Coincidence Du Jour

Constrained Katie notes that teacher union officials are criticizing Governor Schwarzenegger's plan for higher "combat pay" for teachers willing to teach in tough schools in tough terms:

"Does [Schwarzenegger] think teachers are whores - that you have to pay them more to do this?" asked Steve Blazak, a spokesman for United Teachers Los Angeles.

I thought that was a little over the top. But (via Reason's Hit and Run blog) it turns out they've found a way around this in Oregon: unlike California, they ban ex-prostitutes from teaching.

A handful of times in the last few years, the members of the Oregon commission charged with determining who will get a license to teach in the state's public schools have found themselves faced with an application from a former prostitute.

But under state law, commissioners have had to turn down the applications, regardless of any potentially mitigating circumstances.

Unlike in the neighboring states of California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington, in Oregon, it doesn't matter if the prostitution conviction came at a tender age, if the woman herself was a victim of sexual abuse or forced into prostitution, or if she has since managed to right herself and her life.

This says something, but I'm not sure what.

Legislatin' Morality

Eugene Volokh has a brief but sensible essay about the "forcing moral views" meme.

All of us draw lines in this field, whether at conception, viability, birth, or whenever else. None of us can prove the validity of those lines through science or through abstract logic.

Those of us (like me) who draw secular lines shouldn't feel superior to those who draw religious lines here -- and we certainly shouldn't think that the Constitution or political morality somehow makes our linedrawing more proper. We can and should debate, as best we can, where the lines should be drawn, but we should recognize that at some point it comes down to the unproven and unprovable, for the secular among us as well as for the religious. And we should realize that no attempt to protect children from killing -- wherever you draw the line about what constitutes a "child" -- can operate without forcing one's moral views on others.

Good point: resorting to the "you want to force your moral values on me" argument is lazy. If you want to draw the line on a moral issue at a different place than your opponent, then argue for doing that directly. I wonder (however) if lines cannot be drawn in a rational place on these issues; is it really down to the "unproven and unprovable" in all cases, as Professor Volokh asserts? I'd like to think not.

I like the idea of treating religious moral views with toleration and respect. But even as I type that, I think of bluenoses and censors and I desperately want to add the caveat: just not all of them.

But where to draw the line there?

This seems to be the theme of the day, because Edward Feser makes a similar point in his essay at Tech Central Station:

Not all moral principles ought to be enforced by the power of government, but almost everything government does is based on some moral principle or other. It is fatuous, then, to hold that "we shouldn't legislate morality," if this means that controversial moral principles shouldn't guide public policy. And almost every moral principle is controversial to a significant extent: even when people agree that murder is wrong, they often disagree about what counts as murder, as the disputes over abortion, euthanasia, and even the killing of animals attest. The question, then, is not whether controversial moral principles ought to inform our laws, but rather which controversial moral principles -- liberal, conservative, libertarian, or whatever -- ought to inform them. As the Schiavo case illustrates, it is inevitably going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to settle these matters in a way that is going to satisfy all members of a pluralistic society. But it is no use pretending that the difficulty doesn't exist -- or that it is only conservative moral scruples that give rise to it.

Fine distinction, but (again) little guidance for the confused folks (like me) who think it's fine to "legislate morality" for things like (say) banning infanticide, but not for (say) charity or "substance" use.

And I swear I read something else on this topic earlier, but for the life of me, I can't find it now. Oh, well, possible update later …

House of Flying Daggers

[Amazon Link]
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stars] [IMDb Link]

If I'm not careful, I will start overusing the phrase "visually stunning." I seem to be watching a lot of pretty movies lately anyway.

At the start, this seems to be pretty much the standard boy meets girl, boy arrests girl, boy breaks girl out of jail, boy goes on lam with girl movie. Ah, but even after that, there are a lot of twists and turns, double crosses, star-crossed lovers, and intrigue. And lots and lots of bamboo.

I wish George Lucas had seen this before making Revenge of the Sith.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

Memorial Day

Let's all remember.

Chronicles Volume One

[Amazon Link]
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I'm not a huge Bob Dylan fan, but I picked up this book at the library and was instantly captivated. Calling it "rambling" is an understatement; it bounces around in time and space like a ping-pong ball. Example: Bob describes his friend Ray, who owns a bunch of guns. This reminds him of his first girlfriend's father, who owned guns too. After discussing her father a bit, he mentions that she went out to California to seek her fortune; he would go out there someday, too. He would play the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and meet the folks who had made his songs famous: the Turtles, Sonny and Cher, and Johnny Rivers; and, by the way, Johnny's version of "Positively 4th Street" was Bob's favorite version of the song. And then we go back to Ray's apartment

All this in two or three pages. And this kind of thing happens throughout.

A lot of interesting people are met and described: Gorgeous George, the pro wrestler; Frank Sinatra, Jr; John Wayne; Tiny Tim; Bobby Vee; and bunches more. So many, I'm wondering if I ever met Bob.

Update: Forgot to mention one other thing. At one point, Bob is wandering the streets; a car goes by "playing a Paula Abdul song". Whoa. Bob Dylan can identify a Paula Abdul song. Somehow that really shocked me.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

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

Good stuff: A decent number of genuinely funny lines, and some sly references to classic movies. A cameo by Laurence Olivier from beyond the grave. The DVD has the story of the making of the movie, which you shouldn't miss; it's a great story of a creative kid plucked from obscurity to make his first movie with the likes of Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Not so good stuff: the plot is aimed at a 13-year-old mentality. Somehow the special effects, while impressive, seemed to keep me at a distance from the main characters.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (5/28/2005)

  • Hoy has discovered a correlation between bad driving and voting Democratic.

  • Hiawatha Bray is still not posting to his "Monitortan" blog, but (via Glen Reynolds) he's posted a challenge to Linda Foley of the Newspaper Guild here, go read it.

URLs du Jour (5/27/2005)

  • Via Galley Slaves, a story that illustrates why I won't be joining the ACLU anytime soon: they're suing to have a 70-year-old 5-foot-tall cross in the middle of the Mojave Desert torn down:

    In 1934, a gritty prospector named J. Riley Bembry gathered a couple of his fellow World War I veterans at Sunrise Rock. Together they erected the cross, in honor of their fallen comrades. The memorial has been privately maintained ever since, with small groups still occasionally meeting to remember the nation's veterans.

    A wrinkle developed in 1994, when the federal government declared the surrounding area a national preserve. With the cross now located on newly public land, the memorial soon caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. Working with Frank Buono, a retired park ranger turned professional activist, the ACLU demanded that the National Park Service tear down the cross.

    In addition, the lawsuit is taxpayer-subsidized. Grr.

  • I've been linking a lot to Spoons lately. Today is no exception as he fisks the helpful food prep note Mrs. Spoons left him before taking off for California. Be sure to read the comments, because the Mrs. left one.

    Won't find stuff like that in the mainstream media…

The Paranoid Style at the Huffington Post

Back in the day, Richard Hofstadter wrote "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." His takeoff point was Birchers and Goldwaterites, but he tried to argue it was a recurring theme in history:

I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. … [T]he idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.

And today's more or less normal example is Jim Lampley, writing in the Huffington Post. You may not have heard, but he's got a bit of a … thing about the 2004 Presidential election. Mainly, he knows that Kerry won. And why don't you know that? Well, because dark and sinister forces are keeping the truth from you.

His latest post on the topic is here. Let's begin:

More than two weeks have passed since I first established here that a mountain of evidence suggests the 2004 Presidential election was decisively tampered with and general media are doing nothing about it. Needless to say, the response, pro and con, was overwhelming.

Lampley, of course, "established" nothing, and his "mountain of evidence" was fact-free. He pointed with utmost confidence to exit polls that purported to show a Kerry win; when confronted with the fact the exit polling companies themselves admitted there were dreadful problems with the data, he waved that away. (The exit pollers are assumed to be unerring wizards when they give results in harmony with what Lampley "knows"; the same people are obvious fools when they try to describe what they did wrong.)

Among the most interesting observations were those of the large number of conservative critics who defined my position as "liberal". One website headquartered in Philadelphia called me "somewhere to the left of Leon Trotsky". That's fascinating. I had never realized the belief in free, full and fair elections was a socialist or communist tenet. I had thought it was a fundamental element of democracy.

Disingenuous drivel. If Lampley had merely said "I believe in free, full and fair elections," would anyone care? His position on the political spectrum is both obvious and irrelevant.

Some of you are sympathetic, but feel like this is too long a shot. I'll remind you again that the truth of Watergate was still well-submerged at this point in 1973. But the New York Times and the Washington Post ultimately did their jobs back then.

Moron. At this point in 1973, there had been actual arrests based on an actual crime, court procedings, convictions, and high-level resignations. And actual evidence. (Almost) needless to say, that's not the case here.

The Post showed its colors yesterday, moving a story about the vast disparity between pre-Iraq war military assessments and what the Bush Administration chose to tell the public from its original placing on page one to a main edition spot on page twenty-six. I don't think we can count on Katherine Graham to shepherd the truth anymore, and Ben Bradlee's gone.

Well, Katherine Graham is dead, actually. Didn't anyone tell Lampley? Does the Post moving stories around say anything about whether the election was fixed? No, of course not. This is the kind of thing you talk about when you don't have any evidence for your actual hypothesis.

As for the Times, it is of course the constant target of the right-wing media conspiracy which labors so hard to cover the crimes of this Administration up.

Damn! It's a conspiracy! Here's Hofstadter:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point.

Bullseye, Prof Hofstadter. Lampley is a lonely figure manning the barricades, and he calls us to action:

The Times will try, but it needs our help.

Help? We should close our eyes and wish real hard, maybe? Is Lampley trying to imply that the Times is working on a story about this? I hope he realizes that Jayson Blair and Walter Duranty don't actually work there any more.

So here's another reading list for those of you who are willing to fight for democracy in America. You need to read Bob Koehler's work, which is suppressed by the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune. His seminal piece is "The Silent Scream of Numbers", which clearly makes the statistical case. His commentary on media silence is "Citizens in the Rain", which ponders whether media reform is a necessary corollary to election reform. His scariest observations are in "Democracy's Abu Ghraib", which asks the question, "if they can disable an election, what's next?". You need to know.

Dude, you need to know. Quick check: any actual evidence there? No. Plenty of additional innuendo and fact-free speculation, though. Hofstadter again:

As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.

Lampley's fighting cause, of course, is nothng less than "democracy in America", which is opposed by, er, "they." He continues:

There are articles which go further toward establishing that John Kerry actually won [bogus link] the election. There are articles on the converse, on what kind of mental gymnastics [bogus link] it takes to actually believe Bush won despite what time-honored research techniques proved. There are the hard numbers from the final exit polls [bogus link], which didn't lie. The lie was the "official" result.

Let's see… first link is to an amateurish page last updated the day before the election, full of handwaving and ALL CAPS TEXT. Remaining links are invalid (both at the HuffPost and here), but two seem to kind of point to the fevery swamps of Democratic Underground, and the other to CNN. Not really convincing, Jim, sorry.

Lampley winds up:

The cretins in the Bush Administration are no doubt thrilled to have made Amnesty International's select list of human rights abusers. They're actually being cited there for some of their smaller crimes. The biggest one was domestic, not international. It's the one you are reading about, if you care. I pray to all the traditions of democracy that you do.

Hofstadter comments:

Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this through distorting lenses—and have no chance to observe its actual machinery. A distinguished historian has said that one of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists enlightenment.

We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.

Lampley has no new evidence, and he pays no attention to the debunking of his previous pseudo-evidence. He resists enlightenment.

[Hofstadter's essay is on the web here.]

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:09 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/26/2005)

  • The list of websites that can reliably present their opponents' arguments honestly and fairly is pretty short. Eugene Volokh demonstrates why Slate's not on the list. Disappointing, not surprising. UPDATE: Spoons isn't even disappointed.

    [Everywhere Girl]

  • Are you Everywhere Girl? The search for you has boggled the great minds of cyberspace and made them soft. Click the link for a all-expense-paid trip to London!
  • Speaking of Spoons, they point out that something called the Parents Television Council is objecting to Paris Hilton's ad for Carl's Jr. and their new "Spicy Burger". She's washing a car in a swimsuit that you probably won't be seeing at your local pool anytime soon.

    Let me report that I've checked out the ad myself extensively, and I can tell you Paris is doing a really poor job of getting that car clean; clearly a bad example for youth. I bet Everywhere Girl would do better.

  • "Robert Musil," the Man Without Qualities has apparently resumed posting after a too-long absence. Go there and read.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 12:58 PM EDT

Something is happening here, and you yon't know what it is, do you Mr. Maney?

USA Today's technology columnist Kevin Maney has a column on blogs today. Here's a summary:

  • Blogs are overhyped.
  • But someday, their novelty will wear off.

I swear, that's it. But check for yourself.

These two mundane points are lavishly padded with (1) a witless rewrite of Monty Python's spam skit, where Maney replaces the word "spam" with "blogs" (get it?); (2) some facts obtainable in about three minutes (I suspect) via a Google search on "blogs"; (3) a lot of pointless hot air; and (4) one slightly funny anecdote, which I'll reproduce:

Last winter, I got to judge the New Zealand NetGuide Web Awards for best New Zealand blog of 2004. The winner was Bizgirl, who billed herself as a twentysomething librarian from Wellington. At the awards dinner, Bizgirl turned out to be a middle-aged fat guy.


Disclaimers: I'm not an expert, and I have no illusions about the cosmic importance of this blog (indistinguishable from zero). But articles like Maney's make me shake my head and mutter "they just don't get it."

Not to sound like some kind of anti-corporate hippie, but blogs don't fit into a worldview where "important" information flow is seen as nearly exclusively hierarchical and top-down, from producer to consumer, from organization to individual, from (say) USA Today to their subscribers. When someone is married to that worldview, as Maney apparently is, the interesting things about blogs just bounce off.

URLs Du Jour (5/25/2005)

  • Proceed immediately to P. J. O'Rourke's modest proposal in the Weekly Standard for putting the hurt on the deficit: tax celebrities.

    America's media and entertainment industry has a gross (as it were) revenue of $316.8 billion a year. If we subtract the income derived from worthy journalism and the publishing of serious books, that leaves $316.8 billion. Surely this money can be put to a more socially useful purpose than reportage on the going forth and multiplying of Britney Spears.

    Also notable for using the word "Stakhanovite."

  • I want a treadmill desk! But is there a model that includes a grindstone for your nose? (Via JustOneMinute.)
  • And Lileks is always great, but I get to correct something in today's Bleat. The recently-departed Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice of Kirby (the vacuum cleaner) in The Brave Little Toaster; the Air Conditioner was voiced by Phil Hartman.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:10 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/24/2005)

  • Instapundit happened to point to the Surviving Grady blog, funny and opinionated writing about our beloved Red Sox. One hilarious post discusses between-inning commercials, a wish-I'd-thought-of-it-first topic. It turns out a lot of people really hate Bernie and Phyl; I personally find Bob and his female sidekick (from Bob's Discount Furniture) far more irritating.

    However, I laugh every time Tim Wakefield beans his neighbor Larry in the Reebok commercial.

  • How about that filibuster deal? Some folks on my side are angry or depressed, which is bad. But some folks on the other side are angry and depressed too, which is good. I'll repeat what I heard Imus say on my way in to work: I'm basically disappointed we won't see a fistfight between Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy on CSPAN-2. And Glenn (as usual) has it pretty much right: if Dubya was going to nominate small-government types, I'd be more excited, but he's not, so I'm not.
  • Via Geek Press: Das Keyboard (für nur Übergeeks, liebchen).

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:11 PM EDT

The Stars, Like Dust

[Amazon Link]
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A while back, I decided to read all Isaac Asimov's science fiction novels, most of which I previously read umpty-ump years ago.

This novel is a good example of why that might not have been the greatest idea. Althought there are flashes of the Good Doctor's strong points, it's mainly an exercise in page-turning. Nobody ever confused Asimov and Nabokov, but the prose here is amateurish even by my usual low standards. And it's a novellete-sized idea padded out to novel length.

In short, I'd recommend avoiding. But if you have a copy, I note that the cheapest paperback on sale at Amazon is like $12.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

Revenge of the Sith

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
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It's (really) just OK, which normally merits three stars. But I'm a fanboy, so I've given it one more. Scattered observations, possible spoilers:

  • You know the Kipling story "How the Leopard Got His Spots"? This could have been called How the Emperor Got His Wrinkles.
  • What episodes I-III sorely needed was a Han Solo-like character. Just an ordinary guy, used to scruffling through life, accidentally thrown into big-time danger amidst royalty and intrigue. I'm just sayin', is all.
  • Padmé isn't given much to do on Coruscant besides (apparently) go to the hairdresser and shop for clothes. OK, so she's pregnant. She can't blast somebody?
  • The film's cutting in the action sequences is frenetic. In most movies, this is a danger signal that the special effects are so cheesy, they can't bear a watchful gaze for more than a few tenths of a second. But that can't be true in this case, can it? Geez, if you're going to spend a gazillion dollars on special effects, let us look at them.
  • Should have spent more on Obi-Wan's horsy-lizard on the volcano planet, though. Didn't look real at all.
  • Interesting that the Emperor apparently never taught Vader that lightning trick. Wonder if Vader ever asked?
  • Apparently it takes around 20 years to build a Death Star. Government contractors, I guess.
  • There's a good review from Mr. Last at The Weekly Standard. He makes the excellent point that the best parts of this movie are the ones that tie us back into the beginning of the one I saw back in 1977. Also see Tyler Cowen's take on fascism. And if you want a whole bunch more links, the Blogfather has them here, here, and here.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

URL Du Jour (5/20/2005)

  • UNH alum Shawn Macomber puts a sensible offer to Islamists on the table:

    If Angelina Jolie can help bring peace to Sierra Leone, I think I might have a compromise solution that can salve the wounds of this latest Gitmo outrage: We'll stop throwing your Korans in the toilet if you'll stop burning our flags.

    I am on board.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:13 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/19/2005)

  • Yesterday, I sniffed disdainfully at folks taking cheap shots at Newsweek. Today, I can't resist quoting Ann Coulter's cheap shot at Newsweek:

    Somehow Newsweek missed the story a few weeks ago about Saudi Arabia arresting 40 Christians for "trying to spread their poisonous religious beliefs." But give the American media a story about American interrogators defacing the Quran, and journalists are so appalled there's no time for fact-checking -- before they dash off to see the latest exhibition of "Piss Christ."

    [Wish I subscribed to Newsweek, then I could cancel.]

  • Via Instapundit, Donald Sensing writes an article ostensibly criticizing Indra Nooyi's Columbia U. commencement address, but really does something more important. No excerpts. Just go read it.

    [Wish I drank Pepsi, then I could switch to Coke.]

  • Via NRO and Reason: The AP has a story that should cause every right-thinking American to demand that Dubya veto the Highway Bill and write their Congresscritters to demand that they uphold that veto: Senator Ted Stevens put in $1.5 Million for an Anchorage bus stop. Saith the Senator's spokesdroid, Courtney Boone:

    "It is supposed to be a lot more than a bus stop," she said. "It needs to have a way to smoothly transition all these people."

    $1.5 Million buys a lot of smooth, I would think.

    [Wish I lived in Alaska, so I could vote against Ted Stevens. Both NH senators voted against the Highway Bill.]

  • Soxblog offers an anecdote showing why (some) college professors rub (some) people the wrong way, using a radio appearance of one Professor John Esposito of Georgetown U.:

    Steven called up and made his points which were contrary to the professor's views; the professor responded in part by saying that, "If Steven spent some time doing a little bit of reading…" he would come around to the professor's way of thinking.

    As Robert Duvall once observed, I love the smell of condescension in the morning.

    [Wish my kids went to Georgetown so I could yank them outta there… Well, no, I probably wouldn't do that.]

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:14 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/18/2005)

(Voices of Sanity Day)

  • While it's incredibly easy (but nevertheless probably necessary) to take the cheap shot at Newsweek for its slovenly reporting, Jonah G. focuses on more serious issues revealed by the dustup.

    Newsweek screwed-up a story which would have been the 73,087,733th tale of America showing very little respect for the religious sensibilities of murderous terrorists who call themselves Muslims. In response to the story, fanatical young men rioted and people died. The story turned out not to be true. Shame on Newsweek. But what if it were true? Would that mean the rioters were right to indulge their epilepsy of hatred?

    No. Thanks for asking.

  • Prof Reynolds is uninterested in the judicial filibuster fight:

    If I thought that Bush were likely to nominate actual small-government strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, perhaps I'd care more, but I've seen no sign that he's likely to do that.

    Good point.

  • Jane Galt reacts to the NYT article on class by dropping a small nuclear rhetorical bomb on a bloviating professor of public health.
  • Also inspired by the NYT, Will Wilkinson asks some necessary questions about income mobility, winding up with

    Does the New York Times have an irrational fetish for ominous tales about relative position?

    See if you can guess the answer before reading Will. (But don't nitpick that he numbers his questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, and 4.)

  • Continuing with comments on the NYT's class obsession, also see Ron Bailey in Reason Online. He's got a class question too:

    What does it say about class differences in "culture and taste" when the lowest price ticket for the NASCAR Pocono 500 is $99.00 while the cheapest ticket for Tosca at the Met is $26.00?

    It says the NYT is out of touch, I think. But personally, I've always thought Tosca could use a whole bunch more fast cars turning left.

  • Finally, I note that Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey has blogrolled me. I'm not worthy! Join with me in wishing her good luck in her Macroeconomics course.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:15 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/16/2005)

  • An insightful essay on what Arnold Kling calls "The Law of Proportionate Belief":

    One should believe in a certain proposition or policy prescription in proportion to the arguments for that position.

    Plenty of examples of violations of this law are provided. It's a lot easier to detect the mote in someone else's eye than the beam in your own, of course. That's a good argument for lots of eyes.

  • Because I'm a huge geek, I'm probably going to swoon over Revenge of the Sith. But John Podhoretz is immune to the ways of the Force, and has a hilarious review at the Weekly Standard

    "Hold me, Anakin!" Padmé tells her husband. "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo!"

    No performer living or dead could pronounce the word "Naboo" without sounding like a moron, and Lucas matches that authorial infelicity with dozens of others. One of the movie's villains is named "Dooku," and it's a pity that Lucas didn't arrange for Dooku to visit Naboo, because that could have generated a truly memorable piece of dialogue, like "You should never have come to Naboo, Dooku!"

    Some spoilers there, so you might want to wait until you've seen the movie 13 times or so.

  • Continuing the geektheme: Lileks, as always, says exactly the right thing about Enterprise and the rest of Trekdom.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:16 PM EDT

Deja Vu All Over Again …

Andrew Sullivan has a recent post beginning:

BUSH'S TAX HIKES: They're coming. And they will be much more severe than his father's. Sure, the president may have managed to forestall them until he is out of office - but he will have made them inevitable by his fiscal profligacy; and he will bear primary responsibility for them.

… which seemed awfully darned familiar. Compare with this from slightly over a month ago:

BUSH'S TAX INCREASES: They're inevitable. This president, who knows how to duck personal responsibility, may not have to preside over them. But his successor will be forced to. …

And both posts link to Bruce Bartlett articles (in the NYT last month, in NRO this month).

I (idly) wonder if Sullivan even noticed that he managed to post nearly the same article within a relatively short timeframe, without acknowledging the earlier post in the later one. Or is his single-minded Bush hatred giving him amnesia?

No problem at this blog! Here's what I had to say about Sully's article last month (with pictures!). (It's tempting to summarize here, but that would mean I'd be as bad as Andrew.)

Last Modified 2005-05-15 5:17 PM EDT

Link List Maintenance

Two Adds, One Drop:

  • La Shawn Barber is a little more religious than the usual member of my link list, but that's OK. She's a dynamite writer, and funny. I got a chuckle out of this, discussing Top Gun:

    I was a mere freshmen in college when I first saw the movie. Every other man paled in comparison to Maverick, which was quite a sight to see since I attended a black college.
  • Possibly the smartest guy in the great state of New Hampshire, Mark Steyn has been inexplicably absent from the list. Remedied. If you want to get a little steamed, or depressed, or both, about the fate of aid given in the wake of last December's tsunami, check his Sun-Times column from today.
  • I've removed Hiawatha Bray's MonitorTan blog, because he hasn't posted in over a month. That's a shame, and I wonder if the controversy drummed up by a lefty pressure group had anything to do with it? (I commented on that here.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:17 PM EDT

Geek URLs du Jour

Two things made me laugh out loud today:

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:18 PM EDT

So Long, Star Trek

Enterprise goes away after tonight, and I'm going to miss it. A lot of people have been kicking the show as it departs, which strikes me as so many cheap shots. Yes, it's failed the marketplace test, but good shows do that all the time. Yes, I will admit it wasn't always good; but, dude, even the revered TNG had its dreadful episodes.

Fun moments: when the crew caught their first glimpse of a Klingon battle cruiser. Jeffrey Coombs as the cranky Andorian Shran. Brent Spiner showing up as Noonian Soong's ancestor. The Enterprise in going up against alien-armed German fighters above 1940's Manhattan.

I even liked the whole Xindi thing. Shoot me.

Douglas Kern has my attitude: Star Trek may have been not so good, but it's been part of my life for (umm … whoa) nearly 40 years.

And I wasn't hardcore. I found it easy to stop watching Deep Space 9 and Voyager. And I only had to read a few Star Trek paperbacks to realize they were a cold-eyed manufactured product churned out by inferior writers for maximum profit. (There may have been exceptions, but I'm not digging through the muck to find them, sorry.)

Want me to second-guess what the show should have done? Pretty simple: it could have used some humor. Reed, Hoshi, and Mayweather never got off the ground, character-wise. (That's easy for you to say. Why yes it is.)

Live long and prosper, fellow geeks.

Update: I forgot to mention another problem: the lame theme song.

Last Modified 2005-05-14 9:42 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/13/2005)

Sorry for the lack of posting over the past couple days. I've been both sick and busy. Feeling fine now.

  • I am probably the last person on earth who's noticed Huffington's Toast. Very funny, especially after you've read The Huffington Post.
  • Lileks has the Minneapolis librarians after him. I think they're way in over their heads, but you will want to judge for yourself.
  • Via Reason, a news flash: New Hampshire high school functionaries can be stupidly inflexible. In fact sometimes it seems they're in some sort of competition for the top spot in the category. Isabel Gottlieb of Bow High School, Bow, NH, has discovered that, alas, the principal is not her pal, as he's decided to not let her graduate because she chose to continue in her AP Biology course instead of take Phys Ed.
  • Constrained Katie has mixed feelings about the road song list at the website of the Federal Highway Administration. Forget about the waste of taxpayer money; "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat, and Tears is noway, nohow a road song. Ride a painted pony, man; what do you think that's about? (Coincidentally—I swear!—I have written to President Bush and urged him to veto this year's Highway Bill.) If you want a good playlist for a road trip, use the non-taxpayer-subsidized one from IowaHawk.
  • I'm a huge geek, but I'm too damn cheap for this. Cool to look at though. (Via Galley Slaves)
  • Oh, I forgot: Aieee, we're not all gonna die. Russell Seitz calls foul on environmental doomsayers.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:19 PM EDT

I Took an Online Test and …

The test is here. My results:

Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.23.

Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.

Your Universalising Factor is: 1.00.

This is not that different from Tyler Cowan's results, so I'm freakishly proud to be in good company.

The site also observed "your responses are a little puzzling." I think mainly because I was honest about what the site terms my "Yuk Factor". I mean—yuk!

URLs Du Jour (5/10/2005)

Geez, there's a pile of good stuff out there today. Go read it:

  • While the major parties fight over some things, there's often a chance that one side or the other might actually be, you know, right. But when a measure has "broad bipartisan support", there's an excellent chance it's a lousy idea rife with bad consequences, intended and unintended. That said, please see Bruce Schneier on REAL ID. Then you might want to check Orin Kerr's post at the Volokh Conspiracy for the other side (although Orin is also against the bill, he's just unconvinced by Bruce's argument). And then see comments on Orin's post.
  • Thomas Sowell has a column today that made me pump my fist in the air and yell "Yes!". Well, in my mind. Small quote:

    Once you have ever had to go hungry, it is hard to get worked up over the fact that some people can only afford pizza while others can afford caviar. Once you have ever had to walk to work from Harlem to a factory south of the Brooklyn Bridge, the difference between driving a Honda and driving a Lexus seems kind of petty as well.
  • I am officially In Awe of Dr. Wayne Daniel, a retired physicist living in Genoa, Nevada (population 8206, near Lake Tahoe; I looked it up). He's created a wooden puzzle of a nested set of Platonic solids (don't miss the graphic).

    The major hurdle was to design pieces with one of the solids on the outside and another on the inside. Most difficult, he said, was the outermost shell, "in which a set of pieces had to assemble into an icosahedron with a dodecahedral hole in the middle."

    … and you know how I feel about the dodecahedron.

  • New Hampshire's own Mark Steyn has an interesting column betting on a (relatively) bright future for China, doom and gloom for Russia.
  • Continuing the NH's-own theme, Shawn Macomber reports on a close encounter with Michael Dukakis, and judges him well on fashion sense, poorly on foreign policy.
  • And probably the funniest blog headline I saw today is from Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey; you'll have to click to see it, no spoilers here. I've added her to my blogroll as a result. Well, and also because she bills herself as "an aspiring Heinlein heroine." Yowza! (Via Tyler at Marginal Revolution.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:20 PM EDT

URLs Du Jour (5/9/2005)

  • New site in town: The Huffington Post. It may be worth a look. What I learned right away: Brad Hall might still be funny, and (in any case) deserves our respect and admiration for being married to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for nearly 18 years. Also see Hilary Rosen's takedown of Steve Jobs, followed nearly immediately by Richard Bradley's takedown of Hilary Rosen. ("Ow, that's gonna leave a mark.") And the lovely Ellen is against making dog food out of wild horsies. She doesn't mention what she thinks dog food should be made out of, however.
  • But the Huffington Post still has to play catch-up to Dave's blog, which helpfully points to the recent Victoria, B.C. appearance of one "Mr. Floatie" at a political candidates' meeting:

    James Skwarok arrived dressed up as "Mr. Floatie," a two-metre tall turd representing POOP, People Opposed to Outfall Pollution. He wanted to highlight Victoria's daily dumping of 120 million litres of raw sewage, but when he was barred from the meeting he said the refusal left him "a little bummed out."

    Well, of course. Dave also has a link to that provides the answer to a question that has long boggled the great minds of science and made them soft; check it out.

    Key quote: "The chicken thing has nothing to do with the motorcycle thing."

  • Via Joanne Jacobs, a note on the debate currently going on in Kansas about the "intelligent design" of the English language.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:21 PM EDT


It's no longer unusual for commentary in a major media outlet to be immediately criticized in the blogosphere. So much the better when (a) said commentary's subject is "Blogosphere Ethics;" (b) it's incredibly pretentious, clueless and misguided; (c) bloggers take aim. As Suck used to say: fish, barrel, smoking gun. See the original NYT article, then check the devastation as Mindles Dreck, Ann Althouse, and Citizen Z blast away. Plenty of other fun links from there.

Last Modified 2005-05-08 8:41 PM EDT

The Confusion

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
A round of huzzahs should be heard around the land, as I have finally finished reading this wonderful book by the brilliant Neal Stephenson following the adventures of Eliza and Jack Shaftoe in the years 1689 through 1701.

I say it's wonderful, and it is, but I found it very tough sledding. Stephenson's writing is dense and discursive. Paragraphs and sentences are long, the type and margins are small. And the words are often spelled funny. And the page count is over 800. And I kept wishing I knew more late 17th century world history, because Stephenson knows it cold.

Highly recommended. I especially liked the "Trial by Crocodile" Jack undergoes around page 608.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 5:14 AM EDT

Movie Remixing

Unintended consequences are often bad; legislation pushed by bluenose groups is almost always bad. But, oddly enough, a possible unintended consequence of the bluenose-inspired "Family Movie Act" recently signed by Dubya might be kind of neat. Stephane Fitch notes in a Forbes article:

But the law may also loosen Hollywood's tight control over its products. It passes some of the control over how movies are edited to you and, hypothetically, a mini-industry of movie remix artists.

Whole thing here, via the wonderful Virginia Postrel.

Me, I can't wait to take the Nazis out of Casablanca and substitute Imperial Storm Troopers. Oooh, and Darth Vader instead of Captain Renault! "I'm shocked … shssshh … shocked to find that … shssshh … gambling is going on here. Additionally, … shssshh … I find your lack of faith disturbing.")

Although that's technically still illegal. But can you doubt it's going to happen anyway?

Which reminds me: did you know that some boxes containing Darth Vader dolls action figures prominently display "Danger: Choking Hazard" on them? Well, of course.

URLs Du Jour (5/3/2005)

  • Will Wilkinson has two great posts on the Social Security controversy (here and here). The first takes "Herr DoktorProfessor" Paul Krugman and his ilk for talking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue; the second spotlighting (as Bastiat put it) "the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else."

    Continuing along this line, you might want to check out Mr. Minuteman who also likes the phrase "Krugman and his ilk."

  • Are you a time-traveller? (Or have you been a time traveller, or will you be someday?) Well, then you should go to the convention at MIT on Saturday, 5/7/2005. As their website invitation points out, even if you can't make it Saturday, you can always do it some other time.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:21 PM EDT

URL Du Jour (5/2/2005)

More campus free speech follies are outlined by Christina Hoff Sommers at NRO:

College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters of Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate "V-Day" (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day "mascot" — a friendly looking "penis" named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.

You can and should read the whole article here. It's very funny.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 1:22 PM EDT