URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2020

Among the things I'm thankful for today is the continuing brilliance of Mr. Michael Ramirez. [Happy Thanksgiving]

And there's that whole "being alive and (mostly) healthy and wealthy in 21st Century America". As much as I gripe, it beats the hell out of whatever's in second place.

  • If you haven't heard the story, get it from Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: How private property saved the Pilgrims from socialist misery.

    The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World is a time to reflect on important lessons we want our children to remember about America’s founding. One of the most critical is that hippie communes don’t work.

    Yes, the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 promptly tried to create a socialist workers paradise.

    Like all other socialist paradises, it left a failed legacy of starvation and death.

    Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hope you and I will both be around for that.

  • Scoring 9.998 on Pun Salad's ReadTheWholeThing Scale is Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: On Being Grateful for Our Gifts and Blessings. Really. It's insightful and moving all the way through. I almost hate to excerpt, but:

    Christians take a distinctly radical view: that suffering is neither an evil to be evaded nor a punishment handed out routinely, like some kind of divine speeding ticket, but something to be entered into willingly in order to become not godlike but more fully and more perfectly human. We learn to be grateful not only for the alleviation of suffering but for the suffering itself — that, too, is a gift. We discover ultimate gratitude when we discover the Ultimate Object of our gratitude. Learning that ultimate gratitude does not necessarily mean wandering around the desert in a supernatural daze, though that has worked for many great men in the past. Some of them even sought out such a wild place as Massachusetts, landing there in the winter in rickety boats, like madmen. They went ashore and gave thanks to God.

    We need not go so far, and, besides, we have business to attend to here at home, to which our attention is likely to be enforced for a few more months. Gratitude may not make us saints, but it should leave us cheerful, useful, modest, and patient, and ever mindful of those gifts and blessings that we could not possibly hope to deserve.

    Whether I can be considered a Christian is a matter of opinion, but that's one Christian view I can buy into.

  • On to the stuff we're not thankful for. Specifically, another cancellation, as reported by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian. That journalist is Suzanne Moore, who dared pen a column that "trans women" differ from biological women in some … um … important respects. From Ms. Moore's farewell:

    The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

    Things are getting more Orwellian by the day, it seems.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, the founding conspirator, Eugene, describes the state of play at the University of Maryland: UMD Public Policy School Mandating Ideological Statements on Syllabus, Requiring That Class “Materials” and “Discussions” “Respect All Forms of Diversity”. Here's (apparently) the text:

    Diversity Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Public Policy

    Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

    It is my intent, as well as the stated policy of the School, that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course. The diversity the students bring to this class will be seen and treated as a resource, strength and benefit. Materials, discussions, and activities will respect all forms of diversity. All students are expected to promote this aim through their words, actions, and suggestions. If something is said or done in this course, either by myself, students, or guests, that is troubling or causes offense, please let me know right away. The impact of what happens in this course is important and deserving of attention. If you ever do not feel comfortable discussing the issue directly with me, I encourage you to bring the issue to an advisor, administrator or the School of Public Policy Equity Officer.

    Pronouns and Self Identification

    We invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to, both in terms of your name and your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit trans.umd.edu to learn more.

    Land Acknowledgement

    We acknowledge that we are gathered on the stolen land of the Piscataway Conoy people and were founded upon the erasures and exploitation of many non-European peoples. You can find more information about the Piscataway Conoy Tribe at http://www.piscatawayconoytribe.com. For more information about the University of Maryland's project for a richer understanding of generations of racialized trauma rooted in the institution visit https://go.umd.edu/SNW.

    Suggested placements: We suggest this statement should be placed just prior to or after the learning outcomes in the syllabus as well as prominent within your ELMS site. Faculty should vocally review these statements within class as well.

    Eugene notes the creepiness of the school mandating that the syllabus language be "set forth in the professor's voice", obfuscating its origins.

  • And, boy, it's been a long time since I saw anything interesting on a certain site I used to frequent all the time. At Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen wonders: Who Really Runs The Drudge Report?.

    It was the kind of story that would once have had Matt Drudge deploying font sizes that newspapers used to reserve for declarations of war. On Oct. 14, Twitter and Facebook blocked users from spreading a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had brokered meetings between his father, then the vice president of the United States, and executives at a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden held an $80,000-a-month sinecure. The Post’s article included photos of what appeared to be an exhausted and intoxicated-looking Biden in various states of undress.

    Yet the controversy over tech companies restricting the spread of a story unflattering to the Democratic presidential contender was nowhere to be seen in the upper half of The Drudge Report—once the most coveted and agenda-setting real estate in right-of-center media. “RECORD TURNOUT ALARMS REPUBLICANS... BIDEN +7 GA,” screamed the top headlines on Oct. 15.

    Drudge—the real guy—may not be that involved any more.

Last Modified 2024-02-02 4:50 AM EDT

Stalking the Angel

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Robert Crais's second Elvis Cole novel, and of course it's good.

Elvis is hired by asshole banker Bradley Warren to try to find a purloined copy of the "Hagakure", an extremely rare edition of a 17th century guide to Samurai life and lore. Warren doesn't care too much about the book itself, just its implied price tag: about $3 million. And the pull it gives him with his Japanese business partners.

Reader, it's a real thing.

Wisecracking all the way, Elvis visits the scene of the crime, Warren's home. He meets Warren's wife, Sheila, who throws herself wantonly at our noble detective; nothing doin', ma'am. And he also encounters Warren's surly daughter Mimi. A good guess: the book is getting peddled to the local Yakuza-infested Japanese underworld, which sends Elvis into LA's Little Tokyo. Eventually: fights, grisly murders, gunplay, kidnapping, sordid revelations, Joe Pike. And a lot of psychic turmoil for Elvis, who wonders if he could have handled things better if he'd been a little quicker on the uptake.

For some reason, as he navigates the Southland, Elvis is obsessed with telling us (seemingly) every street he's driving on. Could do without that, unless it's Mulholland Drive. But otherwise, he does a great job of detailing late-80's LA.

The inside front cover, by the way, refers to Joe Pike as Elvis's "sociopathic sidekick"? On Joe's behalf, I resent that psychologizing. He's not a sociopath, he just has an unusual personal code of conduct.

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

Thieves' Highway

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Still on our old film noir kick from Netflix's DVD service. Fun stuff! The director, Jules Dassin, was blacklisted soon after this 1949 movie was released, for being a full-fledged Communist back in the 1930s, when that was cool. He apparently bailed on the CPUSA in response to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, but his stint was enough for the movie studios to dump him. (He went off to Europe, and made some pretty famous movies there. And married Melina Mercouri!)

One IMDB reviewer says this movie "is really an expose of the rotten heart of capitalism". Certainly it's kind of a downer.

Our hero, Nick Garcos (Richard Conte), is back from a post-WWII tour of exotic Asia, bearing gifts for his folks and sweetie, Polly. But one of those gifts turns out to be an utter faux pas: fancy slippers for Dad. Because—surprise!—Dad has no feet! It turns out that on one of his trucking runs bringing produce to the San Francisco market he ran afoul of crooked dealer Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). And Figlia's way of dealing with obstreperous truckers is to rob and maim them.

So Nick plots vengeance. Kind of indirectly, it seems to me. He hooks up with his dad's old partner, Ed. They wangle an extra truck, deal with some local Polish farmers for a load of Golden Delicious apples, and they head off to Frisco. Every step of the way is loaded with complications and danger. (Not helping: Ed's only marginally honest, trying to stiff the farmers on the price once the trucks are loaded. Capitalism!)

Once in San Francisco, Nick drives a hard bargain with Figlia, which causes Figlia to complicate Nick's life with a hot heart-of-gold hooker, Rica. And then Polly shows up. And Nick gets ripped off by Figlia's thugs. And the partner's truck, held together with spit and baling wire,….

Well, eventually things work out, Nick and Rica go off into the sunset, San Francisco gets its apples, and capitalism is saved!

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