Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review: BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French

Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, #4)Broken Harbor by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and his new partner Richie Curran get called out to investigate a brutal crime in a crumbling, failed, mostly empty housing estate. Two children are dead, smothered in their beds. The unemployed father is dead of multiple stab wounds and the mother is barely alive and unconscious.

The detectives immediately find more strange and unsettling things at the Spain house. There are holes smashed in the walls, with video cameras pointed at the holes and at the hatch to the attic (which is covered with wire, as if to keep something from getting out). The wife had confided in her sister that she thought an intruder had been entering the house unobserved over the past few months. And someone has set up an observation post in the empty house across the street so as to watch the place.

It's the slow peeling away of the layers of this mystery that keeps the reader fascinated and engaged. If you're looking for an edge of your seat, "who will survive and what will be left of them" thriller with the heroes in danger at every turn, this is not the book for you. The drama and conflict comes in the interaction of the characters and in their personal lives, particularly Mick's travails with his mentally unbalanced sister Dina and the memories they both carry of their mother's suicide at the beach resort that was replaced by the development where the murders took place. This means that the book sometimes gets a little slow and talky. I also had trouble swallowing one of Richie's decisions, one that's the setup for the major reveal. It just didn't seem like something that character would do.

But, as always with Tana French, the prose is absolutely beautiful--I stopped to read the soliloquy at the beginning of Chapter 18 three times because it was so perfect, even though I knew there was a major turning point about to happen. And the ending was absolutely shattering. Recommended.

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Creature From Planet Koch

Latest Newspaper Column:

If you’ve turned on your TV at all in the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen the ad.
Funded by the billionaire right-wing Koch Brothers through the organization “Americans for Prosperity,” the ad features a gray-haired woman of a certain age, identified only as “Tricia,” railing against the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare is dangerous. It can’t be implemented,” says Tricia (described on the AFP website as “an AFP activist and cancer survivor”) in a hectoring, indignant tone that suggests that she thinks “Obamacare” is a synonym for “killing puppies.”
“Your well-being judged by a bureaucrat in D.C. is devastating,” she goes on to say. Powerful stuff, and it makes you think. Mostly it makes you think, “What the heck planet has this woman been living on?”
You don’t want bureaucrats intervening in your health care, “Tricia”? Then I assume, despite your apparent age, that you’re either not on Medicare or you’re not using it. You’ve also clearly never dealt with private insurance — you know, the type that’s going to still be covering most people now that “Obamacare” is coming into full effect.
Because I can tell you, if you had, you’d know that having people you don’t know giving the thumbs-up or thumbs-down on your health care decisions is pretty much the norm, whether those people are in Washington or in a corporate headquarters far, far away.
You like being able to pick your own doctor? Great, so do the rest of us — and we can, so long as our doctor or hospital is “in network.” Who decides who’s in “network”? News flash, Trish: It ain’t the patient, and it never has been, at least if you live in the same world most of us do.
“Tricia” mentions that she’s had cancer twice and gotten great care. So I assume she’s been on the same insurance all her life and never had to worry about not being able to switch insurance companies because her cancer would be a “pre-existing condition.” Not only that, but she’s probably also been able to afford to pay if a doctor she wants is not “in network.”
No, I think I know what planet “Tricia” is from. She’s an emissary from Planet Koch, the Billionaire Planet, where people can afford to have CEO-level corporate insurance or can pay health costs out of pocket and pick their doctor if insurance doesn’t come through.
But that’s not the planet where most of us live. Most of us live in a world where it’s a relief to not be terrified of changing jobs because a new insurance plan might call your kid’s asthma or your wife’s arthritis a “pre-existing condition” and refuse to cover it.
We live in a world where full coverage for preventive care makes sense. We live in a world where we look forward to finally being able to compare plans, including their costs, side by side, in an open marketplace.
We live in a world where we look forward to more stories like that of 61-year-old Arkansan Butch Matthews, who’d been paying for his own insurance for years and watching the price go up and up and up, but who recently went on Arkansas’ new exchange and found a better plan with a lower deductible for a thousand dollars less a month.
Those exchanges, by the way, may be the thing that scares the Koch Brothers, those Creatures from The Billionaire Planet, the most.
How many times have you heard someone say that they’d like to change from a job they hate, or they’d like to start their own business, but they couldn’t afford to lose their family’s health insurance? The fear of bankruptcy due to uncovered medical expenses is the thing that has kept people in thrall to lousy jobs and bad bosses for years. And that’s just changed.
True, a lot of people will still be getting health insurance provided for them (and picked out for them) by their employers. A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that fewer than 3 percent of employers were “at least somewhat likely” to drop coverage for full-time employees, and only .5 percent said they definitely would.
But what happens if employers do start cutting insurance benefits, say, by designating workers as “part time,” and more and more people go to the exchanges for their insurance? How will the Creatures From the Billionaire Planet keep the workers in line then?

Answer: They won’t. And that’s why they’re so desperate, and why they’re running dishonest ads like this one.