Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Old news

"Is the Times now like a leftish web site where Kos-like readers take down any discordant comments?"

Heartwarming


John, she's got as much capacity for emotional attachment as an iguana. For God's sake, these are the people who talk about "lockboxes." Doesn't that give you the cold sweats, John? She'll put you in one quicker than you can say, "Register that blog!"

Sorta Cool

I remember one summer I went into a photo booth every week as an experiment. Noah Kalina has gone far beyond that.

Go to his page and click on Noah Kalina Everyday (that really should be two words) and you can see a snapshot of his face each day for the past seven years. There's also a YouTube video of the first six years of this experiment if you want to see it in motion, as it were.

Milton The Man

Ginia Bellafante reviews a PBS special on Milton Friedman in The New York Times. She thinks it's a hagiography, which may be right, I haven't seen it (though Friedman deserves mostly praise no matter how you slice it). Two odd notions crop up, though. First, there's this:
What this at least partly seems to suggest is that liberals do not sanctify their own with quite the same verve as their conservative counterparts. One of Mr. Friedman’s greatest rivals, the Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, died about six months earlier, in April, and Americans have yet to bear witness to a similar pageantry.
Come again? First, mostly saying hooray for our side is what people do, and no party owns a copyright on it. Second, Galbraith not being celebrated like Friedman isn't a political thing so much as Galbraith is no longer taken seriously in economic circles like Friedman is.

Then there's this:
Though Mr. Friedman’s free-choice doctrine contributed to ending the draft in the 1970s, the film [...] does [not] address one result of the draft’s elimination: a military not well represented by affluent men and women who have many choices, but dominated by comparatively disadvantaged ones with far fewer options.
This is factually wrong, but no matter. Let's pretend it's correct. This is where Bellefante chooses to make her stand? Even if you think stripping away two years of millions of citizens' freedom is a neat thing to do, remember the military is not a social engineering experiment--it's there to defend us. A volunteer army is not only fairer, but does a better job.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Do Scooter's lawyers read Slate?

"It hurts the prosecution if Ari admitted something he didn't do, because they're relying on his memory. "

I don't see how Fitzgerald is any better, well, much better than Nifong. If there was not a crime to begin with, shut the show down, post haste, or lickety-split.

In The Wiki Room

Interesting piece in The New York Times about courts citing Wikipedia. It quotes two old law professors and friends, Richard Posner and Cass Sunstein. Posner thinks it's fine, but not for critical issues. I guess that's about right.

I go to Wikipedia every now and then. It pops up on Google searches pretty regularly. And they tend to have reasonably good information. But it also features a lot of questionable stuff. (Judge Posner's article claimed Ann Coulter was a former clerk until a friend fixed it).

Though it wasn't my intention, I've written the lion's share of about about 20 articles in the Wikipedia. I read something and felt it was so poorly done it needed to be fixed. This is obviously not a source you want to rely on for anything important.

Crazy Katz

TCM just showed a whole series of rock'n'roll exploitation films. Many of them were produced by Sam Katzman.

Katzman produced hundreds of films in his life, and all of them put together cost less than Titanic. Among his rock-related movies were Rock Around The Clock, Don't Knock The Rock, Calypso Heat Wave (in 1957, a lot of people thought--hoped--Calypso would replace rock), Juke Box Rhythm, Twist Around The Clock and Don't Knock The Twist (he was so cheap he didn't even want to pay for new words).

His formula was to jump on a trend and put out a cheap film before it was over. It was a very successful concept, and actually helped preserve a lot of cool performers from the 50s and 60s.

I noticed in several of his films, someone plays the very non-rock Harold Arlen tune "Let's Fall In Love." Was he trying to teach the rock generation what "good music" was? Nah. I'm assuming either it was in public domain or Sam had some special deal.

Evil rising

I think I'd rather deal with radical Islamists than this. A friend once assumed I would agree that it was a good thing that Spain sought to prosecute Pinochet. Absolutely not. Assassinate him if it's that important to you, but after Pinochet comes Clinton, then Bush, then Reagan. Everyone will get it in the neck, except Stalin. Clinton's signing this thing was the truly impeachable moment of his presidency.

Advice

I was watching footage of last weekend's anti-war protests and have some suggestions.

1. Don't use celebrities. I realize they help draw a crowd (though, apparently, the crowds weren't that great anyway), but they're not a sign that you're serious.

2. Don't make it personal. A lot of people attack George Bush saying he's fighting this war for vengeance. Nonsense, of course, but note the argument itself recognizese that personal reasons are not sufficient for governmental policy. Yet, much of the rhetoric at the rally was made up of personal attacks on Bush. It makes it sound like it's not about the policy, but the man.

3. Don't bring up religion. Okay, you can claim what you want about your own religion, but don't claim those whom you oppose aren't living up to theirs. It's not merely silly, but doesn't play well with the public, who feel that's between the individual, his conscience, and whatever higher power he believes in.

4. Don't bring up impeachment. This is about a war, not war crimes. Trust me, it makes you look like lunatics.

5. Don't say you're for peace. Because you're not. You're for withdrawal, not the same thing at all.

You've got the public on your side. Don't blow it. If you can't help yourself, my advice would be to lay low until we're out of there (like some others are planning).

Monday, January 29, 2007

Come to think of it

The P-boys make an excellent point. I can't remember the last time I heard a war story about the actual context of the war: "At one time, such coverge included reports about battles, territory lost and gained, and the like."

The reporting we get isn't much different than budget stories that report individual line itmes, but never tell you what the total budget is, its overall structure, or anything meaningful about it, such as comparisons to previous budgets and comparable budgets.

But that's the Manhattan media. Give us them death counts, baby.

Monday, Monday

With Lost MIA, Monday has become my favorite TV night. The NBC lineup has three hour-longs in a row that I watch. (Okay, tape and zip through in about 2 hours while doing other stuff.)

First there's the very silly surprise hit Deal Or No Deal, which the numbers and game-theory geek in me enjoys as a guilty pleasure.

After that there's Heroes, filling my need for fantasy until Lost starts up again. (Never got into 24. Maybe some day with DVDs.)

Then there's Studio 60, Aaron Sorkin's soon-to-be-canceled-so-enjoy-while-you-can lunatic alternate vision of network television.

It got me thinking, what other nights have been my favorite? And it hit me, every night but Monday. (Kids, don't try this at home--watching too much TV is bad for you. Throw out the set and live real lives.)

Tuesday was my favorite back in the 70s when I watched Happy Days and, later, Taxi. (Didn't watch Laverne And Shirley or Three's Company. I think Mork And Mindy, which I liked, might have started on Tuesday.)

Wednesday has been tops lately, with Lost and American Idol results.

Must See Thursday lasted from Hill Street Blues to Cheers to Cosby to LA Law to Seinfeld to Friends (never got into ER).

I outgrew it quickly, but ABC had the original TGIF for kids with The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and so on.

The greatest TV line-up ever was CBS's early 70s Saturday: All In The Familly, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett.

Sunday had been a favorite for a while with various shows, but mostly The Simpsons and, more recently, if you get HBO, or have a friend who does, The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.)

Which brings us back to Monday. Gotta go and set the VCR. (Yep, also don't have TiVo yet.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Finding Jesus

So I'm listening to an Ohio cable show based in D.C. interviewing one of our congressmen, Jim Jordan, who's doing fine, nothing exciting, but fine.

He's talking about how the extremist/terrorist challenges are serious, decent, substantive stuff, for a talk show, anyway, when he decides to mention Muammar Khadafi, how after Bush showed that America had some spine, he yielded his weapons programs. Just one awkward thing, I thought: "He found Jesus" probably isn't the way to say it.

Why it's hard to be a conservative

Who doesn't love Krauthammer? But the hardest thing for anyone to do, including conservatives, is to butt out. He wants more nukes, that's fine, regulations that act as prohibitions need changing, and he wants to kick some caribou out to steal their oil, fine, balancing environment against extracting resources is one thing Congress does.

But the tax on gas to modify behavior and raise money for beloved Leviathan? Come on, Chuck. This is something your liveral friends would do, not you. Set the taxes and regulations equally and sit back and watch, taking a peek at your index funds once in a while, and your generator and water bottles, too.

STP

I recently heard the Stone Temple Pilots on the radio. It got me wondering, where'd the name come from?

For some bands I know the history (The Beatles). For some bands I know the secret (Steely Dan). For some bands I can figure it out (Camper Van Beethoven).

But what's the deal with the Stone Temple Pilots. Anyone have a clue?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Relieving the tension with Ann Coulter

So National Review is hosting a conservative confab that reportedly is well attended. I guess that's something. Here's something I don't quite get, though:

There was some tension, I thought, between Ingraham's praise for the Dems for finally learning to present themselves as less avowedly liberal, and her call for Republicans to present themselves as more avowedly conservative. One can view this as the difference between a party that's been in the wilderness for a while and a party that may (or may not) be entering the wilderness.

Take it as true, and it surely is, that Dems are presenting themselves as more conservative, or "less avowedly liberal" might be better. While it's true that there might be tension, it's only one of at least four possibilities. You have to know or assume where the public is along this continuum, annd then you have to know where the parties stand relative to some theoretical middle line between "conservative" and "liberal." Of course it's conventional wisdom that "moving to the center" is the thing to do, but you don't know whether the intellectual center is the same as the public center (the public may be to the right or the left of the theoretical midpoint, once you determine where the theoretical (and for that matter public) midpoint is) and you also don't know how far from the theoretical middle the two parties are: Manhattan media and Dems say the Republicans are far right extremists, and the REpublicans say the Dems are far left extremists. Both could be right, both could be wrong, or one could be more, er, correct than the other.

(Sorry if I suckered you about the Ann Coulter thing. I don't know if she's even at the conference, although it's a good bet.)

Ch-ch-changes

I wasn't that thrilled about the first season of Extras, the Ricky Gervais comedy. It had its moment, but didn't approach the level of The Office. However,the second season, where Gervais' character is stuck in a bad sitcom, seems to me a lot better. In particular, the latest episode, where he deals with being a low-level celebrity, and meets David Bowie, really works.

Elsewhere in TV shows about being behind the scenes on a TV show, the troubled, soon-to-be-canceled Studio 60 is trying to retool. The word is it'll be less about running a sketch comedy program and more a straight romantic comedy. I sort of like the show, but this will ruin it--the least interesting part right now is Matt and Danny going after their gals.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Midnight Memories

I recently watched the DVD of Rock 'n' Roll High School. I saw it quite a few times as a midnight movie many years ago.

The film is a take on the classic rock exploitation plot where adults try to stop the music but the kids convince them it's okay. Except with punk, the kids don't care if the adults like it--they'd just as soon blow up the school and be done with it. (It's incredible to think Roger Corman originally wanted this to be called Disco High.) I remember once seeing this film with rowdy punks in the audience. They starting throwing things at the screen and tearing up the chairs. One of the few times I've been scared for my safety in a theatre.

I loved this movie for several reasons. First, there's the wacky sense of humor, mostly due to director Allan Arkush and writer Joe Dante (he hadn't done Gremlins yet). Then there's the unbearable cuteness of P.J. Soles as Riff Randell (and Dey Young isn't too bad, either). She's been working regularly since, but she never became the star she should have.

Above all is The Ramones. They weren't the first choice, or even the second choice, as the rock band the kids go crazy over. We're lucky they were chosen, because it gives us a chance to see this greatest of all punk bands in their heyday. As a bonus, we get to see them act, or at least give it their best shot. My favorite moment in the film is Joey trying, and failing, to say "Mr. McGree."

Here's an interesting tidbit I'd never noticed before (for obvious reasons). The two main lovers are named Tom and Kate.

There's also a mini-documentary about the making of the film. One thing struck me as odd--not a single word was said about male lead Vince Van Patten. Did they hate him? Did he threaten them? Did he copyright his name?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Measure Of Failure

Most Americans think the Iraq War is a failure. Just as those who favor the war are often asked to describe what they would call victory, I'd like to know how the war's opponents determine it's a failure.

I mean, it's clear the war is unpopular, but why? There seem to be two main reasons.

Aside from saying it's a mistake under any circumstances, the two main complaints are 1) we didn't find WMDs (or, more generally, Saddam was not a serious threat), and 2) violence has continued and, if anything, worsened.

But let's be as clear as possible. How would opponents reply to these scenarios?

1) We invade and discover there's a huge stash of ready-to-go WMDs, or a significant program to develop biological, chemical or nuclear weapons well along the way. However, after we've taken Saddam out, the violence in the country continues as it has. Would the war have been the right thing to do then?

2) We invade and quickly kick Saddam out with few casualties. After a short period of unrest, elections are held and there's only a low level of violence, as the people elect their government. However, no huge WMD programs are found. Would the war have been a mistake in that case?
Or, ultimately, is it only the combination of the two that makes it a failure.

Until it's clear why so many think the war is wrong, it's hard to have a straightforward national conversation.

Columbus Guy says: Nice gesture, LAGuy, but this isn't about good faith. This is about destroying, in order, (1), Bush (2) the conservatives, and (3) the Republicans, at any cost, including damage to the country. In fairness to the libs, the Dems and the Manhattan Media, I'm sure they think both that the country can't be destroyed, that they're saving it in any case, and a country governed by conservative principles isn't worth having.

Hmm. Maybe the civil war is here, as much as in Iraq.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ya think?

In fact, many people believed that the NCBA filed its complaint quickly so that it could contain the damage to the association by only addressing the initial complaints. That strategy clearly did not work, as the outcry only intensified over the past few weeks since the head of the DNA lab revealed Nifong's machinations to keep the defense from learning that the suspects had been excluded by the testing.

As His Virtualness says, read the whole thing.

Great moments in Democrat rhetoric

I was just listening to BBC coverage of the State of the Union and heard a well-spoken voice, a legislator, saying, "I would say to the press, you can only tear the president down so far, and then you begin to tear down the country."

Turned out to be none other than my favorite Democrat, Christopher Shays. Remarkable. Who's next? My favorite objective news source, The New York Times?

Nodding Off

Well, I just got back. Let's talk about yesterday's big news. Not the State Of The Union--I stopped watching that infomercial years ago (though I do think they should have a cash register go "ka-ching!" every time the Prez announces a new program). No, I mean the Oscar noms, of course.

Actually, nothing too surprising. The biggest omission was not Dreamgirls for Best Picture, but Volver in the Foreign Film category.

I still don't get the Screenplay nod for Borat. Doesn't that require, you know, writing?

Overall, a pretty dull bunch. I guess it's that sort of year. Are there any really exciting choices? Hmm. Let's see. Nope. It's gonna be another defensive Oscar night, just hoping the worst picks don't win.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A show of hands, please

Now, really, I ask you, LAGuy couldn't find a computer for a day like this one?

The farm team

And then the rain paused.

Res ipsa loquitur

"The children of my race and community languish in wait of your transformation. "

Monday, January 22, 2007

Caffeine keeps me up

I've never been jealous of LAGuy, notwithstanding the unlimited debauchery to which he must have easy access. But I have to admit, after reading this article, I wouldn't mind being SeattleGuy.

But hey, I'm a midwesterner. I find this strangely arousing.

An I-65 Superbowl. Cool

Hey, glad to see it won't be a repeat of the 1986 superbowl. I remember sitting iun the basement of Ida Noyes at the pub, watching Miami bombard Chicago during the regular season, and I was never so relieved as I was when NE beat Miami in the AFC championship. What a drubbing Chicago would have given Marino in the Big One.

But maybe this time it's the Colts. How long's it been since they've been to a Suyperbowl? Shula days? Who's the successor to those Colts anyway? These Colts? Or the Ravens? Or the Browns?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wired? So passe. It'll probably be Bluetooth, or Redthroat

"In the premiere episode, guests arrive from the future, past and present to guide you through a quirky tour of the “World Wide Mind,” an intriguing theory that proposes that in the future our brains will be wired up so that we can communicate with the world effortlessly and instantly. "

Let's chat?

So Hillary is in. No surprise. She'll win, I think. I don't see anyone on the Republican side who can even mount a campaign.

But didn't Barak Orama also promise to have a "conversation"? Guess that's the Oprah poll word of the month. Only problem is, their idea of a conversation is to shoot you if you don't get with the program. Sound harsh? Try violating campaign finance laws and see what happens to you if you don't "cooperate" in what follows.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

1903 was a very good year


Sorry for the lack of posting. They've put the junior varsity in, and all of the other Guys have jobs. I spent the day in Warsaw, a town of 15,000 or so that is home to 60 percent or so of the world's materials implant market, helping the six-year-old nephew put together the Christmas gift I gave him. Next year, more plastic.

Friday, January 19, 2007

30Rock rocks

I haven't laughed so hard in I don't know when. The "gold case" sketch hurt my throat. "That one!" is the funniest. That's all, just the funniest.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Out For Lunch

Just as we've been having a surge in hits (mostly thanks to Virginia Postrel's link), I'm leaving town. Expect me back in the middle of next week.

Until then, I hope the other Guys can pick up the slack.

Read All About It

Odd headline tucked away on page A6 of the LA Times: "In a small U.S. victory, 8 Mideast states warn agains meddling in Iraq."

I know headline writers have space to fill, but what is all that stuff before the comma? Perhaps it was a small victory, perhaps it was a big one. Perhaps it was a defeat. I don't know, and I doubt the headline writer does either.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Isn't it, "works only"?

"Focusing on the tactics only works if you happen to guess correctly.”

Hat tip to my friend Jesse, who had a much better tag line: "Would you like to touch my monkey?"

That's Entertainment

The sixth season of TV's most popular show, Amercan Idol, just premiered. A lot of people love watching all the bad singers in the first round of auditions getting gonged, but it's my least favorite part of the show.

Sure, they have to learn sooner or later, but it's tough to watch people's dreams being crushed on prime time TV.

I'm looking forward to when the semi-finalists get to Hollywood. There's still plenty of heartbreak, but at least the contestants aren't completely deluded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Racist pig

"Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them."

It is shocking, and yet typical, how easily conservatives abandon children, particularly the least advantaged.

Unfair

So Dennis Kucinich wants to revive the Fairness Doctrine. See, he doesn't like what people listen to when they're given free choice, so the government should decide for them.

It's what I always say: when politicians look out over our country, they only see two problems--the people have too much freeedom and the people have too much money. If only they can take away enough of both, things will be fine.

My Name Is

My Name Is Earl has shaped up into one of the best sitcoms on TV (admittedly, not much competition). The last two episodes have me a little worried, though. They were funny, but both broke the format.

Reformed hood Earl has a list of things he's done wrong. Each week he does a good deed and crosses something off the list. This is a great hook. The show is narrated by Earl.

Two weeks ago, however, it was done as an episode of Cops. Last week they had the other characters narrate it from their point of view. There's nothing wrong with an occasional change, but you don't want every show to be a stunt. I hope the producer don't mess things up by figuring they've got to goose the format every week.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lost Ends And Loose Ends

My main complaint about Lost has always been the producers don't know when it will end, so they can't make the show as tight as it should be.

Sensing this frustration, ABC is now stating there'll be a clear endpoint, and they will announce soon how long the show will run.

I guess this is good news, though I hope they'll go at leat six, maybe seven seasons. I mean I want the show to be good, but I want it to last as long as it can stay good.

ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson also states the producers "made a clear choice that [the] first installment [this season] would be about Jack, Kate, Sawyer and The Others. For me, the show I really invest in is having everybody together. I thought it was a riveting six episodes, but I like it when they're all together and they're heading toward that again after the break." With this I don't agree.

It is an ensemble show, to be sure, and all the interaction makes Lost, but some characters, particularly Jack, Kate and Sawyer, along with Locke, are more compelling. There are others I like (and a few I wish they'd kill off), and they shouldn't be ignored, but there's nothing wrong with concentrating on the most interesting characters. This is a TV show, not a democracy.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The End Of The Blog As We Know It?

For months, Blogspot, which hosts this blog, has been prompting us to upgrade to a fancier format. I'd like to, but only the creator of this blog can do it--Pajama Guy himself. Alas, PJGuy is MIA.

We will continue blogging in this old-fashioned format. I only hope that Blogspot doesn't decide to drop this template completely.

Bottiwhat?

I just read The Mind Of Bill James by Scott Gray, a decent book on a fascinating man. However, on page 8, the author--or Bill James quoted by the author--discusses the game of Botticelli, only it's not real Botticelli, but a lame variation.

In real Botticelli, a player thinks of a famous person and gives the last initial. The other player (or players) must then give a clue about a famous person with that initial. If the first player can't figure out who it is, the other player gets to ask a yes or no question. This continues, though each new clue has to describe a person that fits the new constraints established by previous yes or no question. Eventually, the famous person is guessed (or the other player(s) gives up).

The variation played by Bill James (or what the author thinks he played) is essentially Twenty Questions. Someone thinks of a person and then you simply ask a bunch of yes or no questions till you figure out who it is. The difference between this and true Botticelli is like the difference between checkers and chess.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Background Material

A few years ago I watched a rerun of The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour. At the end, Dick listed the people who would appear on the next episode. It was the writing staff and the idea was these names would be unknown so people would wonder who he was talking about. However, since one of those writers was Steve Martin, the effect didn't quite come off years later.

I get a similar feeling when now-famous members of the SNL writing staff appear in sketches. You almost wonder why is this guy playing such a small part.

The most obvious case is Conan O'Brien, who had small parts in several sketches. In particular I remember the famous "Five Timers Club." Tom Hanks was hosting the show for the fifth time and so got a membership in this exclusive club, where he meets Steve Martin, Paul Simon and Elliott Gould. And there's Connan as Sean the doorman. He's hosted the show since, though it doesn't look like he'll become a member of the Five Timers.

Just last week I noticed someone on a rerun that I doubt I caught the first time. The show was a salute to Eddie Murphy. In one sketch, he played Gumby coming to a deli to meet a bunch of other old Jewish entertainers, played by Billy Crystal, Martin Short and Christopher Guest, all cast members at the time. (It was a year of ringers.)

And who was sitting at a table in the background, looking Jewish and saying nothing? Writer Larry David, still a few years away from hitting the goldmine with Seinfeld.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Late to the New Year's Party (Predictions)

Okay so I did okay last year. This year my sports predictions will likely not be so rosy. There is no way I would have picked the Tigers to do as well as they did. Even though they did not win it all, beating the Yankees was pretty nice to watch. So, anyway, let's give it a go.

World: Pat Robertson is wrong! The world will likely still be here next year. (If you are reading this in January of 2008, then this prediction holds.) [Note from LAguy: And if you're wrong, no one will be around to read it--pretty safe.]

Politics: Democrats get a lot of what they want accomplished. Repubs are accommodating on most fronts and only fight one or two issues. Bush threatens but still does not use his veto.

Economics: Good year for business. Soft landing as they say. Stock market looking beyond 2007 to the election year takes a breather through the summer.

Sports: Pistons don't even make the playoffs. Tigers have a commendable but not pennant winning year. Wolverine fans again awake with a hangover for the New Year.

Religion: The religion of peace keeps making new humans at a pace faster than anyone else and their influence spreads. Flash points continue everytime anyone says anything true about them.

Medicine: Major breakthrough in genetic therapy (for a specific disease) is announced. World awaits breathlessly to see if it will have practical value. Health care politics do not result in any reform.

Beliefs

Here's an article by Dennis Prager that claims belief (or disbelief) in the authority of the Torah has predictive value. How? Well, it can predict your stance on:
same-sex marriage; the morality of medically unnecessary abortions; capital punishment for murder; the willingness to label certain actions, regimes, even people "evil"; skepticism regarding the United Nations and the World Court; strong support for Israel; or a willingness to criticize the moral state of Islamic societies.
Is there a correlation between belief in the Torah and what you think about these issues? Perhaps, but I question how strong it is.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, he might have a point, though it seems to me a bigger divide may be along age lines--I've met old liberals who don't like it and young religious types who don't mind it.

Abortion? While even Prager admits the correlation isn't perfect, there are so many tens of millions who are religious but support abortion that I don't see how belief in the Torah's authority tells you very much.

Capital punishment? Prager may favor it, but there are many millions who oppose it specifically on religious grounds, so this seems a particularly poor example.

Calling things evil? Hmm. Seems to me plenty people of all stripes believe in saying certain actions, regimes and people are morally wrong, they just disagree on what the target should be.

The final three examples seem more about American than religious beliefs. Even religious people in other countries support the UN and the World Court a lot more than we do here in the US. And Israel, in general, has strong support in the US--from all types--while it's regularly condemned in Europe--even by religious leaders. As to criticizing Islamic countries, there are many Bible believers (more so in Europe than the US, I'd guess), who tend to oppose criticism of others based on religion.

I'm sorry I'm writing in generalities here, but I don't have the data needed to properly answer these question. Then again, neither does Prager.

(I realize I'm not getting at what may be the central problem with Prager's argument. There seems to be an implication that belief in the Bible will make you have certain values. Perhaps, but correlation is not causation. There may be a correlation (especially in the US) between religious belief and political affiliation, but that could mean the sort of people who agree with Prager on political issues are also the kind of people who'd believe in the Bible.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Listening to the Oldies II

This could be the best post in PajamaGuy history. Up to 'That could come in handy,' it's brilliant. After that, it's just popular.

Listenin' To The Oldies

Heard another great old song recently--Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour." It got me thinking.

The first five syllables of the first verse are "My cherie amour...." The first five syllables of the second verse are (as Stevie sings them) "In a ca-afe." Fine, it works, but I think it would be cooler if he sang "cafe" with two syllables so it would be "In a cafe or..." This would make it rhyme with the start of the first verse. But hey, Stevie wrote it, he can sing it how he wants.

Speaking of the lyric, listen to this in the second verse: "In a cafe or sometimes on a crowded street/ I've been near you, but you never noticed me." I get that she's in her own little world, but is this guy a stalker or what?

One more note. Here's the second line: "My cherie amour, distant as the Milky Way." I don't know how to break it to Stevie, but we're in the Milky Way--you can't get any closer than that.

Regardless, it's a great song. I smile every time I hear it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Groundhog Day vs 100

Recently I was talking to a friend and Groundhog Day came up. I think it's a well-done film, but he thinks it's the best comedy ever--perhaps the best film ever. There does seem to be quite a cult around this movie. (At least I like it--there are cults for films I can't stand.)

I said I could name 100 comedies better than Groundhog Day. He doubted it. Well, no one ever said LAGuy can't rise to a challenge. Here, off the top of my head, in no particular order (other than a vaguely chronological one) are the 100. Actually, there's a couple extra, in case I repeated myself:

The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr, The General, The Cameraman, Steamboat Bill Jr., Girl Shy, Safety Last, The Freshman, The Kid Brother, A Nous La Liberte, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, A Night At The Opera, It Happened One Night, My Man Godfrey, The Philadelphia Story, Trouble In Paradise, Destry Rides Again, Sons Of the Desert, The Thin Man, Pygmalion, Midnight, It's A Gift, Never Give A Sucker An Even Break, The Shop Around The Corner, Bringing Up Baby, The Awful Truth, The Major And The Minor, The Lady Eve, Hail The Conquering Hero, Sullivan's Travels, The Rules Of The Game, Ball Of Fire, To Be Or Not To Be, Road To Morocco, Arsenic And Old Lace, The Court Jester, Roman Holiday, Smiles Of A Summer Night, The Man In The White Suit, I'm All Right Jack, Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day's Night, Some Like It Hot, The Fortune Cookie, The Graduate, Playtime, Paper Moon, The Producers, Diner, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Life Of Brian, Take The Money And Run, Bananas, Sleeper, Love And Death, Annie Hall, The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, M*A*S*H, The Bad News Bears, Airplane!, Broadcast News, The In-Laws, Slap Shot, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Splash, Tootsie, Heathers, Modern Romance, Lost In America, American Graffiti, Heaven Can Wait, Animal House, Local Hero, Ghostbusters, This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, Big, Being There, Arthur, Back To The Future, Dazed And Confused, Raising Arizona, Bull Durham, Life Is Sweet, Gremlins 2, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ruthless People, A Fish Called Wanda, Flirting With Disaster, There's Something About Mary, Dumb And Dumber, My Cousin Vinny, Waiting For Guffman, The Big Lebowski, Being John Malkovich, Toy Story.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

That's not a tax

"The mandate is a hidden tax of $1,200 that each of us has to pay because there are employers out there who would rather increase that rate of profit and put it in their pocket than to pay a portion of the healthcare costs of their employees," Nunez said. "That's a tax."

Nailed

Allan Sloan, the Wall Street editor of Newsweek, reviews P.J. O'Rourke's latest in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. The book is a commentary on Adam Smith's The Wealth Of Nations. Though Sloan admits he's never been able to get through all of Smith, and he isn't sympatico with O'Rourke's politics, he still gives it a positive notice.

So far, so good. But halfway through you run into this:

Now, let’s reduce this theory to microeconomic reality. I can go to my local hardware store, and for $1.79 (plus sales tax), I can purchase a pound of eight-penny nails manufactured in China, thousands of miles from my home. It would take me forever and a day to manufacture my own nails. Instead, I get paid to write articles, which is my specialty, and I can buy a pound of nails for the economic equivalent of a small amount of my time. The store owner, who specializes in helping people like me who’d rather get cheerfulness and good service than go to Home Depot, can use her profit to buy a copy of The New York Times, which helps give the paper the money to pay me for writing about O’Rourke writing about Smith writing about what makes nations wealthy. See? Isn’t that simple?

This all works out fine for O’Rourke and me and whoever is running the nail-making machine in China; he or she is presumably better off doing that than being a peasant farmer or an unemployed urbanite. However, my ability to purchase cheap China-made nails is unlikely to have worked out well for the people who once made nails in the United States. This is Adam Smith’s famous hand of the market at work: it pats specialists like O’Rourke and me on the head, while it gives unemployed blue-collar workers in the Midwest the middle finger. Maybe as a society, the United States saves money by exporting manufacturing jobs and importing so many manufactured goods — but I still have trouble believing that it’s good for us in the long run.

First, let's pretend we only care about America and the rest of the world can go screw themselves. (We'll also ignore the issue of dealing with immoral countries. Really Sloan loads the question by making it about U.S. versus anyone--the economic question is the same if you're talking about a manufacturer relocating to another state). If making basic goods can be handled better elsewhere, it creates a better economy in general, not just for the nailmakers and specialists like Sloan and O'Rourke. There are lots of businesses in America that use nails, and getting them cheaper lets them either make a greater profit or sell the things they build at a lower price. Regular citizens who use them will have money freed up to spend elsewhere. I'm not saying there's never any dislocation in a free, dynamic economy. I'm just saying if you add up the ledger, it's better if goods, especially basic ones, cost less.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Predictions For 2007

I'm still waiting for AnnArborGuy and ColumbusGuy to give their 2006 awards. I can't wait forever, though, and it's time to move on to predictions for 2007.

Iraq: The new Democrat Congress will affect but not derail Bush's plans. Violence will continue but democratic institutions will be built up.

World Politics: The Palestinians will continue to attack Israel and each other. Castro will die but Cuba will remain a prison.

American Politics: (Note: Some of this depends on how Tim Johnson does.) The Democrats will reverse a lot of rules at first, but eventually fissures will develop that slow down the passing of laws. Bush will get very few of his proposals through, and will change from signing statements to vetoes. Bush will not be impeached. Protectionist legislation will be passed. The 700-mile border wall will not be built. Hillary will remain the Dems front-runner for 2008, even with significant disenchantment among the base. No single clear leader will emerge from the Republican side.

Popular Culture: Helen Mirren will win the Best Actress Oscar. The Departed and Dreamgirls will get the most undeserved Oscar nominations. The final Sopranos will be seen as disappointing. American Idol will not go down in popularity. At least three of the top five grossing films of the year will be sequels.

Economics: The U.S. economy will continue to grow at the rate it's been growing for over a year. The dollar will stabilize.

Law: Alito will often vote differently from how O'Connor did. This will mean, among other thing (assuming Kennedy and Roberts go along) that affirmative action as presently practiced will be greatly affected, which will create a larger reaction than usual for a judicial opinion.

Sports: Pistons go all the way. The Tigers won't do anywhere near as well as last season. Michigan will finally beat Ohio State.

Internet: The blogs will break another scandal bringing down yet another big name.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Oil Wells That End Well

Here's the headline in The Independent: "Future of Iraq: The spoils of war
How the West will make a killing on Iraqi oil riches."


Under a new law the Iraqi parliament might (is this news yet?) pass, Western oil companies could "pocket up to three-quarters of [oil] profits in the early years" of drilling. I thought this was a pretty good deal until I read the fine print in the seventh paragraph. After costs have been recouped, the take goes down to 20%.

Sounds fine to me. You want people to come in and help you, you gotta give them something. Opponents claim the westerners have the Iraqis over a barrel (PI), but would you want to go in for less when there's such instability? The real problem is one of perception. No matter what amount is requested, people will be unhappy, figuring they're getting ripped off.

PS Good piece by Ronald Bailey on the dangers of not bringing private companies in to drill.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It Ain't Broke

I was in a 7-Eleven today and saw there's a new Snickers Bar, Snickers Xtreme. It's got Xtra peanuts.

This reminds me of when Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Xperimented with the chocolate to peanut butter ratio. People had been enjoying their peanut butter cups for years--why mess with success?

The Snickers Bar is the single most popular chocolate bar in the United States. Do they really think they can improve on it?

(For previous thoughts on Snickers, here's one of my favorite posts of 2006.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Correction: "Gov. Seeks to deny insurance to all children"

So LAGuy appears to be correct when he says Arnold's a Democrat. Socialized health insurance. For the children, of course. He should get along famously with Nancy Pelosi. She won't even require that he keep his testicles in a lockbox, since he's already given them up.

One would hope that the LATimes would correct its headline, however, since socialized medicine serves only to make coverage illegal, on the pretense of making it universal. He's not providing it to all chidren, he's denying it. It's only that he and his successor bureaucrats will be deciding what is not available, instead of the chillen and their guardians. (Since the "details" are not yet announced, I suppose he could be proposing a simple voucher, in which case I'll eat my words. But I think my near term digestion is safe.)

Lost Cause

A friend just wrote me asking if it'd be worth his while to catch up on Lost. He wants to know if the pay-off to the mystery of the show is worthwhile, no good, or too early to say. Here's what I wrote:

I think it's too early to say, but it's worth it anyway. Some complain--both fans and haters--that the show never answers anything. This is simply wrong. The problem is, so far, whenever they answer a question, they raise five more. (I've heard there's a website with a running count of all the unanswered questions.)

I think everyone would agree that, so far, most of the biggest questions have not been answered. Of course, 1) we're only two seasons and six episodes in, which is almost certainly less than halfway--can you imagine a mystery novel that answers all the questions at this point? and 2) if the producers gave a lot more answers, it would be momentarily exciting but would soon destroy interest.

What people like about the show, aside from the overall mystery, is the strong characters, the mood, and the plot twists. These work even when you don't get ultimate answers.

From the start there's been talk the producers are making it up as they go along. I doubt it. They claim they know the destination, just not every stop along the way. Enough things tie together that this makes sense. However, even I have criticized from the start that since Lost is open-ended--no one knows how long it'll be on--it makes the show less tight than it might be. I mean, no matter what else you think of the show, the master plan is not as structured as the five-year blueprint for Babylon 5.

Furthermore, there are signs of improvising along the way. I do think they know the general outline, but I bet they don't even know which characters are going to make it. Certain storylines and characters seem to be picked up and dropped in ways that, if not arbitrary, at least show a bit of slack. I wish, regardless of the show's popularity, that they would declare they'll be done after five or six or even seven seasons, so they can make sure every episode fits into place and moves the overall arc forward.

One thing we still don't know (will we ever?) is if events can be explained through natural means. Occasionally, by the way, I feel they put in certain bits to respond to viewer complaints, or desires.

Because I like (most of) the characters and am invested in the complex story, I can put up with what I consider minor problems. As for the mysteries, they'll be answered eventually. Until then, I'll just enjoy the ride.

I even like the flashbacks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006 Awards

Time to look back before we move forward. Here we go.

Biggest Loser: George Allen, who macacas his way out of an easy win, blowing any future run for President and handing the Senate over to the Dems.

Biggest Winner: Barack Obama, suddenly a frontrunner for '08. Imagine what'll happen if he actually does something.

Biggest Loser and Winner: Joe Lieberman, long-time Senator who couldn't even get his party's nomination, but still won his seat back anyway (while his party licked his boots).

Lamest Duck: George W. Bush.

Story Of The Year: The Democrats take back Congress. Caused mostly by the second-biggest story, the continuing violence in Iraq.

Biggest Non-Story: Everyone was waiting for another big hurricane. Nothing.

Best Non-Story: Still no major terrorist attacks inside America.

Biggest Story No One Cares About: All in all, the economy continues to do fairly well.

Funniest Near Tragedy: Cheney shoots a hunting buddy in the face.

Would Be Funny If It Weren't A Tragedy: Death in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons.

Biggest Comeback: Arnold Schwarzenegger. After being destroyed by the unions last year, he changes (i.e., becomes an unofficial Democrat) and easily wins reelection.

Biggest Continuing Non-Issue: Everyone talks about illegal immigration, but no one does anything about it.

Most Overrated Person: Nancy Pelosi. I don't think she led her party to victory so much as watched her opponents self-destruct. Her trouble with committee assignments right after the election doesn't bode well.

No Longer A Wedge Issue Award: Gay marrige. It has some play left in it, but it's not what it was.

Best Traction For A Relatively Trivial Scandal: Mark Foley and his emails.

Turn Around And Bite You On The Ass Award: Relentlessly going after the Duke students, no matter what the evidence showed, made Mike Nifong the most despised prosecutor in the country.

Biggest Celebrity Meltdown: Gotta be Mel Gibson, though he had some serious competition from Michael Richards and Britney Spears, as well as Rosie and The Donald.

Most Reliable Nutjob Leader: Stop looking at South America (or Washington D.C., for that matter), it's not even close. Ahmadinejad.

Person We'll Miss The Most Award: So many, so many. I guess I'll go with Milton Friedman.

Worst Political Move: Almost everything the Republicans did before the elections.

Stealth Bomb: Justice Alito. The explosion will detonate in a few months.

Worst Dead Dictator (aka the Good Riddance Award): Sorry Milosevic, sorry Pinochet, but neither of you can touch Hussein.

Biggest Flop Controversy: The Flying Imams.

Technical Loser Of the Year: Compact Discs. It seems like just a while ago you were the future, now you're on the way out.

Foot In Mouth Award: Pope Benedict XVI. What he said may have been an invitation to dialogue, but what did he expect?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I think they're watching me

We got one of these things, which I thought was the coolest household thing ever. Stuffed that sucker full, too. Now it turns out the damn things are thinking, thinking all the time.

Note: The really scary thing is I didn't know how to find a picture of it, so I punched "plastic bag holder" into amazon and came up with it first hit. Sigh. Time to recycle my motherboard.

Last Year's Predictions

Before we make our predictions for 2007, or give our awards for 2006, let's look at our predictions for last year. Here's a link to my predictions and here's a link to AnnArborGuy's predictions. ColumbusGuy chickened out and Pajama Guy was absent.

First, mine.

I thought the situation in Iraq would improve. That's debatable, but I did say Saddam would be found guilty and executed. That one came in just under the wire.

I said someone would do something about the threat of a nuclear Iran. Unless you count weak verbal condemnation, I was wrong.

I predicted Palestinians would fight each other in territory they control. Right.

I thought the Repubs would lose seats but hold the Congress. Way off. (Though I did change my mind by the summer.)

I said Hillary will remain the Democrats' unquestioned leader for '08. I'd say she's still the leader, but unquestioned? No longer. I also said no clear Repub leader will emerge for '08 and I think that's right.

I thought Brokeback Mountain would win the Best Pictue Oscar, but Crash was the surprise victor. I was right about Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor. Also right on no sitcoms in the top ten and The Sopranos being big but not as big as previously. Also write on record stores closing down.

I said the Dow would break 11,000 which was correct but too conservative.

I was right that Alito would become a Justice. Also that Michigan would lose no more than 2 football games. Also that there'd be over 7000 players and the World Sereis Of Poker and a newcomer would win it.

Not bad, but no Kreskin. I was probably better at this last year.

How about AnnArborGuy?

He predicted a significant pulback from Iraq, making the media focus on Iran and North Korea. Hmm. I don't think so.

He said both sides will get enough in the elections to claim victory. Not really.

He thought Brokeback Mountain would win more awards than it deserves A judgment call, though it didn't win the biggest award (see above.)

He said Tom DeLay would be acquitted. Hasn't worked out that well. (Has it?)

He predicted the Wolverines would have a better year--got that right (even with the rotten ending). He thought the Pistons would go all the way--instead they stalled.

He believed Avian flu would be a bust, and I believe he got that right.

He thought the economy would grow at a 4% rate. I think that's about right.

Unemployment remains low. Check.

He thought interest rate hikes by the Fed would catch up to economy by now. Doesn't seem to as far as I can tell.

So there you have it. Not bad, but at least as good as those overpaid pundits on TV.

Soon, we'll give our awards for last year. We have no official categories, but here are some we've had in the past: Best Press Coverage, Worst Press Coverage, Biggest Scandal, Biggest Non-Scandal, Biggest Loser, Biggest Winner, Biggest Failure, Biggest Comeback, Greatest Success, Biggest Celebrity Meltdown, Worst Political Move, Biggest Stealth Issue, Most Overrated Issue, Dumbest Comments, Person Of The Year, Most Overrated Person Of Year and Defining Moment.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Can't they just nail it into your head?

The shoes' developer Sayo Isaac Daniel said people can forget to carry their phones, but they can't leave the house without their shoes.
The design allows wearers to press a hidden button to send a distress signal.
The Quantum Satellite Technology shoes are planned to hit stores in March at a price of $325 to $350.


LAGuy notes: Come on, this is old news.

Not So Rosy

I was going to post here about the Rose Bowl, but all things considered, let's just forget about it.

Outrageous

Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick lists "The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006." Most of them are predictable (if you know her politics), but a few are questionable, particularly #7, which is about criticizing judges. Why does she consider this a violation or our civil liberties?
As public distrust of the bench is fueled, the stripping of courts' authority to hear whole classes of cases[...]almost seems reasonable. Each tiny incursion into the independence of the judiciary seems justified. Until you realize that the courts are often the only places that will defend our shrinking civil liberties.
You know, the other two branches of government can presumably do good things, and negative words can undermine them as well. How does this argue against criticism?

Lithwick asks for any outrages she forgot. How about this one, the winner and still champeen: Campaign Finance Reform.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Tale Of Two Parties

Let's look at the society pages.

On December 30th, I attended an FOV--Friends Of Virginia (and Steve) Postrel--party. Virginia Postrel, as regular readers know, has a great blog and is the author of two fine books. Virginia also likes TV--she was a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, for example. We're both fans of Battlestar Galactica and Lost, but since she tapes the shows and is way behind, she refused to discuss them.

Her party was full of academics and bloggers. Among the crowd was Brian Doherty of Reason magazine, Amy Alkon, Mickey Kaus, the Gay Patriot (who lives in West Hollywood, of course) and Sandra Tsing Loh. Matt Welch who now works for the "evil MSM," just returned from France and couldn't make it.

There was conversation and lasagna. Brian, who wrote a book about Burning Man, will have a new book out soon on libertarianism. I'm certainly looking forward to it. Mickey told me he gets a lot less grief from his own side--Democrats--than he used to since they won the elections. Still, some claim he's a concern troll. We also discussed, among other things, the tasering at UCLA and Ann Coulter's sincerity.

Then, on New Year's Eve, I partied with my book group. The hostess put out a delightful spread. We watched a DVD--A Night At The Opera (can't go wrong with that)--and played Apples To Apples. Then we went out on the balcony to greet the new year with champagne. We drank from expensive glasses so we couldn't dash them against the fireplace.

Start writing "2007" on your checks.

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