Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, August 27, 2007

Biggest Boner

"And the abuse was not delivered only in private: in his desk the Mayor [La Guardia] kept a large bronze bone and at intervals he would call his commissioners together so that in front of them all he could 'award' it to the one who had pulled the biggest recent boner..."
-The Power Broker, Robert Caro, pp. 445-446 (from the chapter "In the Saddle")

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Sloppy and Anachronistic

While I'm on the subject of Battlestar Galactica, I think there's a glaring plot hole in the story. A recurring theme is the desire of the humans to identify cylons so that they can be put in jail or whatever. What this ignores is that the technology currently exists to do this: those little character recognition tests they use before you can post a comment on blogs. Personally I fail those things a fairly high percentage of the time, so I might be a cylon (and yes, we might get some false positives). Still, it's kind of an anachronism that the show, which seems to take place far in the future, doesn't acknowledge the existence of the technology.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Politics of Battlestar Galactica

A lot of people seem to think that Battlestar Galactica got quite political in the third season. This is true, but not in the way people think. Rather than being a thinly veiled critique of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, the show is actually a cogent attack on the Democrats. As a Democrat, I find this galling - plenty of people will derive real-world lessons from the show, and vote Republican as a result.

A quick warning - don't read further if you don't want to know some of the plot of season three. The basic idea is that the humans, seeking refuge from the cylons, land on a habitable planet and build a city. The cylons show up and conquer them, occupying the planet. The occupation goes poorly for everyone, and a lot of people take this as a statement about Iraq.

Think about it for a minute, though. Laura Roslin is no Democrat - she's pro-life, pro-military, and is a strong, forceful leader who tells the truth. She recognizes the enemy and has no sympathy for their desire to destroy the human race. Sound familiar? Just substitute "Muslim" for "cylon" and Laura Roslin's story is the story of George W. Bush. It goes without saying that Gaius Baltar, the quisling leader of the humans, has every mark of a Democrat. He's pro-choice, promiscuous, looks down on common working people, and his intelligence is his only positive attribute.

The really political part of the show, then, is its depiction of the consequences of Democratic versus Republican leadership. The show basically recapitulates the elections of 2000 and 2004 - do we want a rich, intelligent Ivy League Democrat who can't tell the truth, has no character, hates the military, and loves the enemy - or do we want a slightly less intelligent but entirely praiseworthy Republican? In other words, is mere intelligence enough to overcome a complete deficit of all other positive attributes? As the show demonstrates, the consequences of trusting the Ivy League to be the final arbiter of leadership is disastrous - both Kerry and Gore would have led our country to ruin, just like Gaius Baltar. By rejecting the Ivy League candidate, though, we got someone who might at first not appear to be presidential material (remember that Roslin was the Secretary of Education) but who rises to the challenge and exceeds all expectations.

Now, none of this is unfair - you can't blame Battlestar Galactica for telling the truth about the choice Americans face. As a Democrat, though, I wish people would just consume the lies of the liberal mainstream media (NPR, New York Times, Communist News Network) and vote mindlessly for the party of unions, baby-killing, and surrender, because I believe in those things. My fear is that a lot of voters will watch Battlestar Galactica and decide to vote for the party of military strength, moral resolve, and freedom - the GOP.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Delict Worth Defending?

I suppose it was inevitable that we would see things like this statement by Stephon Marbury defending Michael Vick. You'll recall that Vick has agreed to plead guilty to charges involving dogfighting. Marbury's point is that dogfighting is not that different from the routine killing of animals for other reasons. He even calls it a "sport," which I suppose is defensible but maybe overstates his case.

Anyway the obvious distinction is that hunting (within the regulations) is legal. Slaughtering livestock, within the regulations, is legal. Dogfighting is not. You can quibble about the reasons for these laws - maybe the dogfighting lobby just isn't powerful enough - but those are the statutes that have been enacted by a duly elected legislature. We can't go around doing amateur moral philosophy and then letting people break the law if we can't find a distinction other than legality.

Of course, you could also think of the Marbury line of reasoning as an argument for changing the law, and I suppose I'd be all right with that. I'd change it in the other direction, though, making slaughterhouses and hunting more humane. My very limited understanding of dogfighting leads me to believe that it's horribly cruel. To the extent that we care about animal welfare at all, it seems like a reasonable ban to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Leading Economic Indicator: Seattle Beggars

Beggar: Can you spare $5?
Pedestrian: Prices have gone up.

Prices have gone up indeed. A few days ago beggars were asking for spare change - say roughly 50 cents on average. Now they're asking for $5 - a 900% increase. 900% over 1 day averages out to 328,500% per year. Within a year a cup of coffee will cost over a million dollars. People will need wheelbarrows to carry enough money for parking for their wheelbarrows. I will be asking for $100 bills as change so I can spend them in strip clubs (I do that already, but in a year I'll be frequenting MUCH seedier strip clubs).

Incidentally, this is why the Fed was so reluctant to lower rates - the country is already facing hyperinflation. Take my word for it: we have entered a sort of Weimar period of decadence and despair... and something is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Learning is Good

It's always amusing when other colleges air their dirty laundry in public (I found this as an ad on the NYTimes website). I'm mindful, though, that tomorrow it could be my illustrious alma mater that is subject to pillory, so I don't enjoy it - too much.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

O Hai - Changd UR Linx

The Freakonomics blog has gotten depressingly bad, so it's gone. Marginal Revolution is interesting, but unfortunately its style is too obnoxious and I never read it anymore. I've added DeLong and Strangemaps. Strangemaps is pretty good, but mostly for the maps and not the commentary.

Also, good news everyone!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How To Unsubscribe from the WSJ

Call 1-800-369-2834. You'll have to enter a few numbers, and then a customer service representative will come on the line. He or she will ask you why you're canceling. Say that you are canceling in response to the News Corporation's purchase of Dow Jones (or whatever your reason is). The customer service representative will assure you that the editorial standards won't change, that the editorial personnel will stay in place, etc. Be firm but polite - after a few attempts to retain your business, the representative will comply with your request. If you paid by credit card, your card will be refunded the remaining subscription fee.

Alternatively, you can e-mail your cancellation to onlinejournal@wsj.com. As the WSJ web site instructs, "Please include your login information as well as your name, mailing address and the e-mail address under which your account currently is registered."

Tight Prussian Yang

"He was reported to be a thoroughly winning fellow, a smiling, backslapping yin to Wilson's tight Prussian yang."
-Barbarians at the Gate, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, p. 69