The Best of Enemies

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A decent earnest movie from 2019, probably intended as Oscar bait. Although (checking IMDB) that didn't catch on.

It's "based on actual events" from 1971. When Durham, North Carolina was roiled by racial tension, menaced by Klansmen. The two main characters are white male Klan Cyclops C.P. Ellis (played by Sam Rockwell) and black female rabble-rousing activist Ann Atwater (played by Taraji P. Henson). A fire in the local black school renders it mostly unusable. The obvious solution is to stick the black kids in with the white kids, but that's steadfastly opposed by most of the local whites. The powers that be decide to resolve things via a charrette, which is basically a scrum where days of intense discussion and contention are supposed to come up with a solution.

Which seems unlikely. But you can see what's coming from the very title of the movie: Ann and C.P. develop a grudging respect, come to understand each other's point of view, and… well, you could probably write the heartwarming outcome yourself.

Both Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson are excellent. I think the movie deserved an Oscar nomination for makeup, because Ms. Henson is a beauty, and her character (wonderful woman she is) is not: she's older, seriously overweight, not particularly attractive.

I'm wondering (however) how accurate the film's portrait of 1971 Durham, NC is. There are a few elite rich folk, but everyone else, black and white, is working class or below. Mostly the town is portrayed as dingy, dirty, and poor.

You know what's in Durham? Duke University. IBM. Do all those professors, programmers, managers, and well-paid administrators commute in from out of town? Maybe in 1971?

The Good Killer

[Amazon Link]

I put this on my "Get At Library" list based on a laudatory WSJ review. After only a couple chapters, I put Harry Dolan's other novels on that list too. It's pretty good.

Sean and Molly live in Houston, but it's clear from the get-go they have something to hide. Molly's off to Montana for some mind-clearing yoga and horseback riding, and Sean's apprehensive. There are bad people out there that would do them harm if they knew where they were.

But Molly turns out to not be the problem. On a whim, Sean heads to the mall to shop, and runs into what they call an active shooter situation. Sean fits into the "good guy with a gun" role perfectly. Unfortunately, mall security cameras catch him on video, which is broadcast nationwide. And the local cops would like to question him as well. But he realizes the publicity will blow his cover, and he'd prefer to avoid law enforcement too. So instead of basking in goodwill and fame, he abandons Houston, taking off to Montana to retrieve Molly.

So: Not only are the cops after him, but also the bad guys. What follows is an intricate ballet of road-tripping, violence, threats, near-misses. And a thrilling climax, of course.

Sean's no angel. His reason for being on the lam is eventually revealed, and it's not because he's avoiding paying a parking ticket. But compared to the bad guys after him…

Lots of fun. I've seen Harry Dolan compared to Elmore Leonard, and that's fine company to be in.

URLs du Jour

2020-10-23

[Amazon Link]

  • In an NRPLUS article (sorry), Kevin D. Williamson tells you the good news: Biden Can't Tax the Rich. The bad news is, he'll wind up taxing you instead.

    Joe Biden’s tax plan is based on a deathless myth: that taxes are actually paid in economic terms by those upon whom they legally fall. The obviousness of this nonsense is clear enough if you put the proposition into plain English: “Don’t you worry, now, we’re not going to raise taxes on you, Bubba — we’re just going to raise taxes on your employer, your customers, your vendors and business partners, the people who make and sell the things you buy and use, your bank, your Internet provider, the companies that build houses and commercial buildings, your landlord, gasoline distributors, all the companies your retirement account is invested in — oh, you won’t be affected at all!”

    Biden’s tax plan is a lot like the Republicans’ health-care plan: He mainly is interested in undoing what was done under the last president, in this case partially repealing the 2017 tax bill put together by Paul Ryan, which, for some reason, we call the “Trump tax cuts.” But tax increases are generally unpopular, so Biden promises to raise taxes only on a despised and resented minority: People who make more money than most of the people he is trying to persuade to vote for him. In this case, that means a promise to raise taxes only on households earning $400,000 a year or more, roughly the top 2 percent of earners. Biden would also substantially raise business taxes, and the majority of his $3 trillion or so in new taxes over ten years would fall directly on business owners — and indirectly on their employees, vendors, and customers.

    There's also that Bastiat seen/unseen effect: we see the Feds spending piles of (our) money on the stuff government thinks we should want. We don't see the stuff that might have been provided if that money had remained in private hands, spent by individuals and groups desperately looking to provide people with what they actually do want.

    I don't see that working out well.


  • Another thing I don't see working out well: the future of free speech. Because, at Matt Welch notes at Reason: Everybody Hates Free Speech.

    The fight over media is more a fight over power, and who gets to wield it, than a fight over principle, and how it should be applied. Trump and Joe Biden both want to roll back the speech protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act; the difference is that the president would do it in the name of protecting conservatives and the former vice president would do it in the name of restricting conservative misinformation. Sens. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) agree that Facebook and Twitter are guilty of "election interference"; it just depends on which election. Google faces antitrust enthusiasm from House Democrats and Bill Barr's Justice Department alike. (This morning, on Fox Business Network's Mornings with Maria, Donald Trump, Jr., asserted that this election would be a referendum on the First Amendment, because only his father could be trusted with following through on his promise to break up Big Tech, because Democrats who talk a big game are actually in bed with their censorious Silicon Valley overlords.)

    The more politics (and its worst form, war) subsumes life, the more free speech is treated as a means to an end rather than as a magnificent if always-threatened achievement of the Enlightenment. It is no accident that the bipartisan clampdown on speech in the governmental realm is coinciding in the intellectual realm with a noisy right-left rethink of the Enlightenment itself.

    Matt foresees a future where "Speech from the bad guys will increasingly be treated like violence, while violence from the good guys will be increasingly treated like speech." Very Orwellian, only a few decades late.


  • Of course, that's not to say there isn't speech we'd be better off without. John Tierney in the City Journal asks for The Last Presidential Debate, Please.

    We finally have a chance to create improved debates, because the current sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, has bungled its mission so badly that Republicans are vowing never again to submit to its whims. The commission is a private group that claims to be bipartisan, but as Bob Dole pointed out, none of its Republican members support Donald Trump. Its last-minute rule changes were opposed by the Trump campaign and welcomed by the Biden campaign. Its moderators have consistently favored Democrat-friendly topics, directing the most hostile questions to Trump and Mike Pence while repeating Democratic talking points as if they were uncontested facts.

    This year’s fiascos are partly due to the singular hostility that Trump has aroused in the press corps and the rest of the Washington establishment. (Though his boorishness in the first debate didn’t help, either.) But the basic problem is the debate format. Instead of confronting each other directly, the candidates must answer questions from journalists who usually have neither the skills nor the incentives to moderate a debate properly.

    Among John's worthwhile suggestions: an actual debate in the Intelligence Squared mode. Couldn't be worse.


  • Cato's Julian Sanchez writes about the anti-Google jihad: Searching for Monopolies.

    The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was launching an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging that the search giant’s deals with browser and operating system developers to make Google a default search engine amounted to anticompetitive behavior. The suit bears all the hallmarks of a political stunt—an unnecessary government intervention in the online search market that has little chance of yielding any meaningful benefit to consumers.

    Oddly, the suit does not target Google’s dominance in the online advertising space, which has often been the focus of critics, but Internet searches, where it seems least plausible to claim the company enjoys anything like a monopoly. Internet users have a wide variety of easily‐​accessible options for online searches: While Google is the default search engine for most browsers and mobile operating systems in the United States, users can elect to use competitors such as Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo with almost no effort, either by manually visiting those pages, or by taking a few seconds to change their default engine settings. Though Google commands the lion’s share of search traffic, it is hard to seriously claim this is because consumers lack for choices—which would normally be a precondition of claiming a company enjoys a “monopoly.”

    I used Google's embedded search widget for a while, then switched to DuckDuckGo for some reason. I'm mulling switching back to Google to register my puny protest against this stupid suit.


  • And this is one for the "Gee, I wonder if this will be reported anywhere else" department. NH Journal has a story about my current CongressCritter, Chris "Chicken Tenders" Pappas, specifically fallout from his recent debate with GOP challenger Matt "Lawn" Mowers: Pappas Admits He Lied About Relationship With Lobbyist.

    On Thursday, Rep. Chris Pappas acknowledged his involvement in a personal relationship with a corporate lobbyist, a relationship he repeatedly denied the night before during a live, televised debate.

    “How dare you? That is not true, Matt. This is an outrageous charge,” Pappas said on WMUR, in response to the allegation from his GOP opponent, Matt Mowers Wednesday night.

    Woops. Well, that link goes to the Union Leader, so it's (sort of) being reported elsewhere. Can't find anything on the WMUR website; you'd think they'd be a little more interested in reporting a baldfaced lie in a debate they televised.