URLs du Jour

2020-03-31

We open this fine Tuesday with some tweeted wisdom from Iowahawk:

Guilty as charged, I guess.

  • For once we're linking to Kevin D. Williamson's "Tuesday" feature actually on Tuesday: ‘Shane, Come Back!’. RTWT, of course, but his last bit notes an observation from Michael Smerconish:

    On March 18, he predicted on Twitter that Donald Trump would seek to put his own signature on any stimulus checks that were sent out to Americans as part of the coronavirus-emergency stimulus. On March 27, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump desires to do exactly that:

    Mr. Trump has told people he wants his signature to appear on the direct payment checks that will go out to many Americans in the coming weeks, according to an administration official. The White House didn’t comment. Normally, a civil servant — the disbursing officer for the payment center — would sign federal checks, said Don Hammond, a former senior Treasury Department official.

    There is an epidemic under way. Hundreds of thousands of people already are sick, and the number is likely to reach into the tens of millions before this is over. Thousands of Americans already have died, with many more sure to follow. There are shortages of everything from medical masks to ventilators, the U.S. government’s response has been a series of bungles (negotiations with GM have been a tragedy of errors, a typical one), and President Donald J. Trump, occupant of the highest office in the land and the most powerful political figure in the world, is thinking about how he might use this for petty personal aggrandizement.

    Are the media unfair to President Trump? At times, yes. Are the Democrats awful? Of course. But it is not the media or the Democrats forcing President Trump to conduct himself in this clownish fashion. He behaves like a clown because he is a clown-souled man. The Right’s excuse-making (and its positive celebration) of this clownishness is well beyond what political necessity requires or decency allows. It is shameful, and it will come with a price in the end.

    This put me in mind of Richard M. Nixon's signature on the Apollo 11 and 17 lunar lander plaques. "What, he went too?"


  • Kyle Smith reports from his post at the New York Post: Woke stupidity is spreading as fast as the coronavirus pandemic.

    The coronavirus has already caused far more disruption than 9/11, and figures to take far more lives, albeit in slo-mo rather than on one fireball-strewn morning. You may ask, “Is there anything good about the pandemic? Will it make us more serious? Will it rejuvenate common sense?” Since Britney Spears is now a Marxist, I’d say probably not.

    Spears was once registered to vote as a Republican and supported President George W. Bush during the Iraq War. This week she shared a meme on Instagram calling for a general strike that was decorated with rose emojis symbolizing the international socialist cause. “We will feed each other, re-destribute [sic] wealth, strike,” declared Comrade Spears. Someone might want to inform her that those who have a net worth of $215 million stand to lose if there is much wealth redistribution, but if she thinks well of the idea, she is free to turn her fortune over to the International Communist Workers Party right now. Come the Revolution, she’ll quickly discover how hard it is to secure a Pilates trainer and a blowout in the gulag.

    Also featured in Kyle's crosshairs: Fran Drescher, and (sigh) Gal Gadot "and her Justice League of Idiots".


  • At AIER, Jeffrey A. Tucker analyzes Coronavirus as Ideology. Which is kind of the long form of Iowahawk's tweet above.

    This penchant for channeling one’s ideology was obvious from the beginning of this. Even back in February, you had people going to their corners into camps: this is all a lie vs. we are all going to die. The lie camp was occupied by the people who don’t believe anything ever. The die camp was merely exercising an apocalyptic vision of either left or right. 

    There have been some surprises here, pundits with no previous knowledge of anything medical much less epidemiological who were cocksure that this disease was the new Black Death. They couldn’t wait to explain it to the rest of us. Meanwhile, in the millenarian religious press, we heard that this is proof of the coming rapture, god’s vengeance against a sinful world, the fulfillment of prophecy. 

    There are those who shape everything they believe in opposition to Trump who is the Great Satan. These have been challenging times for them because Trump has whipsawed from one end to the other. He began as a dismissalist who couldn’t even be bothered to follow the news about it, much less look into the egregious failures of testing that were the fault of his own regulatory agencies. Then possibly sensing a chance to exercise the powers of an emperor, he flipped the other way. Now he is this extremely strange mix of opinions but with one overriding theme: he is the hero. 

    Trump has indeed whipsawed on the virus, but has been constant in his belief that it's all about him.


  • J.D. Tuccille has a suggestion at Reason: Tear Up Your Census Form for a Better America.

    If, like me, you've received not one but three mailings from the U.S. Census Bureau proclaiming "Your Response Is Required By Law," you're probably wondering whether to respond, toss the questionnaire in the trash, or fill it with bogus information. We're in good company, since about a third of households plan to ignore the census, according to the government itself.

    In the past, I've filled in preposterous answers, then repeated them with a straight face when a harried-looking census field worker knocked on my door (that's a pleasure I'll miss this year, with in-person interviews suspended). It's good fun, it denies potentially dangerous information to a government agency that has a history of misusing the data it collects and, if repeated far and wide, it might spur nosy bureaucrats to try something less intrusive.

    Less intrusive would be nice.

    Since I occasionally watch Boston-based TV stations, I've been irritated by the recent spew of ads from dog-faced pony soldier William M. Gavin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Respond to the Census, Gavin implores, else Massachusetts will be denied an adequate Federal funding for commuter trains, schools, etc.

    By most measures Massachusetts is one of the richest states in the union. Gavin is essentially demanding that other states pay for stuff Massachusetts should be able to afford itself.

    In fairness, Massachusetts is (again, by most measures) a donor state, with its citizenry sending off more money to the Feds than the state receives.

    But I suppose there are a lot of people wondering "Hey, why shouldn't all states get more money from the Feds than they send in?" (Not readers of this blog, I'm sure.)


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for this Concord Monitor item from Granite Geek David Brooks: ‘Hempcrete’ is a small way to fight climate change (no, you can’t smoke it).

    Hempcrete is made by chopping up hemp plants and mixing them with a lime binder to create a material that can be cast in molds. It is often made into bricks with high insulation value or used as insulating fill inside walls. Either way, it can replace Fiberglas or some petroleum-based products.

    Because it uses plants, which have pulled carbon out of the air as they grow, and then locks them inside material that last for decades, hempcrete can be carbon-negative. Using more plant-based material in construction in place of material that requires the release of carbon when manufactured – in particular, steel and concrete – is one of the steps we need to take to stop loading up the atmosphere with heat-trapping gasses.

    As is usual, there's no mention of how much it costs compared to concrete. The LFOD is right here:

    Hemp, of course, has a complicated history here. Despite everybody in New Hampshire saying “live free or die” at the drop of a hat, we have been perfectly happy to prevent people from freely growing hemp because the relationship to cannabis spooks us.

    Eye roll at the cheap LFOD. The current state of hemp legality seems to be summed up at NHPR.


Last Modified 2020-04-02 12:53 PM EST

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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

This was unexpectedly good. Unexpected, because I was never a Mr. Rogers fan.

It's the based-on-true story of magazine writer Lloyd Vogel, who has a cynical view of humanity, especially "heroes": he likes to take them down a peg or two in his work. His editor assigns him to write a vignette on Mr. Rogers. The movie is set while "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" is still in production, so Lloyd is off to Pittsburgh, and the studio where it all happens.

Now, Lloyd has problems of his own. He's estranged from his father, who abandoned his family when his wife, Lloyd's mom, was painfully dying. And dad has just resurfaced, bringing with him all those ugly memories.

And it turns out that Fred Rogers really is a nice guy, skilled at digging out Lloyd's neuroses, helping him reevaluate his family and professional relationships.

Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers near-perfectly. Matthew Rhys is Lloyd, and it's nice to see him in a role that doesn't involve him being a murdering commie spy.

The Number of the Beast

[Amazon Link]

Warning: spoilers ahead for a forty-year-old book. (It came out in 1980, after a seven-year hiatus for Heinlein novels. He was ill during that period with a carotid blockage that "interfered with his mental acuity".)

I moved this book up in the queue, because I recently got the Kindle version of The Pursuit of the Pankera, which is related in some way. Now I wish I had (at least) read Time Enough For Love beforehand. And maybe Methuselah's Children before that. But what's done is done.

Anyway: Zeb Carter is at a party, where he meets Deety, daughter of math prof Jake. The party is hosted by Hilda. Zeb and Deety decide to get hitched, Jake and Hilda do the same, and then it develops that some baddies—the "black hats"—are trying to kill Jake for his discovery/invention of the means to travel between parallel universes. Deety and Hilda are impregnated, the universe-hopping gadget is installed in Zeb's flying car, and they're off. Not trying to save the world, but avoiding death. Understandable, if not heroic.

All this happens in the first sixty pages or so of this 500-page book.

It's pretty rough sledding, because there's way too much Heinlein know-it-all yakking between the four protagonists. A lot of tedious bickering. A lot of nudity and sexual references. Much detail on the voice interface to Zeb's car's computer.

And about two-thirds of the way through, things take an unexpected turn, which is why I kind of wish I'd reread the Lazarus Long novels before I read this. Yes, suddenly we have quite a few more Heinlein characters who yak, bicker, and know-it-all. Ah, well, keep those pages turning.