Casino Royale

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For obscure reasons (long story, you don't care, trust me) I've decided to undertake a new reading project: Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. I read a number of them back in my youth. Things were complicated, however, when Mom glanced through the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me, and forbade further excursions into the 007 oeuvre.

I was sneaky though, sorry Mom. Although I never did read The Spy Who Loved Me.

Anyway, started with book one, 1953's Casino Royale. Bond is tasked with taking down a Soviet Communist stooge, Le Chiffre, by beating him soundly at the high-stakes baccarat table in a fancy French gambling resort. In this he's assisted by the beautiful Vesper Lynd, French agent René Mathis, and the CIA's Felix Leiter. Once Bond is in place, he's told his room has been bugged, and a couple of bungling hit men try to kill him. Jimmy, I think your cover is blown.

He makes it to the table, there's a lot of gambling drama, but that's over by page 83 of this 178-page edition. Then there's some really gruesome violence, over by page 120 or so. Then there's physical recovery (up to page 145), Bond decides to give up spying, then follows a love story with a tragic ending winding things up.

The book is weirdly paced, is what I'm trying to say. And it very much shows its age; at one point Bond muses about the "sweet tang of rape". That wouldn't pass muster these days, Ian.

This is (more or less) 007's origin story, setting up the series as his revenge against the Soviets who did him very wrong here. And the very last line is one of the more brutal book endings I've read.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 9:31 AM EDT

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  • Omnis humanitas in tres partes dividitur. Arnold Kling names them: Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers.

    The political ecosystem consists of Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers. Deceivers have a gift for gaining power over others. Think Clinton, Obama, or Trump. Think of the purveyors of the folk versions of critical theory. Skeptics are those who see through the Deceivers and who stick with classical liberal values. Think Thomas Sowell, Robin Hanson, or Bryan Caplan.

    Enablers are those who help Deceivers gain power. Think of people of strong partisan faith. They think that the candidate they are voting for is not a Deceiver. They take the professed intentions of political activists at face value.

    It's a lot easier to see enablers on the Other Side, innit? Here's one of Kling's examples:

    I am afraid that Jonathan Rauch is also an enabler. His books The Kindly Inquisitors and The Constitution of Knowledge brilliantly articulate the values of free speech, intellectual humility, and free inquiry. But when we see Yale and The New York Times repeatedly and decisively reject those values, he still treats them with respect, as if they are still at heart the same institutions that they were when he was a boy. Even though Donald Trump has been out of office for a year and a half, Rauch still seems willing to see Trump as an excuse for the illiberal young brats and their Enabler editors at newspapers and universities.

    I read The Constitution of Knowledge last month; my report is here. It meshes pretty well with Kling's take.

  • For all you bodily autonomy fans. Chris Freiman has a suggestion: End the War on Drugs—Including Nicotine.

    Libertarians are no doubt dismayed by the FDA’s recent ban on Juul vaping products (although the current status of the ban is unclear) and the news that the Biden administration is planning to mandate lower nicotine levels in cigarettes. But libertarians shouldn’t be the only ones opposed to state-enforced nicotine restrictions.

    For one, all liberals recognize a right of bodily autonomy: “my body, my choice.” If it’s your body, it’s your choice to put nicotine in it even if it’s harmful. By analogy, if it’s your car, it’s your choice to put sugar in the gas tank even if it’s harmful.

    Indeed, the right of bodily autonomy entitles people to make far more harmful decisions than smoking. You may decline a life-saving blood transfusion, so it’s hard to see why you may not smoke high-nicotine cigarettes—a choice that will result in significantly fewer life years lost.

    We (obviously) didn't Learn Our Lesson with alcohol prohibition. Even though (NIH estimate) it kills 95,000 people/year in the US. Which is slightly more than (even) recent drug overdose fatality rates (combining fentanyl, meth, cocaine, …).

    Yes, nicotine is addictive, and it can kill you. But that's true of caffeine too. Nobody's talking about government crackdowns on caffeine addiction. Probably too many Starbucks customers at the FDA.

  • Perhaps with concrete overshoes. Charles C. W. Cooke notes the danger signs: Democrats Prepare to Throw Biden Overboard. Discussing the recent NYT polling that says “only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate [Biden] in 2024.” Ouch! CCWC looks at some recent history:

    Apologists for Joe Biden — and for the media’s coverage of him — like to insist that his shortcomings have been covered amply since he first announced he was running for president. But that isn’t quite right. It is true that Biden was frequently cast in a negative light during the 2019 primaries: Back when there was a chance that someone else might be the nominee, Biden was often said to be too old, or too gaffe-prone, or too racist, or too law-and-order-ish to be the nominee. It is not true, however, that these criticisms continued in earnest once Biden had secured the Democratic nomination. Remember those SNL skits that showed Biden as a confused, mendacious, out-of-touch, geriatric has-been? Remember how they stopped once he represented the only chance to beat Donald Trump? The same thing happened in the press. In December 2019, Joe Biden was ancient and ineloquent. By the summer of 2020, he was the experienced survivor of a debilitating stutter. By 2021, only a rotter would have suggested that he might be over the hill. “Casual ageism,” Jill Lawrence wrote in USA Today last summer, “is a staple of the conservative arsenal against the president.” Not only was there nothing at all to “the right’s narrative about Biden’s acuity,” Lawrence went on to explain, but “the age-related conservative offensive reprise[d] the blatant psychological projection of the Trump era.” “Fundamentally,” she concluded, “the tactic is out of whack with reality.”

    By “reality,” Lawrence really meant “the Democrats’ priorities.” And what a difference 14 approval-rating points have made! When Lawrence penned her column, Biden’s approval–disapproval split was about even, a “comeback” was supposedly on the horizon, and chatter about replacing him on the 2024 ticket hadn’t yet really begun in earnest. Now, Biden is the most unpopular president in a century, the idea of a “comeback” seems absurd on its face, and the Democrats are wondering aloud if they will be able to get rid of him without a bloody fight. In the Times’ poll, 74 percent of Democrats, including 94 percent of Democrats under the age of 30, said they wanted a different nominee in 2024. Among that supermajority, “concerns about his age ranked at the top of the list” of reasons for wishing he’d retire after one term. How does “casual ageism” become “distinct challenges”? That’s how. How does “the right’s narrative” become “an uncomfortable issue for [Biden] and his party”? That’s how. How do we move from talking about an “age-related conservative offensive” to gleefully printing quotes from a voter who compares “the president to zombies”? That’s how. This isn’t about the truth. It’s about the polls.

    I wonder how many top Democrats are rewatching Tom Hagen's visit to Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II for tips on how best to approach Biden?

  • More on the upcoming defenestration. From David Harsanyi: For Biden, Polls Are Probably Worse Than They Seem.

    No modern president, as far as I can tell, has faced higher dissatisfaction in his own party during his first term. Only 13 percent of voters say the United States is on the right track, the lowest number since they began asking this question during the great recession.

    Not long ago, left-wing pundits couldn’t stop talking about Donald Trump’s poll numbers — “Donald Trump is remarkably unpopular,” “The unprecedented unpopularity of Donald Trump,” “Trump is officially the most unpopular president since modern polling began in the 1930s. It will forever be his legacy,” and so on. A president with that kind of piddling support, they would argue, had no business initiating policy changes. Nowadays, Democrats want their historically unpopular president to sign “transformative” legislation using reconciliation and unilaterally restructure American governance. The only consistent characteristic of modern liberalism is the unyielding belief that politics should be played by two sets of rules.


    Republicans, though, should remember that job approval rating is measured in a bubble. The New York Times/Siena College poll finds Biden winning a match-up against Donald Trump 44-41. The real presidential election is largely a binary choice for those who vote, and many of those dissatisfied with Biden may never vote for a Republican.

    Trump fans can console themselves by going to, where Bone Spurs is beating Wheezy handily.

  • Dr. Jill's also kind of losing it. So everyone's heard about this, but Jim Geraghty has a very good take on Jill Biden’s Speech: A Hard Lesson about the New Reality.

    Let’s begin with an assessment that I suspect many readers will find too generous: First Lady Jill Biden has no discernible animosity, ill will, or hatred toward Latinos.

    What Jill Biden does have is a certain tone-deafness and presumptuousness toward them — and likely toward lots of other people — along with far too much confidence that every word that drips from her lips is a gift on par with manna from heaven. This is a trait she shares with her husband.

    Jill Biden’s prepared remarks at the 2022 UnidosUS Annual Conference in San Antonio on Monday included this paragraph: “Raul [Yzaguirre] helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community — as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio — is your strength.”

    Except she pronounced “bodegas” as “bogodas.” Bodegas, blossoms, and breakfast tacos are all rather clichéd examples of American Latino culture; I suppose we should be thankful she didn’t add, “and as fast as Speedy Gonzalez.” Beyond that, the metaphor doesn’t really work; go order two of the same kind of breakfast tacos from the same restaurant and see how unique they are. If she had declared, “The Scandinavian-Americans of Minnesota are as unique as pancakes,” everyone would have instantly seen the problem with the comparison. It would have been bad enough if she said it off the cuff, but this was part of Biden’s prepared remarks, meaning it had been written, and approved, by an allegedly professional speechwriter.

    Geraghty notes the response of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists/Asociación Nacional de Periodistas Hispanos , which said in part, "We are not tacos."

    Mi amigos, she didn't say you were tacos. She doesn't think you're tacos. Nobody thinks you're tacos.

    She said you were as unique as breakfast tacos. Specifically, the ones in San Antonio.

    The only decent response is: Doctor Jill, that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Your speechwriters are on drugs.

  • Shut up, they explained. Reason reminds us what happens when you don't have a First Amendment: Shhhh!.

    The Université Laval, a public university in Quebec, has suspended Patrick Provost, a professor of microbiology and immunology, for eight weeks without pay for saying at a conference that he believes the risks of vaccinating children for COVID-19 outweigh the benefits. A university committee declared that his remarks were not objective. "I was just doing what I was hired to do," Provost said. "I had some concerns about something, I searched the literature and I prepared a speech, delivered it to the public. Being censored for doing what I've been trained to do—and hired to do—well, it's hard to believe."

    Prof, if you've been watching the news lately, it's really easy to believe.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 9:31 AM EDT