Who Will We Discredit?

… A pathetic aesthetic in a world less poetic:

  • A whole bunch of smart folks tell Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that he's dumb. That's gotta sting.

  • Mickey Kaus agrees with me about the validity of Senator-elect Rand Paul's assertion that the "average federal employee makes $120,000 a year." And he notes why this talking point is getting decent resonance with the Joes and Janes in the private sector:
    When people are outraged at the $120,000 figure, I think, they aren't making an implicit apples-to-oranges comparison. They're making an apples-to-themselves comparison. They know what they do and what they're making. They have a pretty good, rough idea of what federal employees do (some are highly skilled doctors, some are equal opportunity compliance facilitators). They know that they themselves have had to take pay freezes and cuts and endure waves of corporate downsizing while the federal government hasn't been through anything like that. In fact, pay for individual federal workers has kept growing each year thanks to both cost-of-living raises and "step" increases. The federal pay escalator kept on running right through the recesssion. Meanwhile, federal workers enjoy job security they can only dream of.
    Mickey also notes the eerie convergence between "refutations" issued by the allegedly-objective Politifact and the hyperpartisan Media Matters. Politifact is a joke; they should change their name to Media Matters Echo Chamber.

  • I kind of like typing "Senator-elect Rand Paul".

  • A number of economists had fun with the New York Times budget balancing game I noted yesterday: Steven Landsburg, Arnold Kling, James Pethokoukis and David Henderson. I especially like this from Henderson:
    Here's a prediction: if the New York Times keeps this game up on its site, a whole lot of people are going to be more sympathetic to cutting government and more optimistic that it can be done. One of my objections to Tea Partiers is how uninformed some of them are about the numbers. Now, thanks to the New York Times, they don't have to be.
    Here's hoping. Greg Mankiw's comment on the game is—ouch!—on target:
    It takes about a minute. Persuading your fellow citizens may take a bit longer.

  • If you've been tempted to use the "cyber-" prefix, but have concerns that it will make you look like an idiot, wallow not in uncertainty: simply cyber-go to willusingtheprefixcybermakemelooklikeanidiot.com.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:25 AM EDT

The Oxford Murders

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I was a little surprised when a major character in this movie was "Professor Arthur Seldon". They're actually doing a movie about the legendary free-market English economist? Unfortunately, I misheard: the character's name is Arthur Seldom. Great name! They should have had roles for "Sibyl Rarely" and "Kenneth Knott-Offen" too! But that's why I'm not a professional screenwriter, I guess.

Here's the story: Martin (Elijah Wood), an idealistic grad student in mathematics, comes to Oxford with high hopes of studying under the legendary Seldom. He gets lodging with a curmudgeonley crone (who worked with Alan Turing on codebreaking back in the day), and her cello-playing daughter. Martin discovers that it's tough for an ex-Hobbit at Oxford: at their first encounter, Seldom (played by John Hurt) humiliates him in front of a large crowd. Worse, the crone turns up dead in her sitting room. This is very bad, because she was by far the most interesting character. Seldom and Martin pick up clues that this is the first in a series of murders, and they team up to investigate.

Seldom and Martin discuss philosophy, mathematics, and physics while they're sleuthing; it's as if the screenwriter hired a bright nine-year-old to take sketchy notes while eavesdropping on dorm room bull sessions at MIT, had someone translate those notes into Spanish, then someone else translate them back into English, and wrote the screenplay from the result. Pretentious, incoherent, and stupid.

Things would have been somewhat improved if they had a hideous creature burst out of Hurt's chest at some point; that's been known to work in at least one other flick. No such luck.

But on the good side, there is a decent little mystery going on here. And Leonor Watling is very easy to look at, playing a sexy nurse/suspect. In addition, if you're one of those sickos who wanted to see some Hobbit-on-Human action in the Lord of the Rings movies, this is probably as close as you're gonna get.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:26 AM EDT