URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

  • Veronique de Rugy is a lonely voice, but usually a correct one. At AIER she explains why, as a rule of thumb, she's Opposed to Government Intervention, Crisis or Not.

    Proponents of a large government response during crises believe in the “leave it to you” route in the name that during crises, centralization can be beneficial. Unfortunately, even though I fully acknowledge that in times of emergencies, governments at different levels can play a positive role, in most cases, government officials and institutions do a terrible job at solving problems, even when it is their job to do so.

    There are different reasons for that but here are the main ones. During good times, government officials suffer from systematic decision-making failures. Unfortunately there is nothing to indicate that the problems that plague their response during good times are gone during bad times. In addition, during crises, government officials typically respond with a one-size-fits-all mentality, without ever missing an opportunity to expand their already gigantic powers. 

    What’s more, by the time an emergency occurs, governments are so big and overextended that they do not have what it takes to respond appropriately. These patterns of behavior from politicians is why I often respond to all proposals for government intervention with skepticism.

    It is only because we're used to government ineptitude that many people judge it by lax standards. At least they're doing something! Boy, that's a very low bar to clear.

  • Flying under the radar is kind of big news from last week's DNC: After 48 Years, Democrats Endorse Nuclear Energy In Platform. Noted by Robert Bryce at Forbes:

    It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” 

    That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. The change in policy is good — and long overdue — news for the American nuclear-energy sector and for everyone concerned about climate change. The Democrats’ new position  means that for the first time since Richard Nixon was in the White House, both the Republican and Democratic parties are officially on record in support of nuclear energy. That’s the good news. 

    Bryce goes on to quote an Energy Department official from years past: “Democrats are pro-government and anti-nuclear. Republicans are pro-nuclear and anti-government.” Unfortunately, to get that fabled "bipartisan agreement", we'll no doubt get big-government pro-nuclear policies, i.e., cronyism.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum isn't buying the rhetoric: Trump’s War on Economic Freedom.

    If Donald Trump's sister is right that he "has no principles," he does at least have a few enduring instincts. Perhaps the most persistent is the president's conviction that American greatness is threatened by voluntary economic exchange, the most powerful engine of peace and prosperity in human history.

    Each of us has a fundamental right to the fruits of our labor, which includes the right to exchange the money we earn for products and services. When governments respect that right, mutually beneficial transactions replace zero-sum interactions that forcibly transfer resources from losers to winners. The value of those voluntary transactions does not depend on where buyers and sellers happen to be located.

    Trump's rejection of those principles pervades the second-term agenda he unveiled this week. He promises not only to "create 10 million new jobs in 10 months"—which itself betrays a basic misunderstanding of the president's powers and the way a market economy works—but also to "keep jobs in America" through "Made in America" tax credits and "fair trade deals that protect American jobs."

    It's difficult to respect either candidate when they seem to be competing on who's more misguided on free-market econ.

  • David French wonders at the Dispatch: Who Needs a Platform When You Have Negative Partisanship?.

    Over the weekend, the Republican Party and Trump campaign did two things that should be rather shocking. Indeed, in ordinary times they would be. But these are not ordinary times. 

    First, the party decided that it would not create a party platform for 2020. Instead, the party adopted a resolution that it would “enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda” rather than issue the normal, detailed statement of Republican principles and policies. The party was now plainly organized around a person. 

    Second, later that same evening, President Trump issued his second-term agenda, a series of bullet points titled “Fighting for You!” This was not a statement of ideology or philosophy. Instead, as my former colleagues at National Review noted in an excellent editorial, the document “is better understood as a series of aspirations, with little sense of how the powers of government might plausibly be used to achieve any of these goals”:

    Thus, we are told, a reelected Trump would “Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months,” “Return to Normal in 2021,” “Cut Prescription Drug Prices,” “Protect Social Security and Medicare,” “Wipe Out Global Terrorists Who Threaten to Harm Americans,” and “Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet’s Oceans.” How are voters supposed to evaluate a fuzzy and stilted pledge such as “Drain the Globalist Swamp by Taking on International Organizations That Hurt American Citizens”?

    Moreover, the document is just as notable for what it omits as for what it includes. There is no mention of abortion or religious liberty. There is no mention of the Constitution at all. In past campaigns, these omissions would have led to thunderous denunciations from conservatives. 

    The Republican Party has ceased to be a party that even pays lip service to the principles it once thought were important. (Or at least important to tell the bubbas about.) Now it's just Trump. Who doesn't stand for anything besides Trump.

  • And Megan McArdle takes to the WaPo so she can be Cutting through the convention spin on Trump’s response to COVID-19.

    Long before the conventions opened, it was clear that covid-19 would be the central narrative of this election. Cue Republican convention segments that strenuously implied that President Trump had taken the virus more seriously than Democrats . . . that he’d cut through bureaucratic red tape and PC nonsense to take bold action . . . that his resolve, plus a hefty dose of American greatness, have put the country in an enviable position, covid-wise.

    The moments were exceptionally well-produced, even stirring, if you didn’t know that Trump’s response to covid-19 has been well below average for the leader of a developed country.

    Comparing Trump to the Pacific Rim, where the experience of SARS prepared countries for another viral outbreak, is perhaps not fair. Let’s compare him to Europe, where most governments made catastrophic errors.

    Still, Trump managed to underperform.

    Yes, I know (and Megan knows) that there were plenty of screwups by the FDA, the CDC, and various politicians, especially Cuomo and de Blasio. But…

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

The Trespasser

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I got hooked on Tana French's series of novels circling around the Dublin Ireland Murder Squad: a group of detectives charged with figuring out homicides. The primary team here is the one from the previous book: Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran. The tale is told with Antoinette as the first-person narrator. And she's kind of a mental can of worms, thanks to the hostile sexism she perceives from her testosterone-heavy squadmates. She's got her shields on high, looking for (expecting, really) betrayal by her peers.

The current case seems pretty straightforward: the victim, Aislinn, has expired thanks to hitting her head on her fireplace. Unfortunately, the underlying cause of that was getting punched in the face. The suspect is pretty obvious: Rory, a guy Aislinn's been seeing, had a date with her on the evening of the crime. And he's got no alibi, and he's obviously hiding something. Relative newbies Antoinette and Steve are being "assisted" by veteran detective Breslin, And Breslin's anxious to arrest Rory and close the case. But does he have an ulterior motive? Aislinn's best friend seems to think there was another guy in Aislinn's life, but actual evidence for his existence is difficult to find.

This is really my favorite Tana French book so far. She's an uncommonly gifted writer, especially in the parts where the first-person narrator reveals more about herself to the reader than the narrator knows about herself. And (as usual for Ms French) the Murder Squad detectives do nearly as much psychic damage to themselves as the physical damage done to the victims.

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

Ocean's 8

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

We watched the previous three Ocean's movies back in 2008. (The modern ones, anyway. I have a dim recollection of the old Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack flick, but I'm not sure if I've watched it the whole way through.)

This one is less fun. Although I'm sure it seemed like a good idea to someone: Let's construct a pseudo-sequel to the successful old movie franchise with females replacing the guys! (Hey, it worked for Ghostbusters, right? Oh, wait, no it did not.)

Anyway, as the movie opens Debbie Ocean is getting out of the slammer via shamelessly lying to the parole board about her intentions to live an honest, modest life on the outside. (She's the sister of Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney and Frank Sinatra, who's thought to be dead, but probably isn't if he can be brought back in another movie.)

Debbie immediately assembles a team to go after a diamond-infested necklace held in a deep underground vault at Cartier's. Lots of good actresses are involved: Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina, …

The ladies are very cool customers, which unfortunately translates to "boring". Awkwafina is an exception, but not enough of one to keep me interested, or even awake. Not to be sexist, but the movie seems to emphasize costumes, fabulous sets, hair, makeup, … what I think of as girl stuff. Mrs. Salad enjoyed this more than I.

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

Whistle Stop

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Mrs. Salad has gotten into a film noir mood. She composed a list of possible titles. Many of which she'd forgotten we watched during one of her previous film noir moods. But this one we hadn't seen, and it's free on Amazon Prime Video, so…

Bottom line: Ava Gardner is really easy on the eyes. Maybe the best way to watch this movie is to turn off the sound and fast forward through any scene she's not in? Unfortunately impractical in 2020; technology has brought us many wonders, but not the ability to do that. I'll suggest this to Jeff Bezos.

Anyway, the whistle stop of the title is the dinky town to which Ava returns from her high life in the big city (Chicago). She wants to sell her old house, so she never has to come back again. But she's waylaid by the attentions of two former suitors: George Raft, who's been spending his time turning into a lazy gambler with an alcohol problem; and Tom Conway, sleazy rich owner of a swanky nightclub. Both George and Tom flirt with criminality. There's also Victor McLaglen, playing "Gitlo", a bartender who's George's old buddy. He hatches a scheme to eliminate Tom… Well, it's pretty complicated, the scheme goes wrong, there's a chase, George gets shot, …

It's really tough to care about any of these people. Even Ava wears a little thin.

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