Parker

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This movie is based on one of the later Parker novels by "Richard Stark" (Donald Westlake), Flashfire. Jason Statham steps into the role of the amoral antihero with no first name. (Previous actors playing Parker: Lee Marvin, Mel Gibson, Peter Coyote, Robert Duvall. It's made for tough guys.)

Parker is in on a heist at the Ohio State Fair with some thieves. (Right away you notice that Statham's Parker is kind of a softie compared to book-Parker, persuading a frightened security guard into cooperation instead of just shooting him.) But the caper goes well except for a diversionary fire set in the wrong place, leading to bystander casualties. Unfortunately, the gang plans to use the proceeds to finance an even bigger score. Parker objects, leading to serious violence and he's left for dead on the side of a lonely highway.

The end? Of course not. Parker recovers, and immediately sets out to track down the gang that betrayed him. Along the way he meets Leslie (J Lo!), a beautiful but failing real estate agent. She gets involved in his revenge plan, of course. (Otherwise they could have used a much cheaper actress in that role.) And there's an obligatory boob scene, but not J Lo.

It's not bad, not great. A good movie for an evening when there's no Red Sox game.

Free Fall

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Four down on my reread-Crais project. So far, so good!

Crais's hero detective Elvis Cole is hired by bubbly, innocent, pretty Jennifer Sheridan to investigate the cause of her fiancé's recent strange behavior. Fiancé Mark's a cop, and he's become moody, irritable, closed off, and the like. Elvis doesn't really want to take the case, but (sigh) a detective's gotta eat. So he asks for $2000 cash in advance, his regular rate.

Jennifer counter-offers, placing two twenties on his desk and promising to pay "forty dollars per month for forty-nine months".

Of course, Elvis accedes. But near-immediately after Jennifer leaves, Mark shows up with another cop, who's brandishing a gun. They demand Elvis drop the case.

Well, that's not gonna happen now.

No surprise: Elvis and his partner Joe Pike eventually figure out what's going on, but not without a lot of peril.

I might as well mention a minor stylistic irritation. Whenever Elvis drives somewhere, we get things like: "I drove up to Sixty-fourth, pulled a U-turn at the light, then swung back and parked at the curb in front of the transmission place." Elvis, I don't care how you got to the taco stand.

Also, you know those old war movies, when one of the soldiers starts talking all moon-eyed about the girl back home, and you know that in an upcoming scene that he's going to buy the farm? I got that premonition about one of the characters here, … and I was right.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-18

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • California, Man. Scott Shackford notes some non-mellowness on the Left Coast: California Wants To Throw $100 Million at Its Mismanaged Retail Marijuana Sector.

    California's nascent legal recreational marijuana industry is so heavily taxed and regulated that the black market still dominates. It's so burdensome to try to get conventional permission to grow and sell marijuana the "legal" way that thousands of dispensaries operate without proper licenses. Government officials have been attempting to crack down on the problem and force them to close their doors.

    On Monday California lawmakers attempted to address this problem in a very California way: Assembly members authorized a $100 million subsidy to help potential marijuana vendors get properly licensed.

    As the Los Angeles Times explains, the subsidy isn't going to the dispensaries or growers themselves—not that it should. The $100 million is instead going to local government agencies and cities so they can "hire experts and staff to assist businesses in completing the environmental studies and transitioning the licenses."

    Hilarious, unless you're a California taxpayer. But that brings us to our next item…


  • A Growth Industry In Which We're All Forced to Invest. Albert Einstein probably never said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

    But I'm starting the rumor that he said something even more profound: "Insanity is developing New Government Programs to Fix Failed Government Programs." Here's David Boaz:

    Scott Lincicome points out that “U.S. law and regulation are littered with attempts to ‘fix’ problems caused by other government policies—not by reforming or eliminating those policies but through even more subsidies, tariffs, regulations, or waivers.” He focuses especially on industrial policy proposals that propose to use government action to counter existing government policies — not to repeal those existing policies but to pile on new interventions. But that’s not the only place where we can see the phenomenon.

    David goes on to mention the California pot thing, above. But also:

    Or how about President Biden’s $213 billion federal program for affordable housing? He proposes to build 500,000 affordable units. And upgrade others. And also “an innovative, new competitive grant program” to encourage cities and states to reform or eliminate exclusionary zoning rules. So that part is good, but why do cities and states need a federal grant to change their laws? Meanwhile, Amazon is planning to spend $2 billion to encourage affordable housing. But why spend all this taxpayer (and shareholder) money? Just fix the original problem: zoning and land‐​use regulations drive up the cost and complexity of building housing. All these new affordable‐​housing programs are trying to fix a problem caused by existing government programs.

    Also (just off the top of my head) proposals to drop Federal Helicopter Money on improving broadband access. When the lack of such access is largely due to government-granted monopolies, regulatory capture, and old-fashioned corruption.


  • Probability Zero. Jerry Coyne excerpts a modest proposal from a Chronicle of Higher Education article by fellow Chicago prof Tom Ginsburg: Universities Need Dedicated Units and Officers to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech. (The Chronicle has an obnoxious semi-permeable paywall, but the excerpt will give you the gist.)

    In recent years, colleges have devoted significant resources to institutionalizing diversity, inclusion, and equity. These efforts accelerated after the murder of George Floyd, and many colleges are now creating vice president- or vice provost-level positions, leading entire bureaucracies devoted to this effort. As a requirement of federal law, colleges have also developed Title IX bureaucracies, which help to ensure that institutions receiving federal money deal with sexual harassment. Whatever one thinks of the implementation (and the implementation of Title IX in particular has been controversial), it is clear that colleges are serious about these important goals.

    In contrast, in most institutions of higher learning, issues of academic freedom or free speech have no designated campus officer. There is no emerging profession devoted to it, no mandatory training programs, no resources for faculty members and students who want to understand what it means. There are no job ads posted for vice presidents for academic freedom. Instead, academic-freedom controversies tend to be left to faculty committees, whose membership turns over regularly, or to ad hoc decisions by provosts and presidents. Among students, questions of freedom of expression are left to deans of students or in some cases to the diversity bureaucracy. Without an institutional base to protect free inquiry, standards are applied in an uneven way. The risk is that administrators will simply give in to the loudest voice in the room, which will, by definition, never be someone whose full-time job is to speak up for academic freedom.

    Excellent point, and a decent idea. It's a pity that free speech principles aren't deeply ingrained in university administrators; as it is, they can't be trusted to push back on illiberalism on their own.


  • Whew. John McWhorter reassures: You Are Not A Racist To Criticize Critical Race Theory.

    Since a year ago, CRT-infused members of The Elect, traditionally overrepresented in the world of schools of education, have sought to take the opportunity furnished by our “racial reckoning” to turn American schools into academies of “antiracist” indoctrination.

    And the backlash is on.  One by one parents, teachers and even students are speaking out against the idea that the soul of education must be to battle the power that whites have over others.

    Yes, that’s the watchcry. It’s why The Elect can make so little sense to the rest of us: they actually believe that the heart of all intellectual, moral, and artistic endeavor must be battling power differentials. They get this from Critical Race Theory. And what most alarms The Elect is that state legislatures are proposing to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, Florida being the latest example.

    One response to this backlash is that anyone who questions the takeover of schools by CRT is against schoolkids learning about racism, and wants schoolkids to have the adulatory view of the American story typical of the 1950s and before. […]

    I doubt if Professor McWhorter read Robert Azzi's recent column, but (gee) that crack about the 1950s was on target. Here's Azzi's second paragraph about the people opposing CRT:

    The message embedded in their anti-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) screeds – and in the anti-American legislation they inspire – is racist; opposed to anything that post-dates The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best and which presumes that they – white Americans – know better than people of color what the oppressed and disenfranchised have endured for generations – and continue to endure.

    Before you point out that Professor McWhorter is a Person of Color, note that Azzi dismissed that in the previous paragraph: he's one of those BIPOCs "seduced by their proximity to power."


  • Same As The Old Know-Nothings. Jonah Goldberg's midweek G-File is behind the Dispatch paywall, but there's a New Hampshire angle in The New Know Nothings that I'll quote:

    Let’s consider Jason Riddle.

    Riddle, the pride of Keene, New Hampshire, was one of the Capitol rioters. You may have seen images of him quaffing some vino he stole from a liquor cabinet he found amid the ransacking. He got a little taste of fame as a result and now wants to run for office, in part because pro-riot folks told him he should. As he explained to a local NBC affiliate, “In the long run, if you're running for office, any attention is good attention, so I think it will help me.”

    And in a world of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetzes, who can really argue?

    Asked what his arrest for participating in the riot should tell voters, Riddle said, “It tells them I show up. I'm going to actually keep my promises and make some changes.” His campaign platform will be something like “Let’s get back to work.”

    He’s now running against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in the 2022 midterms.

    Now, you really should watch the video to get the full effect. But the next time we hear from Riddle, he says, “I thought Anne was a state representative.”

    NBC reporter Katherine Underwood explains to Riddle that his intended opponent is actually a congresswoman in Washington, not a state rep in Concord, New Hampshire.

    “Oh, I guess I gotta run against that, then,” Riddle says.

    Look, I don’t know jack about this guy beyond what I just told you. He may be a genius at canasta. He could be a hair’s breadth from completing his cold fusion reactor in his garage. For all I know, he may be the only person in the world who has Kobayashi Maru-ed 12-minute brownies by baking them in only seven minutes. But when it comes to politics, this guy is a moron; the “back to work” candidate isn’t willing to put any work at all into figuring out what he’s doing.

    He's also an idiot. And Jonah explains the distinction, but you'll have to pony up to the Dispatch for that.