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Our New Toy

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 20:12
We’ve been having a pretty good year here at the Scalzi Compound, and we decided to go ahead and splurge on something that Krissy has wanted for a while now. And here it is: A big ol’ hot tub that seats six, and a big ol’ gazebo to cover it. And thus we have become […]

Quick Procedural Note re: Comments and Embeds

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:27
Recently WordPress changed something on the backend relating to how comments are handled (not just here, but globally) and as a result urls for images now embed in comments. Well, I’m not a fan of that; images have the potential to send things off the rails pretty quickly. I’m talking to WordPress about pulling it from […]

A Momentary Pause to Appreciate the Beauties of Autumn

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:20
Yup. I like where I live. Hope you’re enjoying your day too, wherever you might be.

The Scalzi Gender

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:03
First some tweets, and then some commentary. Today's dipshit tweet about me: "someday not far off we will recategorize these left wing scalzi-faced beta pseudo-men as a third gender" — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 14, 2014 I'LL GET MY OWN GENDER, PEOPLE. I don't know, that seems kinda awesome. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 14, […]

The Big Idea: Sophie Littlefield

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 09:22
Uh oh. Now Sophie Littlefield has gone and done it. She has revealed, in her Big Idea piece for her latest novel The Missing Place, what sort of disreputable persons writers truly are! And she does it through a piece of jewelry! SOPHIE LITTLEFIELD: I often wear a small charm on a chain around my […]

My Annual Plug and Appreciation for WordPress VIP

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:57
I was traveling on October 8, the official anniversary date, but today works just as well for this: Hey, I’ve been using WordPress’ VIP service to host Whatever for six years now, and it has been consistently great during all that time: The site never goes down, never buckles under traffic or spikes, and on the […]


Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 18:35
So, yeah. This was a bunch of fun. AND NOW THIS VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE THAT WILL SHAKE TWITTER — NAY THE WORLD — TO ITS VERY CORE: I have ordered pizza. TO THE BUNKERS PEOPLE — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 12, 2014 One pizza has cheese and olive. The other has ham and pineapple. YES […]

On Using the “Mute” Button on Twitter

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 13:56
Yesterday I wrote about GamerGate on Twitter quite a bit, which had the effect of flooding my Twitter stream with comments by frothy lads intent on challenging me to single combat via “debate.” In this case (and indeed in most cases), this largely meant running down a cue card full of already-debunked talking points and/or attempting tired […]

Science Fiction and our Dreams of the Future

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 23:01
An essay in Wired: Is Dystopian Sci Fi Making us Fear Technology? ponders the pandemic plague of cheap dystopias and apocalypses and feudal fantasties that have metastacized and infected science fiction. Michael Solana muses that a certain amount of dire warnings can be a tonic, but it becomes poisonous in the kind of excess that we are now seeing, in which the fundamental rule seems to be “never show any possibility of a better world.”“Fiction is capable of charting our human potential—with science fiction the most natural and forward form of this—so anything less than a push toward good through the medium is not only overdone at this point, but an incredible opportunity squandered. Every fiction is an illusion, of course. The very real danger here is man’s tendency to look to his illusion for inspiration, which is the foundation on which we build society. “I make essentially the same point in a dozen places, across the last 20 years, but especially here, where I describe why modern film directors and authors are inflicting a tsunami of despairing tales upon us… not because any but a few of them actually believe it, but out of storytelling laziness, pure and simple. The “idiot plot” syndrome, in which it is just a lot easier to put your characters in dramatic jeopardy if you start with the assumption the civilization is useless and all our neighbors are foolish sheep.Solana approaches the whole problem from more of an artistic plaint. But he concludes: “Our dystopian obsession has grown up in our nightmares as a true monster, which can only be countered by something truly beautiful. Simply, we need a hero. Our fears are demons in our fiction placing our utopia at risk, but we must not run from them. We must stand up and defeat them.”Or, as Nick Bilton writes in the New York Times, perhaps "we need to imagine the nightmare so it doesn't become real." Certainly Orwell's 1984 and other science fiction novels offered us the self-preventing prophecy -- warning us away from their dark visions.  As Ramaz Naam reminds us -- In Defense of Dystopian Science Fiction -- “Dystopian fiction has also helped us pass down important mores about the freedoms we find central, and helped rally people against injustice."The argument over what I have called a “plague of dystopias” in fiction - especially science fiction - is taken a step forward in this philosophical musing my my young friend, the New York artist John Powers, who counters Solana: "..the problems we face as a society today are problems that require us to act as a society," not by a "hero facing his fears." Powers goes on, "But dystopias are allowing our powers of problem-solving imagination to go flabby."Powers concludes, "The project is to imagine a future society with problems, but not a future in which society is the problem." 

Indeed, nothing says "hope" better than expressing a belief in our ability to solve problems.

==Alternate Visions of the Future==Can we imagine a brighter future? Science Fiction has frequently tried to do so...And now, Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future is an anthology that brings together "twenty of today’s leading thinkers, writers, and visionaries—among them Cory Doctorow, Gregory Benford, Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Sterling, Geoff Landis and Neal Stephenson (not to mention me)—to contribute works of “techno-optimism” that challenge us to dream and do Big Stuff. Engaging, mind-bending, provocative, and imaginative, Hieroglyph offers a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change our world. " 
Sample a free excerpt on Scribd.I've spoken elsewhere of the tedious obsession with dystopia that allows so many writers of producer/directors to be plot lazy.  It also spreads a poison, undermining our confidence that dystopia can be avoided, through hard work, good will and innovation. Well, Hieroglyph brings back that can-do spirit that once filled science fiction with a sense of adventure and wonder!How did writers of the past imagine the future? "The Machine Stops" is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. (November 1909) The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard 'cell', with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge. Read it here: a brilliantly cogent essay, the wondrous Nancy Kress explains why her novels so often deal with genetic engineering. And why she almost never does the reflex tech-loathing thing, but tries to show both the good and bad possibilities that have come from every technology since fire.Which SF books have had the most impact today? io9 offers one reviewer’s list of “21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.Another list: Ten (Potentially) Great Movies that Failed...with The Postman at the top!This Kickstarter aims at creating an anthology of age appropriate stories that all kids can identify with. “We have great stories, from a wide range of writers and a diverse set of characters – girls, boys, robots… everyone belongs here! Of the stories we've accepted so far, 80% have female main characters. We don't have girls who are prizes to be won, or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventure, not a side note in someone else’s.”My story “Chrysalis” has appeared in the latest issue of ANALOG Magazine. It portrays a pair of Nobel winning biologists — once upon a time they had been married — exploring the “hidden genome” to find a bizarre discovery… traits that the ancestors of all mammals gave up - possibly for good reason (!) - 300 million years ago.If I had the self-copier from Kiln People, I would definitely play Civilization V and its coming new offshoot, Civilization: Beyond Earth! See the review on io9. Alas, limited lifespan! So, get thee behind me, Satan…Plug: For that long summer drive. The audio version of EXISTENCE used Audible’s three best narrators! I helped assign roles and transitions. It is one of the best audio books out there.Have you heard about Amazon's new e-book subscription service? If you subscribe, be sure to turn at least 10% of the pages of every book you get so that the author gets a royalty. Please SHARE to benefit your favorite writers! — (Passed along from Ransom Stephens)==The 'Rebel' Genre==Here’s a fascinating interview about the underpinnings of science fiction as a literary form. During George Slusser‘s 25-year curatorship, the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, became the greatest archive of science fiction and fantasy in the world. It contains more than 100,000 volumes, ranging from the 1517 edition of Thomas More’s Utopia to the most recently published titles in all languages. The collection also includes journals, comic books, and 300,000 fanzines.This interview elucidates many ways that SF remains a “rebel” genre in the halls of academia. Indeed, even in those places where SF is studied and appraised by scholars, it seems that just a few authors - maybe a dozen - are deemed acceptable.(Aside: at one point George suggests that “…writers like David Brin, Gregory Benford, Robert A. Heinlein are rejected on “politically correct” grounds.” Which I find amusing, since I have probably canceled Greg’s vote in sixteen out of the last twenty elections! (For the last few, Greg has seen the light and now rails against the party of Fox-n-Bush.) Indeed, my politics and overall zeitgeist coincide roughly with those of Kim Stanley Robinson! Though yes, I admit I throw in a Heinleinian libertarian zig and an anti-PC zag or two. As a contrarian, I don’t like polemical prescribers of any ilk. So yeah. That probably accounts for it.)If literary SF matters do interest you, and you feel centers of excellence like the Eaton Collection are important, then you might read with dismay what SF-author Nalo Hopkinson says about recent attempts to undermine the Eaton and possibly eliminate it.==SF and the Military==All three of the US Army’s competing prototypes for the replacement of the Humvee (the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) bear striking resemblance to the design that our team came up with in one of the pilot episodes for the 48 hour design challenge show The Architechs… a great program that the History Channel gave a pass on, during their ill-fated transition to becoming the Bigfoot Channel.I wish you could see the “Humvee Episode” but that one never aired! (Perhaps some brash person will post it anyway — in this case, no one’s economic interests will be harmed.) Four star general Paul Kern (ret) took the episode with him, though, and I hear it was watched closely by all three current design teams.Our other pilot — coming up with a dozen new ways in and out of burning buildings, was even better!Ah, but the Army is already thinking science fiction for the next generation. They need … The Architechs!== Space is also for dreams ==A lot of the stuff on Daily Kos is — well — left-wing tendentious. But this story - if true - is worrisome: “Teacher Incarcerated For Writing Science Fiction.”  Okay, his self-published novel was about a school shooting, 900 years from now. And the Kos story tells us nothing about the details: e.g. whether the scenes might be perverted enough to indicate an unbalanced mind. Still, on the face of it, this sure sounds like something truly silly is going on.I’ve written many varieties of super-short stories, e.g. those that are precisely 250 words. My six-worder was the lead story in WIRED’s spread of 6 word tales. (It had three scenes, action, conversation and pathos!)Now see a site offering chilling Two Sentence Horror Stories! (Here are the six-worders: out next year for DARK ORBIT by the up and coming talent Carolyn Ives Gilman.Another breakdown on Chicano and latino science fiction, and here's a look at Cuban Science Fiction.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

My Thoughts This Morning on GamerGate

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:19
Actually, the first of these are from last night, in the wake of learning that game developer Brianna Wu was threatened out of her home: Jesus. Brianna Wu is someone I consider a friend. Fuck everyone who thinks GamerGate is anything other than haters shitting on women. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 11, 2014 If you […]

A Note on New York Comic Con’s Anti-Harassment Policy

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 10:19
First, you literally cannot miss it — it’s on several human-sized signs right at the entrances to Javits Center (the other side of these signs say “Cosplay is not consent.” Second, the examples are clear and obvious and the policy is not constrained to only the examples — but enough’s there that you get the […]

There’s no back door that only works for good guys

Craphound (Cory Doctorow) - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 19:59

My latest Guardian column, Crypto wars redux: why the FBI's desire to unlock your private life must be resisted, explains why the US government's push to mandate insecure back-doors in all our devices is such a terrible idea -- the antithesis of "cyber-security."

As outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder invokes child kidnappers and terrorists, it's like a time-warp to the crypto-wars of the early 1990s, when the NSA tried to keep privacy technology out of civilian hands by classing it as a munition (no, seriously). Today, the need for the public to be able to thoroughly secure its data has never been more urgent, and the practicality of a back-door mandate has never been less plausible.

Because your phone isn’t just a tool for having the odd conversation with your friends – nor is it merely a tool for plotting crime – though it does duty in both cases. Your phone, and all the other computers in your life, they are your digital nervous system. They know everything about you. They have cameras, microphones, location sensors. You articulate your social graph to them, telling them about all the people you know and how you know them. They are privy to every conversation you have. They hold your logins and passwords for your bank and your solicitor’s website; they’re used to chat to your therapist and the STI clinic and your rabbi, priest or imam.

That device – tracker, confessor, memoir and ledger – should be designed so that it is as hard as possible to gain unauthorised access to. Because plumbing leaks at the seams, and houses leak at the doorframes, and lie-lows lose air through their valves. Making something airtight is much easier if it doesn’t have to also allow the air to all leak out under the right circumstances.

There is no such thing as a vulnerability in technology that can only be used by nice people doing the right thing in accord with the rule of law.

Crypto wars redux: why the FBI's desire to unlock your private life must be resisted

(Image: graffiti04, David Bleasdale, CC-BY)

I’m in Cincinnati on Saturday for Books by the Banks

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 12:00
Also known as the Cincinnati USA Book Festival. I’ll be there from 1pm through 4pm, with an author spotlight session at 2pm in rooms 207/208. I’ll read, answer questions, and juggle flaming sticks. Please note that the “juggle flaming sticks” portion will be contingent on fire code, availability of flammable materials, and me learning how […]

The Big Idea: Mike Allen

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 08:16
It’s not just words that inspire writers. Mike Allen tells us about the things, more ocular than verbal, that got him going, in this Big Idea piece about his short story collection, Unseaming. MIKE ALLEN: It’s all about the visuals, baby. I am not and will never be the sort of writer who generates a […]

The Spirit of Exploration: Comets, Pluto, Titan and Mars

Contrary Brin - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 20:12
NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending U.S. dependence on the Russian Soyuz for transportation of humans (at $70 million a seat). It's about time! It also makes clear the advantages of competition, which Elon's company has restored. How interesting that SpaceX is being paid only a little more than half what Boeing will be paid, for the same number of crew/cargo deliveries.  If Elon is trying to make a point... he is succeeding.== Comets! ==As a licensed cosmet... I mean cometologist, I find this truly exciting news: In early November, the Philae lander — currently tucked inside the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft — will drop down to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12.  Philae will make measurements while anchored to the comet by a harpoon. Scientists have just chosen Site J -- located on the comet's head for touchdown. Landing will be challenging: the surface of the 4 km double-lobed comet is jagged -- with unpredictable outgassing jets that will become more active as the comet approaches the sun.This cool online item visualizes Rosetta´s 10-year journey to explore a comet, with all important moments, current positions and also upcoming steps of the mission.Upon approach to Comet 67P, reported: “A spacecraft chasing a comet in deep space has found that its target is surprisingly dark in color. Instead of arriving at a bright, reflective, ice-covered heavenly body, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe found that its target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-G), appears darker than charcoal…”In fact, this is old news. When the Giotto spacecraft flew past Halley's comet in 1986, there was "shock" that the dusty material was so dark. Though in fact we should have guessed, because other than water, a lot of material in the outer solar system is carbonaceous. At the time, my doctoral thesis on comets was new. It had predicted the dust layers, but not quite how dark they would be. In fact, that prediction was only made in one place, a sci fi novel called Heart of the Comet!== Cosmets and the Red Planet! ==Elsewhere in the solar system... MAVEN -- NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN craft entered orbit around Mars on Sunday Sept 21. After a ten month journey, Maven began its study of the Martian atmosphere; it will spend at least a year collecting data. Only two days later,  Mangalyaan -- or Mars Orbital Mission -- India's first interplanetary spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mars. A source of great pride to India. MOM? Seriously? As in Mars Needs Moms?Ah... but then, a few weeks later....Comet Siding Spring is heading toward a close encounter with Mars on October 19. Planetary scientists were worried about cometary debris harming delicate instruments on Mars orbiting spacecraft while could in turn hurt our relays from the rovers. The latest assessment indicates there should be minimal danger. But I'll be biting my nails, while eagerly peering at the science data! ==On to Pluto!==NASA's New Horizons probe was scheduled to cross the orbit of Neptune on Monday (Aug. 25), 25 years to the day after Voyager 2's encounter. (Voyager was our only probe ever to visit Uranus and Neptune.) New Horizons is now streaking toward a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015 that should return the first good images at the distant dwarf planet and its moons.Now Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston has produced created the best-ever global color map of Neptune's big moon Triton, by enhancing images taken by Voyager 2 probe during its flyby of Neptune and Triton, a generation ago.(Alas “crossing the orbit” does not mean a flyby. There will be no Neptune science this time, from New Horizons.)==And beyond==Trailers for scientific papers? Hollywood has borrowed relentlessly from science (occasionally even respectfully), so why not turnaround? Sean Carroll reports that some young physicists have created a truly fun and cool trailer that in one minute teases you to know a lot more than you did before… about superfields and super-gravity and inflation! Yes, books have trailers too! Some of you have seen the amazing video preview-trailer for Existence, with incredible art by Patrick Farley! My web site also offers way cool trailers for Glory Season and Heart of the Comet.How Rare is Intelligent Life? Just released: The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities by Caleb Scharf argues that Earth will still be special, even after all sorts of alien worlds are catalogued. Unlike Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, who argued in Rare Earth that intelligent life on Earth relied on so many unlikely accidents that we are probably alone in the universe, Scharf doesn’t think it’s likely we’re entirely unique, just rare. See more articles on SETI.NASA is expected to sponsor a contest to build better airships, breathing new life — and funding — into the idea. High-altitude airships are still in their relative infancy. None has ever flown at 65,000 feet for longer than eight hours. But a recent study from the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech suggests that a more capable airship may not be far-off.Mind you, we have been reading “revival of airships” stories for thirty years! But the technologies now seem especially ripe. See my own portrayal of the vibrant future of towed zeppelins in “The Smartest Mob.”==Toward Titan and Mars==See the Super Ball Bot: this flexible tensegrity-style robot can land with a bounce -- and roll to explore planetary surfaces -- funded by NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts Group (NIAC). (I am on the external board of advisors for NIAC.) Researchers are considering Saturn's moon Titan for the robot's first mission.Looking ahead: is it time to re-evaluate beamed power from space?Win a trip to space -- and back! -- aboard XCOR's Lynx Mark II Spacecraft, a fundraiser to benefit MarsOne, and their plans to build a human settlement on the red planet.Read also about Elon Musk's plans for a Mars colony -- he calls Mars a serious fixer-upper.Recommended: a look at the teams of scientists and engineers who designed, built, launched, landed, and now operate the Mars Rovers: Curiosity - An inside look at the Mars Rover Mission and the people who made it happen, by Rod Pyle. These individuals are the ones who keep pushing at the frontiers of exploration...Finally: Um… didn’t I already do exactly this, in a novel? “NASA Announces Plans To Launch Chimpanzee Into Sun.” -- from The Onion!. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Who Is That Masked Man?

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 00:21
Why, it’s me, who along with Naomi Novik, Kevin Avery, Sarah Maclean, Jeffrey Cranor and Kate Leth (who took the photo), wrote humorous erotic fan fiction of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen for the Shipwreck show that took place this evening in Brooklyn. And when the, uh, smoke cleared, my erotic fanfiction from the […]

View From the Hotel Window, 10/6/14

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:01
New York! The Big Apple! The City of Sin! And so on and so forth. I have made it here (in several senses of the term), so I guess I can make it anywhere. So that’s settled. And the hotel room I’m in is very nice, too; it even has a kitchenette with a fridge […]

The Big Idea: M.A. Larson

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 09:33
The word “princess” has certain connotations in our culture, not all of them that great. Author M.A. Larson is here to talk about some of them, and how they relate to her new novel, Pennyroyal Academy. M.A. LARSON: I didn’t have a daughter yet when I started on the long path from idea to publication. […]

Abortion and the "Jesus Effect"

Contrary Brin - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:47
Okay then, after riling up some of you by trashing some favorite movies, or else positively reviewing some films you hate, let's settle down to a topic that will win friends and soothe ruffled feathers...

God Does Not Regard the Fetus as a Soul: This article in Slate is an interesting attempt to grasp - historically - why the American right swung so avidly and passionately toward a zero-tolerance policy against abortion: "Ask most (white) evangelicals about the morality of abortion these days, and you’re certain to hear about its absolute immorality in most, if not all, circumstances. But this is a recent innovation in the history of evangelical belief, a product of political forces as well as new theological insight," writes Jamelle Bouie.

As recently as the late seventies, even the Southern Baptist Convention declared it to be morally acceptable in all borderline cases (e.g. rape, incest or threatened health of the mother and the first couple of months. Even theologians in the "biblical inerrancy" movement (the Bible is 100% accurate) cited “[A]ccording to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”By 1982, however, all had changed and the passionate declarations of "baby-killing in all cases, even contraception" became standard as the most perfect litmus test of an increasingly rigid American right wing…. even as the decline and later fall of communism sapped most similar dogmatic purity out of the far-left. 
So whence came this purist passion, that has absolutely no bearing on the hoary and simplistic so-called "left-right axis"? Randall Balmer, in his book about Jimmy Carter "Redeemer," roots this evolution in the 1970s push to change federal tax laws, removing tax-exemption from segregationist schools that barred pupils because of race. This change -- which even most republicans would today call justified -- was first proposed by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but was blamed on Carter by furious southern whites.  Knowing they could not actually make an issue over such an immoral stance, they needed another purist issue, says Balmer.

Very clearly, one aspect to all of this is the effectiveness of the abortion issue at delivering the biggest (and most destructive) "drug high" in American life, repeated, heavy doses of pleasurable self-righteous indignation, poisoning our national genius at pragmatic problem-solving and negotiation with our neighbors.  I explain this in a TedX talk: Indignation, Addiction and Hope: Does it help to be "Mad as Hell?" that shows how it is not only the American right, wallowing in this filthy habit of self-doped dudgeon. Many on the left... and even you moderate liberals... indulge in this addiction, shamelessly. 

But no. Sometimes -- and especially regarding abortion -- it goes much, much deeper than that.

== The deepest underlying reason ==Envision you are a woman who has discovered she is carrying an anencephalic fetus… without cranium or brain, that will not survive outside the womb — absolutely zero chance — and that cannot experience any sort of life. (It has nothing to experience life with!) Will purists actually insist she must continue to carry it for five more months?Then there is the problem of purism vs incrementalism. States like Colorado, that offer teens free contraceptives, would appear to be encouraging promiscuity. Yet, Colorado (and other blues) have LOWER teen sex, teen pregnancy, STD and — yes — abortion rates than states like Mississippi, in which “sex education” consists only of berating kids toward total abstinence -- a goal that they achieve less well than blue states do.Faced with facts like these, the Confederate Philosophy must be purist. Just reducing the number and percentage of abortions is a non-issue; indeed, pushing for pragmatic, incremental reduction is seen as a sign of moral fault! 

As in Ursula LeGuin’s famous story “Those who walk away from Omelas,” no pragmatic weighing of numbers can stand up to the pure villainy of the state sanctioning even one innocent death. (Never mind that state laws against abortion never succeed and always increase the number of botched procedures and deaths.)But none of that explains the purity of the right’s current obsession. So what gives?All right, as you'd expect... I have a theory: the "Jesus Effect."It's quite simple. Just look at any image of Jesus -- beard, long-hair, sandals, beads, wandering around the desert with a bunch of guys, preaching folks to give up their possessions, "the meek shall inherit" and all that… while also proclaiming you should pay your taxes without complaint. Now squint and imagine him returning and walking amongst us today, teaching the same things.Um, to whatever extent he endorses a U.S. political party, which can you envision the hippie socialist choosing?  

No no.  This won't do.  This will not do at all!

What conservatives needed was a single issue that would make the crucial difference, like an on-off switch. Something so pure and absolute that Jesus would have to switch sides, holding his nose and saying: "I disagree with you right-wingers on every social and economic and general moral point, and yet... I must still side with you against the goll-durn lib’ruls. Bcause I can't abide baby-killers."
If you had to come up with such an all-or-nothing test, "baby-killing" would pretty much be it. Just by defining humanity at conception, you eliminate any need to consider Jesus's wishes on other matters, like economic fairness, or pacifism, or inheritance by the meek, or… You get it; nothing else need be considered! Truly, can you think of any better reason, to explain the volcanic fury of this movement?Why no compromise is permissible, even steadily-incrementally reducing the rate and numbers of abortions? 

Otherwise, we'd long ago have found common ground, uniting on a shared goal ----- that strenuous efforts should be undertaken to ensure that abortion will be safe, legal, and very rare.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Two Views of a Very Temporary Look

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:33
Having never done it before, I was curious what I would look like with just a mustache. The answer: Strangely like John Goodman! And of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a genuinely terrible picture of myself, so please to enjoy this, which I call “The Worst Police Booking Photo, Ever”: Aaaaand now […]
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