URLs du Jour


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  • Rachelle Peterson writes at National Review on An Important Step in the Fight to Ban Chinese Confucius Institutes.

    Alabama is poised to become the first state to take up legislation banning public colleges and universities from hosting Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government-sponsored campus centers that propagandize for Beijing and serve as outposts of Communist Party espionage. State representative Tommy Hanes recently unveiled a draft proposal to ban the centers, which immediately drew public support from Alabama congressman Mo Brooks.

    The bill would prohibit public universities in Alabama from “providing support for, funding for, or use of its campus facilities” for “cultural institutes that are affiliated with, funded by, or supported by the government of China.” It would affect both of Alabama’s existing Confucius Institutes, at Alabama A&M and Troy University. (A third Confucius Institute, at Auburn University at Montgomery, closed quietly a few years ago.)

    Well, that would be pretty neat to emulate up here. Instead, the Confucius Institute at the University Near Here is still muddling along.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie reports on The ‘Highest Single-Day of COVID-19 Deaths’ That Wasn’t.

    Under the best of circumstances, reporting on COVID-19 is tough. There are simply too many unknowns, and even when officials aren't manipulating the truth they aren't always willing to cop to the fact that they really don't have solid answers.

    But there's really no excuse for journalism as sloppy and misleading as the August 13 ABC News segment whose headline blared "US reports highest single-day of COVID-19 deaths." This video was widely shared, appearing not just on the main ABC News site, but also on Good Morning America, MSN.com, and elsewhere. And it simply wasn't true.

    ABC has retroactively corrected itself, but how many bleary-eyed saps who believe Good Morning America caught the correction, which was not delivered with the same fervor as the lie?

  • We've long observed that "Progressives" aren't that innovative. Instead they're devoted to the past. (Most recent: Protect the United States Postal Service! With more money!)

    And they are wedded to decades-old warhorses. But as George F. Will reminds us: Progressives want a new New Deal. The old one failed at its main task.

    Today’s oddly retrospective progressives locate progress in a past that they hope will soon be revisited. They call for a new New Deal to resuscitate the economy from the pandemic-induced contraction. For example, James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of the New Deal’s creator, and Henry Scott Wallace, grandson of Henry Wallace, who was agriculture secretary during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms and vice president during the third, recently exhorted Joe Biden to “go even bigger” than FDR, who promised — and delivered — “bold, persistent experimentation.” The grandsons recommend the sort of “jobs programs that were successfully implemented through the New Deal.” Well.

    The current unemployment rate is properly described as disastrous: 10.2 percent. In 1939, the sixth year of the New Deal’s bold, persistent experimentation, the unemployment rate was 17.2 percent. On May 9 of that year, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, testified to the House Ways and Means Committee:

    “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

    But surely there's a magic wand in Uncle Stupid's bag of tricks!

  • Pierre Lemieux celebrates an American Nostradamus: Mencken’s 100-Year-Old Prediction Realized, Twice.

    Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) was an elitist libertarian (which, by itself, raises iconoclastic questions) and one of those free speakers who did not always, in his writings, engage in civil conversation. One hundred years ago, in the Baltimore Evening Sun of July 26, 1920, Mencken made a striking prediction, which, barring improbable events, is certain to be realized in less than three months, and for the second time in four years:

    As democracy is perfected, the office [of president] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people … On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

    To repeat: to save our country, Pun Salad demands that the candidates be subjected to a blindly-administered series of exams on civics, current events, basic math and science, and general intelligence. Perhaps an essay question or two.

    Actually, this should have happened before the primaries. But now is OK.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 5:01 AM EDT

The Dam Busters

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

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An earnest 1955 WW2 movie, based on actual events. I think I got it because there's a Star Wars connection: George Lucas ripped off adapted a lot of the dam-busting scenes for the death star-blowup scenes in his movie.

Sorry, I guess that's a spoiler for both movies.

It's the story of an innovative idea to take down some dams above the Ruhr Valley: they provide power for the Axis factories below, and (bonus) you'd also get some damage to the Nazi war machine by simple flooding. Unfortunately, conventional straight-down bombing won't work: adequate-sized bombs are too heavy to be carried by available bombers. And the dams are guarded from torpedos by netting. So an ingenious doctor who's in on the problem proposes to skip mines (like stones in a pond) over the water surface, hitting the dams in their most vulnerable spots with relatively lightweight explosives.

Problem: this movie is very earnest, and (hence) super boring. 1.75 hours, and it seems much, much longer. Dudes, get to the exploding part!

Robert Shaw is in it!

There's a pre-movie disclaimer/warning about one bit of language in the movie. An unfortunate dog bears an unfortunate name (as in real life), and … well, it's a word I've never used in this blog (I checked), and I don't plan to start now. (The closest I've come was in 2009, when I referred to "sniggering MSNBC hacks".)

You can read about the actual operation at Wikipedia.

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

The Daughter

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

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One of Mrs. Salad's picks. Not awful, but eh.

I had a vague recollection of Chekhov's gun while watching this movie: "One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off." Well, kids: a shotgun shows up in this movie. What do you think is going to happen?

OK, so it's based on a play ("The Wild Duck") by the Norwegian Ibsen, not the Russian Chekov. The action is moved to Australia. Henry, the rich guy in town is closing down his lumber mill, causing economic chaos in the community. But he's also getting married to his much younger ex-housekeeper, which brings in his grown son (Christian) who's been living in America, doing jobs that Americans won't do. We learn that Christian is an alcoholic is trying very hard to get sober. He connects back up with his pal Oliver, and his wife, Charlotte, and their precocious, sensitive, adventurous daughter, Hedvig.

Hedvig is the titular Daughter. And there's a secret about her that both Mrs. Salad and I figured out within about five minutes of her introduction. No spoilers here, but please: the (totally unnecessary) revelation of this secret turns everyone's life upside down and sends friendships and lives onto a path of destruction. (Not to mention that there wasn't a lot of reason for the secret to exist in the first place.)

Acting is decent. Am I the only one who keeps getting Miranda Otto (Charlotte) mixed up with Emily Mortimer? Are they related?

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

The Catcher Was a Spy

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

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As I've previously mentioned: I keep my Netflix DVD queue in descending order by their algorithm's predicted rating for me. Good stuff at the top, in other words. But since there's been a paucity of good new movies coming down the pipe, we're getting down into the mediocre three-star ratings.

So it's a pleasant surprise when a movie outperforms the Netflix prediction. Like this one. Perhaps I was seduced by the opening scene recreating a 1939 Fenway Park. Oooh!

Why are we there? Because the catcher in question, Moe Berg, wound up his professional baseball career with the Red Sox in 1939. There's a pretty good scene where Moe (played by Paul Rudd) discusses his prospects with Joe Cronin (played by the great Shea Whigham). But you know who else was on the Red Sox that year? Ted Williams! Jimmie Foxx! Man, I would have liked to see them too! But no, because…

Moe quits pro ball; even though he's made The Show, he is, let's face it, not destined for the Hall of Fame. (Unlike Williams and Cronin.) But he's very smart, and patriotic, and as fate would have it, he goes to work for "Wild Bill" Donovan (Jeff Daniels) and the OSS as a spy. The fact-based movie has Moe embark on a perilous mission: into Switzerland, aiming to infiltrate a party to which Werner Heisenberg (Mark Strong) has been invited. And if Moe determines that Heisenberg has a real shot at coming up with a Nazi A-bomb, he's supposed to shoot Heisenberg dead. Understandable.

Now, since I'm a lapsed physics major, I know that Heisenberg lived into his 70s. Oops, sorry, spoiler there. But the movie maintains a pretty good level of suspense anyway. And Paul Rudd does a pretty good job dealing with a straight dramatic role: no superhero stuff, and very little comedy. (He does a very good droll delivery.)

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