URLs du Jour


  • An encyclopedic post from Tyler Cowen on The economic policy of Elizabeth Warren. Spoiler alert: "she has the worst economic and political policies of any candidate in my adult lifetime." Nine specific positions are discussed. Sample:

    1. She wants to ban fracking through executive order.  This would enrich Russia and Saudi Arabia, harm the American economy ($3.5 trillion stock market gains from fracking), make our energy supply less green, and make our foreign policy more dependent on bad regimes and the Middle East.  It is perhaps the single worst policy idea I have heard this last year, and some of the worst possible politics for beating Trump in states such as Pennsylvania.

    Check it out, and maybe bookmark it. Note that Bernie Sanders is probably only excused because his proposals are "often less detailed" than Warren's. Meaning, I suppose, that they're extremely nebulous. Sanders appeals more on attitude than wonkery.

  • I admit I'm kind of a fan of Amazon's Jack Ryan miniseries. But to enjoy it, I kinda hafta ignore its mismatch with reality. At the Foundation for Economic Education, Jon Miltimore has a problem with that: 'Jack Ryan' Gets 4 Pinocchios on Venezuela.

    Venezuela and its suffering take center stage in the plot of season two. Jack Ryan, who in season one was a Ph.D. economist/CIA analyst who stopped ISIS from blowing up Washington, DC, is now a national security policy instructor in Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA’s headquarters. Speaking to a roomful of students, Professor Ryan explains why Venezuelans face suffering of Biblical proportions despite their vast wealth in natural resources (emphasis added).

    The fact is that Venezuela is arguably the single greatest resource of oil and minerals on the planet. So, why is this country in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian crises in modern history? Let's meet President Nicolas Reyes. After rising to power on a wave of nationalist pride, in a mere six years, this guy has crippled the national economy by half. He has raised the poverty rate by almost 400 percent. Luckily for the rest of us, he’s up for reelection. 

    Yeah, that's a howler. In the real world, Venezuela was crippled by a leftist president who rose to power on socialist fairy tales. But maybe that would have been a little too non-fictional.

  • A belated New Year column from P. J. O'Rourke ("Dateline: January 1, 2020, still in bed, hiding under the blankets with my laptop."): If You Set Your Alarm for 2021… How bad could it be? Peej imagines: "A left-wing Democrat beats Trump. “Progressives” and their pinko ilk sweep the House of Representatives. Democrats win a majority in the Senate."

    We’d have a president who’s a ridiculous fool and is detested by half of America. Yes, yes, I know, lots of people say we have that already. But Trump, even to those who loathe him, is undeniably entertaining and fun to make fun of.

    There’s nothing funny about Bernie Sanders. He’s a sad, old, delusional crank shouting gibberish in the street. He belongs in a mental health facility, not a laugh line.

    Elizabeth Warren is even less entertaining. She is a schoolmarm, and not the beloved “Our Miss Brooks” kind. Warren is the teacher who gives pop quizzes after lunch on Fridays, waits until 3 p.m. to announce the topic of 30-page papers due at 8 a.m. Monday morning, and assigns the complete works of Proust to be read by her students over spring break.

    She is also the national know-it-all, universal answer-pants, and self-appointed authority on everything and its brother. She talks like an encyclopedia… except listening to her is less like reading all 22 volumes of the World Book and more like having them dropped on your ear.

    Well we can hope for … not that, I guess.

  • It's the 10th anniversary of Citizens United, that little case that has ever since demonstrated how much today's progressive Democrats fear political free speech when it's funded by people they despise. At the Dispatch, Sarah Isgur asks the musical question: What’s the Real Legacy of Citizens United?

    In the run-up to the 10-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC, law professor Richard Hasen wrote a thorough article for Slate that concluded “the decade of Citizens United has been a bad one for democracy.”

    But in a surprise twist, spending by presidential campaigns has actually decreased since the Supreme Court’s landmark First Amendment decision and the side that spent less won in 2016. So perhaps the better question 10 years on is, did Citizens United matter?

    Sarah (I call her Sarah) outlines, even-handedly, the pros and cons, and looks at different proposals for further reform.

    Bonus link: Bradley A. Smith in today's WSJ asks us to Celebrate the Citizens United Decade.

    ‘Last week,” President Obama declared a decade ago, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”

    Mr. Obama was wrong in almost every respect about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which the court decided on Jan. 21, 2010. Hysterical predictions about Citizens United—then-Rep. Ed Markey, among others, compared it to Dred Scott—haven’t held up.

    I'm with Smith here. Sorry if you can't get past the paywall.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson opines on Apple Is Right to Refuse to Help the FBI Hack into iPhones. You may already know the details of the particular case (the late Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani's iPhone might have interesting stuff on it) that forced this issue, but here's the bottom line:

    Apple is right to look after the privacy interests of its customers, and to assist law enforcement where doing so is not detrimental to those interests. And the U.S. government’s law-enforcement and intelligence operatives are right to do what they can to learn what can be learned from the communications of terrorists such as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. But they are the ones who have to do their job—it is not desirable that Apple should be deputized to do it for them, or that Apple should give them a master key to Americans’ private communications—because the U.S. government already has shown on many occasions that it simply cannot be trusted with such power.

    It is worth remembering that Senator Barack Obama was a civil libertarian who worried that the PATRIOT Act would undermine the privacy of American citizens, and that President Obama, only a few blinks of the eye later, decided that the so-called war on terror invested him with the unilateral authority to order the assassination of American citizens without so much as a legislative by-your-leave.

    Political power is always growing and generally metastatic, and the case of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani is not only—or even mainly—about Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.

    I only selectively encrypt, but then again I am not a terrorist. (Honest!)

Your House Will Pay

[Amazon Link]

This book, obtained from the Portsmouth Public Library, was on Tom Nolan's WSJ list of the Best Mystery Books of 2019. Two down, eight to go.

But this isn't really much of a mystery (he whined).

Back in 1991, the Matthews are an African-American family living in LA, mostly happy, save for their occasional dipping into violence and crime. It's OK, though, justified by the cancellation of a showing of New Jack City in "white people territory", Westwood. But soon enough their world will be shattered by an altercation where the family's teenage daughter is shot and killed by a Korean lady shopkeeper. The verdict: involuntary manslaughter, no time served.

Jump forward to roughly present day, where the Korean lady, who's changed her name to Park and moved out of LA, gets shot herself, in a drive-by. This devastates her daughters, Grace and Miriam. Grace in particular, because she was previously unaware of what Mom did back in 1991.

The rest of the book alternates between the Matthews and the Parks. It's pretty clear that the present-day crime is connected to the distant past, but whodunit? Well, eventually we find out.

Writing is good, and (I assume) an honest, earnest, look at the tension in SoCal between Koreans and African-Americans.

Café Society

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

Continuing in the December-January TV drought, we watched this 2016 movie, written and directed by Woody Allen. IMDB has it as 'Comedy | Drama | Romance', but it's one of those comedies where you don't laugh very much. (Scan through the IMDB quotes page if you want, all the gag lines are there.)

Also: the drama and romance depend on how much you care about what happens to these people, and the answer there is "not very much". The 2.5 stars are generous, awarded mostly because the movie is (warning: cliché coming up) a feast for the eyes. IMDB says it's the most expensive Woody Allen film made, and they went all out on the sets and costumes.

Also a feast for the eyes: Blake Lively. Whoa. Good move, Ryan Reynolds.

It's set in the 1930s. The main character is Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), who's moving out to Hollywood from New York; his mom implores her brother, Hollywood exec Phil (Steve Carell), to use his connections to get Bobby a job. This happens, and Bobby happens to also find love with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Unfortunately, Vonnie is Uncle Phil's girlfriend. Forced to choose, Vonnie opts for getting hitched to Phil, breaking Bobby's heart. He moves back to NYC, uses his brother's mob connections to start a swanky nightclub. He meets Veronica (Blake Lively), she gets pregnant, they get hitched. But then Phil and Vonnie come to town…

Well, then some other stuff happens, then the movie ends.

Woody Allen himself does a voiceover narration. Jesse Eisenberg does a decent Woody Allen impression, which is apparently required for the main character in a Woody Allen movie these days.

MLK@UNH 2020

Happy MLK day, all! It's a good day to check out the celebratory events at the University Near Here, a (mostly) yearly tradition at Pun Salad. Someone (sort of) famous is coming, and if you'd like to skip down to that click here. But otherwise…

Right off the bat, our usual disclaimers: UNH doesn't have anything going on the actual holiday. Because it's a University holiday (duh) and the first day of Spring Semester classes is the following day. So no impressionable students to indoctrinate, and nobody around to indoctrinate them. Sad!

This year's theme:

OWN IT: Using Your Power for Change

"Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.  It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  (from the "Where Do We Go From Here") address

I'm sure there are more inspiring MLK quotes out there; this is more like a dictionary definition. But as will become clear, there's only one acceptable direction for "social, political, and economic change" in this season: to the left, to the left, to the left.

Anyway, first up is a display, Human Topographies, from artist Dan Mills, at the University's art museum, running January 21 until April 4. The scoop:

Human Topographies presents a narrow slice of the artist’s wide-ranging and decades-long interest in history, exploration, and games and wordplay to investigate networks—networks of power, trade, and migration that underpin societies, nationally and globally. Mills makes luminous and layered paintings and collages about our shared human history utilizing maps and data to expose the legacies of imperialism: war, colonialism, and the forced displacement of people.

Dan's website is here, and you can make your own call on which is cruder: Dan's art, or his ideology.

Moving on to Carmen Bradford with the Seacoast Big Band on the evening of February 3:

Carmen Bradford is third generation of incredible musicians. Her grandfather Melvin Moore sang with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band in the 1940's, and she is the daughter of coronetist/composer Bobby Bradford and jazz vocalist Melba Joyce.   Her albums include "Home With You", "A Very Swinging Basie Christmas", "Big Boss Band", "Finally Yours", and "With Respect".   Carmen Bradford has truly contributed to the preservation of this American art form called jazz.

No complaints here. Could be good, if you like jazz. It's apparently undisputed that MLK was a fan.

Then on February 5 (finally), the "MLK Opening":

Evening will be hosted by the Black Student Union and will feature spoken word, student group dance performances, slam poets, readings and other events to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy.

Slam poetry is still a thing? Go figure. Best guess: tedium level yellow.

On February 6, a play at Johnson Theater ("NOTE: Doors open at 12:15 and close promptly at 12:40 at start of play. Play ends at 2:30pm"; I don't know what the deal is with that.):

The Niceties, brings a timely and important discussion between a student of color and a white professor who meet to discuss her paper on slavery and the American Revolution.  The play written by Eleanor Burgess, offers important insights on race, ageism, historical "facts", and the "why" that can often be left behind. 
Play will be performed by talented actresses from NH Theatre Project.

You have to appreciate the quotes around "facts". The play has its own website. You can google around for reviews (example) to get fell for the theme: it's a staged in-office debate between a old white liberal lady history prof and a black radical student. The student wants to promote the thesis that "the success of the American Revolution depended on the fact that slavery was never seriously challenged." The professor has "delusions of grandeur". Sounds like a fictionalized version of The 1619 Project, only more didactic.

Then on February 8, there's the "MLK Day of Action":

This is a great way to show those in need that you care. UNH Civic and Community Engagement office will have a list of service-related projects for you to choose from.

The key thing is showing people that you care. You don't have to actually care.

Next is an all-day event in the MUB on February 12: "Social Justice Educator Training".

A professional development opportunity for UNH faculty, staff, and graduate students to further their understanding of social justice and diversity issues. This session will explore social justice via personal and institutional lenses to analyze: power and privilege, discrimination and prejudice, inclusion and equity especially as it relates to one's racial identity .

From that description, my guess is that both indoctrination and tedium levels will be high.

The very next evening, February 13, we have "UNH A Capella Group Performances":

Several A Cappella groups have organized a special "Spring Inclusion" event with a wide variety of songs that will hopefully widen our circles and invite our minds to reflect on new ways to view our community and the people around us.

If you need your circle widened and your mind invited, go for it. (And if you widen your circles, don't they turn into ellipses?)(Sorry, that's a joke I've made before.)

I'm still trying to reflect on the difference between "our community" and "the people around us". (The writing on many of these descriptions is ludicrously inflated; never use one word where three or nine will do.)

Moving on, we have—of course—this year's religious event. Well it's at a church anyway: the "MLK Spiritual Program" on February 16 at the Durham Community Church.

An afternoon of spiritual celebration at the Community Church of Durham.  Program will include talks, a presentation by local artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy, on her depiction of Black Civil Rights leaders, and music to recognize the strength and resilience of the Black community.  All are welcome to attend.

It almost goes without saying: the University doesn't do this sort of thing for actual religious holidays, like Christmas. That's OK: this is UNH's actual religion, complete with mythology and ritual.

Think I'm overstating things? Ms. Chatterton-Purdy's website is here.

And here's the sorta-famous invitee: David Hogg, on the evening of February 19. I know what you're wondering: either "What does this white kid have to do with MLK?" or "Aren't his fifteen minutes of fame up yet?"

Gun control advocate and March For Our Lives Co-Founder, David Hogg will speak about his story as survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida school shooting, and his call to all students to find their voice, speak out and engage in change. 

Here's a bit of what Charles C. W. Cooke said about young David back in 2018:

Since the multiple murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hogg has emerged as a sort of Schrödinger’s Pundit, whose status within the debate sits contingent upon his critics’ willingness to push back. The game being played with his testimony — by adults, not by Hogg — is as transparent as it is cynical. For ten days now, Hogg has been as permanent a fixture on the nation’s TV screens as anyone bar the president. In each appearance, he has been invited without reply to share his ideas on our public policy. This he has done, emphatically. Among the proposals that Hogg has advanced are that the most popular rifle in America be federally prohibited; that the NRA be regarded as a haven for “child murderers”; that Americans boycott Amazon, FedEx, and the state of Florida; and that Governor Rick Scott take responsibility for the failures of another elected official. In addition, Hogg has held a gun-control rally in New Jersey, slammed the president as a coward, criticized the federal response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, made comments in support of funding for wind and solar power, taken a pre-emptive stand on Florida’s imminent senatorial election, and suggested that, as a matter of general policy, cops cannot be expected to protect the citizenry if they believe they might be outgunned.

Still true today, although I'm not sure at this point whether Hogg isn't a co-player in this cynical game by now.

In any case, the University passed up yet another chance to bring Mia Love to campus. I'd go see her.

There's a "Campus Conversation on Race" for … 80 minutes on February 20!

Hosted and designed by TREAT Fellows, join us for this cross-campus conversation with students, faculty and staff on the role power and privilege play here on campus and how we can all begin thinking of ways to leverage our power for change.

Okay… the current Treat (not TREAT) fellows are here. Fellow Brianne Morneau "still has three baby teeth" and Elana Zabar's favorite tree? It's the American Sycamore!

And finally, on February 21-23, it's the "MLK Summit".

The MLK Summit is a two and a half day social justice development institute that allows students to build cultural competencies and to expand their understanding of community activism.  The retreat is free and open to all full-time undergraduate students who are interested in gaining a better understanding of diversity and working toward social justice on the UNH campus and beyond. 

I would strongly suspect that any contrarian opinions on the intellectual coherency of "diversity" or "social justice" will be absent. And if not absent, cancelled.

[Past Pun Salad MLK@UNH coverage: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019. We skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring.]

Last Modified 2020-01-21 5:01 AM EST

Johnny English Strikes Again

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

This is the third entry in Rowan Atkinson's "Johnny English" series. Johnny is about halfway between James Bond and Mr. Bean.

As the movie opens, Johnny's been sidelined, off to a small school where he's ostensibly a geography teacher. But he actually spends most of his time teaching the kiddos spycraft: ninja techniques, disguise, weaponry.

Unfortunately, this is the best part of the movie.

An evil cyberhacker breaks into Britain's "MI7" computers, and outs all the current crop of spies. To investigate, the PM (Emma Thompson, pretty good) demands that an inactive agent be brought back to investigate. So Johnny's off to France to track down the hacker, when he runs into Ophelia Bhuletova (Olga Kurylenko, who was an actual Bond girl in Quantum of Solace). Friend or enemy?

So anyway, Johnny bumbles a lot, a considerable amount of physical comedy, some of the gags work better than others. Atkinson, it's revealed in a DVD interview, likes doing physical comedy. Fine, but know when to stop, OK?

Given the elements, you can write the script yourself.


[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This is a pretty good entry in the "Dumb People Committing Crimes" genre. At least I laughed all the way through. It is based on an actual $17 million heist, although considerable liberties were taken to make things funnier. Co-produced by Lorne Michaels, it's also a movie gig for a lot of ex-SNL cast members.

Zach Galifianakis (could equally well have been Will Forte) plays probably the dumbest guy, David Ghantt, a trusted employee of an armored car company. When slightly-smarter Steve (Owen Wilson) learns that David is smitten with his co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), a plot is hatched. And it goes surprisingly well! David goes on the lam down to Mexico. Steve, with the lion's share of the loot, realizes that David is a loose end, and sends a hitman (Jason Sudekis) after him.

Also: Kate McKinnon as David's spacey fiancée; Leslie Jones as an FBI agent. Everybody's funny, and the movie is better than it probably deserves to be.

The Phony Campaign

2020-01-19 Update

In a week where the impeachment articles finally moved to the Senate, we find that bettors took a look at the field and decided… Donald Trump is slightly more likely to win the November election. Funny old world, isn't it?

Also improving their odds: Wheezy Joe. But everyone else lost favor with people betting their own money.

In phony standings, of course President Bone Spurs widens his lead over Mayor Pete. As reported by Susan B. Glasser in the New Yorker:

Soon after the day’s ceremonial start to the Senate trial had wrapped up, Trump appeared before the cameras to call the case against him a “big hoax,” “a witch-hunt hoax,” “a complete hoax,” and “a phony hoax.” What will he talk about when the trial is over and he is completely and totally vindicated in the greatest acquittal of all time? How will he govern then?

I detect sarcasm.

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 53.7% +1.7% 1,980,000 +370,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.3% -0.3% 962,000 +107,000
Joe Biden 14.6% +1.3% 492,000 +39,000
Bernie Sanders 12.6% -1.6% 435,000 -59,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.6% -0.6% 207,000 -37,000
Michael Bloomberg 5.9% -0.2% 76,300 -6,700

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

In these weekly updates, Pun Salad usually spreads out its commentary among the various candidates, not unlike scattering bread crumbs to the pigeons. But this week, one candidate generated a veritable flood of phoniness. So today we'll concentrate on Senator Elizabeth Warren. Take it away, Liz:

  • First up is Jonah Goldberg's G-File, hosted at his new website, the Dispatch. Jonah delves into How Elizabeth Warren Is Like Michael Scott.

    Elizabeth Warren is a remarkable liar. “Remarkable” is one of those funny words, like unique, that often sounds like a compliment but might not be. If asked about a dress, or a tie, or a baby with an unfortunately bright red unibrow, you might respond with, “What a unique dress” or, “That baby is remarkable!” 

    In other words, Warren’s a remarkable liar, but she’s not a very good one. Much like Barack Obama’s sense of humor and Donald Trump’s eloquence, Warren’s lying gets a boost from her fans. I remember liberals doubling over with laughter at Obama’s utterly banal dad jokes and mediocre quips (in fairness, sometimes he could be funny, particularly when scripted). I remain amazed by people who can listen to Trump vomit up a barrage of sentence fragments and non-sequiturs and then gush about his brilliant communications skills. (In fairness, Trump can approach eloquence—when scripted.)

    Michael Brendan Dougherty has a fantastically frustrated I-feel-like-I’m-taking-crazy-pills rant on the latest episode of National Review’s Editors podcast in which he approaches one of John Belushi’s old Saturday Night LiveWeekend Update” tirades about Warren’s dishonesty and insincerity. “Everything about her is phony!” he rails. MBD notes how she changes her accent, her syntax, her persona based on perceived political need—I say perceived, because she often has a thumbless grasp of what the political moment requires. For instance, no one put a gun to her head and made her release a DNA study, to much fanfare, that proved her claim of being Native American was bogus. She did that all by herself. 

    And more at the link. Pow-wow chow, lactation, minority faculty hire, and "I'm gonna get me a beer". And that just scratches the surface.

  • The link in Jonah's quote will take you to a podcast, but fortunately, Michael Brendan Dougherty also managed to type his commentary for National Review: National Review. Specifically…

    Warren’s political persona is entirely false. She claims to be a populist, but her form of social democracy is a kind of class warfare for millionaires and affluent liberals against billionaires and the petit bourgeois entrepreneurs who vote Republican. Her student-debt and free-college plans are absolute boons to the doctors, lawyers, and academics — the affluent wage-earners — who are her chief constituency. Meanwhile, her tax reforms go after not only billionaires but the small entrepreneurs: the guys who own a car wash, or a garbage-disposal service, and tend to vote Republican. Her consumer-protection reforms have hampered and destroyed local banks, and rewarded the bad-actor mega-banks she claims daily to oppose.

    And more…

  • At Reason, Peter Suderman's article from the print edition is available: Elizabeth Warren Has a Fake Plan To Pay for Medicare for All. Peter painfully details all the problems (which you should check out) but here's the bottom line:

    For Warren, however, realism is clearly not the point. She released her plan after months of pressure to explain precisely how she would finance the tens of trillions in new government spending that even the cheapest, most implausibly efficient version of a full-fledged single-payer system would require. Just as World War I generals used wooden tanks to fool enemy infantry, Warren has enlisted a legion of implausible savings mechanisms and unworkable tax hikes, hoping to look convincing from afar.

    Warren did not come up with a plan to pay for Medicare for All. Instead, she concocted a $52 trillion package of fanciful assumptions and unworkable reforms, and figured out how to pay for that.

    So the phoniness continues…

  • Sharp-eared Andrew Stiles at the Washington Free Beacon picked up another phony chord: Elizabeth Warren Takes Credit for Sponsoring Bills She Voted Against.

    "I do work with the other side," Warren said in October during a radio interview in New Hampshire. "I've gotten more than a dozen bills passed into law, and they've been bipartisan. And that's just been since Donald Trump has been elected president." A post on the "Fact Squad" section of Warren's campaign website similarly boasts that "Donald Trump has signed more than a dozen of Elizabeth's proposals into law" and lists 15 pieces of legislation Warren sponsored.

    Three of the items included in that tally, however, are bills that Warren ultimately voted against. The Gambling Addiction Prevention Act, the Sexual Trauma Response And Treatment Act, and the National Guard Promotion Accountability Act all passed the Senate in August 2018 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. Warren was one of only 10 senators who voted against the 2019 NDAA, along with fellow 2020 contenders Kamala Harris (RIP), Kirsten Gillibrand (RIP), and Bernie Sanders.

    It would be nice if Liz realized that these items were either stupid or budget-busting, but… are you kidding?

  • So you won't be surprised at Wired's explanation of Why Elizabeth Warren's Feeds Are Flooded With Snake Emoji.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren’s social media feeds are crawling with snakes. If you scroll through the replies to every new tweet and the comments of her most recent Instagram posts, you won’t find much discussion about the actual content, whether its donations or the student loan debt crisis. Instead, it’s line after line of acid-green snake emoji, intermixed with people apologizing for the people inundating Warren’s accounts with snake emoji. Lest ye think that Senator Warren’s campaign for president has suddenly become much beloved by reptile enthusiasts, #NeverWarren is also trending, alongside #WarrenIsASnake.

    Sample, with additional meme:

    The Wired writer (as you might expect) plays the "sexism" card.

  • And you've probably seen this done to death, but I liked Dana at Patterico: CNN Debate Moderator Shamefully Takes Sides In Warren-Sanders Feud.

    Look, either Elizabeth Warren is lying or Bernie Sanders is lying. And moderator Abby Phillip, to her discredit and without any evidence, made it clear by the framing of her question to Warren, that she believed Sanders was not telling the truth. Not only did she openly confirm that she believed Sanders was untruthful, she gave Warren a convenient opportunity to pivot from confronting Sanders to move on to the broader picture of women and elections. This morning, I noticed that CNN’s Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza somehow completely missed his colleague’s act of “media malpractice” in his analysis of the interaction. Perhaps it has something to do with this, eh?

    CNN contributor Jess McIntosh suggested later that Phillips had taken her stance because of the network’s reporting: “This was a reported-out story that CNN was part of breaking.”

    Abby Phillip discredited herself with her clear and obvious bias, and Elizabeth Warren discredited herself by not directly confronting Bernie Sanders about his sexist remark. Her decision to choose party unity over standing up for herself and standing against an act of alleged sexism came off as weak. On behalf of women everywhere, it’s not an impressive look for a Democratic woman contending for the presidency of the United States to pass on an open opportunity to condemn sexism, especially when it has allegedly coming from a powerful, white male seeking the presidency.

    Or: 🐍

Last Modified 2020-01-19 12:00 PM EST

URLs du Jour



  • Our Pic du Jour is stolen from Power Line's The Week in Pictures: Blowout Impeachment Edition. It hurts a bit to post it, because I'm eternally grateful to Alex for the 2018 Red Sox season.

    On the other hand, 2019… not so much. I suppose if there's someone needing to be own-petard-hoisted, Alex is a pretty good candidate.

    But, for the record, I'm pretty sure that "banned for life" thing isn't exactly true. At least not yet.

    And there should be an apostrophe in 'won't'. Have an editor check your memes, Trump fans!

  • Wired covers The Disturbing Case of the Disappearing Sci-Fi Story. Intro:

    Memes continue to be a messy business. They harm as well as empower. Sometimes the harmful ones can become empowering. Sometimes that makes them even messier.

    In 2014, people began to claim that they sexually identify as attack helicopters. The meme was intended to mock modern expressions of gender identity and sexuality, including those of the transgender community. Its creator, a player of the videogame Team Fortress 2, declared in the original copypasta that anyone who refused to accept their right to kill people was a “heliphobe” who should “check their vehicle privilege.” To a certain kind of internet user, the post was riotously funny. From Team Fortress 2 chat rooms, the meme spread to Reddit and then on to 4chan. Though usage peaked in mid-2015, according to Google Trends, the meme continues to hurt and offend many people.

    [That last link, by the way goes to a Medium article headlined "You’re Not An Attack Helicopter, You’re Just An Asshole". Attempting to "hurt and offend" people is just fine in some cases.]

    Anyway, Wired tells the story as sympathetically as possible:

    At the beginning of this year, the science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld published a short story called “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall. The story, which appears to be Fall’s debut, follows the first “somatic female” to undergo “tactical-role gender reassignment” surgery. She becomes, more or less literally, an Army helicopter. “When I was a woman I wanted my skin to be as smooth and dark as the sintered stone countertop in our kitchen,” the narrator says. “Now my skin is boron-carbide and Kevlar.” The experience of the narrator seemed to reflect the real-world struggles of transitioning. “Severe gender dysphoria,” Fall writes, “can be a flight risk.” The story took the offensive meme, slapped some rotors on it, and flew away to surprising places.

    Bottom line: although it's claimed that Isabel is transgender, the yarn rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, abuse was deployed, Isabel requested the story be removed from Clarkesworld, and it was.

    For another spin on the same story…

  • … check out Robby Soave at Reason: Transgender Writer Forced to Retract Trans-Themed Science Fiction Story.

    This episode demonstrates one of the most salient and oft-overlooked facts of cancel culture: The people most vulnerable to canceling belong to the very marginalized communities that the cancel-culture enforcers are purportedly protecting. These attacks on wrongthink do not help the oppressed. Indeed, it's often weaponized against them, attack-helicopter style.

    Irony can be… pretty ironic sometimes.

  • Ann Althouse comments on the Virginia gun stuff: "A sense of crisis enveloped the capital of Virginia on Thursday, with the police on heightened alert and Richmond bracing for possible violence ahead of a gun rally next week...". But what she really wants to talk about is the use of a fine old song and dance:

    From a week ago, at NPR, "'Boogaloo' Is The New Far-Right Slang For Civil War" (audio & transcript). "Boogaloo" was originally a song and dance, then a reference to a famously bad movie ("Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo"), and then slang for "any unwanted sequel." Then it got attached to the idea of another civil war — "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo." The NPR reporter, Hannah Allam says the word is used by "anarchists and others on the far left" as well as "right-wing militias and self-described patriot groups." We hear an audio montage of unidentified persons:

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: So many people are saying that the boogaloo is about to kick off in Virginia.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: When the boogaloo happens, these are the people that you're going to have to watch out for.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Do not think for one second that there aren't people that would love to see this thing to get started, that would love to see this boogaloo start rolling. Personally, I do not want to see that. I don't want it to come to that....

    Interesting that all 3 of those persons were talking about those other people over there.

    We seem to have a weaponized meme theme going today.

    A quick grep tells me that "boogaloo" has never, ever, appeared at Pun Salad. Until now.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rings for column by one Lyz Lenz in the [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] Gazette: It's time to start a civil war with New Hampshire. Whoa! Why?

    The state whose motto is “Live Free or Die” is certainly good at keeping their clamming boots on our neck.

    Look, we wanted to change our caucuses. But we can’t change the caucus to a more civilized primary because New Hampshire will crap a lobster roll. It’s also the reason the new ballots at the caucuses won’t be called ballots, they will be called presidential preference cards.

    Heh, "crap a lobster roll". Those Iowa folk sure have a way with words.

    Anyway, Lyz is appalled at the situation (which she describes as "a failing system so tightly controlled by the power and influence of a few white people so desperate to cling to and justify their own relevancy that they’ll bring us all down with them", not much doubt where she's coming from), and after reviewing some history:

    That explains the passive-aggressive American standoff between a state that’s known for boiling it’s food and a state known for covering their food in cream of mushroom soup and overbaking it at 350.


    1. OK, we boil a lot of stuff, mostly crustaceans and mollusks, but what else are you going to do with them?
    2. Truth be told, we're also kind of fond of that cream of mushroom soup culinary trick.
    3. But at least we know when to use "it's" vs. "its".
    4. Just kidding, we're pretty weak on that too.
    5. Did I mention that "relevance" is generally preferred over "relevancy"?

Last Modified 2020-01-19 4:21 AM EST


[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Pun Son and I trekked over to the icy wastes of Barrington to view 1917. After a good sleep, various bodily sphincters have finally unclenched. I understand there's an IMAX version; I probably wouldn't have survived that. Yes, it's intense.

IMDB raters have this as #41 on the list of best movies of all time. And (of course) it's been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and nine others.

Set in World War I's trenches, It's the story of two soldiers and their desperate mission to notify a remote regiment that their scheduled attack against a German force is doomed to failure. If they don't get through, 1600 of their countrymen will be slaughtered.

They proceed through different instantiations of hell. All impressively shot. I don't know about Best Picture, but the Oscar for Cinematography should be a lock. (And I say that without having watched the other nominees.)

Only one little quibble: would that have really been the best plan to save the regiment? Just send two random grunts to warn them in the nick of time? Especially since… well, I don't want to spoil anything.

URLs du Jour


  • Peter Suderman writes at Reason that it's pretty simple: By Withholding Funds to Ukraine, Trump Broke the Law.

    One argument that President Donald Trump's supporters have employed in the impeachment debate is that it was merely a "policy dispute." Yes, Trump held up aid to Ukraine last summer, this line goes, but he did so in pursuit of his agenda in the region. 

    There are several problems with this argument. One is that it has become increasingly clear that the president was pursuing a personal political agenda through his personal lawyer, not a national agenda through the formal diplomatic process. Another problem, arguably more serious, is that even if Trump was pursuing some less blatantly corrupt goal, what he did was still illegal. 

    That is the conclusion reached by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a sharply worded letter released this morning. The letter raises serious questions about whether the Trump administration violated the constitutional separation of powers. 

    That's a point. For a counterpoint…

  • … check out the WSJ's James Freeman, who is dismissive: Trump Receives Another Postcard from the Swamp.

    Traditionally GAO does its best to serve its congressional bosses. This is not a swipe at these particular swamp dwellers. Yes, the current head of GAO was nominated by President Barack Obama after a congressional commission presented a list of candidates. But the Supreme Court has explicitly found that GAO is subservient to the legislative branch. The 1986 decision is called Bowsher v. Synar. GAO staff try their best to satisfy requests from legislators.

    At the urging of Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Maryland), GAO now says that Trump administration delays in sending aid to Ukraine were illegal. For people who aren’t students of the Washington bureaucracy, it should be noted that few people consider GAO the authoritative word on legal issues. The Justice Department and ultimately of course the federal courts make the big calls.

    James goes on to note a number of times GAO found the Obama Administration running afoul of the law. (And this doesn't even count Biden's threat to withhold aid to Ukraine aid until a prosecutor was fired.)

    At Instapundit, David Bernstein notes, with respect to one of those GAO findings: "If you can find me a Democratic House member or Senator who denounced Obama for that move, I’ll concede that he is sincerely interested in presidential lawfulness and the separation of powers."

    Let's grant that there's a surfeit of hypocrisy here.

  • One additional source of irritation is spotlighted by Kevin D. Williamson at National Review (an NRPLUS article, and I don't know what that means). Supreme Court’s ‘Endangered' Reputation: Democrat Warnings Entirely Political.

    The Democrats are great defenders of American institutions — provided those institutions serve their interests. In October 2016, the po-faced defenders of all that is good and precious were wearing themselves out demanding that Donald Trump and his supporters make a pledge to “accept the results” of the presidential election, a demand that was predicated on the assumption that Trump was going to lose. After making those demands, the Democrats have spent every single day refusing to accept the results of the 2016 election. They don’t give a fig about the credibility of our electoral processes — they care about winning. The Electoral College, the Senate, the Bill of Rights — when the Constitution itself gets in the way, they are ready and eager to gut it.

    Yesterday, Democrats were willing to slander a Supreme Court nominee, and then to continue slandering him as a justice; today, they are very, very concerned about the delicate reputation of the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Democrats were working to advance a court-packing scheme that would seal and certify the politicization of the Court; today, the Court is so sacrosanct that we must move heaven and earth to fortify its perceived legitimacy. It is difficult to take seriously the notion that they are moved by tender concern for the reputation of an institution that they insist is staffed by political hacks and rapists.

    Did I already mention hypocrisy? Oh, right, I did.

  • In unimpeachable news, Cato's James Knupp and Christopher A. Preble have a suggestion: When Debating Base Closure, Look at the Data. And there's a local connection.

    Despite years of calls from the Pentagon for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Congress has refused to authorize one since 2005. With the Department of Defense running at 22 percent excess capacity and constant calls for more money for operations and modernization, Congress should allow the Pentagon to reallocate funds away from unnecessary bases into more urgent projects. But fears of communities losing their bases and watching their local economies suffer as a result has kept talk of a new BRAC off the table.

    BRAC opponents should take a look at some of the data measuring the economic health of post-BRAC communities. Research shows that while there may be some short-term pain, in the long run most communities rebound -- and oftentimes end up in a much stronger position before. A presentation last year at the Association of Defense Communities’ Base Redevelopment Forum looked at three very different cases: Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (1988); Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas (1991); and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (1991). With both large and small communities represented, the evidence reveals BRAC’s actual effects.

    Our local legislators from both parties are hyper-vigilant against any waste-cutting move that might possibly endanger Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Back in 2017, I looked at PNSY through Bastiat's eyeglasses, and I think it holds up pretty well.

  • The WaPo has a fun interactive article: Which of these 2020 Democrats agrees with you most? You provide your stance on twenty policy issues, and the Post tallies up which candidates took an identical stance.

    You might, correctly, suspect that zero candidates agreed with me on more than a few questions.

    Question 17 got my goat a bit:

    The government should make four years of college ________________ for all families, including the wealthy.

    And your (only) choices were: "free", "debt-free", and "affordable". If you favor government letting colleges and students come to their own mutually-agreeable terms without meddling, you are a non-person on this issue.

  • New Hampshire magazine editor Rick Broussard triggered our LFOD news alert with: Our Declarations of “Zen-dependence”. It's a musing on our state's motto:

    Typically, when people want to define the uniqueness of our state, they go to the most public evidence of it, the one that appears on our license plates and on the signs that greet all visitors: our state motto, “Live Free or Die.”

    Of course, not everyone “gets” Gen. John Stark’s pithy bumper sticker’s worth of wisdom and not everyone appreciates the sentiment. For those still scratching their heads whenever they read it, here’s my take. The message is not that life would not be worth living without freedom. It’s just that there are worse things than being dead. This in turn suggests that there is more to our lives than just living; that we are larger beings than is suggested by our contentious featherless-biped existence on this rough mortal coil. In other words, Gen. Stark’s philosophy goes a bit deeper, perhaps, than some people think. That’s probably why it is still repeated 200 years after the event at which it was originally read as a toast to fellow veterans of the Battle of Bennington, Stark’s last hurrah.

    I'm pretty sure Rick's take is mistaken, sorry. It's not deep, it's simple: your freedom is something worth risking, and even losing, your life.

    He also seems to think LFOD was original with General Stark. I think it's generally (heh) accepted that he cribbed it from French Revolutionaries' Vivre Libre ou Mourir.

    Still, Rick's take is worth reading, if only for the idea that LFOD have a backup slogan: "Be Here Now". Can you imagine the thoughts of an incoming tourist seeing that on a "Welcome to New Hampshire" sign?

    "Be here now? Well, of course I am. Where else could I be?"