I spent last night, after Jeopardy! and half of Olbermann, assembling the new Schwinn recumbent exercise bicycle purchased to help my Poor Wife's deteriorating deteriorating disc problem. The Schwinn came highly recommended, and after she checked out the various offerings at local sporting goods emporiums and decided not to pay half again as much for a step-through model, we ordered one online Sunday from The Stationary Bike Superstore (motto: "you get a link when I get some promotional materials") and it arrived Wednesday morning. Good job all around, but no mention of the shipping company (rhymes with Red Rex) whose minions left the box on the deck with the "This End Up" arrow pointing to the spot on the deck where they'd left it.
Like the Schwinns of my youth the thing weighed as much as a VW Beetle. Like most things that have happened to me since, someone else made the decision as to where the thing would go, a wrong decision to my way of thinking and one which caused me to spend the first forty-five minutes disassembling a bed and lugging the pieces to the basement. Got a little nook in your basement waiting to accept a mattress and box springs? Me neither.
But wonders of wonders, as it turned out the assembly procedure was the best I've been subjected to in a quarter century of Some Assembly Required. The connectors were vacuum-packed on two cards, sorted by which step they were needed for! And the instructions were clear and in English. There were a couple minor glitches, but I managed to put the thing together without having to disassemble anything I'd done two steps previous.
This was in the guest room, which now serves as Larry's overnight pen, probably until he's too old to jump onto anything and everything, so I was watching the teevee in there, the one which the aforementioned bundle of feline domestic intranquility disconnected from the cable last week, according to my wife, who was watching the thing at the time. Hooking it back up requires spelunking gear, because it sits on one of those cheap Home Entertainment centers which was Larry-proofed when we got him, to stave off the day when he started sticking hairpins into wall outlets and/or starting small fires. This is how I came to watch last night's ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order, Original Recipe* and its examination of The Tricky Torture Conundrum We All Now Face.
The Set Up (da dum!): Two guys pull a bank job by getting the cooperation of the branch manager by kidnapping his small daughter. The bag man is discovered, pulls a gun and is shot dead. Dennis Farina learns where the accomplice is hiding and puts a gun to the guy's head demanding to know where the child is. "You won't shoot," he sneers.
So Farina drags the guy to the bathroom, and improvises a waterboard using the toilet. Fortunately for him, and our story, although we're in some ritzy real estate the toilet's an old-fashioned job, not a low-ride Water Savr™ model. (It's a remarkable feat, by the way, repeatedly dunking a man's head in a toilet with one hand while you hold a gun in the other. Try it for yourself sometime.)
Accomplice is defended by the recurring guest star Fast-Talkin', Crazy Like a Fox, Jewish Lawyer Guy. But his schtick is pretty much restricted to the arraignment scene, after which we spend a lot of time while he and Jack ("I Was a Radical in My Youth and Still Retain an Poignant Ember or Two When Required for Plot Advancement") McCoy agonize over what a conundrum this tricky torture thing is now that we all face it.
It's left to Jack's new Eye Candy Assistant to get squeamish. It's always the women who get squeamish, except Angie Harmon (wisely, as no one could imagine a drop of the milk of human kindness crossing those lactose-intolerant lips). Mercifully, the homilies from Fred Dumbo Thompson were kept to a minimum. (I know it's not original, but Fred Dumbo Thompson, NYC DA? What was his campaign slogan, "I'm One of Y'All"?)
Of course at one point, maybe two or three, we had to hammer out the "What if a terrorist was the only one who knew the location of a bomb set to kill millions in thirty minutes?" routine, just in case someone playing along at home had Missed the Significance.
The Denouement (da-dum!) We're stuck for a Way Out (the judge had the same relationship to the Bill of Rights that James Dobson has to Will and Grace) when it looks like the defendant may go free (even Crazy Jewish Lawyer Guy has admitted his client deserves ten years in Attica!), until Eye Candy, ADA, posits a way around the exclusion of evidence. Everybody's satisfied, except Eye Candy, who says something pithy just before fade out. But I missed it.
The Epilogue, as they used to say on Barnaby Jones: McCoy and Crazy Jewish Lawyer Guy on the courthouse steps, talking about just what a conundrum this tricky torture thing is. We just don't have any answers!
But then of course we do, cunningly concealed in your vocation. The Law. And no, I'm not saying (stereotypical liberal loon voice**), "That's illegal! You can't do that!" I'm saying that we enshrine the distinction between something done in the heat of the moment (roughing up a suspect we know has the key to a little girl's life) vs. premeditation (the systematic brutalization of vast numbers of people on the grounds we don't like their looks). Show me the situation where someone had to extract information an hour before a bomb went off. Show me one where they even imagined they might be dealing with someone with that sort of information. Do that, and I'll hold the fucking toilet seat up. But torture for the sake of torture, or roughly 100% of the cases we know about, that's no Conundrum at all.
*s.z.'s joke, I think.
** Please, will somebody put an end to David Cross, liberal talk-radio schmuck, on The Colbert Report? Not only has the bit brought new meaning to the term pro forma, but it gets less funny every time out.