URLs du Jour

2022-04-06

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Are you feeling motivated yet? I thought our Amazon Product du Jour would do the trick. Meanwhile, Joe's trying to do some de-motivating, as reported by Frederick M. Hess and Hayley Sanon at the Dispatch: President Biden’s Bizarre Attack on Charter Schools

    In mid-March, the Biden administration declared war on charter schools. In an announcement that blindsided leading charter school advocates, the Department of Education proposed a raft of new regulations on the $440 million federal Charter School Program (CSP)—all designed to bring the boisterous, popular charter school sector to heel. 

    The new rules would require charter schools seeking CSP funds to prove that they’d be “racially and socio-economically diverse,” show that they wouldn’t step on the toes of local district schools, and agree to file a ream of documents anytime they deal with a for-profit contractor, which the U.S. Department of Education will define at whim. 

    It's not surprising, since the Biden Administration is in the pocket of charter-hating teacher unions.


  • It's time to call it a day. Kevin D. Williamson wonders: Is the Party Over? And he's talking about the party I'm actually registered as.

    As the political philosopher Neil Sedaka observed, “Breaking up is hard to do.”

    Something you will no doubt have observed in your own life and in the lives of others is that the discord in a relationship — or the bitterness of its ending — is directly proportional to the intensity and closeness of the relationship itself: A romance consisting of three dates in six weeks might end without either party’s even quite noticing, but the dissolution of a 30-year marriage with children is always agonizing and potentially explosive; it is much more wrenching to leave a job you find personal meaning in than a job that is just a paycheck; with rare exceptions, you will never get as angry at your cousins as you do at your brother. Etc.

    The thing conservatives need to keep in mind: The Republican Party is not your ex. Neither is the conservative movement. As it happens, I wrote this newsletter — except for the sentence you are reading — before Charlie Sykes’s latest — “A Governor Breaks Up with Trump” — landed in my in-box; the headline could not be more apt.

    That governor is mine own, Chris Sununu. Who's now falling back on the "It was just a joke!" defense.

    I liked the joke better than the defense.


  • Goodness, Scientific American is awful these days. Case in point is the article from Adam Mann: New Revelations Raise Pressure on NASA to Rename the James Webb Space Telescope. You'd think with the JWST settling into its orbit doing science, this would be over.

    But not when you can publish a thinly-veiled advocacy piece as "news":

    Sadness. Disappointment. Frustration. Anger. These are some of the reactions from LGBTQ+ astronomers over the latest revelations regarding NASA’s decision not to rename the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), given that the agency long had evidence suggesting its Apollo-era administrator James Webb was involved in the persecution of gay and lesbian federal employees during the 1950s and 1960s.

    The new information came to light late last month when nearly 400 pages of e-mails were posted online by the journal Nature, which obtained the exchanges under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Since early last year, four researchers have been leading the charge for NASA to alter the name of the $10-billion flagship mission, launched in December 2021, which will provide unparalleled views of the universe. The e-mails make clear that, behind the scenes, NASA was well aware of Webb’s problematic legacy even as the agency’s leadership declined to take his name off the project.

    Now, the "latest revelations" don't actually reveal anything new about James Webb's "problematic legacy". Instead, they look at NASA's internal discussion about the controversy, and it's really tough for a disinterested observer to find anything damning.

    But you can always depend on our favorite physics prof at the University Near Here to get a word in…

    Regardless of how NASA proceeds going forward, the harm done to its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community will take time and effort to repair. “I’ve lost faith, and I think a lot of people have,” says Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical cosmologist at the University of New Hampshire and another leader of the push for renaming JWST. But change remains possible, she says: “As scientists, we often realize we were in error, and we set a new course.”

    Needless to say, Professor Prescod-Weinstein has never, to my knowledge, realized she was in error, and set a new course. That's entirely the job for people who disagree with her.

    At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw also covers the dreadful SciAm article: Activists are still trying to change the name of the new space telescope. Injecting some common sense:

    There was definitely an anti-gay bias in the government in the fifties and sixties, just as there was in much of the private sector. But in 2022, you apparently only had to be in some position of authority during that time period to be labeled as an oppressor of gay and lesbian workers or some sort of demon. If they really want to bring the hammer down on someone who seems to have been directly involved, why not go after Truman? God only knows how many things are still named after him. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be feeding them any ideas.

The Protégé

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A free-to-me Amazon Prime streamer. And yet another kick-ass lady assassin as the main character.

Why do they keep making these movies? And why do I keep watching them?

Well, I guess those questions answer each other. Still, you'd think the broader viewing public might be getting a little overdosed on them.

Maggie Q plays Anna, the Protégé of Moody (Samuel L. Jackson); he rescued her from a Vietnamese gang thirty years prior, and she's grown up to participate in his business of killing people for money. She's ruthlessly efficient, as an early scene shows. But she also is a tad sentimental about Moody, and when he's apparently taken off the board by a hit squad, she vows revenge.

Moody was investigating… um, something. The details were a little fuzzy. But Anna's investigations soon enough put her in the crosshairs too, and eventually put her at odds with "Rembrandt" (Michael Keaton). They develop an (um) interesting relationship.

I have a question that is, unfortunately, also a spoiler, so mouse-highlight if you're interested: Why does Rembrandt continue to pursue Anna even after his employer is dead?

The MPAA R rating is due to "strong and bloody violence, language, some sexual references and brief nudity." They ain't kidding about the violence; it's pervasive and (I have to admit) pretty imaginative.

Razorblade Tears

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Razorblade Tears made the NYT Best Mystery Novels of 2021 list; it's also a 2022 "Best Novel" nominee at the Edgars. So I went to check it out at the Portsmouth Public Library website, and… oh, oh: the "subjects" classification: "Murder -- Fiction | Fathers and sons -- Fiction | Ex-convicts -- Fiction | Gay men -- Fiction". Is this a case where its inclusion on those lists is guided by demands for "diversity"?

Well, I needn't have worried. It's pretty good. Yes, there are occasional lectures about LGBTQ2SIA+/BIPOC acceptance and associated bad examples of bigotry. If you need them, they're there. But they don't get in the way of an exellent yarn.

The main characters are Ike and Buddy Lee, the ex-cons referred to in the Subjects mentioned above. Ike, a black man, has been out of prison for 15 years, in on a manslaughter charge from his gang days; since then, he's built up a successful landscaping business. Buddy Lee is a low-functioning alcoholic, living in a seedy trailer park, in an even-seedier trailer. They are united by dreadful circumstance: each has a gay son, those sons were married, and those sons were also brutally murdered on a local city street. The police aren't making any progress in solving the crime. Despite their different backgrounds, the fathers team up to start investigating on their own. They have an advantage the police don't have: they're totally willing to use violence to get people to talk.

And there's a lot of violence. Ike and Buddy Lee soon find themselves up against a murderous biker gang. They absorb a lot of damage (any of which would have sent me crawling off to the nearest emergency room), but they inflict a lot more.

It's a tad predictable; I saw a lot of the plot twists coming, and I'm usually pretty bad at that. But it's a definite page-turner.