Toxicity

The degree to which a substance (a toxin or poison) can harm a being varies, but it’s something we can study. Toxic behavior, especially on the male side of our society, is apparently growing like a algae bloom in an over-heated Florida lake. It’s everywhere and it’s perhaps the saddest component of our shared American cultural heritage.

Yesterday, a collection of bigots dog piled Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) after the recent opening of her movie. You can google the trash that was flung in her direction if you really want to, but I don’t recommend it. Here’s one more example of popular culture and technology colliding in a fantastic mess. And that’s how many are describing this instance, which makes me feel an additional level of sickness.

As the world adjusts to the post-Bowie era I believe it may be important for us to describe train wrecks like this with precision, to identify and even persecute those responsible. The public calumny that @Lesdoggg experienced didn’t just happen. Even if it wasn’t organized, or orchestrated, the result was the same.

Sure there’s no hate speech exception to the First Amendment, but that’s no reason it should be condoned. Twitter is a private platform, and even has policies in place to deal with this kind of activity.

  • Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
  • Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
    • if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
    • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
    • if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
    • if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
  • Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

It is, on the whole, miserably bad at enforcement of its own rules. So, how does anyone find accountability, let alone justice, in this situation?

Legally, quite a bit of what was lobbed is not protected speech. SCOTUS has ruled time and again that “true threats, fighting words, incitement to imminent lawless action, criminal solicitation or defamation” are not deserving of First Amendment protections. Twitter should be working with local law enforcement to track these folks down. And before someone starts to mansplain that this is “impossible” let me just point you to The Geography of Hate. Yes, you’re looking at geotagged tweets in the US, add the dimension of phone owner and guess what, you’ll get addresses (IP and physical).

The future of law enforcement is in data analytics.

Second, shame. It’s a powerful motivator that isn’t used effectively in society. Imagine, what if your hate speech cost you your job, your friends, and even your close or intimate relationships. Imagine if your racist uncle Bob was relegated to the back deck every Thanksgiving dinner? Let’s not tolerate this sort of BS even for a second. Learn how to correctly identify and respond toxic behavior.

For my part, I’m sorry to have seen one more woman on Twitter treated like this. It’s sick and sad.

Stop Killing People

Right now I can’t say much more than this — stop killing people. There is nothing glorious, nothing virtuous, nothing even noteworthy in a willful act of violence that robs someone of the rest of their days. It makes you a thief, it should make you a pariah. Murder is murder, regardless if it’s justified by some notion of self-defense, a government, or any of the very many reasons we use to excuse this easy and all too common behaviour. Taking a life is a sin against your own humanity.

It’s true, guns don’t kill people but inculcation in a culture of violence and easily available tools of this trade apparently raise the odds of murder significantly. Yet again I am outraged, spitting mad, two recent police killings are making the rounds and apparently people are arguing over minutiae. Whose life matters? They all do, so when one is lost stop pretending that yours is in jeopardy and at least show your remorse that someone else lost theirs. Someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s friend is dead. “All lives matter” is a distraction, an insulting madness, that ignores just one face of the beast of a social order we’re all living with.

 

An Open Letter to Key Washington State Legislators

I wrote this letter to key State representation because the current permitting process a) does nothing improve or promote public safety and b) represents an unnecessary hurdle to accessing public lands. Many tiny communities along this amazing expanse of trail are currently hurting. They are dying under many pressures, but most suffer because there simply aren’t long-term job prospects for the people who live there. They need ways to attract people to these places and all 253 miles of the John Wayne Trail are just the sort of thing to make that, at least in part, happen.


TO:

I urge you to reconsider RCW 79.73.020 and repeal permitting requirement for this section of this Rails to Trails national treasure. While the adoption of a fee and permitting system could prove helpful to the state to raise revenues necessary to better support and maintain this section of trail, the requirement appears to be in place to do no more than limit or discourage public access to public lands.

The public’s safety is not improved through the permitting process. No additional requirements or rules are passed on to the public who use this section of trail as those prohibitions called out in the WAC are prohibited broadly under current state law. Consequently, the public is required by law to enter into an archaic, bureaucratic agreement with a rural State agency unprepared to manage the system. The State gains nothing and the public, at best, must wait to be provided access.

If the State is interested in obtaining trail usage information along the Milwaukee Road Corridor it would be much better served if it installed trailhead sign-in ledgers at key locations. This would provide the state valuable usage information which could be used to better justify and potentially promote the trail as a recreation resource to the citizens of the State of Washington and the Nation at large.

If the State is interested in promoting public safety along the corridor improved signage and designated facilities at these key locations would meet that need.

Bike tourism broadly and bike packing more specifically are already very popular endeavors within the State. Anything the State of Washington can do to improve people’s access to the resources we already have should be encouraged. Both RCW 79.73.020 and DNR adopted WAC 332-52-500 do little as policy measures to this end.

Sincerely,

Matthew Alan Thyer

Vashon, WA

Happy Earth Day, Now Change

A recurrent debate that a particular subsection of the science fiction community regularly engages in attempts to answer the resolve “how will the world end?” I write a good deal of climate science fiction and consequently I have my preferences. On balance, sure, there are plenty of potential dangers to all of humanity. The rise of an incurable super bug or a sucker punch from a big space snowcone would get the job done, but most of these things are only possibilities. Possibilities that are fleetingly unlikely.

The death of a food network and major niche

The death of a food network and uncountable niches

Climate change is a sure thing. There is no probably about it. It is the face-off of the epoch: Mike Tyson on horse stimulants versus Paul Reubens with his hands tied behind his back. We don’t even get the luxury of being represented by Bruce Lee (who might have been able to keep up for a while) or Chuck Norris (who would provide us a false sense of confidence until that moment when he is hypothetically crushed). Consequently — given the near universal failure of the world’s conservation movements to change anyone’s behavior and the perfect prediction/realization record of climate science over a similar period of time — I’d say we’re good and royally fucked.
Welcome to the world you created ladies and gentlemen. The temperature record (direct measurement) begins around 1880. It’s 2016 now. In 136 years of measurements, we’ve documented the unintentional manufacture of a mass extinction event caused by a species farting itself to death.

“On this earth day, we watch climate change progressing as predicted by scientists for decades. Meanwhile, the US, the largest economy on earth, has no leadership on this issue and we continue to vote for politicians who deny the validity of basic science.” — Clay Arango

I don’t want to sound flippant or impertinent, I’m just as much responsible for this sad state of affairs as anyone else, but I woke up this morning and looked out over the water toward the volcano and noticed the brown streak of smog that had already formed from all that human activity flying along the I-5 corridor. I felt helpless and completely useless. I felt the smallness of my vote and my voice and my being against the magnitude of the universe. I hugged my youngest child because clinging to those we love is what we do when faced with our impending mortality. It is all we can do if we’re lucky, I wonder how much comfort it brings in our last moments. I’m realistic enough to realize that it may not be much comfort, if any at all, so I hug him tighter.

Volcanic casts of a family in Pompeii

Dear readers, I’d like to offer you some morsel of hope. I’d like to suggest that if we all just agreed that there was a problem we’d be able to figure a way out or around this mess. It somehow seems important to me to remind you that we can’t have nice things –Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité — if we burn down the stage where these things will be enacted. And then I acknowledge how powerless I feel to affect even minor changes, motivated by my own self-interests, in my own life. Je désolé pour tout le mal que je t’ai fait.

My Hugo Noms

I got the easy work done today and it feels good. I nominated for “best novel” category only because I knew, without needing to give it much thought, who I was going to recommend.

The Water Knife,” Paolo Bacigalupi, Vintage (April 5, 2016)
Aurora,” Kim Stanley Robinson Orbit, (July 7th, 2015)
Beacon 23: The Complete Novel,” Hugh Howey, Broad Reach Publishing (September 6, 2015)
Zeroboxer,” Fonda Lee, Flux (April 8, 2015)
The Shepherd’s Crown,” Terry Pratchett, HarperCollins (September 1, 2015)

Above you will find only what I have selected. In no way should you assume that this list is a “slate,” an errant attempt to corral votes, or a political act in any sense of the word. These are books I read last year. Honorable mention I wish I could have included in this list was john Scalzi’s “The End of All Things,” but he’s specifically asked not to be considered this year. Which is too bad, because #6 is one of my favorites.

Anyway, back to the grind.

Friday Fun Day

Rosie on the Beach

Rosie on the Beach

I’m having much difficulty digesting the idea that anyone, let alone a majority, would vote for Trump. For anything. But there it is, apparently some of you find something appealing about this two-bit flim-flam man that I just can’t see, and this has bothered me greatly all week long.

The good news is that I have outlets. I’ve written a fair amount. I’ve cleaned. I made some excellent udon. I’ve even finished re-mounting racks to my fat-bike and this morning I got out for an early season shake down ride. That was excellent! I had to turn back because of responsibilities, but man the sensation of knowing that I had everything I’d need to keep on turning the cranks for a long, long time was liberating.

Tonight I may settle down for a cuddle and a marathon session of Fire Fly with my honey. So there’s plenty to love. Plenty to be grateful for.

The When Question

Hugo2

The when question I briefly nagged about last week has been answered. So, we all have a date. And, if like me, you’re one of those people that spent last year’s award season shaking your head and mumbling “what the hell,” you now have a deadline for doing something about it. That’s right, you have between now and next Sunday at midnight to finance a minimum of a supporting membership to be part of both the 2016 Hugo nominations and voting.

Despise slate voting? Enjoy slipping thorns into the paws of Sad Puppies? Want to do something concrete and measurable to save Science Fiction? Now is your chance.