Monday, October 6, 2014

Squirrel Food

This promises to be an unusually hectic Monday, so please enjoy the following brief bits in place of the usual master's-thesis-length screed,

1. A Meeting Of Significance.

Via Doug Ross comes this colorful story about a meeting between a commentator and former Reagan-era Budget Director David Stockman:

I live only a two hour drive from New York City, but it is a world apart from my daily existence. I’ve visited the Big Apple probably a dozen times in my life, but never for longer than two or three days. I have a soft spot in my heart for NYC because it is where I proposed to my wife on a bitterly cold December evening in a horse drawn carriage ride in Central Park, twenty five years ago. But, I can honestly say that I never feel comfortable in the city.

Last week we had an opportunity to get away for a long weekend. My wife had gotten tickets to the Jimmy Fallon Show for Thursday afternoon and we decided to get a hotel room for one night and then drive directly down to Wildwood for the remainder of the weekend. My mother-in-law agreed to watch the kids, so we had ourselves a mini-vacation. I anticipated a more laid back trip than our visit to Occupy Wall Street a few years ago, that led to one of my most read articles.

A couple years ago I was shocked to receive an email from David Stockman, complimenting me on a particular article I had written. When a former Reagan budget director, founding partner of the Blackstone Group, and world renowned financial mind takes notice of something you’ve written it really boosts your morale. We have had a periodic email dialogue ever since. When he created his own website earlier this year, he asked me to be a contributor. He also told me that if I ever make it to NYC, let him know and we would meet for a drink.

But strangely enough, the meeting between Quinn and Stockman was only half the story. Please read the whole piece; It's worth your time, especially if you're not familiar with New York City. It caused me to recall a passage from one of my novels:

    They hadn't yet reached the subway station nearest to Sentry Munitions' complex when Conway began to feel afraid.
    Either his memory was faulty, or the city had changed greatly in the years he'd been away. He didn't remember the strange, ill-fitting garb the youngsters all wore, nor the oddly colored makeup, nor the bizarre hairstyles and piercings they affected. He didn't remember the deathmatch blare of boom boxes mounted on windowsills, stoops and shoulders, each screeching something obnoxious that possessed neither melody nor harmony, no two emitting the same noise. He didn't remember the dirt, the smells, or the casual discourtesy of the ubiquitous mobs.
    Conway didn't fear for himself. His size deterred most improprieties, and his physical competence had always been sufficient to deal with the remainder. He could shrug off most of the lesser nuisances. He worried for Rolf and Louis.
    Rolf looked as if he were straining not to notice a million different things. Whenever Conway watched the older man's face for more than a second, he could see Rolf's eyes cutting didoes to avoid staring: at a multiply pierced young woman in skin-tight satin leggings and a belly-baring blouse, who traded loud, profane taunts with a group of gangbangers in colors, combs stuck in their hair like axes and weapons jutting from their pockets; at a derelict who lay insensible on the sidewalk, his eyes open to the sky but no consciousness in them, while pedestrians streamed over and around him as if he were invisible; at a gaggle of ragged teenagers, two of them shoeless, one hugely pregnant, who squatted in the doorway of a tenement and squabbled over a crack pipe; at a skeletally gaunt man with wispy white hair, his calves bare below the hem of his raincoat, who grabbed at passers-by and strove mightily to convince them that the end was nigh.
    Louis was the really scary one. The wunderkind's face said nothing at all. His was the expression of a man deep in an analytical trance, computing whys and hows. Conway didn't know him well, but he was reputed throughout OA to be a genius, and as headlong a man as had ever lived. Every time his eyes locked onto something, Conway wanted to interpose himself, lest Louis decide to fix it and get them all into the soup.
    This was my idea.
    There was no comfort in that.

Quite a few readers -- all of them a fair distance from the Big Cancer Apple -- wrote me to say, more or less, that "It can't be that bad!" I forbore to disillusion them.

2. Your Tax Dollars At Play.

Apparently, Colorado has some funny ideas about what constitutes "welfare:"

For nearly two decades, Colorado law has prohibited the use of welfare cards at casinos and liquor store ATMs, and in 2012 federal law also required states to have policies prohibiting the withdrawals. But in the past two years at least $489,000 in taxpayer money has been withdrawn in exactly those Colorado locations, found.

The Colorado Department of Human Services, which manages the program, knows about the withdrawals but hasn’t punished recipients who violate the law or blocked the use of cards at casino and liquor store ATMs.

Welfare recipients withdrew about $340,000 in taxpayer cash at liquor store ATMs and another $149,000 at the state’s casinos in the past two years, according to a computer-assisted analysis of a welfare ATM database. State law doesn’t require liquor license holders or casino owners to monitor patrons who use their ATMs so store, casino and bar owners haven’t done anything wrong.

But the state is required to prohibit the transactions, and CDHS provided a letter with the database CD that shows state staff clearly knows about the violations of state and federal laws.

“Please note that fewer than one per cent of the transactions detailed occurred in prohibited locations for an amount less than one percent of the benefit dollars accessed,” wrote CDHS spokeswoman Liz McDonough.

State and federal law doesn’t say it’s okay to allow withdrawals in prohibited locations if the amount is only a small portion of the roughly $85 million in annual cash benefits taxpayers provide to Colorado welfare recipients.

“Clients shall not be allowed to access cash benefits through the electronic benefits transfer service from automated teller machines in this state located in licensed gaming establishments … or retail establishments licensed to sell malt, vinous, or spirituous liquors,” Colorado law says. Additionally, the federal law requires states to prohibit welfare withdrawals in casinos, liquor stores, adult businesses and other locations.

(Applause to Random Nuclear Strikes for the link.)

One of the verities most resented on the Left is that you must never give a pauper cash. Why, after all, are you giving him anything? Because his life, or the lives of his dependents, are imperiled by his pauper status. So what do he and they need? Food, of course, and perhaps clothing, shelter, and heat. But not cash. It's the pauper's job to acquire that through his own efforts.

Especially in a rich, advanced society like ours, very few persons are "poor," whatever your definition, for no fault of their own. Most indigents are either ne'er-do-wells or spendthrifts. To give such a person cash (or something he can easily convert to cash) and trust him to spend it wisely is like giving whiskey to a lifelong alcoholic.

But you can't say that to a liberal without being called "everything but white."

3. The Thriller Doldrums.

A fiction nattering for you to close up. Recently I've been using BookBub's recommendations as a source for leisure reading, on the supposition that a cheap book might be good anyway -- mine were very cheap (free) for about a year -- and I'm under no obligation to finish a bad book. Besides, I can always delete anything that turns out to be garbage.

I didn't expect the torrent of crap that's currently being promoted as "thrillers."

"Crap" might be too charitable a description, actually. Of the last ten low-cost thrillers I've purchased, I've finished one, and it was in the mistaken belief that it had to make more sense than it seemed, and would all come together if I could just...reach...the end. (Dear God, what was I thinking?)

The problems in the thriller genre appear to be fairly uniform:

  • Implausible premises that underpin trite, overused plots;
  • Cardboard protagonists that would look better in tights and capes;
  • Bad, bad writing!

For the first time in my life, I've been awarding such books scathing reviews at Amazon. But what baffles me is the number of four and five-star reviews they get. Clearly there's a market for crap.

Thriller aficionadi, if you haven't yet done so, try this one. Not only is it vivid and honestly exciting, it's intelligently premised and beautifully written. You'll thank me, I guarantee it.

That's all for today, Gentle Reader. Pray for me; I'm about to wrestle Satan himself FibreChannel again. Alternately, you can extend your condolences to the C.S.O.


Anonymous said...

"We agreed that all the war mongering and terrorists created out of thin air is nothing but a cover for controlling "our" Middle East oil."

While Mr. Stockman and Mr. Quinn are correct far more often than not, they've dropped the ball here. If it were really all about the oil, it would be much easier, safer, and more effective to just do a deal. If one insists on explaining the whole Middle East clustercoitus in terms of oil, I'd be more inclined to credit the theory that it's intended to take out production and drive up the price. In reality, the 'oil motive' is itself a cover, adroitly distracting the boobeosie (who certainly do believe it's "our" oil) from the true purpose: fabrication of New and Improved, Big Scary Enemy Mk. II.

LindaF said...

I, too, have been using the Bookbub service. It's HIGHLY variable - some relatively good, lots of unfinishable crap.