Monday, September 24, 2018

Cyber Security...CyberWar Is At Our Door

We now know (actually already a year ago in 2017) that a 757 sitting on the tarmac can be weaponized through cyber attack. Trains can be weaponized. We have a problem that needs an answer... yesterday.
Boeing 757
This makes me sad. I was part of a cybersecurity group in the late 90s early 2000s dedicated to bringing business, police and government together on issues of cyber security. We did good work, we made advances.

We decreased the distrust between government and computer experts, "white hat" (good) hackers and law enforcement. Those efforts continue to this day. But I have retired and am onto other ventures and adventures. I did my time. I no longer have to live that frustration and yet today? I find I still am. Only now from a distance.

We tried to warn people on both sides going back twenty years and yet, we are still now in this situation when we had so long ago had warned so many! Our issue back then was in part that corporations paid too little or no attention to actual cyber security issues. Those were the days when it wasn't as big as some of us knew it would eventually be. Just as it is today.

Why didn't CEO's and government listen? Government has special issues that slow things down and for good reason for the most part. But business can and sometimes does move as they wish ,if they wish it, and yet... they mostly have not.

We argued in part back then that corporations weren't even spending 1% of their budget or even of their IT budgets, on cybersecurity issues. When it should have been closer to 10%. That may have been extreme, but in light of today, of reality, was it really? Invest and innovate, or pay later.

IF they had done that, back then? We would not be in the position today that we find ourselves in. And that, is a fact.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's motto of "Move fast and break things" and his explanation of that in 2013: "We want to build our culture and our infrastructures, that we just try to move, you know, one or two clicks faster than, than other companies. And, you know, sometimes we go to fast and we mess up a bunch of stuff and then we have to fix it. And that's cool."

Really Mr. Zuckerberg? Because that actually seems to exemplify a vast misunderstanding of how the internet works. That may be how it worked back in the 90s. Maybe. When security was low and "black hat" type bad actor hackers and criminals were still gearing up, learning how to abuse a good thing. But today you really have to KNOW exactly what you're doing online. Especially when you are responsible for literally billions of people on your platform.

As we've seen, there is also the potential for very bad things to happen IF you... 1) don't know what can happen because you haven't fully planned out the potential for good AND bad things to happen, and 2) you have to fully understand that business as usual as you have planned it out, in order to make money off that platform, off those people, can indeed damage not only those individuals using your platform, but also entire countires.

Because, there are bad actors out there, predators, whose lives are devoted to finding ways, people and platforms to abuse, with no moral or ethical concerns. When you have a platform that large, you also have an oversized responsibility to be not only fully aware of how your platform and your business model can positively AND negatively affect people, but you also have to be better possibly, than you even are capable of.

And that is a serious concern.

Rather than increase their cyber security efforts and budgets smoothly, easily, over the years to more than they thought they needed it (and their cyber people knew they needed but were ignored or given miniscule, fly by night amounts to work with), they could by now have organically prepared over those past years (if not decades) to have spent less money overall. Consider what it cost Sony in their North Korean hack for the film, The Interview.

Rather than the cost now a days as well as having their reputation dragged through the mud and in losing even more money because of their lack of attention and resources and due to such bad actors as China, North Korea and Russia, just to name a few of today's major players.

Why? Capitalism run rampant? Defective corporate thinking? Yes, to be sure. But also a business as usual desire, based in greed and funneling too much money to shareholders and other such types. Rather than putting money into hyper serious concerns that merely weren't a concern to those in power at the time. Not until it was too late.

Maintaining bottom lines where the risk was considered worth it and they could not see that not only was it not worth it, but that risk was far greater than they could be made to understand, or even imagine.

Because the threat wasn't just for that year, or the year after, but in future years. It was the difference between simply installing a piece of software protection, or a method, and having a mindset that evolved over the years to come, to orient the corporation or government department in a certain way.

To see the future, then. To have build a paradigm, a mindset that would endure and evolve over time to protect and defend and protect profits and the American citizen, way of life, and national health. Both economically and emotionally.

Too often companies were saved only through the dedicated and excessive workloads of their computer IT departments. Not because they were there but because they had to make themselves overworked.

Rather than those typically overburdened, over educated, overdedicated IT workers receiving the necessary funding (which seldom happened) as well as confidence from management. The corporate attitude from on high so typically was (and still is):

"We pay them, so do your job!" Rather than "We delved into it, then give them what they needed to DO their job. We compensated them "appropriately." And we have confidence in them as they have gratitude in us for going that extra mile, for them, for us, and for our stock holders, customers, or citizens."

But that isn't the case.

It would be disingenuous for typically lucky management to point and say, "But we didn't have a devastating hack!" While they may not have known what they barely avoided, perhaps too many times. All because of the dedicated overworked efforts of their security IT people and perhaps...just good luck,

Those far too many times, they did have a successful hack against them. All too often, even. It has in fact been the point of many companies, credit card companies that the way they protected their card holders was simply to forgive their having been hacked, and absorb the cost.

Having set aside annually so much loss for fraud and hacks and yet, they still made billions of dollars overall. Simply in part, because they did not put the money and resources into handling things correctly because it seemed to frequently to those who did not understand, at the top, that it was simply money thrown away to protect themselves properly. To research and develop proactively. To overburden their IT shops rather than hire enough people and expend the money necessary to truly protect themselves.

Ignorance. It is the mainstay of business and the political party of business in this country. In all countries.

LUCK is NOT how you win wars. Be it cyber or otherwise. Nor is ignorance. Something we see as a governing body today in our current conservative Republican Trump administration.

We are now beyond that point while Russians and others have already tested our systems and have a good idea what to do if and when they choose to do it. To truly attack, on a massive scale. But again we are still protected by MAD (nuclear weapon Mutually Assured Destruction). Because a massive attack would surely need to lead to a nuclear war. It would have to. And they (Russians, North Korea, etc.) now that.

And so they attack under the wire, under the trigger point, in hitting our social media, oru elections and other things. Some of which we seldom hear about in public due to "national security issues."

And so our primary perceived protection? MAD, still. Physical war when a cyberwar is perpetrated upon us. Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy and secure? Because, it shouldn't. Look what Russia did and what our response was and has been to cyber attacks on our 2016 and soon (and still) 2018 elections. Pathetic.

To be sure, we are more protected now than we were during the 2016 election or the previous one before it. But that does not say we are safe enough yet, and we do have a lot of work left, costly work even, to get there.

It's time already, time passed twenty years ago when we were first warned.

Stop looking only at profit. It's destroying this country in a counter intuitive paradigm anathema to  the purposely ignorant conservative, corporate, capitalist mind.

Tough beans, people. This, is reality.

Monday, September 17, 2018

New Dark SciFi Audiobook - In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear

Now that reviews are beginning to come in on my new audiobook, "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear"  I thought I should do a blog on it. Below we will take a rambling journey through the the history of this story as well as a bit about my own past. Buckle up buttercup, here we go.

As for what it is about, you can read the write up on Audible if you like.

Okay fine, here is all it says there:

"Are we in a world that is reminiscent of a Philip K. Dick novel since the 2016 US Presidential election? This is a story where a world famous surgeon helps his missing son's best friend, only to find that his actions lead to monumental changes in the United States as well around the world and all in ways he could never have foreseen and might regret for the rest of his life. If only he could."

Actually I agree with the comment below related to Harlan Ellison. Harlan, Phil Dick, either way, I'm good with those references.

To start off with, here are some of the reviews on "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear" as they now are on the Audible site for this story:
Karen said: Very enjoyable!
"This is such an enjoyable book! Such detail and very descriptive. It’s as if I was watching it unfold in my mind. Could be a prediction of our future lol. Can’t wait to enjoy more of Murdock’s work"

David said: Strange story.
"I received this audio book for free in exchange for my honest review. The only thing I have to say about this one is that I sincerely hope it doesn't foretell the future."

Norman said: Intriguing.
"This hour long science fiction story presents a well thought out and intriguing future. I don’t think the narrator’s bland performance did justice to the author’s words and ideas."

On that last comment, I asked Norman what he thought was bland about the narration, but he has yet to get back to me on this. I hope he didn't think I was being snarky as I really wanted to understand his thoughts on this. Was it my voice actor, Tom Remick, or my direction?

OR it occured to me, it may simply have been the character in the story. A character who, in my direction to Tom during the recording stage, is sometimes exhausted either physically or emotionally, or is simply under great stress and fundamentally disturbed in a situation where he feels there is little he can do. Other than something massive. Which he does fight through to consider. All while he tries to stay on top of something that would be far beyond anyone, and perhaps, even change one in ways previously unforeseen throughout one's life.

Another review is from C.M. Ellett who said in part:

"...It was reminiscent of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, in a presentation of a strange future ruled by an omnipotent AI-like being."

Harlan Ellison has been one of my writing heroes since childhood. Along side Asimov and other obvious authors like Bradbury, Tolkien, Poe, Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard. Harlan's story that she referenced was first published in IF: Worlds of Science Fiction, in 1967 and was a Hugo Award winner for that short story, I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.

I really couldn't be in better company as I see it. Harlan hated being called a science fiction writer and much more appreciated the term, speculative fiction writer. Which was where I got using that term from for some of my own writing efforts. The difference of course between protagonist Ted in Harlan's story and my protagonist is clear.

While Ted sees the situation with crystal clarity, in my story that clarity must indirectly find its purchase on reality as its corrective reaction is potentially left to the listener (or the reader) in order to realize what must inevitably come next.

Finally and perhaps my favorite review so far is this one just now in from Jo B:

"Fascinating and creepy I found this book to be intriguing and unsettling all at the same time. The story was very original, the writing was solid, and the narrator was spot on. I would recommend it if you like dark, futuristic type short stories. I was given this book free at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

What I can say? Maybe just... listen for yourself. Why? Continue reading below and perhaps you'll find a good reason to find out....

Now on Amazon, Audible and iTunes:

Original cover artwork by Marvin Hayes
The title, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear is an homage to science fiction writer Isaac Asimov through his first autobiography in 1979, In Memory Yet Green, which I found so affective when I had read it, orienting in me an even greater desire to write.

My tale is a story of how our American society breaks down into dystopian degrees. How it comes to this through the efforts of a single man. One who takes over much of America's thinking through his managing of our daily feed of information. In some ways, not unlike something happening today in America. Only on a much more massive scale.

Sound a bit too familiar? A bit too real? Too much like our world today? Well, it is. But this is a reality we can easily escape in listening or reading the story, once it is over. But it is also a story I wrote back in the 1980s and first saw publication in 1990!

From the Amazon description:

A short story about a world reminiscent of a Philip K.Dick story since the 2016 US Presidential election, or this story here where a world famous surgeon helps his missing son's best friend. Only to find that his actions lead to monumental changes in the United States and as well around the world. All in ways he would never have foreseen.

I wrote this story I believe, about 1980. I was sitting around with a few of my friends, getting high smoking some cannabis to be completely honest. Nothing as powerful as what we sell legally in legal cannabis states today, but good for back then. Of course, it wasn't exactly legal in Washington state back then, but no one really seemed to care much about its use. I'd seen police turn their backs if they saw something that seemed harmless as let's face it. For all these decades, police have had much more important and relevant things to do that worry about someone smoking a joint.

And it is legal today now here. Of course the statute of limitations is long passed since 1980. Back then in Washington its use was a Class C felony as it else now elsewhere, though frequently it goes reasonably unenforced:

The statute of limitations for a Class C Felony is 5 years. That mean that the crime shall not be prosecuted more than five years after its commission.

About that. I used to say from what I was seeing back in the 1970s that cannabis would be legal within the next ten years. The first recreational cannabis stores in Washington opened to the public on July 8, 2014. So I was off by just over thirty-five years due to the efforts of many ignorant efforts while even an organization of police chiefs was against its illegality.

Which is sad, to say the least for such a destructive series of laws and prosecutions nationwide for far too many decades and a vast waste of money and destruction of lives, families and communities. Not unlike that of alcohol prohibition laws. When then morphed into anti cannabis laws that turned into ethnic abuses beyond our imagination. Why bring this up here? Because other than it being reality, it is part of this story, and part of our national orientation and planned government destruction of citizens. But that's another story.

That night so many years ago my friends and I were passing around a bong, talking about sci fi and writing and jokingly, I said I could write literally anything. I said I could take any concept and make a viable story out of it. Of course they laughed, teasing me saying they didn't believe it. But they dug in a bit too much.

So I challenged them, trying to put down their incredulity. I said something like, "Okay, I'll tell you what. You guys come up with a concept that cannot be written and... I'll write that story. You can decide if I made it work." They laughed. But then they got more serious and started talking about it.

Eventually they came up with the concept. Remember now, this was 1980. The beginning of the home PC revolution. None of them had a PC. Myself, I had just sold my first one, a "Trash 80", Radio Shack \ Tandy TRS-80 16k of RAM personal home PC. A personal computer I had purchased in 1979 before I got out of the military.

I had sold all my guns before I separated from service, and got out of the USAF as I was feeling very pacifist at the time. You see, after years of supporting a squadron whose primary job as a nuclear weapons system base (B-52 bombers), where these pilots and planes in times of nuclear war were tasked to leave their families, fly across the world and melt entire cities, men, women, elderly and children, animals and vegetation indiscriminately.

Some pilots talked to during my service, in the down time when I was actually in the cockpit of BUFs (Big Ugly F*ckiers, as we referred to B-52s) had said they would drop all their bombs as ordered, most likely on the Soviet Union at that time (and considering we were stationed at Fairchild AFB outside of Spokane, WA, and then the crew would most likely vote to fly the jet into the ground as they all knew we all knew, there would be no family back home by that time, no America as we knew her, left by that point.

The weight that held on all of us in that job was visceral. But... that's perhaps too heavy for now and a story for another time. On the other hand, it does lead directly into the intensity of this science fiction story at hand. But is it really science fiction at this point? Considering America's and the world's current reality?

That last year in the service, I had sold my personal weapons and converted that all into a personal computer. The summer I got out of the service in 1979 I had used my PC, having previously taught myself programming in Tandy Basic, to write myself a dual program. I was flummoxed how, for my physics\chemistry class, to teach myself the entire periodic table that we had been tasked to learn by the end of the school quarter.

So one night, my military service over, my marriage over, so I was living alone with my dog Ciri, a half St. Bernard, half Labrador, having a beer and playing on my Trash80. I was lonely, unsure how to memorize the entire big chart I had purchased that was on the wall above my PC desk.

How to learn all that? And I started to get an idea. Interesting to me because it was still some years before I would received my BA in Psychology from Western Washington University. I really had no desire to get a degree. I had just gone to summer school that year to get out of the Air Force several months early on an educational "early out" I had heard about, applied for, and was give.

I got the idea to write a program to task my mind. One version would access recognition skills which I was very good at, and one program would task my retrieval skills, which I wasn't so good at. Example. I could see someone's face from the past and recognize them, but I couldn't as easily recall them just from their name. I programmed the computer so it would show me something to recognize and I could practice recall, finish all the elements that way, then use the other module of the program to try retrieve memories of the table.

Once I wrote that program, I would then sit at the desk every night that quarter, probably have a few beers, and run through the program. At first it was difficult, but then it got easier. In the end, I was the only one in the class that quarter at Tacoma Community College, to get 100% on our final on the entire periodic table. On the other half of that test about chemical reactions and such things outside the periodic table, I think I got a B. So I got a few wrong on that part.

Anyway, back to my friends' concept for me was to write a story.

They came up with an idea, and they laughed as they told me, about "a guy who turns himself into a computer chip!" They were so proud, so pleased with themselves. It was annoying.

It took me aback for a few moments. Until finally I said, "Okay, fine!" and accepted the challenge. Eventually they left that night and I started working it out. The next time they came over, I passed out the story to them. They read it eager to see how I had failed. But once they had finished, they all looked at me stunned and a bit annoyed. But in the end they grudgingly agreed... I had done it.

Over that decade I sent that and other stories of mine out to magazines, occasionally reworking them until finally one day, it sold to an east coast horror quarterly magazine, making it my first professionally sold and published short sci fi fiction in 1990. It's funny though. A famous author once said on TV to new writers to collect rejection slips and get used to rejections. Because you'll get a lot of them. So put them on your wall to see them. Fill up a wall with them. Then another wall. Then your home office or writing area. Then other rooms until finally, you WILL sell a story.

When I sold this first fiction story, I opened the letting and found I was, disappointed in not having received a rejection slip. They came by snail mail back then, in the post. I still have many rejection slips today. Some from famous magazines, Omni, Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Playboy, and so on.

I liked to call In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear, a story of social horror. As it, after all, horrified me socially. I still have the letters from the publisher about this progress of this story being published. He turned down a couple of stories I had sent him, but kept say to send him another. Finally, he liked this one. But he said if I were to first cut 1500 words from it to fit the space he had available in the magazine, he'd buy it.

I wondered, how. What part? How do you do that to a well crafted story? My wife at the time suggested that I search for a passage of 1500 words and maybe he was testing me, seeing if I was competent enough to find a passage he didn't want to point to directly. But had found was unnecessary. Or he just needed it cut as he had said, to fit it into the next issue. Not unlike people who buy art to hang in their house because the colors match the decorating scheme. Well, I'll never know for sure, but I believe, it was the former and not the latter, more philistine consideration.

I searched the story and actually did find a passage, an almost exactly 1500 word long passage that really wasn't all that necessary to the story. So...I cut it, painfully. "Killing one's children" as writers call that. I sent it back and...he bought it!

I received his acceptance letter and a check for... $28! Not much, even to me at that time of little money and $28 being back then not what it is worth today. But it was officially my first professional sale of a fiction story! Finally, I had done it! To be sure, I had previously published non-fiction articles in various computer magazines locally and around the country by then, but my desire was to publish fiction!

Years later, in 2012 I updated it. By then things in technology had changed. And so it became the first and opening story in my first collection of my first short stories, the book Anthology of Evil (to which I'm currently shopping to publishers its sequel, Anthology of Evil II).

That first book of mine is a collection of my original older short sci fi and horror, including its ending novella Andrew. A story that evolved through one other short-short story, Perception, into my second and rather epic book, DEATH OF HEAVEN.

Then in 2013 I produced and narrated three audiobooks on my own. The Conqueror Worm (the first and a standalone short horror story which opens my DEATH OF HEAVEN book), The Mea Culpa Document of London (also in Anthology of Evil), and Expedition of the Arcturus (the title being an homage to the 1920 book, Voyage to Arcturus, by Scottish author David Lindsay). That last story was first published in the hard sci fi free online magazine (thanks there to publisher Sam Bellotto).

But now, I am putting out new audiobooks with friend  and professional voice actor Tom Remick in a collaboration we are both finding rewarding and really... just fun to do. Here is a short video intro to Tom working.

My equipment, computer, software and recording setup have all changed since 2013. And as I've just moved, our recording set up will be changing again for the better since producing this current audiobook, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear. We seem to be getting better (thankfully) as we go along.

I also updated the story yet again since 2013, to reflect ever newer changes in technology and culture since my first update to the original 1990 publication. This story seems to  have staying power. This latest update required changes and additions for such things as cell phones and tablets, and the types of high end computer hardware we just didn't have in 1980, 1990 or even as recent as 2013.

And that, the story behind "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear."

Next up? First, I have narrated my most popular non-fiction piece, a science fact article I've renamed, On Psychology. It details the history of psychology, proposes new research on synesthesia and schizophrenia and offers some perspective on today\s related political environment. I proposed this concept back in 1983 or 84. It is still relevant today.

We have now laid down audio tracks for our latest story, Mr. Pakool's Spice, a short story about a single father trying to get his two young kids to safety through the back winter woods of Oregon during a zombie apocalypse. With no food, barely surviving, and with of all people an international terrorist hot on their tail. It's a well drawn and heart wrenching tale. It is also one I'm trying to go with non-exclusive rights for Audible so I can release it elsewhere around the market to see how that works out.

Included with that story in the ebook and now the audiobook is the short-short story, The Regent's Daughter, a medieval tale which won Best Tension, in a short-short story competition among a group of writers.

After that we will be recording the engrossing and tense sci fi horror story, EarVu about a new, fascinating (and not thoroughly unreasonable) and frightening technology. It seems like a fun technology... at first. Then, for the several scientists who developed it, start to find strange and disturbing things happening around their top secret lab.

Tom and I are having a great time doing this work. Producing audiobooks is not easy and takes a lot of work and time. Which we hope genre fans and others will appreciate. It's especially rewarding for me as some of these stories I wrote a very long ago. My older ones even going back to my university days in the early 1980s. Seeing new life breathed into them is both fascinating and greatly rewarding.

Having read and re read them so many times during the crafting process, then over the years and now to hear a talented voice actor read them, to bring the alive in new ways, brings another level entirely to these stories. Some of which I have now updated to be more relevant to today's sensibilities making some, like In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear, even more disturbing. In some cases as with this current audiobook, our present national political reality has merely enhanced the intensity of the story bringing more dark considerations and more gravity to the situation.

So many authors have said their stories are in a way, like children to them.

This experience has been like having my stories go from high school to college and now, who knows. Perhaps one day they will achieve professional status to become produced on film. Part of the reason I retired in 2016, in buying film production equipment and in restarting up my old LGN Productions (AKA Last good Nerve Productions, I had started in 1993).

A company initially for a documentary on the 25th anniversary of the old 60s TV show, Lost in Space. Now revitalized to produce my fiction (and non-fiction) writings in ever new formats. But until that happens these stories are available as print, ebook and now audiobooks as we produce more and more of my stories.

So please take a look, and a listen. I think you'll be very pleased with the result we have culled out of them in literally breathing new life into them as audiobooks. If you do like what you hear or read in my stories, please do share with friends and feel free to post your reviews. I look forward to seeing what you think! So far the reviews are good!

I moved into my new house here the end of July 2018, this past summer. I'm now in a new house with a basement where I can and plan to build a sound studio in. It is our hope that our audio productions will continue to be even better. My last house had us in my home office, actually the dining room, with all its sounds and nuances that caused us from time to time to have to pause and wait for the garbage trucks to drive on, or for the sounds of birds, or children or people walking down the street or, whathaveyou.

Now, I have a basement with concrete walls with dirt on the other side of them to block sounds. I'm also on a dead end street, with a pleasant view of the local waters. What that means is less clean up in post production audio engineering. Less work in post, cleaner sound, faster productions. Better products as we move on and more quickly once we build the new studio.

I look forward to getting the remodeling done and back up to speed for my creative endeavors. I'm also now judging films in a local film festival which has been interesting. Always stretching out to learn more, to enhance what meager understanding I have of the world around me and increase whatever skills I have.

So, that's about it. Please do consider giving In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear a listen (or a read).

All the best to you for now and... keep reading and listening!

From the ever magical Pacific Northwest here in beautiful Washington state in the albeit of late, the rather confused country of America....

JZ Murdock

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Monday, September 10, 2018

SCOTUS On Notice - A Centered Supreme Court

I may be missing something but this seems patently stupid how we select Supreme Court Justices. On a nine Justice Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) we need an always balanced court with four conservatives, four liberal and one swing voter.

Article Two of the United States Constitution requires the President of the United States to nominate Supreme Court Justices and, with Senate confirmation, requires Justices to be appointed. ... he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court... - Wikipedia

It would seem to me regardless who is in power, on a nine Justice SCOTUS we need balance to protect America and our laws. We are seeing now a days a problem in those in power being able to choose more power through appointing judges and Gerrymandering. It's broken. The original intent is broken. We need to balance this out going forward. The concept of the President being selected by the People, is no longer accurate. It has purposely been skewed by the Republican party, conservatives, and of late, by a contrary anti Democratic nation, in Russia, and more specifically a criminal leader, Vladimir Putin.

Wouldn't it be better, to have four conservative justices selected by a bipartisan Congressional confirmation process, weighted more heavily with conservatives\Republicans as they choose?

Then four liberal justices selected by a bipartisan Congressional confirmation process weighted more heavily with liberals\Democrats as they choose.

Then finally one justice to be selected by an equally bipartisan Congressional confirmation process to select the swing vote Justice. I think it may be time to end the President having this power to submit justices for SCOTUS, or otherwise. As for judges in each state, that's another matter. Having central government select judges across the nation leads to too many conservatives, or too many liberal judges nationwide. When we need moderation. Judges for life is another questionable issue based in a need of them being above being threatened, but bringing into the mix what we see now in some judges who should no longer be judges and yet, they are there until they quit, or die?

Supreme Justices can still be suggested by the president, but also filtered as now through Republicans and Democrats, equally in Congressional Confirmations This isn't about the president, it's not about Congress, it is after all and should be, about the PEOPLE.

When a Supreme Justice vacates depending on position as conservative, liberal or swing voter, that Congressional panel (conservative weighted or liberal) would be put together to properly execute the process so that in the end the People will have a well balanced and functional SCOTUS. And end this nonsense we have now as we've seen in an abuse Republican Congress who denied Pres. Obama his selection for a Supreme Court Justice, then allowing a Republican Congress now to push through another conservative Justice when it should have been a liberal one.

That, is wrong. It is illiberal. It is unAmerican.

It would then matter not who is in power at any one time because that seems to be the mistake we're seeing today. A mistake that has made America world wide, not only a laughing stock at times, but a bully super power.

Where we have one party in power illiberally as we have now with the GOP, giving us apparently a SCOTUS with soon to be a too long of a term court weighted incorrectly for the actual desires of the people overall.

Especially after again, what Republicans did during the Obama administration in denying a Supreme Court Justice in order to purposely skew the People's Supreme Court which is obviously not a fully Republican one and yet they seem to wish that to be the case.

Which would be a travesty of jurisprudence and Congressional oversight.

Did not know, as John Oliver points out, that we're the only democracy in the world with SCOTUS life terms. Not say, 18 year terms to coincide with presidential administrations. We need to pay attention about this. As Oliver mentions, during the Constitution writing, life expectancy was shorter and judges retired younger.

Now we have justices who in some cases are too older to be thinking clearly or quickly enough as we've seen actually happen in the past. And we've seen outdated, outmoded thinking by elder Justices affect our modern needs and concerns. Not to mention, many conservative Republican beliefs are typically outdated and out moded to begin with.

We have got to fix these issues one way or another (better in more enlightened intelligent ways however) because this, is not a functional situation and this, is going to happen again.

Besides we don't want an extreme America that is way too liberal or way to conservative. The world doesn't want that though I submit they would prefer a too liberal America over a too conservative one as we're seeing in being protectionist, and a bully.

We need now to do something! We need to guarantee from here forward that rather than this haphazard guessing game that is literally in some cases, killing people, a more stable and guaranteed continuous reliable and decent America. Because in skewing America one way or another in our judicial, in acting as our national personality governing our orientations and attitudes through our laws, that does indeed affect the entire world.

And as of this time I fear, some of that is leaning not the direction of the majority of the American people, not in a more democratic direction, but in one that makes the leader of another country, in that of Russia, smile in Putin is getting into bed each night. In believing the world is becoming more Russian than American, more autocratic than... democratic. Undemocratic. Illiberal. UnAmerican.

Understand, these comments about Putin and Russia are not just about them hacking our elections. This has been a long term goal of Russia over decades. It's been reported that Russia's "useful idiot" in Donald Trump (a KGB reference to useful foreigners they can use, many times even without their explicit knowledge) first got involved with Russian crime through their oligarchs back in 1987 (it's been more recently reported his connections go even further back to 1984 when he sold parts of Trump Tower to one of them, leading to money laundering issues). It has to do with the Republican party using old tried and true KGB methodologies on the American citizenry for decades now. Yes, it's a mess. One we need to clean up.

We need to get back control of America. Not for Republicans. Not for Democrats. Not for Russia or Putin. But for the American People overall. Which means also for those people of the world who wish to come here, be here or simply be proud again of knowing always in the world that there is a county such as America to be the shining light it once was for fairness and compassion.

And can be again. We have not had to make America Great Again" until the man who ran on that platform brought this country to her knees and now does indeed need to become the great country it once was, before he came on the scene. Before the Republican party for decades now, set the path downward for someone like a Donald J Trump to come onto the scene to disrupt, damage and destroy who we are and should be, at our core.

And it all starts...with our Supreme Court of the UNITED STATES of America.

#SCOTUS #Republican #Democrat #conservative #Liberal #Progressive #realDonaldTrump #POTUS #VPOTUS #Trump #illiberal #Autocratic

Monday, September 3, 2018

Online Book Reviewing - Bullies & Short Story Cliffhangers

An author I know recently said the following:

"Yet another disturbing trend. I found out through someone who I met in an online writer's group, that any author online is being told what they're allowed to write based on bullying comments posted on Amazon. Sad. We shouldn't be violating freedom of speech in order to avoid online miniature tyrants posting crap because they can and no other reason than that. But then, I've noticed this growing trend since the beginning of this century. It's the same with any debatable issue. Bullies, abuse, discrimination, sexual assault, racism, hate crimes, the list goes on. Using bullying as an example, instead of promoting "don't get bullied" we should be focusing on simply "don't bully."

"Those who are published online only, [are] completely independent. Mainly through self-publishing, like KDP. I'll be the first to admit that yes, there is a lot of crap out there, but I don't feel any of it justifies playing bully online, never mind suppressing freedom of speech. Amazon's so-called reviews are now riddled with the worse crap I've ever seen from the most amateur self-published kindle."

I can certainly understand hating poor works and wanting to say so. There are too many amateurs and wannabe writers out there who really don't know how to write a productive  and useful review. Or to simply be a decent human being.

"I'm seeing the opposite problem. Mary Sue types, mainly. Those who sound like they could know what they're talking about by throwing around big technical terms, when they are, in fact, full of shit:

This book is badly written because it uses a modifier that's outside of the realm of professional writing.

"Er, how about simply saying that you didn't like the story and be done with it? Or, better yet, don't give amateurs undue attention. Now, this wouldn't disturb me so much if these kinds of reviews were common with ANY kind of story. An author friend of mine who offered a free short story via KDP, was so severely bashed because, zomg, it reads like a short story, not a novel. Obviously...
It seems this huge assumption has taken over. Published and/or available to purchase online, you must be an amateur, by default. No hope for you."

There is a way to write a good review. Without being petty, ignorant, or typical in cutting another down to build yourself up. Typical bully behavior that shows to anyone who can read and clearly understand what they read, just who you are as a reviewer (and a person) and what your worth is in this society of literature.

I recently had something curious happen to myself about a short story ebook I published. I don't really think the reviewer was being a bully. But I did feel the initial reviewer's rating was somewhat unfair. At very least I think it gives an incorrectly colored consideration of the story. One that had done well elsewhere.

I had one review on Amazon for my story, Mr. Pakool's Spice (now also available as an audiobook). That review sat on Amazon for that story alone, for some years. One wonders if that was in part why it was the only review.

Reviewers, amature or otherwise, need to realize that in posting the first review of any work, they have gained a vaulted status. One that can shade how others perceive the story before they read it. IF they even get to, as they may be put off buying the ebook in the first place, by that initial, single review.

First review from 2013:

"I did enjoy the journey portion of the story, of the father and his two children and their attempts to survive a zombie apocalypse. However, just as the story was getting very interesting, I turned the page to find out it was done. A HUGE cliff-hanger? On a short story?"

The reviewer essentially said they had really liked my story, but because they hadn't realized it was a short story when they got to the end, they took umbrage with its length and gave it not at least four out of five stars, but three.

This story by the way, was previously published in an anthology with other writers where it was well received. This reviewer did cause me to go through all my short ebooks and put in the beginning of the description the words: "This is a short story...." Because apparently some need that help.

I did find the review lacking in some ways. Obviously, or I wouldn't be bringing this up here. So, just a bit about reviewing and author's works online:

From Dudley Court Press site:

"Specific Tips For Goodreads And Amazon Reviews
Most review sites like Amazon and Goodreads ask you to rate the book, usually from 1 to 5. Each site uses the ratings a little differently, but keep in mind that a 1 and a 5 should be very rare. For Amazon reviews, a 3 is borderline for success. So, save a 2 for a book you really don’t like and a 1 for complete failure. These numbers can mean a difference between being promoted on the site and falling into a black hole."

Eventually I got another review actually giving my story five stars. But it was also a review which sadly came, five years later! Which gave me a 4.2 rating overall for all of that time that the first review remained the only review. Makes one wonder, if that had any impact on no further reviews or purchases (I don't really know what sales is on that story...actually, I just looked it up... it's sold 230 copies to date with only two reviews. Come on, really? Two?).

The 3 star review pretty much bummed me out as I thought it wasn't really deserved. That story hasn't gotten a lot of attention I'll admit, but I think the new audiobook using a voice actor, really helps to flesh it out and offer the listener even more. The audio version ending gives me chills now every time I hear it.

The newest review somewhat in reply to the first reviewer's rating, which obviously they too believed was somewhat unfair, simply says:

Regardless, I wouldn't actually call it a cliffhanger ending. Not to give spoilers, but the surviving main character(s), though still in the overall situation at the end, there is actually a major resolution to one of their greatest concerns and most deadly considerations.

Also, it was after all priced as a short story, and the pages were clearly indicated on its Amazon page as being only thirty-five pages long, so...a short story. While the reviewer felt it ended with a cliffhanger, really it was an exploration of a piece of the experience the characters were trying to survive in, exploring some unique behaviors of the zombies in the story.

People don't realize, or don't care all too often, just what their comments do both to sales and to the author's feelings. If you want to be a useful part of the life of a story or book, give us productive comments. Give the author a reason to do better. Give them how to do better, offer them useful and productive comments. A reason to strive to do better than you perceive they have done.

We want better writers and authors. Do we really just want to brutalize people for their efforts? Or do we want to be a positive catalyst for change in the literary realm?

One wonders sometimes just why people write such damaging and useless reviews.

Self esteem problems maybe?

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina gives this advice:

Finally, a few general considerations:
  • Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
  • With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
  • Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
  • Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.
Huffington Post offers this bit of advice and so I will leave you with this:

"So let’s sum up. Reviews are about books and for readers; they’re not about you the reviewer for you the reviewer. If it’s in your character to need attention, don’t write useless reviews, start a blog. Or better yet, become a cable news anchor."

Monday, August 27, 2018

Home Schooling, a personal decision or a court decision?

Is it best to allow homeschooling? Or is it a dangerous thing to allow at least, unrestrained?

A mother is told she's too religious to home-school her daughter. The child has been ordered to attend public school. Watch the video, read the article here:

From that article:

"Voydatch had home-schooled Amanda between 1st and 4th grades. Then came the judge’s order in 2009 which sent the then-9 year-old to public school. Voydatch has been fighting the ruling and Simmons argued the case in front of the New Hampshire Supreme court in early January.
But not everyone sees it as a Constitutional case, including the attorney for Brenda’s ex-husband.
“It’s not really about religion,” says Joshua Gordon. It’s simply about two parents who differ about child-rearing philosophy. He says the two parents disagree about what’s best for Amanda:
“One wants the child very isolated and cloistered and the other wants the child to be worldly and be exposed to all the experiences one ought to have as an adolescent.” "

This is a tough one.

If there wasn't one of the parents who disagreed with the other (the mother), it would be far more insidious. I've always had trouble with the concept of homeschooling. It's good for when the only alternative is really poor educational institutions, I would agree. But that is a quagmire on many levels.

The good thing about public education is that we end up with a commonality among the citizenry, a community. We've seen where too much religion can lead; it can be a good thing, it can also and more typically be a bad thing and at times, a very bad thing.

The argument about charter schools is another misguided mostly right wing concept. Ludicrous at times when we really need to pour money into making public schools work. Rather than give a special group of Americans a charter school system to use to escape. To siphon off even more money to give those special people the option of protecting their children while aiding the abandonment of the children of those who cannot help themselves or their own children out of a bad situation.

It was an idea that originally started as a seemingly intriguing and potentially good idea. But it has devolved into an elitist program leaving too many others in the trenches who do not have the freedom or choice for their own children.

We have abandoned our children, their teachers and education system far too much and for far too long in a one sided effort to dumb down America to support one continually defective conservative Republican party.

If the parent is teaching the child poor religious views, let's face it, that is bad. Though admittedly that may even be a moot point.

The parents can and are still welcome to teach and raise their kids involved with public education, their views on their religion. Is getting a balanced view bad for a kid? Is getting an intensely one sided view bad?

We homeschooled our daughter in first grade. Then we put her into public school for second grade. They tested her and said she could skip two grades. We (mostly myself, as I have a university degree in psychology) were worried about her emotional maturity and ability to merge with older kids. I couldn't have been more correct.

I didn't really notice the issues until she was of driving age and all the other kids were getting their licenses an entire year before she did. It caused her a great deal of difficulty and I would have felt the same had I been her. A car isn't just a car. It's freedom, from parents, from home.. It's experiencing. It's community with friends.

Still, we homeschooled her, raised her and our son in an open minded way. He was not homeschooled, his ADD made it difficult either way. In our case without religious training, which they absorbed before graduating K-12 on their own, and with our (mostly my) guidance. Neither of us were religions. My wife would say she was Christian oriented but not religious. I was raised very Catholic, but after a several decades long search and survey of religions and mental disciplines, I ended mostly on Buddhism, but my own hopefully more enlightened sense of it.

I had noticed my grade school foundation in Okinawan Martial Arts brought with it an Asian orientation on philosophy which gave me a more grounded view of my religion (I had even been head altar boy in our small Slovak church as my mother was Czech and dad was Irish). When I discovered Buddhism it felt familiar (obviously) until I realized that the basis of Catholicism, in it's rejection of Judaism was based in Buddhism.

When I studied psychology and philosophy in college and at university, I then discovered how familiar still various schools of psychology were to Buddhism, which is not a religion at all. Though many who were born into it in their Buddhist country, might think it is. Humans are somewhat OCD by nature, it's a protection, built in, and functional...until it's not. Therefore, humans tend to want to turn anything they get deeply involved in, into a dogma or a religion.

There are uses for homeschooling, many reasons for it to be used, to be sure, But it needs to be used, not abused. We need our public schools for community, for Americans all being Americans and to retain that among us. And our children are only as good as their parents homeschooling them. Not every parent should be homeschooling for some have no ability to take on the task and it can harm the child. It can also harm our society, our country. Even our ideals. There are some pretty weird parents out there, some pretty destructive subcultures. Antithetical to American ideals and society.

We, I myself, have always been into our freedoms. Into our individuality of thought and action. But as we've found recently, there is a downside. This was originally a reaction against a 1950s and before mentality of group cohesion. Through the Beat generation and on, once we began to really think about it, we could wear what we want, have our hair whatever length we wanted. To have alternative views to living. But that was a strong reaction to break out from an anachronistic mindset.

Once that was broken in the 60s and 70s and beyond as we continue to evolve and mature as a nation, we have to slow down, lighten up and realize we have made strides. We no longer need to be so adamant about our uniqueness. Some tried and true methods of living have been there, because they work.

We have to realize if we each and all diverge too much from one another we begin to lose our cohesive threads of commonality. In our over striving for our uniqueness, our individuality at some point we all lose what it is to be an American. Individuals of a like mind, able to live our uniqueness ... separately together. As we're seeing today in this polarized America, it can work against our own best interests.

What this comes down to, and it depends on the parenting plan if both parents have equal decision on the child's education, is what the parents work out on subjects. So the mother really shouldn't have the final say. If the mother is primary parent,and has the majority decisions granted for educational and religious issues, then Dad needs to shut up and it becomes a moot point.

Then again, I'm biased as I've seen my share of unbalanced mothers raising kids in a much less than reasonable way. That being said, the education the child gets in homeschooling depends entirely upon the parents doing the teaching. Children need socializing outside the home. With other children, with other adults, with other ways of thinking, and how to deal with foreign forms of thought. Not in a narrow minded way, but in an open minded and critical thinking way.

My primary concern is in those who are ignorant, teaching their young and propagating and increasing their ignorance. I never considered that before recent times when I've seen those who obviously espouse ignorance and foolishness with pride. Who have organized and become a voice evoking changes in far too many of the wrong directions. While all the time thinking they were doing what is right and good. Perhaps doing "God's job."

What is "right and good" is an argument for another time, but the primary concern remains, a concern.

In the end continuing on with our original direction (and I am for the most part a believer in freedom of thought myself) may be the only thing to do. But it leaves me greatly concerned for our future. It then becomes a numbers game. Will we have more ignorant, or more educated in future American voting pools?

Consider as I understand it, that the uneducated tend to be the ones who have more kids, which the more educated have less. Same traditionally for the religious, to overwhelm by numbers if not reason. We see this too in the Republican party in pushing to eliminate birth control, abortions, to increase their numbers if by nothing else, by overwhelming their ranks through birthrates.

I had always thought that Truth in the end would win out, just because it is more, and most functional.

But perhaps I should have considered that Truth, like Good, may not win out in the end as I had originally been raised to believe, because the other side breaks rules, in order to win at any and all costs. Because they believe themselves divinely inspired and even protected.

I was raised by parents who believed mostly only what their parents had taught them. Which in many cases was simply wrong. In my mother's case, this was at times judged even by her own Parish Priest. I do try to judge by people's own logic or paradigms whenever possible and reasonable. And so frequently I find even that enlightened view failing them. For the break with knowledge and logic not infrequently from without but as well from within their understanding of the world,.

What direction will this take us?

I guess that begs the question. Do we try to direct our path or, do we simply throw caution to the wind? For it seems we do need to allow people to do what they want, for the most part and when reasonable and possible. This still IS America.

 I just have to acknowledge that this is not at times unlike closing your eyes while driving. Or perhaps more so like closing your eyes while riding a horse. Which would be better I think as at least the horse doesn't want to ride into something dangerous.

But either way, driving or riding with one's eyes open is always the far better plan.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Have We Lost Sight of the Spirit Of Law and Therefore, Ourselves?

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election by convincing people he and HE alone could "Make America Great Again". Ridiculous. We haven't heard such a patently ludicrous thing since Pres. George W. Bush said we needed to invade Iraq and why, and not as such a narcissistic thing has  been said by an American president, perhaps ever.

By the way, remind me of when exactly we were so great, as great as some curious conservatives wish to believe we have been? To be sure, to outsiders wanting in, to those going up against America, we do seem great and we are the world's biggest economy and only and remaining superpower.

However, from within it all seems quite different.

Different again depending on if you are that 1% elite, wealthy, powerful, or if you are of the 99% trying to live beneath the weight of them above, those many below, suffering. All while the rich get more tax breaks for apparently magical reasons, again and again. Why, many ask? Why not, ask the many fewer, the even more powerful?

What is the fundamental difference between those two groups and why some ask, can't they just get along? In a country where there is so very much, why can't there be enough for everyone? How can there be when one group of a few wants so much leaving so little for the many?

After all, when one has more money then they could ever need to spend in a lifetime to live comfortably, Not to mention at all. Why then do they continue always too want, to need, ever more?  Especially when so many can barely make it through the day, or year. And while so very many do not, and have not.

I was at the grocery store recently and saw something I think is endemic and part of the problem today in American politics, and even culture. A problem with for the most part the right wing, conservatives and the Republican party overall.

A couple in the story were in the check out line with a full grocery cart. The store was quite busy. at the time They, he really, was in one line with his wife in the line right next to him for another checker. The counters were such that the running track holding groceries moving toward the cashier checker were opposed to one another with no barrier between the check out stands.

It was obvious what the couple were doing. Gaming the system. They were playing one line against the other and whichever of them in line got to the sliding belt first, was where the guy with the cart would hasten to go.

I was tempted myself in another line next to (both of) theirs. But I was curious how this would play out. Another guy then came up behind the wife and it was was obvious he was confused as she had no groceries.

I wanted to walk over and ask if they realized what a kind of unfair, it not a rather slimy thing it was that they were doing. Now you may have done this kind of thing too and as they probably felt, it was being very clever in saving (what turned out in the end to be maybe a whole entire minute, sixty seconds in all) in waiting time.

This is not unlike that driver on the freeway, jumping from lane back to lane then back again over and over and in the end you frequently find you have passed them by staying in your own lane. Of course as in gambling theory, that works out for them just enough that they remain addicted to the behavior. And yet research proves out, it's typically best to pick a lane in stay with it.

At one point the new shopper in line started to move forward, thinking he was next up as the woman in front of him after all, had no groceries. Perhaps, she just had a question? She was now at the end of the grocery track. With, of course, nothing to put on it.

It was about right then that the guy with the cart pushed pushed it over in front of the other new guy to join his wife. That was not obvious however until he cut off the guy who thought he was the next one with groceries. And that they were also gaming not on the system but the guy who was in line thinking he was next up. He said nothing, but glared at them with a reasonable amount of disdain. .

It's a thing in Seattle with our large ferry system that this kind of behavior has been made illegal. From past and unhappy experiences. If you were driving a car waiting in life at the ferry and pulled this kind of cutting over, it could not only get you ticketed, but possibly killed by another and irate driver. It is after all, rather unfair. Which is why the state has made it a ticketing offense. Cutting line, CAN get you killed.

From a 2010 article in the Kitsap Sun newspaper:
Ferry line-cutters will join high-occupancy vehicle lane cheaters in the state Department of Transportation’s HERO program. It encourages people to report violators’ license plate numbers by calling (877) 764-HERO.
After the first call, the cutter (or at least the registered owner of the car doing the cutting) will be mailed an educational brochure from Washington State Ferries. The second call brings a warning letter from the Washington State Patrol. The third elicits a $124 ticket.

My point of course in bringing this up is this. I wanted badly to walk over and ask the couple at the grocery store if they were politically conservative and mostly likely, Republican.

Because this is what I see with that party so very much. That mentality in their realm of if not cutting in on influence, at times even of offense. That belief that they are so much cleverer than others. Of making progress even at the expense of others.

This, is a smart person, as they see it. While others just see them as assholes.

Which are they? It really depends upon your orientation. And level lf laziness, greed and lack of compassion for others.

But, there is much more to this. To all of this, really.

We have long heard the lament of the conservative about the young, about the "Me" generation, about the selfish desires of the irresponsible young. It began actually at the dawn of time (see ancient graffiti even from Rome 2000 years ago, or even thousands of years before that). More recently the most rampant and newsworthy example may have begun with the Hippies of the 1960s. But the beatniks in the Beat Generation before them really started it for them. Something that seemed to evolve out of the duration but mostly the end of the Second World War.

It was the realization by an entire generation that we can live in America as we like. It was a natural outgrowth of the American ideal of individuality. Autonomy. Even, superiority. Of every man (or woman, a more recent concept it would seem) being king (or Queen?) of one's own castle. Of one's owned property, a somewhat new invention in the history of humanity, being of one's domain and not that of the ruling family. It it noticeable as an orientation many share on the Gadsden Flag wherein a coiled rattlesnake is situated above the words "Don't Tread On Me".

An orientation first put into worlds and came onto the scene at the dawn of this country:

The first Marines enlisted in the city of Philadelphia, and they carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, and the motto "Don't Tread on Me." This is the first recorded mention of the future Gadsden flag's symbolism. The flag is named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805), who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution. It was used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag, along with the Moultrie flag.- Wikipedia

See, it is in our nature as Americans.

Please excuse this brief aside:

George Mason has said:
"All men are born equally free and possess certain inherent natural rights.", And that "governments ought to produce the greatest degree of happiness and safety for the people."

He also said in a newspaper just about the time Jefferson was about to write something similar and foundational to this country, perhaps using Mason as a template, these words: "Life, Liberty and property."

While Thomas Jefferson instead used the far superior phrasing: "...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It's interesting to note that with the advent of republicanism (small "r" wherein the people are represented by the government and not a king, queen or other such entity), which Paine had also helped bring to France as well as later in America, that this is NOT the Republican party of today. NOT by a long shot.

It is also interesting that today's #GOP has gone with Mason over Jefferson. On as it is now, a rather unAmerican path. Which as we're seeing is siding many of them with Russian Oligarchs in the pursuit of individual wealth over that of the People.

They have taken the path where the almighty pursuit of property, and for those few who can deal at that level to acquire vast properties pursuing the almighty dollar perhaps at any or all costs, as we're now seeing from the criminals in the Trump crowd (or swamp) and perhaps Trump himself (which to most intelligent people seems a real no brainer), are ideals far more important to Republicans today than the pursuit of happiness for all of the American people... as originally intended, fought for, and died to bring to fruition.

It is odd therefore to hear Republicans today who claim to be constitutional originalists.

When the are so very much not.

The problem?

The problem comes up when the ignorant try to take an idea and run with it. It has lead to some bad things. Like the election of one Donald Trump as president. America's most likely top candidate for our biggest electoral mistake and worst president in US history.

We have bastardized that well defined sense of freedom and independence and brought forward some of the worst of those sensibilities. Like the sense of entitlement that comes with the "Me" orientation, the "me first" orientation, the "America First" orientation.

Why is it bad? Because as we've seen it leads to abusing others out of un unwieldy desire for oneself. From that comes wanting more until you have rationalized yourself into outright abuse of others standing in your way to wealth and success. All in the name of what?

"Me!" Freedom! Even, Patriotism!

Combine that with American capitalism and politics, and the post industrial age and what have we come up with? Profit engines, Profit margins. Quantifications of product and profit over the concerns of others.

Stockholders. Corporations. Business first. America first. The two together, globe trotted where business went hand in hand with government, in one of those thinking the other to be the reason for successes until finally one day each thought they were the reasons for the other's successes.

A polarizing consideration to say the least. Yet they continue to this day to work hand in hand. And so we have the warnings of the those famous and powerful ones who do have a sense of history and compassion for the American people. Some of them are even of the rich. They warn us to, "Beware the military / industrial complex". And, "Beware the corporate / industrial complex."

What they were saying is we need as citizens to protect ourselves against these vast fundamental interests so that they do not overtake the reason for America existing.

The Citizens. The possibilities of better lives. But not just for the few.

And yet, that is where we are at today. The GOP has lost control of all this in treading a dangerous path for decades now. The Democrats never really had control of it but they guided it much better. They try repeatedly and fail with some successes and wonder why.

All while Republicans have pushed and pushed some of the most ridiculous agendas, stunning even themselves of what they have worked toward, until now they too have lost control of their own pursuits.

Some say Donald Trump is merely a symptom. But he is an arm of that paradigm, set up by those forces, put in power by confusion, ignorance, greed and foreign powers. He saw his opportunity, and took it. A way to increase his wealth and power, and to protect himself. In a way not that different from what Vladimir Putin is doing in Russia.

This is not complex, until you delve into it. It is so obvious from the outside no one believes it. And yet, it is here.

It goes also back to the concept of the legal contract.

What was once a replacement of the handshake to seal a deal, especially with those you have and will never meet, the items of protection naturally included in a contract was originally there to protect both parties involved. But as the contract has been around nearly since the written word began its own purchase on humanity, time has served it up an immense learning ground until today it has become, weaponized.

Just as saggy drooping pants back in the 90s came from prison culture as it seeped out onto the city streets and then into fashion, so too the contract's format and nuances has found its way into our every day culture. We have found illiberal use in those protections so that once we have been protected by the contract, we have gone all the way further to reap whatever benefit we could. Even to leaving the spirit of the contract, to rape the economic interests of another for that of one's own benefit.

From that it was only a small leap, a shuffle sideways really, to where we are today. It has infected our culture, our work place, our entertainment, our interpersonal lives. Like a disease no one has ever noticed, it has infected an entire culture and has worked its way worldwide.

What have we lost?

Decency. Manners. Pleasantries without a forked tongue hiding behind them.

We no longer look at the whole situation when a contract is in place. We follow it to the letter of the law and the contract. Even when we know it is wrong, IF we can reap a benefit, a reward, a profit. And unforeseen, all the better. Even if it destroys the other person. Because why? Because THEY should have known better, we rationalize to ourselves. Because after all, IT'S IN THE CONTRACT.

This has disaffected us even in our police work, and of course our legal and judicial system, also our politicians so very badly, as well as many of our social structures. It has made us into not human beings, but machines of profit. And not always of monetary profit. We don't get interest on a loan if we can avoid it, we get a "vig", or "vigorish". The payment for the loan of the money.

When a better calls a bookie and places a bet, until that bet pays off or fails to and the money is paid, it is a loan between the time the bet is made to the time the payoff is made, or the vig becomes due. Historically a vig is much more than a traditional loan payback percentage, because when you cannot get a loan from a reputable lender, you go to someone not so reputable.

Since they aren't reputable they are most likely illegal and so the reassurance on the loan can go to illegal extremes. A "beat down", breaking legs, or even murder if the loan is big enough and payback is obvious not to happen. After all, one has to make an example so others won't try the same thing.

The point in all this is we have gotten way off track from being decent human beings to one another. Of course we need protection. But we have let that shade our minds merely because of greed. To get, or take, all we can.

Why? Because it has been so hard to get anywhere?

Why? Because the powers that be, those with wealth and/or power at the top have made it so. Eventually that gives us a mindset where it is okay to harm others, in order to get ahead. We don't seem to look at why things are that way, or who did it. To us. In fact we see many supporting through elections, voting again and again for those very same people who are the most abusive in a modern form of societal self flagellation. "It is OUR fault you did this to us, so beat us and please do it to us again!" Really?

"Please sir, may I have another?"

It makes no sense. But it comes out of ignorance. Out of struggling to make ends meet. And all the distractions thrown at us by those in power. Their tools? Wage control. Consumerism. Planned obsolescence. Marketing. Political spin and lies. Governmental or political tools to abuse us such as Gerrymandering, voter suppression.

Other legal abuses like keeping cannabis illegal. Refusing to have "free" healthcare. The vast sums made off of cannabis remaining illegal alone are astounding and go into so very many different businesses and government departments. A huge waste of money that could be doing real good elsewhere.

To end, we have been put into a mindset by others and ourselves, to diminish ourselves as people and as a nation. We can be, America a Great Nation. But we have to start at home. We have to start with ourselves, our family, our children. Our future. We have to start with our orientation, our mindset. hurting.

We have been wondering why Pres. Trump, why Congressional Republicans keep doing such stupid things. Passing bad laws. Removing good laws now on the books.

But are they really stupid? It depends on what your goal is.

In their case it is winning at all costs, where the ends justifies the means, and the victims don't matter, only the perpetrators do. The president. The #GOP. #Conservatives.

"Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA or FDIoA), also known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP), is a condition where a caregiver develops a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and ..." so on and so forth.

We are victims of #realDonaldTrump and the #Republican party who are and have been creating these many problems, and then sometimes..."fixing" them. Of late, they have been getting caught at it and under popular outcry have fixed them or tried to look like they were and weren't.

Here's another angle, same story.

But what about the victims of MSbP? What about...US? Well? This, for one...

"Victims of MBP may suffer from fear, pain, and loss of normal attachment, and from delayed development, growth, social functioning, and/or academic progression. They may develop physical and psychiatric problems due to being persistently regarded as ill; from deprivation; from unneeded assessments, medications, procedures, or surgeries; and/or from iatrogenic complications."

America is crying. We are in pain. It is being done to us. On purpose. And not just by our own leaders.

We have to realize the answer to life is not constant excess and taking all you can get, but in solid work as well as expectations and moderation in all things. Feel free to be excessive once in a while. It's also healthy to do nothing at times as well as to go to great excess...sometimes. But as one should moderate one's life, one too should moderate those peaks and valleys.

Always remember, in what you take for yourself, someone else somewhere is losing for your benefit.

We have now a very petty man as US President in Donald Trump. Poor example of a father, husband and world leader. We can do better. So very easily.

That does indeed, matter. It also makes you who you are. And so you have to ask yourself, who do you want to be? More importantly, who do you want others to see you being? Who do you want your children seeing you be and who... do you want them to grow up to be?

Donald Trump? I seriously hope not. For your sake. For their sake.

For all our sake.

Now just for fun....a serious Tweet and a silly Tweet.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cameron Crowe's 2011 "Pearl Jam Twenty" Documentary Nearly Killed Me

Have you seen Cameron Crowe's documentary: "Pearl Jam Twenty."

I'm so pissed about that. No, not the documentary. Just about my past. No maybe it didn't nearly kill me, but it did remind me of some things that nearly had.

First let me say that Pearl Jam is playing their first Seattle show in nine years on August 8th, 2018 in two days. I've blogged before about working with their bassist Jeff Ament at Tower Video back in the 80s when he was playing with his band Green River and before Mother Lovebone. Jeff was a great guy to work with, always a smile, always positive. I was his supervisor and when he left he turned his position as media buyer over to me. A job I'd also had at the Tacoma Tower Video store just after graduating from university and one I took in Seattle to be the top Tower media buyer worldwide at one point.

I sat there watching the documentary with its footage of the Seattle, remembering how I lived near downtown during the 80s, just being frustrated. So I thought it might be interesting to blog about it and get it off my chest. Maybe something will be interesting to someone. Or maybe someone will appreciate the frustration of what I went through. Especially, in hindsight.

I was working at Tower Video Mercer store in Seattle. I've mentioned all this before, but this time it is in the context of what Crowe's doc was all about.

At some point in the documentary they talk about Eddie's first time with the band, how they came together. Eddie was talking about his dad, saying he hadn't known who his dad was until after he was dead. In a way, I could relate. I knew my dad, but hardly. His choice I'm made to believe.

With all the documentary had to show, with my past, our city we lived in, in knowing Jeff, Ament (Pearl Jam bassist), in working with him at Tower Video, in his having passed on his position as media buyer to me, in my having missed out on all that was going on in Seattle mostly because I had no money, and so little adventure left to me back at that time. Trapped by nearly everyone I knew living in Tacoma or Bellingham, where I so recently had received my university degree in Psychology, as well as a minor in creative writing in fiction and screen and script writing.

But at that time I was at the bottom. I even came close to killing myself during those drug fueled days, those wild 1980s. But that's another story.

I remember showing up one day at the Video store and one of our employees whom I was close to,  came in on her day off. She was hyper, there was blood all over her jeans, there was toilet paper taped to her wrists. It was obvious the kind of night she had. There were a lot of people in the store at that time. The girl she was living with was there.

I called her over. She came up to me, at the bar there, the effective barrier between the customers and their needs all day every day, and ourselves. I asked if she was okay. She said she was. I said, what is that about? She said, it's just what happened, why should I hide it? I looked around, everyone was busy, I pulled back the sleeves on my black jacket so she could see the toilet paper taped to my left wrist. Her eyes opened big, she looked at her writs, then at mine. Her eyes beckoned a question.

"You too? YOU? Why?"  She was echoing my own questions. We both thought the other had the world by the tail. Funny how we misperceive reality in someone we know fairly well.

We both survived that experience. We talked about it, briefly. We both walked away and lived to this day.

Many filtered through Tower stores in Seattle back in those days. Bands did "in stories", signing things, selling albums.

Playboy playmates also did in stores. One I even got to go up to the Space Needle at midnight with for drinks. Teri Weigel was her name. She was like most playmates I met, smart, vivacious, personable and a surprise to some, very professional. It was drinks with her across the table from her and her playboy handler, as well as about six other Tower people, including the district manager, a rather slimy little man, no one much liked who worked with him.

I still have the photo Teri congoled me into taking with her around here somewhere but as I'm still moving into my new house at this time, my main hard drive is still in a box in the basement until I can open enough boxes to have room to set up our new sound studio that we will use to produce more new audiobooks of my stories and perhaps record some local musicians who have shown some interest.

Teri was engaged to a guy back home, a secret she only shared with my apartment mate's / store manager's soon to be fiancee, wife and then ex wife. I was to be his best man, as he was eventually mine with my own soon to be fiancee, then wife, my son's mother and eventually my own ex wife.

Those were wild times. Weed, alcohol and drug fueled times. One night stands, multiple night stands, but never quite enough. Adventure thankfully came to us at Tower.

One night I looked up as I was putting away video tape boxes on the "floor" of the store, the public area where people chose their films for the night and realized that at 6'2", I was being dwarfed, not by one, but by about six other guys. It was daunting. Stunned I wandered back to the counter where I asked an employee, "What the hell is going on?" One of them came to my aide saying, "Don't you recognize half of the Seattle Sonics Basketball team? They're hanging at one of their homes and just in for some tapes to watch."

But no. I hadn't recognized them. It was surreal. An odd feeling being the little guy in an entire room. But it was a relief nonetheless to find a reason I was feeling so very tiny all of a sudden.

There were times that rock bands were in the store also looking for videos to watch on their off times. Or sometimes they'd just stop by to hang out and chat. One time I caught the lead singer of one well known local band (Mud Honey? No, I don't think that was them... Soundgarden? Metal Church? Maybe?) on top of one of our store counters, acting the front man in an empty store, just feeling good and having a good day. There were some bizarre scenes at times in that store, now long gone.

It would seem just about everyone showed up at Tower Video for films to watch. Bruce Springsteen's manager showed up one night to get Bruce some films.

One night I was wandering around downtown by myself and almost ducked into a dance club I'd never been in that was down some stairs, but instead I moved on. I kept hesitating, something pulling me into that place, but I didn't go. Mostly for lack of money. I could have gotten in, but that would have defined my night. Instead I hit a few other places. When I got to work the next day, I discovered that had I gone in, Gwen Stefani and band No Doubt had been there dancing the night away.

So much was happening all around me during those years and somehow, I missed most of it. But then, had I been working at some retail outlet other than Tower, I probably would have missed all of it.

Getting back to Crowe's documentary...

I do have to say it was a pleasure and yet a rather painful thing to watch. So many memories of those years flooded back to me, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. All those things I missed that were all around me back in those days was devastating. I knew things were going on back in those days, but not to the extent to which I missed out of so very much. I was at one point at my lowest point in my life which in part explains why so much zipped by me. And so in that sense, it was great to see just what all was going on in Seattle at that time.

Crowe's produced a great little documentary and if you have any interest in the Seattle music scene or to be sure, Pearl Jam or the bands associated with their coming together originally, it's definitely something to check out.

But then, those are what memories indeed are, aren't they....

#concert #PearlJam #Seattle #Tower