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July 31, 2016

Sunday Morning Book Thread 07-31-2016: Up Against The Wall [OregonMuse]

Rose Reading Room, NYC Public Library.jpg

Rose Reading Room, New York Public Library

A good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a mafter fpirit, imbalm'd and treafur'd up on purpofe to a life beyond life

John Milton, Areopagitica
(Sign above the entrance to the Rose Reading Room)

That reading room is breathtaking. Unfortunately, the tiny pic doesn't do it justice. Click on it for a yuuge version to get the full effect.

Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread, where men are men, all the 'ettes are lovely, safe spaces are for losers, and nobody cares about what kind of snowflake you are, so suck it up, buttercup. And unlike other AoSHQ comment threads, the Sunday Morning Book Thread is so hoity-toity, pants are required. And anything you buy in this store doesn't count.

Reduction of the Innocent

"Why do we have so many people in jail?"

I found myself asking this question a few days ago.

Pretty much all of the statistical data I've been able to find puts the United States at or near the top of all of the countries in the world, ranked in order of incarceration rates (number of prisoners per 100,000 population). For example:

In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world's population, it houses around 22 percent of the world's prisoners. Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost around $74 billion in 2007 according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

I'm not sure what happened in 1975, but as you can see from the chart on this page, that was when a hitherto stable (more or less) incarceration rate started going up, and up, and up.

Oh, now I see. According to this advocacy group, this was about the start of the "War on Drugs". I thought the WoD was a Reagan initiative, but it actually comes from the Nixon administration. Either way, it hasn't been a resounding success.

"Highest in the world". Ugh. This is supposed to be the land of the free, but it is increasingly becoming the land of the jailed.

I must admit there were some conservative policy initiatives back in the 90s that I'm having second thoughts about. Tired of rising crime rates and of liberal judges handing out lenient sentences to hardened criminals, a number of states passed mandatory sentencing, "three strikes and you're out" laws, and other get-tough-on-crime statutes, supported by conservatives. I'm not sure I can criicize these measures without getting smacked by the Butterfield Fallacy, but I think what be an unintended consequence of all of this is a new breed of hyper-aggressive prosecutor, as in the Duke Lacross and George Zimmerman cases, who will, in fact, indict a ham sandwich. And as lawyers are many times asked "would you defend a man you knew was guilty?", perhaps these state-appointed attornies should be asked if they would prosecute someone they knew was innocent.

And, of course, one of the dirty little secrets of the American prison system is the high recidivism rate, i.e. prisoners tend to keep coming back as repeat offenders. I have worked a little with convicts and ex-convicts over the years and I'm more than a little convinced that for many of them, three hots and a cot provided by the state penal system suits them fine. They may not like prison, but taking responsibility for yourself on the outside is a lot more work.

Solzhenitsyn famously complained that the Soviet legal system was so constructed that any citizen would be guilty of something or other at any time, which made arresting them more convenient.

We're heading in that direction.

The overcriminalization of America is the subject of One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty by Paul Rosenzweig.

Just when you thought it was safe to leave your home, the federal government may have made you a criminal for very innocent actions. This book includes staggering true stories and information that make Kafka novels sound like Dr. Seuss...Literally thousands of laws exist that most people don't know about and which penalize conduct that few would even imagine was criminal. This book tells the story of ordinary Americans who were prosecuted and even jailed for everyday activities that ran afoul of the multitude of statutes and regulations that can be used by governments to trap the unwary.

There's also Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything by Gene Healy, which looks like it covers much of the same ground:

The American criminal justice system is becoming ever more centralized and punitive, owing to rampant federalization and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Go Directly to Jail examines these alarming trends and proposes reforms that could rein in a criminal justice apparatus at war with fairness and common sense.

Martha Stewart just e-mailed me and said "I know, right?"

The Kindle edition is $6.99.

Also of interest is False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent, Revised Edition, by former Attorney General of Ohio Jim Petro. Spoiler: the eight myths are

Myth 1: Everyone in prison claims innocence.
Myth 2: Our system almost never convicts an innocent person.
Myth 3: Only the guilty confess.
Myth 4: Wrongful conviction is the result of innocent human error.
Myth 5: An eyewitness is the best testimony.
Myth 6: Conviction errors get corrected on appeal.
Myth 7: It dishonors the victim to question a conviction.
Myth 8: If the justice system has problems, the pros will fix them.

But on the other hand, if Hillary! is elected, perhaps some the innocents will be freed since they'll have to make room for climate change deniers, Tea Partiers, regret rapists, and other political criminals.

We're All Deviants Now

Are any of you morons pack rats? I'm not a pack rat in meat space, but on my computer? That's a completely different story. Over the years, I've come to absolutely detest deleting any file for any reason whatsoever because hey, who knows, I might find some use for it later. And you can imagine what my Outlook "Inbox" folder is like. I like to think of it as kind of like a company refrigerator, only without the funny smells and weird growths on the items way in the back.

So I was poking around the other day seeing what's there I had forgotten about, and I found an e-mail from 2004(!) that contained a book recommendation from a friend of mine, who is actually now deceased. The rec was for The Politics of Deviance by Anne Hendershott:

"In The Politics of Deviance, Anne Hendershott (Moving for Work), a sociologist at the University of San Diego, laments the death of deviance as a concept within sociology, along with a consequent "destigmatizing [of] deviant behaviors" within the real social world. In chapters like "Medicalizing the Deviance of Drug Abuse," "Expanding the Market for Mental Illness" and "Postmodern Pedophilia," Hendershott details a process whereby, in her view, "all behaviors are created equal" within the culture, and a market model of what is desirable in a society (i.e., that a kind of manufactured demand for rebellion drives permissiveness) rules to society's detriment. An indictment of what Hendershott feels has taken place within her field over the last 30 years, this book, published by a California think tank, attempts nothing less than a rearticulation of social conservatism."

The progressive left has made a fetish out of deviance because they are at war with normal life. In fact, if you look at their policy preferences, they're actually at war with life, period. As grammie winger said in a Thursday thread, "[T]hey want dead people. Dead babies, dead old people that are in the way, dead military people, dead cops, dead disabled. Party of (D) is Party of Death."

Stereotypes? What Stereotypes?

And speaking of hating normal life, one my e-book discount spotting services presented me with this one on Saturday, Transformed: San Francisco (Quirky Queer Spy Novels Book 1) by Suzanne Falter, and I thought I had my filters set to stop that kind of crap from coming through. Dang. Anyway, the Amazon blurb is a laugh riot:

Charley McElroy is a handsome, well-heeled travel writer and CIA informant who also happens to be an F-to-M transman. And he’s been recently benched by the Agency for not paying his taxes. On the other side of San Francisco, Electra, a Manhattan socialite-turned-dominatrix has just arrived to rebuild her life. Meanwhile Frankie is a lesbian police sergeant on the outs with the SFPD and trying to recover from the death of her wife. Against all odds, the three meet and uncover a Christian fundamentalist’s plot to destroy the ‘hedonists’ of San Francisco. Together, they set out to foil the terrorist's plot – but can they get anyone to listen to them?

Sheesh. It's as if the author didn't so much write this novel as checked all of the boxes on a list: Let's see here, trans guy/gal? Check. Lesbo cop? Check. Kinky prostitute? Check. Evil fundy Xtianist bad guys? Check. Utter lack of moral restraints depicted as virtuous? Check. Traditional moral structures depicted as evil? Check. This is the same old boring story that progressives have been telling for decades, to wit: happy innocent hedonism vs. harmful social restraints. You'd think tht after they've dominated the culture for so long, they'd be able to come up with something new.

I think the progressives have to do this, have to keep reassuring themselves that their manifold deviances are all just peachy-dandy, that nothing bad will happen no matter how long they operate their bodies and minds outside of design specs, and they have to keep telling themselves this so reality won't bite them on the butt. So they have to believe, for example, that grammie winger praying and reading her Bible in her kitchen is a dire threat to their existence, moreso than a religion whose adherents want to throw them off the roofs of buildings.

But they really ought to want to keep grammie around, though, because then they'll have someone to blame when it all falls apart on them, and they're all standing dumbfounded in the ruins, wondering what happened, and looking like Wile E. Coyote after the failure of his new Acme™ rocket sled.

Dick Morris Does The Hokey Pokey

Political pundit Dick Morris has a new book out: Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary. For those of you who don't know, Morris was a lackey and a servant for the Clintons back in the 90s (a footman, if you will). But since then, he has been toe-ing the line for the Republican party. Morris is not the sole author of this heavily footnoted book, he was given a leg up by his co-author Eileen McGann. This latest book has obviously been released to stomp on the political ambitions of Hillary Clinton. She must think Morris has become quite the GOP ankle-biter, but will this effort bring her to heel, or will readers conclude that this is just another retread and give it the boot? Only time will tell if this book has legs.


I first mentioned Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK back in 2012. At that time, only dead tree versions were available. But this book came up on one of the weekday morning threads and that's when I discovered that there's a Kindle edition that has been published. Posner's argument is that the Warren Commission's findings were essentially correct. That is, Oswald was a mentally unbalanced left-wing kook who acted alone and who didn't need anyone to pull his strings to get him to do what he did.

There are two great things about this new Kindle edition:

1) If you click on the "Look Inside" link on Amazon for a sample, you'll get the first 2 chapters complete and a substantial part of the 3rd. That's extremely generous.

2) It only costs $2.99.

Call for Short Stories

I like science fiction publisher TANSTAAFL Press because their logo is a teddy bear holding an M-16. 'Ette Anna Puma informed me that they have an open call for short story submissions for their "Enter the..." series of anthologies.

We will accept submissions up until June 15, 2016 for Enter the Apocalypse, Sept 15, 2016 for Enter the Aftermath, and Dec 15, 2016 for Enter the Rebirth.

So one deadline is already past, but there are still two others. Interested writers should click this link for more info on TANSTAAFL's submission guidelines.

Moron Recommendations

Again dipping into ace's book rec thread (which I've been dining out on for weeks now):

"LJIm (Lets Go Pens)" recommends the 'Magic 2.0' series by Scott Mayer, which he rates as "a fun and medium-light read." The first book is called Off To Be the Wizard:

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

This reminds me of Rick Cook's "Wizardry" series I read back in the 90s which main character as a computer geek thrown into a magic-rich environment where little spells work pretty reliably, but the big ones not so much. So he figures out how to make spells for the magic equivalents of "1" and "0" which, being tiny spells, work 100% of the time. With these binary tools, he can use software engineering techniques to construct big spells as reliable as small ones, the same way he wrote computer programs.

The Wiz Biz is a compilation of the 'Wizardry' series, sold without DRM, for $6.99.

Or you can buy it directly from Baen Books.

What I'm Reading

Bless Me, Father was a BookBub freebie awhile back, and I finished it up last week. I enjoyed this first-in-a-series memoir of a young Catholic priest, fresh out of seminary, starting out in his first assignment at St. Jude's parish in a corner of London full of Irish immigrants. There is 1978-1980 British TV series adapted from the Bless Me father series, which really captures well the flavor of the books.


Moronette @votermom has asked me to remind all of you goodreads peeps that Sunday is the last day to vote for the next Moron-written group read (for September).

She is also is putting together a list of moron authors over on the Goodreads site which is intended to be acessible to non-members. Here is the list she has compiled so far. Let her know if there's an author she's missing.



Don't forget the AoSHQ reading group on Goodreads. It's meant to support horde writers and to talk about the great books that come up on the book thread. It's called AoSHQ Moron Horde and the link to it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/175335-aoshq-moron-horde.


So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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