L. A. Requiem

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Wow, hard to believe that I'm up to book 8 on my reread-Crais project (started in 2020). This one seems to mark a turn in the series: Crais's heroes, friends and partners Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, undergo a lot of pain and suffering here, both physical and mental. We get a lot of Pike's backstory, how he became the stoic force of nature that he is, and why most of the LAPD despise him.

And it all starts so innocently, with an apparently random murder of Karen Garcia, shot at point-blank range while jogging around the Lake Hollywood reservoir. Karen's dad is unsatisfied with the progress of the police investigation, so hires Elvis and Joe to do their diligent detective work. Dad also has powerful political connections, enabling the LAPD to grudgingly cooperate.

Big complications: (1) Karen was Pike's onetime girlfriend. (2) The cops are outwardly cooperative, but Elvis detects that they're hiding some important details. (3) There seems to be a mole within the cop shop leaking damaging information to the press. (4) And Elvis's girlfriend, Lucy, has moved to L. A., but unfortunately without fully appreciating the nature of Elvis's business, nor the unshakeable mutual devotion between Joe and him.

It's 400 pages, and I found it impossible to put down starting around page 330 or so. (Actual 11pm dialog: "Are you trying to finish that tonight?" "Yes, am I keeping you awake?" "Nooo…")

URLs du Jour

2022-06-02

  • I have a bad feeling about this. Douglas Ernst's tweet is specifically about the latest Star Wars kerfuffle, but it has wider applicability:

    It's a dishonest strategy, adaptable by demagogues and grifters of any political persuasion.

    But we watched the first episode of "Obi-Wan Kenobi" the other night, and it's good! As long as Stacy Abrams doesn't show up as Grand Moff Tarkin's wife or something, we should be fine.


  • You don't have to be crazy to live here, but it helps. Liah Greenfeld makes some interesting points about The West’s Struggle for Mental Health.

    Since the 1990s, there has been talk of a mental-health epidemic in the U.S., particularly among young people. The mass shootings last month in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., carried out by 18-year-old gunmen, have heightened fears that something’s gone horribly wrong. But the problem isn’t new. American psychiatrists have been studying rates of functional mental illness, such as depressive disorders and schizophrenia, since the 1840s. These studies show that the ratio of those suffering from such diseases to the mentally healthy population has been consistently rising.

    Ten years ago, based on the annual Healthy Minds study of college students, 1 in 5 college students was dealing with mental illness. Between 2013 and 2021, according to Healthy Minds, the share of U.S. college students affected by depression surged 135%. During the same period, the share of students afflicted by any psychiatric illness doubled to more than 40%. “America’s youth,” wrote journalist Neal Freyman in April, “are in the midst of a spiking mental health crisis, and public health experts are racing to identify the root causes before it gets even worse.”

    They are right to race. Functional mental illness threatens society’s existence and lies behind its social, economic and political ills.

    "Functional" mental illness is a term of art, specifically shrink art. Its cause is unknown, and there are no cures, only management via medication. It may be, Ms Greenfeld says, "a characteristic disease of prosperous and secure liberal democracies."

    Well, now I'm depressed.


  • Counterpoint. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has mental health-related ideas, too: How Texas can stop mass shootings.

    With America’s politicians evidently incapable of meaningful action on the central issue of access to firearms, it seems we have little option but to focus on other ways to prevent school shootings. Chief among these is fixing America’s failing mental health system. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott certainly appears to have learned this the hard way. After the Uvalde shooting, he demanded: “We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.” Yet there was also a certain emptiness to his words: a month before the attack, Abbott transferred $211 million away from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees mental health programmes.

    With America’s politicians evidently incapable of meaningful action on the central issue of access to firearms, it seems we have little option but to focus on other ways to prevent school shootings. Chief among these is fixing America’s failing mental health system. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott certainly appears to have learned this the hard way. After the Uvalde shooting, he demanded: “We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.” Yet there was also a certain emptiness to his words: a month before the attack, Abbott transferred $211 million away from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees mental health programmes.

    Consider this. Before Salvador Ramos dropped out of high school, there were clear indications that something was wrong. Students who knew him observed that he had changed from a quiet kid with a few friends into a hostile aggressor. While he did not have any reported mental health issues, the warning signs were there, particularly in his online behaviour. On Yubo, a social media app which includes livestream videos and chatrooms, Ramos was nicknamed “the Yubo school shooter”. He harassed girls in chatrooms, threatening to rape, murder, and kidnap them. On TikTok, a classmate told The Wall Street Journal, Ramos posted a video where “he was seated in the passenger seat of a car holding a bag with what appeared to be a dead cat in it”. The same behaviour surfaced on Instagram, where he posted pictures of him self-harming.

    Ms. Ali points to a state-by-state comparison of access to mental health care, which put Texas dead last among the 50 states plus D. C.

    As readers know, I'm a sucker for stuff like this. New Hampshire is number 6 overall, behind Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

    On a different scale, the site's ranking that factors in adults and youths with some sort of mental illness, NH is in 33rd. Vermont is in 50th place; only Oregon has a higher crazy-rate than Vermont.


  • Would it be too much to ask the Washington Post to stop lying about the historical understanding of gun rights? It's probably futile, but Charles C. W. Cooke gives it a good try: Stop Lying about the Historical Understanding of Gun Rights.

    If it will please the court, I will happily fall onto both my knees, throw my arms up into the air, shake my head plaintively, and plead with America’s journalists, in the name of all that is good and right, to stop doing this:

    The interpretation that the Second Amendment extends to individuals’ rights to own guns only became mainstream in 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark gun case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, that Americans have a constitutional right to own guns in their homes, knocking down the District’s handgun ban.

    This claim was made yesterday in the Washington Post, by a staff writer named Amber Phillips, under the tag “Analysis.” It is, of course, a ridiculous, contemptuous, malicious lie, a myth, or, if you prefer to use a phrase that has become popular of late, disinformation. It has never — at any point in the history of the United States — been “mainstream” to interpret the Second Amendment as anything other than a protection of “individuals’ rights to own guns.” The decision in Heller was, indeed, “landmark.” But it was so only because it represented the first time that the Supreme Court had been asked a direct question about the meaning of the amendment that, for more than two centuries up to then, had not needed to be asked.

    CCWC sums up the history, and finds Ms. Phillips deficient. Democracy dies in darkness, Ms. Phillips!


  • Do Somthing™ Watch. Daniel Henninger explains: Why ‘Do Something’ on Gun Control Won’t Work.

    A phenomenon of our times is that public events often get transformed—or reduced—into phrases, and the one that has followed the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, is “do something.” Here it means that because of the recurrence of mass shootings, something should be done to control the availability of guns in the United States.

    A related phenomenon is the belief that “do something” will produce the desired result. But what if we have arrived at the point where something close to the opposite is true? Step back and it’s hard not to notice: The American political system has accreted so many solutions and sub-solutions to so many problems that what we have created is a system mired in sludge.

    Henninger describes past responses where Somthing™ was done, bringing about today's woes. For example, the thalidomide scare of the 60s brought about today's FDA morass that makes it prohibitively expensive to bring new drugs to market for rare maladies.