Tuesday, March 30, 2010


We had our seder last night, just us and Uncle Charger, a fine cool sunny evening.  Roast chicken, grilled asparagus, grilled sweet potatoes, gefilte fish and the bread of affliction.  

The kid did not want to be a slave in Egypt this year, and grumbled over having to eat bitter herbs with her matzah.  I'm afraid she is a madolescent early.  Further, the only KFP wine we could get here in Pork Smith was a very sweet Manischewitz which tasted like nothing so much as drinking grape jelly.

Other than that, a nice enough evening.  Next year in Jerusalem!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I Love My Kid

The Kid: Ick.  Heteronomative.  I hates it.

Me:  Um.  You mean heteronormative, yeah?

The Kid: No.  Heternomative.

Me: ---- ---- --- ?

The Kid:  (Waving pink bunny cookies): Heternomative.  Girl food.  Nom nom nom.  I hates it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


You may not want to look at this one.  It's beyond appalling.

I'll give you a brief description, so you can decide before you click: a cartoon showing Obama as a rapist, just having raped America, represented by the Statue of Liberty.  He's telling her to shut up and stop whining, since she consent to the rape when she elected him, and he'll be back whenever he wants to do it again, "Immigration, Capn'Trade," he says, "whatever I want.  And next time I'll bring friends."

But of course it's not racist.  Oh NO. 

Because no one ever used THAT trope to oppress black men in the country, black guys raping the women.  Nah.

That's their defense these days, though:  I'm seeing it everywhere on the Right.  Whenever they do something appallingly racist like this and someone reacts and says, wow, son, that's a little, uh, racist, they say, don't you ever get tired of playing the race card?  

Apparently they think that's the tactic that works.  I guess it does in their circle.

(See also here.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Conversation at the delagar Household

Herr Dr. Delagar: (Inspecting the contents of the refrigerator): Who's cooking tonight?  If it's me, I could make that lamb tangine.  We've got the stuff.

Me: (Reading at the table, drinking coffee): --- ----

HDD: Am I cooking tonight?

Me: If I'm cooking, we're having peanut butter toast.

HDD: (Shut the fridge): Lamb tangine it is. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Now This...

...is way cool.

Crossed Genres' new Science in My Fiction page is sponsoring a short story contest.  Serious prizes, astoundingly cool judges (including Cat Rambo, Athena Andreadis, and Randall Monroe of XKCD fame!)

(The kid was extremely excited about Randall Monroe, who is her webcomic hero.  She wants to draw comics & has trouble drawing people, see...)

Entry dates are between April 1 and June 30.  Other details on the page.  First prize is $250. Get the details & get writing!


And this!

Under the legislation, federal subsidies to private student loan lenders would stop and the government's role in lending would increase -- creating billions of dollars in projected savings that would go largely in grants to needy students.

When Obama starts, he goes, I guess.

Oh, Wow

They passed the bill.

(Re Stupak, btw.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh, Yeah

They're not racist.

The No. 3 Democrat in the House, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said, “I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus.”

Update:  And here you will find a teabagger making an attempt at defense of the above event.  Note the raving misogyny -- "squeal like frightened schoolgirls"-- as well as the just plain raving.  Sigh.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Global Climate Shift!

Yesterday? 71 degrees.

Tonight?  Snowing!

Right-Wing Thugs

I was holding a conference with a student in my office the other day, discussing the rhetoric of persuasion, and somehow Fox News and talk radio came up.  "Well, yes," I said.  "But really that's not how you want to argue."

She looked dubious.

"No, really," I said.  "It's not effective, in the long run."

She did not seem convinced.

"I know it's very nearly all you hear," I said, and bit my tongue hard to keep from adding, in Arkansas, "but in fact if you move out of that certain realm, talk radio and cable network news, up into serious journalism and academic discourse, you'll find less ad hominem attacks and strawmen and," I managed not to say crap, "fake data, and more, well, more of an attempt, at least, to reach the truth through argument."

She smiled politely:  no doubt remembering everything her preacher had told her, warning her about socialist/atheist professors like me, who would try to lure her away from the paths of righteousness with my wily ways.

I repressed a sigh.  "Anyway," I said, handing her back her draft.  "Find better sources."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jon Stewart Takes Down Glenn Beck

So Funny.

Via Joe.My.God.

Spring Break

It's the last day of classes before Spring Break.  I've got a stack of grading THIS HIGH to do, not to mention reading and prep, but other than that, I plan to spend the break working on the new SF story and trying to cheer up.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Racefail 2010

Here is what something of what my paper, "Whose Future Is it? Racefail 2009: PoC, Writers, Writing, and Representation in the SF/F World," which I was scheduled to present at the April 2010 meeting of the CEA (sadly, my funding was cut, due to budget restraints at my university, so no conference for me this year) was going to be about, except who knows if I would have been as coherent as Hal Duncan, who totally rocks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I see...

...I am not posting lately.

My life has taken a turn for the grim, that is why.

Maybe things will get better soon?

Let's hope.

(Grim as in depressing, not as in life-threatening.  I don't mean to sound dramatic.  It's the usual poverty and suckiness, not anything really serious.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Submissions Needed

Over at Crossed Genres, it's Eastern SF month, so all y'all with an Eastern-themed SF story in your pocket, scrub it up and send it over.

(We're getting some excellent stories lately, btw.  I'm just saying.)  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Utah "Fixes" Bill

Women are still killers and criminals.

Which is not a shock, I suppose. They're all about controlling the women.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From over by Ta-Nehisi Coates' Place

This is on the subject I was on about yesterday. It isn't Coates himself, but a commenter, who identifies himself only as Cynic. He's Comment 18 on this post; you'll have to scroll down.

Repercussions rarely prevent recurrence - banks robbers, for example, are almost always caught and face harsh punishments. There's no evidence that retributive justice is an effective deterrent for war crimes.The more effective restraint on morally repugnant behavior is moral repugnance. Even people willing to engage in criminal misconduct often balk at behavior that, while perfectly legal, is universally viewed as immoral.

That's why I find the arid legalism of the Cheneyite defense so dispiriting, and graphic descriptions like Benjamin's, although difficult to read, so important. Law is merely a codification of rules, subject to change and interpretation. Morality runs much deeper.

The real damage that the Cheneyites wrought by sanctioning torture was in breaking a taboo, and then insisting that they had not. Under the cover of secrecy, officers of our government have been doing disgraceful things since before the inception of this nation. But when these things have come out, as they often do, they've generally been shamed and penitent. Or, at the very least, acknowledged the evil of their actions even as they defend their necessity. Cheney and his minions chose another route, commissioning legal memoranda that would sanction torture. They still insist that they did nothing wrong.

And that's why this is likely to happen again. There is now a small and vocal minority that believes that there is nothing wrong with torturing our enemies. And those we suspect of being our enemies. And those we mistake for our enemies. Ten years ago, anyone advancing that view would have instantly compromised his credibility and drawn near-universal condemnation. Now, behind the thin shield of legalism, that view has become commonplace.

But although recurrence is possible, it's not inevitable. We don't need trials and jail-time to prevent a recurrence; in fact, I suspect, such measures would simply reinforce the existing and pernicious debate, encouraging the obdurate to dig in their heels. I think a better model lies in something you recently wrote. The Civil Rights era wasn't built around the demand for systematic prosecutions of those who had committed heinous crimes, though they certainly deserved as much. It relied on a two-pronged approach.

The first was education. Activists courageously laid bare to the world the depth and brutality of the oppression. It wasn't a revelation, of course - it was always there for those who cared to know it. But the activists made that knowledge unavoidable and unignorable, no matter how reluctant others were to confront it.

The second prong was shame. Over and over, the leaders of the Civil Rights movement hammered away on a single theme - that institutionalized racism betrayed the great ideals of this nation. They asked Americans to live up to those ideals, or at least to try.

If we want to make torture a thing of the past, this is the path to follow. First, education. Articles like Benjamin's are a start. But it's not Salon's readership, nor this blog's, who need to be made aware. And then, shame. We defeat the normalization of torture by reminding Americans what they purport to believe, and asking them to live up to that creed. It's no Rosewood, of course, but it just might work.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Speaking of Which...

Oh my.


Why Aren't These People In Prison Yet?

This is the process that the Far Right keeps claiming isn't torture.

Interrogators were instructed to pour the water when a detainee had just exhaled so that he would inhale during the pour. An interrogator was also allowed to force the water down a detainee's mouth and nose using his hands. "The interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee's nose and mouth to dam the runoff," the Bradbury memo notes. "In which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breathe during the application of the water."

"We understand that water may enter – and accumulate in – the detainee's mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing," the memo admits.

Should a prisoner stop breathing during the procedure, the documents instructed interrogators to rapidly tilt the gurney to an upright position to help expel the saline. "If the detainee is not breathing freely after the cloth is removed from his face, he is immediately moved to a vertical position in order to clear the water from his mouth, nose, and nasopharynx," Bradbury wrote.

Documents drafted by CIA medical officials in 2003, about a year after the agency started using the waterboard, describe more aggressive procedures to get the water out and the subject breathing. "An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately," the CIA Office of Medical Services ordered in its Sept. 4, 2003, medical guidelines for interrogations. "The interrogator should then deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water." (That's a blow below the sternum, similar to the thrust delivered to a chocking victim in the Heimlich maneuver.)

But even those steps might not force the prisoner to resume breathing. Waterboarding, according to the Bradbury memo, could produce "spasms of the larynx" that might keep a prisoner from breathing "even when the application of water is stopped and the detainee is returned to an upright position." In such cases, Bradbury wrote, "a qualified physician would immediately intervene to address the problem and, if necessary, the intervening physician would perform a tracheotomy." The agency required that "necessary emergency medical equipment" be kept readily available for that procedure.

The documents do not say if doctors ever performed a tracheotomy on a prisoner.

That's not even the worst data in the document, either.

Oh, but it's not torture. Oh, it's just like swim practice.

As if first, they actually can't see the difference between a venture you enter into of your own will and something being done to you against your will (re sex I consent to as opposed to rape: yes, these have some features in common; no, they are not the same acts); and second, as if they cannot see how motive and agency in fact changes events. If I am a solider working with my sergeant learning how to be a better soldier, and he is teaching me how to survive an enemy attack, the incidental hurts he may do to me are not likely to do me psychic damage. I trust him, I have put my trust in him, I have given my consent to these events, I know what we are doing is for a good end, my good end, our good end.

This is not the case when I am in my enemy's hands and he is torturing me. For fuck's sake. Why do they pretend they do not know this? I have not consented; what he is doing is a crime; he is harming me; I am not safe; he will not stop, and I cannot trust him to stop; what we are doing is not for any good end, and clearly not for my good end.

And not for a moment do I believe Republicans, for all their duplicity and smirks, do not understand this. Liz Cheney, for instance, can get on Faux News, and lie all she likes. She understands this absolutely. Darth Cheney knows it too.

It's why they have to make up their lies about waterboarding being like boys playing in the swimming pool and stress positioning being like fraternity pranks -- because they know they're in the wrong. If they were right they wouldn't have to lie.

Monday, March 08, 2010


I'm grading midterms.  It's as depressing as ever.  Not that some of my students aren't doing well.  Some are doing very well.  It's just that Platonic ideal issue again.  I have this idea, see, of what the class is learning...and all through the semester they seem to be learning that...and then here come the midterms and what the class has actually learned...

Obviously I should not be a teacher.  Obviously an exciting career in drywall installation awaits me somewhere.  Or paralegal research, perhaps.

See Also This

A study which shows what we already sort of suspected: the more religious your average tool is, the more racist he is.

My favorite line in this study is this one, of course: "Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant."


(Via Joe.My.God.)

Good Golly

I don't know if you have happily managed to avoid the site Big Hollywood yet, but, um...

...good God.

(I'm just warning you, you'll start gagging halfway through.)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Kid Explains Again

So the Kid was discussing evolution with half a dozen of her fellow Montessori students, and one of them, Plymouth*, who, as is true of about half the students at this school, is a far-right Fundamentalist, explained to her how he knew that evolution was not "real."

The Kid: He told me he knew evolution wasn't real because you can watch a monkey for ten years, and it will never evolve. 

Me: (Startled, laughing) What?

The Kid smirks.

Me: What did you say to him?

The Kid: (Miming): (Face*palm)

*Not his real name

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Smut for Smut!

Via Joe.My.God., Atheist students in Texas are offering one kind of viciously offensive text for another: you give us any one of your various religious crap texts, they say, and we'll give you a pornographic text of your choice. How about it?

The Christians, of course, take the bait and erupt in flames. It's mildly amusing to watch.

Oh Yay!

Opened my email this morning. One rejection, one acceptance.

The Future Fire took "Drafting Zoe"!

(Picture me doing the happy dance around the office.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ta-Nehisi Coates Rules Yet Again

On Trent Frank's lunatic longing for the good old days.


...when I read this, as when I read many conservative politicians, speak on African-Americans, I just feel sorry for them. Before you explain to someone that a "policy" built on selling children, government-sanctioned torture, and forced labor is worse than any policy in place to day, you should come to terms with the fact that your breaths are limited, and your days numbered. You have to budget your outrage.

Monday, March 01, 2010

New Issue, New Link

Not only has Crossed Genres put forth a new issue today, they have a new page, Science in My Fiction, for you to explore.  It's already given me one new story idea.

But check out Issue 16, also.  Steampunk, yay!

That Was No Accident, That's Their Right

Over in Utah, the fetus-loving legislators have passed a law making it a crime for women to knowingly engage in behavior that might cause a miscarriage.

Along with the information that over a third of all Republicans are anti-birth control, I think this pretty much has to drive us to the conclusion that Feminism is right: men (at least a certain sort of man) hate us. They keep trying to pretend it's all about the babies, but please. Go read any of the comment streams at Dr. Helen's site (she plays den mother to these boys--see this post, for a fine example of misogyny), or try a week or two of RightWingSparkle's site, if you can bear it. One minute it's all how they just want to stop the Holocaust of Abortion, and then they're off on a rant about how evil and stupid and useless women, and Liberals, who are just like women, are.

The smaller the Republican party gets, the less cover they have. They were always this hateful and crazy; it's just now they don't have the sane Republicans around to distract us.