Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Union Busters

The Great Recession has been great for the top 1% income bracket in this country, for the bottom 90% not so much.

The cause and solution of the Great Recession is pretty obvious to anyone who has studied even the most basic economic principals. For the last 30 years the wealth of this country has shifted into the hands of the wealthy few while everyone else saw their wages decrease. Now the majority of citizens simply don't have any money to purchase goods, that depresses manufacturing which depresses wages, which leads fewer goods being purchased depressing wages, in a vicious cycle.

There are two powers in the country that can break this cycle, the government and the unions. The government could make a progressive tax system where the rich pay a higher percentage than the middle class, as opposed to the current system where if you add up all federal taxes, Fed, Social Security, Medicare, ect, those making $100,000 a year pay roughly 40%, those making over $250,000 a year pay 33% and the very top income, multi-million dollars a year have their income classified as capital gains and pay 15%.

The federal government could change this so the people who get the greatest share of benefits from the government (the richest) paid slightly more than those who have less, moving money into the hands of people that will spend it, creating demand, making the economy work again.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are unable, or unwilling to take on the wealthiest people in this country, and the Republicans are determined to push through policies that the vast majority of economist say will make the Recession worse.

That leaves the Unions as the only force to deal with the huge wage inequity that is keeping the recession going.

Over the last 30 years the average middle class wages fell slowly as they didn't keep up with inflation. Using the Recession as an excuse, the large corporations are pushing not only to nibble away at middle class wages by not making them keep up with inflation but actively cutting wages. Only workers standing together and saying, “No we won't take this” by having a Union, or the threat of having a Union form keeps them from pushing wages down to starvation levels.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker gave billions in tax breaks to billionaires as well as proposed selling the public utilities in no-bid contracts to his supporters and expects the middle class to pay for it. If it weren't for the Unions this huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the richest 1% would have gone through and Governors around the country would declare war on the middle class prolonging the Recession making low wages and high unemployment the norm in this country.

So to everyone who doesn't support Union rights in this struggle, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, the Unions are the only thing that is keeping this recession from turning back the clock on all the economic progress that 90% of the country has earned over the last century. Unless you belong to the top 1% income bracket your current standard of living depends on the Unions being successful in this fight.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Geek Jokes

I have a major problem with one of my characters. In the PIZZA DIARIES Amanda is supposed to have spent her entire life since the age of 5 immersed in a world of mathematics, spending about 14-16 hours a day working on her theories. After an accident she becomes dependent on my MC Brian the delivery driver and has to actually join his strange world. Unfortunately, none of my beta readers caught that, even though she mentions it 4 times in the book.

The problem is I don't have her acting geeky enough. So I'm trying to give her a geeky sense of humor.

When she is in shock and trying to describe that she has been sent through time she tries to sum it up by saying:

“The tachyon left the bar, the bartender says, 'We don't serve hypothetical particles here', The tachyon approached the bartender.”

When Brian points out she's done a similar thing to him, she says:

“Now we're not 1,3,5,7 or 9.”

“What?” Brian asks.

“We're even.”

When she notices Brian doesn't react to really odd things happening around him:

“That's very Noble of you,” she said.

“I don't see how not letting weird stuff bother me is noble,” he said.

“Noble gases don't react, you're like Helium.” She laughed at her own joke.

When she first sees Brian's apartment she comments:

“This isn't a place to live it's a macro scale model of Chaos Theory.”

When she finally comes on to him she says:

“I don't mean to make you derivative, but I want you to be tangent to my curves.”

And finally when Brian shows her he gets her sense of humor:

“We have to outrun them,” she said.

“The chances of that are negative 459 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said.

“That's Absolute Zero,” she said.

“And those are our chances.”

Those are the geek jokes I've come up with her so far.

Does anyone know any good geek jokes I can throw in to help her character?

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: The massive Protests

I have wondered what more could be said in support of people the world over standing up for their rights.
Cenk nails what I had been looking for:

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Scott Walker vs. Hosni Mubarak

The Conservative media is shocked that people would compare Hosni Mubarak (the Egyptian dictator who over 30 years took the country's wealth and spread it among his supporters while using the police to suppress the country's citizens Human Rights as defined by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and Scott Walker (the Wisconsin Governor who in one month took the State's budget surplus and doled it out in tax breaks and special deals to his supporters creating a budget deficit while threatening to use the National Guard to suppress the state's citizens Human Rights as defined by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 23 section 4).

This is a terrible comparison Mubarak didn't run deficits.

One of the purposes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “... so that people are not compelled to rebellion against tyranny, human rights should be protected by rule of law.” When a President or Governor uses their power to suppress their citizens basic Human Rights they sow the seeds for rebellion.

Governor Scott Walker violated Wisconsin State Law by refusing to negotiate with the employees elected representatives, an unfair labor practice, and is claiming the budget deficit that he created means that the state should get rid of the law the allows State Employees to have basic human rights.

For his next act Governor Walker is setting the stage to violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25 in regard to access to healthcare. In the bill that would destroy the State Employees freedom to engage in Collective Bargaining is a provision that would also turn over the State's Medicare to the Governor. He hasn't said what he will do with this power but he could simply destroy the states program and opt out of the federal program ending medical care for people who have paid for it their entire lives.

Scott Walker, Hosni Mubarak, and every other tin-pot dictator have in common is that they feel no need to honor their citizens basic Human Rights.

So to Scott Walker and anyone else who plan to strip people of their basic human rights, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, any plan, any organization, any system that fails to take into account the dignity and worth of every individual, well that plan is doomed to fail.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Revolution is not being Televised

In Wisconsin roughly 30,000 protesters have swarmed the Capitol Building to protest Governor Scott Walker's all out assault on the rights of the middle class. This is the type of protest that gets coverage around the world, except here in America where it gets the briefest mention in the TV and Print News. This protest is larger in Wisconsin than the famous Haymarket Affair of 1886 that established the 8 hour work day and is celebrated as May Day.
For videos of the protest I've had to turn to one of my local bloggers The Hillbilly Report because no one in the MSM is covering it.

I want to say I am 100% in support of the protesters. What Scott Walker is doing is nothing less than an attack on 90% of Americans.

It is true that even at labor's peak during the Great Depression union membership was only 20% of the workforce, but that was enough to force companies to give their workers basic rights. The 40 hour workweek, grievance procedures, the right to refuse to do hazardous work and a minimum wage are all a result of union activism in this country.

As Scott Walker launches a direct attack against the unions in Wisconsin and has threatened to turn out the national guard on the unions, other Republicans have launched similar attacks on the middle class.

In Missouri they are trying to repeal child labor laws. In the House of Representatives they are trying to layoff all the inspectors for workplace safety and food inspection, and of course they want to take the $2.5 Trillion dollars that Social Security has in surplus and use it to finance the massive tax cuts for the top 2%.

The middle class in this country has already been under constant attack as this graph I got from Jobs Anger shows:

Now the GOP and wealthiest 2% are doubling down in an attempt to gut all the progress America has made in the last 100 years.

Right now the protesters in Wisconsin fighting back against this assault on middle class rights. Even though the corporate owned media is not reporting on it, I am hoping that this will lead to protests like in Egypt where the people were simply pushed to far and demanded their country back.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writing Wednesday: The Bad Guy II

I've finally made it to the end of the second act in my novel MIND THIEF and I'm really loving my bad guy. The nice thing about writing him is his motivation is very clear and that is what makes him a bad guy.

He is really motivated by the saying the “ends justify the means”. His goal is simple, he wants to live forever which isn't an evil goal in itself but in order to reach his goal he will do anything, and I mean anything to reach it. So far he has worked with the Nazis during World War II, ran human experimentation camps all over the third world, killed JFK. Lady Di, and his own wife, as well as starting both Iraq wars. So he's a little obsessed with his goal.

To me a great bad guy isn't someone who is evil for evil's sake, but someone who starts out with a clear mission to do something and that mission overtakes his thinking so that it becomes more important than the reason he started on the mission.

The true bad guy doesn't think of himself as a bad guy just someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to reach a higher goal. That is what makes the bad guy truly evil. I much prefer a bad guy who is driven to do bad things by what they believe is a noble cause than just a mindless killing machine like Jason in the Friday the 13th series, who killed anyone who couldn't outrun his brisk walk.

Those are my quick thoughts on the bad guy, but what do you think makes for a truly memorable bad guy in fiction?

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Monday, February 14, 2011

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Profit over safety

This is what happens when you put profit over safety. Just saying.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shut-Up Stupid Sunday: Governor Scott Walker committing Treason

In an attempt to throw the country back into the 1930s, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed changing state employee unions ability from being able to negotiate “Wages, Hours, and Other Conditions of Employment” to only being able to negotiate for “Wages” as long as those wage negotiations don't exceed the consumer price index. In other words removing collective bargaining for state employees altogether.

This would mean removing Chapter 111.84 of the state's Employment Relations Code which prohibits the State Government from from engaging in unfair labor practices. Under the Taft-Hartley Act this is legal as State Employees are not covered under the Federal Labor Laws.

Even though it is legal (barely) for the Governor to do this it is not right or even the least bit sane.

The reason States are granted the exclusion from the Federal Labor Laws because of public safety. If Firefighters and Police went on strike society would break down quickly. So the idea was to have the states work out more powerful mediation and arbitration procedures than a factory. Gov. Walker is using this loophole to simply bust the unions.

So what can the unions do? Use another loophole to starve him out, literally.

If one union goes on strike there is very little most other unions can do, with one exception Farm Workers. Because farms can't set the prices on their food Farm Workers are allowed to engage in secondary strikes to support workers within the food supply chain. So it is a fair labor practice for Farm Workers not to allow their labor to supply the Governor's Mansion with food.

The other action that can legally be taken is mass picketing. Under the Norris-LaGuardia Act labor organizations are allowed to peacefully picket in any public area. Private Employers can get around this by having no solicitation rules, the State Government can't. Unions and union supporters can fill the common areas of the Government Buildings picketing. As long they aren't threatening they can make sure that lawmakers no longer have free access to cross common areas but merely reasonable access.

What Governor Walker is proposing is an outright attack on the rights of the middle class. The right to bargain collectively is the middle classes only defense against what President Lincoln called, “Wage Slavery” it's up to everyone who doesn't want to see the robber barons come back and control the economy again to rise up against this attack.

So to Governor Walker, I say, “Shut-up Stupid” and President Lincoln backs me up with his words, "All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other."

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fantastic Future Friday: I won't shut up about this.

In his State of the Union address, Obama once again hit on the idea of using the money we give to energy companies in subsidies to research ways to move beyond fossil fuels. So I thought I'd look at what we could do with that money.
First the facts: The federal government gives the oil and gas industries $36 Billion in subsidies and the coal industry $17 Billion. So that is $53 Billion dollars to work with, more than one-third the cost of the Apollo Program adjusted for inflation.

The first most direct cost comparison is high speed rail. The administration has proposed spending $54 Billion over the next 5 years on high speed rail. So for a little more than what we give to the fossil fuel industries in one year we could fund the construction of a high speed rail network that will be spent over the next 5 years.

I'm a little saddened that a Louisville, KY – Lexington, KY – Cincinnati, OH line wasn't added. These cities are fairly close together and it would make great economic sense to reduce the travel time between them to under 40 minutes, but I think it is because we send the craziest people we can find to the Senate that Kentucky isn't part of these plans.

In countries where high speed rail systems have been built they quickly become the preferred way to travel with more people riding them than car and air travel combined to go between major cities.

Solar water heaters, 10% of the residential energy used in the United States is for heating water. Solar water heaters first went commercial in the early 70s and have been improved on for 40 years. I personally built one for $40 and had 16 gallons of hot water to use every day for free over an entire summer.

The most expensive state of the art high tech units that heat 120 gallons and come with a 25 year warranty (that's right 5 times the life of a conventional water heater) cost 1,000. For what we give to the fossil fuel industries we could equip roughly half the homes in America with Solar Hot Water heaters that make conventional ones look like antiques. Or we could give Americans a $400 credit for buying a solar hot water system and people could buy the low end 80 gallon systems for next to nothing or splurge and spend $600 for the top of the line.

Those are just two ideas of what we could do with the money we give to the fossil fuel industries, I'll think up more in the coming weeks.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Hurting the Characters you love

Visitors to this blog may have noticed that I've been doing the bare minimum amount of blogging for the past month, just my two most popular series Writing Wednesday and Shut-up Stupid Sunday. This isn't because I couldn't think of anything to write about, I've actually thought of tons of topics for the other things but I've got characters I need to torture.

I've been writing MIND THIEF for 6 months now. This is the longest I've spent on writing a first draft since my first novel when I had no clue what I was doing and revised each chapter right after I wrote it 2 or 3 times. In word count I'm actually falling behind that as I am at the 50,000 word mark and on my first novel I was past the 80,000 word mark at 6 months.

What has bogged me down is that I like the characters I've created. I have even started to like the one character that I couldn't stand when I started the novel. That's the odd part of writing you can hate your own creations. I wrote the first act of 30,000 words in a little over a month. Then I came to the second act where every thing goes wrong for my main character. He is a freshman in college and acts like a freshman in college, in other words he's kind of a jerk.

I had a real dread of two things. First, I had to make him far, far from a perfect gentleman. Second, I had to smash his little world to bits and give him one of the worst days I could imagine. I knew it would be a tough 10,000 words to write but I finally just forced myself to write it.

So for the last month I've been plowing through it and I've gotten through 20,000 words of the 10,000 words I forced myself to write and I am almost done (maybe 5,000 to 7,500 word more) and will be on to the grand action scene where everything gets tied together. I expect that I'll zoom through writing that.

I've dedicated two to three hours a day to this and I've been writing about 500 words a day, that's two to three words per minute. The slowest I've ever written something. I'd love to say the quality of writing makes up for the time spent, but it doesn't and I'll be doing major revisions to it.

But forcing myself write the part of the book I didn't want to has been good to me, I managed to write my main character being a jerk, but in a way you can still sympathize with him. I made the character that I hated more sympathetic so I almost feel sorry for her, almost. I made the bad guy into my true vision of a bad guy, which I will probably write about next week.

Although the last month was a tough writing month for me, once I forced myself to do it, it really wasn't as bad as I had dreaded. My characters have come to life and although I had to expose all their ugly flaws it gave me a stronger bond to them.

This month I've learned something about writing. It's an extension to the number one rule of writing: Writers write. To improve your writing it is important to write, good or bad writing, it doesn't matter just keep writing. But the extension to that is even if you dread writing something, or you think it is at level that's above your abilities, just write it. It may have be revised heavily, it may be so bad it has to be set aside for a while, at the very worst it might have to go into the recycle bin, but in the end it will probably be better than you imagined and you'll find it's not as painful as you thought it would be.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Rape

In 2009 Roman Polanski requested that he be allowed back into the United States. He is banned from entering our country because he drugged a 13 year old girl and had sex with her. This opened a storm of protest, rightfully so. Conservative Republicans were the ones who screamed for his head the loudest. What he did was repugnant and he shouldn't be allowed back in our country.

Now the same Conservatives are trying to push a bill through Congress, HR3, that would redefine what Roman Polanski did so that it wouldn't be considered rape.

For the past decade Republicans have been pushing “Health Saving Accounts” so people can save up money to self-insure themselves for health emergencies. The idea behind the accounts is that people can make their own medical decisions. Now the Republicans are pushing a new bill that says Health Savings Accounts can't be used for abortions except in the case of “forcible rape”.

This means that if the 13 year old that that Roman Polanski got his hands on was impregnated by him her parents wouldn't be allowed to use their Health Savings Account to pay for the abortion as Polanski drugged her instead of holding her down.

So much is wrong with this bill I don't know where to start.

First there is the total hypocrisy, besides calling for Roman Polanski's arrest (something I agree with), and then trying to redefine what he did as “not rape”, it goes against their number one argument against the Health Care Act. The Republicans are saying that the government can't force individuals how to spend their money. But in saying that someone can't use the money they put away in a Health Savings Account for a legitimate medical procedure they are forcing the people who use them how to spend their money.

Second there is the “General Welfare” clause of the Constitution, what happened to Polanski's 13 year old victim was horrible and no doubt caused emotional damage. If she had gotten pregnant from it she would face even more emotional trauma, adding another layer of emotional burden on to her does not promote the “General Welfare” in anyway, it makes it harder for the victim to try and get their life back to normal after an assault. This bill is having the government assault the victim for a third time.

Finally it is just sick that a bunch of rich, old men that belong to a group that is known for its sex scandals should be able to decide what a woman considers rape.

So to the supporters of HR 3, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, if you can't see how forcing a 13 year old girl to go through another layer of assault is wrong, then you aren't worthy to be called a human being.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Looking at my poll.

Last week I did a poll to see which of my opening paragraphs people thought were the strongest. With 3 votes it was far from the most scientific poll on a completely subjective matter but I was still a little surprised by the results.

The most popular opening paragraph was for EARTH STRIKE with 2 votes. With that one I haven't done any rewriting yet, so that was the first thing I jotted down.

The second most popular was for PROJECT: SPARE RIB with 1 vote. I wrote that 2 years ago and although I spent more time revising the book than I did writing it, I didn't concentrate on the first paragraph like I have with my latter books.

Another interesting thing about the poll is that those two books featured a main character that has mental problems that I exposed right at the beginning.

In EARTH STRIKE, Sam is being told by everyone around him that he is a writer in 2011 which is why the flashes of the mid 22nd century are so vivid, but his invisible friend is telling him they are lying.

In PROJECT: SPARE RIB, Tom suffers from synesthetes and Asperger's syndrome and he stumbles on a conspiracy that covers over a hundred years and three major wars. Synesthetes is a strange disorder where a stimuli that triggers one sense will trigger other senses. So Tom sees colors when he smells things, tastes peoples voices and hears pain. He was a wild character to write and one of my favorites, however between having to write in Synesthetes terms and making someone with Asperger's (A syndrome that is characterized by lacking any social skills) likable while weaving in a hundred years of history the book turned into a mess beyond my skills to repair at this time.

Although I'm trying not to read to much into this poll, it did give me an idea of where to start when I rewrite MIND THIEF. The main character Howie is having a truly evil bastard deposit his memories into Howie's brain so he can take over Howie's body later. The beginning might be better if I show how that is messing with his head right at the beginning.

The paragraph I submitted to the contest wasn't one that anyone picked. I submitted the first paragraph for THE SETTING EARTH, that was the book that I wrote the quickest, 6 weeks from start to finish. It was totally a selfish book, I just wanted to write some great space imagery of Ceres the dwarf planet in the asteroid belt and put a interplanetary cold war around it as the setting. It was totally “the book I want to read” as opposed to anything else. I liked it so much that I want other people to read it so I spent as much time rewriting the very slow first chapter, I had 5 major characters to introduce, as I did writing the book. So I found it interesting that people picked the paragraphs I spent the least time on.

I want to thank everyone that voted. I really appreciate the feedback.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts