Monday, November 18, 2013

Don Boudreaux makes a solid argument against open immigration. He writes* (emphasis added),

the blame for poor-countries’ relatively higher death rates due to weather belongs not on rich countries for relying upon market-driven industrialization but, rather, on the poor countries themselves for refusing do so.

Makes sense. It’s not our fault, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it, in this case by sending money as compensation.

Let’s substitute a few words:

the blame for poor-countries’ relatively higher poverty rates due to inefficient economies belongs not on rich countries for relying upon free markets but, rather, on the poor countries themselves for refusing do so.

Also makes sense. And again, it’s not our fault, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it, in this case by admitting large numbers of immigrants whose presence would lower wages and reduce employment for the poorest Americans, and the cost of whose use of government services would exceed the tax revenues they’d supply.

Well done, Prof. Boudreaux.

*Stylistic errors in original.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From an interview of Charles Murray by Ginni Thomas; transcribed section starts at about 7:00 in Part 2.

I have four children who are really smart, who love their dad—they're not rebelling against me—who are hardworking and embody all the virtues, who would not think of voting for a Republican. And it's not that they're ideological Democrats. They think of Republicans as being gay-hating, abortion-hating religious fanatics.

. . . It is not that they are actively pro-choice or actively pro-gay-marriage. Here's what's gone on. And you know what, it's gone on with me too. Abortion's a terrible thing. I would hate for one of my children to have an abortion; my children would hate—that would be something they would do only under the gravest of reasons. But they also don't want the government to make it illegal for people to make that choice. They want it to be, and I want it to be, a really, profoundly morally weighted choice where, boy, you do it, you'd better have a really good reason. Like the health of the mother.

But this—with gay marriage . . . My wife and I over the course of the last decade have several gay friends who are living in couples in committed relationships that have been going on for years, and when we are around them . . . they look like marriages. I mean, they have all the qualities of a good marriage. And so, am I really nervous about messing with an institution as fundamental as marriage? You bet your life I am. Have I come to see these relationships as one which are deserving of my respect as loving, caring relationship? Yeah, I also think that.

So in all of these issues, I guess I want to say to social conservatives, I am not trying to persuade you to adopt my view. But I am telling you that there are millions of people out there who on fiscal issues, on issues of limiting the power of government, on leaving people free to live their lives as they see fit in the ways that conservatives believe—they're with you on all of those issues, and you're never gonna get 'em to vote for people who espouse limited government and restoring Constitution and the rest of 'em, unless you are willing to say, Okay, we're gonna put the social issues on the back burner and try to work out the social issues through the culture as opposed to the political process. That's asking a lot, but I guess I am saying, until that happens conservatives are—no, Republicans are gonna have a very hard time reaching a very important part of the electorate that would be sympathetic to them otherwise.

But one of your founding virtues was marriage.

Yup.

So connect those dots. I mean, why can't people who are engaged in what social conservatives view as immoral behavior call it something else? It's been two thousand years.

I've—you know, I'm so sympathetic to that, and . . . I think the train has left the station. I am not sure how it happened; I have—can think of very few issues—well, abortion is another one—issues on which everybody thought one way was right fifty years ago, and, you know, a whole—now that's just swung in this huge way. I can't explain to you why it has; I will join you in the front ranks of saying, You've got to quit demonizing people who hold views that until a few decades ago were what everybody thought. But on something like gay marriage, I don't think that there's much to be done politically anymore. Those who see this as being deeply immoral: That is a position with a long and respectable history; do you want to have the politics of the country enmeshed in that? Or, as you think of your priorities, are you also really upset about a Constitution which is no longer being interpreted as the Founders intended, a country that was so exceptional in terms of its freedom as now being destroyed? Maybe that priority should have first priority, I'm saying to people.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Two good short posts from Craig Newmark, on a bit of federally financed spending and the need for flexibility of approach in different areas.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 5/20/09, by Malcolm K. Sparrow, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government:

The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We just don't know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are staggering sums of money to waste. . . .

The rule for criminals is simple: if you want to steal from Medicare, or Medicaid, or any other health care insurance program, learn to bill your lies correctly. Then, for the most part, your claims will be paid in full and on time, without a hiccup, by a computer, and with no human involvement at all. . . .

For any invisible problem, effective control begins with valid measurement. For health care fraud, control breaks down at this very first hurdle. No-one knows quite how bad the situation has become, and industry practices seem to reflect a broad reluctance to find out. . . .

One fundamental truth of the fraud-control business is this: fraud works best when claims-processing works perfectly.

The health care industry still acts as if it imagines that process-accuracy is the cornerstone of effective fraud control. In fact, process-accuracy (with the transparency and predictability it produces) is a large part of what makes health care payment systems such attractive targets for fraud.

Friday, September 6, 2013

At PJ Lifestyle, Kyle Smith recently recommended five lesser-seen comedies streaming on Netflix.* In similar spirit, here's a list of movies and series on Netflix that I like and that may have escaped some subscribers' notice.

COMEDIES
Dean Spanley: hugely enjoyable comedy-fantasy set in early 20th-century London; I saw it knowing nothing about it beforehand, which was the ideal way
The Treatment: smart romantic comedy-drama from 2006
Waking Ned Devine: whimsical story set in rural Ireland
Hopscotch: witty, twisty espionage caper released in 1980, starring the great Walter Matthau
Bread & Tulips (Italian title Pane e Tulipani): sweet ensemble comedy about an unappreciated housewife
Next Stop Wonderland: a bright, emotionally guarded woman seeks love; superb performance by Hope Davis
The Very Thought of You: cleverly structured, winning romantic comedy
Shall We Dance? (Japanese title Shall We Dansu?): charming and wistful, about an office worker who finds a bit of beauty
Can't Hardly Wait: a high school graduation party and its aftermath; PG-13, with lots of familiar faces
Gregory's Girl: low-key, warm-hearted Australian movie from 1981

DRAMAS
The Boxer: powerful story of Northern Ireland starring an astoundingly good Daniel Day-Lewis; released in 1997
Queen to Play (French title Joueuse): an unfulfilled woman develops an unexpected interest
Behind the Lines (original UK title Regeneration): soldiers, among them poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, in a Scottish psychiatric hospital during WWI
Look Both Ways: poignant, imaginative Australian romance
Page Eight: my favorite spy film of at least the past decade; produced for the BBC
Grand Canyon: intersecting lives in 1990s Los Angeles
Margin Call: one tense day at an investment firm; excellent ensemble acting, with Kevin Spacey a standout
Happy Accidents: indie is-he-or-isn't-he-crazy love story

TV SERIES / MINISERIES
Bleak House (2005 version): exceptional BBC adaptation of a Dickens novel I haven't read
The Silence: gritty British suspense focused on a deaf girl and her police detective uncle
Medium: long-running series about a psychic; maybe too commercially successful to belong on this list, but I think some people who’ve never tried it would like it
Better Off Ted: very funny big-business-centered farce
Miss Marple (1980s series starring Joan Hickson): the best portrayal of Agatha Christie's second most famous detective; I like episodes 1-3 in Season 1 and episode 3 in Season 2
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: smart, funny, scary, with depth that the deliberately silly title belies
Angel: spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; if Buffy deserves five stars, and it does, Angel deserves four
The Good Guys: cop-show spoof costarring a relentlessly hilarious Bradley Whitford
Damages: I’ve seen only the first two seasons, which are intricately plotted, beautifully acted tales of ruthlessness
Wire in the Blood: a psychologist helps catch serial killers; features my all-time favorite tv detective, played by the unsurpassable Robson Green

Series still airing
Longmire: modern-day Western on A&E; Robert Taylor is perfect in the title role
Burn Notice: a discredited spy works to rebuild his reputation; series concludes this year on USA
Sherlock: BBC series sets Holmes and Watson in present-day London; star Benedict Cumberbatch might be the best Holmes ever
Continuum: slight but enjoyable SyFy time-travel series
Doctor Who: top-class escapist scifi from the BBC; special praise for "Blink," episode 11 of season 3
Torchwood: spinoff of Doctor Who; grimmer than the source, but inventive and worth watching

Series that end abruptly
(a frustration factor with these; view at your own risk)
Firefly: brilliant scifi/Western mashup
Awake: terrific lead performance by Jason Isaacs in a hallucinatory cop show
Touch: appealing drama with scifi/mystical elements, centered on a gifted boy
Dollhouse: gripping scifi with an apocalyptic arc
Terriers: a pair of resourceful, low-rent detectives in Ocean Beach, CA; first-rate writing, acting, directing

SCIFI/FANTASY
Serenity: follows and in some ways completes the storyline of Firefly
The Man From Earth: stagy but intriguing, about a man with a hidden past
Super 8: strange goings-on in a factory town in 1979; tense and touching, with a stellar group of kid actors
The Forgotten: a woman struggles to accept her son’s death in a plane crash
Donnie Darko: trippy and mysterious, but it all makes sense by the end, I think

THRILLERS
The Gift: paranormal-tinged whodunit with an exceptional cast led by Cate Blanchett and featuring an impressive Keanu Reeves
Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition: three three-hour Swedish movies starring Noomi Rapace, who’s consistently fascinating to watch; includes a few scenes of disturbing violence

DOCUMENTARIES
The Thin Blue Line: a murder in Texas; masterfully directed by Errol Morris

*link via Instapundit

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

David Pryce-Jones: "It is always morbidly fascinating when someone famous makes an idiot of himself, as Professor Stephen Hawking has just done."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Impressive column by Utah senator Mike Lee:

It would be wrong to view the controversy over the IRS scandal as a typical Republican vs. Democrat squabble. . . .

This has nothing to do with what party is in power. . . . [Americans] should understand that it is a fight between Washington and everyone else. . . .

At its core, the IRS scandal is not the result of one political party attacking another. It is the inevitable consequence of a federal government that has gotten too big and too expensive to control. The federal government’s massive bureaucracy is inherently dysfunctional, corrupt, intolerant, and incompetent — regardless of who is in charge. These are not random incidents perpetrated by bad actors. They are systemic features of the $4 trillion enterprise known as the federal government.

Some more senators like Lee and this country might have a fighting fiscal chance.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Excellent column by Charles Murray on the Jason Richwine controversy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Glenn Reynolds favors "a flat tax or a national sales tax" in place of our current system. In 2004 Bruce Bartlett explained why the latter won't work, and in 2011 Ramesh Ponnuru argued that the former is "the fool’s gold of conservative politics." The goal should be to shrink government; then either approach would become feasible.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crime of the (nineteenth) century.

The photographer was a pioneering criminologist whose innovations included the mug shot.

(Via Neatorama.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The years rule us all.

(later) Some comments from the photographer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Norman Podhoretz reflects on his controversial essay "My Negro Problem—and Ours," published fifty years ago:

[James Baldwin] was very much mistaken if he thought that I felt even the slightest degree of guilt toward him or toward Negroes in general. How could I, when I had grown up in a slum neighborhood where it was the Negro kids who persecuted us whites and not the other way around?

I then proceeded to tell him a few stories about my childhood encounters with black thugs of my own age and about the resentment and bitterness and even hatred with which this experience had left me. It had also left me, I said, with an irritable attitude toward all the sentimental nonsense that was being propagated about integration by whites who knew nothing about blacks and by blacks who imagined that all their problems would be solved by living next door to whites.

* * *

[T]he almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism as the root of all racial evils has been nothing short of calamitous.

* * *

In 1963, the stories I told about my own childhood experience of such thuggery and aggression were very shocking to most white liberals. In their eyes, blacks were all long-suffering and noble victims of the kind who had become familiar through the struggles of the civil-rights movement in the South—the “heroic period” of the movement, as one of its most heroic leaders, Bayard Rustin, called it. Although none of my white critics denied the truthfulness of the stories I told, they themselves could hardly imagine being afraid of blacks when their first-hand acquaintance with them was limited to nannies and cleaning women.

Today, it is still other blacks who are most often the victims of black crime, but black-on-white violence is much more common than it was in 1963, so that many whites could now top my stories with worse. And yet even today, few of them would be willing to speak truthfully in public about their entirely rational fear of black violence and black crime. Doing so remains dangerous to one’s reputation. . . .

* * *

[R]elations between the races have deteriorated. Gone on the whole are the interracial friendships and the interracial political alliances that were quite common 50 years ago. In their place we have the nearly impassable gulfs of suspicion and hostility. . . .

* * *

I was wrong to think that miscegenation could ever result in the elimination of color-consciousness. . . .

[W]hat settled the matter once and for all for me was what has happened since the election to the presidency of a pure product of miscegenation. For the ascension of Barack Obama from out of nowhere to the White House has if anything heightened the American consciousness of color. Worse yet, instead of putting an end to the compulsive insistence on the racism of American society, it has given this obsession a new lease on life. Thus, any and every criticism of Obama’s policies is now ascribed to racist motivations, and any and every little incident involving the mistreatment—or the alleged mistreatment—of a black is seized upon and blown up into another proof that racism remains rampant, if largely hidden, in American society.

* * *

Today the root cause of all the ills that plague the black community is the astounding proportion of black babies born out of wedlock who grow up without fathers, and who are doomed to do badly in school, to get into trouble on the streets, and to wind up in jail. Efforts have been made to blame even this tragic state of affairs on white racism, but they all founder on the simple fact that in 1963, when white racism was by any measure far more pervasive than it is today, only about 23 percent of births among black women were illegitimate, whereas the number is now fast approaching 75 percent.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Six-year-old drummer Avery plays "Hot For Teacher" at home and live with Brad Paisley, who does an impressive EVH.
Good advice from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to his younger self.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

From Jim Geraghty, a sensible question (emphasis in original):

The world has always had angry young men, and for generations they've found various outlets for it — booze, women, rock and roll, drugs, gangs, sports, driving cars and motorcycles too fast, you name it. For some small but significant number of young men in today's society — Muslim and non-Muslim, immigrant and native-born — none of those other quasi-traditional outlets is sufficient.

And maybe the big question, to be aimed at everybody from the black-clad teen who writes of slaughtering his classmates in his diary and sends threatening letters to school, to the angry young Islamist men fantasizing of inflicting bloodshed upon us infidels, to the kids who wear black masks and smash windows at Occupy protests . . . what the hell do you have to be so angry about? You live in a country and an era of unprecedented technological innovation, better public health, lower crime, less discrimination, than ever before. Probably 90 percent of the world's people would trade places with you in an instant, and even at your worst, you're living a life better than that of 99.99 percent of all people in human history. There's no draft. No one owns you. People endure troubles a hundred times worse than yours, and soldier on. Your life is what you make it.

What, your life isn't like what you see on MTV's Cribs, showcasing the luxurious homes of wealthy music stars and athletes?

And for any immigrant who's feeling anti-American . . . leave. We don't need you. You wanted to come here.

In today's Morning Jolt.

(If you aren't subscribing to NRO's newsletters, you're missing a lot of good free commentary.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dan Wilson on cowriting "Someone Like You." (Spotify.) A bad song, but the article's interesting.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jonathan V. Last: "Bitcoin is the first piece of computer technology to pose a fundamental challenge to the nation-state."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Does SPIN magazine block readers' substantive criticisms?

A couple of days ago SPIN posted an article deriding politicians' objections to Beyoncé and Jay-Z's recent visit to Cuba. The writer, Marc Hogan, singles out Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL—the article is titled "Beyonce and Jay-Z's Cuban Vacation Fuels Republicans' Latest Crooked Crusade"). Hogan notes that "Ros-Lehtinen opposed South African leader Nelson Mandela's visit to Florida in 1990," and concludes that "she's not exactly been a defender of human rights in all instances." He adds, "It's not clear what Mandela might've done to upset South Florida lawmakers."

I submitted a comment. A day later the comment hadn't appeared, so I submitted it again. (Only five words were mine, so I had no trouble reconstructing it.) It still hasn't shown up. Here's what I wrote:

"It's not clear what Mandela might've done to upset South Florida lawmakers."

http://biography.yourdictionary.com/ileana-ros-lehtinen

"While there seemed to be a near unanimous outpouring of praise for Mandela and his efforts to end apartheid (racial segregation) in his native country, Ros-Lehtinen felt she could not honor a man who had not only publicly embraced such advocates of violent revolution as the Palestine Liberation Organization's Yasser Arafat and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, but who also was on record as a strong supporter of Castro. She pointed out that Cuban Americans longing for a return to democracy in their country of origin could not forget that members of Mandela's African National Congress had received military training on Cuban soil."

The world's a complicated place.

Maybe SPIN had good reason to reject my comment. If so, I'd like to know it. (For the kind of opinion SPIN is happy to post, see comments three through five here, as long as you don't mind obscenity.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Andrew Ferguson in Commentary (sub. req.):

The president today can afford to ignore mainstream White House reporters to a degree unimaginable just 10 years ago. The Internet and the public’s growing reliance on it for news allow Obama and his press office not merely to make news but to package it, too: If you haven’t seen the Internet TV show West Wing Week, in which the president’s staff chronicles his activities day by day, you’re missing a treat. Not since Nicolae Ceausescu has a world leader spent so much time surrounded by adorable children.

More important, through the Internet the president has access to a universe of fanboys—blogging and tweeting around the clock—who don’t even require marching orders before they double-time it into battle. Bob Woodward can tell you all about them. In late February, the well-known and often idolized Watergate reporter wrote a damaging op-ed in the Post, refuting the president’s careful denial of his own role in bringing on the sequester. Woodward even went on Fox News to drive the point home.

The White House press office issued a limp denial, but it was the fanboys who leapt into action. One of them, a blogger called Josh Marshall, compared Woodward to one of the crackpots who think Obama was born in Africa. Another blogger from Time magazine portrayed him as a befuddled has-been. “Bob Woodward is senile,” said another. Salon magazine’s tweeter insisted: “Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him.” The blizzard of tweets and posts had the intended effect of burying Woodward’s original accusation. The story was no longer whether the president’s version of events surrounding the sequester was honest or even accurate. The story was, bizarrely, Woodward himself: his character, his politics, his sanity.

Commentary's (excellent) blog is here.

West Wing Week is painful.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

My song blog, underheard, has a new home and a Twitter feed. Long may they last.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Excellent article on pitch correction and the pop-music industry.
All one’s work might have been better done; but this is the sort of reflection a worker must put aside courageously if he doesn’t mean every one of his conceptions to remain for ever a private vision, an evanescent reverie.
Joseph Conrad, “Author’s Note” to A Set of Six

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

David Pryce-Jones's blog is one of the gems of the Internet. His latest post, on Iraq, is even better than his usual.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A nice tribute: the Mary Higgins Clark Award, named for the mystery writer and sponsored by her publisher:

The winner is selected . . . for the book most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition, according to the following guidelines set forth by Ms. Clark:

  • The protagonist is a very nice young woman, 27-38 or so, whose life is suddenly invaded. She is not looking for trouble - she is doing exactly what she should be doing and something cuts across her bow (as in ship).
  • She solves her problem by her own courage and intelligence.
  • She's in an interesting job.
  • She's self-made - independent - has primarily good family relationships.
  • No on-scene violence.
  • No four-letter words or explicit sex scenes.

This year's nominees, along with everyone else up for an Edgar, are listed here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Excellent interview of Daniel Pipes. I hope he's right that "modern Islamism . . . will not last as a world-threatening force for more than a few decades."
Jim Geraghty explains our reluctance to intervene in Syria. Leftists of the world, take a bow. (I'm glad we're staying out, for now at least.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lots of Dave Barry: in the New York Times, a video interview, and a recent column. All good, especially the Times piece, in which, I'm happy to see, he names P. G. Wodehouse as one of his favorite writers. If you like Barry and you're unfamiliar with Wodehouse, try My Man Jeeves, available free at Project Gutenberg.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

This would make me stop watching Glee, if I watched.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Richard Blanco's poem for Obama's second inauguration is awful: exploitatively maudlin ("the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain / the empty desks of twenty children marked absent / today, and forever"); ostentatiously humble ("or ring-up groceries as my mother did / for twenty years, so I could write this poem," "hands / as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane / so my brother and I could have books and shoes"); saccharinely multicultural ("saying: hello, shalom, / buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días / . . . spoken into one wind carrying our lives / without prejudice"); and more. Much more. Elizabeth Alexander's poem four years ago was bad; this one's worse.

Later: Mark Steyn refers to Blanco as "that poet from hell."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maybe someone else has written this, but I haven't seen it. The reason for the large proportion of white men in Obama's proposed Cabinet is simple: he'd rather order white men around than women or minority men. (Link via Instapundit.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dave Barry's annual "Year in Review" column is a useful indicator of the state of the nation. When things are good, it's hilarious; in more troublous times, as now, not so much. Still a few laughs.
Jonathan Last on "Japan’s disfigured age structure."
Nicely sardonic, on some of Obamacare's consequences.
Thorium reactors advance. Mostly in China rather than here, unfortunately, but at least it's happening.
Jay Nordlinger defends Mitt Romney, rightly and well.
Thoughts on boys, guns and manly responsibilities.
From Joshua Davis at Wired, a gripping article on John McAfee.
From Lifehacker, a list of free online courses, and where to find many more.
Why raising taxes on the rich doesn't work.
Visual vocabulary quizzes.
Good video interview of a thinker worried about the Singularity.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

On the psychological importance of forgetting.

John Derbyshire:

"If there is hope it lies with the proles," says the hero of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I feel the same way about the Republican Party that Winston Smith felt about the proles: despair at their leaderless blindness, their meek acceptance of a corrupt system, their gullible swallowing of shallow lies and empty promises, yet awareness that while there is little to hope for from them, there is nothing whatever to hope for from the other party.

So just keep repeating to yourself: "If there is hope it lies with the proles" … and try not to remember how things turned out at last for Winston Smith.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

From IMDb's "Trivia" section for English actor Michael Byrne:

Has played a Nazi foil for Harrison Ford twice, in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). In both movies, his character ends up in a vehicle falling off a cliff.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Funny commercial. Writing, directing, acting, editing all first-rate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

From Craig Newmark, eight rules of economics.