It's a Day In the Life

… In my mind I've seen it all:

  • Should we trust Senators Cornyn or McConnell on spending cuts? Find out in Kevin Williamson's NRO article, "Do Not Trust Cornyn or McConnell on Spending Cuts".

  • Anne Applebaum raises a good point:
    If you don't live in this country all of the time, and I don't, here is what you notice when you come home: Americans -- with their lawsuit culture, their safety obsession and, above all, their addiction to government spending programs -- demand more from their government than just about anybody else in the world. They don't simply want the government to keep the peace and create a level playing field. They want the government to ensure that every accident and every piece of bad luck is prevented, or that they are fully compensated in the event something goes wrong. And if the price of their house drops, they will hold the government responsible for that, too.
    I'd say that attitude is far from uniform among Americans. But unfortunately it only varies between "prevalent" and "way too prevalent".

  • On a related note, here's an exercise for the New Hampshire GOP-leaning voter. The major GOP candidates for the US Senate seat are Kelly Ayotte, Ovide Lamontagne, Bill Binnie, and Jim Bender. They are all outpolling the likely Democratic candidate Paul Hodes. Visit each website and try to find anything about entitlement spending.

    I can't. Can you? Let me know.

  • Similarly, the major GOP candidates aching for a chance at Carol Shea-Porter in NH Congressional District 1 are Frank Guinta, Sean Mahoney, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. Repeating the exercise, I'm coming up with a goose egg. How about you?

  • OK, I don't vote there, but how about NH Congressional District 2? It's pretty much Charlie Bass and Jennifer Horn, I think. I find nothing from Charlie, but…

    Whoa! Jennifer Horn has a Social Security item on her site. What does it say?

    Let me tell you about reform: I will oppose anything that cuts benefits. I will oppose anything that increases the retirement age. I am opposed to anything that will increase payroll taxes. We have to put something on the table that meets those three criteria.
    Um. I am not an economist, but everything I've seen on this issue tells me those three criteria are mathematically incompatible.

  • So in summary: 10 Republican candidates on an important issue: nine are silent, one glibly demands the impossible.

    I don't find that very encouraging.

  • Folks interested in history, math, and politics might want to check out E Pluribus Confusion, an article that looks at algorithms past and present for assigning Congressional seats "fairly" to each state. It's a surprisingly thorny problem, mostly because politicians are involved. (Via GeekPress, which isn't surprising at all.)

Last Modified 2011-01-04 12:04 PM EST


stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

"Gosh," I said. "I really haven't seen any Bulgarian movies lately. Or, come to think of it, ever." And this came up with a decent predicted rating at Netflix, so…

The protagonist, "Moth", has been in the slammer since 1944; a murder was committed during a bungled jewel heist, and Moth, refusing to rat on the actual killer, took the fall. While he's imprisoned, the Commies take over the country. When he's released into Communist Bulgaria, circa 1965 or so, he is immediately plunged into a nightmarish world of torture, corruption, totalitarianism, and nudity. As it turns out, Moth's ungrateful partner in crime thinks Moth knows more than he's telling about the fate of a valuable jewel.

It's shot in glorious black and white, with different film resolutions signifying different eras. (IMDB says: "The scenes set in the 1960s were shot in 35mm, the scenes set in the 1940s were shot in 16mm, and the scenes set earlier than that were shot in 8mm.") Scenes set both in and out of jail are filled with bizarre, unsavory, and (mostly) unattractive characters; in fact, this movie makes the "People of Walmart" site look like the Miss America Pageant.

It's not for everyone, there's lots of violence, untitillating sex and nudity. And it's kind of a downer. But it's unique and held my interest. If your DVD player allows it, you might want to play it at 1.5x forward or so; you won't miss much.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 8:54 AM EST

Intellectuals and Society

[Amazon Link]

Here's what became painfully obvious to me while reading this book. This blogger, and just about any blogger, could significantly increase blog quality by buying a whole bunch of Thomas Sowell books. Then, daily:

  1. Pick a book at random;
  2. Pick a page from that book at random;
  3. Type in a couple paragraphs into your blog, verbatim;
  4. There is no step four.

Here, Professor Sowell simmers "intellectuals" over a low flame for 317 pages. By "intellectuals", he means mainly lefties. (In paragraph 2 he dismisses "atypical" intellectuals like Milton Friedman and and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from the discussion.) The book is very much a continuation of the analysis he started in 1987's A Conflict of Visions, and continued in The Vision of the Anointed and The Quest for Cosmic Justice. This book stands on its own, though.

"An intellectual's work begins and ends with ideas," Sowell says. Although intellectuals are "smart", they don't use that intelligence to build bridges, run businesses, design spacecraft, or write computer programs. Disconnected from the concrete, enraptured by the inner beauty of their abstractions, they tend to believe that the sheer power of intellect can be brought to bear on "problems", and produce needed "solutions." And if problems go "unsolved", it only means that stupid or evil people were in charge. Arrogance and close-mindedness are nearly inevitable. They don't argue against contrary views; they ignore or deride them, with well-designed dismissive quips. They disparage the tacit practical knowledge of the experienced, and underestimate the coordinative power inherent in unplanned activities of self-interested individuals.

In other words: President Obama, this is your life.

Sowell shows how all this has played out through history in various arenas: war and foreign policy, economics, the justice system, academia, and the media. Let me take my own advice. Here's Sowell on the "verifiability" of the deconstructionist intellectuals' trade:

The standards by which engineers and financiers are judged are external standards, beyond the realm of ideas and beyond the control of their peers. An engineer whose bridges or buildings collapse is ruined, as is a financier who goes broke. However plausible or admirable their ideas might have seemed initially to their fellow engineers or fellow financiers, the proof of the pudding is ultimately in the eating. Their failure may well be registered in the declining esteem in their respective professions, but that is an effect, not a cause. Conversely, ides which might have seemed unpromising to their fellow engineers or fellow financiers can come to be accepted among those peers if the empirical success of the ideas becomes manifest. The same is true of scientists and athletic coaches. But the ultimate test of a deconstructionist's ideas is whether other deconstructionists find those ideas interesting, original, persuasive, elegant or ingenious. There is no external test.
Or on multiculturalism:
Like so many other nice-sounding notions, the multicultural ideology does not distinguish between an arbitrary definition and a verifiable proposition. That is, it does not distinguish between how one chooses to use words within one's own mind and the empirical validity of those words outside in the real world. Yet consequences, for both individuals and society, follow from mundane facts in the real world, not from definitions inside people's heads. Empirically, the question whether or not cultures are equal becomes: Equal in what demonstrable way? That question is seldom, if ever, asked, much less answered, by most of the intelligentsia.
Good stuff. Recommended.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 9:02 AM EST