Bill Clinton, Gun Nut.

Dave Kopel has a great article on the anniversary of Bill Clinton's signing of the Brady Bill. Almost as an aside, he demonstrates what a lying sack of poop Clinton was.

To make sure Dave had the quote right, I looked up the transcript of the signing ceremony. Here's what Clinton said:

Don't let anybody tell you that this won't work. I got a friend back home who sold a gun years ago to a guy who had escaped from a mental hospital that he hadn't seen in 10 years. And he pulled out that old form from the 1968 act, and said, have you ever been convicted of a crime? Have you ever been in a mental hospital? The guy said, no, no -- and put the form back in the drawer. And 12 hours later six people were dead and my friend is not over it to this day. Don't tell me this bill will not make a difference. That is not true. (Applause.) It is not true.
And here's what Dave points out about the above yarn:
  • "I got a friend back home who sold a gun …" Actually, two guns: a .45 and a shotgun.
  • "… to a guy …" Actually, the perpetrator got a woman friend to buy the guns for him. Which the bill Clinton was signing would not have prevented.
  • "… who had escaped from a mental hospital …" Actually, the perpetrator was probably only treated at a mental institution; which, again, would not have been a stopper for his acquisition of the guns.
  • "… 12 hours later six people were dead …" Actually four people were killed.
  • "… and my friend is not over it to this day." Actually, the dealer in question had died several years before.
Five lies in less than 120 words. Impressive.

URLs du Jour -- 11/30/2005

  • Is it just me, or does it look like the hapless bastard pictured in this article is about to begin the worst six months of his life (my estimate)? … well, maybe many years in the future, if he survives, he'll be able to pick out some brief sweet memories of his all-expense-paid tour of Hell.
  • At NRO's Bench Memos, Matthew Franck catches the scriptwriters at ABC's Commander in Chief in fundamental ignorance of the scope of presidential power: Geena Davis's character stops a Texas state execution with a simple phone call to the governor!

    Next week, Geena's phone call to the General Motors CEO will stop global warming.

  • Thomas Sowell has a "Random Thoughts" column today; Sowell's random thoughts are often more valuable than most pundits' non-random ones. One sample:
    Nightmare for the 2008 Presidential election: Hillary Clinton versus John McCain. I wouldn't know whether to vote Libertarian or move to Australia.
  • When Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson point to an article as important, it probably is. The paper ("Paternalism and Psychology" by Edward L. Glaeser) is available here. The idea is that so-called "bounded rationality" (or, somewhat less euphemized: large-scale "cognitive difficulties" in the general populace) has been viewed as a possible justification for illibertarian state meddling in peoples' lives; Glaeser shows it's not much of a justification. Tyler's and Will's summaries are excellent; the paper itself is probably too econ-math-heavy to be accessible to most lay readers (like me).
  • In the oh-you're-just-trying-to-cheer-me-up department: an article at the Washington Post headlined "Economy of Scale Might Inspire Companies to Ditch IT Departments". There are no arguments I can see in the article that wouldn't equally apply to universities. Eek!
  • But that's OK, because the University itself won't be far behind. In an article titled The Modern University Has Become Obsolete," Froma Harrop argues that the … um, well, that the modern university has become obsolete. (Via Constrained Katie.)

Last Modified 2005-11-30 5:25 PM EDT

URLs du Jour -- 11/29/2005

  • Joe Malchow and Mark Steyn take note of the new Looney Tunes compilation DVD which includes a can't-avoid segment from Whoopi Goldberg warning about the un-PC content in the included cartoons. Whoopi says: "Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups. … These jokes were wrong then, and they're wrong today."

    An … interesting precedent is thus established. (I, for one, demand that any DVD with Lillian Hellman-associated content include a brief intro from Bruce Willis pointing out that she was a Stalinist liar.)

    Both Joe and Mark take the obvious cheap shot that the old cartoons are (also) actually funny, in woeful contrast to Whoopi Goldberg. But let me say Whoopi was pretty funny in Ghost as the unforgettable Oda Mae Brown; she won the Oscar that year, and that's relatively rare for a comic performance. Who knows, she may be funny again someday.

  • There are things you can say at a college that will get you fired, as Greenville (SC) Technical College (ex-)associate Vice President for Student Services Renee Holcombe discovered recently. Apparently she was speaking to employees about using the college's buses to transport schoolchildren who were evacuated to Greenville SC after Hurricane Katrina. She referred to this as "sending the big yellow boxes to the Palmetto Center to pick up the yard apes."

    Apparently "yard apes" can be viewed as an ethnic slur (see here), but that's a far from universal usage (see here or here). Of course, some folks knew there was bigotry afoot; this blogger, for example, deemed the usage "Racism at it's [sic] highest form."

    Ms. Holcombe was apparently forced to resign, but is now suing to get her job back.

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

URLs du Jour -- 11/28/2005

  • Arnold Kling pens a great article at Tech Central Station describing briefly four broad policies that would (a) immeasurably benefit everyone in the country and (b) do not stand the proverbial snowball-in-Hell chance of enactment: (1) drop all trade barriers and subsidies; (2) stop the drug war; (3) separation of "family and state"; (4) audit the Department of Homeland Security.

    He also proposes a voting strategy that would take some teeth-gritting for me to embrace, as it would involve probable voting for Democrats.

  • Speaking of not voting for Republicans: Everyone and his or her mother is pointing to this Opinion Journal article by Stephen Moore that does a pretty good job of looking hard at Senator John McCain's economic policies. In short: mixed bag. President McCain wouldn't be unrelievedly awful. He might even be good on fiscal restraint issues. But he's completely wrong-headed on others.

Last Modified 2005-11-28 5:59 PM EDT

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

Harry Potter movies just keep getting darker and darker, with Harry seemingly less and less master of his own fate. Humorous and whimsical scenes are on the wane, compared to previous entries in the series. The usually-omnipotent Dumbledore seems to be getting in over his head. Even the weather at Hogwarts (as Mrs. Salad pointed out) adds to the mood; when it's not raining, it's snowing.

And the body count is starting to get pretty high for the good guys too.

Nevertheless, the movie never lags, with the usual impressive special effects and a tense and twisty plot.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT


[Amazon Link]
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[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

It's difficult to believe that this movie was directed by the same guy (Danny Boyle) who directed 28 Days, Trainspotting, and Shallow Grave. There are no zombies, toilet-diving drug addicts, or murderous roommates in this movie. Instead, it's a sweet story about 7-year-old Damian and his motherless family. Sitting in his moving-box fort by the railroad tracks, he just about literally has a bag full of stolen money fall into his lap. Complication: the money is in the form of pound notes, a currency that's going to stop working in a few days. Another complication: the bloke that stole the money knows Damian has it; he understandably wants it back.

Further: Damian also sees and talks to saints. For example, he has the role of Joseph in his school's Christmas play; the real Joseph shows up to suggest how he play the part. So, naturally enough, Damian's interested in using the money to helping the needy. His brother has other ideas.

This kind of plot could make a movie that's way too sugary and predictable. The director and script avoid that at every turn. The actor playing Damian is great. Also good is Daisy Donovan, who plays a charity worker who unexpectedly takes a shine to Damian's dad; she's very easy to watch.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour -- 11/25/2005

  • Ryan Sager writes compellingly on the recent FEC decision to give a journalistic exemption to a wide range of websites (maybe even including (heh) this one) from McCain-Feingold regulation. He, like me, isn't particularly impressed.

    … the more the proponents of such laws can show them being applied "reasonably" and with "appropriate" exceptions, the longer the concept will stand that the government has the authority to adopt and enforce such laws in the first place. When a federal agency is handing out certificates saying who or what does or does not count as a part of the "press," America has nothing better than a system for licensing the press.

    Exactly. First Amendment fans have little to cheer about unless and until McCain-Feingold is gone, gone, gone.

  • Sometimes I think that short memories are the bane of our age. Since my own memory is getting shorter than Zell Miller's temper, that's not good, is it? … What was I going to talk about here? … Oh, yes. The Man Without Qualities has a long enough memory to compare the handling of two different video subliminalities.

  • Via Prof Bainbridge comes an illuminating news story out of Canada, Paul Hellyer, Canada's Defence Minister from 1963-67 recently revealed that "UFOs are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head." OK, that's a little unusual for a former important person to believe. But the important thing is that the USA is getting all up in the aliens' grilles, as it were:

    Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

    Hellyer's speech, it is reported, ended with a standing ovation. Apparently Canadians did not get the news about the Internet relegating UFOlogy to obscurity.

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

What Others Are Thankful For

Of course, now that I'm seeing other folks' thankful-for lists, I'm doing a lot of forehead-slapping.

  • Scott Adams' list is here. Television remote control! (Slap!)
  • Ron Bailey's list here. Rule of law! (Slap!)
  • Matt Rosenberg chimes in here. Electric guitars! (Slap!)
  • Major K. (in Iraq) is a must-read. My health! And our guys in Iraq and elsewhere! (Slap! Slap!)
  • And Joe Malchow here. OK, he doesn't exactly have a list, but … donuts and coffee! (Slap!)

That's enough, my head kind of hurts now.

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

Thankful For

Dave Barry. Spenser. DVDs. My Family. Amazon. America. Fidelity. House. Google. IMDB. Jimmy Webb. James Lileks. SNL. Perl. Pixar. Liberty. Beer. Steve Martin. The Simpsons. Unix. Veterans. TCP/IP.

(An arbitrarily-ordered, unironic, and very incomplete list. Happy Thanksgiving to all.)

Last Modified 2005-11-24 7:17 AM EDT


[Amazon Link]
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[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

This very arty Korean movie follows an ordinary guy named Oh Dae-Su as he's snatched off the street one rainy night and imprisoned for fifteen years. Just as he thinks he's about to escape, he's released and he embarks upon what he hopes will be a mission of vengance.

But it doesn't work out well for him, because it turns out the real world is simply a bigger prison. (Wow, that's deep.) Gradually, the identity of his tormentor is revealed, as well as the motive; the true nature of the torment isn't revealed until the end.

Lots of disturbing scenes here. Violence, including the graphic eating of a live squid. (I get the creeps just remembering that.) Definitely not for the squeamish.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour - 11/23/2005

  • Paul Bloom has an article titled "Is God an Accident?" in the December 2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. You can read a tiny bit of it here.

    The underlying thesis is (from Bloom's Yale Faculty web page): "that adults are natural dualists--we see the world as Descartes did, as containing physical things (or bodies) and social entities (or souls)." This is of course useful in one sense: it got us here, evolution-wise. But it also means:

    … We have what the anthropologist Pascal Boyer has called a hypertrophy of social cognition. We see purpose, intention, design, even when it is not there.

    Bloom uses this to explain the wide belief in supernatural beings across history and culture. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek points out that the insight applies more broadly; to give you a hint, his article is entitled "Are Humans Genetically Disposed to Pray to the State?"

    Bloom also inspired Arnold Kling to make similar generalizations in an essay at Tech Central Station.

    … I am going to suggest that the same artifact that explains why people are instinctively anti-Darwin explains why they are instinctively anti-economic.

    … and he does.

    Finally, a more skeptical take on the Bloom thesis from Jonah Goldberg at Town Hall is also worth reading.

    Scientists often fall into a fallacious tendency, after studying and describing something according to the methods of their discipline, to believe that their appraisal of it is somehow more real than the thing itself.

    All good, thought-provoking stuff. But as of now, the Bloom article itself doesn't seem to be available for free on line.

  • In case you didn't know, Michael Newdow is the litigious guy trying to get references to God expunged from currency, coin, and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Angry Clam at Patterico's Pontifications has a brief Newdow-related posting that's impossible to summarize, but very funny. Go read.
  • And Bob Lonsberry (who, unlike the anthropologist Pascal Boyer, probably would not use the phrase "hypertrophy of social cognition" in his everyday writing) speaks out on guys who, um, sit, when they, um, should, well … stand.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:33 AM EDT

URLs du Jour - 11/22/2005

  • Shawn Macomber continues his march toward world domination, journalist division, in an article at NRO recalling the olden days when leftists routinely apologized for Communist tyranny. But, oops, it's not the olden days, it's now, and it's the National Lawyer's Guild giving North Korea a tongue bath.
  • I used to like Kurt Vonnegut's writing, when I was much, much, younger. James Lileks never made that mistake:

    I never "got into" Vonnegut, or "dug" his work like my "buds," several of whom pronounced his work as "intense," so I am not particularly bothered to find he applauds suicide bombers, and thinks they experience "an amazing high." In the literal sense, perhaps; it's possible that skull fragments may reach the third floor before they carom off a balcony and patter back to earth.

    The phrase "addled old fool" appears later in the article. Read the whole thing.

  • And then there are addled young fools, like an adjunct instructor named John Daly, teaching employed as of this moment at Warren County Community College in Washington NJ. Enraged by an e-mail invitation to a lecture featuring an Iraq war veteran, he responded to the event's organizer, a first-year student named Rebecca Beach:

    I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

    Prof. John Daly

    Interviewed for an article at Inside Higher Ed, "Prof." Daly now says that the "turn their guns on their superiors" was meant "in the most metaphoric sense".

    Did I mention that "Prof." Daly was an adjunct instructor in English? No, but you probably guessed. The article concludes, ludicrously:

    The possibility that he might be fired, Daly said, reflects the lack of job security facing the increasing number of professors who work off the tenure track. "As more and more professors are teaching part time, this is a direct attack on our academic freedom," he said.

    Academic freedom: it's all about trying to intimidate students and advocating murder ("in the most metaphoric sense").

    UPDATE: Prof Daly apparently quit his Warren County Community College position. To be clear, Daly had every "right" to abusively e-mail Ms. Beach, and shouldn't have been fired solely on the grounds of his intolerant and obnoxious views. Academic freedom issues aside, however, I bet he was a lousy teacher.

  • Ah, but it's not all lefty moonbat chronicles here at Pun Salad. Red at Surviving Grady lovingly describes his favorite baseball fights. Especially good is Red's imagining of Robin Ventura's thoughts as he charges Nolen Ryan (warning: contains words I'd rather not hear my kids say, one completely spelled out):

    "Hit me? How dare he hit me! I'll show him. F--k. Okay. Here I come. Shit. He's pretty big up close. Go for the legs. Go for the legs. Ulp. Oof. He's got me. Gotta try to--- nope, he's got me. F--k. Ouch. OUCH. Cut it out! My god... no.. please... must not wet pants... must. not. wet. pants."

    Illustrated with signed photo. The kind of prose that Prof. John Daly can only wish he could produce.

  • If you thought a post-Rather/Mapes 60 Minutes had any credibility, think again. Paul at WizBang! does a rather (heh!) thourough analysis of a recent story.

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

Quick Quiz

Here are the first few words of a recent Washington Post story:

The District [of Columbia] government significantly _____estimated the price of a state-of-the-art stadium for the Washington Nationals …

Your challenge: fill in the blank with "over" or "under". (No, do it mentally. Do not write on your screen.) Then click on the link to see if you guessed correctly.

Damn, I knew my readers were smart cookies. (Via Cato Daily Dispatch.)

Last Modified 2005-11-22 12:27 PM EDT

Dear Frankie

[Amazon Link]
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[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

OK, this is kind of a chick-flick tearjerker. Frankie is a kid whose mom has run away from her husband; she's told him that his dad is a sailor, out at sea on the Accra. But anyone who knows how movie logic works can guess what comes next: Mom is put in the position where she needs to come up with the truth or find some incredibly complex way to continue the lie. (And, in the movies, such choices are always made the same way.)

But it's still pretty good, because all the actors turn in believble and compelling performances, especially the kid playing Frankie. So (speaking to the guys here), if you need to pick up a movie to impress that special someone with what a sensitive and caring person you are, this is a good choice. I suggest putting on the subtitles, though, because the Scottish accents are pretty thick in spots. And if you find yourself tearing up, for goodness' sake, think of football.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

12 Angry Men

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

Number 21 on the IMDB list of the top 250 movies? Whoa.

It's not awful, but it's utterly shameless in its 1950's liberal preachiness. The plot is simple: a jury trying to reach a verdict in a murder trial. The defendent is a slum-dwelling generic minority, accused of knifing his father. Henry Fonda plays the saintly Juror 8, wearing white, lost in thought while all the other jurors simply want to vote guilty and get on with their lives. Juror 3, his nemesis, is played by Lee J. Cobb as a sweaty nutjob who wants to find the accused guilty as a misdirected lash-out at his own estranged son. Every other character is equally zero-dimensional and usually stereotypical.

On the other hand, it really is a pretty gripping situation: one guy brave enough to face down eleven guys and gradually win 'em over by force of argument. Steven Seagal wouldn't make a good choice for Henry Fonda's role when and if they do a remake.

Trivia: of the actors playing the twelve jurors, only the Jacks (Klugman and Warden) are still alive.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

TTLB Evolution

I just noticed that I've been upgraded from a Lowly Insect to a Slimy Mollusc in the Truth Laid Bear's ecosystem. This is apparently entirely due to my inclusion in the blogroll at Joe's Dartblog, a guy making a huge amount of sense over there on the other side of the state. I'm humbled and grateful.

But this transformation—is it evolution, or intelligent design? Hmm …

The Fellowship of the Ring

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I've heard that an occasional conversation starter among literary people is to admit that you've never read an acknowledged classic. Such applies to me and Lord of the Rings. (And many other books, too, of course.)

But I've long meant to. So I put The Hobbit plus The Lord of the Rings trilogy into my to-be-read system. I conquered The Hobbit a few years back. And a not-so-few number of weeks ago, my script said it was time to read The Fellowship of the Ring.

Now, my self-imposed rule is that once the "system" picks a book I must read it next, with exceptions only for newly-purchased books and library books; this can really depress my book-throughput for awhile if the chosen book is such that I keep finding other things to do besides read. And, regrettably, such was the case with The Fellowship of the Ring.

I've seen the movie, of course; it's very much the "good parts" version of the book. And, it's not to be denied that there are many, many, good parts. But (geez), there's a lot of walking, up and down hills, through forests, valleys, dales, caverns, and bodies of water. There's a lot of eating and drinking. A lot of singing, and detailed references to history, geography, and genealogy. All lovingly described, and not very likely to hold my interest, sorry.

All (of course) wrapped around a wonderful tale of an ordinary guy who's been plucked from his happy, normal surroundings and plunged into continual peril and terror, all because he's been chosen for a world-saving task that seems ludicrously hopeless. Fortunately, he has a few friends on his side.

But anyway, finished now. In a mark of how long this task has been hanging over me: the version of the book I read is not the one pictured above, but the first authorized version offered in paperback in the US, which I bought nearly 40 years ago.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/18/2005)

  • Joe at the Dartblog has an majorly impressive article on Congressman John Murtha, who is being lionized in the media for … um, having pretty much the same position on Iraq that he's had all along.
  • Jeff at Protein Wisdom should also be read on the issue.

    So. How do pro-war conservatives proceed? Well, one move would be to call Congress to a vote for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. If Democrats want to flirt with the idea of cutting and running as a means to stroke their rabid antiwar base, force them to put their votes on record; let history show which lawmakers were willing to surrender to terrorists and to leave to the mercy of murderous fanatics millions of Iraqis who trusted enough in our stated commitment to begin the political transformation into a functioning democracy, complete with provisional constitution.

    Good point. Irresponsibility is more fun, but that's not their job.

  • From the I-didn't-know-that file, Steve Beard reviews the new Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, and reveals something I didn't know about the eponymous song:

    Many fans think of Johnny singing, "I find it very, very easy to be true," to his beloved June. Actually he wrote it as a pledge of loyalty to his first wife, Vivian Liberto. It was his song of fidelity.

    Woops. Oh, well, nice sentiment.

  • Gift idea for your local Monty Python fan. As they say: run away! (Via my close personal friend Dave.)

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

Quibbling With Giants

I don't read lefty blogs much, but Andrew Sullivan pointed portentiously to this post by Joshua Micah Marshall on the recent revelations by Bob Woodward and their possible effect on the prosecution of "Scooter" Libby. Saith Marshall:

A lot is being made of the supposed fact that Woodward's revelation disproves one of Fitzgerald's claims, namely, that Libby was the first person to tell a reporter about Plame. …

But look what Fitzgerald actually said (emphasis added) ...

… In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

Fitzgerald chose his words carefully. He didn't state as a fact that Libby was the first government official to leak Plame's identity. Nor did he hang any of his indictment on Libby's having been the first.

Unfortunately for this argument, Fitzgerald also "actually said" (from elswhere in the same article Marshall links):

He [Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter.

So (sorry, Josh) Fitzgerald actually "chose his words" non-carefully on this point, making both the stronger and weaker assertions. Marshall relies on selective (or incomplete) reading to make his point.

[I probably remembered this from reading the Minuteman's post on the topic. He's really the go-to guy on this.]

Not that I know if this is likely to have a significant effect on the outcome of Libby's trial, which was Marshall's larger point.

URLs du Jour (11/17/2005)

  • Catching people out in inconsistency is fun and instructive. Doing so at the Weekly Standard website today is Joel Engel, who points out that while President Bush is now being pilloried for relying too heavily on (apparently) faulty intelligence in deciding to go to war with Iraq, mostly the same folks savaged him for not "connecting the dots" and otherwise paying insufficient attention to scanty and uncorroborated intelligence reports on bin Laden and al-Qaeda before 9/11. Yes, they want it both ways, as long as both ways can be used for Bush-bashing.
  • Bruce Schneier can be Tedious at times, but his column at Wired today is a must-read about Sony's evil CD copy-protection code. There are a lot of people to be mad at in addition to Sony.
  • Joanne Jacobs reports:

    After investing $1 billion in small high schools, the Gates Foundation has learned results are "mixed," according to a study commissioned by the foundation.

    "Gates Foundation," as in "Bill and Melinda Gates". I'm working out how I'd feel if I were Bill, dropping in a gigabuck and simply getting "mixed" results back out. I think I'd be homicidal.

  • Good news for First Amendment Fans from RedState. Not as good as repealing McCain-Feingold, but we'll take nuggets where we can get them. (Via Instapundit.)
  • Harriet said, "Steve, I knew Charles Darwin. I took a long boat trip with Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin was a friend of mine. Steve, you're no Charles Darwin."
  • If you're concerned that your demise will not be accompanied with sufficient weeping and wailing, don't worry: you can hire mourners for your funeral. (Catch: this is Taiwan, but maybe they travel.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:37 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/16/2005)

  • I won't be joining the AARP, and Robert Samuelson eloquently explains why in todays WaPo.

    Among AARP's 36 million members, there must be many decent people who benefit from the 5 to 50 percent discounts offered on car rentals, hotel rooms and airline tickets. But I won't be joining, because AARP has become America's most dangerous lobby. If left unchecked, its agenda will plunder our children and grandchildren. Massive outlays for the elderly threaten huge tax increases and other government spending. Both may weaken the economy and the social fabric. No thanks.

    Hey, but could I get the discounts without wrecking the economy? Is that a check-off option on the application form? Just asking.

  • Jonah at the Corner calls this hilarious Red Sox-related Master Card commercial parody an oldie but a goodie. It is a goodie, and if you haven't seen it, it's new to you.
  • The English word "reconcile" would imply the existence of "concile". But that nice little word appears not to exist, at least not in English. Instead the dictionaries prefer "concilate" as (more or less) a synonym of "reconcile". Why? Why? Why? I blame George Bush.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:37 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/15/2005)

  • Comic Book Guy interviews Mary Mapes. 'Nuff said.
  • Do you have strong opinions on unpleasant sounds? You can express them here. (It's for research! Explanation is here. Both links via NormBlog.
  • And the MinuteMan reads today's NYT editorial and asks

    So - is the Times lying, twisting the available intelligence, or what?

    Well, geez, can't you ask that same question every day??

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/14/2005)

  • Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, has an excellent article at Opinion Journal on the treatment of enemy prisoners. He brings a needed breath of moral complexity to an issue on which too many people are full of passionately-intent certainty.

    Laws and rules are vitally important, but enforcing them requires good soldiers and strict, vigilant leadership. Even in an ideal situation, say, in a civilian prison in peacetime that is well-funded and well-run, and where the guards and prisoners share the same language and culture, abuse can at best be minimized.

    War is the exact opposite of an ideal situation.

    It's a good essay written from a tragic-vision viewpoint.

  • At Tech Central Station, Bryan Preston has an article containing a do-it-yourself debunker that deflates the Bush-lied meme. It's a Google search for … well, click it yourself. (A shorter version of the same thing is on Bryan's blog.)
  • But what's Tim Russert's excuse?
  • For the libertarians out there, Mark Steyn has an article that ought to be on the reading list of everyone who was ever sympathetic to the egalitarian/communitarian impulse:

    … nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: once a fellow's enjoying the fruits of government health care and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the broader societal interest; he's got his, and if it's going to bankrupt the state a generation hence, well, as long as they can keep the checks coming till he's dead, it's fine by him. "Social democracy" is, in that sense, explicitly anti-social.

    Read the whole thing. Steyn takes Europe as his example case, but certainly this explains why Social Security is near-impossible to fix here in the US as well.

  • And finally: Bruce Schneier is the go-to guy for information on the efficacy of tinfoil hats as a mind-control/mind-reading inhibitor. Not that you, dear reader, would be in need. Of course not. But you might have friends that are.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:40 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/13/2005)

  • Red State complains loudly about the "Republican Bedwetters" in the House of Representatives who have torpedoed (possibly permanently) the Deficit Reduction Act (H.R. 4241).

    This is the biggest vote of the 109th Congress—period. It is the first time Republicans are attempting to seriously address out-of-control spending since 1997 by reducing its rate of growth by saving $50 billion over five years.

    Of course $50 billion over five years is a (very small) drop in the (very large) bucket; on the other hand, that doesn't make it a bad idea.

    Named prominently as a bed-wetter is my very own Congressman, Jeb Bradley. Tsk. Time to fire off another e-missive…

  • On the other side of the Capitol, my very own Senator Sununu is taking some implied criticism from Michelle (ma belle) Malkin for voting against an amendment to a military budget bill that would (as the NYT puts it) "strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts" or (as Michelle puts it) "rein in the ridiculous panoply of legal rights granted to foreign enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay."

    Senator Sununu was one of only four Republicans voting against the amendment. Five Democrats voted for it, and it passed 49-42.

    I suspect this was an extremely principled vote on Senator Sununu's part. Certainly it can't cheer him to be praised by the Tedious Left.

    Or maybe he was just confused about what he was voting for. Heck, if I were a Senator, that would happen to me all the time. I'll write and ask.

  • Memo to criminals: you might want to learn how to clear your browser caches. (Via Drudge.)
  • How many Broadway musical homages can you spot in Iowahawk's latest masterwork, Les Risiblés?
  • I was surprised to learn that Scott Adams had a blog, but (via Clayton Cramer) he does. Here's his healthily skeptical take on Intelligent Design.

    To me, the most fascinating aspect of the debate over Darwinism versus Intelligent Design is that neither side understands the other side's argument. Better yet, no one seems to understand their own side's argument. But that doesn't stop anyone from having a passionate opinion.

    I'm not sure he's right, but I admire his courage in saying that. (Just imagine how courageous I'd be if I had a few million more dollars.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:41 AM EDT

Infernal Affairs

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

This is a neat thriller from Hong Kong. Considerably more arty than the venerable shoot-em-ups we used to see from John Woo. The action follows an undercover cop posing as a trusted underling for "Sam", a devout Buddhist gangster. But Sam has also placed a mole in the Hong Kong police department. And (as fate would have it), the two spies wind up playing a cat-and-mouse game, each trying to discover the other's identity without revealing himself. Both protagonists have the usual psychological stress common to undercover operatives in Hong Kong movies.

Two notes for would-be viewers: (1) You can watch the movie dubbed into English, or you can have English subtitles, or both. But don't do both, because they conflict sometimes and this can be jarring. (2) The hot Asian chick seen on the DVD case with the skimpy blue dress, boots, and big gun does not actually appear in the movie. I looked really hard. So caveat rentor.

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT


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

Movie Weekend begins with this interesting flick that tells the story of about ten intertwined lives in a small town over a duration of about 30 minutes. It does this cleverly via repeated flashbacks, each following one of the main characters through the process. And only until the last thread is played out do we get the full picture of what actually happened. (It's not very hard to figure out, but it helps to pay attention to small details right from the beginning.)

The tone is mostly black-comic, with moving corpses and misplaced, uh, body parts playing a large role.

Apparently the movie didn't make it into theaters much, according to IMDB; after a bunch of film-festival showings in 2003, it's just recently limped into DVD release. There are some semi-big stars present: Hillary Swank, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershey. And, gee, Henry Thomas has grown up a bit since he was Elliot in E. T..

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/10/2005)

  • La Shawn Barber has an excellent mini-essay that should remind us not to take TCP/IP and associated protocols for granted.

    At the risk of sounding corny or melodramatic, I'll confess that the power of an awesome, expanding, and evolving invention like the Internet (in my lifetime) leaves me breathless.

    Me too. OK, we don't have the flying cars, or everyday space travel, or robotic servants, or any number of other things promised in my youth. But if we weren't the kind of creatures that can take anything for granted, we'd be constantly slackjawed-awed by the Internet and the Web, every darn day.

  • As just one minor example of the wonderfulness of the Internet: anytime you notice anyone taking Jeremy Rifkin seriously, you can just point them to a list of his wildly wrong predictions. (Via Clayton Cramer.)
  • On the other hand, the Internet may be wonderful, but even after years of experience people using it make the same old security mistakes. Writing in Infoworld, Roger Grimes reports on a friend who habitually uses an off-the-shelf password sniffer when travelling.

    She said about half the hotels use shared network media (i.e., a hub versus an Ethernet switch), so any plain text password you transmit is sniffable by any like-minded person in the hotel. Most wireless access points are shared media as well; even networks requiring a WEP key often allow the common users to sniff each other.s passwords.

    She said the average number of passwords collected in an overnight hotel stay was 118, if you throw out the 50 percent of connections that used an Ethernet switch and did not broadcast passwords.

    Three words … no, three letters: S. S. H. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:42 AM EDT

Professors Behaving Badly II

The lovely and talented Joanne Jacobs has pointed me to a post by "Alex", a professor of English at an (as near as I can tell) nameless U, blogging at After School Snack.

It's titled, simply, "Sigh." Indeed. Alex begins:

Today I had what is probably my most disheartening experience in the nascent stages of my work as a college English professor.

Oh no! Alex dear, what happened?

One of the books we're reading for class is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Yep, the whole thing.

Of course the whole thing. An entire left-wing history text is just the thing you'd expect to be assigned to read in an English class!

Anyway, I asked my students to write a formal paper relating an aspect of this text to their personal life experiences or to something else they've read or seen, etc. The basic premise of my instructions were to "make it real" in some fashion.

A personal life experience. As opposed to an impersonal life experience? Or a personal death experience? Or (if you haven't had any personal life experiences) to something "read or seen", because, God knows, that wouldn't be one of your "personal life experiences", would it? Dude, just relate it to something, OK? That will "make it real."

By and large, the first round of papers were rough but fairly impressive. Revisions are a required aspect of the course (it's titled "critical reading and writing"), and so I provide feedback and so forth, you know the drill.

Well, I don't know the "drill," sorry. But that's OK, we're about to get an example.

One of my students wrote a very negative critique of Zinn's chapter titled "The Coming Revolt of the Guards," wherein Zinn presents his admittedly-utopian vision for the United States after a peaceful revolution (he intentionally puts pure realism aside, prefacing his vision with "let us be utopian for a moment so that when we get realistic again it is not that 'realism' anchored to a certain kind of history empty of surprise. Let us imagine what radical change would require of us all."). If you haven't read A.P.H. you should; if nothing else find a copy in a bookstore and spend 15 minutes reading chapter 23.

Because, you know, it's all so very true. A "history empty of surprise" would be as dismal as a … I don't know … a chemistry empty of nostalgia? … an economics empty of ennui? … What the hell were we talking about again? Oh, yes, this very negative student:

Back to my student's critique. His efforts were focused heavily on saying that Zinn is not only being unrealistic, but that he's flat-out wrong. My student claimed that equality can never exist and that American capitalism is as good as it gets, saying that we live in a violent world and any claim that a people's movement will change that is laughable.

… and it was all so cruel and mean-spirited, you know, because Zinn's vision is so lovely, and this … well, this snot-nose kid is laughing at it!

After the first draft, I pressed him on his claim that "most people have it pretty good," because it was clear to me that his definition of "most people" did not correlate with Zinn's definition of "most people," …

I note that "did not correlate with" is probably nascent-English-professorese for "differed from".

… and that my student was ignoring the plight of the lower class and underprivileged groups in his analysis. He turned in a revision that continued to tiptoe around the real assumptions he was making.

Damn him. What were those "real assumptions"? Don't fret, we're about to find out!

I wrote to him--and this is probably the result of poor teaching on my part, I'm still learning how to do this effectively-- …


… that he wasn't countering Zinn's logic directly because he was comparing apples to oranges.

So, like, you can't compare apples to oranges? I'm pretty sure you can. Don't English profs, even nascent ones, think about clichés before spouting them?

The only way his argument "works," in my opinion, is if he has some fundamental belief that economically underprivileged individuals are basically evil.

Aha, there's the assumption the kid tried to "tiptoe" around. (And notice Alex's jarring shift from past to present tense in mid-paragraph. You don't have to be an English prof to do that, but it helps.)

If that were the case, as he implies, then he'd be right--equality couldn't exist, and even if economic equality were achieved, violence would continue to plague our society.

Or: he could be right under any number of other different assumptions. But, clearly, this is the only assumption Alex could imagine the student making. And, even though Alex calls this his "opinion" above, that was just window dressing; he's about to treat it as Unshakable Fact, and pin a grade to it:

So I decided to test him. I told him that if he typed out the following paragraph with his signature and date at the bottom and turned it in, I would award him a perfect score on this draft of his essay (he was in the "C" range under my rubric):

Rubric, Schrubric. Amazingly, it turns out a signature in blood was not required. And no souls were actually sold, at least not literally:

"I, [name], believe Zinn is wrong because socially and/or economically underprivileged individuals are inherently evil; that true freedom, justice, and equality can never exist because the world is a dark and violent place; and that those who bear the burden so that the upper class can exist deserve their fate."

And I can imagine the hapless student's thought process at this point: Oh, God, what is this idiotic hoop-jumping psychodrama supposed to prove? Best just to defuse the situation and get out.

I gave him this option knowing that his beliefs in Christianity play a strong influence in his life (his other papers and comments in class point to this fact) and I assumed that laying it out on the table like this would spur him to see the significance of his implications.

So, like most Christians, he might just believe in Original Sin? As in: everyone has the capacity for evil, not just "socially and/or economically underprivileged individuals"? Ah, but Alex seems not to have considered that:

Well, you can guess what happened: I now have a student who signed and dated this declaration of his lack of faith in humanity in order to buy a grade on an English paper.

And, thanks to the power of the World Wide Web, you now also have thousands of readers variously amused, shocked, and/or disgusted at what passes for college English instruction in this country.

I don't know if I did the right thing; I don't think he really believes this... you'd have to guess that he had some sort of internal debate when typing it out on the computer and signing the sheet, right? Would any of you sign such a declaration if it went against your beliefs to boost your score on a paper?

Alex, baby, you'd better believe I'd do it in a heartbeat for you. Because I'd know it didn't mean a thing.

It's fairly clear that he didn't have a problem signing the sheet. If he doesn't believe what he signed, he doesn't view his education as more than a means to an end (degree and job). If he does actually believe those claims, I'm even more frightened.

Alex, I'm no English professor, but I'm pretty sure it's sloppy construction to say you're "even more frightened" by the second alternative without previously establishing that you were frightened by the first alternative.

And, reading between the lines, I'd wager that none of the students who turned in papers in meek agreement with Zinnian ideology were subjected to this kind of nonsense.

And, finally, as far as education goes, I'd also bet that your student learned an excellent lesson, although not the one you intended him to have.

(For more of Alex's anguish, he has a followup post here. I don't have the heart to take that on, sorry.)

URLs du Jour (11/9/2005)

  • Bruce Bartlett has increasingly lost patience with Republicans who act like Democrats. Today's primary target in NRO is New Hampshire's own Senator Judd Gregg, who has been out in front of demonizing oil companies and calling for a "windfall profits" tax on them. Choice quote:

    [Republican senators'] purpose seems to be to prove to the American people once and for all that it makes absolutely no difference which party controls Congress; that the same utterly stupid policies are pursued under both Republican and Democratic control. And Republicans wonder why their party's base is evaporating, with many political analysts now predicting heavy losses for the GOP in next year's congressional elections.

    Worse is that Senator Gregg was re-elected in 2004, so we aren't even seeing a shameless demagogic pander of a politician seeing an approaching election. (And as another descent-into-crankdom data point, I've fired off a tsk-tsk message to Senator Gregg.)

  • Did the Internet doom UFO theories? Douglas Kern at Tech Central Station thinks so.

    The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes. If UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective realities, the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting them. How long could the vast government conspiracy last, when intrepid UFO investigators could post their prized pictures on the Internet seconds after taking them? How could the Men in Black shut down every website devoted to scans of secret government UFO documents? How could marauding alien kidnappers remain hidden in a nation with millions of webcams?

    (But maybe the aliens were frightened off by the Internet! Yeah, that's it.)

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:43 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/8/2005)

It looks as if today's Pun Salad theme will be "Professors Behaving Badly."

  • Princeton's McCormick Professor in Jurisprudence Emeritus, Walter Murphy, was interviewed about Judge Alito in the Daily Princetonian. (Via Bench Memos.) He's generally favorable to Alito, but can't resist the following ugly comment:

    "Sam is his own man," Murphy said. "He'll never be 'Scalito.' And then it's a gross insult to say in the mold of [other conservative and constructionist justice] Clarence Thomas. Their IQs are so radically different ... We're not talking about someone in Sam's intellectual league."

    Do you remember when Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve was published and all the liberals hastened to pooh-pooh the very concept of IQ? How soon that position is forgotten, even at the highest levels of Academe, when it comes time to insult Clarence Thomas.

    [And as a side issue about the sad state of college journalism, note this post from Patterico on how the reporter botched one of article's main points. Comments Patterico: "This person is headed for Big Journalism, there's no doubt."]

  • At the NRO Corner, Byron York briefly informs us of the current Moonbattery of one Mark Crispin Miller (Professor in the "Culture and Communication" department at NYU), who is on a crusade (related to a new book he's flogging) trying to pump up the long-deflated meme that the 2004 Presidential election was "stolen". Today's episode is priceless: apparently Miller met with Senator Kerry informing him of his thesis, and Miller claims Kerry was in total agreement. But now a Kerry spokesmodel denies that Kerry was claiming any such thing.

    I know, I know: remarkably similar to the classic Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it" waffle.

  • And Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has the sad (but revealing) story of one Wallace Hettle, history professor at the University of Northern Iowa) who was displeased with the comments made by one Paul Deignan (a student at Purdue) at a leftwing blog. Wally typed:

    Troll boy [Deignan] is a student of the highly relevant field of mechanical engineering.

    The moron is trolling under his real name from a home page which lists the names of his advisors. So I emailed them, as this behavior is thoroughly unprofessional.

    BTW, I have a PhD and actual tenure. And I happen to know many profs who work from home, like myself.


    Maybe Paul can come back after finishing HIS dissertation--if he finishes.

    Anyway, Paul, I'm going to make an acquaintance with the admin. of your engineering school tomorrow, but I'm logging off for tonight.

    Wallace Hettle
    Actual Professor
    Google Me
    University of Northern Iowa

    Yes, Wally is an "Actual Professor" with "actual tenure." And a PhD! And he has no compunctions at all about trying to bully a student at another university via e-mail to his professors. Truly a proud moment for Academe! Jeff's comments are devastating and precisely on target. (Also see his followup here.)

  • And (via Dartblog), Michael Herman at Agenda Gap posts and article entitled "More Irritating Left Wing Professors at Dartmouth". You'd think that would be about as blogworthy as "More Flies at Town Dump", but anyway.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:47 AM EDT

URLs du Jour (11/7/2005)

  • Jay Tea at the WizBang! blog is, like me, a constituent of Jeb Bradley (R-NH) and, like me, wrote him a letter complaining about his vote against HR1606, the bill to exclude Internet communications from McCain-Feingold restrictions. Unlike me, he has posted the contents of his mail here. Wish I'd been as eloquent.
  • In the "good news" department: Professor D. Drezner is moving right. Er, as you look at a map. Tufts wins, Chicago loses.
  • Ever wonder about this?

    While almost every state requires adults to wear seat belts, most do not require them to wear motorcycle helmets, even though riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than driving a car.

    Jacob Sullum has a fascinating article at the Reason website explaining. He continues:

    The story behind this anomaly is both inspiring and discouraging—inspiring because it shows that a highly motivated minority can make a successful stand for freedom, discouraging because it shows that politics is more important than principle in determining why certain laws aimed at protecting people from their own risky behavior become widely accepted while others remain controversial.

    Recommended for people interested in how libertarian positions succeed, or fail to succeed, in the real political world. Aside: Sullum notes that every state except my beloved New Hampshire requires adults to wear seat belts; a minor local victory against the nanny state.

  • And if you haven't been reading Ann Althouse analyzing (and, mainly, eviscerating) various lefty commentators with respect to Judge Alito and his decision on the Family Medical Leave Act, and you're in the slightest interested, just go do it: a general introduction is here; her comments on Laurence Tribe are here; an article at "Daily Kos" here; Nathan Newman at TPM Cafè here; and "Armando" at Daily Kos here.

    But basically, you won't go wrong by just reading her blog habitually.

  • And Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek supports Alan Alda for President. Well, not the real Alan Alda, thank goodness.
  • And there's a slide-show essay about Calvin and Hobbes (aka, "The Greatest Comic Strip Ever") at Slate. The essay is mostly worth reading, but (even better) it's illustrated with strips.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:49 AM EDT

FCC Gores College Oxen II

I've previously blogged about the FCC efforts to demand that colleges allow law enforcement entities the ability to remotely "wiretap" their networks (under subpoena).

Now Slashdot has posted a story on the contoversy. Amusingly. the article's headline proclaims "Carnegie Mellon Resists FBI Tapping Requirement". Following the link shows that Carnegie Mellon really isn't doing much to resist the requirement; it's the American Council on Education that's filed an appeal in federal appellate court to block the FCC regulations. And the "tapping requirement" is being promulgated by the FCC, not the FBI. The FBI would be only one of the law enforcement agencies with access.

And the Slashdot comments have an even tinier signal/noise ratio than usual. Entirely missing (as near as I can tell) is the realization that all ISPs, not just colleges, are affected by the rule. A large fraction of commenters got their civil-libertarian hackles up, but there's no indication if they think that government should not be able to wiretap communications, or if they even know that the underlying law has been around since 1994.

So, low-quality coverage by Slashdot, but if you're interested, the links will bring up more accurate information.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:50 AM EDT


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

This was a highly-regarded film having to do with racial relations. I was prepared for the usual ode to standard liberal pieties, but (instead) was very pleasantly surprised.

Oh, there are indirect genuflections. HMOs and insurance companies: bad. Guns: bad too. But the main problems are shared by just about all the characters, irrespective of background: they're angry, mistrustful, race-obsessed, and always on edge. (There is, however, one main character who's essentially a saint in comparison to the others, thank goodness.) And the result is full of unexpected twists and (even) occasional humor. Acting is consistently first-rate.

Marina Sirtis is in it, so far out of her usual starship context that I didn't realize it until I saw her name in the credits. Also Tony Danza shows up briefly; no problem recognizing him.

Another oddity: while it's currently number 56 on IMDB's top-250 filmlist, it was pretty much passed over for award nominations. That's kind of an unusual disconnection. [UPDATE: Well, duh. I had assumed Crash came out in 2004, because IMDB said so; for nomination purposes, though, it came out in 2005, and it did get quite a few awards and nominations, and of course you can get up-to-date information about that at IMDB.]

Last Modified 2024-02-04 4:42 AM EDT

Descent Into Crankdom III

Or: I write my Congressman again.

I've written to my local congresscritter (Jeb Bradley, R-NH) about my disappointment with his vote against the motion to suspend rules and pass the "Online Freedom of Speech Act" (HR 1606) yesterday. (The other Congressman from NH, Charlie Bass, also voted against it. "Live Free or Die", ha!) Instapundit has more, and links.

I'd prefer, of course, that politically-related free speech be unrestricted across the board, not just to the Internet. You know, the old First Amendment thing and all.

But HR 1606 is better than nothing, I guess. If you'd like to complain to or compliment your representative about his or her vote, the record is here.

URLs du Jour (11/2/2005)

  • In the "somebody else read it so I don't have to" department: Byron York and Jim Geraghty take a look at Mary Mapes' latest recount of the Rathergate fiasco. I found this anecdote from York's article especially telling:

    By [the time of the Richard Thornburgh-headed CBS investigation into the fiasco], Mapes had come to believe she was the victim of a political witch hunt. But after hours of questioning, to her surprise, no one had asked her about her political beliefs. She seemed to resent that; didn't they know this was a witch hunt? Mapes was so upset that she decided to take matters into her own hands.

    "I knew that they had asked everyone else about my politics, and I couldn't believe that they wouldn't hit me up for what kind of card I carried, too," she writes. "When it appeared we were wrapping up for the day and the topic still hadn't come up, I finally said something. 'Aren't you guys going to ask about my politics?'"

    Boccardi, according to Mapes, took the bait. "Well," he said, "wouldn't you say it's true that most of the people that you work with think you are a liberal?"

    That was all Mapes needed to create, at least in her own mind, a searingly dramatic McCarthy Moment. "You mean, are you asking me, 'Am I now or have I ever been a liberal?'" she shot back at Boccardi in what she writes was "a joking reference to the 1950s U.S. Senate hearings where Senator Joseph McCarthy grilled people as to whether they had ever been members of the Communist Party."

    "Aren't you guys going to ask about my politics?" It's darned inconvenient when other people don't cooperate in building up your self-image of political martyrdom, isn't it? Better push 'em a little.

  • Continuing in the same thread: Bret Stephens has read Jimmy Carter's latest work.

    Jimmy Carter's 20th book is a tedious meditation about the appropriate uses of moral values in political life--as wisely and humbly exemplified by Himself--and of their misuses under the current Bush administration.

    But tedious isn't quite the right word here, because it suggests mere boredom while Mr. Carter's prose manages to be irritating as well. Is there an English-language equivalent to the German Rechthaberei, which loosely translates as the state of thinking and behaving as if you're in the right and everyone else is in the wrong? Yet even such a term doesn't quite capture the sanctimony, the self-congratulation, the humorlessness, the convenient factual omissions and the passive-aggressive quirks that characterize our 39th president's aggressively passive world view. Mr. Carter is sui generis. He deserves his own word.

    If President Carter has written 20 books, that's got to be … well, about 20 too many.

  • In the "great opening paragraphs" deparment, Jacob Sullum looks at the at a potential Roberts/Alito one-two punch on Federal regulation:

    When Chief Justice John Roberts was nominated, Democrats worried that he was willing to overturn the Endangered Species Act. Now they're warning that Samuel Alito, President Bush's latest Supreme Court pick, is hostile to federal gun control.

    Together, presumably, Roberts and Alito would bring us two votes closer to an America where Congress is powerless to prevent the machine-gunning of arroyo toads. I wish.

    Unfortunately, Sullum concludes, neither Roberts nor Alito seem willing to follow Clarence Thomas down the brave path of, y'know, actually following the most reasonable reading of the Constitution's commerce clause on the matter. Still: great opening paragraphs. And he adds to the ever-increasing Google hit count for "hapless toad".

  • In the "I wish" department: Responsible Spam. (Via the indispensible Geek Press.)
  • And, finally, in the "everything you know is wrong" department: some scholars say that Bach didn't write the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor". (Via Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. Like Tyler, I'm shocked.)

    Apparently he wrote some other good stuff though.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:52 AM EDT