Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

So... lesbians apparently breathe fire now?

Wow. You know, the news in Taiwan is really strange:

Since when do squirt guns beat assault rifles, anyway?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holy Crap! It's my blogiversary!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right: today this blog is seven years old. It began with a warning, and has just kept staggering drunkenly onward from there. In my term on the olde internets I've said a lot of things, even remember some of them, and have hopefully been entertaining. To me, I mean. I have no idea why you people hang out at a pesthole like this. But, entertaining or not, Total Drek has been around for most of a decade, and shows no signs of disappearing any time soon. Unless I decide to sell out to that Chinese porn site that wants to turn the blog into a link farm, that is.* How will I celebrate such a long term on the internet? No idea. Maybe I'll play with my daughter, that sounds like fun. But however I manage it, the rest of the world seems to be celebrating by giving us all another pass at some real, genuine stupid:

And you know what? I think we should totally get educational policy opinions from beauty pageant contestants. I wonder what other views they have to share?

Ah. Well. There you have it, then.

* I'm pretty sure that's the only way I'd ever turn a profit on this time-suck since I have, for some unknown reasons, consistently refused to sell ad space.

As a side note: Yes, this is a rather weak blog post. I could excuse that by commenting that I'm crazy busy right now and am barely managing to keep up with the Overton Window- which is true- but, really, isn't it totally appropriate for me to celebrate a weak blog with a weak blog post? Shit, people, that's just how I roll.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 19

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes me hate myself almost as much as I hate the authors. Last time Noah ate breakfast and spent a lovely, if absurdly tame, morning with his new love. What happens this week? Well, Noah decides that Molly really is worth violating the trust of his employer and his clients for, and takes her to meet the wizard. Sadly, however, we're forced to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafrass for making me laugh:

"He felt her arms around him, her body yearning against his in the embrace, a knot like hunger inside, heart quickening, cool hands at his back under the warmth of his jacket, searching, pressing him closer still."

Welp, I guess Beck is a defender of our rights to full-on dry hump one another in public. You know, like the FOUNDING FATHERS WOULD HAVE WANTED.

Also, I'm fairly sure that the fridge is a metaphor for the entire book. This narrative is not merely empty, it's really, really fucking empty.

Finally, while I'm not a Kipling scholar, I do have an MA in English Lit, and I imagine that Beck got a cheap thrill out of quoting a staunch anti-Bolshevik (Rudy also demanded that the Indian Swastika emblem be removed from his texts when the Nazis came to power). That said, most lit scholars agree that Kipling is controversial and his poetic meanings often misunderstood, so I have a hard time thinking that Noah "brilliant like a bag of hair" Gardener's interpretation is to be credited as anything more than yet more vile wind issuing from out his ass. But then, I never won a gold star in penmanship, so what the fuck do I know?*

*Nor would I frame such a thing, but then I failed Assclownery 101 in college.

I'm really pleased that Sass reminded us of the virtues of dry humping, particularly as laid out by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Good stuff. I'd also like to congratulate Ken for pointing out that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. It's always nice to have a reminder. Thanks, folks, and keep at it, because I sure will!

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Ah-doo-run-run oh ah-doo-run-run!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my two cats, a box, and an unstable isotope.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's mother.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.


Chapter 19: In which Noah takes Molly to work, they watch a power point, and I wonder when the book will get even slightly interesting.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 139, Line 1-6:
"You must be out of your mind," Noah said, under his breath. He was addressing himself directly.

Molly was right behind him, holding tight to his hand as he led her through the aisles and racks of designer skirts and blouses toward the store's back rooms.

"You're doing the right thing," she whispered.

Mentions of skirts and blouses aside, they are indeed on their way to Doyle & Merchant so Noah can prove to Molly that his father is not actually involved in a plot to overthrow the government of the United States. Of course, his father is involved in such an effort, and Noah should realize this, so it's a little murky just what he's hoping to accomplish here. Okay, no, that's not really true: it's pretty clear that what he's hoping to do is drill Molly like the Burgan field. Which is to say, he wants to have sex with her. So, yeah, we get what he's hoping to accomplish, but I don't really see how this course of action is going to get him any closer to that objective. No doubt Noah has a plan, but plans aren't really Noah's strong suit so I wouldn't get my hopes up. Anyway, Noah ponders how he decided to avoid the main entrance of Doyle & Merchant so as to avoid having to sign in, thereby leaving a trace of his presence.

Page 139, Line 9-11:
A private elevator led to Arthur Gardner's suite of offices on the twenty-first floor, and that was the way they'd be going in.

Dramatic this is not as it turns out that Arthur's super-secret private elevator lets him off in... a neighboring "tourist-trendy clothing store". I'll admit I don't have the foggiest notion what the f-ing crap that means, but there you have it. We get a lengthy explanation of how the procedure is to hold your employee ID card above your head as you walk back to the elevator through the clothing store, and then use an electronic keycard to access the elevator. I'm forced to assume that the use of the keycard would be logged by the controlling computer, and thus Noah's "elaborate" countermeasures are all for naught but, whatever. He manages to get them into the elevator and sticks his key in the lock and twists. Which is to say, he activates the elevator.

Page 140, Line 26-32:
"Thank you, Noah."

"I'm not really speaking to you right now."

She touched his chest and put a hand on his shoulder; he looked down into her eyes.

"I hope I'm wrong," she said. "I want to be wrong; you should know that. Now please just decide to forgive me, at least until we're out of here again."

I'm forced to wonder what it is that she hopes she's wrong about, since she's never really spelled it out. But then I remember that she's f-ing bipolar. Ours is not to question why, ours is just to keep her on her meds. Moving on, once again we confront the odd passivity in the language of characters in The Overton Window. See, Molly doesn't ask Noah to forgive her, she asks him to decide to forgive her. These are different things. On the rare occasions when my wife does something that I find objectionable, I pretty much "decide" to forgive her in the first fraction of a second. It's the actual doing of the forgiving that takes time. So, the question is, are the authors trying to signal something to us about Noah and Molly with all this weird language or are they just really bad at storytelling? I suspect the latter, but I would really prefer to believe the former, because it's funnier.

Page 141, Line 3-4:
There was only one way to warrant a blatant breach of business ethics such as this, and that was to attribute his actions to a higher cause.

That sentence only really makes sense if you assume that "a higher cause" is Noah's pet name for his penis. In any case, Noah ponders that if Molly is right he's going to discover an elaborate conspiracy, which would be worth a long set of dire consequences, including "debtor's prison" (Page 141, Line 11-12). That's a bit weird, though, since the U.S. doesn't have debtor's prison. But then he gets to the punchline, if you will.

Page 141, Line 13-20:
If Molly was wrong- and no ifs about it, she was wrong- then he'd be vindicated, she'd be deeply apologetic and sworn to secrecy about this whole fiasco, and there might still be a chance to salvage what remained of the weekend.

A flimsy rationale, maybe, but for the moment if helped him avoid the more troubling thought that after all he'd seen in the last twenty-four hours, deep down he needed to know the truth every bit as much as she did. [emphasis original]

Which is odd since- say it with me- Noah should already know the truth because he was in the damned meeting! And I'm forced to wonder if by "deeply apologetic" what Noah really means is "willing to try anal," because, really, he has not thus far come across as a decent sort of guy. Anyway, the elevator arrives at Arthur's office and the doors pop open to reveal his inner sanctum of business acumen. If the entire building has come to resemble Arthur's brain over the years (Page 32, Line 5-8) I can only assume that this office represents either his prefrontal cortex or his pineal gland, depending on whether your stance is scientific or philosophical. And then Molly has to ruin things by asking a question.

Page 141-142, Line 141: 32, 142: 1-12:
"What is this?" she asked.

She was looking at a marble sculpture on a pedestal in the corner. Noah's father had commissioned it years ago. The figure depicted was a strange amalgamation of two other works of art: the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus of Rhodes. Molly would have known that much by looking; what she'd meant to ask was, What does this mean?

"It's the way my father looks at things... at people, I mean: societies. The law may serve some superficial purpose, but it only goes so far," Noah said, touching the spear in the statue's left hand. "At some point the law needs to be taken away and replaced with force. That's what really gets things done. People ultimately want it that way; they're like sheep, lost without a threat of force to guide them. That's what it means." [emphasis original]

Well, that's an absolute disaster of a passage if I ever saw one. Leaving aside the terrible grammar and dull writing, there's the supernaturally dumb dichotomy between "law" and "force". Consider if you will: does the law normally exist, much less function, without the aid of coercive force? Obviously not, that's why we have police who, in turn, have truncheons, handcuffs and (in the U.S. at least) firearms. Then we can consider the law's ability to seize your assets, your children, and your person under specific circumstances. Then there's the fact that an army is an organized body of men and women used to project force into other territories. Hell, there are theories that argue that the defining quality of the modern state is that it demands, and enforces, a monopoly on the use of legitimated force within its own borders- kind of the "state as protection racket" model. And finally, even in a democratic society, the will of the majority implies the ability to compel obedience from the minority. Ultimately, all forms of authority are based at root on force.* So, when you roll all this together, the implied argument that there's some hard distinction between "law" and "force" is absolutely, phenomenally, and utterly stupid. More than likely what the authors are working off of is the common, but mistaken, notion that it's "law" when it's a policy you agree with and "force" when it's a policy you don't agree with. This is a pleasant self-deception, but nonetheless rather silly. If you're curious what the statue looks like- at least from the back- you have to look no further than the book's cover, which as it happens was chosen by vote. Anyway, Molly digests this moronic account for a moment, and then we're off without any need to ever ponder that statue ever again.**

Page 142, Line 17:
"Let's get this over with," she said.

Ha! That's what she sai- oh. Yeah. It is. Moving on, things are about to get really inexplicable.

Page 142, Line 18-23:
Weekend work was one of the many things his father frowned upon, which led nearly all of the up-and-coming employees to maintain second offices at home. This allowed them to put in the expected seventy-plus hours per week while appearing to comply with company policy. It also meant that, with luck, Noah and Molly would have the place to themselves for the duration of their espionage.

What the f-ing crap is this fresh nonsense? His father, who runs one of the top New York advertising firms, doesn't like it when his employees stay late? Does that sound even remotely plausible to anyone? And when you really think about it, given that Arthur doesn't permit timepieces on the premises (Page 32, Line 1-4), how would anyone know if they were working late? Seriously, this is the most hilariously absurd "workplace" I think I've ever seen depicted in fiction. Regardless, they manage to enter the concert stage that Arthur Gardner uses for his power point presentations and Noah fires up ye olde multimedia facility. He fast forwards through a lot of the material, and then she asks him to wait a moment.

Page 143, Line 15-17:
The heading was "Framework and Foundation: Toward a New Constitution." No names accompanied the headings that followed, only the areas of government that each new attendee supposedly represented.

Right. So, this would be the modern day equivalent of #74 on the Evil Overlord List, only Noah's father wasn't smart enough to actually take the hint. But who are these mysterious attendees? Well, because I love you hate myself I'm going to transcribe exactly what's in the book, with the exception that the bullet points in the book are now dashes because I'm too lazy to use the html for bullet points.

Page 143, Line 18-29:
-Finance / Treasury / Fed / Wall Street / Corporate Axis
-Energy / Environment / Social Services
-Labor / Transportation / Commerce / Regulatory Affairs
-Education / Media Management / Clergy / CONINTELPRO (1) (2) (3)
-FCC / Internet / Public Media Transition
-Control and Preservation of Critical Infrastructure
-Emergency Management / Rapid Response / Contingencies
-Law Enforcement / Homeland Security / USNORTHCOM / NORAD / STRATCOM / Contract Military / Allied Forces
-Continuity of Government
-Casus Belli: Reichstag / Susannah/Unit 131 / Gladio / Northwoods / EXIGENT [emphasis original. Yes, really]

Aaaand yes, you're right: that hash doesn't mean anything. Well, aside from that the authors think that if you want to sound like an official document you can't use any words that aren't nouns or punctuation marks that aren't slashes. And yet, the worst facepalm is yet to come.

Page 143, Line 30:
"Who was in this meeting, do you know?" Molly asked.

Who was in this... ? Are you freaking kidding me? Did you not see the narration, followed by that list? Christ. I suppose she might have wanted the names of specific officials, but isn't that getting ahead of ourselves a bit? And yet, somehow, that's not the facepalm I was referring to.

Page 144, Line 6-11:
He walked toward the screen and pointed to the last entry. "What does this term mean? My Latin's a little rusty."

She glanced up from her notes only for a moment. "Casus Belli. It means an incident that's used to justify a war. Come on, let's keep going." (4)

Okay, so, just to recap- Noah Gardner, man of the world, NYU grad, who apparently loves word puzzles and games (Page 130, Line 18-19) doesn't know what casus belli means? It's just, what do you even do with that? The writing in this book is terrible, just shameful. Anyway, they advance more through the slides and eventually discover a section of the presentation that triggers a security dialog box to appear. Noah enters his password, providing yet more evidence of his efforts to infiltrate Molly's panties, and then we get this.

Page 144-145, Line 144: 32, 145: 1-5:
An hourglass indicator appeared, along with the message: Please Wait ... Content Loading from Remote Storage.

"It'll be a few minutes while this downloads," Noah said. "We keep some of the more sensitive stuff off-site, to guard against the kind of thing we're doing right now."

Wait, let me get this straight: in order to better secure your sensitive documents, you keep them on a remote computer, thus forcing you to move them over (more than likely) unsecured phone lines every time you want them? Rather than, say, on a removable hard disk in your very own safe? That's just dumb. But it makes sense once you realize that the authors needed to slow the already glacial pace of the novel so that they could crap a load of exposition on our faces.

Page 145, Line 10-14:
"What's that box?" she asked [referring to a figure on a power point slide].

"It's called the Overton Window. My father stole the concept form a think tank in the Midwest; it's a way of describing what the public is currently ready to accept on any issue, so you can decide how best to move them toward what you want." (5)

Oh. Good. He's explaining the title. Yay?

Page 145, Line 15-18:
"I don't understand," she said. She was looking at the screen related to national security and law enforcement. Except the heading and the long thick line with an open box near its center, the slide was mostly blank. "How does it work?"

"Please, Noah, crap some more exposition on my face!"

Page 145, Line 19-26:
"The ends of this long line"- Noah walked up to indicate the starting point- "represent the extreme possibilities. At this end of the scale is the unthinkable, and all the way over at the other end is something else you can't imagine ever happening, but in the opposite way. Too much good here, too much evil over there. If we were talking about government, it would be too much liberty at this end- which would be anarchy- and a complete top-down Orwellian tyranny at the other, so no liberty at all. Those in-between points are milestones along the way."

Do you have all that? Of course you do, it's really very simple.

Page 145, Line 27-28:
Molly still looked a little lost in the concept, and she motioned for him to go on.

And Molly is apparently a simpleton. Fortunately, Noah speaks moron*** and he translates it into terms of airline security, comparing the early days when you could just walk onto a flight with nothing more than a ticket to a hypothetical future where airlines are run like maximum security prisons.

Page 146, Line 18-25:
"Let's say tomorrow some idiot makes his way onto a flight with a little tiny homemade explosive of some kind. It'd be all over the news for weeks, whether the guy actually did any damage or not. You get scared, and the TV is telling you that all we have to do is buy some more expensive screening machines, hire some more of the same people who let that nut on the plane in the first place, and give up a little more dignity at the checkpoints, and we'll be safe. That, of course, is a lie, but it has the desired effect." [Noah said] (6)

Doubtless the authors are thinking of the recent business about backscatter x-ray machines. I'm none too thrilled about them myself, but it's important to keep in mind that the fears are a bit overblown. Miraculously, Molly seems to be following Noah's explanation, but the stupid is strong with this one.

Page 146, Line 31:
"Why, though? Why would they want to do that [move to the Overton window]?" [Molly asked]

How about, "Because people want to convince you of things"? Shit, Molly, haven't you ever seen a commercial, much less a political debate? What the authors are describing is really just an approach to rhetoric. Noah, however, lectures her on all the different interests who might want airline security to be raised- conveniently leaving out people who don't want to be killed by terrorists- and we end up with this.

Page 147, Line 6-8:
"Some of your friends last night might say that it's all part of a program to condition the American people to put up their hands and submit to anyone in a uniform."

Nice job, authors. Very subtle. Excellently done. Anyway, they continue by listing a litany of the issues that are amenable to the Overton Window, including along the way vaccination programs. I'm forced to wonder if the authors view any government program as being intended to improve the lives of the citizens, or if they're all just manipulative conspiracies? Some bits in the following paragraph suggest yes, but the bulk of the book argues no. Regardless, Noah decides to go for the summary.

Page 147, Line 24-26:
"I'm [Noah] saying opportunists can attach themselves to our hopes and fears about those things, for profit, and this is one of the tools they use to do that."

Much like poorly written faction. Nevertheless, Noah argues that the whole thing relies on evolution rather than revolution and claims that there's always a prime mover behind these sorts of things.****

Page 148, Line 6-16:
"You know who was one of the biggest lobbyists for this cap-and-trade business, right?"

"Greenpeace?" Molly said.

"Nope. Enron. A lot of powerful people are lining up to cash in on the deal if it happens, but back then it was a huge push at Enron right before the whole company blew up in America's face. Carbon trading was going to be their biggest scam since they shut off the lights in California and held the whole state for ransom. They'd already started trading future on the weather, if you can believe that, but this heist was going to be a thousand times bolder. Back then everybody thought they were joking." (7)

I'd laugh if I didn't want so much to cry. Enron happened because a rush to privatize a critical industry collided with the greed and dishonesty inherent to a radically free market approach to business. They shat all over a variety of industries, but their existence and actions do not make any of those industries inherently dishonest. And don't even get me started on that crack about futures trading- all futures trading is basically gambling, so wagering money on the weather is about as valid as betting it on crop yields.***** Regardless, in the afterword the authors claim that carbon trading is really all about money rather than a measure to reduce atmospheric emissions, and implicate Al Gore (8), the United Nations (9), the Chicago Climate Exchange (10), President Obama (11) and, believe it or not, Fannie Mae (12) in some sort of cabal to profit off of global warming. And that makes sense because, clearly, Al Gore and Fannie Mae have more economic clout than the oil companies, the auto companies, the power companies and... well... basically every other major industry on the planet. Makes perfect sense.

Page 148, Line 29-31:
"So here's a little pop quiz: What do you get when you combine corporate greed with political corruption and sprinkle a few trillion on top?"

The Republican Party?

Page 149, Line 1-2:
"I don't know... fascism?" [Molly answered]

Noah shook his head. "You get Doyle & Merchant's newest client."

Dude, my punchline was funnier.

Page 149, Line 3-5:
The hourglass on the screen had disappeared moments before, and was replaced by a dialog box with two buttons, one labeled HALT and the other PROCEED. [emphasis original]

"Halt" and "proceed"? What f-ing operating system is that? Hey, maybe Arthur did read the evil overlord list. Well, he read #50, anyway. The screens start to show a variety of different timelines illustrating various agendas for various aspects of American life. And then we run smack into something that's just too stupid to be believed.******

Page 149, Line 11-12:
Some of these agendas spanned only a few years, others more than a century.

Right. So, as it turns out, the evil conspiracy has been planning to destroy the U.S. for over 100 years. Riiiiight. Anyway, they watch the various timelines, all appearing on the different screens in a big-ass circle around the room for a while, trying to take it all in.

Page 149, Line 20-22:
It seemed the same realization had come over them both, at the same instant: This wasn't eight separate agendas at all. It was only one.

Good goddamn. I don't care how brilliant Arthur thinks Noah is- these people are slow. Anyway, Noah finally realizes that all of the timelines have endpoints that seem realizable and proceeds to list them for us. As before the bullets are converted into dashes. God help me.

Page 150, Line 3-4:
-Consolidate all media assets behind core concepts of a new internationalism [emphasis original]

A what now? That doesn't mean anything.

Page 150, Line 6-7:
-Education: Deemphasize the individual, reinforce dependence and collectivism, social justice, and "the common good" [emphasis original]

Yeah, god knows we have to put a stop to all that "common good" crap. Why, just the other day all of these prissy dandies who were wearing makeup and had ribbons in their hair were writing up this little pamphlet that started with, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [emphasis added]" Mighty suspicious, says I.

Page 150, Line 12-13:
-Associate resistance and "constitutional" advocacy with a backward, extremist worldview: gun rights a key. [emphasis original]

Right, so, not only are TEA partiers here the victims of a vast murky conspiracy, the desire to preserve the constitution is suddenly synonymous with gun rights. Good to know.

Page 150, Line 16-20:
-Expand malleable voter base and agenda support by granting voting rights to prison inmates, undocumented migrants, and select U.S. territories, e.g., Puerto Rico. Image as a civil rights issue; label dissenters as racist- invoke reliable analogies: slavery, Nazism, segregation, isolationism. [emphasis original]

Yeah, because it was so much better when we restricted the vote to land-owning white males. Let's deal with these in slightly more detail, shall we? Just because one is guilty of a crime it is not necessarily the case that one loses the vote. We could, of course, make it that way, but that isn't the way our system works right now. So, yes, it is a civil rights issue. Second, if the voter registration laws are written such that undocumented migrants can gain the right to vote, then that's a failure of the law, not a conspiracy. Well, maybe it's a failure of the law- we could have an interesting debate on that point, as it happens. And third, are these assholes seriously picking on Puerto Rico? Look, I'm from Florida and have had a lot of contact with folks from Puerto Rico. Do they have an image problem in the rest of the U.S.? Yes. Are they a territory of the U.S.? As it happens, yes. Have they gotten a raw deal out of that over the last century or so? Yeah, in a lot of ways they have. So, right up until they vote for independence, that means it's not an unreasonable thing to let them freaking vote for Federal offices. As it happens, I wish they'd go the other way, become the 51st state, and become full members of the U.S., but that's just because I love my country. Unlike the schmucks who wrote this shit sandwich. And on an entirely trivial note: I have no idea why the end of that agenda item got a period when none of the others do.

Page 150, Line 23-24:
-Finalize the decline and abandonment of the dollar: new international reserve currency [emphasis original]

Are you f-ing kidding me? How does that even make sense? If you're going to take over a country, would you want its economy in the toilet when you did it? Is Nicolae Carpathia about to enter the room?

Page 150, Line 25-27:
-Synchronize and fully integrate local law enforcement with state, fenderal, and contract military forces, prepare collection/relocation/internment contingencies, systems, and personnel [emphasis original]

Sure. Right. Why not? And FEMA is secretly a front for an alien invasion. I've seen this show- Mulder is right, Scully gets pregnant, whatever.

Page 150, Line 29-30:
The slide devoted to Finance showed a timeline beginning in 1913, and its Window had moved nearly to the end.

This is utter. Freaking. Lunacy. When did the damned Illuminati get into this? Because, let's face it, who the crap else is supposedly planning grand shit like this?

Page 151, Line 5-9:
There's a difference between suspecting a thing and finally knowing it for certain. Noah felt that difference twisting into his stomach. You can hold on to the smallest doubt and take comfort in it, stay in denial, and go on with your carefree life, until one day you're finally cornered by a truth that can no longer be ignored.

Indeed. Face it, Noah: Your father is using power point to write a better thriller than you're living in. And that's some recursive shit right there. Anyway, they finally notice the climactic slide in this multimedia shitstorm.

Page 151, Line 16-22:
Unlike the others, this slide had no Overton Window. EXIGENT was the legend at the far end of the line, and it seemed there would be no question of public acceptance, no need to rally opinion on this front. Whatever it was, it would bring its own consensus.

"Casus Belli," the heading said, and Molly's translation was still fresh in his mind.

An incident used to justify a war. [emphasis original]

This is supposed to be ominous but, let's face it, it's damned near impossible to make anything ominous using power point. Now, as it happens, this brings us to the end of the chapter, and there is a note that I have jotted down at the bottom of the page. That note really sums things up nicely for us all: "I am halfway through the book and want to know: when does the thrilling start? I was promised thrilling. Where is the thrilling?" Indeed, on a page basis we are over halfway through the book and so far absolutely nothing of any interest has happened to anyone. Well, except Khaled, but he's in the neighboring Clancy novel by now, so that doesn't count. But, regardless, that's the end for now.

Come back next time when we "enjoy" a ridiculously short chapter. After this week, it'll be welcome.


* As it happens, when we were first dating my wife and I had a fairly lengthy- and heated- discussion about this aspect of governance. We are such impossible nerds.

** Seriously. That elabroate description of the statue never, ever becomes relevant to the "plot."

*** It's his native language, actually.

**** Right. Totally not a conspiracy theorist.

***** Which, let's face it, is kind of like betting on the weather by proxy.

****** Granted, in this book that happens about once a page, but still.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 18

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is just absolute shit. I mean, just really shameful. Last time we learned about Stuart's amazing plan and how it involves Danny Bailey. What happens this week? Well, we check back in with Noah and Molly, so basically our break from their absurd, saccharine "romance" has just come to a shrieking halt. Goddamnit.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafrass for putting things in perspective:

Friends, I think we're looking at a clear product-placement commercial for KFC. "Everyone loves the Colonel" -- bitch, please. There is no other reasonable explanation for that entire fucking scene. Also, given that Oprah is a clear supporter/lover of the Colonel, I SMELL A CRISPY CONSPIRACY, PEOPLE!

If you consider that Bailey is probably a stand-in for Beck himself, it just makes this entire chapter all the more unbearable. It's kinda sad when you miss the good ol' days of volcano lairs, wise hillbillies and prison rape. But this book is quickly flushing itself down the narrative shitter.

Indeed, when we think back fondly to hillbillies and volcano lairs, things have taken a wrong turn. This is especially the case when we consider that Molly and Noah are two uninteresting people having a boring romance in a going-nowhere book whereas Stuart and Danny should at least hypothetically be doing something more interesting and yet still end up even more agonizingly pointless. Well done indeed, authors! Anyway, thanks for caring Sass, and keep at it folks! This shitball just keeps rolling on.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Oh, yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by hurling the authors down the stairs.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's mother.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.


Chapter 18: In which Noah eats bacon, Molly goes all domestic, there's the hint that Molly is some kind of revolutionary, and Molly reveals her raging bipolar personality disorder.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 129, Line 1:
Bacon. [emphasis original]

Yes, that is, technically, the entire first paragraph of Chapter 18. Just the word "bacon". And you know what? Honestly the most alluring chapter start of the book. Seriously, who wants some bacon right now?

Page 129, Line 2-5:
Scent appeals to the most primitive of the five basic senses. Unlike a sight or sound or even a touch, an aroma can rocket straight to the untamed emotions with no stops required at the smarter parts of the brain.

I know that the whole "five senses" thing is well established in popular culture, but just once I'd like to see proprioception get proper credit. I mean, shit, can smell tell you where you f-ing foot is?* Nuh-uh! You need proprioception for that, baby!

Page 129, Line 10-14:
Other wonderful smells of a home-cooked breakfast, recalling the finest mornings from his early childhood, were wafting in from a couple of rooms away. Molly was nowhere to be seen, though an alluringly girl-shaped indentation was still evident in the gathering of covers beside him.

So, first off, yes, it appears she's making him breakfast. I gotta be honest, I've never had a woman make me breakfast after the first time we spent the night. That said, I've also never expected a woman to make me breakfast after we spent the night- particularly if we spent the night at my place. But, hey, I'm not Noah Gardner, so what do I know?** Also, unlike Noah, I've never slept with a girl. Where's Chris Hansen when you need him, eh? Second, I'm not sure how to interpret that bit about the girl-shaped indentation. Are his covers made of memory foam, or is this sort of like how Bugs Bunny would run really fast and leave a Bugs-shaped hole in a door? Anyway, Noah checks the clock and notes that it is 4:35, but apparently the clock doesn't give any indication of whether that's AM or PM. Noah, being Noah, is not smart enough to check and see whether or not it's light out, thereby resolving the conundrum. And then we get to a truly dramatic revelation.

Page 130, Line 1-2
It might take all weekend to get his body clock reset to normal again.

Oh, Christ. And we can look forward to incessant updates, can't we? Anyway, he gets up, puts on a robe, opens the drapes- in the process using the position of the sun to determine the time*** and then scene!

Page 130, Line 5-12:
"Are you up, finally?" He heard her voice from the doorway.

"Yeah." When he turned he saw she was already dressed for the day. "Looks like you found the laundry room."

"I went out and got some groceries, too. Your refrigerator was freakishly clean and really empty."

"I eat out a lot."

"Well, I made you something." She smiled. "Late birthday breakfast. Come and get it while it's hot."

Just to be clear: while he slept, she got up, did laundry, got dressed, did the grocery shopping, and made him breakfast. If she also cleaned the bathroom, she's pretty much the ideal conservative woman. Also: "really empty"? Is "empty" a thing that can have multiple states? Can a fridge be, "a little empty"?

Page 130, Line 13-15:
As they sat together at the sunroom table he focused on his food while she returned to chipping away at her half-finished crossword puzzle in the next day's Sunday Times.

As she what now? Returned to chipping away at the crossword puzzle? When the hell did she have time to start, amidst all the laundry and shopping and cooking and shit? And as long as we're on the subject, she has the Sunday paper on Saturday? What? Regardless, Noah asks if she likes word games, she says yes, and then he shows off what a catch he is.

Page 130, Line 18-19:
"Well, if you [Molly] get stumped over there let me know. Not that I'm so brilliant, but I was on the spelling bee circuit when I was a kid."

Words simply fail me. This man is an absolute monument to douchebaggery. Seriously, one day all the assholes of the world will unite to erect a statue to Noah Gardner. Regardless, we spend the next page in a riveting description of Noah and Molly trying to work out the solution to twelve down. And oddly, all I can think is that these two love birds just met, they've had a wild first date, they just spent the night together, and yet the next morning they come across like the most exciting freaking thing they can think of to do is a damn crossword. Yikes. But then things get all serious.

Page 131, Line 16-22:
"I've been meaning to talk to you about something," Molly said. She got up and took his empty plate and silverware to the sink.

"Okay. Let's talk about it."

"I'm not going to be in town very much longer."


"I'm just not. There were some things I wanted to do here, and I've done them now, so I'll be leaving."

Oh, wow. Is she a vampaire? Does she sparkle? Is this going to end in a dance fight in a ballet studio? Will Noah get to go to the prom with Edward Molly?

Page 131, Line 30-32:
She'd busied herself in silence in the kitchen for a little while, rehanging pans and tidying up briefly, but soon she sat down across from him again, reached over, and put her hand on his.

Okay, so, not only does she get up early, do laundry, do the shopping, and cook breakfast, she then clears the table and does the dishes. Seriously, she's the ideal Republican woman. And the rest of us are so very unimpressed that Noah "ungrateful ass" Gardner couldn't even be bothered to clear his own plate, much less do the dishes. Regardless, she tells him to get his jacket so that they can go for a walk and then just happens to stumble across a framed penmanship exercise of Noah's from the fifth grade. It's framed, apparently, because it earned a gold star. Now, the narrative explains that one of Noah's nannies framed it to celebrate his achievement and that the movers must have placed it out when they moved him into this apartment. Right, fine, but that suggests that this gem was sitting out when he was moved, and thereby inadvertently implies that a gold star on a penmanship exercise from fifth grade is one of Noah's greatest achievements. I mean, besides the certificate he received in ninth grade when he finally stopped eating paste, I guess. Anyway, the narrative reveals that the assignment in question is a snatch of poetry that captures his father's justification for his life. And then we get a recitation of the last three stanzas:

Page 132-133, Line 132: 24-30, 133: 1-11:
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! (1)

Before anyone cracks wise, this is not the work of the authors. No, this is taken from Rudyard Kipling's (2) The Gods of the Copybook Headings. It might be a good poem,**** but it feels out of place in the book given than we were only moments ago concerned solely with domestic affairs. Anyway, Molly asks what Noah thinks his father was trying to tell him with this poem.

Page 133, Line 25-28:
"He [Arthur Gardner] told me the poem meant that history always repeats itself, that the same mistakes are made over and over, only bigger each time. The wise man knows that it you can't change that, you might as well take full advantage of it. But to me it meant something else."

Well, don't keep us waiting, dumbass!

Page 134, 1-6:
"It's a warning, I guess, about what happens when you forget common sense. You have to read the whole thing to get it. I think it means that there really is such a thing as truth, the real objective truth, and people can see it if they'll just look hard enough, and remember who they really are. But most of the time they choose to give in and believe all the lies instead."

I have no idea whether Noah's interpretation is valid. I mean, my degrees are not in English. That said, I actually find myself agreeing with Noah here, by and large. I think Kipling is saying that some set of basic things remain true and that people forget these at their peril. I disagree that it's just "common sense", however, as common sense usually just means, "things I already believe for no better reason than that I was taught to believe them when I was very young". No, really, the poem almost sounds like an endorsement of science. Be that as it may, I nevertheless find it amusing that the authors are suggesting that if we forget common sense our society will collapse, and yet probably support the idea that cutting taxes will increase tax revenue. Is that sometimes true? Sure, but will it keep working the more you cut? Will revenue asymptotically approach infinity as the tax rate approaches zero? Yeah... not so much. So, in the end, I think one of those things that you really need to keep in mind, is that the world is almost always more complex that we give it credit for. Just sayin' is all. Anyway, Noah and Molly finally get outside for their walk and immediately turn into that creepy couple that you hate running into on the sidewalk.

Page 134, Line 18-22:
She stayed close to him, at times with an unexpected gesture of casual intimacy: an arm around his waist for half a block, a finger hooked in his belt loop as they crossed a busy street against the light, a palm to his cheek as she spoke close to his ear to be heard over the din of the traffic.

"A taser to his ribs just before she ran, a knee to his groin when he caught up to her..." Okay, stalker jokes aside, does anyone else feel like she's treating him more or less how you'd treat a particularly stupid child? Evidently not Noah, because he marvels at her awesomeness for another half a page or so and then we get... this.

Page 135, Line 5-14:
Molly looked into his eyes, and what he saw in her was a perfect reflection of a wanting that he also felt, so there was no delay of invitation and acceptance. It was a different sort of desire than he'd known before, an understanding that something now needed to be said that no language but the very oldest could possibly convey. He bent to her, closed his eyes, and her lips touched his, gently, and again more urgently as he responded. He felt her arms around him, her body yearning against his in the embrace, a knot like hunger inside, heart quickening, cool hands at his back under the warmth of his jacket, searching, pressing him closer still.

If you need a moment to fight down the nausea, trust me, I understand. This is another one of those harlequin romance moments that absolutely litter this shitstorm of a book. And oddly, my main reaction to the whole thing is to marvel at how passive a participant Noah seems to be. It is as though the kiss is happening to him rather than that he is kissing someone. This isn't necessarily unreasonable- men do not always have to be the initiators of romantic interludes, after all- but it's instructive when we consider how utterly useless Noah has been thus far. And, frankly, how useless he will continue to be from here on out. Anyway, after some more lovey-dovey description, Noah and Molly end up sitting in a coffee shop to wait out the rain.

Page 135, Line 29-32:

"I was starting to worry you'd forgotten I was here."

Molly took a deep breath and seemed to collect herself for a moment. "I need to ask you something."

"Why do you have a real doll hidden in your closet? A recently used real doll, I mean?"

Page 136, Line 2-4:
"If we hired you, your company, what would you tell us to do?"

He frowned a bit. "You mean if you and your mom hired us?"

"It's more than just the two of us, you know that. A lot more."

Right. Yes. Of course. It's Molly, her mom, Hollis, some random extras- half of which are enemy agents, apparently- and, shit, I dunno, a couple of dogs?

Page 136, Line 5-8:
"I don't know," he said. "What is it you want to accomplish again?"

"We want to save the country."

"Oh. Okay. Is that all?"

"That's where we start, isn't it? With a clear objective."

Yes, starting with a clear objective is usually appropriate. The thing is, "save the country" is not really the sort of objective you put on a to-do list. It's more the sort of thing that a whole lot of smaller objectives should lead up to. So, no, telling Noah that you want to "save the country" doesn't freaking help. Noah would be well within his rights to tell her this, but since he still desperately wants to bone her, he decides to run with it. After thinking about it for a few moments, he says he'd want to get the diverse groups in her movement together and get them to agree on some things.

Page 136, Line 19-24:
"I don't know- start with the tax code, since your mom is so passionate about that. How about a set of specific spending cuts and a thirteen percent flat tax to start with? Get that ridiculous sixty-seven-thousand-page tax code down to four or five bullet points, and show exactly what effects it'll have on trade, and employment, and the debt, and the future of the country."

Shit, seriously? There are at least eight dissertations in there, much less the new bullet points. And why the automatic assumption that a flat tax is somehow fairer than a progressive tax? It gets better, though.

Page 136, Line 24-26:
"And I'm winging it here, but how about real immigration reform? The kind of policies that welcome people who want to come here for the right reasons, and succeed."

I really have to wonder what the "right reasons" are in the authors' minds. Moreover, I wonder about the grammar of that sentence- specifically the comma. Do they mean the kind of people who succeed in coming here, or who succeed once they come here? The former interpretation is, I think, the one conveyed by the sentence, but I'm pretty sure they mean the latter. I will say that I would love real immigration reform but, in my case, I'm pretty pro-immigration in general. So in my view that would mostly be an increase in the quotas coupled with some degree of amnesty and the imposition of harsh penalties on those who employ illegals, coupled with serious efforts at enforcement. You'll note border fences are not in there at all. Regardless, after some more chit-chat, something occurs to Noah.

Page 137, Line 6-7:
"And what did you mean, save the country, by the way? Save it from what?"

Ah, Noah. He's such a brilliant boy.

Page 137, Line 8:
She looked at him evenly. "You know what."

What I know is that the authors have to resort to that sort of answer because they themselves have no idea what the hell they're talking about. Other than that, I'm as clueless as Noah here, and that's saying something.

Page 137, Line 11-14:
"I know there was a meeting at the office yesterday afternoon," she said, lowering her voice but not her intensity. "I saw the guest list on the catering order. I know who was there. I know you were in it. And I think I know what it was about."

If, at this point, alarm bells aren't going off in Noah's head, he's even dumber than I thought. And, as it happens, yes, he's even dumber than I thought. Over the next few lines she basically demands that he take her to the office and prove to her that he and his father aren't secretly plotting to take over the U.S. I'm not kidding, that's what she does. Noah, surprisingly enough, refuses, and thus opens the way for a bizarre speech.

Page 137, Line 29-32:
"When are you going to grow up, Noah? I know you're not who your father is, but then the next question is, Who are you? It sounds to me like you knew the answer to that when you were in the fifth grade, but you've forgotten now that it's time to be a man."

...what? I can't even begin to follow the tortured writing in that paragraph, although I'm oddly reminded of a more respectable version of Ann Coulter. Anyway, Noah insists he IS a man but then reasserts his refusal to take her to his work place and show her confidential documents she has no right to see. She takes it well.

Page 138, Line 3-5:
"Do you want me to leave?" Her voice was tight and there were sudden tears in her eyes. "Do you never want to see me again? Because that's what this means."

Okay, I lied. She actually takes it like she's freaking bipolar, and I should know as I dated someone with bipolar disorder coupled with hallucinations for two and a half years.***** Or, alternatively, she's not bipolar and is, instead, some kind of TEA party secret agent who is trying to infiltrate Noah's place of employment. I'll leave it to you to decide which of these is (a) more likely to be what the authors have in mind and, (b) which one would produce a more interesting narrative. Regardless, Noah once more says he won't betray his clients' trust and then shit goes down. Specifically, she gets up and leaves, but Noah takes it like a man.

Page 138, Line 11-15:
Noah watched her through the glass and let himself hope for a few seconds that she'd have a change of heart and turn back into his waiting arms so all could be forgiven. But, just like falling in love with someone you've known only for a single day, those things really happened only in the movies.

Okay, yeah, I lied again. He actually takes it like an insecure teenager who has read too many shitty romance novels. But that's only fair since the above paragraph reads like it's from a shitty romance novel. And at the end of the day, who is to say it's not?

But that's a question for another day, because this chapter is over. Come back next time when Noah and Molly- yep, you guessed it- infiltrate his place of employment. It's a dangerous mission that nevertheless has all the excitement of a trip to the post office.

See you then.

* As a side note, if your answer to this question is "yes," we really need to have a conversation about your hygiene.

** Considering that I'm happily married to a wonderful woman whereas Noah is a loser, I suppose the answer to that should be: "Quite a lot, actually."

*** Since he looked at a clock already, this really isn't as impressive as Hollis' stunt.

**** I truly do not know. As it happens, I am pretty much entirely unable to hear rhyme or meter. As a result, I tend to read poetry like oddly-formatted prose. Drove my English teachers utterly nuts.

***** It's fun at first,****** but it gets weird after the first time you find her adjusting her bathing habits so as to discourage demons from possessing her.*******

****** I'm not at all serious about that. It was actually a wrenching experience that put me into counseling for a while. I have a great deal of empathy for people who love those with psychiatric disorders.

******* That's not a joke, that actually happened.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Your weiner is showing.

So, other than the fact that we're a prudish culture and it's funny, why the hell do we even care about this?

Just sayin' is all.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 17

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that proves that not only is truth stranger than fiction, it's usually more entertaining as well. Last time we met a new character and learned Danny Bailey's fate. What happens this week? We continue the adventures of Danny and Stu who, despite hanging out on an airplane, still fail to actually move the plot anywhere. Actually, even when compared against the remainder of the book, this chapter still manages to come across as almost supernaturally dull, so brace yourselves. There's only so much I can do with this shit, no matter how hard I try.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for the awesome reference to classic cinema:

I'm developing a deep envy of Eli Churchill. Not only is he a Jewish Brit, but he took one bullet to the brain and it was lights out.

We, meanwhile, are now 16 chapters in, waiting for the lights--any lights--to turn on.

It's like being a Morlock without Yvette Mimieux's heavy blue eye shadow for distraction.

Indeed, Eli Churchill is a lucky bastard in that his end was quick and painless, whereas our experience has been protracted and agonizing. And to be honest, at this point, I'd be more than happy to settle for Yvette Mimieux even without her eye shadow. Morlocks can't, after all, be choosy. Well done, Ken, and keep at it everyone- the best worst is yet to stagger down the road.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). On Donner, on Dancer, Blitzen, and whatever!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by hurling the characters down the stairs.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's mother.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.


Chapter 17: In which we learn more of Kearns' plan and Bailey makes an ass of himself.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 123, Line 1-3:
Over the intercom came an announcement that they'd just reached cruising altitude at 44,000 feet, and to punctuate that bit of news the NO SMOKING light went off with a quiet ting. [emphasis original]

So, yeah, we're on a plane. It rapidly becomes apparent, however, that this is not a standard commercial flight but instead is some sort of much smaller aircraft. Stuart Kearns, always looking to be helpful, pulls out some cigarettes and lights up. Danny Bailey announces his presence in this scene by asking Kearns what he thinks he's doing.

Page 123, Line 15-17:
"You can still smoke on a charter. On this one, anyway." Kearns extended the pack to him, shook a filter tip halfway out. "Come on, you know you want to."

Yeah, Danny: you know cigs are as good as money in the joint. After your recent "abuse" (Page 121, Line 17-20) I'd expect you'd leap at the chance. Alas, Bailey says he quit and opens the way for an exciting revelation.

Page 124, Line 3-4:
"Hey, remind me, how old are you?" [Kearns asked]

"I'm thirty-four."

Right, like damned near everyone else in this book. Still, treasure those lines, because it's technically an example of characterization.

Page 124, Line 5-6:
"In the decade you were born a man could still smoke a cigar on any flight across this country. Can you believe that?"

It's hard to say for sure what exactly the authors are implying here, maybe that regulations prohibiting smoking on aircraft are a violation of freedom? I actually remember those good-old days that Kearns is referring to, however, and can say without hesitation that they sucked. That jackass who decided to smoke a cigar on a cross-country flight was basically forcing everyone else on the plane to breathe his cigar stank right along with him. It's right up there with someone spitting in your food in my view. Regardless, though, we blow past this and Bailey asks what the hell it is that Kearns needs him to do, thus opening the way for a shit-ton of narration.

Page 124, Line 20-24:
The targets for the operation were low-level militia types with a desire to graduate to a full-blown act of domestic terrorism. They were in the market for funding, logistical support, and some serious weapons. If all went well then the only thing they'd be getting at the final handoff was arrested.

Okay, first of all, these guys sound like an entirely legitimate target for a government investigation. Just sayin' is all. Second, however: if they're in the market for funding, logistical support and weapons, then what do they have now, exactly? A couple of guys and a clubhouse? What? And what does Bailey have to do with this?

Page 124, Line 25-28:
Danny Bailey would be brought along to the first in-person meet-up, to lend a crowning bit of credibility to the proceedings; he was currently the closest thing the Patriot underground had to a national spokesperson. In essence, Bailey would play the Oprah to Kearns's Dr. Phil.

Well, that's an analogy that's going to stick with me, I'll tell you what. Leaving that aside, I just want to say that this makes total sense. I mean, if I were part of an underground movement looking to launch terror attacks on U.S. targets, I would absolutely want to be buying my weapons and equipment from someone with a profile so high that a random asshole on YouTube probably knows who he is. That sounds like a great f-ing idea. It gets better, though.

Page 125, Line 1-8:
A few years earlier a website had been set up by the IT guys at the Bureau: The backstory on the site went like this: A former federal agent had been run out of his job when he'd tried to blow the whistle on some dangerous truths. After repeated death threats, this ousted agent had gotten angry and gone public on the Web in an effort to protect himself from retribution, and to continue his crusade to expose the dark forces intent on causing a global financial collapse and ushering in a one-world government.

Oooooohhhhhh! I know this guy! It's good old Dirk Burton from Left Behind! Ha! Wow, these authors are so freaking lazy, they're out-and-out stealing characters from other crazy books. Just shameful. On an unrelated note, though, if you actually type in into a web browser, you're redirected to the FBI homepage. I don't know if this is the FBI's doing or the authors' but, either way, it frankly bothers me a bit. On a somewhat more horrifying note, I've also just realized that there's a website for the fake organization founded by Molly's mom. There's also a site for Doyle & Merchant, although in this case I think it's probably just coincidence.

Page 125, Line 21-25:
This site and its inflammatory content formed what's known as a troll in the parlance of the Internet culture. Trolling is a fishing term; you toss your lure over the side and forget about it, letting it drag behind the boat in the hopes that something you want to catch will eventually take the bait. [emphasis original]

Yeah, if you don't get that, nothing I can say will help.

Page 125, Line 28-30:
The FBI and many other agencies maintained thousands of such baited traps; sometimes they paid off, most times they didn't.

Can't you just feel the excitement? Anyway, it comes out that a discussion group formed in a private chat room on the site- however the hell that could happen- and gradually five guys emerged who were ready, and willing, to launch a terrorist strike on the U.S. Aaaaand we're back to the "action":

Page 126, Line 18-19:
"These aren't my people," Bailey said. "You've gotta be kidding me, man, I've never told anybody to do any violence-"

Which is pretty much a constant refrain from people who actually ARE inciting violence, just not in so many words. Kearns basically says that and Bailey answers that he has to be inflammatory in order to get attention, and then asks whether the government investigated Tom Clancy after 9/11 given that he wrote about the use of a jet liner as a weapon (1). Kearns answers that they actually did bring him in for questioning though they did not arrest him. As a side note, if I recall correctly the U.S. military did pretty thoroughly investigate a science fiction author who published a story featuring a weapon very much like a cruise missile. Apparently they were worried the guy was trying to communicate defense secrets to the Russians. What does this have to do with the story? Nothing, really, but it's more entertaining than the plot. Returning to Bailey's original protestations of innocence, however, we should keep in mind that just a few chapters ago (Page 83, Line 7-14) Bailey told a room full of people that they were justified to resort to armed resistance to the government and that if a "war" was inevitable, they should start it on their own terms. What's a matter, Danny? Can't handle it when someone takes you at your word? Anyway, Kearns mentions he thinks that there might be "an agent" hidden among the crazies, whatever the hell that means, and then asks Bailey if he has any acting experience.

Page 127-128, Line 127: 20-32, 128: 1-4:
"Oh, you want to know if I can fool a handful of small-time desperadoes role-playing Red Dawn in their living room?" Bailey nodded, took off his dark glasses, picked up his surveillance file from Kearns's lap, and went through the stack until he found a series of photos a third of the way down. "Did you miss these?" he asked.

The photos, time-stamped from earlier in the year, all featured a man dressed and made up in a convincing impersonation of Colonel Sanders, complete with goatee, white suit, and black-string bow tie. In the top picture he was shaking hands with a distinguished-looking gentleman under a huge United Nations seal.

"Is that you?" Kearns asked [revealing that he apparently doesn't know whose surveillance file he was holding in his own lap]

"That's me." Bailey pointed to the man standing next to him in the photo. "And that's Mr. Ali Treki, the president of the UN General Assembly, receiving an official state visit from the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, who'd been dead for almost thirty years at the time. Look." He flipped to the next picture. "He even let me sit in his chair and bang the gavel."

The first thing I wondered when reading this passage is why it is that the United Nations is somehow the arch nemesis of the people who write the shit novels I've been reading for this series. I mean, in Left Behind it's somehow a nascent world state, in this book it's... I dunno... important somehow as something other than a public relations stage. I dunno. It's just weird. The second thing I wondered, though, was whether this was an invention of the authors or an actual event. Turns out this actually happened. The main difference, though, is that whereas in the book Bailey does it to advertise for his new DVD on UN corruption, in the real world it was an advertising ploy by KFC itself. Apparently previous to the stunt, KFC had actually been lobbying the UN to admit the "Grilled Nation" as a member state. No, I'm not kidding. Oddly, however, despite all the absurd citations in the back of the book, the authors didn't see fit to mention that this incident was adapted from real life as well. No idea why, except that it makes me wonder how many of the other details in this book are "borrowed" from others without attribution. Anyway, Kearns asks the logical question:

Page 128, Line 9-11:
"How did you get past security?"

"What security? Security walked me all the way up to the president's office." Bailey smiled. "Everybody loves the Colonel."

Ha! That doesn't explain anything. It does, however, make Kearns' loins warm.

Page 128, Line 14-17:
Despite the circumstances, it was clear to see what people connected with in Danny Bailey. He had an easy charm about him, a certain smoothness that could draw you in like a great salesman does as he effortlessly talks you right down to the bottom line.

I'm almost glad the authors told us all that because, based on what we've seen of Bailey thus far, they sure as hell haven't shown it to us. I mean, thus far Bailey has uniformly appeared to be a total asshole. So, yes, I'm glad they corrected the impression provided by their own terrible writing. But will Bailey's "charm" be enough?

Well, if you want to find out, you'll have to come back next time, because this is the end of the chapter. Come back next time when we check back in with Noah and Molly, who are busy waking up from their night of chaste romance and preparing for the walk of shame walk of mild rebuke.

Good times.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

And you thought your ex was an asshole.

As if yesterday's news wasn't enough to make your brain melt out through your nose, today we get to hear about this fresh hell:

A New Mexico man's decision to lash out with a billboard ad saying his ex-girlfriend had an abortion against his wishes has touched off a legal debate over free speech and privacy rights.

The sign on Alamogordo's main thoroughfare shows 35-year-old Greg Fultz holding the outline of an infant. The text reads, "This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!"

No, I'm not kidding. Oh, no:

What is there to say about something like this? It's horrid, spiteful, venomous and all around terrible.* It's also probably largely covered under free speech, except perhaps for one tiny detail:

The woman's friends say she had a miscarriage, not an abortion, according to a report in the Albuquerque Journal.

Holmes [Fultz's attorney] disputes that, saying his case is based on the accuracy of his client's statement.

"My argument is: What Fultz said is the truth," Holmes said.

And yeah, he better be basing his case on the accuracy of that detail because if it isn't accurate this could very easily transform from a free speech case into a libel case. And since Fultz's ex isn't a celebrity, she wouldn't even have to prove intent to harm. Despite my fondness for free speech, I honestly wish her luck on this one.

Personally, if I had a mullet like that, I'd be pleased a woman had consented to let me touch her at all.

* I'm not sure, but isn't it also poor grammar? I mean, shouldn't it read, "...decided not to kill our child" rather than "...decided to not kill our child"? Grammar nazis, let's hear it!

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Um... right.

So, this is happening:

Or, to sum up (spoiler alert):

The plot as it played out: Three pregnant women wake up imprisoned in a hospital. Their only other contact is with their jailor - a mystery man played by Robert Loggia who occasionally appears on video to answer the women's questions and explain the consequences of their disobedience - and an obstetrician, actress Blanche Baker as Dr. Victoria Wise, who will deliver the captive women's babies whether or not their pro-choice views are changed.

The captive women are clothed in nightgowns and served warm milk and given opportunities to read books and watch movies explaining both sides of the abortion debate. Among the films is Del Vecchio's own 2009 feature, O.B.A.M. Nude, a satire of the Obama presidency.

As Dr. Wise explains it, "we'll have an abortion think tank over the next seven months."

The pregnant women are often tortured by dreams of death and despair - montages of swarming bees, swirling tornadoes and speeches by Hitler one night, African-Americans and foreigners shouting "abort me" in foreign tongues the next - while Dr. Wise experiences flashbacks to the dissolution of her marriage which fell apart when she learned she couldn't bear children. Her parents cursed her for not taking better care of her body, a poor diet, too much work, while her husband - The Karate Kid's bad sensei Martin Kove - divorces her, leaving her for a woman capable of having his children, a moment that pushes Dr. Wise to desperate measures.

Finally two of the three women come to accept human life exists inside them and less anxiously anticipate giving birth. But Staci still refuses to accept that the life inside her is anything more than a fetus. In her third trimester she attempts to injure herself and miscarry. It has unintended consequences.

All three women deliver and finally the first of the plot's twists are revealed. Staci, most opposed to pregnancy, is blessed with two children - twins - while her fellow captives only give birth to one baby each.

Later, Staci wakes up. The two new mothers are no longer captives, they've presumably ascended to heaven with their babies. It's revealed all along the women had been in Purgatory, after having died on the operating table of abortion clinics. But because Staci attempted to miscarry even after a second chance at motherhood, and because she never accepted the error of her ways until she experienced the physical joy of giving birth, of seeing her children for the first time, she will be doomed to eternity in Hell.

Loggia is Satan and he informs Staci she will spend all eternity in a cycle of pregnancy and childbirth and Dr. Wise will forever be her doctor, as the movie's final twist plays out: Wise too will spend eternity in Hell. She was so weak she committed suicide when her marriage collapsed and must suffer the fate of forever bringing life into the world, endlessly having to appreciate what she did not value on Earth. [emphasis added]

Right. The "physical joy of giving birth". You know, I was with my wife every step of the way and I would not describe the predominant emotion as "joy". Something more akin to "agony" would seem to fit better. I don't even know what to do with the bit about Dr. Wise pushing herself too hard and therefore being unable to have children. Guess women should just stay in the kitchen baking pie, eh?

If anyone thinks the pro-life movement has the best interests of women at heart, I guess this movie is here to dissuade them.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 16

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that would make you laugh if only you could stop sobbing in pain. Last time Noah got Molly into his bed and snuggled the shit out of her. What happens this week? We start part two and what appears to be an entirely different book. Sadly, that's not the good news it sounds like at first.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jonas for fleshing out the horror:

He turned her around and pointed up the tower of dark masonry and glass that had been behind her. "And way up there on the twenty-third floor, that's where I live."

Is it just me, or does "tower of dark masonry" conjure up images of Freemasons in the thrall of Sauron?

On a more serious note, I genuinely can't tell whether I'm supposed to think that Noah is an unreconstructed antifeminist douchebag, or whether that's the just the authors oozing through. Either way, this book goes on the "It's hot when men you've only met twice watch you while you sleep" watch list along with the Twilight series.

Any comment that suggests that Noah might sparkle in direct sunlight is pretty awesome, if only because it means that "kill it with fire" may well be the most appropriate possible way of dealing with him. What makes this comment even better, however, is the quick juxtaposition of a little Tolkein. I mean, I've never been able to stomach that high fantasy stuff- seriously, no offense, it makes me crazy- but at least it's written well. If these authors were writing The Lord of the Rings, we'd spend the whole damn time hearing about how posh Rivendale was, see the Nazgul giving an elaborate power point presentation, and finish with a dramatic debate battle between the uruk-hai and Boromir that was told entirely in past-tense narration by someone who heard about it from Frodo. Well done, Jonas, and keep at it everyone! This series is just gonna keep on happening.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Fo' shizzle!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the ASA council.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.


Part TWO: In which the "plot" continues to stumble drunkenly downhill.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 115, Line Fireballs:

No quote, and in fact this page isn't even numbered, but it does declare in big block letters that we're now beginning "Part TWO" of the novel. Scrawled at the top of this page we find my notation, "Wait, what? 'Part Two'? That was 'Part One'? Christ, how many ways to kill page space can one book employ?" The answer, to borrow a line from this work of clusterfuction, is "absolutely all of them". And one of the best of those ways is seemingly deep quotations that actually have nothing to do with anything.

Page 115, Line 1-11:
"The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and a foolish idea. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can throw the rascals out at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies."

-Professor Carroll Quigley, Author of Tragedy and Hope

So as you can see, most of the page announcing Part TWO is taken up by a big quote from one of the authors' boogeymen, Carroll Quigley. And this quote certainly sounds scary, as though Quigley is advocating some sort of evil oligarchy. Yeah, well, the devil is in the details or, in this case, the context. You can get a PDF of Tragedy and Hope here* and with its assistance we can look up the paragraph that the authors' quote comes from. I'll go ahead and put it below, with the section they quoted in bold:

The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. The policies that are vital and necessary for America are no longer subjects of significant disagreement, but are disputable only in details of procedure, priority, or method: we must remain strong, continue to function as a great world Power in cooperation with other Powers, avoid high-level war, keep the economy moving without significant slump, help other countries do the same, provide the basic social necessities for all our citizens, open up opportunities for social shifts for those willing to work to achieve them, and defend the basic Western outlook of diversity, pluralism, cooperation, and the rest of it, as already described. These things any national American party hoping to win a presidential election must accept. But either party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies. [Pages 1247-1248]

And it rapidly becomes apparent that the quote presented by the authors is not just taken out of context, but is itself a monster worthy of Mary Shelley, stitched together out of parts strewn here and there in the original material, and jolted to life by the implication of conspiracy. Indeed, one wonders why the authors bothered to include that first ellipsis given how they neglect to insert the later quite necessary ellipses. And, as long as we're on the subject, the relative similarity of the two major U.S. parties owes less to the possibility of a nefarious conspiracy and more to the impact of Duverger's Law. But why would the authors need any knowledge of political science, anyway? Regardless, after another quote that I'm not going to bother dissecting because I've grown bored of investigating the authors' slovenly intellectual habits, we move into...

Chapter 16: In which we meet a new character, Stuart Kearns, and learn that Danny from the bar has been getting to know his cell mate all night. Also, there's some bullshit paranoia about the government.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 117, Line 1-2:
Stuart Kearns flipped his black ID folder closed when it seemed his credentials had been sufficiently absorbed by the desk sergeant.

Meanwhile, in a totally different book...

Page 117, Line 5-7:
Kearns passed across a manila envelope that carried authorization forms for the interview and a conditional catch-and-release waiver for the prisoner in question.

This, obviously, raises the questions: who is Kearns, why does he have the pull to treat a prisoner like a trout, what prisoner are we referring to, and where are we? You may also be wondering why we're reading this shit in the first place, but I prefer to allow that to remain mysterious. Oddly, though, I regard these few paragraphs as relatively well-written, at least insofar as, unlike the remainder of the book, they inspire curiosity.

Page 117, Line 9-11:
...Agent Kearns took a short walk to a seat in a small side office to wait his turn, just like everybody else.

Ah, so he's an agent! But what kind? An insurance agent? A travel agent? A customs agent?

Page 117, Line 12-14:
It was just another privilege of the badge, he supposed. Civilians have to go all the way to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get this kind of white-glove treatment.

I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be funny. And, honestly, it does come closer than most "jokes" in this book, though the humor is somewhat lost on me since my experience of the DMV has generally been positive. Or, I should say, much less negative than many organizations. Regardless, it finally comes out that Kearns is an FBI agent and we get something that's just... well... you're going to have to read it for yourself.

Page 118, Line 4-13:
The fact that such people [bureaucracts] and their passive-aggressive infighting were a bit part of his professional life bothered him less than it used to. After thirty-one years of beating his head against the wall in law enforcement, a man shouldn't be surprised to find his brains bashed in and the wall still standing. But you can know a thing like that and go on acting like you don't. His first wife had said it best, on her way out the door. It's not other people, it's not your boss or your enemies or the kid at the supermarket. It's you. You ask for it, Stuart, and all they do is give it to you.

Thanks again, Sunshine, for all your support. You were the best of your breed; spouse number two didn't even bother to leave a note. [emphasis original]

It's like the authors are trying to write a hard-bitten, worn-down old cop character but, inexplicably, are doing so without ever actually having seen the stereotype executed. It's like someone described Hartigan to them and they're trying to mimic him. Except, of course, that whereas Hartigan's primary antagonist was a psychopathic pedophile, Kearns' nemesis is, apparently, long lines for public services. Anyway, at this point Kearns uses his keen investigative skills to look over the waiting room.

Page 118, Line 22-23:
A picture frame stood on the desk, still displaying the yellowing promotional family photo inserted at the factory.

Seriously? I mean, what? Has anyone ever freaking seen this in a public office? I've seen shitty "art" and out-of-date magazines, but never something that stupid. Whatever. We get a brief description of Kearns as old and jowly and then the sergeant tells Kearns his man will be out in a moment. Kearns is casually rude in response and it comes out that Kearns is there on assignment from the D.C. Joint Terrorism Task Force. Actually, he specifically mentions that his paperwork derives from the JTTF, which will be important later. Right now, not so much, but hey, there you go.

Page 119, Line 16-20:
These places had a sound all their own. Back there among the inmates it would be drowned out by the hue and cry of those right around you, but from a distance those troubled voices all intermingled into a sound something like an ill wind- an airy, echoing howl that drifted up from the cell blocks at certain times of the day and night.

In the margins at this point I wrote, "Wow, that was actually pretty decent," but now that I'm reading it again, I'm wondering why it was that I'd come over all stupid the first time. That was not decent at all, except perhaps in comparison to the remainder of the book. But, hey, in the land of the half-assed the minimally competent jerkwad is king.

Page 119, Line 21-28:
While he was waiting he pulled a hefty folder from his briefcase and opened it flat. This was an abridged version of the FBI file for the young man he was about to see. The guy was a marshmallow, he'd been assured, and by a covert order he'd just spent a long hard night in a cage full of the worst serial offenders this venue had to offer, so he would certainly be softened up even more by this morning. With luck, once a deal was on the table there wouldn't be too much time wasted in negotiation.

Ah. I see where this is going. We've just discovered what became of Danny Bailey. Apparently he's been in lockup all night listening to his cellmates expound upon what a pretty mouth he has. Never mind that, though, what I want to know is: what the hell has Danny done to warrant any FBI file, much less a thick one?

Page 119, Line 29-32:
It was an unusually thick file for someone who'd never been arrested for anything more serious than fairly minor narcotics offenses. Cocaine, mostly, some party drugs, and he'd been busted with a modest grow operation and a trash bag full of premium bud at one point...

I'm not sure what to make of that, actually, given that Federal marijuana laws are not what I'd describe as gentle. Likewise, cocaine is pretty serious, although treated much less harshly than crack. So, I'm not sure what here is supposed to be "minor". Then again, Glenn Beck admits to abusing drugs back in the day, so maybe this is his perception of what constitutes a set of "minor" drug offenses? Anyway, Kearns notes that Bailey plea-bargained his way out of prosecution by turning on his accomplices, reads about a pair of suicide attempts, and then notices all the surveillance this guy is under, including...

Page 120, Line 10-11:
...highlighted transcripts of a monitored ham-radio show...

A what, now? A "ham-radio show"? What the hell is that? As it happens, I actually have an amateur radio license (although I let my membership in the ARRL lapse years ago) and I have never heard of a ham running a show. Truth be told, I'm not even sure that such a thing would be legal under FCC rules, which define what it is that hams can and cannot do in their allocated bands. Ah, whatever. Kearns notes that the surveillance was conducted under the aegis of concern over "hate speech/counterterrorism," whatever the hell that means, and that in addition to the joint terrorism task force, the domestic terrorism working group and the weapons of mass destruction working group are also interested. Always a good sign.

Page 120, Line 20-25:
Based on this file and, more important, based on Stuart Kearns's long experience in the field, this little guy didn't seem like he'd ever been much for the government to worry about. It was almost as though they decided years ago that they were going to get him, but they hadn't yet known exactly how. He didn't seem dangerous, only outspoken and troublesome. But, heaven knows, stranger things have happened.

One thing I really hate about this book is that the authors simply cannot content themselves with painting a picture. No, on the rare occasions when they attempt to show rather than tell- invariably doing so incompetently- they nevertheless always follow up with a bit of prose that states their point. It's like the guy who tells a joke and then, after the punchline, immediately says, "See? It's funny because..." and then explains the whole thing. If you need to explain it, then your story-telling is weak, and if your story-telling is weak, make it stronger, don't embed the Cliff's Notes right in the damn text. Anyway, Kearns thinks morosely about how personal liberties are gradually being eroded, in the process leading to an amusing slip-up on the part of the authors.

Page 120, Line 30-31:
Today even the most liberal of politicians were openly floating the idea of preventive detention for terrorism suspects...

Wow, authors! Did you seriously just imply that it's the liberals that are really interested in civil liberties? That just doesn't sound like you at all!

Page 121, Line 3-9:
The presumption of innocence was an admirable doctrine in simpler days, though at best it had always been unevenly applied in practice- more an ideal to strive toward than a true and present cornerstone of American justice. In recent years an increasingly frightened public had approved of that hallowed concept being systematically replaced with another, especially when it came to certain groups and offenses: When in doubt, lock them up.

I think in the above passage when the authors say "public" they mean "our kind of people". I was pretty pissed and scared after 9/11, and definitely wanted a state actor to do some violence to in retaliation, but from my recollection the entire public was not prepared to deep-six core principles of our justice system. Certain segments of that public, yes, but not the whole thing. Not by a long shot.

Page 121, Line 17-20:
Three corrections officers approached the open door with a heavily shackled prisoner in their charge. He could barely walk on his own, either from the effects of heavy fatigue, the abuse he'd obviously taken from his cellmates overnight, or both.

Yeah. Being denied sleep for one night does not, in my experience, leave healthy youngish men unable to walk. That suggests that it's the "abuse" that's leaving the prisoner walking all bow-legged. And by "abuse" I'm assuming we're meant to think "sodomy". Stay classy, authors! Anyway, the prisoner is seated and the cops depart, leaving him with Kearns.

Page 121, Line 28:
"Daniel Carroll Bailey?" [Kearns asked, marveling that his middle name is "Carroll"]

Wow! I am not surprised at all by this shocking turn of events! This book has so many twists and turns, it's like watching paint dry! Anyway, Bailey asks if Kearns is his lawyer, Kearns answers that he's not, threatens Bailey with a long and hard prison sentence without actually specifying the charge, and then shows Bailey his ID before delivering the punchline.

Page 122, Line 27-29:
"I've [Kearns] got nine words for you that I'll bet you never thought you'd be so glad to hear," he said. "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Ha! See, it's funny because the government never helps! Silly government, with it's dumb roads and shit. When will it learn?

Well, not this week, because we've reached the end of the chapter. Come back next time when Kearns reveals more of his cunning plan, Bailey makes an ass of himself, and we're bored by the leaden prose.


* Yes, I actually went and found a machine readable copy. I found two of them, thanks for asking, and the linked one is more readable.


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