Between Two Scorpions

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This is the second novel from the indispensible Jim Geraghty. I liked his first one The Weed Agency just fine, and this one is an incredibly good Kindle deal at a mere $3.99. So…

It's a spy thriller, with the heroes being a small CIA group tasked with thwarting the latest terrorist threat. It starts in a Berlin cafe, when a discredited contact warns the beautiful CIA agent Katrina of a mysterious Iranian moving money around, wanting information about planes and chemicals, very worrisome. The contact's credibility goes up a couple notches when he, and most of the people in the cafe get blown up. And when co-agent Alec (who is also Katrina's hubby) goes to check out the contact's apartment, it's on fire. As is the contact's tortured girlfriend.

It gradually develops that the plotters aim to instill massive amounts of fear into the USA. Perhaps involving a nasty drug.

There is a lot of globe-hopping by our intrepid agents to many exotic locales. Many narrow escapes from death. A lot of detective work. Violent confrontations. And some loose ends left at the end. (This is billed as "Book 1" of a potential series.)

Now, it's not perfect. The dialogue is clunky at times. The plot (frankly) strains credulity, and I am a very credulous person when it comes to this genre. And it could have used some professional editing. In Chapter 50, Katrina notices that a camel herder's getup in Turkmenistan looks like a Klan costume. And then, in case we missed it, she makes the same observation in Chapter 56.

But, all in all, a decent read.

Last Modified 2024-06-03 6:51 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


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  • At National Review, Jonah Goldberg reveals The Real Danger of Categorical Politics. Which is the term Jonah finds to be more precise than the usual "identity politics".

    The notion that all you need to know about a person is the color of their skin still strikes me as close to the definition of racism, whether you’re talking about black people or white people or people of some other hue. If you think you know what a woman is going to say before she says a word simply because you believe all women think a certain way, you’re a sexist.

    Set aside the question of bigotry for a moment, since I don’t think everyone who talks in these terms does so with evil intent. There are other problems with this kind of categorical thinking. The two most important: It’s not true, and it’s lazy.

    And (untrue) + (lazy) = (stupid).

    Yesterday, I chuckled at Victor Davis Hanson's hexfecta: "upper-middle-class, white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or old". That's me, dude. You know who else it is? Joe Biden.

    [At least before Joe became an S-Corp Millionaire.]

    You think I'm anything like Joe Biden? C'mon, man!

  • An article from the "bad news" half of the current issue of Reason by Tom Palmer The Terrifying Rise of Authoritarian Populism. "Populism" is kind of an inkblot, a label applied to all sorts of movements, most of which seem to despise each other. But Tom notes a couple common threads:

    The policies promoted by those governments [Turkey, Hungary, USA] vary, but they reject two related ideas. One is pluralism, the idea that people are variegated, with different interests and values that need to be negotiated through democratic political processes. The other is liberalism—not in the narrow American sense of the political center-left, but the broader belief that individuals have rights and the state's power should be limited to protect those rights.

    Populists can be "of the left," but they need not be motivated by Marxian ideas of class conflict or central planning. They can be "of the right," but they are distinctly different from old-school reactionaries who yearn for a lost world of ordered hierarchies; if anything, they tend to dissolve old-fashioned classes and social orders into the undifferentiated mass of The People. Or they can reject the left/right spectrum altogether. As the French populist leader Marine Le Pen put it in 2015, "Now the split isn't between the left and the right but between the globalists and the patriots."

    Also see my take on a book of essays on populism, Vox Populi, edited by Roger Kimball.

  • The (possibly paywalled) WSJ offered a provocative column by Jo Craven McGinty: Is It Time to Drop Local Time Zones?. (That was the print edition headline. Online, it's "Major Industries Use Coordinated Universal Time. Why Doesn’t Everyone Else?")

    A pair of Johns Hopkins professors want to change the way we keep time. Everyone, they argue, should abandon local time zones and instead set all clocks to Coordinated Universal Time.

    If that were to happen, the world’s timepieces would show the same hour at the same time, no matter where in the sky the sun was positioned.

    Longtime readers might remember that this is a change I've long advocated. (See my 2013 post, "The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero."). The Johns Hopkins professors, Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry, have a website discussing this idea. (But mostly aimed at their "Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar", an even wackier proposal. Check it out.)

    I've framed this in terms of "separation of time and state": the government should simply use UTC itself and stop mandating what we use. But:

    Today, because essential industries have voluntarily switched to UTC, Hanke and Henry believe it’s only a matter of time before the general public embraces the idea.

    But if that doesn’t happen, they have a backup plan.

    A president who is adept at branding, they gleefully muse, could convert the U.S. to UTC by executive order, and the world would follow suit.

    “This is just made for Trump, ” Dr. Hanke said. “Trump Towers? Forget it. That’s peanuts. Can you imagine Trump Time?”

    To quote Han Solo: I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit.

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for… France?! Yes: Hundreds of migrants occupy Paris Pantheon in 'Black Vests' protest.

    France on Saturday detained 21 African migrants who surged into the Pantheon in Paris to push their claims for regularised status, police said.

    The 21 will be held pending investigation into potentially "violating legislation on foreigners," the local prefecture said.

    The Pantheon, the article explains, is "the final resting place of France's greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola." But where's LFOD?

    Well, it's not in the current version of the article. But:

    Well, the inscription actually says "Vivre Libre ou Mourir". We should remember that General Stark kind of stole his "Live Free or Die" from this French Revolution slogan.

  • On a related note, Roger Kimball, writing in American Greatness, urges us: Don’t Celebrate Bastille Day. Which was, as I type, yesterday, July 14. And I didn't.

    Since I am writing on Bastille Day, I am prompted to wonder why the French—or anyone else, for that matter—celebrate this infamous date. After all, the “storming” of that royal keep in 1789 was the spark that started the conflagration of the French Revolution. Unlike the American Revolution, in which the rule of law and the institutions of civil society survived the change of governments, the French Revolution was one of the signal bad events in world history. It consumed civil society and the centuries-old institutions of civilization. It was an unalloyed triumph of the totalitarian spirit, and in this respect it presaged and inspired that even greater assault on decency and freedom, the Bolshevik Revolution, the opening act of one of the darkest chapters in human history. The butcher’s bill for the French Revolution is many hundreds of thousands. Soviet Communism was responsible for the deaths of tens upon tens of millions and the universal immiseration of the people whose lives it controlled.

    Yet today’s news is full of cheery stories about Bastille Day celebrations. Why?

    Well, it gave us "Live Free or Die".

Last Modified 2024-06-03 6:51 AM EDT