I’ve Gots ‘Splaining To Do

Regulars to the cantina have probably noticed a rather abrupt falling off in volume lately. There’s a reason for that. I’ve just been too busy to ‘splain.

Writing fiction again, you see.

My Christmas tradition for these many years has been to shut out the rest of the world and put the extra day or two off to good advantage. I haven’t written fiction in months, didn’t even have scenes running through my mind, but that was no reason not to write. I’ve missed fiction. So, instead of world-building, instead of research, instead of those one-billion-and-one things I should be doing, I just started writing scenes for the sheer delight of wordsmithing. I skipped around here, there and everywhere within my universe, playing with a description here, a metaphor there, savoring each sentence. And it felt fantastic.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing and started reading instead. Last year, I wrote several chapters in a book I wasn’t even supposed to be working on because it comes so late in the sequence. But the scenes were there, demanding to be written. Total compulsion. I justified it by telling myself that I needed to get this stuff down while it was fresh in my mind, and the practice wouldn’t hurt. After all, the first book in the series needs to be outstanding. It’s going to take tremendous skill to pull off what I want to do. Skill is developed by practice. Ergo, use these scenes to practice.

As I was writing, it seemed as if things were inspired. Seemed like I could actually do a fair job of capturing this stuff.

Reading it now, I do not think I was wrong. I found plenty of rough edges – a writer worth their shit will always find flaws with their work. But I also found a lot to be excited about. I used to suck at the mushy-gushy stuff, for instance, which was unfortunate because so much hangs on the unique connections between certain of my characters, deeply emotional relationships beyond mere love and romantic entanglement. Those scenes are now starting to take on the transcendent quality they needed.

I’ve also had an enormously difficult time capturing grief, which was also vital to the story I wanted to tell. That’s getting far easier. And I think I’m avoiding the wanker trap – I’ve never wanted my grieving characters to turn into o-woe-is-me sniveling weenies. They’re stronger than that, despite crushing pain. And those scenes seem to be working too.

There’s an enormous amount of work to be done. As I’ve mentioned before, certain assumptions have to be rethought. There’s a vast amount of worldbuilding still unfinished. I have to go over everything from the beginning, decide what must stay and what can be safely discarded, strengthen the weak areas and figure out the science behind the fantasy. None of it will be easy, but it’s going to be worth doing.

That being so, this blog is likely to see a bit less posting than usual. Apologies in advance, my darlings. I’ll do my best.

(BTW, If anyone wins an insane amount of money in the lottery and wants to free me from my day job with a modest stipend, thus allowing me a full blogging schedule on top of my storytelling duties, I could be persuaded to accept such a thing. Just so’s you know.)

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Pardon Me – Your Logical Fallacy is Flapping in the Wind

I don’t usually filch from PZ because I figure most of you have already been over to Pharyngula, but this little gem of a logical fallacy needs to be set like a solitaire. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rep. Mark Souder:

I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design. I believe that if there wasn’t a purpose in designing you — regardless of who you view the designer as being — then, from my perspective, you can’t be fallen from that design. If you can’t be fallen from that design, there’s no point to evangelism.

You know what? He’s absolutely right. Spot-on. I agree with his last two sentences without reservation.

Never mind that it’s a big ol’ logical fallacy (looks like the ol’ appeal to consequences to me). Let’s just take him at his word: if there’s no design, you can’t be fallen from that design, ergo evangelism has no point.

Hmm. Evolution has rather put paid to the whole design idea….

Huzzah! Fundamentalist religion is dead. No point in evangelism anymore – let’s drink to it’s demise!


I love it when someone’s own logical fallacy works to our advantage. What a perfect way to start the New Year.

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Biting Israel’s Butt

You’d think that Bush’s Global War on Terror having turned in to the greatest single recruiting tool for al Qaeda would’ve given other world leaders a bit of a clue. Alas, stupidity knows no borders:

Benjamin Netanyahu was on CNN today saying “We’ll have to bring down the Hamas regime.”

And how’s that going, Ben?

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

Epic fucking fail.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards VIII: To Boldly Go


The HMS Elitist Bastard leaves the high seas for deep space over at Submitted to a Candid World. Captain Ames helms the ship as we explore strange new worlds, seek out ignorance, and then blast it into oblivion with phasers set to “vaporize.” The only question remaining unanswered: how good is Ames at the Picard Maneuver?

Set a course for wisdom. Warp factor 9. Engage.

Postdated so as to leave no crew member behind.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

If there wasn’t so much Con stupidity happening today, I’d highlight Blagojevich’s supreme fucknuttery. As it is, should you want to have fun laughing at his expense, see here and here. I have some Con bottoms to spank.

Allow me to start with John Bolton, who is one of the most ridiculous chickenhawks on the face of the earth. It’s not enough for him that we’re already stuck in two useless wars – he wants us to go for a triple:

Yesterday, on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes, Iran war hawk John Bolton said that Israel’s recent bombing campaign in Gaza is all the more reason for the United States to bomb Iran now. “So while our focus obviously is on Gaza right now, this could turn out to be a much larger conflict,” he said, adding that “we’re looking at potentially a multi-front war here.”

“You would strike Iran right now?” asked host Alan Colmes. “I would have done it before this,” Bolton responded. Colmes asked whether tensions and war across Middle East would escalate if the U.S. or Israel were to bomb Iran. Bolton said that the many Arab countries would secretly be cheering if Iran were attacked…

[snip]

It’s hard to believe that the Arab world would be pulling out the party hats if Iran were attacked. Thanks to the policies of President Bush, the U.S is immensely unpopular across the Middle East. Iran, on the other hand, enjoys unprecedented support in Iraq, which is supposed to be America’s greatest ally in the region.

The stupidity here is overwhelming in its scope. I have no idea what sort of fantasy world this man is living in, but apparently it involves hallucinogens. Lots and lots of hallucinogens.

Speaking of overwhelming stupidity, some Cons apparently think that sending out a CD with “Barack the Magic Negro” on it is a fine joke and not worth worrying over:

Indeed, taking this to the next logical step, some RNC members are saying that Duncan and Anuzis may have hurt themselves by criticizing Saltsman’s judgment. One RNC member told the Politico, “Those are two guys who just eliminated themselves from this race for jumping all over Chip on this. Mike Duncan is a nice guy, but he screwed up big time by pandering to the national press on this.” Several more have “expressed anger toward Duncan and Anuzis ‘for throwing a good Republican under the bus.'”

So, to summarize, a leading candidate to lead the Republican National Committee promoted a song calling the next president a “magic negro.” This has improved his chances of getting the job.

Only Cons could think that extraordinary racial insensitivity is a feature, not a bug, in a political leader.

And forget about Congress working quickly to rescue the economy from the catastrophe they let it become:

President-elect Obama has made it clear that one of his first priorities when he takes office will be an economic stimulus package that could reach around $800 billion. Top economists have said that such investment — in areas such as infrastructure, health care, energy, and education — is essential for boosting the economy. As Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has stated, the “risks of being too small are much bigger than the risks of being too big.”

Despite the urgency after eight years of the Bush administration doing nothing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now saying that he and his fellow conservatives are in no rush to provide this important economic relief and plan to put the brakes to attempts to quickly pass a package. From a statement he issued yesterday:

As of right now, Americans are left with more questions than answers about this unprecedented government spending, and I believe the taxpayers deserve to know a lot more about where it will be spent before we consider passing it.

According to the Washington Post, McConnell has also “called for a weeklong cooling off period between when the bill is drafted and when it is voted on, allowing time to dissect it for signs of ‘fraud and waste.’” Conservatives have the power to filibuster the legislation if they oppose it.

Funny how they only worry about “fraud and waste” when they’re not the ones stuffing both hands in the cookie jar. After the last eight years of fraud, waste and fuckery, I really don’t think these assclowns have any credibility when it comes to watching out for taxpayers’ money.

And if I ever hear them howling over campaign finance improprieties again, I shall pee myself laughing:

For Republicans opposed to campaign finance regulations, it appears that enforcing the law is just so last year.

Bloomberg reports that the Federal Election Commission’s three GOP members all voted against fining the Chamber of Commerce for illegally spending money in 2004 on attacks against John Edwards, that year’s Democratic vice-presidential nominee. The 3-3 final vote tally meant the commission took the rare step of rejecting an FEC counsel recommendation to impose the fine.

The November Fund, a 527 group run by the Chamber, had been found to have broken campaign spending laws by using $3 million it received from the chamber to attack Edwards over his trial lawyer background. Bloomberg notes that 11 other 527s were accused of violating campaign spending laws, and all but the Chamber paid a fine.

I don’t even know what to say. Apparently, the Cons in the FEC believe that finance fuckery is perfectly acceptable as long as it’s Cons engaging in the fraud. Charming.

And, finally, reports of Bush’s passion for reading have been greatly exaggerated:

As part of its end-of-presidency wrap-up, Vanity Fair notes this interesting tidbit from Richard Clarke, the former chief White House counterterrorism adviser.

[snip]

“The contrast with having briefed his father and Clinton and Gore was so marked. And to be told, frankly, early in the administration, by Condi Rice and [her deputy] Steve Hadley, you know, Don’t give the president a lot of long memos, he’s not a big reader — well, shit. I mean, the president of the United States is not a big reader?”

Funny, just last week Karl Rove told us the president is a voracious reader, who reads dense texts “to relax and because he’s curious,” and for 35 years, George W. Bush has “always had a book nearby.”

I’m so sick of these lying morons I could scream. In fact, I think I’ll go outside and do that right now.

A Bloody, Horrible Mess

I’ve wanted to blog on Gaza, but it’s impossible to know where to begin. I have sympathies on both sides: I don’t expect Israel to just absorb missiles without responding, but I don’t expect Palestinians to blithely accept being starved, either. It’s one of those tragedies with no clear right or wrong, no spotless heroes, no irredeemable villains.

I’m going to let Phoenix Woman take over from here:

As we hear that the IDF is bombing universities and killing United Nations personnel in addition to the hundreds of Gazans already dead in the three days of the Israeli attack on Gaza, we will hear the inevitable cry “but Hamas has been lobbing rockets at Israelis for years from Gaza!”

Juan Cole tells us about these rockets, and provides some perspective:

Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

But of course you won’t see this on your evening news, not unless you live outside of the US. You’re more likely to know about this if you live in Tel Aviv than if you live in Milwaukee.

There’s more in that article that might be helpful in conversations with those who love to proclaim that Israel can do no wrong.

It’s hard to find good in so many people dead. But it seems that Israel has taken things just one step too far. The carte blanche is being written on a rapidly-emptying bank account. And we can finally talk about Israel in more than simple black-and-white terms.

This was never that simple. It’s a good thing we’re no longer pretending it is.

J-Street has a petition ready to go (h/t):

At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership. Click Here

I support immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza. This is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinian people and the United States.

I’m going to leave you with what Hilzoy said yesterday, because she sums up my feelings on this rather better than I can:

One of the many things that makes the Israeli/Palestinian conflict so utterly dispiriting is that it’s impossible to think of anything good coming of any of this. Worse than that, it’s hard to imagine that even the people involved think anything good will come of it.

What, exactly, do the Palestinians lobbing rockets into Sderot think they will accomplish? That the Israelis will look about them and say: Holy Moly, I had no idea this place was so dangerous!, and leave? Do the Israelis think: even though we’ve bombed the Palestinians a whole lot, and it’s never done much good before, maybe this time it will be different! Maybe Hamas will say: heavens, this is a pretty serious round of attacks; maybe we should just sue for peace — ? Or what?

I imagine what people on both sides are thinking is something more like: do you expect us to just sit here and take it? Do you expect us to do nothing? To which my answer is: no, I expect you to try to figure out what has some prospect of actually making things better. Killing people out of anger, frustration, and the sense that you have to do something is just wrong. For both sides.

Exactly.

Playing Into Terrorists’ Hands

I’ve had Thoughts over the past several years. I’d see some group do something outrageously evil, I’d watch leaders get all vengeance-minded on their asses, and I’d think, “That’s exactly what the terrorists wanted you to do, dumbshit.”

It appears I’m not the only person who’s been having such thoughts:

As Stirling pointed out earlier today, Terrorism works. The Mumbai attacks, targeted deliberately at both foreigners, and more importantly, India’s own elites, led to an entirely predictable response: India started seriously threatening Pakistan and demanding Pakistani leaders do things (like turn over Pakistanis to the Indian legal system) which no Pakistani politician could do and stay in power. Indeed, it’s unlikely they could do such a thing and stay alive.

So Pakistan moved its forces from the tribal areas to the border with India, in response to India’s threats, and the terrorists no longer have to deal with the Pakistani military. This is, clearly, what they wanted. Terrorism worked.

[snip]

Remember that 9/11 was also a great success, not just operationally, but strategically. It accomplished what bin Laden wanted—it got American troops in on the ground where they could be killed and the cost of the war put the American economy under great strain. It continues to pay dividends, as the US army, smarting from what it privately knows was a loss in Iraq (you don’t pay people to stop attacking you if you won the war) wants a do-over in Afghanistan, not because it makes sense strategically (it’s destabilizing Pakistan, a far more important place than Afghanistan) but becase their pride has been hurt.

Terrorism works. It works not because it can succeed operationally, but because elites play into the hands of terrorists and do strategically stupid and counterproductive things when terrorists prod them hard enough. Both the Mumbai attacks and 9/11 were aimed at people who mattered—wealthy and important people in both countries.

It’s incredibly hard not to go screaming for vengeance when a group of evil fucktards with bombs blow apart your citizenry, but governments are going to have to start learning to respond a little less predictably. The solution to terrorism isn’t more bombs, more invasions, and more vengeance. As hard as it is to put vengeance on the back burner, we need to do it. Send law enforcement after the fuckers, and work on creating a world where it’s harder for them to find desperate, disaffected people to recruit.

Some of our more bloodthirsty chickenhawks see a devastating military response as “education,” which is right up there among the dumbest things I’ve ever heard:

Commenting on Israel’s attack on Gaza, NRO’s Andy McCarthy wonders whether the strikes will “demonstrate that terrorism is a loser for those who vote for it.”

The question is whether the Palestinian people are educable. Which brings me back to the first point: the Palestinians voted to put in power — i.e., vest with the power of a quasi-sovereign government — a terrorist organization which thinks legitimate governing consists of bringing about the annihilation of its sovereign neighbor and, meantime, targeting the said neighbor’s civilian population with bombing attacks. When you do that, you make yourself a target.

It’s one thing to defend Israel’s disproportionate attacks as a legitimate attempt to destroy Hamas’ capacity to launch rockets into Israel, but it’s quite another to defend them as an attempt to “educate” the Palestinian people. The former is debatable, the latter is a forthright embrace of terrorism, the use of force against civilians to achieve a political goal.

McCarthy’s advocacy of violence against people who vote the wrong way raises an obvious question. Granting, for the moment, McCarthy’s simplistic interpretation of Hamas’ election, (which was more a vote against Fatah’s incompetence and corruption than it was for Israel’s destruction) if Palestinian civilians have made themselves targets by voting into power a party that advocates the destruction of Israel, have Israeli civilians made themselves targets by voting into power successive governments that have continued a military occupation while expropriating Palestinian land? Have Americans made themselves targets by voting in governments that support that occupation? According to McCarthy’s reasoning, the answer to both questions is yes.

Matt Duss points out that McCarthy’s reasoning is precisely the same as Osama bin Laden’s. The fact that one person is an American and the other a terrorist doesn’t change the equation one fucking bit.

Our desire to “teach terrorists a lesson” isn’t teaching them a damned thing other than how to manipulate our passions more adeptly. We teach them that their actions are justified, because we employ the same reasoning to justify attacking them. It gets us absolutely fucking nowhere, and more innocent people suffer and die.

At some point, we’re going to have to break the cycle. That’s going to take more self-control and insight than we’ve been capable of thus far, but it’s the only way to even come close to reducing terrorism to managable levels.