Today’s quote:


“I am ready for the transition.”
–Denard Manns

Mr. Manns was executed in the state of Texas on November 28, 2008, having been convicted of rape and murder. His entire last statement, and the last words of every inmate executed in the state of Texas since 12/07/1982–some 450 in all–are available on a single web page maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

qotd, political edition


I don’t usually follow this particular writer, but this really hit home for me:

Revenge killings don’t pass the test for me. They’re unacceptable under international law. I want to know that any target is selected because there is verifiable intelligence that he’s actively planning a terrorist attack on the United States or its allies; that the danger is pressing; that arrest is impossible; and that civilian lives are not wantonly risked.

That’s Roger Cohen in today’s NY Times, and I want to make it clear that I agree with him: The bar must be set high, and President Obama must not authorize the use of extra-judicial revenge violence in a country we are not at war with, not unless he wants to stand with Dick Cheney and the rest of the war-mongering neocons.

Quote of the day


This is a long one, from an interview with Terry Rossio, one of the highest-paid screenwriters working today, and the man who runs the Wordplay site, which is full of writerly advice. I learned a lot on the Wordplay message boards, and in the columns, and I learned a lot from this interview (even though I’m supposed to be MAN BITES WORLD.

Anyway, this is about screenwriting, naturally, not writing books, but I think it’s pertinent:

JRM (interviewer): How did you break in, and how did you come to be where you are now?

Terry Rossio: I’m going to try to not give the usual boilerplate answers in this interview, and that means not going along with false presumptions, no matter how seemingly benign. The question about breaking in seems perfectly legit, but really it’s not. A writer must create compelling work, and then try to sell it. Once sold, the writer has to do the same thing again. It’s really not true that the writer ‘breaks in’—that’s an artifact of the belief that the person is being judged, not the work, and also of the belief that there is an inside and an outside, which I don’t think exists. There are too many screenwriters out there with only a single credit for there to be an inside, and too many writers on the outside making sales, to too many markets which are either new, changing, or undefined.

In truth buyers are just not that organized, your buyer is not my buyer, or in some cases, you can become your own buyer. Courtney Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award this year for best screenplay for Frozen River, and she’s never sold a screenplay. Is she on the inside or the outside? In truth, anyone, at any time, can come up with South Park or Superman or Sandman, and that’s all that matters.

And I can’t resist adding this one:

Screenwriters are the Charlie Browns of Hollywood, and everyone else holds the football.

I recommend reading the whole interview. Yeah, it’s a little long, but the stuff on constructing a story is wonderful

No public option, no expansion of Medicare


Hearing that Lieberman had scotched the expansion of Medicare–a policy he’d explicitly endorsed three months ago–had me pretty irritated yesterday. Now I’m seeing comments around the internet suggesting progressives ditch health care reform entirely until it can be done “right.”

I think that’s a terrible idea, and this quote from last November explains why pretty clearly:

Truman sought single payer. His failure led to Kennedy and Johnson, who confined their ambitions to poor families and the elderly. Then came Nixon, whose reform plan was entirely based around private insurers and government regulation. He was followed by Carter, who favored an incremental, and private, approach, and Clinton, who again sought to reform the system by putting private insurers into a market that would be structured and regulated by the government. His failure birthed Obama’s much less ambitious proposal, which attempts to reform not the health-care system, but the small group and nongroup portions of the health-care system by putting a small minority of private insurance plans into a market that’s structured and regulated by the government, and closed off to most Americans.

Failure does not breed success. Obama’s defeat will not mean that more ambitious reforms have “a better chance of trying again.” It will mean that less ambitious reformers have a better chance of trying next time.

Conversely, success does breed success. Medicare and Medicaid began as fairly limited programs. Medicaid was pretty much limited to extremely poor children and their caregivers. Medicare didn’t cover prescription drugs, or individuals with disabilities, or home health services.

But once the programs were passed into law, they were slowly and continually improved. They became more expansive, with Medicaid growing to cover not only poor families but also poor adults, and the federal government giving states the option, and matching dollars, to include more people under the program’s umbrella. Medicare was charged with covering people with long-term disabilities, and it was eventually strengthened with a drug benefit, more preventive coverage, the option of supplementary plans and much more.

It is not hard to imagine health-care reform following a similar path.

That’s a little long, but I think it’s important. Tens of thousands of Americans die preventable deaths every year because they don’t have health insurance. The new, reformed system will save lives, and it will give us something to build on in the future.

Even though I really, really wanted to sign on with a public plan, dammit.

Randomness for 11/6


1) Rear Gear! For the easily offended. via Jay Lake

2) “They must be professional house shooters.”

3) Rush Limbaugh: Victim of Racism.

4) Death by anti-science: Iraqi General to use dowsing rods to detect IEDs. From the article: “He is such a believer that the Iraqi military are abandoning proven methods such as sniffer dogs.” This is my unhappy face. via James Nicoll.

5) Hard sales numbers from a NY Times bestselling author.

Randomness for 9/23


1) qotd: “I don’t mind hidden depths but I insist that there be a surface.” — James Nicoll

2) Best Fiction Generator Ever.

3) Reverse image search. Pretty cool.

4) What are the effects of killing all the pigs in Egypt? via Jay Lake

5) “Writers want to write short fiction and they’re going to keep finding ways to get them to readers. Writers seem willing to keep writing, even in the face of comparative commercial indifference.” Short fiction as loss-leaders for novels? As hobbyist activity? via matociquala

6) Real estate agent sends listing to sf/f lit agent for two and a half million dollar mountaintop retreat, because of course her millionaire genre writers will want to snap that right up. I wish she’d linked to the listing; I’ll bet Castle would look great perched on a rough wooden bench, staring thoughtfully into the morning mist.

6a) How to get rich as a writer? (geniusofevil, skip this part) Donald Maas’s free e-book has some interesting conclusions about the things writers do and don’t do to make a six-figure salary. I can’t help but wonder if he’d get the same results if he ran that survey again.

7) International Beard and Moustache Championships. Honestly, some of these make me a little sick.

8) Homes with cats 8 times more likely to contain mrsa. Not that it isn’t totally worth the risk!!! More interesting are the things listed that do not increase the germ risk.

Quote of the day, healthcare edition


But health-care reform is not a negotiation. It’s a campaign. Reformers wants a deal, even as some differ on its precise shape. The opposition wants to kill the deal entirely. And that gives the opponents a lot more power to say “no.” “No” isn’t their fallback position. It’s their position. The supporters — if they’re not sociopaths of some sort — actually do want to extend health-care coverage to 40 million people and regulate the insurance industry and create out-of-pocket caps and make life better for millions and millions of people. That makes it hard to say “no.” Being a decent person turns out to be a terrible weakness. And the pressure is even greater because the history of this stuff is that you don’t get a deal at the end of the day. Failure isn’t an unlikely outcome. It’s the default.

— Ezra Klein. (emphasis in original) Read the rest