Night School

[Amazon Link]

Another page-turning Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child.

It's set back in Reacher's Army days. He's called out of his current duties to attend a vaguely-described school. Which turns out to be a cover story for a small task force to investigate some chilling news out of Hamburg Germany. An infiltrator of a Saudi terrorist cell has reported an overheard snippet of conversation: "the American wants 100 million dollars." And it's in a non-bullshit context.

It's extremely important to find out: who's the "American"? And what can the American possibly offer that's worth $100 mil?

We don't get the answer to that last question until around page 368 of this 442-page book. (And a little Wikipedia-trolling shows this particular Maguffin to be fact-based, but considerably embellished.)

But along the way, there's a lot of international skulduggery, deduction, violence, and Reacher ignoring explicit orders when he needs to do so. Also, wannabe Nazis provide a major plot complication. Everybody hates those guys, and Reacher is no exception. A familiar face from previous books in the series, Sergeant Frances Neagley, plays a major role.

Good stuff. Lee Child makes it look easy, but if it were easy there would be a lot more people doing it.

URLs du Jour



■ As I type, Accuweather tells me the snow's gonna start in 15 minutes.

Amounts: 8-12 inches.

Chance for less than 8 inches: 8%

Chance for more than 12 inches: 52%

I'm not sure of that math, readers.

Proverbs 17:24 notes one difference between fools and non-fools:

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom in view,
    but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds like Yoda chastising Luke:

All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.

And of course, Mr. T pities that sort of thing.

■ You wondered, no doubt, why things have gotten so weird. Well, wonder no more: @JonahNRO tells us Why Things Have Gotten So Weird.

Even as knowledge of, and commitment to, our system of government has been eroding, partisan loyalty has radically intensified. Some studies find that partisan identification is now at least as predictive of behavior and attitudes as race or gender. As we lose our old meaningful attachments, we find new ones in shallow tribalism.

These trends have been in the pipeline for a long time, and while one can point a curmudgeonly finger of blame at the people, particularly these kids today, that wouldn’t be fair. Many older Americans haven’t exactly been model citizens either. Dismayed with the direction of American politics, they often grew as angry at the system as the young radicals. The real blame falls to elites of all stripes and ages — political, journalistic, economic, and educational. Every generation has a responsibility to instruct the next on what is important. As an empirical matter, they — we — failed.

I think he has a point. A very depressing one, because there's no indication those trends will reverse.

■ Megan McArdle writes on Unintended Consequences:

In December, doctors at a VA hospital in Oregon decided to admit an 81-year-old patient. He was dehydrated, malnourished, plagued by skin ulcers and broken ribs -- in the medical professionals’ opinion, he was unable to care for himself at home. Administrators, however, overruled them.

Was there no bed for this poor man? No, the facility had plenty of beds; in fact, on an average day, more than half of the beds are empty, awaiting patients. Was there no money or medicine to care for him? No, and no. Reporting by the New York Times suggests that Walter Savage was, perversely, turned away because he was too sick. Very sick patients tend to worsen the performance measures by which VA hospitals are judged.

Megan notes that such perverse outcomes of "management-by-measurement" abound in "health care and education". She does not, however, note that those are the areas besotted by government finance and regulation. I am reminded, not for the first time, of the legendary Soviet Nail Factory.

■ But there's good news from Reason's Ronald Bailey: Facts Matter After All. Yay!

The scientific fact that facts don't matter turns out to be factually wrong.

Sorry, let me try to put that more clearly. In a superb article at Slate, Daniel Engber revisits the research that concluded that blind partisanship and motivated reasoning are pervasive and that everyone seeks out "facts" that comport with what they already believe. Worse yet, those studies suggested that when highly ideological people are provided simultaneously with misinformation—that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, that vaccines are unsafe, that Barack Obama is a Muslim—and with corrections to the falsehoods, that paradoxically reinforces their prior belief in the false information. In other words, the correction "backfires."

But as Engber reports, scientists have had trouble replicating the research that purported to reveal a post-truth world. Facts turn out to matter after all.

That's good news. And I choose to believe it.