URLs du Jour

2021-02-03

  • Like a monkey in one of those cocaine addiction studies, I keep hitting the button to check out Becker's Hospital Review's list of States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered.

    How are we doing? Number 36! As I type. (59.86% of distributed doses administered).

    We were number 37 in their February 1 list (59.1%). So, progress. But I've sent mail to Governor Sununu urging him to get vaccine distribution tips from Gov. Kristi Noem of North Dakota. Which is #1 with 81.93%.

    Gov, even getting that number up to 65% would put us in 22nd place.


  • To quote Buck Murdock: Irony can be … pretty ironic sometimes. Current case in point reported by Robby Soave: Newsmax Censors My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell During Segment About Twitter’s Censorship of Mike Lindell.

    My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump who wrongly believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen, appeared on Newsmax Wednesday to discuss his suspension from Twitter.

    The topic of the segment was supposed to be Big Tech's censorious efforts to silence Lindell. But the businessman immediately veered off-topic and into conspiracy theory territory, forcing producers to abruptly cancel the interview—and inadvertently making an important point about Section 230, the federal law that protects social media companies from liability and has undeservedly become an object of conservative ire.

    Robby makes a simple point: if social media platforms become legally responsible for every brain-damaged thing their users say, they'll become far more censorious than they are today. Of course, speech stiflers like Joe Biden and Liz Warren are in favor of that. Why anyone of a conservative/libertarian bent should agree is mystifying.


  • Kevin D. Williamson makes a related point: Populist Right and Populist Left Policy Preferences Overlap. Long, but here's a sample:

    One would think that Lenin’s superstition — that the ready-made solutions are all there waiting to be implemented, requiring only pure hearts and some political will — would have been dispelled in both parties by their experiences in power. Barack Obama came into office with his party controlling both houses of Congress, but his promise to fundamentally transform the United States came to very little — and exactly the same thing was true of Donald Trump. But, of course, the partisans have an answer for that: “The traitors have infiltrated our operations! Saboteurs and wreckers!”

    Thus the We the People vs. the Establishment rhetoric that so completely dominates our politics on both sides of the aisle.

    I do not expect the American Left to question the premise that “human action no longer encounters obstacles or limits, only adversaries,” because the American Left is, always has been, and always will be both utopian and juvenile. But an American Right that consistently fails to grapple with reality, as in the case of so many contemporary Republican elected officials and prominent right-wing media voices, is incoherent. It is no longer conservative in any meaningful sense, but, as expressed in the rhetoric of so much of the Right today, self-consciously revolutionary.

    Utopianism-in-arms does not have an especially admirable historical record.

    Trump said a lot of bad things. But one of the worst was "I alone can fix it."

    It's a shame that so many took that seriously.


  • From the daily news roundup at the Dispatch, Sarah Isgur and Audrey Fahlberg observe the latest example of a general rule, namely Actions Have Consequences.

    According to the Associated Press, “nearly 5,000 Arizona voters dropped their GOP voter registration in nine days after the Capitol attack.” And in the days following January 6, 4,600 voters dropped off the Republican rolls in Colorado, 6,000 in North Carolina, and 10,000 in Pennsylvania. NPR, who reported the data, noted that this was specific to the GOP: “there was no comparable effect with any other party.” This isn’t just bad news for Republicans on the ballot in 2022—it’s bad news for the future of the party, because it may signal that more moderate Republican voters have simply given up on fighting against the fringes over the direction of the party. 

    I'm sorely tempted myself. It's difficult to be registered with a party that's trying to throw out Liz Cheney while embracing Marjorie Taylor Greene.


  • If you need a lesson in true bravery, I suggest reading the statement by Alexei Navalny in front of the Russian court that had just sentenced him to 2½ years in prison. Putin is a “Thieving Little Man”.

    The explanation is one man’s hatred and fear—one man hiding in a bunker. I mortally offended him by surviving. I survived thanks to good people, thanks to pilots and doctors. And then I committed an even more serious offense: I didn’t run and hide. Then something truly terrifying happened: I participated in the investigation of my own poisoning, and we proved, in fact, that Putin, using Russia’s Federal Security Service, was responsible for this attempted murder. And that’s driving this thieving little man in his bunker out of his mind. He’s simply going insane as a result….

    It turns out that dealing with a political opponent who has no access to television and no political party merely requires trying to kill him with a chemical weapon. So, of course, he’s losing his mind over this. Because everyone was convinced that he’s just a bureaucrat who was accidentally appointed to his position. He’s never participated in any debates or campaigned in an election. Murder is the only way he knows how to fight. He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator [Alexander II] and Yaroslav the Wise [Yaroslav I]. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner…

    How many of us could measure up to Navalny's courage?


  • Kin Hubbard once said, memorably:

    When a fellow says, 'It ain't the money but the principle of the thing,' it's the money.

    Which brings us to the latest entry in our occasional "Stupid Wired Article" Department. By Malkia Devich-Cyril: Banning White Supremacy Isn’t Censorship, It’s Accountability.

    Earlier this month, in the wake of the fatal incursion of an angry, mostly white and male mob into the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Facebook and Twitter blocked Donald Trump’s accounts. YouTube followed with a temporary ban, which it has continued to extend in the weeks since. According to these platforms, Trump’s dangerous pattern of behavior violated their content management rules. Shortly after, Amazon Web Services ended its hosting support for the neo-Nazi online haven Parler. Parler countered with a lawsuit alleging that Amazon’s decision was an antitrust violation motivated by political animus, which the courts readily rejected. In the coming days, Facebook’s Oversight Board is expected to issue a final decision on whether to allow the former president back on its platform. 

    The collective sigh of relief that rippled through the digital spaces occupied by Black, indigenous and other people of color following the wave of deplatformings was visceral, and the impact was almost immediate. A study conducted by research firm Zignal Labs found that online disinformation, particularly about election fraud, fell by an incredible 73 percent in the week after Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s social media account. Online forums for Trump supporters are now fractured and weakened.

    Uh huh. Well, it gets worse from there. Ms. Devich-Cyril pretends that "white supremacy" is a neat, nasty, little category that you can easily detect and banish. Also "hate speech".

    I'm not sure she believes that herself. Obviously, she thinks she can reliably be given the power to make that call. And there's nothing particularly objective about it: if it offends me, ban it.

    Wired should know better.

    But to adapt the Hubbard quote: when someone says "It's not censorship, it's accountability" -- it's censorship.

The Sentinel

[Amazon Link]

So the big news here is that Lee Child (real name James Grant) has taken on a co-author for this book: Andrew Child (real name Andrew Grant, James' brother). And apparently the next book too, Better Off Dead, out in October, but available for pre-order at Amazon.

I'm sure the explanation is out there somewhere. I'm not that interested in finding out. The relevant question is: are there any noticeble changes to the tried-and-true formula?

Nothing major I could detect. Maybe Reacher is a little more verbal in his exchanges with friends and foes. Especially foes: Reacher is given to explaining to his opponents exactly why they should just give up instead of pushing Reacher into beating the snot of them. I'm not sure that would work well in a real-life situation. Why would a bad guy patiently wait for Reacher to finish his speech?

Anyway, Reacher (yet again) is just wandering around when he notices trouble a'brewing for an apparent innocent victim, Rusty Rutherford, who's being set up for a kidnapping by a team of four agents. They are, of course, no match for Reacher. After the rescue, Rusty seems clueless about why anyone would want to snatch him. He was, until recently, the IT guy for the local town government. Despite his best efforts, the town fell victim to a nasty ransomware hack. Rusty was fired and vilified. Still, kidnapping seems a little extreme.

Of course, Reacher suggests that Rusty simply leave town. That turns out to not be in the cards. So Reacher sticks around, investigating the hack, the kidnappers, and other mysterious goings on. And (as usual) there's a lot of violence, chicanery, and conspiracy. And (dude) even I picked up on the symbolism of the double-sided portrait at the end of the book. It's pretty heavy-handed.

Sudden Fear

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

An early run of the Adjective Noun movie title algorithm generator. Fatal Instinct, Endless Love, Indecent Proposal, Blazing Saddles, … was this the first?

Also, it's a big eyebrow fight between Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame. Has any subsequent actress ever approached these two icons?

Well, anyway: Joan plays Myra Hudson, a very rich playwright. As the movie opens, she's arranging to have Lester (Jack Palance!) fired from a leading role in her new play. Turns out to be a good move because the play's a hit, making Myra even richer. She hops a train back home to San Francisco, but who should show up on the same train, but … Lester!

Love unexpectedly blooms, because Lester's a charmer. But is there more going on? You bet, and it becomes explicit when Irene (Gloria Grahame) shows up unexpectedly; it turns out she and Lester had a previous relationship. They conspire! Will Myra survive?

For a 1952 movie, it's pretty racy. And there's lots of 1950s San Francisco scenery. Joan Crawford and Jack Palance got Oscar nominations. Neither won, but if they'd had a category for Overacting, I think Joan would have easily won that.

Trivia: In the credits is a guy named "Touch Connors". When he eventually shows up: "Hey, that's Mannix!"

Even more trivial: the credits devote an entire screen to the folks behind Joan Crawford's dresses, hats, furs, hair, and makeup. It takes a village.