Category Archives: News

The AHCA’s Unimaginable Cruelty

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It’s been two months since Paul Ryan rammed the AHCA through the House without a CBO score, without public hearings, and with less than an hour of floor debate. Since then, we’ve dealt with the new-normal of Trump embarrassments, scandals, incompetence, and Russia revelations seemingly hourly. In such an environment, it’s easy to lose focus on the stories that aren’t right in front of our faces.

Now, the Senate’s secret-squirrel bill is finally revealed, and it’s somehow even worse. So distractions aside, it’s time to return attention to the GOP crusade to attack Americans’ wallets and even lives. We’ve all heard the numbers by now, and they are so startling as to defy belief. According to the CBO’s score, the AHCA will cost twenty-three million Americans their healthcare coverage within the next ten years. That’s actually more people than gained coverage under the ACA, as the GOP plan is so damaging and corrosive that even people on employer group plans are not safe. A Harvard study from prior to the implementation of the ACA demonstrated as many as forty-five thousand people died as a direct result of a lack of adequate healthcare coverage annually. That’s the equivalent of filling a major league baseball stadium with people and bombing it to rubble. Every. Year.

These numbers are almost too big to comprehend. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to shrink the conversation down and introduce you to someone very special.

Meet Caitlin Thomas. Caitlin is fourteen years old. She enjoys Buffy the Vampire Slayer and traveling the country with her parents, Michael Damian and Lynne. Caitlin also suffers from Aicardi Syndrome, a severe neurological condition of the brain that affects only around two-thousand girls worldwide. I say “girls,” because few people with this disease have lived to see adulthood. Among other symptoms, Caitlin struggles with brain cysts, epilepsy, degraded vision, problems communicating, is wheelchair bound, and has to be fed through a stomach tube.

Forty years ago, Caitlin’s life would have been short and bleak, whisked away from her family to an institution of incalculable inhumanity, where her life-expectancy would be measured in a few years at most. Little more than a cold, uncaring waiting room for death’s arrival. But that changed with the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bipartisan bill widely supported by men and women on both sides of the isle and signed by President George HW Bush.

Thanks in part to these measures, and to Medicaid programs for severely disabled children available through their state of residence, Caitlin has been able to live her life at home with her family. She is thriving and happy. But it hasn’t been easy. In 2014, Caitlin underwent back surgery to correct a worsening spine curvature. Her medical costs for that year alone totaled a million dollars, the price of five decent homes in their neck of the woods. But even that pales in comparison to her ongoing costs. A single specialized anti-seizure medication for Caitlin costs seventeen thousand dollars per month. But without it, she would have no quality of life at all.

Aicardi syndrome is, it goes without saying, a preexisting condition. It wasn’t due to any decisions Caitlin made, or her lifestyle choices. It can’t be tracked back to anything her parents did or failed to do. Like so many conditions, it just happened. Without access to good health insurance and preexisting condition guarantees, her parents would not only be broke, but very likely unemployable by anything but a large corporation whose group plan could absorb the hit of Caitlin’s medications and care. The damage she would do to a small company group plan would be immense.

Fortunately, Lynne works for the Library System and has state employee benefits which can take the strain. Because of this, not only is Caitlin alive and happily at home with her family, but Michael Damian acts as a stay-at-home father and care-giver, while still carving out time for the family business.

The Thomas’s jointly own and edit Uncanny Magazine, a speculative fiction market for short stories, novelettes, and articles dealing with the sci-fi and fantasy community. And when did their business launch? 2014, the same year Caitlin’s medical bills topped one million dollars. In just a few short years, Uncanny Magazine has catapulted to prominence within the nerdy literary community with many significant, award-nominated pieces published. They pay their authors pro rates in an industry that has struggled in recent years. They’ve hired on editorial staff. Last year in Kansas City, they won the highest honor among their peers when they took home the Hugo Award from best semiprozine. A novelette they published, “Folding Beijing,” was covered by the New York Times, has been read by over a hundred thousand people, and has recently secured a film deal.

All instead of going bankrupt trying to save their daughter from death. That’s the power of healthcare coverage and the ACA’s market reforms, the ability to continue living, creating, and contributing to our larger society and culture instead of fighting for life.

This is what the AHCA, Trump’s budget, and even the Senate draft proposal wants to take away. Collectively, the proposals cut over a trillion dollars from Medicaid starting in 2020, gutting the grants children like Caitlin depend on for their very survival. Medicaid reimbursement rates are already so low, and their repayment times so long (18 months in IL!) that many providers simply can’t afford to accept patients from the program. Slashing its funding to the bone won’t save money in the long run, it will only exacerbate the problem and drive more families past the breaking point.

What families like the Thomas’s want is not dependence on the government, but freedom to make their own way and forge their own futures. Futures that benefit and enrich us all in the end. If we can only find the political will and basic human decency to let them, we all win.

Hillary Clinton is in Bed With China

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with employees at a Velcro Companies facility Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with employees at a Velcro Companies facility Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

 

Let’s run a thought experiment. It’s July, 2016. For the first time in months, Hillary Clinton has announced a press conference. During the Q&A portion, she comes out swinging and, to the shock of everyone, pleads with China to hack into her opponent, Donald Trump’s email system and release that information to the world.

People on the right correctly point out that a Presidential candidate publicly soliciting the assistance of a rival foreign government to pursue a campaign of cyber espionage against an American citizen and political rival is, you know, treasonous, but Clinton’s party and supporters shrug it off as “a joke,” and the campaign grinds on as if nothing happened.

Meanwhile, agencies from the CIA, NSA, DHS, and FBI have all covertly begun investigations into “alarmingly frequent” communications between high-level Clinton campaign staffers and officials within Chinese Intelligence. Chelsey Clinton makes statements about her family’s vast business interests in China, and that money is “flowing in” from Chinese sources. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, is suddenly forced to resign when it comes to light that he broke multiple lobbying and ethics rules by working in close conjunction with the Guomindang, the pro-unification political party in Taiwan.

In August, a dossier compiled by a respected former MI5 agent who had originally been hired by a pro-democrat Super-PAC to conduct opposition research is forwarded to the FBI. Within it are accusations that Chinese Intelligence has spent the last five years attempting to cultivate Sec Clinton as a state asset, offering her sweetheart business deals and collecting blackmail material on her, including phone call recordings and several salacious videos of a sexual nature captured while the Secretary stayed in Beijing hotels.

Then, a report comes out that all seventeen of our domestic intelligence agencies, both military and civilian, have come to the consensus that China has been engaging in state-sponsored cyber-attacks against the RNC and the Trump campaign with the intention of casting doubt on the integrity of the U.S. elections and perhaps aiding Clinton’s chances.

For her part, Sec Clinton responds to this by claiming that nobody knows who’s behind the attacks, that it could be China, or Russia, or some four-hundred-pound guy in a New Jersey basement, that her grandchild is “Really good with the cyber” and calling into question the competence and integrity of the entire U.S. intelligence community. When cornered in a live debate on her position and accused of collusion with the Chinese, she just mindlessly repeats, “You’re the puppet. You’re the puppet.”

Throughout this increasingly bizarre campaign season, Clinton repeatedly and publicly heaps praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his hardnosed style of leadership, including his active suppressions of the free press and jailing/assassination of political rivals. She manages to convince the DNC to change the party’s official geopolitical platform to include allowing China to absorb Taiwan and support their territorial claims on any number of contested island chains throughout the South China Sea, islands and sea lanes claimed by U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. She further threatens to those same allies that the U.S. might choose not to honor our numerous mutual-defense pacts should violence erupt between them and mainland China unless they agree to significantly increase their defense spending.

Jump ahead to nine days before the election. The democratic director of the FBI violates department policy and quite possibly the Hatch Act to send an explosive letter to his allies in Congress claiming without a scrap of evidence that a completely tangential investigation has rekindled a legal case against Donald Trump that had been settled months earlier, while conveniently neglecting to mention the open investigation into coordination between the Clinton campaign and Chinese Intelligence.

Trump is wounded in the polls with very little time left to rebut the false charges. Days later, the same democrat FBI director comes forward to say nothing was found and the investigation remains dormant, but the damage is done. On election day, Trump wins the popular vote by almost three million votes, but falls in the electoral college total by a margin of less than eighty-thousand total votes in only three states, at least one of which is suffering from recently-passed democratic election measures than makes it significantly more difficult for rural and suburban voters to cast their ballots.

Clinton spends weeks jet-setting around the country on a “victory” tour of only those states that voted for her, crowing incessantly about her “historic landslide” when in reality her EC margin is in the bottom ten percent of Presidential contests and her two-point-eight-million ballot loss in the popular vote is “unpresidented” in American history.

She immediately starts picking a cabinet and White House staff that reeks of corruption and deeply-troubling business and personal ties back to China, including a Secretary of State nominee who had previously been involved in a multi-billion dollar business deal with the Chinese government that fell through due to Clinton’s Republican predecessor in the White House, and who was awarded a medal from President Jinping himself for being such a great pal to China.

Then, less than a month after her inauguration, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, who had previously been fired from his position as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for his abuse of subordinates and love of anti-republican conspiracy theories, is revealed to have had secret conversations with the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. in which he instructed China to ignore sanctions Clinton’s predecessor had put in place as punishment for their interference in the election. Conversations which broke all sorts of diplomatic and ethics protocols, as well as federal law. Clinton’s National Security Advisor lied to not only the public about the nature of these conversations, but to VP Tim Kaine, and investigators for the FBI as well, which is itself a felony.

Amazingly, the same day those illegal conversations took place, China announces that it will take no action at all in response to the new sanction, a move which President elect Clinton responds to by praising President Jinping for be “smart” in the first tweet she’d ever pinned to the top of her personal account.

At nearly the same time, it’s revealed that the CIA and NSA have independently confirmed many of the aspects of the forgotten dossier that alleged Clinton of being compromised by blackmail, that the Intelligence Community is withholding vital intel from Clinton’s White House because they’re afraid of it falling into the hands of the Chinese government, and that Clinton had known for weeks before public revelations that her National Security advisor had been lying about his involvement with the Chinese ambassador.

That brings our thought experiment to now.

Does anyone, anywhere, wish to argue with me that, given the above, the GOP wouldn’t have already shut down DC, demanding the impeachment of Clinton, Kaine, the invalidation of the results of the electoral college, and the immediate installation of Donald Trump as the rightful President, Constitutional crisis be damned?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

To members of the Democratic party, any patriotic Republicans that remain, the press, the Supreme Court, our intelligence community, and the three-quarters of the American electorate who did not vote for this:

You know what to do.

9 Reasons to Fear Putin’s New America

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Photo courtesy of Adam Rakunas

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly that aired before the Super Bowl on Sunday, Donald Trump made yet another spirited defense of his political ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When pressed by the Fox News host over his year-long bromance with Putin the “killer,” Trump pushed back, insisting that there were killers in America as well and that our country was hardly innocent. This rather spectacularly disingenuous bit of false-equivalence overlooks the fact that we try not to reward our killers with high office. Retired General Barry McCaffrey went so far as to say the flippant equivocation was “[T]he most anti-American statement ever made by a president.” Nor was he alone, as Republican lawmakers rushed to distance themselves from Putin’s apologist throughout the rest of the day.

But the overriding question that remains is why the President of the United States is so steadfast and immovable in his support of an illegitimately elected, autocratic… okay, fine so the answer is obvious. But what’s less obvious to people only now tuning in is why this relationship is so troubling. To understand that, you have to know more about the personal and political history of Russia’s newest tyrant.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born into the Cold War in 1952. He speaks fluent German and from 1975 to 1991 served as a KGB intelligence officer. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he resigned from the KGB and joined the Boris Yeltsin administration in 1996. Only three short years later, Putin became acting President when Yeltsin resigned under a cloud of corruption allegations. At the time, Putin was criticized for shielding his mentor from any investigations or consequences for his graft.

Since then, Putin has alternated between the roles of President and Prime Minister. In 2012, he recaptured the presidency with seventy percent of the vote in an election widely criticized by the international community as undemocratic, including a stinging rebuke from former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, which was widely reported to be a driving motivation behind Putin’s cyber-campaign against the DNC.

While in power, Putin has been embroiled in multiple scandals and by nearly constant accusations of corruption, human rights violations, and politically-motivated assassinations.

1. In 2004, Ukrainian Presidential candidate and leader of the anti-Russian opposition party, Viktor Yushchenko, was poisoned during the campaign to unseat Putin’s ally, Viktor Yanukovych in the famous “Orange Revolution.” Yushchenko was visibly disfigured by the poisoning attempt, which tests latter concluded was due to highly-refined TCDD, a truly terrible dioxin. Despite the attempt on his life, Yushchenko recovered and went on to defeat Yanukovych and become Ukraine’s President from 2005 to 2010. He was not shy about accusing Putin’s FSB of being behind the assassination attempt.

2. In 2006, former KGB and FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210, a highly radioactive substance that is also incredibly rare. Indeed, Litvinenko remains the only case of polonium poisoning known to medical science. At the time, he was living in England, which had granted him asylum after he fled legal persecution in Russia. On his deathbed, he made international news with information regarding abuses committed by the FSB and the accusation that Putin was personally behind the covert operation to poison him. A claim which British intelligence found credible.

3. In 2012, three members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot were arrested after a performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in protest of leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church support for Putin in that year’s tainted election. They were subsequently tried, convicted, and imprisoned on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” Two of the members served over a year in prison before pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights groups pushed the Putin government to reduce their sentences.

4. In July 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, flying over eastern Ukraine, was shot down by pro-Russian rebel forces using a Russian-built Buk Anti-Aircraft missile launched from a mobile system that Dutch authorities later concluded had been driven in from Russia the day before, and driven back into Russia after the crash. All two-hundred and ninety-eight people aboard died in the attack. Considering the sophistication of the equipment and training involved in its operation, it is highly likely that Russian soldiers were at the controls when the missile was fired, believing they were firing instead on a Ukrainian military transport plane.

5. In March, 2015, prominent Russian opposition leader and frequent Putin critic, Boris Nemtsov, was murdered in broad daylight near the Kremlin building while walking with his girlfriend. Despite multiple witnesses to the brazen shooting, the case remains unsolved after one suspect confessed only to later recant, and another blew himself up rather than be taken into custody.

6. In late 2016, during the campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which all seventeen of our intelligence services concluded Putin intervened in with the purpose of helping to elect Trump, Christopher Steele, a former agent of British Intelligence originally hired by a Republican-allied Super-Pac to collect opposition research on Trump assembled an explosive dossier that claimed, among other things, that Putin’s FSB had been attempting to groom Donald Trump as an asset for the previous five years. Not only had Russian intelligence attempted to bribe Trump with sweetheart business deals, but had collected kompromat (compromising material) on Donald over the course of several visits to Moscow, including the now-infamous sex-tapes featuring Russian prostitutes and certain bodily functions that are best left undescribed.

7. After the election, former FSB general Oleg Erovinkin, who was widely believed to be one of Steele’s sources for the dossier, was found dead in his Lexus in Moscow on December 26th. Investigations are ongoing, but even Russian state media has called the death a probable homicide.

Erovinkin was a senior aide to Igor Sechin, formerly Prime Minister and currently serving as the head of Rosneft, a state-owned oil company that had been named in the dossier. Steele reported that his contacts in Russian had claimed Putin, through intermediaries, had personally promised Donald Trump a 19% share of Rosneft should he win the election and push U.S. foreign policy towards a more pro-Russian disposition. Rosneft sold off a 19.5% stake through a series of shell companies not long before Erovinkin was found dead. Russia claims the sale was a 50/50 split between Swiss commodities-trader Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, but questions remain.

8. Additionally, since Trump “won” the election, there’s been a concentrated sweep of suspected CIA informants from within the Russian intelligence community. At least four agents have been arrested and charged with treason for providing information to the United States. Whether these individuals were also associated with the Steele dossier is unclear. Whether the Trump administration had anything to do with the release of their identities to the FSB is unclear.

9. Finally, and most recently, fierce Putin critic and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza is currently hospitalized in a medically-induced coma following acute organ failure. This comes on the heels of a similar incident in 2015, which doctors concluded was caused by a poisonous substance. His wife has since come forward at great risk to herself to publicly accuse the government of once more poisoning her husband.

In all these cases, Putin denies any involvement, despite multiple converging lines of evidence that all point to him as not only the perpetrator, but the primary political beneficiary of the outcomes.

Now, how does this factor into his chummy relationship with Donald Trump? Well, simply put, we have no idea. Several investigations into links and coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin are ongoing, including probes by the FBI and CIA and promised investigations by the Senate and House, but no conclusions have been made as yet.

Nor do we have any useful window into the potential involvements and conflicts of interest Trump’s vast business empire might have within Putin’s sphere of influence, because the President has neither followed through on a campaign promise to release his tax returns after the election, or indeed provided any useful accounting of his business holdings. And as reported by the New York Times over the weekend, we now know that Trump’s promises to divest from those interests were just as empty as the folders full of legal paperwork at his last press conference.

Instead of placing his holdings into a blind trust as a bipartisan panel of ethics experts testified is necessary to avoid violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, we now know Trump’s business interests have been placed in a revocable trust to which he is the sole beneficiary, retains the authority to revoke it at any time, and which is being administered by his eldest son. None of which addresses the underlying constitutional issues presented by his holdings, nor does anything to add any transparency to questions of potential conflicts of interest.

However, what we can note is not only Trump’s absolute, steadfast refusal to say anything even remotely critical of Putin or his methods, but the effects their relationship has had on not only Trump’s policy proposals, but Republican legislation.

First of all, in the run-up to the Republican National Convention, Trump’s camp successfully managed to lobby for including the lifting of sanctions related to Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine and recognize Russia’s claim on the territory into the official Republican party platform.

Trump has made numerous mentions of drawing closer to Russia militarily and using them as a key strategic ally in the fight against ISIS, despite the fact U.S. military analysts have repeatedly warned the Russian military’s involvement in Syria has been entirely focused on propping up the fortunes of their ally in the Assad regime and have contributed virtually nothing to the battle against the Islamic State.

Trump has refused to acquiesce to the consensus findings of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Russian involvement in the election, going so far as to compare them to Nazis when referencing leaks to the media.

For their part, Republicans in congress have taken several unusual steps in recent days that do nothing to alleviate this narrative of collusion and cover-up. Last week, a bill was passed which strips Securities Exchange Commission requirement for oil, gas, and mining companies to report payments to foreign governments or corporations. This coming on the heels of the suspicious Rosneft sale which so closely mirrored what had been promised to Trump should he win. Seriously, who’s that for?

At nearly the same time, Trump’s Treasury Department announced it was rolling back sections of the sanctions Obama instituted in response to Russia’s election interference in order to make it easier for American companies to do business with the FSB.

What does all this mean? It means there’s a very real possibility our president, the leader of the largest economy and most powerful military in the history of mankind, is compromised by a proto-fascist dictator. A man who has proven he’s willing to jail artists, murder journalists and opposition leaders, and even cross national boundaries to directly attack foreign heads of state. A man without scruples or fear, who not only helped to install our President, but holds damaging blackmail material over him, and is using that leverage and fear to bend American domestic and foreign policy to benefit his kleptocracy over our democracy.

Is this true? I have no idea. The real answers will have to be unearthed by journalists with vastly better resources and connections than I possess. But if the old axiom “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” holds true, then there’s more smoke here than Vesuvius before the eruption, and we’re all in danger of getting burned alive in the coming calamity.

We must act swiftly to uncover the truth.

Trump Stealing Beats from Comedy

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Photo courtesy of CNN

Last weekend, Donald Trump met with members of the Central Intelligence Agency. With the CIA Memorial Wall which honers, excuse me, honors agents lost in the line of duty as a backdrop to his speech, Mr. Trump launched into a rambling tirade against the press, praised himself for winning the election, joked about reinvading Iraq in order to steal their resources, and generally acted like, well, Donald Trump.

Much to the horror and stunned confusion of the actual members of the intelligence community present for this spectacle, Trump’s boasts and barbs were punctuated by laughter and applause emanating from people no one recognized. As CBS and other news outlets later reported, there was a very good reason for this: Donald brought his own laugh track with him. The guffaws and clapping were all provided by a cadre of White House staffers and sycophants which had been brought along specifically to act as the President’s cheering section in order to make it appear the speech was being enthusiastically-received by the very people Trump had referred to as “Nazis” only days before in a tweet about the release about a damaging dossier linking him to a, ahem, stream of unsavory Russian entanglements.

Nor was this the first time Trump employed the tactic. On January 11th in his first press conference since July, (when he publicly colluded with Russia to hack his opponent’s email system, incidentally) the then President-elect stood at a podium next to a table full of manila folders said to contain all the legal paperwork he’d drawn up to divest from his businesses and went on the attack against the press sitting in the room, accusing CNN of “fake news” and refusing to answer questions while the “crowd” roared with approval. Now, it’s been a while since anyone has seen a press conference, however, applause breaks are not a traditional component. And it was a fake as the contents of the stacks of folders the press was barred from inspecting.

I recognize these tactics very well. Indeed, I strive to recreate them. I’m a stand-up comic, you see. Manufacturing laughs have been my bread-and-butter for four years and counting. And I’ve seen this play before, I’ve even used it myself. It’s an old trick among comedians, especially those of us who are still in the building phase of our careers, to bring in a ringer or two to pry open an audience. Family or friends, preferably ones with a loud or distinctive laugh. My friend Jason Punswick’s laugh can be heard from the International Space Station during certain points in its orbit.

Especially at the beginning of a show, audiences can be difficult to gage, and even harder to break loose. There’s a reason emcees and guest spots talk about “warming up” the crowd for the headlining acts. But fortunately for us, laughter is infectious, and once it gets going, it has a momentum of its own. Which is why a couple of strategically placed plants can grease the wheels and get everything moving in time. People pay to go to a comedy club to laugh, and we do our best to provide the supply for that demand. In the context of a Saturday night with a couple hundred people looking to be entertained, it’s a harmless little trick to get everyone rolling before the two-drink minimum starts doing its work.

In the context of a President standing before a group of national security professionals with the anonymous stars of their fallen colleagues and friends at his back, however, it’s a horrendously offensive abuse of power and public trust. It’s a naked attempt at emotional manipulation of the people present, and propaganda aimed at the people watching from home.

Almost everything about Trump’s public persona is performative. From his canned laugh squad, to his reliance on catch-phrases, to his over-the-top premises, to how he tries to deal with his many hecklers, any working comedian recognizes the beats. Except Trump only punches down, attacking the disabled, the sick, the disenfranchised, the oppressed. Our tired, our poor, our huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Donald Trump is a parody of the sort of cruel, misogynistic, often homophobic, exploitative comedy that dominated before modern sages like George Carlin and Bill Hicks came along to show comedians our purpose, and our power. We are the court jesters, the philosophers, the men and women tasked with speaking truth to power and twisting the screws.

Trump wants people to think he’s funny. But comedians across the country know genuine laughs when we hear them, and we’re busy sharpening our wit to lance this boil once and for all.

THE ARK & TRIDENT’S FORGE now in Braille & Large Print!

CoaDE Covers

Great news for sci-fi fans with visual impairments. My excellent publisher, Angry Robot Books, has made arrangements to make my first two novels available in either large print or Braille formats to serve the needs of an even larger audience.

I’m very proud to be able to offer my work to this new community of fans. If you have need of one of these alternate formats, or know someone who does, just follow the links below:

THE ARK

TRIDENT’S FORGE

Enjoy!

New Year, New Novel, New Worlds

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Hey gang. Patrick here. As you know if you keep up with the blog, I’ve recently turned over the manuscript for the third book in the Children of a Death Earth series to the publisher, and sold A HOLE IN THE FENCE to Tor. It’s going to be a little while before I get editorial feedback on those two projects, so I’ve got a couple of months of open space in my writing schedule to play with.

So naturally, I’m starting a whole new project set in an entirely new and different universe from the other two. This is raw, doesn’t even have a working title yet. I have an outline, but those are always subject to big changes so nothing is set in stone. What is certain is it’s going to be a military sci-fi novel with a Cold War/Corporate Espionage feel to it that is suddenly even more timely than I thought it would be when I first started fleshing it out a year ago. Above is a concept sketch of the main good-guy ship, a long-endurance cruiser named the Ansari.

Anyway, that’s about all I’m ready to share at the moment, but here’s a sneak peek at the prologue I wrote this week. Enjoy!

Prologue:

Hovering in the cold and dark and utter silence, it waited, and watched. It had neither ears to hear, nor a mouth to speak, because there was nothing to hear, and nothing to say.

It waited, and watched. That’s what it was good at. Best at. Its endurance was measured in years, and its eyes could see everything from the infrared straight through to gamma rays. It never tired. It never grew bored or distracted. It could differentiate units of time down to picoseconds, or distances in parsecs. It was vigilance given form in metal and polymer.

And it wasn’t alone.

It was the thirteenth of fourteen identical siblings, down from fifteen when the deployment began. One sibling had been lost to a micrometeoroid impact that had been below its detection threshold until it was too close to maneuver against, but the rest continued to function optimally. They floated within a sphere more than three AU in radius, each tasked with monitoring their own sectors of that volume, as well and providing overlapping coverage for one another. Whisker lasers kept them connected to each other and with Mother across the yawning chasm of space. It took two thousand, eight hundred, and eighty-seven seconds for its data stream to reach its furthest sibling, and the same time again for a reply to arrive.

Since arriving at its assigned station two thousand, one hundred, and forty-seven hours ago, it had tracked, identified, and catalogued more than seventy-three thousand objects inside its sphere of responsibility, eighty-six percent of which had been cross-checked and independently verified by a minimum of two other siblings. From protoplanetary dust grains only a few millimeters across, all the way up to comets and asteroids many thousands of meters wide, it tracked them all, assigned them log numbers, projected their trajectories, and assessed the threat level they presented to Mother’s navigation.

But insofar as it could experience satisfaction, tagging specks of dirt and balls of ice did nothing to fill that requirement. It was a machine of war. Its sensors were meant for spotting and tracking missile plumes, warship emissions, and intercepting clandestine signals. Its adaptive camouflage and meta-material skin, identical to Mother’s, was designed to fool or absorb enemy scans that went poking around looking for it.

It was intended to find targets for Mother’s weapons, resolve firing solutions, guide missiles into armor belts, and warn Mother of incoming threat vectors. It was not built to chart billion-year-old planetary rubble. That sort of task was supposed to be left to astronomical survey drones. If it had lungs and air to breath, it would’ve sighed.

An encroaching object set off its proximity alert, drawing its full attention. It reviewed the last six milliseconds of collision-avoidance radar data. The threat object was cylindrical, eleven-point-two millimeters across, moving at fifteen thousand meters per second on a direct intercept course. Projected impact in seven tenths of a second. A full emergency chemical thruster burn would be necessary to avoid a collision. Blackout protocols stepped in to stop the burn, projecting such an action would mean an unacceptable risk of detection.

After a fraction of a millisecond’s consideration, it overrode the protocols. Six hydrazine thrusters on its ventral surface erupted at once, expelling rapidly-dispersing clouds of scorching hot gasses that would light up like torches for any passive IR scanners within ten light minutes in every direction. The thrusters pushed hard to overcome the inertial momentum of its seven metric tons of mass to move it out of the threat envelope.

They were very nearly successful.

Its chassis shuddered under the glancing blow, sending shrapnel, electrical surges, and jarring vibrations throughout its internal structures. Fuses snapped open to protect delicate electronic components from burning out as its gyroscopes barked instructions to the thruster array to calm its chaotic spin and maintain station-keeping.

The violent gyrations came to heal with only seventeen percent of its hydrazine stores left in reserve. It could still maneuver under ion thrusters, or warm up its fusion rocket plant, but neither was capable of the short-duration, multi-gee acceleration of its chemical rockets necessary for collision avoidance.

Nor was that the end of the bad news.

Diagnostic reports streamed in from its peripherals. Six panels of adaptive camouflage were damaged. Two were still drawing power, but had been cut off from the data network. Two burst capacitors were offline. The portside gamma ray detector was out of calibration. Structural frame members three, four, five, seven, and eight had been compromised. But most importantly, its primary omni-directional whisker laser gimbal mount was frozen in place and unable to track.

It had survived, but would need a major overhaul aboard Mother to be brought back up to optimum functionality. It began the procedure to bring its secondary whisker laser mount online so it could inform its siblings of the impact and its diminished capabilities. At the same time, it turned an eye towards inspecting the debris cloud left over from the impact. Something about the incident nagged at its logic and pattern-recognition software.

It knew exactly what it had lost in mass down to the gram, and knew the chemical makeup of its missing constituents. Armed with this information, it turned a spectrograph towards the expanding junk cloud and scanned the particulates. After accounting for all its own damage and removing it from the analysis, all that remained was approximately twenty-nine grams of an unknown tungsten alloy refined orders of magnitude beyond the purity of any naturally-occurring meteorite.

A bullet.

Its proximity alert tripped again. Three more threat objects approached, arranged in a perfect triangle, tracking from an identical vector and velocity as the first.

It had been boxed in. Any evasive course it could had taken away from the first projectile had lead it inexorably into the path of one of the other three, and with such a paltry volume of chemical propellant left to burn, it couldn’t escape a second time.

In that nanosecond, it knew what had happened to its lost sibling, and knew it was fated to fall to the same unseen enemy. It had failed to spot the intruder, but there might still be time to get word to Mother and its siblings. With the tenths of a second that remained, it warmed up its high-gain radio transmitter, overrode half a dozen communications blackout and security protocols, dumped all the data and telemetry it had collected in the last few seconds into an encrypted burst packet, and maxed out the transmitter’s power output.

It managed to broadcast two and a half kilobytes of data before being obliterated.

2016: A Writer’s Year in Review

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Congratulations! You survived a mass-murdering, clown shoes, mile-high tire-fire of a year!

And so did I, somehow. Looking back on the last year at a purely professional level, it was actually my best year yet, not that I’m going to forgive it in any way for the rest of the carnage it inflicted.

In 2016, I published my second novel TRIDENT’S FORGE. I wrote and sold CHILDREN OF THE DIVIDE to Angry Robot, sold my very first novel A HOLE IN THE FENCE to Tor Books, wrote a great humor novella called THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING BA-427, and published twenty-five op-eds on The Hill.

All total, I put down around 180k words for publication, which means I’m still about 200k short of the mythical Million words mark where everything becomes amazing forever. So that’s a goal.

In the coming year, I’m already on the hook for editorial rewrites of two books, writing all of third, probably starting a fourth, and right around fifty op-eds if absolutely nothing gets added to my plate in the next twelve months.

Which is not likely…

Anyway, you’re probably expecting something inspiring for the new year, so here goes. In 2017, be absolutely relentless. If a short-tempered malcontent like me can make it as an author, there’s nothing keeping you from it. Like, literally nothing. They really shouldn’t be letting me do this. There are way more qualified people.

ConFusion Approaches!

Hello friends! As some of you know, every January I make the pilgrimage to Detroit, MI at the height of Midwestern winter to attend one of the best small cap cons in the country.

That’s right, it’s almost time again for ConFusion. I’ve snuck my way onto several panels this year that I’m pretty jazzed about. Here’s where and when you can find me:

Saturday 10am: Interstellar Colonies, a Hubristic Fantasy? I’m moderating this one. My series is about a generation ship starting an interstellar colony. No one else gets to speak.

Saturday 2pm: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? An exploration of near-future tech such as self-driving cars, AI assistants, autonomous armed drones, and thousands of Donald Trump clones.

Saturday 5pm: Autograph Session. Come buy my books directly from the source and let me scribble in them. Maybe dribble, too, if you’re lucky.

Saturday 6pm: Reading with Adam Rakunas. Wait, seriously? Oh, that’s going to be a disaster. No, seriously, a complete shit show…

Sunday 12pm: Here’s What They Did to My Baby! I’m moderating this one, too. We’re going to talk about all the shit our editors pulled on us before they’d publish our books. There will be lamentations.

So, if you’re going to be around the Con, stop by and see me. Say hello. Buy a book. Buy me a shot. I’ll never forget you. Unless a lot of people buy me shots.

Big Damn Announcement!

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I’ve been hinting at it for a couple of weeks, but the cat is finally out of the bag.

The very first novel I ever wrote, A HOLE IN THE FENCE, has been sold to Christopher Morgan at Tor. I am indescribably excited about this opportunity, not only to be able to partner up with an amazing publisher like Tor, but to be able to bring this book that got me started on this path to readers across the globe.

I’d like to thank my new editor Chris, my agent Russ, my many beta readers, and my girlfriend Niki for her unwavering support throughout this long process.

A HOLE IN THE FENCE is a sci-fi comedy that blends everything I’ve learned in the last six years about writing both fiction and stand-up. I hope you all love it. Here’s a little sneak peak of what’s in store…

Earth is in a predicament. The Magellan, a curious AI ship on a mission of exploration, has discovered an unknown object in deep space. Most intriguing of all is the mysterious signal the artifact is broadcasting to anyone who cares to listen.

The Magellan’s crew, captained by the intrepid Allison Ridgeway, strives to unlock the artifact’s advanced technology. They are assisted by a crack team of researchers back on Earth, headed by ultimate science geek and Moon native, Felix Fletcher. The brave crew and their Earth counterparts are joined by Earth’s first hyper-capable ship, The Bucephalus, and the questionably competent Captain Maximus Tiberius.

Together they set out to explore the galaxy, searching for the artifact’s maker. Little do they know, their mission will culminate in a high stakes staring contest with the powers that control the entire galaxy, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. Except some of the players have an unfair advantage – they have no eyelids. Some of them don’t even have eyes.

Look for A HOLE IN THE FENCE to hit the shelves in Summer, 2018.

#FindThirtyEight

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Hey everyone. I know I said we weren’t doing politics on here anymore, but well, this is wack. Anyway, as some of you might know, there is one more shot we can take. Despite what you may have heard, the results of the election are not final under the law until December 19th when the five-hundred and thirty eight members of the Electoral College meets and casts their ballots.

As it stands now, that vote would break 242-306 in favor of the man who lost the election by more than two million votes and counting. And who is going on trial for fraud in a couple weeks. And who was helped by Russian interference. And who is an admitted serial sexual abuser. And who just appointed a nakedly anti-Semitic white supremacist to be his chief strategist. And… you get the point.

If you’re happy with the way things are shaping up, stop reading. You’re all set. But if not, we need to find thirty-eight electors across the country to change their votes and represent the majority will of American voters.

Nothing is more effective at influencing our representatives at all levels than physical letters. So, I’ve written one. I’m sending it out to all of the electors in my state, and I would like you to consider doing the same. I’ve attached the letter as a DocX file below.

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Download it, fill out the open fields, print it, sign it, and get it in the mail to your state electors. If you have trouble with the file or don’t use MS Office, I’ve included the text below. Just copy/paste and away we go.

And share this post and the letter as far and wide as you can, using the hashtag #FindThirtyEight. Okay? Cool.

11/25/16 Update:

For my Wisconsin readers, here are the names and addresses of our Electoral College delegation:

1) Kim Travis, 457 W Geneva St., Williams Bay, WI 53191-9604
2) Kim Babler, 4575 Dennis Dr., Madison, WI 53704-6105
3) Brian Westrate, E11030 Deer Rd W. Fall Creek, WI 54742-5300
4) Brad Courtney, 4600 N Wilshire Rd. Whitefish Bay, WI 53211-1260
5) Kathy Kiernan, 1751 Scenic Rd, Richfield, WI 53076-9604
6) Dan Feyen, 962 Churchill Ln, Fond du Lac, WI 54935-6396
7) Jim Miller, 15611 W Lakewood Dr, Hayward, WI 54843-6401
8) Bill Berglund, 3870 Rileys Point Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235-9438
9) Steve King, 3508 N Edgewood Dr, Janesville, WI 53545-9547
10) Mary Buestrin, 1000 W Calumet Rd, River Hills, WI 53217-3008

………………

Dear [Elector’s name],

I am writing today as a citizen concerned about the future direction of our state and the country at large. On November 8th, voters from all across this great nation came together to exercise their civil duty and voted for the President of the United States, Senators, Representatives, Governors, Judges, Sheriffs, and dozens upon dozens of ballot initiatives.

And while it was a close race which came down to thin margins, in the race for the Oval Office, there was a clear winner.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won the election of Nov 8th. As of the writing of this letter, her popular vote margin sits at over 2,000,000 votes. Projections indicate that lead will continue to grow to as many as two and a half million votes, a margin of nearly two percent of the total ballots cast.

The American voters have made their choice. Now, it’s time to make yours.

As an elector selected to represent the citizens of [your state], it is your duty to cast a vote for the President in line the judgement of the voters of our state. However, your greater responsibility is to the defense of our republic and the preservation of our Constitution. The founders made clear in their writings on the creation of the Electoral college that they wished to avoid direct election of the office of President out of concern for an underqualified, populist demagogue may come along and short-circuit the normal functioning of the democratic process.

As Alexander Hamilton himself wrote in Federalist #68, the Electoral College which you were chosen to represent was designed to ensure that “[T]he office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

In the last eighteen months of campaigning, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated in unending ways that he does not possess the experience, temperament, knowledge, humility, or compassion to sit behind the Resolute Desk. His scandals, outrages, insults, and appeals to our basest nature during this campaign are too numerous to catalog. At no point has Mr. Trump managed to win a majority of support from actual voters, not from Republicans during his party’s primary contests, and not from the national electorate during the general election.

The purpose of the electoral college was to prevent a man like Donald J. Trump from manipulating the fleeting passions and fears of the American voter and protect the nation from his dangerous excesses, not to override the popular will of the country as expressed by voters across the nation, regardless of the artificial boundaries of state lines and deliver such a man into the most powerful single position on the planet.

I beg you to protect our nation and its future. On Dec 19th, cast your ballot for the people’s choice, Secretary Clinton. Thank you for your time, your service, and your consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your signature]