URLs du Jour

2020-04-25

  • Kyle Smith joins the pile-on at National Review in rebuttal to a recent anti-homeschool article in Harvard Magazine: The Attack on Homeschoolers Is an Attack on American Ideals.

    Listen carefully to the progressive Left and you may discover that when they say “democratic values,” they mean “I get to tell you what to think.” It’s nothing new to argue that the people must be forced to conform to the preferences of the cultural elites. It takes a certain mental flexibility to do this in the name of democracy.

    I refer to the Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s stated case for why it should be illegal for you to homeschool your children in her “something must be done” cry in Harvard Magazine. Bartholet wants the state to ride in on horseback and break up all those sinister gatherings in which families go through the multiplication tables together. Or discuss the Constitution. Or — sharp intake of breath — even study the Bible.

    Bartholet makes some half-hearted noises about opposing homeschooling because it supposedly leads to child abuse, or because homeschool parents are unlettered troglodytes who don’t know which end of the pencil the ink comes out of. (“People can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves,” she claims.) These are just warmup arguments, though (dismantled here and here). Even Bartholet doesn’t really seem to believe them. The crux of her case against homeschoolers is that they might grow up thinking thoughts Bartholet does not agree with. That’s the “risk” of homeschooling.

    It's always a good idea to try to put the most charitable spin on ideas you disagree with. I'm having a tough time in this case.


  • At AIER, Jeffrey A. Tucker is a glass-half-full kind of guy about Covid-19: There Will Be Blowback, In Mostly Good Ways.

    Two months ago, it had been mandatory in my local grocery to use only shopping bags brought from home. Plastic bags were illegal by local ordinance. Then the virus hit. Suddenly the opposite was true. It was illegal to bring bags from home because they could spread disease. Plastic bags were mandatory. As a huge fan of plastic bags, I experienced profound Schadenfreude.

    It’s amazing how the prospect of death clarifies priorities.

    Before the virus, we indulged in all sorts of luxuries such as dabbling in dirtiness and imagining a world purified by bucolic naturalness. But when the virus hit, we suddenly realized that a healthy life really matters and that natural things can be very wicked. And then when government put everyone under house arrest and criminalized freedom itself, we realized many other things too. And we did it fast.

    Jeffrey names a number of other areas where our shock treatment reveals a lot of unnecessary, indeed counterproductive, policies.

    Our local would-be plastic bag-banner, Judith Spang, was recently quarantined although asymptomatic. Unfortunately, the reason was not indiscriminate use of filthy bags from home; she had travelled to Italy.


  • The Josiah Bartlett Center has a good idea for the state: To reopen the economy, ditch the 'essential' vs. 'non-essential' framework.

    Since the governor’s March 17 order that divided state businesses into “essential” and “non-essential” categories, people in industries categorized as “non-essential” have pressed hard to have their businesses recategorized. And who can blame them? For many, a forced closure for even a few more weeks, not to mention 18 months, is an economic death sentence.

    It’s become clear that the “essential” vs. “non-essential” framework is deeply flawed. Adopted by governors nationwide, it’s a better fit for wartime production circa the 1940s. The effort to suppress the spread of the coronavirus does not fit that model very well.

    In fact, it doesn't fit the whole notion of individual liberty very well; the state is a lousy judge of what is "acceptable" risk for individuals and businesses. Better it should concentrate on communicating clear information about the best knowledge available.

    But maybe this is an opportunity for more people to learn that lesson.


  • Do you, like Jonah Goldberg, have a White People Problem?

    One of the great things about white people—well, not the people themselves, but their place in society—is that it’s totally fine to crap on them from a great height in ways that would be incontrovertibly bigoted about virtually any other group (save perhaps Christians—white Christians). You can rant about white privilege, white uncoolness, white customs and culture (real and alleged), white bigotry (real and alleged), white bread, white dancing skills, white food, white music, white sexual inadequacies, white whatever, and, at least among certain cultural elites, be celebrated for it. When non-whites do it, it’s courageous, speaking truth to power or just funny. When whites do it, it’s a manifestation of self-awareness, atonement, or solidarity with the oppressed (and, less often, just funny). 

    I have no scientific data to support this, but I am pretty confident that one of the few veins of humor a stand-up comic can still get away with on an (overwhelmingly white) progressive college campus is white-bashing. 

    Hey, I can take it.

    It's just that we should have a word for making blanket, invidious judgment about people based on their skin color.

    Apparently "racist" isn't good enough?


  • And finally Greta Lee Jackson has thanks to give:

    What would we do without them?

Blue Moon

[Amazon Link]

Lee Child's latest novel featuring the exploits of Jack Reacher. As usual, what Child does looks easy, but it's not: if it were, more people would be doing it.

As often happens to Reacher, he just falls into the plot due to his powers of observation and deduction. In this case, riding an intercity bus, he notices an old guy with an envelope of money sticking out of his pocket. But Reacher also notices a different guy noticing the same thing. Suspecting an imminent mugging, Reacher gets off the bus with the old guy and—yup, prevents the crime.

But why is the old guy carrying around all that cash? Reacher gets sucked into his predicament, which is owing a bunch of money to a mob-connected loan shark. Which, it turns out, is just the frosting on a bigger problem. And just to make things more interesting, all this happens in a city where two mobs, one Albanian, the other Ukrainian, just happen to be starting a war for each others turf.

Unsurprisingly, because it's Reacher, things escalate into a three-way war between the mobs and Jack. This turns out to be a bad career move for the mobsters.

Uncut Gems

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

Adam Sandler in a serious drama? OK.

He plays Howard Ratner, a jeweler who's in over his head with romantic, family, and financial problems, mostly self-inflicted due to his multiple character flaws: he's dishonest, impulsive, narcissistic, prone to rage. Usually I prefer a more likeable character, but Howard is more of an amoral force of nature, so it's easy to suspend judgment. As the movie proceeds, he resorts to ever more frenetic and high-risk schemes to keep all the plates spinning.

The main thread of the plot involves Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett ( playing himself), who's interested in … I am not making this up … a rock with the titular "uncut gems" embedded within. This invites social commentary: do NBA players really look around for flashy junk like this to spend their money on? Well, it's their money, so I guess I don't care.

This movie has Serious Oscar Contender written all over it, but it got skunked, with zero nominations. Adam Sandler did, however, win AARP's "Best Actor" in its Movies for Grownups department.