Howard Dean is a Lying Crapweasel

Send one kvetchy e-mail to your Democratic Congresswoman, and apparently you get on the mailing list for the Democratic National Committee. That'll teach me.

Special Notice for Mr. Paul Sand

You have been selected to represent Rollinsford, NH in the 2008 Presidential Campaign Survey. Survey documents registered in your name are enclosed.

Mrs. S. tells me that she's never seen my eyes roll around in my head like that before.

It's pretty standard stuff, the flip side of what I usually get from the GOP. But question seven on the survey kind of irritated me:

  1. Do you believe that John McCain's pledge to keep troops in Iraq for another 100 years will be a liability in the General Election?

    Yes No Unsure

As anyone knows who gets their news from sources other than MSNBC, that's above and beyond the usual campaign exaggeration, crashing into "outright lie" territory.

Here's on a previous DNC version of this falsehood:

What McCain actually said is that he wouldn't mind a hundred-year troop presence "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

I.e., far from a "pledge", even further from the DNC's implication.

The survey comes with a cover letter from DNC Chairman "Governor Howard Dean, M.D." which includes the query:

And how should our Party respond when John McCain and his Republican allies try to "Swift Boat" our nominee with dirty tricks, personal attacks and untruths?

As far as untruths go, they've apparently decided on a preemptive strike.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 7:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • To follow up on a previous Pun Salad rant, our local paper reports the doings at the recent South Berwick, Maine Town Council meeting:
    Excluding Counting House Park, smoking and the use of tobacco products is now technically banned at some recreation areas in South Berwick after the Town Council passed a tobacco-free resolution Tuesday night.
    "Technically banned", because:
    Signs soon will be posted in those areas indicating they are tobacco-free zones. The resolution is not a law, and violators will not be subject to arrest or fines.
    In other words: it's a pure nag. However, cops will be given additional nanny duties:
    For example, a police officer who happens to find someone smoking in one of those areas will ask the person to leave the area or stop smoking, according to Police Chief Dana Lajoie.
    Soon, no doubt, the South Berwick police force will also be checking to make sure park users are not engaged in other objectionable activity, such as running with sharp objects, consuming trans fats, or lacking sufficient protection against solar UV rays. They will be provided with additional training in effective techniques for dealing with such misbehavior, such as disapproving looks and finger-wagging.

    Counting House Park was excluded because, well, people do actually smoke there while fishing in the Salmon Falls River.

  • In related news, Margaret Soltan notes a report from England:
    A university today warned its students not to throw their mortarboards in the air at their graduation ceremonies because it was too dangerous and could hurt them.
    "You'll put your eye out!" Professor Soltan has a suggestion for alternative headwear.

  • There's much wisdom in Jerry Zezima's "Secret to a happy marriage: Be annoying"
    Now that my wife and I have been married for 30 years, family and friends have suggested that, for putting up with me for so long, Sue deserves to be the first living person canonized by the Catholic Church. I, they add, deserve to be shot from a cannon.

    What is the secret of our long and happy marriage? The answer, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, is that we get on each other's nerves.

    I pointed this out to Mrs. S.; she pointed out that the "annoying" thing is pretty much a one-way street in our case. Which way the street goes is left as an exercise for the reader.

    A less humorous report of the study is here.

  • Also on an optimistic note, the New York Times recently reported good news on the geezer brain front:
    When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

    Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

    So, I'm trying to memorize this sentence so I can roll it off my tongue as needed: "It may appear that I'm getting stupider, but, as described in a recent New York Times article, I'm simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter on information, often to my benefit, you young whippersnapper."


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As I type, Juno is number 199 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. Please. But it's pretty good.

Juno is a 16-year-old girl who's smart, funny, and as foulmouthed as you can be in a PG-13 movie. She's also with child, and the movie follows her story over the course of her pregnancy. She initially goes to an abortion clinic, but skedaddles from the waiting room. (That's a slight spoiler, but it would be a pretty short movie otherwise.) Eventually, she settles on a privately-arranged adoption with a nice yuppie couple, but all is not as it seems.

Juno is sharply observant of other peoples' foibles, but (refreshingly) non-condescending. All characters are three-dimensional and credible. Even the character that comes closest to a caricature, a lone abortion protester outside the clinic, has her job to do: she says the one little thng that eventually dissuades Juno from getting the abortion.

The screenwriter, Diablo Cody, won an Oscar; this was her first screenplay. The movie was also nominated for Best Picture, Jason Reitman was nominated for Best Director, and Ellen Page, who plays Juno, was nominated for Best Actress. Not bad.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Today's David Boaz WSJ op-ed describes the sad collectivist rhetoric employed by the leading presidential candidates, disparaging "individual interests" and urging their listeners to a "greater cause". Boaz notes especially Obama's recent commencement address, where he urged students to resist the temptations of the "money culture", and McCain's performance in a GOP debate, where he described himself leading "out of patriotism, not for profit."
    There is a whiff of hypocrisy here. Mr. Obama, who made $4.2 million last year and lives in a $1.65 million house bought with the help of the indicted Tony Rezko – and whose "elegant suits" and "impeccable ties" made him one of Esquire's Best-Dressed Men in the World – disdains college students who might want to "chase after the big house and the nice suits." Mr. McCain, who with his wife earned more than $6 million last year and who owns at least seven homes, ridicules Mr. Romney for having built businesses.

    But hypocrisy is not the biggest issue. The real issue is that Messrs. Obama and McCain are telling us Americans that our normal lives are not good enough, that pursuing our own happiness is "self-indulgence," that building a business is "chasing after our money culture," that working to provide a better life for our families is a "narrow concern."

    They're wrong. Every human life counts. Your life counts. You have a right to live it as you choose, to follow your bliss. You have a right to seek satisfaction in accomplishment. And if you chase after the almighty dollar, you just might find that you are led, as if by an invisible hand, to do things that improve the lives of others.

    It's a short column, and I've quoted a lot of it. But Boaz has won the coveted Pun Salad Read the Whole Thing Award for today.

  • Related to that: I usually avoid first-hand exposure to campaign rhetoric—a guy my age has to watch his blood pressure, you know—but Jim Geraghty has noticed a rhetorical point that the Obama campaign really, really, really wants you to get: "Barack Obama could have made more money in the past by taking different jobs, but chose other ones."

    Geraghty notes this point being hammered into the discourse by David Axelrod, Michelle Obama, Lawrence Tribe, and Barry himself. He then observes:

    The expected reaction to this I-could-have-made-millions-but-chose-otherwise is for the public to beam and salute Obama’s appetite to make a difference instead of a fortune. (He and Michelle have actually accumulated a small fortune, thanks to his book sales and her dramatic post-2004 salary increases.)

    But the more this note is repeated, I’m reminded of someone else. That guy in your office. You know, that guy who’s always, sometimes subtly and not so subtly reminding you how lucky you are that he works here. How he could be making more money elsewhere. How he knows he’s overqualified, but he isn’t interested in material things, and he feels the best way to demonstrate that modesty is to constantly remind you of it.

    Fortunately, we don't have those guys in my office. But I know what he means, don't you?

  • Also see: "Obamerica" from Jim Manzi.

  • The Point du Jour: Rachel Lucas addresses those conservatives who plan to sit out or vote third-party due to McCainian shortcomings:
    Sorry, I know lots of you who feel that way are very wonderful people who I really do respect, but I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: I think your plan is shitty. You’re going to get Obama elected, you realize that right? If you’re cool with that, more power to you, but I for one will NOT welcome my new Dumbass Overlord Obama.

    … We’re done with Bush now and we’re getting a new president. And it’s probably going to be Obama because so many people who otherwise could prevent that outcome simply won’t do it because McCain doesn’t say what they want him to say about whatever their pet cause is. It doesn’t matter to these people that there is no “Reagan” waiting in the wings to take over after Obama pulls a Jimmy Carter on the country.

  • But the Counterpoint du Jour is from Mike Rapaport at The Right Coast:
    We don't know who will be available 4 years from now. But one good way to make sure there is no Reagan is to elect John McCain, who will not only govern badly, but will also make it hard for the Republicans to have any principles.

    Notice how Lucas turns issues of principles into "pet causes." That is absurd. But she's right about one thing. Her post does treat principles as the equivalent of "pet causes."

    So, in response to Rachel Lucas, right back at you: "I think your plan is shitty."

  • Bottom Line du Jour is from Kevin Baker (via the aforementioned Rachel):


    Yes, he's selling those. Very tempting.

Last Modified 2008-09-30 1:54 PM EDT

Robin B Hood

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His role here is "Thief With a Heart of Gold". He's a member of a three-man team of robbers, well-skilled at knockovers. But (unfortunately) their spending habits quickly drain their ill-gotten gains. So, desparate for cash, they find themselves roped into a kidnaping scheme, ironically involving a baby whose abduction they'd previously thwarted while stealing drugs at a hospital.

The movie then veers into a remade Three Men and a Baby for a while, as the robbers are spectacularly incompetent at infant care. That drags. There's an epic final showdown with the evil mastermind and his henchmen, and the baby's life is imperiled more than once. Will the kid survive? Will Jackie and his buddies escape? No spoilers here.

There are the usual stunningly choreographed fight scenes. There are also a lot of laughs. Apparently Chinese movies aren't quite as fastidious as American movies when it comes to showing the contents of diapers.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Dan Geer, a very smart computer guy, used to give must-attend talks at the LISA sysadmin conferences. For some reason, he stopped attending a few years back. But he's still around, and still smart, and Bruce Schneier has posted links to both the text and video of a recent talk he gave in Boston. I also like the two paragraphs Schneier quoted, so I will too:
    At the end of the day, however, we are facing a much bigger, more metaphysical question than the ones I have so far posed. That I can pose many others is of no consequence; either you are sick of them by now or you are scribbling down your own as I speak. The bigger question is this -- how much security do we want?

    A world without failure is a world without freedom. A world without the possibility of sin is a world without the possibility of righteousness. A world without the possibility of crime is a world where you cannot prove you are not a criminal. A technology that can give you everything you want is a technology that can take away everything that you have. At some point, real soon now, some of us security geeks will have to say that there comes a point at which safety is not safe.

    A lot there to mull, both for computer geeks and the general citizenry.

  • Matt Welch reacts to today's E. J. Dionne column on "the true meaning of patriotism." E. J. quotes extensively and favorably from the book The True Patriot by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. For example:
    … [Liu and Hanauer] offer rigorous standards for what patriotism should be. "True patriots," they write, "believe that freedom from responsibility is selfishness; freedom from sacrifice is cowardice; freedom from tolerance is prejudice; freedom from stewardship is exploitation; and freedom from compassion is cruelty."
    Apparently patriotism-questioning will be all the rage this campaign season. As long as they get to define it (with "rigorous standards"), progressives will be all too eager to slap the "unpatriotic" label on dissenters. Whee.

    Welch is even less enamored with the tactic:

    Lord, how I despise every inch of this conversation. There is something juvenile yet creepy−not unlike watching Uncle Todd wave his penis−with the spectacle of people who wake up in the morning dreaming up new ways to draw the precise boundaries around what it means to be sufficiently patriotic. Especially when the definition of patriotism is in opposition to enumerated freedoms.
    No, this wasn't a sleazy attempt to sneak the word "penis" into our PG-13 rated blog.

  • I bet you were asking yourself: what's Jimmy Carter's granddaughter up to these days? UNH's own Shawn Macomber will tell you:
    … she sees her grandfather’s goofy-smiled carousing with terrorists and parries back with a small solo exhibit of paintings at Fake Estate in Manhattan entitled Casualties of Beauty, described in an accompanying press release as a “provocative collision of buoyant breasts, carnivorous plants, topographic flesh, oil slicks, and roadside IEDs” which “simultaneously depict phoenix totems of creation and destruction with a hint of irony.”
    Just a hint. Wouldn't want to overdo the irony.

  • If you're like me—you're probably not, but just in case—you'll want to preorder Neal Stephenson's new book, Anathem, due out September 9, 2008.

Last Modified 2008-09-30 1:56 PM EDT

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Yes, of course I saw it. Some have deemed it "awful", but I believe some have forgotten how to get in touch with their inner 15-year-old. It was great.

First, however, we had to (a) drive fourteen miles to the spiffy new 15-screen stadium-seating multiplex in Newington; (b) wait in a long line for tickets for the next available showing; (c) wait for that next available showing; (d) sit through interminable ads and previews (although Hancock looks pretty funny); (e) sit through the first 10 minutes of the movie, noticing that it was damned hard to hear anything the actors were saying; (e) listen to the theater management apologize and direct us out of the theater; (f) wait in another long line for a refund; (g) drive ten miles back to Dover and its 1940s-era Strand Theater; (h) wait for the 9:15 show.

I'm surprised that movie theaters are doing as well as they are.

Once you can see and hear it, though, the movie is a lot of fun. The 1957-model Indy is beset on all sides. His main antagonist is a chilly Commie (Cate Blanchett) who has a disturbing ability to insert herself and her small but well-equipped military squad into the US and South American countries at will. There's also a duplicitous partner (Ray Winstone); an uncomfortably nearby atomic bomb detonation; Red-hunting FBI agents; a mysterious kid (Shia LaBeouf) who's channeling James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes; a crazed ex-colleague (John Hurt); and—best of all—the still-lovely Marion Ravenwood, played by the still-lovely Karen Allen. (This is not a spoiler; she's in the credits.)

Indy's age seems not to have slowed him down much; he's still cracking his whip, outwitting and outfighting bad guys. The major change seems to have been in his mood: he's seen it all, and this is more of the same. In the opening scenes, he's been abducted from Mexico, stuffed in a car trunk, driven to New Mexico, and dumped out on a runway; after all that, he's just a tad grumpy.

Marion, too. She's more mellow, always bouncing back from dire peril with her dazzlingly wide, slightly goofy, smile.

The plot is borderline incomprehensible, shackled by the necessity to come up with action sequences and fight scenes every few minutes. It might make sense, if one went back and parsed Indy's breathless explanations. ("Oh, that's why they're going there.")

Nevertheless, it's nice to see that Commies get Jonesed in pretty much the same way that Nazis got Jonesed a couple of decades back. Another vindication of Hayek's insights!

No, not Salma. Friedrich.

Next up: Wall•E, from the genius heroes of Pixar. Which I think we'll try to see at the Strand.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Prayers for Rain

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This novel's narrator is Patrick Kenzie, Boston private eye. He has a talent for wisecrackery, overlaid on a core of unshakeable honesty and integrity. As the book opens, these otherwise admirable character traits have gained him the emnity of nearly every cop in the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area, and lost him his one true love, Angela Gennaro.

But a guy's gotta eat, and Patrick accepts a job from one Karen Nichols, who's seemingly being stalked by a sleazeball. Patrick and his psychotic friend Bubba set out to discourage the stalker using methods that make more conventional PIs like Archer and Marlowe look like Miss Manners.

But a few months later, Karen Nichols commits suicide in a particularly garish fashion. Patrick makes it his mission to find out how that happened.

The author, Dennis Lehane, is one of the best authors writing in the mystery genre. His writing is full of wit and color, and he paints a mood as well as anyone. This book is (so far) his last entry in the Kenzie/Gennaro series, I hope he gets back to them soon.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Memorial Day 2008

Let's all remember.

Margot at the Wedding

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We saw the trailer on another DVD. We thought it looked promising.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Not even the great Jack Black could save it.

Nicole Kidman plays Margot; she and her son are off to what looks like Connecticut for the wedding of her sister Pauline (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, in one of her rare non-prostitute roles); the groom is Malcolm, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Black.

The entire group is more than a few sigma on the high side of the dysfunctional bell curve. Margot is especially egregious. She can't help herself from bringing chaos and hurt into her own life and those around her.

And everyone shares just way too much. You never heard such a bunch of narcissistic wankers rattling on about things that either (a) shouldn't be talked about; or (b) nobody could possibly care about. My guess is that a lot of the dialog was "improvised", which nobody should do unless they're Will Ferrell, and usually not then.

And, yes, this was two Nicole Kidman movies in a row. Good catch.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2008-05-25 Update

Hillary maintains a slim lead in the only poll that matters:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony226,000+2,000
"Barack Obama" phony223,000+7,000
"John McCain" phony216,000+17,000

The big upward swing in McCain's hits may have something to do with what blogger John Hawkins calls his propensity for "lying through his teeth on one of the most crucial election issues and then changing his position the first time he believes he can get away with it."

The issue, in case you haven't heard, is so-called "comprehensive immigration reform," a hot-button issue for Hawkins and a lot of other conservative bloggers. You'll want to read Hawkins' full post (and this followup) for the full dose of outrage. But the bottom line is:

Put very simply: John McCain is a liar. He's a man without honor, without integrity, who could not have captured the Republican nomination had he run on making comprehensive immigration a top priority of his administration. Quite frankly, this is little different from George Bush, Sr. breaking his "Read my lips, no new taxes pledge," except that Bush's father was at least smart enough to wait until he got elected before letting all of his supporters know that he was lying to them.
Not everyone's with Hawkins on this. Professor Bainbridge deems Hawkins' post a "screed" (and Michelle Malkin's reaction is a "hissy fit"). According to the prof, nothing really changed in McCain's position.

Jim Geraghty was concerned enough to get the word from the McCain campaign.

Team McCain tells me the senator's comments were poorly worded. There's been no discussion within the campaign of altering their stance on illegal immigration, and as far as everyone on the campaign is concerned, the policy is still, 'secure the border first.'
Well, that's a relief. The campaign's policy hasn't changed.

My view: Hawkins has it essentially right. McCain altered his public pronouncements on immigration just enough to gull GOP primary voters. But he's simply too self-righteous to whole-heartedly adopt a policy at odds with his pro-comprehensive history. His "poorly worded" comments were just the result of a slipping mask.

Which is why Senator McCain gets sole posession of this week's phony posting.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:02 AM EDT

Dick Martin is Dead?

You bet your bippy.

[UPDATE: you can look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's.]

Last Modified 2008-05-25 11:01 AM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 11:00AM on AMC: Force 10 From Navarone (Harrison Ford)
Unexpectedly slim pickings this week.

Force 10 was made between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Ford is pretty wooden in it. I remember, seeing it in the theater at the time, thinking something along the lines of: "This guy was pretty good in Star Wars, but we'll never see him in anything else again."

Theory status: unrefuted for fourteen consecutive weeks.

The Invasion

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stars] [IMDb Link] This movie is the fourth version of Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the previous versions were made in 1956, 1978, and 1993. [I didn't remember the 1993 one at all: thanks, IMDB!] At this rate, the fifth remake should come out in 2024 or so, starring Abigail Breslin and the kid from The New Adventures of Old Christine. I'll probably wait for the DVD on that one too.

But I can't resist making a similar point to one I've raised in the past: it's nice that Jack Finney gets his book made into a movie four times, but why can't we get a single freakin' decent Robert Heinlein movie? Sigh.

Well, one reason is that plot: alien invaders turn your friends and family into conspiratorial zombies whose only goal is to zombify you and everyone else. That's an appealing blank slate for Hollywoodians to write a "message" on. The 1956 version is alleged by deep thinkers to be either about Communism or McCarthyism, maybe both. When I first saw it as a youngster, I was oblivious to that; it was just good creepy science fiction.

In this version, the pods are gone, replaced by a takeover method that's even more disgusting, albeit in a PG-13 way. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter are replaced by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (respectively). In a tedious dinner-party scene, Nicole pronounces herself a "postmodern feminist", which I assume is part of the "message", but I didn't get it. I was kind of hoping this would mean she'd analyze the takeover using incomprehensible prose while puffing on French cigarettes. No such luck: when push comes to shove, she's screaming, running, and shooting just as I would imagine Ann Coulter might do, but Ann would be funnier.

Bottom line: more fun to make fun of than actually watch. But there's no Rifftrax available, so I can't recommend it.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Nannies Over the River

Our morning paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, contains an article about the latest Town Council meeting in South Berwick, Maine, literally a mere few minutes stroll over the Salmon Falls River from Pun Salad Manor.

South Berwick task force wants to make public areas smoke-free

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — For the second time in as many years, the Town Council will take up one of the third rails of public policy: smoking in public places.

In recent weeks, members of the South Berwick Tobacco-Free Recreation Task Force have approached councilors with a tobacco-free resolution that would apply to the Agamenticus ball fields, the Teen Center, Powderhouse Hill, and Counting House Park. The group is hoping to put up signs in those areas instructing visitors not to smoke or use tobacco products.

Signs! Is there anything they can't do?

We did a photo essay on the irritating signage in Maine a few weeks back. But nanny-state signs are infectious: why stop at N signs, when you can have N+1? Won't each one push people to be a little more happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise?

There's very little limit on things you can nag people about, once you've persuaded yourself that it's your business to do so.

The nonbinding, nonenforceable resolution would not be a law, and violators would not be subject to any penalties. Rather, it would be a "reminder and a statement" that the town supports tobacco-free recreation areas to protect children, according to Sarah Sullivan, who works for the Choose to be Healthy Partnership at York Hospital and is a member of the task force.
In other words, it's pure posturing, designed to make its proponents feel morally superior by sending a message to their inferiors. And, predictably, it's for the children!
The council could vote on the resolution at its next meeting May 27.

Councilors did not adopt the tobacco-free resolution last year for two main reasons. First, the town's youth baseball and soccer leagues have voluntary agreements in place that nobody use tobacco products when children are playing at the fields. Second, councilors did not want to include Counting House Park in the resolution because fishermen sometimes smoke there while casting off the banks of the Salmon Falls River.

The previous council decided that fishing was a traditional "smoking sport," according to current Councilor Sue Roberge.

"That's just what it is," she said. "I don't feel a resolution is necessary."

Sullivan disagreed with the fishermen-smoking connection.

"By creating a stereotype that (all) fishermen smoke is unfair," she said. "Fishing is a very healthy, wonderful sport ... to say it is a smoking sport is dangerous."

Ms. Sullivan is probably a heck of a nice person in real life, but it's pretty clear she's not interested in arguing the facts here; instead she attacks Councilor Roberge for making a statement that's "unfair" and (even) "dangerous."

But the intrepid Foster's reporter was not content to merely report on the debate. It's off to the river for sharp-eyed first-hand investigation:

At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, about a half-dozen fishermen were casting lines off the banks of the Salmon Falls River. While none of them were then smoking, in front of some of the park benches, a handful of discarded cigarette butts could be found strewn on the ground.
The reporter has hit on a valid point: some smokers' habit of using the entire outdoors as their own personal ashtray is obnoxious. Suggestion to the South Berwick goverment: try enforcing the littering laws you already have on the books [cf. § 98-19, paragraph B.] No nanny-statism is necessary for that.

The reporter discovers an endangered species along the river, a relatively libertarian Maine resident:

Bill Hertzog, a South Berwick resident who has been fishing at the park for the last decade, said he isn't much of a smoker but was against having signs posted in the park. The task force said the signs would be provided by Healthy Maine Coalition at no cost to the town.

"That would rub (fishermen who smoke) the wrong way," Hertzog said. "You have to draw the line somewhere."

By the "Healthy Maine Coalition", the reporter is almost certainly referring to "Healthy Maine Partnerships." ("We're your friends and neighbors working together at the State and local level to make Maine a healthier place to live and work.") You can check out the "no cost to the town" signage here (PDF). It appears that the whole kit and kaboodle is being funded by tobacco companies as part of their Master Settlement Agreement with the Feds.

The reporter has a tough time finding people who like the idea:

Mike Pearson, a Cape Neddick resident who was fishing for stripers Wednesday, was on the fence about having no-smoking signs posted.

"I can't stand cigarette smoke. At the same time, I like the freedom we have," he said. "You can't smoke in restaurants, but when you start saying you can't smoke outside in public areas, you're treading a fine line."

If you can't find any ordinary Joes or Josephines who like being nannied, a safe backup plan is to consult Your Local University:
Marc Hiller, an associate professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of New Hampshire, said there about 60 towns in Maine that have adopted anti-tobacco resolutions similar to the one the South Berwick Town Council is considering.

"It's common sense," he said. "Young people are easily influenced by their elders. The goal (of the resolution) is to ensure they have healthy role models to emulate."

This is, of course, feelgood crap. No amount of "free" signage, deployed in a "nonbinding, nonenforceable" manner will "ensure" anything. Even if it is (one more time) for the children!
Hiller is a member of the South Berwick task force and appeared before the council May 12 along with York Hospital officials, students from Marshwood High School and Berwick Academy, school nurses, and residents who all pushed for the resolution.
Probably any article that quotes Professor Hiller on anti-smoking efforts should also mention his history of plagiarism on the topic. Getting caught hasn't chastened him from advocacy, though.
Council Chair Jean Demetracopoulos and Councilor Michelle Kareckas said at the time they were in favor of passing it.

"I feel strongly that this is a good idea ... especially where children are congregating," Demetracopoulos said.

For! The! Children! If you remember that simple slogan, thinking isn't necessary: you just have to "feel." Or, as does Councilor Demetracopoulos, "feel strongly."
Hertzog, the fisherman, [Yes, we're back to Bill Hertzog, last seen eight paragraphs ago on the rivershore.] said Counting House Park was different from a soccer or baseball field because it is more open and any secondhand smoke can easily be avoided. He pointed to three fishermen about 100 yards away on the other side of the river, none of whom were smoking.

Geography note: if they were on the other side of the river, they were in New Hampshire, safe from the blandishments of the South Berwick Town Council.
The task force has discussed leaving out Counting House Park in the resolution, thus removing a potential roadblock in the eyes of the council, but ultimately decided not to do so because it would set a "double standard," according to Hiller.
I strongly suspect that the real reason here is not a perceived "double standard," but instead the notion that more nannying is always to be preferred to less nannying. When you're in that business, why make reasonable exceptions for different situations?
Hiller hopes the council will pass the resolution to provide a "consistently strong public health message" to residents.
Send a message!

Why I Know I'm Gonna Like the New Indiana Jones Movie

Because the Commies hate it:

"Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett (are) second-rate actors, serving as the running dogs of the CIA. We need to deprive these people of the right of entering the country," said another party member, Andrei Gindos.
"Bad news, Cate. Looks like our publicity tour of Novokuznetsk, Lipetsk, and Omsk is off."
Other communists said the generation born after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union were being fed revisionist, Hollywood history. They advocated banning the Indiana Jones outright to prevent "ideological sabotage."

"Our movie-goers are teenagers who are completely unaware of what happened in 1957," St Peterburg Communist Party chief Sergei Malinkovich told Reuters.

"They will go to the cinema and will be sure that in 1957 we made trouble for the United States and almost started a nuclear war."

"It's rubbish ... In 1957 the communists did not run with crystal skulls throughout the U.S. Why should we agree to that sort of lie and let the West trick our youth?"

It's for the children! "Sorry, little comrades: tonight's showing of Indiana Jones has been replaced with a Lillian Hellman film festival."

Last Modified 2008-09-30 1:58 PM EDT

The Underground Man

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

William Goldman, writing in the New York Times, referred to Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels as "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American". This is one of those, so it's pretty good. I've been gradually re-reading the series over the past few years.

It occurs to me, however, that if all you knew about American crime was from reading Lew Archer novels, you might presume that it all was a result of deep-seated guilt-ridden family issues reaching back decades. That's the case here as well.

Even though Archer is a private eye, this case falls into his lap: as he's feeding birds outside his apartment one morning, a small boy living in the apartment below with his mother, introduces himself and helps out. But the boy is almost immediately spirited away by his father and a mysterious blonde, up see grandma in Santa Teresa. The boy's mother decides to give chase, Archer tags along. Things are complicated by a menacing fire in the hills above Santa Teresa, and before long the bodies start piling up, and we meet a dizzying number of colorful characters, most of them hiding some of the past's dark secrets.

Archer has been played in movies and on TV by Paul Newman, Brian Keith, and Peter Graves. These days, were I casting a movie, I'd see if I could get Terry O'Quinn, the guy that plays Locke on Lost.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • The (PDF) Spring 2008 Cato's Letter has P. J. O'Rourke content: his speech at the 2008 Cato Benefactor Summit. And you can read it even if you aren't a Cato Benefactor:
    Well, I wish I had better news for you, but the barbarians are at the gates. We are besieged by pagans—savage, brutish worshippers of big government. Theirs is not even a golden calf. They've abandoned the Gold Standard. They worship the taxing and spending of a fiat god, all the more dangerous for being both false and imaginary.
    If I need to say "read the whole thing," then consider it said.

  • As a result of P. J.'s victorious barbarian hordes, we're likely to see a lot of handwaving justifying increased levels of taxation over the coming months and years. But as near as I can tell most of those pro-tax arguments boil down to these essential three steps:

    1. You've got money.

    2. The government wants it.

    3. There is no step three.

    Russell Roberts calls this the Willie Sutton theory of government, illustrated by the current proposal in Massachusetts to levy a tax on university endowments that the legislators deem excessive.

  • Also much worth reading for those at all concerned with higher education issues—and if you're not, then maybe you should be—is "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower" by "Professor X" in the latest issue of The Atlantic. The good prof teaches at what he calls "colleges of last resort", and his courses are what he calls "English 101" and "English 102", courses that students take "not because they want to but because they must."

    I've been in a similar situation myself, and Prof X's comments bring back those days pungently.

    I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.

    What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass.

    If you read that, you might also want to read the comments by the "University Diarist" at Inside Higher Ed. Her conclusion:

    This is what university education is about — the disciplined assimilation of information into historically established categories which allow us to regulate and embellish thought about the world. This professor’s English comp and Intro Lit courses are primitive stages in this education: they ask students to convey only the most basic sense of categorical awareness, the shakiest intimation that there are contexts that connect what would otherwise be arbitrary bits of information, random creative eruptions. A few of this professor’s students will be able to do this, but most will not, and it is a cruel and expensive hoax to fail them repeatedly on their efforts.
    "It is no accident" that both Professor X and the University Diarist prefer to remain anonymous. The modern university can be rough on people who don't buy into the myths that sustain it.

    [UPDATE [2008-05-21]: although it's not obvious who the "University Diarist" is, just a little bit of digging reveals her to be Margaret Soltan, an English prof at GWU. I shouldn't have suggested she was hiding behind anonymity; it's roughly as easy to find out who she is as to find out who I am. Professor Soltan blogs here.]

  • Charles Murray, at least, doesn't write anonymously, but he's equally scathing about prevailing educational attitudes. Check his article from The New Criterion on "educational romanticism." What's that?
    Educational romanticism consists of the belief that just about all children who are not doing well in school have the potential to do much better. Correlatively, educational romantics believe that the academic achievement of children is determined mainly by the opportunities they receive; that innate intellectual limits (if they exist at all) play a minor role; and that the current K-12 schools have huge room for improvement.
    There's remarkably little evidence for that, and plenty that goes the other way. What's the result of having education policy driven by a philosophy without roots in reality?
    For the good of our children, educational romanticism needs to collapse, and quickly. Its effects play out in the lives of young people in devastating ways. The fourth-grader who has trouble sounding out simple words and his classmate who is reading A Tale of Two Cities for fun sit in the same classroom day after miserable day, the one so frustrated by tasks he cannot do and the other so bored that both are near tears. The eighth-grader who cannot make sense of algebra but has an almost mystical knack with machines is told to stick with the college prep track, because to be a success in life he must go to college and get a B.A. The senior with terrific SAT scores gets away with turning in rubbish on his term papers because to make special demands on the gifted would be elitist. They are all products of an educational system that cannot make itself talk openly about the implications of diverse educational limits.
    That's funny, because it's true. But come to think of it, it's not that funny.

  • Thomas Sowell has a new "Random Thoughts" column, and (among many other things) it makes a general point applicable to most of today's items:
    Over the years, slowly but surely, we have painted ourselves into a corner on a whole range of issues, where we can no longer say or do what makes the most sense to us, but only what is considered to be politically correct.
    That's the only way to make sense out of a lot of stuff that goes on.

Last Modified 2008-09-30 2:00 PM EDT

Into the Wild

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link] As I type, this is number 124 on IMDB's top 250 movie list of all time. As usual, my reaction is: Please! But it's pretty darn good.

It is the slightly fictionalized story of Christopher McCandless who, upon graduating from Emory in 1990, struck out for a life on the road, cutting himself off from friends, family, and, as far as he could, from civil society. Without going into detailed spoilers, things don't end well. But it's a fascinating journey right up until the end. It's very long, about two and a half hours. But it held my attention all the way through.

The movie was written and directed by Sean Penn, based on a book written by Jon Krakauer; given Penn's tedious self-seriousness and lefty politics, I was prepared to dislike it. So I was pleasantly surprised. McCandless's quest takes him to scenic places, and he meets a number of interesting people. He takes himself and his offbeat philosophy way too seriously, but he's affable enough about it. And, more importantly, the movie distances itself from him just enough; we can reject his outlook without rejecting the movie too.

You can read Krakauer's original story for Outside magazine about McCandless here. If you haven't already done so, I recommend reading it after watching the movie. If anything, the real story adds details that make its ending more tragic than the movie's.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2008-05-18 Update

As predicted last week, the phony hits for Senator Obama have fallen back to earth, and Senator Clinton has reclaimed her proper place:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Hillary Clinton" phony224,000-3,000
"Barack Obama" phony216,000-620,000
"John McCain" phony199,000+1,000

  • I couldn't keep my eyes open for Saturday Night Live last night, but this sounds pretty funny:
    John McCain is 71 years old, and his age has provided late-night comics with some easy punch lines. On "Saturday Night Live," he joined in.

    "I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president?" McCain said. "Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old."

    The certain Republican presidential nominee appeared in a phony campaign ad in which he promised to put an end to runaway government spending, claiming he had never sought money for his home state, Arizona.

  • The phony musings at HuffPo are occasionally good for a giggle or two. Here's Nina Burleigh purporting to weigh in on the Obama/Clinton choice, but is actually much more insightful on how lefty women sound when they're drunk:
    I have a white female friend so passionately supportive of HRC that she screams the Tina Fey line "bitch is the new black" after a few glasses of wine at dinner. And accuses me of being a bad mother and sister for not feeling the pain of our not getting a female president elected this time around.

    The fact is, as the UN reported some years back, women world-wide are five hundred years from parity with men. So why should we expect to get a female president right now? Furthermore, and not to make the perfect the enemy of the good, this particular female is not the best candidate anyway - she de facto offends many working women because, even though she did work herself, she really did get to where she is thanks to her husband. And, as has been repeated countless times, she's playing the game the old way.

    She's phony Beatlemania in the age of the Clash.

    It's the battle of the bands! Between one that broke up 38 years ago and one that broke up 22 years ago!

  • Our very favorite phony candidate, John Edwards, was back in the news briefly, endorsing Barack Obama.
    Political scientists said Edwards' timing had advantages for both Obama and for Edwards if he's angling for vice president.

    ''It's a story that tackles the biggest problem Obama faces,'' said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University, speaking of Obama's trouble attracting the working-class white voters who like Edwards as well as Clinton.

    ``And it's a nice reminder for the Obama team of what Edwards might bring to the ticket. Obama needs to get these voters. There's a real fear that [presumptive Republican nominee John] McCain could pick up Democratic voters in states like Ohio and Florida, white working-class voters that are not enthused about Barack Obama either for racial reasons, elite reasons, whatever.''

    Still, Zelizer said, Edwards' delay feeds a perception that he's a self-serving phony.

    ''The timing of his endorsement is classic Edwards,'' Zelizer said. 'One of Edwards' greatest problems is that he doesn't seem authentic. He made his whole campaign about populism, but I think a lot of people see him as a traditional senator who'll say whatever it takes to win and who cares about his hair. He comes out after the race is basically over. He doesn't have to take any risk; he's endorsing the winner. It's always good to get an endorsement, but if this is about a running mate, there's a lot of serious thinking the Obama campaign would have to do before they go with him.''

    Professor Zelizer is also a contributor at HuffPo, but a cursory scan of his articles do not reveal his stance on the Beatles-vs-Clash controversy.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:02 AM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 7:00AM on AMC: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Clint Eastwood)
  • 6:00PM on AMC: Striking Distance (Bruce Willis)
  • 8:00PM on SPIKE: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Harrison Ford)
  • 8:00PM on AMC: Million Dollar Baby (Morgan Freeman and Mr. Clint Eastwood)
  • 11:00PM on AMC: Patriot Games (Harrison Ford)
Theory status: unrefuted for thirteen consecutive weeks.

The Contract

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link]

You've probably heard of the mother's curse: "I hope you grow up to have kids like you." Here's the showbiz twist: John Cusack, who played a lot of obnoxious-kid roles, has now grown up to play father-to-obnoxious-kid roles.

In this case, he decides to take his obnoxious kid on a camping trip in the Washington mountains. (Actually, it's filmed in Bulgaria, which is pretty.) They run into hitman Morgan Freeman, who's both on the run from the law and attempting to fulfill his latest contract. Soon they're being pursued by the hitman's entourage. Local law enforcement is ineffective, and has a poor relationship with their Federal counterparts.

Freeman and Cusack are high-quality professional actors, but nothing about this movie is the least bit credible, and the script is lame. It went directly to DVD. Trivia: it was directed by Bruce Beresford, who also directed Morgan Freeman nearly twenty years ago in Driving Miss Daisy. Probably they both wish you'd judge them by that movie, rather than this one..

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Peggy Noonan rips Republicans a new one in this week's WSJ column. Building off the recent loss of a Mississippi house seat in a special election:
    "This was a real wakeup call for us," someone named Robert M. Duncan, who is chairman of the Republican National Committee, told the New York Times. This was after Mississippi. "We can't let the Democrats take our issues." And those issues would be? "We can't let them pretend to be conservatives," he continued. Why not? Republicans pretend to be conservative every day.
    Emphasis added.

  • And Peggy doesn't even mention the recently-passed Farm Bill, which would only reinforce her point. Commentary is easy to find, but here is the National Review editorial:
    The House (318-106) and Senate (81-15) have passed a new $300 billion farm bill by veto-proof margins this week. The bill is worse than the 2002 farm bill, which at the time was considered the most bloated and wasteful in history. President Bush should not only veto it, he should take his time in doing so. We have a feeling that the more time the public has to get to know this bill, the less they will like it.
    Read the whole thing to savor just how profligately your representatives in Congress are shoveling your money (both in taxes and food prices) to the politically well-connected.

    The Senate roll call is here, and the House's is here. New Hampshire's senators, John Sununu and Judd Gregg were among the courageous 15 senators voting against this monstrosity. NH Congresspersons Hodes and Shea-Porter were for it.

    McCain, Obama, and Clinton did not vote, being out on the campaign trail, but Prof Mankiw reports that McCain was against it, Obama and Clinton for. Advantage: McCain. Prof Mankiw also links to NYT and WSJ editorials on the bill, a point of rare agreement between those two editorial boards. ("Disgraceful" and a "rural giveaway", respectively.)

  • Scott Adams talks about his relationship with his "office cat," Sarah:
    I know I am special because she only licks the things she loves the most, including soft cat food, my chin, and her own ass, not always in that order.

Fedora 9

Pun Salad is now coming to you via a shiny-new upgrade to the Fedora 9 distribution of the Linux operating system. Notice the improved clarity of my prose, a new feature contained in the Apache 2.2.8 web server!

A semi-serious note: this machine's video uses an ATI chipset and the pain in the wazoo experienced in my initial Linux install was reintroduced post-upgrade: a less-than-native-resolution video screen. Don't buy ATI!

The issue was finally resolved by some blind hacking away at configuration files and installed drivers that I could not begin to reproduce in a million years. But all this caused some unusual downtime, so my apologies if this inconvenienced any readers.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

Southland Tales

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link]

I only have disjointed thoughts:

  • In watching this movie, a quote from This Is Spinal Tap kept playing in my head: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

  • It sounded as if it could have been good: the DVD box promised "an ensemble piece set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles, as it stands on the brink of social, economic, and environmental disaster." Fun! And it was written and directed by the same guy that did Donnie Darko, which was kind of OK. But…

  • It's way too long; the IMDB has it at 145 minutes. And it seems even longer than that.

  • It marks the long-awaited reunion between Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Seann William Scott, who last appeared together in The Rundown. But if you've got a choice, watch that instead, because that has Christopher Walken, and this doesn't.

  • It contains a lot of Saturday Night Live past and current cast members: Nora Dunn, Janeane Garofalo, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler. Is that some sort of record? Wasn't Jane Curtin available? She would have been great in the Miranda Richardson role.

  • It is incomprehensible and incoherent, but there were a few (probably intentional) funny lines that I laughed at. "The fourth dimension will collapse upon itself, you stupid bitch."

  • That line, and others, were uttered with utter seriousness by The Rock. They should have an Oscar for "Best Performance by an Actor in Saying Ridiculous Lines With a Straight Face." He'd win. But that's probably not a good enough reason to watch the movie.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

You Can't Say You Weren't Warned

From a June 2007 Corner post by Iain Murray:

In a disastrous move, the Senate passed the bill to make energy and just about everything else less affordable last night, 65-27. … The result will be much higher prices for gasoline, appliances and less-safe autos, but not (for now) for electricity.
A check of the roll call shows that both Senators Clinton and Obama voted for it.

Could this be a good campaign issue for McCain? Maybe, had he voted against this bill. But he didn't show up for the vote.

It's galling to see the politicians who supported (or did nothing to stop) this bill rail against its eminently predictable results less than a year later.

Last Modified 2008-05-12 8:46 AM EDT

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link]

This noir movie's title is the punchline to the Irish toast "May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead." Most of the characters here would need a much longer head start than that.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers Andy and Hank, respectively. Andy is seemingly a take-charge successful type, while Hank is a loser schlub. They both need money, though, and Andy ropes Hank into a scheme to raise some by robbing the family jewel store. Things don't go as planned.

The movie uses that jump-around-in-time gimmick to provide multiple perspectives and dramatic revelations. For example, we learn that Andy's life, despite superficial success, is in even more tatters than Hank's; he also turns out to be heavily delusional: how could he have ever thought that a little bit of money would bring him out of his death spiral?

This is your go-to movie for Marisa Tomei nudity, although prospective viewers should be warned that in one case, Philip Seymour Hoffman nudity is also involved.

Rosemary Harris has a small role as an elderly woman in peril, reacting like Aunt May never would.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Hot Money

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This is not exactly a typical Dick Francis book. The protagonist, Ian, is the estranged son of a wealthy but cantankerous patriarch, Malcolm. Malcolm's fifth wife has just been murdered, and Malcolm fears (correctly) that he's next. Ian gets dragooned into playing detective, and he needs to sort through the motives and alibis of a host of stepbrothers, stepsisters, and stepmothers. And Malcolm seems determined on irrationally squandering his fortune, enraging his would-be heirs.

It sounds almost as if we're in Agatha Christie-land here, and that could have happened, but Francis has a good conservative eye for character and its flaws. Most of the family is in various states of dysfunction, crippled by jealousy, greed, and resentment; Francis does a fine job of painting each character as a real person, not simply a plot device.

In short, another good novel from Dick Francis.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2008-05-11 Update

Oscar Levant famously said, "Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you'll find the real tinsel underneath." Oscar did not weigh in on politics, but if he had, one suspects he'd still be searching in vain for the real tinsel.

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony836,000+628,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony227,000+20,000
"John McCain" phony198,000+12,000

  • A huge hit bump for Barry this week, but this thing happens to the Google on occasion; I suspect he'll be back in normal range soon.

  • We should mention the recent poll performed by the Pew Research Center, which just went out and asked (among other things): "Do you think of X as phony or not?" The "yes" results:


    At one of the NYT blogs, Andrew Kohut breaks down the phony-perceptions between Obama and McCain by age among registered voters. I detect a trend, and I bet you can too:

     All Voters18-2930-4950-6465+

    Kohut sees an incoming demographic wave of young Democrats. Depressing news for Republicans.

  • An article in the St. Petersburg Times details the woes of Democratic Blue Dog Superdelegates, who don't much like either Obama or Clinton. Congressman (and Superdelegate) Tim Mahoney is interviewed:

    "You don't want to do anything that's just not natural, whether it's taking a shot or going bowling," Mahoney said. "There's one group of people you can't kid, and that's rural America. People out in Okeechobee and Highland counties, they see phony a mile away. You either play there or you don't."

    Mahoney probably should have thought through his remarks a little better; there are almost certainly non-rural voters in his district who might resent the implication that they can't see phony a mile away.

    Also, as the article points out, Mahoney is currently occupying the seat once held by noted GOP pervert Mark Foley for over 10 years. An honest politician would have pointed out that voters in his district aren't demonstrably good at phony-spotting at all.

  • David Paul Kuhn at Politico sees an upcoming "train wreck" for Democrats on May 20; Obama looks to go over the 2025-delegate mark, which according to current rules would clinch the nomination for him. But:

    “We don’t accept 2,025. It is not the real number because that does not include Florida and Michigan,” said Howard Wolfson, one of Clinton’s two chief strategists. “It’s a phony number.”

    OK. If Hillary's not going to put her lot in with economists on economic issues, why should her strategists put their lot in with party rules and arithmetic?

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:01 AM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 1:00AM on AMC: Force 10 From Navarone (Harrison Ford)
  • 3:30AM on AMC: Patriot Games (Harrison Ford)
  • 6:30AM on TNT: Blood Work (Clint Eastwood)
  • 9:00AM on USA: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Harrison Ford)
  • 9:00AM on TNT: Absolute Power (Clint Eastwood)
  • 11:35AM on USA: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Harrison Ford)
  • 2:00PM on TNT: Air Force One (Harrison Ford)
  • 2:05PM on USA: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Harrison Ford)
  • 8:00PM & 11:00PM on SPIKE: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Harrison Ford)
  • 8:00PM & 10:30PM on FX: I, Robot (Will Smith)
Theory status: unrefuted for twelve consecutive weeks.


  • I think there may be a new Harrison Ford movie coming out or something.

  • Also, our emergency backup movie, The Hunt for Red October has a midnight showing on Bravo. Although Bravo was not one of the channels included in the original theory statement.

  • This is the first Sunday since February 24 (when I started checking) that I was unable to find a Bruce Willis movie.

Rape@UNH: We're Unclear on the Concept

Both Pun Son and Pun Daughter are current UNH students, so a UNH news article titled "New Report Details Unwanted Sexual Experiences at University" got my attention. The opening paragraph:

A new study conducted by the University of New Hampshire about the unwanted sexual experiences of students shows the vast majority of incidents at the university are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, which is in direct contrast to the stereotype of the perpetrator being a stranger.

The report got nationwide attention from Inside Higher Ed. Our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, also picked up the story in an article by Jason G. Howe:

University of New Hampshire students beware; friends are more likely to make unwanted sexual contact or commit rape than a stranger.

Whoa. Although the Foster's reporter didn't hesitate to use the word "rape", the actual report is much more reluctant to do so. The entire PDF report is here. And the words "rape" or "rapist" do not appear in the report. They don't show up in the official UNH press release either.

Why does UNH shy away from that term?

Do they want to avoid legalisms? Maybe, but the report has no problem with using "victim" (28 instances, including "victimizing", and "victimization"). Nor are they reluctant to use the term "perpetrator" (49 instances). The closest we get to something-that-might-be-rape in the report is in a single sentence:

3% of the women reported unwanted sexual intercourse when a perpetrator used force or the threat of force.
That's close. But is it rape? The report doesn't say, because that's not what they asked in their survey.

Probably required reading at this point is Heather MacDonald's City Journal article on "The Campus Rape Myth". These paragraphs seemed possibly explanatory:

During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory had discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results—very few women said that they had been. So Ms. [magazine] commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way of measuring the prevalence of rape. Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape. Koss’s method produced the 25 percent rate, which Ms. then published.

Koss’s study had serious flaws. Her survey instrument was highly ambiguous, as University of California at Berkeley social-welfare professor Neil Gilbert has pointed out. But the most powerful refutation of Koss’s research came from her own subjects: 73 percent of the women whom she characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped. Further—though it is inconceivable that a raped woman would voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her—42 percent of Koss’s supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants.

Ye gods. Is that what's going on here? Certainly there's a lot of talk about "rape culture" here at UNH, and there's probably a small fraction of people with an ideological investment in the concept. A big enough fraction to cause self-reported "unwanted sexual contact" to be overstated? Maybe.

At Phi Beta Cons, Robert VerBruggen compares UNH numbers with DOJ crime statistics on rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault, and concludes:

… the most-assaulted demographic group [females age 16-19] had a rate of about 6 per 1,000 over a whole year. If 3 in every 100 female students at the University of New Hampshire get forcibly raped every six months, that's at least ten times the rate in the general population. Either the 3 percent number is high, or there really is a campus rape crisis of ridiculous proportions — and we need to sex-segregate higher ed immediately.
My guess, and probably VerBruggen's guess as well, is that the number is high, inflated by vague language used in the report and survey, where it's easy to conflate criminal behavior with poor judgment and misread signals, and there's no incentive to be precise and honest.

Just so there's zero misunderstanding: rape is a serious issue, and should be dealt with with compassion for the victims and mercilessness for the perpetrators. This kind of report, at best, fuzzes up the issue; it doesn't help anything.

URLs du Jour—2008-05-09

  • Looking to see how well your Congressional representatives are doing in promoting economic liberty and prosperity? If you can stand the bad news, the Club for Growth has released its 2007 scorecard based on votes on key issues. My NH-specific observations:

    • After scoring a perfect 100% in 2005 and 2006, Senator Sununu dropped to a 75% last year, only good for 23rd-best in the Senate. Could he be "moderating" his stands in preparation for his re-election bid?

    • Senator Gregg's scores: 99%, 92%, and 79%, good for 4th, 11th, and 19th place, respectively.

    • Oh, but wait. It gets worse. In her first year as a House member, Carol Shea-Porter earned a 1% score, putting her in a solid 394th place among her colleagues.

    • Paul Hodes, also a House freshman, scored an almost-as-dismal 6%, for 326th place.

    • Elections matter. Both Shea-Porter and Hodes replaced Republicans with mediocre, but not bottom-dwelling, scores.

  • But there's good news out of Great Britain: Great tits cope well with warming. With pictures!

  • Yeah, I'm like, ten years old. That was via Rich Galen.

URLs du Jour—2008-05-08

  • Stuart Buck has a great post exploring a query from Rick Hills:

    It seems odd that the law distrusts the judgments of citizens in ordinary commercial transactions so much more than their judgments in political transactions. The law stringently regulates the quality of drugs, food, cars, and consumer products generally on the theory that consumers are not capable of accurately evaluating these products for themselves. But the First Amendment prohibits similar regulation of the political marketplace, apparently on the theory that ignorance can more easily be tolerated with matters like nuclear war and fiscal crisis than with matters like the purchase of a tube of toothpaste.

    At the very least, should the law sanction blatantly misleading political statements more aggressively? Should there be an FTC of political ads?

    I'm sure John McCain would be all for that. But read Stuart's post.

  • That was kind of a nasty and unfair crack at Senator McCain, given his position on reviving the Fairness Doctrine.

  • At Big Lizards, Dafydd looks at a recent (172-word) response from the writer Stephen King to nine words of blogger criticism.

    King's response to Sheppard's criticism was a perfect synthesis of all the qualities of contemporary liberalism: fear-mongering, know-nothingism, petulance, and utter disdain for freedom of speech.

    "Other than that, though, it was fine." Like Dafydd, I used to read King, but Moved On years ago. I doubt I'll go back.

  • Just about every blogger who bloviates on topics he or she doesn't know much about or reveals ideas he or she hasn't thought all the way through makes controversial statements will want to post Scott Meyer's cartoon advice within easy viewing distance of his or her keyboard.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 7:44 AM EDT

Now! Hampshire

Now! Hampshire is a new online newspaper dealing with all things Granite. The "About" page says:

Founded by Seacoast entrepreneur Patrick Hynes, …
Good enough for me! Check it out, folks.

Last Modified 2008-05-07 6:12 PM EDT

Charlie Wilson's War

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link] This is a movie about how Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, and won the Cold War.

Tom Hanks plays Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (D). One of his constituents, Joanne King Herring (Julia R.), is a dedicated anti-Communist, and she enlists Charlie in a scheme to provide upgraded weaponry to the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the invading Soviets. Also along for the ride is a profane rule-breaking CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour H).

All three characters are extremely colorful and interesting, and are given sparkling witty dialog by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin; it often falls over into glib wisecrackery. Wilson is a depicted as a larger-than-life hard-living womanizer, and it's not exactly an easy fit for Tom Hanks. But he does his best, which is pretty good.

Also in this is Amy Adams, playing Wilson's Gal Friday. She has the movie's best scene, sitting at the bottom of a staircase in Herring's mansion, with Herring's dogs, dolefully sipping a martini that Herring had demanded she fetch, and then forgot about.

The film's relationship with actual history is far from tight. You might want to check out Paul Kengor's comparison of the history presented in Charlie Wilson's War with what actually happened. Kengor thinks the movie ignored Bill Casey, Bill Clark, Cap Weinberger, and (of course) Ronald Reagan. He thinks that's a shame, and so do I.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Bee Movie

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link] The animation isn't Pixar, and Jerry Seinfeld isn't quite Brad Bird. But still, this is a decent movie, and Seinfeld has done a lot better job with his first post-TV series movie than a lot of others. (Anyone remember Leonard Part 6? No, I didn't see it either. Nobody did, I think.)

Jerry plays Barry B. Benson, a young bee who is (as is typical of movies of this genre) not conformist like his peers. He's outraged that he's expected to settle into a bee career, and work at it every day until he dies! And who are we to blame him?

Oh, yes: in this world, bees can talk, and they can be understood by humans. Flouting custom, Barry makes friends with human Vanessa, who's voiced by Renée Zellweger. Soon he's outraged by something else: humans eat the bees' honey!

This could be extremely tedious and predictable, except for a few things: First, Seinfeld knows how to write funny. Second, it turns out (spoiler ahoy!) that Barry's actually a misguided youthful idealist; his efforts to withhold bee labor and resources result in a seriously fouled up ecosystem. That's kind of a switcheroo from your usual animal animation flick, I think.

All in all, not a bad movie to watch with kids, or even without.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour—2008-05-05

Happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos! Or, as we say here in Pun Salad Manor: "Lo siento mucho, no hablo español."

  • I'm happy to have been wrong when I extrapolated a sparse crowd at a Thursday night showing of Iron Man to possible nationwide apathy.

    I also groused about the absence of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; it turns out that I made the mistake of cutting out during the credits. I wanted to get home and watch Lost. Pun Salad regrets the error, and it wasn't that great an episode of Lost.

    In related news, the MinuteMan detected a sign of illiteracy in the movie, the sort of thing Stan Lee would not have let slip into a comic book. Excelsior!

  • Doug Bandow quotes a news report, which in turn quotes:
    In 2006, London’s Anglican Bishop John Chartres said flying abroad to vacation is a “symptom of sin” because…
    Wait a minute. A symptom of sin? Where are our bible-thumping standards?

    The Gospel according to John Chartres:

    So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without symptoms of sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

    She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and display no more symptoms of sin.

  • Speaking of the Good Book, check out Mark 15:1-5, as translated by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

  • Do you wish you could go to a graduation ceremony where P. J. O'Rourke was the commencement speaker? Me too. (No such luck at UNH this year.) The next best thing is his imaginary speech at the LATimes.
    My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.
    Read the whole thing. Or, if you have any graduating people nearby, read the whole thing to them.

  • A SNL skit waiting to happen: "Hey, come on! Why doesn't anyone want to buy this Fukang meteorite?" (Via Rich Galen.)

  • Yes, the item above contained a vile pun. Those responsible have been sacked.

The Phony Campaign

2008-05-04 Update

Be not afraid of phoniness: some are born phony, some achieve phoniness, and some have phoniness thrust upon 'em. But which are which?

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony208,000+34,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony207,000+30,000
"John McCain" phony186,000+25,000

  • Barack Obama has edged in front of Hillary this week. He's made phony news by being the odd man out of the current enthusiasm for a "gas tax holiday"
    “In a moment of candor, her advisers actually admitted that it wouldn’t have much of an effect on gas prices. But, they said, it’s a great political issue for Senator Clinton. So this is not about getting you through the summer, it’s about getting elected,” Obama argued. “This is what passes for leadership in Washington, phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actually solving problems.”

    Obama said that a Clinton has deployed a surrogate, who is also lobbyist for Shell Oil, to pitch the gas tax holiday to voters. “It’s a shell game, literally,” Obama said.

    I recall the "shell game" phrase from Deval Patrick's TV ads back in 2006, during his winning campaign for the Massachusetts governorship; he used it to oppose a decrease in the income tax rate. Here's a sample, and you might notice some other themes being recycled this year:

    This isn't the first time Obama has borrowed phraseology from Patrick's campaign. I don't care to call it "plagiarism"; a more interesting question is whether Patrick's fate is a leading indicator for Obama's.

    Jon Keller made that comparison in yesterday's WSJ. Signs aren't good:

    What the Bay State got … is a pedestrian liberal governor who is remarkably quick to retreat in the face of pressure from the status quo.

    Mr. Patrick's first cave-in came just weeks after he was elected, and before he was even sworn into office. On the campaign trail he promised to cut $735 million in wasteful spending from the state budget. But when the Democratic Senate president rebuked him for it, the governor-elect backpedalled. The Boston Globe summed it up this way: "Patrick backed off and said he didn't really mean it."

    If you want a preview of the Obama administration, Keller's article is a good place to start.

  • Part of the problem with the gas tax holiday is that you can't find any economists—left, right, or center—claiming that it will have any beneficial effects whatsoever. This does not deter Hillary:
    “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,” Clinton told George Stephanopolous on ABC’s ‘This Week’ after he asked her to name a single economist supporting her plan. “If we actually did it right, if we had a president who used all the tools of the presidency, we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.”
    You have to admire that level of delusional hubris. Hey, all we have to do is design it.

  • But just because McCain and Clinton are so shamelessly pandering on this issue doesn't mean Obama's actually got better ideas. David Frum makes the point succinctly:
    And what is Obama's non-pandering alternative? Demonizing oil company profiteering for high prices - and offering another round of economically dsyfunctional subsidies to ethanol! If that's integrity, let's have more pandering.
    And more phoniness!

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:02 AM EDT

The Brave One

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link] Why, yes, I did watch two Terence Howard movies in a row. Good catch.

Erica Bain, played by Jodie Foster, is a stereotypical Manhattanite sophisticate. Her employment is composing and performing glib urban-vignette essays on an NPRish radio station. She moves in a world of trendy bars, art exhibitions, and scenic walks in Central Park with her fiance, played by the guy who does Sayid on Lost. Everything's perfect until she and Sayid are the victims of a brutal crime.

And then she turns into Charles Bronson's character in Death Wish. Really.

Now, this is a serious movie—directed by Neil Jordan, a certified serious-movie director—which means that Jodie is conflicted, and torn, and emotes about this turn of events. None of this affects the plot much, though; it just gives her acting things to do between shooting bad guys.

Terence Howard plays a good detective, and develops a complex relationship with Jodie's character. Nicky Katt plays Howard's partner, and makes himself noticeable in a small part by having some very funny lines.

All in all, this movie is a pretty good argument for concealed-carry and vigilantism. I didn't mind that too much, but I would wager it pushed some more progressive critics into rage and denial. Suggestion: double-feature it with Taxi Driver.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 2:00PM on A&E: The Last Boy Scout (Bruce Willis)
Theory status: unrefuted for eleven consecutive weeks.

Comment: slim pickings. I plan to load up the DVD player with Indiana Jones movies in preparation for May 22.

Maine is the Nanny State

Having merely the second-highest state/local tax burden in 2007 was obviously frustrating to Maine's government, so they're shooting for number one in 2008:

Gov. John Baldacci said Wednesday that he was proud to sign a new law that will use taxes on beer, wine and soda to provide a stable source of funding for Dirigo Health, the program that includes affordable health coverage for some Mainers.

I occasionally "get down" to Maine, although I'll try to remember to bring my own beverages. The "maine" (heh) difference I notice between there and New Hampshire is the signage. It can get irritating.

On the way in, they'll inform you you're arriving from the way life should not be.

The way life
should be[Source]

They can even do this if you try to sneak in:

The way life
should be[Source]

But most people come in on the highway. Mainers desperately hope that the rest of America will come to see the superiority of the metric system, like the Europeans:

3.2 km. [Source]

I've seen this one on the south end of the Maine Turnpike. Yes, yes, invasive marine plant species are a serious problem. So are people stopping on the turnpike to check their boats for milfoil.

milfoil [Source]

Exclamation points are a good indicator of when information/advice slips over into nanny-state nagging.

You can get nagged off the highway too.

stretch! [Source]

Starting with the left buttock is unacceptable and will result in a steep fine.

And, speaking of motorist buttocks, they've noticed that some of them are getting unacceptably large.

snack wisely [Source]

("There's more room at the bottom of the sign." "OK, well, just put 'Snack Wisely' again, in case they missed it up top.")

They're really serious about the unwise snacking:

picking [Source]

They're more polite—at least they say please—about their ducks' unwise snacking.

duck feeding [Source]

Unfortunately, they couldn't fit "It causes ducks to poop more, which in turn increases levels of swimmer-biting trematode parasites in the water, causing increased likelihood of swimmer's itch" onto the sign.

The sign below might say "You didn't really want to swim here, did you?"

Some of the signs are OK. You really can't be reminded too often that running into a moose is a bad idea. For Maine, this is a little subtle:

moose [Source]

But what one can do, one can overdo:

moose [Source]

Iron Man

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
stars] [IMDb Link]

With the entire Salad family out doing other things, and the first showing of Iron Man at 8pm at the Strand in Dover—literally, "a theatre near you"—my choice last evening was obvious.

Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark, genius playboy tycoon inventor. While introducing his new weapons to our troops in Afghanistan, he's shot up, kidnapped, and forced to work for the bad guys. He takes the opportunity to build … oh, heck, you either know this already, or you don't care. Never mind.

Acting talent aplenty: in addition to Downey, there's Gwyneth Paltrow playing loyal assistant "Pepper Potts". (Really.) And Jeff Bridges plays a character about as diametrically opposite from Jeffrey Lebowski as is possible. (Bridges has been nominated for four acting Oscars, the first all the way back in 1972. Would someone please just give him one, already?)

I could quibble: things drag in spots, and I was really looking forward to seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a rumored cameo as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; he didn't show. Instead we get Clark Gregg (Richard from The New Adventures of Old Christine) as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and sorry, that doesn't quite work.

But I had a great time. One of my favorite bits was the ongoing chatter between Stark and his robotic AI helpers, especially the not-too-bright one tasked with fire control in the workshop.

The theater was near-empty though; I don't know if this implies the movie is going to be a dud. The movie was also showing at the glitzy stadium-seating 15-screen multiplex about ten miles south, so it might just be that it's Dover's ancient Strand theater that's the dud.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:35 AM EDT

How About "Tossed Out the Airlock" Instead?

Gosh, I've noticed that phrase "thrown under the bus" a lot recently. It's gone from "colorful metaphor" to "overworked cliché" in the blink of an eye. (Also an overworked cliché "in the blink of an eye.")

For example, a couple days ago in the Washington Post Eugene Robinson op-edded on The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.:

Historically and theologically, he was inflating his importance in a pride-goeth-before-the-fall kind of way. Politically, by surfacing now, he was throwing Barack Obama under the bus.

Robinson opined that Senator Obama should return the favor, and (as many have noted) that's what happened. Not everyone's happy about that. Over at HuffPo, Charles Karel Bouley opines:

And as for Obama, shame on you. You were a proud member of that church for 20 years and now because it upsets white people you throw your pastor under the bus. Shame on you. He has the right to free speech. And you once called him friend and you knew him. He hasn't changed. You have, Obama.

As near as I can tell, despite his prose style, Charles Karel Bouley is not a 14-year-old girl.

Tony Dokoupil at Newsweek was <cliché>ahead of the curve</cliché>, tiring of the "suddently inescapable phrase" back in March (That was back when Obama had recently refused to throw Wright under the bus, but had instead thrown his typical-white-person grandma under the bus.)

Where did it come from? Why is it suddenly ubiquitous? And at the risk of sounding overly sensitive, is it even advisable, given its ugly echo with the "back of the bus" legacy of African-Americans?

Let it be said that Pun Salad is in favor of throwing people under the bus without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, military status, marital status, family status, age, religious beliefs, irreligious beliefs, or physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities.

Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post does follow-up research. He quotes the Urban Dictionary

'You get thrown under the bus when someone (usually a co-worker) reports some wrongdoing or slacking off to a superior or other influential person. Sometimes used with the suffix "Vrooooom!" to simulate the noise the bus would make as it passes by at a high rate of speed.'

There seems to be a fundamental ambiguity in the metaphor:

  1. One can get thrown

    • into the luggage compartment underneath the bus

    • while it's stationary.

  2. On the other hand, one can get thrown

    • underneath the wheels of the bus

    • while it's moving ("Vrooooom!")

… with obvious differences in implied attitude and outcome. Pun Salad recommends that people deploying this cliché indicate, by hand motions, sound effects, footnotes, crude illustrations, or interpretive dance, which of these meanings is to be taken.

Apparently the phrase is unrelated in any way to the 1987 Billy Crystal/Danny DeVito movie Throw Momma from the Train, nor the Patti Page song by which the movie's title was inspired:

Throw mama from the train a kiss, a kiss
Wave mama from the train a goodbye
Throw mama from the train a kiss a kiss
And don't cry, my baby, don't cry

How I miss that sweet lady with her old-country touch
Miss her quaint broken English called *Pennsylvania Dutch*
I can still see her there at the station that day
Calling out to her baby as the train pulled away

Yes, this is a blatant attempt to cut into Mark Steyn's audience.

Note the song refers to unusual syntax used in Pennsylvania, a reference made even more obscure by time. The song was written by Irving Gordon, who also wrote Unforgettable, popularized by Nat King Cole. The Wikipedia entry for the song reveals:

  • Homer and Jethro, a country music comedy team, recorded a parody of this song that included the lines "Throw mama from the train, but quick, but quick."

  • In New York City during the 1950s, Jewish street vendors who sold knishes near subway train stations lettered signs that punned, "Throw Mama from the train a knish, a knish ... don't leave her hungry behind".

At least in this neck of the system administration woods, we have a saying: what if X gets hit by a bus? Referring, indelicately, to how well IT organizations like ours can deal with sudden unexpected loss of personnel. One of my major current projects is working on my documentation, known as the "Paul Gets Hit by a Bus" stuff. Although, since I'm an optimist at heart, I like to substitute "Beer Truck" for "Bus."

Last Modified 2012-10-12 7:44 AM EDT