Old Black Magic

[Amazon Link]

The seventh Spenser book written by Ace Atkins, and I'm still on board. I buy the Kindle version, which is fine. The cover is more incomprehensible than ever; I'm pretty sure no playing cards were involved in the course of the book.

Consumer note: some Amazon reviewers complain about the sloppy editing and careless writing. At least one thing I was able to verify: when Spenser is about to take off for Memphis, he reassures Susan about his dietary choices:

"Biscuits and barbecue never killed anymore."

Anymore? Ace, every writer makes dumb typos, but G.P. Putnam's Sons are definitely overpaying your editor.

Other reviewers, however, are misguided. One claims that a number of characters are described as "garden gnomes". That's easy enough to check in a Kindle version, and it's just one guy described that way.

Sigh, enough with that.

The plot: a dying detective named Locke has been trying to recover a famous painting ("The Gentleman in Black", by El Greco, fictitious) filched from a local museum twenty years ago. He asks Spenser to pick up the chase. Spenser must deal with recalcitrant museum trustees, who have hired a different shamus, a Brit to whom Spenser takes an instant dislike. His old cop friend, Quirk, isn't much help; the new Boston Police brass don't care for Spenser at all. Various mob guys, and mob-connected guys, manage to be unhelpful and also violent.

This is more of a detective story than is usual for Spenser, as he traces the artwork's path through a bewildering maze of crooks. He must also deal with others competing for multi-million dollar reward money.

Spenser is not so much interested in the reward; instinctively he (correctly) knows he'll never get it. But he is interested in getting Locke some justice and closure before he heads to those mean streets in the sky. And he does that pretty well.

URLs du Jour

2018-07-31

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:13 is below average, I'm afraid:

    13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
        but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

    A two-parter, where the parts don't seem to have any obvious connection. The overused oral reference. Gratuitous violence promised against transgressors.

    Well, to be honest, I'm pretty OK with the gratuitous violence. We all feel that way sometimes.


  • National Review's Andrew Stuttaford has been covering how governments are using "fake news" as an excuse, for example: Fake News and Censorship (British Edition)

    To return yet again to the topic of how abusing the idea of ‘fake news’ could represent an ideal opportunity for censors on the make, here’s the BBC discussing a report by the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee (that such a committee even exists is, incidentally, yet more depressing evidence of the reach of the modern state). The Committee’s report was prompted by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, but, however bad that mess may have been, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the cure may be worse than the disease.

    Andrew notes the DCMS Committee is plugging for the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans”.

    And who decides which views are ‘hyper-partisan’ and which are merely the expression of sweet reason?

    As to trying to influence people’s voting plans by appealing to their “fears and prejudices”, that’s something that politicians of all stripes–from pillars of the establishment to the wildest of the wild men–have been doing for centuries. Something tells me that some ‘appeals’ will be more equal than others.

    There is nothing more darkly amusing than a pol who (a) decries appeals to "fear", and then (b) claims, for example, that we need strict gun control or our children will be murdered in their classrooms.


  • At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis writes on The Ideological Blinders of Court Packing Proponents.

    Two Yale Law School professors, Ian Ayres, and John Fabian Witt, have written an op-ed calling for court packing when Democrats next gain unified control of government. Their reasoning suggests that Yale’s ideological bubble may limit their understanding of law and politics.

    The proclaimed objective of their Court packing scheme, which would elevate two lower court justices to the Supreme Court for eighteen years, is to “balance” the Court. But they never provide any measure of how the Court is out of “balance.”  To be sure, it is out of balance with the views of the Yale Law faculty, which has less than a handful of right of center faculty, and none at all focused on the public law with which the Supreme Court is largely concerned. But by opinion polls, the public believes that the Court is relatively balanced with similar numbers thinking that it is too conservative or too liberal and a plurality thinking it is ideologically just right. And the Court today enjoys its highest level of approval in over a decade after a term in which Justice Anthony Kennedy sided almost entirely with other Republican justices, the kind of voting pattern that such professors fear  a Justice Brett Kavanaugh would continue.

    Ian Ayres is full of … interesting schemes. A few years back, he (with fellow lawprof Bruce Ackerman) advocated that every American registered voter get a $50 "Patriot Dollars" voucher that could only be used for political contributions. An ingenious scheme to "encourage" taxpayers to spend money the way Ayres and Ackerman would prefer it be spent, rather than wasting it on things like shoes or books.

    Ayres also wrote a semi-entertaining book called Super Crunchers which I read back in 2007; interesting ideas, marred by a USA Today style and plagiarism that would get any law student thrown out of Ayres' school.


  • And our LFOD alert rang for this news article at Bitcoin.Com: Libertarian Hotspot the Free Keene Project Bolsters More Crypto-Adoption.

    New Hampshire is widely known as the ‘free state’ for its lack of taxation, and the growing number of libertarians moving there to make the region live up to its motto ‘live free or die.’ Furthermore, areas like Keene are well known for being very cryptocurrency friendly with a multitude of merchants, bitcoin radio ads, and BTMs. More recently the Free Keene Project’s blog revealed the group has been pushing digital asset adoption like crazy, and this week the website announced they have managed to get a slew of mom-n-pop businesses to accept BTC and Dash.

    For those in the more-statist part of the state, there's still the Free State Bitcoin Shoppe. Which I still haven't got around to visiting. ("Bad libertarian! Bad!")