Red Sparrow

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The MPAA has a long list of reasons for Red Sparrow's R rating: "strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity". That last bit being, I think, that you see a guy's wiener. And there's lots of cigarettes.

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, but her career is cut short by a gruesome on-stage collision. (An accident! Or is it?) Not only her career, but also getting cut off is her nice apartment and her ailing mom's health care. Fortunately, she has an uncle who's a bigwig in the Служба внешней разведки Российской Федерации. (Or the "SVR", a KGB-successor organization).

Wait, did I say "fortunately"? No, that's wrong. Because she gets sent to Sparrow School, where comely Russian lasses are taught to use their wiles to seduce SVR targets. Pretty soon Dominika is probably wishing she'd gone to work at the borscht cannery instead. She's given the assignment of seducing American spy Nate, trying to uncover the identity of the mole Nate is running inside the SVR. And most of her superiors in the SVR seem to think she should get a bullet in the back of the head sooner or later, preferably sooner. She's got a very narrow path to walk to survive. And that involves, well, see above: lots of sex and violence, perpetrated by and against all involved.

It's way too long. JLaw keeps losing her Russian accent. (Should have watched more Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, dollink.) And her character is sympathetic, but not that sympathetic.

This is another DVD Netflix sent me instead of the disk at the top of my queue, Tenet. And hence another reason I'm dropping my Netflix DVD subscription. After I get Tenet.

URLs du Jour

2021-02-01

  • William Jacobsen has the sad story: U. Central Florida Fires Dissident Prof. Charles Negy After 8-Month Retaliatory Investigation.

    Defenders of academic freedom and freedom of speech throughout academia should be rallying to the defense of University of Central Florida Professor Charles Negy after egregious retaliation against him for expressing constitutionally protected views on Twitter.

    The American Association of University Professors, the premier faculty organization defending academic freedom, should be marshalling its substantial resources and committees behind Prof. Negy, as it has done for other professors over the decades. Public interest lawyers and law professors across the land should be volunteering their services.

    Instead, Negy stands almost alone against the administrative and legal weight of the massive publicly-funded UCF.

    Executive summary: Negy's real crime was two tweets, which UCF admits were constitutionally protected speech. But they questioned the prevailing orthodoxy of race. (You can see them at the link.)

    What followed was an multiple-month inquisition where anything Negy had done or said pver a 22-year campus career was microscopically examined, as UCF tried to find excuses to fire him.

    Sounds like… oh, right, a Kafka novel.


  • Also covering the case is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): UCF is killing academic freedom to punish tweets it didn’t like.

    The University of Central Florida is trying to fire tenured professor Charles Negy for his speech, and if they succeed, it will undermine the concept of academic freedom. No UCF professor — and, if a court permits this termination, no professor in that jurisdiction — will be able to rely on it. 

    To be clear, UCF does not want you to think Negy is being punished for his speech. They’ve written a 244-page report, which involved interviewing over 300 people over seven months about incidents covering more than 15 years, to convince you otherwise. 

    But this is all either theater or self-delusion by UCF administrators who want to think they aren’t motivated by a desire to censor a controversial professor. The entire process of preparing this report was motivated by complaints about Negy’s tweets. Nobody interviews 300 people over seven months about incidents covering 15 years unless they’re desperate to find something, anything, to use against their target. UCF’s lack of sincerity in their investigation of Negy’s tweets — which, technically, was what they were investigating, based on the spurious allegation that Negy’s offensive tweets were required reading in his classes — is reflected in their decision to investigate allegations as far back as 2005, the year before Twitter was founded. 

    UCF isn't alone in attempting to squeeze out heretics and dissidents to its Wokism. It does seem to have been particularly ham-handed about it, though. Most institutions are far more indirect and delicate in their jihads.


  • Jerry Coyne has a rundown on a different altercation, specifically John McWhorter vs. Ibram X. Kendi on whether American schools are structurally racist.

    Truly, I don’t understand why author John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, hasn’t yet been the subject of a social-justice campaign to demonize and erase him. While he’s black, he’s also strongly opposed to what he sees as the “religion” of anti-racism promulgated by people like Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Robin DiAngelo, and McWhorter speaks plainly and passionately. The first piece below is an example of his strong and uncompromising views and language.

    I suppose McWhorter is still afloat because his arguments against the more extreme forms of anti-racism, as evinced in the following two pieces, are both clear and hard to refute. He’s fiercely smart and writes really well, and if you come up against him with ammunition consisting solely of offense and outrage, you’re not going to fare well. This week, McWhorter published two pieces worth reading, one on his Substack site and the other at The Atlantic, where he’s a contributing writer.  Ibram X. Kendi struck back at the second piece on Twitter, accusing McWhorter of distortion and confusion. I’ll maintain that Kendi didn’t read McWhorter very carefully.

    Coyne's long piece is worth an explicit RTWT, detailing the back-and-forth between McWhorter and Kendi. The Substack essay Coyne mentions is here. And it opens with another tale of heresy at another public university, the University of Illinois in Chicago:

    Law professor Jason Kilborn cited the N-word (and the B-word) on an exam thusly: n****, b****. It was in a question about an employment discrimination case. He has done so for years previously to no comment – as all reading this but a sliver would expect.

    But this year, a group of black students initiated a protest against him for harming them in exposing them to this expurgated rendition of the N-word. That is, in a class training them in litigation in the real world.

    One black student claimed that they experienced heart palpitations upon reading the words. During an hours-long Zoom talk with a black student representing the protesters, Kilborn made a flippant remark to the effect that the law school dean may suppose that he is some kind of “homicidal maniac” – upon which the student reported to the dean that Kilborn indeed may be one. Kilborn is no longer teaching the class, is relieved of his administrative duties, and because of the possible physical threat he poses to black students because of the Hyde-like tendency he referred to, he is barred from campus.

    McWhorter says what needs to be said: "If a black student is traumatized to such a degree by seeing “n*****” on a piece of paper, then that student needs psychological counseling."

    I've added Prof. McWhorter's substack to my subscription list. Which is way too long, but what are ya gonna do?


  • Steven Horwitz's article from last month's Reason is out from behind the paywall: Political Problems Are Policy Problems.

    A king wanted to audition a new court singer, so his underlings crossed the land, listening to everyone who wanted the job. Finally, they brought two finalists to perform for the king. When the first finished, his majesty said "That's the worst singing I've ever heard" and immediately gave the job to the second singer.

    What was his mistake?

    He hired someone who might be even worse.

    There's an economic lesson here. The market's failure to produce an ideal outcome cannot alone justify activist policy, because governments can, and usually do, also fail to produce the ideal. Since perfection isn't possible, in market processes or in political processes, we need to ask which approach is likely to be better. The case for government intervention must always be comparative.

    Thomas Sowell often listed "three questions that would destroy most of the arguments on the left."

    The first one: ‘Compared to what?’

    … and you can click over for the other two.


  • When it comes to Uncle Stupid's finances and expenditures, Kevin D. Williamson suggests that we Follow the Money. And since tax season is now upon us:

    The money the federal government raises from the federal income tax is about $28,000 per household — meaning that that is the figure you’d arrive at if you divided the total federal income-tax take evenly among every U.S. household. Because federal income taxes are borne disproportionately by the wealthy — disproportionate not only to their total numbers but to their share of income — the amount that the median family in the middle income quintile pays in federal income tax is a lot less than that, about $9,000. Add in state and local taxes and it’s about $16,000 — you can buy a new Nissan for less money.

    But the federal income tax is not the only federal tax you pay. You also pay the payroll tax, which is an income tax that sometimes in the past has pretended to be an insurance premium or a “contribution” to Social Security. (When men with guns come to collect the money, it is not a “contribution.”) The payroll tax adds about another $10,000 in expense per year per household. That’s a little less than a year’s rent on the average apartment in cheap and sunny Las Vegas or Fresno — or Columbus, Ohio, or Arlington, Texas.

    You may think you don’t pay the corporate income tax, but you do — you pay it in the form of lower wages and higher prices, and in other indirect ways. It is a relatively light burden compared to the income tax and payroll tax, only $1,870 per household per year.

    Other federal taxes (excise taxes, estate taxes, etc.) come to about $2,300 per household per year.

    Altogether — and not counting state and local taxes — that comes to about $42,000 and change per household per year. That’s the basic cost of maintaining the federal government as is — not counting public-health emergency measures or the Brobdingnagian expansion of the federal government dreamt of by Joe Biden et al.

    KDW's bottom line: "I'd rather have the Nissan." Agreement here, although I'd go for a Hyundai, if that's OK.


  • Andrea Widburg's American Thinker piece is excerpted at Liberty Unyielding: Of public officials and modeling contracts. Looking specifically at the fashion media swoon over Ella Emhoff, who happens to be the Vice-Stepdaughter.

    Emhoff isn’t an ugly young woman. Her features are decent. What strikes me is that, in so many pictures, she’s such an angry, unhappy – indeed, scary – looking young woman. …. In only a few pictures do you see her with a smile, and then she looks, again, like a nice, but ordinary, young woman (and there’s nothing wrong with that) …

    I left a comment there, which I'll share here:

    Angry/Unhappy/Scary is the thing these days. One of the perks of subscribing to the Wall Street Journal is getting their glossy magazine every month. Both the articles and the ads are totally outside my demographic, interests, and tastes. Also: disposable income.

    But I have a game: page through the magazine until I find a picture in an advertisement of someone who actually looks happy, instead of a junkie desperate to get paid for the photo shoot so they can afford their next fix. I have to go pretty deep at times.