Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas at Valley Forge, 1777


With apologies to my writer friends who, I'm sure, will find a plethora of writerly errors in this first-draft manuscript, [but, DANG! I got it done in time for Christmas!] I offer my annual Christmas story.

Christmas at Valley Forge, 1777
By Suzanne Vincent

Snow fell at Valley Forge that Christmas Day.

By all apparent measures, but for the new snow, the day would be no different from the one before. Men still worked at hewing trees to build winter huts and provide firewood for the hundreds of campfires around which other sicker, weaker men huddled. The commissary still warned of perilous shortages--only 24 barrels of flour remained to feed 11,000 men and boys with no promise of supplies to come. Graves still needed digging to bury the men who had died during the night.

General Washington knew all this, as he knew every detail of the camp and the men who wintered there. The morning had seen a constant stream of Colonels and Captains coming to the command tent to report the day's conditions to him, of patrols reporting the doings of the British army, of camp doctors reporting the tolls cold and illness continued to take on the Continental army.

Near midday he refused an offered portion of gruel seasoned with a few precious grains of cracked pepper, and called an aide to his side.

"Mr. Tilghman," he said, "I wish to draft a letter to Congress."

Mr. Tilghman, as always, responded promptly, gathered paper, quills, and penknife, retrieved the bottle of ink he kept in his breast pocket to prevent it freezing, poured some ink into the inkwell, and sat at the small desk kept in the tent for this very purpose, the desk at which he had transcribed dozens of letters for the General. He expected, after the morning's grim news, that he would be sending yet another plea for food and blankets, shoes for men with nothing but rags wrapped around half-frozen feet, fodder for starving horses.

"I am ready, General," he said, his pen poised over the inkwell.

Washington did not immediately begin. He stood beside Tilghman, looking down at the empty page. He placed a long-fingered hand on Tilghman's shoulder.

"You should know," he said, "you will be transcribing my resignation."

Mr. Tilghman looked into the General's eyes. He saw nothing but weariness there and knew its source. Tilghman, one of three aides-de-camp to General Washington that December of 1777 and a member of the General's military 'family,' had seen what few others had seen. He had seen the grief and rage and tears shed for the men who had left bloody footprints on the road that climbed the hill to the Valley Forge plateau on which their camp stood, for the threats of desertion and mutiny which he could blame no one for, for the men who hungered and suffered from cold and illness with no food or coats or medicines to ease their distresses. Tilghman knew also that, were it left to him, he would have resigned long before now.

But it was not left to him. It was left to Washington, and Tilghman believed, as many others did not, that if Washington could not succeed in the cause of liberty, no one could.

"Then, it is over," he said.

Washington pulled a chair close and sat heavily in it. "I do not see how it can be otherwise," he said. "It is Christmas Day, and while our congressmen feast on goose and plum pudding and sleep in their feathered beds, the men entrusted with securing the liberty they crave starve on this God-forsaken hill." He hunched over and rested his head in his hands. "I save myself by resigning, Mr. Tilghman. It seems a conceit for me to do so, but I cannot observe the suffering of my men one more day. I sell my soul to save it."

Mr. Tilghman nodded. "I understand, Sir."

The General sat up and looked Mr. Tilghman in the eye. "I knew you would," he said. "Which is why I gave this unhappy task to you. I beg your forgiveness, Tench."

"There is nothing to forgive, General," he said.

Washington nodded and frowned. "Then we shall begin."

Tilghman dipped his pen and held it at the ready. Washington spoke.

"Addressed to Henry Laurens, President, Continental Congress, United States. Dear Mr. Laurens..."

For more than an hour, Mr. Tilghman's pen scratched gently on the paper as the General spoke, interrupted only occasionally by messengers reporting conditions, or officers bringing information from the British lines, or Tilghman's own need to cut a new nib on an overused quill. With each interruption Washington's resolve seemed to Tilghman to weaken. He paused longer before proceeding, spoke more slowly when he did. All the while the snow fell, hissing faintly on the roof and walls of the tent.

As the short midwinter day began to subside, a disturbance arose in the camp. Shouts could be heard, calls and whistles.

General Washington rose, his face pale, and went to the tent door where a guard always stood. Tilghman heard the General speaking, sending the guard off to discover the cause of it then turning to his bed where his coat and hat and gloves lay.

"Your Excellency?" Mr. Tilghman said as the General began to dress.

"We've heard rumors of mutiny for some time, Mr. Tilghman," the General said. "I fear it has finally come to that."

Tilghman abandoned his inks and pens and reached for his own coat and gloves. Without waiting for the guard to return, they walked out into the sea of tents, Tilghman jogging to keep up with Washington's long energetic stride, following the noise to its source.

There, greatly to the surprise of Tilghman and Washington, they found men gathered around a large fire, stirring a pot of something boiling thickly and singing. One among them spotted the General and called out to him in a cheerful voice:
"Hail to our Chief!"

A chorus of voices joined his:

"Good Christmas, General! May God grant that Liberty prevail! Long live the United States!"

General Washington, wide-eyed with astonishment, stuttered his own greetings of Good Christmas, and God Bless, then strode on to the next fireside where he found conditions nearly identical to the last. And the next fireside, and the next.

At one fire he waved down the chorus of good cheer and asked, "Have you not suffered enough?"

A lieutenant, his head wrapped in a tattered scarf, responded: “Having come this far," he said, "we can but go the rest of the distance. With you to lead us, we can’t lose!”

Tilghman followed on as Washington completed a round of the camp. Nowhere did they find the expected misery and mutiny. Instead they found carols of Christmas and an air of celebration. With dark descending, and the night's cold with it, the General finally made his way to the command tent. He spoke not a word, but went in, picked up the letter that lay undisturbed on Mr. Tilghman's desk, folded it once and handed it to Tilghman.

"Burn it, Mr. Tilghman," he said, "then see that I'm left alone for a time, will you?"

Mr. Tilghman folded the letter again and tucked it into his breast pocket, then helped the General with his coat and hat, then turned to exit the tent again. As he did, he glanced one last time at Mr. Washington, and saw the General lowering himself to his knees.

Outside, Mr. Tilghman gave orders to the guard to see that the General was not disturbed, then started off toward the nearest fire, joining in on the song. "Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel."


NOTE: As far as I have been able to discern, the historical information in this story is factually correct. The Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge on December 19th, 1777. Most would still be in tents, with little time or able-bodied manpower to have made much progress building the 12' by 16' winter huts Washington had ordered. The General, in empathy with his troops, remained in a tent himself until most of the huts had been completed some weeks later. Tench Tilghman was, in fact, an aide-de-camp of General Washington's at Valley Forge that Christmas and would have been as likely as any of the other two then serving to have transcribed the letter he began to Congress. I suspect Washington might not have chosen Col. Robert Henry Harrison, as Harrison suffered from chronic illness; or that he would have chosen John Laurens to whose father (then President of Congress Henry Laurens) the letter may very well have been addressed.

Washington wasted no time seeking to rectify the lack of provisions as best he could from his end, sending out an order that Christmas Day that the following day (Dec 26th) detachments, under the order of the Commissary General, would be sent out "for the purpose of collecting flour, grain, cattle and pork for the army."

However, as the hardships of my ancestors strengthened their resolve as Mormon Pioneers, so did the hardships of that winter of 1777, and the help of a few key men, strengthen the resolve of the Continental Army and see them emerge in the spring a force to be reckoned with--as would be seen.

Among my sources, I viewed several pages of The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress website. Most of the papers are images of the actual letters written by, for, or to Washington. Some are transcribed into a more readily readable modern font format. At any rate, they are fascinating to search and view. You can find them here:


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Presents or Pinochle? Withholding vs. Unfolding a Story


Is your story developing like a Christmas present or a game of Pinochle?

Hopefully you're NOT writing a Christmas present.

'Huh?' you say. 'But I like opening Christmas presents.'

Who doesn't?

But a Christmas present withholds information until the moment you open it to find out what it is. Writers should NEVER withhold information that is important to the development of the story. An artfully constructed story is not JUST about the present. But once you've opened a present all the carefully folded wrapping paper, the artfully tied bows, the layers of bubble wrap are all tossed in the trash, forgotten for the sake of the gift itself.

A writer doesn't want to have those things forgotten. He wants them to be just as memorable and important as the resulting present.

An example: I recently slushed a story in which the author withheld all the important information about the storyline and the main character until, literally, the last 2 paragraphs. I'm sure he intended it to be clever and surprising. Instead it was disappointing and misleading, and when you mislead your readers you betray their confidence in you, the writer. Sure, the ending was memorable, but the story showed itself to be just a bunch of cheap paper and curl ribbon.

So really, a well-constructed story should not be like a Christmas present, regardless of how wonderful presents are.

A well-constructed story SHOULD be like a game of Pinochle.

I've been playing Pinochle for coming up on thirty years. It's an intricate game of luck and strategy.

The game of Pinochle begins with the entire 48 card deck being dealt to the four players. At the beginning of each hand I hold 1/4th of the available cards. That's a considerable amount of information to begin a game with. From those 12 cards, a seasoned player can tell a great deal about how the game may play out. As the hand continues, I receive more bits of information gleaned from the bids of the other players, the suit called as trump, the exchange of cards, the melding of certain cards for points, all followed by the meticulous playing of tricks that ends the hand.

The game is never boring, often surprising, but instead of having information withheld from me, the information UNFOLDS at the precise moment when it is crucial to the game.

For example, if I take the bid and am able to construct myself a sizeable number of points, I still must remove the power cards from the hands of my opponents and win tricks in order to keep those points. While I know which cards I'm missing, I don't know for certain who has them. In some instances the very outcome of the game depends on the distribution of those cards, and the resulting play, whether for good or bad, is always a surprise and a delight, even though I've made good, educated guesses at the potential outcomes beforehand.

The interesting part of the game is not in KNOWING how the game will play out, nor is it in being COMPLETELY CLUELESS as to how the game will play out, it's in being fascinated with how the game--despite or because of my clues, information, and guesses--ACTUALLY plays out. The same is true of good story construction.

Unfolding. A story, like a game of Pinochle, should unfold.

In order for that to happen, a writer must be open about a few things, and open about them in the first few lines (paragraphs for longer stories or novels) of the story.

Some absolute basics:
*Too many writers withhold the very name of their main character. Why? I scratch my head over this one. When you give your character a name, especially in the first line of your story, you give your read a familiar arm on which to enter the party. It seems overly simplistic--like looking at the serpent on the staff. Unlike the disbelieving Israelites, JUST DO IT.

*Establish time frame and setting immediately. Don't take your guest into the party blindfolded.

*Establish a conflict early. Giving your main character a problem provides the reader with a 'talking point' at the party. He immediately becomes concerned with the main character and wants to see the problem solved (translate: he CARES).

*Open the story with action, rather than inaction. Don't take your guest into the party before it begins, or after all the exciting events have already taken place. Things HAPPEN at a party, your story should be about things happening, not about things that will eventually happen or have already happened.

These principles are like the deal at the beginning of a Pinochle game. You have your hand. Now let the story unfold.

Another important principle related to UNFOLDING a story has to do with Point of View. If you do not have a clear grasp on the mechanics and importance of Point of View to a story, you need to stop now, buy a copy of Orson Scott Card's Character and Viewpoint, and read it cover to cover three times.

Too many beginning writers fail to understand that your reader sees what's happening through your POV character's eyes, therefore, what the POV character knows, the reader should know. What the POV character discovers should be discovered by the reader at the exact same moment.

If your character walks into a room, sees a beautiful woman, describes her in loving detail, walks up to her then says, "Hi, honey," she turns and kisses him and says to the people around her, "This is my husband, Paul," you've withheld crucial information that your POV characters knows.

It's confusing, it's demeaning to your reader, it's withholding, and I see it far too often.

That scene should look like this:

Paul shook the rain from his hair as he entered the gallery. He saw Grace near the Gaugin, talking with a group of people he didn't know. She seemed to know them all, laughing with them like they were old friends, one of the men--an Armani-suited blonde jock-type--stood close enough anyone might have guessed HE was her husband.

A waiter came by with a tray of champagne flutes. Paul took one, sipped at it, stood there watching her. He liked watching her, to see her smile, to see her laugh, to know she would leave the gallery with him tonight, not the jock with the expensive suit.

Finally, like he knew she would, she turned to look for him, her neck craning, her lips parting, her head twisting this way and that, causing her hair to sway just so. When her eyes found his he smiled and waved, then worked his way through the crowd to put his arm around her, kiss her lightly on the cheek, and see her eyes light up when he whispered "I put your purse in the trunk" in her ear as if it were something sensual.

Grace turned to the jock. "Eddy, this is my husband, Paul."

Paul shook the man's hand.

"Paul," she went on, "my cousin, Eddy."

Before you tell me that last line is withholding, let me tell you you're wrong. Grace isn't the POV character. Paul is. Paul doesn't know Eddy, never met him. He knows (or guesses) only that Grace knows him, therefore that's what the reader knows. If this scene had been written in Grace or Eddy's POV, and that information had been withheld until that last sentence, then it definitely WOULD be withholding.

This article addresses story development through conflict, and while it's geared towards literary fiction writers, it's precepts are applicable to all fiction writers. Pay special attention to section 2: Be Dramatic in Storytelling.

Conflict in Literary Fiction

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New NEW Low in Submission Etiquette

Get this:

A novella.

Someone sent us a novella.

Is the name of our site not clue enough that we don't publish novellas?

*shakes head*

Maybe we need to call ourselves Flash Fiction (not novellas or poems or oddly formatted stories) Online.

Think it'd work?

Me neither.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Low in Submission Etiquette

An editor I know received a submission that was, get this, landscape format AND in all-caps.


Note to submitters: Don't do this. Ever.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I belong to a reading group, and it's an awesome reading group, populated by writers and editors and such-like.

This month's book is called Casting Spells. It's a romance. There are only a few genres I very rarely read. Romance is one of them.

I'm having a very hard time reading this book.

It's not awful. It really isn't. It has an engaging narrative style, it's witty, it's got the makings of a pretty good storyline. I've tried to read MUCH worse published fiction, like Stephanie Meier's The Host. But I'm reading The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip as well, and the two just don't compare. It's like switching back and forth from Masterpiece Theater to Sesame Street.

So what do I do? We're meeting next week, though I'll probably only go if I can get someone to come with me. I'm horrible at night driving, and night driving an hour away is darned near terrifying.

But just say I find someone to come with me? What do I do? Do I read the book, even though I'd rather be reading (or SHOULD be reading, a.k.a. slush) something else? Do I NOT read the book and go to the book group and tell them I just couldn't get through it?

What would YOU do?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Feel Goods!

One of the worst parts about editing for a fiction magazine is sending out rejections.

Well, I lie. I can't say it's ALWAYS the worst. Sometimes I really enjoy it. But only rarely. Only when a writer clearly disregards all guidelines of decorum and street smarts. When self-proclaimed experienced writers are snooty, thinking they're too important to follow our submission guidelines, or making sure I understand just how important they are.

But most writers aren't like that.

At FFO we go through a great deal of extra work to provide friendly, positive, helpful rejections--especially to those writers who make it past our first round of the selection process. I collect, save, and send comments form our editorial team about their stories, for which most are very appreciative.

Some even blog about how appreciative they are. I LOVE those kind of writers. They make me see how worthwhile the effort is.

Like this guy. Jay Garmon.


Thanks, Jay!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Articles for Writers

Great article from Writer Beware's Victoria Strauss on, well, articles!

Articles for Writers

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ant & the Grasshopper

Remember that timeless fable? Remember the lesson it teaches? That lesson is as timeless and true today as it ever was. Or is it?

Here's a retelling for modern times:

The ant works
hard in the withering heat and the rain all
summer long, building his house and laying up
supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper
thinks the ant is a fool
and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering
grasshopper calls a
press conference and demands to know why the
ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold
and starving.

show up to
provide pictures of the shivering
grasshopper next to a
video of the ant in his
comfortable home with a table filled with food.

is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this
poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on
Oprah with the grasshopper
and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy
Being Green.'

ACORN stages a
demonstration in front of the ant's house
where the news stations film the group singing,
“We shall overcome.”
Then Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the
group kneel down to pray to God for the
grasshopper's sake.

President Obama
condemns the ant and blames President
Bush, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus,
and the Pope for the grasshopper's plight.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid
exclaim in an interview with
Larry King
that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the
grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the
ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC
drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act
retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate
number of green bugs
and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive
taxes, his home is confiscated by the
Government Green Czar and given to the

The story ends as we see the grasshopper
and his free-loading friends finishing up the last
bits of the ant’s food
while the government house he is in, which, as
you recall, just happens to be the ant's
old house, crumbles around them because the
grasshopper doesn't maintain it.

The ant has
disappeared in the snow, never to be seen again.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and
the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders
who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and
once peaceful, neighborhood.

The entire Nation collapses
bringing the rest of the free world with it.

Be careful how you vote in

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poetic Justice for Stimulus Opponents

Heard on the news today that Ford, who did NOT take stimulus money, is on track to the black. They've pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, all on their own, and are FAR ahead on the road to recovery of Chrysler and GM, whose efforts to revitalize have been crippled by the heavy hand of self-imposed government enslavement.

Ford took a lot of criticism at the time.

Now they're proving, again, I might add (Ford refused government help during the Great Depression as well), that the American Way is NOT the government's way.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Truthism 2

"If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms."

John F. Kennedy

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Truthisms, to me, are quotes that just ring true right down to your very core, like this one:

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
- P. J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Submitting Short Stories: An Editor's Plea


...read the submission guidelines. I had to reject a full 1/5th of the stories I slushed today because of submission guidelines violations. It wastes my time and makes you look lazy. I've worked hard to get myself where I am. I expect the same of you.

...avoid using strange formatting, or odd fonts, or variations in the spacing between paragraphs, or... I could go on all day. How your manuscript LOOKS does make a difference in how I FEEL about it. If it looks neat and clean and professional, I'll treat it with a great deal more respect. The vast majority of the stories that end up being published are neat, clean, professional-looking manuscripts. People who care about their writing show it by the care they take preparing their manuscripts. Follow this link to a great article on manuscript formatting:
A Guide to Manuscript Formatting

...proofread your story with your own eyes--or better yet, someone else's. Don't rely on spelling/grammar check software. One or two missed minor errors is not a big deal. It happens to everyone--even the pros. But a lot of errors in your manuscript makes me think you don't take this writing thing as seriously as I expect you to if we're going to pay you for a story.

...don't submit stories told from a cat's POV. (OK, that ones mostly a personal preference. Mostly.) ;-)


Editor Dakota

Great Quote--Just Wish I Knew Where It Came From

I like good quotes. I have a collection of them. I don't like it much when quotes come to me without credit for who said them. As in days of old, we relegate them to that oft-quoted shadow-figure, Anonymous.

Well, here's another one:

"Obama's Health Care Plan will be written by a committee whose head says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it and whose members will be exempt from it, signed by a president who smokes, funded by a treasury chief who did not pay his taxes, overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that is broke.

What could possibly go wrong?"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Obama's Nobel Unconstitutional?

Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution is not overly familiar to most Americans, but it should be.

Here it is:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

Now read this column:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Health Care Bill? WHAT Health Care Bill?

A quote from Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R, Minnesota) said this about the "Health Care Bill" that congress 'voted' on this week:

"...not one word of a law has been written yet and these people took a vote on a bill that hasn't been written. What's worse is the federal government estimated how much this bill would cost. You can't estimate how much it's going to cost if you don't have words on a sheet of paper telling you this is the actual bill language. One word can make all the difference in the bill, and they don't have one word written of an actual legislative language. This is a travesty."

Amen, Congresswoman Bachmann!

Yet another testament to the fact that our government is completely incapable of administering ANYTHING.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Should-Have-Been #2

The Smile Foundation.

The Smile Foundation is an organization of medical professionals who donate time and resources to perform facial surgery on children in developing nations who suffer from palate and other cranio-facial deformities.

These children are not only given the gift of being able to do things such as eat and breathe normally, but they are given the gift of social acceptance in societies in which they are often shunned by their peers, viewed as the product of wickedness, hidden away, or abandoned and left to die.

Nobel Should-Have-Been #1

The Grameen Foundation.

The Grameen Foundation is an organization that has worked to pull people worldwide out of poverty through low-interest microfinance loans to help them establish small businesses. This program has especially helped women and children in the world's poorest nations.

Obama Wins Nobel? Are You Kidding?

When I think of the Nobel Peace Prize, I think of giving the award to a person who has spent a lifetime achieving, working, molding a world that is better for everyone.

But 9 months? Really? Is 9 months long enough for someone, especially someone in a position similar to President Obama's, sufficient time to prove what kind of person he is, and to accomplish much of anything by way of world peace?

No. It's not.

Astoundingly, I'm not railing against President Obama today. I'm railing against the Nobel committee and lamenting a world apparently bereft of people truly deserving of the prize.

In my eyes, the Nobel committee just lost enough credibility as to make them irrelevant. But I guess they've been without any real credibility for some time--at least since awarding the prize to Yasser Arafat in 1994, and to alarmist hypocrite Al Gore in 2007.

So why, in light of the Nobel's lost grace, do we care?

Because we should. We should care that the most prestigious prize of any sort, the prize that is known by people worldwide, doesn't mean anything anymore. We should care that the world is apparently so bereft of good people doing good things that the Nobel committee decided it was a good idea to award the prize to an untried American president who hasn't had time to accomplish much of anything--I mean, besides tripling the deficit and dividing the nation even further than it was before his election and proving himself to be just another elitist politician in a position of power.

Where are all the good men and women of the world?

I'll have to look around and see if I can find some.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Interesting Quote

Do not blame President Obama, blame the people of America who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions . . . . Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Capitol of the 'new, wonderful good society' which shall now be America's, interpreted to mean 'more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.' Obama was always an ambitious villain, but he is only one man.

Now, read the quote as it originally appeared:

Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions . . . . Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the 'new, wonderful good society' which shall now be Rome's, interpreted to mean 'more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.' Julius was always an ambitious villain, but he is only one man.

Thank you, Cicero, for showing that truth is truth, no matter how ancient, no matter how modern.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I read a recent article on Newsweek.com entitled, "Play the Race Card," by Raina Kelley.

The most ridiculous statement:

"When "Tea Party" leader Mark Williams appears on CNN and speaks of "working-class people" taking "their" country back from a lawfully elected president, he is not just protesting Obama's politics; he is griping over the fact that this country's most powerful positions are no longer just for white men."

How do you explain that? How do you justify that? How does she expect racism to be an issue of importance to ANYONE when she inflames it in this way?

A few points about racism:

1. The very term is becoming twisted to mean something it does not. It doesn't just mean hatred or mistrust or prejudice of someone based on color of skin or nationality. Now it means disagreeing with someone with a different color of skin or nationality. Did these people never learn the basics of logic? Is common sense lost altogether? I mean, really people. White people were key in electing President Obama. Now, however, those who voted against him and those who have now turned against him have done so entirely because of his race. No other reason. Really? Couldn't POSSIBLY be his Marxist policies and the corruption he surrounds himself with.

2. Racism seems to be the only weapon the hard-line left has to combat the conservative revolution that's taking place in the nation right now. They can't argue facts--because they're either too embarrassing and revealing or they simply don't know them. They can't defend their position based on constitutional principles, because their positions fly in the face of constitutional principles. So they're trying their darndest to paint those who question or disagree with their agendas as stupid, violent, racist, zealots. Hmm. Interesting correlation between this unfounded attack and the propaganda Hitler spread about Jews, et. al.

I'm beginning to think the comparisons between President Obama and his administration and hard-line communists, fascists, Marxists, and socialists aren't all that off the mark.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The President's Speech to School Children

We read it, and watched it, and talked about it, as all families should have been able to do.

My 5th grade daughter--bored to tears, as I'm sure most elementary aged children must have been.

My 10th grade son--he's reading 1984 right now and kept thinking of the constant mantra throughout the book to 'do your duty for the nation.'

Me--it sounded like he was trying to get these kids used to the idea that they would have to work hard their whole lives, not so they could succeed and live comfortable lives, but so they could "do their duty to the nation" and pay back the enormous financial mountain he and his predecessor have heaped on these kids' shoulders.

I give it 1 1/2 stars out of, oh, say 10.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

9-12 Rally in Ogden? Anyone?

I live in Ogden. I don't take the local Ogden paper. I can't find any information on the internet that doesn't involve selling my soul to obtain.

We have some severe time constraints on the 12th, but would like to participate where possible.

IS there a 9-12 rally happening in the Ogden area?


Weber County?

Davis County?

Box Elder County?


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Utah 9-12 Project

Can someone direct me to a Utah 9-12 webpage that doesn't completely suck?

The few I found are severly outdated (Ogden), don't have any plans for a local 9-12 rally (Weber--though they do have a Constitution Day meetup planned, which is cool), don't have any links to any OTHER 9-12 rallies they support, or are membership exclusive (Utah912.ning.com).

That last on irks me the most. Now membership is fine if I'm going to post comments or join their forums, but, damn. I should at least be able to access information about Saturday's rally without being forced to fill out their (IMO) overly intrusive membership application. Give me a freakin' break.

And they spout Glenn Beck all over their main page, but has anyone there bothered to make rally information available on the National 9-12 site that's linked to Glenn's website? Any of them? No. That would apparently involve too much common sense.

Maybe they need to re-read Glenn's book.

This is the best one I've found thus far:


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seeking to Understand 'Progressives': Service

From this point on I'll call what were formerly known as 'liberals,' 'progressives,' since it seems to be the currently preferred term. Over the past few years the word 'liberal' has taken on a decidedly negative slant, but in terms of political beliefs, it seems plain that 'progressive' is interchangeable with 'liberal.'

So what do Progressives seem to believe about service?

We can certainly stand on some common ground here. Service is doing and giving to help someone else, particularly someone in need. Right?

We can, I hope, also agree that service is good, though progressives might say that conservatives are heartless, despite the fact that recent studies show conservatives are far more charitable than progressives. Like 30% more, despite bringing home 6% less income.

The difference between conservatives and progressives lie mainly in beliefs on the role of government in service.

Progressives believe that government should step in and tax the populace to provide goods and services for the less fortunate.

Conservatives believe that doing so is not within the bounds for the federal government established by the Constitution, and that service is far better given on an individual, family, and community level. This is what I believe.

If you hadn't guessed my position on the issue by now, it might be a good idea for you to look through some of my recent blogs. But in case you're coming into my string of essays late, I'm a conservative. Probably more conservative than most.

But I'd like to state my reasons why I believe this way about service (You may freely interchange the word 'give' with 'serve' throughout this essay):
1. More than a conservative, I am a constitutionalist. I believe that among the many aspects of life in which there are absolutes (take mathematics, for example, and that normal healthy babies will cry when they're hungry, and that the sun will rise in the east), the Constitution carefully recognizes that the human family possesses certain absolute rights, and was carefully designed to protect those rights. In my essays on "Liberty and the Constitution," and "Equality," I talk about these rights. Read those essays if you need to. I'm not going to repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that I do not believe the Constitution at all qualifies the federal government to provide what are collectively called entitlements. The states on the other hand--that's arguable. And there are reasons for that, the most important one being that the state governments are far closer and more beholden to the people, with whom the ultimate power over government should lie.
2. By its very definition, service is a) voluntary and b) unpaid. Which leads to:
3. Service by compulsion is NOT service, and paid service is otherwise known as 'employment.' While both might be used to accomplish much good, neither can, by any definition of common sense, be called 'service.'
4. When we compel someone to serve, we rob that person of the privilege of service, whether they are willing or not.
5. When we compel someone who is UNWILLING to serve, we very egregiously rob that person of personal liberties, of the right to choose for himself how he will live his life, who and how (or even IF) he will choose to serve. Should we not be free to choose for ourselves whether we will be good men or, well, not so good?
6. Exchanging service for college credit or extra credit or makeup for missed classes is not service. Such actions constitute payment--and in some cases in which high schoolers must log service hours to avoid failing a class, compulsion.
7. It should be the right and privilege of every human being to render service anonymously, and by his or her own choosing.
8. The founders designed the Constitution with the intent that the ladder of service would work this way:
The first rung of service would be service to self--in other words, self-reliance, solve your own problems if at all possible.
The second rung of service is family--seek help from immediate and extended family if the problem cannot be solved on your own.
The third rung of service is church--if you and your family are unable to solve the problem appeal to your church for help, but only after you have exhausted the resources of the first two rungs.
The fourth rung of service is the community, town, city.
The fifth rung of service is the state.
There IS not higher rung of service. The federal government should NEVER become involved in the service ladder.


I've hinted at it before. Because the federal government is SO far up the ladder from the individual in need at the bottom of the ladder, a two-fold dilemma is created.

First, the individual at the bottom of the ladder appeals to an overly impersonal source for help, without properly realizing that the help really doesn't come from the federal government but from his neighbors who pay taxes. We see this over and over. We can see the damaging results of this sort of thing in the nation's slums. The only real good being done in our slums is being done by local efforts--local ministers and churches who minister in homeless shelters, school principles who go against the grain and implement policies that create a healthy and encouraging learning environment for needy children instead of simply housing them until they drop out, parents who strictly enforce curfews and behavior standards in their children, neighbors who mentor the children of single mothers. That's where the real successes are coming from. Think about it. If you had to go to your pastor for help, every time you sat in the congregation, every time the collection plate passed over your hands, you would be reminded exactly who was providing you with service. You would be sitting next to them, in front of them, behind them. You would necessarily have to look some of them in they eye. You would be unable to help feeling a sense of responsibility to those from whom your help cometh--to be Biblical.

Second, the government bureaucracies at the top of the ladder are so far removed from the individual at the bottom of the ladder, they have lost any capability of acting with a) compassion and b) enforcement of responsibility for those who are receiving the aid. In stark contrast, church provided service is almost sticky with compassion. It's personal. It's face to face. It changes lives for the better and encourages gratitude. With very few exceptions, you don't see that sort of thing at the government office welfare lines. What you see is demand, a feeling of entitlement, at best a feeling of resignment as even the most desperate and hopeful lose their naivete in the impersonal paperwork, and loss of respect and service they face at the doctor's office and the grocery store.

The top of the ladder is also FAR too distant from the people who must necessarily FUND these programs, causing resentment every time the tax bill comes, every time a paycheck shows a huge federal bite taken out of it for no apparent good reason. It doesn't matter if you're one of those people who are glad to hand over your money to the federal government. If you have even ONE neighbor who is not happy to do so, you are perpetuating his loss of liberty, his loss of self-determination. It's simple common sense. When I can take my money in my hand, feed those numbers into a budget, pass that money on to the grocer or the gas company, there is a feeling of empowerment and self-reliance. When I can see my money feeding my family, helping a neighbor in need, putting clothes on my children's backs, I feel considerably more secure and helpful than if I were to drop my money into a dark, bottomless well with the hope it will do some good. Because that's what the federal government is--a dark, bottomless well that takes all control, security, self-reliance, and confidence (not to mention the personal touch) away from the person who actually earns and, more importantly, gives the money. As it should, this dark well breeds resentment BECAUSE it results in insecurity.

As it should.

Because that's another area in which conservatives and progressives differ.

Conservatives believe (at least I believe) that it is the duty of every citizen to distrust our leaders enough that we will keep a sharp eye on their actions and remove them from office if they betray our trust.

My resources are taken by compulsion to give to 'charities' that I would not otherwise choose to support.

My trust is gone.

I'm watching.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On Equality

The more I read and research, the more I begin to understand the Liberal mind.

Understand, mind you. Not empathize with.

I am beginning to understand how Liberals view the term 'equality.' In a twist of hypocrisy, equality seems to mean 'sameness' from a political philosophy that spouts 'diversity' from its lips like a fountain of poison.

I've also come to understand that there is no principle or tool sacred enough or good enough that it cannot and will not be twisted beyond recognition into something it was never intended to be, into something that delivers as much evil as it does good.

Television is a prime example. Philo T. Farnsworth's intent for TV was for it to be a tool for education. It is that. But as a source of entertainment it has brought untold societally destructive, mentally barren, emotionally disturbing content into our homes. Internet is another. As an amazing resource of information, the internet has allowed people to be informed in a way never dreamed of by Thomas Jefferson and co. What has become its single most popular use? Pornography.

The same warping of good THINGS can be done with good WORDS.

When the founders were drafting the Constitution and the Declaration, they chose their words carefully, often debating for hours or day on end over the wording of this phrase or that. They wanted these documents to be so clearly and concretely understood (concrete, not shifting sand the way liberals would like to convince themselves it is) that no one could possibly misinterpret what they intended. But language is language, and humans are humans. Language can be used to twist meanings, it can be abused and misinterpreted in any number of ways, especially as our language grows and expands well beyond the vocabulary of 222 years ago. And humans will always use language to twist those meanings to serve their own purposes or philosphies.

But the Constitution is not a document written on sand. It cannot be. Because there is one thing that never changes, that is as hard and lasting as diamond. That is Human Nature. And the Constitution must stand as a barrier to the nature of man to seek power and authority and tyranny.

Human nature, over and over, for thousands upon thousands of years, and still, and always, will lead men in power to abuse that power. And the larger and more powerful we make our government, by giving it more and more control over the daily administration of our lives, the more likely it is that our leaders will abuse that power, that tyranny will prevail, that freedoms will be lost. Is it happening?

Can you really deny that it is not? Can you name one aspect of your life in which the government, in one form or another is NOT involved?

The majority of our members of congress are so far removed from the lives and loves and needs and wants of the people they serve, they cannot possibly govern us effectively. Ted Kennedy never held a private sector job. He never served in the military. He lived his life either in public office or sequestered on Kennedy family properties. He is an example of the loss of actual equality in this country.

Equality. What is it? ARE all men created EQUAL?

In one aspect it's a ridiculous statement. All you have to do is look around you, at your neighbors and friends, your church congregation, at the grocery store. Obviously we're not equal. We plainly have differences in natural skills and physical attributes, development, emotional stability, strength, intelligence, self-motivation. For the most part these attributes are innate, but can be manipulated and developed through hard work.

But in these, people CANNOT be equal. We can't force citizen A, who lacks the genetics for large muscle development, to go to the gym more so he'll be as strong as citizen B wo has the right genes. We can't force a guy with the mental capacity of a 6-year-old to learn calculus. But we could, it seems, force things in the other direction. We COULD force the muscular guy into a sedentary lifestyle so he becomes as weak as the other. We could fail to educate or even surgically remove the ability of the mathematician to use calculus.

And in a way isn't that what we're doing? Isn't that what the President wants? He calls it 'spreading the wealth.' He is taking the achievement of the productive and giving it to the non productive to create his version (the liberal version) of equality.

But this is not the equality to which the Declaration and the Constitution refer. This is NOT and should not be the goal of society. Such a definition of equality gives 'rights' to some at the expense of the Rights of others to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The equality guaranteed by the Constitution and by God is this:

Equal in the sight of God (and the meaning and implementation of that is God's alone);
Equal in the sight of the law;
Equal in the protection of their rights (Don't lose sight of what they are--Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.)

Equal Justice before the law, NOT equal advantages throughout life. Equal opportunity, NOT equal results.

To remain a free society, we must be equal, ALL of us:
'at the bar of justice'
'at the ballot box' (unless you're a member of a union that refuses the right of secret ballot)
'in educational opportunity' (NOT educational provision)
'in the oppportunity for employment' (again, NOT provision of employment)
'in practicing religion'
'in expressing our views'
'in the press'
'at public and government meetings'
'in the opportunity to purchase goods and services'
'in the opportunity to prosper as a result of our own labors'
'in taxation'
'to protect and defend our lives and property'

(Let's take a moment here to distinguish between 'opportunity' and 'provision,' which are two words liberals often lump together. 'Opportunity' means that the option is there IF you are willing to work hard enough for it. Every person in this country has the opportunity to become fabulously wealthy if they are willing to do what it takes to get themselves there--which means a LOT of personal study, hard work, sacrifice, and risk. Not everyone is willing, therefore not everyone is entitled. 'Provision' means to provide for. We do NOT have a responsibility to provide education or health care or welfare to anyone. We do have the responsibility to provide everyone with equal access to the opportunity, through personal study, hard work, sacrifice, and risk, to provide these things for themselves.)

The Bill of Rights were specifically written to make it quite clear which rights were viewed as protected by the equality statement, because there were members of the delegation who were anxious--and rightly so--that these basic rights might not be interpreted as such in the wording of the Constitution if not explicitly stated so.

So how are we doing? Are we all equal before the law?

As an example, Teddy Kennedy murdered a girl in 1969 but was charged only with 'leaving the scene of an accident.' If the exact same thing had happened to Joe Q. Public, he would have been charged with crimes ranging from drunken driving, to vehicular homicide.

Another example, President Obama has repeatedly chosen people to fill his cabinet who have been found to be tax cheats. After claiming 'errors' in their tax preparation methods, they went on with life (some being appointed anyway) without even a slap on the wrist from the IRS. Would that happen to us?

Liberals like to claim that we have a right to health care. How equal are we in that arena? Congress enjoys premium health care and retirement benefits that they have no intention of extending to the American people. (Never mind that they are Constitutionally forbidden from even attempting to do so.)

How equal are we in what Congress does and what they expect of us?

Al Gore is a fine example of the hypocrisy of our elected leaders. While not currently in office, he exemplifies so very many who are. He wants to see massive legislation enacted that would severely limit our freedom as consumers and homeowners in the name of the environment, but does he live by these restrictions himself as an example to all of what we can do? No. His estate in Tennessee is one of the largest single users of both water and electricity in that state. He drives huge gas-guzzling SUVs and pruchases 'carbon credits' to 'offset' his groteque wastefulness.

Oh, yes, my friends. THAT's equality. Pfsh!

I don't want to leave you with the impression that I hate the rich. I don't. I actually love the rich. Because of the rich my husband has a job, I have a home, my children have clothes on their backs and the refrigerator is full. Because of the rich I have hope that someday, if I work hard enough, I can be rich, too. Because of the rich, this country has progressed from a backwoods agrarian economy to the most vibrant and innovative nation in history.

No. I don't hate the rich.

I hate hypocrisy.

In speaking of equality, my liberal friends will be quick to point out the lack of equality provided for in the Constitution for women and slaves.

My answer is this:

Equality for ALL was in the constitution well before votes for women or freedom for slaves were specifically enacted. In an unfortunate irony, a level of freedom never before seen on earth occurred at the expense of the perpetuation of slavery. It was a sacrifice for which we honor those slaves who suffered for an additional 80 years in order that freedom might ring for others and create a nation that would provide their descedants with an unprecedented level of freedom, unknown by their African relatives throughout the world even today. Without the slavery compromise, the Constitution, even the United States, would never have come to be.

On voting, the original voting law--in a society in which the smallest unit of society was the family, rather than the individual as it is today--called for one vote per household, with the husband or some adult male of the house being the one who would cast the vote.

On the surface it sounds sexist, and in a way I suppose it was for those few women who were actual heads of household.

But consider this: If your vote depended on a discussion of the issues with the members of your household before that vote was cast, how much more informed would we necessarily HAVE to be as a voting public?

I would also argue that the era of family, as opposed to our current era of the individual, most women enjoyed a greater familial relationship with their husbands, and would never have considered that their rights were being compromised or that their husbands were abusing their husbandly power in casting the household vote. I would argue that women enjoyed considerably more respect from their husbands in those times than now, that families who must, by necessity, work for a common cause are more strongly united in every way, and that the right of a woman to vote individually would have been an almost completely irrelevant point. I would argue that we have far digressed as a society when we have the need for individual votes for women. I would treasure the necessity of sitting down with my husband and family and discussing the issues, studying the facts and politicians, before deciding upon and casting our family vote.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Liberty and the Constitution

It seems these days that Liberty isn't spoken of much.

No wonder so many are willing to give it up for the shadowy sense of security they believe government control over health care, industry, and welfare offers. They don't even know what Liberty is, let alone what it means to their ways of life, their pasts, their futures.

So let's talk about Liberty. Capital L Liberty.

The founders, in their wisdom and from their vast stores of knowledge (to tell you the truth, folks, they'd put today's college graduates to shame with the level of learning they had achieved by age 16 or so) declared that humankind, merely by existing, possesses three rights--Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--and that these rights are granted not by man, but by God, or by the cosmos, or by existence itself if you're an atheist.

Life is easily explained. We have the right to physical existence, and anyone who takes a life NOT in defense of his OWN life violates the right of another. Since God grants us life AND the power to create new life, I believe that this right extends to the unborn as well, and that abortion is acceptable when the mother's right to life is in danger or when her Liberty has been violated through rape or incest.

The Pursuit of Happiness is probably the least easily explained of the three. According to the founders, as INTENDED by the founders, we define the Pursuit of Happiness as the Liberty to live in the style to which we can achieve through the free exercise of living, working, buying, selling, loving, worshipping, etc. A simple but effective explanation is "the freedom to buy, the freedom to sell, the freedom to try, the freedom to fail." It does NOT mean that happiness is guaranteed. It does NOT mean that happiness is dependent upon anyone (or anyone's efforts) but ourselves. The Pursuit of Happiness is, by the founders, tied heavily with the attainment and manipulation of property--including not only realty, but anything we create or purchase or develop. We could, theoretically, include skills and education. Anything that we earn or produce through our own efforts is our property.

Now on to Liberty. What is liberty? Another term for it might be Agency. It is the right to self-determination. The right to make our own choices. It is ALSO the right to either benefit from or be punished by the consequences for those choices. Consequences are consequences. They can be good or bad.

Choice à Consequence.

Consequence is more understandable in light of Newton's Third Law: To every action there is an equal and opposite REaction. Every choice we make has a consequence. Sometimes it may SEEM that the consequence is disproportionate to the choice (for example, a paper cut hurts WAY worse than it really ought to and sometimes people don't get paid as much as they're worth, and often child molesters get off WAY too easy), but for the most part it all evens out in the end. You must admit, however, that if you make a BIG mistake, you pay BIG consequences. Murder gets you a lifetime in jail or potentially execution. This is called justice, and justice dictates that Newton's Third Law will be fulfilled completely. Is it always? Not always in this life or sphere of existence, and not always in ways that are apparent to us. But Newton's Law is always fulfilled.

It is upon this principle that our justice system is founded, and it is upon this principle that our justice system should operate. Does it always? No. Because people are imperfect. Should we completely overhaul the justice system to make up for the shortfall. No. The SYSTEM is as humanly perfect as it can be. It's not the system that fails. It's the people IN the system. We can't take out the people. We have to work with them and make the best of things.

It is also upon the principle of Liberty that our Constitution was written.

Don't be stupid enough to make the mistake of believing that the Constitution was written primarily to establish government. Government was a given. The founders KNEW they needed government. Government is a necessary evil that has existed in some form or another since the very dawn of man (and I'm talking WAY before the Mesopotamians) for the very purpose of protecting Life (Og the Caveman led his people in protecting themselves from Grog the Caveman and HIS clan), Liberty (Og the Caveman knew that his people needed to NOT be Grog the Caveman's slaves), and the Pursuit of Happiness (Og the Caveman knew that his people needed to prosper as much as possible to survive, so he set up a system by which his people knew when and where to hunt and fish--all while staying away from Grog the Caveman's hunting and fishing grounds).

But government, because it is administered by imperfect men (meaning humans), is a dangerous thing. Men (meaning humans) are greedy and ambitious and idealistic. They often neglect to think with the parts of their brains that enlist restraint. They DO use those parts of their brains that help them justify their decisions.

As a writer I've learned that the best bad guys in stories are the ones who believe with their whole hearts that their cause is just, that they rape, steal, murder, and oppress for the good of someone or other--not just themselves. They are convinced that raping, stealing, murdering, and oppressing are crucial to the survival of their nation/way of life/philosophy, therefore they are justified--and they're usually REALLY good at convincing others of their rightness. Hitler was fervent in his zeal that what he was doing was not only right but ordained by God. There are STILL people living in Germany who love their Fuhrer. Saddam Hussein, too. Even crazy Nero. No man acts purely out of evil. They act out of conviction. It's just that sometimes that conviction runs counter to what is good and right and just--to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

With that in mind, let's turn back to the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States was written to put restraints on government, to prevent government from interfering with the Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness of the people. Talk about conviction. These crazy bunch of guys actually believed this document was a model and example for the whole world! Imagine! Liberty for everyone!! What a concept.

At any rate, after 222 years, what have we done with their efforts?

We have become the most prosperous and safe and free society this world has ever seen. Ever. Bar none.

However, we have digressed a long way from the original intent of the document. Far enough that the Constitution itself is in imminent danger of splintering into a pile of useless fragments that mean nothing to an ill-informed and government-dependent people.

The federal government has SO far overstepped the bounds established for it by the Constitution and the founders that it is in real danger of morphing into a tyranny--if it has not done so already.

So the question is posed--are we a Constitutional nation or are we not? Do we believe that the Constitution is the greatest document produced by man or do we not? Do we believe that our nation is the greatest in the world or do we not? Do we believe in the principles of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness or do we not?

If the answer to these questions is NOT, then it is time to simply scrap the Constitution and replace it with whatever we might think is better. I personally don't think our present system is significantly better than what was drafted in 1787. (Many will say that the amendments that provided freedom to the slaves and voting rights for all are an improvement, but, in reality, they weren't needed. They were already in there, just not lived by the people the way they should have been.) In fact, I think the way our government operates today is SO far from what the founders intended as to make the Constitution almost unrecognizable. So why NOT scrap it?

Because it's good, and it's right, and living closely to its precepts will make us safer, free-er and more prosperous than anything else on earth.


The question to ask yourself is this:

Do I enjoy more or less personal liberty than my grandparents did? Think this over carefully before you decide. The answer does not depend on whether your life is easier than your grandparents'. Ease of life is not a measure of liberty. Think about the regulations you must operate under at every turn. The fees and taxes you pay for services you would not buy for yourself if it were left to you. Think of the things you can and cannot do on or with your own property.

Are you free-er?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Writer's Joke

Loved this one. Found it at a fellow writer's blog:

How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Ten.
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero’s mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working.Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn’t change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.

Hypocrisy and Lies Today: President Gremlin

Remember when candidate Obama promised he would air negotiations with drug companies on C-SPAN? Remember when he demonized the drug companies and their executives?

Well this week he climbed into bed with one of the most 'evil' of them all [according to him] in a secret, behind-doors deal.

And the best part? It's not just the 'ultra-right-wing-sick-twisted-freak-paranoid-weirdos' who are reporting it.

Greg Powell reported on the deal on Air America--an undeniably liberal news organization.

A couple of choice quotes from Powell:

"It took an investigative reporter from the LA Times to discover that there were secret meetings, secret negotiations, by Barack Obama's people, with the big drug companies, and they had a deal that there would be an 80 billion dollar chop in the prices by the drug company [Me: a whopping 2.2% price cut, by the way], and it was a deal in secret. Billy Tauzin, the guy who Barack Obama, during the campaign, said 'this guy's a creep, we won't deal with him,' that was they guy they shook hands with, and when I say 'shook hands' that ain't metaphorical. It was a backroom deal..."

"First of all, it makes me puke that we've just been 'Cheneyed' by a guy named Barack Obama, who said we would never do this. It would be on C-SPAN [March 2008, Ohio]. And it wasn't on C-SPAN. And rather than fess up and say, "I did the wrong thing; I had secret negotiations," even with the guy he said he would never talk to, Billy Tauzin, it was like...[no relevant text omitted, just stumbling over words at this point]...every line was crossed."

"I'm going to say something that should light up your lines. What if the people out there screaming and breaking up discussion at town meetings are correct? What if you have a situation in which you have secret meetings being held by the President, it's the absolute fascist nightmare, because fascism is defined as government combining with corporate powers to impose their profit-making regime on us?"

The interviewer sums up the deal this way: "The drug industry's agreeing to give us a future savings of 80 billion dollars as long as Obama promises that we won't negotiate to lower drug prices, which was what we were asking for in health care reform, which was to lower drug prices. He's cut this deal saying, 'Hey, if you give us a little bit of savings, we'll keep the drug prices high.' That doesn't sound right."

Hmm. Some of us who voted against Obama kind of had niggling thoughts that maybe this guy wasn't what he seemed. Some of us even warned the rest of you that he was REALLY not what he seemed, that America would suffer for putting him in office [and don't even get me STARTED on the deficit]. The interviewer on this particular interview with Powell at one point said: "He's such a...a charming liar, though. [giggling]"

Yes he is that. Charming. AND a liar. A likeable villain. As a writer, he's exactly the kind of bad guy you hope to create. But guess what. He's still a bad guy. He'll still try to take over the world, or kill off the hero. He's the perfect Gremlin, and he's asking you to feed him after midnight. Fortunately, we can hurt him by exposing him to light. Light is truth and knowledge. Unfortunately there are those who will deny he's been fed, will deny what he really is, and will still see the cute little furball they hoped for and will keep watering him and his comrades so they continue to multiply unchecked by anything close to common sense. Maybe now instead of talking about being 'Cheneyed' we can talk about being 'Obama-ed.'

[For those of you too young to get the reference, follow this link: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1706295833/ ]

If you're interested in viewing the montage video [complete with video of Obama telling his lies] put together by Naked Emporor News--yes, a conservative outlet--go here:


Funny, in the background on this video you'll see a message from one of Obama's campaign commercials. The message, shown over Obama's voice, says, "Barack Obama is the only candidate who refuses Washington lobbyist money and passed the strongest law yet to curb lobbyist power," all while talking about Billy Tauzin and the evil money grubbing drug companies. Hmm.

Could it be he takes lobbyist money? HE just does it under the table?

A relevant quote from Bugs Bunny: "Mmmmmmmmmm. Could be!"

Wake up, America, and do something.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hypocrisy Today: Are you a Patriot or UnAmerican?

In 2003, during the Bush administration, Liberal Democart Senator Hillary Clinton said that is our Patriotic right and duty to protest a government whose policies we disagree with.

This week, during the Obama administration, Liberal Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that those who protest and/or disgree with the government drive toward socialized medicine are UnAmerican.

The press likes to interview Americans who speak out against this government, or who *gasp* even demand detailed answers as to what they're up to on Capitol Hill, making it almost a sport to make those brave enough to disagree look as stupid as possible, taking great care to dig into the pasts and presents of regular, Main-street Americans to discredit them. You certainly didn't see this sort of thing during the Bush administration--unless of course they agreed with the President.

Late-night comedians who used to rib at the Republican president a year ago, have no comparable ribbing to bestow upon their favored son, Democrat Barack Obama.

The Constitution guarantees us the right to free speech.

"That's OK," say the powers on high. "Let them speak. We'll make their speech irrelevant by mocking it and demeaning it until they quit speaking altogether. We'll laud and honor and encourage those who do so. We'll reap the fruits of political correctness to push forward our agenda without so much as a whimper."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hyposcrisy Today: Congress Buys Itself 2 New Jets

I had to dig pretty deep to find a source for this story that would satisfy the more left-leaning folk who may come across this post.

It's reported high and low among conservative columnists and bloggers.

But ABC News did manage to get it out, hiding it on the fifth or sixth Google page I perused.

Here's the link:


Be sure to read the whole thing. You have to slide down beyond a bar of ads to get to the rest of the story.

Now, let's compare. This is from November when the Big 3 auto execs were verbally slapped for arriving in Washington on private jets to ask for taxpayer money:


It says in the latter article the auto companies have policies in place requiring their top execs to travel by private jet for 'safety' reasons. I can see that. I really can. They're the leaders of some of the biggest corporations in America, who directly employ thousands upon thousands of people and whose industry indirectly employs millions more. They are at the head of a juggernaut that helps, to a large degree, keep America going. It doesn't bother me that they fly in corporate jets.

Apparently it bothered congress. It bothered congress that these auto execs used private company money to purchase these jets and to pay for the flight to Washington. It bothered ME that they flew to Washington at all, but that's another matter.

But it DOESN'T bother congress to use PUBLIC money, your money and my money, to buy themselves a couple of their own private jets. Heck, it's just a couple hundred million dollars tagged onto an already approved expenditure. Right? It's not their money anyway. Right? What difference does it make when we're talking about TRILLIONS. Right? Heck, if we're buying one for the Pentagon, why not throw in a couple for us! Right? If auto execs aren't important enough to fly commercial, Congressmen certainly aren't.

Congress, my friends, is corrupt, on both sides of the aisle, in the vast majority of individuals, and it's high time we the people opened our eyes to that fact. It's high time we use our power to fix this rather egregious error.

Our duty as citizens of this nation is to MISTRUST those who seek and hold political office, to MISTRUST the looming shadow of government, and by this mistrust, keep the government checked and balanced. Because despite the great cares taken by the founders to provide the government with its own checks and balances, they knew it wouldn't hold without the people to make the executive and legislative branches of government honest.

With but a very few exceptions, they're as honest and thieves and Pharisees.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Beer Summit--My View

The photo-op:

The impression: (Officer Crowley is not in this actual photo. He's the squirrel in the tree. Kudos to him for rightfully sticking to his guns and not caving to the pressure.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racism: By a Conservative White Woman

So apparently it's Blog Against Racism Week.


What I want to know is when are we going to stop talking about racism, and actually stop being racist?

My answer: Not during my lifetime. Possibly never.

First, because I have my doubts that those who in positions of power on the race issue really WANT to stop talking about racism. It's an attention getter. It gives them press to be able to shout racism, even when it's not justified. Look at Gates-gate. Gates shouted racism, President Obama shouted racism, but as the facts come out it appears racism was not at the core of it, or at the heart of it, or on the surface of it. But we racist humans assumed that it was, didn't we. All of us. Of every race. Did we want it to be about racism? On the outside you might say, "NO!" But somewhere deep inside were you perhaps hoping that a white racist would get his comeuppance? In my own sphere, I have a beautiful story I wrote four years ago. I watched a dear friend of mine cry as she read this story. A noted author critiqued it and praised it highly. However, it is unlikely I will be able to sell it because it is a story of a Pre-Civil War American male slave, and I, the author, am a white woman. Never mind that the story is less about slavery and race than it is about being human and wanting desperately to be loved and accepted. It is not uncommon for such stories to be rejected by publishers simply because the author is white. Or because the author is a man and the main character a woman. Is that right and good? To discriminate in THAT way? If the author was black, and was rejected for her race, would that be right and good? The answer to both questions SHOULD be no.

You might say that a white person can't possibly understand being black well enough to write about a black person. But to say such a thing is nonsense. It's racist. It's the opposite of what those who seek an end to racism purport to be after. I am human. I can write about the human experience in any shape or color. It's the author's enigma. If I can only write about my own narrow experiences of being, then my stories will inevitably have to be peopled only by white women. In which case I would be branded a racist for NOT including people of 'color,' possibly a sexist by men's groups seeking a reversal of the destructive radical feminist prejudice against males of our species, for doing exactly what those seeking to end racism demanded that I do. And what other ways might I have to narrow my 'field of acceptable subject matter?' Only religious women? Only women who were virgins at marriage? Only women with three children? Only women who live in Utah? Only women who graduated with a degree in Fine Arts? Only women whose parents never divorced? Only women with sibling? What happened to freedom of expression? What happened to being color blind?

Racism can only end when everyone, of every color and creed, is willing to lay aside the past, let bygones be bygones, and replace prejudice with compassion, replace exclusivism with inclusionism.

But the second and most important reason is simply that it is part of human nature to be racist--and sexist, and religionist, and culturalist, and classist, and on and on and on. To NOT be one of these we would have to rehardwire the human brain. Even infants, before they can possibly be influenced by society, react differently to different faces--in color, shape, features. It is a fundamental of the human experience to be wary, though I tend to think 'wary' is too hard a word, of people who are different from ourselves. We can't legislate or punish it away. Even compassion can't entirely eliminate a tendency that is part of our humanity, to be conscious of the differences in others. Some like to dream of a 'color blind' society, in which our differences magically disappear. Well that could happen, I suppose, if we all wore masks, and identical clothing, and did the same things, and lived in the same houses, and worshipped the same god, and, ate the same food, and watched the same television programs... Oh. No. Never mind. That would be 1984, wouldn't it? Is that what we want? I, for one, tend to enjoy the differences in others. I sometimes wonder if those who shout 'DIVERSITY!' don't really mean 'CONFORMITY TO MY WAY OF THINKING!'

I'm certainly not espousing hate, though I believe hate to be protected under the Constitution. We can't and shouldn't legislate what someone thinks or feels. We can and should punish people for the crimes they commit. But should we make racism a crime?

Of all the liberty-robbing slippery slopes we've slid down in past 150 years, that one feels like the slipperiest of all.

The answer is not to force an end to racism. It's not to whine and complain and shove the 'racially oppressed' in the spotlight while they prove themselves to be racist in their own rights. It's not to feel guilty over our own self-perceived racism. It's to accept that we see others who are different from ourselves as, well, different, and we can't change that. But what we CAN do is rise above our natures and seek love and understanding, AND be equally compassionate toward those who choose, by their God-given free will, to hate.

When Christ said "Love your enemies," he meant it. In loving, we soften hardened hearts, change angry minds, change enemies to friends, and change the world in way that PRESERVES our liberties, instead of destroying them.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I've read my fair share of horror (I've even written some), but I don't necessarily like it all.

Besides, what can be more terrifying than reading the newspaper?

But that's kind of the crux of what makes really good horror really good. It's plausible. The vampires and werewolves (besides being hijacked by romance writers *rolling eyes*) are all good fun, but not hugely scary because there ARE NO vampires or werewolves. Sorry fans of Stephanie Meyers.

I go in for really good psychological horror, the kind that explores the darker side of humanity and leaves you not double checking the doors at night to keep it out, but taking a look at your own heart and mind and trying to convince yourself that YOU could never do something like that.

I present, as an example, the profoundly chilling "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," by one of the powerhouses of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison. You can find it in several volumes, including:

1. Bad Moon Rising, edited by Tom Disch
2. The American Fantasy Tradition, edited by Brian M. Thomsen (which I highly recommend as a good collection of dark fantasy and horror from American authors)
3. The Essential Ellison: A 35 Year Retrospective and the expanded 50 Year Retrospective
4. Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison

Several other. Just Google the story title.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baby Dies From Rat Bites

I read about this http://www.fox8live.com/mostpopular/story/JP-Coroner-Baby-died-from-apparent-rat-bites/JnfcwzaGCU-_8QJTUzC3-g.cspx in our local paper yesterday, and have since hounded out a few online articles and read a couple of forums.

Most are quick to condemn the parents, like this:

Not checking on a three month old for " Several hours" is neglect. I wish they could sterilze people like these "parents" so they could never again expose a baby to harm.

Actually, it's pretty typical not to check on an infant for several hours while it's sleeping. They tell you when you come home from the hospital that when the baby sleeps you should rest and try to get some sleep yourself.

But really, how many young parents have been taught they should 'teach' their baby to sleep by letting them 'cry it out' in their crib? Loads--by their own parents, by their doctors, by wise friends. Is this the wisest course? Depends on who you talk to. You can find arguments for everything from the strict 'cry it out' method to never separating baby from mother for the first six months of life. I tended toward the latter with my three children. All seem to be turning out just fine.

But the fact of the matter is, babies scream. They scream bloody murder over every little thing. Some babies--especially babies in the 2 to 15 week range--just scream because that's what they do. We call it a 'colicky baby.'

Sometimes parents just need to put the baby down and let it scream to preserve their own sanity.

A little screaming never hurt a baby. A frustrated and exhausted parent certainly can.

I had read in one report that the father was planning to buy a video monitor. Could it be that this baby was just a screamer and he was going to buy that monitor so the mother would be able to ease her own anxieties by keeping a visual watch over the baby while she cried herself to sleep? Hmm.

Could it be that little Natalie screamed for 20 or 30 minutes--a perfectly reasonable amount of time for a colicky baby in the evening--while her mother stood outside the door listening and wanting to go in, but heeding the advice of some 'wiser' authority, or giving herself a much needed break from her own struggle with exhaustion? Could it be that the rats hit a major artery in the baby's leg and she bled out quickly? Could it be that Natalie's mother breathed a sigh of relief from the other side of the doorway when the child finally fell silent, believing with all her heart that the baby was safe and sleeping in her crib?

I don't know. I don't have all the answers. But I, having been there, having struggled with crying babies and the draining exhaustion of new motherhood, can't condemn these parents as quickly as others might.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Editor Schmeditor

I have now received two rejections from a particular high-profile editor.

Both (and this is the funny part) had the author name incorrect.

Dear Margaret...

Uh, Sir, my name's not Margaret. Thanks for so clearly advertising--twice--that you use a form rejection.

I have to admit, the first rejection was well-deserved. My computer printer was acting up, spreading blotches of ink all over the page. I had had my story printed elsewhere, but had forgotten to have a cover sheet printed. So, OOOPS! (If you are a new author, submitting by snail-mail, DO NOT make this same stupid mistake.) I handwrote the cover letter. Yeah. Seems trivial. But in the publishing game editors are looking for any possible excuse to toss your story in the trash. I deserved an obvious form rejection, complete with the wrong name to make the point.

The second time, however, I did everything right. Clean manuscript, perfect margins, brief cover letter, the whole schlameel. Still, the form rejection with the wrong name. I don't mind the form rejection. Hell, I send enough of them out myself, and even occasionally make a mistake on them--like neglecting to type the title of the story in the little spot in my form that looks like this--> "."

Did the story suck? I don't think so. I've submitted it to several other markets, and from all but one (two now, who sent form rejections) have received positive personal comments and invitations to submit with them again--but, I admit, no sales. Still, crappy stories don't get those kinds of rejections from noteworthy markets--like IGMS and Abyss & Apex.

So one time I can chalk up to editorial error. But twice?

Is he trying to tell me something? Did I, in some other life, pee on his wheaties?

This Facebook Thing

I'm not so sure about it.

I've been facebooking now for about a month. I don't know. Is it worth it? Does it just eat up more of my valuable time? It seems to be eating up blogging time for some participants--friends who no long update their blogs and such.

But it's not the same thing as a blog. If I do a Google search for information on some particular topic, Google isn't going to point me to a facebook page. But it will point me to any number of blogs with relevant facts and links.

In many ways it's fun to facebook. I'm having conversations with distant friends and relatives that I certainly wouldn't intentionally pick up the phone to have--like chatting with nieces and nephews who I rarely get a chance to speak to unless we're attending the same family function. So, in that respect, I can certainly see the value of it.

But in other ways it's an annoying distraction. My facebook homepage is stocked with comments and activities of friends and family that I'm not hugely interested in. I don't really care that one facebook friend is playing a particular game, or that another facebook friend is hungry and leaving the computer to get a bite to eat. But all that shows up on my facebook page. All of it. It's like standing in a room full of people, trying to listen to each little cell of conversation that's going on. It's a little schizophrenic.

But I'm there. I have a few fairly illustrious friends, too. Like Campbell New Author Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal and multi-published author Dave Farland. Mary and I have been friends for five years or so. Dave I've never met, but he invited me. It's publicity, I'm sure. Authors want to get their faces out there as much as possible, in every way possible. That's why I blog. That's one reason I facebook. Slowly, over time, your name gets out there.

I suppose actually getting stories published helps too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


My 17-year-old daughter scored a 31 on her ACT!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

VERY Rare!

My DH and I spent a day at the Grand Canyon this week, and while there we experienced a very rare atmospheric phenomenon--a Fire Rainbow or Circumhorizontal Arc.

What is a Fire Rainbow?

It's a rainbow producing light refraction that can only occur during the summer months, and only in mid-latitudes, and only when cirrus clouds are present, and only when the ice crystals in those cirrus clouds are perfectly aligned to produce THIS:

This is a faint one, but it is there for certain in that small patch of cirrus clouds just above the trees. It lasted for about 3 minutes, then was gone.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Kicking and Screaming...

...into the 21st Century.

I just joined Facebook. Though I think I'll skip Twitter. It seems like a whole lot of very little. I dunno. Reminds me just a little of Chinese Water Torture.

Anyway, look for me on Facebook. Although I suspect it'll be mostly family-ish stuff there. Who knows. We'll see.

At least I'm not as backwards as my parents. They only got a chordless phone a couple of years ago, still don't have an answering machine or messaging system, still running their internet on Dial-up. And this is MY dad. We had a desktop computer in our house before most people even knew what they were and bought our first VHS player when they were $1200 and video stores were few and far between!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: Historical Fiction/Bernard Cornwell

I do, on occasion, read historical fiction.

Some of you may be groaning right now. Historical fiction tends to have a bad reputation for being a bit dry, heavy with information and lacking in deep character development in favor of swashbuckling muscular men who have beautiful intriguing women falling into their beds--or being forced into their beds--at every turn, all being told in first person with a certain prefab style that is only just separated from sword and sorcery fantasy by the fact that the situations are based on real historical situations.

The great thing about historical fiction is that you, hopefully, learn something about history.

I've read Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles; Michael Curtis Ford's The Sword of Atilla, and The Ten Thousand; Michael Alexander Eisner's (Michael "Disney" Eisner's son? Looks like he could be.) The Crusader; Noah Gordon's The Last Jew; and I'm currently working my way through Bernard Cornwell's Alfred the Great Series.

Of these, I must say that The Crusader has been my favorite. It reads less like the standard format historical novel than any of the others. It, unlike all the others mentioned, is written in third person limited POV. Maybe that's why I like it so much. Who knows. I also liked The Last Jew.

I am enjoying Cornwell's books. They're historical adventure more than anything and spend less time than the usual with tedious historical detail. However, the hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, is the typical H.F. man's man. And something of a Harry Stu. He's just a LITTLE too perfect. He always knows the right thing to do, and no one else is as smart as he is. Part of that has to do with his personality. Remember, it's first person POV. So in part he comes off as arrogant, but it's believable to suppose that this sort of characteristic is a survival mechanism in chaotic times, so it doesn't bother me TOO much. I just hope my own characterization in writing isn't infected by it.

Of the two and a half volumes of Cornwell's series I've read so far, I probably liked the first best. Maybe because Uhtred was too young and untried to be quite so arrogant during the majority of it.

Still, as is the appeal of historical fiction to me, I'm learning some history in a slightly more interesting format than the majority of historical non-fiction. And I LOVE history.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Review: "Into the Cellar" by Ajani Burrell

I'm reviewing this story because it was simul-subbed to Flash Fiction Online a few months ago, but went to Barrelhouse before we could get it winnowed.

I was disappointed--not in the story, but in the fact that someone beat us to it.

"Into the Cellar" is the story of a man backed into a corner, and his triumph over himself. The main character, also the narrator, is contemplating his young pregnant wife as she stands at the top of the stairs. He's pressured from all sides--by the coming baby, finances, lost hopes and dreams--and thinks the unthinkable.

The power of this piece is that it lays bare the very kind of thoughts that most people, at one time in their lives or another, have entertained but kept buried inside. If you've never been angry enough at someone to wish they were dead, or sad enough to wish you could die, or frightened enough to wish you were invincible, or desperate enough to contemplate desperate measures, then you're a better person than I am, and a better person than, I think, the majority of mankind.

In the news today we're hearing all kinds of stories of people who entertained and acted on such thoughts. This story is the story of a man who entertained, but resisted acting on such thoughts. He's not perfect. In fact, he's quite ordinary, less than ordinary actually. He's not even middle class--and maybe that's what makes readers uncomfortable in getting into his mind. Maybe the fact that some low-income blue-collar guy thinks the same way you do? Maybe the idea that he manages to overcome, when many in better circumstances than him can't?

In the end, the narrator is as much a hero as Hercules or King Arthur. A man who overcomes desperate circumstances, who holds back the darkness just long enough to conquer the foe--himself.

I applaud Ajani Burrell for a fine story.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flash Reads

I am currently reading a pretty good collection of flash fiction. It's titled, Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories, edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas.

Not every collection of very short fiction has been particularly pleasing. I can't, for example, recommend Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories, Edited by James Thomas and others.

But the differences between the two collections have more to do with taste than anything.

The first has some excellent writing, but more importantly has complete stories. The second is mainly 'stories' in vignette form. I'm not a fan of vignette, or slice-of-life as it is sometimes called. It's akin to peaking in a random window in a random city, seeing what's happening there but without knowing why it's happening or why I should care about what's happening. It's a device used often in literary fiction and narrative non-fiction but not one that appeals to me.

Some writers of such fiction claim it is supposed to engage the reader by leaving the unsaid up to the reader's imagination.

I don't know. To me, that's not why most people read. Which is why popular fiction is so, well, popular, and literary fiction is so, well, not.

But I won't harp on the poor writers of literary fiction.

I think you'd rather like to know where you can find some really great (or maybe not so great) very short fiction:

100 Malicious Little Mysteries, edited by Isaac Asimov
Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories, edited by Shapard and Thomas
Sudden Fiction (Continued): 60 New Short-Short Stories, same
Sudden Fiction International: 60 Short-Short Stories, same
New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories From America and Beyond, same

Flash Fiction Online (of course!)
Vestal Review (stories of 500 words or less--mainly literary/mainstream)
EveryDayFiction (little bit of everything--a new story every day)
365 Tomorrows (daily sci-fi flash)
Story Bytes
Cafe Irreal (very literary, but some interesting stuff there)
Glossolalia (VERY literary--often more poetry than coherent story in style;this'll give you an idea of what is meant by 'high literary.' Like it? Neither do I.)
Flash Me Magazine
Long Story Short
Smokelong Quarterly

Podcasts and MP3 Downloads:
Sniplits (Some flash; MP3 Downloads)
Podcastle (Fantasy flash and short stories, podcast)
Pseudopod (Flash and short horror Pods)
The Drabblecast (flash and short stories of mixed speculative genres)

Happy reading (or listening)!