Update: Ninth Circuit Rejects Attack on "Comfort Women" Monument

In 2013, the city of Glendale, California created a monument to "comfort women" — women of various countries sexually enslaved by the Imperial Army of Japan during World War II. Back in 2014 I wrote about a lawsuit brought by Japanese-Americans against the City of Glendale in which the plaintiffs claimed that Glendale's commemoration violated the Constitution's Supremacy Clause because it interfered with the still-sensitive and still-controversial (to the Japanese, anyway) subject of Japanese war crimes. I wrote about a federal court's dismissal of the lawsuit later in 2014, and Marc Randazza piled on and questioned the recent provenance of the entity created to be one of the plaintiffs. I maintain my position that the lawsuit was one of the most repulsive I remember seeing.

During the summer, there was an update — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. The decision is here.

The Ninth Circuit didn't agree with the trial court about everything. For instance, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiffs had standing — that is, a sufficient stake in the issue to be qualified to challenge the City of Glendale's actions. The trial court concluded that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated standing by alleging that their enjoyment of Glendale parks was disrupted by the presence of the comfort women monument; the Ninth Circuit — relying in part on environmental and Establishment Clause cases — decided that the statement of offense and interference with enjoyment of public spaces was enough.

After that, though, the plaintiffs and the Ninth Circuit parted company. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the City of Glendale's commemoration of a historical event did not interfere with the United States' foreign policy and did not violate the Supremacy Clause. The court distinguished cases in which states have enacted remedial schemes aimed at foreign policy, like bans on trading with particular nations or a statutory plan to recover art stolen by Nazis during World War II:

Moreover, in contrast to state actions we have found preempted, Glendale has taken no action that would affect the
legal rights and responsibilities of any individuals or foreign governments.

The comfort women monument, by contrast, was expressive:

These purposes—memorializing victims and expressing hope that others do not suffer a similar fate—are entirely consistent with a local government’s traditional function of communicating its views and values to its citizenry.

This was the right result. Any other would prevent local governments — and by extension their citizens — from expressing themselves on historic matters. In a post-factual world, uttering the truth steadfastly becomes even more important. Imperial Japan sexually enslaved women. If they don't like that being said, tough.

This firm rejection by the Ninth Circuit renders moot my previous speculation on the ultimate endgame of the forces behind this lawsuit. I will note, however, that one of the original attorneys on the case has litigated on behalf of Turkey and Turkish entities using the same Supremacy Clause argument. Glendale, and its environs, have monuments recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Turkey, and Turkish interests, would prefer those monuments and official recognitions did not exist. If that was the long game, it has been thwarted now. But the fight to tell the truth about history does not end.

You Are Not Going to Resist the Government With Your Guns

"Bullshit quote memes piss me off so bad that I want to stab someone in their fat stupid face!"  - Fred Rogers

"Bullshit quote memes piss me off so bad that I want to stab someone in their fat stupid face!" – Fred Rogers

I'm not prepared to get rid of our right to keep and bear arms unless we do get rid of the Second Amendment. But, doing that requires tinkering with the Constitution, which makes me nervous. Once you open the hood, you never know what else someone will fuck with. With the state of our idiocracy, opening the Constitution is just as likely to wind up creating a right to keep and bear rape monkeys as it is to have its intended effect.

So it is what it is. We have the Second Amendment, and while we can debate all we want about how we should interpret it, DC v. Heller pretty much did that for us. It is an individual right, and anyone who suggests that we might even ponder a dissenting view is not very likely to make it through Senate confirmation hearings.

So here we are.

Fallacy Killer Number One – George Washington Did Not Say That

Lets talk about one justification for our right to keep and bear arms — the notion that we need the Second Amendment so that we can resist "tyranny." This George Washington quote sprouts up like mushrooms on cow shit every time there is a mass shooting – to remind us that even though a dozen kids just died, it is worth it, because one day we will want those guns – like the day that Obama comes to herd us into concentration camps where we will be forced to have free health care, or education, or Koran lessons, or whatever the fear-du-jour happens to be.

"A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." -George Washington

Well guess what?

He never said that.

Here is what he actually said:

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."

Pretty big difference by shifting a few words around.

Fallacy Killer Number Two – The Second Amendment Will Preserve Our Right to Revolt

Just because Washington didn't say that, it doesn't mean that there is no "right to revolution" theory to be found in the Second Amendment. After all, Jefferson did say "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

In 1776, when the height of military technology was a musket and a cannon, both of which you could make by melting down church bells, there might have been something to it. When the contest was little more than numbers of guns you could drag through the woods, and how to play the weather, the government probably did need to worry a bit about insurrection – and that might have kept them a bit more honest.

However, the first time someone tried that kind of thing, it didn't work out so well. In fact, Shays' Rebellion just led to Constitutional tweaks to make the federal government that much stronger. The Civil War led to even more, with harsher consequences.

If 13 states, with the assistance of at least one superpower, didn't manage to get their way through armed insurrection, what the hell makes anyone think that armed insurgency is going to preserve our right to … whatever … not have affordable health care, or to coffee cups that say "Happy Birthday Jesus" on them?

Ok, fine… lets come up with a cause worth fighting for. Lets say that Obama refuses to step down in 2016, and he not only declares himself dictator-for-life, but he also starts dressing like Ghadaffi, decrees that the national religion shall be Islam, the national language will be Klingon, there will be an efficient rail network in the United States, the writ of Prima Noctae is now in effect, and there shall be martial law to enforce all of the above, as well as any other laws that the President invents, on a daily basis.

We managed to preserve our right to keep military grade rifles and machine guns, so we all muster down on the Town Common with our guns. We tried voting. We tried protesting. This is a reasonable time to start with the armed insurrection stuff.

So, you, me, all our neighbors, hell our entire city builds a perimeter around it. We fill sandbags, we all have ammunition, we all have food, water, supplies, and most importantly, we are all unified and in complete solidarity.

And we stand there, resisting whatever it is the government was going to do to us.

And then they fly over with one jet, dropping one FAE bomb, and roll in with three tanks, and in about 12 hours, our "resistance" is reduced to a few smoking holes. The Tree of Liberty will get its manure all right, but it will be the manure that you shat out as you ran for cover, as long range artillery rains down on our town, as we get carpet bombed from 35,000 feet, and as the sky goes black with drones and cruise missiles.

We're screwed.

So… if the 2nd Amendment's "right to revolution" implication is real, both practically and legally, it must also include a right to possess tanks, jets, rocket launchers, etc. Your puny AK-47 is useless. So, we need to have at least some of our volunteer resistance show up with Stinger missiles, some anti-aircraft batteries, maybe a submarine or two?

Oh, you can't afford that?

That's ok, we have some patriotic citizens who can.

Who? The same billionaires who already own the government, that's who. So what do they want to "resist?" I could only see them wanting to resist checks on their own power. So, if the Second Amendment implies a right to resist the government, then that would mean that we need our billionaire friends to start stockpiling these weapons now. We need a Koch brothers airfield with a few fighters and bombers, and Adelson should have a fleet of tanks somewhere, and I guess that George Soros would bring his collection of nuke-armed submarines up to date, right?

So lets drop the crazy scenario of Obama-cum-Ghadaffi, and just think about something we were really likely to see upset us. Do you think for a moment that you, living in some apartment in Salt Lake City, or a house in Wyoming, or a condo in Boca Raton, would be ready to go to war with the Federal Government over the same shit that would get the Koch Brothers to fuel up their private stock of A10 Warthogs? Really?

Because you know what the billionaires want the government to stop doing? They want it to get out of the way of their becoming trillionaires. If you think that the Second Amendment means what the Supreme Court said in Heller, and you believe that is a good thing, because it gives you the ability to resist the government, you might want to play out the long game in your head. The long game here is this interpretation leads to private armies, raised by limitless wealth, all of which looks at our quaint little republican form of government as nothing more than a paper justification to have a flag waving over a few national parks.

I don't particularly love the federal government either, but ultimately, it is the only organization that we have where we can even hope to band together with enough authority to avoid being under the rule of the richest local family. Yeah, in large part, we're there already. Citizens United made sure of that. But, at least we still have some veneer of a republic.

So the next time you see some fool cheering the Second Amendment as the text that protects us from tyranny, ask them to play all four quarters of the mental game. It isn't romantic pictures of regular guys crossing the Delaware in rowboats. The endgame is Ancient Rome meets The Terminator.

[Update] – A few comments suggest that our modern military has not really been that effective against insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and elsewhere. I concede that point. But, I did not think I needed to waste a paragraph in the original discussing how I hardly think that Americans would be prepared to hide in the woods and caves, en masse, to support an American insurgency. Not a chance. When our intelligentsia is crying for "safe spaces," our would-be "Wolverines" scream to give up every civil liberty except the Second Amendment, who are we going to have lead this "insurgency?" Maybe the Crips and the Bloods. That ought to work out well. Sorry, but anyone you might want to be in power doesn't have the yarbles to do it, and those with the great bolshy yarblockos are not exactly going to set up a rebel government on the principles of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Clark on the Ace of Spades Podcast

I've been reading Ace of Spades since way back in the early days of the blogosphere, so it was a thrill to be invited on the podcast last night to talk about the blue, pink, red, and gray teams, about #GamerGate, about John Scalzi and Vox Day fighting for the heart of science fiction, about how the broader culture war is over, and about how that doesn't much matter because the current American government will be swept away by the tide of history within twenty five years.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Gamer Gate: Three Stages to Obit

A lot of things been written about Gamer Gate. Some of them wrong, some of them stupid, some of them both.

A lot of the confusion (both accidental and malicious) is because Gamer Gate is three separate things clustered together under one name.

The Three Stages of Gamer Gate

Gamer Gate began in a relationship spat. Person X was dating person Y. At some point person X realized that person Y had engaged in a pattern of cheating and lying, and person X blogged about the dirt.

This relationship drama was the first stage of the GamerGate, and as a he-said-she-said tale, it's of interest only to the two people involved, and their friends.

The blog post, though, went beyond "she told me she loved me and then she showed she didn't", and alleged that the unfaithful partner had slept with powerful media figures in the small world of computer games journalism…figures who either reviewed games coded by the unfaithful partner, or managed writers who did review the games. The alleged behavior is (at best) a breach of common sense, and (at worst) a major breach of journalistic ethics.

This gamer journalism drama was the second stage of GamerGate, and as a sex-for-positive press coverage scandal (unproven, in my mind), or just as a "jeez, gamer journalism is as corruptly orchestrated as mainstream media is under Ezra Klein's Journolist" scandal, it's of interest to the tens of thousands of people who read and write game review journalism… which doesn't include me.

This is where things got wacky. And by "wacky", I mean "exploded like a barbecue grill when liquid oxygen is poured on it."
[Read more…]

Strange Seeds on Distant Shores

In Soviet Russia, Pravda punches you

I once asked a coworker who had grown up in the Soviet Union "What was the most surprising thing about coming to the West?" I was assuming it was going to be something physical and mundane: the shape of traffic lights, or the fact that you can't find Vodka for sale in bus stops – something like that.

His answer, though, made me realize that I'd accidentally asked a really interesting question. "Growing up under communism, things didn't make perfect sense. Facts didn't quite fit together. But because everything – schools, newspapers, radio – was all from the same people, you never knew what was wrong…but you could tell that something wasn't right. It was like boxing while you're blind folded. You keep getting hit in the face, but you don't know why. Only after I got out did I see how the real world really was, and how everything we'd been told was lies and distortions." (Quote is from memory ten years later)

There's an aphorism that "fish don't know that they're in water." While googling up the phrase to make sure I had it exactly, I learned that Derek Sivers has made exactly the point I wanted to make next, and made it well, so I'll let him speak:

Fish don't know they're in water.

If you tried to explain it, they'd say, "Water? What's water?"

They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see.

They can't see it until they get outside of it.

This is how I feel about culture.

We're so surrounded by people who think like us, that it's impossible to see that what we think are universal truths are just our local culture.

We can't see it until we get outside of it.

I was born in California and grew up with what I felt was a normal
upbringing with normal values.

My Russian friend was a fish, and it wasn't until he got out of the water that he could look down and exclaim "Holy shit! That is why I felt so wet all the time!"

Well, lucky us – we live in the West where the schools, the media, and the government aren't all held captive by one totalitarian ideology, so we get a diversity of viewpoints and can see how things really work.

I'm joking, of course. [Read more…]

Controlling Public Art By Lawsuit: Japanese-American Citizens Sue To Remove "Comfort Women" Memorial

I have written about many maddening lawsuits at Popehat. But I cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged me.

During the Second World War, the Empire of Japan sexually enslaved women — at least tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands — to be raped by its troops. They were forcibly seized from the countries Japan occupied, primarily Korea. Though Japan officially apologized in 1993, in recent years right-wing forces in Japan have been seeking to retract those apologies, asserting that the enslaved women were actually voluntary prostitutes, or that the Empire itself wasn't involved in any coercion. This attempted walkback can best be understood in the broader context of Japanese nationalist politics, in which right-wing politicians play to their base by doing things like visiting shrines honoring war criminals.

Now Japanese-American plaintiffs, served by American megafirm Mayer Brown, are pursuing the agenda of reactionary Japanese politicians through despicable litigation.

Glendale, California is a suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up next door and still live there. It's incredibly diverse with many thriving ethnic communities. In 2013 the City of Glendale erected a modest memorial to the comfort women of World War II in a public park next to the library. Japanese politicians were enraged and have repeatedly demanded that the memorial be removed. The federal lawsuit filed by Mayer Brown seeks to have the memorial removed by force of law.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — which I have uploaded here — are Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery, Los Angeles resident Koichi Mera, and GAHT-US Corporation, which says it is in the business of providing "accurate and fact-based educational resources to the public in the U.S., including within California and Glendale, concerning the history of World War II and related events, with an emphasis on Japan’s role." The plaintiffs complain that the presence of the comfort women memorial in Glendale causes them to suffer "feelings of exclusion, discomfort, and anger because of the position espoused by her city of residence through its display and endorsement" of the monument, and that they avoid the park because it shows a "pointed expression of disapproval of Japan and the Japanese people" and diminishes their enjoyment of the park. Though the lawsuit discusses a controversy over what the Empire of Japan did to women in the war, the complaint unsubtly conveys a position: "These women are often referred to as comfort women, a loose translation of the Japanese word for prostitute."

Plaintiffs argue in part that the City of Glendale did not follow its own rules in approving the exact language on the memorial. But their primary argument — the most shocking one — is that the City of Glendale cannot erect such a memorial because it violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and interferes with the federal government's sole right to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

Glendale’s installation of the Public Monument has a direct impact on U.S. foreign policy that is neither incidental nor indirect. By installing the Public Monument, Glendale has taken a position in the contentious and politically sensitive international debate concerning the proper historical treatment of the former comfort women. More specifically, given the inflammatory language used in the plaque that is prominently featured alongside the statue, Glendale has taken a position at odds with the expressed position of the Japanese government.

Though the plaintiffs make this argument about the comfort women memorial in Glendale, it is nearly limitless in its application. For instance, though this fight is over a memorial, it could just as easily be about a city council resolution recognizing a day to remember some historical event. Similarly, though this fight is about the agenda of reactionary Japanese forces that seek to suppress discussion of wartime conduct, it could just as easily be about a hundred other historical disputes. If you think that's mere speculation, think again. Glendale, California and the surrounding communities are also home to one of the largest Armenian diaspora groups in the United States. Will Mayer Brown next be suing to force the removal of memorials to the Armenian Genocide, or to prohibit city councils from recognizing it, because it is extremely controversial to apologist forces in Turkey? Given the delicacy of U.S. relationships with the new government of Afghanistan, will someone use the federal courts to police the language of civic war memorials and commemorative statements across the nation, to make certain that they portray the Afghans as our allies?

This is not a First Amendment issue, exactly, because government entities don't have First Amendment rights. But it is an issue of federalism, of local self-determination, and of citizenship. Local citizens, through their local elected government, wished to recognize a historical atrocity using local government money on local government land. Their city did not purport to engage in negotiation with any foreign government or to take any position on behalf of the United States — they just took a position on behalf of its citizens. They did not do anything prohibited by the Constitution, like establishing a state religion. The notion that the federal government or the federal courts should regulate this expression is noxious.

Moreover, the argument against it is vague, unprincipled, and endlessly malleable. If a case like this succeeds, what will the courts say to a Holocaust denier who argues that a memorial is too harsh in condemning Germany, a nation with whom we have dicey relations? The plaintiffs here might argue that the difference is that recognition of the Holocaust isn't controversial and wouldn't anger most Germans, while the comfort women issue has angered Japanese politicians. But that's just another way of saying that foreign politicians should be able to dictate what American towns put on their civic memorials. The more that foreign politicians are willing to make demands and issue denunciations, the less free American towns would be to commemorate historical events. This would drive exactly the sort of entitled, thuggish behavior that Japanese politicians have shown here, issuing churlish demands that a foreign city shut up about their nation's history.

This lawsuit is thoroughly contemptible. It should fail, and everyone involved should face severe social consequences.

Edited to add: It occurred to me what this reminded me of: Croat lawfare trying to get Bob Dylan charged with hate speech for talking about Croat atrocities.

The Extraordinary, And Those Who Did It

Today, on Veterans Day, I'm remembering my grandfather, Paul K. Doyle. I get my middle name from him.

Also, my sensuous lips.

Also, my sensuous lips.

Grandpa served on the USS Hamlin — a seaplane tender — in the Pacific during World War II, as well as on other ships servicing Naval aviation. He was a supply officer specializing in supplying Naval intelligence planes. He was not in combat, but he was damned close:

One night I took one of our small boats to another seaplane tender that I was responsible for as aviation supply officer. While I was gone, a kamikaze dove into the side of the ship and right through my room. My roommate was in the room at the time and was very badly hurt. The room was full of sea water and the furniture was upside down. The pictures of Judy [my mother — Ken], mother, and saucy [the dog] had been on my desk in a red leather portfolio.

We still have one of the pictures. The discoloration is from the seawater and liquor (from bottles Grandpa used for "trading purposes"):


Grandpa got the Bronze Star because he was particularly good at anticipating aviation supply shortages and finding creative solutions to them. Grandma says that if you found out, and asked him what he had done, he would say "Oh, I don't remember. Probably won it in a beer drinking contest."


Grandpa would be the last man to call himself a hero, or call himself extraordinary.

After 9/11 it's popular to refer to veterans as heroes. I think that term shortchanges them, unless we remember that heroism is about what you do and about not who you are. When extraordinary people do extraordinary things, it's not remarkable. The exploits of superheroes and the inhumanly able play out on our screens every day. But Veterans Day is a time to remember that ordinary people are capable of the extraordinary. The men and women who have served were just men and women — broken, like all of us, flawed, like all of us, afraid, like all of us. But faced with duty, they stepped up and did astounding things. They endured seas of crushing boredom dotted with islands of sheer terror. They committed acts of jaw-dropping bravery and sacrifice. They volunteered to venture into unknown territory amid danger and uncertainty. They served quietly in supportive roles essential to the things that get on the news. They did those things without superpowers and without magic and without the uncanny abilities or luck of our on-screen heroes. They did them with only the natural gifts that you and I have, and with skills borne of hard work and training — borne of service. They demonstrated by example what we can do if we are willing to commit ourselves to a cause.

Today, we should thank veterans for their service. But we should also thank them for their example.

History Must Be Curved

I'm about to quote almost 700 words from a blog post, which normally would be considered long…but it's from an almost book-length series of posts, so as a proportion of the whole, it's actually quite short.


HISTORY MUST BE CURVED, for there is a horizon in the affairs of mankind. Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions “abraded into anecdotes.” Real people become culture heroes: archetypical beings performing iconic deeds. (Vansina 1985)

In oral societies this horizon lies typically at eighty years; but historical consciousness endures longer in literate societies, and the horizon may fall as far back as three centuries. Arthur, a late 5th cent. war leader, had become by the time of Charlemagne the subject of an elaborate story cycle. Three centuries later, troubadours had done the same to Charlemagne himself. History had slipped over the horizon and become the stuff of legend. In AD 778, a Basque war party ambushed the Carolingian rear guard (Annales regni francorum). Forty years later, Einhard, a minister of Charlemagne, mentioned “Roland, prefect of the Breton Marches” among those killed (“Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus,” Vita karoli magni). But by 1098, Roland had become a “paladin” and the central character, the Basques had become Saracens, and a magic horn and tale of treachery had been added (La chanson de Roland). Compare the parallel fate of a Hopi narrative regarding a Navajo ambush (Vansina, pp. 19-20). This suggests that 17th century history has for the bulk of the population already become myth. Jamestown is reduced to “Pocahontas,” and Massachusetts boils down to “the First Thanksgiving.” And the story of how heliocentrism replaced geocentrism has become a Genesis Myth, in which a culture-hero performs iconic deeds that affirm the rightness of Our Modern World-view.

Conclusion: Our ancestors were not fools.

In three centuries, the long complex story of how the mobile Earth replaced the stationary Earth dipped below the horizon from History into Legend. Like all good legends, the story of heliocentrism and the culture-hero Galileo is simple and general and geared toward supporting the Rightness of the Modern worldview. But history is always detailed and particular.

The reasons for the stationary Earth were rooted in empirical experience and successful modeling. The dual motion of the Earth is not sensibly evident and was difficult to establish on empirical grounds. Heliocentrism triumphed first of all because Neoplatonic number mysticism had become au courant during the Renaissance, and Platonists equated mathematical elegance with physical evidence.

Resistance to heliocentrism was rooted in the science of the day and religion entered the picture mainly because the Church Fathers had interpreted Scripture in the light of that science. They weren’t about to change until there was solid evidence that the science (and hence the interpretation) was wrong; not in the middle of no honkin' Reformation they weren’t. Thomas Huxley said after investigating the affair that “the Church had the better case.” But Pierre Duhem put it differently. The Copernicans were “right for the wrong reasons.” The Ptolemaics were “wrong for the right reasons.”

Science doesn’t follow a mythic positivist ideal but the plural scientific methods described by Feyerabend: a mixture of empiricism, flights of fancy, intuition, aesthetics, doggedness, and jealousy. Scientific theories are underdetermined. Any finite set of facts can support multiple theories, and for a long time the available facts were equally explained by geostationary or geomobile models.

In the Legend, the conflict was between Science and Religion. But in the History, the conflict was between two groups of scientists, with churchmen lined up on all sides. Copernicanism was supported by humanist literati and opposed by Aristotelian physicists; so it was a mixed bag all around. Science does not take place in a bubble. International and domestic politics and individual personalities roil the pot as well. The mystery is not why Galileo failed to triumph – he didn’t have good evidence, made enemies of his friends, and stepped into a political minefield. The real mystery is why Kepler, who actually had the correct solution, constantly flew under the radar. A deviant Lutheran working in a Catholic monarchy, he pushed Copernicanism as strongly as Galileo; but no one hassled him over it. Too bad he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag.

This is from the conclusion of Michael Flynn's masterful nine part essay on "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown".

I can not recommend it highly enough.

  1. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown
  2. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Down for the Count
  3. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13
  4. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle
  5. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Here's Mud in Yer Eye
  6. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Comet Chameleon
  7. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Time and Tides Wait Not
  8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error
  9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven

If you find the idea in the first quoted paragraph above ("Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions 'abraded into anecdotes.'") somewhere between tantalizing and fascinating, then you could do worse than to check out his Spiral Arm series of novels:

  1. January Dancer
  2. Up Jim River
  3. On the Razor's Edge
  4. In the Lion's Mouth

I loved the books.

Wikipedia has this to say about them:


This is a far future science fiction novel set in a universe populated with only humans and "pre-human" artifacts. It is told as a narrative presented with variations on English, Chinese, Indian, and Celtic words. The literary style has been described as extremely difficult to read due to the inclusion of non-English terms and historical accounts that are not common knowledge to most SF readers[1][2]. The characters in the story belong to 2 major factions of humanity: The United League of the Periphery, and the Confederacy of Central Worlds. The Confederacy is the remnant of Earth and its original colonies while the League is composed of the planets far out on the spiral arm of the galaxy. These 2 factions are in a galactic "cold war" and both have secretive pseudo-military agencies that feature prominently in the book. The story centers around the Confederacy and League agents seeking the answer to a mystery of the disappearance of ships in the rift between the spiral arm and the central worlds. The story's title comes from a "pre-human" artifact called the Dancer which is discovered early in the book. It exerts a subtle but very profound effect on various characters throughout the story. It is eventually revealed to be part of an ancient race of silicon based lifeforms called "The Folk of Sand and Iron" that have played a very significant but almost unknown role in human history. The story has 2 sequels and a third planned[3]. The January Dancer was a finalist for the 2009 Prometheus Award.

ObDisclosure about this review:

  1. I've never met Michael Flynn, and have no personal or economic stake in his success.
  2. I do, however, have a memetic stake. He thinks Deep Thoughts that I agree with. I wouldn't mind him getting funded so that he can keep writing.
  3. The links to his books above use the Amazon Popehat affiliate code. Read about how that money gets spent here.
  4. Depending on the reaction to this post, I may end up writing reviews of science fiction novels that I find worthy of note. Whether or not people like this one, I'm pretty likely to write one of my big-honkin' pieces on the topic of left/right/centrist post-apocalyptic novels.

UPDATE: Thanks for dropping by, Hacker News readers. If you liked this you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed. Popehat is a group blog. Ken is the most prolific blogger and covers civil rights law. I'm the second most prolific blogger (this week, at least) and talk about science, politics, and – upcoming – intended to dive deep into Urbit and will soon start writing reviews of science fiction novels. The other co-bloggers are also fascinating nerds and write about stuff that the typical news.yc reader would enjoy. Stick around!

The Guns Of August

99 years ago today, the first German uhlans crossed the Belgian frontier, seizing telegraph offices and rail stations. At 11:00 p.m., 99 years ago today, the United Kingdom entered a state of war with the German Reich. By midnight, the Royal Navy was steaming to battle stations.

British Navy
Once the Germans crossed that frontier, which was guaranteed by Britain, there was no turning back.

99 years later, many of the descendants of the men who fought in the British Expeditionary Force believe that the event that triggered the Great War was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Many more believe that it was Margaret Thatcher, rather than Herbert Asquith, who declared war. One of the leading sources of British knowledge of the Great War is "Blackadder."

This is the world that was made, 99 years ago today.

Blogging As Cooperative Free Association

Links are the currency of blogging. We're fortunate these days to receive a fair number of them, for which we're thankful. But once in a while, a link stands out, a link from another blogger who takes your story, and spins it into something of his own inspiration, something you'd never think to write, or something you simply couldn't write.

I was especially thankful, therefore, to receive a link this morning from Unwashed Advocate, in which the author riffs on my trifle about yet another overbroad law aimed at the Westboro Bigot Church, to tell the little-known history of William Calley after My Lai, the disgusting fashion in which high government officials pandered to Calley's fan club, and the author's meeting with one of the jurors at Calley's court martial: I give you Calley Revisited.