URLs du Jour


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  • Talk about a clickbait headline! The One Glaring Question No One Has Asked Joe Biden But Should. That's from Christopher Jacobs at the Federalist.

    In “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Sherlock Holmes solved a murder mystery by investigating the dog that didn’t bark. Similarly, one of the biggest wild cards of a potential Biden presidency comes from a question the media haven’t asked

    Given his septuagenarian status, reporters have queried Biden about his mental and physical health. ABC’s David Muir posed the question in an interview right after the Democratic National Convention.

    But while Biden has answered questions about whether he would need to leave the presidency involuntarily, due to death or disability, this observer has no recollection of a reporter asking him whether he would leave the presidency voluntarily, to “grease the skids” for Kamala Harris to succeed him. It sounds far-fetched, but it happens in Washington quite often.

    Well first, Chris: the dog that didn't bark is in the short story "Silver Blaze", not Hound of the Baskervilles.

    And it seems to me that the question can be answered pretty easily: "Chris, 'greasing the skids' would be a bad rationale for resigning as President. I wouldn't do that." Assuming Biden can still think as fast as I can, that's not the gotcha question Christopher imagines.

    I'm pretty sure Biden wouldn't leave the Oval Office voluntarily. I'm pretty sure everybody in the Biden Administration, assuming that happens, will be boning up on Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which is a more realistic Plan B.

  • Eric Boehm waxes wistful at Reason: In Convention Speech, Mike Pence Said Joe Biden Will Repeal Trump’s Tariffs. If Only That Were True.

    As he capped off the third night of the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence may have briefly given voters hope that the trade war with China could soon come to an end.

    Discussing China in his convention speech, Pence claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden "wants to repeal all the tariffs that are leveling the playing field for American workers."

    Don't get your hopes up. No matter who wins November's general election, a wind-down of the import taxes that President Donald Trump imposed on Chinese-made goods is unlikely to be a priority.

    Letting US citizens and businesses buy whatever they want, from whomever they want, at whatever mutually-agreeable price they negotiate: that's not sexy. It doesn't allow politicians to say they've done something, like "create jobs" or "level the playing field." And that's something both Biden and Trump would like to say.

  • Bradley Smith has a modest proposal in the WSJ (probably paywalled): Political Giving Should Be Private.

    A third of Americans fear being fired for their political beliefs. Unfortunately, for those who wish to support political campaigns, federal and state laws leave no place to hide.

    “Cancel culture” has divided First Amendment advocates. Some argue that private actors must tolerate differing views for free speech to survive, while others say the only concern should be government intrusions on speech. But when private individuals target and harass other Americans for their political donations, the government can’t say it plays no role.

    Campaign contributions are public because the law requires it. Every American who gives more than $200 to a candidate for president or Congress, or to a political party, has his name, address and employer published in an online, searchable database. Every state has similar laws for reporting contributions to state candidates, many with substantially lower donation thresholds.

    I can't remember the last time I wrote a check to an actual political candidate. Rand Paul, maybe? And I can't be fired, I retired. Still, if I were still working for UNH, I'd think not once, not twice, but thrice, before I dropped any cash on anyone with unwoke positions on the issues. Heretics not welcome! Hostile workplace!

Last Modified 2022-10-17 8:03 AM EDT

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link]


So I was in the mood for a stupid comedy, and I got it. Will Farrell's latest, straight to Netflix streaming.

Lars is a moody Icelandic kid after his mom dies, leaving him with his strict, emotionally unavailable dad, Pierce Brosnan. But he gets inspired when ABBA appears on the tube, and finds a mission: to write and perform schlocky pop songs. His perhaps-sister Sigrit also gets dragged into the dream.

But decades later, Lars is now Will Ferrell, Sigrit is now Rachel McAdams, and they're still stuck in their small Icelandic fishing village, and pretty much everyone realizes Lars's meager talents are not enough to propel them to stardom. Except Lars and Sigrit. But thanks to unlikely (and, for some, unfortunate) occurrences, they find themselves on their way to Edinburgh for the famed titular song contest.

There's a lot of good stuff here. Especially Dan Stevens playing Lemtov, Eurovision's Russian entry: his suggestive and sexually ambiguous performances with over-the-top production pyrotechnics are hilarious. (When challenged, Mrs. Salad did not recognize him as Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey. That's good acting in itself, she's usually pretty good at that.) Farrell is unparalleled at playing a doofus with big, unlikely dreams. Rachel McAdams is sweet and semi-clueless throughout.

Drawbacks: It could have been improved if it were cut down by 15-20 minutes. And Farrell's Icelandic accent comes and goes. Pierce Brosnan just sticks with an Irish accent as near as I can tell, although maybe that's what an Icelandic accent sounds like, how would I know?

Last Modified 2022-10-16 9:49 AM EDT

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols

Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D.

[Amazon Link]

Another Sherlock Holmes pastiche from the sainted Nicholas Meyer. Sainted for his involvement with the Star Trek movies. Especially for directing the best one ever.

But his Holmes stuff predates that, the first one (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) was from 1974 and had Sherlock meeting up with Sigmund Freud, who helped out with his coke habit. (Or something. It's been a long time since I read it.)

The book is set around 1905. Watson is dragged out of his stable marriage to saintly Juliet when Holmes is given an assignment by brother Mycroft: track down the origins of the notorious antisemitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A lady spy has been murdered and tossed into the Thames for obtaining a copy in Russian. Can the perpetrators be brought to justice and the vile fraud debunked?

Well, if you know your history: the answer is no.

But they give it their best shot. They get a translation from real-life Russian translator Constance Garnett, and she provides an important clue to the Protocols' plagiarized origin. Holmes and Watson embark on a perilous covert journey to Czarist Russia, where anti-Jewish pogroms are becoming rife. They are accompanied by (again, real-life) activist Anna Strunsky. But the Czar's secret police, the Okhrana seem to be one step ahead of them all the way.

It's not great. There's not a lot of deduction, and Holmes seems to be outmatched, resorting to thuggish tactics to get to the truth. (Doyle wouldn't have done that!) But Meyer has done his homework for the novel's time and place: for example, the trek Holmes, Watson, and Anna take to Russia and back is lovingly described, and I imagine that Meyer dug out just exactly which trains they would have to travel on. (The Orient Express!)

Last Modified 2022-09-30 11:49 AM EDT


[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

An Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer, as we continue on our film noir festival. For me the real star here is Jane Wyatt. Mrs. Sarek, Spock's mom! Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best!

That said, this could be the worst episode of Father Knows Best ever. More like Father Should Know Better, amirite?

Anyway, she's married to John here, Dick Powell. Who should be happy with Jane Wyatt and their irritating son, Tommy. A steady job, nice house in Los Angeles. Ah, but John works in insurance, a well-known soul-sucking service sector. He's bored, and boring.

But he gets an assignment to recover insured property purloined by petty crook Bill Smiley, given to girlfriend Mona. Oops, Mona is Lizabeth Scott! She should have a button pinned to her lapel: "May Cause Permanent Damage to Your Marriage and Life".

In a typical film noir, Mona would have a heart of charcoal. But she's pretty nice, actually. Nevertheless, John and Mona find themselves making a big mistake. Complicating matters is the private eye who investigated Mona for the insurance company. It's Raymond Burr, in a pre-Perry Mason heavy (very heavy) role: he's also smitten with Mona, and in a deeply unhealthy way.

The movie's dialogue is surprisingly sharp, and the plot develops some unexpected twists. Not everyone lives happily ever after.

Last Modified 2022-10-16 9:49 AM EDT