URLs du Jour


  • Michael Ramirez notes the cravenness of one of those sportsball businesses:

    [Free Hong Kong]

    Or, to adapt an old joke: "Free Hong Kong, with the purchase of a Hong Kong of equal or greater value."

  • So I saw this. Guess the speaker.

    My mom, Jackie, had me when she was a 17-year-old high school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Being pregnant in high school was not popular in Albuquerque in 1964. It was difficult for her. When they tried to kick her out of school, my grandfather went to bat for her. After some negotiation, the principal said, “OK, she can stay and finish high school, but she can’t do any extracurricular activities, and she can’t have a locker.” My grandfather took the deal, and my mother finished high school, though she wasn’t allowed to walk across the stage with her classmates to get her diploma. Determined to keep up with her education, she enrolled in night school, picking classes led by professors who would let her bring an infant to class. She would show up with two duffel bags—one full of textbooks, and one packed with diapers, bottles, and anything that would keep me interested and quiet for a few minutes.

    My dad’s name is Miguel. He adopted me when I was four years old. He was 16 when he came to the United States from Cuba as part of Operation Pedro Pan, shortly after Castro took over. My dad arrived in America alone. His parents felt he’d be safer here. His mom imagined America would be cold, so she made him a jacket sewn entirely out of cleaning cloths, the only material they had on hand. We still have that jacket; it hangs in my parents’ dining room. My dad spent two weeks at Camp Matecumbe, a refugee center in Florida, before being moved to a Catholic mission in Wilmington, Delaware. He was lucky to get to the mission, but even so, he didn’t speak English and didn’t have an easy path. What he did have was a lot of grit and determination. He received a scholarship to college in Albuquerque, which is where he met my mom. You get different gifts in life, and one of my great gifts is my mom and dad. They have been incredible role models for me and my siblings our entire lives.

    Click through for the answer (whether or not you got it correctly), read the whole thing, and be a little grateful for living in a country where stories like this are still possible.

  • Something to bring you down from that high, however: John McWhorter writes at Quillette on Our Oppressive Moment.

    As one of the signatories to the “Open Letter” in Harper’s magazine, I’ve been bemused by the objection that we are merely whiners—people with impregnable career success, flustered that social media is forcing us to experience unprecedented criticism, particularly in the wake of the Floyd protests. This represents a stark misunderstanding of why I and many others signed it. I am certainly not complaining about being criticized. As someone frequently described as “contrarian” on the fraught topic of race, I have been roasted for my views for over 20 years—it’s just that, when I started out, I received invective scrawled on paper folded into envelopes instead of typed into tweets. The sheer volume of criticism is greater, of course, but the last thing I would do is sign a letter protesting it. For writers of commentary on controversial subjects, the barrage keeps us on our toes. Haters can be ignored, but informed excoriation can help sharpen our arguments and ensure we remain acquainted with the views of the other side.

    The Harper’s letter is a declaration intended to resist the poisonous atmosphere suffocating those who don’t enjoy our platforms and profiles. We are not taking issue with critique, but with the idea that those who express certain views must not simply be criticized but have their epaulets torn off—demoted, shunned, and personally vilified. Earlier this month, hundreds of members of the Linguistics Society of America (LSA) signed their own open letter calling for eminent psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker to have his career award as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow revoked. This was not mere criticism of views the signatories found objectionable. It was not even just criticism of Pinker for expressing them (although it was certainly that). It was a demand for punishment that would also serve as an instructive example to others.

    John (I call him John) provides a number of examples of non-famous people who are also getting defenestrated for insufficient wokeness. I have to share my fave:

    The president and the board chairman of the Poetry Foundation resigned after 1800 members signed a protest letter condemning them because the statement that they had released in support of Black Lives Matter was not long or substantial enough.

    "Also, it rhymed. Poets don't do that any more."

  • Another depressing bit, from Christian Britschgi at Reason: Senate Republicans’ $1 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes Billions for New Fighter Jets, Attack Helicopters, and Missiles.

    Part of the Senate Republicans' relief package—collectively known as the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act—is a $306 billion appropriations bill authored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R–Ala.). That legislation includes close to $30 billion in defense spending, with a good chunk of that money allocated to purchasing new aircraft, ships, and missiles.

    "I believe we need to act with a sense of urgency. The American people are fighters, but the accumulated strain of this pandemic is a serious burden on folks," said Shelby, who chairs the Senate's Appropriations Committee, in a press release. "With the additional resources this legislation provides, I believe we can give them greater confidence that we are getting our arms around this virus."

    Speaking of arms, Shelby's bill includes $283 million for the Army through the end of 2022 "to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally" on the condition that money be spent on acquiring AH–64 Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing.

    How sad would I be if Republicans lost control of the Senate? On a 0-to-10 scale, where 10 is "Suicidal", I was at 4.2. This article knocked me down to about 3.5. Senator Shelby, you want to see if you can push that any lower?

  • And to finish off our festival of depression, we have Theodore Darlymple at Law & Liberty, wondering about A Tyranny of Health?.

    The dream of a society so perfect that no one will have to be good (as T.S. Eliot put it) is a beguiling one for intellectuals, perhaps because they think that they will be in charge of it, as a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “The Moral Determinants of Health” well illustrates.

    In this article, which has the merit of being clear and logical, no single instance of individual conduct is mentioned as being necessary for, or conducive, to health. In the healthy society envisaged by the author, who is a public health doctor in Massachusetts, no one will have to try to behave well—not drink or eat too much, refrain from smoking or taking drugs, not indulge in hazardous pastimes, take recommended but safe exercise and so forth—because everything will come as a matter of course to him. Living in a perfect society, he will behave perfectly. The author’s means of achieving these ends are entirely political, and wildly impractical examples of progressivism without practical wisdom—and as such, unremarkable.

    Darlymple is devastating on the JAMA article. It's author, unnamed by Darlymple, is Donald Berwick. It's not unlikely he will be in charge of Health Totalitarianism in a Biden Administration. He was Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama. He ran for MA Governor in 2014. His article contains a laundry list of progressive desires, all dreadful.

Last Modified 2024-02-02 4:54 AM EDT

Remember the Night

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A pretty good comedy/romance/drama from 1939 with (as you can see from the box on the right) Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. Written by Preston Sturges. No, it's not the noir one where they plot to bump off her husband for the insurance money, and <spoiler>both end up dead</spoiler>. That's Double Indemnity. This is more lighthearted.

But Barb is still on the shady side of the law. The opening scene shows her lifting a fancy bracelet from a New York jewelry store, but getting nabbed when she tries to hock it. She goes to trial, and Fred is the ace prosecutor determined to put her behind bars. How determined? The trial is just before Christmas. He thinks the jury would be more likely to acquit, simply to avoid having to stick someone in jail before the holiday. So he wangles a delay until after Christmas.

Which still leaves Barb in jail, because she can't afford bail. Here's where Fred's heart of gold kicks in: he posts her bail. Which (due to misunderstandings and Barb's continuing lack of cash) means he is more or less stuck with her until court resumes in January.

And (it turns out) they're both from Indiana. Mishap-filled holiday road trip! And Barb winds up spending the holiday week with Fred's colorful downhome family and surrounded the warmhearted Indiana folks. And smooching ensues.

So what happens when they get back to New York? Will Fred throw the case so they can live happily ever after? Guess what, I've given away about 90% of the movie, and I probably should leave it there.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands

Thinkers of the New Left

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Roger Scruton recently passed away, and I must have seen a reference to this work in one of the encomiums that sprouted as a result. For some reason, I looked at Portsmouth Public Library, and yes, it was there, so…

Not exactly what I was expecting, and not what I should have expected. This is very much a book I "read" in the sense that I looked at every page. Scruton was a philosopher, and this is a very high level discussion of the philosophy of various modern left-wing thinkers. It's an updated (2015) version of a book (Thinkers of the New Left) originally published in 1985. For the new version, he dumped a few thinkers, and added a few. But the result is the same: the thinkers examined all fail his rigorous analysis. Despite occasional praise for writing style, insight, and originality, leftist thought is largely a failed enterprise. Often lapsing into incoherence and nonsense. And indefensible apologies for left-wing regimes, before and (sometimes) after they've been revealed as massive engines of misery, terror, and death.

Here's the problem: to grasp Scruton's points in detail, you have to expend a lot of effort in cooperation, working with him in trying to dig out what the New Left folks are saying. But that's in parallel with Scruton pointing out that what they're saying is mostly hot garbage. So: a lot of work for not a lot of net payoff. There are probably some academics who could profit if this area is part of their life's work, but it ain't me, babe.

There are some bits I was able to appreciate, here and there. Scruton describes the reaction to the 1985 version of the book, and it shouldn't be any surprise that cancel culture was alive and well in academia back then: Scruton says the book's publication "was the beginning of the end for my university career". His original publisher was pressured into withdrawing the book from stores, and remaining copies "transferred to [his] garden shed."

Near the end, Scruton muses on the persistent popularity of leftist philosophy, despite its theoretical failures, and the resulting disasters whenever its political tentacles manage to latch onto power. And a worthwhile essay on why Scruton thinks conservative political philosophy deserves, but doesn't receive, more respect.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT