Friday, March 04, 2005

Cato has a letter in The New York Times
on social security and Paul Krugman's inaccuracies. Good for Cato to get published in Krugman's own newspaper.
I didn't like Get Shorty.
I don't remember why 'cause it's been too long, but it must have been quite literally forgettable. So I have no plans to see Be Cool. Yet I do like The Rock, so perhaps it'll be worth seeing based on this review. Okay, maybe when it's released on DVD. Someday.
Hugh Hewitt's on a tear.
And well he should be. He links to this piece in the LATimes, and it grants its author, Barbara Demick, immediate entrance into the club of useful idiots. This is how Demick describes her interlocutor
This North Korean, an affable man in his late 50s who spent much of his career as a diplomat in Europe, has been assigned to help his communist country attract foreign investment.
So we know already that this man is an agent of a neo-Stalinist regime. And we assume his presentation of North Korea is credible because.....?

Get this:
Because North Koreans seldom talk to U.S. media organizations, his comments offered rare insight into the view from the other side of the geopolitical divide.
Yes, I could see how they might be reluctant to talk, given that they live in a state where they could disappear for talking to the press. It's not as if conducting a man-on-the-street interview in Pyongyang is like doing one in Times Square.

Also note that "Mr. Anonymous," as he calls himself, was joined by a colleague. A handler from North Korea, perhaps, making sure he doesn't say anything untoward?

He also throws out this canard:
"We Asians are traditional people," he said. "We prefer to have a benevolent father leader."
Yes, of course, the old cliche that people prefer their traditional tyrannies to freedom. Asians want to be oppressed. Yeah, right. Tell that to the students at Tiananmen Square.

And I'm tired, really tired, of U.S. journalists credulously writing that it's U.S. intransigence getting in the way of negotiations with North Korea. I've commented before that North Korea's negotiating strategy is one of continuous delay, nit-picking and saber-rattling. Does no American journalist know this? Read a book on the Korean War and figure it out. Hell, watch any episode of M*A*S*H that mentions the peace talks.

This story on North Korea is incredibly dumb. Walter Duranty dumb. And I see from Hewitt's site that Demick is bureau chief in South Korea for the LATimes.

Here's a clue for Ms Demick: When you're meeting with a government official from a Stalinst regime where children preface all mentions of Kim Jong Il with statements like, "Because of the wise beneficence of the Great Leader..." or some such, you should probably take what he says with a grain of salt.
I had completely forgotten
that this was an issue. I recall something from when I was in college, where some Ivy was having to deal with restroom usage and the transgendered community on campus. I remember being somewhat mystified by it.

Now, there's an activist group called People in Search of Safe Restrooms, or PISSR (ah, very witty), agititating for gender-neutral restrooms. Their mission statement:
We believe that all people, regardless of their gender identification or presentation, have the right to access safe and dignified restroom facilities without fear of harassment, judgement or violence. In order to reach this goal, PISSR is committed to establishing gender-neutral bathrooms.
Here's a question, and I ask purely for curiousity's sake, but won't the use of the gender-neutral restroom in-and-of-itself cause harassment, judgement, etc? As far as I can tell, PISSR isn't calling for all public restrooms to become gender-neutral. (This, in my opinion, would encourage all kinds of wierd voyeristic behavior; people using hidden cameras in public places is already enough of an issue.) So, the effect is to have three restrooms: Men, Women, and Gender-Free (this term is from PISSR's website). Wouldn't the use of the Gender-Free restroom by itself cause problems? In other words, if a person walks up and is confronted by three restrooms, and he or she picks the gender-free one, wouldn't anyone wishing to harass or demean transgendered individuals use that to harass them?
Thank heavens.
I saw on the news last night that Ayran Nations was going to relocate their headquarters to Kansas City, KS. Well, I see that that's changed. Good. The last thing this area needs is a bunch of skinheads.

The current president of the group, Charles Juba, stepped down. This quote struck me:
"He stepped down late this afternoon," said August B. Kreis III, who calls himself the group's high counsel. "It's for family reasons. Things just got too hot."
When you're the president of a neo-Nazi hate group, what do you expect, sweetness and light from civilized society? Of course things are going to get a little hot.

Anyway, good riddance.
Michael Savage can be quite amusing at time, in a bad way.
I swear the only reason why I listen to him is there's nothing else on talk radio at that time around here.

Yesterday he was going off about the evil Left-wing atheists (because all atheists are Lefties, you see) that want to rip down the Ten Commandments from school walls and such. He asked more than once, questions like (I'm paraphrasing), "What's the harm? What do people find offensive about 'Thou shalt not kill', 'Thou shalt not steal', 'Thou shalt not covet'?" Well, he wasn't asking so much as shouting - the guy gets angry.

Some caller tried to tell him that he was asking the wrong questions, and Savage wouldn't let him finish his thought, started calling the guy an ass and ended the call. But I knew what the caller meant because I was thinking the very same thing: Savage is asking the wrong questions. He asks what people have a problem with "Thou shalt not kill". Well, no one. It's the first four that are the problem, you know, the ones about worshiping God.

When a school has the Ten Commandments on the wall, the message is that these are rules the children should follow. All of them.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

"Thank You Senators McCain and Feingold ... you [plural expletive deleted]".
[Plural expletive deleted], indeed. Professor Bainbridge analyzes this interview on how McCain-Feingold could impact blogging. It ain't pretty:
Q: What rules will apply to the Internet that did not before?

A: The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, "If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper."

Do we give bloggers the press exemption? The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?

Q: How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician?

Q: How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s (in the Leo Smith case) that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.[!]

It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly would have us move in. Line drawing is going to be an inherently very difficult task. And then we'll be pushed to go further. Why can this person do it, but not that person?

Q: How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign?

A: I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign.

Corporations aren't allowed to donate to campaigns. Suppose a corporation devotes 20 minutes of a secretary's time and $30 in postage to sending out letters for an executive. As a result, the campaign raises $35,000. Do we value the violation on the amount of corporate resources actually spent, maybe $40, or the $35,000 actually raised? The commission has usually taken the view that we value it by the amount raised. It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.
As the good professor says:
Sigh. How hard is it to understand those simple words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech...."? No law!
I thought the headline to
this NYTimes story was striking: "New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans". Isn't that the point, though? The President is supposed to lead -- he's supposed to identify critical problems and lead, sometimes dragging the country along with him. If the President were perfectly "in step" with the rest of the country, he wouldn't be the leader of this country; he'd just be one of the herd.
Reason has an interview with Neal Stephenson,
author of The Baroque Cycle trilogy, sitting right here. I bought all three of the books from Amazon just after Christmas and so far I'm only about 150 pages or so into the first one. It's just, well, kinda boring.

Maybe I'm not giving the Quicksilver a chance. I thought the first couple hundred pages of The Eye of the World where unbearably dull, but after that it was good enough to warrant reading the other nine volumes in the Wheel of Time series. Yet I have not touched Quicksilver in a couple of weeks - there's just always something else worth doing.

Maybe this is more my style. A story of hacking into people's brains sounds cool.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Despicable display:
Best of the Web Today carries the following exchange between Jon Stewart and Nancy Soderberg, "author of "The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might" (foreword by Bill Clinton, blurb by Madeleine Albright)":
Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole--

Stewart: This could be unbelievable!

Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's--

Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's--

Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.

Stewart: He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.
Hope for the rest of us for what, exactly? She's putting party before country.
Moral lessons from outer space
over at Cafe Hayek:
Dr. Powell: And you have no laws?

Prot: No laws. No lawyers.

Dr. Powell: How do you know right from wrong?

Prot: Every being in the universe knows right from wrong, Mark.
Received an e-mail today
someone was passing along that contained this letter to the editor. I don't know if it's real or not, but for the sake of argument, let's assume it is:
2 March 2005

The Editor, New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

Like you, I oppose government displays of religious symbols (“The Court and Religion,” March 2). But beware of lowering a Constitutional boom on states in such cases. The Constitution’s framers intended the First Amendment to apply only to Congress, not states. By promoting federalism, this wise design protected Americans from one-size-fits all policies. If the Court rules today against Texas’s display of the Ten Commandments, we secularists might be sorry tomorrow when – with federalism further diluted – federal courts prevent Blue states from serving as our safe-havens from disagreeable Red-state values.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
I thought the 14th Amendment extends the limits on Congress to the states as well, thus making the point of this letter moot. Am I wrong?
The ACLU is suing Donald Rumsfeld.
More over at LGF. I haven't had time to look into it, just passing it along.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Reason Magazine has more on Kelo.
From "Revolting Development":
If the prospect of higher tax revenue justifies the forced transfer of property from one owner to another, O'Connor asked, would it be appropriate for a city to decide that a Motel 6 must give way to a Ritz-Carlton?

"Yes, your honor, it would be," replied Wesley Horton, New London's lawyer.

Justice Antonin Scalia sought to clarify the principle guiding the city's use of eminent domain: "Are we saying you can take from A and give to B if B pays more taxes?"

"If they are significantly more," Horton said.

[...my screams of anguish...]

In any case, as Institute for Justice lawyer Scott Bullock noted in his argument on behalf of the New London families who refuse to move, "Every home, church, or corner store would produce more jobs and tax revenue if it were a Costco or a shopping mall." If local governments can transfer property based on their judgment of which uses will produce the most taxes and jobs, no one's property is secure.
Right.
Wow, it's a huge day here.
First a link from InstaPundit, and now Lindsborg is on OpinionJournal. A guy could get downright giddy.
Me in about six years:
From John Derbyshire:
I did, though, notice the following distressing phenomenon. I suppose it goes with fatherhood, but I'm just not ready for it, and am not sure I ever shall be. What I noticed was, guys looking at Nellie, my daughter. I mean, looking. Nellie is only 12, but tall for her age, and slender, with a pretty face and long straight hair. She has no figure to speak of, but in ski clothes that doesn't notice. So these guys were looking at her. They weren't her coevals, either; these were brutes — sorry, I mean lads — of 17, 18, 19. It was all very disturbing. Memo to teen boys everywhere: I have guns.
Except that I don't own guns. I do, however, know karate.
I'm not sure who National Review's
Jack Fowler is (he's not listed in their index of authors, so I assume he's a publisher, or something), but am I the only one who completely disregards everything he posts? It seems that every post is something like this.

I know NR needs to advertise their stuff, and I don't fault them for that. It has, however, conditioned me to ignore any post authored by Mr. Fowler.
My hometown of Lindsborg, KS
merits a mention in today's OpinionJournal. From an op-ed on chess champion, Susan Polgar:
Did I mention that just before that, in Lindsborg, Kan., [Susan Polgar] tied seven-time World Champion Anatoly Karpov in "The Clash of the Titans," which was the first officially sanctioned match between a male and female World Champion?
"World's greatest argument against raising the wage cap"
over at Social Security Choice.
I read about about Kelo v. City of New London for the first time last night
and today there's an article about it at TCS. The article I read last night, excerpted from People Magazine (sorry, they don't appear to have it online), was in a snail mail solicitation I received from the Institute of Justice, who is representing Kelo.

Long story short: the city of New London wants higher tax revenue and it decided the best way to do that is to mow down Susette Kelo's neighborhood and replace it with, well, who knows? Something else, anyway:
"New London still hasn't found any viable projects to put on the nearly 90 acres of prime property it already owns." This -- as law professor Stephen Bainbridge points out -- means that it is not certain what the petitioners' land will be used for. Additionally, Susette Kelo has refurbished her home, and her neighborhood -- while depressed in value -- is not "blighted."

As such, the NLDC [the corporation that is developing the land] is not trying to take land for a "public use" such as a public works project, but rather, it is taking land that is not blighted in order to institute vague and unformed businesses and development projects that will generate higher revenues for the city. If this is not an abuse of the eminent domain power, it is difficult to conceive of a situation that is.
I wish the People Magazine article was online, because it had a doozy of a quote in there from a New London city official. To paraphrase from memory, "Who does Kelo think she is, one person standing in the way of 30,000?" Terrific.

UPDATE: Now that I'm home and have the article in front of me (People Magazine, December 13, 2004, "Battling to Save Her House"), the actual quote is from Ed O'Connell, "attorney for the New London Development Court":
Is one person supposed to hold hostage a plan that is going to benefit 30,000 people?
P.R.O.P.E.R.T.Y.R.I.G.H.T.S. Arg.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Just something that made me laugh
from Best of the Web:
No word whether they're planning to charge Poole with a bias crime for singling out ambulatory metabolically challenged Americans.
Under the "Zero-Tolerance Watch" topic.
I'm a Hungarian Kuvasz, whatever that is.
So sayeth this quiz (click the "Game" link on the left). It's worth taking just for the interface, like an old-fashioned line printer. Kinda cool.

Actually, it did tell me what a Hungarian Kuvasz is, even if it doesn't say how to pronounce it. Basically, I'm "brave, entergetic and lively" and make a "fomidable watchdog". Yeah, so look out.
My wife is wondering
if we should join Amazon's shipping program, where you pay a yearly fee and all you don't have to pay shipping charges. For what it's worth, Instapundit has given this a positive review.

UPDATE: My wife responds:
I read your post about the positive review of Amazon's unlimited shipping. The reviewer mentioned getting energy bars off Amazon which got me thinking. I went to Amazon and started typing in the stuff I buy at Sam's, Office Max, and Target. It's all there. I could do all my shopping on line and never have to go to town again. Bruu Ha Haaaaa (Evil laugh). I would like to try this unlimited shipping deal.
"Bruu Ha Haaaaa" indeed. I guess we're signing up.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers!
I haven't seen the preview, David,
but I heard this was coming. I've read the book. Dick can be incredibly weird, but his stories are never boring. A Scanner Darkly is probably one of my favorites.

My concern is that movie adaptations of his work can be really on or really off. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep became a classic in Blade Runner. Minority Report was a very successful film, but it was almost nothing like the book. I haven't read the book-version of Total Recall, so I don't know how much it differs. Paycheck was a great short-story. Too bad they gave it to Ben Affleck as a movie.

A Scanner Darkly is weird and dark and really psychedelic. I hope Reeves doesn't screw it up.
Saw the preview for
this flick last night. The preview reminds me of the one for the original Matrix and that, at the end, I had no idea what the movie was about but I was intrigued enough to want to see it.
I thought the same thing
when I saw Hootie in the Burger King commercial: "Poor guy must be out of money".
I was pleased with the way the Oscars turned out.
Morgan Freeman got best supporting actor. Hilary Swank got best actress. Million Dollar Baby got best director and best picture.

I was going to be seriously upset if Swank didn't win. I haven't seen Being Julia, Annette Benning's best actress vehicle, so based purely on the publicity clips I've seen, it looks annoying. Swank had power; Benning had irritation.

Chris Rock was a little annoying, yes. I don't know that he bombed out, like Roger Simon suggests, but he wasn't any worse than some of the other hosts they've had. When he went on his riff about actors doing crap movies for the money, and sending Cuba Gooding, Jr. a check for $80, I looked at my wife and said, "This from the man who made Pootie Tang." Well, then he knocked himself for making Pootie, adding that he got a check from Gooding for $80. At least the man has a sense of humor about himself (which is more than I can say about Sean Penn and his bizarre comments about Jude Law).

Oh, and I was upset that the Motorcycle Diaries song got the Oscar. Not because it isn't a perfectly fine song, but because I didn't want anything associated with that Communist sociopath, Che Guevara, to get any positive recognition.

Best line of the night? Jeremy Irons: "I hope they missed," after some off-stage gunshot-like noise occurred as he started his presentation.
Roger L. Simon live-blogged the Oscars
over here. The consesus between Simon and his commenters is that Chris Rock was a terrible host. I can't vouch for that 'cause I didn't start watching until the Best Director and Best Film awards. All I saw of Rock was his "That's it, show's over" shout.
"Father Knows Best?":
Good article on why we should keep the government out of healthcare full of statistics and such.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I must hang my head in shame,
for tonight I chose to see Constantine. In my defense, I hadn't read Joe's review of Million Dollar Baby yet. Oh, well. Maybe next weekend.

UPDATE: Well, especially now that it won Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. Congratulations, Mr. Eastwood.
David, I've seen that episode of Law & Order,
and I think my reaction was the same as yours. One would think that arresting, and then going through the prelimary motions of a criminal prosecution, would be a violation of the man's rights.

Of course, there are some who would argue "balance." One of the theories floating about legal circles is the idea that the rights of an individual to his own person need to be balance with rights of the community to have a murderer off the streets. That's crap, in my opinion, but a current theory, nonetheless.

The attorneys on all the Law & Order franchises use the rhetoric.

But, I'm still waiting for them to bring back Ben Stone. Why did the man have to leave. Jack McCoy just doesn't hold a candle to him.
Mark Steyn's waiting for the fireworks.
Europe is going to go down in flames.
I went and saw Million Dollar Baby
last night. I haven't seen such an amazing piece of cinema in years. I haven't ever been drawn into a movie as completely as this one. It's the first time I've seen a movie where my reaction to the film was, "Wow," and it not be in reaction to stunt sequences or special effects.

The acting was amazing. If Hillary Swank doesn't win tonight, I'm going to be disappointed. Yes, I know she won for Boys Don't Cry recently, but if Tom Hanks can win for Philadelphia, and then turn around and win the very next year for Forrest Gump, Swank should win for this.

Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Everything he's in gets a bonus just for casting him. His tone and demeanor is on. Every scene he does is great, but then, every scene in this movie is great.

What to say about Eastwood? He was incredible. This is the same man whose acting credits include Any Which Way but Loose and Pink Cadillac, but then you remember his performances in A Perfect World and Unforgiven, and you realize that Eastwood is completely underrated as a dramatic actor. The scene with his priest toward the end of the movie is one of most powerful I've seen in a long time.

Eastwood's movies just get better and better. I thought he should have gotten something for Mystic River last year (Best Director, or something), so he'd better get something for Million Dollar Baby. It's just too good.

If you haven't seen this movie, hang your head in shame. Seriously. If you consider yourself someone who enjoys great movies, and you haven't seen this, you don't really enjoy great movies.

Now, (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT) there's been some protest and complaint about the end of the film, that the movie is condoning certain acts. I don't know why. Or, at least, I can see why some would complain, but those people either haven't actually seen the movie, or they weren't paying attention at all. This isn't an advocacy film. This isn't a movie, like The Life of David Gale, that is trying to beat you about the head and neck with its views. Million Dollar Baby is a character study, and the things that happen happen becasuse that's the way the characters are. This is what they would do in this situation. It's about these people at this particular moment in their lives. Not everything is an over-arching social lesson.