Saturday, May 31, 2024
By Steven Taylor

Jay Solo, of Jay Solo’s Verbosity said nice things about my new site design, and tossed a couple of links my way and so I am returning the favor (I even blogrolled him), which should aid him in his quest.

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By Steven Taylor

Given that I gave Kevin Drum (aka CalPundit) a hard time over taxation earlier in the week, it seems only fair to link to something that we agree on. Kevin provides a link to this amusing (at least I find it amusing) analyis at the Progressive Review of Bill O’Reilly’s recent interview with Jacob Sullum. While I can tolerate O’Reill on occasion, I have long found his “No Spin Zone” bit to be tiresome, and he is, shall we say, an agressive interviewer (I love the very representative quote in the piece about giving “the last word”). Further, he really isn’t, contrary to popular perception, a conservative. His rhetoric tends to be pretty populistic, and indeed isn’t so much ideological, as opinionated.

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By Steven Taylor

In my ongoing quest to catch up on movies I haven’t seen (and would have already seen if I didn’t have small children), my wife and I watched Star Trek: Nemesis last night. Some pre-commentary disclaimers: 1) I am a Trekkie (Trekker, Trekkite, guy who likes Star Trek …whichever label you prefer) who has been watching Trek since the Original Series was in syndication back in the early 1970s, so I am predisposed to liking Trek flicks, and 2) I had somewhat low expectations for this one, as the reviews were mixed and even friends who liked Trek and saw it seemed to think it was fine, but not spectacular.

Overall, I quite liked it. It was substantially better than the previous, and highly forgettable, Star Trek: Insurrection, although not as good as First Contact. In the pantheon of Trek flicks I would rank them thusly: II: The Wrath of Khan (the very best, and one of my favorite movies of all time), III: The Search for Spock, First Contact and IV: The Voyage Home (the whale one) are roughly tied, followed by VI: The Undiscovered Country and Nemesis (tied), Generations, Insurrection, I (STTMP), and at the very bottom on the heap: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (man, that one really was pretty darn bad—there were a few decent scenes, but overall, a real stinker).

I enjoyed the pace, visuals, dialog and story of Nemesis. Although I will admit that the basic plot was rather uninspired. It was cool to see more of the Romulans, although quite honestly the politics of the situation made little sense. For example, why would the Romulans collude with a human clone in the coup? Why not just take the weapon? Indeed, it would have been more interesting if they had taken the Picard clone thing farther, and actually had him as a Romulan-trained general set up to take on the Federation after the original switcheroo plan was put to rest.

A major plot problem: how did a race of slaves manage to build such a doomsday weapon?

Of course, this one has the quintessential Trek problem: the inconsistent usage of technology for the purposes of the story. A few that really bothered me:

  • If Shinzon could manage to locate and beam Picard directly off the Enterprise, why not use the same trick onboard the Scimitar after Data freed Picard? For that matter, why not beam him off of the fighter that he stole? Does no one think of these things?
  • Given Replicator technology, why was there only one of those emergency transporter devices? Further, in the past, two people normally could easily transport out for the price of one (many times someone would jump into the beam when only one person was supposed to beam out, and it worked just fine).
  • Speaking of transporters, it made no sense that all the transporters on the Enterprise would be out just because Geordi’s board on the brigde shorted out.

    The real problem is that the technology of Trek has gotten to the point that it really makes for some difficult story problems if one takes the tech to its logical potential.

    Of course, most of those are geekboy problems. On balance an enjoyable movie and a decent send-off for the TNG crew. I must admit I was surprised by Data’s exit—and even more surprised that they didn’t use some lame trick with B4 to obviate the sacrifice.

    Overall: ***1/2 out of five.

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  • By Steven Taylor

    I am a few links shy of moving up the evolutionary ladder. So, if you have been planning to link to PoliBlog, but just haven’t gotten around to it, now would be a a great time to do so :)

    Serious blogging later, the kids got me up early, so I am going to take a little nap.

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    By Steven Taylor

    NZ Bear poststhe following e-mail from Cowboy Khalid which posits that there is a problem in the blogosphere, to wit: Leftish blogs, and especially female-written blogs aren’t getting sufficient attention. I was especially struck when he noted, in the comments section, an “institutional bias” against women/left-leaning blogs. The only problem here is: there is no institution that governs blogdom–it is about as free-wheeling as you can get. One sets up a blog, one writes, one tries to get noticed. Some grow, some don’t.

    Normally when I click a link to a blog I have never visited before I have no idea if a) it is a male’s or female’s blog, b) the ideology of the writer, or c) if the blog is any good or not. The thing that will bring me back is “c” (and certainly only “c” matters if I am going to link to them).

    Now, do some bloggers have advantages? Yes: the key one is being an early start. However, that isn’t an institutional bias. A second advantage is being mentioned by a major (or at least mid-level) blogger. Of course, that requires saying sometihng worthwhile. I have never seen anyone say “hey, read this guy’s/gal’s blog, it is really boring!”

    The irony here is that Cowboy Khalid has demonstrated the best way to get noticed in the blogosphere, regardless of gender or ideological predilections: write something that people want to talk about, and then (and this is key) find a way for at least a medium-sized blogger to post it and link to it.

    I wonder how far up the TTLB Ecosystem Khalid will climb as a result of all of this? :)

    Also, kudo to NZ Bear, for his previous effort to update the Ecosystem with left-leaning blogs.

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    Friday, May 30, 2024
    By Steven Taylor

    Ok, it is a Texas boot (from the Lufkin Daily News), but interesting nonetheless. Says Marc Masferrer, Editor of the paper:

    Until she explains to our satisfaction her own ethical transgression — an apparently deliberate distortion of a comment by President Bush — you will not find the work of Times columnist Maureen Dowd on this page.


    The whole thing is a shame, as even though she really annoys me, I actually kind of like Dowd. She can be witty, although she far too often takes cute and clever to mean analytical and penetrating. Indeed, it s a shame in general that the NYT’s leadership has allowed the paper to become this tarnished. It is an excellent example of journalistic hurbis.

    Hat tip on the Lufkin story to Venemous Kate at Electric Venom

    And for those who care, Lufkin is in East Texas, south of Nacogdoches).

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    By Steven Taylor

    James of OTB links to a thread started by Eugene Volokk and continued by Kevin Drum on the ideological underpinnings of libertarianism, and the “Harm Principle” in particular.

    For those who care, here’s the origin of said Principle from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty:

    The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

    While clearly there is much that requires definition is such a statement, there is a rather significant question being asked here: when is it legitimate to interfere with the liberty of others? A question that the government had to address constantly, and one that governments frequently get wrong.

    Indeed, the main issue here is when should the government be able to force me to do, or not to do, something. And the main claim that is being argued against is that the government should not be allowed to control my actions just because it would be good for me to do so.

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    By Steven Taylor

    We’re back to Yellow.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Robert Pollock’s piece in the WSJ is worth a read. Some excerpts:

    Among the thousands of friends and relatives who have come to this mass grave near Hilla to find their loved ones, there is surprisingly little bitterness against the U.S. for encouraging and then abandoning that rebellion. Some even express hope that Iraq could become an American state. “Saddam, Saddam,” one man mutters in disbelief, staring at the bodies. “Television only show Iraq Ali Baba [Iraqis as thieves],” complains another of the foreign media’s fixation with looting, “not show this.”

    Not surprisingly, none of these people thinks that finding weapons of mass destruction is critical to the case for war. The old regime did most of its dirty work the old-fashioned way, with a pistol to the head. Nor are they alarmed, like so many distant pundits, that Iraq has traded tyranny for anarchy. Even a messy freedom is something to savor.

    And this illustrates something I have been thinking for a while:

    Before travelling to Baghdad, I had dinner with a Palestinian economist in Amman. I told him that conventional wisdom among antiwar Americans was that the U.S. had squandered a great reservoir of international sympathy by attacking Iraq. He laughed. What sympathy? Most of his acquaintances were happy about, or at best indifferent to, the blow America suffered on Sept. 11, 2024.

    I have long thought that the arguments that we had this vast reservoir of good will out in the world was off the mark. Global responses to 9/11 were emotional and ephemeral–the idea that one could put the good will in a bottle and use it later was ludicrious. And let’s face facts–even our allies want power and economic success vis-a-vis the USA, goodwill or no, and our enemies want to destroy us. 9/11 didn’t change those facts, and neither did Gulf War II.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Krugman’s latest (Waggy Dog Stories) verges on the delusional. Not only is he recylcing (the Wag the Dog business was used with Clinton already), but he starts with this:

    An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public’s consciousness.

    The 1997 movie “Wag the Dog” had quite a plot.

    But while those paragraphs insinuate that the administration launched the war in Iraq to cover something up, he never actually makes that charge in the column itself. Instead, he notes that the war has given the president political advantage.

    I will agree that he has gained political advantage, and that the lack of WMDs to date is a problem, if anything because it affects our international credibility. However, I disagree that there have been no linkages of Iraq to al Qaeda, and certainly there have been ties to terrorism writ large. Further, there are intellectually honest reasons to say that the war was worthwhile sans WMDs (and I remain unconvinced that there are none whatsoever). Further, if a stable, even semi-democratic state emerges, the war will have profound positive long-term effects on the region.

    Also, even if it ends up we were utterly wrong—no terrorist ties, no WMDs, it is hard to say that getting rid was Saddam was a bad thing.

    And, anyway, he has the administration wrong–the Clinton administration did launch military action (cruise missile attacks) during the Lewinsky grand jury testimony–that fits the Wag the Dog scenario quite a bit better than does the Iraq scenario.

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