Saturday, July 20, 2019


Y'all, it is so hot here.

I know, I know it's hot everywhere. And it's Arkansas in July, of course it's hot.

But wow. I have to water my sad little garden (three tomato plants, some basil, and some oregano) twice a day, and I can't take the dog out for his walk until after sunset.

Eight more weeks until fall. And that's if fall comes on time.

Atrocity Propaganda

I've been talking about how people use atrocity propaganda to push their agenda -- to get people to believe hateful things and act on those things.

Here's an example.

Whenever you hear someone telling stories like this -- designed to horrify, designed to arouse hatred, so appalling you believe only a monster would do such a thing -- yeah, that's a sign that you're probably dealing with atrocity propaganda.

Do monstrous things never happen then? Of course they do. But when we get told stories like this, we should verify, verify, verify.

Friday, July 19, 2019


This conversation would end differently if it was in the Oval Office

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What I'm Reading Now

Ted Chiang, Exhalation

I'd never heard of Ted Chiang before his short story, "The Story of Your Life," was made into that movie, Arrival. I liked the movie, and so I got the story collection that story was in, and liked it very much. This is his new story collection, and I like it even better.

His story are out-of-the-box in the best way, the best sort of science fiction. My favorite in this collection is probably "The Life Cycle of Software Objects," which is about raising AI babies, sort of, and also the ethical implications of owned intelligences. "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," which is (kind of) about time travel, is also excellent.

Highly recommended.

Mary Beth Keane, Ask Again, Yes

Not science fiction! This is the story of two families. The fathers are NYPD officers, who move their families out to the suburbs in the late 70s, and live next door to each other. The women have jobs, but also raise their kids, who go to Catholic school. That makes it sound like it's a nostalgic novel about life in the suburbs in the 80s and 90s, and honestly I probably would have liked it better if it had been that book.

Instead, one of the women has some sort of untreated mental illness -- it sounds like it's supposed to be schizophrenia -- and acts out violently, causing great harm to both families. Given these are police officers with guns in the house, you probably can guess what sort of harm.

This is a well-written book, which I read straight through. But I can't say I exactly like it.

Katherine Howe, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs

I love stories about academics, so I liked this one. Apparently it's a kind of sequel to another book Howe wrote? Anyway, we have an historian writing a book about a text she found, one owned by one of her ancestors who was executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. The big twist is that both the professor and her mom are actually witches. Also there is a curse on the men they love.

This one is also well written. I liked it better than Keane's book. The witchcraft stuff is pretty well handled, also, and the academic details are legit.

Conrad Richter, The Awakening Land

I found this one on the shelves of our local library. It's a trilogy, and apparently Richter won the Pulitzer for the last volume. The three volumes are The Trees, The Fields, and The Town, and it follows a woman, Sayward Luckett (later Wheeler) from the age of 15 until her death. Her father traipses the family out to Ohio, in the days when the state was solid with old-growth forest. Her mother dies almost at once, her little sister is captured by the Indians, her father runs off and leaves them. That's just the first half of the first book.

This is a Brave-Little-Tailor story, a kind of a soap opera. Richter does a really good job of creating characters and a community. It was written in the 1940s, and there's some depressing racism, involving the Indians, mostly. Richter got his material from listening to family stories, apparently, and he was probably just a little too gullible about believing those stories, not to mention a little too willing to forgive bigotry.

The white characters are pretty good. The Indians, not so much. It's a nice big fat book, though, so if you're always desperate for something to read, as I am, this will keep you happy for a day or two.

Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words

Another American-settlers soap opera. I think I like this one better than Richter's, though the two main characters are a lot alike, and the narrative is basically the same. Young woman moves to the frontier, starts from poverty, ends up (through hard work and gumption) very wealthy. Again, the community here is well done, and the story rockets along.

The main character, Sarah Prine, has a nicely done romance with a captain in the Army. There's a minor sexual-assault-as-hotness, and of course Captain Elliot fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side, because of course he did. But other than that, this was a lot of fun, if a little unbelievable in spots.

Also much less racism and much less erasure of American Indians / Latino people.

Republican Leaders Decline... criticize Trump.

Why would they? Trump and his regime are doing exactly what the GOP wants done: they are looting the country to fill the pockets of the hyper-wealthy.

Meanwhile, Trump's demagoguery works to keep the gullible and the ignorant convinced that the real problem is immigrants and "socialism."

None of this is new. This sort of vile racism in pursuit of wealth is as old as the Roman Empire*, and probably older. An old trick, but an effective one, as we see here.

*The Romans wanted to colonize Carthage. So they went around saying that people in Carthage burned babies alive. Likewise, the British empire claimed their enemies raped nuns. And reading American literature is awash with just this sort of atrocity claims -- usually aimed at American Indians, but also at Jews, Asians, and Africans.

How to Destroy the Academy

This is from a Dutch source, but much of the same shit is happening here:

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Who benefits when we turn universities into diploma mills? Not the country. Not the working class. And certainly not the Academy.

The 1% benefit. Not only do they no longer have to support the liberal arts -- the education that makes free people out of serfs -- they get a whole country filled with people far too ignorant and gullible to fight back.

That's the game plan.

Just Repeat the Lies Long Enough

This seems to be the tactic on the Right these days: deny the truth, ignore evidence, repeat whatever lie justifies your bigotry and hate, and when people point out that what you are saying is not actually true, repeat the lies louder.

Obviously, this isn't a new problem. I remember the same tactics being used when the Bill Clinton was governor here. I remember when Rush Limbaugh and Fox News were brand-new. I remember the birth of Breitbart.

The difference is, in those days, only truly ignorant people repeated such vile nonsense. Now it's mainstream.

And now it's pointless to try to reason with such people. They will just lie louder and more viciously. Facts don't matter.

So it's hard to know what to do.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Not a Brain Drain...

But a brain rot.

I was listening to NPR after driving Dr. Skull back to the governor's school this morning, and some MAGA American was pushing back against calling Trump racist.

"What about what he said about immigrants being rapists and murderers?" the host asked*.

"Well, 2 out of 3 refugee women get raped** on their way to the border," the MAGA American said, "so...."

"That's not actually true," the host said. "Amnesty International has investigated, and found that claim is untrue."

"Amnesty International," the MAGA American said, "Pff!"

This is why we can't hold civil discussions with Trump supporters. The only "evidence" they accept is the vile lies put forth by Fox News and other propaganda outlets. Any reliable source they dismiss as "liberal bias."

How do you discuss anything with people who deny reality?

*I can't find the transcript of this, so I'm working from memory.

** "Those evil barbarians are raping*** children and killing babies!!" is typical propaganda, used whenever one group wants to whip up hatred against another group

***And, of course this sudden concern for people being raped is touching, coming as it does from conservatives, who only care about rape when they can use it for propaganda purposes.

Direct Action the best action

See also this:

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Late Capitalism in one headline

No one who knows anyone about Tucker Carlson was surprised by this

Here's why children are in cages 

Who knew the horse could do that?

Why we build the Wall

This is very cool:

Friday, July 12, 2019

Review of Green Jay and Crow

My review of Green Jay and Crow, a SF novel by DJ Daniels, is live at Strange Horizons today.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

What I'm Reading Now

Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth

This is a book about werewolves. After I opened it to look at the first paragraph, I almost put it right back on the shelf. It's written in poetry. I suppose I should call that "poetry," since it's really a narrative written in "free verse," except it's not really verse at all. Just a very nice line now and then.

But it's a pretty good book, about relationships and trauma and refugees (among werewolves). I read it all the way through in about four hours, and it kept my attention the entire way. It's extremely heteronormative, and if you want accurate wolf behavior among your werewolves, yeah, no.

Recommended for those who like ripping yarns and nice writing.

K.J.Parker, The Folding Knife

Yes, I am still reading K.J. Parker. This is what my old writing teacher would call a "little tailor" story. That's a story in which the main character starts out as nothing special (a little tailor, though in this case a middle-class kid) and rises up to great heights. The book is the story of how that happens.

K.J. Parker writes a dense but extremely readable prose, and his characters, major and minor alike, are wonderful. They're all about war and politics, as well as the nuts and bolts of how things work. If that's the sort of thing you like (it's the sort of thing I love), you'll like Parker. This is a good one to start with, by the way -- a stand-alone, rather than the trilogies he usually writes. (Trilogies of three 900 page books.)

Kate Atkinson, Big Sky

This is the latest of Atkinson's "mystery" series about Jackson Brodie. "Mystery" in scare quotes, because while there are in fact several mysteries in each book that work as a plot, the books are really about Jackson and the lives of the other people caught up in the plot/s.

Atkinson is one of my favorite writers, and this was the series that started me reading her. It's very much worth reading. I don't think I'd start with this novel, though, which probably the weakest of the lot. Start with either Case Histories or Started Early, Took My Dog.

On the other hand, this is a pretty good book. I like very much (among other things) how Atkinson handles adolescents. And I'd read about Jackson Brodie if he was just buying groceries and doing laundry.

C.J. Cherryh, Cyteen, Regenesis

I'd read these before, but like K.J. Parker, Cherryh writes these wonderful dense books filled with great characters and the nuts and bolts of how politics and empires work. These are also about cloning and genetics, two of my sweet spots. We follow Ariane Emory, the chief officer of Reseune, a company that manufactures Azi (slaves, but happy slaves, psychologically engineered to like being slaves) to provide the workforce for expanding humanity, as we spread out through the stars. In Reseune, people live for about 150 years -- they have something called rejuv, discovered on Cyteen -- but Ariane is murdered at 120. Her family and her company rebuild her. They don't just clone her; they use "psychogenesis" to recreate the actual Ariane.

This is a duology that weaves together many strains -- the ethics of engineering a society to this degree; the murder mystery of who killed Ariane; the social, sexual, and psychological abuse of Justin Warrick; and the coming to power of the young Ari, as she learns who she is and why she exists, and the corruption that is at the heart of the corporation she owns (if she can take it).

Not as heteronormative as Parker -- several of the main characters are gay men or bisexual men. No trans or Lesbian people though.

Michelle Sacks, You Were Made for This

I did finish this one, but I skimmed the last half.  Extremely heteronormative, and filled with uniformly awful people. It's very well written, but I can't recommend it, unless you like books about terrible people doing terrible things. Content Warning: abuse and murder of an infant.

Joanna Ramos, The Farm

This is what we call in the trade a "high-concept" book. That means the log-line, the plot in a sentence or less, sells the book on its own. The log-line here is something like "Rich woman creates a 'farm' where poor women act as surrogates for the hyper-wealthy, with all the attendant abuses you might expect."

It's about that, and it's about how late-stage capitalism is destroying society along with the planet; but it's also about how the wealthy (the obscenely wealthy) treat the working class, including working class immigrants, as objects, as not quite human. The main point of view character, Jane, is a young woman from the Philippines, with a newborn daughter of her own. She ends up acting as a surrogate (a "host") even though this means she is separated from her infant for the months of her pregnancy.

One abuse perpetuated on the "hosts" is the curtailing of their relationships with family and friends. In Jane's case, the owner of the Farm uses a promised visit with Jane's infant daughter as a way to manipulate Jane into "behaving."

This is disturbing book, despite it's more-or-less happy ending. Worth reading, though I don't think I'd read it again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

So What's Wrong With Trump?

Quora asked the question.

This guy answered it:

Originally Answered: Why do people hate Donald Trump as President?I’ll take a stab at this. Before you pass my answer off as “Another Liberal Snowflake” consider that 1.) I'm an independent centrist who has voted Republican way more often in my life than Democrat, and 2.) if you want to call someone who spent the entire decade of his 20’s serving in the Marine Corps a snowflake, I’d be ready to answer the question what did you do with your 20’s?
Why Liberals (And not-so liberals) are against President Trump.
A.) He lies. A LOT. Politifact rates 69% of the words he speaks as “Mostly False or worse” Only 17% of the things he says get a “Mostly True” or better rating. That is an absolutely unbelievable number. How he doesn’t speak more truth by mistake is beyond me. To put it in context, Obama’s rating was 26% mostly false or worse, and I had a problem with that. Many of Trump’s former business associates report that he has always been a compulsive liar, but now he’s the President of the United States, and that’s a problem. And this is a man who expects you to believe him when he points at other people and says “They’re lying” 
B.) He’s an authoritarian populist, not a conservative. He advances regressive social policy while proposing to expand federal spending and federalist authority over states, both of which conservatives are supposed to hate. 
C.) He pretends at Christianity to court the Religious Right but fails to live anything resembling a Christ-Like Life. 
D.) His nationalist “America First” message effectively alienates us and removes us from our place as leaders in the international community. 
E.) His ideas on “Keeping us safe” are all thinly veiled ideas to remove our freedoms, he is, after all, an authoritarian first. They also are simply bad ideas.
F.) He couldn’t pass a 3rd-grade civics exam. He doesn't’ know what he’s doing. He doesn't understand how international relations work, he doesn’t understand how federal state or local governments work, and every time someone tries to “Run it like a business” it’s a spectacular failure. See Colorado Springs’ recent history as an example. The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise And that was a businessman with a MUCH better business track record than Trump. We are talking about a man who lost money owning a freaking gambling casino.
There's a lot more at the actual post -- he goes all the way through Z, and they're all legitimate.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

It's just a commercial...

...but I really like this:

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Kids Today

...don't make lists to take to the grocery store with them. Instead, they just take a photograph of the recipe they're planning to make.

We're living in the future.

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