Shots Fired

Stories from Joe Pickett Country

[Amazon Link]

Another bit of progress in my effort to catch up with C. J. Box books. This one came out in 2014, so I'm almost there…

It's a collection of Box's short stories; the subtitle, "Stories from Joe Pickett Country" indicates that not all stories contain Box's most well-known hero. Four out of the ten stories do, but who's counting? Well, I suppose I just did.

Anyway, they're all small-to-medium-sized gems. Let's see:

  1. A story about a tyrannical ranch owner who, when things don't go his way, retaliates against his own employees. Joe implores him, futilely, to be reasonable; that plea doesn't work, but something else does.
  2. A story sorta based on the Springsteen song "Meeting Across the River", but set in Yellowstone instead of Jersey, with Eastern European punks instead of American punks.
  3. A story set in 1835 about two trappers snowbound in a cabin, one slowly being driven insane by the other
  4. A story about Nate Romanowski (with Joe in a cameo role) being pressured by a Saudi prince into providing falcons; that's a problem that Nate solves beautifully.
  5. A story about a fishing expedition in a drift boat that goes either (a) horribly wrong or (b) exactly as planned, depending on your point of view.
  6. A very neat story about a lawyer taken prisoner by a crazed "no-account workingman", based on a decades-old alleged screwing-over of his grandfather. Surprise ending!
  7. A story about Joe's investigation of a very grim scene: a pickup going into a lake in sub-zero weather, a victim who nearly escaped a frozen fate, but didn't.
  8. A story about American Indians hired by Paris Disneyland to provide atmosphere for their Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (apparently a real thing); it turns out that French ladies are quite smitten with the, um, authenticity. But in one case, everything goes horribly wrong.
  9. A short short story about a young girl going fishin' with her grandpa. Twist ending!
  10. And a story about Joe's response to a "shots fired" report, seeming to implicate an old-time sheep rancher. He finds more than he bargained for.

I'm not much of a short-story reader, but these are great. You can't go wrong with Box.

Political Tribes

Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

[Amazon Link]

Amy Chua (a lawprof at Yale) got a considerable amount of fame a few years back for writing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her memoir of the tough-parenting ethos she imposed/blessed upon her daughters.

Professor Chua was also a supporting player (as mentor) in J. D. Vance's book about his upbringing and educational/professional odyssey, Hillbilly Elegy, which was one of the best books I read last year.

I wasn't that much interested in reading about her mothering techniques, but when I saw that Chua had written this book, my interest was piqued enough to put it on the "get" queue for the University Near Here library. (It wound up coming via ILL from Franklin Pierce University, over in Rindge.)

I wished I liked it better. There are two things going on the book, and they don't mesh together that well.

The first part discusses how (mostly) the United States has botched both its foreign policy and war-fighting strategies in the past by failing to appreciate the "tribal" strains and stresses in other lands. Examples: In Vietnam, we failed to recognize the ethnic hatred of the Vietnamese majority toward the Chinese minority that controlled much of the country's economic activity. In Afghanistan, we (and the Russians) treated the country as if it were a Cold War square to be captured, ignoring the tribal history and conflicts between various major and minor warlords. In Iraq, we minimized the Sunni/Shiite/Kurd rivalries, and assumed all sects could get along peacefully once Democracy was imposed. And in Venezuela, we underestimated the ethnic resentment of darker-skinned natives (who brought, to their eventual regret, Hugo Chávez to power) against the whiter elite.

These explications are fine, as far as they go. You can't have read Thomas Sowell as much as I have and not be aware of how much ethnic, racial, religious, and other cultural differences can drive trends, disparities, and policies. But Chua's arguments seem a little too tidy and perhaps more hindsightful that insightful.

Things go a little more off the rails when Chua turns her gaze to 21st-century America. She calls America a "super-group": an agglomeration of immigrant cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities that (at least until recently) were successfully merged into a chunky melting-pot of American identity. While still marred by racial oppression and religious bigotry, we're still arguably doing better at managing tribalism than any other country.

Or not. Chua has plenty of criticism of current events. She is, as far as I can tell, a moderate political liberal, so she lambastes the wackos and bigots on both sides, but asymmetrically toward the right. There are inexplicable diversions; yes, I've heard of the "Prosperity Gospel", but I'm not quite sure what the point of the discussion in the book is.

And Chua occasionally totally misfires. Her contempt seethes (for example) at my hero Kevin D. Williamson and his famous brutally honest look at lower-class white American communities. Chua doesn't use Williamson's name, and calls his article (incorrectly) an "op-ed". She quotes a few paragraphs, but she seems to think Williamson's awfulness is self-evident, commenting only that "it's hard to imagine [Williamson's] kind of language being applied to any other group." Yeah, fine, Professor; but was he accurate? Engage with the argument, instead of pointing with open-mouthed shock.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:19 is—ugh, again—doing an oral cavity reference. But nevertheless, there's wisdom here:

    19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
        but the prudent hold their tongues.

    For a blogger, this is hard advice to take.

  • At National Review, Jack Fowler provides the latest news on Facebook's devotion to free and fair political discussion… as long as you're a Democrat: Heng Gets Facebook Blocked.

    Elizabeth Heng nearly beat incumbent Democratic congressman Jim Costa in California’s open primaries in early June. The 53–47 outcome would have made her the darling of the national political media, had she been a Democrat. She will face Costa again in the general election in November. My colleague Alexandra DeSanctis wrote an excellent piece last month profiling the young, smart, 33-year-old Republican contender.

    So this happened yesterday. Heng’s campaign had tried to place [a] video as an ad on Facebook. It begins with her family’s roots — amidst the horror of Cambodian genocide.

    … and Facebook blocked the video.

    I could be living in a bubble, and am unaware of all the times this happens to Democrats. Or it just might be as it appears: Facebook applies its vague censorship rules asymmetrically against Republicans.

  • At Reason, Steve Chapman reveals Trump’s Lousy Record on Trade.

    The Trump administration has a new agenda: bringing about a new world of free, robust, and unfettered trade. After his July meeting with the head of the European Union, the president was pleased to announce, "We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods."

    White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that Trump "wants to have no tariffs" because "he's a free trader." Yes, he is. And I'm Reese Witherspoon.

    Trump is as far as you can get from a free trader. We know that from a Denali-sized mountain of evidence provided by Trump over his time in politics and business.

    That's a pretty big mountain, or so I've heard.

  • Also on trade, Don Boudreaux provides a Bonus Quotation of the Day from Robert Higgs, objecting to the notion that "equity" demands that US tariffs on Candadian goods be imposed "in response" to Canadian tariffs on US goods:

    If the U.S. government put new or higher tariffs on Canadian goods entering the USA, it would be punishing Americans who want to buy these goods. How would such punishment of Americans create equity to compensate for the punishment the Canadian government is imposing on Canadians who want to buy U.S. products? This matter is not a boxing match between countries. It’s a contest to see which government can punish its own people the most. It’s idiotic — and in no coherent sense is it equitable.

    Call me hopelessly optimistic, but maybe Trump-hatred will cause Democrats to become free traders?

  • Via Ann Althouse, a Tracey Ullman video that shows the old lady can still make me laugh out loud:

  • And an LFOD-alert chuckle is provided by an editorial in the Worcester MA Telegram, protesting the state's inability to plop additional regulations and fines upon the citizenry: Legislature in neutral as mayhem continues. Mayhem, I tellz ya!

    Why is it that two pieces of legislation that we all know will save lives and prevent grievous injuries can’t seem to get through our state Legislature?

    We refer, of course, to the two commonsense bills we’ve previously written about, separately, that were both left to wither away at the end of the legislative session this week: One to require hands-free calling while driving; the other to make the failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense for which you can be stopped.

    Ah, yes. It's for your own good, after all. But where's LFOD?… Ah, there it is:

    Don’t believe any of the bull you might hear about resistance to the nanny-state.

    Massachusetts, after all, is where you can be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to a year for manufacturing, selling, giving away or even storing or transporting a “novelty lighter” that could appeal to a child under 10. All in the interest of fire prevention. So watch out for anyone lighting a now legal joint – or a cigarette being taxed and regulated to oblivion - with a lighter that looks like a favorite cartoon character or “capable of playing musical notes or displaying flashing lights.”

    You can’t buy fireworks in Massachusetts, or drive without a motorcycle helmet. But just drive over the border into “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire - where you can do both - while yacking on a hand-held cellphone, and you could be nailed by the first cop who sees you.

    The real Mass fear/excuse is "racial profiling": that cops will apply enforcement disproportionately against people of color.

    But you have to appreciate the style of argument: since New Hampshire imposes these regulations, Massachusetts should do so as well. It's as if there's a nanny-state arms race, and Massachusetts can't be left behind!