllenhaal shows up, looking to do an interview for the local paper. She's different enough from the usual wham-bam to get Bad to pay attention, and (inexplicably, but this is a movie) she's interested enough as well. So the question is: can they overcome Bad's obvious character flaws to get him to some sort of happy ending? No spoilers here.

The plot itself is kind of familiar, but everything else in the movie is good enough to make it worth a spot on one's Netflix queue. In addition to Jeff and Maggie, Colin Farrell—of all people—shows up as a thoroughly believable country star. And it's realistic enough so that I swear I caught a whiff of cigarettes-whiskey-puke stench at a couple points; I'm sure that would have come through even more pungently if I had Blu-ray.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:59 PM EDT
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Because That Other Stuff Worked So Well

Let me attempt to paraphrase "The New Campus Culture Wars", an attempt to deal with "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" by Eboo Patel:

Campuses ruthlessly censor and demonize every deviation from orthodoxy in matters racial, sexual, cultural, and/or ethnic: all in the in the service of the sweet-sounding causes of "multiculturalism", "inclusiveness" and "diversity". Social outrage can be called up at the drop of a politically-incorrect hat.

So, hey, why don't we do the same thing for religion? Free speech really shouldn't be tolerated in any area, if someone feels all oppressed about it.

Exaggerating. But not by much.

In the meantime, Iowahawk explains why he didn't participate in the festivities:

Because if "humor" today means mocking the founder of one of the world's great religions -- one with a proud 1400 year history of art, science, scholarship, and beheadings -- well mister, you can count this humble internet funnyman out.
Read the whole thing.

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Dumb Tea Party Article from Michael Kinsley

[Atlantic June 2010 cover]

I subscribed to The Atlantic magazine back when it was good. I coasted for a few years, while it declined. Now, I'm just waiting for my subscription to expire. But it still shows up, and the latest issue bore an attention-getting blurb. In case you can't make it out over there:

Michael Kinsley:
Real Patriots
Don't Have
Tea Parties p. 42

So I turned to page 42, but you can click here to read Kinsley's article, titled: "My Country, Tis of Me: There's nothing patriotic about the Tea Party Patriots."

You might think from the blurb, and the title, that Kinsley is following in the tedious, predictable tradition that deemed Tea Partiers and their ideological kin to be racists, traitors, un-American, etc.

But the article itself doesn't fit that genre. Instead, the closest Kinsley gets to a "patriotism" issue is:

What is most irksome about the Tea Party Patriots is their expropriation of the word patriot, with the implication that if you disagree with them, you're not a patriot, or at least you're less patriotic than they are.
I've heard that magazine article authors do not typically write their own headlines. Certainly (however) someone at the magazine should have noticed that the article's headline exemplifies the more-patriotic-than-thou tactic that Kinsley calls "irksome" in the article's text.

And note that Kinsley uses "Tea Party Patriots" throughout his article; I assume he visited this site. He seems unaware of other national groups, like Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Express, Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project, and so on. But that would be (a) more work and (b) complicate Kinsley's simple story; by concentrating on "Tea Party Patriots", Kinsley gets to pretend that TPers generally have "expropriated" the word "patriot".

That's a quibble, though. Kinsley's analysis of the TP phenomenon is lazy and superficial, researched (as near as I can tell) entirely through hit-and-miss Googling. In fact, it sounds as if he would have preferred to avoid the whole topic:

… the Tea Party Patriots, I predict, are just the flavor of the month: the kind of story that the media are incapable of not exaggerating. … The Tea Party Patriots will be an answer on Jeopardy or a crossword-puzzle clue.
Then why bother writing a cover-teased article about them in a national magazine? (Well, I imagine he was paid to do it. I guess that's a decent excuse.)

Kinsley's essential uninterest in his topic causes him to get sloppy. For example, he happened across an LA Times article covering March's Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada, population 700, hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Kinsley's takehome point from the article:

"I like what they're saying. It's common sense," a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, "They've got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs." These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

But in the original LA Times article, this "random man-in-the-crowd" was identified as a "51-year-old assistant kitchen manager at the Searchlight Nugget Casino, where some tea party backers asked him for directions." I.e., not one of the 8-10 thousand people who came to the rally in Searchlight. Yet Kinsley (almost certainly unintentionally) tries to hold him up as a typical incoherent Tea Partier.

Another example comes when Kinsley tries to confront what he sees as Tea Party ideology:

The government's main function these days is writing checks to old people. These checks allow people to retire and pursue avocations such as going to Tea Party rallies. This basic fact about the government is no great secret. In fact, it's a huge cliché, probably available more than once in an average day's newspaper. But the Tea Party Patriots feel free to ignore it and continue serving up rhetoric about "the audaciousness and arrogance of our government," and calling for the elimination of the Federal Reserve Board or drastic restraints on the power of the Internal Revenue Service.
Start with the one thing Kingsley has in quote marks, which I've boldfaced. Where did he get this quote from? Kinsley doesn't bother to say, and it's not even linked in the web version of his article, but that's why we have the Google. Here, as near as I can tell, is the source of the quote. It's seven words out of the "Tea Party Manifesto", written by Karen Miner Hurd, founder and chair of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

At least this is an actual quote from something an authentic TPer actually said or wrote—congratulations on getting one of those in your article, Mike. But it's only quoted in order to dismiss it as "rhetoric".

Do TPers generally call for the "elimination of the Federal Reserve", as Kinsley implies? Probably some do, some don't, many don't have an expressed opinion on the matter. Although Kinsley quotes Karen Hurd, he doesn't seem to have noticed that she considered this particular issue to be, at best, secondary:

It won't matter if you want the Federal Reserve abolished if Congress keeps appropriating power for itself, and voters are ignored.
What about Kinsley's allegation that "government's main function these days is writing checks to old people"? I assume this refers to Social Security; while it's a big chunk of current and projected federal spending, it's sloppy and silly to call it "government's main function."

And let's not ignore Kingsley's snarky implication that there's something illegitimate about people who have had Social Security taxes yanked from their paychecks during their entire working lives getting benefits in return.

Kinsley seems befuddled by the simple fact that the TP phenomenon doesn't have a great deal of ideological cohesion. There's no "party line", no make-or-break litmus tests.

Here's something perceptive Daniel Foster wrote in the Corner last month on that issue:

We knew the tea party movement was grassroots and decentralized, but perhaps we haven't fully realized the extent to which, in its nascence, the very idea of the tea party is plural. In other words, the "tea party" that poll respondents identify with is what the philosopher Walter Bryce Gallie called "an essentially contested concept," or a term that can't be employed without begging all sorts of questions about what that term means. We have a pretty solid grasp of what it means about a person that he or she identifies as a Republican or a Democrat. But the tea party is too young, too diffuse, too morally and politically charged in the minds of both supporters and detractors, for us to be able to say at this point that it means any one thing.

Still, it seems fair to say that, at its core, the tea party is unified by a legitimate worry that government has grown too big, too intrusive, too expensive, and too unresponsive to the concerns of ordinary Americans. And though that worry has yet to (and perhaps never will) cohere into a single platform or set of policy prescriptions, the fact that the tea partiers are the single most engaged and vocal force in American politics today should, as I've suggested before, give conservatives and proponents of limited government hope.

Those two short paragraphs are far more insightful about the Tea Party than Kinsley's entire article. Too bad Kinsley didn't read them first.

It's not as if a lefty can't write a smart, perceptive article about TPers. As David Boaz notes at Cato@Liberty, John Judis managed that feat in a recent issue of The New Republic.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:58 PM EDT
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Throw My Ticket out the Window

… throw my suitcase out there, too:

  • At the WSJ, free speech hero Bradley Smith and seven other former Federal Election Commissioners take apart the so-called "DISCLOSE Act". (DISCLOSE == "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections") Meant as a response to the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, DISCLOSE cracks down hard on unauthorized speech that Democrats don't like. Most notable for bloggers:
    While the Disclose Act does include an exemption for major media corporations, it does not include websites or the Internet, which means the government can regulate (and potentially censor) political dialogue on the Web. Additionally, the law would require any business or organization making political expenditures to create and maintain an extensive, highly sophisticated website with advanced search features to track its political activities.
    Constitutional rights, of course, do not need legislative "exemptions" for their exercise. Nor is it a "right" if you need to navigate a maze of regulations to avoid some bureaucrat putting you in civil or criminal jeopardy. (A much more detailed description of the bill's problems is available via a link from this page.)

    My own Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter is one of the co-sponsors of this assault on free speech in the House.

  • Senator Mike Crapo proposed an amendment to the "financial reform" bill working through the Senate, that would have, among other things, put the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout "on budget". This good idea got 47 votes; unfortunately, it needed 60. Comments Alex J. Pollock at the American Enterprise Institute blog:
    All these [nay-voting] members should be permanently banned from ever, ever again pontificating about the need for "transparency" in financial reporting. All should be permanently banned from criticizing in even the slightest degree any entity, say Goldman Sachs, which is accused of inadequate financial disclosures. All should be prohibited from ever speaking a single word about the need for strict accounting standards.
    Now, there's an assault on free speech I might support.

    [Granite Staters will want to know that outgoing Senator Gregg voted Yea; Senator Jeanne voted… well, apparently she didn't think it was important enough to vote on.]

  • Progressivism continues apace in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela:
    Chavez sent a message via his Twitter account to students of privately funded Santa Ines University, letting them know their school was being taken over by the government and tuition will be free.
    Please, nobody tell President Obama. Might give him ideas. On a related note, see Harsanyi and Boudreaux on the soft spot "progressives" have for tyranny.

  • Jim Geraghty has two telling quotes on the victory of Mark Critz in the election to replace the late porker, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. The first is from the WaPo:
    "He got us millions of jobs," Charles Finnegan, 72, a retired construction worker, said of Murtha after casting his ballot in nearby Windber. "Critz, he's going to follow John Murtha's way of thinking."
    And the second is from perceptive Twitterer Nathan Wurtzel:
    How do we reach voters who think millions of jobs were created in a district of 600,000 people?
    That's a very good question.


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Second Foundation

[Amazon Link]

Continuing my trek through Isaac Asimov's science fiction novels. In this case, re-reading one after (approximately) 45 or so years. It's the third installment in what was (back then) Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy." Like the others, it was originally published in pieces in John W. Campbell's old magazine Astounding Science Fiction.

The First and Second Foundations were established at the beginning of the series by "psychohistorian" Hari Seldon. Their purpose was to minimize the chaotic period following the collapse of the Galactic Empire (accurately) predicted by Seldon. The First Foundation was set up on the periphery of the galaxy, devoted to physical science. In contrast, the Second Foundation operated in secrecy, at a location Seldon only hinted at, and specialized in matters psychological.

In this book, the Second Foundation is sought. First by the "Mule", a mutant with enhanced mental powers who sees it as his only obstacle to galactic domination. Then, in the second part, the First Foundation becomes concerned about the Second, when it's discovered that key people have been subject to their mind-altering manipulations.

As always with Asimov's books, the talk/action ratio is very high. There are a lot of twists, people who are not as they seem, double-crosses, and fake-outs. The beginning of the second part of the book, where the teenage heroine Arkady Darell meets Pelleas Anthor, is very, very funny.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:58 PM EDT
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The Princess and the Frog

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

Why, yes, I do still watch ostensibly-for-children animated movies. And this one was a pleasant surprise, better than I expected. It's not Pixar—only Pixar is Pixar—but plain old Disney hand-drawn animation is still very, very good, especially when backed up by a clever script, good music, and great voice talent.

The heroine is Tiana, a young African-American woman in 1920s New Orleans. She has dreams of opening her own restaurant, a dream her dear departed Daddy didn't get to realize for himself. Things are looking grim, when suddenly a frog turns up, claiming (accurately) to be a transmogrified "Prince Naveen", cursed by a local practitioner of the dark arts in cahoots with a disloyal assistant. Naveen, having read the story, begs for a smooch. Unfortunately, that doesn't work out as expected for either Tania or Naveen.

The movie could have made a much bigger deal about the race angle, but doesn't. I kept expecting—dreading, in fact—Tiana to be betrayed by the rich white people her family works for. Good news: that doesn't happen.

It's kind of scary though. If you've got real little kids, you might want to pre-view it.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:58 PM EDT
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Sherlock Holmes

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

Gee, I really wanted to like this a bit better. I've been reading Sherlock Holmes stories since I was a little one, and Robert Downey Jr. is a very good actor, but … instead I just thought it was a bit better than OK.

Holmes (Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) are up against a formidable murderous villain, Lord Blackwood; they actually capture him in the opening scenes. He's sentenced to hang. And does. But he inexplicably starts showing up again…

Things are complicated by Watson's imminent marriage to Mary Morstan, causing not a little Holmesian anxiety. Also showing up is Irene Adler ("To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.") who the filmmakers inexplicably morph into some sort of master criminal/con woman.

One thing the movie portrays extremely well: Victorian London is downright grimy. Must have smelled pretty bad too, what with all those horses. The thrilling climax occurs on the Tower Bridge, very convincingly portrayed as under construction.

Trivia: Robert Downey Jr. won a Golden Globe, specifically for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy". I'm pretty sure it wasn't a musical. So, it's a comedy? Really?


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:57 PM EDT
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FDA Regulates Spitting

Should you have wanted to pick up a DNA testing kit down at Walgreens this weekend, well, you'll just have to change your plans.

Walgreens said late Wednesday that it would postpone selling a personal genetic test through its drugstores after the Food and Drug Administration challenged the legality of the test.
Wha…? Willing buyers, willing seller: what excuse does the FDA have to block this?

The "Genetic Health Report" kits were to have been provided by Pathway Genomics. The FDA sent Pathway Founder/CEO James Plante a nastygram.

The Genetic Health Report appears to meet the definition of a device as that term is defined in section 201(h) of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Oh oh. That was apparently enough to get Walgreens to back off its plans; if your primary business is "drugstore", you don't want the FDA on your case for selling unapproved "devices". And, indeed, section 201(h) does define "device" very widely ("an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article, including any component, part, or accessory…")

But what is this "device", really? We're not talking about a magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography machine here, friends. Here's a small picture from the the Pathway site:

[Kit Box Photo]

As near as I can make out the primary "device" components are:

  1. one (1) container;
  2. one (1) container lid.

And in case there's any doubt, here's a helpful picture, also from the Pathway site, that gives you an accurate idea of the complex operating instructions for the "device":

[What You Do 2]

I think you don't actually have to say "Ptoo". But you provide an adequate amount of saliva, box it up, send it off to Pathway, and a couple months (and a few hundred dollars) later, you have your DNA analysis.

Now, I'm a soft-core libertarian, so you would expect me to find this sort of FDA intrusion odious. But—c'mon—wouldn't even non-libertarians find a pretty blatant signal that FDA bureaucrats have way, way too much time on their hands? That they've run out of things to do that might (arguably) protect the public against ingesting dangerous products, and instead are looking for things to do on otherwise boring May afternoons?

The good news (at least for now): you don't have to go to Walgreens. Unless you live in New York (whose nanny-statists are apparently ahead of the curve when it comes to preventing their residents from obtaining information about their own genetic makeup), you can do the whole thing via the Internet and mail.

I'm willing to bet, however, that this is just the onset of a wave of innovation-stifling regulation.

(Original link via Lore Sjöberg's quiz we linked to yesterday.)


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:57 PM EDT
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There's a Man In The Funny Papers We All Know

… he lived 'way back a long time ago:

  • You may have heard that actual scientists have determined that there was some hanky panky between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis a few dozen millennia ago, evidenced by genomes lurking in our DNA today. Without resorting to expensive genetic testing, Lore Sjöberg provides a helpful quiz: How Neanderthal are you? Sample Q:
    1. When presented with a salad, is your first instinct to hide behind it with a spear and wait for a bison to wander by?

    I won't reveal how I did, but if I were you, I wouldn't let your pet sabretooth tiger wander in my yard.

  • A very new stadium, the most home wins in either league, and the New York Mets can't enthuse their fans:
    After 22 home games, attendance at Citi Field is down 6,852 fans a game, the largest decline by number in Major League Baseball. That translates to an average of 31,892 fans at games this season compared with 38,744 last season.
    As a guy from that other team observed: "If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."

    (The Red Sox are averaging 37,496 at home this year, despite a smaller stadium and a—so far—mediocre season.)

  • Hiring new faculty is a tough job. Steve Landsburg mentions a timesaving step:
    An anonymous math department chairman reports on his own strategy for cutting down on the workload. He believes that one of the most important determinants of a successful career is luck. So each year, he randomly rejects half the applicants without even reading their folders. That way, he eliminates the unlucky ones.
    Brilliant!

  • An (abridged) dirty UNIX joke in the New York Times. Now there's a string of words I never expected to type.


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Reform By the (Poll) Numbers

A quick Q-and-A about Senator Jeanne Shaheen's (D-NH) op-ed in today's edition of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, advocating the financial "reform" bill currently before the Senate:

  • How many words are there in the op-ed?

  • I count 524.

  • Does anything in the op-ed stick out?

  • Yes. Just in case you had any doubt about the Official Democratic Party Scapegoat du Jour: the phrase "Wall Street" appears 13 times, accounting for nearly 5% of Senator Jeanne's total word count.

  • What is the probability that Senator Jeanne is tuning her transparently phony rhetoric in response to polls?

  • Approximately 100%:
    … if you had any questions about why politicians choose to beat up on Wall Street rather than the banking system, it's because that plays better.

    Asked if they favored Congress passing a law to regulate "large banks and major financial institutions," 46% of Americans said yes, and 43% said they did not. But when Gallup asked if they favored new regs on "Wall Street banks and Wall Street financial institutions," those saying yes jumped to 50%, and those opposing dropped to just 36%.

  • How many times does Senator Jeanne mention "Fannie Mae" or "Freddie Mac"?

  • Zero point zero.

  • How did Senator Jeanne vote on the McCain/Shelby/Gregg Amendment that would "wind down" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over a two year period?

  • NAY.

  • Why is reform of Fannie and Freddie important?

  • A good explanation from the WSJ last week:
    Unreformed, they are sure to kill taxpayers again. Only yesterday, Freddie said it lost $8 billion in the first quarter, requested another $10.6 billion from Uncle Sam, and warned that it would need more in the future. This comes on top of the $126.9 billion that Fan and Fred had already lost through the end of 2009. The duo are by far the biggest losers of the entire financial panic--bigger than AIG, Citigroup and the rest.

    From the 2008 meltdown through 2020, the toxic twins will cost taxpayers close to $380 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office's cautious estimate. The Obama Administration won't even put the companies on budget for fear of the deficit impact, but it realizes the problem because last Christmas Eve it raised the $400 billion cap on their potential taxpayer losses to . . . infinity.

  • Can we go on like this?

  • Well, according to Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:
    We can't go on like this. Leaving taxpayers on the hook for this continuing disaster isn't just unfair. It's economically ruinous. And nobody in the Treasury Department, the Fed, or the administration has anything resembling an exit strategy.

  • Does Senator Jeanne have an exit strategy?

  • Ha.

  • Did Senator Jeanne do anything about Freddie or Fannie?

  • Not really. The Senate passed (and Senator Jeanne voted for) instead: "To require the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a study on ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and reforming the housing finance system."

  • Conduct a study? What has the Secretary of the Treasury been doing all this time?

  • Um. Apparently not studying? But (nevertheless) providing Fannie and Freddie with a blank check written against the taxpayer.


Last Modified 2010-05-12 7:48 PM EDT
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The Blind Side

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

Good news: Netflix has bought more DVDs, and we're actually starting to see recent movies again. This one, for example.

And unless you've been living in a cave, you already know the general plot: African-American youngster Michael Oher, huge and homeless, has been shoehorned into a private Christian school in Memphis, in hopes of his future athletic prowess. But his academics are poor, and his domestic situation doesn't improve.

One night, walking aimlessly in the cold rain, he's noticed by Leigh Anne Tuohy. She's rich, and a hard-nosed force of nature. (When they speak of She Who Must Be Obeyed, it is She they speak of.) But she's also a Christian who happens to take her Christian obligations seriously. She offers him a ride, a sofa for the night. And, eventually, … well, you know how these things turn out.

Sandra Bullock (you might have heard) won herself a Best Actress Oscar here, and little wonder: without her, the flick probably would have wound up a Movie of the Week on the Lifetime Channel. Ms. Bullock can communicate volumes by lifting one eyebrow a couple millimeters, or the merest hint of a smile.

Everybody else is pretty-to-very good, even country singer Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne's husband, fast food tycoon Sean Tuohy. The general plot is completely predictable, but the details are engaging and well-executed.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:57 PM EDT
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You Talk Too Much

… you worry me to death:

  • Here's a pretty good idea for all you readers who give money to your alma mater: instead, give half to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). I especially like this bit:
    Participate in our campaign and FIRE will send a letter to the school of your choice alerting administrators to the fact that they have lost half of your financial support--and that FIRE can help them reform their speech codes so they can regain that support.
    If your school (like the University Near Here) has a red-light speech code rating, you might even consider giving more than half to FIRE.

  • If you're feeling a bit too optimistic about the USA's fiscal future, check out Peter Suderman's article, reprinted from the June issue of Reason. It discusses Congressman Paul Ryan, and his "Roadmap for America's Future".

    You can read the Roadmap here, but here are the main observations from Suderman: (a) it's the only serious current proposal on the table for balancing the budget without permanently bloating government; (b) even so, it won't balance the budget until 2063; (c) and, according to Suderman, it "will never, ever pass."

  • Chuckle du Jour: Elena Kagan no longer thinks Supreme Court nominees should have to answer direct questions.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Travis McGee in The Deep Blue Goodbye? And directed by Oliver Stone?

    As a longtime McGee fan, that would not have been my obvious choice. Then again, I think I said the same thing about Christian Bale as Batman, directed by Christopher Nolan. So it could work out, because I'm an idiot.


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Inglourious Basterds

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

As I type, Inglourious [sic] Basterds [sic] is #71 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. I don't know about that, but it's pretty good.

It's set in World War II France. The opening act shows SS Colonel Hans Landa visiting a remote dairy farm, on the hunt for hidden Jews. He finds the Dreyfus family huddled under the floorboards, and orders them machine-gunned. Only the older daughter, Shosanna, escapes.

We then jump to three years later: Brad Pitt leads a small gang of guerrilla soldiers, tasked with terrorizing the occupying Nazis and flouting most of the Geneva Conventions. But he's assigned a new mission: many of the German High Command will be attending the premiere of Joseph Goebbels' latest propaganda flick. Wouldn't it be great if they could spoil that little party?

And, just coincidentally, the premiere's venue is a small Parisian cinema owned and operated by Shosanna Dreyfus, under a new identity. And she has plans of her own.

It's directed by Quentin Tarantino; he uses a lot of his trademark gimmicks. Movie references out the wazoo; Mexican standoffs; great actors dug out of retirement, … But other than that, it's a straightforward story, told well. It was nominated for eight Oscars; the guy playing Col. Landa won for Best Supporting Actor.

And I did not see that ending coming.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:56 PM EDT
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Everyone Assume His or Her Rightful Place

[Update [2010-05-10]: I note that James Taranto made almost exactly the same points as this post, two days before I posted this. So, dear reader, you can click over if you'd like, read Taranto, and consider this post a "me too".]

Remember when President Obama pledged to "restore science to its rightful place"?

As it turns out, in Obamaland, science's "rightful place" is scaremongering, providing justification for ever-increasing state regulation. Last week the President's Cancer Panel fell into line:

An expert panel that advises the president on cancer said Thursday that Americans are facing "grievous harm" from chemicals in the air, food and water that have largely gone unregulated and ignored.
Just in case the call for state action wasn't clear, the report made it explicit:
A cover letter urges President Obama “most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

The report came under withering criticism, not from industry shills, but from the American Cancer Society (which, apparently, doesn't know its "rightful place"). It quotes ABC reporter Emily Walker:

The study of environmental factors and their effect on cancer has been giving short shrift compared to studying lifestyle factors and genetic and molecular causes of cancer, the authors claimed.

But paging through the lengthy report, it was difficult to find solid science to back that strong statement.

And also Michael J. Thun, actual scientist:
Unfortunately, the perspective of the report is unbalanced by its implication that pollution is the major cause of cancer, and by its dismissal of cancer prevention efforts aimed at the major known causes of cancer (tobacco, obesity, alcohol, infections, hormones, sunlight) as “focussed narrowly.”

The report is most provocative when it restates hypotheses as if they were established facts. For example, its conclusion that “the true burden of environmentally (i.e. pollution) induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” does not represent scientific consensus. Rather, it reflects one side of a scientific debate that has continued for almost 30 years.

For mild-mannered scientists, comments like these are pretty damning.

The controversy even made the New York Times, a remarkably even-handed article, which nonetheless quoted one panel member who's more than willing to demonstrate his faith-based approach:

[Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. of Howard University] acknowledged that it was impossible to specify just how many cancers were environmentally caused, because not enough research had been done, but he said he was confident that when the research was done, it would confirm the panel’s assertion that the problem had been grossly underestimated.
Don't want to overstate things. Both Dr. Leffall and the other member of the panel were appointed by Dubya. And the report itself has a number of good, and not particularly controversial, recommendations. But it's not good science.

At Junk Science, Steven Milloy is even more skeptical about the politics than I:

Is this purely enviro-whacko gibberish or is there a more sinister factor at play?

The timeline is certainly troubling: Obamacare rammed through; Obamacare must cut costs; medical imaging costs much $s; scare people about medical imaging; clone Big Tobacco profit theft and claim Big Chemical and other industry "causes" expensive to treat cancers; misappropriate business profits to prop up socialized medicine...

[Milloy's "medical imaging" comment is drawn by the panel's scarifying about the radiation exposure involved.]

Also see Rich Trzupek at Big Journalism.

The Big Nanny State needs "science" on her side. As we saw in Climategate, a lot of scientists are willing to volunteer in that effort.


Last Modified 2011-02-04 1:38 PM EST
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Roll Over, Ralph Waldo

… and tell Henry David the news:

  • The rude bridge that arched the flood is long gone, as are the embattled farmers, the flag that was to April's breeze unfurled, and if you have anything in your possession that might fire a shot heard round the world, well you better have a license, and you better not be a town employee of Concord, Massachusetts.

    Moreover, Concord is today battling an even more dire threat than marching Redcoats: the fear that its own residents might purchase drinking water in a plastic bottle from a willing seller.

    Grant Bosse comments further.

    … let's concentrate on the fact that what I choose to drink and how I choose to drink it, be it organic green tea from a hand-fired ceramic mug or New York City tap water bottled in plastic and shipped to a 7-Eleven, should not be concern of the voters of Concord, Massachusetts. It's a shame that the people who choose to live where Americans first fought for our freedom also choose to mar that legacy with their meddlesome and likely illegal ways.

    Indeed. That Spirit that made those heroes dare to die, and leave their children free back in 1775 has apparently packed up the U-Haul and departed.

  • As a fan of both Sherlock and Iowahawk, the Case of the Purloined Pathfinder was right up my Victorian-era alley. Starring famous detective Lord Mayor Bloomburg Holmes and hagiographer Attorney General Eric Holder.
    "Holmes!" I exclaimed at the sight of him lazily tamping down the bowl of his pipe. "Have you not read your own anti-tobacco proclamation?"

    "Holder, my friend, have I not more than once cautioned you about jumping to conclusions?" he laughed with that devilish gleam in his eye. "Contrary to your supposition, the contents of my Meerschaum are not tobacco, but merely the dried leaf of the genus cannibis sativa. Its medicinal qualities are quite renowned throughout Mexico and our finest university dormitories. I myself have found it invaluable in focusing my deductive powers."

    "You may consider my relief complete," I said as watched him inhale a long steady hit from the Meerschaum, flickering his thumb against its carb. "I was afraid I would be forced to apprehend you on felony tobacco charges."

  • The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is charged with the dreadfully important task of getting government profligacy under control. It's not unlikely its recommendations will be used to implement drastic changes in taxes and spending affecting all citizens. And if you thought it was going to conduct its business transparently… well, think different.

  • Speaking of transparency, have you been noticing the semi-cute kid-infested TV ads for Ally Bank? You may not be aware—as I wasn't—that it's a brand of General Motors Acceptance Corporation, more commonly known as GMAC. More information from the Competitive Enterprise Institute here; they have become a thorn in the side of General Motors, hammering at its deceptions about "paying back" its government loan. On Ally:
    Yet the whole basis of the commercials is to hide the "fine print" that Ally (GMAC) has received massive bailouts from our tax dollars. And the kids in the commercials and other American kids are going to be stuck with a huge tab for the bank's subsidies. These commercials may not have legally actionable false claims, as we contend GM's do, but certainly many of the bank's customers would reconsider if they were aware of its troubled past and government largesse.
    Here's an idea: banks on the government teat should disclose that information in BIG BOLD PRINT in any ad they run.


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Barackrobatics: Dimewatch IX

From this Politico article:

"President Obama didn't accept a dime from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists during his presidential campaign," spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
Emphasis added. Even though it's not the President himself speaking, but one of his minions, the general rule applies: use of the word "dime" in presidential rhetoric is a very reliable marker of fabrication or flimflam.

And we don't have to work very hard to find the dishonesty in this case. From the very same article:

BP [British Petroleum] and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company's political action committees -- $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals. […] During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.
What the spokesperson is saying might be technically true, but carefully worded to mislead. And it's nothing new; Obama made the same claim during the campaign. At the time, Factcheck called his rhetoric "a little too slick", and even Politifact (usually totally in the tank for Obama) rated such clean-as-a-whistle claims half true at best.

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


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And You Say I'm a Fool Around Honey That May Be True

… but I'd sooner fool around than be a fool for a fool:

  • Bryan Caplan looks back at the now-defunct "Libertarians for Obama" blog. He quotes extensively from one of their last posts, and (erring on the side of politeness) says it "sure sounds naive in retrospect."

    I think it sounded naive in non-retrospect as well. You want something prescient, read this Will Wilkinson article from 2005, where he identified then-Senator Obama's economic insights as "coming from 1935 or thereabouts."

  • Trust me: where two or three (or more) college instructors are gathered, there are tales of student bloopers. If you're looking for a gift for someone in that situation, College in a Nutskull: A Crash Ed Course in Higher Education might be a good choice. From the Amazon page (reformatted):
    American History:
    "The Underground Railroad was built as the nation's first public transit system."
    Art:
    "Cubism is art from Cuba."
    Religion:
    "Moses led his Islams out of Egypt. Bananas from heaven arrived to feed the hungry people. These events are described in the Book of Zeus."
    Philosophy:
    "Plato did his thinking in the Cave of Al Gore."
    Economics:
    "The theory of surplus value is Marx's idea that you always shop with coupons."
    Music:
    "Bach's sacred choral music includes the B Minor Mess. . . . All one million of his famed works can be found in his BMW. He had over one hundred children and was, of course, very famous for his work with his organ. Two of his successful sons were Jesus Christ Bach and Bacherini."
    Literature:
    "Jay Gatsby moved to East Egg because it would be a good place to raise his chickens."
    And Psychology--or is it Theater Arts:
    "Most people are either straight, gay, or thespian."

  • Yet another Dave Barry interview here. He'll keep doing 'em until you buy his book, so give in .


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:56 PM EDT
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Tonight When I Chase The Dragon

… the water will change to cherry wine:

  • People still upset about President Obama's threat against the Jonas Brothers:
    Jonas Brothers are here, they're out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I'm joking?
    Rachel Winer quotes a couple people who didn't like it. Sample:
    "Let's be honest, fellow progressives, we'd be all over Bush if he made the same 'predator drone' joke Obama told last night," Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch tweeted.
    Good point. But nobody seems to entertain the possibility that he wasn't joking. Like he said he wasn't.

  • Perhaps everyone could use a tour of the Microsoft™ Humor Competency page.

  • The Mayor of New York City combined wishful thinking and selective blindness while chatting with Katie Couric on the "CBS Evening News" last night, meditating on the identity of the culprit behind the Times Square car bomb:
    Home-grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.
    Off camera, I imagine they joked about how stupid Sarah Palin was.

    Other people displaying their biases via uninformed guessing: DHS Secretary Napolitano and NY Senator Charles Schumer.

    Roger Simon has further comments on Mayor Bloomberg, Geraldo, and similar deep thinkers. Jonah is also good.

  • At GraniteGrok, sharp-eared Steve notes a new bit of Barackrobatics: "From Day One". As in: we've been on this whole oil spill thingy from day one. (The GOP gleefully counted sixteen uses of this catch phrase over the weekend.)
    Day one began with the same meeting they have every time something happens; how can we blame Bush or Republicans, and if not them who? No "national" response is possible until that narrative has been worked out, and a plan is in place to turn whatever it is into some political advantage, unless it fits an existing grievance narrative already in place like "racist!" The Narrative seeps out, the media and the administration regurgitate it, add spin and stir.
    The late great William Safire analyzed how "Day One" was being used on the campaign trail back in 2008. (Also see his musings on "post-partisan". Those were simpler days.)

Last Modified 2010-05-05 6:08 AM EDT
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Even Though It's Tuesday

[Amazon Link] … Megan McArdle manufactures a Monday Meme: go to your Amazon orders page, and see what the very first thing you ordered from Amazon was.

Well, there it is, order placed November 18, 1995, shipped on the 29th: The Great Book of French Impressionism. (Amazon's online store had opened in July 1995.)

Why? Pun Son and Daughter were in the "Odyssey of the Mind" program at St. Mary's Academy in Dover NH; their team's project for the year was "Great Impressions":

For this problem the team will select a drawing or painting by a French Impressionist artist and write a poem relating to it. The team will also select a poem by a famous author, create an original drawing or painting that relates to the poem, and present the poem and work of art.
I even remember the painting they picked, "At the Cirque Fernando: The Ringmaster" by Henri "No Time" Toulouse-Lautrec:

[The Ringmaster]

Even though I was just along for the ride, I roughly centupled my previous knowledge of Impressionism, easy to do when "previous knowledge" was "something about water lilies".

I'm still a little weak on the difference between Monet and Manet, and tend to prefer Mamet.


Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:55 PM EDT
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Boards On The Window

… mail by the door:

  • Michael Moore seems upset that President Obama joked about killing the Jonas Brothers with Predator drones.

    It's unclear what part of that upsets him though. Is it using the Predators? Or is it targeting the Jonas Brothers?

  • Ed Morrissey comments on a Washington Post story that there are efforts to grant the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) broad new powers to regulate commercial Internet sites, tucked into the "financial reform" legislation making its way through Congress. Ed makes pertinent observations and asks relevant questions:
    Neither the FTC nor the Internet had anything to do with the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. If this financial-regulation bill is so desperately needed, why did House Democrats lard it up with this power grab at the FTC? Why does the FTC need any further authority over the Internet, where fraud and abuse regulations apply already? The Internet economy has been one of the bright spots throughout a dismal period of recent history. Do we need to attack the one area that shows growth and promise?
    The FTC was last noticed trying to regulate the color of beer cans; that's just the kind of thinking we need overseeing Internet innovation.

    Seriously: some proposals come pre-stamped BAD IDEA.

  • If you're a movie fan, but not much of an Al Gore fan: Iowahawk presents the script for the upcoming blockbuster Citizen Gore:
    OPENING SEQUENCE

    Camera slowly zooms in between the security fence of a huge seaside mansion looming over the storm-tossed Pacific. Dissolve to a melting arctic ice floe, on which sits a distraught polar bear. As the camera pans back, we see it is a snow globe held in a man's hand, inside an opulent study paneled in Amazonian hardwood. Close-up of the man's lips, which whisper "Seagate." He drops the snow globe which crashes onto a priceless Persian rug in front of a roaring fireplace. In silhouette, a nurse enters the study and hurriedly covers his motionless body in a blanket. He expels one last mighty death fart, and is gone.

    I predict Oscars for this wunderkind.

  • UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who lived in the Soviet Union until he was seven, has bad news for Harvard University: their intellectual climate "is only a pale echo of Soviet Communism."

    Note to Harvard: I'm sure you can do much better. More show trials, coerced informants, public confessions, etc. If you need a site for your Gulag, might I suggest Fitchburg? Not Siberia, but probably as close as you can get to it in the Bay State.

  • And, 25 games into the young Major League Baseball season, the Washington Nationals have a better won-lost record than the Boston Red Sox. Moan.


Last Modified 2010-05-04 8:32 AM EDT
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