Joker

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Wow, I really disliked this movie.

It's the tale of poor, mentally ill, Arthur Fleck, doomed to be a loser in the hellhole that is Gotham City. All he wants to do is to be a standup comedian. But unfortunately he's not funny. And he doesn't understand enough about people to even act funny. And part of his mental illness is his propensity to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times.

So he becomes a homicidal maniac. Hey, who wouldn't?

Now, there's a Batman tie-in, of course. Bruce Wayne's father, Thomas, is portrayed as an uncaring plutocrat. (Think Mike Bloomberg, except more explicit in his disdain for the less fortunate.) The only thing to wonder about is whether Fleck is gonna shoot him in front of Bruce, or someone else. (Spoiler, because I don't care: someone else.)

The details are thoroughly unpleasant, and go on far too long. But your mileage may vary, as it did with the Oscar folks; they nominated it in a bunch of categories, including Best Picture. And Joaquin Phoenix won best actor.

And the IMDB raters have it (as I type) as number 48 on the best movies of all time. Sheesh. Maybe I was just in a bad mood.

Invisible Man

[Amazon Link]

By Ralph Ellison, not H. G. Wells. One of those books you are Supposed To Read. No question, it's powerful and (arguably) timely, despite being published nearly 70 years ago. I got a cheap Kindle version, link on the right as usual. But (consumer note) it had a bunch of minor typographic glitches, so you may want to spring for something more reliable, perhaps this spiffy Modern Library edititon.

Did I mention timely? I had never used Kindle's highlighting feature before, but here's a couple sentences I found speaking to America's relationship with President Bone Spurs:

Whether we liked him or not, he was never out of our minds. That was a secret of leadership.

Sounds sarcastic, but is it, really?

The unnamed African-American narrator takes us on his life's journey from high school, into an college, into the world of work in New York City, then becoming a "community organizer" in Harlem, finally moving into self-exile from American society. (Oops, spoilers, sorry.) His path is marked with all sorts of incidents: bizarre, absurd, many nightmarish. And (very few) hilarious. He continually makes "seemed like a good idea at the time" choices that come back to bite him in the ass. It doesn't help that he's continually exploited and betrayed by his co-workers, superiors, and friends. He abandons the few actually-decent people he meets along the way.

Note for my fellow right-wingers: Among the exploiters is a thinly-disguised Communist Party, looking to use him as a puppet to engage Harlem into its revolutionary cause.

Ellison's prose is dense and flowery. I think I've seen it described as "Faulkneresque" but it's been a long time since I read Faulkner, so I couldn't tell you.

URLs du Jour

2020-03-19

I think it's all Covid-related today, sorry.

  • At the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein asks a question I've been asking too: When and how does this coronavirus crisis end?

    That’s the question on the top of everybody’s mind. It’s what governments at all levels are struggling to get a handle on. It’s what schools and parents are trying to come to grips with. It’s what sports leagues and airlines and restaurants and hotels need to know. It’s what Wall Street investors and political pundits are all trying to figure out.

    But the truth is, nobody knows when exactly this all ends.

    I hope by July. I (literally) have reservations.


  • A Corner post from Kevin D. Williamson, I'm just gonna show you the whole thing:

    In Slate, infectious disease specialist Kent Sepkowitz writes:

    In early March, Trump told Sean Hannity that, despite million [sic] of cases and thousands of deaths, the Obama administration “didn’t do anything about” H1N1. On Friday, he tweeted that the Obama response had been “was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now.” And again on Sunday he tweeted, “The USA was never set up for this, just look at the catastrophe of the H1N1 Swine Flu (Biden in charge, 17,000 people lost, very late response time).” It’s become a talking point for his supporters online and off.

    Set aside, for the moment, the question of the truth of these claims. The real question for Trump, who presents himself as a hard-charging business executive, is this: Did we hire you to sit around and kvetch on Twitter about the mistakes of your predecessor, or did we hire you to fix them?

    Emphasis added.


  • John Tamny points out what should be obvious at AIER: If You Bail Out Everyone, You Bail Out No One. It's in response to Kevin Warsh's (a former Federal Reserve Governor) suggestion to “create a new facility that could lend to companies hit by the economic shutdown.”

    The shutdown aspect of the lapse of reason we’re all suffering from politicians and those in their employ rates constant mention in consideration of conservative calls for a “new facility” to bolster businesses whacked by political ineptitude. Those businesses, and those in the employ of those businesses, would normally fund government outlays but for one problem: politicians are in the process of shutting down the economy for weeks, and perhaps even months.

    It’s seemingly been glossed over by Warsh and other conservatives that government spending is just another word for private sector spending orchestrated by politicians. All wealth is created in the private sector only for government to politicize spending of this private sector wealth creation to the tune of $4 to $5 trillion per year. The growth once again already happened, hence the ability of Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell et al to spend.

    It's almost that classic statist slight-of-hand, where (1) the government takes a lot of your money; (2) gives some of it back; (3) tries to convince you it's done you a great favor.

    Bad enough, but the problem in this case is step one: where you gonna get the money when the economy is in shutdown mode?


  • Cato's Jeffrey A. Singer points a finger: Coronavirus testing delays caused by red tape, bureaucracy and scorn for private companies.

    The Food and Drug Administration requires an onerous approval process to bring any test to market. Once the FDA granted "emergency use authorization" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to distribute and conduct the coronavirus test that it had developed, the CDC took control of distributing and administering tests while the private sector and foreign-developed tests were kept out of the process during the crucial weeks between when the virus was first identified in December and when it started rapidly spreading among the American public. The obstacles to private-sector action are only now being lifted.

    "Emergency use authorization" is a scaled-down approval process that requires fewer criteria to be met to speed a test or treatment to market when time is of the essence. But even a more streamlined process didn't allow tests developed abroad and distributed by the World Health Organization to make the grade. According to White House officials, the WHO test was meant for research purposes and didn't meet American quality control standards amid concern about incorrect results. Yet other countries have been using the test, suggesting our federal government let the prefect be the enemy of the good.

    Neither major political party can turn this into a partisan issue, so it won't become the major scandal it deserves to be.


  • At National Review, Michael Tanner makes another libertarian point: Big Government Has Hurt Our Ability to Deal with This Crisis.

    The government’s most obvious failure so far has been the slowness of testing. The Trump administration’s failure to recognize the urgency of the situation was undoubtedly a contributing factor. But a bigger issue was red tape, bureaucracy, and over-caution on the part of regulatory agencies. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insisted on creating its own diagnostic kit, rather than adopt those already available from other sources, such as the World Health Organization, which had made kits available to more than 60 countries.

    Making matters worse, the CDC botched its first attempt at a test kit. In response, some laboratories tried to take matters into their own hands and create their own kits, only to be blocked by the FDA, which insisted that laboratories first obtain an Emergency Use Authorization, which added more delays. Those delays allowed the virus to circulate undetected for weeks and certainly contributed to its spread.

    Now that testing is finally coming online, the biggest concern is a lack of hospital beds and other equipment such as ventilators. Here again, big government has been part of the problem. For example, 35 states have restrictive certificate-of-need laws that allow existing hospitals and other health providers to block new construction or the purchase of equipment by new and competing providers. Designed to deliberately reduce capacity and reduce competition, these laws have helped lead to a shortage of capacity to handle the expected surge in coronavirus cases.

    NIH spokesmodel Anthony Fauci has been quick to point his finger of blame… nowhere at all.

    "It was a complicated series of multiple things that conflated that just, you know, went the wrong way. One of them was a technical glitch that slowed things down in the beginning. Nobody’s fault. There wasn’t any bad guys there. It just happened," Fauci said.

    Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of the narrative: (1) the State's job is to protect us all, and (2) it's "nobody's fault" when it fails to do that.


  • And while the "democratic" socialists keep wanting us to become West Denmark, a different country, #2 in economic freedom, is pointing a different path, as described by Howard Husock at City Journal: As It Confronts COVID-19, U.S. Should Revisit How It Attracts and Retains Governmental Talent.

    Singapore has something to teach the world about the importance of a well-functioning, high-capacity, creative, and trusted government in times of crisis. The coronavirus could have easily overwhelmed the wealthy island city-state, but even as it received infected travelers directly from Wuhan, Singapore effectively tracked and isolated cases—limiting the early total to just 226, with zero deaths. In effect, Singapore quickly instituted the panoply of measures that other countries, including the U.S., appear to have discovered slowly. As its Ministry of Health website demonstrates, the country tested Wuhan arrivals, instituted travel bans, tracked the infected, and, finally, located all their contacts. In addition, Singapore canceled all sporting events and other public gatherings. The public-health response was based on studying and learning from less successful experiences with the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks in 2002 and 2009.

    Singapore’s success owes at least something to its governmental approach. The city-state pays its cabinet ministers and civil servants high salaries, inspiring them to build careers in public service. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earns more than $2 million a year—the highest among world leaders—while cabinet ministers earn more than $1 million. As Lee puts it: “ministers should also be paid properly in order that Singapore can have honest, competent leadership over the long term.”

    I should hasten to point out that on broader measures of freedom, Singapore scores less well. But it's doing a better job of … y'know … keeping its citizens alive than many other countries.


Last Modified 2020-03-19 8:47 AM EDT