Monthly Archives: March 2009

Why I Didn't Watch the Press Conference

Look here: four lies from the President and one from a reporter laid out by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org. (Which, without casting aspersions, I think we can all agree is hardly a bastion of the Rush Limbaugh right wing. Check its staff.)

The scary thing about the piece isn’t that the President’s a liar. Nobody’s surprised by that, surely. The scary thing is the chart of Federal deficit projections midway through the “Analysis” part of the page.

This is why I don’t watch press conferences and speeches: because I don’t want to waste my time being lied to. (Well, this week I also had to try that new Mongolian Beef recipe.) There’s nothing that the President or any other politician has to say to me that I can’t wait a couple of days to hear. (I like to think of analysis pieces like this one as as the morning-after burrito for politicians.)

I bought another PC…

And worst of all, it’s got Hasta La.

That’s actually the reason I got it. There’s something I need to do. It requires either a couple of weeks of my spare time to get it working on a Mac or on Linux, or $268 to get a new Dell and do it on a PC.

I’ve mentioned here my earlier purchase of a certified refurbished laptop from Dell. Well, I just purchased a PC with the following features:

  • Intel Pentium dual-core processor E5200 (2MB L2, 2.5GHz, 800 FSB)
  • Optical 2-Button Mouse and USB Keyboard
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4 GB DDR2 NON-ECC SDRAM 800MHz (4 DIMMs)
  • 320 GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
  • 16X DVD +/- RW w/dbl layer write capability
  • 1 Yr Limited Hardware Warranty, In-Home Service after Remote Diagnosis, 24×7 Phone Support

For less than $300. No coupons, no mail-in rebates. Just order it. Amazing.

I wonder what I can sell it for in 3 months when I no longer need it? $100? $50? A venti latte at Fourbucks?

Star Trek (TOS) Plot Generator

This article nails it.

When I was in college, I was in a team of three people that had to write an operating system. (One of us, Dan, who was clearly the most prolific and talented programmer among us, nearly torpedoed the project by doing something incredibly clever that kept everything else from working. Then he bailed out a couple of days after the semester ended, instead of sticking to his post when the cadets ran, leaving Kevin and I to finish the job in the final hours before grades were due.)

Anyway, I mention this because the name of our Operating System was “Enterprise,” and our terminology was adapted from TOS. (Which, in those days, was The Only Show.) For example, instead of having initializing processes, we “beamed aboard” “ambassadors.” Most of our analogies were equally poor. Something like this chart could have really helped us make clever diagnostic output.

Get Smart

I finished Get Smart (2008) last night. It was fair, but slightly better than I expected. It wasn’t a great spy movie, of course, but it wasn’t as funny as I expected. I was expecting nonstop slapstick, and this was simply a comedy. A fair amount of its humor was sexual, but it wasn’t always quite as heavy-handed as I was prepared for.

What was interesting to me was the problem the filmmakers set for themselves: a boy meets girl movie. How do you do that, when the boy is a bumbler — interestingly, Max was only a bumbler and not an outright idiot, as in the TV show — and the girl is an ultra-competent Jane Smith | Vesper Lynd | female Jason Bourne type? What could 99 find attractive in 86? (Answer: — spoiler alert! — he’s a good dancer.)

Political advice from investors

Warren Buffett wants us all to line up behind the president.

Buffett said he believes patriotic Republicans and Democrats will realize the nation is engaged in an economic war.

“What is required is a commander in chief that’s looked at like a commander in chief in a time of war,” Buffett said.

From LBJ’s “War on Poverty” to Jimmy Carter’s “moral equivalent of war” to Rahm Emmanuel’s “never let a serious crisis go to waste” there are always demagogues who deliberately blur the line between peace and war in order to browbeat patriotic citizens into doing whatever their leaders tell them to do.

Because, in a war, patriots do as Buffet proposes. They allow temporary curbs on their liberties in order to fight an immediate threat. (Except if the war begins in 2001 with a Republican in the White House, in which case dissent is the highest form of patriotism.)

But bad as our economic problems are, they aren’t a war.

Congress has the authority to declare war, and Obama has control of Congress. No declaration, no war. On the contrary, Congress is going about business very much as usual, passing bills for trillions of dollars in deficit spending for such vital wartime priorities like paying people to convert their analog TVs to receive digital signals.

If we were in a war, though, whom or what would it be against? I’ve never liked the phrase “War on Terror” because it’s afraid to name names, but at least it makes a pretense of doing so. Who, then, should the American people line up behind the Great Leader to fight? The rich? The bankers? Profiteers?

And what of those whose job was to keep us out of war? After Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel was cashiered. If we are in a war, why is Chris Dodd still a senator? Why isn’t Franklin Raines in prison?

Finally, the reason patriots accept sacrifice in wartime is that it is temporary. Imagine if Lincoln created the Secret Service, or FDR created the CIA, and they never went away. Okay, those are bad examples. A better example is free speech, which Oliver Wendell Holmes said could be constrained during WWI when it might pose a clear and present danger. When the war ended, wartime curbs no longer applied.

But the things being done by the administration and congress are designed to inflict permanent damage on our institutions. For example, the effort to socialize health care is designed not to address an immediate threat, but to make a permanent change in our society.

The big question about Buffet’s remarks is whether he knows better. Could he really have gotten that rich if he were this obtuse? And would anybody take what he said seriously if he had said the same thing after 9-11?

Updates: to be fair to Buffet, he has recently argued against card check:

“I think the secret ballot’s pretty important in the country. You know, I’m against card check, to make a perfectly flat statement,” Buffett said.

Buffet also argued against Obama’s “I won” philosophy of larding up economic programs with Democrat payoffs:

“If you’re in a war, and we really are in an economic war, there’s a obligation to the majority to behave in ways to not go around inflaming the minority. If on Dec. 8, or maybe it was Dec. 7, when Roosevelt convened Congress to vote on the war. He didn’t say, ‘I’m throwing in about ten of my pet projects,'” Buffett said.

Welcome to the bigs

Good grief. The reason we insulted the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was because the President is all worn out from pushing socialized medicine and out-of-control spending.

Barack Obama’s offhand approach to Gordon Brown’s Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America’s economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs…

I’m not sure I buy it. On the one hand, it sounds nicer than the calculated-insult theory. On the other hand, surely someone on staff at the White House would advise against broadcasting our President’s limitations.

From the article:

Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

Man up, already. What was it Harry S Truman said about heat and kitchens?

(Kudus to IP.)

Banning Barbie

Good grief. A legislator from some backwater where people like to elect [name that party]s wants to ban Barbie.

Lileks nails it:

Now and then it seems that banning is all they can do. It’s all they seem to want to do. That’s the problem with a free nation: you can’t make yourself significant by granting freedoms, so you spend your time looking for freedoms to restrict in the name of a greater good, and there’s always a greater good.

Heinlein has a great description of what, for some people, would be the perfect society:

I had seen those luxuries Earthside. Wasn’t worth what they put up with. Don’t mean heavy gravity, that doesn’t bother them; I mean nonsense. All time kukai moa. If chicken guano in one earthworm city were shipped to Luna, fertilizer prolem would be solved for century. Do this. Don’t do that. Stay back of line. Where’s tax receipt? Fill out form. Let’s see license. Submit six copies. Exit only. No left turn. No right turn. Queue up to pay fine. Take back and get stamped. Drop dead — but first get permit.

(The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, chapter six, p. 85)