June 29th, 2012On this day in different years


[links] Link salad's tide is high

Tidal massaging reveals a hidden ocean on Saturn's moon, TitanIts ocean comes with an icy floor, so Titan is likely unable to support life.

Top CIA Spy Accused of Being a Mafia Hitman — Um, wow. (Via [info]danjite.)

Rise of the Planet of the SatanazisSlacktivist Fred Clark with more measured, rational discourse from the American right.

Low Life Expectancy tracks with Opposition to Obamacare (Map)With the exception of Utah, there is a pretty strong overlap between lower life expectancy and deep hostility to the Affordable Care Act. Those who need it most are most opposed to it.

What really happens to real people really mattersSlacktivist Fred Clark on the flip side of ACA, why opposing the casual cruelty of the conservative position really does matter.

A Vindication, With a Legacy Still Unwritten — Obama and HCR.

Legal scholars unsurprised by Roberts"Had the court ruled as the four dissenters would have had it -- in a 5-4 decision, red versus blue -- that the signature act of a Democratic administration was unconstitutional, I think that would have been a very serious threat to the legitimacy of the court." Concerns about naked partisanship didn't stop the Supreme Court from decapitating the national interest in favor of GOP interests in either Bush v. Gore or Citizens United.

'The Umpire' Strikes Back—and The Affordable Care Act Survives

Health Care As a Privilege: What the GOP Won’t AdmitDemocrats will confine the unfortunate to many forms of deprivation, but not deprivation of basic medical care. Republicans will. The GOP is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world to hold this stance. Are you still proud of your Republican party?

A Bill Seeking To Regulate Use of the Word VaginaIt’s time for the government to stop women from using anatomically correct terms. If I were a conservative, this would make sense to me. Of course, if I were a conservative, my head would implode from cognitive dissonance and intellectual dishonesty.

Texas GOP party platform opposes the teaching of "higher order thinking skills" -- a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking -- arguing that it might challenge "student's fixed beliefs" and undermine "parental authority." — In other words, the Republican party now explicitly and deliberately wants to make everyone's children stupid, not just their own. What does that say about their faith in their own positions and beliefs? This isn't me being an angry liberal ranter. This is conservatives in their own words. I weep for America that this seems reasonable to nearly half the voters in this country. (Thanks to [info]ulfhirtha.)

?otD: Are you going to be my number one?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (drove to coast for beach weekend)
Body movement: 60 minute coastal walk
Hours slept: 6.25 (interrupted)
Weight: n/a
Currently reading: Shattering the Ley by Benjamin Tate


[politics] The Supreme Court's Healthcare Reform Ruling

I was quite shocked yesterday at the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act ruling. I was even more shocked at the voting composition of the majority.

The Supreme Court politicized itself in the Bush v. Gore ruling. In that case, the Court's conservatives definitively revealed themselves as unprincipled ideologues. The Court acknowledged directly this with their weak protestation that the ruling would not have standing as precedent in future cases. Nothing that's happened in the twelve years since has caused me to in the slightest shift my extremely low opinion of the Court's conservative wing. Citizens United, one of the most deeply misguided and disastrous rulings in modern history, sealed the Roberts Court's naked partisanship by decapitating both the national interest and common sense in favor of Republican interests. On an individual level, Justice Scalia's recent crabwalk on the Commerce Clause was just the latest in an endless round of objective proof that I have been right all along about the unprincipled ideology of the Supreme Court conservatives.

In other words, my expectations of the Supreme Court's ability to produce wise Constitutional jurisprudence in the national interest is rock bottom.

The Affordable Care Act ruling amazed me. I'm not wise enough to know what it will all mean. That will be gamed out in the press and Congress and the election booth over the next months, and likely years.

But I did happen to catch Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's response. The willful ignorance and hypocrisy of his remarks was breathtaking. Mr. Romney said:
As you might imagine, I disagree with the Supreme Court's decision and I agree with the dissent.

What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.

Let's make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do.

What the court did today was say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that Obamacare is good law or that it's good policy.

Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It's bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday. It's bad law today.

When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, his signature legislative accomplishment was a healthcare reform act extremely similar to the Federal healthcare reform promoted by President Obama.

Mr. Romney, was HCR bad law when it was your idea? Was HCR bad policy when you implemented it? You were certainly extremely pleased with the individual mandate at the time.

Furthermore, both the Massachusetts law and the Federal law have their roots, specifically including the now-hated individual mandate, in proposals originating with the conservative Heritage Foundation. HCR isn't socialism as Republicans now decry. It was their idea in the first place. One they used to oppose the Clinton-era attempts at healthcare reform, among other things.

Mr. Romney, was HCR bad law when the Heritage Foundation proposed it and when most Republicans promoted it? Was HCR bad policy when the Heritage Foundation proposed it and when most Republicans promoted it?

Romney went on to say:
Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt, and pushes those obligations on to coming generations. […] Obamacare is a job-killer.

Mr. Romney, do you recall the most recent Republican administration of President George W. Bush? When the Republican controlled House and Senate spent their way to the highest deficits and deepest national debt in the history of the republic. Do you recall the job losses under Republican rule, the deepest and most unprecedented since the Great Depression? Are you aware that your party has spent the past four years blocking any jobs or economic growth plans put forth by President Obama in service of your flatly stated highest legislative priority of making him a one-term president? What on Earth gives you standing to talk about deficits and job losses now? How can you possibly do so with a straight face?

Then he said:
And perhaps most troubling of all, Obamacare puts the federal government between you and your doctor.

Mr. Romney, your Republican party is constantly legislating women's sexual and reproductive health. You have moved heaven and earth these past decades to insert the Federal government between citizens and their doctors at every possible point.

You and your political colleagues have amply demonstrated time and again that intellectual dishonesty and profound hypocrisy are necessary requirements for being a Republican today, but do you ever think about what you are saying? For even a moment? More to the point, do voters ever think about the typical word salad offered by Republican leaders?

Unfortunately, that last question answers itself every time this nation goes to the polls.

Republicans used to mock something they called Bush Derangement Syndrome. The conservative opposition to President Obama is so deranged, so powerful, that they will deny two decades of their own political history and abandon their own principles and positions rather than do anything that might seem to support or endorse the president.

My final observation is that I'm considering running a pool on how soon there is a Congressional attempt to impeach Chief Justice Roberts. In one stroke, Chief Justice Roberts has transformed himself in conservative eyes from a wise jurist to a judicial activist. In one stroke, he restored a modicum of respectability to a Supreme Court that traded every shred of dignity and respect they had away for an ultimately disastrous electoral victory twelve years ago.


[personal] Answers to open questions

Recently I put out a call for questions. In a stunning display of intellectual consistency and logical thinking, I now offer some responses to those questions. My thanks to everyone who participated.

Steve Buchheit: In the intro to “Witness to the Fall” in your collection, The Sky that Wraps, you refer to a lesson you learned about not hot-dogging the writing and paying closer attention to what you were doing and how that story took longer to write than the others to that point. “Witness” has a distinct difference in style, it feels more controlled and deliberate, more lyrical with stronger muscles flowing under the skin. It was much closer to the story you read at Confusion (which I apologize, I don’t remember the title). Can you elaborate more fully on that lesson you learned and how it continues to affect how you write (here I guess I’m asking about the process)?

JL: Honestly, Steve, I don't remember what I read at Confusion this year. I was a month out of chemo and still fairly befuddled. That being said, this was kind of big deal. I made a fairly thorough blog post on this topic back in 2007, entitled The New Model Process. The heart of the post is this:
  • Write first drafts more slowly. This cuts my raw throughput almost in half, though I'm still quite fast by most rational standards. What I do with the slowdown is watch the words and the sentences far more carefully. Where I used to deliberately avoid revision or correction while drafting, with the exception of gross typos, I'm trying to be a lot more thoughtful about what's going on in the word layer, the sentence layer, the paragraph layer, the page and scene as a whole

  • Stronger focus on revision. Make a line editing pass. Then make a characterization pass. Then make a plot logic pass. Then make a prose style pass. Look it over carefully, still taking great pains not to sand off the voicey edges. I think this is possible for me now in a way that it wasn't five years ago because I have so much better a sense of craft and a much more finely tuned control. I think of this not as sanding down the draft — how I used to view revision, and why I had so much trouble with it — and more like lacquering a fine piece of wood. I'm adding finish, color and depth, while preserving the grain and character of what lies beneath.

I've long since internalized that New Model Process, and continued to see it evolve. A fairly clear example of the more recent evolution is in my novel writing process. In addition to the read aloud step I have added, I've gotten deeper and deeper into multiple, increasingly subtle revision passes.

As it turns out, I can only draft so slowly. If I write too slowly, it's like trying to ride a bicycle too slowly. I just wind up falling off. But revisions continue to ramify and extend. Especially at novel length. So that lesson, five years later, is still echoing for me.

Michael: You haven’t mentioned your trip to Antarctica lately…Where are you in the planning stages? Are you still considering doing a kickstarter for it? Or are you waiting until your next scan to decide on these things?

JL: The Antarctica trip is still a goal. My focus has been on the proposal for Going to Extremes, which is the book that will document the trip. The hoped-for result is a sufficiently large advance on Extremes that the trip can be funded out of that. Alternatively, I may yet do a Kickstarter.

MAC: Do you write faster writing fiction or non-fiction?

JL: Hah! I have no idea. I suspect the answer is that I write faster in fiction. I may know more after I've worked all the way through the Going to Extremes project, which will be my first foray into book length non-fiction.

[info]jetse: Is science fiction (or speculative fiction for that matter) wants to do something truly new, what should it do?

JL: Man, if I knew the answer to that, I'd be a bestseller, wouldn't I? More seriously, I see at least two answers, pointing to two different facets of the question.

One is that we need to reach a wider audience. Younger. More entry level. And we need to reach them with books and stories that invite them back for more. If every kid that had read Harry Potter became a dedicated fantasy fan, our genre would rival romance today.

The other is that I think we need to continue to redefine our ideas and ideals. In some ways, SF right now is where rock and roll was in the early 1980s. Slick, packaged, overproduced and (relatively speaking) starved for innovation. I suppose that's normal in the life cycle of any cultural or artistic movement. But if anyone is equipped to break the cycle, it should be SF, its writers and its readers.

I just wish I was smart enough to see how to do those things.

[info]jettcat: What is your one true cheese?

JL: Sottocenere al tartufo. 'Nuff said.

[info]xjenavivex: Can you tell us a little more about your plans to write web series content?

JL: I do have some specific plans to write Web series content, but I don't have a contract yet, so I'm not free to comment at any length. Let's just say steampunk and hella fun, and leave it at that for now. When I can announce more, I will.

[info]xjenavivex: Also, what are some of your favorite comfort foods?

Do you like to cook?

Do you ever look back over your collection of pictures and find yourself inspired to write a new story?

JL: Comfort foods: I love boy food. Pub grub. Pizza. Burgers. Chips and dip. I'd love to reprogram myself on this one, but, well, there you are.

Cooking: I do like to cook. I'm competent but not expert, and have a few signature dishes which I'm quite good at. I'm also capable of following most recipes. But I live alone and eat a lot of solo meals, so I often don't bother. Plus I have a fair number of people in my life who are much better cooks than I am. Easier to mooch off them.

Looking back: Sometimes, yes, my photo files inspire me. That's one reason I have them, naturally enough.