PLUTOCRACY OR OLIGARCHY? THE UGLY CHOICE OF THIS UPCOMING ELECTION

We live in a country full of shallow, if not outrightly stupid people. They watch “the news” and believe it’s all lies because an orange-skinned bloke says so. As a woman whose husband was a television news reporter for more than 40 years, I’d like to point out that not once in his entire career did my husband haul his tired ass out of bed so he could get up to fabricate lies for the public.

 

He made mistakes now and then — but not often — and sometimes made the wrong choice about what story to cover, but never at any point in his long career did he intentionally lie to the public. Moreover, none of his colleagues lied to the public either.


I do not include Fox in this. Whatever they do at Fox, the news isn’t it.


The news has always been as truthful as the people who do the job can make it. Are there errors? Of course. Reporters are human beings and we are imperfect, but none of the errors was intentional. It wasn’t lying. Errors are not lies. What Trump says? Now THAT is lying. Garry was never told to tell lies. He was occasionally asked to omit something or spin the truth, but he didn’t do that, either. He tells the truth and so did his colleagues. The other reporters, photographers, directors, and producers? They told the truth, too.

Fact.

Reporters are not liars. They work hard trying to get at the truth — even when they know people aren’t listen.

Fact.

The news is as true as the people who research and write it can make it. Do they make mistakes? Yes, but they correct themselves and apologize. They don’t erase the truth about a president. Only an elected pathological liar could do that.

Fact.

The news IS the truth. If you are don’t believe reality, you are going to live with something worse. We are on a razor-thin edge between what we used to think was freedom versus a plutocracy or oligarchy — if we haven’t already crossed that line. We will know shortly for good or ill.

Shallow people are stupid. I don’t mean they have a “low IQ.” I mean they are too limited, lazy, selfish, and foolhardy to learn the truth. It’s so much easier to believe what you want to believe because that’s so much easier than believing something which you might find disturbing or uncomfortable. When you accept only the “comfortable,” you don’t have to read or research. You don’t need to know anything. Whatever you want to believe is true and you figure, that’s good enough.

But it isn’t good enough. Not for you, not for anyone. Facts are real, provable, meaningful. You can build on facts and the truths they support. You cannot build on lies. That big old wolf will just blow the house down. Meanwhile, you can roll along, believing what the current blowhard in power tells you. That’s how we got where we are. That’s how we’ll keep rolling downhill until we become one of those infamous sh&%hole countries.

THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA

“And that’s the way it is” by Rich Paschall


With so many questionable sources of news in the world, who do you trust to give you reliable and up to date information?  At one time there was a radio, television, newspapers, and your grandma’s gossip across the back fence. You may also have had a few barroom buddies who seemed to be pretty up to date on the happenings in the nation and even the world. Now that there are so many more options, how do you know who to trust and what to believe? Network news? Cable news? Twitter posts?

Perhaps you still rely on Aunt Mildred. She always seems to be well-read and has a tidbit of news on everything. When she shows up at family gatherings she can easily dazzle those who would sit down to listen. She always shows up early to the parties and is willing to stay until the very end, as long as there are snacks and highballs around. Her whiskey-fueled news items show the great recall she has from the supermarket publications she picks up regularly. Sometimes she also gets the Sunday papers, but that is more for the store coupons than the news.

Then there is cousin Billy, also a regular at the family gatherings. He tries not to get into arguments with Aunt Mildred because her vocabulary is better than his. However, you just know he is right about his views of America. His sources may seem a bit murky, but if you can not trust someone you practically grew up with, who can you trust?

Your nephew Chad is probably much more up to date than the others because he is on social media all the time, reading up on politics, rock bands, and underwear ads. He often shows you those clever memes that contain some of the best quotes for your education on the latest issues.  If you mention a topic, Chad can find a meme, video, or highly respected blog that will educate you on what you need to know. At least the blogs are highly respected by Chad, and you respect Chad, don’t you? (Chad respects this blog.)

When I was younger (much younger) and staying with my grandparents, dinner had to be finished by 5:30 PM so that my grandfather could get to his favorite chair. We lived in the Central Time Zone and the CBS Evening News came on early. It was OK because it fit right into their retirement schedule. My grandparents had been farmers and were used to early breakfast and lunch, so 5 PM dinner did not seem too early. Their main source of news was a Monday through Friday evening broadcast.

It was not just that it was a news program. There were others at that time. He could have watched the venerable team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. He could have tuned to Howard K Smith and Harry Reasoner. But my grandfather only followed the man who came to be known as the most trusted man in America. Many years of news broadcasting had led one man to the top of his field.

Walter Cronkite Jr. was a broadcast journalist who started his career in 1937 covering major news events around the globe. Later he covered NASA and brought us all the early successes and some failures of the space program. You could rely on Walter to describe the event and educate you on space all at the same time. It was the facts that he brought to broadcast, not the spin.

Real journalism

In 1962 he became the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and the main face of the news division. If there was an important story, Walter told us about it. With a confident and authoritative tone and a grandfatherly face, people came to trust him with the news. In fact, as his tenure on the evening news went on, polls began to show that it was not a politician or entertainer that people trusted most, it was Walter.

In 1963 I recall watching Walter as he told us all about the assassination of President Kennedy and the events that followed. No, I did not see the earliest broadcasts live, I was in grade school.  But I did see all that followed. I have seen the early footage many times since in documentaries, as Walter had to tell a nation that the President was dead. To this day that broadcast will evoke tears.

"President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time."
“President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.”

Walter advised us of what was going on in Viet Nam. Did it help turn a nation against the war? Walter told us about Watergate extensively. Did it help lead to the downfall of a President? If he influenced public opinion, it was not because he twisted the facts or spun their meaning, it was because he reported them.

After 19 years, Walter Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News. CBS had a mandatory retirement age of 65 then. Today they would probably let him go on as long as ratings were good. He lived to be 92 and remained active for many years after “retirement.”

Are there any broadcasters today that enjoy the trust of American people like Walter Leland Cronkite Jr.? Yes, I know the answer to that. Everyone seems to be interpreting rather than just reporting. They all appear to have a point of view and we may trust them about as much as we trust Aunt Mildred. Of course, there are a few that trust Aunt Mildred a lot, “and that’s the way it is.”

IF YOU WANT TO KEEP BLOGGING, AFFORDABLE PLATFORMS EXIST

I really don’t want to stop blogging. Even if I have to use a different computer — like the Mac rather than the PC — or get an iPad or something else. I need to write. It’s not merely what I do. It’s what I am. I’m not a novelist. I’m not an author. I write because I need to write. I can’t remember when I didn’t need to write, even when I was a kid using a pencil.

It might not be WordPress. I may have to somehow find a different forum, but there will be something. I can’t believe there’s no platform anywhere I can afford and use. There has GOT to be a way to do this.

Maybe by some bizarre stroke of luck WordPress will let those of us who prefer a simpler style keep doing what we do. If you can get it by paying for it as a “business,” surely they can let those of us who have been paying them for years to access it too. That would, I think, make many people happier and cost WordPress nothing since they already have the extensions available. Did you know that the WordPress Spell Checker we got for free is available only as part of their “business” plan? That’s also true of their original “Text Customize” function that were originally part of my package? All the explanations about how we don’t need them were actually more simply explained by “we don’t feel like letting you have them at the price you are paying, so now you have to pay at least triple the price”.

“Disable Block Editor” and “WordPress Simple Style” are both available — for a pretty hefty fee. We don’t need them (according to WordPress) but if you have the bucks, well, then you might need them after all. Just follow the money.

So I started started hunting around today and I found that although you can get many things for “free,” your options in a free format are quite limited and usually include advertisements. Also, no one accepts downloads from WordPress. To put it more strongly, at this point no one accepts downloads from any other platform. Whatever you have already done on some other product, from WordPress to Facebook, you will not be able to move it to a new platform.

The highest rated blogging tool is WIX. There are many great things about it including super good service and very classy templates — and very easy setup, There are limitations too, including one major one. After you choose your format, you are stuck with it. Text doesn’t necessarily flow from one style to another. Probably you could solve that by writing your posts in Word or Google Doc and inserting it as needed in any format. It’s just an extra step — and more work.

You might want to take a look at WIX. It was the only one that appealed to me. Also, on WIX, you own your content. On other “free sites,” they own your content. I don’t want my content owned by anyone but me. You might want to start by reading this review: Wix.com Review – The Flexible Website Builder. 

And then take a look at Wix itself (WIX.com):

There’s a lot of material to look at and I’m mostly liking what I see. From my point of view, the biggest problems are inability to flow text from one templates to another — and of course not being able to move parts of my WordPress site to a new one platform. I could go through it and copy my best pieces into a document format — which given how big the site is, it would be a lot of work. Easier would be to keep the WordPress site and dip and delve as needed. It would cost me an extra $100/year. but might be worth it.

For all practical purposes, this would be starting from scratch. I wonder if I have the energy to do it again. At least there are choices. They aren’t free even though free options exist, but they also aren’t insanely expensive either. There are, as we say, possibilities. Pity I don’t have something to sell!

BLOCK EDITOR OR WHAT?

I started blogging on WordPress in 2012 and quickly started to pay to customize my site. I have been paying for almost the entire time I’ve been blogging. Me and my friends have written 11,000 posts over the years and I have no idea how many photographs.

Two of the things I pay for is getting rid of advertisements — and the ability to use a wide variety of templates. At this point, more than half of those templates don’t work. That’s before the block editor is fully in place. No one has bothered to check the templates to see if they work with the already-existing changes to the software. WordPress does not care.

It’s not like I don’t know how block editors work because I’ve worked with Pagemaker, which is the ultimate block software. I didn’t use Pagemaker for personal writing. It was never meant for that. It’s intent was and is to design books, typically non-fiction technical books. Theses. Scientific documents. The block editor is a waste of time and energy for most people who are in it for the fun and not the money. I don’t care whether or not if I have the best-looking blog in town. I don’t think people read your posts because of how classy your site looks.


People read you because they love your writing, photographs, and art. If all you have is a single page of text without so much as a picture, if you write well they will read you. If your pictures are beautiful, they won’t care how fancy your site is. They aren’t looking at your site but at your photographs and your words.


All of the changes WordPress has implemented have nothing to do with helping you produce better work. They long ago deleted all the prompts and challenges intended to inspire writers and artists. It’s entirely about improving how pretty your site will look to potential business owners.

I don’t have a business. I’m retired. I have no intention of starting a business and if I did, i would NEVER work with WordPress. They have treated me — a paying customer — as worthless. They don’t want me. They don’t care about me. And if they keep pushing me, they also won’t have me. Because I have limits and am about to reach them. I will be very sorry to quit, but if they push me any harder, I will have to. I am not going to ever be a business customer. I will never pay them $25/month so I can publish pretty pictures of birds, rivers and write about things that inspire or worry me. Not only do I not have the money, but it isn’t worth it. WordPress is not worth it. 

So I guess if what you want is the best-looking site, go with block, though for a single page post, it’s an awful lot of work for a zero dollar return. Remember: WordPress doesn’t want writers and artists. They want business. Nonetheless, it’s the writers and artists who made WordPress what it is. We powered them to the top.


When we are gone, they will be a giant commercial site.
They should be careful what they ask for because they might get it.


Just before I went to bed last night, I got my notice from WordPress. Since I’m already using the “classic editor” through my dashboard, it isn’t going to make any difference, at least until they decide to make that impossible. Hey, WordPress? Hold off until after the election, okay? At least let us get there using technology with which we are comfortable before you find a way to make us miserable.

Since I only recently found a template I really like which makes it very easy for me to show not only what I am creating, but what I have done in the near and long since past, it now looks like a magazine. This format is antithetical to the block format concept. It gives me a great deal of latitude to shift pieces around and reuse earlier posting and recent posting with a minimum of reworking.

These days, news isn’t ever new. Whatever is happening today happened before and not once. The news doesn’t get old; it merely recycles. All you have to do is change the numbers (location of shooting, how many people killed, name of killer (if known)) … or name the next Black person shot for no reason except being Black in the wrong (maybe his/her own) neighborhood. Or name which creep in the administration is being indicted (name the crime, name the jurisdiction) for something (this morning it’s Steve Bannon — remember him?) so it would be a pity to waste those well-written stories, rants, whines, and research pieces which I put hours of work into producing.

Isn’t it great that we’ve (at least some of us, anyway) have been paying for the privilege of using all the templates we want only to discover that almost none of them will work with the new format? Don’t you think they should have done something about that? With each passing day, the money I pay to them gives me less and less for the price. This particular one is very much like stripping paying customers of the biggest benefit and replacing it with nothing at all. But never you mind. As long as I can ignore their glitzy changes, the happier I’ll be.

DEAR BLACK PEOPLE – FROM THE SHINBONE STAR

By Denise Shabazz

Dear Black People,

A year ago, I was compelled to write to white women who voted for Donald Trump even though their interests were not clearly aligned with the Grab-Them-by-the-Pussy-in-Chief. I was angry at them then, and now I’m angry at you for the same reason.

I’ve noticed that many of you are concerned about California Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic presumptive presidential candidate Joe Biden’s pick for his vice president. Most of your concerns stem from her record when she served as a district attorney for San Francisco. Others complained that Harris just isn’t black enough, noting her marriage to white Jewish entertainment lawyer Douglas Emhoff, as well as her biracial South Asian heritage. Other critics say she just isn’t progressive enough.

To all you naysayers: Now. Is. Not. The. Time.

I’m going to remind you of what a racist clown we have in the Oval Office.

REMEMBER? Neo-Nazi racists carrying Tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va., some of Donald Trump’s “very good people.”

Let’s start with what happened in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017. It was called the Unite the Right Rally, a protest organized by white supremacist groups.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists — dressed in khakis and carrying Tiki torches — protested the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statute. According to the New York Times, the group was chanting: “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us.”

An anti-racist group — including Black Lives Matters marchers — clashed with the racists and several were hurt. One of the counter protesters, Heather Heyer,  was killed when James Alex Fields slammed his car into the crowd.

But the most jarring thing about the whole tragedy was Trump’s response to the carnage:

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Now. Is. Not. The. Time.

REMEMBER? Donald Trump actually campaigned on a racist message. It wasn’t false advertising.

May I remind you, too, of the time when Racist Donny announced his presidency on June 15, 2015 from Trump Tower. He proclaimed on that day:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Black people, if you aren’t troubled by those comments, I question your consciousness. Trump’s campaign launch was an indication for racist rhetoric to come. And sure enough, our Clown President didn’t disappoint. Most recently, he blew the racist dog whistles when he tweeted earlier in August that suburban housewives would vote for him because:

“They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood.”

Now. Is. Not. The. Time.

I could go on and on about the Clown President’s race-baiting, but it would require me writing a book.

I will say that I did research Sen. Harris’ record as a prosecutor, and it is interesting that both Fox News and the New York Times have differing views, which to me demonstrates that her record is complex and not so cut-and-dried like many of you want to believe.

Times profile on Aug. 9 notes that “Critics saw her taking baby steps when bold reform was needed — a microcosm of a career in which she developed a reputation for taking cautious, incremental action on criminal justice and, more often than not, yielding to the status quo.”

However, a Fox News article from Aug. 13 notes that Harris is not a “progressive prosecutor” and has a lenient record on crime, refusing to seek the death penalty for many criminal defendants, including for the killer of police Officer Isaac Espinoza.

So, Black people, I give you Exhibit A: Donald Trump, a liar, a racist and a corrupt, soulless man who most recently has gone to war against the United States Postal Service, appointing a key supporter to defund the institution in order to slow the mail — specifically mail-in-ballots — ahead of the election. He gives not one damn about veterans and the elderly who depend on prescriptions that come through the mail. After all, it’s always about him. He has also demanded that schools reopen to in-person learning without a national strategy or funding to provide COVID-19 testing or for supporting educators.

On the other hand, I present Exhibit B: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, candidates who are now offering a responsible strategy for containing the COVID-19 virus, calling for a national mask-wearing mandate in light of the pandemic, as well as providing emergency aid for the unemployed.

I could care less who Kamala Harris shares her bed with or whether she’s “Black enough.” The fact that she went to my alma mater, Howard University, an historically Black university, shares my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha is all I need.

Again, Black people, Now. Is. Not. The Time


See original source: Dear Black People – THE SHINBONE STAR

IN GLORIOUS BLACK AND WHITE – RICH PASCHALL

If you have stopped by in recent months you have seen some music and movie lists to help you pass the time during our quarantine days. My top 20 Coming of Age movies included the 1971 B&W feature, The Last Picture Show. The top 20 LGBT movies In The Mainstream included the 1961 B&W classic, The Children’s Hour. Films All Guys Should See included a half-dozen black and white films among my Top 20, including a couple mentioned below.

Thoughts on colorful movies shot in B&W

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If I asked you to list your favorite movies, what would they be?  Star Wars, The Lion King, Toy Story 1, 2, 3, and/or 4?  Maybe Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America or Captain Marvel?  Is it a 3D Surround Sound, computer-enhanced spectacular? Or just fast and furious?  Do special effects and color make a movie great? Or might it be a brilliant script and amazing performances?

casablanca-poster

If you’re under 30, does your list include anything in black-and-white?  If you’re under 20, have you seen a black-and-white movie?

That’s right, black-and-white movies, like black-and-white photographs, have no colors, just shades of gray covering the gray-scale. It may seem to some that black-and-white movies were only made because color film was not perfected until later, but that’s not true. Long after color was standard for all kinds of film, some directors chose black-and-white.

Some shot in black-and-white to evoke a feeling of another time and place. Raging Bull, the break-out performance for Robert DeNiro in 1980 was shot in black-and-white to evoke the era of Jake La Motta, the boxer and film’s subject.

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award-winning Schindler’s List was done in black and white not only to make it feel like a World War II movie but also to emphasize the darkness of the subject matter. American History X, Broadway Danny Rose, Stardust Memories, The Elephant Man, all were made in black-and-white for effect, for mood, for a certain cinematographic grittiness. If you never heard of any of the aforementioned, perhaps you know of or have seen the 2012 Academy Award winner for Best Picture The Artist, filmed in black and white to recall another age.

Here are my top 5 black and white movies. These are required viewing before you report back next week: Casablanca is definitely number one. I know some will tell you that Citizen Kane is the best movie of all time. I watched it. I liked it. I have no need of seeing it again. I could watch Casablanca over and over.

Set during World War II, it’s the story of an American (Humphrey Bogart) who fell in love with a beauty (Ingrid Bergman) in Paris.  Forced to flee when the Nazis invaded, he is stood up at the train station by the woman he loves as the rain pours down. He winds up running a casino in Casablanca amidst a cast of shady characters … when guess who shows up? The movie includes one of the great movie songs of all time, As Time Goes By. And before you ask, Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam.”

As a child, Psycho scared the heck out of me in the theater. It was one of many Alfred Hitchcock classics filmed in black-and-white. Anthony Perkins gave a deliciously creepy performance as the proprietor of the Bates Motel. If you have seen any other version of this classic, you wasted your time. See the original! Perkins reprises the role a number of times in sequels after he was typecast as a weirdo psychopath. Too bad; he was a solid actor.

When the Music Box Theater in Chicago was restored and started showing vintage movies, I took my mother to see Sunset Boulevard. We had both seen it on our wonderful 19-inch, black-and-white television. This was a chance to see a restored print in a restored theater. Writer William Holden is found dead, floating in a swimming pool. The story plays out mostly in a flashback.

Silent film star Gloria Swanson appropriately plays a former silent film star and manages to chew up the scenery in a fabulous performance. A list of Hollywood notables make cameos, including H.B. Warner in the Paramount film, songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (who wrote music for the movie), and Cecil B. DeMille. As Norma Desmond would famously say, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

highnoon2

High Noon is everything a western should be. The town marshal is going to resign — on his wedding day — when bad news arrives. A dangerous outlaw is coming to town, and the new marshal has not yet arrived. The old marshal appears to be no match for the younger guy he had earlier put in jail. Gary Cooper distinguished himself as the sheriff willing to face down the bad guy even if it costs him his life. An A-List of Hollywood stars passed up the chance to make this movie for which Cooper won the Academy Award.

The movie genre that used black-and-white, light, and shadows for maximum effect was (is) the detective story. The shine of a street light through a window that throws a shadow on the floor which contains the lines of the window frame and perhaps the detective’s name help to create the scene. Black-and-white emphasizes composition, shadow and light, contrast and mood in ways color can’t.

Top movie of this type is The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart chasing his partner’s killer and the elusive Maltese Falcon. It costars Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, both of whom will turn up a year later with Bogart in Casablanca. The ending has one of the dumbest movie speeches, in my humble opinion, but paradoxically, one of the great closing lines of all time. Altogether, it’s a must-see movie.

 

Related:
Coming of Age,” Serendipity, August 9, 2020.
In The Mainstream,” Serendipity, June 14, 2020.
Films All Guys Should See,” Serendipity, March 29, 2020.

CONCERNING THE INTERCONNECTNESS OF THINGS

The late great Douglas Adams (who shared my birthday, March 11th — I’m sure that means something, but I have no idea what), created a character that I dearly love. Dirk Gently (also known by a number of other names, including Svlad Cjelli), was the owner/operator of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

His basic concept was the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” I believe in Douglas Adams and Dirk Gently. We all operate, knowingly or not, on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. More than half the posts I write — including this — are born while commenting on someone else’s post.

We are intricately and intimately linked. I wonder if we take for granted how bound to others we are in this strange cyber world we have created. I have read and heard much talk about the isolation of each person, alone and lonely with their computer. It has been put out there as a metaphor for the estrangement of people from each other, the symbolic isolation of individuals in the technological world. I don’t think it’s true. If this long period of isolation and quarantine has proved anything, it’s that even if we can’t meet face-to-face, we do really connect electronically. Electronic communications are not incidental to modern life. They are essential. For some of us, they are life and death.

The wires run forever over the desert and into the mountains

For me and for many others, our current isolation would be tragic without the Internet, without computers, without cell phones. For anyone who suffers a chronic illness, for those of us getting on in years who can’t get out because we are afraid of dying of of COVID-19 — and whose friends have died or moved far away — and for young people whose studies, work, force them to work electronically or not at all. If we cannot share a hug, we can share face time. Electronic communications let us share in ways that were science fiction a few years ago.

Without computers, Garry and I would be isolated. Not only does our age and physical issues make getting around difficult, but Coronavirus has made getting out nearly impossible. Without electronic connections, we would be squirrels in a tree without fellow squirrels with whom to hang. This post was originally inspired by Dawn Hoskings on whose post I was commenting when I realized how lucky I am to be living in a world in which we enjoy virtual travel and participate in a larger world. I’m proud to be part of a community of bloggers, a community of friends around the world. And deeply grateful.

I also think that everyone should have wifi and computers just as everyone should have a roof, heat, and a telephone. It isn’t an “extra.” These days, it may be the ONLY way kids can get schooling or their grandparents are able to see anyone at all. No one seems to be fighting for this since Obama left office, but it’s more important than ever.

THERE’S GOTTA BE A PONY IN THERE SOMEWHERE – BY TOM CURLEY

There’s an old joke about a psychiatrist who was trying to see if he could change an optimist into a pessimist and a pessimist into an optimist. He took two children, one very optimistic and one very pessimistic. He put the pessimistic child in a room filled with every toy and game imaginable.

He put the optimistic child in dimly lit room filled with horseshit.

The pessimistic child did nothing but complain. This toy didn’t work, that toy is the wrong color, these games all suck, and so on. Meanwhile the optimistic child was smiling and diving into the horseshit, digging and laughing, totally joyful. The psychiatrist couldn’t understand what was going on, so he asked the child why he was so happy. The child responded “Are you kidding? With all this horseshit, there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere!” The joke has other variations, but you end up at the same punchline.

This joke came to mind the other day when I read a really odd article. The Remington Company, the one who makes guns are 950 million dollars in debt and are about to declare bankruptcy.

The Smith and Wesson company, the country’s largest gun maker has seen their sales drop over 70% in the last year.

Why? The article says it’s because of the “Trump Slump.” Now that  all three branches of government are in the hands of Republicans who really, really love guns and anything “gunny” (is that a word? If not, I just made it up. Trademark!), all the gun nuts have stopped buying guns.

Turns out the major driver of gun sales in America are Democrats. That and a mass shooting. It’s the irrational fear “the government is coming to take all our guns!!” which causes the gun nuts to buy more guns. As I am writing this, I’m watching Trump’s secret police protesters in Oregon while he threatens to send his “army” to subdue any city in any state he doesn’t like.  Maybe that will make gun sales go up. He’s got his base convinced that America is out to get them.

All this got me to thinking of other actual good things our Comb-Over-In-Chief has done. Not on purpose. He’s never done anything good intentionally. He’s enraged women to the point were millions of them protested on his first day in office.

He’s been a major force behind the “Me-Too” movement and the “Time’s Up” movement.

Polls show Republican women, especially college-educated white women, are turning against Trump in droves.  He’s brought domestic abuse into the public spotlight by defending the abusers! He’s reminded the country that being a pedophile is bad by defending a pedophile!

He’s energized a Democratic progressive grass-roots movement which has resulted in dozens of local and state seats going from red to blue. He has mobilized young people to not only get out and vote, but to also run for office — all around the country.

Sadly, the vast majority of the shit this shithead has done far outweighs the positive things he’s inadvertently done. He’s still a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and the world. For all the horrible things he’s done, we all now know that he will do things that will be even horribler (is that word? If not, trademark!). The Oval Office is currently filled with horseshit and an amazing amount of bullshit.


He has abandoned us to death and quarantine for … ever? We’ve got an election coming up. I sure hope you all are voting!



But hey, maybe we’ll find a few more ponies out there.

PEACE TALKS – HARRY DRESDEN IS FINALLY BACK! – by JIM BUTCHER

I looked it up. I have waited six years for book sixteen in the Harry Dresden world to be published. I have waited patiently, then less patiently. A few months ago, there was a book by Jim Butcher called (tada!) Spiderman: The Darkest Hours. It wasn’t Harry Dresden, but it was good and it was Jim Butcher. It kept me from madness. This is truly a year in which if books disappeared, my brain would slither out through my ears and I would be officially brainless (as opposed to intermittently brainless).

Peace Talks is as good as I had hoped it would be and it is eerily timely, given COVID-19 and our so-called president sending his own secret service into the streets to beat down protesters. Peace Talks are the least peaceful talks ever attempted. The next book, to be released at the end of September, will really be part two of this duology. I don’t know if it will also be the end of the series. I hope not, but I have a feeling it might be. Because I’m not sure what more Harry Dresden could become beyond what he has already become. He was always powerful, clever, and funny. But now, multiply the earlier Harry by the power of 10 and he’s one seriously magical dude.

I waited for the previous five years for this new episode. This year — year six — I was getting desperate. I couldn’t bear the idea of reading one more political insider story extruded from our dark and creepy White House. I’m pretty sure it has become the opposite of Demonreach — a place where the worst of the worst can safely hide.

I needed magic. I needed Harry. I needed Jim Butcher. Considering you-know-who is threatening Chicago with his secret police, Harry, it’s time to come out of hiding. Chicago won’t survive without your help. Hell, Harry, the WORLD is waiting. In the meantime, I need you.

Peace Talks is satisfying on so many levels. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these past few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline heading toward a Dresdenesque apocalypse. Jim Butcher extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil in my reality plane makes fighting them similar to trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance.

There is one more book to come, though I can’t help hoping for more. Regardless, it is going to be gigantic.


The  Dresden Files


Book 1: Storm Front

Book 2: Fool Moon

Book 3: Grave Peril

Book 4: Summer Knight

Book 5: Death Masks

Book 6: Blood Rites

Book 7: Dead Beat

Book 8: Proven Guilty

Book 9: White Night

Book 10: Small Favor

Book 11: Turn Coat

Book 12: Changes

Book 13: Ghost Story

Book 13.5: Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files

Book 14: Cold Days

Book 15: Skin Game

Book 16: Peace Talks (now available!)

Book 17: Battleground (September 29, 2020)

WHY DON’T I CHANGE TO THE “NEW” BLOCK EDITOR? WHY WOULD I?- Marilyn Armstrong

THE ‘IMPROVED’ GUTTENBERG’ Block Editor

I see that line every time I write something — in the old, old format. “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” lurks above my editing every time I work. I would make it vanish if I could.

Why don’t I use the new improved format?


The new editor is definitely different, but it isn’t better. It’s more difficult to use. You need more steps to accomplish simple things.

Nothing has been done to improve the limitations of the original editing format. The spacing issues that have plagued every template I’ve used during the past six years are as bad or worse as are all the problems that come with pasting text from some other piece — even if it’s from another WordPress post. The “customization” has been reduced to the most simplistic possible format so you get choices like “Huge, Too Big, Too Small, Tiny, and “Can anyone read that?”

Nor have there been any improvements for editing pictures. Even simple stuff, like properly resizing a picture from native to “web sized.” Internally within the post, you are stuck using the standard font or a header. The “blockquote” function is always the wrong size.

We’re still putting bandages on your “other” improvements


Lately we’ve all been battered with WordPress’s “improvements.” I’m here to tell you:


Change isn’t inherently an improvement. An improvement means you’ve taken something which wasn’t working and made it better. Easier to use. More effective. With more options. 


At WordPress, improvements do exactly the opposite. You take something useful and remove a piece of its functionality. I have to assume there’s a reason for this, but I have no idea what it might be. I remember when you removed “edit” from the template and we complained. One of your “happiness engineers” actually asked why we needed an edit function?

Um, because we’re writers? Editors? Artists? Do the people who create our format use it? Do they consult people who do use it? Typically, your improvements make functions work less well than before, which I suppose makes them a dis-improvements.

I have a monumental investment in my site and am at an age where starting over is – pardon the pun – a non-starter. You might force me to quit. You may push out all your “old timers.” There is always a bill to pay when you refuse to listen to your customers. You won’t be the first major tech company to slither down that open drain.

Personally, I think you are slouching down a long, gravelly road to nowhere. Like so many formerly great platforms, the power you now hold will dwindle. I hope by the time you vanish, someone else will take over.

As for my failure to “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” option?

You don’t actually believe your improved platform is better than the one we had anymore than you believe changing our font sizing option from “points” to “small” “normal” or “large” improved customizing. Or eliminating our ability to create our own colors made our templates look better. Or deleting all the challenges that enabled us to form relationships with each other improved our blogging and creativity.

You’re just following orders. After all, everyone needs a job.

WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Considering how the world has changed, I suspect more of us have become aware that “winning” isn’t everything and sometimes, not even a good thing. It all depends on what you won. And there can be a lot of emotional conflict about whether what you’ve done is winning or not.

My ex-husband, Larry Kaiser, was a young litigation attorney in New York City in 1979. His law firm assigned Pro Bono Appeals cases to junior associates as part of a public service program.

Larry was given the appeal of a defendant, Eric Michaels, who had been convicted, in a second trial, of rape, sodomy, robbery and burglary. His first trial had been declared a mistrial. It was clear that the defendant was rightfully convicted. He had definitely done it. So Larry had to look for a procedural irregularity that he could exploit to try to get the conviction overturned on appeal. That was his job, unsavory as it was.

Larry discovered that the trial judge, Judge Arnold Fraiman, had declared a mistrial for a questionable reason – he and several jurors were scheduled to leave on vacations. I believe the judge even had his wife and his packed suitcases in the courtroom. If this was seen as an abuse of discretion by the appellate court, it would invalidate the guilty verdict of the second trial. The entire second trial would be considered invalid as a violation of double jeopardy. You can only be tried once for any crime or crimes.

Larry was drowning in work so I helped him write this Pro Bono brief. It was very much a joint effort. I was practicing law at a small New York City law firm at the time. We won the appeals case and Eric Michaels was released from prison.

One morning shortly after the appellate verdict was rendered, I was getting out of bed and I heard Larry yelling from the living room. He had just opened the New York Times and found his case on the front page! The misconduct of Judge Fraiman was considered a big enough deal to warrant a prominent story. This was particularly true because his misconduct resulted in the release of a convicted rapist. The District Attorney of New York had described Eric Michaels’ crimes as some of the more vicious crimes prosecuted by the state in years.

Judge Fraiman was now in the spotlight. Larry was interviewed by several newspapers. Over the next few days, reporters dug into the Judge’s prior cases. And they discovered that the exact same thing had happened before. Judge Fraiman had previously declared a mistrial for the same reason – he was due to leave on vacation. His prior mistrial declaration had also been considered inappropriate by an appellate court. And again, an appellate court had released another guilty defendant back onto the streets because of Judge Fraiman’s actions in court.

This was now a really big judicial scandal. The story stayed in the news for a while and destroyed Judge Fraiman’s reputation. I think he may have been censured by the judiciary or by the Bar Association.

Larry always had mixed feelings about this case. He had won a major legal success and got his name in the New York Times.On the other hand, he helped get a rapist released from jail. This is often the plight of lawyers in the criminal field. It was also a prime reason I didn’t go into criminal law.

Winning isn’t everything.

“I AM SAMOAN!” DECLARES GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m Samoan. You may not believe it, but a whole bevy of racists in the 1970s believed it and it has become an inside joke in local media  — or at least the retired members of local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early ’70s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was an ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe.

“The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It meant (to me) I was on the right side.

One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also known as “Southie,” where all the action was taking place. A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. They were on the move, coming in to give the hated, lying media a serious tune-up.

At that moment, I had what I call “A Mel Brooks Moment.” An veritable epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best (and most popular) soothing voice.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered. “He’s not a nig__r. He’s Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there and pretty much ran for the truck. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!