[Plura-list] Judge won't release Black learning-disabled kid jailed for missing homework; Christopher Brown's Failed State; The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Jul 21 12:52:46 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Judge won't release Black learning-disabled kid jailed for missing
homework: Mary Ellen Brennan is up for re-election in 2020.

* Podcast: Part 10 of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town: "A
glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read" -Gene Wolfe.

* Christopher Brown's Failed State: I'm helping him launch an
outstanding and timely novel on Aug 12.

* The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist: Comparison is the
thief of joy.

* Luxury homes to be washed away: Australian plutes voted for climate
deniers and now they're about to literally fall off a cliff.

* As We May Think: Danny O'Brien on the past future of news.

* Trump's spent a billion on re-election: Biden spent $165m.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🔜 Judge won't release Black learning-disabled kid jailed for missing

Grace is a Black 15 year old child with ADHD who has been in jail since
the start of pandemic because she could not do her homework, which meant
she violated her parole (she was on parole for briefly stealing a fellow
student's homework).


The Michigan judge who sentenced her to spend months in prison for not
doing her homework is Mary Ellen Brennan, who is up for re-election this
year. After massive public outcry, Brennan agreed to review Grace's case.


Heartbreakingly - but unsurprisingly - Brennan has decided that Grace
deserves to stay in jail, because, according to the judge, the child is
"blooming" due to her incarceration: "you are exactly where you are
supposed to be."


The judge's decision is not merely outrageous and cruel, it's also
unsupported by the evidence. Grace's attorneys showed that the
educational and counseling resources in child prison were not sufficient
to meet her needs.

Both Grace's prosecutor and her caseworkers asked for her to be released.

The judge opened the proceedings with cruel taunts for the child: "it is
going to get worse before it gets better. Because I am about to go over
all the crap, all the negative, all the prior attempts at helping. I am
going through it all."

Describing reports on Grace's tenure in jail, the judge expressed
delight: "this is as good as it gets." Grace gets 30-60 minutes of
therapy twice a month and has had three joint therapy sessions with her
mother over videoconference.

Describing her education - filling in xeroxed worksheets - Grace said,
"I am getting behind in my actual schooling while here. The schooling
here is beneath my level of education...in my heart, I feel the aching
and the loss as if it were a punishment."

Brennan is running for re-election in 2020. Grace's case is before the
state Supreme Court.

"As Grace and her mother hugged before saying goodbye, Charisse told her
to 'stay strong.'

"With her head on her mother’s shoulder, Grace replied: 'I can’t.'"


🔜 Podcast: Part 10 of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

I've just posted the latest installment of my podcast: part 10 of my
serialized reading of my 2006 novel "Someone Comes to Town, Someone
Leaves Town," a book Gene Wolfe called "a glorious book unlike any book
you’ve ever read."


You can catch up on previous installments here:


Here's the MP3 (free hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive, who will
also host your content free!):


And here's my podcast feed:



🔜 Christopher Brown's Failed State

One of the most exciting new writers in science fiction is Christopher
Brown, an environmental lawyer whose novels are taut legal thrillers set
amid environmental collapse, rising authoritarianism, and rebellion.

Brown made his debut in 2017 with the outstanding Tropic of Kansas:


That was followed in 2019 by the sequel Rule of Capture:


Next month, Brown and Harpercollins will publish his third novel, a
standalone book set after the Tropic of Kansas/Rule of Capture duology
called Failed State. It is an incredible - and incredibly timely - novel.

Brown is launching the novel with Austin's Book People on August 12 in a
livestream that I'm hosting, interviewing Brown about the novel. I hope
you can make it - he's an engaging speaker, a brilliant writer and a
committed activist.



🔜 The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

By any objective measure, Adrian Tomine is a success: from his
groundbreaking and definitive Optic Nerve comic to his work in the New
Yorker, Tomine is a great and influential artist; add to that his happy
family life with his delightful kids for a double success.

But if there's one lesson in Tomine's new memoir, "The Loneliness of the
Long-Distance Cartoonist," it's that when he reflects on his career, he
doesn't feel like a success - the moments that stand out are the
humiliations great and small.


All of us have experienced our brains' perverse tendency to use idle
moments to endlessly replay those instants in which we were embarrassed,
hurt, or made to look foolish, and "Loneliness" is a pitiless tour
through Tomine's own torments.

When I reviewed John Hodgman's excellent 2019 memoir Medallion Status, I
wrote about how his work reminds me of the aphorism that "comparison is
the thief of joy." Like Tomine, much of Hodgman's torment comes from
comparing his career with others'.

It's a pathology that we're all prey to, but Tomine's own merciless
dissection of his anxieties hints at why people in the arts may have it
worse - it's a career with little external validation for the first
formative years (decades).

During those years of form rejections, obscurity and failure, your only
gauge of your success are the tiny crumbs of validation - a scrawled
personal note on the rejection slip, a sale to a "little magazine," a
clerk at your local store who says a kind word.

And even as you are training yourself to hunt endlessly for these
things, you're also motivating yourself by imagining what a
"breakthrough" might bring, fantasizing about how great the people
who've done well already must have it.

These two habits - comparison and the quest for external validation -
are a recipe for neurotic self-loathing and doubt. Because nothing lives
up to the fantasy of what "success" feels like, and no amount of
validation can bridge that gap.

Tomine shows just how bad this gets, making himself literally sick, so
much so that he lands in the hospital and thinks he may be dying. This
provokes a reckoning at the book's climax that makes it more than an R
Crumbish journey through neurosis.

Instead, it casts the whole book in a new light, one in which success is
redefined as something much more personal, much more humane, and much
more attainable.

The world is full of "successful" people who are both miserable and
miserable to be around. With "Loneliness," Tomine sheds light on how
those people came to be that way - and why it needn't be so.


🔜 Luxury homes to be washed away

Australia - like many English-speaking countries - is full of lovely
people who somehow manage to keep electing far-right, genocidal,
climate-denying governments of surpassing administrative incompetence.

The most likely explanation: there are people who - while they care in
the abstract about discrimination, the environment, human rights, etc -
would vote for a dead gopher^H^H^H^H^H^H^H wallaby ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Adolf
Hitler if he would promise to lower their taxes by $0.25.

Which is how Australia, a country that is frequently literally on fire,
manages to mine coal, engage in Great Barrier Reef-destroying harbor
dredging, and maintain an official policy of climate denial.

Doubtless there're countless poor and working-class Australians who
voted for those policies, but the bulk of the blame rests on the
country's vile plute class, the oligarchs whose lavish spending elects
one performatively cruel far-right sociopath after another.

The kind of people who are presently furious with their local
governments for failing to build seawalls in time to prevent the coastal
erosion that has undermined the cliff houses their mansions were built

Mansions that are now about to chunder into the sea below, triggering
mass evacuations of some of New South Wales's most expensive mega-homes.


While there's some talk of relaxing planning rules to enable the rapid
deployment of seawalls, this is - as the local residents say - "too
little, too late."

But when they say "too little, too late," they mean, "We should have
built a seawall long ago."

When I say it, I mean, "You should have lived up to your Kyoto
obligations, not denied climate change, and pulled out of the Five Eyes
spying alliance, whose priorities include neutralizing climate activists."

The mansions falling into the sea are notable because it's a rare
instance in which the first casualties of the climate emergency are the

When it comes to faster-moving, more dramatic crises, poor and working
people bear the brunt: fires, pandemics, etc all climb the privilege
gradient from the bottom up.

And to be clear, Australia is neither the worst offender nor the only
country whose plutes are about to lose their cliff houses.

Here in my adopted hometown of LA, our coasts are lined with
plute-dwelling mansions whose owners have spent decades illegally
walling off access to the public beaches. Their homes will also flood
and wash away and tumble off of cliffsides.

And they, too, have supported idiotic, terracidal politicians who
slow-walked climate action or denied the crisis altogether. I will have
schadenflooding when their homes wash away, too.

It's too late for those homes. It's too late for our coasts and most of
our coastal cities. But it's not too late for us. We can - we MUST -
turn this around, by pivoting our entire species' productive capacity to
climate remediation.

I mean, fuck the panic over automation-driven unemployment. Relocating
every coastal city inland, dealing with hundreds of millions of
traumatized refugees, fighting continent-spanning fires and dealing with
wave after wave of zoonitic and insect-borne pandemics will give us full
employment for centuries to come.



🔜 As We May Think

It's always a good day (year?) when Danny O'Brien updates his
maddeningly irregular blog Oblomovka. Certainly, yesterday's update --
the first since Feb 2019 - is cause for celebration.


In the post, O'Brien reflects on the work he did at The Guardian's New
Media Lab in the 1990s, and how many of the changes to news they
anticipated a quarter-century ago have come to pass, and how many have not.

After dunking on the press for abandoning things that gave them "real
value" (archives, research departments) in favor of what others told
them was valuable (pundits, "stature among elites"), O'Brien moves on to
what he thought/thinks the press should be  Doing About Digital.

Some of these *really* resonated with me. Take #1, "THE FUNDAMENTAL UNIT
OF NEWS IS THE STORY, NOT THE ARTICLE"..."Imagine one page —- one
permanent home on the Web, or within the searchable app space—for each
news story."

This is pretty similar to what Twitter does for trending news already -
but it's something that my own tools are not very good at.

When I am following a story - like the tragic/maddening tale of Grace,
the Black 15 year old with ADHD sentenced to jail for not doing homework
- the best I can do to interlink earlier parts of the story is to
manually add hyperlinks, or try to come up wit distinctive tags.

On to #2: "A STORY HAS A PAST, A PRESENT AND A FUTURE"..." journalism
has emphasised two aspects of the story: its present state, and future
possibilities; reporting provides the now, editorial speculates on the

For about 5 years now, I have revisited my own archives and republished
the headlines and links to stories from #1yrago, #5yrsago, #10yrsago and
#15yrsago  (#20yrsago will start next year). I get a fair whack of
puzzled feedback about this.

For me, the only puzzling thing is how anyone could fail to see how
valuable it is to revisit the material you've found significant and the
views you expressed about it in years gone by. How can you know yourself
unless you periodically review your work?

More importantly, how can you track the progress of the issues you're
passionate about unless you forcefully remind yourself of how they have
played out over time?

As O'Brien says, "Yesterday’s news is an invaluable resource to be
integrated and exploited, not discarded."

WHAT IS TO COME"..."News services’ value exists entirely  in assisting
their users to anticipate (or influence) the future."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Now to wait another 18 months for
the next O'Brien update!


🔜 Trump's spent a billion on re-election

The polls heading into the Nov elections look pretty grim for Trump,
giving Biden a healthy lead, but it's hard not to worry.

America has a hardcore of plutes who'd vote for Hitler if he'd lower
their taxes, and a hardcore of white nationalists who'd vote for Hitler
*because* he'd lower their taxes (this Venn diagram has a lot of overlap).

Add to that Biden's monumental failings: his poor mental acuity, his
"gaffes," his decades of terrible public statements and even worse
public votes, the credible rape accusation and the hairsniffing.

And then there's the incumbency advantage: Trump would have to fuck up
*really* bad to lose to Biden.

Hey, guess what?

Here's how grim things are looking for Trump. His campaign and its
supporting PACs have spent $983m to date. Biden's total is $165m. And
despite the massive spend AND the incumbency advantage AND Biden's many
defects, Trump's lagging by double digits.


The Trump campaign is spending that money to payroll 1500 field-workers
across the country. Biden's got a comparable field team - made up of
volunteers from grassroots orgs.

100-ish days are a long time in politics, but this is the most telling
predictor I've encountered so far.


🔜 This day in history

#5yrsago RIP, EL Doctorow

#5yrsago Hackers can pwn a Jeep Cherokee from the brakes and steering to
the AC and radio

#1yrago A 3D papercraft Haunted Mansion board game to print and assemble

#1yrago Massive trove of Russian spy-agency docs hacked from private
sector contractor and passed onto media


🔜 Colophon

Today's top sources: Boing Boing (https://boingboing.net), Naked
Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/).

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 517 words (39737 total).

Currently reading: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Latest podcast: Full Employment:

Upcoming appearances:

* "Working as Intended: Surveillance Capitalism is not a Rogue
Capitalism," Jul 21,

* Keynote, A Midsummer Night's Con, Jul 27,

* Virtual event with Christopher Brown for his novel "Failed State," Aug

Latest book:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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