URLs du Jour

2012-11-27

  • Inflatable Unicorn Horn for
Cats It's that time of year for Dave Barry's Gift Guide. Someone you know, I'm sure, will want a Trailer-hitch-mounted Stripper Pole. And what cat owner will not be overjoyed by receiving one or more Inflatable Unicorn Horns for their cat? (The cat, probably not so much.)

  • Is there anyone out there who has the slightest doubt that the New York Times editorialists are partisan hacks? Or (on the other hand) is there anyone who needs more evidence of that?

    Compare this November 2004 editorial, written when Republicans had a majority in the US Senate, and were looking at changing filibuster rules, then known as the—oooh, scary—"nuclear option".

    The Republicans see the filibuster as an annoying obstacle. But it is actually one of the checks and balances that the founders, who worried greatly about concentration of power, built into our system of government. It is also, right now, the main means by which the 48 percent of Americans who voted for John Kerry can influence federal policy. People who call themselves conservatives should find a way of achieving their goals without declaring war on one of the oldest traditions in American democracy.

    … but it's eight years later, roles are reversed, and the Times editorial writers have lost their respect for "one of the oldest traditions in American democracy."

    Every new crop of senators brings the potential for moving away from hoary rules and traditions that have virtually crippled American lawmaking. Next year, 12 new senators will join the chamber, only three of whom are Republicans. Many of the others are younger, more liberal and more feisty than the ones they replaced, and several have already expressed support for ending legislative abuse.

    The 2004 "nuclear option" has now become a mild move to "change the rules". Nary a word of concern for the (as I type) main means by which the 47.43% of Americans who voted for Mitt Romney can influence federal policy.

  • Last week, I poked some fun at an unusually silly and pompous NYT op-ed from a guy named Evgeny Morozov, which advocated… something about getting content-providing corporations to give up on their "deeply conservative, outdated norms" via "auditing" their "algorithms".

    Adam Thierer at the Tech Liberation Front analyzed Evgeny's op-ed slightly more seriously. He tried engaging Evgeny via Twitter, but was treated to "nasty, sarcastic, dismissive responses that call into question the intellectual credentials of anyone who even dares to ask him a question about his proposals."

    It's fun reading, if only to dispel any illusions you might have about the maturity of NYT op-edders.


Last Modified 2014-12-05 11:59 AM EST

Flash of Genius

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A movie from a few years back that a co-worker lent me. Not bad!

It's the based-on-true-story of Bob Kearns, a would-be inventor. It starts one day in the early 60s; while driving in the rain, Bob gets frustrated with his windshield wipers, which had two speeds: "Too Darn Fast" and "Off". Hence he was driven to invent the intermittent wiper. He took this good idea to Ford, who promptly ripped him off. This sent Bob into financial and psychological peril, culminating in the nervous breakdown that landed him in a Maryland funny farm for awhile.

Can he bounce back to get some satisfaction out of Ford and the other auto manufacturers that promptly came out with their own intermittent wipers? Well sure. It wouldn't be a little-guy-fights-the-soulless-corporation movie otherwise, would it?

Greg Kinnear does a good job playing Bob as a driven, principled, schlub. Lauren Graham plays his wife Phyllis, who is both perky and long-suffering. It's an interesting topic, given the current controversies involving intellectual property and patents. It would be easy just to dink things around a bit to turn Bob into a bad (or at least delusionally destructive) guy, attempting to milk millions out of corporations via the broken legal system.

The movie was interesting enough for me to scan through the New Yorker article it's based on. Almost needless to say, the actual history is less black-and-white than the movie portrays.