After the Draft: The Contract

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Mission Accomplished? You wish.

So, you’ve spent years writing hundreds of thousands of words, dozens of stories, and probably a couple of trunk novels you’d rather not talk about. Like ever. And after all that, you’ve finally written a novel that isn’t complete dreck. Your beta readers even seem to like it. You’ve gone through a couple of rounds of rewrites to smooth out the rough edges.

Now what?

Well, the first big question most authors are asking themselves these days is whether to go with “traditional” publishing or self-pub. I’m not going to get in the middle of that argument. There are pros and cons of each, and I know people who have found success through both paths. Personally, I decided to go the traditional route, because I believe it will give me more time to write. Maybe I’m wrong, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But, if you’re like me and decide to go traditional publishing, or even a hybrid of the two, the next big question you’re going to ask yourself is whether or not you should pursue an agent. Again, I’m not going to replay that argument, and there are plenty of examples of unagented authors succeeding in publishing. But again, I decided to go the agent route because I felt a good agent would afford more opportunities for my book to be seen by the decision makers.

And as anyone following the blog already knows, not only did I land a very good agent, but he in turn sold my first book and a second one within a few short months.

“But why should I give somebody 15% of my hard earned money?” you might be asking. Well, the answer to that came to me when I saw my copy of the actual contract I was going to sign.

Ask yourself a few questions. What do you know about Audio book royalties? eBook pricing? How long should your publisher be given to sell foreign language translations before those rights revert back to you? Is it better to sign a multi-book deal or a single book deal? What is a fair advance? What do you know about negotiating volume-based royalty bonuses? What experience do you have with merchandise and TV/Movie adaptation rights?

If you’re like me, the answer was “Fuck all.” A book contract is a very complex document with a dozen or more moving parts, any one of which has the potential to greatly impact your bottom line. As debut authors, most of us simply won’t have the experience or knowledge base necessary to know what fair terms are. Unfortunately, the actual business of writing isn’t something that’s taught at the majority of writing MFA programs, workshops, or writer’s retreats. And even if it was, the reality is the publishing industry is in such a state of flux right now that what was true five years ago has been tossed out the window.

But while aspiring and debut authors don’t have that knowledge, agents do. It is literally their job to know. So the math for me was pretty easy. I could have 100% of a much smaller number because the publisher was able to take advantage of my naiveté, or 85% of a much larger number because I had someone with both the knowledge of contemporary publishing contracts and a monetary interest in seeing that I made the most money I could.

Looking back at the contract, I think I made the right choice.

In the final tally, we signed a two-book deal with Angry Robot, with an option on a third should THE ARK and TRIEDNET’S FORGE prove popular enough to warrant rounding out the trilogy. I accepted a slightly smaller advance than the average, but retained audio rights on the advice of my agent. I’m happy with that decision because it can mean another sale later and multiple income streams going forward, something that wouldn’t have occurred to me without his guidance. Additionally, my royalty rate gets a boost if certain sales volume targets are met, something else I wouldn’t have known to ask for.

In the end, everyone walked away with a fair deal that gives all parties a chance to make money. No one feels like they’re being exploited or not getting their fair share. That’s why I wanted an agent.

I hope that helps. Soon, we’ll get into the fun stuff. Working with an editor for the first time, rewrites, and cover art. See you then!

 

Like this? Follow me on twitter @stealthygeek

A Nerd Goes to the Detroit Auto Show. Part 2

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Over the weekend, I was in Michigan for a convention and stole away a few hours on Saturday to head to the North American International Auto Show, which runs through Sunday the 25th. This was my first time attending, and I’m very glad I did. You can find my first post on what Ford is up to here:

https://www.patrickstomlinson.com/2015/01/18/a-nerd-goes-to-the-detroit-auto-show/

Today, I’m leaving the Ford booth to focus on another demonstration that caught my eye. And it’s a doozey.

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Local Motors booth.

What you’re looking at here is a miniature factory sitting right on the auto show floor. Start up company, Local Motors, brought it with them from Arizona to help the public better understand their manufacturing process. Instead of traditional manufacturing which requires miles-long factories, hundreds of robots, and thousands of workers toiling along assembling tens of thousands of components to make a single car identical to hundreds of thousands of others, Local Motors is going for simplicity. You see, Local Motors is in the business of printing cars.

20150117_114718Local Motors 3D Printer

While the big car companies have embraced 3D printing for cranking out study models, prototypes, and even some individual components, Local Motors is printing the entire chassis, body panels, doors, and interior of the car. Only things like the electric engine, suspension components, and batteries need to be sourced from traditional suppliers.

If you’re at all familiar with 3D printing technology, the sort you can find at design studios and even in the home, the process is nearly identical, except much larger. here are several methods of 3D printing on the market, but they all use robotically controlled arms to deposit thin layers of material in the shape of hundreds or thousands of two-dimensional silhouettes stacked one on top of another to create a three-dimensional object. Think of it as the reverse of CNC machining.

20150117_114652Chassis being printed

Scaled up, this process is also known as BAAM, or Big Area Addition Manufacturing. Instead of cutting out sheet metal forms, pressing them into shape, then riveting or welding them together, Local Motors uses their giant industrial printer to replace entire assemblies with a single component, drastically reducing the total number of parts and radically simplifying the manufacturing process, while increasing structural integrity and longevity of the parts.

20150117_114802A first-gen Strati being assembled in front of a confused crowd

And don’t think that these cars will look like somebody’s giant Lego obsession. That’s just a rough car being test fitted. The body panels and other components then undergo a smoothing and polishing process that makes them visually indistinguishable from the metal, fiberglass, or carbon fiber of more traditional vehicles. Local Motors even left out examples to explain what each stage of the process looks like.

20150117_114841Step 1: Fresh from the printer

20150117_114901Step 2: Back from a trip to the router 

20150117_114933Step 3: Sanded smooth

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 Step 4: Polished to perfection

Sorry, my camera phone flash had a little trouble with that last one. Just trust me that the fender looked no different from a highly polished automotive clearcoat, despite being unpainted.

What you end up with is a car manufactured from a single robot that can then be assembled by a handful of technicians in a matter of hours. At the moment, Local Motors says the printing process takes 44 hours in total per car, but they’re goal is to get the figure down to 24 in the coming months. As for the Strati in these pictures, I was told that the plan was to finish printing an entire car, assemble it, then drive it out of the show, making Local the first company to leave NAISA in a car that didn’t exist when the show started. As a demonstration of the power and flexibility of this new manufacturing technique, I think it’s a pretty convincing one.

20150117_115250They still have a bit of work left to do, however

A Nerd Goes to the Detroit Auto Show. Part 1

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I’m spending the weekend at ConFusion in beautiful Detroit. Over the last three years, it’s easily grown to be my favorite little sci-fi and fantasy con. So naturally, this is a report about the North American International Auto Show, because it’s my blog and stop asking questions.

First of all, let’s get one thing out in the open. I am a Ford fanboy. I’m currently on my fourth Mustang, which I will be trading in at the end of the year for… wait for it… another Mustang. This being the case, I’m not going to even pretend to any sort of journalistic neutrality or factual objectivity. It’s not going to happen.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a bunch of straight up Blue Oval porn:

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2017 Ford GT

This is the new 2017 Ford GT. And some more…

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One more.

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Dat ass.

This is not your daddy’s Ford. It is a thoroughly modern supercar designed to take on the best the world has to offer. It shares a name with Ford’s first supercar, the mighty GT40, which was built to slap Enzo Ferrari right in the face at the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. That year, the MkII took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The cars then went on to win Le Mans in 1967, 1968, and again in 1969, which is not so much a slap in the face as a sack-tap with a branding iron.

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1966 GT40 Mark I.

In 2005, Ford brought back the GT with a highly sought after tribute to the legendary racer. The second generation very closely followed the design of the original, while making it a streetable car for the first time with little things like a radio, AC, and power windows. However, as beautiful and capable as the second generation GT was, it wasn’t the dedicated endurance racer its predecessor had been, and it failed to recapture past glories on the racetrack.

20150117_1140182005 Ford GT

This is not the case with the third generation car Ford just unveiled. Aerodynamically and aesthetically, there wasn’t anything else at the show that could touch it. With its tear-drop shaped cockpit and enormous pass-throughs behind the rear wheel arches, it looks like it’s waiting for clearance from air traffic control to take off and return to its home thirty years in the future.

And while you will hear a lot of belly-aching from old school purists about its 3.5 liter, twin turbocharged V6 engine replacing the 5.4 liter supercharged V8 of its predecessor, ignore them. The power plant inside that gorgeous fuselage is based on an already proven race engine that will deliver over 600 horsepower while not only being lighter and smaller than the V8 which lets the rear fuselage taper down to reduce drag, but its smaller displacement will allow the new car to compete in a wider field of classes on the racing circuit.

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It runs on Corvette owners’ tears.

This car, then, was not built out of nostalgia. It is not an homage to past glory as the last generation car was. Instead, it’s a promise to all of the devotees out there that Ford once again aims to not just slap Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche, but take their lunch money everyday for a month, save it up, treat their mom to an evening out on the town, then get her knocked up and become their step-dad just to really drive home the point of who, exactly, is in charge around here.

And it wasn’t the only bit of Ford Performance goodness to find itself on a giant Lazy Susan. But before we get to it, first we need a little history lesson about the one true pony car, the Ford Mustang.

You see, for the first half-century of the Mustang’s existence, (save for the 2003-04 Cobra) all Mustangs were fitted with what’s known as a solid live axle, which was nothing more than a great honking steel sewer pipe that ran from one rear wheel to the other. Now, solid live axles have a couple of advantages over other systems. They are lighter, less complex, cause less parasitic power loss, and are far cheaper to manufacture. But what really kept them fitted to the Mustang for decades longer than nearly any other car was the fact they provide better straight-line acceleration than other options. It is for this reason almost exclusively that traditionalist Mustang owners, who can often be seen at the local quarter mile drag strip on the weekend, successfully lobbied Ford to hold onto the antiquated technology long after the rest of the automotive world had moved on.

But the very thing that made the Mustang so good on the drag strip is also what made it so bad at nearly everything else. You see, with a solid live axle, the rear tires are connected. What happens to one, happens to the other. So when the left side of your car hits a bump, the right tire effectively hits the same bump. This is not good for going around corners or maintaining traction. But there is a solution, and it’s called an Independent Rear Suspension.

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An IRS on a 2015 Mustang Ford very helpfully tipped over for us.

The IRS solves the handling problems inherent to a solid live axle by removing the axle entirely so the wheels, as the name suggests, move independently of each other. This eliminates the issue of bumps, while also allowing the rear tire on the outside of a corner to bite in at a steeper angle as the suspension travels upward as compared to the tire on the inside, drastically improving grip on the pavement and allowing the car to turn that much harder before centripetal forces cause the rear end to spin out in what’s called over-steer.

And after fifty years of pony cars, Ford has finally decided to ignore the traditionalists and move into the 21st century by adopting an Independent Rear Suspension. Starting with the 2015 models, the Mustang has finally left the live axle in the dustbin of pony car history along with leaf springs and drum brakes, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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2016 Shelby GT350R, among other objects of desire.

Which brings us to the other hotly anticipated car from Ford; the rejuvenated GT350R. Like its big brother, the now out of production GT500, the 350 is based on a standard Mustang chassis with gobs of bolt on upgrades that turns a good car into a great one. But unlike the GT500, (which like most muscle cars fitted with a live axle was very good at turning rear tires into clouds of toxic blue smoke but handled like a pregnant sperm whale), the GT350 was designed from the onset to tackle the best European performance coupes from BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar and teach them a thing or two about going around a racetrack.

20150117_113625Hi. I’ll be sliding your nose over to the side of your head today.

The GT350R is meant to be a track-day monster, sheading almost 200lbs of unnecessary weight by getting rid of such luxury items as the radio, rear seat, sound insulation, and stereo system, then adding in lower, tighter suspension components, lightweight carbon fiber wheels, and a more aggressive aerodynamic package to increase downforce.

20150117_113514Don’t forget this sweet wing.

Starting price is expected to be around $70k. If the “R” is too racy for you, the provincial GT350 can be had with four seats for the kids and a radio for you to listen to NPR on for $50k.

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But who would want to put kids in this thing?

That does it for the Ford commercial. My next post will include all of the other cool things I saw at NAIAS, including photos of an entire car being 3D printed right there on the show floor! You won’t want to miss it.

 

Follow me on twitter @stealthygeek for more.

THE ARK Gets Ready for Launch

Have you ever wanted to get in on the ground floor with a new author so you could look back years from now and identify exactly when they sold-out? Well, here’s your chance!

With the new year in full swing, work is underway to prepare my debut novel, THE ARK for launch. The irate, autonomous overlords over at Angry Robot tell me we’re shooting for a November launch window. The first round of promotions went out today with a press release on their company blog to officially announce the deal to the masses.

You can read the press release here:

http://angryrobotbooks.com/2015/01/introducing-patrick-s-tomlinson-angry-robot-author/

I can’t tell you all how grateful and excited I am to both Angry Robot and my agent, Russell Galen, for the faith they’ve shown in my work, and all the effort that remains ahead of us to get it polished up and ready to drop.

Keep an eye on this space for new updates. And for you aspiring authors out there, the After the Draft blog series will continue as I go through each new step in the process.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must squee.

 

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @stealthygeek

 

Je Suis Charlie

I am incensed.

As an author, my belief in the power and necessity of freedom of speech and of the press is unshakable. It is the foundational human right, without which, none of the rest are possible.

As a comedian, I hold that nothing is can be out of bounds or off limits. Nothing can be immune from satire and criticism. You get the juiciest burgers by grinding up sacred cows.

So when I heard the news that earlier today, twelve people were executed by extremists at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” for the “crime” of satirizing the prophet Muhammad, well, my anger nearly boiled over.

My heart goes out to those we lost in France today, writers and comedians in their own right, as well as the police officers who fell doing their duty.

I want one thing to be clear before I go further. We in the free world are not at war with Islam, or Muslims in general. Muslims are our neighbors and friends. They work alongside us at our jobs, fight alongside us in our military, and yes, mourn alongside the survivors of this senseless act of violence.

Instead, we are at war with the people, of any religion, ideology, or movement, who are so fearful, so cowardly, and so insecure in their beliefs that they would commit murder to silence even the most banal criticism.

Stephane Charbonnier’s murderers wanted to buy his silence with bullets. Moreover, they want us all to become accomplices to their atrocity through self-censorship enforced by fear.

Which is why I’m sharing this image, because seriously, fuck you guys:

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This cartoon originally appeared in “Charlie Hebdo”. Translated, it says “Long Live Diversity.” And while I’m sure the irony of this act of terrorism only confirming the sentiment the cartoon portrays will be lost on the murderers, I’m confident it isn’t lost on the millions of people looking in from outside of their poisonous ideology.

It is my hope that the French authorities capture those responsible swiftly and without any further loss of life, unless of course one of the perps gets plugged while resisting arrest.

Update 6:30 CTS: It’s just been announced that the French police have found the three suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shooting. One of them was killed in the encounter, while the other two have been captured. My only regret is that France phased out the guillotine. Also, it’s come to my attention that the image I posted earlier was actually a photoshop manipulation of a controversial Charlie Hebdo cover, the original of which you can view here. Also, I was inspired to draw my first and maybe only political cartoon:

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Straight lines is really all I can do.

We Failed Dontre Hamilton

In April, a man named Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed in Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee, WI, not far from where I live. In a pattern that has become all-too familiar across the country over the last several months, Hamilton, an unarmed black man, was killed by Officer Christopher Manney, a white policeman.

It was announced this morning that Officer Manney, who had previously been fired from the Milwaukee PD in relation to the fatal shooting, (a firing he is appealing) would not be indicted for killing Hamilton.

In this way, the case closely echoes the tragic circumstances of recent events in Ferguson and New York, but there’s even more to it than that. In many ways, the circumstances leading up to this killing were even worse, more inexcusable than those surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, or even Eric Garner.

On the day of his death, Dontre Hamilton hadn’t stolen cigarillos, or even dodged tobacco taxes by selling loose cigarettes. Instead, he had been sleeping in a public park. Earlier in the day, employees of a Starbucks overlooking Red Arrow Park had twice called the police trying to drive Hamilton away as a nuisance. Two other officers responded to the call and found the Hamilton was committing no crime whatsoever, and was within his rights to be in a public park. After checking on his welfare, they left without incident.

Seemingly unsatisfied with Mr. Hamilton’s continued peaceful existence in a public space, employees of the Starbucks called the police again and hit the jackpot with Office Manney. Unaware of the previous visit from fellow officers, Manney responded to a voicemail he’d received earlier requesting a welfare check on Mr. Hamilton. But instead of checking his welfare, Manney immediately approached Hamilton as a potential criminal and began harassing and attempting to frisk him for drugs or weapons, despite lacking any probable cause to do so.

This is where things go wrong. After already dealing with police once earlier in the day and being told he was doing nothing wrong, Hamilton became agitated at the treatment he was receiving from Manney. Treatment, it should be noted, which would later be grounds for his termination from the MPD. An altercation ensued and punches were exchanged. Manney pulled out his baton to try and subdue Hamilton, but it was wrestled away. At this point, Manney pulled his sidearm and emptied the magazine, shooting Hamilton fourteen times in the process.

Excessive force? Oh yeah. If you actually had to shoot something fourteen times to incapacitate it, what you really need is an A-10C Warthog, not a handgun. But, once again, Manney will not be facing any criminal charges in the killing. The DA believes it was self-defense and that’s the end of it. Although I must say that in this case, the DA had the guts to make the non-indictment call all by themselves instead of making a farce of the grand jury process as happened in Ferguson.

I have a joke I wrote in the wake of the Brown grand jury decision that goes like this:

“What do you call a group of crows? A Murder. What do you call a group of white crows? An Insufficient Evidence to Indict.”

I told that joke on stage the night after Ferguson to a great response, then figured I’d put it in the trunk unless it became topical again in the future. I was telling it a week later after the Garner decision. Now, less than a month later, I’ll be telling it to crowds again, and getting angrier each time.

It would be very easy, then, to slap Hamilton’s death up there with those of Brown and Garner as yet another example of police brutality aimed against black people going unpunished. It may be the best example of the three, in fact. But there are more layers to this story. How Dontre Hamilton died was simply the last in a long list of failures on the part of society to save him.

You see, Mr. Hamilton was homeless, and suffered from schizophrenia. Homelessness is a scourge in our cities, and Milwaukee is no exception. Since the economic downturn of 2008, the city’s homeless population has grown. But instead of attacking the underlying economic factors driving the epidemic, we’ve cut public programs through ill-conceived budget austerity measures. The same pattern has repeated in many states throughout the country, attacking the programs designed to help people in need and demonizing the people instead of the problem.

The same holds true for the sad state of our nation’s mental health infrastructure. In decades past, we maintained homes and institutions for those suffering from severe mental illnesses. But by the mid 90’s, most of these facilities had been shuttered. Their patients didn’t disappear, however. Instead, unable to afford the treatment, counseling, and medications they needed, most were left out in the cold, including an embarrassing percentage of former veterans suffering from PTSD and other ailments after returning from Vietnam, the Gulf War, and now the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The mentally ill make up a disproportionate number of both the homeless, as well as our nation’s burgeoning prison population. Some estimates run as high as sixty-plus percent of inmates suffer from one or more serious mental conditions. Prisons and the streets have become the de facto dumping grounds for people, like Dontre Hamilton, who simply don’t have the capacity to fully integrate into society.

The institutions may have closed, but we’re still paying the price to handle the issue of mental illness in this country, except now we’re doing it in the most inefficient and inhumane way possible.

It would be easy to just point a finger at the policeman who shot Dontre Hamilton, or to see it in the simple black and white of the sad state of race relations in this country. And you wouldn’t be wrong for doing so. But as the protests erupt and the excuses start flying, remember how Hamilton came to be in Red Arrow Park that day. Through our collective inaction on any number of important issues, we all helped to put him in front of that gun.

Back to Confusion, MI

So the biggest little con in the midwest is less than a month away. I’ll be attending Confusion, MI for the third time alongside a surprisingly thick roster of other sci-fi and fantasy authors. If you’ve never been, Confusion has quickly become on of my favorites.

Here’s my schedule of panels. It’s going to be a Sunday heavy con for me. If you’re around, drop in and say hello:

Saturday 4pm: Mass Autograph Session

Saturday 8pm: Building the Next Great Epic
What does it take to plan, write, and sell an epic series?

Sunday 10am: Tomlinson/Kaldon reading

Sunday 11am: Science or Science Fiction?
Science fiction novels continue to impress with amazing technological advances in so many areas. What’s more impressive, though? That some of them are reality! Come talk about some of the things you see on the news today that you first read about years ago in a book.

Sunday 12pm: Extreme Weather in Science Fiction
First the ice caps begin melting, and then we get Sharknado. How have real-world weather events influenced science fiction? Can we use science fictional ideas to solve our real-world environmental crises?

Sunday 2pm: Powersuits and Prosthetics
Science Fiction has long imagined a future when technology can replace or enhance human limbs. Join Science Guest of Honor Cynthia Chestek and our costume panelists to discuss how to design plausible robotics for your science fiction hero.

North Korea is Run by Lunatics

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Okay, I’m going to leave the implications of Sony bowing to pressure of terrorist threats and pulling the release of “The Interview” to other pundits.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the inexplicable fact that the situation exists at all. In a truly bizarre turn of events, it looks likely that North Korea was behind the illegal hacking of Sony’s servers which dumped thousands of emails, scripts, and financial information onto the wider internet, leading to a storm of controversies involving some of our most famous actors, actresses, and media moguls.

What I can’t fathom is why?

By doing so, North Korea has played its hand and revealed a surprisingly sophisticated and modern cyber-warfare capability that the west hadn’t suspected was within their reach.

And what did the hermit republic use this immensely powerful weapon to accomplish? To influence American foreign policy? To chip away at the sanctions crippling their economy? To attack and degrade our own war fighting capabilities on the Korean peninsula?

No, they revealed their doomsday device to annihilate a Seth Rogan comedy.

I’m sorry, but that’s fucking crazy. How much of an egomaniacal, Nero-esque nut job do you have to be to waste the element of surprise on what might be one of your most effective offensive capabilities to sink a B-grade James Franco vehicle that would have been destined for obscurity if you’d have just left it alone?

That’s some Kanye-level diva shit. If you weren’t already the laughing stock of the world, Kimmy, you sure as hell are now.

And seriously, where were you fuckers when we needed protection from the “Red Dawn” remake?

After the Draft: Victory

I am proud and humbled to announce that as of today, my third novel, THE ARK has been sold to editor Marc Gascgoine of Angry Robot Books.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Angry Robot is a publisher of genre fiction with many great names in their stable. Several friends of mine are counted among their ranks, as well as award-winning books that are redefining sci-fi and fantasy with their imaginative takes on worlds old and new.

The deal was arranged by my wonderful and patient agent, Russell Galen of Scovil, Galen, and Ghosh, and includes not only THE ARK, but a sequel that is currently being written under the working title of TRIDENT’S FORGE.

To say I’m excited at this opportunity is a massive understatement. The last six years of my life have been consumed by long hours spent practicing and honing my craft in pursuit of a moment like this one. In addition to Marc and Russell,  I’d like to thank Bradley Beaulieu for the introduction, Michael Underwood for his help and support throughout the project, M Todd Gallowglas for his invaluable advice on turd polishing, and my girlfriend Niki for being there through  every phase of manic highs and self-loathing lows over the last year.

I am thrilled to become a part of the Angry Robot family of authors. Look for THE ARK to hit the shelves sometime next winter, and keep coming back for more updates as I continue to blog about the process of taking a rough draft through to a completed product. There is so much more work to be done yet.

But for tonight, I’m going to go see how many free drinks this gets me. Later!

On Torture

On Tuesday, and against the wishes and behind-the-scene efforts of the Obama Administration, the long-awaited Senate report on the investigation of the CIA’s “Enhanced Interrogation” program was released.

I put “Enhanced Interrogation” in quotation marks because it is a euphemism for torture which abuses the plain meaning of language in the same way it abuses flesh. The term was first pioneered by none other that the Third Reich. Seriously, Bush II Administration officials were running around using torture code words invented by the Nazis.  And torture it was, as we’ll get to later.

In the aftermath, the media has been giving people, both inside the CIA and in positions of influence inside the Bush II team, plenty of airtime to try and justify their choices to the American people in a desperate attempt to avoid a reckoning for their actions. They’ve told us that torture was necessary, that it saved lives, maybe even your family’s lives.

Here’s the central problem with the arguments of every torture apologist and defender. The utility and effectiveness of torture is not a matter of opinion. It is an indisputable fact, supported by mountains of evidence and experience, that torture does not elicit reliable, actionable intelligence.

For every person you break who gives up a kernel of useful information, there are ten or twenty more that say whatever they think you want to hear just to make the suffering stop. It creates false leads and muddies the water. That bad intel goes on to waste resources, time, and manpower while our intelligence apparatus runs wild goose chases, follows blind alleys to dead ends, and ensnares an ever-growing collection of innocent people who are then also subject to torture, causing the problem to snowball further.

And let’s be clear about what’s being discussed here. We’re not talking about soldiers in an active warzone interrogating  prisoners while under fire, their buddies getting shot up or killed around them, when desperation causes emotions to run high and maybe somebody gets smacked around. While not excusing the mistreatment of prisoners of war, I am sympathetic to the stresses troops in the field face in the heat of battle and the snap decisions and impossible choices they often have to make.

Apologists often talk about a “ticking time bomb” scenario, where Jack Bauer only has thirty minutes to get the codes to diffuse the nuke before Seattle is turned into a crater, or something.  But that’s Hollywood counter-terrorism. It’s scripted television where the bad guy always caves at the last second, and coughs up the right codes so the hero can save the day with one second left on the countdown timer.

That’s not the real world, and that’s not what was revealed in the Senate report. Instead, we’re talking about prisoners transported thousands of miles away from any legitimate theater of active combat, restrained, defenseless, forced for weeks and months to live in rooms too small to either stand up or lay down, tied into stress positions for so long they shit themselves, deprived of sleep to the point of hallucinations, kept in cold cells and soaked with water until they were hypothermic, threatened with dogs, anally raped, forced to endure near-drowning dozens or hundreds of times, their families, wives, and children threatened with rape and death, exposed to fake executions, made to walk on broken legs, then beaten so viciously with battons that their legs liqufied.

It’s an inarguable fact that some of these men died while  in our care. The official story was always suicide or natural causes, which simply insults the intelligence of anyone who has read the reports. Many captives were later found to be completely innocent. This went on for years. There was no ticking time bomb.

If this was done to our captured troops, or one of our contractors, or to a kidnapped civilian, the government and media wouldn’t hesitate to call it exactly what it is. Torture.

Even if some tiny sliver of the information that was brutally extracted from these men had been true, and there’s nothing in the Senate report to indicate that any actionable intelligence was extracted through the program, the price to our nation’s principles and our standing in the world was far too high.

Yes, sometimes bad people kill good people. That’s the world we live in. But, the price of calling yourself the good guys is you have rules. You have a code of behavior that places you above the evil men who commit atrocities.

Personally, I have no issue with violence, and I’m pretty pragmatic about killing when the situation merits, but there is a time and a place for both, and wearing the white hat comes with conditions.

We used to be a great people who could face any challenge with dignity. We defeated the British Empire, (no hard feelings, lads, you’re all right), the Spanish, the Germans, the Nazis, the Japanese Empire, and outlasted the Soviet Union. We confronted all of these intractable, existential threats to our sovereignty and liberty without having to resort to the sort of barbarism found in the Senate report, even when it was used against us.

Are we so weakened, so diminished, and so scared that a single act of terrorism justifies abandoning more than two centuries of noble tradition, in the face of an “enemy” that has never, and could never, present a serious threat to our continued existence? I say no. But then, I believe in the promise of America, even when it’s difficult.

Especially when it’s difficult.