Monday, December 05, 2011

Review: THE COLD COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty

The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy Series, Book 1)The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Northern Ireland in 1981, Detective Sean Duffy wryly observes, there aren't a lot of what you'd traditionally think of as "serial killers"; any psychopath who wants to kill a lot of people has only to seek out and join the paramilitary group of his choice, and he'll have all the killing his twisted heart may desire. But when a pair of bizarre murders points to the existence of an honest to goodness serial murderer, Duffy, a Catholic "peeler" in a heavily Protestant area, gets the case.

I've been an Adrian McKinty fan since 2003's Dead I Well May Be, and this one did not disappoint. Duffy's a classic McKinty character: complicated and conflicted, driven by internal forces he himself understands only imperfectly. The book takes place during a time when IRA hunger strikers were dying in the notorious Maze prison and the entire country seemed on the verge of civil war as the paramilitaries responded with bombings and riots. The ever-present threat of an explosion (both literal and metaphorical) adds an extra layer of almost unbearable tension to the main story.

This one comes out in the US in early 2012. Get it.

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

18-Year-Old Girl 1,Governor Brownback 0

Latest Newspaper Column:

Recently, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's office took on an 18-year-old high school girl - and lost.
It all started when Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, went to the Capitol and heard Brownback, a right-wing hero and failed presidential candidate, speak.
"I don't agree with a majority of the things that he is trying to pass," Sullivan said, citing in particular Brownback's doing away with all state support for the arts. So, like many a bored and/or disgusted young person, she pulled out her smartphone and got on the online service Twitter.
"Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person," she sent, followed by a "hashtag," or topic identifier, reiterating in somewhat saltier terms her opinion that the governor was fond of performing a certain sexual act.
Now, here's something you need to remember: Twitter messages, or "tweets," go only to people who "follow" you. You have to choose to follow someone. Sullivan had only 60 followers at the time the message was sent. She did not actually say to the governor that he "sucked."
Unfortunately, Sullivan hadn't yet learned just how thin-skinned and belligerent right-wingers can get. Somehow, the word got out that she had dissed the governor to her online buddies, and Brownback's office decided that this expression of opinion could not go unpunished, even if it had not been conveyed directly to them, to the governor himself, or to anyone save the 60 or so friends, acquaintances, and admirers who'd chosen to "follow" Sullivan.
They called the principal's office and complained that Sullivan was being mean to them. She was called on the carpet by the principal, who demanded that she write a letter of apology. She considered it, but later decided that such an apology would be insincere and refused.
The situation blew up into a major national story after Sullivan's sister contacted the media. Her Twitter "following" grew from 65 to more than 15,000 people. Finally, an embarrassed governor's office realized that trying to intimidate an 18-year-old girl who'd insulted them on Twitter made them look stupid. Brownback issued a statement apologizing for his staff, who he said had "overreacted" to the tweet.
Despite Brownback's red-faced admission, the usual pearl-clutching and hand-wringing about how "uncivil" discourse has gotten (but only if it's done by liberals) followed. For example, columnist Ruth Marcus in the allegedly liberal Washington Post wrote that Sullivan should be glad she's not her daughter, because Marcus would make her apologize, then take her phone away.
I'll agree that Sullivan's tweet to her friends was rude. But it was, after all, to her circle, and not to the governor.
And you know what? After years of things like: Willie Horton ads; calling 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton "the White House dog"; Swiftboating; GOP convention-goers waving purple Band-Aids to mock a veteran's war wounds; Ann Coulter saying the "only choice was whether to impeach or assassinate" President Clinton and later claiming 9/11 widows were "enjoying their husbands' deaths"; Rush Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease; posters and T-shirts with nooses on them saying "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Assembly Required"; "Liberal Hunting Permits"; birtherism; posters of Barack Obama dressed as Hitler, Stalin, and an African witch doctor with a bone through his nose; Rand Paul supporters trying to stomp the head of a protester; ads claiming Kay Hagan was "godless"; "If ballots don't work, maybe bullets will"; "Obama hates white people"; "GET OFF MY PHONE YOU LITTLE PINHEAD!"; "YOU LIE!"; wingnuts at FreeRepublic calling 11-year old Sasha Obama a "street whore" for wearing a peace sign on her T-shirt; Sarah Palin committing outright slander about "death panels"; "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy"; cheering for executions; booing soldiers for being gay; comparing poor people to stray animals you shouldn't feed; "We've got one raghead in the White House, we don't need a raghead in the governor's mansion"; supposed "Christians" suggesting that people pray for the president using Psalm 109:8 ("May his days be few, may another take his office. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow") as a text; Limbaugh calling the first lady "uppity"; and on and on and on, all without a mumblin' word from so-called "conservatives," it's kind of hard to take them seriously when they start scolding anyone about manners.
When I start hearing the same disapproval from the right for things like that, maybe I'll reconsider. Until then, peddle that Twitrage somewhere else. I'm not buying it.