URLs du Jour


Michael Ramirez is a genuine genius. But you knew that.

[Spying For Dummies]

I've been surprised even more than usual that different sides on the "Obamagate" issue can look at the same facts and come up with π-radians opposite conclusions.

I admit my biases tend to be anti-Obama, anti-Comey, anti-FBI. But I'm not sure how I'd convince someone who held opposite biases.

Now on with the show:

  • Jim Geraghty made the observation in his Morning Jolt yesterday: Coronavirus Quarantine for Thee, but Not for Me. Probably not a typical story, but a telling one:

    From the beginning, we’ve seen evidence that the wealthy and well-connected could more or less buy their way out of the inconveniences and hardship of quarantines. This April story by Vicky Ward at CNN stuck with me:

    Last week, a Washington, DC-based media executive who is used to attending 200 cocktail parties a year decided that he could take talking to his microwave no more.

    In contravention of the city’s shelter-in-place executive order, he secretly attended two different dinner parties in Georgetown, an affluent DC-neighborhood.

    When he first told me this, I assumed I had either misheard or misunderstood. “Virtual dinners right?” I asked. “No” was the reply. These were the old-fashioned, in-person sort.

    Each time, he explained, the host’s instructions were the same. For both dinners, he entered through the back gate of the property, so disapproving neighbors would not see him. He was told in advance that neither he, nor any other guests, could take any photographs or talk about the party.

    The first dinner was hosted by a movie producer. A group of four listened to music and sat under heated lamps six feet apart in the garden where they were served dinner. According to the executive, none had been in contact with anyone who had suffered Covid-19 — as far as they knew. All had been isolating.

    At that dinner party, the food was prepared by a live-in chef, who was masked and gloved, and then served by the producer’s wife.

    At the second party, held over the weekend at the home of a Democrat political operative, one of the guests brought the food: “lamb to belatedly celebrate Easter.” In attendance were an ambassador, a city councilman and a well-known lobbyist. The night was balmy and they all sat outside for hours.

    “People did not want to leave,” the media executive told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity, to avoid being Covid-shamed — a new shorthand term for people behaving with apparent indifference to the safety of others. “But everyone had been cooped up for so long, there was much to discuss.”

    I’ll give you a moment to cope with the shock that a Washington-based media executive, a movie producer, a Democratic political operative, a Washington city councilman, and a well-known lobbyist and their spouses believed the rules didn’t apply to them. At least the ambassador could hide behind diplomatic immunity. (Where’s Roger Murtaugh when you need him?)

    I trust everyone's seen Lethal Weapon 2?

  • At AIER, James Bovard wonders: Will the Political Class Be Held Liable For What They’ve Done? (I don't know, but I would wager that Betteridges Law of Headlines applies.)

    Politically-dictated lockdowns and prohibitions have recently destroyed tens of millions of American jobs. Politicians have effectively claimed a right to inflict unlimited economic damage in pursuit of zero COVID-19 contagion. The perverse incentives driving the policy have multiplied the harm far beyond the original peril.

    Almost 40% of households earning less than $40,000 per year have someone who lost their job in recent months, according to the Federal Reserve. The Disaster Distress Helpline, a federal crisis hotline, received almost 900% more phone calls in March compared to a year ago. A recent JAMA Psychiatry analysis warned that stay-at-home orders and rising unemployment are a “perfect storm” for higher suicide rates. A California health organization recently estimated that up to 75,000 Americans could die from “despair” as a result of the pandemic, unemployment, and government restrictions.

    Being the government means never having to say you're sorry. Or going to jail for killing a lot of people.

  • Ah, well, enough Covid for today. At Law & Liberty, John O. McGinnis tells you (in case you were unconvinced) Why Universities Need the New Title IX Rules.

    If there were any doubt that the regulations were needed, representatives of universities and colleges, like Ted Mitchell of the American Council of Education, dispelled them by their denunciations of the rules.

    The first complaint is that the rules are costly, particularly at the time of the Covid-19 crisis. But these same organizations did not complain of the huge costs imposed by the Obama administration when its so-called Dear Colleague letter forced colleges to ramp up sexual harassment investigations by hiring many more Title IX officials. And they were then under the threat of losing all federal funding, a threat which the new regulations relax (a point Mr. Mitchell chose not to acknowledge).

    Professor McGinnis points out that Ted Mitchell was U.S. under secretary of education in the Obama Administration, so he's not exactly a disinterested party.

  • Matthew Continetti notes something odd: the natural thing for candidates to do after locking up a nomination is to "move to the center". Instead, we seem to have Biden's Progressive Gamble.

    A few hours after this column appears on the internet, more than 30 liberal activists will meet online to plan your future. The gathering is called the "Friday Morning Group." It comprises, according to the New York Times, "influential figures at labor unions, think tanks, and other progressive institutions." These influential figures, the Times goes on, believe that when Democrats last had full control of the federal government, between 2009 and 2010, they did not "take the initiative in specifying plans for achieving large-scale change." They hope to correct this mistake. What happens on November 3 might give them the chance.

    Buoyed by polls that show Joe Biden consistently leading President Trump, and jarred by the economic and social toll of the coronavirus, Democrats have become more ambitious. A "return to normalcy" no longer suits them. What is normal, anyway? It sounds privileged. Better to be bold. The digital headline of the article where I learned of the Friday Morning Group was, "Seeking: Big Democratic Ideas That Make Everything Better." (It will be awhile before Ahab finds that White Whale.) The title of a recent New York magazine profile says "Biden Is Planning an FDR-Size Presidency." Nancy Pelosi gave a hint of what might be in store with the $3 trillion spending bill she pushed through the House on May 15. Its cost and scope were too much for 14 House Democrats. They joined every Republican but one in voting against it.

    As many people have said: All the Democrats would have to win overwhelmingly is not be crazy. And they aren't managing to do that.

The Big Book of the Continental Op

[Amazon Link]

So I got this book for Christmas 2017 from the Salad Daughter. It weighs in at 750 pages or so, and I immediately grasped that was way too much Hammett to read all at once. So I used a software solution: treat it as five separate "books" in my Book Picker script, spacing things out over … well, until now. There are 28 short stories and 2 "serialized novels" in the Big Book, all written for Black Mask magazine in the 1920s. (One story unpublished and unfinished.)

As the title implies, this is pretty much everything Hammett wrote with his "Continental Op" character doing the first-person narration. The Op is never given a name, but he describes himself as middle-aged and fat. He's fond of booze and cigarettes. He works for the Continental Detective Agency on whatever tasks he's assigned. But he occasionally goes above and beyond.

The short stories are, well, uneven. And (let's be kind) not really up to modern tastes. But they are kind of a revealing window into (mostly) San Francisco in the 1920s, and the tough-guy lingo at the time. Occasionally, they veer into weird territory, ("Corkscrew" has the Op going out to Arizona, getting appointed Deputy Sheriff, and messing around with horses and cowboys.) Characters are many, plots are complex, every single one is totally forgettable. (Except I remembered the cowboy bit.)

The serialized novels, written in the later part of the Op's career are better. A four-parter, "The Cleansing of Poisonville" was published (modified) as Red Harvest: the Op is sent into a corrupt town only to find that his client's been murdered. He seems personally offended, and takes it on himself to set the various criminal factions off against one another, and brings down the entire crappy apparatus over the four installments. (See the Wikipedia page for informed speculation on how it influenced modern popular culture.)

The other novel, The Dain Curse, is another four-parter, where the Op takes a liking to young Gabrielle, who he meets in the course of investigating a diamond theft from the laboratory of her father. Many people wind up dead. In the second bit, she's off to a join a religious cult, and the Op checks that out, resulting in more people dead. Finally Gabrielle gets hitched; while off on her honeymoon the Op is summoned by her husband who (you guessed it) is dead by the time the Op shows up. (In addition to many others.) And finally, the OP weans Gabrielle off her nasty morphine addiction, while discovering the sinister driving force behind all the carnage. According to the Wikipedia page, a 1978 TV miniseries based on the book was pretty good.

Last Modified 2022-10-02 7:13 AM EDT