A Dangerous Man

[Amazon Link]

The new Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel from Robert Crais. Mr. Crais is on my short "buy" list for novelists.

Young Isabel is a bank teller, but (thanks to the opening scene) we know that she comes from a family with a deep dark secret. Unfortunately, this means that she's a target of bad guys: a couple of minions grab her on her way out of the bank, shove her into their car, and drive off!

Terrible, right? Unfortunately for the minions, Isabel is a teller at Joe Pike's bank. And Joe's a witness to the abduction. So the abductors are subdued in short order (in gratifying Joe Pike fashion), and Isabel is rescued.

But (as it turns out) it doesn't end there. Because Isabel has no idea why she was kidnapped. And she remains in peril, because those guys were just minions. So Joe, and his partner, the World's Greatest Detective, Elvis Cole, must uncover the secrets in Isabel's past, and protect her from future violence.

That last bit is a bit difficult, because Isabel isn't that smart about following Pike's advice about avoiding peril.

Series writers invariably go into "maintenance" mode, and this book is an example of that. Cliffhangers are neither resolved nor introduced. The protagonists' characters do not develop. It's pretty much a generic outing for Joe and Elvis. But enjoyable nonetheless.

I do have a gripelet: like Jack Reacher, Elvis and Joe seem to attract trouble like a black hole attracts matter; the whole plot here hangs on the mere coincidence of Joe being in the right place at the right time. Maybe they inhabit an alternate universe where evil plots are developing all around, just stand around for a bit, keep your eyes open, and one will happen right in front of you!

URLs du Jour

2019-08-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Slashdot says: A New Species of Leech Is Discovered Near Washington, D.C.. Specifically, in "slow-moving swamp water."

    In the summer of 2015, when Smithsonian research zoologist Anna Phillips and other scientists were standing in slow-moving swamp water, letting leeches latch onto their bare legs or gathering them up in nets from muddy pond bottoms, they didn't realize that some of the bloodsuckers they'd collected belonged to an entirely new species. But in a just-published paper in the Journal of Parasitology, Phillips and her colleagues from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the Royal Ontario Museum report that a previously unknown leech species, Macrobdella mimicus, is the first to be discovered on the continent in more than 40 years.

    I know, I promised to cut down on the blood-sucking metaphors. It's dehumanizing. But I am a weak person.


  • We need as much optimism as we can get these days, and Jonah Goldberg provides some in his column: Maybe Liberty Isn’t a Lost Cause in China.

    Whether it was a young political scientist named Woodrow Wilson hailing Otto von Bismarck’s authoritarian Prussia as the most “admirable system . . . and most nearly perfected” in the world, or Lincoln Steffens claiming upon his return from Soviet Russia that he’d “seen the future, and it works,” or New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wishing that America could learn from China’s “one party authoritarianism,” virtually every time nationalist and authoritarian regimes seized the reins, countless Western intellectuals became convinced that a better, more “efficient” model of government had been created.

    As George Orwell observed, this sort of thinking amounts to power-worship, and this mindset leads people to think that current trends will only continue in a straight line into the future.

    But that’s not how the last three centuries have gone. Power-hungry experts love to tell us that freedom has had its day, yet liberty keeps winning. The freedom fighters in 2019 Hong Kong may meet the same fate that the protesters in Tiananmen Square did in 1989. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be remembered as victims of a lost cause. Rather, they might be remembered as proof that liberty can win in the long run, when people fight for it.

    But you do have to fight for it. As Jonah (and many others) have noted: the natural state of mankind is miserable poverty and subjugation to tribal leaders.


  • At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera remembers Orson Welles Unlikely Prophecy. As seen in Citizen Kane:

    Now, the brilliant insight of the story is this: the only way America could produce a true populist, a home-grown demagogue that could rise to the top of national politics, would be through the media. The use of media in American politics is as old as the Founders and printing pamphlets, but the arrival of radio introduced a change that suddenly made people realize the potential to move politics away from political offices and into the ether. Politics became more populist, but more virtual at the same time. And subsequent technological innovations—most notably TV and the internet—have culminated in the celebrity presidency of Donald Trump.

    If I'm remembering it correctly, Kane lost his election when his infidelity was revealed by his opponents. Trump was luckier.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At Libertarianism.org Arnold Kling explores How We Polarize Ourselves.

    Why do we demonize those with whom we disagree?  The basic reason is that it helps to protect us from having to question or doubt our own beliefs.  If we see others as decent human beings, then we have to consider how they arrived at a point of view that differs from our own, and even consider the possibility that they could be at least partly correct.  But instead, if we regard them as driven by evil motives, then we feel no need to give their actual arguments any sort of fair hearing.  Demonizing them saves us the hard work of listening and the emotional challenge of self-doubt.

    Our polarization is reinforced by another psychological defense mechanism, called confirmation bias.  Researchers have undertaken experiments in which people with different positions on an issue were shown an identical set of facts on the issue, and each side reported that the facts strengthened its position! 

    Fortunately, everything I've read about confirmation bias strengthens my certitude that I do not suffer from it. Whew!

    But for those of us not so lucky (or deluded), Arnold's book, The Three Languages of Politics (Amazon link at right) is highly recommended.


  • Hot Air excerpts a Vanity Fair interview with "New York financier" Anthony Scaramucci, who was Donald Trump’s communications director in the White House for a few days in 2017: "Oh my god, this jackass. You know, it’s all good.".

    The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

    Narcissism worse than racism? Debatable. But the Mooch is onto something.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, David Henderson reveals a simple truth: The New York Times Is Truly Messed Up. He draws attention to their latest anti-capitalist slander, from a Princeton sociology prof, one Matthew Desmond: In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.

    The prof is part of a new movement in historical writing, dubbed the “New History of Capitalism” (NHC). As genres go, NHC is kind of a dumpster fire, as revealed by an article David links to by Phillip W. Magness, The Anti-Capitalist Ideology of Slavery. Sample:

    Many leading examples of NHC scholarship in the academy today are plagued by shoddy economic analysis and documented misuse of historical evidence. These works often present historically implausible arguments, such as the notion that modern double-entry accounting emerged from plantation ledger books (the practice actually traces to the banking economies of Renaissance Italy), or that its use by slave owners is distinctively capitalistic (even the Soviets employed modern accounting practices, despite attempting to centrally plan their entire economy). Indeed, it was NHC historian Ed Baptist who produced an unambiguously false statistic purporting to show that cotton production accounted for a full half of the antebellum American economy (it actually comprised about 5 percent of GDP).

    Much more at the links. Matthew Desmond bids fair to become this year's recipient of the Michael Bellesiles award for crap scholarship. (2017 winner: Nancy MacLean.)


  • And finally our Google LFOD alert rang for a report from Maine TV station WMTW on President Trump's recent New Hampshire visit: President Trump blasts Democratic ‘socialists, communists,’ touts US economy in NH.

    Showing affection for the state where he won his first election – the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary – Trump said, “Our hearts beat to the words of the New Hampshire state motto, ‘Live Free or Die.’”

    So then did he apologize for kissing up to dictators? Imposing tariffs? Failing to get control of Federal spending? Nope, he just got back into the copter.