Another box office dud, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Mike, played by Paul Giamatti, is head of the Flaherty household: lovely
wife Jackie (Amy Ryan), cute daughters Abby and Stella. Mike is a
lawyer, and moonlights as the coach of the local high school's dreadful
wrestling team. Unfortunately, he's having problems making ends meet,
with seemingly everything at home and office requiring expensive repairs.
So when an opportunity comes for a slight breach of legal
ethics, Mike takes it. He relegates Leo, a client with
to the local managed care facility. And Mike pockets
the guardianship fees. That's pretty bad, but it's a mark of
the filmmakers' talents that Mike remains a sympathetic character.
enough, complications ensue. Leo's grandson Kyle appears (literally) on
Leo's doorstep. Good news: Kyle's a decent kid, and a phenomenal
wrestling talent. (Dickensian coincidence again.) Bad news: Kyle's
mom, Leo's daughter, also shows up, and she's threatening to
both Kyle and Mike.
It's rated R for language, but is otherwise a charming and heartwarming
comedy/drama. (That probably explains the poor box office results.)
The University Near Here, despite being in (we're continually told) dire
financial straits, continues to spend time and resources on
areas that don't have much to do with… y'know… actually
educating its student population. Because, that's hard. What's easy
is moral posturing, symbolic gestures, and indoctrination. Boy, we
got that down pat.
Correction: we don't have that down pat.
For example: A Monday press
release gave the shocking news: "UNH Will Take All Energy Drinks Off The
Shelves Beginning In January 2012".
DURHAM, N.H. – In an effort to further its mission to be the
healthiest campus community in the country by 2020 and keep its students
safe, the University of New Hampshire will no longer sell energy drinks
in its retail and vending locations beginning in January 2012.
I'm not sure how long that press release will stay out of the memory
hole. Later that same day, UNH issued a
"never mind" statement.
DURHAM, N.H. -- University of New Hampshire President Mark W. Huddleston
will delay implementation of a decision announced earlier today to stop
selling energy drinks in its retail and vending locations beginning in
That's right: we can't even implement our meaningless symbolic gestures
without blundering. (For a bit of a chuckle, note the URL on that
You've no doubt heard of politician's logic, from the Yes,
Minister clip above:
Something must be done!
This is something.
Therefore, we must do it!
It's kind of like that.
Except in this case, the University was even kind of weak on point one.
"something must be done"
decision was claimed to be in support of the nebulous goal of being
"the healthiest campus community in the country by 2020".
Normal folks would ask: is UNH planning to accumulate health statistics
on every member of the "communiity" by 2020?
No, of course not. That would be a massive invasion of privacy. Safe
no measure of how healthy our community is now, there won't be one in
2020, and there will be no comparison with other campuses.
Well, there would be obvious health benefits by stopping the sale of
"energy drinks", right?
Probably not. The big concern, it seems, is kiddos mixing them with
booze. How many energy drinks used that way were purchased from
UNH "retail and vending locations"?
My bet: nobody knows, or even worried too much about finding out.
What percentage of energy drinks sold at UNH are "abused"
as opposed to people just looking for a boost?
Again, the safe wager is: nobody knows, or even worried too much about
Would this have produced a measurable impact on the "health" of the
On Tuesday, I noticed that the Kindle version of Neal Stephenson's
new novel, Reamde, had gone unavailable on the Amazon website.
(The symptom was a missing image over there under the "Media I'm
Consuming" heading on the right.) (No, your right.) Wha happen?
On Wednesday, it had (also inexplicably) returned to the store.
And this morning, I got a note from Amazon. In part:
We're writing about your past Kindle purchase of Reamde: A Novel by Neal
Stephenson. The version you received had Missing Content that have been
An updated version of Reamde: A Novel (ASIN:B004XVN0WW) is now
available. It's important to note that when we send you the updated
version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks,
and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading
location will be lost.
If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email
with the word "Yes" in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours
of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently
downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.
Fortunately, I hadn't made much progress into the book, although I've
so far enjoyed it. The opening chapter is set during a Thanksgiving
family reunion in Iowa, with the narrator avoiding stepping
in cowpies. (Frozen and unfrozen each have their unique hazards.)
Ah, fond memories.
Anyway, I'll start over. Who knows if I missed some of the "Missing
Content" already? I should have the fixed version, if
Amazon is to be believed, although I can't figure out how to tell
Some folks are
than I about the issue. Cynthia Ewer posted a "review" on the Amazon site:
An avid Neal Stephenson fan, I preordered the Kindle version of this
book in mid-July. As of this morning, I'm about 40% through the
book--and I just received a notice that my Kindle edition was "missing
content", and would be replaced.
I'd like to tell both
distributor Amazon and publisher William Morrow/HarperCollins that this
problem is totally unacceptable--and I expect some adjustment to
compensate for this issue.
First, it seriously damages the
reading experience. I've invested many hours in the book, overlooking
various format errors along the way. Now--without more--I'm told that
what I've read is incomplete. Do I begin again at the beginning? Do I
plow on? Either way, the reading experience is fatally
Second, this situation oozes contempt for the ebook
buyer. As a published author, I'm aware of the word-by-word scrutiny
that my print manuscripts receive. Why should ebooks be any different?
Tossing a carelessly-formatted file out at random reflects badly on all
links of the publishing chain, from author to publisher to distributor
Third, this level of carelessness is inexcusable on
economic grounds. I'd expect to find format errors and mangled content
in a pirated ebook, not in a $17 Kindle edition. When I purchase an
ebook at a price point so close to the print version, the publisher
rakes in far more profit than from a print title. To then turn around
and offer shoddy, incomplete text in that pricey Kindle title shows an
arrogant disregard for economics, the reader, and the distribution
My suggestion? Give each purchaser of the buggy
version a 75% credit on this title. That, to me, is a fair reassessment
of the injury I've received as a reader of this title. Compared to the
cost of, say, reprinting and replacing defective print editions, it's
still a financial bonanza to publisher William Morrow--and would go a
long way to restore the credibility of this author, publisher and
True fact: this nasty little 1947 noir was directed by Robert Wise, the
same guy who directed The Sound of Music and Star Trek: The
Motion Picture. He got around.
Susan Brent (played by Claire Trevor) is in Reno finishing up her
quickie divorce. (That was how you worked things
back in 1947, kids.)
She's staying at Mrs. Kraft's boarding house; she's acquainted with
a neighbor, Laury Palmer, who's self-admittedly promiscuous. Laury's
going out with Sam Wild, but in order to make him jealous she decides
to date someone else.
Unfortunately for Laury, Sam is not only jealous, he's psychotic. Soon
there are a couple of corpses, which Susan discovers. Instead of doing
the right thing, reporting the find to the police, Susan hops the next
train home to San Francisco. But, in one of those Dickensian
Sam is taking the same train. They strike up a relationship,
Well, I've probably already said too much. As film noir goes, this is
the real deal, exploring the seedy underbelly of
society, where outwardly respectable characters are revealed to
have a cold, dark interior. Acting is pretty good. Lawrence
Tierney pretty much coasts through the movie with menacing glares
and petulant scowls. The story is
told with marvelous economy, and the climax is—whoa, didn't see
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".
It won the Philip K.
Dick Award in 2003. It got glowing reviews, including one
in the New York Times ("If you've ever wondered what kind of
science fiction Raymond Chandler might have written for a futuristic
Philip Marlowe, check out …")
All that, and it wasn't my cup of tea. Might be yours. I compulsively
finish books I've started reading, but I was sorely tempted to give
up on this one. 526 pages, and from about page 50 forward, I
was pleading: please shut up now.
It's set in the 25th century. Bodies die, but people don't have
to: most have "stacks" implanted in their spines that encapsulate
their personality and memories, and they can be transplanted into
another body, or "sleeve", when that's necessary. IT types will
appreciate that there is also a remote backup option available for some,
as well as cloning technology, so your new body can even look like
your old one.
The hero, Takeshi Kovacs, is been killed on a remote planet as the book
begins. But he's reincarnated on Earth, in order to solve a puzzle: a
rich guy was murdered, his stack destroyed, but he was regenerated from
backup into a clone, so all that was missing was a few hours memory.
Why did this happen, and whodunit?
Intriguing premise, but it's dragged out. (To repeat: 526 painful pages.)
Overwritten, with scenes described to a level of detail that don't
advance the plot, illuminate character, or even add much atmosphere;
it's as if the author really
wanted to write a shoot-'em-up video game instead of a novel,
and tediously describes each screen he's designed in his head.
In shocking news, a lot of Intraders
gave up on Jon Huntsman this week, dropping his odds
of getting the GOP nomination under our arbitrary
threshold of 4%. Taking his place in the phony ranks
is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Whose Intrade odds, as I type,
stand at 8.8% probability.
Rick Perry had a universally-acknowledged bad debate performance.
(Commented Korax of the Klingon Empire:
"Hab SoSlI' Quch Ptak Gahg!" Or, loosely translated: "Honor demanded
disemboweled the smooth talker where he stood! Also, that short
human female strangely set my blood afire!")
But Perry fans should take heart: Karl at Pattericonotes
a news article slamming a Texas governor for a "less-than-commanding
performance" in debates—twelve years ago. And the NYT's
Nick Silver thinks
the Intraders may be misunderestimating Perry as well.
Betsy Newmark summarizes
the phoniness of President Obama's budget plan. Remember when Candidate
that his budgets would reflect a "net spending cut"?
Memory hole, baby.
As Philip Klein points out, Obama has decided to throw out any hope of
compromising with the Republicans and instead produce a campaign
document that will solidify his liberal support. Instead he introduced
a plan that included more of the same sorts of stimulus ideas that have
failed already along with tax hikes and some modest spending cuts. He
ignores entitlement reform. On top of it he includes phony claims of
Beyond the phoniness: is a campaign explicitly based on promises of
increased taxes and increased spending really going to cut it in the 21st
century USA? If it turns out to be
a winning formula, don't blame Obama: blame the
American voting public.
Hennessey zeros in on Obama's claim that his proposals are
"balanced" between spending cuts and tax increases. He makes many
solid observations, but this is my favorite:
The President is not, as he claims "proposing real, serious cuts in
spending." His proposals would result in a tiny net reduction in
spending: -$86 B over 10 years. Almost all of the spending
cuts for which he wants to claim credit have already been enacted or
accounted for. Almost all the new spending cuts he proposes would
be used to offset higher spending in his Jobs bill proposal and for more
Medicare spending on doctors.
$86 billion sounds like a lot, but it's a rounding error compared
to the totality of Federal spending. And remember: even these are "promised
spending cuts, to be "balanced" by actual, right now tax
Herman Cain won
the Florida Straw Poll yesterday. In honor of that, and
especially because of those last two items, let me (once again)
plug his book:
They Think You're Stupid. Whoever gets the GOP nomination should
steal that and use it as his or her campaign theme.
Much of President Obama's phoniness is disgusting, infuriating, and
depressing. But let's look on the bright side:
sometimes it's downright amusing too.
Ed Morrissey's "Obamateurism" for Friday noted
this tidbit from the President's UN speech:
The Qaddafi regime is over. Gbagbo, Ben Ali, Mubarak are no longer in
power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come
through violence has been buried with him.
Ed notes that, in QDaffy's case, "change" came via the non-violence of
(among other things) a few months of NATO bombing raids.
And in bin Laden's case,
among the things that were "buried with him" were non-violent
5.56-mm bullets fired non-violently from a US Navy Seal's non-violent
True confession: although I was once a pretty serious comic book fan,
I never much got into Thor. Didn't like his stilted speech, didn't
like his stupid hammer, didn't care for his long flowing blond locks.
And how can I empathize with the problems of a god of a religion
even my ancestors stopped believing centuries ago?
Also, from the little I read, he had no sense of humor.
Dr. Doom: They don't call me the most dangerous man alive for
Daredevil: You mean they pay you?
This, of course, was in the midst of battle.
Where was I?… Oh, yeah: Thor. It's an origin story,
which seems to be SOP for first movies. How the God of Thunder
got tossed out of Asgard as punishment for his arrogance. How
Loki got to be his primary adversary. How he met his mortal sweetie,
Jane Foster. Etc. It's not without fun, but… eh.
Thor is played by Captain Kirk's dad, Chris Hemsworth. He's OK.
He's backed up by some very respectable actors: Natalie
Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Rene Russo
(in way too small a role for Rene Russo), and the phenomenal
Idris Elba plays Heimdall—I didn't know that
until I watched the credits, because his face is nearly completely
covered by his helmet for the entire movie. (Watching Luther
made me a huge Idris Elba fan.)
An actress named Kat Dennings has a decent-size role as comic relief.
I've seen her in a lot of stuff, including the premiere of her sitcom,
2 Broke Girls, the previous evening. And I didn't make the
connection at all. Does this perhaps imply we're suffering from a glut
of interchangeable young actresses? Maybe!
One last bit of trivia: an uncredited Jeremy Renner shows up with a bow
and arrow in one scene. Aha, that's Hawkeye! Yay! I always liked
The first thing you should know about this movie: it's totally
incomprehensible. Many admirable movies ask you to "fill in the
blanks", and provide hints for you to do so. In Primer,
the blanks you are expected to fill in might be bigger than the
But here's the general idea: four friends are (literally) trying to
build a business in a garage, doing research, casting around for
something they might wangle into a marketable product. So far, they've
failed, and it's beginning to strain their professional relationship.
Two of the guys, Abe and Aaron, start work on a box gizmo that's supposed
to block out external fields. But (surprisingly) a Weeble they insert
in the box comes out covered in goo; it turns out to be organic buildup
that would ordinarily take much longer to happen. Gradually, Abe and
Aaron come to realize that they've constructed a sort of time machine.
So they stick the whole thing in a Delorean, and…
No, they don't do that. Because the box works in a very specific
way: at 5:55am, you set the machine to turn on (say) at 6am,
and depart. Later, you return, enter the (running) box and wait.
Eventually, you get out, and voila, it's 6am! Which allows you
to (say) buy stocks that you know are going to skyrocket that day,
or engage in other paradoxical behavior.
Speaking of paradoxes, Abe and Aaron aren't actually sure how
to avoid them. And can they really trust each other to use
the box only in ways they've agreed upon? (Hint: no.) Soon it
becomes apparent that something's wrong in the timeline: who
did what and how?
The movie was made for $7000, so there are zero special effects,
certainly no big names. The characters talk (pretty much) like
technogeeks, in a shorthand that means much to them, but leaves the
rest of us guessing. Still, I liked it.
There are websites dedicated to explaining exactly what happened,
the events that stitch together the parts of the plot that actually
appear onscreen. If you decide to explore, Wikipedia
is probably a good place to start, but I'd suggest waiting until
you watch it (at least) once.
Matt Mitchell of the Mercatus Center notes
the bad news from the Fraser Institute and their most
recent report on the Economic
Freedom of the World. Based on 2009 data, your United States slipped
badly, now in tenth place. The video at right (no, your
right) shows how the measure has
risen and fallen over the past few decades.
Earlier this year, Mercatus measured
economic, social, and personal freedoms in the 50 states. New
Hampshire was number one—woohoo!—but with the overall
trend for the country, that could be like bragging about being the
tallest building in Wichita, Kansas.
Why yes, I did watch two 1953 movies in a row. Good catch. This one's
a Jimmy Stewart western. It was Oscar-nominated for "Best Writing, Story
and Screenplay". I see at IMDB that one of the writers, Sam Rolfe, went
on to write a couple Star Trek episodes (one TNG, one
Jimmy Stewart plays the hero,
Howard Kemp. Howard's very flawed. (It's a modern western.) For
initially obscure reasons, he's obsessed with capturing bad guy
Ben Vandergroat, played by Robert Ryan. Circumstances force him to
take on a couple partners, a grizzled and unlucky prospector, and a
brash semi-psychotic ex-soldier. And when they finally catch up to
Vandergroat, it turns out he has a lovely travelling companion, Lina,
played by Janet Leigh. That makes five people, an unwieldy bunch.
They encounter the usual obstacles, mainly Indians. (It turns out the
ex-soldier behaved badly with a young tribal woman.)
But in addition, Vandergroat turns out to be adept at finding the weak
spots in everyone's character, and leveraging them into dysfunctional
behavior. (Everyone's pretty good, but Robert Ryan is very
good. He really seems to be having a good time with Vandergroat's
Appearing via cybermarketing magic
on my Kindle this morning:
a new novel
by one of my literary heroes, Neal Stephenson. Amazon says the
paper version is 1056 pages, so it may take awhile to report
I suppose someday I'll take the Kindle for granted, but I'm still in
my starry-eyed stage. Magic, I say!
But I'm impressed by more mundane things, too: unlike Stephenson's previous book, Anathem (937 pages),
I don't have to worry
about dropping Reamde on my foot.
The proprietor of IMAO, Frank J.
Fleming, has a "big boy" gig, writing op-eds for the New York
Post. If you read IMAO, you will not be surprised: they're
very funny. For example, his current column where he thinks maybe it's time to let
politicians know that the notion that they're competent to "create jobs"
is simply a "cruel prank" the rest of us have been playing on them:
OK, I get why this is funny. Of everyone in America, the politicians in
Washington, with their pointless squabbling and inept bumbling, are
pretty much the last people we should ever put in charge of something as
important as the economy, so everyone thought it would be hilarious to
act like creating jobs would be up to them.
I can see the pitch now: “Think of ‘Jersey Shore,’ but
we’ll put them in suits and task them with solving complex economic
problems. We’ll call it C-SPAN.”
It's funny because it's true enough.
In our continuing Barackrobatics series:
Stacy McCain counts the number of times
President Obama used the phrase "pay their fair share"
in his Rose Garden speechifying yesterday.
. . . for us to solve this problem, everybody, including the
wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their
If we’re going to make spending cuts
— many of which we wouldn’t make if we weren’t facing such
large budget deficits — then it’s only right that we ask
everyone to pay their fair share.
. . . a
larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most
fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like
Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to
pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to
have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.
And I will veto
any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does
not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest
corporations to pay their fair share.
Stacy refutes the "fair share" implication on its face, but two further
Obama's speechwriters should be fired. Using a tired catchphrase
once is bad. Repeating it five times?
To repeat a comment I made at Stacy's website:
The other thing that gets my goat in the quoted examples: in four out of
five, Obama says that he only wants to "ask" taxpayers for more. That's
an intelligence-insulting euphemism that demonstrates the speaker's
underlying contempt for his audience. To quote Herman Cain: they
think you're stupid.
A previous Pun Salad rant on "asking the rich to pay their fair share"
And this video is
the saddest, and funniest, thing I've seen in awhile.
This 1953 movie is kind of fun. I remember watching it back
in the olden days on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies.
(And, thanks to Time,
I can even nail down exactly how olden that day was: August 10, 1963.)
A married couple, Polly and Ray Cutler (Jean Peters and Max Showalter,
respectively) are on a belated honeymoon
trip to Niagara Falls. At their
cheap motel, they encounter George and Rose Loomis (Joseph Cotten
and—whoa—Marilyn Monroe). Marriage is not blissful between
the Loomises; Rose is kind of slutty, and considers George to be old and
George, on his part, is moody and
belligerent. But how much of that is due to Rose's behavior?
As it turns out, Rose is really an old-style femme fatale. Her
scheme involves using her womanly talents to extricate herself
from her stultifying life. Will she succeed? No spoilers here!
For a 1953 movie, it's remarkably frank about Rose's infidelity, and her
(um) methods of manipulation. There's a pretty racy shot (for the 50s)
of Marilyn in the shower.
Although the movie is really about George and Rose, Polly and Ray act
as observers of, and occasional participants in, the whole plot.
The thrilling climax involves Polly in peril. (As Chekov said: you
shouldn't put a gun onstage unless someone's going to fire it.
Similarly, if you place a movie at Niagara Falls, it's pretty darn
likely someone's gonna go over.)
Marilyn's certainly the big draw here, and she does some serious acting.
But the other actors are fine too. Jack Benny's old pal, Don Wilson, has
a small role.
Max Showalter was in a lot of different TV shows and movies over the
years. For me, his best role was his last one: Molly Ringwald's
grandpa in Sixteen Candles.
Root notes the apology of Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard
N. Palmer to Susette Kelo. As Root notes, one would only hope that Ms.
Kelo will eventually get apologies from John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy too.
Pun Salad has been shamefully ignoring "Barackrobatics", the
word it made up to describe President Obama's rhetorical tics
and evasions. Two examples today. First up is from Mr. Jonathan
Last notes: "the time for X is over."
For instance, in Detroit earlier this week, Obama said, "The time for
Washington games is over." Washington games being pernicious, QED.
This is a terribly lazy locution. Because it presupposes that, up
until a short while ago, it was time for Washington games.
Last month? Good for gaming in Washington. Last Friday night? Play
away! But now? Oh no. The window has closed. Time to put those terrible,
callow games away.
So, I love Netflix. But people are beginning to speculate that Netflix
doesn't love me. Not one little bit. This makes me sad.
Or maybe they do love me, they're just not in love with me.
Maybe they just want to be friends. And not friends with benefits.
Awhile back, I got a note that said they were upping the monthly fee
for the combination video-streaming/DVDs-by-mail service.
(Everyone did. It made the news.)
My decision was easy: dump the streaming, keep the DVD service. No hard
I never got around to buying Yet Another Box to allow me to watch
streamed content on my TV, and the selection Netflix offered was merely
OK, not great. So I actually wound up saving $4 per month.
But today (like a lot of people), I got mail from Netflix CEO
Reed Hastings, a combination apology/announcement. First line: "I messed
up. I owe everyone an explanation."
(You can read
the rest here.) The apology was for folks who were a lot more upset about
the change than I was. The announcement was that the DVD-by-mail
service would now be called "Quikster". Wha…?
But so what?
Instant analyses came thick and fast. Megan
McArdle points out that I should probably be worried:
It's not that Netflix doesn't have a problem. They have a huge problem.
The company never wanted to be in the mail-order DVD service long-term;
it's not a good business. Redbox was threatening to carve off the
casual users, leaving them with the high-traffic movie buffs who don't
make them money; meanwhile, the warehouses necessary to maintain the
business at high traffic levels are costly to build and operate. Plus
any idiot can see that the future is likely to be in painlessly
streaming movies over the internet, not putting physical discs in little
envelopes and mailing them. The fact that the Postal Service is near
bankruptcy tells you a lot about the viability of business models based
on mailing things.
Megan made me look in the mirror. (Uh, metaphorically.
Although I'm a Netflix-lover, I'm also one of those "high-traffic
movie buffs who don't make them money." So we may be in a dysfunctional
relationship. (If it were a movie, it would be… gosh, maybe
Fatal Attraction with me in the Glenn Close role. (Well, what
am I supposed to do? You won't answer my calls, you change your number.
I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Netflix!)
And Megan was being relatively diplomatic.
Dan Frommer (via this
Wired article) implies I should probably be watching out for
Netflix goons looking to break my kneecaps:
Why is this happening? Because the future of
Netflix is streaming videos. Period. Not mailing them to your house
via the U.S. Postal Service, but delivering them to your TV and devices
over the Internet.
But to get there, Netflix first has to convince Hollywood to stream
its best movies, and it needs to train consumers to stream movies as a
default behavior. That means making sure that the streaming business can
stand on its own. And that means separating DVDs from the equation, and
doing as much as possible to get everyone to stop using them, short of
blatant sabotage. (What, you think the bad name, "Qwikster," is an
Oh, well. As I type, I have three DVDs at home, 143 in my main
21 in the "Saved" queue, waiting for availability. And I'm willing
to send them $15.99 per month in perpetuity. They can't make
money off me? We can't make this commercial relationship
work? That's kind of sad.
Sometimes you're just in the mood for a good old fashioned samurai
movie. And this, my friends, is the real deal, straight from the Land of
the Rising Sun. It's a wonderful big-budget epic.
The need for good guys is dire: an evil lord, Naritsugu, has made his
way into a position of power. And he uses that power in the most
despicable ways imaginable: torture, rape, and murder of the innocent
and helpless. (And the movie's pretty explicit about this stuff, so it's
not for the kids.)
Taking up the task is the elder samurai Shinzaemon. He assembles a small
squad of—well, I guess you know how many—heroes, including
his nephew Shinrokuro. It is widely (and correctly)
assumed to be a suicide mission; the team approaches it with a strong
sense of fatalistic duty. They lay out a plan that will deliver
Naritsugu into a spot where he can be attacked, but there are no
It sounds pretty serious, and it mostly is. But Shinzaemon has a sly
sense of humor. The group runs across a guy named Koyata on their
trek through a forest—and he's hilarious.
Not everyone goes for this stuff, but as Lincoln allegedly said:
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they
Perhaps the only thing that beats a politician in chaps is that same
politician walking through a sausage factory, all the while looking good
and not at all phony. Meet Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose long political
career, is filled with high quality and effective television spots.
These things are notoriously subjective, though. You might find that
the "high quality and effective" spots remind you of nothing other
than those 2am ads
for personal injury lawyers.
Like a few million other people, I got mail from Jim Messina, President
Obama's 2012 campaign manager, this
week, announcing AttackWatch.com:
We all remember the birth certificate smear,
the GOP's barrage of lies about the Affordable Care Act, and
the string of other phony attacks on President Obama that
we've seen over the past few years.
My favorite lie
about the Affordable Care Act was "If you like your health care plan,
you can keep it" Who was saying that again?
By the way, extensive Pun Salad research reveals that Obama campaign
manager Jim Messina may not actually be that Jim
Messina. For one thing, his mama does dance and his daddy does
(indeed) rock and roll.
Speaking of AttackWatch.com, you've probably already seen this but:
This weekend, former Obama Spokesman and current Senior Strategist for
Priorities USA Action Bill Burton attacked Mitt Romney as a
tweeting about his love of flying commercial, and of eating Subway
sandwiches, in what Burton sees as an attempt to change his image with
regular folk. In an email to reporters, Burton said the tweets show that
Romney "is willing to do or say anything to become President, even if it
means changing his positions, his appearance and his sandwich."
You may now consider the bottom of the barrel scraped, phony-wise.
Political consumer note: President Obama is soliciting donations
by offering "Dinner with Barack". The mail I received says:
Today, I want to ask if you'll join me and three other supporters for a meal
and conversation sometime soon.
Please donate $5 or more to be automatically entered for a chance to
me for dinner:
And you are pointed here, a web form
you can enter your personal and credit-card information, and donate
$5 or more.
But as the very small print at the bottom reveals, you don't have
to contribute to get a very, very small chance at chowing
down with O. If you're like me, you might not prefer to chip
in one thin dime to the President's re-election campaign.
But (on the other hand) you
wouldn't mind at all being in a situation
where you could (um) share your thoughts on his job performance, in
a respectful, but nonetheless candid, manner.
In that case, you can click here
instead, enter your personal info, contribute zero-point-zero
and you (allegedly) have as
good a shot at winning as a $2500 contributor.
Downside: you have to provide your e-mail address. And they will spam
you, almost daily. (But there are plus sides to that too. I found out
about the AttackWatch.com website
via campaign mail, and that was pretty funny.)
This 1994 movie probably knocked Steve Martin's career as a
offtrack for a while. It followed Roxanne and L.A.
Story, but (according to IMDB) was a dreadful bomb, only doing $3.4
million in box office receipts. Like Roxanne, it's based on a
literary classic (Silas Marner). But it's considerably less
comic than either of its predecessors, and there's no romance.
Still, I liked it. And I now own it, having
picked it out of the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. (You can probably
do as well over there at the Amazon link, hint, hint.)
Mr. Martin plays
Michael McCann. As the movie opens, he's
dealt a kick in the nards by his beloved wife: the child
she's carrying was fathered by Michael's best friend. ("Welcome to
Cuckoldville. Population: you.") This (a) ends the marriage, and causes
Michael to (b) quit his job, (c)
close himself off from the world, become (d) a miser, a
(e) recluse, and (f) the object of fun-poking by the local townsfolk. He
manages by making beautiful custom furniture, selling to the upper
After a few years, life deals him
another blow: his miserly ways have brought
him a small fortune in gold, but he foolishly stores it in a secret
compartment that it takes a thief about 15 seconds to break into.
But then: a drug-abusing mother and her golden-haired toddler daughter
happen upon Michael's house one snowy evening. The mother expires,
probably from some combination of overdose and exposure; the daughter
makes herself at home inside. This is a sign: Michael adopts the child,
names her Mathilda, putting himself on the road to his own redemption.
But Mathilda's actual backstory remains unknown to Michael, and years
later it causes major soap opera-style complications.
This doesn't sound like very promising comedic material. But while the movie's
less of a laff riot than (say) The Jerk, it still has some very
what I know about Steve
Martin: he's exactly as funny as he wants to be.
I don't blog much about baseball; compared to other fans, I'm probably
down around the 20th percentile in sports knowledge depth. I cant
remember exactly what makes a squeeze suicidal, and I'm weak on
the cutoff man, and exactly when it might be time to hit him.
last night's game was fun, with the Red Sox snapping
a streak of mediocre-to-bad games,
the Toronto Blue Jays (final score 18-6).
Tim Wakefield, who's like 75
years old, finally won his 200th game, and there was a nice postgame
stadium interview with Heidi Watney. Papelbon sprayed him with
But what I really liked was the
approximately 15 seconds ending the fifth
inning. Josh Reddick hits a nasty fly to the left field corner, in a
spot that American League outfielders probably have bad dreams about at
fielder Eric Thames catches it though,
making a spectacular sliding catch right up against the foul line wall.
Third out, Thames starts trotting in with the baseball, past the Boston
fans. And gives the ball to a US Army guy, attending the game in
Who then, in turn, passes it off to a kid sitting in the second row
Sweet behavior all around. MLB liked it too, and you
can watch the video here.
A construction sign on my way to work seems oxymoronic to me:
I always wonder: "Is my caution extreme enough this morning?
Maybe I should slow down to 10 MPH?"
Awhile back, I posted President Obama's Two-Point Plan for the economy:
Say and do anything to get re-elected.
There is no point two.
Megan McArdle notes
that Obama's "jobs plan" fits that model precisely:
You can say that Obama has no choice, because the GOP is just so damn
obstructive that they won't pass anything anyway. As it happens, I
disagree--I don't think that he could have gotten the whole thing
through, but the GOP would probably have given him a few pieces to avoid
looking like total jerks, and while that might not have done too much
for Obama's re-election chances, it probably would have meant a lot to
the schmoes trying to make their mortgage payments in a tough economy.
But say it's true. If it is, I really wish that Obama hadn't wasted my
Thursday evening, and that of 31 million other Americans, listening to a
jobs plan that was only designed to produce one job--a second term for
Barack Obama. I mean, I don't blame him, exactly. But I get a little
pang when I realize that I could just as well have spent that time
bleaching the grout in the master bath.
Language Log has irrefutable
proof that the Chinese, as a people, are more likely than any other
have their feelings hurt, even more than the Kiwis.
Spokespersons for the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC)
often complain that the words or actions of individuals or groups from
other nations "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people". This is
true even when those individuals or groups are speaking or acting on
behalf of some segment of the Chinese population (e.g., political
prisoners, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong adherents, people whose houses
have been forcibly demolished, farmers, and so forth). A typical
cause for invoking the "hurt(s) the feelings of the Chinese people"
circumlocution would be for the head of state of a country to meet with
the Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer. A good example is Mexican
President Calderon's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, which the PRC
government denounced in extremely harsh terms. The vitriolic
rebuke led one commentator to refer to the PRC denunciation of the
Mexican President as a kind of "bullying".
I suggest the Kramer
response: "What about my feelings? Don't my feelings count for
anything? Oh, only the poor monkey's important. Everything has to be
done for the monkey!"
If nothing else, it might confuse 'em for a bit.
At Cato, Daniel
J. Mitchell is more than a little irritated with Mitt Romney and
Michele Bachmann for their demagoguery on Social Security.
Here’s what’s so frustrating. Romney and Bachmann almost
certainly understand that Social Security is actuarially bankrupt. And
they probably realize that personal retirement accounts are the only
But they’re letting political ambition lure them into saying
things that they know are not true. Why? Because they think Perry will
lose votes and they can improve their respective chances of getting the
as a practical matter, Mitt and Michele should realize
that you can't out-demagogue the Democrats on Social Security.
For no reason I can put my finger on, I've resolved to get through
all seven Harry Potter books. (It might be because my daughter
technically owns them, and she keeps threatening to take them away.)
I've assigned myself
about 20 pages per day.
If my calculations
are correct, I should finish book 7 around March 18 of next year. (I'd only
managed to read the first two, but I'm re-reading them in this
project to refresh my
This first installment in the series, of course,
introduces the main characters: Harry,
Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, Malfoy, etc. Since (from the
movies), I already kind of know what's happening, it's funny to
note Rowling's foreshadowing.
There's a lot of whimsy in this first book that (at least in the
movies) gets cut way back later, as things get more
and more deadly. The comic caricatures of the Dudleys,
the every-flavor jellybeans,
the sorting hat, …
A very amusing and effortless read.
It's easy to see why so many readers got sucked into
There are dark comedies, and then there are really dark comedies.
This one is as black as Lutheran church-basement coffee. Dark enough
so that every chuckle was accompanied by a little pang of guilt: Am I
a bad person for finding this amusing? So consumer beware: it's not
for the kiddos, or those easily offended, or maybe even the mentally
healthy. But I liked it.
Rainn Wilson plays Frank, the very definition of a schlub, working away
as a cook in a greasy spoon. Against all odds, he's married to to
the lovely Sarah (Liv Tyler)—OK, you have to really
strain credulity to buy that, work with me here. But their relationship
going south: she's taken up with a bad element, and dropping back into
old habits of drinking and drugs.
Specifically: the Bad Element is "Jacques" (Kevin Bacon): a total sleaze,
apparently a drug kingpin of
some sort. Frank's initial efforts to break Sarah away from Jacques
Frank decides (after what seems
to be divine intervention) to become a costumed superhero. Also, by most
people's standards, he goes nuts. Since
he lacks in the superpower department, he carries a pipe wrench. (Which
he not only uses on muggers and perverts, but also people cutting in
line at the theatre.) With mixed feelings, he acquires a sidekick
(Ellen Page) who turns out to be even crazier.
Things build up to an epic finale.
This marks a reunion for Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, because he
had a small but memorable role in Juno a few years back.
The movie is written and directed by James Gunn, who previously
did the kinda-funny horror film Slither, also pretty good.
I should point out that a lot of Rick Perry's phony standing is
due to that one line from
Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington)
where he called Al Gore's global warming alarmism "all one contrived
phony mess that's falling apart under its own weight." People love to
repeat that line over, and over, and over. And here I've done it myself.
Jacob Sullum's article from the latest dead-trees issue of Reason
has made it online.
His topic is just one instantiation of President Obama's phoniness: his
relentless waging of the War on Drugs after making campaign promises to
(at least) moderate it. It's worth reading in full. At the end
Sullum allows himself to fantasize: what if dope-smokin' Barry had been
arrested when he attended Columbia U in the 1980s?
A misdemeanor marijuana conviction could have been a life-changing event
for Obama, interrupting his education, impairing his job prospects, and
derailing his political career before it began. It would not have been
fair, but it would have spared us the sorry spectacle of a president who
champions a policy he once called “an utter failure” and who
literally laughs at supporters whose objections to that doomed,
disastrous crusade he once claimed to share.
On the other hand,… President Hillary? Who knows?
Mitt Romney issued a slick
PDF entitled Believe in America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and
You can even download it to your Kindle for free right here.
But don't bother. At Reason, Peter
Suderman read it, and was merciless. Conclusion:
It’s as if Romney and his team took notice of the polls showing
losing to a generic Republican—and then made it his mission to
become exactly that candidate. If not for the spectre of
RomneyCare, Romney might have succeeded in personifying the
distilled essence of vaguely Reaganesque vanilla Republicanism.
Of course, as part of the act, Romney is required to insist
otherwise. The report’s third section, “Mitt Romney’s
by declaring that “Mitt Romney is a leader of a very different
kind.” Not just different. Very different. The important
thing, though, is that he has to tell you. Because otherwise you
I personally love the Sweetheart of National Review Online, Kathryn Jean
Lopez. But she goes into a swoon way too easily…
There was something remarkably attractive at the Republican debate at the
Reagan Library on September 7.
No, it wasn’t Jon Huntsman’s tan, Mitt Romney’s
hair, Michele Bachmann’s shoes, or Rick Perry’s
Although I suppose the swagger isn’t entirely
unrelated. But what was special was something far less
superficial, the kind of thing you know when you see,
but that we might all be a bit too jaded about politics
to acknowledge: It was authenticity.
Yes, even politicians can have it.
Really? I would encourage Kathryn to embrace her inner jadedness. If
that actually exists.
What is there to say about Barack Obama’s speech to Congress Thursday
night, and the so-called American Jobs Act he said Congress must pass?
Several thoughts occur, all starting with P.
Unfortunately, the P's are: "Projection", "Pragmatism" (the lack
thereof), "Paid for" (as in: assigning responsibility for that
promises", "Political payoffs", and "Pettifoggery".
That's a good list, but what about "Phony"? Must have been too obvious:
“Everything in this bill,” Obama said in his eighth paragraph,
“will be paid for. Everything.”
By whom? Well, in the 24th paragraph he tells us that he is
asking the 12-member super-committee Congress set up under the
debt-ceiling bill to add another $450,000,000,000 or so to the
$1,500,000,000,000 in savings it is charged to come up with. The
roving camera showed the ordinarily hardy super-committee member
Sen. Jon Kyl looking queasy.
Obama is like the guy in the bar who says, “I’ll
stand drinks for everyone in the house,” and then
adds, “Those guys over there are going to pay for
What’s fascinating here is that once again
the supposedly pragmatic and sometimes
professorial president is not making use of the
first-class professionals in the Office of
Management and Budget to come up with specifics,
but is leaving that to members of Congress,
maybe in a midnight marathon session with
deadlines pending. Same as on the stimulus
package and Obamacare.
Same old tricks. I can't imagine why some people are still impressed.
Nothing profound. I shared my personal recollections back in 2008.
The cliché is: "Everything changed." But one specific
thing changed: in a matter of hours,
we went from a world where such an atrocity
was unthinkable, to one where it was not only thinkable, it had actually
If you haven't already seen it, check out the Washington Poststory
of Lt. Heather "Lucky" Penney. In 2001, she was a rookie F-16 pilot with
the D.C. Air National Guard. And she found herself assigned to play
kamikaze with Flight 93.
"Lucky, you're coming with me," barked Col. Marc Sasseville.
were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville,
struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.
"I'm going to go for
the cockpit," Sasseville said.
She replied without
"I'll take the tail."
Barry on his visit to Shanksville, PA. Originally published
September 8, 2002.
A 1948 monochrime oldie (and pretty goodie) from 1948.
Barbara Stanwyck plays Leona, a rich and spoiled heiress. She's also
very ill: any attempt to get out of bed exhausts her, and
leaving her stately mansion is out of the question. Which would be
fine, except that (due to some glitch in the late-40's New York
telephone system), she gets patched into a conversation between
two lowlifes plotting a murder.
Left alone at home, her only link to the outside world is that
phone; we're invited along as she uses it to figure out
the target of the plot and tries to convince anyone to assist
in thwarting the scheme.
The movie is mostly a melodrama. Told in many flashbacks is Leona's
domineering romance with and marriage to Henry—Burt Lancaster!—a
small-town poor boy who finds himself, with increasing frustration,
firmly under the thumb of his wife and her even more oppressive father.
It's a lot of fun, and it's a real good argument for having
a Glock in your nightstand.
This starts out as a neat psycho-thriller,
but managed to stretch my credibility
beyond the breaking point. No spoilers, but…
A criminal, John Taylor,
is on the lam from a bank job; his task is complicated by the
fact that the cops are everywhere, and he's been shot in the foot.
Looking for refuge, he glibly talks
his way into a nice home inhabited by—hey, it's Niles
Crane! No, actually, it's Warwick Wilson, played by
Warwick is a gracious host, and seemingly duped by John's
impersonation of a friend of a friend. He invites John to
stay for a dinner party later that night.
But it gradually becomes apparent
that Warwick was not fooled, and he has other, more sinister,
plans for John.
Helen Reddy is in this, by the way. Yes, that Helen Reddy: "Delta Dawn",
"I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar". According to IMDB, this is her first
movie since 1987.
I didn't recognize her.
The Dick Francis hero this time around is Freddie Croft. Some of
Francis's protagonists have interesting, even glamorous professions.
Freddie is not one of them; he used to be a jockey, but now
he runs a horse transport firm.
His vehicles move racehorses from trainers' stables to racetracks, then
back again. Boooring!
Meticulous and professional, Freddie might prefer his life that way.
But things get a little more interesting: first, against strict orders,
his drivers pick up a mysterious hitchhiker, who up and dies on them.
The circumstances are just strange enough to
prompt Freddie to investigate further, and
his mechanic discovers hidden compartments
underneath some of the trucks; someone's using them to transport
something! But what? And why?
This being a Dick Francis book, things rapidly get more sinister.
Another body turns up, perhaps the victim of foul play. Freddie
finds himself the target of (a) a police investigation,
(b) a nasty bit of vandalism, and (c) attempted murder.
A decent Francis outing, if not among his best. ("Decent" Francis is still
pretty darn good, though.)
The U.S. Postal Service may lose $10 billion in the fiscal year ending
Sept. 30, more than it had predicted, as mail volume continues to drop,
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in testimony for a Senate
The loss will leave the Washington-based service unable to make required
payments to the federal government and puts it at risk of default as it
reaches its $15 billion borrowing limit, Donahoe said in testimony
prepared for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Ah, another sinking ship, another bailout. What to do?
We ought to close down the USPS. It was a government agency created to
solve a problem, and today that problem is solved, and we no longer need
a centralized federal monopoly to facilitate intercity communication,
the delivering of parcels, etc. News stories reporting the travails of
the USPS invariably note that the agency has been ravaged by e-mail, but
this gets things precisely wrong: E-mail has relieved us, nationally, of
the burden of maintaining a postal service for delivering letters. The
emergence of private couriers, FedEx, UPS, et al., have likewise
rendered USPS’s delivery services obsolete. Letters and other
“household to household” mail accounts for less than 10 percent
of USPS’s volume, most of which is junk mail.
But how will I get my copies of National Review? Oh, well,
smart. They'll figure out something.
Kevin manages to be more radical than Cato; they
"merely" recommend privatization:
To avoid a large and growing burden from being foisted on taxpayers in
coming years, the USPS should be privatized and postal markets open for
competition from FedEx, UPS, and upstart entrepreneurs.
With privatization, Congress should end its micromanagement of the
nation’s postal services. It should rescind the complex laws and
regulations on delivery schedules, price caps, restrictions of facility
shut-downs, and other business decisions. Such congressional meddling
ultimately hurts the consumers that any postal business is supposed to
serve by pushing up costs.
Either works for me.
But (alas) the proposals actually floating around Congress are even more
moderate. Rep. Darrell Issa has a slick website up
with a countdown clock to the September 30 USPS default date,
a slick video, and a "play the Congressman" game. But he just wants
to get rid of some of the existing Congressional mandates on the USPS:
Saturday delivery, keeping teentsy post offices open, etc. We can do
But in Issa's favor, the American
Postal Workers Union (APWU)
launched a broadside against him. His
legislation, they claim, "would destroy the Postal Service as we know
it." So that's a plus.
The APWU's interests are served by H.R.
1351, legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Lynch (D-MA).
Special note for Granite Staters: guess who's a co-sponsor of
H.R. 1351? Our very own RINO, Charlie Bass.
There are other worse proposals than Issa's. Here's
an op-ed by Senator Susan Collins (RINO-Maine) whose maine concern (heh)
is keeping the Post Office on tiny Matinicus Island, 20 miles offshore
from Rockland, open. Unsurprisingly, hers is a business-as-usual
For some reason, politicians talk about living in rural America as
though it were an involuntary disease whose sufferers deserve offsetting
federal subsidies. But nobody is forcing anybody to live in a remote
town in northern Maine. If you want to live there, you should pay a
market price to have things delivered to you. If you don’t like
paying for that, you can move. It’s not my responsibility to
subsidize your postal service so you can live the rural lifestyle you
enjoy at a below-market cost.
Tough love for those hicks living out in the sticks.
A postwar classic film noir from director Edgar G. Ulmer. If you like
film noir, you should probably see it. I just didn't like it very
much. We spent a Netflix pick on it, but it's also available for free
viewing here, if you're so inclined.
Tom Neal plays Al, a piano player in a New York nightspot. He's in love
with Sue, the singer. But she heads off to find success in L.A. After a
bit, he decides he should follow her. Unfortunately, his funds are low,
so he uses his thumb. He gets picked up by Haskell, a slimy blowhard in
a big convertible; unfortunately, Haskell winds up accidentally dead.
Al, fearing that the
authorities will pin Haskell's death on him, skedaddles with Haskell's
car and cash. Mistake! But then he makes an even bigger one: he picks
up a nasty dame named Vera, who quickly digs her claws into Al's
situation. It doesn't work out well for either of them.
The very implausibility of the plot has led many to speculate that
Al, as the narrator, is an unreliable reporter of what actually
happened. I think it's just a symptom of a dashed-off script
and whatever chemicals were influencing this particular segment
of the filmmaker community at the time.
The film is uniformly bleak, and
none of the characters is remotely sympathetic. If you (like me) come
into a flick with a "why should I care" attitude, I don't think you'll
find a very good answer here. On the other hand, if you're a fan of
loopy hard-boiled dialog, there's plenty.
Yet another dark secret was revealed about Rick Perry this week: back in
1993, when he was Texas Agricultural Commissioner, he wrote a
letter to (then) First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, deeming her
nascent efforts for a government healthcare takeover to be
"commendable" and a "worthy effort."
Yes, this was almost two decades ago, and I don't think it reveals much,
if anything, about the way Perry would behave on health care if elected
now. But it is another demonstration that he's a phony -- that is to
say, his rhetoric on federalism and narrow view of what the Constitution
permits are exactly what the tea party wants to hear, but his record and
penchant for contradicting himself when doing so is politically
convenient cast doubt on the depth of his conviction.
Sarah Palin spoke in rainy Indianola, Iowa yesterday, and
used the p-word herself:
"America's economic revival starts with America's energy revival," she
declared. "Drill now, let the pipelines and the refineries be built. No
phony green jobs."
I think she's a long shot (at best) for the presidency, but
I wish more of the GOP candidates sounded like her.
Last blogged amusingly and perceptively about Mitt Romney's
unimpressive political career. Like Last, I'm willing to bet that
Romney's a very decent guy, but
he's not that great a campaigner. Relevant to our theme, however,
It's funny that Romney's
line of attack on Perry seems to be that Perry is a "career
politician" because he's been in elective office since 1984. Well, Mitt
Romney would have been a career politician too, if only voters would
have let him. He's been running since 1994. His real gripe about Perry
is actually, "Hey, that guy wins all the time! No fair!"
Goldberg reminded us about the phoniness of the "anti-science"
charge against Republicans (in response to a column
During the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration dishonestly claimed
that its independent experts supported a drilling moratorium. They
emphatically did not. The president who campaigned on basing his
policies on "sound science" ignored his own hand picked experts.
According to the GAO, he did something very similar when he
shut down Yucca Mountain. His support for wind and solar energy, as
you suggest, isn't based on science but on faith. And that faith
has failed him dramatically.
Gosh, it's almost as if the Democrats' claim to be guided by the
impartial hand of Science is… phony.
Phony-wise, President Obama is the gift that keeps on giving. Why
it seems like only a
few weeks ago…
Moving forward, my basic attitude is we know what to do. I'll be putting
forward, when [Congresscritters]
come back in September, a very specific plan to boost
the economy, to create jobs, and to control our deficit. And my attitude
is, get it done. (Applause.) And if they don't get it done, then we'll
be running against a Congress that's not doing anything for the American
people, and the choice will be very stark and will be very clear.
Oh, that's right. It was only a few weeks ago. But now:
In what could be a way of lowering expectations for next Thursday's big
economic speech, aides to President Obama are privately spreading word
that he will not present his entire jobs plan in his address to a Joint
Session of Congress.
Pun Salad has obtained this leaked White House document revealing President
Obama's two-point plan for the economy:
The smart folks at Harvard are doing something stupid this year,
by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
Administrators at Harvard College are pressuring the Class of 2015 to do
something no other student class has ever been asked to do in 375 years:
Sign a civility pledge.
The pledge is full of feelgood vagueness,
Computer Science professor (and ex-Dean) Harry Lewis posted
a finely-worded dissent on his blog, worth reading in full. I liked
On the face of it the pledge is so benign that one might reasonably
accuse me of making a mountain out of a molehill. But the right to be
annoying is precious, as is the right to think unkind thoughts. Harvard
should not condone the sacrifice of rights to speech and thought simply
because they can be inconvenient in a residential college. In the words
of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case involving compulsory flag
salutes, "Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some
end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many
good as well as by evil men. … As first and moderate methods to
attain unity have failed, those bent on its accomplishment must resort
to an ever-increasing severity. … Those who begin coercive
elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters.
Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the
If you want to read only one living Nobel economics laureate about current
events, might I suggest Gary
Becker? For example, on the "Great Recession":
This recession might well have been a deep one even with good government
policies, but "government failure" added greatly to its length and
severity, including its continuation to the present. In the U.S., these
government actions include an almost $1 trillion in federal spending
that was supposed to stimulate the economy. Leading government
economists, backed up by essentially no evidence, argued that this
spending would stimulate the economy by enough to reduce unemployment
rates to under 8%.
Such predictions have been so far off the mark as to be embarrassing.
Although definitive studies are not yet available about the stimulus
package's overall effects on the American economy, most everyone agrees
that it was badly designed and executed. What the stimulus did produce
is a sizable expansion of the federal deficit and debt.
Let's keep that in mind while the folks who brought you the
previous Grand Government Scheme bring you the next one.
The Supreme Court declined to restrain the eminent domain powers
of an arrogant local government in
Kelo v. New London back in 2005. The idea was to replace
a not-particularly-rich residential neighborhood in New London,
Connecticut with a commercial
development. The promise was
"3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues."
The neighborhood was successfully destroyed, but commercialization never happened.
reports the latest:
Now, we learn from the local newspaper, The Day, that following the
hurricane Irene, the city has designated the Fort Trumbull redevelopment
site as a place to dump vegetation debris. For a video of locals
dumping that stuff on the site, click here.
Connecticut taxpayers have thus been soaked tens of millions of
dollars, not just for nothing, but for making things worse — for
transforming a nice local neighborhood into a dump.
Anyone see David Souter recently?
But Connecticut's immolation of taxpayer money and private property
is small potatoes
compared to that of Your Federal Government.
Let us join the crowd
noting the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Solyndra, recipient
of a $535-million federal loan guarantee back in 2009, proudly hailed
(then) as the first of its kind. But let's
not look at the recent stories, but back at the fawning
coverage at the New York Times in 2010 when President
visited a Solyndra plant under construction:
“It really gives you a sense of what the future of manufacturing
looks like,” Mr. Obama told them, adding, “We’re going to
keep on building stuff here in America.”
With its well-lighted modern spaces and high-tech computerized
equipment, the sprawling plant against the hills outside Fremont was in
sharp contrast to a pipe-manufacturing factory adapted from a shuttered
steel mill, that Mr. Obama visited in Youngstown, Ohio, last week. But
both are expanding, in part with federal money from last year’s $787
billion economic recovery act.
Mr. Obama also said that the new jobs created at Solyndra, both
temporary ones in construction and permanent manufacturing slots, were a
sign that the economy is improving.
“What you are proving here, all of you, collectively, is that as
difficult as it’s going to be, as long as it takes, we will
recover,” he told the employees.
“The promise of clean energy isn’t an article of faith, not
anymore,” he added. “The future is here.”
On the contrary, Mr. President: the future is here.
A company that served as a showcase for the Obama administration’s
effort to create jobs in clean technology shut down Wednesday, leaving
1,100 people out of work and taxpayers obligated for $535 million in
The Obama administration bypassed steps meant to protect taxpayers as
it hurried to approve an energy loan guarantee to a
politically-connected California solar power startup , iWatch News and ABC
News have learned. […]
The loan guarantee, the administration's first for a clean energy
project, benefited a company whose prime financial backers include
Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a “bundler” of campaign
donations. Kaiser raised at least $50,000 for the president’s 2008
Sullum is both more qualified and better able to make fine distinctions
than Milbank. Libertarian-minded voters willing to vote for a Republican
should read the whole thing, and maybe follow the links. Sullum's
As far as I can tell, by the way, no one is calling Perry a
libertarian. The statement to which Milbank objected was
Post reporter Perry Bacon's
claim that a Perry victory "would cement the Republican Party's
shift away from Bush's approach to a more libertarian,
anti-government GOP." That much seems possible. After all, you can
be more libertarian than George W. Bush without being very
libertarian at all. So far it seems that Perry is about as
good as Bush on the few issues (immigration, for example) where
Bush was pretty good, no worse than Bush in any major way (unless
I've missed it; let me know), and substantially better
rhetorically, eschewing "compassionate" conservatism
even in the area of drug policy. If there is any substance at all
to Perry's Tea Party–pleasing emphasis on fiscal conservatism,
Bacon's prediction could turn out to be accurate.
When I was a kid, my mom used to freak when she saw Christmas
decorations before Thanksgiving. Too soon!
Times have changed. The mail brought our first
Christmas catalog yesterday, August 31. The perpetrators of
this outrage: the Lakeside
Collection. It's a very slick book with an upscale look, and
(frankly) I'm a little tempted by the Hot
Sox Therapeutic Slippers (only $6.95 per pair, pictured above).
This is an older animated movie (1992), written and directed by
Hayao Miyazaki before he made things like Spirited Away and
Princess Mononoke. If you liked those, you'll probably like this,
although it's lighter (and funnier) fare.
It's set in an imaginary 1920's. The title character is a mercenary
pilot, tasked with thwarting the evil schemes of air pirates prowling
the Adriatic. Oh, and he's a pig. Or, more precisely, a human being who
(for some reason) has been cursed with porcine features.
Fortunately, the pirates aren't very evil, and not very competent. (The
primary pirate will remind you of Bluto in the old Popeye cartoons.)
When they abduct a bunch of little girls from a cruise ship, the girls
treat it as a grand adventure, crawling all over the pirate airship.
Porco rescues them without a lot of trouble.
Realizing they're outmatched, the
pirates then hire a dashing, but amoral, American named Curtis to
contend with Porco. Curtis also puts moves on the local nightclub
sweetheart, Gina; but (as it turns out) she and Porco know each other
from the old days…
I was caught up in this ridiculous, but utterly charming yarn. It was
dubbed into English by the best talent Disney can hire; I was
George Clooney was doing Porco, but it turned out to be Michael Keaton
doing a very, very good George Clooney impression.
Unquoted opinions expressed herein are solely those of the
author, and do not reflect the views of the University of
New Hampshire, the National Institutes of Health, or Major League