My Boss Pledge
April 30, 2009, 1:53 am
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Things I would never do if I were a boss of some other person:

  • Tell my employee to do something I could’ve done in less time than it took me to tell him to do it.
  • Tell my employee to ask some other person a question I say I want the answer to, in situations where I could’ve just as easily asked the person directly (and I know the specifics of the question better).
  • Tell my employee to do something I can’t, myself, articulate.

Believe it or not, I get these things all the time.

Now: if you’re a boss, and you do any of these things, I’m not saying you’re necessarily an a-hole. But you probably are. ;-)

Finally, here’s Andy Samberg’s take on boss-ness:

The Patronage Explanation
April 29, 2009, 11:45 am
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In any political debate, close your eyes and pretend that every person involved is motivated by only one thing when deciding which position to favor:

Setting up jobs, cashflows, sinecures, and/or high status for themselves – and for their friends & people they see as similar to them – using other peoples’ money.

Then open your eyes and look around and observe peoples’ actual positions. You’ll be surprised how seldom the result changes, how seldom there is any difference between peoples’ actual positions and what they would be if they were purely motivated by the above (i.e. by patronage).

Whether that’s what actually motivates people is open to dispute. What I am saying here is simply that most people behave as if that’s what motivates them. If it weren’t what motivated them, they wouldn’t be acting any different or adopt different opinions.

How you interpret that fact probably depends on how cynical you are.

I’m feeling damn cynical recently.

Questions Truthers Need To Be Asking Themselves For Consistency
April 29, 2009, 1:41 am
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Remember how the Bush-Cheney cabal orchestrated 9/11 so that they could achieve their Neocon goals?

Howcome President Obama hasn’t ‘opened the files’ on all that and brought the conspiracy out into the light?

Why is he covering up for them?

Could he be… in on it?


These links were interesting to me.

When in doubt, and there’s nothing else to post, never hurts to post more links.

  • Seth Roberts, on how Jane Jacobs helped him understand why he didn’t like Jared Diamond’s book Collapse:

    Jacobs says that the ecological disasters described in Collapse were due to economic stagnation. In a stagnant economy, problems pile up without being solved. A common problem is too much reliance on one thing. In a healthy economy, new goods and services are constantly produced, often to solve problems created by old goods and services. In a stagnant economy, this doesn’t happen. A rich economy can be just as stagnant as a poor one.

    Diamond understood none of this. Not even close. Instead he proposed twelve reasons for the collapses he studied. They included “overhunting,” “overfishing,” and “population growth”….

    Jane Jacobs was smart.

  • Steve Sailer asks who benefits from ‘cap and trade’. I answered him in the first comment: finance. Others seemed to agree with me.
  • Good post at House of Eratosthenes, too long to excerpt, on why Democrats seem to have gotten themselves into a fit, still constantly trying to prove that Republicans are bad.
  • Interesting point made here that US health care system is more socialist than most OECD countries (including Germany, Canada, Norway, etc), if you measure by share of health care spending paid for out-of-pocket. As I’ve said before, the question is never ‘are we socialist or not’, the question is how socialist are we. Lefties who want us to ‘be socialist’ need to address the fact that to a large extent, we already are – and, by the way, it’s at the root of many of the things they complain about. HT: Militant Skeptic.
  • Tom Maguire on troop withdrawals: “The US is on schedule to withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities by June. City boundaries are being re-drawn so that current US bass are outside of them and units are being re-imagined as something other than “combat troops”, but we are on schedule.”


  • Finally, End The University As We Know It:

    GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

    I don’t agree with all the prescriptions therein, but as for the diagnosis, speaking as a former grad student who spent far too long in university, I couldn’t agree more.

    I watched friends and contemporaries enter the private sector and become successes (or just mediocre), enabling them to buy houses, start families, in some cases get in on the ground floor of things, building wealth earlier and if desired starting families earlier. Europeans and Chinese would come over and made snide remarks about how few Americans go into grad school. Didn’t this prove how dumb Americans were? I’d respond: “No, it’s just that the smart Americans are mostly too smart to go to grad school. They’ve figured out it’s not worth it and they have better opportunities elsewhere.” There is a huge misconception in certain circles about postgraduate schooling – even about college. It is completely overvalued.

    The only caveat is that increasingly, the college degree has become required – like an entry ticket – to get any reasonable job (whether the job itself really needs college training or not). Similarly, the graduate degree is necessary for college teaching. This is all very stupid but it’s what you’d expect of a system set up and dominated by people with too many degrees after their name (and full disclosure, I am one such person) who want to ensure that society provides sinecures for themselves and their friends. Notice the recent news story that Obama promised “3% of GDP” or somesuch for “research”. This will no doubt include “green” research, climate research, research into “alternative energies”. All of them could be worthwhile, no doubt, but it is hard to escape the suspicion that what all these things are really about is Obama and like-minded trying to preserve the vaunted position society currently supplies to the educated class. Indeed, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that this is precisely why the educated class went ga-ga for Obama: because they knew he’d throw money and positions their way.

    I sure am cynical recently. The way I see things, everyone has self-centered motives for virtually everything.

Young Livers
April 28, 2009, 1:34 am
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“Young Livers” by Rocket From The Crypt.

P.S. For some reason when I ripped this album onto my PC to put on my iPod, iTunes decided that the song is called “Young Lovers“, so that’s the way it shows up now. Infuriating. “Lovers”? Almost ruins the whole experience. Not really though, because nothing could ruin this song. Isn’t it just perfect?

Fairer Sex
April 27, 2009, 11:33 am
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Reading this story on doctor being punished for having a doctor-patient relationship, a thought occurred. Isn’t it strange that we’ve become more prudish on such matters. Notice that as a society we’re supposedly getting more liberal on these things. Sexual freedom, right?

But speak about a doctor & his patient, or a college prof & his student, and suddenly the room gets cold. Even the most ‘liberal’ types often have problems with it. More so, perhaps. But why? It’s very strange because this represents a move in a less liberal direction. Watch an old movie from the ’50s. They are full of such relationships. How did you meet your husband? Oh, he was my college professor. Oh, he was my doctor. Really? My, my! So romantic?

So what’s going on? What’s changed?

My thought was this: Maybe such rules aren’t about ‘protecting’ the patient (or student, or…) at all. Maybe they’re about keeping the playing field level for sexual participators. Recall my theory of how politics plays out in the sexual dimension: in particular, that one of the motivating factors for lefties is a desire to make sure society supplies them with a steady stream of ready/willing sex partners.

Now imagine you’re a lefty who is motivated by that, and then you hear about this doctor-patient relationship. What’s your first thought going to be? Is it going to be “that woman was taken advantage of”? Heck no. It’s gonna be:

“Hey, that’s not fair!”

And the righty will go along with that (because righties are motivated by minimizing the amount of sex in the public sphere overall).

In short, maybe rules against these asymmetric relationships (doctor/patient, teacher/student, etc.) aren’t so much about protecting the ‘subordinate’ as about making sure people in the superior role don’t have an unfair advantage over the rest of us (in particular, over us horny progressives) – an unfair advantage in what? In the sex-getting game.

Japanese Beatbox Kid
April 26, 2009, 1:59 pm
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Making the rounds.

I like imagining that this clip somehow gets transmitted into outer space, and long after humanity is dead and buried, it’s the only artifact a civilization of faraway aliens receive from our society. Let them try to decipher it!

Links And Stuff
April 25, 2009, 1:43 pm
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  • “What if God was one of us”, as sung by….Rivers Cuomo. With ‘Dwight Schrute’ from The Office on drums for some reason:
  • Netflix calculator showing whether you’re saving money. Supposedly I’ve saved hundreds of dollars. This calculation of course overstates your “savings”, because it misses the fact that without having Netflix I probably never would’ve trudged to a video store at all just to rent, say, Final Destination (which was not bad BTW).
  • Byron York, in a deliciously nasty and passive-aggressive little article, ‘asks a friend’ why is the left so angry:

    Watching Garofalo and Olbermann discuss the tea parties, it was impossible to avoid the sense that they saw themselves as two good people talking about many bad people. “One of the things about narcissism is that it looks like people who are just proud of themselves and smug, but in fact narcissism is a very brittle and unstable state,” Anderson told me. “People who are deeply invested in narcissism spend an awful lot of energy trying to maintain the illusion they have of themselves as being powerful and good, and they are exquisitely sensitive to anything that might prick that balloon.”

  • On a related note, it turns out that the more highly you think of yourself, the less altruistic you are. Put these two bullet points together – the left is deeply invested in high self-image, and people with high self-image are less altruistic – and you can explain all sorts of phenomena. (For one thing, now I understand why high-ranking lefties don’t have to pay their taxes.)
  • Ezra Klein laments bad news for the Geithner plan in the fact that these stupid TALF/TARP/CRAP ‘programs’ for ‘getting credit flowing again’ don’t actually seem to work as planned, because nobody trusts the government not to change the rules on them or pull the rug out from under them. (Turns out market participants don’t like that – go figure!) This is “bad news” for the Geithner plan and for people like Ezra Klein who like the Geithner plan (or at least, who assume they like the Geithner plan because Geithner works for Obama and everything Obama does or proposes is automatically correct). Of course a better way to phrase all this, in my opinion, would be to call it good news, for people with sense and an attachment to reality.
  • Robert Higgs asks why do progressives love trains? Me I don’t find it so mysterious. Consider:
    • getting plebes into trains will free up the roads for progressives who really need them.
    • trains = predictable masses of people packed into tubes. This cries out for ‘planning’, for roles of power in conducting other peoples’ lives and movements, which is what all ‘progressives’ crave.
    • plebes reliant on trains for commute have to live close enough to train stations to make it work. More opportunities for ‘planning’ the housing for plebes and packing them into smaller spaces. This also frees up land for progressives – their estates, their backpacking trips, etc.
    • plebes reliant on trains can’t go places the trains don’t go (like, say you want to stop off at a store that’s somewhat out of the way on your way home, or something – forget it). ‘Progressives’ live in constant fear of plebes doing things the planners didn’t anticipate. Trains reduce that possibility manifold.

    So really, if you’re a run-of-the-mill ‘progressive’, what’s not to like?

  • Finally a fascinating post from a Google employee who claims to have been working on a project he refers to as ‘engineering a healthier diet’. So many things wrong here I don’t know where to begin. Let’s just stick with the fact that the whole project is based on the fact that Google cafes color-code their food red/yellow/green supposedly based on “healthfulness”. But who calculated or determined that “healthfulness”? The Google employee doesn’t know & just takes it for granted. Ever heard the phrase “garbage in-garbage out”? Not this Google engineer, who just ignores that issue & proceeds with the “awk script”, the “formula to perceptually classify the colors (by hue angle)”, the “well-structured HTML with CSS classes applied to each menu item”…i.e., the software-engineer masturbation. The result is…what? Various stats and filters regarding how “healthy” cafes are based on….color codes.

    Which…again…were based on what?

    Reminds me of this article on the engineering mentality at Google. Remember folks, he’s doing all this on Google time. This is what he works on at work. At Google.

    I just wonder if there is really a place for this sort of thing in a declining economy. Can we really afford to keep supporting this person’s “job”? Yet he posts this all on Google’s own blog and seems quite pleased with himself. Almost enough to just make me want to go out and short Google stock right now.

The Torture Issue
April 22, 2009, 10:22 am
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My position on torture is that torture is wrong.

However, that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that torture somehow metaphysically “doesn’t work”. It’s amazing. A kid will grow up on, say, the Upper East Side, attend Manhattan Country Day School, live in a Park Avenue apartment & vacation in the Hamptons, have a safe cushy childhood playing in parks supervised by nannies, a safe cushy teenagerhood smoking pot, end up at Harvard in a safe cushy dorm existence, get out and start paying his rent via “blogging”, and from all these hugely diverse life experiences he has built up by age, oh I don’t know, twenty-five, he someknow KNOWS that TORTURE DOESN’T WORK. No military experience, no law enforcement experience, no experience in the presence of terrorists let alone trying to get information from them – just the trust fund, and the doorman, and the skiing, and the day camps, and the pot, and the Harvard, and the “blogging” job. “Eureka! Torture doesn’t work!”

I can’t figure that out. I guess such guys must be just really really smart to have figured that out. (Me, I would prefer to have actual, y’know, observational evidence or facts or data – data not gleaned solely from television fiction, that is- before creating such a conclusion. But that’s just me. Apparently.)

Another problem I have with the torture debate is that there is a torture debate. Let me ask you something. Do you honestly think the CIA never tortured people prior to George W. Bush taking the oath of office? Of course they did. We just didn’t have a national debate over it. The notion of having Congress take a vote yea or nay on torture is ridiculous. Of course torture is wrong. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing to vote on. There’s no reason to have Time and Newsweek assign their writers to write 20-page feature pieces on it. Torture is wrong.

But sometimes it works, too. One would think that these factors would count for something to people who are supposedly so ‘reality-based’, and ‘nuanced’. Remember how Bush was so black-and-white and cut-and-dried, and how ‘scary’ that was, because life was ‘gray’?

What happened to all that? Went away as soon as Bush left office.

Sometimes people in tough dilemmas have to choose the lesser evil. You want to prosecute the people who waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? Really? I recognize that the CIA isn’t exactly a disinterested observer when they claim that doing so prevented a ‘Second Wave’ attack on Los Angeles. But suppose – just for a second, for the sake of argument – that it’s true. That without waterboarding KSM, an attack on LA would have occurred, killing many innocent civilians.

What exactly is the stance being taken here? That the attack should have taken place, and the civilians should’ve been allowed to be murdered, so that preening posturing “bloggers” can sanctimoniously demonstrate how moral they are. Because sometimes American citizens need to be sacrificed so that Left-Wing Thinkers can prove their superiority and wisdom over everyone else. (And, of course, have their guy win elections. You know, the one with (D) after his name. Because that’s the most important thing of all, always, forevermore: (D)s in office.)

UPDATE: Or, what Cobb said.

On Caring Where Soldiers Are Stationed
April 20, 2009, 11:29 am
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A huge percentage of the debates people carry on with each other gets sunk into discussing whether the United States should have troops stationed in this place or that. The ‘left’ side usually wants troops Out of geographical area such-and-such (and thus, by implication, put in different geographical area so-and-so, since they don’t get vaporized…). Often the ‘right’ side gets mad at this and starts acting as if keeping troops stationed in Such-and-such’istan is the most important priority in their lives.

As I commented somewhere (but can’t find), sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the country who doesn’t really care where US troops are stationed per se.

Think about it. Why do we care where US troops are stationed? Why does everyone feel the need to take stances on the subject? This place good – that place bad. Really. Why?

I think the concern on this issue is largely symbolic, not realistic. On both sides.

Like A Spider Dream

So they say that KSM was waterboarded 183 times according to a 2003 memo. I can only cite Harry Callahan: I’m all broken up about that man’s rights.

Underappreciated nowadays: Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Speaking of which, here’s a fairly convincing political interpretation of that great film. I would say it more simply, that the film is a parable of the dangers of maturity transformation. As everyone knows, Mary Poppins is a parable about a father (and especially mother, I would say) who need to pay more attention to their kids. So why is maturity transformation to blame? Well: The father (literally, since he’s a banker) and mother (metaphorically, by foisting the kids on nannies so she can be a suffragette for the voting rights of hypothetical future women) are both involved in borrowing short and lending long, and the children, who feel the stress, call in Mary Poppins – whom we may as well call a “Black Swan” – to stage a run on the bank (figuratively as well as literally). Ok, I just made most of that up, but it sounds at least 45% correct and I bet I could clean it up if I needed to write a real essay about it.

I think it’s healthiest at this point to just view Barack Obama’s Presidency as a form of performance art. Just one of the many advantages of this point of view is that, as with most performance art, once you figure out what it is, you can stop paying attention. (I certainly have.)

I’m not a huge aficionado of standup comics/comedy so it’s weird that I know this, but the ‘cool’ comics and comedy fans hate Dane Cook. Part of this is the valid gripe that he may have stolen others’ material. But, I caught part of his act channel-surfing, and it didn’t strike me as significantly worse than whatever Janeane Garofalo or David Cross or Sarah Silverman (you know, the ‘cool’ comedians) do. Basically the same in fact, with the added compliment that he struck me as a talented performer (even if his material was stolen – which if it was, would not speak all that highly of whoever he stole it from, cuz it was the same dirty self-centered humor you can hear anywhere). So why then the backlash against Dane Cook? I think it’s just cuz of who he is, his persona, what he looks like. He’s more like a fratboy than a hipster; he’s not angst-ridden, he’s not ‘alternative’. So the ‘cool’ comedians look down on him. How dare he invade their hip little circle! This leads me to believe that much of the comedy world is stuck in a high school mentality. P.S. Dane Cook was very good in that Kevin Costner serial-killer movie by the way (the name of the movie escapes me).

Finally, what is “Like a spider dream” you ask? Well as you’ll recall, that’s the part of the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” that comes after “Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily”. Well, at least according to my 4 year old…

Movie Quiz
April 18, 2009, 2:39 am
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Another movie quiz from SLIFR.

I reserve the right to give some of these multiple answers. Or none, if I don’t know what he’s talking about.

1) Favorite Biopic
: Malcolm X, Patton, Pride of the Yankees, and Mongol (about Genghis Khan) come to mind. Although all have their flaws, and I’m not a huge fan of biopics in general. You’ll notice most of my choices don’t follow the usual recent biopic pattern of focusing on the person’s drug addiction or childhood abuse or whatever. Man I hate that.

2) Dyan Cannon or Tuesday Weld?: Weld. Who the heck is Dyan Cannon anyways? Someone who shows up at Laker games right? And?

3) Best example of science fiction futurism rendered silly by the event of time catching up to the prediction: Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days with Ralph Fiennes had people hooking up their brains to vicarious-experience machines. It was set on New Year’s Eve 1999 as I recall. The Terminator series has pretty successfully written around the first two films’ predictions of apocalypse in ’97. There’s always the Pan Am flights to a commercially-functioning space station in the movie 2001. But admittedly none of these seem hugely egregious.

4) Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon or Troy Donahue & Sandra Dee?: Frankie & Annette

5) Favorite Raoul Walsh movie?: None

6) Sophomore film which represents greatest improvement over the director’s debut: M. Night Shyamalan went from the okay-ish but basically bland Wide Awake to Sixth Sense. Just, let’s not talk about anything he’s done this decade.

7) Ice Cube or Mos Def?: Cube

8 ) Favorite movie about the music industry: The underrated That Thing You Do is coming to mind.

9) Favorite Looney Tunes short (provide link if possible): don’t remember

10) Director most deserving of respect or upwardly mobile critical reassessment: I’m sort of anti-director (I suspect their role is overstated) so I want to say ‘who cares’. How about a guy like Brett Ratner, who seems like the epitome of schlocky hackiness, but has made at least two movies that surprised me when I learned they were directed by Brett Ratner: The Family Man with Nicolas Cage, and After the Sunset with Pierce Brosnan/Salma Hayek.

11) Ruth Gordon or Margaret Hamilton?: huh?

12) Best filmed adaptation of a play: I generally hate filmed adaptations of plays. They make me feel claustrophobic. I just Googled for film adaptations of plays and came across A Man For All Seasons. Let’s go with that.

13) Buddy Ebsen or Edgar Buchanan?: Ebsen of course.

14) Favorite Jean Renoir movie?: The Rules of the Game appears to be the only one I’ve seen (and I don’t remember liking it)

15) Favorite one-word movie title, and why: Unbreakable? Because it’s true?

16) Ernest Thesiger or Basil Rathbone?: huh?

17) Summer movies—your highest and lowest expectations: Highest expectation for Empire Strikes Back. (Met.) Lowest expectation for, oh let’s say, some Rush Hour movie. (Met.)

18) Whether or not you’re a parent, what would be your ideal pick as first movie to see with your own child (or niece/nephew)? Why?: Perversely, Bambi. Because I was told it was the first movie I saw. Just let’s not talk about Bambi’s mom.

19) L.Q. Jones or Strother Martin: Um

20) Movie most recently seen in theaters? On DVD/Blu-ray? Theaters?? What are those? Maybe Borat, I know I saw that in a theater. On DVD, just watched Bob le Flambeur, and it was great.

21) Do you see more movies theatrically or at home? Why? Home. Kids. But even if I didn’t have kids, there is (1) the cost and (2) other stupid moviegoers, especially in certain neighborhoods, who will talk, or laugh at inappropriate times, or just generally won’t STFU.

22) Name an award-worthy comic performance that was completely ignored by Oscar and his pals. Well, #1 is Jeff Bridges in Big Lebowski, by a wide margin. I also completely and totally thought Jack Black deserved the Oscar for The School of Rock that year, and still think so. Let’s look up who won the Oscar that year: Sean Penn in Mystic River? Gimme a break. Like Sean Penn doesn’t have enough Oscars. Quick, I declare you have to watch Mystic River or School of Rock, at gunpoint: which do you choose? Come on.

23) Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens or Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart: ROFLOL

24) Name a great (or merely very good) movie that is too painful to watch a second time (Thanks to The Onion A.V. Club): I hope never ever to watch United 93 again.

25) Beyonce Knowles or Jennifer Hudson?: This is kinda unfair

26) Favorite Robert Mitchum movie?: shrug

27) Favorite movie featuring a ‘60s musical group that is not either the Beatles or the Monkees: Sheesh that makes it hard. Let me cheat and go with the Woodstock documentary! Ha!

28) Maria Ouspenskaya or Una O’Connor?: No idea but let’s say Ouspenskaya, just cuz I think that’s a cool name.

29) Favorite Vincent Price movie?: I’ve seen basically none (unless Edward Scissorhands counts) but I suspect I’d pretty much like ‘em all

30) Name a movie currently flying under the radar that is deserving of rabid cult status. I really wish I had a hip unconventional choice here, but I don’t. (Like, saying ‘Donnie Darko’ here wouldn’t work.) Just went thru my Netflix ratings looking at those I’ve given 5 stars and the most ‘under the radar’ ones that jump out at me are lesser-celebrated movies by huge directors: Bringing Out the Dead by Scorsese, and Empire of the Sun by Spielberg (which I think is his best movie). But perhaps the best fit for this question is – the 1991 Australian movie Flirting with young Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton, and Noah Taylor. GREAT GREAT movie.

31) Irene Ryan or Lucille Benson (or Bea Benaderet)?: Irene Ryan popped to mind. Then I looked her up and she’s just Granny from Beverly Hillbillies.

32) Single line from a movie that never fails to make your laugh or otherwise cheer you up. (This may be obvious, but the line does not have to come from a comedy.): “I was cured all right”, Alex’s last line in Clockwork Orange. “They called me Mr. Glass”, Samuel Jackson’s last line from Unbreakable. Neither of them comedies. And I guess I’m a big fan of last lines.

Also, the entire script of Barcelona.

33) Elliot Gould or Donald Sutherland?: Yuck to both.

34) Best performance by a director in an acting role: Excluding, um, like, Clint Eastwood and other actors-turned-directors? How about Sydney Pollack who was suitably creepy and menacing in Eyes Wide Shut.

35) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck movie?: Double Indemnity (finally, I can give a reasonable answer to one of the classic-moviestar questions)

36) Outside of reading film criticism or other literature about the movies, what subject do you enjoy reading about or studying which you would say best enriches or illuminates your understanding and appreciation of life, a life that includes the movies?: If you had told me three years ago I’d say ‘economics’ I’d have said you were crazy.

Don’t Know Much
April 17, 2009, 11:52 am
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It’s a shame that President Obama’s first term has begun with economic problems. This has brought out into the forefront something that still few people seem comfortable pointing out, perhaps because it’s too embarrassing:

President Obama doesn’t seem to know a single thing about economics.

I have tried to listen to President Obama’s various speeches and press conferences about his proposals and purported arguments for those proposals. I really have. But I have a low tolerance for nonsense.

President Obama is an ideologue. As an ideologue, there are things he has pre-decided need to happen. One of those is “national health care”. Another is “green energy”. Et cetera. Now people may agree or disagree with him about the desirability of those things. But meanwhile, there is a financial crisis that seemingly would compel actually addressing the financial system in a specific way. Yet Obama’s ideas for addressing the financial crisis all boil down to asserting, over and over, sans evidence or anything recognizable as a rational argument, that to (a) solve the financial crisis we need to (b) adopt the pet policies he was already in favor of all along. (When all you have is a hammer…)

How (b) will bring about (a) is perpetually unclear. No actual argument is proferred. Obama doesn’t seem to think that’s necessary. He also acts as if he is blissfully unaware of any constraints on government power whatsoever. (I say “acts as if” because it’s probably more accurate just to say he doesn’t care about such considerations.)

Hence we get bits of drivel thinking that go something like: There’s a financial crisis we can’t recover from unless we have (oh, I dunno..) green energy. So I say the government is going to make there be green energy by spending such-and-such amount of money creating such-and-such number of green jobs. If you argue with me at all, you must not care about solving the financial crisis.

Every single piece of the preceding is drivel. It bespeaks no knowledge of economics, or really anything, whatsoever. It is just transparent piggybacking of his pet policies onto the crisis of the day, hoping no one will notice. As such, it is literally not worth wasting furtehr brain cells on taking seriously in the slightest. Yet this is exactly the sort of thing Obama puts forth for each of his favored policies: opportunistic nonsense and straw-men.

In a way, this ignorance and idiocy may work to Obama’s advantage. When he spouts drivel like this, his bobblehead supporters will nod their heads, the majority of the country is not paying attention, and anyone with half a brain inclined to possibly evaluate his proposals objectively – thus, argue with and resist them – will be left speechless by the vacuity of his ‘arguments’, thus unable to respond. And so he’ll get his proposals passed.

The only question is why he wants all these pet policies to occur, policies that will have an economic effect, when (by all appearances) he doesn’t actually know what he is talking about on economic matters in general, let alone what the actual result of this or that policy will be in particular. I consider this an open question.

April 15, 2009, 12:56 am
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Our National Pyramid Scheme
April 13, 2009, 11:31 am
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Almost involuntarily, my mental model for the financial bubble & burst, and ensuing crisis, is that of a pyramid scheme. The government’s responses and ‘programs’, in particular, resemble nothing so much as attempts to Keep The Pyramid Scheme Going. (I don’t know how they’d be any different if that’s what they were.) I think the below protest photo I grabbed from Calculated Risk says it pretty well, & needs no further comment:

It’s pretty depressing to think that the entire financial system may be nothing but a slo-mo, slightly more tightly-controlled pyramid scheme. But that seems to be the conclusion I’ve come to.

I am always on the lookout for counterevidence to this depressing proposition. Haven’t seen any in at least the past year.

An Artificial Distinction
April 9, 2009, 11:46 am
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You cannot go against nature
Because if you do
Go against nature
That’s part of nature too

–Love and Rockets

I’ve always been bothered by the distinction most people make between things that are “natural” and things that are supposedly “artificial”. The distinction has always struck me as – well – artificial.

For example one guy at work chastised another guy at work for taking “artificial”, “synthetic” fish oil pills. “I only take natural fish oil”, he said with all the smarm and self-satisfaction of a 4 year old who just made a big poopy. He was actually proud of this! And then he literally said to the other guy that the other guy was “going to die”. I wanted to pull my hair out. Did he have an argument, or any facts at all, for why his “natural” oil was better than the synthetic kind? No.

A common example occurs in global warming debates. The CO2 produced by human activity is declared “artificial” and so, the idea of regulating/restricting CO2 output becomes not any kind of artificial restriction, but just putting things back in their “natural” form. The implicit idea is that there’s a certain CO2 concentration which is “natural” (and therefore optimal?) and that humans have put things out of supposed “balance” by (apparently) causing that concentration to go higher than it would be in the absence of humans. Along these lines, the pragmatic reasons to potentially care about CO2 – because it might increase global warming, which might be bad for us – get all mixed up and intertwined with a kind of quasi-religious moralism about human activity that makes rational debate nearly impossible.

And that annoys me.

But yesterday I saw an example in the opposite direction. This article makes a big deal about President Obama looking at “climate engineering”, “climate tinkering”, characterizing it as an “extreme option”. And numerous right-wing bloggers have reacted by painting this as extreme if not scary. (Adler at Volokh: “Is Geoengineering on the Table?”)


I’ll just repeat what I said over there: Of course “geoengineering” is “on the table”. That’s what the whole conversation has always been about!

What is “Let’s consciously control/reduce how much CO2 output we create with the goal of making the future climate such-and-such”, if not geoengineering? This topic has always been about geoengineering. Geoengineering has always been “on the table”. What do you think Al Gore has been talking about all this time?

The only thing perhaps ‘new’, or at least different, in that news story are the methods being proposed to enable the geoengineering. Al Gore only has one method in mind (controlling CO2 output). I guess this method doesn’t have the flavor of ‘engineering’ because it would involve mostly taxes and social controls and so is generally more lo-tech than, say, putting reflective nanoparticles in the atmosphere, or space-bound mirrors, or whatever. But it’s still geoengineering! Al Gore has a desired future climate path, he thinks he knows how to get there, and he wants the power to tinker with that input to create the output that (he thinks) will result! Engineering.

Now, personally, I’m glad to see other methods suggested and thrown out there. Having more methods is better than having fewer. (For one thing, we may find a cheaper and more effective method than the one Al Gore favors – which would certainly be… interesting.) But let’s knock off this idea that there’s some huge difference between the sort of geoengineering cited in that article, and the sort of geoengineering already favored by every Soccer Mom and college kid in the country, i.e., Al Gore’s. There isn’t.

Speaking Of: Post Scripts
April 8, 2009, 11:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Because nothing says blogging like commenting on some of your own posts:

Speaking of the left’s bizarre obsession with “getting troops from Europe”, it also occurs to me: why stop there? Why only troops? Let’s “get” some of their natural resources. LOTS of their natural resources. And women too! Let’s get boatloads of their women! I could also use a few slaves from Europe (as butlers and such). Get on it, Obama, go do that vaunted diplomacy so well. Because after all, Getting Things From Europe is just the progressive thing to do. What’s that? You don’t really want to Get things from Europe? What are you, a go-it-alone cowboy? Go back to Texas you Neanderthal. I say getting things from Europe is where it’s at.

Speaking of the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man, I’m only slightly ashamed to admit I kinda liked it in all its 3.5/10 IMDB-rated crapitude. I guess it helps that I’m not any sort of purist for the original Wicker Man, whose main positive points in my book were (1) naked-for-no-reason Britt Ekland and (2) some pretty cool hippy folk music. The actual plot was somewhat lacking and, although people make fun of Cage’s dumb performance in the remake, the Edward Woodward performance was not without its unintentional humor in its over-the-top prudishness. I guess what it boils down to is that I’m just a sucker for creepy modern pagan stories either way – and cheesiness can be a feature, not a bug.

Wacky Wicker
April 8, 2009, 3:05 am
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Totally real and not fake at all trailer for that hilarious comedy, The Wicker Man….

Why I’m A Bad “Networker”
April 5, 2009, 10:42 pm
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Megan McArdle wrote a good post about “networking” which is hard to excerpt but a key part is:

[Good networkers are] people who like other people, who talk to other people because they are interested in them, [...] Other peoples’ lives are interesting, even if they themselves aren’t fabulous raconteurs. A good networker is someone who starts out on the presumption that you must be interesting, and looks for the things that make you so.

Struck me as words of wisdom. Also brought up something that I usually suppress and try not to think about too much:

I don’t really like other people, and I’m actually not that interested in them.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, or anything. ;-) Certainly I don’t mind most other people. I think they’re fine and ok. And there are, of course, some I genuinely like. But the vast majority of people, while I’m sure they have details and stories and attributes and likes and dislikes that I could get into if I were forced into a conversation with them – that all just seems so tiring. And in the end, after all that effort of having a conversation, it’s just been my experience that there are very very few people who would have told me or revealed some truly ‘interesting’ thing that I would’ve found worth the trouble. Like, you have a sister in Duluth? Wow!

Everyone has details. And everyone’s details are slightly different. But that’s not enough to make them interesting, not to me.

It’s like the jokey “proof” of the statement that All (Integer, Positive) Numbers Are Interesting. 1. Surely there are some Interesting Numbers (and you list some: 60=seconds in a minute, 9 = months in a pregnancy, whatever). 2. If you claim that not all numbers are Interesting, that would mean that if I listed all the non-Interesting numbers, one of them would be closest to zero. 3. So it would be the Smallest Positive Non-Interesting Integer – but that would make it Interesting. 4. So there can’t be any non-interesting positive integers. QED. (And this proof could be expanded to negative numbers, etc. in the standard ways.)

That proof is a joke. A nerdy joke, but a joke. In reality nobody thinks all numbers are interesting. And so I have a hard time believing a person who claims to think all people are interesting – but if there are such people, then God bless ‘em. But it doesn’t work for me.

At least when I was younger and not married, there was an obvious incentive involved in talking to other people, or trying to, or finding them interesting, or pretending to, or even (at least) paying attention to them. That being: to get chicks. I might want to talk to a chick for obvious reasons (because she was a chick), or, at minimum, I might want to talk to a dude because he might know such-and-such chick.

Period. I’m not entirely joking when I say that I don’t even recall any other reasons for ever wanting (truly wanting) to talk to a person.

But now I’m taken, and so even that incentive is gone.

A corollary is that I’d probably be a better networker if I weren’t married. But only because then I’d be talking to and pretending to be interested in people more often.

Anyway, this would explain why I’m not a good networker, and apparently, never shall be. As Megan says later, it can’t be faked. There are times when I have to try to fake it, and there’ve been times when I thought I should work on it more, but it’s nice to know that it actually can’t be faked – takes the pressure off.

Phew. I feel better now ;-)

Lefty Imperialism
April 5, 2009, 9:22 pm
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As the left prides itself on its supposed “anti-imperialism”, I find it highly amusing to observe a full-blown case of lefty imperialism that’s been with us unnoticed for many years and is still, apparently, going strong. What am I referring to?

The ongoing, ridiculous, persistent idea that the United States always needs to “get troops from Europe”.

You’ve heard this many times I’m sure. Obviously as regards Afghanistan in Iraq. And it’s come up again most recently with Obama going and asking for troops for Afghanistan. It’s just amazing to me that a standard left-wing viewpoint is that the United States should “get troops from Europe” to help us in these endeavors.

Talk about imperialism! What, is Europe our colony?

Call me crazy but I think the nations of Europe are sovereign nations with rights of their own. As such, they may or may not want to contribute their troops to this or that endeavor of ours, depending on their perceived self-interest, and you know what? I respect that.

You know what else? The left doesn’t. To the left, if the U.S. is engaging in a war somewhere (say, Afghanistan), and French soldiers aren’t involved, there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed. I look at the situation and think “well, that’s their right”. The left thinks, “oh no! We must not have asked France nicely enough. We must have done something wrong. So we should keep asking! Ask better! Change our leadership, then ask again!”

For crying out loud, can’t we take “no” for an answer? We’re like stalkers.

At this point I’m not even sure I understand what Europe has to do with anything in the first place. (And this applies to more topics than simply the war on terror.) Let’s review: the U.S. was attacked by groups based in Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan. This necessarily involves, interests, or has to do with “Europe” how, exactly? I mean, I’ve seen a world map. Europe is not in the U.S. nor is it in Afghanistan. Why aren’t we having all these discussions about, oh I don’t know, Brazil? Why hasn’t the left glommed on to “get troops from Brazil” as their cause celebre? You got me. It would make just about as much sense.

So I can’t even begin to fathom what sort of mindset it must take to see (1) the U.S. fighting against forces in (2) Afghanistan and automatically jump to “where are the (3) French soldiers? we gotta get some French soldiers!” The logic behind (1) + (2) -> (3) simply escapes me. I must not have drunk that particular batch of Kool-Aid.

But the left has and it still hasn’t worn off. Which is how we get silly headlines such as Europe praises Obama, pledges few troops for Afghanistan. There are still people who think it’s important how many troops we “get” from Europe – something I’d totally forgotten about.

My theory is that Obama and the left don’t even remember or know why it’s so important to them to “get troops from Europe” for this thing. It’s not something they want to accomplish because of some end they think it will help them to achieve. It’s something they feel like they have to pretend to care about in order to carry through with their original criticism of Bush, that he didn’t “get” (enough) “troops from Europe”. This is kabuki geopolitics, going through the motions for appearances’ sake. The goal, as always, is PR: to prove that Obama is “better than Bush”. I suspect Obama is essentially asking Europe to contribute troops to him in order to make the “Bush didn’t get enough troops” criticism not seem quite as idiotic as it always was.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. We “got” 3000 troops from Europe. Hooray.

Now what?

The hilarious part here is that with all this “get troops from Europe” jazz the left have been acting like ugly, arrogant imperalists and they don’t even know why.


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