URLs du Jour

2021-01-20

<voice imitation="james_earl_jones">This… is CNN</voice>:

  • Mark J. Perry provides (yesterday's) Quotation of the day. It's from the The 1776 Report, available (at least as I type) from the White House website. It's a counterblast to last year's much-discussed, deservedly-reviled "1619 Report" from the New York Times.

    [Update: Well, I didn't actually expect that. In an impressive display of "unity", (or Orwellian memory-holing) the report has been deleted from the White House site. Apparently still available at https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/The-Presidents-Advisory-1776-Commission-Final-Report.pdf.)

    Identity politics is fundamentally incompatible with the principle of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

    Proponents of identity politics rearrange Americans by group identities, rank them by how much oppression they have experienced at the hands of the majority culture, and then sow division among them. While not as barbaric or dehumanizing, this new creed creates new hierarchies as unjust as the old hierarchies of the antebellum South, making a mockery of equality with an ever-changing scale of special privileges on the basis of racial and sexual identities. The very idea of equality under the law—of one nation sharing King’s “solid rock of brotherhood”—is not possible and, according to this argument, probably not even desirable.

    All Americans, and especially all educators, should understand identity politics for what it is: rejection of the principle of equality proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. As a nation, we should oppose such efforts to divide us and reaffirm our common faith in the fundamental equal right of every individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    I've bashed Trump when I thought he deserved it, but this is pretty good.

    Of course…


  • … the folks who prefer 1619ism's narrative are incensed. David Harsanyi provides examples of The Ridiculous Attacks on the 1776 Report. For example:

    Maegan Vazquez, a reporter at CNN, asserted that the “Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day.” Vazquez offers only one specific instance to buttress this claim: The report notes that the civil-rights movement had turned un-American when championing policies such as affirmative action. This, indeed, is debatable. It would be more accurate to say that the Left has long given up on MLK’s dream of an America where people are judged on the content of their characters rather than the color of their skin.

    Then Vazquez contends, quite amusingly, that the report is a “rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum.”

    By “more accurate,” she means the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a work that argues patriots of the American Revolution had only picked up their muskets to preserve the institution of slavery. This reading of history been rebuked by numerous historians — and not just panelists at some Heritage Foundation symposium, but by a wide range of ideologically diverse historians. Vazquez never mentions this fact, nor that the “more accurate” project was forced to append a substantive correction and use stealth edits after historians pointed to more fundamental errors. Or that the New York Times simply ignored other apprehensions from historians. The lead author of the project was forced to admit that the project was simply an “origin story,” not history.

    I advocate reading everything you can, and making up your own mind. Of course, folks like Maegan Vazquez want to make sure you won't read the 1776 report.

    And who's to say how long it will stay up at the White House website. Scrubbed at 12:01pm today, maybe?


  • Matt Ridley shares an article he co-wrote with what you'd think would be an unexceptionable thesis: The World Needs a Real Investigation Into the Origins of Covid-19.

    In the first week of January, scientists representing the World Health Organization (WHO) were due to arrive in China to trace the origins of Covid-19. The team membership and terms of reference were preapproved by the Chinese government, yet at the last minute Beijing denied entry to the investigators. This prompted WHO to take the rare step of criticizing China, which relented and allowed the group to enter the country this week.

    The brief standoff highlights a more serious problem: the inadequacy of WHO’s current investigative framework for exploring all plausible origins of Covid-19. The world needs an inquiry that considers not just natural origins but the possibility that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, escaped from a laboratory. The WHO team, however, plans to build on reports by Chinese scientists rather than mount an independent investigation. Given that Chinese authorities have been slow to release information, penalized scientists and doctors who shared clinical and genomic details of the novel coronavirus, and have since demonstrated a keen interest in controlling the narrative of how the virus emerged, this is not a promising foundation for WHO’s investigation.

    I try very hard not to be that Nutjob Conspiracy Theorist guy, and I initially bought the "bats in the wet market" origin story, but these days I'm leaning toward the "accidental release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology" story. Ridley gives a strong argument why that theory should be taken seriously.


  • Another longtime skeptic of the wet market yarn was Jim Geraghty. In his daily Morning Jolt, he observes:

    Earlier this month, when New York magazine ran a lengthy article by Nicholson Baker that concluded a lab leak couldn’t be ruled out, editor-in-chief David Haskell emphasized that his magazine’s fact-checking team spent a month vetting the story, and asked, “One of the great mysteries of this pandemic—where did it originate?—is twinned with a meta-mystery: Why has the question of its origin not been explored more vigorously?”

    Some of us don’t find that question so baffling. If SARS-CoV-2 had a natural origin, the pandemic that has besieged us is just bad luck, with no serious policy repercussions, other than more denunciations of the illegal-animal-smuggling trade, which brings more people into contact with wild animals and potential new viruses. But if SARS-CoV-2 originated because of reckless Chinese scientists and went on to kill more than 2 million people around the world, Beijing’s epic irresponsibility and dishonesty would tear up every existing relationship between the Chinese government and the rest of the world. It could even conceivably lead to war.

    These recent reports, by themselves, do not prove that SARS-CoV-2 is the result of a lab accident. We may never learn the virus’s origins with any certainty. If any physical evidence of a lab accident existed, the Chinese government would have destroyed it by now, and the regime’s ability to silence whistleblowers has few rivals.

    Jim's newsletter is always good reading, often covering multiple topics. In the linked issue, he also provides a rebuttal to Max Boot, who has some weird ideas about the government's ability to impose "fairness" regulation on cable news networks. And to the extent that anyone takes Boot seriously, damned scary ideas.


  • Jacob Sullum wonders: Would a National Lockdown Have Saved the U.S. From COVID-19?. (Spoiler: Betteridge's law of headlines applies.) But first, a little Federalism 101:

    The United States has seen more COVID-19 deaths per capita than all but 10 countries. In a one-year retrospective on the pandemic, The New York Times blames the lack of "a unified national strategy," which it says led to a "fractur[ed]" response.

    At bottom, that critique—like federal COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci's complaint that "the states are very often given a considerable amount of leeway in doing things the way they want"—is an objection to the American system of government. Under the Constitution, the federal government is limited to specifically enumerated powers, which do not include a general authority to protect the public from communicable diseases. That responsibility lies primarily with the states, which retain a broad "police power" that goes far beyond the authority vested in the president or Congress.

    Jacob goes on to compare Covid policies in Texas and California. It's a mixed bag.


Last Modified 2021-01-22 10:15 AM EDT

Mary Poppins Returns

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

Spoiler Alert: in this movie, Mary Poppins returns. As Emily Blunt, not Julie Andrews.

I can't help but observe that this moves Mary up a couple notches on the sexy scale. Is it just me?

You need to remember that the original movie had Mary nannying Michael and Jane. They're all grown up here, and widower Michael has his own brood: Annabel, Georgie, and John. And Michael's in deep financial trouble, about to lose his house.

Fortunately, Mary shows up. (It seems to take a real long time for her to show up.) And does her usual thing: taking the kids into semi-animated fantasies with big song-and-dance production numbers.

And (spoiler alert for real this time): Dick Van Dyke!

Dead Reckoning

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

Back in ancient times (1972), Woody Allen made funny movies. I enjoyed Play It Again, Sam, in which an illusory Humphrey Bogart provides real-time romantic advice to Allen's character.

Well, actually not Bogart; it's the character Bogie played in numerous movies: hard-boiled, cynical, self-assured, and a chick magnet. At one point, Bogie seeks to calm Allen's date-night jitters: "Relax. You're as nervous as Lizabeth Scott was before I blew her brains out."

Well, trivia fans: this is the only movie Bogart made with Lizabeth Scott. And (spoiler alert) he does not blow her brains out.

Also, Bogie never (quite) said "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca.

So don't put Woody Allen on your team for movie trivia night.

But this movie: Bogart's character, 'Rip' Murdock, is returning from WWII to America with his Army buddy Johnny. When Rip reveals that they're headed to Washington, where Johnny is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, Johnny inexplicably takes a powder, hopping a train to WhoKnowsWhereVille.

Rip is nonplussed by Johnny's behavior, and resolves to find out what's going on with his buddy. He tracks Johnny to Gulf City, a sin-filled Southern town. Unfortunately, what he finds is a corpse in the morgue, burned beyond recognition. A little research in a newspaper archive finds the problem: before he signed up with the Army, Johnny was a murder suspect. The victim was a rich guy, and testifying against Johnny was the rich guy's wife… ah, there she is, Lizabeth Scott! And a little further investigation shows that she's somehow tied up with local racketeer Martinelli.

So who killed the rich guy? And who killed Johnny? And … hey … who killed the bartender whose corpse has been planted in Murdock's hotel room?

It's a complex plot, all right. I think it gets straightened out in the end. Lizabeth doesn't get her brains blown out, but something else bad happens.