Obama: Syria is on

Or maybe not.  I have to wonder if Obama is hoping Congress will bail him out by refusing to provide the authorization sought:

President Obama announced Saturday that he has concluded the United
States should take military action against Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad and his regime for using chemical weapons on civilians, but
will first seek authorization from Congress.

My suspicions regarding this are mostly aroused by the fact that historically, most military actions haven’t waited on Congressional summer vacations.

UPDATE: Oops.  It turns out the rebels are even admitting that they were responsible for the chemical weapons attack:

“In a report that is sure to be considered blockbuster news, the
rebels told Dale Gavlak, a reporter who has written for the Associated
Press, NPR and BBC, they are responsible for the chemical attack last week.

“Gavlak is a Middle Eastern journalist who filed the report about the
rebels claiming responsibility on the Mint Press News website, which is
affiliated with AP. In that report allegedly the rebels told him the chemical attack was a result of mishandling chemical weapons….

“Gavlak reports he was told by rebels that the gas “attack” was the
result of rebels mishandling the chemical weapons they acquired from the
Saudis. He says in the Mint Press report the following:

“”They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,”
complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were
chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.””

This tends to raise an obvious question: from whom did the Saudis obtain the chemical weapons?

Let’s get a few things straight

These are not directed at any one individual, they are merely things I have repeatedly observed in the last few months that I would prefer not to continue observing with such regularity.

  1. Have I seen X?  Yes.  Especially if it’s a story referenced by Instapundit, Drudge, or any other major Internet news aggregator.  So has nearly every other English-speaking individual on the planet with an Internet connection. Since you now know the answer, don’t ask me that, and especially don’t ask me that in the comment thread of a post that has nothing to do with the topic.  If you want to email me a link to something you think I, or the readers of this blog, will find interesting, I appreciate that.  If you want to ask me a serious question, that’s fine too.  But, as a general rule, please assume that unless you are reading an obscure foreign language site, the chances are good that I have seen it.
  2. “Damn autocorrect!”  First, please understand that you’re not fooling anyone.  You probably just committed a typo, everyone does it, and no one is assuming that you are an idiot who really believes the correct spelling of “thinks” is “htinks”.  Second, please also understand that autocorrect is designed to complete words on the basis of what has been initially entered into it.  Many of the misspellings I’ve seen blamed on autocorrect cannot possibly be the result of software autocorrection.  So, instead of looking like someone who doesn’t look at their comments before hitting publish, you look like a liar determined to insult every technologically competent reader’s intelligence.  And third, please understand that confessing to being an idiot who doesn’t know how to turn autocorrect off doesn’t make you look smarter than someone who occasionally misspells words.
  3. http://istilldontknowhowtomakelinks.com.  It’s 2013.  Learn how to make a freaking link to a URL already.  If you can’t figure out how to do it, then what are the chances that anyone is interested in what appeals to your tiny little barely-functioning brain?
  4. “klsadjfkjie should have been klasadjfkjie”.  Look, no one really cares if you know how to spell or not, unless you raise it to the level of Nate before he caught religion.  Cnsdrng tht th hmn mnd cn rd whn th vwls r mssng, mst ppl cn rd wht ws wrttn.  The occasionally misspelled or omitted word in a comment is much less annoying than the semi-inevitable comment explaining the error which immediately follows.  If you care about this sort of thing, great, then read your comment once BEFORE posting it.  
  5. The increased appearance of the word “dipshit”.  Let’s leave that to the finely honed minds of McRapey and his favorite librarian.  It sounded retarded back in eighth grade.  It sounds downright extrachromosomal now.

I’m not about to start getting on anyone’s case about these minor issues. They’re not a big deal. I just thought that those of you who are not intentionally trying to irritate others might like to consider avoiding them in the future.

When rape fantasies go awry

Thanks to the manifold blessings of vibrancy, two lucky Delaware women were able to see their (interracial?) rape fantasies come true, albeit in what appears to have been a profoundly disappointing manner:

Neighbors near Kosciuszko Park in Wilmington expressed anger and
outrage Friday, after learning the details of a brutal gang-rape that
happened in the park Thursday. Police say two women, ages 32 and 24, were reportedly attacked and
sexually assaulted by a group of 10 to 12 black male juveniles in
Kosciuszko Park at about 6:54 p.m. Thursday. According to police, the
suspects, who range in age from 12 to 17-years-old, remain on the loose.

What a pity that the sexual reality so seldom lives up to the dream.  I’m sure it was a little disappointing that instead of being tenderly ravished by Hollywood-designated female fantasy objects Denzel Washington, Isaac Washington, and Blair Underwood, they got stuck, so to speak, by precocious preteens and larval gangstas instead.

It’s amusing to think of Phoenician now desperately searching all over the Internet for a reports of a pack of white juveniles raping black women in order to cry raciss.  Especially in light of how the FBI has reported ZERO white rapes of black women in recent years.

John Derbyshire was right. If women of any race don’t wish to be gang-raped by people who are not even a little bit savage and it would totally be raciss to consider their behavior anything less than one hundred percent civilized, they are advised to avoid being caught alone, unarmed, or in insufficient numbers, in excessively vibrant circumstances.

UPDATE: I am vastly amused by the reaction of this pair of white boy gammas:

David Gorski ‏@gorskon
Misogyny and blatant racism from @voxday, all mixed up into an offensive, toxic ball. Ugh.

Michael Ward ‏@badsciencemonk
That is one of the most disgusting diatribes I have ever read

You can practically see the wheels spinning in their little politically correct heads.  If I express sufficient public outrage about sexiss and raciss, maybe a shoggoth will let me approach the stankity grail!  The best part is the way the idea that someone might speak freely about the observable societal blessings of vibrancy genuinely upsets them more than literal gang-rape by children.

Also, I would like to point out that as a bona fide Person of Color, by definition, I cannot be racist because minority, and it is racist of these two white men to offend me by attempting to falsely label me as such.  That’s right, boys, I see your Raciss card and I trump with my Color card and my own Raciss card.  Now go say three I Have a Dreams and watch The Color Purple by way of penance.

Welcome to the real world

You cretinous, foolish young woman:

Readers will recall that Andria has an “Honors BA in Social Justice and Peace Studies” and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender Studies. So . . . how’s that going?

“I have a honors BA and I’m defending my MA thesis in two weeks. I am also apply for jobs and I can only find stuff in the service industry. I applied for a Hotel Front Desk Clerk job today.

My degrees mean NOTHING.

I am at the end of my rope.“

And she just figured this out NOW?  She has a degree in “Social Justice and Peace Studies”.  She will soon have a second degree in “Gender Studies”.  She’s very lucky the service industry will consider hiring anyone with a pulse, because any employer looking at those degrees has to knows she is a walking, talking, sexual harassment and/or discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.

In fact, a Gender Studies degree actually has negative value, given that credentialed feminists are considerably more likely to cause disruption in the workplace.

It’s bad enough to acquire garbage degrees in economic boom times.  It’s even worse to do so in the middle of a five-year depression.

Book review: Tour of Duty I

BB reviews Michael Z. Williamson’s Tour of Duty and finds it somewhat of a mixed bag. I have to admit, I was absolutely shocked that I didn’t hate the Valdemar stories, or at least, the two military ones set on the edges of it.  Let’s just say that my opinion of Mercedes Lackey’s books is considerably less generous than Mr. Williamson’s.  Also, unlike the reviewer, I really liked the gun porn at the end. After reading both articles on the 10 and 10 more manliest guns, I found myself checking out current prices on a few of the more interesting pieces.  But I’m not sure which surprised me more, however, the fact that Mr. Williamson had written stories set in Valdemar or that he has such a high opinion of the GLOCK.  

Those suspecting Mr. Williamson of possessing alternate sexual preferences on this basis should stand down, however, as he is highly sound on the 9mm round. As for the fiction, my definite favorite was the hunting in Hell story.

The book title implies some sort of tie-in between all of the short stories and that tie-in has to do with military or fighting life.  In a general way, this is true.Michael Z Williamson threads together personal anecdotes and short stories and he closes out with recipes for shots.  Not firearm shots, alcohol shots.  A lot of the anecdotes are personal insights into the stories that follow.  Some have to do with his personal deployment, some have to do with what sparked the story, such as the Poul Anderson tale.  That story was quite original and I spent a lot of it trying to match up first names with famous people.  If you read the book, you will understand what I mean.  Some of the anecdotes are just general information on how he ended up writing in this or that fantasy world or how he ended up where he is in life.  He has lived an unusual existence compared to most American citizens.

The first half of the book was particularly engaging.  “Desert Blues” was nice to me.  The imagery of mortar attack interwoven with music and altered lyrics and defiance of the enemy…I liked the feel of the story.  It is the one that stood out the most.  Probably because music is such a universal language, how we all blast the stereo on our favorite tunes, yardwork or housework made more bearable by lyrics and notes.  He captures that in the story, but set in a combat zone and I am still not sure if it is fiction or nonfiction.  After reading it, I wondered if he had that “moment” of clarity personally or not.

The stories from the Valdemar universe were familiar because I have read the original books by Mercedes Lackey but they were different enough to make me want to read the ones co-authored by Williamson and his wife.

I was expecting the whole book to be along the same lines but part way through, Williamson included stories about hell.  More specifically, a special kind of hell for lawyers.  Which could be an amusing premise, but I did not enjoy the tales at all.  And after the first story, “Heads You Lose,” I felt the book didn’t have the impact that the first half had anymore.  The two” Lawyers in Hell” stories were somewhat clever, certain characters locked in to their personas before they died, but it became tedious and no longer amusing after a handful of pages.  And the book sort of went downhill from there for me. 

I did ask Vox for guidance on this review because the book doesn’t follow a normal format, being short stories instead of one long tale, and his only directive was to think about whether the blog readers would enjoy it.  I think some would enjoy the first half for the military action, and some might enjoy the second for the clever wordplay in the second half.  The ending with the shot recipes, I just skimmed through them because I was not interested. 

Out of 5 stars, I’d give the book a 2.5 overall, which would obviously be weighted towards the first several short stories.

The following excerpt is from “Desert Blues”:

The guy could play.  Jazz mixed with blues and he just went on and on, silky and then snappy on the strings, playing his own fills and rhythm. It’s one thing on stage or in the studio with racks of gear and a mixing board, but he had a guitar and an amp.

The notes faded out as he dialed the volume down, and we all strained to hear it as long as possible.  The dull roar of generators, ECUS and the remaining ringing from mortars meant we probably missed quite a bit.  Still, it was what we had.

Then a strummed chord brought it all back to life with one of the greatest songs of all time.

“You get a shiver in the dark,

there’s a sandstorm in the park, but meantime

South of the Tigris you stop and you hold everything.”

I’ve tried playing Sultans of Swing.  It really takes two guitars and a bass to get that groove.  It can be done on one guitar, if the guitarist is just amazingly good.

This guy was that good and then some.

He played this syncopated, peppy rhythm, with this odd bluesy, jazzy, Arabian melody.  It fit the mood, the environment and the time, and I knew I’d never hear anything like it, ever again.  Not that I’d come back to Iraq even for a performance like this, of course…though I just might.

We just stood there and soaked it up, rapt or smiling, amazed or just oblivious.

“…Way on down south.

Way on down south, Baghdad town…”

No one moved, no one twitched.  The oven-dry heat covered us, and my feet sweated from the still sun-hot sand, but I was not going to move.  He sang and played and it was wistful and rich and American, even though Knopfler’s Scottish.  This version, though, was pure American spirit.

“Goodnight, now it’s time to go home.

Let me make it fast with one more thing.

I am the Sultan…

I am the Sultan of swing.”

I had no doubt he was.

Mailvox: an automated response

I just received this in my inbox in response to the 15-page document I sent them this morning:

This is an automated acknowledgment.

Thank you for making your complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the article published in the The Guardian on the 30/08/2013.

Please note that we require you to supply a copy of the article or articles under complaint; this can take the form of a link or links to the publication’s website. If you have already provided a copy, or if you are aware that the PCC has already received a large number of complaints about the article or articles, please disregard the following.

If you have not already provided a copy of the article and we do not receive a copy within seven days we will assume you do not wish to pursue the matter further.  You can email a copy  of the article or link to complaints@pcc.org.uk, or send a hard copy in the post to Press Complaints Commission, Halton House, 20/23 Holborn, London EC1N 2JD.

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us by email at complaints@pcc.org.uk or by telephone 0845 600 2757.

However, it isn’t the only response my complaint has already triggered.  You may recall that back in February, the author of the article, Tor Books’s David Barnett, exchanged tweets with SFWA member Damien Walter.

@davidmbarnett Well done for doing that piece without linking to the bigot. *applauds*

@damiengwalter Well, I figured anyone who wanted to could trawl back through @Scalzi’s site, and if I’d named him I’d have to get a quote…

Within minutes of my retweeting his tweet and mentioning that I’d fired off a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, I noticed that Mr. Barnett had belatedly decided to delete his tweet.  I tend to doubt his action is going to help his cause in the slightest; in fact, at this point, it may even be seen as an implicit admission of his malicious intent.  Especially since his action was far from unpredictable and I would have been remiss had I failed to capture the screen.

This is just the first stage.  How I proceed from here will depend, to a certain extent, upon what the Commission determines concerning the two Guardian articles.  The second article is potentially quite useful as the Guardian can’t even try to plead ignorance this time. This is because, in addition to the articles, the comments, the list of Mr. Scalzi’s public attacks on me dating back to 2005, and the aforementioned tweets, I also sent the Commission copies of several emails that were exchanged between me and the Guardian editor.

It’s possible that the PCC will be just as fair and balanced as the SFWA Board, but if nothing else, I don’t think they’ll be as likely to make their determination on the basis of Mr. Scalzi’s threats.  And I find it rather telling how eager people like the SFWA Board and Mr. Barnett are to try to hide their actions from public view.

Britain refuses to follow

The British Parliament refuses to buy a second manufactured excuse for an invasion in the Middle East:

The Grand Old Duke of York marched his men to the top of the hill, then marched them down again. Britain’s Prime Minister last week promised cruise missile strikes on Syria and recalled Parliament early from its summer break to authorise our participation. He now discovers that he has charged up his own hill while the majority of the British people and indeed a majority of their MPs remain stubbornly at the bottom.

David Cameron’s attempt to play statesman on the world stage has created a political shambles which culminated in a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons late last night.

Last night’s defeat will also have repercussions for Britain’s relationship with America, which can no longer rely on the incumbent of No 10 Downing Street to do its bidding almost without question when it comes to military matters.  Heaven knows whether President Obama will launch a punitive strike against Syria in the days ahead. Some political fudge may yet enable Cameron to involve Britain anyway.

But in my view there’s no doubt the Prime Minister has made a colossal fool of himself, on a matter of the utmost gravity – that of war and peace. Almost the worst part of the fiasco is that one day we shall need to deploy our shrunken armed forces against a real threat from a real foreign enemy.

And because our leaders have so often deceived us in the past, crying wolf amid their own hubristic  delusions and pretensions, the British people will not believe them.

The theatrics out of the usual warmongers like John McCain and some even weirder ones from less customary ones like Joe Biden notwithstanding, I don’t see much, if any evidence that the American people are buying the “Assad is winning the civil war so he did the one thing that Obama said was needed to trigger US involvement”.

Considering that his father nearly flattened Hama in 1982 and had up to 40,000 Syrians killed in a 27-day massacre, the idea that Assad had any need to use chemical weapons is simply absurd.  It is a pity that the American Congress has neither a backbone nor the ability to stop responding to the war drums like Pavlov’s dogs to the dinner bell.

Societal evolution in action

Whatever the environment of America is naturally selecting for, it doesn’t appear to be either civilization or intelligence:

A woman who said she was brutally attacked by a group of black
teenagers in Pittsburgh’s North Side Sunday said the girls savagely beat
her while calling her racial slurs. Ginger Slepski said she
suffered multiple injuries, including torn shoulder ligaments. She said
she thought the girls were going to kill her.

“I thought it was so animalistic. So violent. I’m so afraid for these girls to get out and walk the streets,” Slepski said.

said Slepski was savagely beaten after the girls threw a bottle at her
car on Concord Street and she stopped to confront them.

“I was
mad. I knew they were younger. I thought they were in their early 20s. I
got out and said, ‘What is your problem?’” Slepski said.

All four African-American girls then called her names before getting physically violent.

“They yelled, ‘Shut up white [expletive].’ The other said, ‘Get that white [expletive],’” Slepski said.

Slepski said she tried to get back into her car but the girls grabbed her by the hair.

one punched me in the head and I was on a set of concrete steps and my
head hit the concrete so hard,” said Slepski. “Then they all got on top
of me and all their hands were in my hair. They kept telling each other
to, ‘Kick her in the head. Kick her head in the concrete.’”

Slepski said several people witnessed the attack but were too afraid to intervene.

Demographics is destiny.  If you’re going to permit large numbers of barbarians inside the gates, don’t become surprised when your society becomes barbarous. This is the inevitable consequence of “civil rights” and forced desegregation. Don’t try to kid yourself otherwise.  You know it’s true. It’s why you keep your mouth shut and turn a blind eye to misbehaving young men and women. Ms Slepski didn’t believe it; now she knows better.

Do you think next time she’ll attempt to confront young vibrants who are acting in a civilized manner?  Do you think she’ll even dare to confront young whites who aren’t? This is how civilizations die, one individual retreat at a time.

Rating the epic fantasies

After taking everyone’s opinions into account, I removed a few
series, added a few more, and came up with the following order. 
Underlining indicates an incomplete series, or at least one I deem insufficiently complete to conclusively judge, while italics indicates a series I have not personally

  1. The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien
  2. The First Law, Abercrombie
  3. Malazan Book of the Fallen, Erikson
  4. A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin
  5. The Black Company, Cook
  6. Dragonlance, Weis & Hickman
  7. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Donaldson
  8. The Riftwar Saga, Feist
  9. The Long Price Quartet, Abraham
  10. The Demon Cycle, Brett  
  11. The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson 
  12. The Belgariad/The Mallorean, Eddings
  13. Codex Alera, Butcher
  14. The Prince of Nothing, Bakker
  15. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Williams
  16. The Deathgate Cycle, Weis and Hickman  
  17. The Wheel of Time, Jordan/Sanderson
  18. The Sword of Truth, Goodkind
  19. Shannara, Brooks 
  20. The Red Knight, Cameron

No doubt many will disagree with my opinions here, but they are
not arbitrary.  First, I’m judging the series as a whole.  One thing
I’ve noticed is a lot of series take a serious nosedive after a certain
point.  The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant would be number two on this
list if judged solely on the first two Chronicles, (six books). 
Bakker’s series would have cracked the top ten were it not for the
abysmal third book. And as crazy as it sounds, Martin could freefall if
he doesn’t turn it around in this next book; post Dance, the “American
Tolkien” already sounds silly.

I tend to suspect
Brandon Sanderson will move up and Peter Brett will move down.  Brett
started great, but his demon world is a boring hive mind and he never
got around to actually writing about eponymous Daylight War in the third
book.  I suspect that he may have fallen victim to Epic Author Disease
even faster than Jordan or Martin did.

are series that I love, that I consider much better than most of the
series on this list.  But they’re not epic, by which I mean I regard
them as books that on some level are doing something similar to what I’m
attempting to do.  The whole reason that I’ve been closely considering
the various epic fantasy series is to avoid the problems that have
plagued some of these series in the past.

too soon to judge ATOB, but good or bad, I can hope to keep improving. 
Some would even say there is considerable room for it….

Three landmark moments in pop

Several people have asked me to share my thoughts on the recent performances at the MTV music awards.  I have seven of them.

  1. Neither liked nor cared about Billy Ray Cyrus.
  2. Neither like nor care about his daughter.
  3. Michael Jackson’s televised moonwalk marked the beginning of the overt negrification of American pop culture.
  4. Madonna’s rolling around on stage in a wedding dress marked the beginning of the overt sexualization of American pop culture.
  5. Whatever it was that Miss Cyrus was doing the other night marks the moment at which those two forces, negrification and sexualization, combined to complete the enwiggification of American pop culture.
  6. Umberto Eco was correct in Apocalypse Postponed when he pointed out that “pop culture” is an oxymoron.  There is nothing cultural or civilized about pop; it is intrinsically anti-culture.
  7. Demographics is destiny. Don’t expect the plumbing to long outlive the melodies.

“When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.”
– Plato, Republic