September, 2011


30
Sep 11

The Time Has Come. We Should All Be Ashamed We Let it Go On This Long

I’m talking about women, I’m talking about Saudi Arabia. When the movement arose to support anti-apartheid in South Africa it became an international cause celebre, millions of powerful and connected people militating in every way to support Mandela. Clearly, apartheid was wrong, and South Africa had to change.

Why isn’t the same sort of thing happening for women in Saudi Arabia? This is a civil rights issue. This is a human rights issue. A woman in Saudi Arabia is going to get ten lashes for driving a car. Women are not allowed to leave the house without their faces covered, without a male escort. They are mostly not permitted any serious schooling. They have fewer freedoms than many black slaves had–at least black slaves were allowed out without their faces covered and could go into town on errands alone. Saudi women cannot currently vote but may be able to vote in “municipal” elections in 2015. (It’s not entirely certain.) They have no appreciable freedom of speech. They are second class citizens at best. They are an enslaved people. The USA stood up to South Africa–why not Saudi Arabia?

Of course, there are two glaringly obvious reasons. Oil is one–they supply a good deal of our oil and have a cozy relationship with American industry. The other reason is our strategic relationship with the Saudis (which is probably not what it seems since powerful Saudis had a hand in financing the 9/11 attacks.)

Neither reason stands up to any test of ethical justification. We should immediately make plans to organize international sanctions against the Saudis for their treatment of women. The European Union and the United States and any other country regarding itself as civilized should condemn Saudi Arabia and take active part in economic sanctions. If American and European women demand it, it’ll happen.

Another possibility should be considered by international women’s organizations. Women in oppressive Arabic countries should consider arming themselves, perhaps with the help of women’s organizations, and forming militias. Women are capable of being efficient, effective warriors. If nothing else works, women should have the opportunity to fight for their freedom, yes, with guns and bullets.

Here’s the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH report on women in Arabia.
http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2011/saudi-arabia

“Saudi Arabia continues to treat women as legal minors, allowing male guardians to determine whether a woman may work, study, marry, travel, or undergo certain medical procedures. The government has not fulfilled its 2009 pledge to the United Nations Human Rights Council to dismantle the male guardianship system… The brothers of two unrelated women-one in Buraida, the other in Riyadh-acting as their guardians, forced their sisters to marry five men each, for money and against their wills. In January 2010 a court in Qasim province sentenced Sawsan Salim to 300 lashes and one-and-a-half years in prison for appearing [in court] without a male guardian.”


29
Sep 11

If Amazon.com is as awful as it seems – Should I feel guilty?

“Former workers at a vast Amazon warehouse in eastern Pennsylvania say the LeHigh “fulfillment center” was a hellish place to work, a lengthy exposé by the Allentown Morning Call finds. Workers—most of whom were employed by a temp agency instead of Amazon itself—say they had to endure brutal heat and relentless demands to increase productivity.” (Newser)

All of my books are sold on Amazon.com. I have done promotion through Amazon. It provides distribution for certain of my books which are not easily found in chain bookstores. But first I see Amazon trying to force California not to make it collect sales tax–California badly needs that sales tax money–and now I hear of Uncle Tom’s Cabin conditions in their midwestern warehouses. It will make absolutely no difference to anyone if I choose to try to remove my books from Amazon…something I couldn’t do, for most of them, since the publishers control distribution…nor will it help for me to denounce the company. Nothing will change if I rage about the whole thing and make grand political declarations.

Nor will it help me to feel guilty to be associated with them. But I probably will feel that way, anyhow. Amazon is clearly not treating workers fairly. All I can do is write a letter to Amazon’s corporate HQ. And I will. But it seems to me that this dilemma is central to our times. I buy from stores that outsource to China where work conditions and remuneration can be appalling. I buy gas from companies that pollute–they all pollute. We’re trapped in a web of dependency on unethical corporations…


29
Sep 11

The In Extremis: The Most Extreme Stories of… page

http://www.darkecho.com/JohnShirley/in-extremis.html


29
Sep 11

Examiner.com book club feature–an interview with…

…with yours truly.

http://www.examiner.com/book-club


27
Sep 11

Cyberpunk Trilogy Reborn? Is it still Relevant? YES IT IS.

Prime Books brought out a new, OMNIBUS edition of my A SONG CALLED YOUTH trilogy: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra and Eclipse Corona.

Re editing for the new edition, I found this, written in the 1980s:

…new camera-linked computer that monitored the entry of strangers into a subscribing neighborhood — deliverymen, workmen of all kinds, would-be renters, shoppers: all were monitored. The system looked for type-anomalies, such as racial variations, economic class variations, clothing style varia¬tions; a scaling up of type anomalies might mean the neighborhood was in danger, would send a signal or hyperalertness.

The neighborhood security team that used a TADS — Type Anomalies Discrimination System — protects its neighborhood in advance, the commercial suggested soothingly. The slogan: “TADS weeds out weirdos!”

“There you go,” Smoke said, tapping the words appearing at the bottom of the screen under the TADS ad: A Second Alliance International Security Corporation product …

Sound familiar? The trilogy was prescient in more ways than one. It predicted Koch-brothers type astroturfing, media control as it’s being done now, international armies for hire, and a return of neofascism. It also predicted outfits like “Anonymous” and wikileaks.

We’re about to sign the papers for this new re-release of all three books in one volume–once that’s done I’ll announce the publisher. The deal is made but I like to sign the papers before announcing all the details…

While we’re at it, here’s something more from Eclipse Penumbra, that might sound familiar to watchers of Fox News and astroturfing media campaigns:

“In the hands of the Second Alliance the grid saturates the public with wave after wave of pseudo-information, each wave hitting all the local receiving centers, the cities, more or less simultaneously. There’s more, and coming faster, than ever before. Doesn’t matter if it’s a lie or not, it’s all information.

“People receive the information simultaneously, and they soak it up passively. If for example the government claims there’s a new strain of AIDS that you get only from talking to antiwar-activists, then fifty-seven percent of the people hooked into the Grid will believe the antiwar-activist-AIDS story implicitly, instantly. Everyone they run into has heard the same thing. They all got it at once. So it seems to confirm itself by its very instantaneous prevalence. Since no real substance exists in this hypothetical broadcast, there’s nothing much to stimulate questioning. There’s simply the basic bullshit story line, and ‘testimony’ from a few ‘experts’ the government keeps on tap for when it needs their tailor-made quotes to give the appearance of credibility. Maybe a visual flash of a chart to give us an impression that some serious study’s been done. And bang! everyone believes it. And it becomes ‘true’ for the public, as a kind of Consensus Reality develops from the instantaneousness and ubiquity of the story. That sort of thing makes the Grid a powerful tool for shaping society.

“And none of this was lost on Crandall and the other planners for the SA. The SA had the foresight to buy the world’s biggest PR outfit, Worldtalk.


25
Sep 11

Big Media Ignores Stories That Once Would Have Been Huge

“Tensions are rising at the Occupy Wall Street protest, currently in its eighth day, as organizers for the protest claim that 80 have been arrested. Eyewitness accounts report that ‘dozens’ have been arrested. Police would not confirm the exact number. Videos and eyewitness accounts show violent clashing between protesters and the police.”

Heard much about that? Not much, I reckon. National news has ignored the Wall Street protest, just as it ignored the thousands of people protesting weak Obama admin environmental decisions at the White House recently. In an earlier era, just 25 years ago, all this would’ve been covered by the press.

But Facebook changes its format–national news! All over CNN! All over radio news! Everyone reporting on it! Big stuff!

Romney and Perry, the Tea Party–every time they belch or blink it gets reportage.

Who controls the media controls the information flow; who controls the information flow shapes opinions; who shapes opinions shapes the nation.

It’s difficult to have much hope in this atmosphere. If people get frustrated enough, they’ll turn to domestic terrorism. And that will only further empower their oppressors.


23
Sep 11

The “Science-fiction future” isn’t waiting for us, it’s coming after us

Two advances that make cyborgs–and possibly “The Matrix” — more likely…

Another advance in electronic telepathy. “Welcome to the future: Scientists can now peer inside the brain and reconstruct videos of what a person has seen, based only on their brain activity. The reconstructed videos could be seen as a primitive — and somewhat blurry — form of mind reading…”

It’s here: http://www.livescience.com/16190-movies-reconstructed-brain-activity.html

AND:


“Scientists at University of Washington have built a novel transistor that uses protons, opening the door to a new class of bio-compatible solid-state devices that can potentially communicate directly with living things.”

Could be the breakthrough that makes true cyborgian interfacing possible between human tissue and advanced electronics.

That one’s at:

http://m.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/proton-transistors-to-bridge-machines-and-living-things/2849


22
Sep 11

The Death Penalty–Yes and No

My view of the death penalty is somewhat unconventional. I don’t support it and I do support it…sort of. That is, I believe that almost no executions should take place…but I’m not a purist, in opposing the death penalty. There is a place for a few select executions in a moral society.

Because of the very real possibility of an innocent man or woman being put to death, the death penalty is usually contraindicated. It’s mostly a bad idea. Lifelong incarceration is a heavy punishment. It is already a living death.

There’s another consideration, that should make us skeptical of the death penalty, one we saw dramatized in the film Dead Man Walking. Many murderers are themselves victims, are damaged people, trauma victims, who don’t really understand how they came to do what they did. We add existential insult to injury by executing them.

My feeling has always been that there are a few discrete, special instances where the death penalty can and should apply. If a serial killer is caught with overwhelming evidence, evidence which cannot be disputed–and this has happened, as in the case of that egregious monster John Wayne Gacy–then there is no concern that the wrong person will be executed. The same goes for the Hillside Stranglers. A special tribunal could be organized to determine if it’s a case of “overwhelmingly obvious guilt”.

What’s the point of executing someone like that, you ask? First of all it offers closure, to a degree, to the family of the monster’s victims. Those who say that closure doesn’t amount to enough reason have not thought about what it would be like to lose a loved one to a serial killer. It does help the victim’s family, a bit, when the murderer is erased completely from the world. It provides some psychological easement–enough to make it worthwhile.

Also, if the evidence is overwhelming, there should be an exception to the possibility of seemingly endless recourse to appeals and retrials. In the case of overwhelmingly obvious guilt–where there is undoubted evidence, eg videotapes of the murders, confessions that fit the facts, and so on–the murderer should be killed summarily, quickly, within thirty days of conviction. Not only does this provide closure for the victim’s family all the sooner, it also saves society a good deal of money. It’s tragic that we have to spend millions of dollars maintaining serial killers, providing them with attorneys, and expensive court time, in those cases where guilt is undoubted.

And in those cases, I myself do not see any evidence that the process of lethal injection is more humane than a simple, efficient hanging, wherein the neck is instantly broken, or some updated use of a guillotine. Why spend millions creating elaborate death systems for some guy who raped a little girl as he strangled her to death?

Recently a white supremacist was executed for the hate-spawned dragging death of a black man, in Texas. The man’s guilt was undoubted. The victim was dragged behind a truck for three miles–an especially heinous murder. In that instance too, I say that’s a case of especially heinous murder and overwhelmingly obvious guilt, deserving of the death penalty swiftly carried out.

But such executions would be a tiny percentage of all executions in America. Most executions are carried out for crimes of passion, robberies gone bad, and so on. While the families of the victims in those instances too might feel some closure if the death penalty is carried out, social circumstances and the possibility of misidentification make those cases unsuitable for execution. Life in prison will have to do.

So my viewpoint–oddball, if you like–is that there are a very few cases where execution seems proper: cases of especially heinous crimes combined with overwhelming evidence.

But in all other cases the death penalty should not apply.

Using those standards, almost all executions in the State of Texas, for example, would not have been carried out. Nor would Troy Davis have been executed in Georgia.


22
Sep 11

Another Blow to 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

“The aluminium-water scenario would also account for explosions from within the buildings just prior to their collapse that have fuelled conspiracy theories suggesting that the structures had been booby-trapped.”

Read about it here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iSTVCDG70jyq_LB9-GmD_HXkaXxw?docId=CNG.4da54275c5e829967a51a73342c78898.131


21
Sep 11

Examiner.com interview with…

With me, is who.

If you’re interested, follow the link. Discussion with Stephanie Schmitz of my book IN EXTREMIS, description of my forthcoming novel EVERYTHING IS BROKEN, talk of tenderized vampires and apocalyptic books for kids, dipping into gnosticism, facebook jonesing, and more.

http://www.examiner.com/books-in-charlotte/an-interview-with-bram-stoker-award-winning-author-john-shirley