The Bullet That Missed

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This is the third entry in Richard Osman's "Thursday Murder Club" series. It's predictably funny, and (somewhat surprisingly) warm and sentimental at the same time. Prospective readers will want to check out the first two volumes before reading this one; a number of characters from previous books are brought back. And a pile of new characters are introduced.

But it starts out simply enough. The four core members of the TMC (Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron) decide to investigate an old unsolved case: the (apparent) murder, years ago, of TV investigative reporter Bethany Waites. She was investigating a massive fraud involving evasion of the Value Added Tax, to the tune of millions of pounds. (Value Added Tax? Pounds? It's British stuff.) Her last communication promised a breakthrough that was "absolute dynamite". And then her car was found at the bottom of a tall cliff.

Plus which, Elizabeth and her senile husband Stephen are abducted on a walk, taken to see the "Viking". Who demands that Elizabeth use her Bond-like spy skills to kill an old adversary, Viktor, a one-time KGB kingpin. And if Elizabeth declines, the Viking promises to murder… Joyce! Quite the pickle.

These two plot threads interact in unexpected ways.

It seems a movie is in the works. Nobody asked me, but I continue to see Judi Dench as Elizabeth and Penelope Wilton as Joyce. (Joyce is described as "tiny", Penelope Wilton is not, but I don't care.)

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:58 PM EDT

Just Say No To "Doing Something"

A short video from Reason asks Do 'More Guns Lead To More Deaths'?

There's a text version at the link, if you'd prefer that.

Recent school shootings—like the one last year in Uvalde, Texas, where law enforcement officials not only did nothing to prevent an active shooter but restrained parents trying to rescue their children—underscore that police need better and more effective training. The 2018 school shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida drove home how many red flags school staff, law enforcement, and social workers had ignored.

To simply say that the people in charge of school safety need to do better is deeply unsatisfying, but it might be the best option, especially if the rush to "do something" means trying something that we already know is impossible, ineffective, or both.

Briefly noted:

  • Victor Davis Hanson looks at claims that "no one is above the law" and asks the musical question: Indict One—And All?.

    [W]hat crime did Trump not do that others did with either impunity or without being arrested? Here is a sample of 20.

    1. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by destroying federally subpoenaed emails and devices in order to hide evidence.
    2. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by sending classified government communications on her own, through an unsecured home-brewed server.
    3. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by hiring—through three paywalls—a foreign national, who is prohibited from working on presidential campaigns, to compile a dossier to smear her presidential opponent.
    4. Trump did not violate federal campaign laws, as did Hillary Clinton, by hiding her payments (as “legal services”) to Christopher Steele through bookkeeping deceptions.

    Well, we will stop there, but as VDH notes, he's got 16 more.

    Arresting them all seems like a sensible and prudent path.

  • We've been skeptical here at Pun Salad about "Red Flag" laws, but Veronique de Rugy points out that there should be some in a different area: More Entitlement Red Flags as Politicians Tout Inaction.

    Republicans and Democrats have been tripping over each other to tell voters how committed they are to making zero changes to Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees just confirmed yet again that within 10 years the programs' funds will be insolvent.

    It's hard to forget the scene during the most recent State of the Union address, when President Joe Biden accused Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare and Republicans — including one who shouted from her seat — called that a lie. The mutual refusal to take responsibility for the nasty fiscal condition of entitlement programs is decades old. Indeed, the findings of the Trustees' report are not surprising to anyone who follows these programs' finances.

    Social Security, readers might remember, has been relying on its trust funds' IOU since 2010 to fully pay for retirees' benefits. Assets are running low and will be gone by 2033. When that happens, it won't be authorized to make the entirety of these payments — only the amount it collects in payroll taxes. That's a 23% cut. You can tell a similar story about the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund for Medicare. By 2031, the program will be insolvent, and benefits will be cut by 11%. That's an understatement since the solvency calculations exclude Medicare's physician (Part B) and drug (Part D) programs, which face a $1 trillion shortfall over the next decade.

    Effective fixes can only happen if CongressCritters and the President start acting like responsible adults.

    So don't hold your breath waiting on that to happen.

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News: Malice Toward All?.

    The case would have made the late Tom Wolfe throw away his fountain pen and declare satire a thing of the past. Beyond the imbecilic stories about Venezuelan hackers and the predictable George Soros stuff, Fox News hosts such as Maria Bartiromo sat there nodding like well-dosed junkies while Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell put forward a series of fantastical claims that were based in part—this is the part you cannot make up—on an anonymous email from a source who at times claimed to be a ghost and at other times said she received the information in dreams and visions. “I was internally decapitated, and yet, I live,” the ghost said. Not all of the ghost’s stories made it on the air: The same source apparently claimed that the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia had been killed during a human-hunting expedition organized by the Bohemian Club and that Roger Ailes spent the 2020 election season plotting against the president in spite of his being inconveniently dead since 2017. 

    One of the legal terms of art that comes up in determining “actual malice” in a libel or defamation case is “reckless disregard for the truth.” I am a former newspaper editor, not a lawyer, but if a reporter had brought me a piece and the source was a [profane 13-letter participle adjective deleted] ghost, I would fire that reporter on the spot, lament that in these civilized times I could not throw him out the [same participle] window, and write “RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR THE TRUTH” on the HR paperwork. 

    I found myself spelling out a word, counting to 13 on my fingers… yeah, probably he meant that one.

  • Over the past few days, I've been ranting about people who demand we "Do Something". Closely related is a term that's a burr under Christian Schneider's saddle: We Need a National Conversation about National Conversations. A slice:

    One need not be online long to bump one’s head on a call for a national conversation. Topics recently deemed worthy of the nation’s undivided attention include race, abortion, the Oscars, mental health, guns, high-speed rail, wildfires, reparations, pit bulls, drinking during the pandemic, obesity, and football. (It would be tough for us Americans to all talk at once about obesity while stuffing our mouths with sandwiches that use fried chicken patties as bread.)


    If, following William Safire’s advice, clichés are to be avoided like the plague, one must then stay off the internet, as the online world is a wet market of hackneyed platitudes. In the case of calls for a national conversation, the cliché substitutes for an argument. Calling for an issue to be the topic of every coffeehouse discussion conveys that an issue is too serious for regular Americans to ignore. It’s assumed that the issue is of paramount importance, and who would question that?

    I demand we do something about people who demand national conversations. Obvs.