A Stolen Season

[Amazon Link]

Another book down in my Steve Hamilton catchup reading project. This one from 2006. Mr. Hamilton's website says that I've got eight more to go, but by the time I get there, he'll probably have written more. Paradoxical, Captain Zeno!

This is the seventh book in his series with protagonist Alex McKnight: ex-baseball player, ex-cop, ex-private eye. As always, he just wants to take care of his cabin-rental business in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but events keep dragging him into a world of criminal violence.

Specifically, Alex and his buddies are coincidentally on hand to witness the crash of a big old boat into a defunct railroad bridge's pilings. This calls for a rescue, ably carried out, but the guys they rescue are obviously less than savory, and there's some discussion afterward: what happened to that big box we had on board with us?

Another complication: Alex's Canadian girlfriend, Natalie. Unlike most Canadian girlfriends, she's real. But after the events of the previous books, she wants to get back to her job, which is Canadian law enforcement. Which (in turn) requires her to go on a dangerous undercover mission in Toronto, attempting to sting a notorious gun-running gang.

Another Dickensian coincidence: the two plot threads are related. It's a funny old world. (Sounds like a spoiler, but it's mentioned on the back of my paperback.)

I admit that Mr. Hamilton presents a plot twist slightly over halfway through that I did not see coming. I did not think he was going to Go There.

Other than that, this is a step down in quality from the previous books in the series. Alex's first-person narration is mopier than usual; also, he insists on ticking off the names of the towns he drives through, the streets he drives by. Nobody cares about U. P. geography that much, Alex!

URLs du Jour

2018-08-09

[Amazon Link]

  • A refreshing change of pace in Proverbs 10:22; namely, no mouth parts are involved:

    22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
        without painful toil for it.

    You may have heard about Prosperity Theology, the notion that "faith, positive speech, and [especially - ps] donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth." Although some theologians claim that it's "fundamentally flawed". But here the Proverbialist sounds as if he's an adherent.


  • You may have heard folks like Elizabeth Warren bemoan stock buybacks. At NR, David Bahnsen demurs: Stock Buybacks Are Not the Enemy of Prosperity.

    The first step to understanding buybacks is understanding where the cash that funds them comes from. Once that’s done, it may behoove one to understand what buybacks are used for, and what exactly they do to a company’s balance sheet. To complain that buybacks use up money that could be spent on other company expenses is essentially to argue against profits themselves, because buybacks are effected with the cash generated from a company’s profits. Buybacks are not a company expense; they are a use of cash from company profits — from the money that remains after expenses are deducted from revenue. So a company can be criticized for pocketing as profits money that could be spent on expenses such as R&D, or for using its profits to buy back shares rather than paying them out in dividends or saving them for the future. But the positioning of share buybacks as a competitor to other company expenses is ignorant at best, and flat-out dishonest at worst.

    Hostility to stock buybacks are a special case of people (typically, demagogic politicians like E. Warren) griping about business practices with no skin in the game. Liz, quit your cushy Senate gig and start and run (and mind) your own damn business.


  • At Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli admires Thomas Sowell's Inconvenient Truths. Excerpt, discussing our favorite dictator-coddling tech giant:

    [T]he [thesis that statistical racial/sexual/ethnic disparities are due to invidious discrimination] disregards the benefit of non-discrimination to the non-discriminator. Google’s workforce, for example, is highly unrepresentative of the American population, especially in its technological departments, where 41.1% of the employees are Asian, 21.4% are women, 2.8% are Hispanic, and 1.5% are black. Judging by Google’s stated intentions, these disparities cannot be ascribed to prejudice or callous indifference. One corporate vice president is the company’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Google boasts that it has made parental benefits gender-neutral and that 84% of its “people managers have taken Unconscious Bias training.” In firing James Damore after his memo about diversity at Google became public, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to [their] work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct.”

    And yet all this earnestness appears to be having results that are just north of negligible, consistent with Sowell’s deadpan rule that there is “no necessary correlation between what people say and what they do.” The company reports that between 2014 and 2017 the proportion of its tech hires who were women increased from 20.8% to 24.5%. At that rate, women won’t account for half of Google’s tech hires until after 2030, which means it will take many years beyond 2030 for women to constitute half of its tech staff. The proportion of tech hires who are black has soared from 1.9% to 2.0%.

    A number of alternative explanations for Google's workforce disparities [and that of other tech companies] are discussed. But the most likely explanation is: they reflect the talent pool as it is, not as the social engineers wish it might be.


  • Today's candidate for Longest Article Ever is Veronique de Rugy's in Reason: How Trump’s Tariffs Hurt American Businesses and Consumers. OK, it's not that long. But it could be.

    President Trump isn't going to be happy. The U.S. trade deficit expanded in June, at its fastest rate since November 2016. Also, $291 billion was added to that gap in the first six months of 2018, compared with $272 billion in the first half of 2017. And wait until he finds out that in spite of the tariffs he imposed on billions of dollars in imports, those imports grew slightly while exports are going down.

    Not only are Trumpian tariffs an onerous tax on American consumers, they aren't even "working" on Trump's terms.


  • A (frankly) hilarious take on the recent announced changes to the Academy Awards from JVW at Patterico's Pontifications: Hollywood Leftists Throw a Bone to the Yokels in Flyover Country.

    The Motion Picture Academy of America, the folks who bring you the cringeworthy orgy of self-congratulation known as the Academy Awards Ceremony, have announced plans to institute a new “Best Popular Picture” Oscar at some as-of-yet undetermined time down the road. This would of course allow Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising Division and Avengers 6: Everybody Gets Rich to win awards that otherwise go to arthouse films with arch titles such as The Nothingness of Everything or Snails: an Unexpected Pansexual Love Story. The creation of a popular picture category is a pretty obvious ploy to address the awards show’s declining television ratings while ignoring the two larger reasons for the decline, namely the penchant of the Hollywood elite to nominate movies that appeal to whatever social justice diktat is in vogue and their obnoxious insistence on hectoring us with their putrid politics from the awards podium. Somehow I still don’t envision the average American movie viewer being willing to sit through three hours of televised drek just for that moment when The Fantastic Four Versus the Justice League: This Time Shit’s for Real collects its statue.

    There was a time when I went out of my way to watch all the movies with "big" nominations: Best Picture, Best Act(or|ess), Best Director, etc. I gave up at some point. Can't imagine why I'd ever want to see, for example, Moonlight.


  • And in case you don't check out xkcd as often as you should:

    [Voting Software]

    Mouseover text: "There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired."