URLs du Jour

2011-11-29

  • Incoming e-mail from the University Near Here announced:

    The following is being sent from UNH’s Inclusive Excellence and the Social Justice Educator Facilitators.

    Inclusive Excellence and the Social Justice Educator Facilitators. Weren't they the opening act for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Casino in Hampton Beach back in the 70s? I'm pretty sure they were.

    But, as it turns out, it's also an Official University Thing, and they want our brains:

    We invite you to join us for this interactive training to explore “social justice” from personal and professional perspectives, and as related to your every day personal and professional practices. For more information, please visit the SJE website at: http://www.unh.edu/inclusive/social-justice-educator-training. If you are interested in participating, please complete your online registration form before the deadlines listed below.

    Want to know more? Specifically, would you like to know how many buzzwords of the academic diversity/social justice establishment can be jammed into a single short paragraph? Here you go:

    The Social Justice Educator Training (SJE) is a professional development opportunity for UNH faculty, staff and graduate students to further diversity awareness, knowledge and skill sets allowing for critical analysis of the services we provide, and of the relational dynamics we seek in a diverse institution. We will explore “social justice” via personal and institutional lenses to analyze: power and privilege, discrimination and prejudice, inclusion and equity through the multiple social identities of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, nationality, ethnicity, ability (physical and mental), religion, etc. This process will include open and honest discussions, readings, and interactive/experiential activities in a respectful environment. The eight-hour training which is divided into two days is facilitated in a small-group setting (maximum of 25).

    Although it's eight hours over two days, I bet it would seem to the participants as if it was going on much, much, longer than that.

    One last observation: the registration form is here, and the list of qualities you are invited to (optionally) provide about yourself is wondrous to behold:

    • Race
    • Ethnicity
    • Nationality
    • Sex
    • Gender
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Class
    • UNH Classification (Faculty, Staff, etc.)
    • Religion/Spirituality
    • Veteran Status
    • Do you have any disability you feel we should be aware of
    • Please feel free to provide a category we have not included and corresponding information that you are comfortable sharing

    Yes: Sex and Gender and Sexual Orientation. (If you have to ask, you probably don't have the proper prerequisites for the training, sorry.)

    And I also admire that final catchall: if our pigeonholes don't provide adequate opportunities for your self-identification, just make up your own!

  • Reason editor Matt Welch interviews Free State Project President Carla Gericke, who wants to keep New Hampshire "awesome".

    For liberty-lovers who don't currently live in the Granite State: come on up.

  • Here's one reason: According to Men's Health, Manchester NH is the second-happiest city in the US of A. (Number one is Honolulu, but who wants to be that happy?)

  • Good news about the Kansas Kerfuffle discussed here yesterday. Jacob Sullum reports that the schoolmarms that were demanding that Ms. Emma Sullivan apologize for her disrespectful anti-Governor Brownback tweet have changed their minds. And Governor Brownback himself has publicly apologized to Sullivan for his stupid staff's over-reaction.

  • Discussion continues on Newt's immigration stance. Thomas Sowell takes Newt to school for his plea to be "humane" about deporting illegals:

    Let’s go back to square one. The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.

    Good point. But on this issue, I always think the last thing I read makes good points.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:41 PM EDT

Reamde

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Neal Stephenson fanboy ever since I read Cryptonomicon years ago. And I had a great time plowing through this 1000-plus page book.

It's somewhat of a change of pace for Stephenson: it's set in the (more or less) real world, in the (more or less) present day. I've seen an interview where he recalls reading Alistair MacLean thrillers in his youth (just as I did) and that Reamde is his instantiation of that genre. Good job!

The book opens in the most mundane of settings: the Forthrast family reunion, somewhere in northwestern Iowa. (Hey! I've been to family reunions in Iowa!) One of the attendees is Richard, who's the CEO of a computer game company: their primary product, T'Rain, is a wildly-popular virtual world full of myths, gods, commerce, and battle. Also at the reunion is Zula, a young African woman adopted out of a Sudanese refugee camp years back by Richard's sister and brother-in-law. She has her boyfriend Peter in tow, a computer security guy.

Things develop rapidly from there: Peter turns out to dabble in illegality, and this gets him involved with one shady guy. Who is (in turn) in league with some very shady, and violence-prone, Russian mobsters. An illicit deal is thwarted when Peter's sale of sensitive information is accidentally encrypted and made inaccessible by the REAMDE computer virus, held for ransom by the China-based virus-writing hackers. The money is to be repaid, coincidentally, though the commerce system on T'Rain.

But the Russians are not meek ransom-paying types: Zula and Peter are abducted, and flown off to Xiamen, China, to assist in tracking down and bringing the hackers to justice, or at least the Russian gangster version thereof. This culminates in utter disaster, death, explosions, and shifting alliances. But more colorful characters are introduced: an honorable and resourceful Russian "security consultant"; a large Hungarian computer expert; a beautiful spy working for MI6; an enterprising Chinese tourist guide, who bonds with Zula.

And that's just the beginning.

The book is a page turner (or, on the Kindle, a button-pusher) with plenty of action throughout. But I didn't want to zip through it too fast, because Stephenson's prose is really something one wants to savor, full of sharp observations and wit.

What I especially liked: The primary bad guys are murderous Islamic terrorists, with zero redeeming qualities. Were Stephenson interested in writing a more Politically Correct work, it might be revealed at some point that the bad guys were actually controlled by shadowy capitalist moguls, or by our very own government. Nope. In fact, the head good guy, Richard, is a shadowy capitalist mogul (albeit with a pot-smuggling past). Other characters on the side of the angels include heavily-armed right-wing survivalists.

Caveats: I read it on my Kindle, and it had enough oddities in punctuation to make me wonder if even the corrected edition was an accurate representation of the text. The glitches, if they were actual glitches, didn't detract much from the reading experience, however.

What I really wanted was maps, especially of the area where the grand finale takes place. Preferably topographic. There's a lot of traipsing around the countryside by multiple groups; it's kind of tough to keep track of their various positions and progress with only the text descriptions to go by. (Did the printed version have maps? I'll have to check, if I ever set foot in a bookstore again.)


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:40 PM EDT

Even the Rain

[3.0 stars] Even the Rain (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Netflix assured me I would like this movie, even though there were plenty of warning flags. For starters, the Netflix synopsis:

In this provocative film-within-a-film, director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) heads to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus's trespasses in the New World, only to find the locals protesting present-day exploitation of the poor. Sebastián is sympathetic to the cause, but realities collide when lead actor Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), cast as a rebel against the Spanish, becomes a key figure in the current demonstrations.

Sounds like tedious left-wing propaganda, doesn't it?

More: Googling the screenwiter, Paul Laverty, sends up some more red flags: he pals around with Michael Moore; he's an enthusiastic backer of anti-Israel boycotts. In short, kind of a jerk.

And finally, when the movie starts, up on the screen is (in Spanish): "Dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn" Arrrgh. Kill me now.

But guess what? It turned out to be OK, under what I think of as the Sean Penn rule: even leftist jerks can make good movies. There's a decent plot with fully-realized characters.

And I enjoyed a neat twist: the movie-in-a-movie's producer, Costa, starts out as a no-nonsense, heartless, hardhead who wants to get the movie made without getting involved in the native troubles; the director Sebastián, in comparison, is a softie. But their attitudes gradually reverse, and by the end of the flick, Costa's become fully enmeshed, risking his life to rescue a native child, while craven Sebastián sits on the sidelines.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:34 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2011-11-28

  • Geraghty notices an Official White House Twit:
    There will be more We Can't Wait actions coming this week.
    So if you want to know what those We Can't Wait actions are? Sorry, you have to Wait. Even though you Can't.

    Is that irony? I can never tell.

  • Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, doesn't really get the whole First Amendment thing.
    An 18-year-old high school senior was scolded by her principal after she criticised her state governor in a tweet.

    Emma Sullivan, of Fairway, Kansas, was reprimanded by the head of The Shawnee Mission East High School.

    She was summoned to the principal's office and was ordered to apologise to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

    The tweet in question was delivered with the eloquence of your typical 18-year-old Kansan airhead:
    Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot
    Ah, Kansas doesn't make 'em like Dorothy Gale any more.

    Anyway: the principal was prompted to spring into action by a call from Governor Brownback's office. But maybe I'm too hard on the Gov. Alex Knapp provides more details:

    Ms. Sullivan didn’t actually make any critical comments in person, but the tweet, sent out to a following of about 60 people (though it’s over 800 now), somehow caught the eye of the Governor’s Director of Communication, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, during her daily monitoring of social media mentions of Governor Brownback. Shocked – shocked! – that a teenager’s tweet about a politician was “disrespectful,” she complained to the high school. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet,” she said.
    Thanks to Jones-Sontag, Ms. Sullivan's tweet got orders of magnitude more attention than it would have otherwise received. Is that irony? I can never tell. But anyway: heckuva job, Sherriene!

    Here's the shocking thing: someone on the Kansas state payroll has job duties that actually include trolling the Internet for "social media mentions". Pun Salad's advice: that position can safely be eliminated, saving both (a) money and (b) further insults to the Constitution.

  • Mark Krikorian thinks Newt Gingrich is being way too dishonest when he says (emphasis Krikorian's):
    I am not for amnesty for anyone. I am not for a path to citizenship for anybody who got here illegally. But I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties are so deeply into America that it would truly be tragic to try and rip their family apart.
    Krikorian describes Newt's efforts to come up with yet another euphemism for "amnesty" as "Orwellian".
    If illegals are permitted to stay, that’s an amnesty, whatever the conditions. If you want to make a case for amnestying long-established illegal aliens, that can be an honorable position, but call it for what it is. Don’t lie to voters, imagining they’re too stupid to see through your deceit. There’s nothing brave about euphemism.
    But Newtophile William Jacobsen says Newt is "crazy like a conservative fox".
    I believe it’s a fully acceptable and conservative immigration policy: Secure the borders first and impose strict employer penalties, and once all that is done create a deportation policy with some humanitarian exceptions based on preserving family units, but no preferential pathway to citizenship (except for those who serve in the U.S. military).
    In addition, Jacobsen claims, liberals hate a position like Newt's because it's "hard for them to demagogue".

    Who's right? I don't know. My head hurts.

  • Pun Salad is no fan of the Constitutional gimmickry known as the Balanced Budget Amendment, and neither is Stephen Chapman.
    The reason politicians don't balance the budget is that they and their constituents aren't ready for the unthinkable realities this option would entail: higher taxes, reduced government benefits, or both. Those choices won't get any less excruciating if a balanced-budget amendment is ratified.
    The most recent version of the BBA came up short in the House a few weeks back, only receiving 60% support, when it needed two-thirds.

    But—here's the deal—if those CongressCritters who voted for the BBA just voted for reduced spending instead we would, voilà, have a balanced budget.

    Once again: is that irony? I can never tell.

The Phony Campaign

2011-11-27 Update

[phony baloney]

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. At the Phony Campaign, it's the same turkeys this week as last:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2011-11-20
"Ron Paul" phony 31,600,000 +1,100,000
"Barack Obama" phony 15,900,000 0
"Newt Gingrich" phony 8,740,000 +210,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 4,300,000 -12,800,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 2,460,000 +10,000

  • The "supercommittee" charged with reducing the deficit officially fell apart this week. Newt Gingrich would like to remind us what he said back in August:
    What they ought to do is scrap the committee right now, recognize it's a dumb idea, go back to regular legislative business, assign every subcommittee the task of finding savings, do it out in the open through regular legislative order and get rid of this secret phony business.
    Score one for Newt.

  • Mitt Romney put up an ad that included excerpts from a speech then-candidate Obama made in a trip to New Hampshire in October, 2008. Among the things Obama said: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

    Gosh, the poop hit the fan. Because Obama attributed these words at the time to "Sen. McCain's campaign". (It was actually an alleged McCain "adviser" anonymously quoted in the New York Daily News.) That provenance was omitted from the Romney ad. The reliable Obama-spinners at Politifact awarded Romney a "Pants on Fire" rating as a result. They echoed White House Spokesdroid Jay Carney:

    "I mean, what -- seriously? I mean, an ad in which they deliberately distort what the president said? I mean, it's a rather remarkable way to start, and an unfortunate way to start," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during the trip up to New Hampshire.
    So bad on Mitt, right?

    But wait a minute. So the evil ad was "misleading" people into thinking the quote "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose" was something Obama was saying about his own campaign? That doesn't even make sense. Because Obama did keep talking about the economy in 2008. And he didn't lose.

    Anyway, the Democrats and their press buddies can get upset about Mitt's ads all they want. That's probably their best bet. Because you know what? If they (instead) keep talking about the economy, they're gonna lose.

  • President Obama visited Kramerbooks, a DC bookstore, for "Small Business Saturday". Like his wife's phony trip to a Target store in September, a photographer was on hand to snap some pix, and a reporter somehow found out that the purchases included "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever" and "Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia."

    The Amazon page for the latter book includes the publisher's description:

    After September 11th , Ahmed Rashid's crucial book Taliban introduced American readers to that now notorious regime. In this new work, he returns to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia to review the catastrophic aftermath of America's failed war on terror. Called "Pakistan's best and bravest reporter" by Christopher Hitchens, Rashid has shown himself to be a voice of reason amid the chaos of present-day Central Asia. Descent Into Chaos is his blistering critique of American policy-a dire warning and an impassioned call to correct these disasterous [sic] strategies before these failing states threaten global stability and bring devastation to our world.
    The book was originally published in 2008 (with a paperback version revised in April 2009), not exactly hot off the presses. In fact, it's almost certainly old enough to not include any criticisms of Obama Administration policy. The author's "blistering critique" is guaranteed 100% pure Bush-bashing, so it's perfect for Obama.

    Also, he'd probably like us to think the Wimpy Kid book is for Malia or Sasha.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:43 PM EST

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

[Amazon Link]

All proceeds apace with the Harry Potter Project, my determined effort to (finally) read the entire seven-book series. Goblet of Fire won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2001, and, yes, it's pretty good.

The first three books were combinations of white meat (whimsy and humor) and dark meat (danger and death). In Goblet of Fire, the dark-to-white ratio is turned way up; the book (for example) starts with the nasty murder of an innocent Muggle, committed by Lord Voldemort and his minions. There are creepy episodes of mortal danger throughout, and, unlike the previous three books, the climax is pretty much a victory for the forces of evil.

Also, for the fourth year running, it appears the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher won't be back next year. Why would anyone take that job?

The more innocent fun, such as it is, lies in adolescent boy-girl stuff. Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament, inviting two other schools of wizardry to compete; this brings in some new characters, some of whom offer romantic interest to the Hogwarts students. A celebratory Yule Ball turns disastrous for Harry and his friends, not by Voldemort's efforts, but by their own mundane teenage jealousies, misunderstandings, rivalries, and unintentional slights. As most post-teenagers reading the book will admit: been there, done that.

Some subplots in the book approach social commentary: our heroes are bedeviled by Rita Skeeter, a tabloid journalist who twists her news stories into innuendo-filled attacks, "evidence" obligingly provided by anonymous sources. Hermione takes on a do-gooding cause when she discovers that Hogwarts' army of house-elves are unpaid; she sets up a society to release them from their exploitation, but runs into an inconvenient fact: the elves themselves are basically satisfied with their lot in life. And the fight against Voldemort is greatly complicated by the unwillingness of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Magic to take the threat seriously.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:39 PM EDT

The Dark Corner

[3.0 stars] The Dark Corner (1946) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

A 1946 film noir that stars none other than Lucy! Unfortunately, she does not have a best friend named "Ethel" in this movie, nor does she get a job packaging candy on an accelerating conveyor belt. Or try to sell Vitameatavegamin. But she's otherwise OK.

She actually plays Kathleen, a secretary newly hired by private eye Bradford Galt. Galt is just out of the slammer, having been set up by his old buddy, Anthony Jardine. One evening he and Kathleen notice that they're being tailed by William Bendix. Why? It turns out to be a very elaborate and (let's face it) kind of a far-fetched plot, involving everyone's favorite snooty slimeball, Clifton Webb. Galt has to avoid going back to prison, but Kathleen proves to be an eager assistant, and wannabe girlfriend.

It's not the greatest noir ever, but the dialog is snappy and fun. At one point, Galt observes: "I can be framed easier than Whistler's Mother." Ha!


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:33 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-11-20 Update

[phony baloney]

The Intraders bid up Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul (?!) a significant amount this week, enough to get them above our arbitrary 4% threshold for inclusion in our phony poll. And Ron had enough phony hits in the bank to allow him to debut right at the top:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2011-11-13
"Ron Paul" phony 30,500,000 ---
"Mitt Romney" phony 17,100,000 +300,000
"Barack Obama" phony 15,900,000 -1,000,000
"Newt Gingrich" phony 8,530,000 +1,160,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 2,450,000 ---

  • In honor of Ron's inclusion, the Bad Lip Readers have done him the honor (if that's the right word) of interpreting him:

    "Hoo ha, cherry soda!" Cracks me up.

  • I've been seeing a lot of a slick pro-Huntsman TV ad from "Our Destiny PAC". (You can watch it too, on their website; USA Today provides its script and a fact check for it.)

    For our purposes, it's notable for putting the p-word right out there:

    Man No. 1 (speaking to camera): "The president's failed; the economy is worse."

    Man No. 2: "The stock market's a wreck. Are we the next Greece?"

    Man No. 1: "Our government's flabby, bloated and weak."

    Man No. 2: "Got a job? Sure you'll have it next week?"

    Man No. 1: "The world is literally collapsing and no one has shown up we can trust as a conservative."

    Woman: "Who actually has a chance to win."

    Man No. 2: "And not some phony who tells me one thing and you another."

    Woman: "Where's that guy?"

    Phony? Gee, I wonder who they could be talking about?

    "Our Destiny PAC" isn't affiliated with the Huntsman campaign (for legal reasons). But Huntsman isn't shy about associating himself with that talking point. From an interview with Al Hunt:

    HUNT: Let me ask you a final political question. The super PAC supporting you, not done by you, but they support you so you're not involved, they're running ads in New Hampshire starting today in which they say voters should not support "some phony who tells me one thing and you another." Do you think they were referring to Governor Romney?

    HUNTSMAN: I haven't seen the ad, but it sure sounds like him.

    HUNT: It does? You think that's what Governor Romney's doing? He is being a phony and telling people one thing and another -

    HUNTSMAN: Well, when you've been on both sides of all the key issues of the day, then that gets to the heart and soul of whether you've got believability. And when the 2012 election cycle, to my mind, is going to be about enhancing and promoting trust in the political system, I don't think you're electable under those conditions.

    In the same interview, Huntsman boldly predicts: "We will win New Hampshire." Bold talk from a guy whose poll numbers are stuck in the high single digits.

  • Speaking of Huntsman, he appeared on Saturday Night Live last night, goofing with Seth Meyers about his New Hampshire pandering. It was funny and you can watch it here.

    But how many New Hampshire Republicans, besides me, watch SNL? Five, maybe?

  • The Washington Post's conservative blogger, Jen Rubin, only has eyes for Mitt, and she's a one-woman buzz saw against anyone who poses a threat to her guy. Which may not be fair, but (on the other hand) she does a pretty good job of reminding us why we were unimpressed with Newt Gingrich long ago. This week, she noted how the news about Newt's consulting gig with Freddie Mac exemplified his long history of you-know-what:
    Whatever you call it, Gingrich, as we know, can shift his shape at the drop of a hat. Last week he was the maverick outsider who was going to reinvent Washington. Today he says, "It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington." Yes, he knows the Congressional ethics laws from the position of a violator, the Washington influence-buying game from the position of an exorbitantly paid consultant, and the arguments for the individual mandate, cap-and-trade and ethanol subsidies from one who held such positions at various times.
    Also, at no extra charge, Jen recalls Newt's cringe-inducing excuse about how he was "driven by how passionately I felt about this country" into— committing adultery.

    Jen also deemed Newt a phony intellectual this week on the basis of Andrew Ferguson's hilarious review of Newt's written oeuvre earlier this year.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:43 PM EST

Occupy Occupational Licensure!

[Cukes on Eyes]

A recent commentary in my local paper, Fosters Daily Democrat, warned that New Hampshire was threatened by imminent "chaos". Also: the spread of scars, blindness, "diseases like HPV and AIDS" and "crippling effects". In addition, "con artists and fly-by-night businesses" would shortly blanket our fair state.

What could possibly bring about all these dire effects? Why, it's all because of a small bill, HB 446, "AN ACT repealing the authority for regulation of certain professional occupations" now wending its way through the legislative process of the New Hampshire General Court. Specifically, the bill:

… repeals the regulatory boards and authority for licensure or certification for barbering, cosmetology, and esthetics, including tanning facilities; landscape architecture; court reporting; athletic training; recreational therapy; family mediation; hunting and fishing guides; athlete agents; massage therapists; reflexologists, structural integrators, and Asian bodywork therapists; and hawkers, peddlers, and itinerant vendors.

Also see the amendment.

My knee-jerk position on this legislation: Whoa. Cool!

But let's look a little deeper.

While it's not been on the front burner of the hot-issue stove, there's a long and proud history of opposition to occupational licensure. Way back in 1962, Milton Friedman devoted an entire chapter of his classic Capitalism and Freedom to the issue. Here is a John Stossel column on the topic from a few months back. A good, state-by-state review by Adam Summers was published in 2007 by the Reason Foundation. Economist Adam Ozimek offered a pair of blog posts last year describing why both conservatives and liberals should care more about the issue.

You can check out those sources for more detailed arguments. But here's a brief summary:

  • Such laws restrict economic liberty, with no rational justification based on a compelling government interest.

  • Innovation and flexibility in providing licensed services is stifled.

  • The laws give rise to a privileged class, who, in an inherently corrupt setup, set the rules for entry into their profession; these rules are invariably used to decrease competition, and raise incomes for the class.

  • There's also a lucrative side venture involved for people involved in training, and supplying credentials for prospective entrants. They also become, unsurprisingly, strident advocates for licensing.

  • Such laws hurt low-income people disproportionately: first, by raising prices for consumers, and also by raising the financial barriers to their possible entry into the licensed profession. (The Institute for Justice has done some good-guy work in litigating some cases of the latter.)

  • The whole enterprise smacks of government paternalism, an odious state-knows-best attitude where consumers and producers are deemed incapable of arriving at mutually beneficial agreements on their own.

  • It's an inherent slippery-slope game: once a state licenses professions A, B, and C, it makes it much easier to do the same for D, E, F: "You did it for them, so don't we deserve the same?" Unsurprisingly, by most measures, occupational licensure is on the rise in the US.

Wouldn't you think the Live Free or Die state might be at least relatively free of occupational licensure? Unfortunately, according to Summers' study, New Hampshire ranked fourth-highest in the nation in the number of occupations for which you need the state's permission to practice. (Number one, of course, is California, followed by Connecticut and Maine. And New Hampshire was just slightly behind Maine.)

As with much government regulation, the beneficiaries of occupational licensure are a relatively small and easily identified special interest group, the victims are mostly invisible, and the costs are diffused to the general population. So it's no surprise that the people making the most noise are the ones who would be seeing increased competition from folks who hadn't jumped through licensing hoops. (See, for example, the websites for NH Beauty Professionals; the American Massage Therapy Association, NH Chapter; the New Hampshire Athletic Trainers' Association; no doubt others.)

Equally unsurprising, their arguments are short on facts, but filled with lurid scenarios of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Why, in the post-HB446 world, all the shysters and con artists in the country will flock to New Hampshire, and the normal citizens will wander the streets, blind, crippled, scarred, diseased, and also have very bad haircuts! I have a sneaky suspicion that they aren't so much afraid that HB446 would fail; they're afraid that it would work.

All those anti-HB446 websites and commentaries urge you to contact your legislators. If you are a Granite Stater, Pun Salad encourages you to do the same, after getting the arguments on both sides. I think it would be neat for New Hampshire to serve as a little laboratory of democracy on this issue.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:54 PM EDT

A Little Help

[1.0 stars] A Little Help (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Two Netflix grievances: their algorithm originally predicted I'd like this a lot, giving it nearly four stars, enough to put it at the top of the queue.

But shortly after they sent it to me (and, I assume, after other peoples' ratings started coming in), that high rating started dropping; Netflix now awards it 2.8 stars, which is close to my "don't bother" point. Arrgh.

My other gripe is Netflix's "Genres" for the movie:

Comedies, Independent Movies, Romantic Movies, Romantic Comedies, Independent Comedies, Romantic Independent Movies
I assume the "Independent Movies" classification is correct. But it's not funny, and the closest it gets to romance is one character's long-running adolescent infatuation with another, and the other character's eventual, brief, ill-considered reciprocation.

Jenna Fischer, sweet, sunny Pam from The Office, plays Laura. Laura is not sweet or sunny; she's whiny, self-pitying, and prone to tantrums. Any love that may have existed in her marriage is draining away. Thanks to parental dysfunction, her son is fat, obnoxious, and dishonest. Her mom is a bossy shrew, her sister is a nagging bitch. Her dental hygienist career is unrewarding. She has an unfortunate Marlboro Light habit (which she lies about) and an overfondness for Budweiser. And then her husband kicks the bucket under unusual circumstances. A frothy laff riot, right?

But: Why should I care? The movie never provided a good reason.

Dion—yes, Dion DiMucci himself—has a brief cameo, playing guitar and singing the blues. A brief bright spot in a long lousy movie.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:30 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-11-13 Update

[phony baloney]

And just like that, we're down to three phony contenders:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2011-11-06
"Barack Obama" phony 16,900,000 +200,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 16,800,000 +200,000
"Newt Gingrich" phony 7,370,000 -340,000

  • Way back in February, we made the decision to only include GOP candidates who, as judged by Intrade, had a 4% probability or greater at the nomination. Back then, that gave us eight: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, John Thune, and Jon Huntsman.

    And now, after a very volatile week, we're down to two, Mitt and Newt. Here's how the Intraders are betting this week:

    Mitt Romney 71.5%
    Newt Gingrich 13.7%
    Herman Cain 3.7%
    Ron Paul 3.6%
    Rick Perry 3.2%
    Jon Huntsman 3.2%
    Michele Bachmann 0.9%
    Others 5.8%

    As always: these are the numbers as I type, not necessarily the same when you read. Which is especially true right now: the numbers are volatile, and who knows, we may see Herman, Ron, or Rick again. Maybe even Jon.

  • Note that Intrade still gives Hillary Clinton a 5.0% probability of getting the 2012 Democratic nomination. Yes, this means Intrade thinks Hillary has a better chance on her side, than any of Perry, Paul, Cain, or Huntsman on theirs.

  • Katrina Trinko reports on the founding of NotMittRomney.com, a group dedicated to… well, guess.

    Two objections:

    1. The obvious: It's all well and good to be against, but who are you for, and why? Ah, that's a little harder, innit?
    2. More subtle: Hey, you know who has a good shot at being not Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney, that's who. He's very flexible!

    But as a collection point for all things anti-Mitt, it's a decent website. The only question is: will they take it down the very day that Mitt clinches the nomination, or before?

  • At Bloomberg, Ramesh Ponnuru concedes the point about Mitt's essential phoniness. But he notes how that complicates things for the Obama campaign: they can say that Mitt's a flip-flopper. Or they can take the usual tack of trying to paint him as—eek!—an extremist. But:
    Obama can't get both of these messages across simultaneously. He can't make voters fear Romney's positions while also telling them he is liable to change them whenever they prove unpopular. So he is going to have to choose which attack to make central to his campaign.
    What the hell. I suggest a Marxist campaign slogan for Mitt:
    These are my principles. And if you don't like them, I have others.
    That's Groucho, not Karl.

  • And if you can stand one more GOP-basher, A. Barton Hinkle (apparently his real name) notes that Republicans aren't exactly believable when they're singing a laissez-faire song. Specifically, he makes me feel a little less sad of the self-immolation of one eventual-ex candidate:
    Take Rick Perry. He sings the praises of "the free-market enterprise [system] I grew up with." But in Texas, his Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund have shoveled nearly $650 million of the taxpayers' money into the pockets of private corporations, either by purchasing equity stakes or simply by giving companies cash to relocate. Conservative groups have called the programs "slush funds" and termed Perry "more pro-business than he is pro-free markets."
    Can the GOP win on a "our cronies are better than their cronies" platform? Maybe!

  • We already blogged about the on-again, off-again phony tax on Christmas trees, to be used in the fight against phony Christmas trees. Kind of a perfect phony storm, as the Obama Administration both (a) denied that it bore no responsibility for it, but (b) certainly got it shut down quickly enough.

  • In addition, the most Transparently Phony Administration in history, when faced with a decision guaranteed to anger at least one powerful faction of its shaky left-wing coalition,… punted:
    The Obama administration announced today that it would study alternate routes for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, kicking a politically contentious issue down the road past the 2012 election.
    They announced a 12-18 month delay "to consider alternate routes in Nebraska."

    Estimates are that the decision will cost 20,000 shovel-ready jobs, but this neglects all those bureaucrats taking 12-18 months to "consider alternate routes in Nebraska".

    I mean, that's real work there. Considering those alternate routes.

    Of course, Obama's only interested in "creating or saving" one job right now. And guess what? In a certain metaphorical sense, it's shovel intensive.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:43 PM EST

Hanna

[2.5 stars] Hanna (2011) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

This is one of those rare, but not rare enough, instances where Netflix predicted I would like a movie, but I came away rather cold. And not just because a big portion of it is set near the Arctic Circle, yuk yuk.

The heroine is the eponymous Hanna, a cute 16-year-old; she and her father (Eric Bana) live alone waaay up north in Finland. From scene one, where she takes out a deer, we learn that Hanna has deadly survival and fighting skills. And also that she and Dad have long been in hiding from the ruthless and evil CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who was the proximate cause of Hanna being raised in a single-parent household.

But Hanna wants to break out of the hermit life; reluctantly, Dad agrees. Pretty soon choppers swoop in to take Hanna away and Dad goes on the lam. They follow their own paths to a prearranged rendezvous, with plenty of carnage and quirky characters along the way.

My problem: what would ordinarily be a straightforward dark action flick is painted over with garish artsy pretentiousness. Fight scenes are filled with "look at me" choreography, which is often a marker that the filmmaker hasn't really given the viewer any stake in the outcome. In one place this works (subway station fight), but it's usually just stupid.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:36 PM EDT

11-11-11

Veterans Day 2011

… thank a vet near you.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Free Clip Art Picture of a Scrawny Christmas Tree. Click Here to
Get Free Images at Clipart Guide.com

The big news today is that the famous Christmas Tree Tax brought to you by Your Federal Government is "on hold." The most interesting thing is how the story had knees jerking all over the web.

For example, the always amusing hacks at Media Matters objected:

Far from a tax initiated by the Obama administration, the proposal to create an assessment on tree growers to fund a research and promotion program through the USDA was begun by the industry during the Bush administration.
Ah, blaming Bush. Is there anything we can't blame on him? Do the Media Matters people have a hotkey set up where they can just paste a blame-Bush paragraph into any article they're composing?

Preferable is Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution, who places the tax in context of, not the War Against Christmas, but the equally nasty competition between real and fake trees. How nasty? Alex quotes the real-tree website:

Actually fake trees were invented by a company who made toilet bowl brushes, the Addis Brush Company. Regardless of how far the technology has come, it's still interesting to know the first fake Christmas trees were really just big green toilet bowl brushes.
But Republicans gloating over this boneheaded, ham-handed effort from the Democrats should sober up by reading Tad DeHaven at Cato. The legislation allowing such shenanigans was passed in 1996, with mostly GOP support. (The only Republican Senator voting no: John McCain!) DeHaven concludes:
Unfortunately, certain people saw the “Christmas Tree Tax” as an opportunity to further partisan aims rather than provoke a discussion and debate on the proper role of the federal government.
"Indeed."

Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:46 PM EDT

Exporting Raymond

[3.5 stars] Exporting Raymond (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Netflix predicted I'd like this, against my expectations. I'm really not a big documentary guy. But the Netflix algorithm rules: it was just quirky enough to amuse, and just thought-provoking enough to … um … provoke thought.

The star is Phil Rosenthal. I call him "Phil", because I'm pretty sure if we ever met, I'd be calling him that in about five seconds. He's very much an everyman, despite being (almost certainly) fantastically wealthy due to his successful TV career.

Most notably, Phil was the executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond; this is the story of his travels to Moscow to help develop a Russian version of the show. He's very much a fish out of water. The things that made Raymond a hit don't seem to map well into Russian TV culture. American and Russian senses of humor don't translate well, Yakov Smirnoff notwithstanding. Phil runs up against a costume designer who wants to turn the Russian version of Debra Barone into a glamorous clothes horse. When some of the American scripts are adapted over, neither the Russian cast or their director seem to understand neither the humor of the original, nor the chemistry between the characters, let alone how to make it work in Russian. When Phil tries to offer advice, his efforts are met with stone-faced Russian implacability.

Phil grows increasingly bemused, but he's sensible enough to muddle through with a sense of humor. He develops an interesting relationship with his bodyguard/driver, an ex-military type with a health problem he's trying to bear stoically. But Phil is not a stoic himself, and doesn't allow anyone around him to be one either.

No spoilers, but the ending is kind of sweet and surprising. Trivia: Phil is married to Monica Horan (who played Amy on the show); she has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance here, smooching Phil goodbye.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:40 PM EDT

Not Fade Away

[fadeaway]

  • As I type, Herman Cain has faded away at Intrade going from a $0.60 share price this morning to (as I type) $0.40. Not looking good for Herman. Gee, I wonder why?

  • For Granite Staters: the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance has put together its 2011 report card for our state legislators.

    My senator, Amanda Merrill, wangled a D+, the second-from-lowest score, shared by only three of her colleagues. The news for my representatives (Strafford 2) is only slightly better: B, C+, C-, D+, D-. How did yours do?

  • Andrew Stiles notes the 40 House Republicans who signed a letter last week urging the "supercommittee" tasked with deficit reduction to consider "all options". This is widely, and probably accurately, viewed as a white flag on tax-raising.

    Who are these weasels? Unsurprisingly, one is the RINO from New Hampshire's Other Congressional District, Charlie Bass.

  • Mickey Kaus points out that while Sarah Palin negatives might have made her a poor candidate, she's giving better speeches than any actual candidate. An excerpt from his excerpt:
    We sent a new class of leaders to D.C., but immediately the permanent political class tried to co-opt them – because the reality is we are governed by a permanent political class, until we change that. They talk endlessly about cutting government spending, and yet they keep spending more. They talk about massive unsustainable debt, and yet they keep incurring more. They spend, they print, they borrow, they spend more, and then they stick us with the bill. Then they pat their own backs, and they claim that they faced and “solved” the debt crisis that they got us in, but when we were humiliated in front of the world with our country’s first credit downgrade, they promptly went on vacation.
    In 2008 she was constrained into McCain's theme of blaming the "greedy" for economic woe, which was disappointing. Much better now. Whole thing here

  • Mitt Romney got some cheers for his recent fiscal proposals, but Peter Suderman just sees the same old mush when it comes to Medicare:
    The plan bears all of the now-familiar hallmarks of a Romney policy proposal. It’s vague. It’s designed for maximum pandering. And Romney was against it before he was for it.
    Hey, at least he's not obviously self-destructing. That's a low bar to clear, but one the other candidates are tripping over.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[Amazon Link]

Progress: book Three completed in my self-forced march through the series. As expected, the ratio of dark/scary stuff to the whimsical/amusing stuff is on the increase.

Harry's back at Hogwarts for year three. The Prisoner of the title is Sirius Black, who is (despite the title) no longer a prisoner, having escaped Azkaban, the pokey for misbehaving wizards. And Sirius is thought to have misbehaved very badly, having betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort years back, and also bumping off a dozen odd folks himself. It's widely presumed that his goal is to finish off the destruction of the Potter family with the sole survivor, Harry.

In addition to this overriding menace, there's a lot of mysterious stuff going on. Lupin, the third Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in three years, is an odd bird with something to hide. The studious Hermione has a seemingly impossible courseload, but seems somehow to manage it. And Hermione's new cat, Crookshanks, has taken a decidedly hostile attitude to Ron Weasley's rat, Scabbers. The Azkaban Goon Squad known as the "Dementors" sent to "protect" Hogwarts have a decidedly negative effect on Harry.

Another dandy yarn; enjoyable, even though I'd seen the movie long before reading the book. I'm currently at work on book 4, the Goblet of Fire.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:41 PM EDT

X-Men: First Class

[3.0 stars] X-Men: First Class (2011) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Why, yes, this is the second consecutive movie we watched in which Rose Byrne appeared. Good catch.

It's (yet another) X-Men movie, this one—you may have guessed—an origin story. It starts in the 1940s, when both Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr were mutant kids. Young Charles is growing up rich and privileged, when meets up with the shapeshifter Raven (who just happens to be raiding the family fridge). This gives him an early start on the Professor X road: protection and guidance of troubled youngsters with fearsome powers.

But meanwhile in Europe, Erik, being Jewish, is in a Nazi death camp. It's run by the supremely evil Sebastian Shaw, who makes the other Nazis look like wimps. Shaw also bumps off Erik's mom. It's perhaps understandable that Erik is saddled with Issues at this impressionable age.

Jump forward to the early 60s, and Erik is in a cold-blooded pursuit of Shaw, looking for revenge. Shaw, for his part, has turned his Nazi past into a more comic-book-traditional role: super-villainous head of an international criminal gang. And Charles is recruited by the CIA to gather up mutants and bring their skills to furthering American interests. Eventually Charles and Erik meet and begin their complex and tumultuous relationship, as they both need to thwart Shaw's (literally) apocalyptic schemes.

It's a big-budget extravaganza, loaded with impressive special effects, and the actors are pretty good. But the plot is rooted in Cold War history, and hints at USA/USSR moral equivalence; the real problems are caused by those pesky evil mutants. I'm still anti-Communist enough to find this grating, even set in comic-book fiction.

And as I've previously mentioned, there's something about James McAvoy (who plays Charles) that makes me want to give him a good slap.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:37 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2011-11-06 Update

[phony baloney]

Big bump for Herman Cain this week, vaulting him into the phony lead. Unfortunately, Intrade views him as an even longer shot at the nomination, going from an (approximately) 8% probability to around 5% in the past few days.

Going out on a limb here, I would guess that these two symptoms have the same underlying cause.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2011-10-31
"Herman Cain" phony 27,900,000 +18,160,000
"Rick Perry" phony 22,100,000 -800,000
"Barack Obama" phony 16,700,000 -600,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 16,600,000 +12,520,000
"Newt Gingrich" phony 7,710,000 -210,000

  • The phoniest thing about the recent controversy around Herman Cain has been the coverage, as Jim Nolte notes that Politico (all by its lonesome) published 90 stories about Cain in a mere six days; this number is out of proportion to other scandals. Nolte says:
    I don't know if Cain is guilty of what he's accused of. Hell, I don't even know what he's been accused of other than making a few women uncomfortable and what Politico themselves described as gestures of "a non-sexual nature." What I do know are the facts I see above, and they all point to a coordinated attempt to take out another one of our candidates with an unprecedented media assault.
    I am vigorously nodding my head in agreement. I was not much of a Cain fan before, and I think his campaign handled this dredged-up "scandal" poorly, but Politico is a big joke. Or, as Mark Levin claims: "a phony website that might as well be run by MoveOn.org or the Daily Kos. It's not news, it's leftism."

  • Rick Perry was in New Hampshire this week, and got suckered into repeating a quote from "Jeremy, 38", an "Occupy" protester:
    It's weird protesting on Bay Street. You get there at 9 a.m. and the rich bankers who you want to hurl insults at and change their worldview have been at work for two hours already. And then when it's time to go, they're still there. I guess that's why they call them the one per cent. I mean, who wants to work those kinds of hours? That's the power of greed.
    Only trouble is, the quote was one of a bunch of equally ridiculous quotes made up by Mark Schatzker, humorist for the Toronto Globe and Mail. In Perry's defense: nobody expects Canadians to even try to be funny, let alone generate dead-on satire.

    If Perry wants to substitute an true ludicrous story from the Occupists, I suggest Joe the Puppeteer; even armed with a MFA from UConn in—I am not making this up—puppetry, Joe is unable to find high-paying work in his chosen field. He's an Occupy Wall Street regular.

  • How authentic is President Obama's outrage against fat cats getting big bonuses while their companies circle the drain? You tell me, after reading this news story. Summary of the main points:

    • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have received $141 billion in bailouts from Your Federal Government.
    • They just asked for another $6 billion, after reporting a $4.4 billion loss in three months.
    • Fannie and Freddie executives recently got themselves $13 million in bonuses.

    And President Obama came out to the Rose Garden to lambaste these guys enriching themselves on the taxpayer dime, right? Well, no:
    "The White House was not involved, and nor should it be," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
    Also see: Solyndra.

    I'll wager that those execs will be more than happy to chip in to Obama's campaign coffers, and some spokesperson will be found to remark on how grassroots it all is.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:43 PM EST

Pun Salad Never Metapost It Didn't Like

[A Salad Pun]

Starting now,… well, yesterday… Pun Salad offers different "views" into its posting universe: "Movies", "Books", "Default", and "All". Movies, Books, and Default are disjoint sets; Default could equally well have been called "Everything Else". But it's also the default: what you get if you go to punsalad.com.

This is for folks who would prefer to customize their Pun Salad reading. Use is (I hope) self-explanatory. Not interested in the movies I've seen, or the books I've been reading, but don't mind the occasional ill-tempered political rant? The Default view is for you. If you like to read everything I blog, then you'll want All. You get the idea.

Appropriate links for you to bookmark and RSS feeds to which you can subscribe are over there on the right.

No, your right.

This required a bit of surgery to the underlying scripts and article database, so there might be some glitches. Let me know if you notice any, OK? Thanks as always for your patronage.

Bridesmaids

[3.5 stars] Bridesmaids (2011) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

A couple weeks back I mentioned that Paul was your go-to movie if you've always wanted to see Kristen Wiig talk dirty. Guess what? You can make it a double feature with Bridesmaids!

Also included at no extra charge: Maya Rudolph talking dirty, Melissa McCarthy talking dirty, Wendi McLendon-Covey talking dirty, even the late Jill Clayburgh (in her final movie) talking a bit dirty, … you get the idea. It's R-rated for "some strong sexuality, and language throughout." It's one of those movies I feel a little guilty for enjoying.

Ms. Wiig plays likeable Annie; her life's on a quick slide to loserville. The only man in her life (played by Jon Hamm) exemplifies the reason why feminists invented the term "male chauvinist pig." She's a gifted baker, but her shop (and she) went broke. She's inappropriate for her jewelry store job: she keeps telling romantically-inclined customers that their relationships will probably be ephemeral.

But then her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and ropes her into maid of honor duties. The other bridesmaids are an assorted lot, full of colorful quirks and foibles, and they generate a lot of comic situations. Most irritating is Helen (Rose Byrne), who is a wizard at organizing festivities; she and Annie start a passive-aggressive competition at making Lillian's wedding experience magical. Annie is no match for Helen, and her insecurities lead her to various hilarious disasters.

It's good raunchy fun, if your tastes run that way. There are no surprises, if you've seen this sort of movie before: once Annie hits rock bottom, she finds a way to shape up, gets involved with a decent guy, turns her life around, etc. But it's all about the journey down and back up, which kept me both laughing and wincing, sometimes simultaneously.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:29 PM EDT

I Try To Catch Huntsman Fever

[Jon Huntsman]

Your intrepid blogger got himself up out of his cubicle and went to see GOP Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman yesterday at the Memorial Union Building at the University Near Here.

Not that Huntsman has much of a shot: Only one poll this year has shown Huntsman out of the single digits in New Hampshire. Intrade gives him only a 2.7% chance at winning the GOP nomination, behind Mitt, Rick, Herman, and even Newt. (On the other hand, he's doing far better than Pun Salad's own choice, Gary Johnson. Who doesn't typically even show up in polls, and Intrade has at 0.4%.)

But still: this is New Hampshire, the primary campaign is increasing its volume, and, as Yogi Berra noted, you can observe a lot by just watching. So I did.

Huntsman spoke in the Strafford Room, which is not the largest room in the MUB. It was crowded, though. He was introduced by the UNH College Republicans' president, who claimed out that Huntsman was running "on his record, not away from it." This was a pretty obvious zing at Mitt Romney, but it was indirect, and it was the only one. Huntsman didn't engage in that himself; in fact he didn't mention the other GOP candidates at all, and his criticisms were all aimed at Democrats, their policies, and their legislation.

Huntsman's speech was actually kind of a big deal: it was the official rollout of his energy policy. (Here's the transcript of his prepared remarks.) Summary: increase domestic production of energy; break oil's "monopoly" as a transportation fuel; spur innovation and research into alternative energy technologies and delivery methods.

There are a number of reasons why a conservative/libertarian voter like me might like Huntsman. His proposed tax reform is pretty good. (But not great: see Steve Landsburg for a compare-n-contrast.) He's an unabashed advocate of free trade. He wants to get rid of Obamacare, Dodd/Frank, and Sarbanes/Oxley. He wants to "rein in" many aspects of the regulatory state: EPA, FDA, NRLB, etc. He advocates privatizing Fannie and Freddie. He pledges to "eliminate every subsidy for energy companies". And (although this didn't come up in the speech) he's against ethanol subsidies.

But there are false notes. He wrapped his speech around the overall theme of "energy independence," which irritates my libertarian side. Even though he's a free trader in other areas, he lets the protectionist rhetoric fly in the energy sector. And it's unclear how much corporate welfare might fit under the "energy independence" banner. (He pledged to fund a lot of "basic research" which, at a research university, might count as pandering.)

Here's Huntsman's problem: if I had to attach a single adjective to his style, it would be: boring. I'm not a fan of the stem-winding/podium-pounding/rabble-rousing speaking style, but Huntsman approached the other extreme. He was not as flat as Kansas, but almost. He tried to make one joke: it got a few chuckles from people trying to be polite. His speech had no detectable applause lines (and the audience obliged by not applauding until the end).

I went to see Steve Forbes in '96. Reader, Huntsman makes Steve Forbes look like Jesse Jackson.

Huntsman took a few questions from the audience after the speech. The first one was from a nice Durham lady; she noted that her power had been out for days, that it seemed to have gone out a lot over the past few years, and what was Huntsman's energy policy going to do about that?

To Huntsman's credit: he managed to answer that diplomatically. (Which makes sense: he was a diplomat.)

Another questioner was studying Chinese; he requested that Huntsman answer in Mandarin, and Huntsman obliged. This got the biggest laugh of the day. Sounded good to me, but it has been alleged that Huntsman's fluency in Chinese is overstated. By him.

Summary: on the issues, better than Romney. But he'll wind up as (at best) Secretary of State in the Romney Administration.