And, Oh Yeah …

We're all gonna die.


Pun Salad's cube-neighbor, Bill Costa, attended a course given by Edward Tufte earlier in the week. One of the handout booklets was a hilarious rip on Microsoft PowerPoint, which I read last night. In the booklet, Tufte reproduces a parody called Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation, which is also hilarious. I'd seen it before, but this time noted the parody's author: Peter Norvig.

Ok, fine. But then:

Bill also got Mark Jason Dominus's new book Higher Order Perl, which he kindly gave me permission to browse through. Today, I start reading during a break; right there on the first page of the Preface (where Dominus makes a plug for Perl being a lot like Lisp) is:

For example, the book Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming, by Peter Norvig, includes a section, …

So within 24 hours I go from being relatively unaware of Peter Norvig to being very aware, with two different folks pointing to two independent and marvelous things he's done. Jung would have a field day with this. But they say things come in threes. So I'm keeping my eyes open for another "coincidental" Norvig appearance.

(His website is, by the way.)

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

Finding Neverland

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

OK, it's a nice movie, but it's a little overrated. From Kate Winslet's first cough, you pretty much can write the rest of the movie yourself.

It's nice seeing Johnny Depp as a pirate again, though.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/29/2005)

  • Slate has the must-read kausfiles, but otherwise is a den of liberal snarkiness. However, this article on commercial voiceovers is interesting and funny.
  • Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young's usual recipe for assembling an article is to point with disdain to loopy rhetoric on both sides of an issue, going "tsk, tsk." She breaks the mold this week, somehow only finding the let-Terri-Schiavo-live side guilty. If she couldn't find overheated rhetoric on the other side, she wasn't trying very hard.
  • Virginia Postrel posts an article titled "Why I Don't Blog A Lot". That's OK; the article to which she refers is here, and it's certainly an argument for quality over quantity.
  • Virginia could, of course, try checking out the Secrets of the SuperBloggers. As for me, I noticed the fine print:

    NOTE: Some of the e-books in the Secrets of the Super Bloggers bundle are in .EXE format. As such, this package is recommended for PC users only.

    … so I was able to avoid temptation.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:20 PM EDT

Kurtz, Delay, WSJ

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial on Tom DeLay yesterday. It pointed out that he's behaving, regrettably, just like any other pol:

The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. […] Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out.

Well said. What's the point in being a Republican if you're going to behave … well, like a Democrat?

But Howard Kurtz's column goes too far, when, after summarizing the editorial, crows: "Hmmm. Maybe I mixed things up and this was actually a New York Times editorial."

No, Howard. You're looking at something called "principled, non-partisan criticism." You know, the kind that has no problems with ripping politicians of either party. I guarantee you'll see that far more often on the WSJ's editorial page than the NYT's.

Update: Matthew Hoy has the goods

Last Modified 2005-03-29 9:44 PM EDT

An Inconvenient Woman

As I type, Terri Schiavo isn't dead yet. Everyone's expressed an opinion. People I respect are on both sides. Do I have anything insightful to add? Probably not, but typing continues …

I guess I have a meta-point: not so much having to do with the merits of Mrs. Schiavo's case, but with how people are arguing about it. People are talking nearly entirely past each other, with no common ground. Bitterness and vituperation abound. Personal attacks on opponents seem more common, and more heartfelt, than usual. Even the most reasonable folks on both sides seem simply unable to understand where the other side is coming from.

Jay Nordlinger (writing in NRO) expresses what I'm feeling pretty well. When it comes to figuring out the other side, however, he founders, like everyone else. Key point:

I have a friend—Michael Walsh, the writer—who insists that liberalism is a "death cult." (Michael has a well-thought-out explanation of this. And, by the way, when I say "liberalism," I'm using it in the contemporary American sense—which is bonkers, but that's not my fault.) He wrote me the other day—concerning Schiavo—and said, in essence, "See?" Yes, I see. It's amazing how they—you know: they—need her to die. She has to die, or they will be livid. Her continued life is a kind of offense to them. If she doesn't die, then Tom DeLay and Jerry Falwell … well, they'll be happy!

That's a miss, I think. Death is a mere side effect of the real cult, which is one of irresponsibility and convenience. The underlying vision is the wish to be able to discharge obligations and duties when they threaten to become too onerous.

To her husband, Mrs. Schivo is simply in the way, a hindrance keeping him from Moving On With Life (and a new wife). She can't speak or defend herself? All the better! That makes it easier to think of her as a mere inanimate obstacle to be removed.

Some have drawn the parallel between the Schiavo case and abortion. That's not too surprising in this view. Is there anything more inconvenient than a baby? Anything more demanding of responsibility? And (again) unable to speak or defend itself? Best to nip it, literally, in the bud.

I'm aware I sound like a bible-thumping moralizer here. Sorry. And I'm aware that enshrining one's personal morality into the legal system is fraught with peril.

On the other hand, we're moving toward a system where there are ever fewer constraints on killing the helpless. Where do you think that could lead?

Last Modified 2005-03-28 8:38 PM EDT


[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

What I said was: "Ben Stiller. Jack Black. Amy Poehler. Christopher Walken. How could this not be funny." Well, it turned out not to be very funny.

Rachel Weisz is also in it, also not funny.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/25/2005)

  • I have to do this. (It looks a lot easier than this.) Both links via good old GeekPress.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:22 PM EDT

Free Speech Update

If you want to keep track of what the state, in this case the Federal Election Commision, will and won't let you say on the Internet, their proposed rules are here.

House Rocks

That beloved Jane Galt plugs House. She's right, of course. Hugh Laurie is simply amazing in the title role. He's even more impressive as House if you saw him as the dad in Stuart Little. It's hard to believe it's the same guy.

Last Modified 2005-03-24 7:45 PM EDT

I Did Not Know That, part CXII

Elephants do impressions. (Via GeekPress.)

URLs Du Jour (3/23/2005)

  • James Lileks has some good thoughts on the nature of evil, and how a dad thinks about things. As always, he says it better than I, or probably just about anyone, could. Also good comments on a Cagney movie.
  • New Hampshire's own Shawn Macomber has a good article in the American Spectator about President Bush's lousy record on deficit reduction, and points to Franklin, NH as an example of how to do it right.
  • Probably one of the sadder things in life is seeing someone who used to be funny, and is now only self-pitying and tedious. Compound that tragedy with being in the public eye, and you have Rosie O'Donnell. (Showing a cruel streak, Drudge now links to her on his front page.) Sorry, Rosie. Wish Comedy Central did more reruns, I miss the old you.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:23 PM EDT

Phrases I Could Do Without

"Do the math." Especially when said by someone who knows less math than (even) I do.

URLs Du Jour (3/22/2005)

  • In the "Things I Don't Have The Guts To Do" category: via Dave Barry, I was extremely amused by an article at Zug ("the worlds's only comedy site"). It turns out that it's really difficult to get cashiers to reject your card based on how you sign.
  • Feeling blasé about medical progress? Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek has an article on the elimination of Rubella from the US that should reawaken your appreciation.
  • Both of the Pun Kids have iPods, Pun Son has a 40 gigger, Pun Daughter has a Shuffle. Fortunately, they don't go to school in Sydney, Australia where they're apparently banned. (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:23 PM EDT

On Terri

I've seen approximately one zillion blog posts that start out something like: "I haven't blogged much on the Terri Schiavo case because …" Ditto here. I don't really have a good reason, other than the massive work of hammering vague intuitions into a semi-rational argument.

So I've done what I usually do: look for something on the web that sounds about right.

Via Prof Bainbridge, Tom Smith of The Right Coast makes some cogent observations on how weird the kill-Terri side appears to those of us not particularly wedded to the ideology of death.

They may think they are standing up for the right to die with dignity, but it comes across as, oh boy! A vulnerable, compromised human non-person! Can we kill it?! Please?! Pretty please?! Planned parenthood also needs some remedial PR work. They really should want to avoid the whole Zis zing ees not human! Nine! Eeet must be liquidated! At vunce! schtick. I can't be the only person they are creeping out.

No, he isn't the only person they're creeping out.

Last Modified 2005-03-21 6:57 PM EDT

Come 'n' Get Me, Coppers!

I read without commenting on Glenn Reynold's recent article on the expansion of felony statutes:

[I]f you haven't been convicted of some felony or other, it's probably because no prosecutor has tried to put you away, not because you haven't committed one, whether you realized it at the time or not.

Is that hyperbolic overstatement? I didn't think about that too much until yesterday when I noticed an article that pointed out my recent criminal behavior.

Here's my confession: last month the Salad family went down to Orlando for a few days respite from cold and snow. For compactness and convenience, I combined my daily pills (three prescription and three non-prescription) into a single bottle, instead of packing six.

And that may be OK in New Hampshire, and it may be OK in Florida, but we happened to leave from the Portland (Maine) Jetport. And when I crossed into Maine from New Hampshire, that single bottle made me a Maine criminal.

In Maine, a prescription drug must be kept in its original pharmacy container until the time it's consumed. Putting it anywhere else—perhaps in a shirt pocket, or a separate container…—is a crime that can bring jail time.

Great. The law in question is here. I can't tell whether it's a felony or not, even so it certainly brings Glenn's point home to me: expansion of the law into everyday innocuous behavior is just another serious symptom of abuse of the law by the state.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:16 PM EDT

Cold Service

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
The yearly outing for Spenser. His colleague Hawk has been badly shot up by Ukrainian mobsters. They also kill Luther Gillespie, the bookie Hawk was protecting, and all but one of Luther's family. (This is not a spoiler, it happens before the book starts, and is revealed on page 2.)

Hawk rehabilitates and, naturally, needs to go after the guys who did it. And, being the kind of guy he is, Spenser must help. Complications ensue, because in Spenserland, you can't just find the bad guys and shoot them. That would have been a real short book. Instead, Hawk and Spenser concoct a plan to destroy the Ukranian mob, and set up Luther's surviving child financially. Spenser finds himself in a minor moral delimma, since he usually only kills people in self-defense. So there's a lot of chit-chat about that.

Summary: short on action, short on detecting. Not the best outing.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

The Incredibles

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[5.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

Mrs. Salad picked up this DVD the day it came out. This was my favorite movie from last year. I still feel the same way now: it's the kind of movie that makes me want to fall to my knees in sheer gratitude that I live in a time and place that produces works like this.

The Extras disk is crammed with good stuff; I haven't watched it all yet, but the highlight so far is "Jack Jack Attack", an animated short showing what happens between Kari, the Parr's babysitter, and Jack Jack while the rest of the family is off saving the world. Kari's "mental stimulation" of Jack-Jack causes him to discover his multiple superpowers; Kari's less than thrilled with this.

Usually DVD "extras" are pretty predictable, but these show the inner workings of an incredibly talented bunch of people doing what they enjoy, at the peak of their game. So: highly recommended.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/18/2005)

  • Via Slashdot, you may want to check this New Scientist cover story: "13 things that do not make sense". Your initial reaction may be the same as mine: just 13?. I tried to pick a favorite, but they're all good.
  • "Robert Musil", the Man Without Qualities has returned to his blog after a three month absence. I hope he gets back to regular posting. His latest is an interestingly contrarian take on the Summers/Harvard hoohah.
  • Jacob Sullum is a reliably sensible libertarian columnist. His take on Hillary Clinton's continued efforts to involve the Federal Government in how you raise your kids is here.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:24 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/17/2005)

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Not that any of the below has anything to do with that.

  • Even though Ann Coulter goes over the line sometimes (if you need convincing, see SpinSanity), she is without peer at exposing liberal ideological fetishes that run smack into reality. And today she's in fine form pointing out the utter insanity that allowed a 5-foot grandma deputy to escort a 200-pound former linebacker with a history of violence, with eminently forseeable and horrendous results. It's a classic that goes along with her 2002 column about airport searches that, no, must not, never give the appearance of racial profiling.
  • At Tech Central Station, Sandy Szwarc takes down the food nannies at the Des Moines Register.
  • Mr. Lileks makes the following aside today:

    [I] encountered one of those brand-name sites I don't visit much because the proprietor has nothing to say and no particular skill at saying it. He referred to that "filthy Wolfowitz."

    He abstains from providing a name or a link, but I got it in one guess. Not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of myself.

  • Living up to its motto ("News for Nerds. Stuff that matters."), Slashdot points out that the Unix ticker will hit 1111111111 seconds since the Epoch (00:00:00 UTC, January 1, 1970) at 8:52:31 this evening (EST). I'm not quite sure how I'll celebrate.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:25 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/16/2005)

  • Via InstaPundit, Mr. Patterico has a couple of excellent posts (here and here) that eloquently reflect my own feelings on FEC regulation of political speech on the Internet. Essentially: allegedly "reassuring" remarks by politicians and bureaucrats aren't really that reassuring at all if you check what they're actually saying. And we shouldn't need to be "reassured" that our particular ox won't be gored by the FEC. We shouldn't need or even want to beg for an exception to the FEC's regulations. Instead every person who cares about liberty should welcome the opportunity to be the test case.

    Deep breath … we move on …

  • Via Hiawatha Bray, I note an article with the provocative headline Desktop Anti-Spyware Not Up to Snuff, IT Pros Say. But (as near as I can tell), the "pros" quoted seem to be marketers for non-desktop anti-spyware approaches, which may mean that it's to be taken with more than one grain of salt.
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh (which I just like saying) has a good article at Tech Central Station on the proper relationship between conservatism and libertarianism.
  • I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't read Lileks' Bleat every day, but I can't resist quoting this paragraph from today's:

    Note: somewhere right now there is a big controversy about something said on a blog about another blog about blogging. Whoopty whoop.

    Good thing to tack up on your wall in case you feel you ever might get too much into blog navel-gazery. He's also right about Star Wars, so check it out.

  • Matt Welch is still super-pissed about Congressional investigation of steroid use in baseball (as should be all right-thinkers), and unloads here. Matt knows his libertarian arguments and his baseball, so he's outraged on multiple fronts.
  • Virginia Postrel does a quick takedown of a Swarthmore psych prof who tries to use psychological research findings to back up his anti-choice public policy prescriptions. Virginia says: not so fast.
  • And I know I've mentioned this before, but Aieee! We're all gonna die!

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:27 PM EDT

New Hampshire Day

It's New Hampshire Day at Pun Salad!

  • Added to the blogroll is Kevin Aylward's Wizbang blog. Kevin's from Nashua, I think, which is technically in New Hampshire. And his blog is a continuing celebration of reasonableness and good taste.
  • Also, I think P. J. O'Rourke is still a New Hampshire resident. His recent article at the Weekly Standard takes apart a recent appearance by John Kerry in Boston. I think if I were a politician, and I saw P. J. at one of my appearances, I'd just make apologies, and go home.
  • Jeez, it would be real disappointing for our fine state to lose its place in the spotlight every four years due to our first in the nation presidential primary. The Dems are looking at adjusting the primary calendar to avoid making our dinky state less important. Carl P. Leubsdorf explains from neutral ground (Texas) why New Hampshire is an ideal place to hold the first primary.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:28 PM EDT

Why I Like Baseball Players Better Than Congressmen

The outrage du jour is a Congressional investigation of steroid use in Major League Baseball, featuring ball players being subpoenaed to testify under oath.

For various explanations of why this is a stupid and evil idea, see:

… bipartisan idiocy on Capitol Hill. And Jose Canseco seems to have veracity problems as well. Maybe he's thinking of going into politics?

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:29 PM EDT


[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link]

Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors; Bruce Willis is one of my favorite actors. So it was a good bet that I'd like this movie, starring Mr. Willis and based (sort of loosely) on a book by Mr. Crais. A lot of the reviews have been harsh, but a lot of them simply don't seem to like crime thrillers all that much. The movie's very intense, at the end I felt like I'd been clenching my gut muscles through most of it. The director brings an interesting visual style. Or so I'm told. The opening titles are also kind of neat.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

Drop Dead, My Lovely

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
A great bit of fun from humor writer Ellis Weiner. The protagonist, Pete Ingalls, has had a terrible accident at the bookstore where he works; he comes back to consciousness believing he's a private eye in the mold of Marlowe, Archer, and Spade. So he dumps his job, sets up shop as a PI, and before you know it has a couple of cases that are way over his head.

To his great credit, Weiner avoids crude parody. He has a great ear for the tough-guy wisecracks, cynical observations, and bemused inner monologues from the classics; he manages to make them both amusing to the reader and respectful to their source. Neat trick.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/11/2005)

  • Via Geek Press: the website TalkToAliens will accept your phone call (for $3.99/minute) and beam it deep into space. So you can, um, talk to aliens.

    Just off the top of my head, it would seem that they have a very narrow band of potential customers (cost aside): people who are (a) crazy enough to think this would work, but (b) not crazy enough to think that you don't need a radio to talk to aliens: just talk, and they'll hear you. How many people is that?

  • There have been reassuring noises from Senators McCain and Feingold about FEC Commissioner Brad Smith's alarm about regulation of political speech on the Internet. (I previously talked about this issue here and here.) Notably Ellen Weintraub of the FEC has written an article telling allegedly panicky bloggers to chill out.

    Reassured? Not so fast, bunkie. Jim Geraghty of the TKS blog at National Review Online hosts a devastating takedown of Weintraub's article from Marshall Manson of the Center for Individual Freedom.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:30 PM EDT


My usual sympathies are quite libertarian.

But it should be a felony, punishable by a 20-year term and a $10 million fine to broadcast on the radio, either as part of an advertisement or normal station programming, the sounds of car horns, sirens, squealing brakes, or similar traffic sounds.

It was OK back when I drove cars with cheap and crappy sound systems.

But now I have a half-decent radio, and whenever some advertising asshats decide to call attention to their spots with a cacophony of sirens, my heart leaps for a few fractions of a second before I figure out that I'm not about to get run off the road by the entire Dover New Hampshire firetruck fleet.

Similarly when the local traffic report "cleverly" introduces itself with a cacophany of blaring horns, my immediate reflex is: Crap! What did I do? It's just realistic enough to dump some unwanted adrenaline into my bloodstream.

Next car I get will have a CD player. And I'll never listen to the radio on the road again.

Update (3/22/2005): It occurred to me that my legislation would need to make an exception for Expressway to Your Heart by the Soul Survivors. That's a cool Gamble/Huff song, and the traffic noises just make it better.

Last Modified 2005-03-22 6:34 PM EDT

Cats, Threat or Menace?

This disturbing news story confirms what I've always suspected about cats. Don't turn your back on them while there's a weapon within their reach.

The hospital spokeswoman mentioned in the story, Michelle Sand, is no relation, as far as I know.

How long before gun control groups start demanding mandatory "kitty locks" on firearms?

URLs Du Jour (3/9/2005)

  • Rich Galen's Mullings is a Monday/Wednesday/Friday stop for me, and today's installment is particularly good.
  • Jeff Jarvis comments lucidly on the Hiawatha Bray matter I wrote about a few days ago. He quotes heavily from the Boston Globe's ombudsperson's article discussing the matter. Ick. Have I mentioned recently that I'm not sorry to have dropped my Globe subscription? Oh, yeah, I have.
  • At Tech Central Station, James Glassman makes a similar point to the one I tried to make a couple days ago about the Social Security debate:

    Forget about the projections of fiscal calamity or paradise. We have known from the beginning of the argument the central fact: the two sides like different things. … One side likes the government to take care of people, whether they need it or not. The other side -- which I'm on -- likes people to make their own choices and take responsibility for their own lives.

    He urges "our" side to "start slugging it out over principle." I think that would be more interesting and honest. But I'm not sure it's the way to win.

    This reminded me a lot of Thomas Sowell's great book A Conflict of Visions. (Which you should buy and read, if you haven't already.) So it's probably far from coincidental that Glassman's article is also linked to by "Katie" in her blog A Constrained Vision. Katie's obviously a kindred spirit, and I've added a link to her blog over there on the right.

  • My friend Jim Cerny points me to the website of the Mount Washingtion Observatory, which will almost surely make you happier about any inclement weather you might be experiencincing. As I type, they report -15.1°F with a windspeed of 84 mph (gusts to 95 mph); this works out to a wind chill of -53°F. From their front page:

    Observer stats:
    Lowest wind chill: -76
    Number of unsuccessful runs to the precip can: 1 (so far)
    Hours spent shoveling the same doorway: Still at it...
    Biggest NEW snow drift: 7 Feet
    Total staff hours of sleep: 5!
    Broken Crowbars: 1!
    Figuring out that you can't keep your feet grounded by tower railing...Priceless

    It pays to have a good sense of humor when you're up there, obviously.

Last Modified 2022-10-04 5:09 AM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/8/2005)

  • Via The Volokh Conspiracy, a quiz to see how well you can distinguish programming language inventors from serial killers. That's a very important skill to develop.
  • An exceptionally good Reason Express this week.
  • In the middle of a decent article on National Review Online, Rich Lowry invokes the word "glückschmerz", which is (apparently) the flipside of "schadenfreude". I did not know that. So naturally, I Google it; up comes an old post from Meryl Yourish. Amusingly, she noticed all the new Google-referred hits on her website, almost certainly caused by the Lowry article. So, for would-be pedants:

    finding joy in someone else's misfortune
    finding pain in someone else's happiness

    You can learn something every day if you try. (I also learned the HTML coding for ü, so that's two things, I guess.)

  • Via InstaPundit, John Farrell reminds me why I stopped my Boston Globe delivery.
  • And, oh yeah: We're all gonna die. But try to find that in the Boston Globe.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:31 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (3/7/2005)

  • Via Geek Press, an extremely funny skit set in a video store.
  • John Hinderaker of Power Line takes on the Supreme Court's decision on capital punishment at the Weekly Standard; his essay is a masterpiece of barely-controlled fury.
  • In today's Bleat, James Lileks makes a point about the Social Security debate that cuts through a lot of jive, man. With respect to the anti-reformers:

    It's not Social Security they love, I suspect, it's what it represents. It's not socialism as they'd like, but it's all we've got.

    Exactly, I think. All the nitpickyness about solvency, risk, lockboxes, etc. really hides the True Issue motivating most. It's people who rather not roll back our current dependencies on the state, versus those who would prefer we do.

    Note (however) that the sainted Ann Althouse isn't turned on by either of these ideological visions. How to deal with that?

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:32 PM EDT

Booty Call

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

Continuing the "other movies by Oscar winners" theme, we viewed Booty Call starring a less-serious Jamie Foxx. Very raunchy, very funny.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

Republican Morons

Recently, Republican members of the Senate seem to be diligently trying to go back to minority status.

Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) say they will introduce a Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to outlaw flag desecration. This is necessary because, well, currently such a law would be unconstitutional, due to that darned inconvenient First Amendment.

No such constitutional quibbles bother Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) who wants to apply broadcast decency standards for subscription satellite and cable TV and radio.

The nicest thing you can say about this is that such legislation doesn't have a chance of enactment, that these measures are simply sops to keep religious conservatives happy. I'm not sure that makes me feel better, though.


Both the New York Times and the Washington Post offer longish articles on their front (web) pages today on the background of Wichita's alleged BTK serial killer, Dennis L. Rader. The similarities are plain: both newspapers sent a female reporter to interview neighbors and acquaintances.

This in the NYT article struck me as telling:

Most stunning for the Wichita area, where Mr. Rader has spent his life, is not just that he was viewed as an ordinary fellow, someone who blended in at the Taco Bell, but that he seemed to have stayed meticulously and constantly within the strictest mores of society - more so, at times, than many other residents.

One almost wishes Sgt. Joe Friday had been around at this point in the article:

"But he was different in one way, ma'am."

"What's that, Sergeant?"

"He killed people."

The NYT article, with all its blabber about "mores" seems to be struggling to prove a point that never quite gets explicitly stated, let alone supported.

On the other hand, the Post article seems more perceptive:

Rader, however, exhibited some classic antisocial traits -- superiority, narcissism and anger -- and was seen by some as a man imprisoned in a life he believed was beneath him, associating with people he believed were not up to his intellect.

The Post reporter also gets a neighbor to note: "He was mean-spirited and a coward ... He always picked on the single women on the street who he could bully." All except the first of the BTK murders were of women. The NYT reporter also interviewed this neighbor, but didn't get this detail.

Advantage, Washington Post.

The Core

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

Inspired by Hillary Swank's Oscar-winning performance in Million Dollar Baby, I rented The Core. Well, it's not quite as good. It's a by-the-numbers armageddon movie, but the acting is superb (it's Hillary Swank after all) and the script contains some above-average lines. (Or maybe not. In the commentary for the DVD's deleted scene section, the director mentions that the actors were improvising. Maybe that's what's going on with the good lines.)

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

Million Dollar Baby

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

I dragged my wife and daughter to see Million Dollar Baby this weekend. As you probably know, the movie has been showered with honors for Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. Amazing for me, though, were the performances from the relatively unknown actors in other roles. You could just about swear (for example) that Maggie's family weren't actors, but actual lowlifes imported from Trashville who (somehow) believed that Hillary Swank was related to them and didn't know they were in a movie.

But a half-star off because the movie is just so freakin depressing.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:20 AM EDT

Blog Fact-Checking Wins Again

Last month the liberal Washington Post op-edder Richard Cohen wrote an alarming column about an "apparent upsurge" in AIDS cases among gay males and a "super strain" of AIDS that would prove resistant to current treatment. Conservatives like Clayton Cramer pointed to Cohen's column and said: toldja so. But now Andrew Sullivan has fact-checked Cohen's ass and finds it wanting.

Last Modified 2006-01-06 2:50 PM EDT

More on the FEC vs. the Internet

It's no surprise that the political-speech regulators want to reassure Internet users that censorship of political information on the Web isn't in the offing. But how convincing are the reassurances? Not too. Winfield Myers has a great analysis with lots of interesting links. (Via InstaPundit).

Last Modified 2005-03-05 12:30 PM EDT

FEC vs. the Internet

You may have noticed the firestorm generated by Declan McCullagh's interview with Brad Smith where Smith conveys (with alarm) the court-ordered extension of campaign finance regulation to the Internet.

Good links on this topic (which also have good links themselves):

I've also seen a number of comments pretty much in the "Help, my ox is being gored" vein, but the above seem relatively substantive. But it all goes back to McCain-Feingold and campaign finance "reform". And beyond Sentators McCain and Feingold themselves there are so many people to blame:

  1. The craven congresscritters who voted for McCain-Feingold;
  2. The mainstream media; they were, of course, exempt from the law's regulation but largely ignored the First Amendment impact of the regulations on everyone else;
  3. President Bush, who signed it (no profile in courage there);
  4. The five Supreme Court Justices that voted to uphold the law's major provisions (O'Connor, Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg);
  5. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who ruled that the FEC had to apply campaign finance regulations to the Internet.

… and probably some others I've missed.

The only good news about this is that the inevitably intrusive and burdensome regulations will be biting a very verbose and influential class of citizens. There's a slim hope that the resulting backlash will cause this dreadful law to be repealed.

Last Modified 2005-03-04 5:08 PM EDT

Media Matters Targets Hiawatha Bray

The folks at Media Matters, seemingly having run out of important things to do, have put Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray in their sights. Bray's crime is apparently his libertarian/conservative leanings, and his occasional commission of free speech in blog comment sections. Also, Hiawatha's black; among the Media Matters crowd, black conservatives are special targets for lefty bile.

Amusingly, Media Matters links to Dan Kennedy's Media Log article on the matter. This hardly bolsters their case. Kennedy's terms the Media Matters article "hyperventilating". He debunks the Media Matters claim that Bray was "reporting on the 2004 presidential campaign" by pointing out that Bray was merely reporting on technological issues relating to the campaign. And Kennedy points out that Media Matters quotes the New York Times' ethics policy as if it applied to Bray; but the Globe has an ethics policy independent from the NYT. (But what does it say? Both Kennedy and Media Matters fail to dig that out.)

Unfortunately, Kennedy's column also reveals that Bray has been effectively muzzled from expressing political opinions in a public forum. Kennedy reports that a Globe flunky e-mailed him that Bray was "instructed to discontinue any such postings, and to our knowledge he complied." (The Globe has a lousy record of harassing its own columnists that don't follow the liberal script. See here for the Jeff Jacoby story.)

Also unfortunately, Kennedy whiffs on one of the side issues:

… Bray wrote posts to several weblogs during the past presidential campaign criticizing John Kerry, praising George W. Bush, and passing along the claims of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which cast a number of aspersions on Kerry's record as a war hero. Virtually all of those aspersions were proven false, a fact that Bray seems not to have grasped.

But (as the Media Matters article points out) one of the SBVT claims Bray "passed along" was that Kerry's Christmas-in-Cambodia story was an utter fabrication. And it was. Neither Kennedy nor Media Matters seem to have noticed this. Neither do they mention that Kerry has yet to sign his SF 180 as he promised he would.

But that is a side issue; the main point remains: Hiawatha Bray should be able to express political opinions in public forums just like you or I can.

Hopefully this will blow over soon, with minimal damage to Bray's career. It's sad that the muzzling has apparently been effective, though. I wonder if the Minneapolis Star-Tribune can deal with its employee James Lileks expressing political opinions on his blog, why the Globe can't figure out how to do likewise.

Last Modified 2005-03-05 11:39 PM EDT

Some Quick Clicks

  • Matthew Hoy does a great job of holding Paul Krugman's feet to the fire: where are the "stepts to strengthen" the Social Security program Krugman promised to reveal a couple months back?
  • A few years ago, in a Usenet post, I referred to "The Undying Theology of the Idolators of the State". This was a rather ill-tempered post where I responded to someone who "knew" with no evidence whatsoever that the problems of inner-city schools could be solved by throwing more money at them. Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek makes a simiar point about a similar Deep Thinker who "knows" that government programs can be designed to make us all happier.
  • Andrew Sullivan has a refreshingly direct broadside against the progressive income tax (see "The Opportunity Missed"), and he's disappointed that Bush chose to emphasize Social Security reform over pushing for a flat (or at least flatter) income tax structure. He's right: people should benefit equally from the results of their own responsibility and work.
  • Ann Althouse has an eminently sensible post tying together Ward Churchill, Robert Byrd, and the Soup Nazi.
  • LWN has an interesting article on "Secret Answer" password-reset systems, triggered by a breakin to Paris Hilton's T-Mobile account. Key quote:

    … how was Paris Hilton's T-Mobile account cracked? … Apparently T-Mobile's site has a "secret answer" mechanism for people who forget their passwords. Ms Hilton's "secret answer" was her dog's name.

    And there are probably only a few hundred websites where you can discover Paris Hilton's dog's name. But if you don't want to go to the bother: "Tinkerbell"

    More details, with a link to a picture of Paris and Tinkerbell here.

    How much do you want to bet that Paris's new secret answer is only marginally tougher than her old one?

  • Via BBspot, Jay Pinkerton's revisionist history of Superman's origin is just pretty darn funny, but only look if you're not offended by very bad words uttered by cartoon characters.
  • I've added a link to Shawn Macomber's Return of the Primitive website over there on the right. Shawn is very cool, occasionally writes for our local paper, and all that is made more remarkable by being a graduate of the University of New Hampshire.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:35 PM EDT

I Took an Online Test

…and the results are:

I am 9% Metrosexual.
Metro-What? Git Off My Lawn!
I need some advice. I need to STOP BUYING MY CLOTHS AT WAL-MART!!!! I will never land a decent woman unless I shave this nasty facial hair, and spend more then $5 on a haircut.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:35 PM EDT

Why Google Wins, Part 145

While browsing Slashdot I saw this article on a Python program which will help you solve a jigsaw puzzle. Which is interesting in its own right, but it contained this:

Hold a puzzle piece up to a webcam, and the display sgiws exactly where in the puzzle the piece belongs.

Ha, ha, "sgiws". I've done that too: one of your hands (the right one in this case) is offset from its proper position on the keyboard and "shows" becomes "sgiws". Then I wondered: is that common on the Web? So I Googled "sgiws". Up came about 50 hits, but at the top of the first page, Google asks:

Did you mean: shows

I knew Google was pretty good at suggesting corrections for garden variety misspellings, but this was the first I'd seen where it suggests corrections for keyboard-offset mistyping. Impressive.

(And, no, the "sgiws" mistyping doesn't seem to be that usual. It's more commonly found in some Unix-style directory paths and foreign-language web pages, I think mostly Welsh.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:36 PM EDT

Some Cool Stuff

  • Professor Bainbridge takes apart the Supreme Court's decision on capital punishment for minors, albeit by liberally quoting from Scalia's opinion.
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh at Tech Central Station cheerleads for the good guys in the New London, CT eminent domain case argued recently before the Supreme Court. I'm not optimistic about this case, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Also at Tech Central Station, Kenneth Silber talks about the (um…) "colorful" John Whiteside Parsons, involved in the early days of Caltech and the JPL.
  • Virginia Postrel points to her essay at Slate; she modestly fails to point out that it's absolutely stunning. Fans of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff will want to check out the picture of Pancho Barnes. Suggestion to Slate: more Postrel, less of those idiotic "Bushisms."
  • In the Needed To Be Said Department: Mr. Hog On Ice points out a few things about Hunter Thompson's suicide.
  • A general recommendation: I've seen a lot of awe expended in the blogosphere about roboposters like InstaPundit, but I'd like to put in a good word for a MSM-type, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz. He outputs an incredible amount of stuff every day, most of it interesting, and unusually balanced for a lefty rag like the Post.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:36 PM EDT

CSPI vs. Salt

The pompously-named Center for Science in the Public Interest has started (or, more accurately, restarted) an offensive against salt. Their press release is here; and their 40-page PDF report is here. Essentially, they recommend massive new government regulations to decrease Americans' salt intake. They also recommend that people cut down on salt voluntarily, and that government undertake "education" programs to "encourage" people to do so. But that's pretty much a sideshow to the advocated new regulations. And even the new regulations are probably best thought of as an initial foot in the door.

(Let me confess, just to get it out of the way: I love salt. And I have high blood pressure. I think I'd think the same way if it were otherwise, but feel free to discount the below by whatever measure you think appropriate.)

There are roughly two classes of objections to the CSPI: I'll call them principled and practical.

Practical first: there's a lot of reason to doubt that reducing salt intake will actually achieve anything like the public health benefits claimed by its proponents. You can read the CSPI side of the argument in their PDF. For the other side, see this page from The Salt Institute. (Which is obviously self-interested, but you can take that into account while evaluating their arguments.) Also (via that page), see this article by Gary Taubes on Steven Milloy's Junk Science website which outlines some of the politics and history involved. (From which you'll learn that CSPI and others have been freakishly hysterical about salt for over a quarter century.) Also from the Junk Science site, see this year-old article from Milloy.

I don't think you can come away from those arguments without a healthy dose of skepticism about the anti-salt position. But … what if the CSPI and their ilk (I love saying "ilk") are right anyway, and the skeptics are wrong? Then what?

Well, there's the fallback-practical objection: maybe salt is a "killer" like they say, but the proposals aren't going to save enough people to be worth the cost. Some folks swoon in horror at such cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis involving health and human life, but in fact it's perfectly humane: the idea is that if you can spend your time and resources more effectively in other regulatory efforts, it's a net win for people's health and safety.

But what if—despite our healthy skepticism—CSPI-like regulations really would be effective, and would save 150,000-and-change Americans from a premature death? What then?

Then, I think, you make the argument you probably should have made in the first place, which is (roughly): mind your own business. This is the principled position mentioned above. That is: when adults want to ingest something into their own bodies, the state shouldn't interfere. Here's a Radley Balko article from Cato making that rough argument generally.

It would be nice if the general philosophy of our government were moving away from Nanny-Statism. Part of the problem is health-care collectivism: the notion that "society" pays for "our" health problems is a major (and maybe the major) corroder of liberty.

Your hypertension isn't just your problem, if I'm going to be paying for your cardiac bypass in a few years. And—hey, I'm talking to you, here—quite frankly, you should lay off the bonbons and mimosas, stay out of Wendy's, don't watch TV so much, join a gym or something, and … I'll get the government to "encourage" all that. Encourage it strongly, if that be necessary.

Feh. But that's the kind of mindset that's really behind the CSPI ("and their ilk"). How to fight it?

Last Modified 2005-03-01 5:48 PM EDT