URLs du Jour

2022-01-09

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Good idea, won't happen. John Hood writes at Reason: All Politicians Are Unpopular—So Strip Away Their Power.

    As we begin what will surely be another tumultuous year in politics, I'd like to congratulate our leaders in Washington for uniting our fractious country around a common proposition: We don't like you.

    President Joe Biden is unpopular. Former President Donald Trump is unpopular. Congressional leaders are unpopular. More generally, a recent Gallup survey shows that only 39 percent of Americans have either "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust and confidence in the federal government to handle the nation's problems. Regarding Congress in particular, most Americans describe their level of confidence as "very little" or "none."

    A healthy skepticism about the pretensions of politicians and the exercise of federal power is nothing new in American life. What we face now, though, is quite unhealthy cynicism. It's toxic. And while we have lately endured a series of especially inept and unctuous leaders, the problem is really one of institutions, not individuals.

    But here's the "won't happen" part: people don't like politicians in general, fine, sure. But they're pretty OK with their own representatives. See the Reelection Rates page at Open Secrets.

    And although there was an encouraging recent poll that said "Fifty-two percent of respondents said government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses", I'm not sure that translates into enough sentiment to dismantle any particular non-trivial program.

    But I could be wrong. I actually hope I am.


  • For more on that general topic… we have Jonah Goldberg in his weekly unpaywalled G-File: Transformers: Less Than Meets the Eye. There's a linguistic discussion (apparently) going on "about whether Democratic politicians should use the word 'transformative' or 'transformational' to describe the Build Back Better bill."

    Nope. Don't care in the slightest. It's like worrying about whether your local dumpster is "odiferous" or merely "odorous".

    But Jonah careens pinball-like into some more interesting discussion.

    In short, radically transforming society is difficult even if you think it’s desirable. Barack Obama learned this the hard way. He improved greatly on Great Society rhetoric, infusing it with a kind quasi-religious messianism—“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” and all that—but, as even a lot of lefties will now admit, he came up very short of the “fundamental transformation” he promised.

    But he did succeed in getting his opponents—including yours truly—to take all of that talk seriously. In fairness, it wasn’t hard given some of the creepier stuff people said about Obama being “The One” and a “Lightworker” and all that. Obama campaign volunteers were taught that they shouldn’t talk about the issues but instead “testify” about how they “came to Obama.” Michelle Obama insisted that her husband “is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.” Barbara Walters admitted that “we thought he was the next messiah.”

    […]

    One consequence of the creepy cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama is that Republicans were primed to get in on the act. I don’t want to venture too far into David French’s turf, but the willingness of many evangelicals—and people who play them on TV—to embrace Archangel Donald was among the most shocking features of the Trump presidency. He was a “modern day Cyrus” and a newKing David.” Trump was in his own Manichean struggle against Satan, against witchcraft, etc.

    That sort of thing makes the "shrink government" idea even less likely.


  • Sad, really, I used to like him. Charles C. W. Cooke is dissatisfied with a politician too: Ted Cruz Debases Himself for the Base.

    What an extraordinary disappointment Ted Cruz is. On paper, the man should be a star. He’s intellectually gifted, he has a remarkable memory, and, on the vast majority of public-policy questions, his political instincts are sound. But he’s a coward, and, at this level, cowardice represents an intractable flaw.

    Worse, Cruz is transparent in his cowardice. One must assume that Cruz believes himself to be a practitioner of political chess, and yet he seems oddly unaware of his tendency to prefigure each and every move through a loudspeaker. On Wednesday, as part of a mawkish paean to the Capitol Police, Cruz described the events of January 6, 2021, as “a despicable act of terrorism.” A day later, he went on Tucker Carlson’s show to explain sorrowfully that “the way I phrased things yesterday was sloppy, and it was, frankly, dumb.” What had changed in the interim? Nothing had. This wasn’t Ted Cruz carefully debating the meaning and suitability of words and making a handful of concessions in the process; this was Ted Cruz noticing that his previous position had made him unpopular with his base and finding another one on the fly. Its accuracy notwithstanding, there was nothing “sloppy” about Cruz’s use of the word “terrorism.” Indeed, he had used that word in both official statements and interviews on a number of occasions before this week, including on January 7, 2021, on January 8, 2021 (twice), on January 25, 2021, and in May 2021. The difference this time was that someone with a big platform attacked him for it, and, coward that he is, he couldn’t take the heat.

    Well, maybe Cruz is another guy I wouldn't be able to hold my nose tightly enough to vote for.


  • Protect us, Twitter! The Daily Wire reports the latest: Matt Walsh Suspended From Twitter Over Transgender Tweets. Here’s What Twitter Has Censored.

    The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh on Friday night was suspended from Twitter over tweets he posted recognizing biological realities and not so-called “gender identity.”

    “The greatest female Jeopardy champion of all time is a man,” Walsh posted to Twitter — a tweet the left-wing site has now censored. “The top female college swimmer is a man. The first female four star admiral in the Public Health Service is a man. Men have dominated female high school track and the female MMA circuit. The patriarchy wins in the end.”

    Another tweet, which has also been censored by Twitter, reads, “I am not referring to an individual person as if she is two people. Everyone else can run around sounding like maniacs if they want but I will not be participating. No thank you.”

    He's back, now though. At least for now. I know this because:

    If that disappears, you'll know what happened.

    I don't think that second "censored" tweet is actually about transgenderism, at least not primarily; it's about people who demand you use plural pronouns to refer to them. E.g., "they/them" instead of "he/him" or "she/her". The University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee has a long page about it.

    I note that the "it" pronoun is off the table, although that would be slightly less confusing in many contexts. And (hey) aren't we all just collections of atoms, like rocks, water, and air? What are you, bigoted against rocks, water, and air? Are you some kind of lifeist? Acknowledge your bio-privilege, hater!


  • If you want me, I'll be in my echo chamber. Philip Greenspun compares the SCOTUS coverage in the New York Times with that in the Washington Examiner: Supreme Court hears arguments on forced vaccination in two parallel universes. Here's a bit from the latter:

    But the worst falsehoods by far came from Sotomayor, who claimed the omicron variant is just as deadly as the delta variant was and that more than 100,000 children have been hospitalized by COVID-19, with “many” on ventilators.

    he current national pediatric COVID-19 census from the Department of Health and Human Services shows 3,342 children with COVID-19 in hospitals. And, as Anthony Fauci admitted last week, there is a huge difference between children hospitalized by COVID-19 and those hospitalized with COVID-19. The vast majority of pediatric cases are from children hospitalized with COVID-19, meaning they were hospitalized by something else first and happened to test positive at about that same time.

    Even left-leaning PolitiFact called out Justice Sotomayor, dinging her statement (cue sad trombone) "False".

    But what's really important in Philip's analysis:

    There is almost no overlap between what the NYT reported as having happened and what the Washington Examiner reported as having happened.

    Sadly, my own go-to, the WSJ. also failed to mention Sotomayor's flub.

    [Update (later that same day): Ann Althouse notes that the WaPo's Glenn Kessler gave her four Pinocchios. Good for him,]


  • Alternate title: why Pun Salad doesn't do "reviews". Hannah Long writes at the Dispatch In Defense of Elitist Film Criticism.

    Nobody likes a critic. Especially filmmakers, as recent griping attests. Don’t Look Up director Adam McKay rather priggishly observed that if critics didn’t get his movie, it’s probably because they don’t worry enough about climate change or U.S. political troubles. Twenty-five-year-old British millionaire Tom Holland admonished 79-year-old Martin Scorsese since he “doesn’t know what it’s like” to make a Marvel film. (Scorsese had written a politely critical op ed for the New York Times claiming that superhero movies “aren’t for me” and “I don’t think they’re cinema.” This has led to him becoming the studios #1 boogeyman.)

    A deceptively milder critique of critics was expressed by an animator for the Disney film Encanto who recently argued, “Film critics should talk [more] about how much taste, temperament and expectation make a viewing experience singular, not universal.” He continued at length to contend critics shouldn’t present their opinions as objective or speak with authority.

    It’s a nice sentiment, but dead wrong. First of all, subjectivity is implied by the context of a film review. We should all know that. But there’s a bigger point to be made here. The internet is full of bad film criticism—and pompous critics exist—but far more ubiquitous and corrosive than critical over-certainty is a sort of breathlessly enthusiastic headline that has become all too common: “The New Trailer for the Superboy Prequel Reboot Dropped and It’s Everything.”

    If you read my movie and book sections over there on your right, you'll notice I don't call them "reviews". I call them "reports", when I have to call them something. The sort of thing you write when you have to convince your teacher that you read a book you were assigned. (But with no word count requirement, fortuately.)

    I respect professional critics too much to imply that I'm horning in on their territory.


Last Modified 2022-05-11 7:10 AM EDT

Till the Clouds Roll By

[2 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Another free-to-me Amazon streamer. Summary: it's long, star-studded, only occasionally interesting. I thought it would be better.

It's the biopic of Jerome Kern (played by Robert Walker), starting off with the Broadway debut of Show Boat, to instant acclaim. Taking a cab ride to the post-show reception at the Waldorf, Kern starts reminiscing about his past life to the cabbie, and… well, we get to hear and see that.

Except (as I learned from the IMDB reviews) most of the story he relates is entirely fictional. Apparently Kern's life was even more boring than what this movie made up. Van Heflin plays a fictitious collaborator, with a fictitious daughter, who has dreams of Broadway glory outpacing her fictitious talent. When this is pointed out to her, she fictitously flees, heartbroken. Van Heflin (fictitiously) kicks the bucket, with a deathbed plea to Kern to track her down and make up, which he does.

But the fictitious plot is simply meant to string together the numerous production song-and-dance numbers. Some of these songs are great ("Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "I Won't Dance", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and the others I thought were pretty forgettable. I did mention star-studded, right? Performers: Judy Garland, Dinah Shore, Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, June Allyson, Van Johnson. (I had no idea that Van Johnson was that good.)