I've read most of Vachss's books, but there's one I missed, called Another Chance to Get It Right: A Children's Book for Adults, that was just reissued in a stunning new edition. It's a short read, with gorgeous illustrations, most of them graphic-novel style, and deals with Vachss's signature subject of child protection.
I've been getting a lot of good feedback about Livia Lone, including comparisons to Vachss's work, which is enormously flattering to me. Various people, moved by the story, have asked how they can fight human trafficking and child abuse. Well, unsurprisingly, the best child-protection initiative I’m aware of has been spearheaded by Vachss himself. It’s called The Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection, and anyone who wants to help protect children from the sorts of horrors I depict in Livia Lone can do simply by financing the work of the LDICP. I’ve done so myself and hope anyone reading this post will do so, too. For a few mouse clicks and whatever money you can spare, you can help accomplish a lot of good in the world. Do it now, while it's on your mind. You can think of it as another chance to get it right.
I've been writing about this since 2009. Obama had a duty to prosecute torture; instead, he decided to "look forward as opposed to looking backward," rendering torture a de facto policy choice instead of a crime.
If President X has the power to prohibit torture, it follows that President Y has the power to permit it. Well, now we have President Y. This was not only predictable; it was predicted.
Every 25 Seconds, Cops Arrest Someone for Drug Possession
I urge you to read this article by Alice Speri in the Intercept. 89,000 people jailed--no, not per year, per day. The war on some drugs is fantastically cruel, counterproductive, self-inflicted insanity. If it were enforced across the board--rather than disproportionately against minorities--two thirds of America's adult population would be in prison. People who support this madness: would you feel the same way if your kid decided to try a joint and wound up arrested, tried, imprisoned, permanently denied the right to vote even after released and with a permanent felon record afterward? Could you really support prohibition if you knew it would do all that to your own child, rather than assuming that kind of thing only happens to the children of others? I wish someone would ask this of candidates for high office. But we can at least ask ourselves.
Yes, the 1950's level of fear-mongering and bullshit is part of what makes this Diane Feinstein op-ed such an embarrassment. But the real propaganda lies in what's missing: zero consideration of the costs of the status quo the senator prefers--AKA, prohibition. When rational people evaluate policies, they intuitively know to weigh the costs and benefits of the available alternatives. When someone insists on discussing only the (arguable) costs of only one of the alternatives, that person has abandoned rationality--or is a deliberate propagandist. Californians, ignore the fear-mongering and the bullshit and the unreason. Rebuke the dinosaurs. Vote YES on Proposition 64 on Nov. 8.
Gripping drama, potent activism—guest blogging about Oliver Stone’s Snowden biopic over at BoingBoing today.
"The movie succeeded splendidly as popular entertainment. But there’s another level worth discussing, too. "Logically, it shouldn’t particularly matter who Snowden is. His background, his formative experiences, his motivations, his life—none of these is relevant compared towhatwe’velearnedfrom him: that the US government developed and deployed an unprecedented and illegal system of mass surveillance, foreign and domestic; that the head of the US intelligence apparatus was lying about this system in sworn testimony before a Senate oversight committee; that the NSA has been subverting the very encryption standards upon which Internet security—banking, shopping, medical, everything—depends. And so much more. In the face of government actions as toxic to democracy as these, who brought the actions to our attention seems of distinctly secondary importance. "And yet, I know as a novelist that we humans are wired to focus more on who than we are than what. If I can get you to care sufficiently deeply about my characters, for example, I can afflict them with only the most trivial travails and you’ll still be entertained. Conversely, if you don’t care about my characters, I can put in play the fate of all of civilization and you probably won’t even finish the book. There’s something about our species that makes us understand “what” at least partially through the prism of “who.” This is why so many people give the candidate of their preferred party so much latitude to violate their own party’s stated principles. When your party’s the one doing it, it just feels different. "So it's no surprise that..." Read the whole thing over at Boing Boing.
The other day, I stumbled across an excellent documentary called Deep Web, about the Ross Ulbricht/Silk Road prosecution. I'd followed the story somewhat at the time, but not closely, and the film illuminated a lot of aspects worth considering--including the societal and individual costs of drug prohibition; the dangers of prosecutorial overreach; and the ways people try to create communities beyond governmental intrusion and inanity. Fascinating and highly recommended.
My Op-Ed in Time Magazine Urging Obama to Pardon Snowden
From my op-ed in Time Magazine urging Obama to pardon Snowden: "In other words, Snowden followed his conscience. Authoritarians might condemn such a choice. Americans should celebrate it. After all, in his seminal essay “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.” And indeed, if people were intended to only and always obey the law, why would we have been given the power—and burden—of conscience? Similarly, if the president were intended always to hew to the law even at the expense of justice, why would the founders have vested the office of the president with the power of pardon?" Read the whole thing here. And please consider adding your name to this worthy effort.
There are a lot of terrific blogs out there on the world of writing, but Heart of the Matter isn't one of them. HOTM primarily covers politics, language as it influences politics, and politics as an exercise in branding and marketing, with the occasional post on some miscellaneous subject that catches my attention.
HOTM has a comments section. Sounds simple enough, but as even a cursory glance at the comments of most political blogs will show, many people would benefit from some guidelines. Here are a few I hope will help.
1. The most important guideline when it comes to argument is the golden rule. If someone were addressing your point, what tone, what overall approach would you find persuasive and want her to use? Whatever that is, do it yourself. If you find this simple guideline difficult, I'll explain it slightly differently in #2.
2. Argue for persuasion, not masturbation. If you follow the golden rule above, it's because you're trying to persuade someone. If you instead choose sarcasm and other insults, you can't be trying to persuade (have you ever seen someone's opinion changed by an insult?). If you're not trying to persuade, what you're doing instead is stroking yourself. Now, stroking yourself is fine in private, but I think we can all agree it's a pretty pathetic to do so in public. So unless you like to come across as pathetic, argue to persuade.
3. Compared to the two above, this is just commentary, but: no one cares about your opinion (or mine, for that matter). It would be awesome to be so impressive that we could sway people to our way of thinking just by declaiming our thoughts, but probably most of us lack such gravitas. Luckily, there's something even better: evidence, logic, and argument. Think about it: when was the last time someone persuaded you of the rightness of his opinion just by declaring what it was? Probably it was the same time someone changed your mind with an insult, right? And like insults, naked declarations of opinion, because they can't persuade, are fundamentally masturbatory. And masturbation, again, is not a very polite thing to do on a blog.
Argue with others the way you'd like them to argue with you. Argue with intent to persuade. Argue with evidence and logic. That shouldn't be so hard, should it? Let's give it a try.