URLs du Jour

2020-11-21

[Amazon Link]
I like the Amazon Product du Jour a lot. You can (if you are far braver than I) get the yard sign at Etsy.

  • P. J. O'Rourke at American Consequences tells us about Beautiful Losers.

    Voter turnout was huge. But almost everybody was voting against a candidate – because they were hugely opposed to him (or him + her). And every voter was right. The vote was a great big “No thank you” to Trump and Biden.

    I’m glad to see the back of Donald Trump. (Although I’m already sick of looking at the front Biden puts up.) It’s not that I disagree with Trump’s policies. I mostly don’t, except for his stupid Wall and the xenophobic crap that went with it.

    I’ve traveled the entire border, from Brownsville/Matamoros to San Ysidro/Tijuana, on both sides of the boundary. The Wall is about as conceivable as a hiking trail across the Atlantic. The only sane reaction to the idea is, “Go long on the Mexican ladder industry.”

    Closing quote: "Partisan politics is a minor team sport – somewhere in importance between beach volleyball and curling."


  • Jonah Goldberg was never a Trump fan, and his disgust has, if anything, ratcheted up a few notches in the past couple weeks: This Was Always the Plan.

    The thing is, I am very angry.

    The president of the United States is trying to steal an election he clearly and unequivocally lost.

    Even liberals frame this fact wrong. They keep saying that Trump is undermining the legitimacy of the election. He is certainly doing that. But the undermining isn’t the end he most desires—it’s the means to that end. The man is literally trying to steal an election.

    I'm not angry, because I'm too old for that. But it's difficult not to be disgusted. And saddened to see people I generally like being taken in by the con.


  • Back in Realityville, Reason provides Steven Greenhut with the good news: Voters Wisely Chose Divided Federal Government.

    At some point when his bruised ego allows it, President Donald Trump will quit acting like the spurned dictator of Belarus and curtail his civically destructive effort to overturn a legitimate election. At that point, we can embrace a satisfying reality, regardless of our presidential preference: America will have a bitterly divided government that won't accomplish very much.

    Being libertarian, I rarely enjoy election night. It's like watching a football game between the Patriots and the Raiders. Is it possible for both teams to lose badly? Fortunately, that result is entirely possible in our political system—and is what took place on Tuesday. Democrats had hoped for a blue-wave election that would throw Trump to the curb, provide a Senate majority and expand their numbers in the House.

    I'm of the cautious opinion that the GOP might have an excellent election night in 2022. If they can manage to avoid doing stupid things between now and… oh, shit, what am I thinking?


  • Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center does a little home state boosterism: Economic freedom has made New Hampshire an international marvel.

    New Hampshire is a small, remote, mountainous state with no major port or trade hub. Considering only natural economic resources, it has more liabilities than assets. Yet its economy is legendary. Its economic growth has been the envy of New England for decades.

    How did this happen?

    The simple answer is that New Hampshire unleashed the power of human ingenuity by systematically pursuing economic freedom for its people. The human mind being the greatest economic asset, New Hampshire leaders freed it from unnecessary constraints. Tremendous prosperity followed.

    What we call “The New Hampshire Advantage” is not merely the absence of a broad-based sales or income tax. It is the result of a consistent, decades-long strategy of leaving individuals and businesses largely free to trade with each other as they see fit.

    In short, the state’s economic strategy is to not have an economic strategy, other than to leave people and businesses free. It has worked beautifully.

    Statistics at the link. Now if we could just do reforms of occupational licensure and onerous land use/zoning regulations…


  • Robert Graboyes and Charles Blahous write at Discourse magazine on The Rattler’s Tail and Snakebit Pollsters.

    There are countless, conflicting interpretations of 2020’s election results, but one fact is indisputable: across the board, polls failed miserably. Several reasons have been offered for this failure, but one explanation is especially compelling and worthy of further attention, namely, the fraying of social trust in America. It is not possible to produce accurate public opinion surveys where there isn’t tolerance of opposing viewpoints—even those we detest.

    In 2020, poll after poll foretold a “blue wave,” with Democrats easily recapturing the White House, toppling several Republican incumbents to retake the Senate and swelling their majority in the House of Representatives. Instead, Republicans may retain their Senate majority, holding at least 50 and possibly as many as 52 seats. Republicans may also end up only a few seats short of a majority in the House.

    The "shy Trump voter" thesis is mentioned, and debunked: it doesn't explain why every poll showed Senator Susan Collins losing in Maine, only to win handily on Election Day.

    My thesis: Democrats/progressives/leftists are only too willing to yak to anyone who will listen about their political opinions. Including pollsters. The rest of us are (increasingly) saying: why should I tell you anything?


  • David Henderson (Library of Economics and Liberty) provides a Great Line from T.S. Eliot. Which I will do as well:

    Eliot could not have found a kinder, or more effective, way of putting me at ease. As we sat down, he said, “Tell me, as one editor to another, do you have much author trouble?” I could not help laughing, he laughed in return–he had a booming laugh–and that was the beginning of our friendship. His most memorable remark of the day occurred when I asked him if he agreed with the definition that most editors are failed writers, and he replied: “Perhaps, but so are most writers.”

    And maybe we could add bloggers to that.

Apocalypse Never

Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

[Amazon Link]

This book by onetime environmental hero, Michael Shellenberger, aims at a lot of sacred cows: Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, 350.org, Greta Thunberg, Tom Steyer, Bill McKibben, Malthus, Leo DiCaprio,… He paints a convincing (to me) case that "environmental alarmism" is a dangerous trend, very likely to do more harm than good.

It's very wide-ranging. (Maybe even a little unfocused.) Let's see if I can summarize: most of the "solutions" to environmental issues peddled by the activists are (at best) ineffective and, very often, counterproductive. Specifically, they doom poorer nations to their poverty, mandating (for example) that they give up relatively reliable and cheap fossil fuel and hydro for expensive and unreliable "renewables": solar and wind. Worse, they've successfully kiboshed nuclear energy in the richer nations. In addition to being unreliable and expensive, transitioning to solar/wind power would require vast amounts of land, squeezing out wilderness, endangering species. (Especially birds and bats.)

All this alarmism is accompanied by massive amounts of propaganda, scare tactics, and politicized science. Dissenting voices are ignored or slandered.

Shellenberger also scores points against the anti-nuclear crowd via hoisting them on their own petard. They routinely excoriate think tanks and scholars, sometimes falsely, for taking their funding from hands that might once have touched fossil fuel. But, Shellenberger says, wait a minute: doesn't that equally condemn the anti-nukers who are massively funded by oil/gas/renewable magnates?

Well, sure. If we were judging everyone by the same standards. (The idea that we should take arguments on their merits, instead of "following the money", has long since been abandoned by the alarmist crowd.)

Much of Shellenberger's thesis will be familiar to people who read outside the (unfortunately huge and impermeable) alarmist bubble. But his credentials seem solid, and he provides a welcome counterpoint to the green totalitarians.

Mildred Pierce

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

I read the James M. Cain novel long ago, but somehow never got around to seeing this 1945 movie. Joan Crawford, in the titular role, won the Oscar for Best actress. The movie also was nominated for five other Oscars, including Best Picture. I wasn't that impressed, because (frankly) it's kind of a chick flick. (Mrs. Salad liked it a lot.)

It opens with Mildred Pierce's current husband, Monte, getting filled full of lead in a swanky Santa Monica beach house. Whodunnit? Mildred's on the scene, and tries to frame her slimy business partner, Wally, for the deed. The cops aren't fooled by that, but they seem convinced the actual murderer was Mildred Pierce's first husband, Bert. Mildred can't have that: she confesses herself. But is she lying to protect Bert, or someone else? Is she the kind of person who'd do such a thing?

Well, yes. All that happens in the first few minutes, and most of the rest of the movie is flashbacks to how Mildred found herself in this pickle. Starting way back to when she was a mere housewife, struggling to make ends meet, saddled with that sad sack loser, Bert. And two young daughters, one good, one… well, not so good.

The movie chronicles Mildred's rise against the odds. In a blink of an eye, she's a restaurant tycoon, feeding most of Southern California. But her personal life is a mess, because she can't seem to shake some of her most dysfunctional relationships. Eventually…

Check out Eve Arden and (uncredited!) Butterfly McQueen in comic relief roles.

So it's very watchable, but easy to make fun of. They don't make movies, or shoulder pads, like that any more.

Witness for the Prosecution

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

I thought I'd seen this 1957 monochrome drama before, but after watching it, I'm pretty sure not.

It's adapted from an Agatha Christie play, and directed by Billy Wilder. Charles Laughton plays a barrister in ill health who (against the wishes of his nurse, Elsa Lanchester) takes on the defense of Tyrone Power, accused of murdering the rich dowager who left him a pile of money in her will.

Tyrone is married to Marlene Dietrich. Or is he? Everybody's kind of shocked when she is called as a (drumroll) Witness for the Prosecution.

So it's pretty good, although there's a lot of scenery-chewing acting from Marlene and Tyrone. Comic relief is provided via the banter between Laughton and Lanchester which is hilarious.

Also slightly amazing is Ian Wolfe, who plays Charles Laughton's secretary. According to IMDB, he was born in 1896 which would have made him about 60 here. Or you might remember him from a couple of Star Trek episodes when he was in his early 70s. Or (if you're really lucky) you watched him in a small recurring role on WKRP in Cincinnati, Mother Carlson's uppity butler Hirsch; he was in his mid-80s there.

Or any one of a zillion other things. He kept working, his last role in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy movie in 1990, when he would have been about 94 years young.

And in all those roles, he looks pretty much the same. I suppose he was young once. Maybe I'll rent The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) to test that theory.