Shelley's Heart

[Amazon Link]

Another pick off National Review's 2010 Conservative Lit 101 list.

Charles McCarry wrote this back in 1995, and it's set in the early 21st Century USA. It's billed as a "thriller" right there on the front cover, but there's not much of the usual mayhem typical of the genre. Yes, there's a grisly murder on page 48, but it's pretty much forgotten until the climax about 500 pages (!) later. Other than that, it's conspiratorial skullduggery as a radical plot is afoot to seize the Presidency is afoot.

So it's a political thriller, reminiscent of good old Allen Drury, and the prime plot mover is the apparent theft of the recent Presidential election, accomplished by hacking of the computerized voting results in a few key states. The official loser decides to challenge the result on the eve of the Inauguration, throwing Washington into chaos. (Coincidence: I was reading this concurrently with the IRL headlines about recounts in states Hillary lost and dark allegations about "hacking".)

McCarry's other prognostications about our time are entertainingly off. Ganymede is being colonized! But when someone wants to slip computer information to a confidante, the preferred medium is … a diskette.

And one of the plot points is an alleged Presidential order to assassinate a loony Arab leader who's gotten hold of a couple of nukes. This is seen as a bad, unacceptable thing, grounds for impeachment. From the post-9/11 viewpoint, where a President can order a drone strike on an (admittedly nasty) American citizen without any legal niceties involved, and everyone goes ho-hum, that's a little dissonant.

I was a little bemused to discover the book was number 8 in the "Paul Christopher" series. Usually, I hate reading book N in a series when I haven't read books 1 .. N-1. It's OK, the book works fine as a standalone, although there are a lot of references to previous events which I imagine are described in the previous entries. Slight spoiler: Paul Christopher never actually shows up, but his daughter does.

Last Modified 2016-12-28 6:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


In that weird hiatus week between Christmas and New Years Day, the Internet continues to serve up its mixture of wisdom, humor, and irritation:

  • Speaking of wisdom: after decades of providing it, Thomas Sowell is retiring from writing his column. His farewell columns are here and here. From the latter:

    You cannot live a long life without having been forced to change your mind many times about people and things — including, in some cases, your whole view of the world. Those who glorify the young today do them a great disservice, when this sends inexperienced young people out into the world cocksure about things on which they have barely scratched the surface.

    As Yeats put it:

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  • One of my post-election navel-gazing insights was: "Schadenfreude is overrated as a pleasure." I'm glad to find Bryan Caplan making a somewhat similar observation:

    Since the election, several people have privately asked me, "Well, whatever you think about Trump, don't you at least enjoy the attendant outrage of the left? At least that must make you happy, right?"

    In my misanthropic youth, the answer would have been a resounding yes. But in all honesty, I put away such childishness years ago. I have a rich, full life that affords me ample opportunities for pure joy. I have no need to seek out joy sullied by anger. And again in all honesty, I wish everyone else felt as I do. Living through this disgraceful election, and then seeing partisan pundits double down on their disgraceful behavior afterwards, just discourages me. This is especially true when I'm sympathetic to the conclusions of practitioners of the disgraceful behavior. Reasonable, fair-minded disagreement gives me hope; unreasonable, unfair agreement just creeps me out.

    I've never been too impressed with "our side" consciously adopting the slimy and dishonest tactics of "their side." Yes, I can see it's fun; it might even be effective in the short term. I don't think it's a good long-term strategy for the health of the Republic. If you care about that sort of thing.

  • One of my too-hopeful predictions about the election was that sensible people would be revolted by the obvious character flaws and unacceptable policies of both Trump and Hillary and turn en masse to the Libertarian Johnson/Weld ticket. Didn't happen. Matt Welch shares his thoughts on that at Reason:

    The unprecedentedly bizarre presidential election we have just survived taught us many unpleasant lessons. Among the most startling was the extent to which, even in a year dominated by voter revulsion at the two leading candidates, the two-party mindset nonetheless continued to maintain a powerful magnetic pull on the actions and reactions of so many people.

    Matt's thoughts on the "ghost architecture" of the two-party system are important and insightful.

  • Well at least some of Trump's cabinet picks are good, right? Well, at least better than Hillary's would have been?

    Sure, but that's a low bar.

    Example: at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff does a pretty good job of convincing me that Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions is not a racist. But the WSJ notes his dreadfulness on the issue of asset forfeiture:

    The all-too-common practice allows law enforcement to take private property without due process and has become a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors. Under a federal program called “equitable sharing,” local law enforcement can team up with federal authorities to seize property in exchange for 80% of the proceeds.

    Sessions is fine with that. For me, the only point in its favor was that it propelled a number of decent plot threads on Justified.

  • The Washington Free Beacon nominates its "2016 Man of the Year":

    George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor is many things: a lineal descendent of Queen Victoria and a future successor of King Richard the Lionheart; a trend-setting international fashion icon; the inspiration for a series of commemorative coins from the British, Australian, and Canadian Royal Mints; the namesake of a bilby born in 2014 at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney; an ordinary three-year-old boy whose interests include playing with toy trains and rocking horses—but he is also something more: a stiff-upper-lipped Englishman with the courage to defy vainglorious liberal ninnies where lesser fellows 20 times his age would simply bend the knee.

    He'll probably turn into a twit soon enough, like Grandpa Prince Charles. Until then, we'll take our manliness where we can find it.

  • I have no idea whether this is fake news or not [UPDATE: it was], but I would really like it to be true: "Bill Murray Had This to Say About Rochester, New Hampshire Residents"

    During a radio interview this morning, Hollywood actor Bill Murray took a moment to praise Rochester, New Hampshire residents who had helped him with a mechanical issue with his rental car as he passed through the city recently […]

    Corroborating detail: Bill describes being taken to "the finest dining spot in Rochester", Wild Willy's. Which is an actual place in Rochester, and it's great, although its competitors might demur about it being the finest.

Last Modified 2017-01-07 6:37 AM EDT