John Lemon's Barrel of Fish

Posterboy for the whining conservative academic set. Candidate for troll of the week.





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Saturday, June 07, 2003

 
COMING SOON...DEPT OF FISH FLUSHING

At two in the morning, this article just seems totally assinine to me. Given the increasing role of the state to protect us from all sorts of idiotic behavior, I can see a new state regulatory regime aimed at preventing fish flushing. Sadly, the byline of this in-depth reporting is anonymous; I surely would want my name to go on this just in case the Pulitzer committee is watching.

posted by John at 2:19 AM

Friday, June 06, 2003

 
YEAH!

Yeah!

posted by John at 4:07 PM

 
YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY LEMON ON THE TREE

I don't read Italian, though I kind of get the drift of this. John Lemon, fighting against Italian government corruption.

And apparently I have a long and distinguished lineage.

posted by John at 12:41 PM

Thursday, June 05, 2003

 
PING-PONG POLITICS

Rob at BusinessPundit.com has a nice little autobiography concerning how he got to where he is now, politically speaking. Just bring a notepad to keep track because there are lots of twists and turns in this story. His story about working in a hamburger joint is exactly my experience in a pizza joint.

posted by John at 11:52 PM

 
THE END OF THINKING

Sometimes Michael Kinsley has interesting things to say. This is not one of those times. His recent Slate op-ed is basically a screed about how the recent rounds of tax cuts are burdening the poor, largely because the rich are getting more back than the wealthy. Kinsley tries to be smart by noting that many wealthy people are not necessarily high-income earners until they choose to cash in their stock (or other capital assets), and that taxing capital gains is really unfair because they don't pay FICA, but a poor, single mom does have to pay FICA.

But here is the rub. Notice how Kinsley's definition of "fairness" is punitive. First, realize that the tax burden for that single mom is not changing. Indeed, she might even get some cash back. So, single mom is no worse off under this plan. However, some rich people (and middle class folks) will be better off under this plan. In economics, this is called a pareto optimal choice -- some people are better off while no one is worse off. So Kinsley's gripe is that this tax cut package is not fair because some people are benefitting while no one is hurting. This is just sour grapes. "My mom made my peanut butter sandwich the way she always did today, but Jimmy's mom put extra peanut butter on his sandwich today. That's not fair. Teacher, make Jimmy scrape off that peanut butter and give it to public employee Lunch Lady Doris."

Now Kinsley could have made a more sound argument by saying that the drop in tax revenue* will disproportionately hurt those who are poor since they may depend more on public assistance or similar programs, but politicians have the power to decide not to cut those programs and instead focus on building a few less roads in West Virginia. It simply is not clear that a decrease in tax revenue will lead to decreases in public services for the poor, since many public spending projects benefit the middle class (e.g., roads in West Virginia) and the "rich" (shareholders of ADM).

Kinsley's thesis that "Under Bush, folks at bottom to bear the brunt of tax burden" is simply not true. They are no worse off under the tax proposal BUT if service are cut for them, that is not a tax policy question, but a spending allocation decision. Get it straight!!

But here is what really gripes me about Kinsley's piece. He veils his article in some big social science philosophy about democracy and capitalism and starts with this paragraph.

The fall of communism 14 years ago was not the end of history, despite Francis Fukuyama’s famous prediction. It was, though, pretty much the end of the argument, in most of the world, about the best way to organize society. The answer (despite quibbles over the details and a surprisingly resilient minority preference for theocracy) is democratic capitalism.

Notice the word, "despite" (which I highligted. The problem is that Fukuyama's argument was that "democratic capitalism" won the argument and that this represented the "end of history." The word "despite" implies that this was not Fukuyama's argument when it actually was.

* I am assuming for the moment that there will be a short-term drop in tax revenue, which is likely (though some have argued that it is not certain). People will need some time to adjust to the new incentives, and when the economy gets going the tax revenue will keep flowin'.

posted by John at 11:34 PM

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

 
THE END OF HISTORY AND SCHOLARSHIP

No, not this guy. Something more dire is happening and has finally been revealed by Slate, and it has to do with email. My two cents: This new trend probably doesn't matter for academia. Revisionist historians can go about doing what they've been doing for the past few decades anyways -- making it up.

posted by John at 8:41 PM

 
MY BIG FAT ADVANCE -- A HILLARY CLINTON CONTEST

OK, inspired by a post on Poliblog, and the various caption contests on OTB, I decided to have a little contest of my own. How many people think that Hillary's new book will sell the copies necessary to break even financially, which would include the $8 million advance plus production and marketing costs?* I'm guessing that it would have to do this by the end of August if it is going to do it at all, since unlike "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," I don't think this fattie has legs.

* I'm not familiar with what production costs and marketing would be on this one. Anyone with any idea, please let me know.

posted by John at 8:30 PM

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

 
WHY WMDs DON'T MATTER

Everybody's freaked out that we're not finding WMDs in Iraq, but here is a little vignette that convinces me we did the right thing. Oh, yeah....and that whole "children in prison" thing too...that bothered me a bit and made me happy that we invaded.

posted by John at 10:02 PM

 
PRAVDA AND PERESTROIKA REVISITED

In further conversations with Mr. Pravda, who seems like an amiable enough fella (though it appears we differ politically), he has provided me with this link to a humorous link to his explanation of the perestroika movement. Both Mr. Pravda and James at OTB remind me that the perestroika movement is a broad coalition of people that goes beyond simply postmodernism. Yes, they are correct. However, most of my encounters with this crowd is with the po-mo crowd and I do think that po-mos are disproportionately represented in this very, very important social movement.

posted by John at 9:59 PM

 
THREE DEGREES OF DISTANCE

MSN has a rather silly article about how on-line degree programs pay off. Many universities and colleges have tried to get into the business of "distance learning" -- i.e., offering online courses so people don't have to leave home. For the most part, these programs don't work very well as old-fashioned exposure to your instructor is a much better way of learning than staring at the Internet. Someone with an online college degree, especially a PhD(!), just doesn't cut it in my book. You may fool one or two employers and get your foot in the door with an online degree, but in the end, it is what you bring to the workplace on a daily basis that matters most.

Disclaimer: Being a real, flesh-and-blood instructor, I have a vested interest in avoiding "distance learning," which is a HUGE time-sink for most professors. It even wastes more time than blogging, if that is possible.


posted by John at 12:09 PM

 
RETURN OF MR. PRAVDA -- HOMER NODS

I recently went on a vitriolic tirade* against a certain Mr. Pravda in my post "Perestroika and the Decline of the Social Sciences" (see archive for 5/8/2003). Well, thanks to the good folks at Google, Mr. Pravda found me and sent me an email. He did correct me by informing me that his initial post about the new APSA logo was all in jest. Rereading it, I must admit that he is right and I read his commentary through the mind of a pissy academic fed up with arcane debates.** I will admit that his post is quite funny and offer my apologies for rampaging directly against him -- he assures me that he is not a perestroikan. All told though, I still stand by my comments on the perestroika movement.

* Vitriolic tirardes are usually the best tirades.
** This is quite appropriate given that I am a pissy academic fed up with arcane debates.

posted by John at 9:58 AM

Monday, June 02, 2003

 
BARBRA STREISAND FAN CLUB

This is quite funny, though not as funny as the "environmentalist Streisand" urging Californians to save energy by washing their clothes in cold water, while she maintains climate-controlled houses even when she is not there (and rumor has it one for her mink coats in NY that is well below room temperature). F-U Barbra.

From www.globalwarming.org: Streisand seems oblivious to the hypocrisy of the owner of several multi-million dollar homes preaching about conservation. When asked whether she planned on following her own advice, a spokesman for Streisand said, "She never meant that it necessarily applied to her" (New York Times, June 20, 2001). Glad she cleared that up.

posted by John at 9:02 PM

 
ALLUDE FRSCK

I still don't understand spammers. Yes, I know that it is a remarkably low cost endeavor to spam. However, consider this. I just received a message where the "from" line is blank and the "subject" line said "allude frsck." Who in their right mind would open that? And even if I did, would I want to buy insurance from somebody who advertises that way? Who are the businesspeople that are paying spammers to send this stuff? It can't be worth it for them, can it?

posted by John at 8:57 PM

Sunday, June 01, 2003

 
GERMINATE, DAMN YOU!

posted by John at 9:30 PM

 
CRUDE TO BE KIND

Some dude is all over Lee's ass at Right Thinking because Lee's blog is not a paragon of sophistimicated verbosity. Lee uses a lot of colorful language and crude humor, but mixes it all with a great deal of delightful insight. Humor is good for that, you know.

So people... get real! This is the blogosphere!! This is the equivalent of a million monkeys typing. It isn't Aristotle and it ain't meant to be. I consider it just a passing hobby meant to blow off a little steam in between planning classes, writing books and eating donuts. I really worry about all those people who take blogging so seriously as to see it as a new means of democratic communication set to revolutionize the polity in the coming century. The Chronicle of Higher Education has already weighed in on academic blogging, so you can pretty much guess now that all the fun of blogging is going to be sucked out of it by some nitwit professor doing an in-depth cultural analysis of the psychological interconnectedness that ...blah, blah, blah. You get my point. And if you don't, who cares. Anything that is written about in The Chronicle (as us self-important scholars like to refer to it as), automatically becomes boring and useless, in my humble opinion.

The one big plus about the anonymity of blogging is it lets that little bit of Archie Bunker in all of us shine through! So shut yous mouth, Meathead!

posted by John at 9:30 PM

 
WHO IS BREMERTON BOB?

And how does he know what he knows? Was he a former student? Did I meet him at a GOP outing? Inquiring minds seek answers.

I'm asking Bremerton Bob to send me a direct email filling me in on these answers. For those who are not Bremerton Bob...move on.

posted by John at 7:04 PM

 
MANY THANKS...

to Business Pundit for mentioning that "I'm back"* on his excellent blog site. Rob's site is one of my favorites even though I don't comment as regularly as I should. He is promising to reveal some reasons for his political affiliation over the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to it and you should pay him a visit!

*I'm not really "back," as I will be monumentally swamped with work over the next two weeks, but blogging is a quick distraction between work activities that helps keep me going.

posted by John at 7:02 PM

 
CONDOM NATION

One of my students came up with a pretty good explanation for how condom usage could rise in a school with a condom program, but the pregnancy rate remains the same (see my tawdry "More Sex" post designed to get web hits below). This student hypothesized that when free condoms are given out in a school, students who are relying on other forms of birth control -- namely, the pill -- are more likely to switch to the cheaper option, thereby condom usage rises while pregnancy rates remain the same (since the group switching to condoms was not likely to get pregnant to begin with). This was a good explanation, but I still think it is implausible knowing teenagers. I think sexually active teens who are concerned about getting pregnant are more likely to use condoms in the first place, than the pill, which is harder and more costly to obtain.

In general, I agree with the finding that condom programs are not likely to increase the propensity of sexual activity among teens; there are so many other factors that get them to sex in the first place that free condom distribution likely has only a marginal effect, if any. However, my beef with the study is that they thought condom distribution programs increased condom usage, but the two measures they have -- self-reported condom usage and pregrancy rates are at odds. I still think my explanation of this anomaly is best; in schools with condom programs, students feel more "social pressure" to respond that they have been using a condom in a survey, even when they have not been. It is akin to those who say they vote when surveyed, but don't seem to show up at the polls.

posted by John at 6:57 PM

 
SQUEEZE PLAY

In my weekly perusal of MSNBC's Week In Pictures, I came across this beauty of a photo and related blurb.* Keeping in mind that the Lemonhead happens to be a bit overprotective when it comes to his child, I still don't see how even the most liberal of parents could allow this.

Also, I once again picked the leading candidate in the weekly photo contest, reflecting that I am in tune with the pulse of America (or at lest the narrowly, self-selected portion of Internet users who vote in this poll). I was totally surprised that a squirrel with a Resses PB Cup would be the top pick over the veteran, the ballet photo and the little girl from Algeria. One thing I should note is that all but two of the pictures in this week's contest represented the lighter side of life, which I have found sits well with us plebian voters but not the end-of-year photojournalist critics, who tend to prefer tragedy and conflict. With God giving me roughly 77 years on this good planet, I would rather be delighted by a rodent with candy than depressed by the darker side of humanity.

* I don't know if this is a permanent link; it appears not to be. I searched the Internet for a story about this little lad and posted what I think to be the link that is in English and most likely to be permanent. If you don't get the title -- squeeze play -- out of this link, go back to the MSNBC's Week In Pictures page for the week ending May 29, 2003.

posted by John at 6:47 PM

 
ITALIAN JOB

I am ecstatic to report that I have seen two movies in theatres in the past two days. If that seems less than impressive to some of you, try having a child. My latest venture was The Italian Job. Quite funny and a fairly well-paced action flick. Our local newspaper which seems only to appreciate movies by Michael Moore or ones with lesbian themes, panned the film. I must admit that I am sick and tired of all those "artsy asshat" types that judge a movie solely on its popular appeal (and in a negative direction -- the more popular, the worse it is). Well, I liked it and thought Seth Green was hilarious. They whould bring back Greg the Bunny (which, I ironically know, got its start on the Independent Film Channel).

posted by John at 12:28 AM

 

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