Midweek Linkorama

  • Chili grenades? Chili grenades.
  • Stripper week continues on the blog with this story about Iceland banning the practice. This is being proclaimed as a great victory for feminism, but I don’t see that taking away women’s freedom — even if it’s the freedom to “degrade” themselves – and probably forcing them into illegal activity, is progress.
  • A fun story about the First Seder in the White House. I wonder how the Demented Right will square this with their vision of Obama as an Israel-hating Muslim.
  • Radley Balko has a point. Why doesn’t the public have a fraction of the outrage over real killings and bloodshed committed in the name of the War on Drug as they do about a brick thrown through a politician’s window?
  • Barack Obama and the Democrats kept abstinence-only education funding in the healthcare bill. Because what this country really needs to bring our healthcare bills down is a bunch of pregnant teenagers. And I thought I was snarked out on that subject.
  • You know the thing I hate about being a libertarian? Being right all the time. For the last decade, we warned that states were spending beyond their limits and creating a fiscal time bomb. We were right. Again.
  • More on the Godwinizing of the Tea Party.
  • Some legal humor from one of my favorite judges.
  • Another Climategate Investigation

    The first of the UK investigations of Climategate has cleared the scientists of deliberately tampering with the data. This is only the first investigation and not the most in depth. So we’ll see what other bodies conclude.

    Notably, the report chided the scientists for their stonewalling on FOI requests, noting they could have spared themselves a lot of trouble. I agree with this whole-heartedly. As crazy as the conspiracy theories may be, they are fed by the climate scientists treating their data as though it were the secret to alchemy, not haphazard and sometimes unreliable temperature records.

    Of course, there’s a lose-lose aspect to these investigations. If wrongdoing if found, it will be rightfully denounced. But if it isn’t, will hear cries of “whitewash”. That is, after all, what happened after Penn State concluded their investigation. (And, really, every investigation everywhere that has political overtones).

    Still, it’s good to get sunlight on the matter.

    Bad Stamps

    You know, every time I see a list of bad tattoos, I have to wonder about the thinking going into them. Do people really think these tattoos more attractive? Is there really a dramatic, artistic or personal statement involved when you tattoo a bible passage on your ass?

    Ink is just one of those things that people get into for it’s own sake. They probably don’t understand what I get out of blogging.

    Come to think of it, I’m not terribly sure what I get out of blogging…

    The Hurt Locker

    I finally saw the Best Picture of 2009. It’s good, maybe even great. It has some inaccuracies that I’m sure drive genuine Iraqi vets up the wall (one particular sequence, in which the soldiers run around in the dark without using their night vision, was particularly egregious). But as an action-thriller, it works very well, held together mainly by the lead performance and exquisite directing.

    I note the IMDB rating is rather low (7.9) for such an acclaimed film and Amazon’s review are a bit mixed. It ranks around Iron Man and Frost/Nixon for 2008, the year it was technically released. That seems about right to me, actually. Right now, I rate it an 8. Good, but not Great.

    What puzzles me is why this won Best Picture. It’s a good movie, but it’s in the same category as District 9 and Avatar, two fellow nominees whose presence also puzzles me. It’s an action movie; a “guy movie”, really. It doesn’t have a great deal of artistic merit and it’s unlikely to be remembered as an all-time classic. I liked it better than Up or Inglorious Basterds and haven’t seen the other films. But some strike me as being more in traditional Oscar territory.

    So why did it win? Was it really that great a picture? I don’t think so. I think Hurt Locker’s victory can be attributed to two factors.

    1) Many people didn’t want Avatar to win and stampeded to the alternative. And if they gave the middle finger to Cameron by decorating his ex-wife, all the better. (I don’t think it bothered Cameron at all, though. I’m sure he’s crying all the way to the bank.)

    2) I think many Academy members didn’t watch the movie and figured that it must make a statement against the Iraq War (which it doesn’t).

    In short, it strikes me as a victory of Hollywood politics.

    The politicization of award season has really stopped bothering me anymore. I was furious when the mediocre Shakespeare in Love triumphed over the amazing Saving Private Ryan. But ever since Lord of the Rings won the Oscar, my interest has waned.

    And I really don’t think that’s a bad thing. What point do the Oscars serve anymore, other than for Hollywood to worship itself? Critic’s top ten lists are online. Places like metacritic will merge them into a big list for you. Rotten Tomatoes compiles reviews. IMDB compiles user ratings. Hurt Locker is one of the rare films that got a boost from winning the award. But it’s not like no one would have heard of it otherwise. Maybe I only have 50% of the X chromosomes needed to appreciate the “elegance” and “spectacle” of the awards show, but even those who have a full complement seem to be getting bored with it.

    (And as an aside, I had to turn off the Oscars during the actor’s award presentations. It’s intolerable to watch each actor get some worshipful paragraph read to them by another actor. Give me a fucking break. These are actors, not miracle workers. No matter how good Meryl Streep is, it’s not like she cured cancer.)

    Anyway, the movie is good. I may be even buy it. And in the end, that’s all that matters: whether people watch it and keep watching it in the future. Awards come and go. Art remains.

    Politically Incorrect Linkorama

  • Is diversity training a sham? It wouldn’t surprise me at all. But I’d never admit it in print.
  • OK, I’ll admit it. I read this article because someone linked it up as an article about strippers. But, if you can get by the author’s decolletage, it’s a very fascinating article about how Massachusetts law is making life more difficult for strippers in the name of helping them. (It also confirms that my acquaintance who stripped her way through college and into law school was not unique. And no, she was a friend of a friend. I didn’t meet her in a professional context.)
  • I’m cooking up a post, not sure for which site, that would infuriate my old feminist philosophy professor. It may be a while, but I’ll link up this story, about the myth that sex slaves are pulled in for sporting events. What’s amazing is how many members of the religious right and feminist left will respond to this story with dismay — i.e., they’ll be disappointed that there is not a severe sex slave problem that they need to agitate about.
  • Was our War on Fat misguided? I find this especially interesting given an article I read last week about scientists mis-using statistics. We’ve seen this pattern from the Food Grabbers. Ten years ago, we all had to substitute trans fats into our diet. Now we have to get rid of them. Ten years from now they’ll be back. Personally, I think our evolved bodies are too kludgey for strict dietary rules.
  • Speaking of bad science, this sounds like hand writing analysis for the 21st century.
  • OK, enough political incorrectness. Back to plain old BS.

  • Ireland is cutting bureaucrat pay to balance their budget. There is no chance such a thing could happen in this country.
  • The massive epidemic of bad public defenders seems a case of being penny wise and pound foolish. A competent defenders would keep innocent people out of prison and keep appeals from dragging out, saving money in the long run.
  • Hugo Chavez takes Sean Penn’s advice and arrests the owner of the last free television station in Venezuela.
  • I can’t stand Ann Coulter. But I find the Canadian restrictions on free speech even more offensive.
  • Meyer Takes Out Thiessen

    More on Marc Thiessen’s attempts to rewrite history, this time from Jane Meyer, author of the oustanding The Dark Side. Money quote:

    Thiessen presents the C.I.A. interrogation program as an unqualified success. “In the decade before the C.I.A. began interrogating captured terrorists, Al Qaeda launched repeated attacks against America,” he writes. “In the eight years since the C.I.A. began interrogating captured terrorists, Al Qaeda has not succeeded in launching one single attack on the homeland or American interests abroad.” This is not exactly a textbook demonstration of causality. Moreover, the claim that American interests have been invulnerable since the C.I.A. began waterboarding is manifestly untrue. Al Qaeda has launched numerous attacks against U.S. targets abroad since 9/11, including the 2004 attack on the Hilton Hotel in Taba, Egypt; the 2003 and 2009 attacks on hotels in Indonesia; four attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi; and the assassination of Lawrence Foley, a U.S. diplomat, in Jordan. In 2007, Al Qaeda attacked Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan, killing two Americans and twenty-one others, in a failed attempt to assassinate Cheney, who was visiting. Indeed, Al Qaeda’s relentless campaign in Afghanistan has helped bring about the near-collapse of U.S. policy there. In Iraq, the Al Qaeda faction led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

    Read the whole thing.

    Thiessen is a perfect representative of the Republican party. He is not an expert in intelligence or terrorism, he’s a speech-writer. His research consists of interviewing people who support his side and never taking counter-arguments seriously. The GOP seems to prefer to live in such alternate realities. They’re welcome to them.

    Tuesday Linkorama

  • Yep. Erin Brockovich was full of it.
  • The wheels of justice turn slowly in Maricopa County; but they may finally be turning.
  • Moody’s may remove the AAA rating from US bonds if we don’t clean up our act.
  • A lovely little 18 minute film about a plastic bag. Yes, a plastic bag. I disagree with the underlying politics (dust to dust calculations are, at best, ambiguous on whether alternatives to plastic bags are better for the environment).
  • Holy crap!
  • Megan McArdle spanks those who are backing off from their sweetness and light predictions now that healthcare has passed.
  • The latest drug war outrage.
  • Books

    I put this at the other site, but thought I’d cross-post it here

    I’m not going to blog about healthcare today. OK, not much. I’m exhausted on the subject, having rabble-roused on it non-stop, here and elsewhere, for the last couple of weeks. The arguments still apply. I’m just taking a break from all that.

    For relief, I thought I’d spin off a post Tyler Cowen put up. He listed the ten books that have most influenced him and encouraged other bloggers to do so. My list, and some explanation is after the break. Ignore if you wish or put up your list of influential books.

    I’m doing this gonzo style. I’m not thinking too hard or doing any research. I’m just listing the ten that immediately spring to mind. I’m also looking for influence, not “favorite”. So a few of my favorite books (LOTR, The Mote in God’s Eye, etc.) get left out.

    In no particular order:

    Free To Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman. I was a always a free market guy. But this book solidified my trust in the free market and explained how and why it works and how it can be applied to modern political problems. Das Kapital has a similar influence, but for opposite reasons. After reading it, I couldn’t believe anyone took it seriously.

    Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Sad to say, I was a very repressed kid growing up. I didn’t have a strict upbringing or anything. I was just shy and unpopular. This book started the long process of breaking me out of that shell (a process that reached its apotheosis with a particularly wild and crazy girlfriend). And no, my libertarian beliefs were formed after I became a more well-adjusted person. When I grow up, I want to be Jubal Harshaw.

    The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Nothing can prepare you for the true evil of the Soviet Union that is unveiled in this book. After reading this, I no longer found communists in any way “cute” or “idealistic”. This also formed a lot of my opinion of the Bush “enhanced interrogation” regime since it is very similar to the way the gulag extracted confessions from the zeks. Solzhenitsyn goes into this in great detail. (Tip of the hat to Anne Applebaum’s Gulag, which is also outstanding).

    Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I can’t really explain this one. I’ve now read it three times and it speaks to me like almost no other book does.

    Watership Down by Richard Adams. A wonderful political allegory completely masked as an amazing piece of fiction. One of the few books to bring tears to my eyes.

    The Inferno by Dante Aligheri. This started a long fascination with religion and Christian eschatology in particular. Paradise Lost should get an honorable mention here as should the commentaries is Etz Chayim.

    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This rekindled my interest in science fiction.

    Parliament of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke. This book showed me that stupid politicians and idiot liberals can also be funny. And it was a big part of my turn toward libertarianism. It is also a big part of my realization that while people oppose big government in principle, they love it in the particulars.

    The Histories by Herodotus. This kindled a growing interest in ancient history. Combined with Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation of how precious civilization is, how easily it can fall and how important it is to defend it.

    The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Much of my insight into economics and sociology comes from this book. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is also good, but in a different way.

    Hmm. Somehow I managed to get through that list without a singly Ayn Rand title. How’d that happen?

    Wednesday Linkorama

  • Why a salad costs more than a Big Mac. Hint: it’s government subsidies.
  • You know, I find it very disturbing when the subject of gay marriage comes up, dingbat “conservatives” immediately start talking about bestiality. There’s something they’re not telling us.
  • I called 2009 the Year in Fantasyland. It’s looking like 2010 may be the year of reality. Certainly the anti-vaccination nonsense is taking body blow after body blow.
  • Paul Krugman gets taken to the woodshed on trade, which is supposed to be his area of expertise.
  • More evidence that defensive medicine is not the myth the lawyers claim it is.
  • Hitch lets loose on the Pope.
  • French TV recreates the Milgram Experiment. News anchors act shocked. Fail to make connection to American embrace of torture.
  • The Social Security “Trust Fund” is now being tapped, a decade ahead of schedule. And we’re supposed to expect healthcare reform to stay within its budget.
  • Horrific story from Ethiopia about how women are raped, abducted and wed, in that order. Fortunately, there’s a rebellion going on among Ethiopian women.
  • The Eye That Does Not See

    Neal Boortz today:

    Now, ask the average American how much they paid in taxes last year. Many will say, “Actually, I got a check for $400!” This folks, is nothing but government educated ignorance. The fact is that the government isn’t just “giving” you these tax refunds out of the goodness of its heart. That is YOUR money.

    This is a very good point. An excellent point. Except … that Neal Boortz is the primary supporter of the Fair Tax. Under the Fair Tax, the typical family would received a tax “prebate” of $400+ every damned month.

    This is why I refer to Fair Tax supporters as Fair Tax Movementarians. In addition to thinking the Fair Tax will magically put extra money into their paychecks, will magically make lobbyists go away and will magically generate revenue from illegal activities, they can’t see the problem with the Prebate.

    (I’ve blogged on the prebate before. One correction: I don’t think getting checks to everyone every month will be that much of a problem. My other criticisms stand.)

    Weekend Linkorama

  • Amazing. The Chilean earthquake moved Concepcion by ten feet.
  • I’m not sure if this is aggregate cheating or cheating rates. One thing is clear. Them real estate agents is frisky.
  • You have to wonder when our politicians will get called out for this green jobs nonsense. Especially as you can call anything — including making environmentally damaging corn ethanol — a green job.
  • When Obama won the Nobel Prize, he promised to give the $1.4 million cash prize to charity. Looks like he fulfilled that promise. I can’t think there’s a single name on there that will cause controversy, although I’m some idiot will find something they don’t like.

  • Is the “War on Fat” going to be Michelle Obama’s equivalent to Nancy Reagan’s “War on Drugs”? Possibly.
  • I knew there was some use for shopper cards.
  • Megan McArdle tries to discern the signal from the noise in the Toyota recall.
  • Canada has the warmest winter on record. But global warming is a hoax!
  • More From The Climate Front

    It looks like the computer code at East Anglia isn’t as bad as the Bad Skeptics claimed it was. Think they’ll withdraw that statement? Don’t bet on it. Every climate denial checklist from now on will include that debunked claim, along with global cooling, the withdrawn study on sea level rise, etc.

    We’re also seeing lies built upon lies. Lie One was that the CRU data was faked. So now Lie Two comes alog — the CEI claiming that NASA admitted that their climate data is inferior to the fraudulent CRU data.

    Of course, the e-mails say nothing of the kind. The e-mails say that in studying the climate, you can’t proclaim one data set (NASA’s) to be the end-all, be-all; that you should use all four temperature lines.

    But that doesn’t matter to the Chinese Whisper factory that is Bad Climate Skepticism. What matters is that Algore and a whole bunch of dirty hippies believe in global warming. So it must be fake.

    Texas On Hold

    A Texas judge has ruled that the procedures surrounding Texas’s use of the death penalty are unconstitutional. I’m not sure what to make of this. My feeling is that the biggest problem is slimeball governors like Rick Perry who may have executed and innocent man, is replacing members of the investigative board to cover this up and may be about to execute another innocent man. So long as we have governors and prosecutors who are more interested in getting their man than carrying out justice, we will have problems.