Bone Deep

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I made it up to number 21 in Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series. I'm ready to call it quits. Nothing personal, Mr. White. It's not you, it's me. Or maybe it's you. I got the feeling too many times while reading this that you were under Contractual Obligation to produce 360 pages.

It's not as if the editors at Putnam care much. At one point, a character says that a conversation contained "Not enough to activate my censors".

Anyway, in this one, Doc is looped into a hunt for stolen Indian artifacts. Which takes him to an abandoned phosphate mine in Central Florida. Which has a lot of other stuff going on: the remnants of Ice Age beasts and civilizations, a possible Conquistador's sword, and … a big old elephant. The owner of the phosphate mine has a large, dysfunctional family. And an elephant. There's a one-handed brain-damaged homicidal biker. Doc has (yet another) rocky romantic relationship with a charismatic lady. And a lot of other poorly-described characters.

I could be lazy. Reading my favorite authors is like moving down a well-paved highway; there may be unexpected turns, sure, but the view is interesting, and I never get lost. Reading Mr. White's last few books is more like navigating a back road filled with potholes, full of dead ends and unimpressive sights.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 15:10 (at last) gets away from comparing good and bad people; instead it warns of dire consequences…

10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path;
    the one who hates correction will die.

Guess what, Proverbialist? The one who loves correction dies too.

■ Our Google LFOD Alert rang for a Washington Examiner article that's all about the University Near Here! Code Yellow: Ambiguous, contradictory speech codes at the University of New Hampshire. This is news, sort of; it's based on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recent evaluation of UNH's policy. Specifically, an alleged contradiction between two sections of the current Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities handbook.

While students may not assemble, solicit, or distribute literature without a permit or approval per Section 23.4, they may solicit, distribute literature, and interact with passersby per Section 23.2.

“Why is it that in the Live Free or Die State, UNH desires to regulate the right to free speech down to the transitory and incidental nature?” Young Americans for Liberty Director of Free Speech Alexander Staudt told Red Alert Politics. “It seems to me that the First Amendment is very clear — there should be no law, infringing on the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, regardless of its incidental nature.”

I will offer a minor defense of UNH: its current "Yellow Light" rating is an improvement over the "Red Light" it had just a few years ago. I don't know when it changed.

■ What's goin' down, civil-libertieswize, in New York? At Cato, Trevor Burrus and Reilly Stevens tell it: New York Attorney General Schneiderman Goes After Citizens United’s Donors.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman demands out-of-state charities disclose all donors for his inspection. He does not demand this of all charities, only those he decides warrant his special scrutiny. Schneiderman garnered national attention for his campaign to use the powers of his office to harass companies and organizations who do not endorse his preferred policies regarding climate change. Now, it seems he seeks to do the same to right-of-center organizations that might displease him. Our colleague Walter Olson has cataloged Schneiderman’s many misbehaviors.

He’s currently set his sights on Citizens United, a Virginia non-profit that produces conservative documentaries. While Citizens United has solicited donations in New York for decades without any problem, Schneiderman now demands that they name names, telling him who has chosen to support the group. Citizens United challenged this demand in court, arguing that to disclose this information would risk subjecting their supporters to harassment and intimidation.

As they note, Citizens United has become the "Emmanuel Goldstein of the American left".

But it's a good thing that New York has so little crime that the AG can harass groups and individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.

NR's Ben Shapiro looks at Students’ Anti-Gun Views, as megaphoned by the MSM. Mr. Shapiro notes the inconsistency (a) treating teenagers as if they had some special insight into public policy matters; (b) treating them as irresponsible children otherwise. His bottom line:

This discussion of young people’s political involvement leaves out one crucial element: the responsibility of older people to help inculcate expertise and reason in young people. The whole reason that young people are generally less capable of strong decision-making is that the emotional centers of the brain are overdeveloped in comparison with the rational centers of the brain. And it requires training to fully utilize what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 2 — the analyzing portion of the brain. It’s the job of those who think most rationally to teach those whose rationality is still developing. Leaving individual decision-making, let alone general policy, to young people — those who respond most strongly to System 1, the intuitive, emotional brain areas — may be smart politics. After all, we all respond intuitively to slogans and emotional appeals. But it makes for rotten policy.

But perhaps that’s the point. If we can turn children into our decision-makers, we can infantilize our politics down to simplistic statements like “you’re either with us or against us” on preventing school shootings. And that infantalization certainly helps come election time.

Why it's almost as if all this hoopla was a thinly disguised cynical attempt to gain political power! Say it ain't so, CNN!

■ Which brings us to another LFOD alert, spurred by the LTE-writing Alan Vervaeke in the Laconia Daily Sun. His contribution to adult debate is a suggestion to the heartbroken: Shove your thoughts & prayers. LFOD comes in for insulting purposes:

I won’t go into all of the adults who have died from gun violence since 2014 — it’s just an obscene number and most of you simply don’t care. I won’t explain how women are more likely to die in a weaponized household. You make up stories about why God himself ordained the Second Amendment just so you can cradle them to your bosom at night; because you must “live free or die” and your guns provide a means to do both. People with many guns in their home are far more likely to suffer a deadly shooting in their home. That is a statistical fact. If you own a gun, you are 33 percent more likely to have a shooting in your home. If you have children in that home, they are more likely to be the victim. Again — that is statistical FACT. I hope it isn’t your child.

Alan closes with the irresponsible handwaving we've come to expect from this hysterical debate: "do something".

You know what, Alan? Shove your "do something".

■ But sure, if we ignored the Second Amendment, and enacted sweeping gun prohibitions, and put the government in charge of deciding what things were just Too Scary for you to own, things would be fine, right? Well… Back to NR and the observations of David French: Our Government Is Not Constructed for Competence.

It’s time for Americans to face facts. With few exceptions, our governments — local, state, and federal — are not constructed to be competent. The permanent class of civil servants —the career officials who work for multiple presidents, governors, mayors, or town officials — work within bureaucracies that are designed from the ground up to be insulated from effective accountability and discipline. They enjoy a job security that private-sector workers can’t begin to imagine.

A few years ago, a USA Today report rocketed around the Internet for a few days and then faded into obscurity. Too bad. It should have triggered an extended national conversation and extensive legal reform. The headline was sensational, but true: “Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs.” It traced the number of employees laid off or fired in multiple federal agencies and found that turnover was microscopic to nonexistent.

Even assuming that a federal worker is a better class of employee than your average private-sector employee (a debatable presumption), the numbers were amazing. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission collectively employed 3,000 people. They fired no one. NASA employed almost 19,000 and fired 13. The EPA employed almost 19,000 and fired 19.

In other words, incompetence is baked into the bureaucratic cake.

But… we get the government "we" deserve. Darnit.