And With the Way You Look

… I understand that you are not impressed:

[Demagogue Defined]

  • Like me, Drew Cline was not impressed with President Obama's corporate jet-bashing at yesterday's press conference.
    The tax-escaping corporate jet owner is such a bad person that President Obama mentioned him six times during his press conference. He portrayed these people as "millionaires and billionaires" whose big tax breaks stand in the way of Washington adequately funding college scholarships and child safety programs.

    "I've said to some of the Republican leaders, 'You go talk to your constituents -- the Republican constituents -- and ask them," Obama said, "are they willing to compromise their kids' safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break? And I'm pretty sure what the answer would be."

    But how are corporate jets preventing Washington from keeping children safe?

    A common feature of Barackrobatics is alleging his opponents are presenting a "false choice". Exercise for the reader: can you spot a false choice in the quote above?

  • Like Drew Cline, Senator Marco Rubio was also not impressed:
    "Talking about corporate jets and oil companies," Rubio says, missed the point. "Everybody here agrees that our tax code is broken," he says, and he is open to discussing tax reform. "But don't go around telling people that the reason you are not doing well is because some rich guy is in a corporate jet or some oil company is making too much money."
    Why, it's almost as if Obama was intentionally engaging in cheap demagoguery to avoid discussing fiscal issues honestly! Could that possibly be true?

  • Richard Rubin and Andrew Zajac, reporters for Bloomberg, were not impressed by the fiscal impact:
    President Barack Obama's proposal to end a tax break for corporate jet owners, a repeated refrain in his news conference yesterday, would achieve less than one-tenth of 1 percent of his target for reducing the federal deficit.
    Specifically: the estimate is $3 billion increase in revenue over 10 years. Charles Krauthammer is not impressed by that:
    I did the math on this. If you collect the corporate jet tax every year for the next 5,000 years, you will cover one year of the debt that Obama has run up. One year.
    And the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler was also not impressed, once he (also) did some math:
    In a bit of class jujitsu, the president six times mentioned eliminating a tax loophole for corporate jets, frequently pitting it against student loans or food safety. It's a potent image, but in the context of a $4 trillion goal, it is essentially meaningless. The item is so small the White House could not even provide an estimate of the revenue that would be raised, but other estimates suggest it would amount to $3 billion over 10 years.

    Meanwhile, student financial assistance, just for 2011, is about $42 billion. So the corporate jet loophole -- which involves the fact that such assets can be depreciated over five years, rather than the seven for commercial jets -- just is not going to raise a lot of money. It certainly wouldn't save many student loans.

    Kessler also found facts lacking in other areas of the press conference.

  • Congressional Republicans were not impressed, suggesting that Obama was going for easy targets:

    "Interesting that he keeps pointing to corporate planes and oil/gas as the only examples of the tax hikes he wants," said Don Stewart, Sen. Mitch McConnell's spokesman, in an email to reporters. "Odd that he doesn't mention things like his plan to raise $70 billion on manufacturers and small businesses" through changes in tax accounting methods.

    Why, it's almost as if Obama was intentionally engaging in cheap demagoguery to … oh, wait, I already said that.

  • James Pethokoukis was not impressed with what he deemed the President's "clumsy attempt at class warfare" either:
    Who knows, maybe the president just has something against jet airplanes, akin to his apparent dislike of those job-killing ATMs. But this seems certain: Obamanomics took flight in 2009 as a purist Keynesian experiment in economic management from high above. The ultimate Dreamliner for Democrats. Now, two-and-a-half-year later, it's begun its sputtering descent.

  • At RedState, Repair Man Jack has a masterfully pissed-off rant on the topic. I encourage you to Read The Whole Thing, but the bottom line is (guess what?) that he is not impressed:
    Barack Obama's rhetoric on this issue is toxic, disingenuous and deliberately divisive. He actually seems to want Americans to hate one another just a wee tad more. If the choice he presented us with were actually honest and accurate, my decision would still be easy. "J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!" At least Rex Ryan is normally obnoxious and repulsive on his own dime. That is no longer true of either America's Boy President or our national government.

  • And you know, they told me that if I voted for John McCain, people would get yanked off MSNBC for Speaking Truth To, Or At Least About, Power. Well, I didn't vote for McCain, but nevertheless I am not impressed with this dick move:
    MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin was suspended on Thursday by the cable network after he called President Obama "a dick" on a popular morning show and then quickly apologized.
    Color Hugh Hewitt equally not impressed with MSNBC:
    And make no mistake --Halperin is an Obama acolyte. His book Game Change makes clear that he sat on story after story that would have hurt the Democrats generally and the president's nomination and election specifically throughout the 2008 campaign until after the voting was done. There is no higher service than helping deep six the bad news, and Mark Halperin came through for Obama and the left when it counted. So eighteen months out from the next election he shows a little false independence from the boss, the better to serve the big guy over the next year-and-a-half, and MSNBC blows it up into a display of "journalistic ethics" --from the most reliably unhinged, hard-left studios in the business. Sheesh.
    Sheesh indeed. And even more not impressed is Professor J:
    Halperin has been suspended by MSNBC "indefinitely." But Obama, who falsely accused Republicans of wanting to sacrifice children, the elderly, and sick people for the benefit corporate jet owners, still is in office.

    Go figure.

(A number of the above links were via Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter; you should subscribe. )

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:03 AM EDT

Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream

[Amazon Link]

A few years back, I read John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession, a 2003 book (of all things) about the Riemann Hypothesis, an unproved mathematical conjecture. And (of course) I'd been reading his stuff over the years at National Review. He's probably the only conservative writer who's appeared in a Bruce Lee movie.

So I picked up his novel, written back in 1996. As you might expect from a math-geek conservative Kung Fu movie actor, it's unusual. The first-person narrator is Chai, and he's had an interesting life: Born in Red China, got caught up in the Cultural Revolution, became a Red Guard, escaped to Hong Kong in disgust, lucked into a job in a bank. His unexpected talents propel him upward in the financial hierarchy, and he emigrates to America, settling down in a comfy bourgeois existence with a wife and a kid on Long Island.

That's probably a good book right there, but Chai develops a slightly unusual hobby for a Chinese immigrant bank executive: he becomes obsessed with Calvin Coolidge. He reads everything he can find about Silent Cal; he and the family make a pilgrimage to Vermont to check out the family homestead.

But in addition, Chai becomes aware that his one true love in China, Selina, is also in America. And Selina becomes an obsession as well. These two threads intersect unexpectedly right at the end of the book, in a charming manner.

Without spoiling things too much, you can read the book two ways: taking Chai's narrative at face value, accepting his interpretation of events. Or you can pick up on the clues Derbyshire scatters throughout the text, and discover for yourself what really happened. (And, frankly, I didn't figure things out until a few hours after I finished the book, started to think about it a bit, and … Oh, yeah. Duh.)

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:02 AM EDT

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

… don't know when I'll be back again:

[Leaving the Jet]

  • President Obama held a news conference today. I can't find a complete transcript, but this CBS news story has:
    "… I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that, 'The tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important…"

    "And you can afford it. You'll still be able to ride on your corporate jet; you're just going to pay a little more."

    And the Fox story has:
    "Ask Republican constituents if they're willing to compromise their kids' safety so some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break," he said.
    Clearly the "corporate jet" is the scapegoat du jour. [Update: Jim Geraghty counted a total of six mentions.] I don't know if anyone asked if repealing the alleged "tax break" for corporate jets was so important, why the Democrats failed to do it while they were in solid control of both House and Senate.

    Obama's obvious game is: get the GOP to agree to tax hikes now, in return for vague promises on future spending cuts, which will turn out to be illusory.

  • Blast from the past: Obama Inauguration Sets Record for Private Jets.

  • And, if you still subject yourself to network news shows, I wonder if you'll see this mentioned tonight?
    Just a few months after lawmakers scolded auto executives for flying to Washington in private jets [in 2009], Congress approved a tax break in the stimulus package to help businesses buy their own planes.
    (Via Instapundit.)

  • Swell news from the University Near Here:
    A University of New Hampshire professor who exposed himself to a mother and her 17-year-old daughter in Milford nearly two years ago will keep his job, according to an arbitrator's ruling provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
    The president of UNH's AAUP chapter, Deanna Wood, deemed the ruling "just".

    The state recently decreased funding to the University System of New Hampshire by $48 million; I bet some are now wondering whether they shouldn't "just" drop it out of the budget altogether.

Last Modified 2011-07-12 6:19 AM EDT


[Amazon Link]

I confess: I love Tina Fey. And when I say "love", I mean in a way that's completely inappropriate, given our age difference, our respective marital statuses, our incompatible social circles, geographical separation, and a host of additional irreconcilable differences.

It's OK, though. I think Mrs. Salad is in a similar relationship with Mr. Johnny Depp.

In any case, I've been a Tina fan for awhile. (Yes, I call her Tina. If she doesn't like that, all she has to do is give me a call and ask me to stop.) So I borrowed this book when my daughter finished reading it. It's an overview of her life so far, narrated with smart-ass wit and self-deprecating humor. I never got into the audiobook thing, but I bet the audiobook version would be the medium of choice; the prose reads as if it were meant to be performed aloud. No surprise, given her background.

If I had to gripe about something, it would be the uneven focus. There's almost nothing in here about Tina's movie career. There are numerous stories about non-famous people, nearly zip about her more famous co-workers. (Other than just noting how talented they all are—I knew that already, though.) Her recurring Sarah Palin role on Saturday Night Live (which, along with about 10,000 other bloggers, I encouraged) takes up way too many pages, even including a marked-up sketch script written by—not Tina, but Seth Meyers. Just a quibble, though.

I especially liked the chapter about Don Fey, Tina's father, which is both funny and moving. Probably because I'm a dad myself. And, like Mr. Fey, a Goldwater Republican. Tina's pretty liberal, but she wrote this about her dad:

If you're Don Fey, you can't look at Joe Biden and be like, yes, I want to be led by this gentleman with the capped teeth. You're not going to listen to John Kerry pretending to empathize with you about the rising cost of your medications. You certainly aren't interested in the "unresolved father issues" that rendered Bill Clinton unable to keep his fly closed. Don Fey is a grown-ass man! Black people find him stylish!
The book closes with Tina's inner anguished debate about whether to have another child; if you watched her recent appearance on SNL, you know how that turned out.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:12 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-06-26 Update

[phony baloney]

Our phony candidate list remains unchanged again this week. The Intraders didn't move anyone above or below our magical and arbitrary 4% criteria for inclusion.

It's interesting to note that Rick Perry has moved into a solid second place at Intrade, at 17.1%. (Behind Mitt Romney, 35.5%). Tim Pawlenty's fortunes have correspondingly gone south: over the past few weeks, he's dropped from nearly 25% to around 10%.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 3,120,000 -20,000
"Michele Bachmann" phony 2,910,000 0
"Sarah Palin" phony 1,970,000 -40,000
"Rick Perry" phony 1,790,000 +50,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 1,200,000 -60,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 1,040,000 +297,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 922,000 -88,000

  • New Hampshire's sorely-missed ex-Senator John E. Sununu took to the pages of the Boston Globe to discuss the essential phoniness of President Obama's attempts to show he's "doing something" about the lousy economy.

    PANIC IS not a pretty thing. The Obama administration may not be there just yet, but a steady drumbeat of bad economic news pushes it closer every week. In Ohio the president talked about giving money to automakers, in North Carolina he talked about giving money to "green" companies, and recently he proposed yet another payroll tax holiday. Call it the "whirling dervish" approach to economic policy -- frantically spinning from one constituency to another, dispensing subsidies, and hoping something works.

    Oddly enough, part of the problem is probably the inherent instability and uncertainty of the situation. Since everyone knows that Obama (a) needs, above all, to be perceived to be "doing something", but (b) has no credible effective plans in his lefty playbook, there's always a good chance he'll "do something" totally destructive.

  • And not to mention: "(Laughter.) (Applause.)*"

  • And one more for the memory hole. Instapundit's comment: "If Sarah Palin had done this, it would be a major story. Luckily, it's Obama so it'll hardly get reported at all."

    And (as usual) he was right. Newsbusters reported:

    NBC Nightly News, which spent three straight nights mocking Palin on her Revere account, as reported by the MRC's Rich Noyes, ignored Obama's mistake, even as Jim Miklaszewski played clips from the very Fort Drum speech in which Obama made his screw-up. While CBS Evening News also covered Obama's event with the troops they too failed to report Obama's error. On ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer there wasn't even a story on Obama at Fort Drum, but they did air bits of a David Muir interview with First Lady Michelle Obama which Sawyer teased this way: "And still ahead, right here on World News, the First Lady talks to David Muir, what she wants for her daughters when they fall in love."

  • But there's plenty of phoniness on the GOP side too. At the Washington Examiner, the sharp-eyed Susan Ferrechio noticed that the health care topics have been relentlessly scrubbed from Mitt Romney's 2008 archived campaign sites. Gosh, it's almost as if doesn't want us to know what he was saying back then, for some reason.

  • Also at the Examiner, Hayley Peterson was reminded of how Mitt's 2008 campaign book No Apologies was "updated" for the 2012 campaign: "He inserted new paragraphs, deleted others and even changed some sentences to say something else completely."

    As Groucho supposedly said: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

    Both Examiner links via Alana Goodman at Commentary. I am at a loss to explain why Romney's phony numbers are so low.

  • But maybe it's not so strange that Jon Huntsman has leaped ahead of Romney in the phony poll. In his announcement video observed:

    In keeping with the campaign's message that Huntsman is a different sort of Republican, a video narrator describes him as "a quiet, no-drama conservative" and "never a pot-stirrer."

    "Not all modern conservatives must be loud or angry," the narrator says over soothing guitar strums. "Jon's boss Ronald Reagan knew that."

    But later that same day:

    "What I've said consistently about the tea party movement, and -- just watching it from 10,000 miles away -- it is a manifestation of our democracy.

    It is a manifestation of the anger and outrage that people feel in this country.

    It's the way that we do business in the United States, and if it puts pressure on elected officials to do things a little differently, to begin to balance the books, to look at a balanced-budget amendment so on and so forth, then that's a good outcome."

    Both links via Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard, who observed:

    Huntsman 2012: Against name-calling and anger. And for them.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:29 PM EDT

Another Year

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

How do you feel about movies nearly entirely driven by character instead of plot? That purport to show a slice of real life, as opposed to action and adventure? Where, just like real life, problems aren't neatly resolved at the end of the day?

I think they're… well, I wouldn't want to make them a steady diet. But this movie got hugely good reviews, and Netflix's algorithm promised I'd like it, so…

It centers on British married couple Tom and Gerri over the course of a year, and their interaction with family and friends. It is divided into four seasonal acts. Tom is a geological engineer, Gerri a counselor for the National Health Service. Their most prominent friend is Mary, one of Gerri's co-workers. She's the closest thing the movie has to a plot, as she struggles (but not hard enough) to deal with her fading looks, increasing loneliness, and continual self-absorption. We only see her through the course of the year, but it's pretty easy to guess what came before (drunken promiscuity) and what's going to happen next (bitter spinsterhood, probably also drunken).

Things "happen" over the year, but they are completely ordinary: Tom and Jerry's son, Joe, acquires a bubbly girlfriend. Another one of Gerri's co-workers has a baby. Tom's brother becomes a widower and the family travels up north for the funeral and to support his brother.

The movie (surprisingly) kept my attention throughout; the actors are a snug and natural fit into their roles. It's probably the only one you'll see where the character muses over the amount of mica in his core samples. Tom and Gerri will not remind you of Nick and Nora, Rhett and Scarlett, or Han and Leia. Their dialog doesn't sparkle with witticisms, and their looks are glamour-free. They're just a solidly-married couple trying to be nice, muddling through.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:04 AM EDT

Your Body Foundation is Really Out of Sight

… your hair and your clothes, everything is just right: [Elevator Fyshics]

  • Back in April, Vice-President Biden visited the University Near Here to announce the Bold New Steps the Federal Government was taking to ensure women would be safe and secure in the nation's institutions of higher education, and the Education Department's "Office for Civil Rights" (OCR) would be leading the charge. Now, people are finally getting around to noticing what that implies. For example, Michael Barone:
    What the seemingly misnamed Office of Civil Rights is doing here is demanding the setting up of kangaroo courts and the dispensing of what I would call marsupial justice against students who are disfavored by campus denizens because of their gender or race or political attitude. "Alice in Wonderland's" Red Queen would approve.
  • Mark Steyn suggests Kundera's committee of the "District Party Secretariat" would also provide a thumbs-up.

  • Also commenting on things is Robert Stacy "Other" McCain, who provides the backstory for the OCR's insistence that schools prosecute these matters using a "preponderance of evidence" rule:
    This Department of Education letter -- a seeming threat to deploy Federal Flirting Police -- was, in fact, a belated reaction to last October's incident at Yale University, where fraternity pledges undergoing initiation were made to chant rude things about rape. The offensive fraternity (of which both President Bushes are alumni) was suspended for five years, but not before the feds announced an investigation of Yale. And part of the government's response was to issue this 19-page letter (sent to all universities) imposing the "preponderance of evidence" rule.

  • John Steele Gordon takes special notice of campus guidelines that consider "humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable" or "elevator eyes" to be verboten.
    In other words, if everyone laughs, it's a joke. If one person does not, it's a crime. It's a good thing that standard isn't countrywide or the jails would be full of standup comedians. I confess to having no idea what "elevator eyes" might be, but at my age I'd undoubtedly be flattered by them.
    At my age, I'd forgotten what elevator eyes are, but eventually got around to remembering that old Temptations song, linked above.

  • Given recent headlines, it would seem that Your Federal Government might want to clean up its own act before micromanaging colleges' judicial procedures. But a student would do well to memorize Congressman Hastings' response to a questioner:
    "It would be impossible for me in a paragraph or a page or two or a tome or volumes one and two to help you understand the dynamics of these events. I'll leave it at that."

  • And it's not just college students and Congresscritters that have problems with the whole concept, but also DOD employees:

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:16 AM EDT

Ip Man

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Yes, this is yet another based-on-true-story movie. In my defense, I wasn't aware of that before I saw it. Netflix just assured me (correctly) that I'd like it, and I didn't look too closely. And the semi-apocalyptic cover art seemed interesting. (Disclosing just how this is a true story would slightly spoil the plot, however.)

It's set in 1930s China. Ip Man is a master of the Wing Chun school of kung fu, but has (apparently) retired from whatever it was Wing Chun masters did back then. His character is impeccable. His house is huge and impeccably furnished; he has a beautiful loving wife and a cute son. His activities are limited to taking on challenges from occasional wannabes: the master of a local kung fu studio, or the leader of a gang of thugs; they are handled with humor and honor. Life is good.

But then the Japanese invade China, and life gets very very bad for Ip Man, his family, and all the other Chinese. He's thrown out of his house, and forced to work in the lung-clogging coal mines. But as it turns out, the Japanese general running the show has a martial arts fetish as well, and becomes obsessed with setting up fights between his guys and the Chinese. Which sets up an inevitable conflict.

The filmmakers had a big budget, and spent it well; attention was lavished on the sets, and many of the scenes are absolutely bee-you-ti-ful. Sammo Hung, fondly remembered from the old Martial Law TV show, is credited with directing the amazing fight scenes.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:05 AM EDT

Four Rich White Women Dish on Diversity


Last week, the ABC News Sunday news show This Week devoted a small segment to "Sex and Politics" (video here, transcript here). Discussants gathered by moderator Christiane Amanpour were Cécilia Attias (ex-wife of Nicolas Sarkozy), Torie Clarke (a vice-president at Comcast), and Claire Shipman (ABC News correspondent). In the wake of stories about ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Ms. Amanpour set the tone:

You'd be hard-pressed to find a sex scandal involving a female politician these days, which begs the question, what if there were more women in politics and in positions of power?
The first thing I noticed: despite Ms. Amanpour's advanced education, globe-trotting career, cosmopolitan lifestyle, and exotic accent, she doesn't know how to use the phrase "begs the question" correctly.

But I digress. The discussion was not contentious, all four women were in broad agreement with the prevailing opinion, which was: women good, men bad. Here's Torie Clarke:

In politics, in the public sector, often women are seen as more honest, more sincere, those - harder-working, all of which I think is true, so this may be an opportunity for more women to step into those positions.
And a lot of bloggers commented on this bit from Claire Shipman:
It's interesting, Christiane, because one woman I've really been watching is Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, who may soon be the head of the IMF. And she has been talking about this for a number of years. She's been sounding the alarm about the perils of too much testosterone in a room. And it's true. What you find - there are half-a-dozen major studies that show the more women you have at a company, the more senior women, the more money it makes. There are studies - there was a recent study that was done from 2000 to 2009 about women hedge fund managers. They doubled the rate of success of their hedge funds compared to male-managed hedge funds. And they manage this way. They don't manage - the hedge funds don't go up and down. There's also an economist at the University of Michigan who has studied diversity and decision-making and has found that, in every business decision, diversity leads to better decisions. In other words, a group of all white men are not going to reach the best decisions.
A lot of bytes were expended on the obvious double standard. If it had been a bunch of guys sitting around the table, jawing about the natural superiority of males, the plug might have been pulled on them in mid-broadcast.

Here's the thing, though: Everything Ms. Shipman says is at least pretty much true.

  • Back in 2003, a study found that:
    … of the 20 companies with the highest market capitalisation in 2003, eighteen had at least one woman on the executive management team. Of the 20 companies with the lowest market capitalisation, only eight had a woman on the executive management team.

  • The late Roy Adler of Pepperdine University (and, yes, I've heard of Pepperdine) conducted a study that showed a "strong correlation between a strong record of promoting women into the executive suite and high profitability."

  • Ditto for the 2000-2009 study comparing men and women hedge fund management. According to Business Week reported: "Female managers produced average annual returns of 9%, versus 5.82% for men."

    (Granted, Ms. Shipman said that women "doubled" the men's performance. Not quite: more like 55% better. But, as Barbie pointed out, math is tough, so we'll give Ms. Shipman a break here.)

  • And the guy at the University of Michigan to which Ms. Shipman refers also really exists, and has purported to show real benefits of "diversity".

Now (for all I know) the research claiming to show the natural superiority of women in various business functions might be entirely correct. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. As Ann Althouse has tirelessly pointed out: "Remember it's okay to say one sex is superior to the other as long as you're saying women are better." No outrage was rained down upon any of the reports above, while… well, you remember what happened to Larry Summers. Blowing with the politically-correct wind has always been a pretty easy path for those both in Academia and out. You'd have to be hopelessly naïve to think this isn't reflected in the slant and content of the research that gets publicized.

But that's not to say it's false. Those studies might have been performed with the ultimate in statistical rigor. And, being a (wait a minute, let me check… yes, still there) man, I can see the inner truth in this self-flagellating column by David Weidner of MarketWatch:

We men just make bad decisions. We can't help it. We're men.
Weidner provides additional evidence of how this works out in the business arena.

But what strikes me as odd is how the "diversity" study is a sore thumb among those others. If women are better at things, that's an argument for letting women do those things, not for "diversity". Ms. Shipman appeared not to notice the self-contradiction in the evidence she rattled off. (But, to be fair, Barbie probably found logic class to be as tough as math.)

Look again at Ms. Shipman's summary of the UMich diversity-mongering prof's research:

… in every business decision, diversity leads to better decisions. In other words, a group of all white men are not going to reach the best decisions.
Indeed, the prof, Scott E. Page, waxes enthusiastic about "diversity" as it is barely-legally practiced in the modern University and elsewhere. But he kind of gives up the game in this New York Times interview:
Q. The term "diversity" has become a code word for inclusion of racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. Is that what you're talking about?

A. I mean differences in how people think. Two people can look quite different and think similarly.

And, as Page would probably prefer not to emphasize, two people can look quite similar and yet think differently. (For example: me and George Clooney.) You can get the benefits of "diversity" with a bunch of white guys. Ms. Shipman's paraphrase is tendentiously incorrect.

What Page seems to have "shown" isn't very revolutionary at all. Instead, it's an easy corollary based on the good old principle of comparative advantage as applied to business decision-making. Briefly put: if N participants in the process all think exactly alike, then exactly N-1 of them are superfluous. Much better if they bring different strengths to the table. Yeah, so?

But such is the nature of modern research: if you can leverage a trivial observation into servicing a correct political agenda, the New York Times will laud you as a "fresh voice".

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:22 AM EDT

True Grit

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm of the opinion that the Coen brothers can do no wrong, movie-wise. (There are only Coen-brother movies that I, um, don't understand yet, like The Ladykillers.) And I like westerns, I think Jeff Bridges is pretty great. And I loved the original True Grit.

This is where you're expecting to see something like: "still, I was disappointed in the Coen brother's remake of True Grit." Not so, my friend. This is a very good movie.

It's the tale of 14-year-old Mattie, bent on a mission to track down Tom Cheney, the scurrilous murderer of her beloved dad. But he's teamed up with an outlaw gang led by "Lucky" Ned Pepper, and lit out for Injun Territory. Mattie's only hope is the often-drunk over-the-hill Sheriff Rooster Cogburn, who reluctantly agrees to a partnership. Also along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who's trying to find Cheney on an unrelated crime. The three don't get along well; Mattie doesn't like either of the lawmen much, and can't make up her mind which she likes less. Cogburn and LaBoeuf, for their part, are each continually trying to out-testosterone the other. Will they hold things together long enough to find and defeat Cheney and Pepper?

It's fun to compare casts: John Wayne → Jeff Bridges; Glen Campbell (!) → Matt Damon; Kim Darby → Hailee Steinfeld; Robert Duvall → Barry Pepper; Jeff Corey → Josh Brolin; and Strother Martin → Dakin Matthews. The new cast must have mused about the big shoes they were filling.

Well, maybe not Matt Damon. But Glen killed the theme song in the old movie, and I bet nobody asked Damon to even try.

It's been a long time since I saw that old movie, and a long time since I read the book on which both movies are based. Still, I was able to notice a number of differences between the versions; no clue on what the artistic impact was. The most important movie lines are (I'm pretty sure) exactly the same:

"I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!"

"Fill your hand, you son-of-a-bitch!"

A glorious moment, then and now.

Book and movies all have the same wonderfully-stilted dialog. It's fun to listen to, and helps provide a musty atmosphere, but Mark Liberman, one of the balloon-puncturers at Language Log, indicates that it is not necessarily historically accurate.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:10 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-06-19 Update

[phony baloney]

The candidate list is stable this week, with nobody dropping below or rising above our arbitrary inclusion criterion of a 4% score at Intrade. And the candidates maintained their relative positions, although Michele Bachmann is threatening to take the phony lead away from the President:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 3,140,000 +310,000
"Michele Bachmann" phony 2,910,000 +740,000
"Sarah Palin" phony 2,010,000 +170,000
"Rick Perry" phony 1,740,000 +270,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 1,260,000 -120,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,010,000 -120,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 743,000 +194,000

In this week's episode of "The Good, The Bad, and the Phony":

  • President Obama (once again) showed why he's going to be tough to beat, phony-wise. He joked about the fact that the "shovel-ready" projects funded by his stimulus program were "not as … uh … shovel-ready as we expected." The comment by Baseball Crank seems apt:
    Obama's inexperience has proven to be awfully expensive. Next time, let's not elect a guy whose first order of business is to spend nearly a trillion dollars on something with no idea how it works. That would be a good start.

  • And you may have heard that President Obama blamed ATMs and airport ticket kiosks for that whole unemployment problem we've been having. Andrew Coulson points out that instead of all that hopey-changey fact-based competence we were promised, Obama's actual ideas are stuck back in the 1800's; specifically, he seems to be channelling Ned Ludd:
    These words could only be uttered by someone who knows very little about economics or the history of human progress. In fact, they could only be uttered by someone who has never reflected on this question before in his life. Because if you reflect for one moment, you come up with this glaringly obvious counterfactual: we use a lot more labor-saving technology today than in previous generations, and yet we also employ far more people. Therefore, increased automation does not lead to decreased national employment.

  • The First Lady provided a glimpse into the President's mental state:
    "I see the sadness and worry that's creasing his face," she said to a crowd of about 500 at the Pasadena luncheon organized by the Southern California Women For Obama. She described his worth ethic as "tireless," according to pool reports.

    "He reads every word, every memo, so he is better prepared than the people briefing him," she said. "This man doesn't take a day off."

    Gosh, it must have really impressed his economic advisors when a "better prepared" Obama informed them about the ATM job-killers.

  • You'll want to check out the new site that promises to bring you "Exciting Things About Tim Pawlenty".

  • We discovered a phony kindred spirit in commenter "gary3332" to this Marketwatch story:
    Barry the drone O'Bomber is doing exactly as he is being told to do as president of USA incorporated the shareholders run the corporation.[you was at the meetin] .in this case that be the private shareholders of the private non-federal reserve corporation who control Barry the drone O'bombers puppet strings its all a grand charade..a scam and spectacle of immense proportion that he American sheep buy into hook, line, and sinker every 4 years or 8 yrs. there is but one candidate that will actually change ANYTHING on either phony side of the aisle, and that is Dr. Ron Paul all the rest of it is a phony puppet show Barron Da Rothschild already picked the next president at the Bilderberg meeting in 09, and his pick was Texas phony baloney governor Rick "Merck Gardasil killer" Perry
    gary3332's MarketWatch comments demonstrate an impressive grasp of foreign policy and pharmaceutical side effects:
    can't remember what the death toll is now from the Gardasil vaccine that Rick Perry approved to sterilize and kill/murder young female tweens for a handsome payday from the makers of the vaccine..Merck Perry is Bilderberg globalist Zionist filth..another 2 faced phony Texan with a phony cowboy hat and phony Texas accent just Like Georgie boy Bush.. a vote for Perry is a vote for more of the same ol same ol globalist agenda for never ending war and in fact most likely even more war and Perry would be just another in a long line of bankster sock puppet presidents.. Ron Paul is THE only choice for President if Americans really want real change
    He also weighed in with a subtle analysis of Warren Buffett's psychology:
    i'd ask him about his and Bill Gates involvement with the makers of the fertility/sterility drug that actually burns out the uterus of women and then eventually kills them.. Warren Buffet is one sick mother.. he is obviously not the sweet sage savvy.investor from Nebraska that's the phony made up personality created by the corporate media Buffet is a psychopathic sociopath sicko eugenicist freakazoid that never has enough money
    I believe gary3332 has the inner track to be FDA Commissioner in the Ron Paul Administration.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:29 PM EDT

The Pursuit of Happyness

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Yes, this makes three based-on-true-story movies in a row. Good catch. This one is shamelessly sentimental and manipulative; it's a good thing I can sometimes enjoy that. It's an older Will Smith movie, released in 2006, but the Netflix algorithm paired with my queue-ordering discipline finally delivered it. Mr. Smith got a deserved Oscar nomination for his performance.

He plays Chris Gardner, a man on the edge of financial disaster, living with his wife and small son in beautiful San Fran. He unwisely latched onto a get-rich-quick scheme selling medical scanning equipment; instead, it was get-poor-slowly. Instead of making ends meet, he's seeing the ends move relentlessly farther apart. Each small financial setback and dumb mistake gets magnified into a dangerous pitfall. His wife, who at least has a steady income, can't take the pressure and bails out.

But Chris has some things on his side: a winning personality, a knack for seeing how things work, excellent problem-solving skills, a deep and abiding love for his kid. And he sees a chance for rescue in the form of a long-shot internship at Dean Witter. But the path is as perilous as Odysseus's.

Mrs. Salad reported being exhausted after watching the movie. I see her point.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:09 AM EDT

Do You Remember When We Met Beside the Soda Machine?

… you were green in the eyes and still shining like you do all the time: [Catch Up]

Well, it's been a busy couple weeks. But if you missed any of this stuff, you shouldn't have:

  • We're number one, baby!
    New Hampshire is, by our count, the freest state in the country.
    And there's plenty of room for improvement. But Ann Althouse points out that NH ranks "dead last" in a survey of the educational attainments of state legislators. She wonders if there's a relationship. A commenter points out the obvious: "I consider it likely that the more education a person receives, the more she thinks she's smart enough to run other people's lives. It's for their own good, you know."

  • Jim Geraghty noticed another broken Obama promise, the one where "we" were going to get all the money back from bailing out Chrysler and GM.

  • David Bernstein resurrects then-Senator Obama's 2005 comments on the historical Supreme Court case Lochner v. New York; in 227 words, Obama made 9 "dubious or inaccurate" claims.

    To be fair, Obama was merely echoing "progressive" common wisdom; it's not as if the former constitutional law prof had actually bothered to check things out himself.

  • At CEI's Open Market blog, Adam Michel checks out Governor Lynch's comments on vetoing HB 474, which would make New Hampshire a right-to-work state. The Gov claims he's never been asked by businessfolk about the issue; Adam notes that there's a real good reason for that.

  • Dorothy Rabinowitz offers suggestions to GOP candidates, including the helpful "talk about matters like Medicare and Social Security without terrorizing the electorate."

    How you do that and stay honest, I don't know.

  • Andrew C. McCarthy, for example, is extremely honest, and is pretty sick and tired of politicians of both major parties promising to "save" Medicare from the other side. The right thing to do: figure out a good way to end it.

    In a follow-up column, Andrew notes that he's not in the business of figuring out "a winning electoral strategy for Republicans". Instead, he's just satisfied with being obviously correct.

  • Steven Hayward has advice to pols on how to talk about "climate change" when you're out there on the lonely campaign trail. Unlike other matters (like entitlements, see above) it's not hard to be reasonable on the issue.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell looked at the unemployment rate, comparing it with what the Obama Administration stimulus advocates claimed it would be back in 2009. No surprise: our would-be emperors have no clothes. They made things worse than if they'd done nothing. Voters would be stupid to trust them again.

    And yet, they might. Go figure.

  • A trusty source, Joel Miller, discusses Sarah Palin's take on Paul Revere. A fair and measured piece, with a nod toward those "who revel in the cheap shot and the takedown." I'm not sure, but he may have been reading Pun Salad.

  • Back when I was much younger and (even more) pretentious, I found myself kind of liking poetry. For example, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

    And now… there's an app for that. (Make sure you watch the video app tour; it's a jaw-dropping demonstration of how you can, y'know, learn stuff on the iPad instead of playing Angry Birds for another couple hours.)

  • These days my poetic preferences lean toward off-color Midwestern parodists:
    I read a hyperlink from a Twitter sage
    Who said: "A vast and trunkless dick of stone
    Stands in an archive. Near it on the page,…
    And I think that's probably the best thing I read about that other thing.

  • "I just want to say two words to you, just two words. Are you listening? Bunny dressage."

Last Modified 2011-06-18 2:21 PM EDT

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism

[Amazon Link]

Kevin D. Williamson is a National Review editor, author of the Exchequer blog there, and a reliable target of Pun Salad links. (See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) When he came out with this book, I was a natural customer. And it's good!

It's a wide-ranging exploration of various instantiations of socialism, and why they (nearly invariably) all suck in one way or another. Socialists do not make this easy: many of them will deny their socialism (I'm looking at you, Mr. President). And others, when confronted with socialism's failures, will deny that it's a case of "real" socialism. But Williamson is relentless, merciless, and invariably on-target. He writes with style and sharp wit. Socialists will hate him.

The book looks at how socialism has (not) worked around the world: India, Sweden, North Korea, Venezuela. Common themes emerge: besides its dismal failures at providing its subjects with goods and services, socialism encourages nasty scapegoating, creeping totalitarianism, poor environmental practices, and hyper-nationalism.

Not that America gets off scot-free. Woodrow Wilson and Eugene Debs are pummeled, with excellent justification. Our "public education" sector (inspired by those nice Prussians) is hopelessly mired in socialism, with predictably poor results. Energy and health-care are being pushed down the road to serfdom as well.

(Williamson, by the way, makes an excellent point about how public debate on these matters works. In selling Obamacare, it was widely noted with horror that the US spends about 15% of GDP on health care—too much compared to other countries. But the US also spends a more on education than some other countries—why isn't that an issue? Because it's a done deal, socialism-wise.)

The "Politically Incorrect" series by longtime conservative publisher Regnery gives off kind of a "dumbed-down" vibe: inexpensive paperbacks with catchy covers, wide margins, lots of little side-boxes on many pages. But Williamson counters that impression with a deep understanding of his topic, backed up with heavy research. I promise: you'll learn something.

For example, Williamson uses the word "syncretic" on page 52. And I've resolved to look that up some day.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:24 AM EDT

Mao's Last Dancer

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another based-on-a-true-story movie, specifically the story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese ballet dancer. As the movie opens, he's arriving in 1970s Houston as part of a cultural exchange with America; it's a classic fish-out-of-water story. (At the time, US-China relations were only barely thawed, after decades of implacable hostility.) He's mentored by Ben Stevenson (played by Captain Pike himself, Bruce Greenwood), and his huge talent is eventually recognized.

His previous story is told in flashbacks: Li Cunxin was plucked as a child out of his tiny village to participate in Madame Mao's dance academy. It's a grueling life, made more complex by—you may have heard—nasty totalitarianism. When Li is allowed to leave the country for America, every effort is made to ensure that he's politically reliable.

But it doesn't work out, because Li (a) finds love; and (b) realizes the capitalist foreign devils (that would be us) aren't really so bad after all. When it comes time to return to Red China, he demurs, and sets off a small, tense, diplomatic struggle over his future.

So: not bad. One of the rare movies to forthrightly illustrate the utter vileness of Communism. And, if you like ballet, there are a number of big production numbers. Which, as far as I know, were excellent.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:13 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-06-12 Update

[phony baloney]

Well, is my face red. To judge whether candidates should have been included in our phony poll, I'd been checking this Intrade site (clearly marked "βeta"); as it turns out, some sort of βeta bug has been giving Scott Brown a bogus probability of 7.7% of winning the GOP nomination there. That was inexplicable, but I thought it reflected some sort of Intrade reality.

At the production site, however, Senator Brown hasn't been above 4% since May of last year. (Other candidates' numbers seem to roughly match between production and βeta sites.)

So: Scott Brown is gone. Also absent is Herman Cain, who dipped down to a 3.5% probability. Leaving…

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 2,830,000 +390,000
"Michele Bachmann" phony 2,170,000 +300,000
"Sarah Palin" phony 1,840,000 +300,000
"Rick Perry" phony 1,470,000 +250,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 1,380,000 +120,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,130,000 -220,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 549,000 -2,000

But there's plenty of phoniness even in our reduced field:

  • At the Washington Post, fact-checker Glenn Kessler provided yet another example of why President Obama leads our phony poll week after week with an article headlined "President Obama's phony accounting on the auto industry bailout". Kessler analyzes Obama's June 4 speech that attempted to show the bailout's wonderfulness.

    What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.

  • Speaker Boehner's site has an amusing article about "President Obama's Phony Pivots to 'Jobs'", a little example of how the White House trots out a metaphor, flogs it relentlessly, the media obediently touts it, then sends it to the glue factory after a few months. (For example, a "senior administration official" is quoted in December 2009: "…we're going to make a very hard pivot to jobs in the run-up to the State of the Union.")

    By March 2010, even ABC's Jake Tapper began to suspect he was being played: "Every week we're told that there's going to be a hard pivot to talk about jobs, and then every week something else happens."

    Here's the deal, though: The President's love of basketball is well-known, and even those with a mere nodding familiarity will recognize the aptness of the metaphor: you pivot when you aren't actually going anywhere.

  • On the GOP side, Tim Pawlenty attempted to appeal to geeky libertarians with what he called the "Google Test":

    If you can find a good or service on the Internet. Then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it.

    The post office -- the government printing office -- Amtrak -- Fannie and Freddie were all built for a different time in our country. When the private sector did not adequately provide those services. That's no longer the case.

    Peter Suderman is skeptical, especially when he looks at the fine print:

    Pawlenty's own record suggests he may have trouble applying the Google test. He's previously failed to follow it on at least one of the examples he explicitly mentioned in the speech--government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie. As NRO's Katrina Trinko reported, Pawlenty supported a government bailout of Fannie and Freddie in 2008, saying that "if you allow those entities to fail, the consequences are so severe for innocent bystanders, namely average Americans who rely on the markets, rely on those mortgages, you know, the consequences are too severe."

    Suderman has other examples.

  • In the same speech, T-Paw revealed his Five Ten-Year Plan for fiscal sanity: simply arrange for 5% yearly real GDP growth. Why?

    5% economic growth over 10 years would generate 3.8 trillion dollars in new tax revenues. With that -- we would reduce projected deficits by 40%. All before we made a single budget cut.

    Sounds good! Why didn't we think of that?

    Pawlenty knows that spending cuts are painful, and likely to be very unpopular, especially when the ABC/NBC/CBS Evening News will be doing a sob story every night about cowboy poets whose subsidies were yanked. So why not assume that we can painlessly grow our way out of the problem, at least in part?

    The former Ms. Jane Galt calls this "unambiguously crazy".

    It is entirely possible that the economy will, for some period in the next few years, grow at 5%. But if it does so, this will not be because Tim Pawlenty--or Barack Obama--have done something to cause it. We don't know how to lift real GDP growth much above its trend level, and we certainly can't do so for more than 18-24 months.

    Kevin G. Williamson has a similar pair of posts tackling the issue (arguing against folks like Larry Kudlow and Charles Kadlec). His bottom line:

    The choice is not between growth and austerity. God knows we need a dose of both. The difference is this: Congress can impose a balanced budget (or, more realistically, a less-imbalanced one); Congress cannot impose growth. So enact a balanced-budget plan, already, or a near approximation of one, it being understood that the goal need not be a zero deficit tomorrow but an arrest of the debt pileup and a smooth and steady decline of the debt as a share of GDP. I suspect (but do not know) that a sensible fiscal-reform plan, adopted with bipartisan consensus, would encourage growth, calm markets, encourage investors and hiring managers, and make reducing the proportional size of the debt that much easier. But talking about growth is, I fear, a way for politicians to avoid talking about cuts - and we cannot afford to put them off. Conservative happy-talk is still happy-talk. And I would not bet the future of the republic on it: If our marker gets called in, it's going to be a rough time making good on it.

    I like Pawlenty, but "happy talk" is only going to make honest discussion harder.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:28 PM EDT


stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Having exhausted most of the animated features in our queue, the Netflix algorithm has started sending us based-on-true-story movies.

The movie follows Penny Tweedy, played by Diane Lane. As the movie begins, she's seemingly a normal 60s Colorado housewife, with two daughters in high school, a loving husband, etc. But she's called back to her horse-breeding roots in Virginia when her mom dies, leaving her Alzheimer's-stricken father. The financial state is perilous. Nearly everyone wants her to sell the farm, but she demurs. Nearly everyone thinks she should butt out of the everyday business of the farm, but she keeps at it. And (unlike everyone else) she has an idea that the offspring of one of her mares might make a pretty good racehorse. Guess what?

The suspense is dimmed somewhat if you have even a dim knowledge of horse-racing history. And unfortunately, this against-all-odds inspirational story is saddled (heh) with dialogue that sounds as if it came out of a bag of cheap fortune cookies. ("This is not about going back. This is about life being ahead of you and you run at it! Because you never know how far you can run unless you run.")

But on the plus side: John Malkovich is in it. Also Fred Thompson, who I still wish was President. And Margo Martindale plays Penny's reliable assistant, Miss Ham; since I know her mainly from Justified, I kept expecting her to kill somebody, but no.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:15 AM EDT

Over the Hedge

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I really like the old Liberty Meadows comic Frank Cho did a few years back. Set at a wildlife sanctuary, the talking animals have all sorts of wild adventures, and there's a romantic subplot between nerdish vet Frank and the totally hot assistant Brandy. Lots of innocent double entendre, slapstick antics, and general good fun. It would make a great movie.

And I said all that to say this: someone should give Frank Cho a few hundred pounds of money, and team him up with the Over the Hedge filmmakers to make it happen.

And Over the Hedge is pretty good too. It took us a while to see it (it was released back in 2006). It concerns an up-to-no-good raccoon (RJ) who's been caught filching a load of food from the local homicidal bear (Vincent). RJ dupes a small army of woodland creatures into raiding the local suburban homes, displacing their putative, sensible, turtle leader (Verne). One obnoxious suburbanite calls in a wacky exterminator. Mayhem results.

Just the voice talent alone is pretty amazing: Bruce Willis, Gary Shandling, Wanda Sykes, Steve Carell, William Shatner (who's particularly hilarious), Nick Nolte, Thomas Haden Church, Allison Janney, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara…

And, yes, this really is the fourth animated movie we watched in a row. I think that's it for the next few months, though…

Oh, wait. Cars 2.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:15 AM EDT

When Gravity Fails

[Amazon Link]

Another book I picked up due to its appearance on this io9 list of the "Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time". To show you how Out Of It your blogger is, SF-wise: I had never read anything by the late author, George Alec Effinger. This is the first of a trilogy, and I'm not sure if I'll read the rest. I wasn't swept away.

It's set in the near future, when the Muslim world has bypassed the West. The hero, Marîd Audran, lives in the Budayeen, a very seedy city with extremely mean streets. Modifications to both bodies and brains are commonplace: sex changes are seemingly while-you-wait, plug in personality modules and mental enhancers are available over-the-counter. Marîd is relatively straightlaced; his only nod to the sordidness around him is a prodigious pill habit.

The setup is straight out of classic private-eye novels: a mysterious stranger hires Marîd to find a missing relative. Said stranger is immediately shot dead, of course. What's unusual is: he's shot by a guy claiming to be James Bond. Pretty soon more corpses people turn up. The MOs seem different though; are there multiple murderers, or is it just one guy switching between murderous personalities?

It's good fun, but with kind of a down ending. It's also (I thought) somewhat padded. Ceremonial courtesy dialog between Muslims can take a number of paragraphs. That's fine once or twice, but when it happens more than that, you get the feeling the author's reaching to hit his contractually-obligated word count.

Consumer note: the paperback's back cover has a pretty nasty spoilers, revealing plot points that don't crop up until well into the later part of the book.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:14 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-06-05 Update

[phony baloney]

No changes in our candidate list this week; nobody either rose above or dropped below 4% or better at Intrade, no matter how much they may have deserved to. I still don't understand why Scott Brown is given such high odds at Intrade (7.7%), but I completely understand why he's popped up to second place in our poll:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 2,440,000 -2,690,000
"Scott Brown" phony 2,380,000 +190,000
"Michele Bachmann" phony 1,870,000 +210,000
"Herman Cain" phony 1,670,000 +120,000
"Sarah Palin" phony 1,540,000 -1,590,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,350,000 -1,400,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 1,260,000 -50,000
"Rick Perry" phony 1,220,000 +210,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 551,000 +89,000

(To be fair, Brown didn't so much surge in phoniness, as the previous contenders, Romney and Palin, collapsed. Unexpectedly!)

  • Intrade says President Obama (or, more accurately, the Democrats) are 61% likely to retain the White House next year. Sean Hannity ain't buying it.
    That narrative is so phony, and the media is pushing this. Let me give you a quick few numbers here, 58 percent overall disapprove his handling of the economy, 57 percent disapprove on health care, 53 percent on Medicare, 53 on taxes, 64 on the federal deficit and 73 percent disagree with him on the gas prices. I mean, that pretty much covers everything.
    The narrative is phony, but (to be fair) that simply means it matches the phoniness of the leading candidates.

  • Heh, but Sarah Palin sure stuck her foot in her mouth when she mused on camera about Paul Revere out to warn the British about the colonist militia, right?

    Well, not so fast, noted William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection. As it turns out, Governor Palin might know a bit more about Paul Revere than her phony critics. It turns out that one of his activities that night was (under duress) letting the British know that he'd warned the colonists. Who knew? Besides Sarah, that is.

    David Friedman comments:

    The first mistake of the people attacking Palin--accusing her of thinking that Revere was riding to warn the British rather than the Americans--is either careless reading or deliberate dishonesty. The second mistake--making fun of the idea that he warned the British--is historical ignorance. I am in a poor position to criticize that ignorance since, until the question came up as a result of Palin' comment, I shared it.
    For the record: me too.

  • In Time, Michael Scheuer assures us that Mitt Romney has learned his lesson from 2008:
    All year, the Romney strategy has been to keep an eye on this ball. His aides long ago decided that Romney's great failure in 2008 was his effort to be an all-of-the-above candidate, striving to appeal to all voters at the same time, feeding the impression that he was a pandering phony. The painful experience also taught Romney's team the importance of not getting distracted by the daily scrums of a presidential campaign.
    Has anyone noticed Romney acting a lot less phony this time around? Me neither.

  • "50311 Dweller" writes to the Des Moines Register with advice to the candidates:
    It sounds very phony when Mitt Romney and President Obama drop the g's when they speak in the more rural states, "goin' " and "runnin', " for example. They should just speak in their normal way -- the way we expect them to speak.
    "50311 Dweller" is to be congratulated on his or her high expectations.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:29 PM EDT

Here in the Real World, It's Not That Easy At All

I don't exactly disagree with this bumper sticker (click to embiggen or order):


… after all, I'm a sorta-libertarian, like to think I live in the real world, and a registered Republican. Nevertheless, I'd stick a lot of explanatory notes at the bottom:

  • There are pretty good reasons for libertarians to not vote at all. As P.J. O'Rourke puts it, right in the title of his latest book: Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards. A longer winded argument is put forth in an essay by fellow Granite Stater Jim Davies: Five Reasons Not to Vote. My favorite:
    My third reason for not voting is that, relatively, it's dangerous--because the chance that one vote out of the 84 million cast will affect the outcome is much lower than the probability of being accidentally killed en route to the polling place. We all take risks every day, of course; but if you hold life precious, make sure to spend all your moments doing something worth while.
    If you don't find that reason persuasive, maybe you'll be grabbed by one of the others.

  • But if you're (like me) unconvinced by O'Rourke/Davies, what then?

  • In fact, I usually vote Republican. But I just couldn't hold my nose long and hard enough to vote for John McCain in 2008. Instead, I went with the big-L Libertarian, Bob Barr. Was this a temporary departure from the Real World?

    I don't think so. The official results here in New Hampshire were:

    Obama/Biden 384,826 54.126897
    McCain/Palin 316,534 44.521428
    Nader/Gonzalez 3,503 0.492707
    Barr/Root 2,217 0.311828
    Phillies/Bennett 5310.074687
    Write-Ins 3,359 0.472453

    Had I managed to vote for McCain, the results would have been:

    Obama/Biden 384,826 54.126897
    McCain/Palin 316,535 44.521569
    Nader/Gonzalez 3,503 0.492707
    Barr/Root 2,216 0.311687
    Phillies/Bennett 5310.074687
    Write-Ins 3,359 0.472453

    Call me nuts, but I don't see any reason for anyone to prefer the latter table to the former. Least of all me. Maybe if I were living in the "Real World", I would get some psychic jollies for voting for the guy who came in second, as opposed to the guy who came in fourth? Sorry, I don't see that happening.

    Like Instapundit, I would vote for a syphilitic camel over Barack Obama in 2012, but even in the real world, the camel doesn't need to be Republican. And, ideally, shouldn't have supported anything that rhymes with "Schomneycare" or "McBain-Rheingold".

(This post's title comes from Mr. Alan Jackson.)

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:29 PM EDT

Cylinders of Hope, Turning and Yearning

… into pendulums of weary hesitation: [Fifth Dimension]

  • David Leonhardt of the New York Times dislikes the influence wielded by Iowa and New Hampshire in selecting presidential nominees. At Commentary, Jonathan Tobin agrees, but bemoans any likelihood of anyone doing anything about it.

    The argument (as presented by Leonhardt) is statistics-based, so there might be something to it. However, here are my favorite debunking factoids about the importance of the New Hampshire Primary:

    • The last Republican to win a contested NH primary, and go on to win the election, was George H. W. Bush in 1988, six elections ago.

    • The last Democrat to win a contested NH primary, and go on to win the election, was Jimmy Carter in 1976, nine elections ago.

    Bottom line: if you're running unopposed, you might be OK, but otherwise winning NH is more like a kiss of death than a boost. Just ask Presidents Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Kerry, Pat Buchanan, Al Gore, Paul Tsongas, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, …

  • In local news, one of our citizens is thinking outside the box:
    A convicted criminal who claimed he was from a "fifth dimension" was held Tuesday on $25,000 cash bail after he was charged with using a hammer to carry out a car-jacking and leading police on a chase on Interstate 95 on Monday.
    I expect he'll find a three-dimensional jail cell pretty easy to escape.

  • David Bahnsen tries to convince liberty-lovers that Ron Paul is undeserving of their support, mainly due to his simplistic blame-America-first view of foreign policy and advocacy of military isolationism.
    America is the leader of the free world, and that is a descriptive fact, not really worthy of being haggled over. Our responsibility to defend ourselves and our way of life is totally and completely incompatible with Ron Paul's view of foreign policy. America's moral responsibility in preventing genocide is indisputable. If at the end of the day, a group of folks attracted to the rhetoric of freedom ideology believe that their objectives can be obtained without a strong and muscular foreign policy, they will find out the hard way that they are wrong. The ability of the United States to deter Jihadists, and better yet, to kill them before they kill us, will be the foundational condition on which a future "freedom at home" may be built. We are at war. We did not start the war. I hope and pray Ron Paul's followers will come around on this. I know what will change their minds, and I do not like it.
    Link via Jen Rubin, also not a Paul fan.

  • I got 17 right out of 20 on this quiz about Robert A. Heinlein. Can you do better? (I'm looking at you, Granite Groksters!)

Last Modified 2017-12-03 5:49 AM EDT