Charles Pierce is a bit angry

And he should be. So am I. The state of Oklahoma tortured a man to death, in the name of justice. Clayton Lockett was a bad man who committed a deeply evil act: he shot a young woman who caught him in a robbery and then buried her alive. I have no sympathy for the guy at all. But the state of Oklahoma convicted him and then sentenced him to death by lethal injection…and botched it. It took him half an hour to die, choking and seizing.

Isn’t torturing someone to death what Lockett was convicted of?

This is the problem: the death penalty ends up turning all of us into murderers, and I’d rather not promote the same brutality that Clayton Lockett committed. It dehumanizes us. All you have to do is look at the first five comments on the news story in the Miami Herald.

Why over complicate it, use a long drop gallows, or a bullet to the head.

Who cares how he died! Maybe he should of thought of this before he beat a women to death in her own home while he was trying to break and enter

how sad gee I wonder if he had the same feeling about his victim, before he killed piece of sht
if it where me I would had made it long and slow

Did the victim die humanely?

did u hear what this scum bag did to his victim he isn’t human anyway got just what he deserved

We’re just fostering barbarism when we don’t reject these kinds of sentiments…and it makes it hard to reject them when states support them.

Also, another thing that strikes me about these many stories of botched executions, is why is this so difficult? We have countries and a few states with legal euthanasia, practically every veterinarian has put pets to sleep without this ghastly botch, and I’ve personally euthanized many large lab animals — killing gently is easy. There are many drugs that are dangerous because they can kill you quietly, painlessly, almost without you noticing; people buy them, often illegally, for the pleasant effects at low doses.

So why does our bloated, over-funded penal system have such difficulties with this whole process? It’s almost as if the commenters up above are running the whole show, and are maliciously screwing up the procedure to cause maximum agony.

#CDCVax is the Twitter place to be today

The CDC is going to have a twitter party, sharing information about National Infant Immunization Week, 140 characters at a time, at 1pm EDT today. Just for fun, the anti-vaxxer crazies are planning to crash the hashtag, so getting more rational people to join the conversation would be a good idea — let’s swamp out the nonsense with reality.

Unfortunately, they picked a time when I’m going to be in class, so I’m going to be no help at all.

What happens when you accuse racists of being racist?

You get mail. Nicely written, printed letters in the mail. And they confirm everything I said.

So a lot of Fox News viewers have been writing to me lately, expressing their outrage that I would dare to suggest that racist newspapers out to be thrown off campus. And a great many of them have another odd, common thread, something that wasn’t in the Fox News report, but apparently all these rabid tea-baggers have inferred it, and they’re pretty darned insistent that it must be true.

I must be Jewish.

Take it away, Bob in Boca:

bobinboca

“Myers” is not a Jewish name. I wouldn’t be at all put out if I’d had some Jewish ancestry, but I’m afraid that my father’s ancestry has been traced back to the 16th century (mostly Scots/Irish/English ne’er-do-wells living marginal lives along the western American frontier), and my mother’s back to the 14th (Scandinavian peasants who never wandered far from their village), and I’m afraid there’s no evidence of any Jewish family. I’ve never hinted that I might be Jewish. People who know me have never made the assumption that I might be a cultural Jew.

The only people who call me Jewish are right-wingers who write to me to chew me out for some great liberal evil I’ve committed, and a surprising number of them do so. They never speculate that I’m Lithuanian, or tell me that my name sounds suspiciously Belgian, or sneer at my obvious Sinhalese bias — it’s always this bizarre insinuation that I’m a wicked anti-American liberal, therefore…Jew.

It says a lot about them. Not much about me. Why are so many teabaggers implicitly anti-semitic?

The guy’s an evolutionist, and there’s nothing in the whole course description about biblical creation as even a plausible alternative!

Oh, joy. We’re getting another cheesy Christian movie in which the college professor is the evil bad guy. We just had Kevin Sorbo pretending to be an angry atheist philosophy professor in God’s Not Dead, and now we get Harry Anderson playing an angry atheist biology professor in A Matter of Faith.

Rachel Whitaker, a Christian girl, heads off to college for her much-anticipated freshman year. New friends create situations that require important, quick decisions—some about her social life, some about her core beliefs! Rachel begins to embrace the ideas of the university’s immensely popular biology professor (Harry Anderson) who boldly teaches that Darwinian evolution is the only logical explanation for the origin of life, and the Bible therefore cannot be true. When Rachel’s father (Jay Pickett) senses something changing in his daughter while she is home on a weekend visit; he begins to look into the situation and what he discovers catches him completely off guard. Now very concerned about Rachel drifting away from her Christian faith and the clear teachings of the Bible, he accepts an impossible challenge and tries to do something about it!

Can you guess what the impossible challenge is? He’s going to debate the biology professor on evolution.

Gosh, I wonder who will win?

It’s rather clear that people who believe in the Bible don’t have much connection to reality in their entertainment.

But silence is political

The Science Fiction Writers of America have another struggle brewing — the pus-oozing abscess called Vox Day is soiling their garments again. He has a novella, Opera Vita Aeterna, which was was nominated for a Hugo award. It’s not very good. I did read it — Day has made it freely available — and I was unimpressed.

Basically, it’s a vignette. An elf joins a monastery, spends years making an illuminated manuscript, and later all the people are killed by goblins, and only the manuscript remains. Why an elf? I don’t know. His only distinguishing characteristics seem to be pointy ears, and repeated mentions that he lacks a soul…an attribute not in evidence in any of the characters. Why goblins? I don’t know. Conveniently evil and dismissable monsters, I guess. Why a monastery? I’m thinking it was an excuse to not have to write about any woman characters, and so all the men could be bland emotionless ciphers. Every character in the story is indistinguishable and forgettable — even the one who is supposed to be unique and special.

So it contained none of Day’s usual openly malicious bigotry, and it was just kind of a ho-hum story without much of a point. I suspect all the Vox Day fans who nominated it were also aware of that fact, that it was possibly the most innocuous thing he has written, therefore it was a safe bet to push it, because then they’d be able to whine that it was all leftist anti-Day politics behind any objection, and that it would be unfair to bring up all the misogynistic, racist bullshit that Theodore Beale has written elsewhere.

And it’s working. Lots of people, like John Scalzi, say that “the Hugo rules don’t say that a racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit can’t be nominated for a Hugo”, which is entirely true. You’re supposed to judge the work, not the author, which is also a fair point (although, really, Opera Vita Aeterna is mundane and boring, and like most science fiction stories, doesn’t deserve some special award) (no, I’m not dissing SF — I’m a fan. Sturgeon’s Law!). But still, this attitude bothers me. Are we really supposed to regard every work of art as some disembodied, isolated fragment, bearing no connection to the creator, like some alien entity in which all that matters is what the perceiver makes of it? It seems to me that falling back on a literal interpretation of the rules (or lack of relevance thereof) is very much an act of interpretation as well, and that what we are doing is making a specific kind of choice under the pretext that we are not free to choose.

I would like to thank John C. Wright for helping me crystallize my views on this subject, though. Wright is a science fiction writer (I’ve never read anything by him) who was recently annoyed by all the shenanigans — not that there were any, Day’s story was nominated and accepted — over Vox Day’s story, and so he announced that he was quitting the SFWA.

It was out of loyalty to this mission that I so eagerly joined SFWA immediately upon my first professional sales, and the reason why I was so proud to associate with the luminaries and bold trailblazers in a genre I thought we all loved.

When SFWA first departed from that mission, I continued for a time to hope the change was not permanent. Recent events have made it clear that there is not reasonable basis for that hope.

Instead of enhancing the prestige of the genre, the leadership seems bent on holding us up to the jeers of all fair-minded men by behaving as gossips, whiners, and petty totalitarians, and by supporting a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction.

As is made clear in the whole article, the political agenda he finds disagreeable is one where the SFWA takes a stand against homophobia, sexism, and racism. This is a political departure from the mission of SFWA, he says, which is purely to support aspiring writers of genre fiction.

Because, when one of their members writes something like this…

Because raising girls with the expectation that their purpose in life is to bear children allows them to pursue marriage at the age of their peak fertility, increase the wage rates of their prospective marital partners, and live in stable, low-crime, homogenous societies that are not demographically dying. It also grants them privileged status, as they alone are able to ensure the continued survival of the society and the species alike. Women are not needed in any profession or occupation except that of child-bearer and child-rearer, and even in the case of the latter, they are only superior, they are not absolutely required.

…the appropriate, non-political response is to close your eyes and pretend it didn’t happen. There is this bizarre idea that ignoring far right wing poison is non-political and the only acceptable reaction from someone who disagrees is silence.

I’m sorry, but that is wrong. It’s the political ratchet that has been peddled for so long and with such dumb certainty that it has become accepted wisdom. Standing by quietly while the Right dominates the discourse and takes it for granted that their medieval views are the accepted wisdom is a deeply political act. It is the politics of accommodation, the politics of surrender, the politics of collaboration.

There is no way around it: whether you protest or you acquiesce, either act is a political act. The great lie the right wing has successfully promulgated is that surrender is apolitical.

I think we should rage against the nomination of Theodore Beale. It doesn’t mean we march on his home and tar and feather him: it means that we spread the word that he is an odious, horrible little racist/misogynist, and that everyone should know it, and recognize that voting for him is most definitely a political act that places you on the side of a right-wing thug…and of course, not voting for him is a political act that pits you against him. Everything is political. Don’t accept the lie that something is not, especially when right-wingers are arguing so fervently for a state of apathy.

This is also my problem with the state of the atheism movement. Somehow, silence on issues like feminism, abortion rights, and gay marriage are pushed by some as the only acceptable non-political response — anything but neglect of the issues is “mission creep” and is to be deplored. I’m afraid though, that if you don’t take a stand, you are taking a stand — on the wrong side of those subjects.

By the way, another kicker in Mr Wright’s resignation letter was the very next sentence after the quoted bit above.

Instead of men who treat each other with professionalism and respect, I find a mob of perpetually outraged gray-haired juveniles.

I leave it for the astute reader to puzzle out the revealing, and eminently political, assumption in that sentence.


Also worth reading: a lot of people have also been pushing back against Beale. Scalzi has highlighted a few of those responses:

Shweta Narayan
Arachne Jericho
Rose Lemberg
Kate Nepveu

Read those, too.

We almost elected this mad woman to high office?

Sarah Palin is so stupid, it’s terrifying. Here she is preaching to her fellow lunatics about how liberals are soft on terrorists and are out to help our enemies, when we’re supposed to put the “fear of god” in them.

Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists. I think I’m going to be sick. This is why we should never ever vote Republican.

We have some screwed up priorities here

You might also take a look at the whole defense budget, which will reach almost $500 billion, and which is characterized as…

…a sound path to responsibly meet the risks and challenges of the current national security environment.

It actually is a reduction in military spending from last year ($526 billion), but it’s still obscenely high.

2012milspending

Is it reassuring to know that we have a military that out spends the military of China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil? I guess we can pick a fight with everyone all at once. Maybe the logic is that we can’t afford to have kids fill their heads with book-learnin’ when their most important job is to fill the ranks of the army.