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25th September 2015

When Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race, an out-of-state friend e-mailed me "I bet YOU'RE happy!"

I responded, "My concern is that, like an abusive spouse returning from an unsuccessful business trip, he will come back to Wisconsin and beat us up some more, doubling-down on his attacks on almost every non-millionaire Wisconsinite, especially those of us with the gall to work for the public or to have unions or (shudder!) both, while shouting the management equivalent of, 'You lazy bitch! Look what you made me do!'." I knew there was already a bill to cut back state pensions, and to make it harder to retire from state service early, even with a vastly diminished pension.

Sure enough, within days of Walker's humbling, his legislative allies announced a package of what they have the gall to call "recruitment and retention reforms" which would undo over a century of actual civil service reforms. The system of impartial civil service examinations tailored to the jobs being filled would be abandoned in favor of a system of resume gathering, overtly modelled on what many experts agree is the most broken part of American corporate hiring practices. Resume-based hiring, aside from the obvious ("we want clerical candidates with a Ph.D., tri-lingual, and willing to start at $13.50/hour"), is famously subject to the prejudices and antipathies of human resource departments, as well as to plain old-fashioned corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

Robert Kiefert, who once ran civil service testing for the State of Wisconsin, recently wrote, "The merit system of civil service was, and is, one of the few ways those of us who came from poorer and less connected backgrounds could scratch our way to the top based upon what we knew not who we knew." I told him, "Robert, that's the problem: civil service exams have allowed too many of us undesirables into employment: wrong color, wrong shape, wrong school, wrong social class, wrong church, wrong politics, wrong tailor..." It is no accident that for many decades, ambitious immigrants, people from working-class backgrounds, and minorities in general have found civil service, with its system of impartial exams, a path to upward mobility. That (in the eyes of many Walker allies) is the problem; they want a system more hospitable to the job-hungry but marginally competent sons and daughters of their campaign backers, the legacy kids who look good on paper but couldn't pass a rigorous exam that was not about high-end clothing and upscale brand names; and the kids who went to the right schools (expensive or conservative Christian or both). Positions would be filled from existing resumes on file, with no way for those not in the know to become candidates (fewer unworthy and "outsider" types to introduce new ideas or different thoughts). Walker has spoken with disdain about a short-order cook who did well enough on the civil service exam that he had to be interviewed for a financial examiner position: how dare a peasant aim so high! I myself knew at least one short-order cook who had a Ph.D. from Harvard in economics (he went short silver when the Hunt brothers tried to corner the market, and lost everything).

In the name of "reform", employees would be held hostage for a two-year probation period, during which they could be fired at will, although if new hires are deemed "exemplary" enough management might waive the second year of probation.

Existing employees would no longer have any seniority protection from being dumped into the street if their jobs are eliminated or turned into additional patronage slots; and the process of discipline and discharge would be streamlined to make it easier to fire existing workers (making it harder to defend yourself against accusations or find representation; no sense allowing those sinister public workers the rights guaranteed accused murderers or embezzlers, right?).

As to the other "reforms": cutting back on the possibility of early retirement at diminished payment, to take care of an aging parent or spouse or just get out of Walkerstan? That's just chaining us to our desks or forcing us to quit state service entirely. It does nothing to strengthen the already-ironclad state investment funds, quite possibly the nation's soundest (Walker has recently lied, trying to claim credit for their condition). The other provision of THAT bill, of course, simply cuts back on the pension payments for public workers, with no justification whatsoever save that they believe they can do it (just as the legislature chose last year to double the out-of-pocket costs for public workers' health insurance, apparently to punish us for not quitting already, by making it harder to see a doctor or fill a prescription with what's left of our paychecks after five years of slashing).

When Act 10 was illegally railroaded through the legislature (with the collusion of the worst state supreme court money can buy), workers were assured unions weren't needed to protect us because the civil service system would continue. That has now been shown up for just another Walker lie.

Oh, and one of their excuses? The state is losing many of its most experienced workers. Competent managers in real-life businesses (the kind Scott Walker has never worked for in his entire career) know that recruiting and retaining quality staff is accomplished by respect, honesty, good working conditions, and yes, adequate compensation, with a chance for advancement. Instead, we state workers get the latest in a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably a design to reduce us under absolute despotism, while Walker and cronies shout, "What's wrong with you lazy, greedy, uppity bastards; don't you understand we respect and appreciate our hard-working, dedicated employees?" Ah, yes; the beatings will continue until morale improves, or more likely until we're all dead or driven out in favor of Walker clones and party-line drones, to the detriment of the citizens of the once-proud State of Wisconsin.

-- Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey is a clerical worker for the State of Wisconsin, and President of Local 91, Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME; this essay originally appeared in his magazine Bemusements of a Visible Fan for mailing #372 of the Milwaukee Amateur Press Association
Current Mood: determined

31st August 2015

3:46pm: We've lost Ned Brooks, a classic trufan
I never had the privilege of visiting him in Lilburn:


Art Widner, Ned Brooks, Peggy Sapienza... all in a single hideous year.
Current Mood: mournful

12th June 2015

7:25am: Loving Day
48 years ago, in Loving v Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states could not ban inter-racial marriage.

34 years ago, parkingprincess became my wife, and I her husband.
Thus, this day, June 12, is known as "Loving Day"!
Current Mood: elated

2nd May 2015

9:13pm: Sanders in 2016
I have already announced that I am running as a Sanders delegate for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I am asking that anybody who agrees that we need more thinking like Bernie's in the Democratic Party, lay plans NOW to attend the 2016 Democratic 4th Wisconsin Congressional District caucus, and support my candidacy.
Current Mood: exhilarated

25th April 2015

1:01pm: #newHugocategories
Non-White Female Character in an SF Story Most Eloquently Parroting Political Opinions Held Almost Exclusively By Reactionary White American Males
Current Mood: Annoyed

11th April 2015

6:05pm: The Puppies are displaying their broad ignorance of the field they claim to revere
Historically, SF fandom was centered in the fanzines, constantly refreshed by names culled from the letter columns of the prozines. Conventions were rare and widely scattered, whereas a letter cost less than a dime to mail, and fanzines could easily be printed and mailed for much less than a quarter-dollar. If you lived in a big enough town, this was bolstered and enlarged by local SF clubs, at least one (LASFS) still extant today.

Starting in the 1960s, and more in the 1970s, conventions became more common, but these sprang from the local fandoms (both club and fanzine), and carried on the same conversation, with many of the same participants still around. This conversation in turn (for those unable or unwilling to attend conventions in the flesh, or just wanting more doses of that fannish pleasure) shifted gradually from paper fanzines to online venues, from Usenet and e-mail lists to LiveJournal (and individual blogs) to Facebook. But all these were carrying on the same conversation, and some of the participants remained the same or were the spiritual heirs of the same conversants. We are all the heirs of Bob Tucker, of Forrest J Ackerman, of Jan Howard Finder, of Rusty Hevelin and Lee Hoffman, of Robert Bloch and Morojo, of John Boardman and Harry Warner, Jr., of Terry Carr and Russ Chauvenet and Vin¢ Clarke and Bob Shaw and Jan Howard Finder and Ross Pavlac and Ken Moore and Dean Grennell, of Samuel Edward Konkin III and Steig Larsson (yes, he was One of Us), of Judith Merril and Sam Moskovitz and Ray Palmer, of Frederik Pohl, of Tom Reamy and Bill Rotsler, of Damon Knight and Julie Schwartz, of Donald A. Wollheim. Some of them became pros; some remained “only” fans. But every time you argue about Hugo selection, or use the term “space opera”, or deprecate the use of the horrible neologism “sci-fi” or otherwise celebrate this wonderful thing we enjoy, you ARE part of that conversation, whether you ever get to a con or not. And you are part of science fiction fandom.

Some of the puppies are fuggheads of fandom (the fuggheads, we have with us always); but sadly, they have started to bring in allies: mercenaries and meat-puppets who are not now nor have they ever been part of that conversation, and don’t even understand that it ever existed.
Current Mood: grim

13th January 2015

8:03pm: Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant
The Speculative Literature Foundation is pleased to announce the application period for our first annual Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant is now open.

The application period for the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant opened December 1, 2014, and will close February 20, 2015. The winner for the grant is expected to be announced by April 15, 2015.

The SLF Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant is awarded to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers that have made it much harder for them to have access to the writing world.

Currently, we are offering one $750 working class grant annually.

The Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant will be awarded by a committee of SLF jurors on the basis of interest and merit. Factors the jurors will consider when judging the grant include:

· A short, personal statement (up to 750 words) that addresses the applicant's relevant financial background, why the applicant qualifies for the grant, and the applicant's future writing goals.

· And a writing sample—published or unpublished—up to 10 pages of poetry, 10 pages of drama, or 10,000 words of fiction or creative nonfiction.

More detailed information about the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant and its guidelines can be found here: http://www.speclit.org/Grants/SLFWorkingClass.php

The Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant, as with all of our Speculative Literature Foundation grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. The Speculative Literature Foundation defines speculative literature as a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard and soft science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern mythmaking -- any literature containing a fabulist or speculative element.

If you have questions about the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant, please contact Malon Edwards at: managing_dir@speclit.org
Current Mood: hopeful

11th December 2014

11:00pm: My seester
It was 19~~~. Daddy was editor of the Daily Corinthian, so we were living in Corinth, MS. Mom, we were informed, had had to go to the hospital, which conveniently enough was right across the street. We all went over there: me (5); Patrick (3.5); and Suzy (1.5). We were taken to a room where, behind this big glass window, were rows of cribs. From one of them, a nurse extracted this... thing. It was pink mostly, with bluish bits, and my memory insists it was slimy; but we were assured that with a bit of time it would grow into a sister, like Suzy, but smaller. We were a bit dubious, but eventually it came into our house and grew up, into what is now known as Dr. Mary Lowrey Hamrick, sports psychologist. Nothing like a big brother for embarrassing memories, right, Mary?
Current Mood: fond

23rd November 2014

2:36pm: Juror!
I'm a juror, for The Speculative Literature Foundation's 2015 Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant! The SLF Working-Class / Impoverished Writers' $750 Grant
Current Mood: elated

14th November 2014

6:44pm: I blame james_nicoll
Since I couldn't sup with parkingprincess(who is off doing fiber-agitprop with Char in Iowa), I betook my lonely self to a place where I devoured my first dish of poutine. It was, as they say, yum.
Current Mood: satisfied

11th September 2014

8:50pm: Minimum wage: my take
An excellent science fiction writer asked me offline, "...what's the counter-argument for the conservative/libertarian position of 'Look, if you raise the minimum wage, the employer will raise their prices to compensate, this will ripple down the chain of goods and services, and pretty soon Mr. Minimum Wage is right back where he started.' I reply:

For most businesses, especially the giant ones, the portion of costs which go to wages is quite small. When you add that to the less-obvious point that a large portion of the social services budget in the U.S. goes to pay for programs like the one I work for every day, which pays people's childcare costs out of general public revenues, so that they can "afford" to work at minimum-wage jobs... well, it's to me a no-brainer.

I'm not kidding: my program pays for childcare for people who make low enough wages to qualify. That means if you make a half-ass decent wage (say, $30K a year) you don't qualify. But if you are trying to support your family by driving school buses part-time at $9/hour for a contractor, and working as a Wal-Mart greeter part-time, and maybe flipping burgers at Mickey D's on weekends, we pay for enough daycare that you can leave your kids with strangers in order to further enrich your bosses. (And at these wages, paying for daycare comes ahead of everything including clothing and dental care.) Similar strictures apply to WIC, and food stamps, and what little is left of the old AFDC/welfare programs.

And not least of all: the working class notoriously spends its income, often with small businesses. The increased money being paid to the folks at the airport bookstore where my wife and I work part-time to supplement our state clerical wages, will mostly go back into the domestic economy, in the form of purchases of books and clothing and books and wool and books and donations to my Friends meetinghouse fund and books and trips to SF cons in the States and books bought at those cons and knitting needles and long-put-off medical exams and books and an occasional night out and books and better food for the aging cat and books and shareware fees and books... you get the picture. Notice that most of the above is sales-taxed in most states; and higher wages mean higher income taxes and Social Security payments, even down at this end, in every state.

Damned little of that new income will go into collateralized mortgage obligations tranches (and yes, I DO understand what those are) or vacations in Gstaad (I have no idea whether I spelled that right) or options on the VIX (yes, I do know what that is; did I mention that I used to be one of BARRON'S most faithful socialist readers, until I had to drop that little luxury?). Money paid to the janitor in the stockbroker's buildings and the senior citizen who sells him his takeout cheeseburger and the maid who cleans his hotel room and the security guard who watches the storage facility where he leaves his hobby plane, is money that comes back into the economy with amazing rapidity. Less-crappy jobs like that are also going to look more attractive than marginal criminality, to a valuable fraction of the kids trying to make those life-changing choices.

Are there a few small businesses that genuinely can't afford a higher wage? A few. But if you actually can't make your business model work without paying your employees a decent minimum, is your business model one that you can honestly not be ashamed of?

Would the effect be marginally inflationary? Yes. Would it be worth it in terms of increased prosperity? Hell, yes. Even that bastardly reactionary antisemite Henry Ford was too smart to ignore the facts: you can't make any money selling stuff, if your own workers can't afford to buy stuff.
Current Mood: firm

10th September 2014

7:39pm: Oh, Canada... I'm so disappointed
I got a call today from the bank that issued one of my credit cards. It turns out that last Wednesday, I am reported to have bought C$210 or so worth of stuff at a Target Canada store in Brampton, Ontario.

Brampton? Seriously: Brampton?

I can assure you, not only was I not in Brampton then, I've never been any closer to Brampton than Toronto.

And they couldn't even be bothered to shop Canadian! Nothing from Hudson's Bay or Holt Renfrew or Canadian Tire? Target Canada; not even a lousy snackbox of Timbits... pfaughh. Personally, I blame the ReformaTories. The scamsters probably have a little shrine to Stockwell Day in their back bedroom and a "Stop Elections Canada" poster in their window. Maybe they're clueless landed immigrants from the States fleeing the horror of Obamacare.

The card's been cancelled, and I've been disappointed. Sigh....
Current Mood: bemused

8th August 2014

6:25pm: We got one of the bastards, anyway... kinda
Forty years ago today, that embarrassment to all Quakers and Irishmen alike, Richard Milhous "Actually, I AM A Crook, But You Can't Prove It! Nyahh!" Nixon, resigned as President.

His hand-picked successor, Warren Commission veteran Gerald Ford, immediately pardoned him. We'll never know what all he did.
Tricky Dicky
Current Mood: exultant

7th August 2014

3:59pm: Re: reality-challenged management and their cat herding concepts
A quote from my memo to a fellow office worker and union steward (who is in a different office than my own), about a particularly silly management idea:

"this sounds like a delusional attempt at herding cats by creating a spreadsheet and Powerpoint of where the cats are supposed to be for the next ten years."
Current Mood: restless

18th July 2014

9:56am: AFSCME and the UNCF
I've spent the past week as a delegate (unreimbursed) from my local to the 41st International Convention of AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), of whose Local 91 I am president, and to which parkingprincess also belongs. (The only reason I've been able to afford to be here was that trinker has been letting me crash on her couch here in the Chicago area.)

One of the saddest things we have had to do at International this year was to pass a resolution withdrawing all support from the United Negro College Fund, and urging all affiliates and allies to do the same. Tragically, the UNCF has in the past year sold itself out to the Koch Brothers, agreeing to push their lying agenda in return for a grant said to exceed 30 pieces of silver ($25 million). Their president even spoke at a Koch-funded "summit" where that scumbag Charles Murray of BELL CURVE notoriety was being honored.
Current Mood: melancholy

25th May 2014

12:57am: No LiveJournal party at WisCon this year
I believe this is the first WisCon in well over a decade where there has not been a LiveJournal party.
Current Mood: sad

17th February 2014

1:09pm: So sue me, you sexist creep!
delkytlar seems to have trouble with uppity women he can't control. He has now threatened to sue The Daily Dot for paraphrasing his hateful rantings in a way he doesn't care for, and to sue anybody who links to the article which has put his knickers in a twist. He never seems to have heard of the Streisand effect.

Go ahead, Sean Fodera, sue me: make my rep!
Current Mood: gleeful

16th November 2013

5:50pm: Trope: small-time guy from the sticks makes good, becomes great leader
This came to me while attending a panel here at ICON with Glen Cook:

Small-town kid from repressed respectable but impoverished background in the sticks has a cold and controlling father, leaves home to serve his nation, fights bravely but suffers in The War against The Enemy, goes to the Big City, becomes a charismatic leader and unites his People in a new empire with himself as beloved, charismatic leader against the secret evil cabal which seeks to destroy his Nation.

Fantasy novel, or life of Adolph Hitler?
Current Mood: cynical

23rd October 2013

8:55pm: Paid my dues, done my part
I've just been re-elected without opposition to another two-year term as President of Local 91, Wis. State Employees Union, AFSCME.
Current Mood: determined

7th September 2013

5:50pm: Did I mention I've caused an obscure blogger to tweet that he is declaring war on Wikipedia?
Some guy named Brian Penny decided that he needed to have an article about himself in Wikipedia, so he attempted to pump himself up, then create and pad an article about himself. It's been deleted so often that we have "salted" his very name to make such puffery harder to repeat.

He wrote an article that's been reposted elsewhere titled, "Why Wikipedia Should Be Your New LinkedIn" (a title so repugnant to Wikipedia's ethos that it makes my skin crawl). When we refused to restore his self-advertisement, he sneered at the Wiki-nerds and violated Godwin's Law. When I blocked him from damaging the project further, he tweeted a declaration of war:
https://twitter.com/Versability I tell ya, I'm just trembling in my boots.
Current Mood: amused

30th August 2013

2:49pm: Seamus Heaney is dead
William Dunbar. 1465–1520?

Lament for the Makers

I THAT in heill was and gladnèss
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory,
This fals world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary,
Now dansand mirry, now like to die:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in Erd here standis sicker;
As with the wynd wavis the wicker
So wannis this world's vanitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Unto the Death gois all Estatis,
Princis, Prelatis, and Potestatis,
Baith rich and poor of all degree:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knichtis in to the field
Enarmit under helm and scheild;
Victor he is at all mellie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
The babe full of benignitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the campion in the stour,
The captain closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewtie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awful straik may no man flee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Art-magicianis and astrologgis,
Rethoris, logicianis, and theologgis,
Them helpis no conclusionis slee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In medecine the most practicianis,
Leechis, surrigianis, and physicianis,
Themself from Death may not supplee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

I see that makaris amang the lave
Playis here their padyanis, syne gois to grave;
Sparit is nocht their facultie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has done petuously devour
The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The good Sir Hew of Eglintoun,
Ettrick, Heriot, and Wintoun,
He has tane out of this cuntrie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That scorpion fell has done infeck
Maister John Clerk, and James Afflek,
Fra ballat-making and tragedie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Holland and Barbour he has berevit;
Alas! that he not with us levit
Sir Mungo Lockart of the Lee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Clerk of Tranent eke he has tane,
That made the anteris of Gawaine;
Sir Gilbert Hay endit has he:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Harry and Sandy Traill
Slain with his schour of mortal hail,
Quhilk Patrick Johnstoun might nought flee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has reft Merseir his endite,
That did in luve so lively write,
So short, so quick, of sentence hie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has tane Rowll of Aberdene,
And gentill Rowll of Corstorphine;
Two better fallowis did no man see:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In Dunfermline he has tane Broun
With Maister Robert Henrysoun;
Sir John the Ross enbrast has he:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

And he has now tane, last of a,
Good gentil Stobo and Quintin Shaw,
Of quhom all wichtis hes pitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Good Maister Walter Kennedy
In point of Death lies verily;
Great ruth it were that so suld be:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Sen he has all my brether tane,
He will naught let me live alane;
Of force I man his next prey be:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Since for the Death remeid is none,
Best is that we for Death dispone,
After our death that live may we:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.
Current Mood: melancholy

26th August 2013

7:01pm: Why SF is despised so disproportionately in the mundane culture
Science fiction is unique in that it is a literary genre almost invariably judged by ignorant people (including critics) unaware of the contents of the actual genre, but instead vaguely and a-historically confusing it with a hodgepodge of hazy memories of comic strips, cartoons, films and TV shows (many of them defunct and disdained within the field) which use SF tropes but are not informed with a science-fictional consciousness, not even of 1939 John W. Campbell vintage.

16th June 2013

1:03pm: Father's Day
Remembering Jim Dandy Lowrey, 1922-1963. Younger son who picked cotton in the summer and dropped out of high school, left home after an inconvenient accident, banged around the country and ended up out West, did a stint in the C.C.C., joined the Army and then went A.W.O.L., ended up working in a defense plant (under the name of "Lucky Brocius").

He turned himself in after Pearl Harbor, fought in the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese imperialism (Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, injuries that decades later left him 100% disabled) and acquired a new respect for people of color as he fought alongside them. He married Sybil Blondell "Butch" Scarbrough while still in the hospital in Athens, GA recovering. They were the original bikers: post-war kids (the guys mostly vets) on Harleys, roaming around the country with their friends. Dad floundered around a bit, eventually became a newspaperman (reporter, photographer, outdoors writer) on a string of Southern dailies (he was editor for a while of the DAILY CORINTHIAN in Corinth, MS.).

They raised four of us kids, but his heart was weakened (not that the cigarettes and whiskey helped). His first or second heart attack got him fired (so they wouldn't have to pay health insurance); his third or fourth killed him. He was realistic enough to have prepared all of us for the event, but you never think it's gonna happen.

He was a flawed man (ain't we all?) and a harsh disciplinarian; but I never doubted and don't doubt his love for us all. Love you, Daddy! I only wish you could have met Kelly and the rest of your grandkids.
Current Mood: wistful

13th June 2013

1:25pm: Privilege
Any system that claims that no protection is the same as equal protection is really a system for protecting the privileged. - Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
Current Mood: contemplative

26th May 2013

2:52pm: I love WisCon, but....
Well-meaning, smugly self-congratulatory college-educated upper-middle-class intellectuals at a WisCon? Gee, that NEVER happens....
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