Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Norm Makes me Laugh Big Time

... as he often does.
Still, I fear we are living the days of the well-meaning and darling Jimmy Carter.
I deeply hope I am wrong.

Nice but Irrelevant

What the Guardian thinks of Canada.
As for what we think of the Guardian, I think 'irrelevant' is perfect.

Sorry, More on Galloway, the Fascist Thug

Terry Glavin has a lot more background and time than I do.
In my trip home yesterday from London I listened to "The Current". which gave full voice to Galloway and did zip (of course) to explain who this clown is. As a side point, the government refused to comment - and why would they comment, knowing what the CBC would do with any comment? The 'journalists' there are bought into exactly what Glavin describes:

George Galloway is what we used to call a fascist thug. But nowadays, his Canadian fan base, his megaphone-carriers and his booking agents include New Democratic Party MPs, Bloc MPs, the Council of Canadians, the Ottawa Peace Assembly and a legion of student leaders, trade unionists and “anti-war” activists.

Whatever name you want to give this phenomenon, it hasn't been getting the attention it properly deserves. It's been underway for quite some time.

Woo-Hoo!

These guys are good.

The Deer Joke

I made a reference earlier to some of Fred Eaglesmith's entertaining patter, including a deer joke I found pretty funny.
It turns out it has made it on its own to YouTube.

Now I found that really funny though I think SillyWife was a tad baffled.
Do you immediately laugh?
(My own view - how does a guy running out of the woods even vaguely look like a deer?)
And, on reflection, is this not an almost perfect post-modern joke?

Last, maybe, on Galloway coming to Canada

I have had different opinions. You can see from two previous posts of mine with both opinions.
There is NO free speech issue here and in fact he gets a perfect opportunity to spread his views.
He handed money to an organization that Canada brands as a terrorist organization (rightly, I think). Seems our federal judge agrees that such behavior meets the criteria for barring him.
In any case, if anything, Galloway gets a lot of publicity from all this and must feel very happy.
My personal preference, let him in, let the local NDP discredit themselves by attending his talk, as has happened before, and let him go home.
This only feeds the stupid left that simply buys into the Hamas story.
While I sympathize with our government, I think it was a tactical error to let this blow up.

Those Scots!

I refer in the previous post indirectly to a great quotation from Adam Smith, one of the great minds of the 18th-Century Scot intellectual movement (which, as far as I can still tell, elaborated all that was useful in the current PoMo movement, and avoided all that was so stupid).
in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.

Can there be a better analogy? What a brilliant metaphor.
And sadly, it does describe exactly why our governments are likely making things worse, not better. They imagine the other chessboard he describes.
He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them

Arrogance in Spades

It's my guess that John's exasperation came from listening to the Obama auto bailout speech yesterday - I know I had the same reaction.
It's pretty evident humility is not Obama's strong suit (it is unlikely to be in anyone who becomes POTUS, even if he needs TOTUS) but heavens to Betsy, he and his whole team think they know how to build and sell cars? Even if GM and Chrysler do not, it seems pretty unlikely to me that his team is going to be better at it.
Perhaps I could understand a concern about debt structures, but telling Chrysler it has to use Fiat technology to deliver fuel-efficient cars? What a bizarre incarnation of Chrysler that will be! Obama would not have to mandate this if he imposed a European style tax regime on gasoline - why does he not do that? So long as he does not do that, who does he think will buy the cars? He has an answer - government departments will be forced to buy them for their fleets!
This is going to end in farce, with these companies finally surely mostly nationalized, or gone, and about as efficient as Lada.
Hey! And those warranties! What about my existing warranty from GM that has two years going? Will some government stand behind it?
And how about poor Ford, who have not asked for 'help'? Their warranty offers now have to compete against offers Obama has proudly announced are backed by the full force of the US government?
The potential here for unintended consequences has climbed so high that it is hard to see how this could hope to go well. I look forward to auto marketing in the next couple of months.
And the deepest irony is this is not even close to any sort of resolution.

UPDATE: Here is a more informed discussion of the same points.

UPDATE: Paul Kedrosky is terse but impressively to the point.

UPDATE: Russell Roberts adds on with a great and appropriate quotation from Adam Smith.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fred Eaglesmith - Highlight of the Weekend

I had heard one Fred Eaglesmith song, "He's a Good Dog", when I discovered he was performing in London, Ontario last weekend, where I had planned for other very good reasons to be! I love the dog song, so I thought it worth a shot.
So Silly Wife and I headed down to the London Music Club (she has lived in London nearly twenty years and neither of us knew this venue existed! - more fool we - it has a lovely intimate main hall) Saturday evening to see him live, in a show starting nominally at 7pm, which is a starting time I approve of mightily. I had a vague idea what was coming, SillyWife none at all. One great thing - the show started around 7:20, finished so we were home by a little after 9:30. That I love.
I got far more than I had hoped, and would go again, and will watch his touring schedule.
Part of the delight is that he comes from rural Southwestern Ontario, and writes songs about those experiences; I come from rural Eastern Ontario, not from a farm background myself, though we lived in the midst of a largely farming community, and shared recreation with that community, so a lot of what he writes makes a lot of sense, and I also know and enjoy rural Southwestern Ontario.
The songs lean to trucks, cars, tractors, rural life disintegrating, but they are populated by wonderfully smart and witty lyrics, and music I cannot really categorize, some of it basic country, some of it gospel, some of it bluegrass.
The musicality of the group (The Flying Squirrels) was wonderful, with really tight arrangements (great versatility on bass, some very interesting banjo work, and the drummer Kori, who is just a lot of fun for an old guy to watch), and Eaglesmith's own wonderful guitar work.
He did not sing the only song I originally knew, though he did sing "Wilder than Her", which I had learned from YouTube. For me the most moving song was "30 years of farming", as it sure sounded as if he has experienced something like it, and yet the contrast between the music and the lyrics was one of those things I really love in art - more or less happy music with terribly heartbreaking lyrics. But I enjoyed the show - and he did have a good dog song, though its theme was "I Shot Your Dog". (Understandable from a kid who grew up on a chicken firm and must love making his urban audience cringe at times).
I also recommend his patter highly - he is a delightfully funny ball of contradictions, and can go off in directions that caught me off guard - who knew there was a genre of 'snail jokes' (and pretty funny)? Moreover he has a great hunter/deer joke. He says they all relate to Zen.
But he would.
Go hear him. Silly Wife liked the show, and also his guitar playing. She did comment that the audience was a cross-section of London she had not really seen, though she did have a (retired) colleague in the audience.
You can find his performance schedule here. If I still have any Texan readers - he will be done there in April for the BlueBonnets, which this year I will sadly miss.
Go see him. He is one of many Canadian treasures. Wonder how much arts funding he has got?
For a treat here is Eaglesmith's 30 Years of Farming.

(Kori features nicely in that video.)
And a great cover that seems more Google-famous than Eaglesmith's by James King.

One measure of how great a songwriter is how nicely some other group can mold the original song in to something new. (As with Dar Williams' "Wilder than Her".)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Ones I Know on That List are Sure Great

h/t Craig Newmark
I've experienced a small number of these, numbers 7, 8, and 12. I am not sure why it is Waterloo Bridge in number 7, perhaps because the poetically praised view from Westminster Bridge is polluted by the sight of Waterloo Bridge, and the Eye too!

Shakedown?

One of Steve Sailer's readers has an interesting point, explaining the apparent chaos of the Obama administration.
The opposite of that is a practice of keeping all the balls in the air, with massive regulation proposals in the works for all major industries. Massive financial system reform! Massive healthcare reform! Massive energy reform! This gets every lobbyist involved. It maximizes the shakedown.

Shakedown is maximized as long as all the balls are kept in the air. Should any reform be settled, lobbying efforts could wind down.

It fits perfectly with the background as a 'community organizer'.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inconceivable

... from an English first-language speaker.
Slightly worn, but dignified, and not too old for sex! What were they when they wrote this - late thirties? Let me keep raving about these guys!

Complete and utter geniuses!
(I do not know who composed this but it is hard and sad to watch!)

Cut Spending to the Bare Essentials

Water, and bread, and Margaritas!

Our kids will play with squirrels!

The Quality of 'The Current' (2)

I have written before on this topic. Who would have thought that following the Iceland Weather Report would feed me some of the best material confirming the uselessness of this supposed news show on CBC Radio.

OK, the shocking thing is not this blatant manipulation of the truth, this bastardization of fact to fit their own agenda. No, the shocking thing is that this is fricking Canadian STATE BROADCASTING - a media outlet that is supposed to be credible and to have some sort of integrity.

And so I ask you: if they so blatantly and shamelessly exploit and maneuver the facts in this instance - then how do you know when they are actually telling the truth?

Actually, I am not convinced the CBC's track record on that front has ever been other than somewhat questionable.
I think the naivete behind the question is somewhat charming; why should anyone in his right mind think that the CBC is particularly committed to the truth? Good grief, she claims she has lived in Canada!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Woz lives to Dance another Day

... as reported by Rondi's Twitter.
Were I to vote I would vote to keep him around, as he is such a positive life force.
But, part of me would know he is a lousy dancer, and may be threatening himself with serious damage.
Still, I look forward to next Monday!

Yet Another Town Hall?

Cnn has The One on, apparently live, again.
Boy, he is useless without the teleprompter!

Ahhh

Ahhhh

Failed Incitement

ABC works very hard at trying to create homophobia, and - surprise! - fails in a sports bar.
Credit to ABC for telling the truth.
h/t HotAir

No Norm - Not the '60s

Norm asks, rhetorically it seems, whether songs peaked in the '50s and '60s.
I think he underestimates ABBA! And he knows how great they can be.
Has anyone ever written better lyrics than this?:

Well, maybe Cole Porter, but nobody in Norm's time.

Utter Nonsense

Garry Wise cites the AIG exec's resignation.
And then marks himself as an utter fool:
Mr. DeSantis makes a number of compelling arguments, all of which might be quite convincing - if the numbers at issue weren't so disproportionately outrageous.

I'd like to hear more details on Garry Wise's notion of what such executives should be paid. No doubt he knows so much more than the rest of us.
These populist preachers disgust me.

Great job, Congress

More AIG grief, via Megan McArdle.
Two executives at Banque AIG, the French subsidiary of AIG's financial products group, have resigned. There's been talk in recent days that a major departure at the subsidiary could be a disaster, because it risks triggering cross-default provisions in various AIG contracts. I'm tempted to say that this would send the company into a downward spiral, but then what are we in now?

The Chuirchill Comeuppance

... appears to be coming. (No, not Winston, the execrable Ward.)
Andrew Potter is rightly exasperated. And this is only a small part of the guy's clownish antics.
One of the people for whom he ghost-wrote a paper is his ex-wife where he wrote part of her paper, and it was published under her name. Ok, so maybe it isn’t plagiarism, but the problem is that he subsequently cites the paper as an independent source in his own work

There are actually people who defend this guy. I cannot remotely understand why.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One AIG exec speaks up

No doubt one of many resignation letters. The whole Congress and Cuomo and Blumenthal should all be ashamed of themselves.
But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.

This, too, puzzled me about Liddy's testimony. This whole thing has been an utter outrage, and my outrage is not directed at the fact of the bonuses.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I DId Not Know This was on YouTube

In all the history of the Eurovision Song Contest there has been ONE GREAT performance.
It seems to my amazement it is on YouTube.

What is amazing is that this was a puny piece of the great art they produced.
I cannot remotely document what a farce this show is except for when wonders like this show up.

Bleg - Abba Song about kid heading to school

I cannot find it on YouTube? Is it There? Anywhere I can hear it again? It is so darling.
UPDATE: Thanks, Rondi!

Those Boys

Surely the best English-language songwriters of the generation I grew up in; and they are Swedes! It does give them a small advantage, in avoiding dumb cliches.
Norm reminds me.
But Holy Cow! Could a native speaker have produced "the loser standing small"?
The Gods may throw the dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear

Did anyone write better English lyrics in the late 70s and early 80s than these two Swedish lads?
I think not.
And of course it is the Norwegian who can make the song a killer!

It Was So Much Better in the Good Old Days

Except when it wasn't.
A minor state senator from Illinois can say pretty much what he wants. Who would care?
The leader of the Free World (even if he does not consider it so) really needs to consult a staff before opening his thought-to-be eloquent mouth.
As I have said, he knows very little of history and does not seem interested. This contrasts stunningly with Clinton and Dubya.

Brad DeLong Finds a Measure of the Depth of the Recession

On a TV cooking show.

Hmmm, are there any other Allies we have not Pissed Off Yet?

I know, let's send a love letter to a former president of the country!
Hm, I guess this is because the current president has reversed France's ambiguity concerning its participation in NATO. Far better to praise the guys who try to undermine the alliances.
What's next, Bono-like gushing over Paul Martin?
I wonder if the State Department approved this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Some Excellent and Informative Perspective from Iceland

From the Iceland Weather Report:
We get a lot of international channels on our TV and when I look at the news from the UK, for example, I would say they are a lot more pessimistic than we are, even though their situation is not half as bad! — One also has to realize that Icelanders as a nation have experienced much, much worse than this. Only 100 years ago we were living in turf houses, and shortage of firewood and of hay, for example, was a regular occurrance. The Icelandic nation has been nearly wiped out about three times in the last 1,000 years, through famine, disease, or volcanic eruptions. So what we are experiencing today is like a luxury problem.

Some Encouraging Obama News

Via Mark Collins, regarding Afghanistan.

Duo Ava Free Concert at the Four Seasons Centre


Thanks to Duo Ava for a delightful free concert on March 19.
The Mozart was my favorite part of the program, but I was surprised as well to enjoy the Bartok, maybe because it did seem to be a rough transcription of the actual Romanian folk melodies.
As the photo indicates, the setting in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre is striking; if you get tired of looking at the musicians you can watch the activities at the corner of University and Queen. The photo also shows that, as observed by the guy in the neighboring seat, one need not in this particular case tire of watching the musicians.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Urge to be a Nanny

I was saddened by the death of Natasha Richardson in a skiing accident this week; particularly because after the responsible injury, she thought she was OK, and failed to see a doctor, who might well have addressed her problem quickly enough.
One thing that troubled me, however, watching the CBC television coverage, was the lack of focus on Richardson herself, and the sudden urge to start babbling about mandating the use of helmets on ski hills. This troubled in two ways, one being the hijacking of a news item and not paying attention to the victim herself.
The other thing that troubled me was this. A prominent person has a very unusual sort of accident, and suddenly there is a mini-crusade to apply a particular 'solution' to an apparent problem. Had she been unknown, would this even have been a news item? Is there any evidence concerning the prevalence of this problem, and the effectiveness of helmets? Was there a previous instance involving a non-prominent person? None of this was addressed in the TV coverage, which simply reflected the CBC's urge to join in the call to find a new way to control other people.
As usual, of course, much more, and more correct, information was available on CBC Online.
It's not clear whether a helmet would have averted the death of British actress Natasha Richardson.
...
Doctors know what to look for in a patient who has fallen and may have ruptured a blood vessel in their skull.
...
"It's a fairly rare event for the vast majority of the hundreds and hundreds of head injuries that we see," Walling said. "But we do recognize that it happens and it has such tragic consequences if it's not recognized quickly."
The Canadian Institute for Health Information's latest figures, which do not include those from Quebec, indicate 138 people were hospitalized across Canada in 2005-2006 because of a head injury sustained while skiing or snowboarding.

I'd surmise that this number shows this is not a gigantic problem, and it is not clear what help mandatory helmets would be. I infer that there is no currently known instance of the same thing happening to a non-celebrity.
Now were I to ski or snowboard, I would wear a helmet as I do when bicycling, but that is my choice, of which we seem to have fewer and fewer as the nannies sign the state up to do their work.

Be a man, man

Maybe he will learn, but this perspective on Obama seems to me about right at this point.
But now, at week 11, we’re face-to-face with the reality, the man can’t talk worth a damn.

You can see the fundamental mistake he’s making. Having been so successfully elected, he’s acting like people actually want to hear what he thinks. He’s the great earnest bore at the dinner party. Instead of singing for his supper, he’s just talking—and going on at length. The real job of making people part of the story you’re telling, of having them hang on your every word, of getting the tone and detail right, the hard job of holding a conversation, he ain’t doing.

He’s cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious.

He thinks it’s all about him. That we want him for himself—that he doesn’t have to seduce, charm, surprise, show some skin.

We'll soon know if he can learn. Or become a second Jimmy Carter, as the author suggests.

Regulatin' H-O-X - Gotta Be Careful

I really love the Web.

They Said that if you might have voted for McCain, the Draft would be Back

And they were right.
Not even close to a hundred days and an utter mess.

More on Galloway

Yes he should be banned from entering Canada, I now conclude.

Obama's Nowruz Message

Hugh Fitzgerald puts a far more positive spin on it than I had noted.
No, I think a good case can be made that the message is an attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic of Iran, by praising Iran in terms that emphasize, every step of the way, the non-Islamic or extra-Islamic features of Iranian civilization -- even praising Iran for "innovation" -- which, of course, is both a word and a practice that officially Islam frowns on. The calculation is: with prideful Persians, flattery may get you somewhere.

I hope he's right!

There is a Corresponding Teacher's Nightmare

xkcd delivers another succinct horror.

I used to have the nightmare that three weeks into the term I realize there is a course assigned to me and I have not turned up to give a single lecture. Fortunately it has gone away (though, as indicated above, it persisted long past my desisting from teaching).

Vetoing the AIG Bonus Tax?

I was told yesterday to have a little more faith in Obama than current events have led me to have, and responded that a veto of the AIG bonus tax bill would be the test.
Lo and behold, this morning the NY Times reports "Obama Uneasy About The Tax on Bonuses". Well he might be!

Mr. Obama, who initially said he welcomed the effort by Congress to tax bonuses, is now taking a more measured approach. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the administration would have to consider the impact of the legislation on its wider efforts to prop up banks and increase the flow of consumer credit to families and small businesses.

“The president shares the outrage and the frustration that everybody has,” Mr. Gibbs said at his daily press briefing Friday, referring to $165 million in bonuses paid by the American International Group. Mr. Gibbs also acknowledged the larger goals. “All of that will be evaluated throughout the process when a bill gets to his desk,” he said.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Toronto Parks and Rec over the Winter

They addressed one of the trees that blew over last summer.

It's not clear whether this is a sensible long-run solution.
They appear to have done nothing about the collapsed section of the mooring dock.

Will the Teleprompter be Jettisoned?

Seems not yet. Watching on CNN and now the tennis-match-watching head really leaps out. He looks left and right, clearly reading the text on screen that protects him from thinking and never once looks into the camera.
Oh I miss Clinton.
I even miss Bush for his rhetorical skills.

Funniest Blog out There Now

Barack's Teleprompter. I wonder how long this genius can keep it up.
It will be my first morning read for a while now.
Who is that masked teleprompter?

Not just Hot Dogs on the Streets of Toronto!

This week, finally, after years of discussion, it is possible to buy other than hot dogs from vending carts in the streets of Toronto.
Now this likely makes us the last city in the world with this property and Margaret Wente explains why.
I have complained about the nanny-state, but good God, the nanny city is even worse under the regime of the Miller and his cronies.
To quote her article briefly:
In case you haven't guessed, I live in Toronto - the only city in the world where grown-ups can't be trusted to choose their own lunch from a street vendor.
...
In New York, the customers are allowed to judge the street food for themselves. Naturally, that would never do in Toronto, a city run by control freaks who think street food should be about social justice and nutrition. Don't get me started on the bottled water. It's been banned from city premises because it's anti-environmental. From now on, thirsty citizens will just have to drink Coke.
There is an upside, though. Now that the street-food issue is resolved, our elected officials can turn their attention to the other pressing issues of the day - such as the search for a recyclable coffee-cup lid. The economy is in the sewer and the city's costs are soaring, but those things will have to wait. The most urgent task at hand is to enforce virtue among the populace.

Farcical Reporting

When I woke, my CBC radio told me Obama had recorded a video addressed to the people of Iran. What an interesting term. I pictured a video, saying Americans respected the people, in which he said nothing about the mullah-dominated government, or tried to undermine it I would say I was misled.
From the transcript (h/t LGF):
In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture.

The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations.

So this was in fact an overture to the current government of Iran. The CBC lied.
I do not know that I mind this overture, though I suspect it will prove to have a laughable outcome (if you can laugh at the outcome - I am likely old enough to - my nieces and nephews, maybe not so much). According to CNN, it is accompanied by a recent increase in sanctions against Iran, which would be the right approach, but I am not sure what to believe.
But I wonder what Iranian dissidents are hearing when they finally get to listen to this speech. Will it be what Natan Sharansky heard when Reagan referred to the 'Evil Empire' (BTW at the time I thought Reagan was going way over the top - Sharansky, who knew way more than I did, would disagree)? I am confident it is not.
No doubt these distinctions are hard for CBC reporters. And no doubt few of them know the history or care.
This is getting sadder and sadder, I fear.

Another Great Sign of Spring

Even in Texas!

More Brilliance from Congress

What next?
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures deposits up to $250,000, tried for years to get congressional authority to collect the premiums in case of a looming crisis. But Congress believed that the fund was so well-capitalized - and that bank failures were so infrequent - that there was no need to collect the premiums for a decade, according to banking officials and analysts.

I won't bore you with all the possible consequences. Read the whole thing for those.
Barney Frank displays his usual genius:
House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank agreed that officials believed at the time that the good times would last and that bank failures would not be a problem.

"We had this period where we had no failures," the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview yesterday. "The banks were saying, 'Don't charge us anything.' "

Which officials dissented, I wonder?

What Must Geithner be Thinking?

I have seen lots of speculation in the news and blogs that the administration may want to cut Geithner, once the only man for the job, loose.

But I wonder how Geithner feels right now about what has just happened. He knows Wall Street, he knows that these bonuses were going to exactly the guys trying to wind the financial products division at AIG down, he knows this is a dirty miserable unrewarding job, and exactly the job in AIG that needs to be done to start solving the financial problems the US faces, and he surely understands the reason for the bonuses, a key tool in keeping the execs staying in their jobs. It is, after all, entirely possible that these execs may have saved AIG's owners, and therefore the taxpayers, billions of dollars. And, of course, according to Chris Dodd, it was he who therefore tried to protect those bonuses in the stimulus bill. For very good reasons, as we now see. But it turns out respect for the rule of law is even smaller in Obama and Congress than even Geithner could have imagined.

So while he may publicly admit that there are unfortunate optics here, he must be revolted by his own administration's complicity in the demonization of Wall Street in general, fueled by this ridiculous focus on the AIG bonuses.

Now he probably enjoys the challenge of his job in many ways, and looks forward to the satisfaction of playing a role in solving such a large problem; that is, after all, why one would choose such a career. But right now he must go into meetings working hard to control emotions, and having a lot of trouble respecting the people around him. It must create a lot of conflict, a part of him that wants to walk, and another part that wants to play that key role.

Of course this is all pure speculation. I don't know him.

Michael Lewis on AIG

The author of "Liar's Poker" is also concerned about the mass hysteria.
Apart from Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times, it occurs to no one to say that a) the vast majority of the employees at AIG had as little as you or I to do with its quasi- criminal risk taking and catastrophic losses; b) that the most- valuable of those employees can easily find work at AIG’s competitors; and c) that if the government insists on punishing those valuable employees they will understandably leave, and leave behind a company even less viable than it is, and less likely to give the taxpayer back his money.

And also -- oh, yes -- that if the government can arbitrarily break contracts made by firms in which it has taken a stake no one in his right mind will ever again make a contract with one of those firms. And so all of the banks in which the government has investment will be damaged.

This is a very good column, and also emphasizes the point in the xkcd cartoon about innumeracy.

Apologies for my obsession with these bonuses, but I cannot recall in my reasonably long lifetime any episode of mass hysteria so stupid, nor any political behavior so totally outrageous and stupid, to boot. I dearly hope Obama can learn to lead, because the picture right now is not remotely pretty. Rome burns while Obama, having helped light the fire, disses the disabled on Leno.

The more I watch, the more I now sympathize with Geithner.

Galloway

What she said.

Inside AIG-FP

WaPo paints a not very pretty picture, and I can see why.
The handful of souls who championed the firm's now-infamous credit-default swaps are, by nearly every account, long since departed. Those left behind to clean up the mess, the majority of whom never lost a dime for AIG, now feel they have been sold out by their Congress and their president.

"They've chosen to throw us under the bus," said a Financial Products executive, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. "They have vilified us."

They say what is missing from this week's hysteria is perspective. The very handsome retention payments they received over the past week were set in motion early last year when the firm's former president, Joe Cassano, was on his way out the door. Financial Products was already running into trouble on its risky credit bets, and the year ahead looked grim. People were weighing offers from other firms, and AIG executives feared that too many departures could lead to disaster.

So AIG stepped in with an offer to employees of Financial Products. Work through all of 2008, and you'd get a lump payment in March 2009. Stick around through 2009, and you'll get paid through 2010. Almost all other forms of compensation -- bonuses, deferred payments and the like -- have vanished.

"People are trying to do the right thing," the same Financial Products executive said. "Guys have worked their [tails] off to try to get value for the taxpayer. This isn't money that's being advanced to us. People have performed the work and done it exactly as we asked them to do."

And now what, thanks to the fine politicians?

The Financial Products staff met twice Wednesday inside one of the firm's large, glass-walled conference rooms to discuss the boss's letter. Numerous employees indicated that they would be willing to return the money, but most wanted nothing more to do with the firm. It was a preview of the possible exodus to come, one that concerns Liddy himself.

"My fear is that the damage is done," he told a congressional subcommittee. "That they will return [the money], but that they will return it with their resignations."

There is little doubt within Financial Products that he's right about that.

"Nobody is going to give it back and then stay," said one of the firm's employees. "If they give back the money, then they will walk. And they will walk into the arms of AIG's counterparties."

Stupid shameful Congress. Stupid shameful President.
Doing everything they can to make solving the financial crisis even harder.

If they did walk out the door, who would volunteer to work at the Chernobyl of the financial world? And what would become of the mammoth portfolio that remains?

"It would become the biggest naked position on Wall Street," one longtime Financial Products executive said, "and everybody would exploit it."

What a pathetic farce.

Not Talkership, Leadership

Peggy Noonan (h/t Paul Wells) captures a little bit of what is striking me as I try to watch Obama's town hall meetings other appearances.

These are the two great issues, the economic crisis and our safety. In the face of them, what strikes one is the weightlessness of the Obama administration, the jumping from issue to issue and venue to venue from day to day. Isaiah Berlin famously suggested a leader is a fox or a hedgehog. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In political leadership the hedgehog has certain significant advantages, focus and clarity of vision among them. Most presidents are one or the other. So far Mr. Obama seems neither.


He seems not to know what to say other than his usual spiel on fundamental values and lies about bipartisanship.

My gut feel watching is that he is reeling, unaccustomed to having to make a decision and push an important agenda forward, falling back on what he thinks he does best, selling himself. But, whatever the press may say, he seems terrible to me in town hall meetings - answers either in empty rhetoric, or is just wrong about what he talks about. His weaknesses in understanding of economics and knowledge of history are showing through in exactly the two areas Noonan points at.

Contrast it with the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, who, in her first speech and testimony to congress, the same week as Mr. Mueller's remarks, did not mention the word terrorism once. This week in an interview with Der Spiegel, she was pressed: "Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?" Her reply: "I presume there is always a threat from terrorism." It's true she didn't use the word terrorism in her speech, but she did refer to "man-caused" disasters. "This is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear."
Ah. Well this is only a nuance, but her use of language is a man-caused disaster.


And on the economy:

So one wonders why, say, the president does not step in and insist on staffing the top level of his Treasury Department, where besieged Secretary Tim Geithner struggles without deputies through his 15-hour days. Might AIG and the bonus scandals have been stopped or discovered sooner if Treasury had someone to answer the phones? Leadership is needed here. Not talkership, leadership.


My guess is that Obama simply does not understand what the Treasury is trying to do. Moreover, he probably lacks sympathy for the task, as has been evidenced by his total failure of leadership (i.e. he has led in the WRONG direction) on AIG bonuses. Moreover, in this case, he has led only reactively.

Noonan does also offer some fun - I did not know there was a web site featuring a blog written by Obama's teleprompter (TOTUS, as I saw mentioned elsewhere).
It's bummed that it has to work a news conference next week instead of watching "American Idol," it resents being dragged to L.A. in Air Force One's cargo hold "with the more common electronic equipment." It also Twitters: "We are in California! One of the interns gave my panels a quick scrub and I'm ready to prompt for the day." And: "Waiting for my boss's jokes to get loaded for Leno!"

Krauthammer's Column

The one cited by Oliver Kamm in the previous post. Evan Paul Wells approves.
Amen.

Oliver Kamm on the AIG Bonuses

Very succinct and right.

A sunk cost?

Speedmaster gives me a morning laugh.
At first, I had the exact same reaction wen I saw Obama doing an ESPN segment two nights ago and filling out his hoops bracket. What are we paying this guy for?!
Then I realized, we are FAR better off with him filling out brackets, exercising, playing Scrabble, shaking hands, WHATEVER! As long as it keeps him from mucking-up the economy and abusing the Constitution while spouting economic illiteracy.
So I say consider his USD $400,000 salary a sunk cost and let him fritter the time away! [note: I feel pretty much the same way about Bush]

A Useful Reflection from xkcd

Smarter than most Congressmen, though at the moment that seems a low bar. Some numeracy for the hysterical. And 'dishonest' is the right word.

I Tremble

... wondering what the Farsi subtitles on Obama's speech to the Iranian people actually said, given the quality of the previous translation work from administration staff.

The Sun-Cloud Battle of the Day


Ashbridge's Bay, March 18, 2009, 8:30 am or so.

Where are the Snows of Yesterday

Here are the berries of yesterday. Nobody seems to want to eat these berries. They've made it through the winter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Huh?

WTF?

Can't Anyone in this Administration get a Simple Detail Right

When Obama reciprocated Gordon Brown's very carefully thought-out set of gifts by giving him (and implicitly the UK) a DVD set of 25 classic American movies, it looked as if an intern had been sent out to the nearest Wal-Mart at the last minute to find something. This was consistent with the other backhanded ways in which Brown was treated on his visit.
Cheesy as that was, some mischievous bloggers began to ask whether the DVDs were Region 1 and NTSC, and therefore unplayable on a standard UK DVD-Television combination. Via Allahpundit we get the Telegraph enjoying the delicious stupidity of it.
While not exactly a film buff, Gordon Brown was touched when Barack Obama gave him a set of 25 classic American movies – including Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins on his recent visit to Washington.
Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.
The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen. Although he mournfully had to put the popcorn away, he is unlikely to jeopardise the special relationship – or "special partnership", as we are now supposed to call it – by registering a complaint.
By the way, when Obama's unlikely gift was disclosed, a reader emailed me to ask if Clueless was among the films. Funnily enough, it was not.
Brown, on the other hand, presented a rather more thoughtful gift to the American President in the form of a penholder carved from the timbers of an anti-slavery ship. The sister ship, in fact, of the one that was broken up and turned into the desk in the Oval Office.

Americans would likely feel embarrassed if their press told them about this. Maybe it will, but it would be out of character to suggest that a lot of the change is pretty hopeless.
Allahpundit adds an update to his post:
Iowahawk e-mails to remind me that he called this 10 days ago, but, he says, “In Obama’s defense at least they weren’t Betamax.”

Ashbridge's Bay, March 18, 2009

Spring is fighting its way back here in Toronto as well as in London. Robins and red-winged blackbirds have returned, though not in the numbers there will be soon.
Not all the winter birds have left. The buffleheads are still paddling around, but in larger groups than I am used to seeing. One day I will go down and they will have headed north.
There was also a pair of swans, I assume the same ones whose breeding attempts I have been tracking over the years.

I decided to check for the beaver situation. The lodge provided a clear hint, a log that had pretty clearly been chewed quite recently (upper left in this photo).

About 100 metres later on my normal walking route, I found this.

We have clear evidence there is beaver action in the inner bay. What mama beaver is doing this year after papa beaver got himself hit by a car is not yet clear.
I turned one corner on my walk to see this juxtaposition of colorful branches, which will not be visible later in the spring or summer as the leaves come in.

Even more promise of pleasures from spring to fall.
A few years ago, I started hearing a particular song along parts of the walk through the summer; it took a few years to determine it was a song sparrow (I go with a camera, not binoculars). Had this bold little specimen shown up before this week, I would have known a lot sooner!

A Modest Proposal for Canadian Television

... from Steve Janke.
Do you want to know who makes the best Canadian content being broadcast on television today? Beer companies. They really understand Canadians.

They produce content for profit that is funny and engaging and true.

And they pay to put their content on the air!

I don't know there is enough beer commercial content to fill a schedule, but we ought to move in a direction in which clever profit-motivated Canadians are allowed to benefit from creating content or delivering it.

Multiple beer-commercial channels!
He is not being entirely facetious and has been pressing lately on how the (CRTC, an independent body of the) gubmnt has imposed a broken business model on private Canadian broadcasters.

Some Thoughtfulness on the AIG Bonuses

John Hinderaker paid attention to the testimony in Congress yesterday and noticed a lot of things I have not heard in my daily newscast.
First, there was no lack of authority to regulate, simply bad enforcement. This makes it far less clear that MORE regulation will improve anything - just give the regulators leeway to make more mistakes.
HENSARLING: So, again, in retrospect, it wasn't the lack of authority. It wasn't the lack of resources. It wasn't the lack of expertise. You just flat made a mistake. Is that a correct assessment?

POLAKOFF: In 2004, we failed to assess how bad the mortgage economy, the real estate economy would become in 2008. Yes, sir.

The bonuses are retention bonuses and if you read with care how they were structured, you recognize the rank injustice of clawing them back, as Congress is poised in its hypocritical way to do; so far as I know nobody in Congress or the administration is planning to pay back to AIG the campaign contributions they received.

AIG hired (or retained) employees to supervise and wind down the financial products division's book of business, then well in excess of $2 trillion. Since the business was being wound down, these jobs were not great career opportunities. So AIG entered into agreements with its employees that if they would stay for a given period of time, they would earn a bonus. The bonuses that fueled the current controversy were paid to employees who held up their end of the bargain by remaining with AIG.

So an employee is promised a bonus if he stays on and works another year in what would otherwise be a dead-end job; in reliance on that offer, he stays and works for a year. Now Congress wants the bonus back. It's hard to understand how that comports with anyone's idea of fairness, let alone legality.

If Congress could let Liddy do his job, maybe this could turn out not so badly.
LIDDY: ... They [the Fed] were able to acquire those assets at a discount at $0.40 or $0.50 or $0.60 on the dollar. They are currently performing. There's been no credit losses on them. And they are a patient investor. They, and the American public, will do very well on that investment.

So I believe what frequently happens is people take the 40 and they take -- we can have as much as $60 billion in the Federal Reserve. We've only tapped into, let's call it, $40 billion. But analysts -- writers will take 40 plus 60 plus the $50 billion of assets that the Federal Reserve has invested in and a few other things and they get to that $170 billion number. It's an important distinction because for us to pay off what we owe the federal government, it's roughly an $80 billion target right now. And we can do that. But we need some help from the markets to be able to do it.

"Help from the markets". What is MOST likely to make the markets less effective? Why, one of the things is exactly Congress' planned clawback.
Remember when George Bush was "shredding the Constitution?" Ah, those were the good old days! Now we have Congressional Democrats trying to give themselves political cover by advocating patently unconstitutional legislation singling out a few hundred employees of a single company for a "tax" that would reclaim money that they were promised, and earned, with the full knowledge and consent of the Federal Reserve and, it turns out, Congress.

The constitutionality is argued currently in many legal blogs, but the planned law is appalling, and nobody should now feel safe from this administration's willingness to decide that what you thought was yours is theirs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Model Mouse

A great story about an invading mouse (it's a bit tech-heavy regarding some photo equipment, but I guarantee you'll get a laugh).

The Transition - Progress is Approaching

Up here in the north, is very exciting when winter begins to release its hold on all of us; and it has been a long and tough winter here again (after having been spoiled by years of mild winters).
On the weekend I had occasion to drive on the back roads between Kitchener and London, Ontario, and it was a delight to see the fields starting to shade green (curiously a lot more so near London - not sure why). During the weekend we saw robins and red-wing blackbirds, though not as many as we will see in a couple more weeks.
Thank you, spring, for giving us a hint of what is to come!

The Rule of Law - fare thee well

A point I made earlier is more extensively developed in this very good post from Russell Roberts.
A friend of mine expressed surprise the other day when I said I wasn't sure if the stock market would bounce back fairly quickly. He said that societies with human capital and the rule of law always thrive. Yes, I said, but I'm not sure the rule of law is our strong suit in the US these days.

He then quotes an article including this shocking paragraph:
"We need to find out the answer to this question: What is the highest excise tax we can impose that is sustainable in court?" Baucus said to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman during a hearing Tuesday.

And it gets worse. Read the whole thing.
I write this as I watch the bloviating hypocrites of Congress doing what they do best, hypocritically bloviating about the AIG bonuses and bailouts.

Obama's Eloquence Becomes Contagious

The hazards of such reliance on teleprompters!
"Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was just a few paragraphs into an address at a St. Patrick's Day celebration at the White House when he realized something sounded way too familiar. Turns out, he was repeating the speech President Barack Obama had just given."
There's a lot to be said for Lincoln's approach of scribbling some remarks on some papernotes and giving the speech from those notes. And is not Lincoln Obama's model?
Needless to say, Mark Steyn manages a great riff on this one.

This sounds like beginning of a Twilight Zone episode. Is the Teleprompter really the brains of the operation? And, if so, why hasn't it nominated a new Deputy Treasury Secretary?

Wozniak Survives!

That is, he does not get eliminated in the first eliminated round of Dancing with the Stars.
I found it a hard call, but actually thought he looked less ridiculous than Belinda Carlisle did shaking her boobs and trying to twist her hips.
Besides, I identify with Wozniak. Moreover, he seems to be having the most fun of all the 'stars' (most of whom I had never heard of; I just counted - I had heard of seven of them). I somehow doubt he will get more than another couple of dances in, though, and I am sure he will miss Karina Smirnoff.
Meanwhile, Melissa Rycroft looked amazing in her salsa. I suspect she is having a lot more fun right now than either Jason or Molly.

We've Alienated the Republicans, let's Start on the Democrats

I cannot understand the politics of this proposal.

Democrats in Congress are organizing to squash a White House proposal that would require veterans to use private insurance to pay for treatment of their combat and service-related injuries.

In a letter being sent to the White House, a group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), warned that such a proposal "could harm our veterans and their families in unintended, yet very serious ways, jeopardizing their families' health care and even negatively affecting veterans' employment opportunities."

It's possible I don't really understand the proposal, but then apparently neither do Democrats in Congress.
I did read somewhere that the proposal would save over 400 million dollars, so it would go almost halfway to making up for the 900 million the White House announced it was sending to Hamas (they did not put it in those words, but that is clearly what the effect would be). I guess there is some constituency whose votes can be won over this way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Evolution of 'Passive Voice'

No, not the passive voice itself, but the usage of the term in some prominent articles lately. Mark Liberman reflects on a recent instance from the NY Times.
Earlier he had reflected more generally:
But despite this long history, I'm afraid that the traditional sense of passive voice has died after a long illness. It has ceased to be; it's expired and gone to meet its maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It's an ex-grammatical term.

Specically with respect to the NY Times article, he observes, as an example:
The "passive voice" spotted in the first Madoff quote is apparently the phrase "it would end shortly", which is technically an active-voice intransitive, but one where (as Franklin observes) Madoff is evading the fact that the scheme could end if and only if he himself took steps to end it — or, on the most charitable interpretation, if his investment strategy miraculously began to work as he falsely claimed it did.

My guess is that the current generation of writers includes many people who never had a grammar lesson, but know that the phrase 'passive voice' is important, and so use it in a way that seems logical.

How Low Can it Go?

Dan Gardner is dismayed. (As am I.)
I thought it was more embarrassing when physicist Steven Chu became US Secretary of Energy, thus setting up future meetings at which American science is represented by a Nobel laureate and Canadian science is represented by a man who thinks putting pressure on the spine is a wonder cure for all that ails us.
...
This, I thought, is the very depths of embarrassment. It can't get any worse than this.
Well, I was wrong. Oh lord, oh lord! Was I wrong!

There - I am making you read the whole thing.
h/t Damian

Another Stupid Song List

Norm points out a defect in, and proposes an addition (maybe not the one I would pick in French) to the list in the Guardian of great love songs.
The list has two songs not in English! (And the version of 'La Vie en Rose', in the youtube versions I have seen, is appalling compared to the Piaf originals). Does this sound familiar?
I guess it does not surprise me that a list of love songs originating with the Guardian's and Observers teams of critics should be this insular. No songs in Spanish? No songs in German? etc. etc. etc.
I scanned the comments list and it seems it is just another bunch of songs in English, which maybe is not surprising from Guardian/Observer readers. There is one suggestion I loved, though - one commenter expresses outrage at the lack of any song from The Buzzcocks in the list!

Populism - blecchh

How ugly populism is has been on display of late on the topic of the AIG bonuses. The bonus problem is a product of the open-ended nature of the AIG bailout and is entirely the fault of the Treasury. As pointed out by many bloggers, it is unlikely that a reasonably managed bankruptcy proceeding would have left this sort of thing so open. My personal opinion is that a forced recall of the bonuses would be extremely undesirable, though some degree of moral suasion from the government (going on as we speak in a rather strident and infantile form), or perhaps action from the AIG shareholders against the Board, might be useful.
But reversal of the bonuses has major negative implications, well described in this article, which incidentally also suggests direct moral suasion applied to the execs getting the bonuses, with the goal that they might voluntarily turn them down.
As the author points out, it is a little scary hearing the President babble about "fundamental values", with a pretty strong suggestion, and not his first with his recent policies, that abrogation of contracts at the government's whim is a positive value.
I wonder how much effort I'd want to put in on my job if I thought that somewhere down the road Obama would decide my pay should be reduced retroactively (that is what pulling a bonus is effectively), or say that my stock options should be withdrawn. If he wants a REAL Depression, he should keep this up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

R.I.P Ron Silver

An actor I always liked to watch.
Roger Simon has a nice remembrance.
They gave him about three to four months to live at that point.

My heart went into my toes, but Ron told me that matter-of-factly and then he went on to apologize for not writing some article or other for Pajamas Media and then asked me how I was doing. That was Ron.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

FKAEC

In the tradition of FKATWOT we now have "formerly known as enemy combatants".
More pretend optics of "change" with not much change except for show.

Zelig with a Better Tailor

Two of my favorite journalists try to read Michael Ignatieff.

Coyne v. Wells on Michael Ignatieff from Macleans Magazine on Vimeo.
It seems it is not easy to read Michael Ignatieff. The only time I have been able to read the guy was when he could not hide his joy at having outmaneuvered Bob Rae and won the leadership of the Liberal Party without even a convention!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Morally Unserious

Krauthammer sure can nail it at times. h/t Scott Johnson. It is important that you realize that Krauthammer's personal position on this is more like Obama's than like Bush's (OK, maybe halfway between).
Restoring? The implication, of course, is that while Obama is guided solely by science, Bush was driven by dogma, ideology and politics.
What an outrage. George Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out.

Whereas, this go-round:

Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men. Such as his admonition that we must resist the "false choice between sound science and moral values." Yet, exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds later he went on to declare that he would never open the door to the "use of cloning for human reproduction."

Does he not think that a cloned human would be of extraordinary scientific interest? And yet he banned it.

Is he so obtuse not to see that he had just made a choice of ethics over science? Yet, unlike President Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not.

Is he that obtuse? I am coming to think he is very unreflective about almost anything about his own identity. He just assumes what he believes is right.

It is the moral arrogance of a man who continuously dismisses his critics as ideological while he is guided exclusively by pragmatism (in economics, social policy, foreign policy) and science in medical ethics.
Science has everything to say about what is possible. Science has nothing to say about what is permissible. Obama's pretense that he will "restore science to its rightful place" and make science, not ideology, dispositive in moral debates is yet more rhetorical sleight of hand -- this time to abdicate decision-making and color his own ideological preferences as authentically "scientific."
Dr. James Thomson, the discoverer of embryonic stem cells, said "if human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." Obama clearly has not.

Maybe we only have to suffer this for four more years. But I am not sanguine about what the option will be when it comes up.
UPDATE: Someone is even more annoyed, not just by the lack of moral analysis, but by utter lies.

That, of course, is where George W. Bush's "ban" came into play. Bush was actually the first President to make federal funding available for embryonic stem cell research. What he did, however, was limit the funding to the currently available stem cell "lines." That is to say, there were pre-existing stem cells from previously destroyed embryos, and federal money could fund research on those, but federal funds could not be used on any more lines, thus preventing taxpayers for paying for embryo destruction. Bush's policy was opposed by those on the left who wanted no restrictions on federal funding, and by those on the right who wanted no federal funding for any embryonic stem cell research. But it was a serious and defensible policy.

Reasonable people can differ on the level of protection that those embryos warrant, but it is not debatable that it is an early stage human being which is destroyed to extract those cells. The President is, as usual, condescending and dismissive to those that disagree with him. At the signing ceremony, President Obama** said, "In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent."

Well, they are if one of your moral values is not destroying human embryos in medical experiments.

Intriguing Question?

Having had to suffer from this question for years as I went through various schools, I likely have a less positive view of it than Norm has, though calling it 'intriguing' seems to leave a LOT of ambiguity.
why would you want to insist that some of the novels read by certain children should be Canadian?

The link he points to provides one simple answer - it depends on who you are!

When B.C. mom Jean Baird realized her son had managed to graduate high school without having a single Canadian book assigned to him in English class, she decided to do something about the situation. She lobbied the B.C. government, gathered support from writer friends and family — she's married to former Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Bowering — and managed to extract legislation from the B.C. Ministry of Education requiring at least one Canadian book per year on each class reading list.

The nice thing about this is that if you have done some simple reading in economics you recognize this as simple rent-seeking and no argument at all! Simply, it's in my interest, so get other people to pay for my interests.
The writer then waxes personal:

I read a lot of books in high school, way back when. Of the Canadian books assigned, I remember one in particular, Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. Was that novel the best choice for introducing the wonders of literature to a teenage boy? Probably not. But I never looked at my grandmother the same way again, that's for sure. And when that sad, proud old Canadian woman went reluctantly into a full-care facility near the end of her life, we shared a gallows humour that would have been unavailable to me had some teacher in Aurora, Ontario not been forced by curriculum to teach me that damned depressing book.

Gol' darn it, the profound weakness of this argument is also available in the best economic literature of the early 19th Century - Mr. Bastiat's 'seen' and 'unseen'. Now the writer does argue for a positive influence of reading one book on one relationship. What he utterly fails to do is even suggest that he could not have had better influences on his life by reading some other, possibly non-Canadian. book.
I think the whole article is a very bad bit of special pleading.
Some Canadians write good books. Even non-Canadians read some of them! Why I have even read a few.
I am unconvinced the gubmnt and its supporting bureaucracy is any better at determining what we should read than any other group. Maybe they are no worse. But I sure liked my Dickens best of all my high school enforced reading.
Where Norm comes from, in the UK, they might pass a law that forces one novel by a British novelist to be on the English literature syllabus every year. Everybody would die laughing at that. That is how it ought to be here.

An Unattractive Feature of The One

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posts, I think from my impressions pretty accurately, on one of the features I find quite unattractive in Barack Obama. Which is, his
penchant for "exaggerating what divides us" -- that is, pretending to break from a particular policy of President Bush even as he adopts that policy in large measure. This particularly offensive form of grandstanding runs counter, of course, to candidate Obama's promise to be a post-partisan who would seek common ground with the political opposition. It thus marks Obama as a phony twice over; as the insincerity of the campaign promise is confirmed by the pretense of a sharp breal [sic, typo] with a specific policy of his predecessor.

Of course if you campaign on "change" you have to try to convince people it is there.
This post is about pretending he is taking a new direction with "signing statements". As Paul summarizes:

To drive home the point, Ed examines Obama's first signing statement. It raises five constitutional concerns, all of which were prominent among those most frequently raised by Bush in his signing statements.
It was never difficult to predict that Obama would generally adhere to Bush administration policies designed to protect the power of the presidency and to promote national security. It's the misdirection that some may find surprising.

For all the talk about being post-partisan it is my perception Obama has gone out of his way to demonize Bush's leadership. Fair enough, I think, but don't pretend you aren't doing it. And in the end, what is saddest is that the major media don't take him to task. One could possibly find evidence to show Bush did this to Clinton but I sure do not remember it.

best when purchased by

What a wonderfully written, and savagely and clearly so, ruling! No fear about calling a spade a spade.
That is false.
...
Since we are directing an acquittal on all counts, the
sentencing issues are academic and we do not address
them, beyond expressing our surprise that the government
would complain about the leniency of the sentence
for a crime it had failed to prove.

It clearly helps that Richard Posner is pretty savvy on economics as well, and rightly skeptical of the value and capability of certain sorts of regulation.
It is also a great little education on what "best when purchased by" means. Not much of anything. As it likely should be.
UPDATE: Lifted from the comments, the prosecutor dressed down in this ruling appears to be the daughter of Ted Sorensen, I assume the author of Kennedy's scandalous "ask not..." trope that Obama seems to be lifting regularly now.

Dud

Reality Steve completes the transcript of his interview with Megan, and plays an amusing word association game with her. My favorite responses:
Jason Mesnick: “Dud.”
Chris Harrison: “Make-up.”
Melissa: “Bubbles.”
Molly: “E.T.”

Not a bad assessment in my view, having seen maybe one and a half episodes of the show this year.
He reflects on the different sorts of shows lumped in the 'reality' category.

To say that the “Bachelor” and “DWTS” are even in the same category reality tv-wise is asinine. “The Bachelor” is pure crap. And a failure. We all know that. That’s why we watch for entertainment and not a love story. “DWTS” is basically a talent competition. They don’t have cameras following you 24/7, with producers feeding you lines of what to say, and manipulating how you dance. Your performance is your performance. So I don’t really get how those saying Melissa joining “DWTS” is the same as being on the “Bachelor”. Yes, it looks like she’ll be on TV for the next eight weeks, but in a totally different capacity. You aren’t going to see edited clips of her personality. You aren’t going to see her dating some douchebag. You get a two minute video of her practicing with her partner, you get a live performance of her dancing, and then maybe thirty seconds of her backstage. For Christ sakes, it’s a live show! This couldn’t be any more different from the “Bachelor” if they tried. So let’s stop with the “I thought she never wanted to be on reality TV again” stuff. First off, she said that on Wednesday with “Ellen”. She was asked last Friday to do “DWTS”. Secondly, “DWTS” is much more a competition than it is a “reality show”. Is it reality tv? Yes. Is it the “Bachelor”? Not even close. So let’s start differentiating the two because there is a major difference.

Some minor debunking, justified:
As much as I enjoyed Melissa appearing on the show and doing well, they’ve gotta stop with the “she only had 48 hours to practice” bit. Yes, we know. She was a late addition. But the fact she was a late addition, yet had the 2nd best score of the night pretty much showed how important having a dance background is. If she had never danced before in her life, then in 48 hours was able to put that routine together and score a 23 out of 30, then you can gush about how she had two days to practice. Not taking anything away from her, but its not like they told her to dunk a basketball. She learned a waltz. Maybe she’s never waltzed before, but if you’ve danced professionally before, you can pick up other kinds of dances a hell of lot quicker than a dork like Steve Wozniak. Melissa was great, I hope she wins, but lets back away from the “she barely had any practice time” nonsense.

I certainly identified with Wozniak, who apparently now has a leg in a cast.

Harriett Devine Discovers Eve Dallas

I wound up picking up an Eve Dallas novel some time ago as an airplane novel (items I do not currently have the same need of), mistaking the author for someone else with a vaguely similar name, I cannot recall who. My guess is that I made the purchase at a local Zeller's book table with three novels available for some ridiculous price and I had found two unread Rebus novels and was trolling desperately to complete the threesome.
This passage stood out:
What I had not noticed until I started reading it was that this series' USP is that the novels are set in New York City in 2060. If I had noticed this it might have put me off, as science fiction is not my cup of tea. In fact it is so lightly done here that it is hardly noticeable -- it just takes the form of slightly more sophisticated technology, really, and I have to admit it's quite clever.

I did not notice this at all and it took a few pages into the novel I bought to recognize it. But it never intruded in the way that causes me to simply put a book down, as my interest in the author's speculations about the shape of the future vanish.
I have to agree utterly with this, though it is also evident I did not buy the same Eve Dallas incarnation:
Still, it's quite a well written book -- no Baldacci or Dan Brown infelicities here -- and you never know, I might just pick up another one sometime if the price is right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Amazingly, he wrote this when he was young!

me, me, and nothing else at all!
The new Armenian ambassador to Switzerland!

And I Want One More Post on This

What is this stupid insularity that it leaves out this song? Choose any of the the albums it appears it appears on!
It is far more brilliant, as are almost all his songs, than the triviality on the top 100 list we have in hand.

OK Here is What I was on About

How does this guy get denied the top 100?
Only Insularity.

Is Another One Biting the Dust?

This is making Steve Sailer's analysis look very good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Phil Miller and I Have a Common Favorite Show

We get "How It's Made" on Discovery Channel here in Ontario.
It is funny to reflect that about ten days ago I was shopping with SillyWife and noting that almost all the amazing fruits (including nectarines) were from Chile. We bought and really enjoyed some grapes.

Andy Grove echoes Warren Buffett

Oh dear. Who will be next?

Indeed - Madrid

Slimebuckets. The killers, not those who were murdered.

The Long and the Short Answers are Really the Same

I like Larry's succinct description but I also REALLY like the video. What's the point of this?

This Woman is Appalling

Corporate jets are bad!

Somebody that Might be Super-Abled

I'm not uniformly a fan of "diversity" but I find this talk very moving, and rightly funny.

Pamela Anderson has more prosthetics in her body than I do.

My legs could be wearable sculpture.

Whimsy matters.

Heart-breaking strengths and glorious disabilities.

A bit fuzzy at the end but I liked it.

And Another One's Gone

Chas Freeman has, mercifully, withdrawn. The aura of competence so easily radiating early in the transition is fading fast.
It was said of Barack Obama and his coterie that they were the very embodiment of competence. Now we see that the President and his White House are, in fact, exceedingly poor judges of personalities.

A simple inspection of some of Obama's associates (the ones who ended up under the bus) even during the campaign ought to have made this evident.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Terribly Cruel Analysis

...and I fear right.
When you have never really succeeded at much, you do not know who can serve usefully.
On the other hand, how did Clinton do it? Well, he had been a governor, an executive position, as Sarah Palin pointedly noted.

Steve Sailer reads more closely

I read this report in the Toronto Star last weekend and I missed this amazing bit.
Too true indeed.

The funniest graph is Table 28 where parents answer whether the amount of homework assigned is just right, too little or too much. Most parents answer Just Right, and the rest are fairly evenly split, but the East Asian parents vote 38% to 2% for Too Little over Too Much. (There's no word on what East Asian children think about how much homework they're getting.)

Markets in Everything

Performers need audiences and vice-versa.
Sometimes the audiences pay to get the performers in front of them.
Sometimes the bargain is the other way around.
The Canadian Opera Company is doing the kindness, thanks to an anonymous donor, of offering wonderful free concerts. I had to spend two transit tokens to enjoy an utterly lovely concert today.
Toronto is SO lucky to have the Zarankin family here.

The Growing Revenge of Melissa

ABC must be very happy. They can play this for ages.
And while I figure anyone who gets into the position she got herself into is somewhat of a twit, I was touched.

Ballroom Dancing is Harder than Designing Computers

Is This Cool, Oder?


What is her accent? (Aha - Belgian - I had guessed Dutch - lovely.)

Wow - Warren Buffett is Underimpressed

Yikes.
If on December 8th when–maybe it’s December 7th, when Roosevelt convened Congress to have a vote on the war, he didn’t say, `I’m throwing in about 10 of my pet projects …

A Giggle regarding Atlas

I've never read anything by Ayn Rand and expect to die in the same state. So Obscene Desserts gave me a giggle this morning, as so many blogs I follow seem to express some triumph that "Atlas Shrugged" is selling well again, as apparently so often in recessions.

Maybe it's just that those who are praising the book have a greater capacity for irony than I have given them credit for.
I doubt it, though. The key psychological trait I've noticed with admirers of Rand's work is their natural inclination to identify with the swaggering, self-absorbed Übermenschen who populate her novels. (The fact that some of said admirers were students attending state-funded universities using state-subsidised grants or loans has never seemed to quiet their rage at the state for some reason, but this is by the by.)

My sympathy for these outbursts is clearly unfair, given my lack of exposure. But I will provisionally trust this assessment and keep reading Anne Tyler, or possibly re-read some Jane Austen.

Those Treasury Jobs

Tyler Cowen responds very sensibly to Matt Yglesias' ruminations on the difficulty of filling Geithner's Treasury jobs. It's worth a read to see the estimation of how awful the jobs would be.
How many brilliant academics even manage to make good deans?

Meanwhile, EclectEcon is offering his services, but my guess he has read Tyler's post by now and is re-thinking it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Honest Tax-Filing a Challenge for Obama Nominees

I agree with Ed Morrissey.
They’re kidding, right? It’s that hard to find financial experts who can pay their taxes correctly?

I think they are NOT kidding.
Geithner seems to have a lot in common with his boss. Neither of them have proven particularly adept at executive positions. Geithner’s failure to staff his office is his own fault, not anyone else’s, and completely within his power to correct. Pardon me if I’m not crying tears over Geithner’s loneliness.

They are both overwhelmed!

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