Monday, June 06, 2005

 

The soft collapse of government

Ohio's supreme court has made a fool of itself in a school funding case, in which it has tried to supplant the legislature, to no effect.

Now Kansas has joined the fray. Powerline has the scoop.

Monday, May 30, 2005

 

Crossing the Rubicon

We gave up television about 10 years ago. We've had the occasional backslide since then, but mostly we've maintained the wall.

That doesn't mean we've given up the entertainment, though. We've enjoyed a lot of series that we would not have enjoyed otherwise: Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, and of course a lot of movies.

Obviously, we watch them when we want to watch them, not at a fixed time on a weekly basis. And so we tend to see an entire season over the course of, say, 10 days or two weeks.

From the get-go, this has been one of the obvious benefits of the Internet, giving more production control to the user. I'll watch shows, and listen to news, when I want to.

But a significant thing is about to happen. The one regular event that ties me to a specific time is Rush Limbaugh. I have about a 50 percent rate of catching his show, and I want to catch it all the time. Not only do I enjoy it, but I use it for running time, since I don't really enjoy running on its own.

This month, he begins mp3 service. Now I'll have it whenever I want it. The only fixed broadcast remaining in my day is NPR. And even that is really a formality. They may be a bit slow about it, but they do put their daily stuff up on the web.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

 

Citizen of the world

Drudge has one of his typically misleading, or at least overstated, link headlines, "World ID card?" (There's a link that won't last long; I'm not experienced enough with Drudge's archives to know whether and how long it will be recoverable.)

The story itself is a slightly different point. The U.S. is pressuring Britain to use microchips in its ID documents that match microchips used in ours.

The story is much more nuanced and interesting than the link implies. Which is not to say Drudge is wrong; indeed, I think he's exactly right. But it's pretty heavy handed editorializing. And you have to say, privacy is a tough, tough issue, notwithstanding (maybe because of it?) the low value men like the estimable Judge Richard Posner seem place on the concept.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

Rule No. 1

The Wall Street Journal (that is, opinionjournal) today in its lead editorial (registration required) demonstrates rule No. 1 of press bias in government reporting, subhead, "There's no Bush 'ban,' and research money is flowing."

It's the old Republicans-oppose-school-lunch routine. So whenever you read a proposition in the newspaper that something won't happen if a given decision is taken, ask yourself, "Is it true that it won't happen, or is it only true that government won't be the one doing it?"

Sunday, May 22, 2005

 

Built-in

Free Republic relays that a library, possibly the second in the U.S., will use fingerprints as a log on device for public users.

"Right now we give you a library card with a bar code attached to it. This is just a bar code, but it's built in," said Mark West, the library's deputy director.

By the time we get around to developing a law of privacy, the point will be moot.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

What's he playing at?

When Newt Gingrich plays with the Clintons, he has his head handed to him. Some of the blame can be put at the feet of Oklahoma City, but most of it rests with Gingrich himself. He has no clear sense of who his enemies are. The famous Clinton handshake will be Newt's obituary icon (SPEAKER GINGRICH: -- let's shake hands right here in front of everybody. How's that? Is that a pretty good deal? (Applause.) THE PRESIDENT: I accept. (Applause.)

It was with mild irritation that DeeDee watched Newt's recent replay with Hillary!, or Mrs. Bill Clinton, or Senator Rodham or whoever she is. (Applause.) We know who has the iron will in that pair.

Gingrich still sounds good. He proposes a number of market solutions, some post-New Deal compromises that Republicans are likely to have to accept someday, and some basic welfare and tax code manipulation, along with a lot of deregulation. Give it a B plus.

So what does Hillary want? The answer to that, of course, is whatever it takes to make her president, so if she has to be conservative for a day, she'll be conservative for a day. Except, she won't be that way tomorrow. What she gets out of the deal is the nucleus of nationalized health care: HHS accreditation and regionalized, federally funded purchasing centers. Add in the support of the biggest socialists in the world--U.S. industry groups--and Newt's market based solutions will be socialized medicine quick as a wink.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

Lowered expectations

Mrs. Detritus doesn't like DeeDee's review of Sideways. Too general, she says.

So her review is this: The only reason so many people liked this movie is most of the reviewers are men, and the men in this movie have all the sex they want without consequence and still get their girls in the end. (Women don't consider a brutal beating and disfigured nose a consequence for men who've strayed.)

Anyway, I'm stickin' to my story. I'd put it up there with Garden State, another fine, low-key effort, maybe better than Sideways. I don't know. I should watch them both again, but I don't think I'd stay awake. Maybe I'll go rent Attack of the Clones, or a really fine work, In Like Flynt.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

Great expectations

Mrs. Detritus and I watched Sideways last night. After all the hype for it I was really expecting something, and instead what I got was a low-energy, reasonably well done film. But it hardly ranked as great, as even the usually reliable LAGuy thought it was.

Paul Giamatti was good, very good, and so was nearly everyone else. The directing got spotty once or twice, with those double-split, four-split views of the hand waving in the air out the car window/ostrich-in-wine-country scenes. Mostly, it was a decent and interesting effort, but not much more, and in the final judgment I'd say it fell just short of where it needed to be.

Maybe it just seemed so good to so many because the rest of the industry seems so creatively bankrupt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 

Conduct to make the reasonable man exclaim, "Outrageous!"

The Volokh Conspiracy is not to be missed today.

Monday, May 16, 2005

 

A contrary voice

I'm no fan of the Manhattan Media. But rather than criticizing Newsweak for its goofy Koran story (it was a stupid story), I'm rather impressed that they corrected it. They could easily have dug in Rather style, and I doubt they would have paid quite the same price for it. They erred and they fessed up. That's worth something.

Now maybe they can work on doing good reporting in the first place.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

 

Wrong way in the heartland

Pretty much the only reason flyover country exists is transportation, right?

We had our river cities first, but soon enough we had the National Road, then canals, then the railroads, then the Interstates, then the federal highway bills to pay for everything else. We're all about transportation. I mean, if I read one more press release from a city that says, "Within 600 miles of 70 percent of the population of the U.S." I'm going to barf.

The point is, we're all about roads. Add to that, we're good Red State, common sense country, yes?

So why have 10 people died in five months from entering highways driving in the wrong direction? Our local paper (registration required) lists them all, and yesterday was the 10th. Earlier this week, someone tried to commit suicide by driving the wrong way. What a brutal, murderous way to do it.

What is going on? Is this the kind of thing that happens all the time, but our roving eye is just now arbitrarily lighting on the phenomenon? Is this the power of suggestion, so that once one does it, others follow suit? It defies belief. Maybe society is falling apart, if we can't even handle road signs any longer, or avoid crashing headlong into one another.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

 

Frenzy

So the highway shooter jury deadlocked and now they'll have to try the guy over again.

I don't know how many people outside Columbus paid attention to this thing. It didn't quite seem to have the heft of the D.C.-area sniper shootings, perhaps because only one person died, as opposed to most of them. It all seemed like the act of a deranged person, and incompetent nut, as opposed to a malevolent and skilled killer, and that turned out to be the case.

So when the prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty, that sounded like playing to the crowd. The jury deadlocked over death, striking another blow for confidence in what may well be the foundation of our entire system.

They'll try again, as they should. But let's not pretend this guy is the worst of the worst of killers. He's just one of the most widely covered. Maybe we can find a prosecutor who has fortitude and common sense enough to do the right thing, instead of what he thinks will please the newspapers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

Impeachment loser/sex fiend attacks Republicans

So Ken Starr thinks holding the judiciary to account is radical. I'd day there's a 25 percent to 50 percent chance he could have given us a good history of, say, the New Deal supreme court and the changes of that era.

Instead, he chose to give us essentially an uniformed view of his prejudices about Tom Delay. There are two kinds of Republicans, and Ken Starr is the Bob Michel kind.

UPDATE 5/12/05: Apparently Starr is now saying CBS played the right quote, but in response to an entirely different question. Isn't that the network of Dan Rather?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

Living in a riskless world

LA Times' Ron Brownstein has a nice piece on defined benefits retirement plans. The piece is written largely without judgment and is worth reading. Even so, Brownstein doesn't quite get it. It's not a question of "transferring risk to workers and their families." That risk never went away; they just ignored it for a comforting lie. Rather, it's a question of placing the risk where it can best and most profitably--for the worker and his family--be dealt with.

Monday, May 09, 2005

 

It's a T-bill because we say it's a T-bill

John Fund argues that Bush can win the Social Security debate by having people invest in actual T-bills, not the fraudulent, non-tradeable things supposedly sitting in a cabinet somewhere (what happens if the cabinet burns? Are all obligations relieved?)

This is a good idea, but it's not quite as costless as Fund thinks. I doubt anyone knows what the effect of such a move would be on the T-bill market. Right now, the government is selling T-bills every day, which is essentially the same as a corporation selling bonds or you going to the bank for a mortgage.

If a corporation suddenly doubled its paper, or if you suddenly doubled your debt, it's only possible that you would be able to do it. Essentially it all boils down to whether your credit will withstand the additional load, and your credit is fixed at a given level. If you've borrowed 10 percent of your available debt load, then, sure, you can double it any time. If you've borrowed 90 percent, you're pretty much done.

For government, cold-turkey, to put non-marketable notes into the market would quite likely destroy the market. Bond-holders would suddenly have to decide whether they want to compete with the undisciplined alimentary canal that is Social Security spending.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

 

Moms in or out of context

Mrs. Detritus and I woke up early to head for southern Ohio, where the DetritusMom-in-law runs a restaurant with her sweetie (route 32, Sardinia; you should stop by). It's about a two-hour drive.

We thought we'd play a little joke and called her on the cell when we were two minutes away, leading her to believe we were safe at home and merely wishing her a happy mom's day. Her answer: "I'm really busy. Can I call you back in a little bit?"

Turns out some of the help didn't show up and she was running the tables alone at the busy time. When we walked in, she and I made eye contact, but she didn't see me; she saw only two more people who needed to be seated and served. She even rolled her eyes. You could hear her thinking to herself, "When is this going to end?"

We took our seats and she looked us over again. Again, she saw only two people at a table.

She took the order at the table next to us, then she came to us and got about three words out before she screamed and hugged Mrs. Detritus.

It's amazing how powerfully context acts on the brain.

Anyway, more help came it, the crowd thinned, we had a nice visit, and stopped by Serpent Mound on the way home, where we saw a bluebird. It was the perfect day.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

 

Bad day for a good man

Victor Davis Hason is having a bad day. He can't decide what to write. First he wants to be a cranky old man, arguing that the old days were better, when it comes to teaching history, anyway, even as he criticizes current culture for not understanding the old days. Then he's upset about sponging welfare programs. And of course, public education stinks. And floating around in there somewhere is the inchoate effort to say why history is important.

Good points, all, just not well done. Some days we just need an editor to tell us to go back and try again.

Friday, May 06, 2005

 

Heartplace of Grue

Courtesy Free Republic, the news is full of horrific things this morning.

The Scotsman has a straightforward story of an awful event, an inquest of a hideous accidental death involving a chainsaw, a puppy and a man who won't be able to live with himself.

In New York state, a man meets his end in a story straight out of Fargo.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 

Full disclosure

George will writes about health care and the American auto industry. What I don't get is the little throw away at the bottom:

Full, and pointless, disclosure: Mrs. Will is a consultant to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. She drives a Cadillac.

What's he afraid of, bloggers? Yeah, okay, but who does he think he is? Paul Krugman?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

 

Oh, the humanity

The Great Taranto links to a piece on mice research. For some reason, ever since I read it, I've been thinking about buffalo wings made of tofu. Or Chicken, or something.

Money quote:

In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. . . . Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

SOP, I guess, to kill anything that displays any traits of humanity. Immediately, though? Can we afford to wait that long?

 

Boilerplate

Killing some time early this morning between projects, I went looking for a Tim Horton's in an unfamiliar neighborhood (they're open all night). Couldn't find one; passed several gas stations, a Waffle House, and then I saw it: illuminated Golden Arches, purveyor of my second-choice coffee (large, six creams, 99 cents to $1.10) I hadn't expected them to be open but it was later than I thought.

My pleasant-employee send-off: "Please come back and see us again."

Monday, May 02, 2005

 

Most depressing headline award

Here's a happy argument: "Not all accounts of sex abuse in the Catholic Church turn out to be true."

Saturday, April 30, 2005

 

Get Carter

No, this isn't a post asking for Jimmy Carter to be appointed in John Bolton's stead (I wonder who is nicer to his subordinates?)

Courtesy of Sylvester Stallone, I watched Get Carter last night, the Michael Caine version. Somehow we ended up with a videotape of the 2000 effort, and though I've tried twice I just can't make it through. What Stallone's effort did do, though, was sufficiently remind and inspire that we rented the original.

The 1971 version, in contrast, while dark and oh-my-goodness brutal, was compelling. Caine was fabulous. The phone-sex scene alone made the movie.

So someone spare me the effort: Do the endings match, or would I be proved right to suspect the worst?

 

Present at the conception

Looking for some temporary biological knowledge, I was defeated by Googlignorance and ended up at a bovine insemination site.

Maybe Cow Porn is where my fortune lies. (Or am I late to this party, too? I'm afraid to find out. A "walrus porn" search once led, er, someone I know to a U.S. government site, and not one run by the attorney general, either. It was Geological Survey or some such, and it's not what you think, you pig.)

Anyway, speaking of business models, His Virtualness is attempting to generate some cash. I think it'll work. And the best part is, no one really knows how yet. I wonder who will write the book, and I wonder what people will use to read it?

 

Taken to the woodshed

Pajamaguy has dissed Dee Dee. What really hurts is that he doesn't challenge the detritus part; no, he takes his scare quotes and goes right for the "Daily" jugular. All I can say is, my April statistics are a heck of a lot better than ChicagoGuy's.

Friday, April 29, 2005

 

Hey, Beavis, he said 'titillation'! Heh, heh. Indeed.

It's rare that Dee Dee disagrees with his virtualness, Instapundit. Herr Professor Reynolds cites a gentleman wondering why Hollywood isn't cool, compared to video games. Reynolds builds in the concept, arguing that active will beat passive every time.

Maybe so. TV leads us all to be vegetables, etc. But I've heard the same argument about books, that they actively involve the brain, while movies (and TV) flatlines you.

I'd rather think the explanation is simply that they're different products, and there's no reason to expect Hollywood to glom onto the product any more than any other investor or entity might (say, General Motors or Microsoft). I hope, certainly, that the idea of storytelling isn't going to lose its value or its appeal. When on those rare occasions I've done something like role playing (a trip to the paintball warehouse), I'm doing something different than appreciating a crafted drama. Sure, I'm producing a story line, in some sense, but it's nonetheless a different thing.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

Sudden blog death

Bad week for posting. And Sunday, which may or may not have been a good day, was nonetheless a high-volume day. Dee Dee will try to do better.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

 

English diet

BBC's World Book Club today sponsored Wilbur Smith, whom I just might have to go look up. Usually interviews of artists are worthless, because the art has to speak for itself and conversations are usually banal. Somehow, though, Smith survived. My favorite was his response to "how to write," which he said he couldn't answer. But he didn't stop there.

"English has always been like plum pudding to me," he offered instead. "Respect and enjoy the language."

 

Suffering fools II

Powerline links to a great piece suffering the columnist with the greatest extant ratio of pompousness to information among all of the English speaking peoples. Those boys just don't like Tom Friedman, the man whose columns all begin, end and are filled with "I".

 

Suffering fools I

The top chicken in the Manhattan Media pecking order has a great story today (via Drudge) about Bolton's emails. I can't make heads or tails out of it. None of them are by or to Bolton. But God bless 'em, they're working as hard as a Democratic congressional staffer to do in their opposition. But I repeat myself.

 

A dwindling pie

More BBC this morning: A panel discussion was yammering about something, the Pope, I guess, but in any case it was four or five people of no apparent expertise. One of the things they discussed was the hope for more "social justice" in the Catholic Church and particularly whether this would empower South American communists (they did not use the term), which was taken for granted to be a good thing.

Money quote from the panelists about what third world people know: "You're getting poorer because Europe and the United States are getting richer and more powerful."

 

On Her Majesty's Buckeye

BBC ran a segment this morning discussing undecided voters in West Midlands and how they're responding to Labor's and Tony Blair's expected victory in the upcoming election (which victory, we are assured, will not be a validation of Blair's Iraq stance).

Because those West Midlands voters are so diverse yet politically balanced, they are "Britain's Ohio."

I don't think the just past election had quite enough cultural oomph for such an expression to last, but it's kind of cool for now.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

 

Radical attacks on judges

It's not just Ted Olson piling on, with his disappointingly trivial observations about radical attacks on the judiciary. Even the Smithsonian Magazine is getting into the act.

What we had not known, though MoveOn Democrats must have been pretty confident of, is that the president himself was into the act.

According to a political analyst, the president had a plan since his election (the second one) to alter what had been recogized as the longstanding interpretations of the law and judicial tradition. Money quote: "It was not the Constitution that required changing but the composition of the bench."

Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Getting it right

BBC this morning is reporting on the dispute between Armenians and Turkey over the WWI massacre, whether to recoginize it as genocide, what the consequences will be for doing so or not, what Turkey should do to acknowledge it.

Separately, following a dispute that's been raging between China and Japan, with Chinese rioting in the streets over feelings about Japan in WWII and a recent Japanese textbook is apparently dismissive of that country's WWII atrocities, the Japanese prime minister has apologized.

What to do about past atrocities? And can we ever separate the "deserving" atrocities, the ones we know about and pay attention to, from the rest? Somehow I feel this has all passed into the realm of deep personal pain, and no more than that.

But put Bill Clinton on it. He's a really good apologizer. And it'll stick, too, unlike that stinking effort from that insincere Japanese guy. Plus Bill can do it two or three years from now, and still get front page New York Times from it, I bet.

BBC also has an absolutely brilliant story, brilliant for its simplicity, about a BBC cameraman who was gunned down for dead in Saudi Arabia nearly a year ago but survived and is now a reporter in a wheelchair. This is good stuff worth listening to. Just a nice, factual recitation of what happened to him as he was gunned down.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

 

Regime change

Today's Morning Edition has a story about the civil removal of the president of Ecuador, Lucio Gutierrez and the subsequent swearing in of Alfredo Palacio. This line particularly caught me: "The armed forces have come out in favor of Palacio."

Turmoils in other countries interest me only indirectly, unsurprisingly. But this line strikes me for a reason that is too often tritely stated: We have something good going on here that such a statement cannot be made in America.

But this isn't guaranteed. It has been often noted how polarized we are, and I suspect we do not appreciate that we could lose this great thing of ours. Unfortunately, too many on the left can only see people they disagree with and therefore who must be defeated, whatever the cost. Since I do not veer left, but right, it's harder for me to see the same thing from my side. Intellectually, I'm sure it exists, but judgmentally, it's the Manhattan Media and the Democrats who are whining about being out of power and who apparently are willing to destroy everything to get it back.

I will say this. The more society tries to accomplish through government, the more political conflict there will be. This should be a caution to activist judges and liberals both. The greatest thing about the free market might not be that it makes us richer than we would otherwise be. It might be that it elminates conflict because we can all do what we most want.

Perhaps those two concepts are in fact the same thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 

NPR watch II

Listening to today's Pope news, you hear NPR joining the rest of the Manhattan Media with this formulation: "He has been called God's Rottweiler . . ." followed by a litany of at least 100 words of what those who favor church liberalization feel this infallible attack dog has failed to do.

It's easy to see why you'd use this phrase. It's great. Conceivably, that's why so many have picked it up verbatim.

But it's a lot easier to pick up great things like that when they run your way than against you. And either way, it's a bad practice. One, it's decisively overcute. You ought to hesitate long and hard, especially considering inherent judgment implicit in the phrase; two, the passive is always a bias flag. "Has been called" by whom? And then to list such a lengthy bill of particulars . . . it's just bad journalistic practice.

But entirely predictable.

 

Future funding problems solved

The BBC is reporting now that the Maine legislature has sponsored a law to preserve pay phones, which have suffered a tremendous decline as cell phones have arisen. It's really too bad this attitude did not prevail 100 years ago. Then, we wouldn't be having budget problems with our museums. We'd be living in them.

UPDATE: Excellent, lengthy, thoughtful story. Hitting a fly with a sheet of plywood, but well done. Following (recent) custom, BBC invited listeners to text a message commenting on the story.

 

Under pressure

Uh-oh. Pajamaguy has linked. DeeDee will have to start checkign spelling.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 

A man for all seasons

Human Events is reporting that Ohio Sen. George Voinovich is sinking the Bolton nomination. That'll get him some front page New York Times action. The funny thing is, he thinks he's a man of character.

UPDATE: Too easy, too easy. Not even the Pope could kick this one off page one.

BONUS UPDATE: NPR is all aglow this morning, reporting a recording of Voinovich talking about his "kitchen test." Voinovich was too boring to be allowed to say any more, so NPR helpfully explained this was whether you would want John Bolton in your kitchen.

What to say to that, except, not any time soon. But I thought we we talking about Bush getting nominations of his employees? When Big Back-stabbin' George, who last made the national news for opposing Bush's tax cuts, becomes president, then the country can bask in the glow of his Cleveland kitchen. Until then, would it be too much to ask that Republican senators quit empowering disingenuous Democrats and the Manhattan Media?

 

Amy's blend

Caribou Coffee is sponsoring a charity breast cancer fundraiser in honor of one of their employees who died. I'm told by the impressively knowledgeable staffer who serves me coffee every morning she was a master roaster. As I've said before, cancer is a bomb. Buy a cup and think of Amy.

Monday, April 18, 2005

 

Colorado passing

Good news for the Democrats. Colorado is moving on. Must be too many soccer moms moving into the state.

NPR reports this morning that the state legislature is considering the Small Necessities Leave Act. Requires 40 hours annual leave for things like going to see your kid's soccer game. I couldn't believe it. Then they said nine other states have a similar law (although the only example they cited was Massachusetts, which was not nearly as disturbing as if they had cited an American state).

If we're tolerating this from our lawmakers, pack it in. Individual autonomy is gone.

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