Monday, 2 February 2004

That's gotta be worth at least a quarter

Next time someone tells you “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the Democrats and the Republicans, just tell ’em what Conrad said:

The two major American political parties offer a choice between being murdered and bankrupt. Is that a great country or what?

John Thacker helpfully points out in the comments that for some values of $DEMOCRAT, you can get both, while John Swaine notes that the Liberal Democrats have already provided that option for Britons.

Hosing myself

Remind me never to fiddle with <SCRIPT> tags ever again. That’s all I have to say. Grrr…

Anyway, while I was messing everything up, I did futz with the sidebar location and add a link to the heretofore pretty-much-hidden “mobile edition.” If you prefer the sidebar on the left, click on Set appearance and time zone and choose the appropriate stylesheet. If your sidebar is still on the left, and you want it on the right, ditto.

"Malfunction": 2004's "ironic"

I think the RIAA should kick in to buy every recording artist under contract a dictionary. The latest illiterate is Justin Timberlake, who infamously declared his little stunt at the Super Bowl was a “wardrobe malfunction.” WordNet defines “malfunction” as follows:

malfunction. n : a failure to function normally. v : fail to function or function improperly; “the coffee maker malfunctioned” [syn: {misfunction}] [ant: {function}]

For something to malfunction, it must actually fail to function properly, regardless of whether or not there was intent for it to carry out that function. Janet Jackson’s chestplate/boob-holder was designed to come off if pulled hard enough (there were snaps). Ergo, it did not actually malfunction.

Another example: assume a handgun has a safety. If the safety is off, and the trigger is accidentally pulled, causing the weapon to discharge we don’t say the gun malfunctioned. The gun would only malfunction if the gun went off while the safety is on.

Yet another example: assume your car has its ignition running. If the car is in drive, and you accidentally hit the pedal, ramming your car through the front wall of your garage, it didn’t malfunction. If the car is in park, however, and you still manage to ram your car into your laundry room, then you may claim your car malfunctioned.

And, no, Ms. Morrissette, none of these scenarios constitutes irony (although a genuine malfunction might).

Loyalty Oafs

I think I’ll let Earl Black speak for me on this bit of unmitigated idiocy by South Carolina Democrats:

“It sounds like one of the stupidest ideas I’ve heard in a long time,” said Rice University political scientist Earl Black, formerly of the University of South Carolina. “This makes no sense at all. It just steps on the effort of South Carolina Democrats to create a situation to build the party.”

What idea is so stupid? According to The State:

Voters who appear at their polling places will be asked to sign an oath swearing that “I consider myself to be a Democrat” before casting their ballots.

Hey, why stop there? Take Jonah Goldberg’s advice and reinstate literacy tests. Better yet, set up a nice collection box at the door to collect everyone's poll tax. Good thing the state legislature didn’t take down that Southern Cross from its front lawn, since it seems mighty appropriate about now.

More on this story at Jeff Quinton’s place and suburban blight.

Update: The Dems dropped the loyalty oath today faster than most single women lose Dennis Kucinich’s phone number. And Ryan of the Dead Parrots wonders if the Democrats’ news release somehow got lost in the shuffle, as it was dated Sunday—so the damaging stories never should have run.

"Reform Conservatives": Pragmatic libertarians or unreformed nanny-statists?

Somewhat apropos of Sunday’s discussion of the failure of libertarianism, the Baseball Crank considers a new camp in the conservative big tent, which he describes as “Reform Conseratism”*:

Traditionally, the conservative movement has been driven by small-government conservatism, the idea that government is too big and intrusive and spends and regulates too much. Ever since the Reagan years, the small-government conservatives have been trapped in a sort of limbo: they’ve won the battle of ideas, but lost the political battle, most spectacularly with the failure of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 revolution to eliminate any significant government programs.

Partially in response to this, we’ve seen the growth of what (at the risk of adding another sub-category) I’ve long liked to think of as Reform Conservatism. The central insight of Reform Conservatives has been that the most important problem with government programs is not that that they involve the government, but that they take choices away from individuals. The classic Reform Conservative solution is including privately controlled accounts within the Social Security system; rather than stage a losing battle over trying to scale back or get rid of the program, Reform Conservatives have focused on introducing within it an element of private choice to make the operation of Social Security more like a non-governmental program. The other signature issue of Reform Conservatives, school choice, operates the same way: it’s still redistributing taxpayer money, but the decisionmaking authority over the use of that money is shifted to parents and away from school system bureaucrats.

The Crank contrasts this approach with something he unfortunately calls “neoliberalism”†, who share the conservative critique of government failure but “prefer[] instead to have government enforce standards that demand accountability [for the failure of New Dealesque social policies], rather than depending on individual self-interest” to reform them.

Overall, I think it’s an interesting discussion of a policy area where many small-l libertarians could be encouraged to agree with elements of the conservative platform. But I think the Crank overstates the case that “Reform Conservatives” make for choice: while they attempt to capture the power of the market in their reforms, the “decisionmaking authority” that citizens receive is narrowly circumscribed. You can only use school choice money for educating your children in certain settings (you generally can’t use the cash to send them to live in Africa for a year, for example, even though that’d probably be far more educational than shuttling them back and forth to a nearby charter school). You must set aside the “private account” in social security for your retirement, rather than investing in (say) your own education, a house, or a new car, things that the average 30-year-old needs more than a nest-egg for a far-off retirement (which, given the solvency of social security, he or she’ll be lucky to see before turning 75). In the end, it’s still a government bureaucrat that ultimately decides the scope of what you can do—reform conservatives just make the scope a bit bigger.

Super Bowl 38's dominant narrative: “Nudity”

Well, I predicted the outcome, but I didn’t predict that the things everyone would be talking about would be (a) Janet Jackson’s right breast and (b) a streaker.

Any-hoo, Matt Stinson has the roundup, including Justin Timberlake’s declaration that Ms. Jackson’s exposed “boobage” was a “wardrobe malfunction.” Now, I may only have a doctorate in political science, but even I know that women don’t wear pasties† unless they think they’re going to be baring their chests. I also noticed that both Mr. Timberlake’s and Ms. Jackson’s names were pointedly omitted from the post-halftime promo for next week’s Grammy Awards.

Now, I’m not going to join the inevitable calls for FCC investigations, corporate boycotts, and other silliness that no doubt will ensue from this incident. To do so would further distract from where the attention should be, which is on both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers for playing 60 minutes of great pro football. Kudos to both teams for giving us one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory.