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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I don't like internet quizzes...

...but this one isn't all bad.

Einstein didn't understand economics or politics, and I sure don't understand physics, but I'm still not going to argue with this outcome.

(Link via Yale Diva, an apparently lovely lady of exciting taste and bloodthirsty foreign policy views.)

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 6:29 PM

New Year's resolutions are for losers.

Gary North knows it. So does anyone else with the proper forward-looking, achievement-oriented outlook on life.

After all, if there's something you need to change for the better in your life, what's stopping you from doing it right now, or at the beginning of December, or in July?

It's no wonder people always break their New Year's resolutions, because the sort of person who would put off self-improvement until next year is the same sort of person who lacks the self-discipline and and attitude to do it at all.

So don't make New Year's resolutions. Just move forward all the time.

Of course, one should periodically review one's values, dreams, and goals in life, as Charles Givens suggests in his essential book on life and living, SuperSelf. The beginning of a new calendar year is as good of a time as any to do that. But working diligently toward those goals and dreams, in accordance with your values, has to be a year-long process.

Otherwise, you're just setting yourself up to fail once again.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:27 PM

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Connecticut town heroically thwarts would-be thief's attempt to steal Christmas.

What a jerk.The AP sadly reports that Mervin "Mr. Christmas" Whipple of Killingly, Connecticut,
has cancelled his spectacular annual Christmas lights display. The reason? Lack of Christmas Spirit.

"It's a changed world," Whipple said while fighting back tears. "The spirit of Christmas is gone."

Sounds tragic. But what, precisely, does that mean? In the world of "Mr. Christmas," it means that the town wouldn't let him steal from his neighbors to pay for his Christmas lights.

You see, Mr. Whipple (presumably not related to the Charmin toilet paper mascot, despite being a crappy guy), wanted the town to buy his dog-and-pony show for $200,000 and assume the costs of running it from now on, and they wouldn't bite. So now he publicly laments that the "spirit of Christmas" is gone, presumably in the hopes that this PR ploy will make the city cough up his fellow citizens' cash.

As the article reports, his voluntary donation box wasn't bringing in enough to cover his costs. Indeed, it only provided one-half cent per person. Apparently, people literally wouldn't voluntarily give two cents for this thing.

So instead, Mr. Christmas went to the taxman, who doesn't operate, like the rest of us, on the basis of voluntary cooperation. Because all taxes rely on violence for their collection, Mr. Christmas really wants the town to tell his neighbors: "Your 'Christmas Spirit' or your life!"

As Mr. Hankey might say, that sure isn't very Christmassy of him!

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:41 PM

Friday, December 19, 2003

Keith Richards turns 60, is still cooler than you.

Richards is clearly much taken with this nautical metaphor and the idea of the Stones as salty old sea dogs. "One expects some storms and some choppy waters. But it's like we've now gone over the Equator," he enthuses. "We're Magellan. Or Sir Frankie Drake."

My thoughts exactly. People accuse the Stones of not doing anything new, but as far as I know, no one has ever done what they're doing at their age before.

More birthday reflections from Keith here. More from me on aging Stones here.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 9:40 AM

Monday, December 15, 2003

En el ultimo, los fotos!

And now, I give you a selection of the much-anticipated photos from my travels in Chiapas, Mexico, this past September.

Click here to enter the gallery.

More to come, soon.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:11 AM

What more can I say?

I've been trying to come up with something to say about
this piece by Fred Reed on the institution of marriage in our day and age, but he says it all so well that I can't think of much to add.

Marriage is important for parents who are going to raise children, because children need the support of a father and a full-time mother.

But if you're not going to have kids (and why would you?), why bother? For those of us who want to live a life of maximum enjoyment and minimal aggravation in the 21st century, marriage doesn't seem very useful.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:10 AM

Sunday, December 14, 2003

"Let's not be boring people who Consider the Implications."

That's how
Peggy Noonan says we should react to Saddam Hussein's capture.

As much as I hate to defy such a cheerful exhortation to mindlessness, I nonetheless direct your attention to Eric Margolis's article in the December 15 American Conservative (not online yet), in which he offers the following prediction on post-Saddam Iraq, now more relevant than ever:

So far, major resistance is coming only from the Sunni minority. But once majority Shi'ites are convinced Saddam Hussein will not return to power, it will only be a matter of time before they also turn against Iraq's American rulers.

This is not mere speculation, but comes after a long series of examples of how this sort of thing has happened to conquering empires again and again through the centuries. Like many articles that appear in The American Conservative, it reflects a high level of knowledge and understanding of history, and you should check it out.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 11:28 PM

Which philosopher do you most resemble?

Here's a fun ethical philosophy quiz, in which you can see how closely your views on ethics line up with those of the great philosophers.

My results?

1. Ayn Rand (100%)
2. Friedrich Nietzsche (91%)

I'm not surprised that those are my top two, but I am surprised that I came out 100% aligned with Rand. Most of the self-proclaimed Objectivists I know would take issue with that. (They'd probably give me an automatic zero for calling myself a libertarian.)

(Link via Toby Stern).

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 11:10 PM

Friday, December 12, 2003

Economist ponders: how should "we" allocate scarce resources?

Tyler Cowen
is now pondering how we might handle the supposed shortage of flu vaccines.

You might think that Dr. Cowen, as an economist who has no doubt taken, if not taught, Econ 101, would answer: charge a market price. There are never shortages for a good where the market determines the price.

But that is not what he suggests. Indeed, he does not mention the possibility at all.

Instead, he suggests that "we" (whoever that may be) figure out who potential "superspreaders" of the disease are, and then "we" have economists "come up with useful incentives" to get those people to take them.

Why prices would not achieve appropriate allocation of flu vaccines, without tampering of government economists, is never explained.

Dr. Cowen seems to be in the peculiar habit of finding unnecessarily complex answers to what most econ students know are simple questions.

UPDATE (12.14.03): In a new post, Dr. Cowen gets a bit closer to the heart of the matter. Meanwhile, his co-blogger is puzzled as to why he doesn't always behave like some economic models say he should.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 9:10 PM

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Do the Chinese understand property rights better than our own government?

I sorta doubt it, but
this article about sex in cars makes me wonder.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:34 PM

Monday, December 08, 2003

New York Times highly suspicious of low prices, satisfied customers.

This piece by Steve Lohr from the New York Times, to its credit, gives the appearance of objectivity by citing numerous facts and figures that demonstrate how, and how much, Wal-Mart has benefitted consumers with its low prices.

But consider the way it ends:

Wal-Mart's growing power has brought increased scrutiny from federal and state regulators. But as long as the company keeps delivering lower prices, they will most likely be reluctant to act, beyond prosecuting employment infractions. The classic behavior of a predatory corporation is to cut prices to drive out competition in order to raise them later. There is no evidence yet that that is the Wal-Mart strategy.

"Consumers get huge benefits from Wal-Mart as long as it has real competition," Mr. Reich said. "The worry is that it becomes so powerful that it can unfairly stifle competition."

Until this point in the article, no one had said anything about "predatory" prices. Yet here Mr. Lohr abruptly brings them up mid-paragraph, only to follow up with the disclaimer, "There is no evidence yet that that is the Wal-Mart strategy." Then why did you bring it up?

That's like someone writing a profile of Steve Lohr, and suddenly saying, in a paragraph about his love life, "There is no evidence yet that Steve Lohr is a sexual predator." There could be no purpose in dropping such innuendo into your article, except as a response to actual allegations, or as a smear.

Then the article concludes with the quote from leading anti-capitalist Robert Reich: "The real worry is that it becomes so powerful that it can unfairly stifle competition." Again, no one had said anything in the article about Wal-Mart having any potential to harm "competition" (as opposed to particular competitors, a crucial distinction in antitrust law). Yet there it is at the end, the final point for the reader to ponder, as though it somehow follows from all that has come before.

Even when the New York Times can't help but report good news about capitalism, it finds a way to subtly smear it, and give fellow leftists just enough to keep them feeling comfortable about their views.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 10:03 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Forget the Paris Hilton video...

This is much more exciting.

This video of somebody beating the classic NES game Super Mario Bros. 3, start to finish, in 11 minutes may be the coolest thing I've ever seen on the internet.

While watching someone else play a video game is usually just about the most boring and pointless thing you could do, I nonetheless found myself on the edge of my seat and frequently gasping, as this guy zooms through the game with perfect precision, narrowly avoiding countless killer obstacles and racking up 99 extra lives while he's at it.

I am not too proud to say that I was once featured in The Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records for my scores on M.A.D. and Oink! (don't ask) for the Atari 2600. I also don't mind saying that I have since been unseated from the #1 spot on both, and have no intention of attempting to reclaim that particular throne.

At any rate, my dubious achievements in ancient video game time wasting pale in comparison to this guy's accomplishment. I never even beat Super Mario Bros. 3, and I've been giving it a shot every once in a while for something closer to 11 years now.

The bottom line: If you ever played SMB3, go waste 11 more minutes of your life watching the video, be amazed, and thank me later.

UPDATE (12.17.03): The link to the video was dead for a while, but now it's fixed. Share and enjoy.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 11:04 PM

Friday, December 05, 2003

Brent Bozell is obsessed with the f-word!

And now you can be, too! Just check out his
Parents Television Council (PTC) web site, and look at the myriad items there, all about the f-word.

Specifically, Bozell and company are upset about the FCC's refusal to punish NBC stations for not censoring Bono's use of the phrase "f---ing brilliant" on the live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year. Bozell believes that the FCC has failed to use its authority to punish "obscene" or "indecent" content by letting this incident slide.

You know what I find obscene and indecent? The fact that my money is being forcibly taken from me, so that the FCC can quibble with this guy over a singular use of one word (in its least literal, least offensive sense) on a live, unscripted broadcast.

And is it the NBC stations' fault that Bono is used to appearing on TV in countries that don't employ f-word police, and is used to saying what he feels like without other people having to pay fines for it?

This sort of censorship is an especially strange business, given that kids (the ones whose ears we are supposedly protecting ), tend to have the filthiest mouths of anyone, starting before their age is out of the single digits. That was true when I was in elementary school (before one could even say the now-ubiquitous a-r-s-e-word on TV), and I don't have trouble imagining it was so in previous generations, as well. Just whose ears are we protecting?

I'm not crazy about the proliferation of profanity in the media generally. (I am, however, crazy about South Park, which had a great episode about TV profanity, in which the use of the "s-word" on a TV cop drama actually did precipitate the apocalypse). I don't use profanity in everyday conversation, myself, because it generally strikes me as uncivil and unnecessary. But there are many things I don't like to hear or say, but they're out there, and I deal with them without running to the feds.

It should also be pointed out that the focus of Brent Bozell's obsession in life isn't the f-word or profanity, per se. It's TV.

Apparently, he loves it.

Familes in Bozell's world must have something to put their kids in front of from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. each night. (Ironically, this hour that kids should be free to stare at the tube to their fragile little minds' content is called the "family hour.") The concept of persuading parents not to have TV's at all, regardless of what's on them, never enters the picture at the PTC.

And what would Bozell like to see during the family hour? Anything without profanity. Doesn't matter what, just as long as there are no bad words.

Thus, we see the PTC recommending, on its main page, A Flintstones Christmas Carol. Now, anyone with a modicum of taste or class knows that The Flintstones is, and has been since its inception, the absolute bottom of the cultural barrel. In his important book, Class, professor Paul Fussell identified it as the TV show most exemplary of low-class taste.

Still, other low-points in TV quality have come along since Fussell published his book about 20 years ago, and, Bozell and his outfit heartily endorse many of them. Thus, we have seen praise for, and wishes for more shows like, Full House, Family Matters, and Touched By An Angel.

And if you don't like The Flintstones, the PTC has a few other suggestions for upcoming viewing, like A Barry Manilow Christmas, Lady and the Tramp 2 (not to be confused with Lady and the Tramp), and The White House Christmas. They'd better hope President Bush refrains from using one of his favorite words starting with "f" during that last one.

The PTC is a bizarre creature, fighting a losing battle that will ultimately be pointless as other technology makes broadcast TV obsolete.

In the meantime, I will continue to keep an eye on them, in disgusted fascination with these people who are so obsessed with controlling other people's mouths and minds, but apparently even more obsessed with watching TV.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 4:56 PM

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Bush to propose sending men to the moon and beyond...

...presumably to observe the astronomical debt created by his out-of-control spending on anything and everything, including, now, this nonsense.

And of course your favorite
"big government conservatives" are ready to cheer him on, jump up and down on the sidelines, wave their fluffy pompoms and flash their cellulite thighs as they squint through mascara-laden lashes to flirt with the president and fawn over his latest program, in which he "moons" the taxpayer and once again officially proclaims that his feces don't stink.

(More of my thoughts on the space program here.)

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:52 PM

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The guy who sued to get "under God" out of the pledge is a jerk.

But you already knew that.

Now the Washington Post gives you
more reasons to think so.

I would be interested in knowing his precise etymological justification for replacing the pronouns "he" and "she" with "ree." Wait, no I wouldn't.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:12 PM

Monday, December 01, 2003

Never say Never Say Never Again isn't good.

I have a policy against linking to another weblog simply to agree with it, but I'll make an exception for
Will Baude's defense of the great "unofficial" Bond movie, Never Say Never Again.

It's one of my very favorites, and it's good to see I'm not alone in thinking it's great. Although the Bond of Ian Fleming's novels is a young man who doesn't expect to live much past 40, there's something about an aging Sean Connery that seems just right for a movie Bond.

Never Say Never Again writer Kevin McClory has been fighting for years to make another Bond movie, and he seems to have finally lost. Too bad. I would have liked to see a septuagenarian Connery Bond adventure.

So which are the best Bond movies, while we're on the subject?

I'd rank my top 5 like this: (1) Dr. No, (2) GoldenEye, (3) Never Say Never Again, (4) On Her Majesty's Secret Service, (5) The World Is Not Enough. The worst? I'm tempted to say "all the rest." Take your pick of the Moore movies, I suppose.

Fleming's books are better than any of the movies, of course, and very different from them. Moonraker and On Her Majesty's Secret Service are at the top of that list, at least among the ones that I've read so far.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:00 PM

Copyright 2004 J. H. Huebert.