Archive for January, 2009

Flight of the Wife

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

So sometime today, I’ll run out to Pittsburgh to pick up the wife unit. What’s odd is that she’s flying through Baltimore, which is equidistant from State College (State College, being the exact center of the state, is three hours from everywhere). I could just as easily drive to Baltimore and save her a three-hour layover. But Southwest — usually a reasonable airline — charges more for flying from Baltimore. So we save money by taking an extra leg and using more fuel.

I know this isn’t exactly unusual with the way airline fares work. Maybe they’re trying to promote Pittsburgh or something.

Update: After finding out here Pittsburgh flight was delayed, Sue eventually got them to pull her luggage off and I picked her up in Baltimore. This was good because I got to deposit some checks (no Bank of America here), have dinner at one of our old haunts and remember why I didn’t care to live in Baltimore any longer.

Why I Love Capitalism, Part 87

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The rain forests are recovering as nations grow richer and people cease having to chop down jungle so that they can farm or log.

This is an idea libertarians have been pushing for 30 years or more — that the best way to keep people from chopping down the rain forest was to make them so rich that they didn’t need to.

Rice On White

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Yup, those engineered crops are pure evil, aren’t they?

We All Agree

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Cato has a rundown of the more than 200 economists who oppose the economic stimulus package. Reasonable people can disagree and I’m not saying those 200 are right. What I am saying is that the contention made by the President and Vice-President that no one disagrees on the idea of the stimulus; that Paul Krugman’s depiction of anti-stimulators as mere partisan hacks, is just garbage.

It’s. Just. Not. True.

I know why they are being so vociferous and trying to shout down dissent. It’s because the more people look at this bill, the more ridiculous spending they find.

Salmo Butter

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Do you want to know the difference between a real conservative and fake one? A real conservative would want the people who knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter to go to prison.

I Just Blew

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Sneeze pornography? Yup. I have to admit the girl is pretty cute.

Monday Linkorama

Monday, January 26th, 2009
  • Hacking your brain. I have to try some of those things.
  • Is anyone surprised that limiting campaign contributions doesn’t reduce corruption?
  • The anti-vaccination crowd now has a kid dead of Hib virus.
  • The incomparable Megan McArdle explains why mortgage cramdowns are a seriously bad idea:

    Think of these kinds of government cramdowns as doing it on the faux-cheap. It looks inexpensive, because the government isn’t shelling out directly. But making things artificially cheap by hiding the pricetag from yourself encourages you to do things you oughtn’t–just ask the current holders of “investment” properties purchased with “innovative” mortgages. In the end, the bill always comes due–and the accrued interest is usually a killer.

    I really hope the rumors that the NYT will hire her to replace the disgusting Bill Kristol are true. McArdle is one sharp lady.

  • Justice.
  • I love it. Monty Python decides to put high qualify videos of their sketches on YouTube. Absolutely free. The result. A 23,000% jump in DVD sales. They created new fans.

    The Grateful Dead did this for years. Too bad no one at RIAA has learned the lesson.

  • A must-read on how Bush betrayed all of us:

    Not too long ago, conservatives were thought of as the locus of creative thought. Conservative think tanks (full disclosure: I was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation) were thought of as cutting-edge, offering conservative solutions to national problems. By the 2008 elections, the very idea of ideas had been rejected. One who listened to Barry Goldwater’s speeches in the mid-’60s, or to Reagan’s in the ’80s, might have been struck by their philosophical tone, their proposed (even if hotly contested) reformulation of the proper relationship between state and citizen. Last year’s presidential campaign, on the other hand, saw the emergence of a Republican Party that was anti-intellectual, nativist, populist (in populism’s worst sense) and prepared to send Joe the Plumber to Washington to manage the nation’s public affairs.

  • I think Reason needs to start a daily column responding to Paul Krugman and his depressingly smug leftie commenters. You wouldn’t think a Nobel Prize winner would fall for the Broken Window Fallacy, but there you are. My favorite is his argument that $825 billion divided by three million jobs created is apparently only $100,000 per job. Apparently, these workers will pay themselves in future years.
  • Humor Is Subjective

    Friday, January 23rd, 2009

    I don’t what it is, but sometimes a thing will just grab me as hysterically funny. I will laugh way out of proportion to the funniness of it. Part of it is the way that humor can build. When you’re laughing, every subsequent joke seems even funnier. But sometimes a joke just strikes my brain funny and I think I might die.

    I just encountered a prime example. Via Cracked’s humorous article on infomercials, I found these two lines about the Pasta Pro (that stupid pot with holes in it). From Cracked:

    For our money, the cameo by cocksucker husband, who irritably taps his watch when his wife drops the pasta, is the clear winner. The expected “Where’s my dinner bitch?” comment is never uttered, but it is practically swirling around on screen in capitalized letters like tiny angry-man sugar plums.

    Also, on top of saving your marriage, the amazingly versatile Pasta Pro fits both gas and electric stoves.

    You try to pull that shit with a regular pot, the bastard’s likely to burst into flame. You won’t have time to worry about that, though, as the fierce blows rain down from your husband’s belt.

    So that set me up. Then this knocked me down from the infomercial product review message board:

    Shitty Pot, Great Entertainment Value

    7/17/2008 – Jenn of Alberta, Canada writes:
    My boyfriend got this pot as a gift. He used it once and when he went to drain the pasta, the lid stuck to the pot and wouldn’t come off. He was very hungry. Instead of throwing out the pot, he decided that he was going to have some [] pasta whether or not the pot was going to cooperate. He eventually took it outside with a baseball bat and smashed it in. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take too long considering how [] the pot was to begin with. Two stars! One for the crappy pot and one for the strange looks he got from the neighbours that day.

    I literally could not finish that comment the first time because I was laughing so hard. It made me have to go the bathroom. It’s not that funny, really. You probably don’t find it funny at all. But for some reason, it struck me at the right moment and put me in near hysterics.

    This has become less common as I get older. When I was a kid and camping out, we could recite dumb jokes that, when combined with copious farting, would nearly result in suffocation. Such events are rare and memorable now. They were common then. It’s nice to watch my daughter get to the stage where I can make her laugh uncontrollably just by making her rubber ducks dance together.

    Update: Also, is it just me? Or do the models in these infomercials seem to spend an inordinate amount of time holding the product in front of their chest? If I had to think of a theme for infomercials, it would be, “She’s not wearing a bra.”

    Photoshop Horror

    Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

    Check out the pic on this community activist site — which is my nominee for worst-designed website in the world.

    What the hell is wrong with the baby? Did its feet get gangrene?

    Knight Rider

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

    I just caught the first five minutes of the new Knight Rider show. It is indeed as bad as I thought. Bad enough to get me off my butt to change the channel.

    I’ve simply got find that remote.

    Grads

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

    Megan McArdle and Dan Drezner ask whether undergrad or grad school forms more of your character.

    For me, it was definitely grad school. Part is that I was in a smaller tighter social circle — most of whom are still in my profession. I also shaped my career, which is a bigger influence on your life than how much gin you drank one spring break.

    But the larger part is that I spent most of my undergrad years overcoming social awkwardness and enjoying being out of my parents’ house (i.e., wine, women and song — well, at least wine). I was much more serious about my career in grad school — I had an actual direction. Ironically, this freed up more time for having fun, reading classic novels and enjoying life. I even had a romantic life in grad school!

    Defending Paris

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

    In reading a review of Paris Hilton’s awful movie, I came across this good point:

    But the real reason this film was savaged by critics is because Paris Hilton is the poster child for our current tabloid-blogosphere-TMZ-fueled obsession with the inane details of celebrities’ social lives. At the same time, it’s become hip among the more, shall we say, sanctimonious bloggers and critics to make knee-jerk declarations that the world is slowly getting dumber, to fondly reminisce about some golden intellectual age that never existed, and to piece together half-hearted comparisons between contemporary American culture and the fall of the Roman Empire. To those people, Paris Hilton represents the End of Western Civilization As We Know It.

    Eh. To me, she’s just a vapid socialite who got famous for being famous. Nobody really thinks this a new thing, do they? I mean, honestly, what the heck did Edie Sedgwick ever do, really? Why does everyone know the name Charo? Why the hell was Anna Nicole Smith famous, again? And what, exactly, has Carmen Electra ever done with her life?

    People act like it’s a new, shocking, outrageous thing that someone with no perceptible talent became a household name. But if anything, Paris Hilton just breathed new life into an ages-old phenomenon. The only thing that’s arguably different these days is that fame has become more pervasive, as people demand more and more information about celebrities at their fingertips. People complain that Paris and her ilk are always in our faces, and yet, her name is consistently one of the most popular internet search terms. Come now, Paris didn’t make you type her name into Yahoo, did she?

    I’m sure back in Ancient Rome, the people followed the adventures of spoiled socialite Lutetia Villa just as ardently. We always seem to have a place for pretty but useless people.

    I will add this in defense of Paris. The video she did on energy policy for her “presidential campaign” was quite funny. And she made more sense than the actual candidates.

    Medco Healthco

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

    Just to show that stupid ideas about healthcare come from the private sector too, the head of Medco wants cookbook medicine for everyone:

    Dave Snow, CEO of the big pharmacy-benefits manager Medco, is making the rounds to tout his ideas on health reform, the topic of the day with Barack Obama about to take to oath of office. Snow stopped by Health Blog HQ and told us he likes an idea that HHS nominee Tom Daschle has been kicking around: a Federal Reserve for the health-care system.

    Snow said the time has come for doctors to follow set protocols on how to treat patients, and to be paid based on whether they do it. Basically, ‘If X, then do Y,’ and ‘If Y, then do Z,’ sort of stuff. Snow concedes the public doesn’t trust the private sector to come up with these kinds of rules.

    As opposed to how we trust our government.

    So he wants some smart folks to get together in an “apolitical” body like the Fed, and do it themselves.

    Apolitical? Apolitical? In Washington? And I thought I was naive. I wonder if this apolitical body will be throwing lots of money at Medco.

    What is it about certain people that they think of government as some sort of benign, objective, infinitely fair entity? Does no one appreciate that when buying and selling are controlled by politics, the first things to be bought and sold are politicians? Does no one appreciate that even when our overlords’ intention are benign, they can still get it wrong?

    I mean, really. Saying healthcare should be run like the Federal Reserve Board? Has this idiot not been paying attention to the mortgage collapse?! Did he miss the double-digit inflation of the 70′s? What the hell?

    “I’m fine with this big, national board creating this standard,” Snow says.

    Well, I’m not. Snow is buying into the biggest misconception kicking around healthcare reform circles — that doctors diagnose patients by taking symptoms, looking them in a great big book and giving a prescribed course of medicine.

    But as I’ve noted about a million times, symptoms are not always clear. And a course of medicine can not be set in stone. Some patients tolerate certain courses of treatment better than others. But Dave Snow — and many politicians — apparently think that course of treatment are best prescribed out of a Washington office in a one-size-fits-all fashion. So you can look forward to uniform treatment. Also more complications, more needless deaths, more “medical errors”, more expense and less freedom.

    Jesus, is this the quality of CEO we have these days? No wonder our economy is collapsing.

    Of course, with his background, arrogance and ignorance, he’ll be the perfect person to be tapped for a health care reform committee to show Obama’s support in private industry. The press will laud his appointment as showing “bipartisanship” and “listening to every voice” (except that of the doctors and patients). Apparently, having industry insiders set public policy is good when it’s liberal public policy.

    And everyone will miss that he’s dumber than a bag of hammers.

    Actually, I don’t think he’s dumb. I think he’s scum. Critics of the free market never seem to grasp that big business hates the free market. Dave Snow does not want doctors making their own decisions and deciding to prescribe cheap medication or no medications to their patients. Under the guise of “reform”, he wants to politicize every diagnosis in America so that a medical company — his medical company — can make sure that the money flows their way.

    Speech Wars

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

    Marc Ambinder tips us to this site, where you can check the frequency of words used in inaugural addresses. “Non-believers”, “muslims” and “data” were words used for the first time by Obama today. The first one really jumped out at me as it’s the first time I can recall that a President has acknowledged atheists (I’m not one, incidentally, but I play one on the internet).

    It’s a fun tool to play with. Something interesting I found: “God” barely shows up at all in speeches until Lincoln and hits its peak under Reagan. “Slaves” and “slavery” were basically unsaid until Lincoln. Bush was the most prominent user of “freedom” and “liberty”, ironically enough. “Security” peaked with Truman. Obama only said change once, far less than Clinton, Johnson or Taft. So apparently, Taft was change we could believe in before Obama was. Who knew?

    Still waiting for someone to say “suckers”.