28 January 2010

That's Funny

I saw this documentary a while ago on HBO with Jerry Seinfeld and it was quite good. He was explaining why he was going back on the road to do stand-up. It was his job; it's in his blood; it's what he enjoyed.
He talked about the satisfaction of doing well. An off-camera voice asked if it was easier now that he was established. "No," he said. He explained that reputation might buy you a minute, maybe two, but if you're not on the audience will feel it and let you know. No matter who you are.
I have no idea why I was thinking about this today, other than the fact that I was surprised and impressed with his introspection and desire to keep going out there and killing 'em. But think about it I did and it made me realize how impressive a great comedy album is. Then I started to think about my favorite comedy albums. And, in no particular order, here they are:

  • Bill Cosby-Himself
  • George Carlin-Just about anything, but I've always enjoyed What the Hell am I Doing in New Jersey
  • Sam Kinison-Louder Than Hell
  • Chris Rock-Bigger & Blacker
  • Robin Williams-Live at the Met
  • Eddie Murphy-Delirious
  • Rodney Dangerfield-No Respect
  • Bob Newhart-the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart

Honorable mention goes to Andrew Dice Clay's Dice. Yeah, he turned out to be a one-hit wonder that stayed around a lot longer than he needed to and yeah most of the material is misogynistic and offensive but, at the time (and I was about 14 or 15) it was funny as hell.

By the way, offensive isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's funny. And the funny means it stands the test of time. I don't think Dice's album does that. If I were to hear it now and laught, it would be more out of nostalgia than the true funniness of the material.

26 January 2010

What's Up, NOW?

I'm agnostic about the abortion debate. I don't like abortion and think it should be avoided at all costs, but it's not for me to say whether a woman should have to carry her pregnancy through*. Partly this comes from the fact that if abortion were illegal, abortions would still happen and become very dangerous. Also, the question becomes whom do you punish? If you punish the doctors, then doctors won't provide them and then they become all the more dangerous. Punishing the woman seems silly and is politically and practically unfeasible.

The advocates on both sides of the issue are passionate, which can be a good thing, but are off the mark in their stridency and, more often than not, off-putting.

Case in point, the otherwise irritating Focus on the Family produced a commercial to be aired during the upcoming Super Bowl featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother (n.b.-the Tebows are devout Christians). While on a mission trip in the Philippines while pregnant with Tim, Pam Tebow took sick. Her doctors recommended that she abort what would be her fifth child. Mrs. Tebow decided to have the baby, who then went on to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

That's the gist of the commercial. No hellfire and brimstone brickbats about the evils of abortion. No condemnation. In fact, if looked at in a certain light, this celebrates a woman exercising her free will and choosing her own course of action. What could be wrong with that?

Plenty, according to the Women's Media Center. According to their petition site, "The Women’s Media Center, and organizations dedicated to reproductive rights, tolerance, and social justice, are urging the network to immediately cancel this ad."


And doesn't "reproductive rights" include the option to reproduce?

*-I will say that I believe Roe v Wade is a terribly reasoned and written opinion and the federal government has no dog in the abortion fight. That doesn't mean I think it should be illegal, but that it should be left to the states. Also, since I don't think the federal government should be funding healthcare at all, I agree entirely that no federal funds should be used for abortions. The ethical quagmire is significant and is best to be avoided.

There is also the issue of personal responsibility. If you are doing the one thing that history has shown to cause pregnancy, then you get pregnant, then you decide you don't want to be pregnant, why should someone else have to pay for the procedure to make you unpregnant?

Keynes v Hayek set to Music

This is awesome.

25 January 2010

"The Difference is Me"

President Obama met with some Democratic legislators regarding the upcoming midterm elections. Some of these Democrats are worried that 2010 will mirror 1994 when the Republicans assumed control over the House after a failed bid by the Democrats to nationalize healthcare insurance.

Not to worry, says the president. "Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me." At least according to this report.

His press secretary punts when asked if the president actually said that, but then added his two cents: “I hope it's not newsworthy to think that the president hopes and expects to be an effective campaigner in the midterm elections,” Gibbs said.

Now, based on how campaigns have gone where the president showed up and compaigned for people in elections since he took office, from where would the president or his spokesperson derive that confidence?

22 January 2010


A good story today on NPR.

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
--Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Atta Guy

Keeping his word:

Sec. 3. Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantánamo. The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order (n.b.-22 January 2009). If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.

Emphasis added by me.

21 January 2010

Speaker Pelosi

Has one hell of a view as to what the Commerce Clause and the 10th amendment mean.

The founders intended the commerce clause to ensure the free flow of goods and capital between the states, not as a crutch on which to depend to regulate every single aspect of our lives.

The problem is that far too many people of every political stripe seem to agree with Speaker Pelosi and her grotesque view of the constitution than what the founders meant and wrote. If this seems sclerotic or too strict an interpretation then so be it.

Who Gives What to Whom?

I read an article by Andrew McCarthy (may be restricted) in a recent issue of National Review where he takes Attorney General Eric Holder to task for bringing the 9/11 masterminds to New York for a jury trial. As is usually the case, Mr. McCarthy is tendentious and very fond of recalling that he worked on the first World Trade Center bombing case (I've yet to see a piece written by him that doesn't mention this in one way or another). Also he faults Mr. Holder for being overly political (!) in the AGs office.

I'm not going to address McCarthy's bromides against Holder, some of which have merit (the dropping of the investigation/prosecution of the Black Panthers harassing voters in Philadelphia is an embarrassment), others don't. But McCarthy repeats a meme I've heard over and over from all sorts of sources and political directions that I'd like to address. At one point he writes:

"In November, Holder announced what he insists is his own decision to vest
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other jihadists with the constitutional rights
once enjoyed by Mark Bingham and the nearly 3,000 other Americans they

Again, let's leave aside the stridency of the statement and focus on, "to vest ... with constitutional rights."

Eric Holder can't give anyone constitutional rights. No one can. The constitution doesn't "give" rights to anyone, foreign or domestic, and the government that is established by the constitution and it's myriad bureaucrats and lackeys can do no such thing either. The constitution establishes, defines and limits our federal government. It separates three general functions of government into three co-equal branches and says what they are and can or can't do. Vaguely and with heaping doses of ambiguity to be sure, but that's really all it does. Now, the government doesn't give you, me or him the right to free speech or press or religion or guns, it merely specifies a few that the founders thought necessary to clarify. Otherwise it is understood then, as it should be now, that they set up a powerful but limited federal government saying that any powers not given to the government by the people herein are reserved to the states or the people.

You see, we are the sovereigns. The assumption should be, should always be, that we have all of the rights necessary to secure our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We are free to do whatever we damn well please so long as we don't harm another or his property and are willing to accept any and all consequences for our actions. And the laws that we are to obey, such as they are, are to be promulgated and enforced by the states unless there is compelling federal interest and constitutional authority for the feds to be involved at all. The feds establishing rules for ingress and naturalization of foreigners would be a prime example of legitimate federal authority (being run quite poorly at the time being, by the way, but legitimate nonetheless). The feds telling the states what the speed limit or legal definition of drunk driving, say, isn't.

How do we treat foreigners held by our government? Well that depends. Are they here and did they violate any of our laws? Well then the appropriate authorities should detain them until the penalty is served and then, if here illegally or with a visa, they should be tossed home. What about those picked up overseas? Now we get into some murky areas. Are they picked up in the theater of war? If so, then they should be held pursuant to military rules and customs and under the auspices of any binding treaties. What about nasty people like the guys the CIA picked up in Italy that may or may not have been thinking about doing nasty things to us? Well, they shouldn't do that. No agent of our government has any authority to detain anyone in the world not on sovereign soil (except in the theater or war exception above).

Would that put Americans more at risk? Who knows? The job our security and intelligence agencies have done over the last few decades has shown, if nothing else, that we've pissed away a whole bunch of money and haven't been any safer or more secure, just less free. There is also some implied risk in living in a free and just society (see David Foster Wallace here).

I just wanted to get that off my chest. So now you know. Anytime you hear about the US giving rights to anyone, you'll know I just got a little bit more aggravated. I hope you will, too.