Bad Moms

[0.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. She said a lot of the women in her Facebook milieu, mostly ex-students, loved it. I tremble for the future of our country, also their families. It was awful.

Mila Kunis is the protagonist, Amy, Bad Mom Prime. She is every cliché in the book: time-stressed, overworked, underpaid, on the hairy edge of a nervous breakdown. And, oh yeah, her slimy husband is cyber-cheating on her.

So she tosses him out of the house, and takes up with two other Bad Moms, meek Kiki (Kristen Bell) and earthy Carla (Kathryn Hahn). They band together to find their liberation, which involves a lot of gutter language and alcohol abuse.

I'm not kidding about the gutter language, it's at Tarantino levels. If that's what floats your boat, go for it. But I think Kathryn Hahn kind of goes over the line; without getting into specifics, she uses a word to describe her son that, um, no mother should ever use to describe her son.

Christina Applegate plays the PTA president-from-hell, Gwendolyn. The sole reason for rating this movie a half-star: she has a pretty amusing video presentation accompanying her announcement of how the upcoming school bake sale will be run. See if you can find this on YouTube, and you'll find the only thing I chuckled at in this movie.

The Cartel

[Amazon Link]

A sequel to Winslow's 2005 book The Power of the Dog which I read back in 2007, and enjoyed. In the sense that a novel containing tons of unremitting violence and betrayal can be enjoyable.

It's more of the same here. As we begin, the villain in the previous book, drug kingpin Adán Barrera, is in an American prison. Where the diligent DEA agent (and his onetime friend) Art Keller placed him at the end of The Power of the Dog. But the decades-long path of the previous book was fatal to Art ever leading a normal life; he's now doing beekeeping in a remote monastery in the desert.

But Barrera finds an out: by betraying some of his former allies in Mexico, he wangles a deal that gets him transferred to a Mexican prison. Whose keepers turn out (as Barrera knows) to be so corruptible that it's more like a luxury hotel which you are technically not allowed to leave. But re-establishing your pre-eminence as drug lord? Hey, no problem. And he eventually "escapes" anyway.

Which, in turn, brings Keller out of the monastery, and back into the game.

The book covers about eight years of the cat-and-mouse game between Barrera and Keller. With the cats and mice equipped with plenty of weaponry. There's lots of violence, some sex, and surprisingly little drugs. A lot of supporting characters to keep straight, especially on the bad-guy side; you might want to take notes.

Winslow has long been a must-read author for me. You can read this book as mindless escapism if you want. However, the underlying theme is clear: the American "war on drugs" is a massive failure; while the US gets the drugs, what Mexico gets in return is violence, corruption, and lawlessness. In a sobering dedication Winslow lists the Mexican journalists "murdered or 'disappeared'" during the writing of the book. It is a very long list.

If you want a true-fact version, I suggest Jay Nordlinger's recent article Reporting under the Gun. If anything, the danger to journalists has gotten far worse since Winslow wrote this book.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 15:29 reminds us that the Lord could hear our prayers, sometimes he doesn't feel like it:

    29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
        but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

    Today's Pic du Jour: a suggested t-shirt for the Lord.

    Hm, that comes off as a tad sacrilegious. Sorry.

  • I'm currently reading Bryan Caplan's The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.

    My credentials: I spent around 20 years as a student, and 22 years working for the University Near Here, 7 of those years as an Instructor in Computer Science. Comparable amounts of time for the wife and kids.

    At this point, about 20% of the way through the book, I am in complete agreement with Bryan Caplan. As Robert Frost points out in another context: "But waste was of the essence of the scheme."

    Or as Mel Brooks put it (in a still different context): "We've got to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen!"

    That said, I encourage you to read (for free) a couple articles adapted from the book at Reason. The first: Going to College Is Selfish. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but…

    If you've always been a strong student, spending your time and money on education pays well. The evidence is overwhelming. Even after scrupulously correcting for ability bias—the brains, discipline, and other advantages you'd possess with or without school—formal education provides a big career boost. At an individual level, investing in your own education often compares favorably to not just corporate bonds, but long-run stock market returns.

    Since individuals' investment in their own education is personally rewarding, you might infer that government investment in society's education would be socially rewarding. But this is a classic "fallacy of composition." If one person stands up at a concert, he sees better; it does not follow that if everyone stands up at a concert, everyone sees better. The same goes for education. Yes, schooling is selfishly lucrative—at least for strong students. On a societal level, however, it is shockingly wasteful for students weak and strong. Federal, state, and local government spends far too much money educating Americans.

    The second article: A Heretical Plan for Cutting Spending on Education.

    In the U.S., spending on public elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools now amounts to almost $1 trillion a year. Private education also relies on subsidized student loans and other government support. This gives society a nearly foolproof remedy for educational waste: Cut budgets for public education and subsidies for private education. Give schools less taxpayer money. The central question isn't "How?" but "Where do we start?"

    Bryan argues the best education policy would be "no education policy at all: the separation of school and state". He goes on to assure the reader that it isn't necessary to accept his "crazy extremism" in order to acknowledge the overall correctness of his supporting argument.

  • George F. Will points out an area where clarity is demanded: A War without an Objective, 6,000 Days In.

    With metronomic regularity, every thousand days or so, Americans should give some thought to the longest war in their nation’s history. The war in Afghanistan, which is becoming one of the longest in world history, reaches its 6,000th day on Monday, when it will have ground on for substantially more than four times longer than U.S. involvement in World War II from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day (1,346 days).

    Will asks: what's the point, here? Do we have one?

  • Jeff Jacoby tells the story of China's corporate tools. As in: Marriott, Delta, Mercedes-Benz, and Apple. Apple? Apple!

    When Apple CEO Tim Cook accepted the Newseum Free Speech award last spring, he emphatically declared that Apple has no higher value than the promotion of free speech and robust debate. "We work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And . . . we do it by speaking up ourselves," Cook said. "Companies can and should have values."

    But when it comes to China, Apple's values vanish. Last year Apple scrubbed hundreds of virtual private network applications, with which Internet users can bypass government censorship, from its App Store in China. It thereby denied hundreds of millions of Chinese residents their only realistic means of accessing the Internet without restriction. "This App Store purge just created one of the biggest setbacks for the free Internet in China's history," commented TechCrunch, an industry publication.

    Jacoby calls this "nauseating hypocrisy." He's right.

  • And there's another T-shirt in our Tweet du Jour: