The Favourite

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

As God is my witness, I thought this was gonna be funnier. I was deceived by the previews, which made it seem like kind of a slapstick hoot. And the IMDB has it as "Biography, Comedy, Drama".

To quote a (different) Brit queen: We were not amused.

Queen Anne is initially under the spell of manipulative Lady Sarah; she's finagled her into supporting a ruinous war with France (for a reason I missed, if it was provided). This goes along with punitive taxes on the populace, which they are pretty irked about.

Along comes Abigail, Sarah's cousin, who's trying to recover after a spell of degrading prostitution. She turns out to be equally as adept at winning the Queen's fancy, especially when she appeals to her, um, baser instincts.

To quote Bugs Bunny: of course you know, this means war.

Sarah and Abigail wage a genteel, and not-so-genteel war on each other. This is set against a backdrop of unending perversion (in this movie, everybody's pretty kinky and degenerate).

Nominated for 10 Oscars, and Olivia Colman won for Best Actress, playing Queen Anne.

Let It Burn

[Amazon Link]

Another book down in my Steve Hamilton catch-up project. This one's from 2013, and it's in his "Alex McKnight" series. Recent entries have strained credulity, as Alex has long wished to stop getting involved in the sorts of scrapes in which crime fiction deals; yet he keeps getting dragged back in to intrigue and danger.

Guess what? I found this one more believable!

Back in the day, Alex was a Detroit cop, and found himself involved in a gruesome murder. Thanks in part to his good cop skills, they nabbed a suspect, got a confession, and the city went on its slow pathway to hell, while Alex eventually retired to Michigan's scenic Upper Peninsula. But he gets a phone call from his old Sergeant (also now retired): the guy's getting out of jail.

This causes Alex to relate how the case went down back then, and (of course) there's a niggling little detail: they might have accused and convicted the wrong guy.

Kept me guessing (incorrectly) until the end. And a great page-turner.

URLs du Jour

2020-01-16

  • At National Review, David Harsanyi notes a specific example of a more general problem: Democrats’ Economic Doomsaying Doesn’t Match Reality.

    In the last debate, Tom Steyer claimed that “90 percent of Americans have not had a raise for 40 years.” Politicians have been peddling the “wage stagnation” myth for a decade now. The notion that Americans make no more than their grandparents conveniently ignores a big expansion of employee-based benefits, increased efficiency, and technological advances that have, by any genuine real-world measure, vastly improved the economic life of the average American.

    Yet, in last night’s debate, Biden again asserted, to applause, that the middle class was “being clobbered” and “killed.” (The middle class is actually quite alive. It isn’t losing ground to poverty. It has been losing ground to the upper-middle class for 40 years, however.)

    RTWT, but I'll just point out that Steyer is peddling a statistical fallacy, treating a dynamic population as static.

    To use a less-charged example: if you track the average height of trees in a forest over 40 years, it might not change significantly. But then would you conclude that no tree had grown in that forest for 40 years?

    Duh.

    Of course, we'd prefer that average wages grow over time. But it's a mistake to say that people don't get raises. They do.


  • Trump promised to drain the swamp. But he's missed a particularly foul, mosquito-infested corner, according to Veronique de Rugy: Social Engineering Run Amok in the Department of Labor. Looking at the department's $400 million vendetta against Oracle:

    To prove its discrimination claim, [ Labor's "Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs" (OFCCP)] relies entirely on a statistical analysis that fails to reflect the labor market's great complexity. For instance, the government uses crude controls for employee education and experience, both of which have a large impact on compensation. For education, OFCCP considers only an employee's degree level but not whether the degree is actually relevant to the job performed. As for experience, it considers only the employee's age and time at Oracle, omitting both length at the current position — which is where the most useful experience is gained — and the relevance of prior work. OFCCP, in other words, thinks that any employees of the same age and with the same tenure with their current employer possess the same experience.

    OFCCP's analysis also treats employees with the same job title as similarly situated, creating more grounds for discrimination claims. However, a software engineer working on databases does very different work than one who develops artificial intelligence. Yet if the worker in the higher-demand field, who can therefore demand higher pay, happens to be Caucasian or male, while the other is female or a minority, then the government concludes the pay disparity is due to discrimination by Oracle.

    I guess the Department of Labor figures that if they can't sue somebody for big bucks, people might conclude that they're not earning their keep.


  • Karen Townsend at Hot Air notes the latest outrage: Space Force Bible critics condemn "unadulterated Christian privilege".

    A religious freedom group is condemning the blessing of a King James Bible last Sunday in a ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral. The Bible was used to swear in the commanders of the Space Force. Some are criticizing the ceremony as a violation of the separation of church and state.

    Further key detail: "The Bible will be taken into space."

    Ah, but the "religious freedom group" was turning over rhetorical tables in the temple:

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemns, in as full-throated a manner as is humanly possible, the shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism which occurred at yesterday’s ‘blessing’, at the Washington National Cathedral, of a sectarian Christian bible which will apparently ‘be used to swear in all commanders of America’s newest military branch (ie. The United States Space Force).” MRFF noted with additional disgust and disdain the willing and all-too visible participation of a senior USAF officer, in formal uniform, during the travesty of this sectarian ceremony which tragically validates the villainy of unadulterated Christian privilege at DoD and its subordinate military branches. For the record, military commanders are NOT ever “sworn in” to their positions let alone with the usage of a Christian bible or other book of faith. And especially not in 2020!!

    Two exclamation points, baby. They're really irked about this.

    Although I think the real source of their worries is that Bibles in space might be used to impose Christianity on heathen Klingons and Romulans.


  • A Wired article brings (probably unintentional) amusement: Chris Evans Goes to Washington. Yes, that's Captain America.

    Chris Evans, back home after a grueling production schedule, relaxes into his couch, feet propped up on the coffee table. Over the past year and a half, the actor has tried on one identity after another: the shaggy-haired Israeli spy, the clean-shaven playboy, and, in his Broadway debut, the Manhattan beat cop with a Burt Reynolds ’stache. Now, though, he just looks like Chris Evans—trim beard, monster biceps, angelic complexion. So it’s a surprise when he brings up the nightmares. “I sleep, like, an hour a night,” he says. “I’m in a panic.”

    The panic began, as panics so often do these days, in Washington, DC. Early last February, Evans visited the capital to pitch lawmakers on a new civic engagement project. He arrived just hours before Donald Trump would deliver his second State of the Union address, in which he called on Congress to “bridge old divisions” and “reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution.” (Earlier, at a private luncheon, Trump referred to Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, as a “nasty son of a bitch.”) Evans is no fan of the president, whom he has publicly called a “moron,” a “dunce,” and a “meatball.” But bridging divisions? Putting an end to the American body politic’s clammy night sweats? These were goals he could get behind.

    Yes, when you're looking to "bridge old divisions", someone who's called Trump a “moron,” a “dunce,” and a “meatball” is just the guy to tell you how to do it.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a Concord Monitor article: Vape shop owners oppose New Hampshire flavor ban proposal. But before we get to the motto invocation…

    The Trump administration announced this month that it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes favored by high school and middle school students. But menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market, and the targeted flavor ban entirely exempts large, tank-based vaping devices, which are primarily sold in vape shops that cater to adult smokers.

    Rep. Jerry Knirk, D-Freedom, wants New Hampshire to go further and ban the sale of all flavored vaping products, except tobacco flavors. A former surgeon, he cast the bill as a move to stem a public health crisis, and said the benefits of preventing teens from vaping outweighs the benefit to adults who use the products for smoking cessation.

    Yes, you read that correctly: the representative from Freedom wants to ban stuff. But LFOD comes in later…

    Steve Kaltsis pulled out two bottles and showed them to lawmakers, including one liquid flavored like a sweet breakfast cereal.

    “I’m 34 years old. Cap’n Crunchberries and pineapple grapefruit, these two things are keeping me off cigarettes,” said Kaltsis, who said he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years before taking up vaping five years ago. He opened a vape shop in Pelham in November after sales dropped from $1,800 to $150 per day at his store in Dracut, Mass., where the governor announced a four-month moratorium on the sale of vaping products in September.

    “Anything that is opposing adults getting their hands on these flavors that help them quit would be a tragedy for the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “Just look what it did to Massachusetts. Look what it did to me.”

    “ ‘Live Free or Die,’ ” Kaltsis continued, invoking New Hampshire’s state motto. “I was kinda hoping I could stick with that.”

    A number of us were kinda hoping we could stick with that, Steve.