En Route to Boston (Maybe)


“Folks,” the captain said, “we’re havin’ jus’ a liddle problem with the public address system in the back of the plane.  Bear with us for just a few minutes while the fellas from maintenance take a look.  But don’t worry.  They’re tellin’ us we’ll have a good tailwind today, so we should still get you to Boston on time.”  “A few minutes” turned into half an hour.  Then another half an hour.  When people began asking why we needed a public address system in the back of the plan in the first place, a stewardess (stewardperson?) replied, not very soothingly, that she had to be able to reach the captain if a fire broke out in one of the aft restrooms. After two hours the captain announced that the flight had been cancelled.

Feeling sorry for myself as I sit in the airport, waiting to get rebooked, I sent a text just now to Dr. Savage, entrepreneur, man of the world–he just attended some sort of high tech conference in the unlikely location of Buckingham Palace–and avid pilot.  His reply:

Negative Equity Loans? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Ricochet member Mark Simon sent this along, from the Irish Independent. The newest thing to hit the zombiefied, hobbled home finance business? Negative Equity Loans, which allow borrowers in trouble – those who are upside-down on their houses, where what they owe is larger than what the house is worth – to move into a new house, bringing the negative equity they still owe to the new property:

It could help revitalise the listless property market and provide a lifeline for homeowners trapped in a location where they no longer want to live.

Is the New iPhone Like the Gulf Spill?


Bear with me. Reports are now piling up that the newest generation of iPhone has…well, issues:

Multiple Apple- and gadget-focused websites are receiving reports that the iPhone’s much-discussed “Retina Display” is susceptible to a yellow discoloration, either as a thin line of yellow or as a circular tint. That’s not the only problem: There are now countless videos online that show how holding the new iPhone by its sides can decrease reception quality.

Note from the Area of Operations


One more note from an officer now traveling in the Afghan Area of Operations (AOR). Note, by the way, that during the past couple of weeks he has traveled to American airbases in Ramstein, Germany; Aviano, Italy; Al Udeid, Qatar; and Bagram, Afghanistan.

[T]he best way for Americans to directly help their military servicemen and women overseas as well as the many others serving our Nation abroad (State Department, Peace Corps, USAID, etc. — I’ve shared a meal with someone from all these organizations so far) is to donate their time and/or money to the USO. I have witnessed and benefited firsthand from the hospitality of the USO so many times in just two weeks. At the Ramstein passenger terminal, there is a free Internet cafe and all the coffee you can drink. The former is a godsend to young troops who practically live online, the latter my lifeblood: caffeine. Again, at Bagram, the USO Internet and movie lounges were both welcome respites for some very weary troops, trust me.

Senator Chris Dodd, Too Tired to Lie


House and Senate Democrats put the finishing touches on their financial reform bill. After an all-night session, they finished about 5AM this morning, which made everyone tired enough to speak the truth:

“It’s a great moment. I’m proud to have been here,” said a teary-eyed Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee led the effort in the Senate. “No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done.”

Why Are Movies Bad?


All right, if Claire can talk about her tuna cans, I want to talk about what’s on MY mind this summer Friday! Forget politics. Why are movies so bad? I’ve been in a lot of pitch meetings this month. I meet intelligent, creative, dedicated producers and executives who really want to make good pictures. There are good writers out there, good directors… but the pictures stink. (Yes, I saw Toy Story 3. I know they don’t all stink, but in general…) The usual excuse is that the commerce kills the art – but then you watch director’s cuts (in which the arteeste shows the film he would’ve made if the suits hadn’t ruined it all) and, guess what, they’re worse than the original. And you realize – commerce is GOOD for art, commerce is a corrective for art. It’s not that. I blame Obama. Or soccer. Or Obama playing soccer. Someone must pay!

If I Had a Million Dollars…


If you were/(are?) a millionaire living through a severe global financial crisis and an Obama presidency wrought with uncertainty in the markets and looming tax increases, how would you/(do you) hedge your wealth?  

According to a story in Bloomberg

White House Coffee Is a Mess


The New York Times has an interesting story today on the Caribou Cafe, which is just across the street from the West Wing and Eisenhower Executive Office Building where most White House staffers worked. The gist is that they are meeting lobbyists at the cafe rather than having them come through the White House gates, where they would then have to be listed:

WASHINGTON — There are no Secret Service agents posted next to the barista and no presidential seal on the ceiling, but the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House has become a favorite meeting spot to conduct Obama administration business.



I just love linking those two names…. The Chicago Sun-Times reports today:

A top aide to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he believed Barack Obama knew of Blagojevich’s plot to win himself a presidential Cabinet post in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.

There is nothing funny about stockpiling canned tuna


Rob, you seem to be making sport of those of us who keep a two-week supply of tuna in the house. But basic emergency preparation isn’t just for fruitcakes. You are living on a major fault line. It’s common sense to keep a week’s supply of canned goods, a two-week supply of water and water purification tablets in your home. You should also have a flashlight and batteries. You should have a first-aid kit, too, and you should know how to perform basic first aid.

You should also know what to do if there’s an earthquake — drop, cover, hold — and you should have a plan worked out with your family for making contact in case phone coverage goes down. (Drop, cover, hold is the right advice for a lot of unpleasant unforeseen events, such as bomb blasts.) It is a serious mistake to assume you don’t need to worry about disaster planning because FEMA’s just so obviously on top of things. You don’t need me to persuade you of this, do you?

Men in Skirts


Liz Mair, in a blog post on BlogHer, has an interesting reaction to the reaction to all of those Republican women suddenly looking like winners:

…(a) narrative seems to be taking hold in some quarters—that these women aren’t really women, they’re men in skirts. That is so because they a) didn’t emphasize their gender at every turn in the course of their respective primary races or b) don’t focus, or toe the line, on “women’s issues”—or both. In particular, objections have been raised that these women either are not pro-choice or are insufficiently vocal about being pro-choice, and therefore—the subtext seems to be—they’re more akin to men in skirts than “real women.”

Member Post


Afghanistan and McChrystal top the conversation this week as Rob and Peter are joined by columnist and humorist James Lileks (from the great lileks.com), John Yoo, and Victor Davis Hanson. Well, not all the time. Peter does manange to wedge in some discussion of soccer too. The discussion continues here. Preview Open

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Samizdat Internet: This one’s an easy call


Ricochet’s James Poulos dropped me an e-mail this morning noting the news that the Lahore high court has ordered the blocking throughout Pakistan of Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Google, Amazon and Bing on the grounds that these sites host “sacrilegious material.” I should note that I live in Turkey, where half the Internet, more or less, is blocked.

James said he’d love to know my reaction. My reaction? Go Pakistan! Block it all! Beat Turkey! I am completely against the expression of sacrilegious thought. In fact, I am firmly persuaded that a society that permits the expression of thought–of any kind–is in mortal peril. You start by looking at Amazon, next thing you know you’re in Sodom and Gomorrah. Blocking access to large sections of the Internet is will foster rapid economic growth, social harmony, civic trust, public safety and superior intellectual hygiene. It will encourage foreign direct investment. It will even eliminate unemployment. Good for Pakistan for taking the lead!

Economic Collapse? World War IV? Creeping Socialism? We Should Be So Lucky


A lot of us have something we’re afraid of, something huge and apocalyptic and on the way.  If you live out here, in California, it’s The Big One, the 11.3 earthquake.  It could be some giant asteroid crashing into the earth. Survivalists and people like that – you know the type: prepared for the apocalypse, hideout in the desert, stockpilers of canned tuna and chlorine tablets and cross-bows –don’t even bother to predict the actual specifics of the civilization-ending calamity they’re preparing for.  Just call it “The Event” with alarming vagueness. The Event.  Doesn’t really matter what it is, exactly: earthquake, bio-terror, computers become self-aware, super-big meteor, flesh-eating virus, the rise of the apes – whatever.  It’s the event, and it comes, and for the next couple of years we’re all living in huts and hunting squirrels.  And that’s what they all agree on: we don’t know exactly what kind, but there will be an Event.  You can count on that.

So, a confession:  I get an email, twice-daily, from the International Society of Infectious Diseases.  It’s called the ProMED email, and it lists in excruciating detail the various diseases that have been reported, worldwide – all of them, human, plant, and livestock.

Divorced Because the Neighbors Did It



no family is an island, and by facilitating the divorces of unhappy couples we almost certainly changed the way that happier couples — or couples who had considered themselves happy, at least — thought about their marriages, and the possibility of ending them. ([…] liberalization of divorce laws coincided with an appreciable decline in the percentage of men and women describing their unions as “very happy.”) There’s no escaping peer effects: If your friends or neighbors or relatives get divorced, you’re more likely to get divorced — even if it’s only on the margins — no matter what kind of shape your marriage is in.