URLs du Jour

2021-02-20

[Amazon Link]

  • P. J. O'Rourke on America's Populism Problem. What say you, Peej?

    One big, honking populist has just been shooed out of the White House. And his replacement – while more of an old political hack and Washington establishmentarian than a populist per se – is coming in trailing strong fumes of populism from his own political party.

    Populism isn’t a Right-wing or Left-wing ideology. Populism isn’t an ideology at all… It’s about feelings, not ideas. Populism isn’t conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic. But it is both MAGA and BLM, both QAnon and Antifa – AOC in a Boogaloo Boys Hawaiian shirt.

    He's not a fan.

    In our populist moment, everyone "knows" that they're a victim. They're oppressed! By … well, pick your oppressor.

    Back in 2014, George F. Will's column was spiked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for daring to observe that "when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate." This has only gotten truer since, and it's a game anyone can play.


  • Kevin D. Williamson looks with amusement at Senator Ted Cruz's cruise to Cancun: Vacation Unseemly, Not Wrong.

    If the world is mad at Senator Cruz, it is not because he has done anything that hurt anybody. What he has done is judged to be something else: unseemly. The democratic religion in the United States holds, for reasons of pure superstition, that there must be a radical identification between political leaders and the people they represent, which is why Senator Cruz of Princeton and Harvard Law sometimes does that ridiculous good-ol’-boy shtick of his. If the people of Houston are going to suffer — and they are suffering — then Senator Cruz is expected to stay and suffer alongside them, even if he need not do so, and even if prudence would recommend his not doing so.

    Would his staying make anybody in Texas better off? No. If anything, it might make them worse off: Suppose Senator Cruz and a neighbor three houses down both have an emergency and dial 911 at the same moment — does anybody think that a senator is going to the end of the line, even if he doesn’t ask for or desire special treatment? If it were necessary to evacuate people, does anybody think that a senator would not have a seat on the bus, even if that meant someone else losing one?

    The Fox News headline is pretty good: ABC 'World News Tonight' gives Cruz Cancun fiasco four times more coverage than Cuomo nursing home scandal. You know, the scandal that actually killed gramps and grandma.


  • David Henderson's pretty good on The Opportunity-Killing Minimum Wage.

    Among non-economists and politicians, the minimum wage is one of the most misunderstood issues in economic policy. President Biden and almost all Democrats and some Republicans in the US Congress advocate increasing the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over four years. They argue that many of the workers earning between $7.25 and $15 will get a raise in hourly wage. That’s true. But what they don’t tell you, and what many of them probably don’t know, is that many workers in that wage range will suffer a huge drop in wages—from whatever they’re earning down to zero. Other low-wage workers will stay employed but will work fewer hours a week. Many low-wage workers will find that their non-wage benefits will fall and that employers will work them harder. Why all those effects? Because an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t magically make workers more productive. A minimum wage of $15 an hour will exceed the productivity of many low-wage workers.

    Henderson laments the good old days when the New York Times (!) could officially editorialize: The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00. No, not 1893; it was 1987!


  • Things aren't much better across the pond: Brendan O'Neil writes at Spiked: It’s time to get real about freedom of speech.

    I’m glad sections of the left find the free-speech crisis so funny. Or ‘free-speech crisis’, as they always put it, those sarky quote marks signalling their scepticism towards the idea that there’s a censorship problem on campus and elsewhere in society. ‘Freeze peach!’, they cry at anyone who thinks it is a bad thing that people can be No Platformed, threatened with death or sacked from their jobs for expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion. Hilarious, isn’t it?

    It’s hilarious when activists piss on the door of a feminist academic’s office because they don’t like her criticisms of gender self-ID. It’s hilarious when a disabled working-class grandfather is sacked from his job at Asda because he posted a Billy Connolly skit on social media that made fun of Islam. It’s hilarious when a Labour shadow minister loses her job because she dared to raise concerns about the grooming and rape of working-class girls in various parts of England. It’s hilarious when JK Rowling is bombarded with messages saying ‘fuck you bitch’, ‘bitch I’ll kill you’ and ‘choke on my cock’ because she wrote an entirely non-prejudiced essay on trans issues. It’s all so funny. ‘FREEZE PEACH’ lol.

    Make no mistake: when the cultural and media elites mock the idea of a free-speech crisis, when they insist cancel culture doesn’t exist, this is the reality they are denying. This is the abuse, demonisation and, yes, censorship that they claim is not real. Actually, it’s worse than that. These censorship deniers do not merely question the reality of these grim assaults on people’s free expression – after all, we can all see the tweets calling JK Rowling a ‘cunt’ and a ‘whore’, and we all know what urine splashed on someone’s door looks and smells like, so we know this stuff is real. No, they also implicitly justify these chilling crusades against open discussion. By refusing to describe these attacks as attacks on freedom of speech, they normalise them, they green-light them.

    Well, that language is a little more R-rated than we usually have at Pun Salad, even for quoted excerpts. But Brendan's pissed (in the American sense of that word), and he deserves to be.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Encouraged by a review I saw somewhere, and not wanting to watch another episode of the increasingly dour Blacklist, I switched to the new Roku, and watched this on Amazon Prime. Even better than I expected! It's smart, funny, moving, well-acted, … that's fine by me.

It wouldn't hurt if you've seen Groundhog Day. (I've watched it probably a dozen times.) Because we come in where our hero, Mark, has been dropped into one of those temporal loops, he's already figured it out, and he's gotten to the point where Bill Murray was about 80% of the way through his movie: choreographing his day down to the second. Doing good deeds, trying to put the moves on a pretty girl, stuff like that. Until midnight, when he's transported back to his bedroom for another trip through the same day.

But one day he meets Margaret, who's also aware that she's temporally trapped. (This is something that never happened to Bill Murray.) They travel through their town, looking for amazing moments (aka, "Tiny Perfect Things"): an eagle grabbing a fish from a lake, an impromptu concert from a music store's after-hours custodian, …

But Margaret has a secret, preventing her from Taking Things To The Next Level with Mark. Mark, being a gentleman, takes that about as well he can. But he starts trying to find ways to break out of the loop. An ambition Margaret doesn't share.

If you're looking to fill a 1 hour and 36 minute hole in your life, and you have Amazon Prime, this is a pretty good choice.