Open Season

[Amazon Link]

So after reading two standalone C. J. Box novels (the Edgar-winning Blue Heaven and the equally impressive Back of Beyond), I put all 16 of his other novels on my to-be-read list. This is his first book, written back in 2002, and it's another winner. I regret I didn't start sooner.

It is also Box's first novel with Joe Pickett, his series hero. Joe is a game warden, toiling in a remote county for Wyoming's Game and Fish Department. It's (literally) his childhood-dream job. Unfortunately, the pay is bad, his state-provided housing is small and shabby, and he's got two daughters with another kid on the way.

Also, Joe's trusting nature leads him to make a mistake. When confronting Ote Keely, a poacher caught (literally) red-handed, he allows his sidearm to be taken. This gets Joe (understandably) in some trouble.

But he keeps his job, and his life. Ote shows up again a few months later, murdered, in Joe's back yard. For some reason, he's travelled gut-shot for miles to Joe's back yard, only to expire by the woodpile. The only clue is an open cooler containing poop of unknown origin and significance.

The crime is immediately solved to the satisfaction of everyone except Joe. He makes a few inquiries, and the response is a multi-pronged attempt to get Joe to back off. Things escalate rather quickly, exposing the corruption of some of Joe's co-workers. And his family become the targets, which is harrowing reading.

New Hampshire Freedom Summit

So I went to the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" in Manchester on Saturday (April 12). I swiped borrowed their logo image for this post's illustration:

[NH Freedom Summit]

A good blogger would have at least a same-day report, possibly even live updates from the scene. Sorry, I'm not that guy. The following is just an unfocused list of stuff I noticed, with no overarching theme.

I had a surprisingly good time. It was one speech after another, mostly by slick politicians, on barely-comfortable 0.95-asswidth hotel mass seating. There were (it was claimed) in the neighborhood of 700 people in attendance, and the speakers (as near as I could tell) did not interact much with the masses. And (everyone kept pointing this out) it was a beautiful day outside. So I held open the possibility of cutting out early. But the speeches were pretty good. The event was put on for free, even the box lunch. So, although a normal person probably wouldn't have liked it, I did.

This free-to-me event was sponsored by Citizens United (you might recognize them as First Amendment heroes and left-wing bogeymen). and Americans for Prosperity (which, in the left-wing stylebook, must never allowed to be uttered without the phrase "Koch brothers" somewhere nearby).

So, yay: after years of being accused of being in the underhanded employ of the Koch brothers, I can report: they might have indirectly bought me lunch. About damn time.

The speakers included:

  • Four Senators (Lee, Cruz, Paul, Ayotte)
  • Three current Representatives, one ex-Representative (Steve King from Iowa, Louie Gohmert from Texas, Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, and Newt Gingrich)
  • One Ex-Governor (Mike Huckabee)
  • One President (of the American Enterprise Institute), Arthur Brooks
  • One talk-show host (and new ABC News contributor), Laura Ingraham
  • In a category of his own: The Donald Trump

There were also a host of local pols and representatives from CU and AFP.

I had forgotten that politicians tend to be charismatic and polished (or, pejoratively, "slick") speakers. Most had laugh lines and jokes, delivered with practiced skill. The funniest story (to me) came from Senator Lee, who had a pretty good one about how his relative youth caused problems getting the Capitol security cops to recognize him as a Senator.

Probably the biggest surprise came from AEI President Arthur Brooks. You might have noticed that he's kind of the odd man out in the speaker list: never held, or attempted to hold, elective office. But, as it turned out, I thought Brooks gave the best speech of the day. (Here's the C-SPAN video, see what you think.) Brooks was funny, and had good, insightful, advice for conservative/libertarian candidates. Their problem is shown in the polls that ask "Does Candidate X care about the problems of people like me"? Our guys invariably come up on the short end of that stick.

I used to—up until Saturday, in fact—think that didn't matter. Brooks convinced me I was wrong. The argument needs to be made that conservative/libertarian policies actually help middle/lower classes. (That should be easier to do after the Obama/Pelosi/Reid years, fortunately.)

Some other, more random, observations:

  • The audience was surprisingly up on current events. You could tell, for example, that many in the crowd were aware of Rep. Gohmert's run-in with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder the previous Tuesday. ("You don’t want to go there buddy, all right? You don’t want to go there, OK?”) Rep. Gohmert also (amusingly) revealed the source of his "casting aspersions on my asparagus" comment to Holder last year.

    The audience also recognized references to Jeb Bush's recent "act of love" immigration remarks, and clearly, um, disagreed. Kathleen “Unfortunately, a page is missing" Sebelius's farewell remarks were also lampooned, to knowing laughs.

  • The phrase that caused the most consistent applause, uttered by several speakers: "Abolish the IRS". I'm all for that, of course, but I was surprised how popular the sentiment was amongst the crowd.

    Also a reliable applause-getter: being against Common Core. (I don't think Jeb Bush would have made a good showing if we'd had a straw poll.)

  • I had no idea how short Rand Paul is. Yes, that's superficial. (I'm far more worried by his foreign policy statements.) But I Googled it, and it's not that I'm the only one who's noticed.

  • This was billed as the first New Hampshire "cattle call" for 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Based on the crowd reaction, Cruz and Paul were the clear favorites.

  • The Donald Trump gave a pretty good speech, given that he seemed to have no prepared remarks, just rambling off the top of his head for his allotted time, mostly about himself. (Not a surprise.) I think the only speaker to use the word "bullshit".

    While most speakers avoided issues that divide the GOP, Trump singled out Paul Ryan and his proposed budget for criticism. We should not touch the big-ticket entitlements, Trump argued, it's a recipe for getting large masses of people to hate you. He argued that, if we get "smarter" about international trade and internal economics, we can get wealthy enough to grow our way out of budgetary disaster.

    I doubt Trump's math works, for any reasonable assumptions about economic growth.

  • More on "divisive" issues: as this BuzzFeed guy notes, everyone steered pretty much clear of "social" issues. (But also read Ramesh Ponnuru on that.)

  • Senator Cruz deployed a decent Jay Leno impression.


Last Modified 2014-04-14 6:37 PM EDT