I just read a self-indulgent, useless piece by an editor at another small press regarding a recently deceased prominent sci-fi author (Ursula Le Guin). The editor had nothing interesting to say — whatever; it’s what I expected — but what really irritated me was her use of the term “passed away” in place of “dead” or “deceased.”

If you’re trying to convey useful information, euphemisms — even the most commonly understood — are a lousy, inefficient way to do it. Let’s take this euphemism: “passed away” is a  term with two words, a dipthong, and three syllables. The slightly more polite but still accurate “deceased” is a single word with two syllables. “Dead” consists of a single word and a single syllable.

Over the last three-and-a-half years, nearly of 20 my friends have died (all younger than me). They’re dead; they didn’t “pass”; they didn’t “pass away”; they didn’t “go to a better place.” They’re dead. And I miss them.

There’s no way to sugar coat it, and trying to do so is obnoxious, condescending — taking the reader as a delicate flower who can’t handle the truth.

As Lemme put it, my friends are “stone dead, forever.”

Using euphemisms wastes time and makes honest discourse more cumbersome.

Stop it. Please stop it.



Graphic from Show Me the Money

Graphic from Tony Honnicutt’s greatly missed ‘zine, Show Me the Money


CONSERVATISM, n. The desire to conserve wealth and power at any cost (to others).

–from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


As the famous quote from All the President’s Men goes, “Follow the money.”

In this case, that’s all you need to do to immediately realize that Trump’s supposed plan to lower prescription drug costs is total bullshit: When Trump announced he had a plan to lower those costs, pharmaceutical stocks plummeted. When he announced the details, they immediately spiked. Pharmaceutical stocks finished higher on the day than at the start.

That makes sense when you realize that Trump proposed nothing that would have much of an effect on prices. His plan consists of wonkish tweaks that won’t touch the basic problems.

What, you ask, would? Here are the top four things that would help. Of course, none of these are in Trump’s vaunted plan:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies on prices. When the Republicans passed the Part D law (which took effect in 2006), they specifically forbade Medicare from negotiating prices. This giveaway to big pharma has cost Medicare and Medicare recipients (responsible for co-pays) billions of dollars, probably tens of billions, since then.
  • Allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Prices are much lower there and the drugs are exactly the same.
  • Have the Justice Department apply anti-trust laws to big pharma. In recent years, generic drug prices have skyrocketed at the same time that the big pharmaceutical companies have been buying up generic drug producers. The drugs haven’t changed, but the prices have, as has the concentration of drug-producer ownership.
  • Outlaw “pay to delay” collusion. At present, it’s common for the big pharmaceutical companies that have drugs on which the patents are expiring to bribe generic drug producers to delay introduction of generic alternatives. These payments for delays of a year or two often run into the tens of millions of dollars. Forbid this exercise in sleaze, and drug prices would drop.

So, why did Trump trumpet his bogus plan to reduce drug prices? Like all con men, he’s in it for the short term. He realizes that his brain dead followers will buy this obvious bullshit from the Dear Leader, and won’t notice by the time of the fall elections that it’s having no effect whatsoever on the ever-increasing prices they pay for prescription drugs. When they eventually do notice it, he’ll haul out scapegoats — my guess, penniless Mexican immigrants and Satan — and the goose-steppers licking the Glorious Leader’s boots will buy that, too.


TERRORISM, noun
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
–dictionary.com

Yesterday we looked at the first of Israel’s terrorism problems: Hamas, Israel’s role supporting it in the 1980s, the blowback that’s caused, and how both Hamas and the Israeli government have benefited from the carnage that’s ensued.

Today, we’ll look at an even more serious terrorism in Israeli: the nature of its government. Israel has become a terrorist state.

That’s not overstatement.

Before looking at current events, let’s look back four years to the bombardment and massacre of civilians in Gaza in 2014. Using Hamas’ largely ineffectual terrorism as an excuse (four civilians murdered, including one child), the Israeli government unleashed a firestorm on what has been called “the world’s largest open-air concentration camp,” while refusing to allow civilians to flee (a war crime).

The result? In contrast with the four Israeli civilians murdered by Hamas, the Israel armed forces murdered, according to UN figures at least 1,473 civilians, including 501 children and 257 women. The Israeli assault also left  over 11,000 wounded civilians, including over 3,300 children, of whom 1,000 are suffering lifelong disabilities.

Why? To bludgeon and frighten the captive population in Gaza into submission.

This is a classic case of state terrorism.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli government has claimed that this massacre was Hamas’ fault, and that it was acting “defensively.” This is equivalent to hostage-killing kidnappers claiming that they were “forced” into committing murder by those who refused to give into their demands. This is hypocritical and morally repugnant.

Now let’s look at current events.

Yesterday the Israeli armed forces murdered over 60 (including six children) and wounded over 2,000 unarmed protesters at the Israel-Gaza border. (The protesters, the descendants of the 700,000 Palestinians who were driven into exile and lost their lands in the 1948-1949 war are demanding the “right to return.”)

How is Israel doing this? They’re using snipers with high-powered rifles to shoot across the fence separating Israel and Gaza into the crowd of protesters (a reported 35,000 yesterday, even after weeks of protests in which the Israeli military had already murdered dozens of protesters). According to reports, the snipers were taking their time between shots, methodically targeting individuals dozens or hundreds of yards from the fence. The only conceivable reason for this is terrorism: the used of deadly violence to attempt to intimidate the Palestinians into submission.

(As for Israel’s claim that it’s acted in self-defense, consider this: not a single Israeli, soldier or civilian, has been injured, let alone killed, in the protests in which over 100 Palestinians have died and thousands have been injured (many by sniper fire), dozens of whom are now amputees as a result of Israeli snipers. Of course, Donald Trump, and other thugs and hypocrites in his administration — who love murderous regimes such as those in the Philippines, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia — have echoed Israel’s grossly hypocritical claim of “self-defense.” [I follow these events closely and have not seen a single report of any Israeli injuries.])

If you still doubt that Israel is engaging in a deliberate policy of state murder and terrorism, consider these quotes from news stories over the last few weeks:

On amputations and sniper fire: “When he was hit by a bullet fired by Israeli forces during demonstrations in Gaza on April 6, Mohammed al-Zaieem lost so much blood, and his left leg was so deformed, he feared he wouldn’t survive. His arteries, veins and a large piece of bone were destroyed. His right leg wasn’t spared either as the round created a massive exit wound and then hit it as well.”

On murders by sniper fire:

“One mourner, Mohammad Sabbagh, 30, sat with his family on plastic chairs in a green funeral tent outside their home in the city of Beit Lahia listlessly receiving condolences from well-wishers. He recalled seeing his brother Bader, 10 years his junior, shot through the head on Friday.

“He said, ‘I am bored, I don’t want this life’. He asked me for a cigarette; I gave him a lit one, he took about two puffs and then a bullet shot him in the head and went out the other side. I carried him to the ambulance, and he was dead,” he said. . . .

“The brothers stood between the group at the front of the protest, who were throwing rocks at Israeli forces, and the demonstrators at the back, where thousands of men, women and children had gathered. “He didn’t do anything; he was standing next to me,” Mohammad said of his brother.”

Israeli soldiers cheer a murder: (This incident took place in December along the Gaza-Israel border, but was just reported last month.)

“With international criticism of Israel’s response to the Gaza protests growing, video emerged on Monday appearing to show an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) sniper shooting a Palestinian man standing near the border fence.

“After the Palestinian man falls to the ground, soldiers are heard cheering in the background. One yells, “What a legendary film!”
“The video, which circulated on social media, appears to be through a scope, showing the Gaza border fence and a field behind it.
“The sniper is heard discussing the shot with another soldier nearby.
“‘When he stops, you take him down,’ the soldier says. ‘Are you on him?
“‘I can’t fire because of the barbed wire,’ the sniper responds a short time later.
“‘Take out the one in the pink,'” the other soldier says after a few moments.
“IDF soldiers cheer as you hear the gunshot and see the Palestinian man fall.”
And how have most American liberals and the corporate news media responded? Some actively support Israel’s murderous activities (e.g., Chuck Schumer), many others (e.g., Obama and the Clintons) have been conspicuously silent about it, and a good majority of the media are either silent or actively complicit in the coverup of the murders (e.g., describing them as “clashes” — incidents in which one side occurs no casualties while killing dozens on the other side of a fence with sniper fire). The “news” organizations engaging in this shameful misrepresentation of murder include supposedly progressive MSNBC. (Chris Hayes is an honorable exception on MSNBC; he’s probably safe because he’s their second biggest star.)
All of this strongly suggests that Western liberals are morally bankrupt, that their humanitarianism is a sham.
They stay silent in the face of oppression and murder.
No one but the dishonest and the willfully blind can deny that Israel is engaging in state terrorism

 

 


TERRORISM, noun
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
–dictionary.com

The Hamas Problem

Israel has two terrorism problems. The first is the religious-authoritarian threat posed by the Islamist group, Hamas. The irony is that Hamas is in good part a creation of Israel.

An offshoot of the (Egypt-based) Islamic Brotherhood in the 1970s, the group really began to grow the 1980s when Israel began to back  Hamas — including financially — as a counterweight to the leftist, secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). (PLO head Yasser Arafat referred to Hamas as a “creature of Israel.”) In 1988, the PLO renounced terrorism, while Hamas has never formally renounced it. Since the PLO renouncement, PLO splinter groups have continued to engage in terrorism, though not on the level of Hamas.

This Israeli backing of Hamas is, of course, reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s cynical support of the most hardline  Islamist elements in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the uprising against the Soviet-backed Afghan government and the Soviet forces propping it up. That U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s created horrific blowback: the creation of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Similarly, Israel is now suffering blowback from its support of Hamas in the 1980s.

It’s worth noting that while both the American and Israeli people have suffered as a result of their governments’ backing of radical Islamist groups, the extreme right governments in both countries have profited handsomely from the terrorism they supply. Terrorism on even a small scale provides both the U.S. and Israeli governments with an ideal means of frightening the public, an ideal excuse for mass surveillance, restriction of civil liberties, intimidation of critics, and all manner of horrifying, brutal acts, including the murder of civilians.

Thus, Hamas’, Al-Qaeda’s, and the Taliban’s terrorism serves the interest of the ruling rightist elites in both Israel and the United States. (This is not to imply that Hamas is as bad as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban: it isn’t. It’s not even in the same ballpark.) At the same time, it serves the interests of the terrorist groups themselves.

How? It provokes (more accurately, supplies cover for) disproportionate, violent responses, often targeting civilians. This not only fuels popular anger, helping to ensure a steady supply of recruits for the terrorist groups, but it greatly discourages popular involvement in other forms of politics. One would have to have, for example, great courage to engage in civil disobedience in Afghanistan. To put this another way, terrorism tends to reduce everyday people to powerless, terrorized spectators, standing on the sidelines (when they’re not being shot or bombed “accidentally”) while the authoritarian terrorists and authoritarian governments slug it out.

Thus one presumes that both Hamas and the Israeli government are happy with the current bloodletting (of Palestinian civilians).

Coming Tomorrow — part II (Terrorist Israel)

 

 

 

 


John Grant

A couple of days ago I asked two-time Hugo Award winner John Grant what advice he’d have for aspiring writers. His newest book is Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science (revised & expanded). Here’s John’s advice:


Of all such pieces of advice, my favorite comes from Nora Roberts. As accurately as I can remember, it read simply: “Apply ass to chair. Write.”

Corrupted ScienceDecades ago, I got a similar message from Alec Waugh. He said essentially that the way to become a writer was to buy a ream of paper and a typewriter (told you this was decades ago!), then stick the first sheet of paper into the machine. By the time you got to the end of the ream you’d be a writer. If that failed, buy another ream and if necessary a fresh typewriter ribbon.

My late and still much mourned pal Iain Banks apparently wrote about six unpublished novels before the Waugh trick worked for him. The fact that he used the thinnest available paper and single-spaced his typing, forswearing such bourgeois desirables as margins (why waste good paper?), may also have had something to do with the delay in his being recognized as the extraordinary talent he was.

The best advice I ever got was from Colin Wilson, although he never exactly expressed it in words to me. One of my earliest books was a co-authorship with him. While working on it I noticed that (duh!) his bits were, y’know, better than mine. It eventually dawned on me that this was because Colin’s writing had all the immediacy of a conversation: he was essentially speaking onto the paper.

Although since then I’ve explored lots of other modes of writing, that remains my default style. One difficulty is that editors, especially for some reason American editors, sometimes crack down on what they perceive as my “sloppiness” — changing “won’t” into “will not,” sorta thing, or sticking in Oxford commas — but essentially that’s still the way I write: I hear what I want to write, then write the spoken words down.

So that’s the single piece of advice I’d pass along to you: don’t write, just speak onto the paper. You can always cut out the swearing and scatology later.