Hit Man

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Hit Man]

This Netflix movie got an intriguing review from Peter Suderman at Reason, so (as they say) why not? It is genre-icized at IMDB as "Action, Comedy, Crime", but I'd add the caveat that the comedy is pretty dark.

Glen Powell plays Gary Johnson, an affable instructor at the local college. But he moonlights as the technical guy for a small squad of cops with a unique specialty: one of them poses as a hired assassin, then when money changes hands, the team swoops in to arrest the "customer".

Apparently it's illegal to even hire a hit man, even a pretend one. Go figure.

Anyway, one day an unexpected emergency occurs, and Gary is enlisted to play the fake hit man. It turns out he's good at it! So good that he becomes the regular fake, and the previous one gets relegated to backup status. Causing some hard feelings.

Further complication: one customer turns out to be a beautiful woman, Madison. And while discussing things with Gary, she displays ambivalence. Gary talks her out of the deal, but… oops, it seems he's got himself romantically involved. And then things get really complicated. It's a screwball comedy, except with killing.

For a slightly more sophisticated analysis of what's going on, see the Suderman review linked above. I have to admit being disappointed in the ending.

The Hunter

(paid link)

Tana French's sequel of sorts to The Searcher, which I read back in 2021. Three years ago! And I've never been good about retaining plot/character details in my head, and this is something that hasn't improved with age.

It continues the saga of Cal, an ex-cop from Chicago who's settled down in small-town Ireland for his retirement. He's got a girlfriend, and he's also grown attached to Trey, a troubled teenager. The mystery of what happened to her older brother was resolved to everyone else's semi-satisfaction in the previous book, but not to hers.

Into this unstable situation comes Trey's estranged father, Johnny, who's in league with an (alleged) English millionaire. They've come (they claim) to track down rumors of gold in the area. They attempt to enlist the aid of the locals; the locals see it as an opportunity to put one over on the millionaire.

And it takes a long time before someone finally turns up dead, which brings in a detective from the Dublin Murder Squad named Nealon. (I don't remember him from previous books, but—see above—I probably wouldn't.)

I might be wrong about this too: Ms. French has never been particularly funny in her past books, but I thought there were some pretty amusing scenes and dialog in this one, especially in the early going. Fair play to her.

Why I Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal

You may have seen some version of the Pope Francis/President Joe picture from the G-7 Summit. (Getty version at your right.) The WSJ had it at the top of page one this morning, and the associated headline was

In a G-7 First, Heads of State Meet

You laughed, right? The below-pic caption was also pretty good:

SKULL SESSION: Pope Francis and President Biden, a Catholic, talk Friday as leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations met in Savelletri, Italy. Francis became the first pontiff to address a G-7 summit, warning of the risks of artificial intelligence.

"Skull session". Ha!

If you'd like to read the WSJ's serious article on the doings, here's a gifted link: G-7 Nations Criticize Chinese Subsidies, High-Tech Exports.

Or instead, check out the Bablyon Bee's headline: Biden Disappointed After Huge Scoop Of Vanilla Ice Cream Turns Out To Be Pope Francis. You can click over for the article, but as usual for the Bee, 90% of the laughs are in the headline.

Also of note:

  • Unexpectedly! Dominic Pino, subbing for Audrey Fahlberg, who is subbing for Jim Geraghty, reports some good news: Affordable Connectivity Program: Web Welfare Expired, and the Sky Hasn’t Fallen.

    The impossible has happened: A welfare program ended. Congress created a web-welfare program on an “emergency” basis during the Covid pandemic, and, in classic Washington form, politicians tried to make it permanent. They rebranded it the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and gave it billions in extra funding. The program provided subsidies of up to $30 per month to qualifying households for broadband-internet service.

    It began providing benefits in May 2021 and accumulated over 20 million enrollees. Congress did not give it more funding, though, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was responsible for administering it, stopped accepting new enrollees in February of this year. The ACP paid its last benefits on May 31, and all funding for it has been exhausted.

    Are millions of people losing internet access? No. We knew that wouldn’t happen, even though ACP supporters were fearmongering that it would.

    Pino also points out the program was fraud-ridden. And (like the local example I talked about yesterday, it was billed as "emergency" pandemic relief. Even though there was no emergency. And nobody got any subsidies until after the pandemic was on the way out.

  • Fauci is getting grouchy. Jon Miltimore notes that there probably was no "The Buck Stops Here" sign in his office: Fauci’s ‘Don’t Blame Me’ Testimony and the Government Accountability Problem.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci was at the Capitol recently following revelations that his top adviser, Dr. David Morens, and other National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases officials took active steps to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, including destroying records and intentionally misspelling names to avoid searches.

    Fauci conceded that mistakes were made, just not by him.

    “That was wrong and inappropriate and violated policy,” Fauci said of Morens’s scheme to “disappear” problematic emails. “He should not have done that.”

    Fauci’s chief of staff was in on the scheme. Emails show that Gregory Folkers intentionally misspelled the name of Kristian Andersen, a tactic Morens suggested to avoid FOIA, after Andersen received an $8.9 million NIAID grant, which came two months after he authored a paper arguing that it was “improbable” that COVID-19 had a lab origin.

    This is why the adjective you seem to see preceding "bureaucrat" most often is "unaccountable".

    But speaking of appropriate adjectives…

  • I might have said "ignorant" instead. But Eric Boehm used a slightly milder adjective: J.D. Vance's Incoherent Argument for Higher Minimum Wages. Quoting from Vance's NYT interview, Boehm's emphasis: :

    The populist vision, at least as it exists in my head, is an inversion of [the postwar American order of globalization]: applying as much upward pressure on wages and as much downward pressure on the services that the people use as possible. We've had far too little innovation over the last 40 years, and far too much labor substitution. This is why I think the economics profession is fundamentally wrong about both immigration and about tariffs. Yes, tariffs can apply upward pricing pressure on various things—though I think it's massively overstated—but when you are forced to do more with your domestic labor force, you have all of these positive dynamic effects.

    It's a classic formulation: You raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, and you will sometimes hear libertarians say this is a bad thing. "Well, isn't McDonald's just going to replace some of the workers with kiosks?" That's a good thing, because then the workers who are still there are going to make higher wages; the kiosks will perform a useful function; and that's the kind of rising tide that actually lifts all boats. What is not good is you replace the McDonald's worker from Middletown, Ohio, who makes $17 an hour with an immigrant who makes $15 an hour. And that is, I think, the main thrust of elite liberalism, whether people acknowledge it or not.


    The basic fallacy here is one that President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and plenty of other politicians make regularly: They talk as though America is made up of one group of people who are "workers" and another group who are "consumers."

    If this was so, you could focus on policies that raise wages for one group—the workers—at the expense of the other. But since most people are sometimes a worker and other times a consumer, policies that artificially apply "upward pressure on wages" also apply upward pressure on the prices consumers pay (because those wages have to come from somewhere). If you want to see how this plays out in reality, just look at California's experience with a $20 minimum wage. Prices have skyrocketed and jobs are being lost.

    I am no longer a "worker", just a "consumer", but I see his point.

  • The Day of the Censor. Larry Taunton has a really interesting article about a classy older gent: How Novelist Frederick Forsyth Learned He'd Been 'Bowdlerized'. Specifically, his 1084 novel, The Fourth Protocol:

    The Fourth Protocol is a political thriller in which the Soviets attempt to detonate a nuclear device next to an American military base in Britain. The novel contains fictitious letters from the very real English traitor Kim Philby — and still very much alive at the time of the book’s publication — to the general secretary of the Communist Party. A former MI6 operative and one of the infamous “Cambridge Five” in real life, the fictitious Philby, now in exile in Moscow, explains to his communist hosts how British democracy might be subverted from within via a classic “march through the institutions”:

    …all history teaches that soundly based democracies can only be toppled by mass action in the streets when the police and armed forces have been sufficiently penetrated by the revolutionaries that large numbers of them can be expected to refuse to obey the orders of their officers and side instead with the demonstrators….

    Our friends have done what they can. Since taking control of numerous large metropolitan authorities, through the press and the media, at every level high and low, they have either themselves, or using wild young people of the Trotskyite [i.e., communist] splinter factions as shock troops, carried out an unrelenting campaign to denigrate, vilify and undermine the British police. The aim, of course, is to vitiate or destroy the confidence of the British public in their police, which unfortunately remains the most affable and disciplined in the world….

    I have narrated all of this only to substantiate one argument … that the path [to socialism] now lies though … the largely successful campaign of the Hard Left to take over the Labour Party from inside…

    Paragraphs like these, numerous and detailing Marxist strategy, jolted me from the work of cutting hay for my horses. This was not merely fiction. It was a road map for the overthrow of Western governments. More than that, it was precisely what we were seeing taking place in America’s streets in the carefully orchestrated riots of Antifa, BLM, and the whole “Defund the Police” agenda.

    And these paragraphs have been removed from later printings of The Fourth Protocol. Without Forsyth's knowledge apparently.

    I await the outcry from the folks who are incessantly incensed about the "book banners". But I'm not holding my breath.