Thursday, September 11, 2008

Damn Right

Abi Sutherland at Making Light nails it:
I’ve been dreading today. No matter how much the candidates say that they don’t want to politicize the anniversary, it’s going to happen on the internet. I am sure that there will be many places to remember the dead, and to debate the lessons they can teach the living.....

This thread is not for that. This thread is for defiant normality. If the aim of terrorism is to produce terror, grief and anger, then let us laugh, and rejoice, and love.

As I've said before, the real central front in the War on Terror is the Western mind. The last seven years have been one long retreat on that front.

When we give in to fear and hate,

When we start thinking that being safe means that we need to give up the freedoms that so many have fought and died for,

When we accept the idea that we need to engage in endless war against a religion the vast majority of whose members just want to get up in the morning and go to work and raise their families the same way you and I do,

Then the terrorists really have won. Worse, they've made us defeat ourselves.

It's time to turn that around.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ABC Investigates Palin's Bullying of the Town Librarian

h/t to Balloon Juice,

Blogs for BC: Hands Across the Sea Edition

Finnish non-fiction writer Juri Nummelin has good things to say about BREAKING COVER over at his blog Pulpetti:
The pace is fast and there are no empty scenes. The lead character, a mystery man called Tony Wolf, is not at all unlike Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm, one of the toughest heroes of hardboiled writing.

Juri was kind enough to feature a flash fiction piece of mine called Hundred in his fanzine Ässä,("Ace") which I have prominently displayed in my office. It's a little mind-bending, I have to say, to see one of your stories rendered in what looks like Elvish.

Thanks for everything, Juri! And how do you say "Breaking Cover" in Finnish?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Guest Blogger: Tess Gerritsen

Today, What Fresh Hell is extremely fortunate to host NYT Bestselling Author and Generally Awesome Person Tess Gerritsen. This post was originally intended for the gang-blog upon which we both appear, Murderati, but since Murderati isn't an explicitly political blog, there was some discomfort with the subject matter. So I invited Tess over here, where we do discuss politics, once in a great long while..... take it away, Tess!


by Tess Gerritsen

It has been my practice to avoid any political commentary when I blog. There are good people on both sides of the aisle, and I have no wish to offend anyone. But this column isn’t really about politics; it’s about censorship, which most writers claim to be against, even though most are oddly and tellingly silent about this particular instance of it. It’s also about our country’s guardians of free thought, those fearless foot soldiers who have long protected our right to read what we want to read. (So long as we keep our voices hushed while browsing the stacks.)

I'm talking about librarians.

Librarians don't usually make it into the news, but these are unusual times. There's been a lot of excitement over Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President, and no wonder. She's clearly intelligent, she has a compelling personal story, and she even knows how to kill and field-dress a moose. But in all the hoopla, another woman's name has quietly surfaced from Sarah Palin's political past, a name that many may have missed: Mary Ellen Emmons.

She's the librarian who once stood up to Sarah Palin. And got fired for it.

In case you haven't been following the story, here's a summary from the New York Times:

Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin's first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. "They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her," Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to "resist all efforts at censorship," Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were "rhetorical."

This story has also been covered by a number of other sources, including Time Magazine, the Boston Herald, and School Library Journal. It's been picked up by library blogs. The Frontiersman, the Alaska newspaper covering Wasilla, has provided an article from its 1996 archives detailing the clash. And here's what Ms. Emmons said at the time:

"I'm not trying to suppress anyone's views," Emmons said. "But I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves."

Palin said Monday she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons...

But on Monday, Oct. 28, Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. This was during a week when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way of expressing loyalty...

Emmons recalled that (during) the Oct. 28 conversation she pulled no punches with her response to the mayor. "She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied 'Yup,'" Emmons recounted Saturday. "And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union would get involved, too."

Imagine that -- a librarian against censorship. The gall! The insubordination!

And the incredible, steely courage. Yes, we are talking courage. By taking a stand, one that principled librarians have taken again and again in defense of the public's access to information, Ms. Emmons faced consequences. She was fired. It was only because of the public's outcry that Ms. Emmons was able to return to her job.

This is more than a story about one librarian's heroism. It's also a story that should give every writer, every publisher, every reader, a chill up the spine. Since when do mayors dictate which books are in their town libraries? Since when do public officials in our America believe that banning books is a politician's prerogative? What sort of control freak even considers such a demand appropriate? What else would such a person choose to censor? Newspapers that disagree with her? Scientists whose studies don't align with her beliefs? Government officials whose facts and figures make her look bad?

And if those government officials insist on doing their jobs and standing by the facts, will they too be fired?

I fervently want a woman in the White House someday, but that desire does not make me blind to a candidate's flaws. And if you think it's okay to fire a librarian who refuses to go along with censorship, you are indeed flawed.

Librarians have always stood up for writers; now it’s time for writers to stand up for librarians – even though there will almost certainly be repercussions. No doubt there are some people who will never buy another one of my books because of what I've just written. Perhaps they'll demand that my books be banned from libraries. Perhaps they don't think that censorship is that big a deal. Or they don't mind being told what they can and cannot read. Or they want a woman in the White House so badly that they're willing to take the first one who comes along.

So let me offer an alternative candidate for the White House, a woman who's already proven her courage. A woman who's taken a principled stand against powerful political forces. She even hails from Alaska.

I nominate Mary Ellen Emmons for President.

Thanks for being here, Tess, and that's one I'd vote for, I think. I do love me some librarians.....

Tess' latest book is The Keepsake, and if you haven't checked her work out before, now's a good time to start. She writes some of the best thrillers in the business. A list can be found here.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Guest Blogger: Charlie Stella Has His Say

"This is Liberty Hall. You can spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard."

--A. Bertram Chandler

As most of you know, occasional commenter Charlie Stella and I don't agree on much when it comes to politics. But the guy's a hell of a writer. I love his work, and I was more than a little pleased to discover that he likes mine as well. So when he sent a version of the following post to his e-mail list, I invited him to have his say here on What Fresh Hell.

After all, I'm all about free speech and the marketplace of ideas.

Now, I know Charlie doesn't expect that everyone here's going to agree with him. But I know my loyal Hellions will play nice.


Recently some on my reader list were confounded by my support for the baked Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin. Once a poster child for the left, I've done some about facing over the last 8 years that included votes for Rudy Giuliani and Bush twice. While Rudy was my original preference for president this go (because 9-11 aside, he actually did a good job cleaning the cesspool New York had been left post Dinkins), I was fine with Obambi being the winner (because it would be good for the country if a minority got a chance to sit in the big seat). Then I changed to Nader (for the sake of genuine change) and then the baked Alaskan appeared on the scene and, well … here's something that'll make no sense to most, but perfect sense to me. The following is an edited version of an email I sent to my Knucksline distribution list (what my old blog was called; I'm the Knuckster/Knucks/Knucklespeare/Generalissimo; the Principessa is my wife).

Where I stand on hot-button issues:

Abortion: still pro choice

Gun control: absolutely favor it in urban areas

Censorship: Abhor it--any form of it

Religion in public schools: keep it out

Religion in general: I'm an atheist, but knock yourself out if you're not

Creationism: don't buy it

Gay rights: the constitutional amendment should be to permit gay marriages/not preclude them

And then here is where things get a little muddy:

Environment: Drill baby, drill.

Immigration: Something needs to be done and sooner rather than later or all those outsourced jobs both parties seem to support (Hillary supported companies outsourcing jobs in NY a few years ago) will put a lot of American citizens in contention for whatever is left (currently being handled by illegals). Word processors will soon be washing dishes and I'm really not very good at it.

Death Penalty: when it's an absolute positive conviction like the clown caught on video torturing the kid whose family the same clown had just killed? I'm for pay-per-view torture until dead but would settle for two in the back of the head five minutes after the video was verified. Otherwise life in solitary is fine with me.

Iraq: Fool me once, shame on you … we're out of there.

Afghanistan: One last push to get OBL (which might include a "single" surgical strike or "600 surgical strikes" into Pakistan), but get it done and get out.

Israel: I've said it many times. If I were born Palestinian, I'd probably be a terrorist … but I wasn't. I was born here and favor security for us first, then allies as a priority. I'd put more genuine pressure on Israel to "get along" but if Israel was attacked militarily (especially by nations already at extreme odds with us), I'd help defend her (which includes a potential and devastating {see below} war).

War (in general): If we're not going Roman, let's not waste our ___ing time. There's no need for "boots on the ground" unless we intend to occupy and we shouldn't ever want to do that again. In the Generalissimo's world, trust me, you won't want to go to war with us (or sponsor terrorism against us).

Darfur: the ultimate hypocrisy of this nation's current foreign policy. If we can help those most in need, we have no business in Iraq (especially since we've come to learn the several reasons we were given turned out to be nonsense).

And then there's this …

Bush/Impeachment: Absolutely, his entire administration (the same people I passionately defended four years ago) … and if the collective UN had anything between their legs besides the New York City parking tickets they'll never pay, they would bring war crimes charges against GW & Co. for the absolute disaster their Iraq gambit turned out to be.

The Supreme Court: I prefer a left leaning court, but figure the court will always sort itself out sooner or later. I used to be much more concerned about appointments when I voted strictly Democrat, but have since relaxed my concerns. I don't see Roe v. Wade being overturned (no matter what the court makeup is), nor do I see a constitutional amendment precluding gay marriages ever happening.

I'm not sure how I'm classified anymore, although the following adjectives have been used: Neanderthal, lunatic, crazy, maniac, whacko, jerk, fat, fat jerk (but that's a really low blow) and a few expletives most of your email filters won't permit. By the way, "jerk" is the Principessa's personal favorite.

My voting record most of you(s) know … a straight Democratic ticket until Slick Willy's 2nd term (when I didn't bother voting because his lack of a response to terrorist attacks home and abroad ended my support for him and the Democratic Party). Then back-to-back Bush votes I now regret, but mostly because he's made it so easy for the Democrats to regain power in the form of a mandate (by screwing up pretty much everything he did, although I do give him credit for scaring off terrorist attacks here).

A co-worker recently found it comical (I think) that she'd be considered an elite. This after verbalizing how she couldn't understand how people who were (or seemed to be) so smart could vote Republican. To be fair, there was nothing malicious in her statement. She was merely wondering aloud how people she genuinely liked and admired (and who seemed so on the ball) voted (or were) Republican. I pointed out that I sure used to think that way (when I thought anything that wasn't liberal was dumb) … but that that is exactly what the right labels an elitist attitude; the idea that someone else's divergent opinion is ipso facto stupid.

I prefer arrogant to elite but we all get the picture.

I know there's a gigantic passionate political divide in this country (but, let's face it, that's been forever); extremists on both ends think (or assume) the other end is uninformed and/or delusional and/or guided by divine spirits, etc. The question is which side is right? The answer, obviously, is neither. The problem, however, is what plagues this country election year after election year. What is lost, I think, is how the left has been so marginalized it's barely visible anymore. Obambi is NOT a liberal (certainly not by my definition). What is considered left today is barely left of center (which is why someone like Dennis Kucinich is literally laughed off the Democratic stage by his own party during its debates ... the same DK I'm probably most in line with socially/but at polar opposites with regarding terrorism). Hillary Clinton (originally a "Goldwater girl") couldn't have sat more on the middle of the political fence without giving birth to plywood. John "the Maverick" McCain proved as much a maverick as Barry Bonds proved his very late budding career wasn't chemically enhanced.

Somehow the various causes and extremes have been muddled to the point of confusion and unless you're at one of the extremes looking in … well, it becomes one big jumbled mess.

Enter the politics of presidential convention sideshows. Obambi picks Biden. McCain picks Palin. Neither has anything to do with how the top slot candidate's themselves would govern and everything to do with perception and appeal. So much for Change We Can Believe In and/or Country First, eh?

Except for the cosmetic appearances of both tickets, what's the difference? Even Bill Maher recently exposed the private corporate parties going on outside the Democratic Convention for members of Congress (where some ducked rather than be caught on camera). And we all know it went on at the Republican Convention as well (perhaps with more expensive champagne/call girls).

Both parties have been bought and sold and neither really seems to do much for the people they passionately claim they represent. The cronyism, nepotism and inherent corruption fostered by the bureaucracies of government leave little in the way of hope and/or change for the people electing their officials. Do the Democrats really work for the little guy? I don't think the 9% approval rating supports that notion. Do the Republicans only support the rich and powerful? It sure seems that way, especially since the only layoffs and outsourced jobs I notice are the ones directly affecting the poor slobs in the lower and middle classes. But wait, many of those outsourced jobs are fleeing blue States, too! Is Hillary really fighting for the middle class in New York? Ask some of those affected by the 10% across the board (except they're all service staff) cuts many of the law firms, financial institutions and other corporations and companies are making in favor of having their services performed in Chennai, India.

Personally, I don't think either party gives a rat's ass what happens to the poor schmucks trying to get by. If they did, I have to ask, why don't they'd do something? Here the question becomes rather nebulous … almost like, "if there really were a God, how could he (or she) let there be war, hurricanes, earthquakes and the like … to which, I'd like to add, Democrats and or Republicans …

Recently my very goal oriented older son (working full time for an outsourcer at Goldman Sachs while pursuing his MBA nights) was very much moved by Joe Lieberman's address to the Republican Convention. The left shouldn't think my son stupid for liking Joe Lieberman and the right shouldn't think they've won him over. Charles is voting for Nader (God bless him--Charles, not Ralph Nader). I attacked Lieberman and then one of his friends did the same in emails (albeit for similar, but not fully the same reasons). Charles liked the idea of pols crossing party lines to say what needs to be said and to do what needs to be done. He doesn't get the point of polar partisanship. Good for him (Charles--not Lieberman or Nader) … he's thinking. That's a good thing (and something the left need not bother taking credit for--or they'd think maybe they were wrong once in a while). Remember, some of you lefties so in the know, those more than half a million who died during World War II really did sustain your right to obnoxious protests (whether you geniuses think the fire bombing of Dresden or the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan was necessary or not). And some right-minded folk likewise need to get over their Christian selves when they declare homosexuality and/or abortions abominations against God deserving of violent assault. Nobody minds that either side has its own opinion, but the vitriol and rancor each side seems to have for the other appears equally uneducated and unchristian (sarcasm intended).

And then there are the Neanderthals, lunatics, crazies, maniacs, whackos, jerks (and a few expletives most of your email filters won't permit--but no more fat jokes) like myself who, after being burned for staying with one party or switching to another (and being made a fool in both cases), just want something genuinely different. So much so, in fact, we'd take somebody off the street who ran a successful lemonade stand (anybody over the age of 11 in fact). And if that somebody happened to run a business, government or lemonade stand successfully (frankly, I don't care if it was a PTA meeting so long as the constituency was over 18, bathed at least once a month and could speak the mother tongue), no matter what his or her social views are, if he/she can get things done, I'm all for him/her.

Let's face it, the lawyers (Yale, Harvard, etc.) have struck out big time "running things" … Yale gave us Bush (and should be burned to the ground for it). Harvard gave us Obambi (130 "present" votes--what I call "change my ass"). Alaska (and all that whacky religious stuff) gave us a woman who accomplished a few things I can relate to (even if I don't believe in most anything she is a proponent of). Palin (for all her attempts to censor books, etc.,) seems to get things done. As a half-assed author, I probably should be worried about this book banning thing … but I'm not. If Palin were President, I'm pretty sure the Democratic Congress (and some more moderate Republicans) would keep the book banning, etc., in check.

As to her troopergate scandal, if what I saw on CNN last night was half accurate (her former brother-in-law admitted to having tasered his stepson, was caught drinking in uniform in his patrol car twice and illegally killed moose(s)) … well, it just makes me like her a little bit more.

So, it may be a "no brainer" to the elite left (and some independents) that the country should elect a slick talking professor like Obambi, but it's an equal "no brainer" that the hardheaded right (and some independents) choose the war hero who, although he can't remember how many homes he owns, can be crafty enough to pick the "barracuda" babe from Alaska (a woman whose only purpose on the ticket is to solidify a portion of his disgruntled party and desperately appeal to disgruntled Clinton supporters).

And for me, it's an even easier choice (or reason) to vote for a ticket with somebody I'm diametrically opposed to on so many social issues. Sarah Palin (the mother/PTA/Mayor/Governor) is something different (dare I say it?) for a change.

Honestly, no sarcasm intended.

My only issue with Palin, by the way, is McCain. It won't be easy to pull the lever for that guy after all the unmaverick-like compromising he's just engaged in (including his Palin pick). That said, I won't be losing any sleep if Obambi wins. I do think it would be good for the country if he won and he would certainly have a majority in the House and Senate to push through his agenda (whichsuggests things would get done; nothing has happened since the Democratic Congress was mandated to end the war in 2006, has it?). But, if he still feels compelled to vote "present" (or the presidential equivalent, which is to talk us through the next four years about how good the following four will be with him making all those changes down the road), I suspect we'll be headed back to the right as the pendulum does seem to swing back and forth anyway.

For my money, it's defense first (which still may require some offense, albeit from the air rather than boots on the ground). I don't see anybody neglecting our defense the way Slick Willy did again for a while. While I'm not opposed to playing hide the cigar (to each his/her own), I don't expect my President to be doing it while the country is branded a "paper tiger" (Bin Laden's label) after one attempt on the World Trade Center was dealt with in court and several other terrorist attacks against us abroad were barely dealt with at all. That still bothers me.

So, despite her personal convictions, I really do prefer Palin. If for no other reason, to show all us dopes casting votes that it doesn't take a well groomed lawyer and/or a war hero to get things done (see Harry Truman). I like the idea of somebody with enough determination to see through the bullshit and come up with solutions. Palin used Democrats to clean house of some dirty Republicans in Alaska. What's wrong with that?

—Knucks (Charlie)

Charlie Stella is the author of:

Mafiya: A Novel of Crime (January, 2008) Pegasus
Shakedown: A Novel of Crime (June, 2006) Pegasus
Cheapskates: A Novel of Crime (March, 2005) Carroll & Graf
Charlie Opera: A Novel of Crime (December, 2003) Carroll & Graf
Jimmy Bench-Press: A Novel of Crime (December, 2002) Carroll & Graf
Eddie's World: A Novel of Crime (December, 2001) Carroll & Graf

This Week, On a Very Special What Fresh Hell....

I've got some interesting guest bloggers coming up in the next couple days. Expect surprises....