Wednesday, March 31, 2010

History: 5000 Years of Middle East History, 90 Seconds, and 1 Animated Map

From law prof blog Legal Insurrection comes this fascinating link to Maps of War and its animated map of 5000 years of Middle East history displayed in 90 seconds.

Public Service Announcement: "Glee" Returns On April 13

Your humble hostess needs some good TV shows. I just gave up on "24." Last night was the return of "V," which was pretty good, actually, though I just KNEW what Anna was going to do to her date! (Didn't you?)

OK, reptilian imperialistic aliens aside, kids, here's some real news. "Glee" returns with new episodes in 2 weeks!

And that's how Sue sees it.

Nerd News: Traditional Versus Online Forms of Learning

The Washington Post has an interesting editorial.

A Law Prof on the Health Care Individual Mandate: It's Constitutional Because ...

It's really a tax.

Interesting opinion/argument. But still infuriating and intrusive, say I! Because nothing gets me angry quite as quickly as imposing new taxes on me, no?

Nerd News: Is Higher Education the Most Overpriced Product You Can Possibly Buy?

Dr. Helen has the link.

Quote of the Day: the Peril and Power of the "Morally Superior" Directive

Of the two great societal goals—freedom and "the good"—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today's liberalism is focused on "the good" more than on freedom. And ideas of "the good" are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.
Read the whole editorial. That's right, oppressing us for our own good. Or something.

Let me also remind you of this great and relevant observation by C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive ... those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
TRUE DAT. The tyrannical nanny-bully.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Disgustingly Cute: Egg Art

Right on time for Easter, there is this (via The Kitchn).


Nerd News: Jaime Escalante, Inspiration For "Stand and Deliver," Dies (1930-2010)

Hail and farewell to Jaime Escalante, the immigrant from Bolivia who was also an incredible teacher. The classic 1988 film "Stand and Deliver" was based on his story, as he taught calculus in Los Angeles. Escalante was 79. Here is his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

If you haven't seen "Stand and Deliver," go see it at once! Escalante is played by the legendary Edward James Olmos. I remember how my AP Calculus teacher showed us the film in class when we were about to take our AP exams!

Nerd News: Government Takeover of Student Loans Signed Into Law

You knew this was coming. I've been yelling about it for a year and more. It was buried in the execrably bad ObamaCare bill.

And now it's been signed into law today.

UGH. Is there no limit to the overweening desires of Big Government to meddle in EVERY aspect of life? to be the arbiter of every possible decision?

UPDATE: More here.

Mashup Hilarity: March Madness + Passover = ?

This year the NCAA basketball championships (MM is rooting for Anybody But Duke) and Passover overlap. Here is an amusing mashup. You can also go straight to the game here.

Nerd News: Unemployment Rates Vs. Level of Education

Here is something interesting.

Possibly even more interesting is this aside at the end:
. . . higher education expenses have been increasing at double the rate of medical care since 2000. College tuition and fees are up 92% (!) since 2000. That trend simply can’t continue . . . can it?
The bubble's going to burst. Higher ed costs have also been increasing at something like 4 times the rate of inflation.

Nerd News: The Student Who Wasn't There -- the Problem of Absenteeism

Take a look. The school in question is Dartmouth, but the problem is widespread throughout colleges and universities.

My policy for absenteeism is simply this: I don't care if you skip or not since everyone is free to torpedo themselves as much as they are free to work hard to succeed -- the choice is yours. But know this: You skip my class at your own peril. So don't come crying to me later.

I've purposefully designed my classes so that in order to do well on my exams, you have to BOTH do all the reading assignments AND come to the class lectures. Yes, I am wickedly controlling the information as much as I can. Besides, I'm an awesome lecturer, so you don't come, you're missing out, so there! :-P

I have had some students whine that I assign too much reading, to which my standard reply is "Shut up and get back to work. If you spent as much time working as you do whining, you'd be done with your assignment already." OK, I use more diplomatic language than that, but the basic message is the same.

I have to say, though, there's been a new wrinkle on the "lazy student who doesn't want to read" phenomenon. I got this question last week: "The syllabus says we're supposed to read pages 50-100. Are we really supposed to read all 50 pages?" *snort of derision* ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

What I wanted to say: "Yes, and just for being a pain in my neck, you get to do a class presentation on those 50 pages and also write a full book review of the entire monograph that the 50-page selection came from."
What I actually said: "Yes."

Schadenfreude Alert: Time To Pay The Piper, Obamacolytes

Remember how mobs of young people (like college students) went nuts for Obama during the presidential campaign? Remember how they dreamed their little dreams of utopian fantasy under the benevolent rule of the Lightbringer of Hope and Change and "Yes, We Can"? These are the same pie-eyed young fools who were recently all over campuses screaming that "Health Care Is a Human Right."

Boy, are they in for a shock when they figure out that the Obama-sized government that they voted for is coming straight for their wallets:
Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they're required to buy insurance four years from now. That estimate is from an analysis by Rand Health. Young people will need to carry more of the burden of health care under the new health overhaul law. The new law limits an industry practice of charging older customers more.
Quelle surprise. Congratulations, Obamacolytes. You just voted for and volunteered to have the government be your increasingly voracious, bloodsucking parasite. When you've finally had enough, come and talk to us center-right libertarians, the folks whom you've treated as the political scum of the nation. Come and figure out why we've been opposing the entire Obama enterprise for all this time. (Hint: It's not because we're angry, hate-filled, ignorant raaaaaaaaaaaaacists.)

The "Schadenfreude Alert" applies because while I'm one of the young people who will be slammed with increased costs, SO WILL THE OBAMACOLYTES. I might be going down, but you're coming with me, suckers.

Cartoon of the Day: Obama's Foreign Policy

In the wake of the shabby treatment of Netanyahu, Michael Ramirez shoots and scores yet again:

Monday, March 29, 2010

The HopeChange Chronicles: Humiliating Israel Is Now Apparently Our Foreign Policy

See this and this and this. Look, you don't have to like Binyamin Netanyahu or his policies, but he is a foreign head of state come here to visit, and you do NOT treat him like garbage. Maybe Bibi should now compare notes with the also-shabbily-treated Gordon Brown of the UK.

I am utterly appalled at what this White House's approach to American allies. What a weird poisonous cocktail of contempt, arrogance, carelessness, ignorance, and fatuousness. Really, is anything quite as pathetic and dangerous as a person who cannot distinguish friends from foes? In the end, if he should fall into trouble, he finds himself utterly alone. As Nile Gardiner has repeatedly noted, most recently here,
The ritual humiliation of the Israelis is an absolute disgrace, and yet another example of how the Obama administration views its allies with indifference, contempt, and at times outright hostility. It is extraordinary how far the Obama team has gone out of its way to grovel to state sponsors of terrorism, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Muammar Gaddafi, while kicking America’s friends in the teeth.

. . . President Obama’s top priority in the Middle East should be preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapons programme. Instead he seems obsessed with kowtowing to America’s enemies by bashing Israel at almost every opportunity.

This is a foreign policy doctrine that is both destructive and fundamentally against the US national interest. The future security of the United States rests not upon the degree to which it can appease her enemies, but upon the strength of her enduring alliances with the rest of the free world. Israel needs Washington’s support and vice versa, not a slap in the face from a president whose idea of world leadership seems to consist largely of apologising for his country while throwing America’s friends to the wolves.
I'm gratified to see, though, that folks are pushing back. 327 members of the House of Representatives, of both parties, told the president to change his disastrous approach to US-Israeli relations.

UPDATE 1: Well, this is no surprise, because if I were Bibi, this is probably what I would do. "So Obama disses me? Fine, I'll just do whatever I want then, since no matter what I do, I get the shaft from a hostile White House." More here. Oy vey.

UPDATE 2: I hope Powerline is wrong, but I'm afraid that they're right with this observation:
The divide in perceptions about the PA may have driven disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem during the latter part of the Bush administration. But today we see not a disagreement but a feud, including an attempt by Washington to bring down the Israeli government. It's implausible, I think, to attribute such a bitter rift to a mere disagreement about facts on the ground.

In my opinion, President Obama's tilt towards the Palestinians is rooted in ideology, a considerably softer version of the ideology espoused by Jeremiah Wright. The facts that matter to this president do not pertain to the PA's intentions. Rather, I suspect the key facts are these: compared to Israelis, Palestinians are downtrodden and non-Western. They are what leftist academics call "the other." And promoting the interests of "the other" is a big deal for Obama -- indeed, this imperative seems like the closest thing he has to a religion.

If I'm right, then Netanyahu will never be able to placate Obama. And he should not try.

Nerd News: Budget Apocalypse on College Campuses = Death of Academic Programs

Here is a look at some universities that have cut various degree programs. (Via Maggie's Farm.)

For instance, Florida State University is eliminating the following:
  • Undergraduate degrees in anthropology, recreation and leisure management, physical education, art education, mathematics education, science education, apparel design, textiles, human geography, and management information systems
  • master's-level degrees in scenic design and lighting
  • doctoral degrees in anthropology

Cowboy Up: "It's Time To Be Amazing."

Here is a nice rallying cry.

Note the new tag "cowboy up." When the going gets tough, the tough get going, as they say.

RELATED POST: Best rallying cry of freedom in the post-health care debacle.

Well, At Least He's Honest: Eco-Fascism on Display!

Oh, for goodness sake.

Quote of the Day: Political Glory and Financial Disaster

Pithy, piquant, and probably too all true:
When historians recount the momentous events of recent weeks, they will note a curious coincidence. On March 15, Moody's Investors Service -- the bond rating agency -- published a paper warning that the exploding U.S. government debt could cause a downgrade of Treasury bonds. Just six days later, the House of Representatives passed President Obama's health care legislation costing $900 billion or so over a decade and worsening an already-bleak budget outlook.

Should the United States someday suffer a budget crisis, it will be hard not to conclude that Obama and his allies sowed the seeds, because they ignored conspicuous warnings. A further irony will not escape historians. For two years, Obama and members of Congress have angrily blamed the shortsightedness and selfishness of bankers and rating agencies for causing the recent financial crisis. The president and his supporters, the historians will note, were equally shortsighted and self-centered -- though their quest was for political glory, not financial gain.
It's called hubris, people, and you know how that always ends.

Then there's this latest from the Congressional Budget Office, along with this analysis: "We could be looking at a collapse scenario where we can’t borrow enough to keep up with our interest payments by the time this decade concludes." WHAT? REALLY?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Law Prof Wonders About A New Constitutional Amendment

I am always extremely wary of people wanting to tinker with the U.S. Constitution, but this is interesting given the current robust debates about Washington, DC versus the sovereignty and rights of states. And about how to constrain federal power, especially when it becomes overweening.

See here and then the follow-up here.

Background here and here.

The law professor-author, Randy Barnett, teaches constitutional law at Georgetown.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nerd Journal: Nerd Paper-Writing Apocalypse II: The Revenge

*Sigh.* Here we go again -- yet another nerd paper is due, right on the heels of a previous one. There's no rest for the nerdy here at Nerdworld. I'm going off my blogging habit -- cold turkey! -- for a few days so I can get this craptastic paper done!

Gamer Geek Fun: Mario Brothers + Michelangelo = ?

Via the amusing blog Zeray Gazette is this Nintendo version of a Michelangelo classic. Crazy, yet somehow intriguing.

Fugly or Fabulous? The Peep Wreath


OK, this is for Ladybird, who is the only person I know who actually likes to eat marshmallow Peeps. Well, it's almost Easter, so it's Peep time!

I personally like to mangle Peeps, make them joust with each other, blow them up in the microwave, and do all sorts of ungodly things to the puffy candy birds. I just love Peep wars. Someone else, though, has found a way to both (a) impale Peeps in their dark hearts and (b) make decorative art (or "art") out of it! Check out this bit of crazy craftsmanship.

Political Cartoon of the Day: We the People?

The excellent Michael Ramirez is on fire. Here is his latest.

In order to form a more perfect entitlement program.

A Nice Point Indeed

Make the politicians themselves enroll in ObamaCare. If it's good enough for everybody else, right? Heh! It'll never happen, though. They see themselves as better than us miserable hoi polloi.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It Begins: 14 States File Suit Against ObamaCare

"an unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" (quoted verbatim from the legal complaint)

It's gone from speculation to fact as the attorneys general of Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Louisiana, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, and Virginia sue. (To be nitpicky, though, I could point out that technically Pennsylvania and Virginia are "commonwealths.")

Those of you gentle readers who are legal eagles might like a look at the complaint (in PDF).

Here are a few more thoughts about the individual mandate and judicial review at Volokh, a law professor blog.

A thought: the fact that more than 30 states are asserting their opposition to ObamaCare is something worth remembering.

(I feel that I should create a tag named "states' rights" or something like that, but that term kind of sounds too Civil War-ish to a history nerd like me. Can you think of a better tag?)

Awesome Geek Fun: QR Code Cupcakes!

This is nothing sort of BRILLIANT. Bravo!

Nerdworld Soundtrack: 3 Doors Down for Defiant Citizens

I love 3 Doors Down, and I know I've posted this song of theirs before, but "Not My Time" seems really fitting right now.

You know, I don't think I've EVER been as disgusted with the DC swamp and its creepy-crawly denizens as I am right now. All the Pelosicrats' triumphalist cries of victory ring hollow because the entire mess was forcibly foisted, in the most obviously corrupt and disgraceful ways (Louisiana Purchase, anyone? Cornhusker Kickback, anyone?), on an unwilling public. Seriously, never before has such a huge measure been shoved through with not a single vote from the other party (and with some 30+ Dems voting No as well). Even the Medicare and Social Security had (actual, not putative!) bipartisan support when they passed decades ago. Oh, sure, the mini-despots in DC did make history -- but what a sordid history it is. The icing on the cake is the now-standard tactic of calling concerned citizen opponents "racists" and every other insult imaginable. It's so contemptible that it's not worth a rebuttal. The existence of the smear tactic says enough.

Look, I've never been a particularly POLITICAL person. I actually don't much like politics. I've never been to a protest. I'm not an activist. I really just want to blog about good books and interesting history and cute dresses and awesome shoes and movies and pop culture and recipes. I simply want to be left alone to live my life as I please without a bunch of meddling busybodies interfering with everything. But apparently this (very American, no?) desire makes me some kind of PROBLEM. I can't help wondering how many other people are like me in this way. The sheer aristocratic arrogance of the political class has galvanized opposition in ways that transcend party lines.

You know, when Crazy Uncle Joe Biden cluelessly said into a live mic that the health care issue was "a big f***ing deal," he was right -- in ways he can't possibly understand. I can't be the only taxpaying citizen who's sick of getting screwed. Do you know that I was so angry that I actually DREAMED last night that I had a tea party with (wait for it) Sarah Palin? I'm not saying that in real life I'm all for Sarah, but I think I identify with her in the fact that she's constantly been belittled, misrepresented, and subjected to every kind of abhorrent abuse by the leftist loons.

Whoops, I started to rant there. Let's listen to some good music and plan for November ballot box action, shall we? People who want to make a serf of me will find that I'm not going to go quietly. I still VOTE. So do you. As for all the poor saps who think that it's health-care Christmas and that they've gotten something for free, GROW UP. There's no such thing as a free lunch. The cost may not be in money, but there will be a cost. Geez, costs in mere money are at least measurable and even understandable; when the cost is in intangibles and abstracts like -- oh, freedom and choice and quality of care and such -- it's harder to quantify, but also harder to live with. It ends up being far more expensive than mere money. Are you happy that you sold your birthright for a mess of pottage? I won't even bother starting on how every med person I know is in full revolt.

Anyhoo, onto some 3 Doors Down!

I look ahead to all the plans that we made
And the dreams that we had.
I'm in a world that tries to take them away.
Oh, but I'm taking them back.
'Cause all of this time I've just been too blind to understand
What should matter to me.
My friends this life we live, it’s not what we have
It’s what we believe in.

Cause it’s not my time I'm not going.
There's a fear in me but it’s not showing.
This could be the end of me
And everything I know.
But it’s not my time; I'm not going.
There's a will in me and now I know that.
This could be the end of me
And everything I know.
Oh, but I won’t go.
I won’t go.

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see

But it’s not my time; I'm not going.
There's a fear in me; it’s not showing.
This could be the end of me
And everything I know.
But it’s not my time; I'm not going.
There's a will in me and now it’s gonna show.
This could be the end of me
And everything I know.

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see.

A Look at the Psychology of Self-Defeating Behavior and Playing the Victim


Bill Gates' Latest Project ... Nuclear Capability?

The weird news is that Bill Gates is actually in negotiations to build a nuclear reactor. Really?

MM in the Kitchen: Spicy Roasted Chicken with Miso and Ginger

Easy and delicious. Add steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried baby bok choy, and you're done!

Awesome Photography of the Day: Birds

Take a look at this gorgeous work by British wildlife photographer Mark Hancox! These amazing photos of a drinking nuthatch is my favorite.

Great Moments in Research: Obesity Experts Versus da Vinci's "Last Supper"

Seriously? Seriously? *eye roll*

Dalrymple on the NHS as Government Creature

British physician Theodore Dalrymple has a new piece in City Journal, which you ought to read. Here's a bit of it, about how the corruption of British health services by politics and self-interest:
Experience has long shown that further spending by state-monopoly suppliers of services (if services is quite the word I seek) benefits not the consumers but the providers. And they—ever more numerous—naturally vote for their own providers, the politicians. Thus the NHS has become an enormously expensive method of ballot-stuffing. Personally, I would rather have outright electoral fraud. It would be less expensive and slightly more honest.

Awesome: Bridge Architecture as Art

Check this out, via the Presurfer. It's a bridge that curls up like a hedgehog! No, really!

Quote of the Day: de Tocqueville on the Tyranny of Dependency

The man was absolutely brilliant and all too prescient. Read the whole thing, but here is a great observation by the 19th-century French observer of America talking about the sort of tyranny that might someday engulf it -- an overwhelming central government:
Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated . . .

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd . . .
It reminds me of Gulliver pinned down by a host of Lilliputians. Anyway, I leave you with the most spot-on analysis of all, the government leviathan's desire to make individual human beings into meek dependent infants:
That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Well, DUH!

Political Cartoon of the Day: Michael Ramirez on ObamaCare

I've always enjoyed Michael Ramirez's piquant visual commentaries. Here's his latest:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Public Service Announcement: "24" Has Officially Become Too Stupid To Watch

I hate to say it, but "24" has become a big fat waste of time.

I've wasted my last hour with it tonight. Did you catch the "plot"? Come on, COME ON. Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me? I'd been watching all season, hoping against hope that the show would get better, but no!

I should have know the whole thing was doomed as soon as Milton from "Office Space" showed up, the latest in the long stupid chain of events in the even stupider "evil redneck" subplot. But the absolute last straw? Tonight's "Dana Walsh is working for the bad guys" idea. I mean, are you serious?

And Jack Bauer's not even really Jack Bauer anymore. He's like a shadow of the real Jack Bauer. (This season's emotionally damaged Renee Walker is more interesting by far.) And CTU? What a frustrating mess of cluelessness, and that was even before the EMP attack.

Here are some thoughts from a fellow former fan of the once-great series.

Suitable musical accompaniment from the Nerdworld Soundtrack: Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone." Yep, I'm already gone.

How the mighty have fallen.

Nerd Analysis: A Harvard Econ Prof Explains His Opposition

Read it all. Here's a taste of it:
My judgment is that this health bill adds significantly to our long-term fiscal problems.

. . . Here is the question I have been wondering about: How long can the President wait before he comes clean with the American people and explains how high taxes need to rise to pay for his vision of government?

A Moment of Escapism

I need a break from the madness of everything. Time to read a good and non-academic book (well, I did just get Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter from Amazon -- don't tell my Nerd Lords!).

Oh, and time too to watch one of my favorite public service announcements:

Nerd News: Increasing Government Role in Student Loans

I've been going on and on about this for a long time now, and here is the latest. My emphasis in boldface:
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives Sunday approved President Barack Obama's bid to implement what would be the biggest overhaul in decades of the federal student loan program.

Under the legislation, federal subsidies to private student loan lenders would stop and the government's role in lending would increase -- creating billions of dollars in projected savings that would go largely in grants to needy students.

The measure, opposed by private lenders and critics of an expanding federal government, was included in a package of proposed changes to an overhaul of the U.S. health care system.

What the hell else was in that bill?

MM in the Kitchen: Lemon and Sea Salt Foccaccia


Provisions of ObamaCare: Just What Are We Dealing With?

Read this (by IBD) and this (which is by Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, which is manifestly NOT a right-leaning place by any stretch of the imagination).

The IBD analysis has plenty of infuriate you, but this is just one example:
You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701).
What. The. Hell. Like this professor, I've had enough of Hope and Change.

Best Rallying Cry of Freedom In the Post-Health Care Debacle

Here it is:

A final thought on this darkish day: much is said about the “inevitability” of these kinds of legislation, that once enacted they are impossible to repeal or roll back.

This kind of thinking is self-fulfilling defeatism and has to stop. ANY law enacted can be repealed. We repealed a constitutional amendment, for God’s sake.
Read the whole thing. The moralistic political (and murderous) idiocy known as Prohibition, enacted with the 18th Amendment, was repealed with the 21st.

Oh, I can't resist this quote too:
It is true that no nation has in the past ever recovered from the cycle of entitlement, moral decay and aristocratic rot that we find ourselves in. But it is also true that no nation — not one in history — was established precisely in opposition to these cancers.
Now's the time for some real, practical American exceptionalism, people.

Plus this pep talk from a law professor. And some more thoughts.

UPDATE: I don't know who this Doc Zero is, but I like what he's saying!
Freedom is not a gift. It is not given to you by the government, in a precise dosage that can be adjusted to match a politician’s diagnosis of what ails the body politic . . . Liberty burns in your imagination, flows through your veins, and rings through your words.

This radiant idea has burned through all the bloody clouds of the last three centuries: you are not clay to be sculpted by the will of another. You are not a racially inferior inconvenience, to be marched into a concentration camp. You aren’t a class enemy to be exiled by dictators. You are not a disposable cog in the machinery of collectivist economics, or a mouth to be starved by the failure of collective agriculture. You are an American.

And a CITIZEN and an individual. I'm more or less convinced that the of all the travesties and trespasses that a government can commit on the people, the attempt to redefine identity in the name of the government is possibly the most pernicious, destructive, and brutally inhumane and dehumanizing. It's the same urge that wants to turn free, unruly, self-reliant individuals into meek subjects, mute sheep, and easily biddable, easily cowed serfs who labor not for their own prosperity but for the coffers of Government and its aristocrats. Besides, a glance through bloody history will tell you how some of the worst atrocities recorded in its annals derive from some government's drive to define groups of people and then to wreak absolute havoc to those groups that it doesn't like.

(I kinda like this too.)

From Nanny State to Bully State

Here's some interesting analysis from an Aussie think thank. Blurb:
In addition to a dissection of the health paternalism mantra underlying the Bully State, what is needed is a robust articulation of the case for individual autonomy. Such a case would flesh out the following points: individual autonomy is the core value of a democratic society; there is an inherent trade-off between individual autonomy and public health under health paternalism; and the abandonment of individual autonomy in health policy poses a threat to our other freedoms.
Hear, hear. I also direct you to the idea that we don't have to give in as individuals.

Taiwan: Abysmally Unpopular Ma Ying-jeou -- and Disassembling Bad Analyses Thereof

Check out this recent post from the always-good View From Taiwan. Michael takes a look at an odd piece of recent "analysis" that, in his words:
Sometimes not too bad, sometimes completely wrong, Rigger [the analyst in question] mostly sounds like a colonialist missionary trying to explain to the audience at home, in a fair and open-minded manner, the beliefs of the local heathens, which he understands in terms of his own Christianity. . . Rigger does not appear anywhere to get the complexities of local politics. The whole piece is framed in the best Establishment style by the cross-strait relationship, as if Rigger were simply squinting through a telescope on the banks of the Potomac at Taiwan.
Alas, this is all too frequent a trait of "analysis" about Taiwan.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nerd Fun: The Philosophy World Cup Final, Germany vs. Greece

I need a break from the ObamaCare health care reform debacle. Here's some hilarity from (who else?) Monty Python:

Magnificent Defiance: "I refuse to allow socialized medicine to turn me into a little fascist"

The Classical Values blog is pushing back against both socialized medicine and its poisonous companion, the meddling, intrusive nanny statism as a malignant mindset that metastasizes among the populace.

The real danger of ObamaCare and the mindset that spawned it is that they might cause cardiac arrest of the great American heart, that bold spirit of freedom, confidence, optimism, and independence that infuses every true American patriot. The Classical Values post is right: the fight is about hearts and minds, and whether the expanding government leviathan can slowly turn citizens into petty, meddling children. It can't if we don't LET it.

Nerdworld Soundtrack, Health Care Bill Edition: Queen

The lyrics of the opening of "I Want To Break Free" seem too all applicable to the attitude I (and countless tea party protesters) have toward the Congresscritters today and their obsession with expanding government:

I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You're so self satisfied -- I don't need you!
I've got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free!

And how.

By the way, I'm not sad or depressed or disillusioned or any of that. I'm flat-out furious, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. We're CITIZENS, not subjects!

MM's Response to the Health Care Debacle

This seems weirdly appropriate to the current mess.

As Mark Steyn said, "Happy Dependence Day." All those cheerleaders for this execrable health care "reform," happily sticking it to the American taxpayer while mangling the very idea of limited government and individual freedoms and plunging us all into an abyss of debt, might as well be telling the angry citizenry to smile and whistle while it becomes tax-serfs.

I'll say, though, the actual bright side might well be the inevitable challenges to the constitutionality of this behemoth. Oh, and these thoughts too.

Quote of the Day: On the American Individual

I kind of like -- no, LOVE -- this comment (I've boldfaced it):
America is uniquely formed on the ideal of limited government and maximum individual freedom. What is idealized, so to speak, is the genius of the individual - not the ancient notion of the divinity of rulers and government and their powers.

America is not for sissies, and was never meant to be. She was designed for the brave, the bold, the resourceful, and the independent. Designed for the New Man of the Enlightenment, rather than for the weary and government-oppressed and controlled of the rest of the world. People who wanted a chance, not to be ruled and "governed" and "helped" by their betters.
Yes, people who want to be left alone to live their own lives as they see fit! America's the land of opportunity -- not guarantees. Yet we've all but forgotten that. (And a few years ago, I made a crazy far left liberal go splutteringly mad with rage when I calmly told him that I am succeeding in life by my own efforts, without any help or handouts from GOVERNMENT. He then, you probably recall, called me "an oppressor" -- which must mean that I am succeeding indeed since in Leftist-Land there are only victims and oppressors, with no place for hard-working independent individuals, right?)

The whole blog post that the quote comes from is worth a look too. It even has a great quote by C.S. Lewis.

Satire Alert: Obama Urges Straight Up-or-Down Vote On Constitution

The hilarious satirist Scrappleface has this great bit, which is all too appropriate after my post on constitutional challenges to ObamaCare.

Kitchen Notes: Creative Tea Sandwiches

I should try making these.

ObamaCare and Constitutional Challenges

This is not at all surprising, and note that a significant number of states, with Wyoming and Idaho leading the charge, are taking their own measures under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

The Tenth Amendment, you'll recall, says this: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Here is an analysis by a constitutional law prof in the WaPo. Blurb:
But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying "cash for clunkers" is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.

If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink.
Indeed. Here's a thought from another law professor. As for that individual mandate, I think it's a monstrosity. "Get your laws off my body"! (And shall I remind you of this great passage from Solzhenitsyn? as quoted by The Milton Friedman?)

UPDATE 1: Great quote from the governor of Wyoming, Dave Freudenthal:
"For decades we have shared increased frustration dealing with the federal government and its agencies. What started out as a leak in the erosion of state prerogative and independence has today turned into a flood. From wolf and grizzly bear management, to gun control, to endless regulation and unfunded mandates – the federal government has become far too powerful and intrusive."
And so it begins. It's shaping up to be a battle royale over whether states are sovereign in their own rights, as stated in the Constitution, or if they are only prostrate satrapies of a massive, meddling, even coercive central federal government leviathan.

UPDATE 2: Reuters is reporting the following:
Bills and resolutions have been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures seeking to limit or oppose various aspects of the reform plan through laws or state constitutional amendments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"There's going to be a big free-for-all lawsuit about this," said Michael Bird, legislative counsel for the NCSL.

Disgustingly Cute: Siamese Plays Mom to Kittens and Puppies

Click if you dare.

Grad School Metaphor: There Is Just Too Much Work and Not Enough Time

The deadline is WHEN???!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nerd Journal: Nerd Paper-Writing Apocalypse

I'll be back when I'm done, but it could be a rough few days ahead! You know it -- I'm surrounded by books, journals, coffee cups, and the thought that I'm getting too old and tired for this cr*p! I gotta get some work done. Current song playing: "Bust A Move." Aw yeah.

PS: Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

My panic button's better than yours.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Linguistically Loopy Humor of the Day: Censorship

What Fresh Hell Is This? + Best Comment Yet On the Health Care Bill

The comment is a tweet by John Thune (the Republican senator from South Dakota), and it's our quote of the day:
"We've gone from passing bills without reading them to passing bills without voting on them."
Say WHAT? This is what he's talking about, as reported by none other than the Washington Post, no rightist rag that thing. Blurb:

After laying the groundwork for a decisive vote this week on the Senate's health-care bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday that she might attempt to pass the measure without having members vote on it.

Instead, Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers "deem" the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic -- known as a "self-executing rule" or a "deem and pass" -- has been commonly used, although never to pass legislation as momentous as the $875 billion health-care bill. It is one of three options that Pelosi said she is considering for a late-week House vote, but she added that she prefers it because it would politically protect lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure.

"It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know," the speaker said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday. "But I like it," she said, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."


You know, there seems to be absolutely no bottom limit to the sorts of disgraceful shenanigans those Congresscritters are willing to stoop to in order to ram this miserable, unpopular bill down the throats of an angry citizenry. Look, that Botoxed Congressional queen of the harpies Pelosi KNOWS people hate this bill if one of her reasons for resorting to this latest tactic is "protecting lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure" or whatever. If it's as AWESOME as they say it is, why are folks reluctant to declare for it publicly? If this "reform" "bill" is so FREAKING FANTASTIC, then why not subject it to a real vote?

I don't care if "self-executing" (what a glorious turn of phrase, actually) is often used for other measures. The health care monster is so huge and contentious that it SHOULD be openly, publicly contested. Resorting to procedural sleights-of-hand to ram through a leviathan that will gobble up one-sixth of the economy is just lame. And craven. And COWARDLY.

Throw all the bums out of office, I say. Fire the lot of them. It's ballot box time.

Barking Mad At 10,000 Feet: Meet This Austrian Special Forces Paratrooper

Check out the awesome photo at the news link.

Here's a hilarious blurb from the news story:
The explosives sniffing pooch - a member of Austria's version of the SAS - took part in Operation Cold Response in Norway along with British special forces and Royal Marines assault teams.

. . . "It's something he does a lot and he's very comfortable with. He has a much cooler head then most recruits," said one operation trooper.


Well, I see canine heroics have kicked it up a notch since Lassie found Timmy in the well.

Nerd News: "What If College Isn't For Everyone?"

In the current edu-cratic mess, such a question is HERESY!!! How dare you question our drive to social engineering!

But it's still a real question that needs a real answer.

Bonus: blurb from the news story and a comment by a professor:

But others say the zeal to increase college-going rates ignores the reality that many students will be in over their heads once they start college.

"College preparation for everyone is a very nice ideal, but we have a very high failure rate," says Northwestern University professor James Rosenbaum, author of Beyond College for All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half.

"If we don't start letting counselors be candid, we're not going to fix this system."
PREACH IT. I do find it bitterly amusing that in an edu-world where every two-bit hack administrator and government edu-crat is busy screaming about how we need "diversity," they're all insisting that everybody go to college -- a one-size-fits-all policy if ever there was one that ignores the needs and goals of individual students.

UPDATE: Another heretic!

Film Culture Commentary: Academy Award-Winning Movie Trailer

Oscar-grubbing raised to a comedic art form!

RELATED POST: "How To Win An Oscar."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wealthy Chinese Communists Oppose New Property Taxes

OK, it's a weird headline but an interesting news story. Not even some Communists like taxes? Heh!

Disgustingly Cute: Photobomb with Seal

Need a laugh? (Need to brush up your slang? Here's the definition of "photobomb.")

Nerd Analysis: A Harvard Econ Professor Looks at "Deficit-Neutrality"

Short and sweet and utterly applicable. If you don't occasionally visit Professor Mankiw's blog, you should. It's always got interesting posts.

Nerd Fun: MIT Admissions on Pi Day

How did I miss this on Pi Day? It's gloriously geeky! Well done, MIT, well done indeed.

Movie Review: the Cine-Sib Reviews "Brooklyn's Finest"

Here it is:

Brooklyn's Finest is a nihilistic, clich├ęd, overwrought, overacted, forced exercise in gratuitousness whose portrayal of three washed-up cops on the brink of moral anarchy falls victim to its own bleak reality as the director's overzealous ambition to emphasize the outlandishly visceral and gritty backfires, resulting in a criminally frustrating, uneven, meandering mash-up that fails to advance or do the genre any justice.

And Wesley Snipes didn't even get to do kung fu.

Undercover sucks.
Never live in Brooklyn, no!
What was the point?

Some stupid moron
brought his toddler to this flick.
Stupid idiot.

(See also on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Beware the Ides of March (Again)

Friends, Romans, countrymen -- you know what to do!

Monday Madness: Surreal Teddy Bears

It's the Monday after the switch to Daylight Saving Time, so everybody's stumbling around like sleepy, disoriented, confused zombies this morning --- including me. It's amazing how big a difference one hour can make, isn't it?

I'm not sure if the following clip qualifies as "Monday Therapy," but it basically reflects how I'm feeling, so here goes!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nerd News: The Staffordshire Treasure Hoard

Check it out!

Movie Madness: An Action-Adventure Thriller About ... Leonardo da Vinci?

This is apparently not a joke. Hey, how about a supernatural thriller/horror flick in which zombie da Vinci comes back from the dead, hell-bent on beating the cr*p out of Dan Brown?

Grad School Metaphor: Comprehensive Exams!

Chicken run.

Jeff Jacoby on the New Iraq

Read this. Blurb:
Ronald Reagan liked to say that there was no limit to what a man could accomplish if he didn’t mind who got the credit. The transformation of Iraq from a hellish tyranny into a functioning democracy will be recorded as a signal accomplishment of George W. Bush’s presidency, and he probably doesn’t mind in the least that the Obama administration would like to take the credit.
As a historian, I think Jacoby's right.

The HopeChange Chronicles: Foreign Policy Analysis In 1 Sentence

Here it is, short and sweet:
For the first time in a long time, the president of the United States is not trusted by our allies or feared by our adversaries and is respected by neither.
How often have you heard me saying so?

Love Has Its Ups & Downs: A Garage Door Romance

Heh! PS: I am loving that black-and-white polka dot dress!

Disgustingly Cute: Penguin Couple Poses For Photo

Click if you dare.

Happy Pi Day! 3.14

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quirky Euro Files: German Artist Repairs Monuments with Lego

Here's the news story. Better yet, here is the photo gallery.

Personal Counter-Terrorism Plus Best Blog Post Title of the Day

"Lars Attacks" by awesome Aussie Tim Blair. Nice sci-fi pun action. Now go read the post itself.

Presidential History: Great Character vs. Great Ambition?

Ralph Peters compares and contrasts 6 presidents. The post-modern ones come up short.

Fugly or Fabulous? Bird-and Butterfly-Patterned Wallpaper

I think this and this are kind of cute even though (a) I can't wallpaper my rental apartment, and (b) these wallpapers are way too expensive anyway.

But what do you think? Fugly or fabulous?

Movie Review: La Parisienne Reviews Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland"

A very important movie date.

Of course “Alice in Wonderland" is good -- any time Johnny Depp and Tim Burton team up, good things happen. (Everyone would probably be surprised if the movie turned out to be awful.) A good movie, however, does not necessarily equal amusing, but Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is the most amusing movie watching experience I have had in years. I can sum it up in one word: FUN.

Now, I am not against movies teaching lessons or having morals. I just hate it when movies present these lessons with all the subtlety of swinging a sledgehammer over my head (*cough* Avatar! *cough*). “Alice in Wonderland” managed to get its point across without healthy doses of guilt or constant nagging. This seems to be a dwindling skill in Hollywood and I was happy to see a film that made it possible to get lost in the story.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter presents a heroic and sensible character who just happens to be a little mad. Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen manages to be cruel and evil, yet she is almost pitiable (outside of the whole head thing.) They have both received glowing reviews for their performances; however, the rest of the cast should not be overlooked. Alan Rickman is unmistakable as the voice of Absolom the caterpillar, fans of “Little Britain” will be pleased to see Matt Lucas, and Anne Hathaway plays the all-too-kind White Queen. Now we come to the character essential to the story, the Cheshire Cat. What? I always loved that cat. This is where 3D technology makes all the difference, not to mention the talent of Stephen Fry. I suppose I should mention Alice, after all, the title is “ALICE in Wonderland.”

Mia Wasikowska is a wonderful Alice. In her own world she refuses to obey convention yet struggles with the desire to do the right thing. Like most young adults, she is at risk of having her identity and dreams swept away by the people around her, and Mia Wasikowska manages to convey this without CW-style monologues. Alice grows as a character in Wonderland where she is able to do the impossible with the help of her new friends.

I didn’t find any glaring flaws in the film, but I do admit that I don’t want to see any. The jabberwocky was not as terrifying as I expected, and this is the problem with turning literary creatures into movie characters. Everyone has a personal vision and mine is much scarier. I suppose terror has to be toned down or they run the risk of scaring children. Overall, I give the movie a solid A for sheer viewing pleasure.

PS: If you can’t get enough 3D action, stay for the first part of the credits.

On the "Health Care Reform" Disaster of a "Bill"

Shrinkwrapped points us to an excellent, succinct critique. Do read it all. It begins with a bang: "Sometimes the most obvious derangements of our politics are staring us in the face but we don't see them."


UPDATE 1: Read this related piece from Reason. Bonus -- it has this aside about the bill's cheerleaders living in defiance of objective reality: "The only comic relief in the otherwise grim, yearlong ObamaCare saga has been the spectacle of progressive pundits scratching their heads to explain the bill's nose-diving popularity." Just about everybody hates this bill, but the Obamacrats are hellbent on having it. It's absolutely absurd how out of touch these people are with the citizenry -- or how little they seem to care about said citizenry.

Or my favorite bit of all (it even uses a medical metaphor!):
"Even before President Obama rammed through his trillion-dollar-plus stimulus/bailout packages last year, there was a growing sentiment that the country's top priority ought to be tackling the entitlement programs whose liabilities are like a swelling aneurysm in the brain of the body politic waiting to rupture."
Oh, snap!

UPDATE 2: See this from IBD.

Film Culture Commentary: The "Avatar"/"Pocahontas" Mashup

Heh! And true!

CFV 426 - Avatar/Pocahontas Mashup FINAL VERSION from Randy Szuch on Vimeo.

Remember this? Anyway, "Avatar" = "Dances With Wolves" + "Pocahontas" + "The Last of the Mohicans" + "The Last Samurai" + "Ferngully." I stand by my initial review: "The flick is definitely worth seeing once in full 3D IMAX big-screen glory for full appreciation of its visual splendor, but the narrative is idiotic and a mishmash of just about every other kind of soggy sentiment about White Guilt, the Exotic Other, and the Noble Savage." (OK, and I freely admit to a big fat case of Schadenfreude that it didn't get the Oscar for Best Picture, so there.)

Nerd News: 70 Years of College Grade Inflation


More here and here with commentary.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Some States May Delay Tax Refunds

Well, this is just terrific. The following states may be doing this because they're out of money:
  • Alabama
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • New York
  • North Carolina
Add California too, kids.

What I really love, though, is this paraphrase from Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officer:
Delaying refund checks isn't unprecedented, Pattison said, but it is something virtually no politician wants to do, because taxpayers are owed the money and in most cases want it fast.
Y'THINK??? Imagine that, people want their own money back ASAP!

Satire Alert: New York City Politician Proposes Ban on Oxygen

The entire "let's ban salt!" stupidity has inspired me.

Here's my latest satire.

Mangled History: Terrorists' Lawyers Are Not Modern John Adams

Get it straight, people. Read this.

If you want to argue/debate/discuss the issue of civilian courts for terrorists, OK -- just don't muddy the waters by claiming a historical precedence that doesn't exist.

This sort of thing drives me crazy.

Go back and brush up your American Revolution history about John Adams and the British soldiers accused of perpetrating the Boston Massacre. Here's a little summary by a law professor. If you have a bit more time, do read the excellent biography John Adams by David McCullough.

Quirky Euro Files + Awesome Friday Fun: German Metal Vivaldi

Check out this crazy yet wonderful performance of Vivaldi's "Spring" by At Vance. At Vance is a German neoclassical metal band. Yes, you read that right.

If you liked that, you should check out "Winter," "Summer," and Beethoven's 5th. ("Hey, Ludwig! Freeeeeeeeebird!")

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New York City Assemblyman Not Worth His Salt

This guy Feliz Ortiz is a food idiot. More and worse, he's a nanny-statist, do-gooder moron who wants to ban something without even understanding how that thing works. This culinary nimrod wants to ... get this ... ban all salt in restaurant cooking. He has NO IDEA WHATSOEVER how salt works in food -- that much is glaringly obvious.

Salt is essential in the kitchen: ask any real cook.

Best comment so far on this: "Simply the perfect marriage of aggressive ignorance and aggressive statism."

Contempt of Court, White House Edition

Pretty much. It's unseemly and childish. KNOCK IT OFF, PEOPLE.

If It Were Purple Rain, I'd Be Really Impressed

Purple snow falls in Russia.

Great Moments in Research: Harvard, MIT, and Virtual Dating


Quote of the Day: Diplomacy With China

“Do not waste your time worrying about what is in the Asian mind. The main thing is to be clear what is in your own mind.”
True dat. Of course, given the apparent nature of the White House's feckless foreign policy flops, this advice is more appropriate than ever.

Nerd News: the World's Most Beautiful College Campuses

Via TaxProf Blog, this link with photos of some truly beautiful college campuses. Is your alma mater here?

Satire Alert: "The Charge of the Heat Brigade"

Iowahawk has some competition! Check out Dignified Rant showing off his mad literary satire skillz. I'm impressed!

*throws roses*

Forgotten History: The Music of William Boyce

Whom do you think of if I say "brilliant European composer born in the 18th century who made gorgeous music even though he lost his hearing?"

The obvious answer is German Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

The less obvious answer is Englishman William Boyce (1711-1779).

The always-informative blog Brits at Their Best introduce you to this remarkable figure in musical history here and here.

Take a listen too. Beautiful!

Fugly or Fabulous: A Polka-Dot Apron

I don't usually like aprons, but this one is kind of (dare I say it) . . . cute? If it were a actual skirt, I would totally wear it . . . with a colorful top and strappy sandals or adorable ballet flats. Ooooh, now I'm thinking: fire-engine red short-sleeved top with tall strappy red sandals, sunglasses, and a tiny touch of lip gloss . . . SUMMER CAN'T COME FAST ENOUGH.


More Mangled WWII History: Et Tu, Tom Hanks?

*Sigh and more sigh.*

Why are modern-day revisionists obsessed in particular with World War II?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Quote of the Day: Linguistic Lunacy at Starbucks

From Neatorama comes this hilarious observation about the sizes of coffee cups at Satan Coffee:
"Venti is twenty. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn't mean large. It's also the only one that's Italian. Congratulations, you're stupid in three languages."

~ Paul Rudd as Danny Donahue in "Role Models" (2008)

China: Government Leadership Woes in Hu's "Harmonious Society"

Hmmmmm. Hu's attempt at economic policy hasn't been too hot either:
The core of the Hu policies was an overall attempt to re-centralize economic control. This would allow the central government to begin weeding out redundancies left over from Mao's era of provincial self-sufficiency, which the Deng and Jiang eras of uncoordinated and locally-directed economic growth often driven by corruption and nepotism exacerbated. In short, Hu planned to centralize the economy to consolidate industry, redistribute wealth and urbanize the interior to create a more balanced economy that emphasized domestic consumption over exports. However, Hu's push, under the epithet "harmonious society," has been anything but smooth and its successes have been limited at best.

Institutional and local government resistance to re-centralization has hounded the policy from its inception, and resistance has grown with the economic crisis.

Nerd News: MBA Programs Revamp Application Process

Here's some news from the world of business schools.

Nerd Analysis: Is Government-Subsidized Home Ownership Necessary to "Preserve Our National Identity"? Plus a Rant!

Say WHAT? Robert Shiller may be a Yale economist, but I think he's wrong about this whole home ownership and government subsidy business. Here's his New York Times op-ed, by the way, so you can read for yourself. Besides, government meddling helped create the housing bubble and resulting toxic mortgage mess.

Also, are we really saying that somehow home ownership is a prerequisite for a national identity/character? WHAT? What do you even mean by those words? Pffffft. I already figured out a while ago that in the government obsession with home ownership, even for people who shouldn't have gotten mortgages in the first place, the humble, taxpaying, fiscally responsible apartment renter (like yours truly and most of my hard-working friends) gets the shaft.

Shiller even concedes that government house-buying subsidies have very little economic justification (i.e., actual, practical, common-sense reasons for doing stuff), but he insists on the "social engineering" aspect. And so in the end he begins, most unfortunately, to sound like every other tiresome, ideologically-driven, pie-eyed dreamer with no grip on harsh pragmatic reality, justifying bad policy by claiming some kind of moral high ground and good intention. (Booooooo!)

You know, someday I'd like to buy a house (or a cute condo). But a house isn't the only kind of personal property that matters (and with the Kelo decision and eminent domain, you might still be out of luck with that -- oops, did I say that out loud? Ask some New Yorkers about their property rights). I think the entire idea that homeowning is somehow a requirement for good communities and individual liberties is flawed, and besides, it's reductionist and doesn't even try to account for the fact that people who don't own houses matter too (don't they?). I was in a towering rage about the mortgage mess, and I still am. Homeowning is not the end-all and be-all of life.

I find amusing also in the extreme Shiller's statement that renting puts us all under the "oppression of a landlord" and brings up nasty memories of tenements. REALLY? TENEMENTS? I'm looking around my apartment and out the window at the rest of the sunny complex right now. Hm, we haven't had a single cholera outbreak this month or last, actually. Not a single instance of typhoid or tuberculosis, no rats or vermin or filth or crime, no high-rise fires or leaky pipes, no instances of entire families crammed into a single room, no kids crying because they'd spent all day working in a mill for The Man!

Funny, I don't feel oppressed that I pay rent to someone. I don't feel like some kind of serf or peasant or whatever. In fact, I actually (gasp!) LIKE the fact that I pay my own rent with my own money for my own place to live that I chose. Funny, when I went apartment-hunting, the sheer awful, blood-sucking, soul-killing oppression of it all -- landlords and rent and tenements, oh my! -- never entered my head. I was more thinking, closet space and kitchen appliances and nice sunlight exposure so I can have a place to live and work hard and make my way in the world without depending on anyone other than myself, so I can keep chasing my American Dream. Well, I guess this just doesn't make me part of the community or national identity of people who care about individual liberties and property rights! After all, I'm just a poor sad tenement dweller crushed under the heel of some ruthless landlord. Or something. PFFFFFFT.

Awesome Advice of the Day: Thoughts on Change and Complaint

This is a great little essay (some salty language included) by the same fellow who gave us the best blog post ever on epistemology.

Short version of today's post about circumstances you don't like:
This leads me to the main point of this philosophy: if you choose to do nothing, you have no right to [complain].

. . . The thing to take away from all of this is that, no one is going to fix your problem for you. Life can be cruel, it’s up to you to punch it in the face. No matter how much you complain, no one is going to simply hand you a solution. They’re not even going to fight for you. The best you could hope for is that they’ll be able to relate and be motivated to go to bat with you. But even then, they’re not fixing your problem, they’re fixing their own (the two just happen to align).

. . . The only way to avoid failure altogether is to sit on your [butt]. But if you ask me, that’s the greatest failure of all.

BRAVO! *MM throws kisses and roses.* Also, the "Do Something Useful" tag is back!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Forgotten History: Shoes!

I love history. I love shoes. It was only a matter of time before these two passions collided, and here it is. For your pleasure, I give you a gorgeous bit of history: a pair of stunning embroidered shoes from 1929. Wow! And how perfect for spring!

UPDATE: Check out this awesome link to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto! Thanks to the gentle reader who sent me this link -- you know who you are, but I won't tarnish your manly man credentials by calling you out!