Saturday, July 20, 2019

Weather


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

From TYKKIWDBI


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...


...to 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:

Image may contain: text

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

...is the best action





See also this:



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Links


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.

Image result for cell phone comic

Dr. Skull Leaves Home


Dr. Skull is working at the Arkansas Governor's School this summer -- I'm driving him across the state today, to start the job.

He's psyched. He's also had yet another interview for a faculty position, this one an actual tenure-track job. (That's four interviews over the past two months.) This school is bringing him on campus for an on-campus interview.

If you have any spare mojo, please send it his way.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (The graphic version)


This is very cool.  (H/t TYWKIWDBI)


prufrock2

New Chapter up on my Patreon


I've posted a new chapter of Triple Junction on my Patreon!

Here's a bit:
The evening before Parliament opened its Spring Session, Lord Oxford held a party at his guesthouse, which was just across Liberty Park from Harper’s house. Harper took both Jossa and Martin along with him.
Martin was one thing – he had a chip, so even if they ran into trouble, the most that would happen to him was he might get tanked. But Jossa was delinquent on her contract. Jossa, they would shoot.
“No one’s going to arrest me,” Jossa soothed, when Martin pointed this out to her. “It’s Oxford’s House. I’m as safe there as I am at the Academy when Efram is in residence.”
“Except the Academy ain’t hip-deep in Port City. Or filled with holders from Kadir’s side of the aisle.”
“Lord Holders from Kadir’s side of the aisle don’t even see contract labor, not unless they want something. We’ll be fine.”
Martin spread his hands at Dallas, lying on the bunk he and Jossa shared with Luc asleep beside him, but Dallas just shrugged. “I’m not the leader of the network,” he said. “Don’t ask me what she should do.”
Martin bared his teeth. “Maybe this is Harper’s way of dealing with the leader of the network.”
Jossa laughed. “Harper doesn’t want me dead.”
“I’d like to see him run the network without Jossa,” Dallas said, patting Luc’s back gently. “Tell Sen what to do?”
“Or Will, for that matter,” Jossa agreed. “Are you going to comb your hair before we leave?”
“I already did,” Martin said, and both of them laughed at him then.
For only $3.00 a month, you can have access to this chapter and 25 others, and read my critical essays on SF books and media.  What a deal!



Thursday, July 04, 2019

Happy 4th of July


Prisoner in Texas dies while being used as "prey" for dog hunt

More concentration camps for children

Jews and others being arrested for protesting, on the 4th of July

The planet is boiling

Conservatives whine because 'mermaids can't be black!'

Meanwhile, these same conservatives foment about the REAL problem in the USA

Trump celebrates himself with a military parade

ICE shows their true colors 



Happy 4th of July, all y'all! This can still be a good country -- vote the GOP out in 2020!



Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Books, Books, Books


Is there any feeling more satisfying than having a fat stack of books waiting to be read?

It is bliss.

Vox Writes about Ngo, Antifa, and the Milkshakes


This article is pretty good if you want to know the details about what happened with Andy Ngo, in Portland and elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

About Those Milkshakes...


So "Conservatives" have been playing this milkshake lie for all it's worth.




(See more here:

https://twitter.com/Tennessee_Pete/status/1146028991121375232)

In case you aren't in the loop, what happened was Andy Ngo. that font of propaganda, pretended he'd been hit with a milkshake -- which as we know is the worst thing that can happen to a fascist these days -- and then someone else, probably another MAGA American, claimed Antifa members (you can't actually be a "member" of antifa, but never mind) were mixing cement into the milkshakes.

Then it became "quick-drying" cement.

Now it's quick-drying cement and battery acid.

None of this is true (see this article, but you have to go waaay down to find the paragraph where they admit it never happened), but as we are learning, if you're a "conservative" these days, you don't care what's true. You don't care if what you're telling people is not just a lie, but a silly lie.

You only care whether or not what you're saying justifies your bigotry, your hatred, and your ignorance.

See this thread for more: Thread starts here

(Scare quotes around conservative throughout because -- of course -- these aren't actually conservatives. They're reactionary fascists. Not to mention vile heaps of trash.)

Why Rod Posts about Scary Trans People


Apparently Ezra Klein interviewed Rod Dreher, which first off, why? Do we really need to give a bigger platform to heaps of ignorant, bigoted nonsense?

But Ezra asked Rod why his blog was so obsessed with LGBT people, especially T people, and Rod wrote yet another lengthy screed "explaining" why.

Because LGBT people (and especially T people) have destroyed America.

I'm providing a link, but I don't encourage clicking on it. Rod's blog-site, The American Conservative, is 90% ads now, many of them pop-up, all of them annoying. So, you know, click at your own risk.

Rod's main point is that by divorcing sexuality away from its "real" purpose, which as his religion tells us is Making Babies, those Evil Liberals opened the door to Transform* America into a place where people can be whatever they want and do whatever they want with their own bodies.

I mean, the horror. As we all know, God meant only rich white cismen to have that sort of privilege.

So now we have kids growing up with two daddies, or with a trans daddy. What will become of us all, et cetera.

I'd spend some time rebutting this, but it is nonsense on its face (if sex was just for making babies, for instance, we'd only have sex, or want to have sex, when we wanted a baby -- which, come on) and I have better ways to spend my time.

The real question is why Rod spends 80% of his time screeching about trans people when there are 900 more important issues he could be spending his time on -- the wealth gap, children in concentration camps, white nationalists in our government, the increasing inability of too many Americans to tell a decent source from utter propaganda, student debt -- but of course we know the answer to that one.


*Pun not intended, but I like it

Monday, July 01, 2019

Dog Pictures Please


Heywood thought he ought to be on the blog too.





Sunday, June 30, 2019

More Cat Pictures


Here's where Jasper likes to sleep while I'm writing. Sometimes she shifts around, puts her chin on the ENTER key. and created havoc in my manuscripts.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Cat Pictures

We brought the kid home for the summer today -- or, well, for the month of July. (He's taking an interim course in August, so he goes back then.)

Here's the cat, coming warily to greet him:






Thursday, June 27, 2019

What Can You Possibly Do


...about the abuse of immigrants at the border and elsewhere?

Here's a list.

And here's one part of why you should care


See also this thread



Image result for Children at the border USA cartoon



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What Can We Do?


Nicole and Maggie have some advice for those of us who don't want children in concentration camps on American soil.

Go here for more.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reading Ben Shapiro's Brainwashed


Honestly, I'm not sure I'm going to read all of this one. After three pages, I have already had my bait of Ben's strident screeching. But let's look at as much as we can stand.

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of his existence, Ben Shapiro is the darling of the MAGA-American crowd. He is a former editor at Brietbart, and appears frequently on Fox News and posts his "discourse" on YouTube, explaining why trans people are mentally ill and Muslims are "radicalized" terrorists. In 2004, he published Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, which I'm wondering if anyone read past the title.

It was published by that stellar press, World Net Daily.

Let's have a look.

Brainwashed has not one, but two forwards, one written by the editor of World Net Daily, and the other by David Limbaugh, Rush's little brother. Both are empty stuffing. Ben is a brilliant young genius, what a clever toddler he is, what an important book this is. We'll skip over these.


Chapter One

Ben lays out the case for "brainwashing" by liberal universities.

First he attempts to prove that universities are liberal. He declares,

The vast majority of the professoriate is leftist. This is an uncontested fact.

What's his evidence for this? Ben at least includes his sources (1/4 of the book is sources) so I turn to the back of the book and discover that his "uncontested fact" is based on a single survey, done by the think tank National Center for Policy Analysis.  This think tank (now defunct) was funded by the Koch brothers and among other things worked to deny global warming.

The survey the NCPA ran had 151 respondents, from (as they put it)


professors and administrators in social science and liberal arts faculties at Ivy League universities 
and found that of this small sample, almost none of them selected George Bush as the best president in the past 40 years. (I know, I can't believe it either!)

Also, 57 percent admitted to being Democrats, while only 3 percent said they were Republicans. 20 percent said they were independents.

This is Ben's sole evidence for his "uncontested fact." Frankly, anyone with sense would stop reading right now.

Let's take it apart, shall we? The sample size is too small, and furthermore it's a biased sample. They surveyed only professors and administrators in the social sciences and the liberal arts -- social sciences are in the liberals arts, by the way, so I assume they're selected out for their ability to scare Conservatives.

No survey was done of business schools, and probably none of economics professors (some people think of economics as a liberal art, but since NCPA doesn't define what they mean by "liberal arts," it's hard to know if economics counts). No survey of science professors or math professors.

Also, we have no sample questions, and no link to the actual survey. As those who design surveys know, how a question is worded often influences its answer.

Also, the "survey" ends with this:


Critics point out that academics are all for diversity in the student population, but are against diversity of opinion on campuses.


Who are these critics? On what are they basing this conclusion? Where's their actual statement?

This is very shoddy work, especially since Ben is going to build an entire book on this dubious claim.

I'm sorry: This "uncontested fact."

Ben moves on from here to spout several more unsupported or badly supported claims: that Leftist professors don't give a balanced point of view in the classroom, but simply spout propaganda; that the "brainwashing" of students is extremely effective.

His evidence for this last? Students who came into a single universities in 2001 were 29.9% liberal and 20.7% conservative. This is based on a national survey of all university students in the USA. When they graduated, Ben says, they were 71% liberal and only 20 percent conservative. This, on the other hand, is based on the voting patterns of students at one university (UCLA) for one election (Bush v. Gore), evidence collected in 2000 -- an entire year before the results collected in the survey he is comparing the voting records to.

I can't believe Ben honestly believes this is an appropriate way to use evidence. I guess he's hoping his audience is too gullible to care?

But Ben doesn't need this evidence, he says! All the surveys support him! (He doesn't cite any.) Talk radio supports him!

Also, he has personal experience. When he went to UCLA, everyone was mean to him and the newspaper fired him -- for exposing Muslims, he claims, but again he cites no evidence. I suspect they fire him because of his crap research skills and his fundamental dishonesty.

His final evidence in this first chapter? An anonymous email from a professor who supports his brave truth-telling.

That's right. His readers support him in emails.


Chapter Two

Ben starts this chapter with a scandalous claim from a geography professor -- his geography professor, I assume -- who pointed out that truth is subjective, since we are all subjective beings. This is bunk, Ben declares. Of course universal truth exists! Of course evil exists!

Only a tiny bit from the professor seems to be a direct quotation. And, of course, this is being reported by Ben years after the lecture took place. Given that this is a geography class, I suspect what was actually said had more to do with how maps were drawn than with whether babies are murdered (Ben's go-to example, always -- he's a fetus-fetishizer).

Ben goes on to claim that this moral relativism permeates universities. Again, he bases this claim on dubious evidence -- comments by a few professors, and a single poll which found that 73% of students think their professors are moral relativists. This poll is no longer available, so I can't check how many students it surveyed or what they were actually asked.

He goes on to cite another shocking example -- his source an editorial that cites the same survey Ben cited above (in the very same language; I wonder if plagiarism is a moral wrong?) -- that "10 to 20% of his students refused to say that the Holocaust was wrong."

I went to the source. Here's what the editorial actually says, in its 4th paragraph, one in which he is arguing that students are moral relativists, just like their teachers:


Several years ago, a college professor in upstate New York reported that 10 percent to 20 percent of his students could not bring themselves to criticize the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews. Some students expressed personal distaste for what the Nazis did.

"A college professor" "several years ago" "reported."

Again, this is appallingly scholarship.

More nonsense follows. Ben cites Peter Singer, another favorite boogeyman for the Right, a philosopher famous for saying newborns have no more moral right to exist than piglets do. Evil! Ben shrieks. This is evil!

He cites Paul Erlich, for the horrible crime of comparing the bombing of Hiroshima with the Holocaust. Evil! Ben shrieks. The Jews were innocent, those civilians in Japan...had to be killed, to save American lives.

What?

This is pretty much how Ben always argues, from what I know of his later work. He says something shocking, and usually ridiculous, and then supports it with "evidence" that has little or nothing to do with his claim.

I mean, let's look at that argument. The victims of the Holocaust were innocent. Okay, so far so good.

His claim that the civilians who died at Hiroshima are not equal to the victims of the Holocaust should, reason shows us, rest on the fact that those civilians were complicit some great crime: not innocent.

Instead, he says that they had to die, to protect the lives of American soldiers. Now this may or may not be true, but it doesn't work to refute his outrage over the comparison. In fact, the idea that the civilians "had to die" is exactly the argument that (pardon my Godwinning) Hitler used to murder six million Jews and another six million Poles, socialists, disabled people, Romani, and LGBT people (including trans people). Those 12 million had to be killed, to protect the Aryan nation.

Ben supplies several more, equally badly supported examples as "evidence" that professors are Leftist. For instance, in one of his classes, a professor played a rap song, and then tried to discuss whether censoring that song was a violation of the First Amendment.

(See, there's right and there's wrong, and if you disagree with MAGA Americans, obviously you're wrong. It's right to violate free speech, unless it's Ben's free speech you're violating, then it's wrong)


The Left, Ben concludes this chapter by stating, clearly exists in order to "debase morality."

That's all I can take for now. (This is another way Ben "wins" arguments. After you spend several hours refuting his first three sentences, you're really too exhausted to go on.)








Banksy


I forgot to tell you, but the kid and his roommate rescued a kitten off the street



They've had him for a couple months now. His name is Banksy, AKA Stinky Wumpus.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Elizabeth Warren


Here's a precis.

I'm liking Warren more and more.

Saturday Links


Octavia Butler, who died too young

Get Out While You Can

LOL (I love the video in this, so I'm grateful to the bigots who let me see it)

Why we fight 

This is horrifying

This is wonderful (hat tip TYWKIWDBI)















Summer in Arkansas


We've had a fairly mild summer here so far -- highs in the high 80s or low 90s. If you waited until seven or eight o'clock to take your daily walk, the weather was pleasant cool, and the air dry.

But that has changed over the past two days. We're still only in the low 90s so far, but the humidity has ramped up. I took my walk yesterday just at sunset, which is 8:36 pm here, and it was still smotheringly hot.

Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

Days like this, I think fondly of my time in Idaho. Summers did get hot there too, but the humidity was 15 or 16%. And nights were always in the 50s.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thank You for the Donation!


(You know who you are.)

Math Math Math


I think I mentioned some weeks ago that I had found this free math game online. It's called Prodigy Math, and I have to pretend to be 13 years old to play it, but I'm really enjoying the experience.

It's by no means a perfect game -- it doesn't really teach math, exactly. Instead, your character is presented with small quests, and then as the character goes about solving the quest, they are confronted with math problems to solve. The game makes hints available, but it doesn't explain the math exactly.

So frequently I have to stop and google how to do a given math problem. But this is great! Things I never understood before -- like what "squared" really means, for instance -- are becoming clear.

Although the game is really obsessed with graphing, as well as rise/run.

Anyway, that's my new go-to when I can't think of the next paragraph in my novel. I go do some math problems while I think.

Highly recommended for anyone who, like me, never actually learned math in grade school.

Image result for prodigy math game
This is the guy who celebrates with you when you get a math problem right

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Right-Wing Screeching


This story was very hot on the reactionary Right-Wing blogs about two weeks ago -- I assume it got big play on Fox News, that's usually why the entire Conservative Blogosphere goes apeshit at once.

Here's what happened: a young woman who had been sexually assaulted asked to be euthanized. (Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, as well it should be. But it is reserved for hopeless cases -- for instance, people dying of liver cancer, which is a horribly painful way to die.) The young woman's request was denied, because her case wasn't hopeless, and she was far too young, and because treatment options existed which she hadn't exhausted yet.

The young woman subsequently starved herself to death. No euthanasia was involved, although her parents did make the decision to stop force-feeding her, after several months. (If you know anything about force-feeding, you know it's a form of torture.)

Fox News reported that the girl had been euthanized, because of course they did. And then everyone who watches Fox News began screeching about the case. Rod Dreher wept big hot crocodile tears over it. Those GODLESS SECULAR people over there in the SOCIALIST Netherlands are SO EEEVIL, our world is DOOMEd and so on, for about 15 paragraphs.

Worse, the Conservative Attack Squad, besides screaming about this on Twitter and elsewhere nonstop, then went after the poor child's parents.

Did any of them bother to check the sources and see what actually happened? You know they didn't. If they were capable of checking sources and evaluating evidence, they wouldn't be watching Fox News.


Monday, June 17, 2019

John Oliver on Impeachment


This is 20 minutes long, but well worth watching:


Pride 2019 and Local Xtians


The kid says there were no "Christians" haranguing the people at Pride this year (though there are always churches who march in the parade itself), but this made me smile anyway:

No photo description available.


Last year there was a "Christian" dragging a cross on little wheels, you know, like Jesus did, and screeching at all the people and families there about how they would burn in hell and so on.

People surrounded him and chanted LGBT slogans until he fled in a sulk.

Free speech in action.

Also, one of the kid's friends is featured in this article.




What I'm Reading Now


Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are

Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-DavidowitzI forget which blog I saw this recommended on, but boy, were they right. Stephens-Davidowitz used to be a data scientist for for Google; now he writes for the New York Times. This is book is both readable (occasionally hilarious) and enlightening. Stephens-Davidowitz does research into what "big data" can tell us that "small data" can't. "Small data" includes thinks like polls and surveys. Even the largest of these, as he points out, can only capture a few thousand respondents. Big data can give us billions.  Big data is things like the records the IRS keeps, google searches, and searches done on porn sites. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

One example of how small data went wrong is the polling that showed, in 2016, that Trump would lose the election. At the same time that the polls were showing Trump would lose, Stephens-Davidowitz was tracking certain google searches (racist google searches, mostly) which showed Trump would probably win. (People lie to polls. They don't lie to Google.)

Very much worth reading.


K.J. Parker, Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil



I recently discovered K.J. Parker, as regular readers will recall. These are two more of his books, the first two books in the Engineer Trilogy. They're about an engineer, obviously, but also about the politics, rulers, and citizens of several kingdom. As I told my kid, these books are like Game of Thrones, except good, and without all the gratuitous rape and violence. (There is some violence, but it's mostly off the page, and it's never used salaciously.)

These are great big fat books, 700 or 800 pages long, and they're mostly about duty, politics, and war, with only tiny slices of romance. No sex, now that I think about it. That is odd.

Lots about engineering, though.

Anyway, if that's the sort of book you like, you'll like these. I'm waiting for the third one to arrive now.


Connie Willis, The Doomsday Book

This is one of my 100 favorite books, and I re-read it, along with all of Willis's other work, every two or three years.

It's about time travel, and also epidemics, and also academics. Hits all my sweet spots, in other words.

Also, Willis is a wonderful writer. Every time I read this book, I stay up all night to finish it.

Dr. Skull points out that there is no sex in this one either, or in most of Willis. The odd part here is that I never noticed that. I won't say Willis never writes about sex, because she wrote the truly horrific "All My Darling Daughters," which upset Orson Scott Card to no end. But usually her characters are teachers, or mentors, and their students, and any romantic interest is unrequited.

This one and Passage are my two favorite books by Willis. Those of you who prefer more romance might try To Say Nothing of the Dog first.

"Fire Watch" is the first short story I ever read by Willis. Lucky you, it's available online!




Sunday, June 16, 2019

My Kid Does Pride Art


My kid does art for Pride 2019



These are characters from his comic 

Sunday Links


I love a happy ending

I also love this story by Carmen Maria Machado

This is America

About that liberal bias

Tucker speaks out against global tyranny


What unfettered capitalism creates


Of course MAGA Americans are buying this story with the same eager glee that they buy every story that allows them to express their not-so-hidden racism

What it's like teaching MAGA-Americans

Blast from the past: These two posts from New Orleans after the flood

Image may contain: text



So I'm Wasting Time on the Internets...


...and I come across an article claiming to explain how to keep your home clean. (Actual title: "Is your home a mess? There's an app for that!")

I click on it, since there between writing novels, reading novels, taking the dog to the dog park, and catching up on the new season of Elementary,  keeping the house clean is waaaay down on my list.

Guess what the app does?

It lets you hire people to clean your house.

This is what I mean by people in the top 5% being radically out of touch with those of us in the middle and working classes.

If I had the money to hire someone to clean my house, I wouldn't need a damn "app for that." I could throw a stone out my front door and hit fifteen or twenty people eager to clean my house, mow my lawn, deal with my scraggly oak trees, do my laundry, and any other job I could pay them ten dollars an hour to do.

App for that my ass.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pride 2019 Part 2


Here's my kid and his roommate at Pride 2019.



His favorite parts (and I'm quoting):


  • the Jewish temple was there!!!
  • free mom hugs 
  • dude holding a "no cops at pride" sign walking right past a cop
  • democratic socialists with signs saying "queer liberation not rainbow capitalism"
  • Planned Parenthood float came by and everyone went ham cheering


Pride 2019


My kid is at Pride today, with his roommate and his bff from high school. They just got their pictures taken for a LGBT magazine, and are having a fine time, apparently.

We went with him last year. They grow up so fast!


Let's Finish Unwind (please)


Okay, I'ma plow through the rest of this book, because jeez.

Chapter 56

Connor is in the Unwind dorm and he is sad. He is not a hero, just a regular guy, and he cannot save anyone. Poor Connor.

Roland shows up. They have a big fight. Roland almost kills Connor, and then doesn't. Roland is sad to learn he is not actually a killer. Poor Roland.


Chapter 57

Lev is in the Unwind dorm for tithes, which is much nicer than the regular Unwind dorms. They have a pool! They have gourmet food! They get nice clothing and their own move theater.

This makes no sense, of course. Given that no one comes back from these Harvest Camps, why spend money on all this luxury? Why keep any of these kids alive for longer than necessary? Why not just harvest them as they show up? Maybe we have to wait until specific organs are ordered? Like, we need a kidney type O+ here in Amarillo?

But given the huge population in our future world, and given that -- apparently -- people are getting transplants for things like having ears that are too big, wouldn't the requirement for organs and other parts be huge? It's huge now, and we don't use transplants except as a last resort.

ANYWAY.

Lev is not sad. Lev is angry. All the other tithes are in prayer meetings.

I just want to note again that this 'religion people send one in ten of all their children to be harvested' makes literally no sense. I'm assuming religious people are supposed to be the ones who fought on the pro-life side of teh Great Civil War II. You can't get less pro-life than sending your kids off to be murdered. I mean, I get that 'pro-life' people don't actually care about life. I get that it's actually about controlling the poors and keeping them poor. But it's a huge leap from 'poor people shouldn't be able to control their own bodies' to 'let's murder our own kids.'

ANYWAY.

Lev is angry because he has lost his faith in God. He prays, but his heart has been hardened.

Lev is exercising, because his medical tests showed his triglycerides are high. He can't be harvested until they're normal, I guess. Jokes on the Harvest Camp, though, bc ACTUALLY Lev has taken some drug that makes it SEEM like his triglycerides are high.

Lev's fellow anarchist terrorist kids are wizard scientists, I guess.

He and Blaine and Mai meet up. They are fellow anarchist terrorists. Mai is worried because Risa saw her. What will Risa think? (Why would Risa just think Mai has been sent here to be Unwound, same as her?) Blaine says not to worry, and that they should do "it" tomorrow. He gives them both detonators.

Lev reflects on what they're about to do. He knows it is wrong, but he doesn't care. Because he is ANGRY, see, and his heart is HARD.

Remember the terrorists we met back in chapter whatever, the chapter about the high school? The terrorists who were called Clappers? This is what Lev and his Fellow Chaotic Evil Anarchist Terrorists plan to do. Apparently you put detonators on your hands, and then you clap, and...something blows up?

I suspect Neal knows as little about ordnance as he does about pro-choice people.


Chapter 58

Connor and Risa meet in the girl's bathroom to make out.

I'm serious. That's what happens in this chapter. What the actual hell.


Chapter 59

Roland is sent for harvesting. He has a rare blood type, AB-, so his parts are in high demand.


Chapter 60

A two paragraph chapter which very solemnly tells us that how Unwinding happens is a Deep Secret. But it takes three hours, and 12 surgeons. Which seems like a lot, but okay.


Chapter 61

Roland gets unwound. This is actually an effective chapter, and pretty well written. It's based on a ridiculous premise, though, which is that kids being unwound are kept conscious through the entire procedure.

“This is it, then,” Roland says. “You’re putting me under?” 
Although he can’t see her mouth beneath her surgical mask, he can see the smile in her eyes. “Not at all,” she says. “By law, we’re required to keep you conscious through the entire procedure.” The nurse takes his hand. “You have a right to know everything that’s happening to you, every step of the way.” 

Although this allows Neal to give us a dramatic narrative of Roland being taken apart while being fully aware of every step, it makes absolutely no sense. Why would the "law" required consciousness in these kids? Why would the surgeons want them to be conscious? It makes no sense. That's not how humans behave.

So -- effective, but silly.


Chapter 62

Lev gets ready to be a Chaotic Evil Terrorist.

But first a preacher takes the Tithes to a tree which has been grafted with all sorts of other trees -- one branch is from a peach tree, another from a cherry tree, and so on. It's a metaphor, get it?

Lev quotes Proverbs 11:2, saying being proud at having created such a tree is a big sin. It's a metaphor, get it?

The preacher is humbled by Lev's knowledge of scripture. He takes his flock back to the Tithe area, and on the way Connor confronts Lev -- he doesn't get a chance to say anything, but that's not what this is about. This is about Lev finding out that Connor is going to be unwound -- today!

He finds his fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorists and insists on moving up their terrorist act to today. He gets them to agree, but then ---

THEN the religious counselors bring Lev in for a prayer session. Because he seems so troubled.

OH NO. Will Lev miss the rendezvous for the Chaotic Evil Terrorist Act?


Chapter 63

We're in the point of view of a Harvest Camp guard. He is moody and sad because he hates being a guard, but it's the only job he can get, since he's was raised in a State Home, like Risa. Life is so unfair. Poor victim of economic anxiety.

Lev's fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorist show up, pretending they're here to take food up to the band. OH NO. Risa is in the band!


Chapter 64

The guards show up to take Connor to be Unwound. One mentions that he has pretty brown eyes, and that a buddy of his is looking for brown eyes, because his girlfriend doesn't like blue eyes.

Connor is appalled and terrified, but he goes with them, determined to walk to the Harvest Shop with dignity.


Chapter 65

Neal starts this one with a solemn little homily on how suicide bombers (which is what Clappers are) are deluded. Terrorism is Bad, m'kay?

Then Blaine and Mai explode -- Blaine because he's hit by a guard, and Mai because she detonates herself. They have liquid explosives in their BLOOD, y'all. (Oh my God.)

Before Mai dies, she thinks about how and why she and Blaine killed the Goldens. It's because they were insufficiently respectful when her boyfriend died. So she's angry and her heart is hard.

Lev doesn't clap. He can't bring himself to do it. Because he's Really Good After All.

The building blows up with Connor inside and Risa on the roof. Connor staggers, mangled and bleeding, from the wreckage. Everyone in the camp decides Connor blew up the building -- he's already their hero, because he's the Akron AWOL. Their glee at his Terrorist Act (as they think it is) sparks a rebellion, and all the kids rise up and begin tasing the guards.

Lev takes care of poor mangled Connor.


Chapter 66

Connor wakes up in the hospital. Local ER personnel have conspired to pretend he's the guard from the camp, Elvis Robert Mullard, and 19 years old. So he's safe from being unwound. Good news!

But they've given him an eye and an arm from Unwound kids. And the arm...drum-roll...is Roland's arm.

Bad news.

Chapter 67

Risa also survived. (I know, it's such a surprise! Also, most of the other kids from the Harvest Camp escaped in the riot and have not yet been recovered.) But she is paralyzed from the waist down. Bad news!

But in Neal's world, although we can Unwind 13 year olds, there's a law against Unwinding the disabled. (What?) So Risa is safe now. Good news!

They offered to transplant an Unwind's spine into her -- then she wouldn't be paralyzed anymore, and then she could be Unwound again. Oddly enough, she refused this deal.

Connor comes to see Risa and tells her about his new identity. They're both going to live and they wuv each other.

Then Risa notices his arm -- and whose arm it is. "I will never touch you with this hand," Connor promises.

But Risa kisses his Evil Hand and puts it to her face. "It's your hand," she says, "Roland would never touch me like this."

Then we get the worst paragraph in the book:

Connor smiles, and Risa takes a moment to look down at the shark on his wrist. It holds no fear for her now, because the shark has been tamed by the soul of a boy. No—the soul of a man. 
Oh my God.


Chapter 68

Lev also survived, and is being held in some sort of Super-Max Federal Medical Center while they de-tox his explosive blood.

Pastor Dan, from way back in like chapter five, comes to visit, and we learn CyFi, our magical negro, is leading a movement to stop Unwinding. CyFi is going to save Eva Lev!

Also Lev is famous. His picture is on the cover of all the news magazines, because he's the Clapper who didn't Clap. Also, he rescued three people from the building destroyed by his fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorists.

He's a hero, not a zero!

“I have to believe that things happen for a reason," [Pastor Dan says.] "Your kidnapping, your becoming a clapper, your refusing to clap”—he glances at the magazine cover in his hand—“it’s all led to this. For years, Unwinds were just faceless kids that no one wanted—but now you’ve put a face on unwinding.” 
Yeah, okay, Pastor Dan.

Again, no. This is not how people work. Everyone in this world must know someone who has been Unwound. Why would they suddenly care just because Lev didn't blow himself up?

Also, good news for Lev -- they don't Unwind Clappers, because "that stuff" never gets entirely out of your system. Good news.

In which case, wouldn't Lev have to stay here in this Super Max Federal Medical Center for the rest of his life? Bad news.

But nah. Pastor Dan says Lev will get a few years in juvey, and a few years of House Arrest, and although his parents don't want him back, his brother Marcus is willing to take him in.

Also Pastor Dan has left that Evil Church, the one that supports Unwinding. Now he's following a "different" God.

Lev's hard heart unhardens. "Do you think maybe I can believe in that God too?" he asks.

Cue heart-warming music.


Chapter 69

This book has 69 chapters. Heh. 69. (In other news, I am 12 years old.)

We find out why the Admiral was collecting people with his son's parts. Not so he can put Humphrey back together again!

Naw, he is adopting everyone who has a part of his son. Aw! More heart-warming music.

Also, it's useful that they're all under 18. Why didn't any adults get bits of Humphrey?

Also the Admiral and his new 750 kids are all going to Fight to End Unwinding.

Meanwhile, the Graveyard (now called Purgatory) has a new leader. Guess who!

That's right. Connor is now in charge. (Risa is also here, playing a piano that showed up out of somewhere.)

Connor says this to the new crop of runaway Unwinds that show up:

“I don’t know what happens to our consciousness when we’re unwound,” says Connor. “I don’t even know when that consciousness starts. But I do know this.” He pauses to make sure all of them are listening. “We have a right to our lives!”
The kids go wild. 
“We have a right to choose what happens to our bodies!” 
Huh.

Also, THE END.

Thank God.



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ignorance at the Top


Over on Twitter a conservative guy I sort of like (he's at least willing to try to base his conclusions on reliable evidence) claimed that sky-high rent and cost of living is not a problem, or at least not one that causes poverty and homelessness.





He says people can just move. Go to some place where the rent and cost of living are more affordable. Get a job there.

This take illustrates my main complaint about Conservatives in the top 5% of income levels. They have no idea what life is like for people who are making the average income in this country -- usually they have no idea what the average income even is.

They think their income -- $150,000, $250,000 -- is "average." They think they're middle-class.

In reality, almost half of Americans can't cover a $400 emergency expense. (This is what's happening this week in the delagar household -- Dr. Skull needs dental work, and it's $500. It might as well be five million. We don't have it, and we don't have any way to get it.)

But sure. "Just move!"

First off, you'd have to quit your job and get a new job. This assumes that well-paying jobs are readily available in places with cheap rent, and that a person in poverty can easily get one. Neither of those things are true. (Dr. Skull, who has a PhD, has been trying to find a job literally anywhere in America for the past three years. He is finally getting interviews, but they're for jobs that pay between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. And while the rents in these places are cheaper than the rents in say, San Francisco, they aren't that damn cheap.)

Also, quitting your job and "just moving" will mean at least a month without a salary, unless you're very lucky. Given most households in America live paycheck to paycheck, this is a non-starter.

Second, you'd need money for moving expenses, and the deposit and first month's rent on your new place. See "Not able to cover a $400 expense," above.

Third, "just moving" will take many Americans away from their social safety network -- the grandparents who will babysit their kids in an emergency, the dentist who will let them pay $50 a month instead of requiring the money upfront, the neighbor who knows how to fix cars cheap.

Finally, even assuming you can get past all of the above, moving to where the rents are cheaper is not so easy. Almost everywhere in the USA, rent has been increasing steadily, unlike people's incomes.


So yeah. A really bad take.

We're not even that poor -- we're solidly middle-class, according to the income quintile tables -- but I have been trying to move us to a cheaper place, literally in my own town, for the past year and a half.

I can find cheaper places (cheaper by $100 to $150/month); and there are several I would very much like to live in.

But first I need to save up at least $1000 in moving expenses.

See: Americans don't have $400 for an emergency, above.

Right now I'm just hoping the car (which has over 100,000 miles on it) doesn't break down, because if it does, we're fucked.