The Lock Artist

[Amazon Link]

I continue with my "Steve Hamilton Catch Up" reading project, this one from 2009. It is another standalone, a break from his series narrated by glum ex-cop Alex McKnight. And this one is pretty good, in fact it won the Edgar Award for "Best Novel".

Hamilton does a pretty good job of grabbing you from the get-go. In Chapter One we meet the narrator Michael, who's in the slammer for unspecified reasons. He is unable to speak, thanks to a traumatic episode in his past. (Details on that don't emerge until pages 253ff., but don't skip ahead, OK?) He pines for his true love, Amelia. He has uncanny artistic talent. But he also has an "unforgivable talent", which turns out to be absolute mastery of breaking into places that he's not supposed to get into. Locked doors, padlocks, safes, you name it.

From there, the story develops on two time tracks, alternating chapter by chapter. One follows how Michael got caught up in a life of crime, starting by falling in with a bad-jock crowd in high school. The other follows his career as a (more or less) professional "boxman", a freelance member of gangs looking to knock over targets that call for his expertise.

All the while, Michael remains a totally sympathetic character, poor choices and all. The book leaves room for a sequel, but so far Hamilton hasn't done that, and I kind of hope he doesn't. It's a pretty complete story as is.

The Phony Campaign

2019-02-10 Update

[Amazon Link]

This week we bid at least a temporary farewell to Nikki Haley and (somewhat surprisingly) Cory Booker, both of whom dropped below our 2% win-probability threshold at Betfair. Go figure. Maybe Cory will be back. But remember that things didn't turn out well for Spartacus.

The big winner this week has to be Beto, with a relatively large comeback in his election probability. Because, as near as I can tell, he said or did nothing at all. Other candidates: take a hint, please.

Loser: Elizabeth Warren, who officially launched her candidacy yesterday. But as I type Google's top story is about actor Rob Lowe deleting the tweet that said:

Elizabeth Warren would bring a whole new meaning to Commander in ‘Chief,’

Yes, Liz: a peripatetic actor making a lame joke about you is getting bigger Google play than anything you said yourself.

Compared to last week, you'll note, Warren's win probability has shrunk by 0.2%. Not an auspicious beginnin, Senator.

Still not a credible candidate according to Betfair bettors: Howard Schultz.

And despite shedding nearly 7 million hits over the week, Kamala Harris remains our leader, out-phonying Donald Trump by more than a four-to-one margin:

Candidate WinProb Change
Kamala Harris 15.2% unch 10,800,000 -6,900,000
Donald Trump 30.5% +0.9% 2,490,000 +10,000
Beto O'Rourke 8.7% +2.5% 585,000 +35,000
Michael Bloomberg 2.5% unch 568,000 -57,000
Bernie Sanders 4.5% +0.3% 451,000 +118,000
Tulsi Gabbard 2.0% -0.5% 398,000 +103,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 2.4% -0.2% 321,000 +15,000
Joe Biden 8.3% +0.3% 198,000 +12,000
Elizabeth Warren 3.4% -0.4% 190,000 -23,000
Sherrod Brown 4.3% +1.0% 183,000 +7,000
Amy Klobuchar 3.3% +0.2% 171,000 +38,000
Mike Pence 3.8% +0.9% 151,000 +6,000

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

In recent phony-relevant news:

  • Ilya Somin of the Reason-hosted Volokh Conspiracy makes a serious and insightful point: Why the Demand for Fake News is a Far More Serious Problem than the Supply. Beginning with a lengthy quote from Canadian Andrew Coyne:

    I have an urgent warning for the people of Canada. Even now, certain agents are plotting to influence the result of the next election campaign by means of stealth and deception.

    Posing as ordinary Canadians, they plan to use social media to spread falsehoods designed to inflame public opinion, using the latest micro-targeting technologies to tailor their messages to the reader’s particular fears and prejudices.

    These agents are better known as the political parties.

    [Amazon Link]
    You can certainly apply this insight even more appropriately to the situation in Canada's southern neighbor. Yes, American votes are abysmally ignorant. (See Ilya's book, link at right.) But!

    But the problem here goes beyond simple ignorance. As Coyne suggests, many people are actively eager to believe dubious claims, so long as doing so confirms their preexisting views. Particularly in our current environment of severe political polarization, partisans often act not as truth-seekers, but as "political fans" eager to endorse anything that supports their position or casts the opposing party and its supporters in a bad light. These biases affect not only ordinary voters, but also otherwise highly knowledgeable ones, and even policymakers and politicians. This helps explain why many people eagerly consume crude misinformation, without giving careful thought to the validity of the claims made.

    There is no easy solution to these problems. Individual voters can do a lot to better inform themselves and curb their biases. But I am skeptical that many will do anytime soon. In my view, the better approach is systematic reform to limit and decentralize the power of government, so as to reduce the potential harm caused by voter ignorance and bias. There are a variety of other possible solutions, as well. Regardless, the beginning of wisdom on the issue of fake news is to recognize - as Andrew Coyne does - that the root of the problem is demand, not supply. And as long as the demand remains high, there will be plenty of willing suppliers.

    Not just ignorant. Willfully ignorant.

  • At Power Line, Steven Hayward outlines The Epic Fraud of Elizabeth Warren.

    Elizabeth Warren has claimed that she never used her supposed native American heritage for professional advantage, though the circumstantial evidence suggests otherwise. Late this afternoon the Bezos Bulletin reported (though not until the 8th paragraph, with no hint of the key fact in the headline or the lede) that Warren did in fact claim to be “American Indian” in her own handwriting in her application to the Texas Bar in 1986:

    (Bezos Bulletin == the Washington Post.) Image of the application at the link.

  • OK, so Cory Booker's long shot at the presidency seems even longer this week. So maybe we should link to Jim Geraghty's Cory Booker: 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know while he's still relatively fresh in our memories. In order to fit in with his fellow candidates, he's had to backtrack on some issues, notably school choice. But also:

    14. Back in 2007, Steve Malanga wrote in City Journal that Booker “made reducing crime his Number One priority and installed a zero-tolerance policing strategy engineered by a veteran of New York’s drug wars.” But once Booker was in the Senate, he lamented that the United States “imprisons more people than any other country on earth and spends about a quarter of a trillion dollars each year on a bloated, backward criminal-justice system.” “Over the past 30 years, the federal prison population has grown by 800 percent, an increase largely due to overly punitive sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes.”

    In other words: present-Cory laments that past-Cory put so many people in the slammer.

  • And sometimes it seems that Cory's following a sloppily-written script that he hasn't written himself, and might not understand. Billy Binion at Reason: Cory Booker Asked Neomi Rao if She Ever Hired LGBT Law Clerks. She's Never Been a Judge.

    Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) squared off with D.C. Circuit nominee Neomi Rao at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, asking the potential judge if she has ever employed any LGBT law clerks. While the question raised eyebrows for multiple reasons, the most glaring is that she's never been a judge, so she's never had any law clerks—LGBT or otherwise.

    But the question itself is suspect: It implies that sexuality should be part of the test for determining an applicant's suitability for hire. "Um, to be honest I don't know the sexual orientation of my staff," Rao said, when pressed by Booker. "I take people as they come, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation."

    A reasonable answer to an unreasonable query.

  • As David Rutz notes at the Washington Free Beacon: Kamala Harris Cracks Herself Up.

    That could get real old. In fact, it's already old for me.

  • At PJ Media, Bryan Preston wonders: Has Beto Already Blown It? Here Are His Three Biggest Blunders. Number…

    1. He revealed his inner Beto, who turns out to be a dull weirdo.

      Have you read Beto’s travelog? After setting a pile of other people’s money on fire to lose to Sen. Ted Cruz, Beto suddenly found himself unemployed. In that situation, most people look for work. Beto is rich, so he wandered off to look for himself. Or per the old Simon and Garfunkel song, to look for America. And he blogs this search on Medium.

    Click over for the remaining blunders. But they don't seem to have been Elizabeth Warren-sized blunders.

  • When Harry Freakin' Reid has to lecture you about being a decent person… A report from the Huffington Post: Harry Reid Rebuked Amy Klobuchar For Mistreatment Of Staff.

    Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s mistreatment of her office staff began more than a decade ago and eventually caused such concerns that in 2015, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke to her privately and told her to change her behavior, multiple sources have confirmed to HuffPost.

    Klobuchar, a Democrat who plans to announce whether she’s running for president at a rally in Minneapolis on Sunday, has faced trouble hiring campaign aides because of her history of mistreating staff. 

    Gosh, whatever happened to "Minnesota Nice"? I guess Amy didn't get that memo.

Last Modified 2019-02-16 7:00 AM EDT