Kiss of Death

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

For some reason, this movie went unseen by me until our current NoirFest. It's mainly famous for Richard Widmark's character pushing an old lady in a wheelchair down a long flight of stairs to her demise, then giggling like a maniac. Which he is, of course.

Reader, that was a relatively underplayed scene from Widmark. He's even more unhinged elsewhere in the movie. I see he got an Oscar nomination, so…

But the "hero" is Victor Mature, playing Nick. Who gets caught after a jewel heist, but refuses to squeal on his partners in crime, so is sent up for hard time. But he gets disillusioned by the whole no-honor-among-thieves thing: his pals promised they would take care of his wife and kids. Instead, she's destitute, commits suicide, and the kids go to an orphanage.

So Nick contacts prosecutor Brian Donlevy, says OK, I'll squeal. And gets out. And takes up with Nettie, a previous babysitter for his kids. Can they start a new life together after Nick rats out his pals? No spoilers here, but I note that the movie's ending was originally different. (Don't look at that unless you've already seen the movie… oops, too late.)

If they gave out a Biggest Lips Oscar, Mature would win every year.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-28

  • Howie Carr on Twitter provides the rhetorical stylings of our (sorry, conspiracy theorists) President-Elect:

    At Liberty Unyielding, Ben Bowles speculates on mispronunciation:

    The word he substitutes, palmist, is especially unfortunate since it is a term for some one who engages in palmistry, or telling one’s fortune by reading his palm — a practice pretty far removed from organized religion. Then again, like that other devout Catholic on the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi, Biden tends to be a Sunday Christian, if that. In seeking the Democratic nomination, he renounced his career-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Talk about your deals with the devil!

    I'm pretty sure Kamala Harris can recite Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in her sleep, backwards.


  • At City Journal, Theodore Darlymple muses on a simple, underused, four-letter word: The Age of Cant. No apostrophe. He thinks "hypocrisy", a near-but-not-quite synonym has a bad rap in comparison.

    Cant is more destructive than hypocrisy because it is harder to expose and because a humbug deceives himself as well as others, while a mere hypocrite retains some awareness; he is a rogue rather than a villain. Cant is the vehement public expression of concern for others, or of anger at an opinion casting doubt on some moral orthodoxy that is not, and cannot be, genuinely felt, its vehemence being a shield for insincerity and lack of confidence in the orthodox opinion. Doctor Johnson defined cant as “a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant is contagious, and, when widespread, it creates an atmosphere in which people are afraid to call it by its name. Arguments then go by default; and if arguments go by default, ludicrous, bad, or even wicked policies result.

    I think that we live in an era of cant. I do not say that it is the only such age. But it has never been, at least in my lifetime, as important as it is now to hold the right opinions and to express none of the wrong ones, if one wants to avoid vilification and to remain socially frequentable. Worse still, and even more totalitarian, is the demand for public assent to patently false or exaggerated propositions; refusal to kowtow in such circumstances becomes almost as bad a sin as uttering a forbidden view. One must join in the universal cant—or else.

    I'll try to do better.


  • The newish "CapitalMatters" section of National Review brings us Andrew Stuttaford on the Davos Great Reset: The Culmination of Corporatism. He notes that it even has its own website, which seems to be (and I hope I'm getting this right) exactly the sort of thing Theodore Darlymple is talking about. "Partners" in the Great Reset include "Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, IKEA, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson and Deloitte."

    Not a partner: me. Probably you neither.

    Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.

    Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.

    I just hope the folks handling my portfolio are nimble enough to ride this seemingly inevitable wave instead of getting pulled under.


  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on more down-to-earth econ: Shopping Superstitions.

    It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses.

    This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ignore it.

    The “buy local” people insist that if you choose, say, your locally owned coffee shop over Starbucks, then the money you spend there will somehow stay in the community, hanging around and providing additional economic benefits. But that isn’t how money works: Most businesses spend most of what they take in and then put the rest in the bank, where it becomes global capital.

    And local businesses do not generally spend their money locally — they can’t. I like my local coffee shop, and I am pretty sure that it does not buy its coffee locally, because I do not live in Colombia or Brazil or Vietnam, and it doesn’t buy its to-go cups from a local maker, since it is not in the shadow of a paper-goods factory, etc. Its lease is probably held by an out-of-town entity, along with its loans. Its espresso machine probably came from Italy or Germany, maybe Hong Kong.

    Fully of insight, as usual, and he avoids the term "comparative advantage". Bonus quip: "The people who want you to believe otherwise are the same ones who want you to give up Bordeaux for wine made in Missouri or Oregon or Illinois — i.e., people who are not to be trusted."

    Fortunately, I'm good with my plonk, Kevin.


  • Apparently my CD shelf is fuller of libertarian artists than I previously expected. The Washington Times reports: Eric Clapton joins Van Morrison's anti-lockdown campaign with new song, 'Stand and Deliver'.

    Music legend Eric Clapton is joining Van Morrison’s efforts to reopen the live music industry amid the coronavirus pandemic by releasing a new anti-lockdown song called, “Stand and Deliver.”

    The song, which was written by Mr. Morrison and performed by Mr. Clapton, will debut Dec. 4 and the proceeds will go toward Mr. Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which supports U.K. musicians who are facing financial hardship because of widespread government restrictions on live music, Variety reported.

    “There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,” Mr. Clapton told Variety. “We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.”

    Lads, let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-27

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We did Zoom Feast with old people upstairs, kids downstairs. It worked out.

  • Daniel Mitchell wishes us a Happy Thanksgiving from America’s Hypocritical Politicians. Example (from NBC News):

    Denver’s mayor is explaining himself and offering an apology after he traveled to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, though he had urged others to stay home if possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. …The mayor’s trip comes as officials in Colorado have warned about a steep increase in Covid-19 cases that threatens to stress the hospital system, and after warnings from the governor and others to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and safe. …The station reported he traveled to Houston for the Mississippi trip, and that his account tweeted the guidance to stay home about 30 minutes before his flight.

    Conclusion:

    They genuinely think that they should be exempt from all the nonsensical policies that they impose on everyone else.

    "Indeed." I'd add that the politicians' perceptions of risk may well be accurate and appropriate for their own cases. It's just they don't trust their subjects to exercise the same judgment.


  • Jeff Jacoby observes: The coronavirus curfews make no sense.

    Did you know that the coronavirus, like vampires and werewolves, is deadliest after dark? I didn't either, but it must be true. What other justification can there be for the imposition of curfews on residents and businesses in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and elsewhere by governors who claim their purpose is to control the spread of COVID-19?

    In Massachusetts earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker issued his 53rd "emergency" order , requiring 16 categories of facilities — from restaurants, arcades, golf courses, and drive-in theaters to gyms, zoos, flight schools, and museums — to close their doors to the public by 9:30 each night. Though the order is 5½ single-spaced pages long, it contains not a single sentence explaining how Massachusetts will be better protected from the coronavirus if residents who are permitted to go out for pizza or to work out at 7:45 pm are barred from doing so at 9:45 pm. Neither does the accompanying "advisory ," which counsels all residents of the state to stay home between 10 pm and 5 am.

    I don't know how Governor Baker spent his Thanksgiving, so we'll let him off the "hypocrisy" charge.

    But it seems clear that he (like even some pols up here in New Hampshire) has succumbed to the "do something" mantra. He needs to be seen as "doing something", even if it's stupid.

    And, to be overly fair to Charlie, that's probably what a significant fraction of the Massachusetts citizenry demands.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes a downside: Senseless Restrictions on Outdoor Activities Undermine the Goal of Curbing COVID-19. After reciting numerous (and when I say "numerous", I mean a lot of) examples of such restrictions:

    There are several problems with these restrictions on outdoor activities. First, many of them are inconsistent and scientifically dubious. Second, foreclosing opportunities for people to recreate or gather outside is apt to increase the risk of virus transmission indoors, especially in private settings where the authorities have no idea what is happening, even if they are notionally imposing limits there. Third, arbitrary COVID-19 edicts that make life more inconvenient and less enjoyable for no rational reason foster resentment and defiance, which make compliance with reasonable safeguards less likely. In their determination to seem like they are doing something to slow the spread of COVID-19, many politicians are actively undermining that goal.

    One of the nanny-state guidelines from the Left Coast: "Californians should not travel significant distances for recreation." What's "significant"? They seem to say it involves driving 2-3 hours. Is that one way or round trip? And what if there's a traffic jam? I understand they have those in California.


  • The current statist mindset seems to be: Hey, as long as we're doing Covid mandates, we might as well mandate some other stuff too. I was surprised to learn from David Harsanyi at National Review of the growing demands for mandatory voting.

    We encourage American to vote as if it is the only rite of a citizen, without any corresponding expectations. And as if that constant cultural haranguing to vote weren’t annoying enough, after every election, no matter how many people participate, there is a campaign to force everyone to do it.

    “America Needs Compulsory Voting,” writes a professor in Foreign Affairs. “A Little Coercion Can Do a Lot for Democracy.” “1 In 3 Americans Didn’t Vote. Should We Force Them To Next Time?” asks BuzzFeed.

    Ideally, in a free nation, the answer to “should we force them?” is almost always “no.” But for the folks at places such as the Brookings Institution and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the answer is almost always “yes.” In July, these think tanks laid out their case for mandatory voting in a report titled “Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.” I wish I could whip up an equally anodyne euphemism for “ugly authoritarian instinct,” but none immediately comes to mind.

    Also ugly: the reaction to people who point out ugly authoritarian instincts.

URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2020

Among the things I'm thankful for today is the continuing brilliance of Mr. Michael Ramirez. [Happy Thanksgiving]

And there's that whole "being alive and (mostly) healthy and wealthy in 21st Century America". As much as I gripe, it beats the hell out of whatever's in second place.

  • If you haven't heard the story, get it from Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: How private property saved the Pilgrims from socialist misery.

    The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World is a time to reflect on important lessons we want our children to remember about America’s founding. One of the most critical is that hippie communes don’t work.

    Yes, the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 promptly tried to create a socialist workers paradise.

    Like all other socialist paradises, it left a failed legacy of starvation and death.

    Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hope you and I will both be around for that.


  • Scoring 9.998 on Pun Salad's ReadTheWholeThing Scale is Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: On Being Grateful for Our Gifts and Blessings. Really. It's insightful and moving all the way through. I almost hate to excerpt, but:

    Christians take a distinctly radical view: that suffering is neither an evil to be evaded nor a punishment handed out routinely, like some kind of divine speeding ticket, but something to be entered into willingly in order to become not godlike but more fully and more perfectly human. We learn to be grateful not only for the alleviation of suffering but for the suffering itself — that, too, is a gift. We discover ultimate gratitude when we discover the Ultimate Object of our gratitude. Learning that ultimate gratitude does not necessarily mean wandering around the desert in a supernatural daze, though that has worked for many great men in the past. Some of them even sought out such a wild place as Massachusetts, landing there in the winter in rickety boats, like madmen. They went ashore and gave thanks to God.

    We need not go so far, and, besides, we have business to attend to here at home, to which our attention is likely to be enforced for a few more months. Gratitude may not make us saints, but it should leave us cheerful, useful, modest, and patient, and ever mindful of those gifts and blessings that we could not possibly hope to deserve.

    Whether I can be considered a Christian is a matter of opinion, but that's one Christian view I can buy into.


  • On to the stuff we're not thankful for. Specifically, another cancellation, as reported by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian. That journalist is Suzanne Moore, who dared pen a column that "trans women" differ from biological women in some … um … important respects. From Ms. Moore's farewell:

    The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

    Things are getting more Orwellian by the day, it seems.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, the founding conspirator, Eugene, describes the state of play at the University of Maryland: UMD Public Policy School Mandating Ideological Statements on Syllabus, Requiring That Class “Materials” and “Discussions” “Respect All Forms of Diversity”. Here's (apparently) the text:

    Diversity Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Public Policy

    Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

    It is my intent, as well as the stated policy of the School, that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course. The diversity the students bring to this class will be seen and treated as a resource, strength and benefit. Materials, discussions, and activities will respect all forms of diversity. All students are expected to promote this aim through their words, actions, and suggestions. If something is said or done in this course, either by myself, students, or guests, that is troubling or causes offense, please let me know right away. The impact of what happens in this course is important and deserving of attention. If you ever do not feel comfortable discussing the issue directly with me, I encourage you to bring the issue to an advisor, administrator or the School of Public Policy Equity Officer.

    Pronouns and Self Identification

    We invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to, both in terms of your name and your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit trans.umd.edu to learn more.

    Land Acknowledgement

    We acknowledge that we are gathered on the stolen land of the Piscataway Conoy people and were founded upon the erasures and exploitation of many non-European peoples. You can find more information about the Piscataway Conoy Tribe at http://www.piscatawayconoytribe.com. For more information about the University of Maryland's project for a richer understanding of generations of racialized trauma rooted in the institution visit https://go.umd.edu/SNW.

    Suggested placements: We suggest this statement should be placed just prior to or after the learning outcomes in the syllabus as well as prominent within your ELMS site. Faculty should vocally review these statements within class as well.

    Eugene notes the creepiness of the school mandating that the syllabus language be "set forth in the professor's voice", obfuscating its origins.


  • And, boy, it's been a long time since I saw anything interesting on a certain site I used to frequent all the time. At Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen wonders: Who Really Runs The Drudge Report?.

    It was the kind of story that would once have had Matt Drudge deploying font sizes that newspapers used to reserve for declarations of war. On Oct. 14, Twitter and Facebook blocked users from spreading a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had brokered meetings between his father, then the vice president of the United States, and executives at a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden held an $80,000-a-month sinecure. The Post’s article included photos of what appeared to be an exhausted and intoxicated-looking Biden in various states of undress.

    Yet the controversy over tech companies restricting the spread of a story unflattering to the Democratic presidential contender was nowhere to be seen in the upper half of The Drudge Report—once the most coveted and agenda-setting real estate in right-of-center media. “RECORD TURNOUT ALARMS REPUBLICANS... BIDEN +7 GA,” screamed the top headlines on Oct. 15.

    Drudge—the real guy—may not be that involved any more.

Stalking the Angel

[Amazon Link]

Robert Crais's second Elvis Cole novel, and of course it's good.

Elvis is hired by asshole banker Bradley Warren to try to find a purloined copy of the "Hagakure", an extremely rare edition of a 17th century guide to Samurai life and lore. Warren doesn't care too much about the book itself, just its implied price tag: about $3 million. And the pull it gives him with his Japanese business partners.

Reader, it's a real thing.

Wisecracking all the way, Elvis visits the scene of the crime, Warren's home. He meets Warren's wife, Sheila, who throws herself wantonly at our noble detective; nothing doin', ma'am. And he also encounters Warren's surly daughter Mimi. A good guess: the book is getting peddled to the local Yakuza-infested Japanese underworld, which sends Elvis into LA's Little Tokyo. Eventually: fights, grisly murders, gunplay, kidnapping, sordid revelations, Joe Pike. And a lot of psychic turmoil for Elvis, who wonders if he could have handled things better if he'd been a little quicker on the uptake.

For some reason, as he navigates the Southland, Elvis is obsessed with telling us (seemingly) every street he's driving on. Could do without that, unless it's Mulholland Drive. But otherwise, he does a great job of detailing late-80's LA.

The inside front cover, by the way, refers to Joe Pike as Elvis's "sociopathic sidekick"? On Joe's behalf, I resent that psychologizing. He's not a sociopath, he just has an unusual personal code of conduct.

Thieves' Highway

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

Still on our old film noir kick from Netflix's DVD service. Fun stuff! The director, Jules Dassin, was blacklisted soon after this 1949 movie was released, for being a full-fledged Communist back in the 1930s, when that was cool. He apparently bailed on the CPUSA in response to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, but his stint was enough for the movie studios to dump him. (He went off to Europe, and made some pretty famous movies there. And married Melina Mercouri!)

One IMDB reviewer says this movie "is really an expose of the rotten heart of capitalism". Certainly it's kind of a downer.

Our hero, Nick Garcos (Richard Conte), is back from a post-WWII tour of exotic Asia, bearing gifts for his folks and sweetie, Polly. But one of those gifts turns out to be an utter faux pas: fancy slippers for Dad. Because—surprise!—Dad has no feet! It turns out that on one of his trucking runs bringing produce to the San Francisco market he ran afoul of crooked dealer Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). And Figlia's way of dealing with obstreperous truckers is to rob and maim them.

So Nick plots vengeance. Kind of indirectly, it seems to me. He hooks up with his dad's old partner, Ed. They wangle an extra truck, deal with some local Polish farmers for a load of Golden Delicious apples, and they head off to Frisco. Every step of the way is loaded with complications and danger. (Not helping: Ed's only marginally honest, trying to stiff the farmers on the price once the trucks are loaded. Capitalism!)

Once in San Francisco, Nick drives a hard bargain with Figlia, which causes Figlia to complicate Nick's life with a hot heart-of-gold hooker, Rica. And then Polly shows up. And Nick gets ripped off by Figlia's thugs. And the partner's truck, held together with spit and baling wire,….

Well, eventually things work out, Nick and Rica go off into the sunset, San Francisco gets its apples, and capitalism is saved!

URLs du Jour

2020-11-25

Arlo and Janis on clickbait:

[Clickbait Sucks]

I guess clickbait ads must work or they'd die a well-deserved death. I don't care much about Don Knotts, but I admit I have been sorely tempted by "Lily from AT&T Finally Confirms the Rumors". I've learned to keep my mouse away from such things.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Josh Blackman wonders: What exactly is a vaccine mandate?.

    Before the current pandemic, I had never read the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. Jacobson. That case observed, "[i]f a person should deem it important that vaccination should not be performed in his case, and the authorities should think otherwise, it is not in their power to vaccinate him by force, and the worst that could happen to him under the statute would be the payment of the penalty of $5." I was struck by that sentence.

    I had long assumed that Jacobson upheld the state's power to forcibly vaccinate someone. For example, states routinely force people into quarantines. Why couldn't states take the antecedent step of inoculating people, even against their wishes, to avoid the need to quarantine? In Buck v. Bell, Justice Holmes analogized the forcible sterilization of Carrie Buck to the forcible vaccination of Henning Jacobson. But my assumption was wrong. And I suspect I am not alone. Most lawyers never actually read Jacobson, let alone the lower court opinion. The case does not appear in any casebook I have reviewed. And, I doubt most judges who have cited Jacobson in the past 6 months have bothered to read both opinions. Rather, I suspect most lawyers and judges are familiar with Buck v. Bell, and rely on Holmes's characterization.

    Buck v. Bell is the famous eugenics case where Justice Holmes wrote "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

    Blackman gives an interesting take on "mandates".


  • In a National Review ["NRPLUS"] article, Robert VerBruggen analyzes Biden's "gun safety" plan and concludes: Plan Failure Likely.

    Joe Biden’s gun-control plans have about zero chance of getting through Congress, especially if Republicans win at least one of the Georgia runoffs. That’s good, because his bright idea for restricting “assault weapons” would force America’s gun owners to choose between (a) giving up millions of their firearms and magazines to a federal “buyback” and (b) registering those guns with the federal government, paying billions of dollars in taxes for the privilege.

    Any guesses as to how that would play out in this country?

    As many readers may be old enough to remember, America had a ban on assault weapons for ten years, from 1994 to 2004, and it didn’t start a civil war. That’s because the folks who drafted that law were smarter than whoever is handling gun policy for Biden. The law applied mainly to businesses: It became illegal to sell brand-new semiautomatic guns with certain combinations of tactical features (think folding stocks, flash suppressors, etc.), as well as new magazines that held more than ten rounds at a time. Individual Americans who’d previously purchased the banned items were left alone, and they were even allowed to sell the items on the secondary market.

    Two theories of the policy, neither particularly flattering to Biden: (1) it was a "boob bait for bubbas" proposal, floated knowing it would never be put into practice; (2) it's an accurate indication of Biden's knee-jerk totalitarian instincts.


  • The coveted Pun Salad "Least Surprising Headline of the Week" award has a front-runner, from Randal O'Toole at Cato: Amtrak Continues to Lie.

    Amtrak is maintaining the twin fictions that subsidies from state taxpayers are “passenger revenues” and that depreciation isn’t a real cost even though its accountants list it as an operating cost on its consolidated financial statements. Based on these fictions, Amtrak claimed that it was “on track to break even financially for the first time in its history” in 2020.

    The pandemic derailed that fantasy, so now Amtrak claims that it lost $801 million in fiscal year 2020 (which for Amtrak ended on September 30). Yet a close look at its unaudited end‐​of‐year report reveals that the actual operating losses were well over $2 billion.

    Amtrak wants a bailout. The amount is about 10 times smaller than what the airlines are requesting, but (as Randal notes) Amtrak's passenger traffic is more than 100 times smaller than the airlines'. Republicans should prove that they're good for something and Just Say No.


  • As previously stated, conspiracy theorizing about the 2020 Presidential election is hot garbage; whatever misbehavior that existed was nowhere near large enough to swing things from Biden to Trump.

    I expect this kind of nonsense from Trump; I'm saddened to see some bloggers buying into it.

    One real danger is that easily-debunked tales of election fraud might hide smaller (but important) stories of actual fraud. We shouldn't go into the 2022 election thinking "everything's fine" when it's not.

    John Hinderaker seems to have gone agnostic on fraud, but he notes: There’s More Than One Way to Steal an Election.

    The jury is still out on whether the Biden campaign stole the 2020 election through voter fraud, but that isn’t the only way elections get stolen. The evidence is strong that the Democratic Party press swung this year’s election to Biden by its selective non-coverage of critically important news stories that reflected well on President Trump or poorly on Biden.

    The Media Research Center has conducted extensive polling in seven key swing states. The MRC asked Biden voters whether they were aware of certain facts or news stories, and if they were not, whether awareness of those facts or issues would have caused them to change their vote away from Biden. The data are striking.

    I can't find the survey itself, but Hinderaker provides some slides. Example: over half of swing-state Biden voters were unaware that the US achieved "energy independence under President Trump". MRC says that a significan fraction of those voters (now) say that if they'd known about some of those issues, they wouldn't have voted for Biden. And that theoretically would have swung things Trump's way.

    Well, maybe. It would be nice if voters were well-informed on all sides of various issues. Hinderaker blames the media for not giving them that. I'd tend to blame media consumers for not demanding that.


  • And Reason's Christian Britschgi has a libertarian take on the latest story: Giant Metal Monolith Discovered In Utah Desert Possibly Extraterrestrial, Definitely a Code Violation.

    A new installation is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and might have to be removed.

    On Monday, the Utah Department of Public Safety announced that members of its Aero Bureau—while performing a count of big horn sheep in Red Rock Desert in the southeastern portion of the state last week—came across a large metal monolith in the remote region.

    There's a pic of the monolith at the link, with a befuddled Utahn looking for all the world as if he's re-enacting a scene from 2001. All we need is Ligeti background music.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-24

  • I think Biden won, I think conspiracy theorizing is entirely bogus and counterproductive, but that's old news. So I'm ready to look ahead to our near future and so is Michael Ramirez:

    [Speaking of Natural Disasters]


  • But that's not all the bad news. Via Slashdot, a Reuters report of what they probably think is good news: Biden's top tech adviser makes regulation more likely.

    President-elect Joe Biden’s top technology adviser helped craft California’s landmark online privacy law and recently condemned a controversial federal statute that protects internet companies from liability, indicators of how the Biden administration may come down on two key tech policy issues.

    Bruce Reed, a former Biden chief of staff who is expected to take a major role in the new administration, helped negotiate with the tech industry and legislators on behalf of backers of a ballot initiative that led to the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy advocates see that law as a possible model for a national law.

    Reed also co-authored a chapter in a book published last month denouncing the federal law known as Section 230, which makes it impossible to sue internet companies over the content of user postings. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for reforming or abolishing 230, which critics say has allowed abuse to flourish on social media.

    Get ready for "regulation" making your online life more tedious. Specifically, the "abuse" will still be allowed to flourish on social media, as long as it's directed against the correct targets.


  • And that's still not all the bad news. Betteridge's law of headlines probably does not apply to David Boaz's post at Cato: Will Biden Turn the Education Department over to the Teachers Unions?

    President‐elect Biden is rumored to be considering a teachers union head to be his secretary of education. Since the Education Department was essentially created by the National Education Association, this is basically just confirming their control. It’s understandable that Biden would promise to name a teacher for this post. After all, who knows education better than teachers? It no doubt sounds good to voters. But imagine a candidate promising to name a defense contractor as secretary of defense, an oil company CEO as secretary of energy, or a real estate developer as HUD secretary. For each of those the candidate could plausibly raise the same argument, that few others would know more about the subject. But there would be a lot more public skepticism about naming a provider of the service to run the federal department in those cases.

    The near future will be dedicated to shovelling more money into the educrat wallets. And disappointed head-shaking at the continuing mediocre results of government schooling.


  • This WSJ article is probably paywalled, but I found it interesting enough to comment upon: Chocolate Makers Are Having a Hard Time Cutting Down on Sugar.

    LONDON—A longstanding push to slash sugar in chocolate has stalled, leaving confectionery makers in a sticky situation amid the threat of regulation that could hit sales.

    In the U.K.—where people eat more chocolate per head than anywhere but Russia—a government report shows the industry has made little progress toward a 2020 deadline to cut sugar. That has prompted health campaigners to call for a tax on chocolate similar to a levy on sugary soft drinks, which in several countries has reduced consumption or propelled reformulation.

    I didn't know that about Russia, dollink. I thought their unhealthy habits were limited to vodka and cigarettes.

    But the bottom line is that regulators are dedicated to making chocolate taste worse, so you'll eat less of it. How long will it take for them to crack down on homebrew chocolate? Chocolate speakeasies?


  • A good podcast from Reason where Nick Gillespie interviews Virginia Postrel about her new book: The History of Fabric Is the History of Civilization. Promo video:

    Virginia (I call her Virginia) did a great job of uncovering why fabric is a taken-for-granted miracle. I've queued up her book at the library.


  • And Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday column has a great bit on Household Words.

    Household is part of a set of old English formulations (smallholding, freehold, householder, etc.) that survive into modern English in legal usages and certain dusty and slightly archaic-sounding expressions, and in names such as Smallhold Farms, a Brooklyn-based operation that provides exotic mushroom to New York City restaurants. The first attested use of household in English is the 14th-century Bible translation undertaken by John Wycliffe (not to be confused with Wyclef Jean) and similar expressions have been around for a long time in Scots (houshald), Dutch (huishouden), German (Huushollen), Norwegian (husholdning), etc. Shakespeare tried really, really hard to make household happen in English — he used it in a dozen plays, from Anthony and Cleopatra to The Taming of the Shrew and practically all of the Henrys — but it did not become a common English expression — a household word — until Charles Dickens started a magazine called Household Words.

    Household word has two meanings in English that are distinct but related: common or famous. “Clint Eastwood is such a big movie star that his name is a household word,” or “Google and Xerox do not want to end up like ‘aspirin,’ a formerly capitalized name that comes into such common use that it ceases to be a proper noun and ends up a household word.” Household word’s meaning of famous is of course an application of its meaning of common: Everybody knows what a doorknob is, and everybody knows who Alec Baldwin is. (If you don’t, the answer is: a doorknob.) But a person whose name is a household word isn’t common at all — that’s a very uncommon thing. English is funny that way.

    I'm reading KDW's new book, one or two articles per day. It's great.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-23

My Political Opinions Funny Yard Sign

Our Product du Jour (not an Amazon link) is another yard sign I lack the courage to buy myself.

  • At the otherwise obnoxious Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby notes: A student debt bailout would be unjust.

    During the presidential primary campaign last winter, as Democratic candidates were promoting various plans to cancel federal student loan debt, one Iowa father’s encounter with Elizabeth Warren captured the raw unfairness of the idea.

    “My daughter’s getting out of school. I saved all my money [so] she doesn’t have any student loans,” the man said. “Am I going to get my money back?”

    “Of course not,” Warren answered.

    “So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed,” said the father, visibly upset. “My buddy had fun, bought a car, went on vacations. I saved my money. He made more than I did, but I worked a double shift, worked extra. My daughter’s worked since she was 10.”

    That exchange vividly illustrates the injustice of student-debt proposals that would, in effect, punish those who saved and worked more to pay for college, those who deferred higher education until they could afford it, and those who responsibly repaid their loans — by forcing them to pay for those who didn’t. Even more outrageous, it would compel the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t earn a college degree to help pick up the tab for many of those who did.

    Mrs. Salad and I did much the same as the Iowa dad; Pun Son and Daughter got out of school with no debt.

    David Henderson provides an excerpt from Milton and Rose Friedman's memoir about how there's "no government program that so clearly transferred income from low- to high-income people as government subsidization of higher education." You might expect progressives to be against that. Instead, they look to make the transfer even worse.


  • Lawprof Jonathan Turley notes that on Sunday morn's episode of "Meet the Press", Chuck Todd and Gretchen Whitmer were an excellent source of lies.

    Chuck Todd interviewed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this morning and turned to the recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court that ruled that she had violated the Michigan Constitution in her extended pandemic orders. Todd did not challenge Whitmer stating falsely that the opinion was a “partisan” decision. It was not. The “Democrat justices” agreed that Whitmer violated the Constitution. They only disagreed on the remedy.  However, that untruth was quickly lost in what was a flagrantly untrue statement by Todd himself. He told NBC viewers that the justices did not cite any law to support their decision against Whitmer. Todd stated as fact that the Court did not “cite any Michigan law, they didn’t cite any law in deciding that you didn’t have this power.” The roughly 50 page opinion contains over 60 cases discussed in support of the decision. It does not seem to matter anymore at Meet The Press or NBC.  NBC is not alone. I previously noted how the Washington Post also has failed to correct openly false accounts of cases.  Not only is there no apparent inclination to be accurate but even less expectation to do so.

    A detailed takedown follows. Professor Turley's conclusion:

    For academics who have called for an end to objectivity in journalism, Meet the Press.


  • One of Reason's podcasts is the "Soho Forum Debate", and the most recent one was between Richard Epstein and Lawrence Lessig. The topic was The Electoral College: Keep or Replace?. Lessig is a well-known "modern" liberal, Epstein a "classical" liberal. Epstein defended the Electoral College, Lessig argued against.

    And here's a surprise: I found myself leaning toward Lessig's side of the argument, despite my stick-in-the-mud conservatism and my reverence for the Founders.

    If only Lessig had been this persuasive when he was arguing Eldred v. Ashcroft before SCOTUS.


  • Crypto/security expert Bruce Schneier signed a letter recently attesting that "no credible evidence" exists that the election was compromised.

    Schneier's political opinions are tediously liberal, but I think he's honest enough to play this straight. I'm pretty tired of the conspiracy theories.

    But he also provides a link to his Guardian article from a couple years back: American elections are too easy to hack. We must take action now.

    Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

    Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

    Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.

    One of the serious problems with all the current easily-debunked conspiricism is that it feeds into the (false) narrative that everything is hunky-dory. It's not.


  • And a final amusing item from the Free Beacon: Antiracism Icon Robin DiAngelo Paid More Than Black Woman for Same Job.

    The prominent diversity consultant Robin DiAngelo raked in $12,750 for a speaking gig last month at the University of Wisconsin—70 percent more than the other keynote speaker, black female author Austin Channing Brown.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement paid Channing Brown just $7,500 for her keynote address at its annual Diversity Forum, receipts obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show. The payments were negotiated with the Harry Walker Agency, a New York-based speakers bureau that represents both women.

    The "woke" position is that racial disparities prove racial discrimination. So…?

URLs du Jour

2020-11-22

Michael Ramirez goes a little PG-13 but… [View From Behind]

  • We don't care awfully much about the jerks who voters in a faraway state have chosen to impose upon themselves, but Joel Kotkin does: Governor Preen.

    If Hollywood were to cast a governor and future president, and if a straight white male were still politically acceptable, he would look like California’s Gavin Newsom. The 53-year-old governor, a former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom handsomely epitomizes the preening politics of the California elite class that has nurtured and financed his career from the beginning.

    Like aristocrats of the past, Newsom seems oblivious to the realities felt by constituents among the lower orders. In the face of massive wildfires, he postures on climate change, conflating fires with an angry mother Earth—as opposed to poor land management—and uses the conflagration to justify a radical policy of switching to all-electric power over the next decade, with the elimination of gas-powered cars by 2035. In the midst of a near economic free-fall, he favors raising taxes and works to tighten pandemic lockdowns; and, with the state losing its ability to train workers, he backs an education system where almost three out of five California high schoolers graduate unprepared for either college or a career.

    A good summary of what (I hope) the rest of the country can manage to avoid.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle dreams of an alternate timeline, one in which We Could Have Done Better. It's about the latest Grim Milestone.

    Do you even know what 250,000 people looks like? Because I don’t. I have been trying to imagine it, andfailing [sic].

    The closest I can get is imagining something I have seen: Yankee Stadium, filled to capacity with a World Series crowd — multiplied by five. Then comes the hard part: I imagine all of them locked into the stadium and dying, mostly alone and terrified, of heart attacks or strokes or kidney failure or slow suffocation, while their families wait weeping in the parking lot.

    And then I imagine that happening on a live stream so the country can witness the horror. That’s what it would look like if you could see all the Americans who have died of covid-19 since last March.

    But…


  • … at the WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. is the anti-McArdle: Media Banality Is a Covid Comorbidity. Probably paywalled, but really, this is why you should subscribe.

    National Public Radio host: “We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.”

    NPR reporter: “You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.”

    These words (and I’ve spared you the full version) were spoken with the dramatic intonation that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers, indicating not informational content but somebody’s idea of the appropriate emotional response to be extorted from listeners. And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization: 250,000 is 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population; it’s 34% larger than the 1968 flu’s death toll; it’s about one-fifth the 1918 pandemic’s.

    At least our reporter didn’t tell us that laying the victims end to end would reach from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

    Wouldn't it be nice if journalists avoided sensationalism and heartstring-tugging emotion, and simply reported facts?


  • Another stupid article from Wired, this one from Zachary Karabell lecturing on What the EU Gets Right—and the US Gets Wrong—About Antitrust.

    Over time, US law has come to view antitrust through a single lens: harm to the consumer. That’s a problem for critics of Big Tech, because the companies give away many of their products for free and can argue that in other cases they lower prices. The US antitrust framework simply isn’t well-suited to the unique structure and scope of these 21st-century behemoths.

    In the words of Lina Khan, an attorney who served on the staff of the House antitrust subcommittee that issued a highly critical report of the tech giants in October, “the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.” The report says tech’s Big Four have gone from being “scrappy, underdog startups” to the “kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons” and that have acquired too much power that they have then exploited. Khan favors changing the law to look more broadly at the ill effects of monopolies.

    I believe a good translation is: "Big tech is not causing consumer harm, which is our usual rationale for invoking anti-trust remedies. So we'll make up a different story, one they weren't expecting! Bwah hah hah!"

    It was nice when progressives pretended to believe in "norms". Such as that good old "rule of law".

    Which, if it means anything at all, means having clear, bright lines that (for example) corporations have solid knowledge ahead of time about what kind of behavior they need to avoid.

    The kind of anti-trust Karabell is advocating is the opposite of that.