Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: THE HARD BOUNCE by Todd Robinson

The Hard BounceThe Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a standard P.I. novel plot: rich powerful man asks the wisecracking gumshoe to find and bring back his troubled young daughter. P.I. goes looking, poking around and asking questions, until someone beats him up or takes a shot at him and he discovers that things aren't as they seem, and things get more complicated from there.

In Todd Robinson's original take on the well-worn plot, however, the protagonist and his sidekick aren't P.I.'s, they're bouncers for downscale bars. They're professional kickers of asses, and they're as apt to dish out a beating with their questions as to take one--but only if the lowlife in question deserves it. And in their quest to find the girl, Boo Malone and Junior McCullough find plenty of folks who deserve it. They're saved from being portrayed as mere leg-breakers by Robinson's sharp, funny dialogue and the characters' fierce, years-long loyalty to each other. You quickly come to really care about the big bruisers and the surrogate family they've cobbled together over years of hard knocks. The book has plenty of twists and surprises, as any good hardboiled adventure should, and it all comes together to a fine, satisfying ending.


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Sunday, May 19, 2013

In Which I Try To Bring Left And Right Together

Outrage Should Cut Both Ways | The Pilot: Southern Pines, NC

I agree that the seizure of the phone records of The Associated Press by the Department of Justice is outrageous.

I also agree that it's outrageous for the IRS to have singled out tea party groups for extra scrutiny regarding their petitions to get tax-exempt status as "social welfare," rather than "political" organizations.

But these scandals give all of us, on the left and the right and the big squishy middle, an unprecedented opportunity to work together. Let's start with the DOJ seizure of AP's phone information.

They're being typically close-mouthed about it at the time of this writing, but it appears that the information was gathered pursuant to investigatory powers that were greatly expanded as a major part of the 2001 Patriot Act, including the infamous "National Security Letters," which allow the government to legally demand information without judicial oversight or the knowledge of the person being investigated.

And, while the DOJ won't say what investigation the phone records were pertinent to, we do know they've been investigating who leaked information to AP about a CIA operation against a terrorist cell in Yemen, a leak which the DOJ claims threatened national security.

I hate to say "I told you so," but I can't help but mention how ironic it is that I was once called a traitor for writing columns against the act, by the same sort of people who claim to be outraged now.

I said at the time, "Do you want to turn that kind of power over to Hillary Clinton?" (Because back then, it looked like Clinton was a lock for the Dem nomination.) The right wing response? "YOU WANT US TO GET ATTACKED AGAIN!!! 9/11 WAS CAUSED BY YOU LIBERALS!!!!! AAAAAAAHHH!!!!"

But let's not dwell on the past. It's time to pull together.

As for the IRS: It was absolutely wrong for the IRS to give extra scrutiny to tea party groups to see if they were involved in partisan political activity inconsistent with their nonprofit status. I mean, of course they were. All you had to do was look at their signs and listen to their rhetoric. But it was unfair to single them out.

But does anyone remember the outrage over Bush-era IRS auditing of the NAACP? Remember the outrage over Bush-era IRS audits of Greenpeace? Remember the outrage when All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena was threatened with losing its tax exempt status for speaking out against the Iraq War before the 2004 election (while other churches in Ohio were openly campaigning for Republican candidates)?
Yeah, me neither. Because none of that outrage ever happened, even though the actual outrages did. 

But again, let's not dwell on the past.

So here's the plan. Even though there's no evidence that the extra scrutiny of the tea party groups was ordered by the White House, I am, for the sake of amity and bipartisanship, willing to join in the Republican call that the president apologize for it in addition to merely condemning it.

You folks on the right need to see if you can get ahold of Dubbya and get him to put down his paint brush long enough to retroactively do the same in regard to progressive groups that got the same treatment.

Going forward, I'm calling on the IRS to carefully scrutinize all organizations claiming tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, to see if they're actually partisan political rather than social welfare organizations. I expect my friends on the right to demand the same.

It should be noted, however, that conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS spent more than $263 million during the 2012 campaign, while liberal counterparts like spent "only" $35 million, according to a study performed by the Center for Responsive Politics and reported in the Washington Post. So it may look to the right as if they're being singled out again. But it's just the numbers. You do more than seven times the spending, you'll get more than seven times the investigations. I'm sure you won't mind.

As for the scandal over the phone records, I'm calling on the president and the Democrats in Congress to repeal the Patriot Act, or any provision of any law that allows the FBI to demand phone and other records they claim are "relevant to an investigation of terrorism or clandestine intelligence activity," without any judicial oversight.
I'm sure all of my friends on the right agree (now) that that kind of power shouldn't be given to anyone, even in investigations of national security leaks. If it is given, it's going to be used, because if it isn't, and something terrible happens, we know who'll get blamed, tarred and feathered. So best not to let the government have the option.

At long last, let us work together. I'm looking forward to it.