Only to Sleep

[Amazon Link]

This is the third Philip Marlowe novel written entirely by someone other than Raymond Chandler. (First was 1991's Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker; second was 2014's The Black-Eyed Blonde by John Banville writing as "Benjamin Black").

It's easy to be cynical about this: the Chandler estate wants to squeeze some bucks out of suckers who love Chandler's private eye and desperately want to know what he's been up to. Worked in my case!

The year is 1988, and Marlowe is an old man, living the expatriate life in Baja California. He's retired, but couple of insurance company guys show up on his doorstep. One of their customers, Donald Zinn, has (apparently) drowned further down Mexico way, and their payout is huge. Could Marlowe kind of check things out to see if they could, well, weasel out of their obligation?

Well, sure. Phil could use a break from retirement lassitude. Some things become immediately apparent: the beneficiary is the Zinn's knockout wife, and she's somewhat less than grief-stricken. Zinn was teetering on the edge of financial ruin. And his body was near-immediately cremated, after a cursory investigation and autopsy by obviously corrupt Mexican officials.

A promising setup, but even this short book (253 pages) seems plot-padded. The author, Lawrence Osborne, explains in his Author's Note that he considered Chandler's plots to be "bewilderingly dreamlike", and decided to emulate that. Unfortunately, this has Marlowe doing things that don't make a lot of sense, like walking into an obvious deadly set-up.

Also: people who expect Chandleresque prose ("It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”) will probably be disappointed. Instead, the prose seems (to me anyway) overly flowery. As if Marlowe, the narrator, got both more cynical and more grandiloquent in his seventies.


Last Modified 2019-05-19 9:52 AM EDT

Governing Least

A New England Libertarianism

[Amazon Link]

Note the subtitle. And yet, the University Near Here's Interlibrary Loan folks needed to obtain this book from Southeast Missouri State University. My geography is weak, but I'm pretty sure that's not New England. I'm grateful, but isn't it kind of ironic that it wasn't available from someplace… closer by?

The author, Dan Moller, is a philosophy prof at the University of Maryland (also: not in New England). In this book, he attempts to promote and defend a version of libertarianism that (unlike, say, Nozick) does not depend on assertions about the absolute moral rights of individuals.

Instead, Moller aims to show that our everyday, common-sense, views of morality look askance at "burden-shifting". (And the "New England" part of this is based on an imaginary thought experiment involving a wannabe welfare recipient pleading his case before his peers at an old-style town meeting. Also, Emerson and Thoreau are cited.) Moller notes (reasonably enough) that some burden-shifting might be necessary, but thresholds must be met; it's not anything-goes.

The beginning of the book was the roughest going for me, where Moller defends his take on civic morality. Unsurprising: this is an area where people have been trying and failing to resolve issues for millennia; there's a whole language (using terms like "deontic"). Things get easier once we're past that.

Moller lays out his thesis with a lot of insight and some wit. If you're interested at all in libertarian political philosophy, recommended.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-18

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson describes The 50-Way Abortion Fight. ("NRPlus Member Article")

    The state legislatures are full of activity related to abortion. This is as it should be.

    New York passed a law making it easier to perform grisly late-term abortions and then celebrated by lighting up the Empire State Building in pink, as though a baby girl had been born rather than sentenced to death by surgical dismemberment. Other states are considering similar laws, while in Georgia abortion has been prohibited once a heartbeat is detectable, and in Alabama the procedure has been almost categorically outlawed.

    This is what the post-Roe world is going to look like: divisive, ugly, and possibly irreconcilable — democratic, in a word.

    That's the best case scenario, at least for now. My own state is one of those who say that baby-killing is fine up until birth, but then immediately becomes a heinous crime. People claim this with a straight face.


  • Roger L. Simon answers your burning questions about the College Board's 'Adversity Score' scheme: The College Board Just Shot Itself in the Foot with Its New 'Adversity Score' Scheme.

    In the midst of multiple college admissions and general higher education scandals -- celebrity-paid test taking, discrimination lawsuit against Harvard, overwhelming academic bias, administrations growing faster than faculties, etc. -- The College Board decided to institute an "adversity score" for applicants. This score would use 15 variables to quantify the student's socioeconomic challenges -- poor neighborhoods, bad schools, etc. It's masked affirmative action.

    This would all be done in secret, the applicants and their families unable to question or even see the results. Only the colleges could see it.

    In a probably-related development, the University Near Here announced that it was dumping the SAT/ACT requirement for applicants. (Also probably related to that: the so-far unannounced drop in admitted UNH students for Fall 2019. "Hm. We need to make it easier for kids to get in.")


  • There's new P. J. O'Rourke content at American Consequences. In which he announces: It’s The End of the World.

    Classical Liberalism has had a good run. Now it’s about to get run over… by a bus full of stupid “post-capitalist” political trends – the new socialism, the new nationalism, the new trade-war mercantilism, and the new social media platforms that drive this bus. Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, and the countless candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are all on board. So are the Brexiteers and so, for that matter, are the maniacally micro-regulating bureaucrats of the EU that the Brexiteers want to leave.

    Wave goodbye to Classical Liberalism.

    Or you could just wave at the camera you’re facing on your phone or computer. Too late to put a sticky note over it. Your civil liberties are already gone, swiped left. Neither a click falls on a keypad nor a finger taps a touch screen without the Internet seeing.

    Peej is a tad pessimistic this month. Still… I wouldn't bet heavily on him being wrong.

    Oh, wait. (Eyes retirement savings.) I am betting heavily on him being wrong.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At Reason, Nick Gillespie provides a sobriety check: If You Think Capitalism Is Dying Because Two Companies ‘Control 90 Percent of the Beer Americans Drink,’ Go Home, You’re Drunk. That particular factoid is from Jonathan Tepper, author of The Myth of Capitalism (available at right if you care).

    Among the evidence he marshals is the fact that "two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink." Tepper's numbers seem a bit high. According to the latest edition of Beer Marketer's Insights, a trade publication, Anheuser-Busch Inbev controls 41 percent of the market, MillerCoors owns another 24 percent, and "since 2017, more than 9 percent of the market volume has shifted from large brewers and importers to smaller brewers and importers."

    But let's grant Tepper his large point: Two mega-players dominate the market for beer. How has that been working out for beer drinkers? Pretty damn well, actually. Go back to, say, 1990, when the microbrewery revolution was barely a thing and I started graduate school at SUNY-Buffalo. My friends and I would drive across the Peace Bridge to Canada specifically to drink Molson and Labatt's because it was so much better than American beer. Such a thought is inconceivable now given the proliferation of choices available to today's beer drinkers. Some of that choice comes from Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and other big brewers, and much of it comes from small, scrappy startups.

    Could be that Tepper spends too much time writing and not enough time wandering down the beer aisle at Walmart.