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