Saturday, June 2, 2012

Barack Obama's Writing Tips

David Maraniss has a new Barack Obama bio coming out on June 19th. 

According to Maraniss, a friend sent Obama a manuscript for editing, and Obama wrote back with five tips:

1) "Careful about too many adverbs, particularly describing how people speak (Paul asked disbelievingly, etc.). It can be cumbersome and a bit intrusive on the reader."

2) "Resist the temptation of easy satire. ... Good satire has to be a little muted. Should spill out from under a seemingly somber situation."

3) "Try to get the basic stats on the characters out of the way early {Paul was 24} so that you can spend the rest of the story revealing character."

4) "Think about the key moments in the story, and build tension leading to those key moments."

5) "Write outside your own experience. ... I find that this works the fictive imagination harder."
A lot of this meshes with what Stephen King and Elmore Leonard have said in their writing books (On Writing and Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules Of Writing).  Death to adverbs.  Leave out the parts that most people skip.  Mute it a little - don't tell everything you know. 

"Since this is great writing advice, I won't mention Obama's reliance on Rule #5,"  said The Whited Sepulchre, regretfully. 
"Why not?" asked the reader, curiously.
"Because the satire would be too easy," said The Whited Sepulchre, indignantly.  "We've all suffered because Obama has been writing outside his own experience for the last four years." 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Voting For The Lesser Of Two Evils

There is only one Boomtown. And you probably don't live in it.

Interesting pair of posts this morning in Samizdata:

An article about how Washington DC and the surrounding area is booming on the back of government spending is creating a bit of a buzz. Grizzled veterans of lobby groups and the dynamics of how spending decisions are made will not be remotely surprised, of course. Even so, this is the sort of article that sums up so much that is bent out of shape of Western societies and their bloated public sectors. And it also highlights how, in such an economy, so many of those who call themselves "contractors" and "consultants" are in fact dependent to a significant degree on the taxpayer for funds, not on anything resembling laissez faire capitalism. (There are similarities with London and Brussels, of course, though in the case of London, it is not just the centre of political power, but of financial and other sorts of power too, such as in the arts and entertainment business).

And this quote is chilling, if it highlights where young people think the action is:

"Aside from its wealth, the single defining feature of über-Washington is its youth. Most of the people who have moved to Washington since 2006 have been under 35; the region has the highest ­percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds in the U.S. “We’re a mecca for young people,” Fuller says. One recent arrival says word has gotten out to new graduates that Washington is where the work is. “It’s a place where a ­liberal-arts major can still get a job,” she says, “because you don’t need a particular skill.”"
Marvellous, as Clint Eastwood says in his movies.

Here's the previous Samizdata post, a brief rant on why the boomlets in Washington, London, or  Athens are always temporary.  Little is produced there except grievances and red tape.  No raw materials have any value added to them in Washington.  Components are not improved in terms of fit, form, or function. 
Ticks, leeches, and other parasites are generally happiest near the neck veins, as opposed to a working muscle. 

"Capitalism is based on capital, and capital is generated through saving and not money-printing, contrary to what many economists and central bankers want us to believe. Prosperous societies have always been built on hard money, which encourages saving and the expansion of the capital stock, and in turn increases the productivity of human labour. Greek savers are no different from American savers or German savers, and the role of money, saving and capital is no different in Greece from that in any other country. The laws of economics change as little from one place to another as the laws of physics. And sacrificing the interests of your savers for some short-term boost to growth will have the same adverse long-run effects in Greece as it has anywhere else."  - Detlev Schlichter

This is how D.C. is paying for its growth. 
Yeah, it "saves and creates jobs".  Just not anywhere near you. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Free Gary Johnson Poster !!!

Since taking office, Barack Obama has....(insert disappointment here)

Over on Reddit, someone was shocked, SHOCKED !! to learn that Obama had appointed Michael Taylor, Monsanto's ex-VP for Public Policy, as the FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
What in the hell was surprising?
Here's what the sheltered, pampered little dunce has done since taking office, taken from the comments of the same post:

  • Opposed gay marriage in 2009 and reaffirmed his position in 2010. When he finally flipped on his position in 2011 he stated that he was still "grappling" with his personal views on gay marriage.
  • Signed the NDAA - an indefinite detention bill - into law.
  • Gave $535,000,000 of our money to a company which he knew (or at least should) have was going to go bankrupt.
  • Placed Sanctions on Iran that will likely lead to war.
  • Increased the TSA’s budget and allowed the scope of their authority to increase
  • Gave Blackwater a quarter of a billion dollars.
  • Approved of a more draconian Patriot Act.
  • Assassinated three American Citizens 1 2 3.
  • Continued the Drug War. Including pushing for a five year mandated sentence for Charles C. Lynch the owner of a licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
  • Wins right to deny habeas review from detainees.
  • Protected Bush officials from charges relating to torture.
  • Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
  • Waives health care coverage for employees of 29 companies including McDonald's.
  • Deports record number of immigrants.
  • Continued and escalated a covert, drone war in Yemen.
  • Takes the hardest stance in American history against government whistle blowers.
  • Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
  • Pushes harder for warrantless wire taps than Bush did.
  • Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan including attacking first responders and funerals.
  • And what about the Children?
  • Promises more transparent government denies more FOIA request than Bush.
  • Gives BP and other big oil companies exemption from EPA laws.
  • Will maintain a presence in Iraq even after "ending" war.
  • Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
  • Secretly made deal to kill health care public option while secretly meeting with health care executives and provided an exemption for abortion.
  • Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries.
  • Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
  • Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia
  • Appoints multiple lobbyists while signing an executive order limiting this practice. This included lobbyists from Goldman Sachs , Raytheon and Monsanto.
  • Continued Bush's rendition program.

If Obama had promised to do all of the above, would you have supported him or voted for him?  Now that he's done all of the above, will you still support him? 

Gary Johnson for President in 2012.  Everything else is truly a wasted vote. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pat Dixon for State Chair, Libertarian Party Of Texas !!!

My friend Pat Dixon is once again running for State Chair of the Libertarian Party Of Texas. 

That's why I'm going to vote for Pat Dixon for LP State Chair. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day, from my Uncle Coy

During World War II, my Uncle Coy was stationed at Victory Field in Vernon, Texas.  You can go here for a lovingly created website dedicated to the memory of the place, which was closed immediately after the Allied victory in 1945.

Uncle Coy probably had some patches like these on his uniform:

Yes, lots of cartoon characters were pressed into the war effort.  (This raises a disturbing question about today's military and cartoons....Would they really want Sponge Bob Squarepants on their planes?) 

Sorry for the digression. 

For the last few years, I've had an old postcard above my desk, one that Uncle Coy wrote to my father during the war.  Uncle Coy would've been about 20 and my father was 13. 

Writing letters and postcards is almost a lost art.  We now email, instant message, Facebook, Tweet, and text.  The Aggie won't even take phone calls most of the time.  If you can't text her, give up.  She ain't talking. 

Here's the postcard.

That's a Curtis P-40 Tomahawk, according to the ultra-light print below the landing gear. 

Those of a certain age might remember the rules of letter writing.  There was 1) the salutation, 2) the opening stuff where you hope that everyone is doing well, 3) the main content, 4) the sign-off, and 5) your signature.  I haven't studied this in thirty-five years, but I think I'm close....

Men had their own rules, and I think Uncle Coy's letter is a perfect example. 
Back in the day, when men had to write a letter or postcard from the road, the battlefield, or a vacation they used this form to fill up the white space: 

1) Salutation
2) An observation about the weather
3) An observation about sports
4) An observation about hunting or fishing
5) A joke about something inappropriate - bonus points if animals were involved
6) Something about the quality and quantity of the food
7) The sign-off
8) The signature. 

What you see below is a masterpiece of the form, and I'm proud to own it.  I've got the transcription below the photocopy, just in case you can't read it.  

To: Donald Patterson, Rose Bud Arkansas,
From (Postmark): Vernon, Texas, Victory Field, July 14, 1943

1) Dear Folks,
2) Looks like we might get some rain
3) We sure have some good ball games
4) Boy that must have been some fishing trip
5) Donald, did my little heifer ever catch yours (ha)
6) I have watermelon about twice a week
7) Love,
8) Coy

I defy anyone now alive to write a postcard that covers all the bases with so few words. 

Happy Memorial Day, in honor of my father, his three brothers, and my father-in-law.  All five were in the U.S. military.  Uncle I.G. survived a kamikaze attack on his battleship.  Denny, my father-in-law, survived the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam. 
This is their day.  Hope it's a good one for you, and if you know someone stationed overseas, send them a postcard. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Memorial Day (But wouldn't it be great if we had fewer dead soldiers to remember?)

Here's a helpful chart showing total military expenditures on the left and military spending as a percentage of other nations' GDP on the right. 

We're spending a lot of this money to keep the people on the right side of the chart, and ourselves, safe from some other people on the right side of the chart.

Since we don't have enough money to pay for all this, we're borrowing a lot of it from the people on the right side of the chart, some of whom we're trying to protect everyone else, and ourselves, from. 

Otherwise, if we didn't borrow defense money from some of the bad guys on the right side of the chart, the bad guys on the right side of the chart would think we were weak. 

Got it?  Good. 

Happy Memorial Day !!!