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It can’t be too late for common sense about guns, right?

I’ve written about the most recent incident last week, and laid out how all the usual arguments for why we can’t do anything about mass shootings have been trotted out by other industries and proved incorrect a while ago: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced either. I had some more stuff I was going to follow up with, but almost everything I wanted to say is summed up by Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida: Teen who survived massacre rips Trump to pieces in emotional takedown. I’m just going to quote a bunch of that article:

[S]he responded directly to Trump’s tweet, which blamed students at the school for not reporting on the shooter’s behavior before the event.

“We did,” Gonzalez said, “time and time again, since he was in middle school.”

“We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue,” she continued. “He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”

“How about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the shooter’s fault?” she demanded, and called out those who do deserve to shoulder that blame.

“[The people] who let him buy the guns in the first place. Those at the gun shows. The people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic. The people who didn’t take them away from him when they knew that he expressed homicidal tendencies. And I am not talking about the FBI. I am talking about the people that he lived with, I’m talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.”

The NRA gave $30,000,000 dollars to the Trump Presidential campaign alone, not to mention the tens of millions to various senators and congresspeople. Last year, when Congress passed a law making it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns (and Cadet Bonespur signed it), the NRA sent out a bulletin to all of its members bragging about it.

The NRA routinely pours millions into defeating laws that NRA members themselves claim to support. When gun sales plummeted last year after Cadet Bonespur was inaugurated, they spent a bunch of money producing advertisements that portrayed Black Lives Matters protesters and such as dangerous violent people. The ads were blatant calls for white supremacists to buy more guns and prepare for a race war.

The NRA as an organization is demonstrably not promoting responsible gun ownership and hasn’t been for decades. It’s only goals are to protect and increase gun manufacturer profit; and if any of its leaders aren’t racist (a highly difficult proposition to prove), they are all absolutely fine fanning the flames of racial fear to keep the money rolling in.

So, anyone still supporting them is supporting an organization that sees mass murders of children and racial tension as marketing tools. You aren’t nobly defending a moral principle if you support them.

It’s time to end this bloody charade.

“The common refrain when shootings happen in that if you restrict access to guns, they'll just use knives. This is a switchblade. It's illegal to own in 11 states, illegal to sell in 13, illegal to open carry in 14, and illegal to concealed carry in 17. Itf we can agree that certain knives are so efficient at killing that we shouldn't possess or carry them, why can't we agree the same about guns? Keep in mind, knives meet the legal definition of arms referred to in the 2nd amendment.”

“The common refrain when shootings happen in that if you restrict access to guns, they’ll just use knives. This is a switchblade. It’s illegal to own in 11 states, illegal to sell in 13, illegal to open carry in 14, and illegal to concealed carry in 17. Itf we can agree that certain knives are so efficient at killing that we shouldn’t possess or carry them, why can’t we agree the same about guns? Keep in mind, knives meet the legal definition of arms referred to in the 2nd amendment.”

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The Return of the Fumble Fingers, part gazillion

I clicked publish instead of save by mistake, again. Come back later for the finished post.

She Knew What She Was Doing and Why – Ursula K. Le Guin

“Fake Rule: The generic pronoun in English is he. Violation: “Each one in turn reads their piece aloud.” This is wrong, say the grammar bullies, because each one, each person is a singular noun and their is a plural pronoun. But Shakespeare used their with words such as everybody, anybody, a person, and so we all do when we’re talking. (“It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses,” said George Bernard Shaw.) The grammarians started telling us it was incorrect along in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. That was when they also declared that the pronoun he includes both sexes, as in “If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents.” My use of their is socially motivated and, if you like, politically correct: a deliberate response to the socially and politically significant banning of our genderless pronoun by language legislators enforcing the notion that the male sex is the only one that counts. I consistently break a rule I consider to be not only fake but pernicious. I know what I’m doing and why.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

“Fake Rule: The generic pronoun in English is he.
Violation: “Each one in turn reads their piece aloud.”
This is wrong, say the grammar bullies, because each one, each person is a singular noun and their is a plural pronoun. But Shakespeare used their with words such as everybody, anybody, a person, and so we all do when we’re talking. (“It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses,” said George Bernard Shaw.) The grammarians started telling us it was incorrect along in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. That was when they also declared that the pronoun he includes both sexes, as in “If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents.” My use of their is socially motivated and, if you like, politically correct: a deliberate response to the socially and politically significant banning of our genderless pronoun by language legislators enforcing the notion that the male sex is the only one that counts. I consistently break a rule I consider to be not only fake but pernicious. I know what I’m doing and why.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

“Dear Mr Radziewicz,
I can imagine myself blurbing a book in which Brian Aldiss, predictably, sneers at my work, because then I could preen myself on my magnanimity. But I cannot imagine myself blurbing a book, the first of the series, which not only contains no writing by women, but the tone of which is so self-contentedly, exclusively male, like a club, or a locker room. That would not be magnanimity, but foolishness. Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here.
Yours truly,
Ursula K. Le Guin”

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88.

The fantasy and science fiction community pays tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the spiritual mother of generations of writers; John Scalzi pays tribute.

I’ve written about two of Le Guin’s books that were instrumental in my life: Timebomb from the Stars – more of why I love sf/f and The Original Wizard School – more of why I love sf/f. Please note I said in my life, not just in my understanding of science fiction/fantasy or how to write. Her stories did that, too—but Le Guin’s books were particularly important to teen-age me trying to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin.

As I said in one of the earlier blog posts, she may not have explicitly meant her story to help a queer kid learn to accept himself, but that’s what her tales did for me. Also, every time I re-read one of Le Guin’s books, I notice ideas that she develops in the story that have become such an intrinsic part of how I look at stories, that I have forgotten she was the one who introduced me to the idea. The ideas in her tales weren’t messages that slap you in the face, they are simply a part of the story in such a way that you accept them. They aren’t “Ah ha!” moments, but more like, “Of course!”

I don’t know how to express how heavy my heart is because of her passing. Tuesday afternoon, when my husband got home from work, he asked me if I had been paying attention to the news or twitter, then told me that Ursula K. Le Guin had died, and I just said, “No! Oh, no!” emphatically. It struck me harder than a celebrity death has in a long time. Once I was finished with work, I cued up the audiobook in which Ursula read her own translation of the Tao Te Ching, because I just needed to hear her voice for a while.

I was a little surprised how upset I was, until I read John Scalzi’s column above. I hadn’t realized it, but she was a spiritual mother to me, despite my only ever meeting her at a book signing. And he’s right. It takes time to mourn a mother.

Ooops!

Fumble fingers again!

If you got to this page from a notification sent out on the weekend, the post was only half-written then and I clicked the wrong button. Now you can read “We’re living in the future, but a lot of people don’t get it” by clicking the link.

Fumble fingers again…

Not quite ready…

Sorry, the Save Draft button and the Publish button are too close together on the interface, and sometimes while I’m working on a blog post, particularly a longer one where I save many times, I accidentally click publish without realizing it.

The real post is available here!

Shiny new toy: my new Macbook Pro

I was trying to take a picture that showed the Touch Bar the first night after my laptop arrived.

I was trying to take a picture that showed the Touch Bar the first night after my laptop arrived.

I replaced my 5 1/2 year old Macbook Pro with the sparkly new Macbook Pro with Touch Bar. I’ve been using it for about a month and a half and thought I’d share my impressions. Note: I’m just a queer sf/f writer (who happens to have worked in the tech industry for more that a quarter of a century); I’m not a professional technology reporter, I’m not making any money from this blog and certainly not any money from Apple. But I own and use a lot of Apple products and have been using computers for over thirty years. So take this review accordingly…

Read More…

Oppressed oppressors: make America great like it was before The Homosexuals…

Face the Nation did a segment this weekend where they interviewed some Trump supporters and it was… special: Trump supporter tells CBS: He will make America great again like it was before ‘the homosexuals’. We’ll come back to the bit that made it into the headline. I’m just continually confused by people like these (and a whole bunch of my rightwing relatives), who keep insisting that Trump is the Christian candidate. Insisting that Trump is going to lead the country to a place of morality (with the corollary claim that the country is deeply immoral now).

So they want to elect a serial philandering racist tax cheat who scams retirees out of their Social Security checks with a fake university, breaks contracts and refuses to pay his bills without a hint of remorse, and brags about walking into dressing rooms filled with naked fifteen-year-olds.

I just don’t quite understand how anyone can make a statement with a straight face, as the woman in the Face the Nation video does, about a time “before abortions and the homosexuals.”

Humans have been performing abortions since ancient times. There’s a section of the old testament (that gets mistranslated rather hilariously), which instructs husbands who believe their pregnant wives have been unfaithful to take the women to the temple so that the rabbis can abort the baby, for instance. Abortion was happening in the U.S. at an alarming rate in the 1950s and 1960s when it was illegal, for instance: 200,000 to 1.2 million per year, resulting in as many as 5,000 American women dying annually as a direct result of unsafe abortions.

And queer people have been around for as long as there have been people. And humans are not the only species on the planet with queer members.

What she and people like her really mean, of course, is not a time before queer people existed, but a time when queer people weren’t treated as human. When we could be fired, thrown in jail, and so on just because of who we loved. When there were arcane laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly serve alcohol to more than one homosexual (yes, the laws actually said it was okay to have one fag in your bar at a time, but no more!).

But it wasn’t just that queers were beaten to death with impunity and subject to jail time and fines for who they loved. In many states and towns it was literally illegal for women to wear pants in public or for men to wear a dress (one of those laws in a town in New Jersey wasn’t overturned until 2014, by the way!). And the laws were usually pretty vague. It was a crime to appear “in public a clothing not belonging to his or her sex.” Which makes me wonder about the sort of suit jacket thing the woman in that video is wearing, no?

Remember it was also illegal in most states for a woman to refuse sex to her husband until such laws began to be repealed in the 1970s. Note: even if a couple were in the midst of a divorce, legally separated, and the husband broke into the home the wife was staying in and forced himself on her, she couldn’t charge him with rape. Heck, under current law some states there has to be proof of physical violence of an aggravated level before it can be called rape.

And it was a time when it was illegal in many places for people of different races to marry.

And these things are all related. There are reasons that abortion rulings were referenced in early court cases about sodomy laws. Ultimately, laws about abortion, homosexuality, marriage, and even how people dress are all about making sure that some people’s bodies (women, racial minorities, religious minorities, sexual minorities) are under the control of other people (white Anglo Saxon Protestant men). In that time before The Homosexuals, America was not a place where woman could dress as they wished, where woman could kiss or refuse to kiss who they wished, or where anyone outside of very narrow definitions or situations could love or get intimate with another consenting adult.

It wasn’t a better time for anyone who wasn’t a straight, cisgender, white guy… or a person considered under their protection (control).

Weekend Update 7/9/2016: anti-trans law not going to ballot, shooter stopped

Copyright NBCI posted my first Weekend Update just over two years ago because there had been a lot of new information coming in the day before about one of the stories I had linked to in that week’s Friday Links. I didn’t originally intend it to become a regular thing. I do skip it some weeks. But most weeks I wind up feeling I need to post some follow-ups to some of the previous day’s news. Before I get into the unpleasant story, let’s take a moment to rejoice:

Backers of I-1515, the initiative to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use, have told Washington state officials they will not turn in signatures by the Friday midnight deadline! Thank goodness. We keep referring to this as a transgender bathroom initiative, but it did more than that: it overruled a state finding that Washington’s existing non-discrimination law and certain portions of federal law required access to public bathrooms consistent with a trans person’s gender identity; it also forbid state agencies to make any such rulings in the future; it also forbid cities and counties from enacting their own transgender non-discrimination laws; it forbid any school (private or not) allowing any transgender student to use any bathroom other than a private, single-person bathroom; and finally, it mandated a $2500 bounty be paid to public school students who caught any transgender classmates using any bathroom other than the one that “matched” the gender the student had been assigned at birth.

None of us had any doubt the law would stand up in court if passed. Several of its components are identical to laws and policies that federal courts have already ruled violate Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 (also known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act). The state constitution requires that initiatives cover only one topic with a very narrow focus, and multi-part initiatives similar to this one have been struck down in the past for violating that requirement.

But in our state, initiatives that gather enough signatures are almost always placed on the ballot regardless of how unconstitutional they appear, under the reasoning that the people can reject the initiative if they think it is unconstitutional, and courts can examine the law in full after it is enacted if need be.

Past experience indicates that when an anti-gay initiative is on the ballot, the amount of harassment and hate crimes in the state go up, as the haters are whipped into a bit of a frenzy by all the advertisements and misinformation. Fighting an initiative takes time and effort away from other worthy causes, and it if did pass, fighting the initiative in court is also costly. And as we’ve seen recently with the Brexit vote in Britain, sometimes when a vote like this passes, it convinces the haters that everyone agrees with them, and the hate crimes and harassment continue.

So, this news Anti-Trans Campaign Fails To Collect Enough Signatures To Advance is wonderful and deserves a round of applause!

Politics_PR_2016-Jul-08In less pleasant news, the Dallas shooting situation was still happening Thursday night when I finished the yesterday’s Friday Links, so there has been a lot of developments. Among the details that I think people have still missed: there was only one shooter, not several. The shooter was not the person whose picture was plastered everyone as a person of interest, and whose picture remained on the police web site for nearly 24 hours after the police had already determined he wasn’t involved. Five officers total died. The Black Lives Matter organization was quick to condemn the shooting. The demonstration was peaceful. The sniper was killed by a remote controlled robot that the Dallas police obtained from the military supposedly for bomb disposal purposes.

Alton Sterling was a felon. Philando Castile was a ‘good man.’ None of that should matter. Whenever a black person dies in police custody, the press seems to put all effort they can into digging up information about the person’s past, as if that has anything to do with the use of force at the time of the killing. It doesn’t matter if Sterling had a criminal record, in the video he was clearly not struggling and was not a threat to anyone. It doesn’t matter the Castile was an exceptionally wonderful man and pillar of his community, having a broken tail light is not a valid reason to be executed by a cop, let alone be denied medical attention and allowed to bleed out while his wife and child watch, with the cop pointing his gun at them.

And let’s not lose sight of this issue: FBI’s warning of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement nearly forgotten.

Police harassment of people based on racial profiling and other criteria that should have no bearing on how the citizen is treated isn’t a new problem. We mostly know about more cases now simply because nearly the entire population carries phones with cameras and the ability to uploads pictures and video to the world wide web from just about anywhere. There have been attempts to deal with the misuse of force by some police even before the era of the smart phone. We should revisit those attempts and figure out which things worked: The Blazer Experiment.

There are things that we can do as individuals. Here are some: How to be a white ally: Fighting racism is your responsibility — start now.

I’m glad that the suspect was stopped before any more cops were killed, but I’m not at all comfortable with the continued militarization of police: Use of robot in Dallas highlights tactical opportunities, ethical questions for police.

Then, of course, there is the man who was not in any way involved in the shooting, but whose picture was plastered all of the world as a suspect, and the stupid reasons that it was: The Case of Mark Hughes, Or Don’t Carry at a Protest. “Hughes may have been totally within his legal rights. But his actions were really only barely less stupid than the jackasses who terrorize folks at the local Bennigans or Home Depot by ‘legally’ walking into a public establishment with an AR-15. Why do you bring a rifle to a peaceful protest? I get it. You do it as a message of self-assertion and power in the face of dehumanization and powerless. It’s still stupid; it’s not the right or a safe way to send that message.”

I’ve spent almost two hours on this post. That’s enough. I’m going to go post more cute cat pictures to my twitter, and then get back to Camp NaNoWriMo.

Curse of the fumble fingers part #xxxx

Dang it! I was prepping tomorrow’s blog post and hit Publish when I meant to click Save Draft

Sorry about that. Please come back later.

Of course Han shot first!

After re-editing his own movies to change the order of the shot, Lucas was spotted in 2012 wearing a Han Shot First t-shirt on the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

After re-editing his own movies to change the order of the shot, Lucas was spotted in 2012 wearing a Han Shot First t-shirt on the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (Click to embiggen)

In the original version of the first Star Wars movie, Han Solo is confronted by an alien named Greedo pointing a gun at him. They have a conversation about the bounty on Han’s head, and how Greedo is here to collect the money Han owes. Han surreptitiously unholsters his own gun under the table, and when Greedo threatens to kill Han if necessary to take his ship as payment, Han kills Greedo.

It was a great scene, shows us a lot about Han’s personality, and was one of the many great homages in the film to scenes from classic Westerns and Noir Detective films.

Then, in later editions, George Lucas re-edited the scene so that Greedo shoots and somehow from nearly point-blank range misses. Then Han shoots after. And thus a meme was born and soon adored a million t-shirts. In more than one interview Lucas claimed that he had always meant that Greedo shot first. Or that Greedo was squeezing the trigger and Han was reacting to that as much as the verbal threat, and so on. But it made no sense to anyone. It seemed clear to everyone that Lucas was trying to make Han seem like more of a stand-up hero or something.

Despite those many interviews with Lucas, the original shooting script explicitly says that Han shoots before Greedo has a chance to make good on his threat. And George was himself seen wearing a Han Shot First t-shirt on the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2012. I always felt the decision to edit was extremely stupid, and thus felt vindicated by both the script and Lucas’ t-shirt shot. (You can argue that he’s embraced the controversy, or was being ironic, or maybe some fan had given him the t-shirt and he was wearing it to give Harrison a laugh on the set—whatever.)

I felt as if this particular thing had been settled a long time ago, until recently I happened across a reference to the Han Shot First “controversy” on the blog of a Sad Puppy supporter. At first he seemed to be making the case that Lucas’ decision to re-edit the scene was in response to pressure from the forces of political correctness (side note: I need to find that web browser plug-in that changes all references in articles to Political Correctness to “treating people with respect,” since the only thing that causes folks to accuse other people of being PC is when they are called out for failing to treat others with respect). But then the blog went on to claim that Social Justice Warriors prefer the second edit. He claims that he has been told (I think the actual term was “screamed at by SJWs”) that he’s an immoral person for thinking that Han shot first.

For the record, I am clearly a Social Justice Warrior supporter, and I have always argued (sometimes vehemently) that Han Shot First. And every feminist, pro-equality fan that I know personally who has ever expressed an opinion about the original Star Wars movie has also insisted that Han Shot First, and often just as vehemently as I do.

And Han shooting first isn’t an immoral choice!

He’s being held at gunpoint. Greedo makes it clear that if Han puts up a fight, he’ll kill Han. He threatens to take Han’s ship, which is his livelihood. When Han says “over my dead body” Greedo indicates he’ll really enjoy killing Han. BANG!

It’s a clear and unequivocal threat to Han’s life. He’s not just threatened with deadly force, it’s right there pointed at him. So he reacts with deadly force of his own. Is it the way Ghandi or Buddha or Mother Teresa would have handled it? No. Is it the way Sam Spade (or any other character Humphry Bogart played in many noir movies) would have handled it? Absolutely! It shows us that Han is a person that will do whatever it takes to protect himself and what’s his. It shows us he thinks on his feet. It shows us he has good survival instincts. It shows us that he can appear charming if necessary, but is more than capable of killing an opponent and carrying on.

And more importantly, it sets things up so it is both a genuine surprise when Han flies in to the rescue at the end, while at the same time making it believable that he would find a way to fly in through all that ship to ship fighting and get where he needed to be to save someone that he’s decided is a friend.

I can be the kind of person who believes that non-violent solutions are better than resorting to senseless violence, and at the same time recognize that in some circumstances, violence may be the least worst option. So, yeah. Han shot first. And it was a right thing to do. It doesn’t make him a saint. But not all heroes are. And we can cheer for flawed heroes when they do the right thing.

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