Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Justice, Reconsidered?

Exactly what does whom the Fulton County (Georgia) Attorney General might be sleeping with have to do with whether Donald Trump tried to solicit some 11,000 votes illegally from the Georgia Secretary of State?

For that matter, why have both the Georgia State House and Senate passed measures that would create an appointed commission to discipline or remove district attorneys, measures that removed oversight by the state Supreme Court, and which would in fact allow the Republican Party to dictate which district attorneys should be investigated and disciplined.

Might it just be that all that effort is designed to halt a state court prosecution of the great Donald Trump because, even if Trump is elected in the fall, he can’t stop a state prosecution nor can he pardon himself if he’s convicted?

From what I can tell, whether the district attorney is sleeping with a prosecutor has very little bearing on whether Donald Trump tried to use the power of his office to illegally solicit votes. It appears that digging up dirt on Fani Willis is simply an effort to remove her from prosecuting Donald Trump…. or at the very least, to further delay his trial.

While I sincerely hope that someone accused of murder would not even be allowed to bring up unrelated personal matters and have them be considered as relevant to the guilt of an accused murderer, it appears that, in fact, if one has enough attorneys and money, he can try defense ploy after defense ploy to string out the case either for years or until one of those ploys succeeds.

Does that represent justice? For Donald Trump, it obviously does.

Sonic Assault

The other day, my wife was in the university parking lot, about to drive home. Then out of nowhere, a car pulled up two spaces away, and suddenly she could hear nothing except rap music that totally drowned out her classic easy rock music. Both her windows were closed, but those of the other car were open, and the volume of the “music” from the other car was enough literally to vibrate her solid but modest SUV.

I own a somewhat larger SUV, used primarily once for book tours and currently to carry opera props and sometimes sets, as well as for occasional trips around southwest Utah. Yet I’ve also experienced the unpleasant and definitely unwelcome sonic assault and/or or the involuntary full-body sonic massage.

We live on a fairly quiet street, but we still get the occasional sonic bombardment from so-called music, even with our well-insulated windows and walls – and our house isn’t even that close to the road, and there’s a five-foot tall, four-foot wide thick pfitzer hedge between the sidewalk and the grass.

What’s become even more prevalent is the sound of barely muffled large diesel pick-up trucks, except they’re more like monsters that tower over my standard-sized SUV, and the majority of these behemoths don’t appear to be working trucks, not with all that chrome and nary a splat of mud or so much as a dent in sight, and seldom even with any cargo.

Sound pollution is increasing everywhere in the world, and it’s not as though trucks and music have to be that loud. So why is it happening?

Studies show that human beings regard high levels of sound as a form of power, a way to dominate the space around them. Certainly, we can see this everywhere, even in politics, where demagogues from Hitler to Trump have ranted and raved at high volume and amplified that volume as much as possible.

But what it signifies to me is obnoxious boors who ought to be stuffed into a sound-proof chamber and subjected to their own noise at volumes high enough to burst their eardrums – except then they’d just increase the volume more.

The Exaggerators

For some reason I get bombarded with political emails, from both the left and the right, but the right sends almost ten times as many as the left. Here is a representative sample of the message subject lines of those from the right.

The Left is Coming for Us
Drunk Kamala Goes Viral
Riots Break Out- National Guard Deployed
Veterans Sacrificed for Migrants
Leftist Protesters Threaten My Home
President Trump to Win Nobel Prize
Say a Prayer for the January 6th Prisoners
US Days Away from Major Terror Attack
Stop Biden’s Deep State Apparatus
Jack Smith Hides Trial Facts
Joe Biden’s Cognitive Failure Even Worse!
White House’s Dereliction of Duty!
The Woke Mob Removed Founding Father’s Statue

And here are some of the message subject lines from the left.

Undecided Voters Not Breaking for Me
$7 Million in Negative Ads from SuperPac
Planet for Our Future
Our Numbers Need to Improve
Did you get the Invite?
We’re being Outspent by Dark PACs

Notice a certain difference?

Those from the right are pointed and eye-catching, and every one is somewhere between an exaggeration and a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

Those from the left tend to be more factual – and boring.

I can assure you that for months the tone and substance of the ads from the left and right haven’t varied, but it does strike me that the ceaseless eye-catching exaggerations are bound to have some effect.

The “Other” Inequality

Over the last decade, there’s been a fair amount of verbiage expended on income inequality, and how the rich are getting even richer. And that’s unfortunately true.

But all that verbiage has tended to obscure another growing inequality – and that’s an inequality that afflicts the U.S. system of justice. While there’s been lots of heat and light focused on law enforcers at all levels, there’s been little light and even less progress in dealing with the inequality in the courts created by lack of resources and exploited by wealth.

While the delay between the time a defendant is charged and when the case is tried varies considerably by state and locality, statistics show that, on average, that delay has been increasing steadily since 1990, to the point that in some of slowest areas, such as Chicago, someone charged with murder will wait four years before going to trial. Some cases have been delayed a decade.

Part of the problem is political, because Congress deadlocks over appointing federal judges as each party wants its judicial candidates, with the result that ten percent of federal judge positions are vacant. Also, the number of judges hasn’t kept pace with population growth.

These resource shortcomings play into the hands of unscrupulous litigants for whom every day of delay offers a benefit. The delays also punish innocents without financial resources, some of whom have been held in captivity awaiting trial for years. This creates pressure to plead guilty to a lesser offense… and the result that someone found innocent might spend more time in jail than someone found guilty.

In the higher profile cases, such as those involving Donald Trump, all the endless motions and extended litigation provide illustrated example after example of how those with wealth and accomplished (I wouldn’t use the term “good” here) attorneys can thwart and string out prosecution and trials for years.

And often even when they lose, at least in civil cases or cases involving fraud and white-collar crime, the cost to them is less than to what they’ve gained.

Large corporations can do the same in dealing with the government, as well as in civil matters against individuals or small companies creating legal proceedings that can bankrupt those without extensive legal resources.

Yet, even as the Trump legal spectacle fuels Trump’s re-election campaign funding and furthers his political ambition, few seem to grasp the impact such tactics have on those who can’t afford those kinds of attorneys.

Whose Mental Slippage?

There’s been a hue and cry about Joe Biden’s age, mental confusion, and age-related memory problems. But some of this has little to do with age. He was stuttering from childhood, made the occasional verbal gaffe when a senator or as vice-president. Are those gaffes increasing? They’re apparently more frequent, but I’d submit that they’re not as much more frequent as the media reports, simply because, now that the issue has been raised, every media reporter anywhere is looking for slips or gaffes, especially since Biden recently turned 81.

But, at age 77, and about to turn 78 in four months, Donald Trump is no spring chicken, either. The other day, I watched a montage of recent Trump misstatements, and gaffes, delivered at full Trump volume, and, outside of that one report, I’ve neither heard nor read any significant media concern about Trump’s mental readiness for the Presidency.

Why might that be?

I’d submit that, first, Trump delivers most of what he says forcefully and emphatically, which creates the illusion that he actually knows and understands what he’s talking about. Add to that the fact that too many American voters care more about HOW someone speaks more than they care about what they say. Second, Trump lies and misstates so much that it’s effectively impossible to sort out the gaffes and errors from all the lies and misstatements. Third, because his basic themes are always on the same subjects, he’s seldom challenged on new subjects or areas in the way that Biden routinely is. And when he is, he seldom says anything even close to profound, but merely repeats the soundbites on which he’s always campaigned.

Unless, of course, he promises to turn over to Putin any country that he thinks doesn’t spend enough on its national defense. That’s not a gaffe, but a policy position with frightening consequences, yet it’s already been almost forgotten, if heard at all, by the gaffe-hunters, who are far more interested in easy and often meaningless pickings than in truly frightening mental slippages.

False Generalizations

One aspect of comments by readers about both books and politics is the number of false/inaccurate generalizations that crop up, often because the commenter is extrapolating from too few examples.

If one takes Lerris or Creslin from the Recluce Saga, for example, they’re both woefully ignorant of the greater world, not because they’re stupid, but because they grow up in a restricted and sheltered environment. On the other hand, Cerryl has to claw his way to power from the bottom of society and has very few illusions about people.

Yet I’ve seen comments that imply all my main characters are “almost criminally ignorant” or that they’re all “ruthless” or excessively competent.

The same sorts of ignorant generalizations also show up in the political arena, where so many rightwing politicians portray immigrants as criminals – yet study and after study has shown that the percentage of criminals among legal and illegal immigrants is far lower than the percentage of criminals in the overall U.S. population.

My wife the university professor gets extremely irritated about the generalizations that that universities are hotbeds of liberalism and university professors are all liberals, perhaps because she teaches in a university that’s anything but liberal in a state where almost all colleges and universities are predominantly and extremely conservative. While she’s a moderate Democrat, she’s so outnumbered by conservatives on both the campus and in the town that she rarely offers political opinions (nor do I, except on paper).

Yet I must admit that she’s also generalizing from experience, because, perhaps by chance, most of the ten colleges and universities where she has taught for over fifty years tended to be conservative, if not very conservative. Yet study after study has shown that while “liberal” professors make up either the plurality or a slight majority of university/college professors, depending on the study and data, moderates and conservatives comprise the rest, which statistically reveals that far from all college professors are liberals. Except for the 75 so-called “elite” colleges and universities, especially in New England, where conservative professors are indeed rare.

Yet people continue to draw generalizations from their own experiences, even though most people’s experience in many areas isn’t broad enough to be accurate, at the same time ignoring more representative statistical findings that conflict with their feelings and personal experience.

Do-Nothing Crybabies

For years, Republicans have been crying and screaming about the need to fix the immigration problem.

And now that a bipartisan Senate initiative has been developed (in large part by a conservative Republican senator) that would tighten up the system significantly more than in twenty years, if not more, what’s the reaction of Congressional Republicans?

Waah, waah, waah…it’s not enough. We want it all our way or we won’t play.

The bipartisan immigration proposal is far from perfect, but it would definitely address some aspects of the immigration problem.

As I’ve said before, and as this reaction proves, Republicans, especially House Republicans, are the party of “no.” They’re not in the slightest interested in fixing problems. They’re totally invested in exploiting grievances. Whether those grievances are real or imagined, it makes no difference, because they have no interest in actually addressing the problems and no workable plans for solutions. They just want to create anger against the Democrats.

It’s so easy to propose “solutions” so extreme that half the population won’t and can’t accept them and then to say that the other side is uncooperative or that the other side created the problem. Proposing cutting social programs while pushing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans doesn’t lead to cooperation, but polarization.

That, of course, isn’t surprising, because, at least for now, the Republicans and the far right seem to believe that polarization benefits them… and realistic political solutions don’t… as witness the reaction to the bipartisan immigration proposal.

Campaign Beggars

I’ve mentioned recently the deluge of political emails I’ve gotten, but I haven’t dwelt on the underlying subject behind the vast majority – money.

They all want money, whatever I can give, in order to be elected or re-elected to stop the evils of their opponent or the other party.

One of my initial reactions is, why should I give you more money when all you seem to do with it is bad-mouth your opponent? [I realize there are a few candidates who don’t, but VERY few.]

The senders of these emails also all seem to think that people, individually and collectively, are a bottomless and endless source of funds, either for campaigns or for government. Or in Trump’s case, to pay his seemingly endless legal bills.

Once upon a time, I thought that the simplest campaign reform measure would be to allow unlimited contributions to specific candidates – but only from individuals whose names had to be public. But then, with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations effectively became persons, at least in the legal sense, in being allowed to contribute unlimited sums to entities not legally linked to political parties or candidates. On top of that, those “dark-money entities were also allowed to spend unlimited amounts in supporting or opposing specific candidates.

Then, too, recent events have convinced me that people only care about who spends inordinately on electioneering when it’s someone supporting the other side.

So, as I read the FEC rules, while an individual is limited to contributing $3,300 to a candidate for a primary election and another $3,300 for the general election, corporations can and do pour far more into “independent” political action committees and those committees can spend unlimited amounts in political ads or activities benefiting or opposing candidates for office.

In the 2022 election, United States House and Senate candidates running in the 2022 election cycle reported raising a total of $3.1 billion and spending $3.7 billion between January 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022. That averages $4 million per seat – for a job that pays $174,000 annually.

But what I want to know is with all that money floating around, why is every candidate claiming they don’t have enough funding?

The Cultural Difference

The other day, I read a comment about my portrayal of women in a Recluce book, which said that my political leanings resulted in an unrealistic view of women in a lower tech society. This isn’t anything particularly new, although such comments are not common.

I definitely understand that sources of power, particularly physical power, affect societal relationships, but there’s also another, often overlooked, factor. For at least the last few hundred years, particularly in western cultures, there’s been a misrepresentation of what women actually did and accomplished on our planet in earlier societies and cultures.

Far more women were battlefield warriors than are mentioned in either historical tomes or most historical fiction. The remains of more and more earlier societies are showing that women were anything but “fireside sitters” and cave homemakers. The Mongols used quite a number of mounted women archers, and the female elders managed the logistics of one of the most effective fighting forces in history, and from fairly close to the fighting. Scythian tombs containing remains of warriors, once thought to be men, have been determined to be women. The same has also been found in Celtic and other tombs. In the early years of Islam, there were women scholars and rulers. In the early United States, Benjamin Franklin’s wife Deborah, ran and controlled all of his enterprises in Philadelphia for most of a period of twenty years, and who ran all those plantations and farms during the revolutionary and civil wars?

I’m not saying that the “traditional” gender representation was “wrong” so much as it was woefully incomplete and created an inaccurate portrayal of societal structures and gender roles in many instances. There have always been women who didn’t fit the stereotypes largely created by men; it’s just that the mostly male historians and politicians overlooked or actively tried to erase the records of their accomplishments.

In addition to that, while accomplishments in any society are indeed affected and shaped by power, in fantasy worlds, the scope and use of magic should also affect roles and power, just as technology is reshaping gender and sexual roles today. At the same time, while brute force can impose gender-based roles on a society, history shows that such imposition usually handicaps that society.

So, in commenting on any fictional view of a society’s structure and gender roles, it’s more accurate to look at real history and/or the way the author has structured the basics of his/her world, rather than relying on inaccurate and fact-outdated stereotypes or beliefs.

The Immigration Mess

Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee approved, along party lines, two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. A floor vote is likely within the next week or so.

Republicans charge Mayorkas didn’t uphold immigration laws, exceeded his authority, risked public safety, made false statements to Congress, obstructed congressional oversight and impeded construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Many, if not all, of the charges are likely overstatements of the situation, if not false.

From what I see, Mayorkas – and anyone in his position – is in an impossible situation. The U.S. currently doesn’t even have a legally consistent and unified position on immigration. Neither party has an actual policy that could be legally implemented at present, nor does Homeland Security have the resources to find, stop, process, or reject the vast number of illegal immigrants.

The Republicans are right in demanding a workable and effective immigration policy, but impeaching Mayorkas won’t do anything to improve the immigration mess, because the proceedings are effectively admitting that Congress has failed for decades, under both parties, to deal with the problem, and making Mayorkas a scapegoat for long-standing Congressional failure won’t do anything constructive.

A Senate coalition is making an effort at a comprehensive bill to at least start in dealing with the problem and what do the House Republicans do? Try to impeach a bureaucrat who’s saddled with inadequate resources to deal with the overwhelming number of illegal and legal immigrants, conflicting laws, and a Congress that doesn’t really want to make hard choices.

That’s political posturing, not leadership.

Destroying Truth

I have a long history of political involvement. My father was an attorney and a local city councilman, as well as acting mayor for a time. My mother worked in local politics. Both were Republicans, although in the 1990s, my mother left the Republican party because of its growing misogyny.

My college degree was in political economy, and after my time as a Navy search and rescue pilot during the Vietnam War, I went into the business sector, first as an industrial economist and then as a real estate salesman. At the same time, I got involved in grassroots politics, as a Republican precinct committeeman [about the time I sold my first story]. That led to working as a paid research director on a successful Republican congressional campaign, after which the congressman hired me as his Washington, D.C., legislative assistant. When he became a senator, I was hired by his successor as his staff director. When the Reagan Administration took over, I became the head of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA. After three years there, I moved back into the private sector as a senior manager at a Washington, D.C., consulting firm for another seven years.

Stress and associated health issues prompted me to leave D.C. and the high pressure, but I continued political and regulatory consulting for another three years, until my writing finally provided enough income. But I continued to follow and comment on government and politics.

And after fifty years of political involvement, I can honestly say that I have never seen as great a disdain for the facts as is now evidenced by almost the entire Republican Party. While U.S. political parties have never been known for their strict adherence to the facts, in the last century, with the blatant exception of the McCarthy years and until the last ten years, they tended to limit their excesses to selective omission, modest misrepresentation, implied connections to problems, non-verbal visual allusion, and the like. There were always some outliers, but they were the definite minority.

From what I can see and read, the Democrats have intensified the old tactics, but there’s still a certain accuracy there, if not so much as there used to be.

As for the Republicans, and especially the far right and the Trumpists, accuracy and truth have largely ceased to exist. There was no insurrection, just a peaceful demonstration. Trump didn’t do anything wrong; the Democrats and the left invented it all (despite court convictions that are likely to increase). Hillary was behind a porn/sex ring in the basement of a pizza parlor (except the pizza place didn’t have a basement). Democrats will confiscate every gun in America (except that the Supreme Court has effectively ruled that they can’t).

The list of blatant lies is endless… and Republicans could care less. They’re so invested in their anger and their grievances that they’ll not only shred the truth, but the entire country, and democracy with it.

The “Elephant” in Political Parties

Perhaps because I have a degree in economics and spent roughly twenty years in politics, I tend to look at numbers, and what they suggest about people… and about political parties.

I’ve felt for a long time that Republican politicians and Republican voters are very uneasy about women in politics. Certainly, Donald Trump doesn’t care much for women, and he certainly doesn’t respect them, but it’s definitely not hurting him among Republican voters.

Going into the recent Iowa caucus, polls suggested that Nikki Haley would get around 22-24 percent of the vote. But she only got 19 percent, a shift of almost five percent overnight, when nothing else changed. My own personal feeling is that nothing did change, but that three to five percent of the Republican voters could say they favored Haley, but when it came to voting, they couldn’t do it, but they never wanted to admit it.

Women in the U.S. have had the vote for just over a hundred years, but today only thirty percent of the members of the U.S. House are women. But when you break those numbers down, they get really interesting, because 46% (almost half) of the Democratic representatives are women, while only 14% of the Republican representatives are women.

In the Senate, 33% of the Democratic senators are women, but only 16% of the Republican senators are.

Why might that be?

Could it just be that Republicans just don’t like women in public office?

Those statistics might just explain a lot, including much of the support for Donald Trump, but I haven’t seen any poll or study that addresses this aspect of political parties, possibly because men don’t want to address it directly… and women in politics can’t, not without alienating too many male voters.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The other day I ran across a reader comment that said (I kid you not) that the Corean Chronicles were derivative from the Crescent City series (Sarah Maas), which is a little problematical, since Legacies, the first Corean book, was published eighteen years before the first Crescent City book. Even if the reader had meant to say that it felt derivative, that really doesn’t make much sense because the meaning of derivative is “imitative of the work of another person,” and, since I don’t have a time machine, how could I be imitating work that hadn’t even been published, let alone considering the fact that Ms. Maas was all of sixteen years old when Legacies was published.

So…barring that non-existent time machine, either Ms. Maas’s work is derivative from mine or she came up with her concept and stories independently of mine, which is most likely, although given how long my books have been in print, it’s possible she picked up a little from me.

All authors are influenced by what they’ve read, and any author who denies that is either lying or deceiving themselves, but usually, because most authors read widely, the influence of any one author is rather dilute, unless, of course, the author is actively trying to replicate another author’s style. One of the great examples of this is Zelazny’s “The Naked Matador,” in which he offers a modern version of the Medusa myth told in the style of Hemingway.

In turn, some of my books certainly have a hint of the flavor of Roger Zelazny, no doubt because I read a great deal of Zelazny when I was much younger.

This sort of reader misunderstanding is hardly new. More than twenty years ago, I came across a reader who commented that Tolkien had borrowed way too much from Terry Brooks, which is another reason why I deplore blind reader reliance on ratings and on-line comments.


I’m now receiving roughly a hundred emails a day, and sometimes more, from right-wing Republican candidates for office, from ultra-conservative right-wing groups, and from both Trump and Trump Junior. I’m even getting blasts on my cellphone, and that’s a number that I only give to a few people and certainly not to political types.

These emails are essentially devoid of even the semblance of factual accuracy, with such leads as Get Justice for all January 6th Protesters!; The Need to Impeach Joe Biden; Impeach Alejandro Mayorkas; Stop the Media Blitz to Destroy Clarence Thomas; Stop Biden’s Assault on Retirees; The Democrats Lied About January 6th; Investigate the Corrupt January 6th Committee; Expose the Democrats’ Plan to Establish Authoritarian Rule.

I even got one entitled “GOP Election Integrity Report” – which I find rather ironic coming from the party who tried to steal the 2020 election and whose leadership continues to lie about what happened.

All those don’t include near-hourly protests from Donald J. Trump about how the entire government is persecuting him and how all the judges are corrupt and impossibly biased.

And why am I getting this barrage of rightwing falsehoods?

I suspect there are two reasons. First, email barrages are cheap. I took a look at some of the bulk email services, and the rates for continuing services (most offer free services for a short time to hook the user) seem to run between 1-2 cents per name per barrage (if I read the information correctly), which is far, far cheaper than junk postal mail.

Second, so far as I can determine, it’s simply because I’m a registered Republican. It’s not because I contributed to any Republican candidates for office, because I haven’t made a contribution to any Republican candidate or organization in twenty years. I also haven’t ever contributed to any PACs, conservative or otherwise.

But if I’m getting all this bombardment of garbage propaganda, I hate to think what most Republicans are getting… and from the polling data I suspect it’s having some effect. How much we may not ever be able to determine, but the only effect it’s having on me is convincing me that the Republican Party leadership and most of its candidates make Darth Vader look like an honest man.

The Christmas Dachshund

Last year, those of you following my blog read about the Christmas dog lawn ornament, a smiling canine with paws atop a wrapped Christmas present. That Christmas dog failed to survive the holiday season because, cheerful as his demeanor was, his internal construction was no match for three storms with close to hurricane-force winds, despite my best efforts to patch and restructure the Christmas canine’s internal bracing.

Hearing that we were bereft of a suitable holiday hound, our youngest grandchildren pled with their parents, and, low and behold, well before the time of holiday decorating, a package arrived from them – an inflatable dachshund wearing a red Santa hat and a green vest, and, of course, a wide smile. The pneumatic canine, if of a size five times that of either of our flesh and blood dachshunds, also came with lots of tie-downs and stakes to anchor him relatively close to the ground.

The scientists have already declared that 2023 was the warmest year ever, and, here in Cedar City, so was the fall, as well as December, and there were no hurricane-force winds, and no appreciable snow at all, for the first time in the thirty years we’ve lived here. So, the giant dachshund was neither shredded nor blown to the nether reaches – until New Year’s Day, which arrived with snow, followed by more snow two days later, and then even more, along with freezing temperatures.

And the poor, low-slung, giant holiday dachshund certainly won’t be blown away, even if we do get high winds, because all we can see of him now, even fully inflated, is his cheerful grin and his red Santa hat.

PS Last night (January 11th) we got another 6-8 inches of snow, totally burying the dachshund, although he just might be able to peer out later today.

The Expertise Fallacy

A number of years ago a couple we know well visited us, and the talk briefly turned to music. Now, as some readers know, my wife is a former opera singer who’s also taught music on the collegiate level for over fifty years, and who diligently keeps current on developments, techniques, and new works and new findings about old ones. The visitors were both professionals with graduate degrees, one in finance, the other in computer science, certainly well-educated in their fields. But they made a number of assertions about music that were, shall we say, less than well-founded, but became almost confrontational when my wife pointed out that what they believed wasn’t in accord with what most music scholars believed.

My wife, being well behaved, did not persist, but said after they left, “I’d never dream of impugning their statements about finance or computers, let alone be that insistent.” What she didn’t say was that we both knew they’d be outraged if she’d done the same to them.

Just because someone is an expert in a field, or perhaps two or three, doesn’t mean that they’re experts in everything, or that their judgment about matters outside their expertise is anywhere close to comparable to what they know in their own field. But in the arts and in fields where most people have some limited knowledge beyond their recognized expertise, such as writing, the environment, education, and politics, I’ve found that far too many highly educated individuals are woefully ignorant and refuse to realize it, let alone admit it, and often pontificate inaccurately even when their knowledge is limited and/or inaccurate – and then get offended when corrected.

Part of this comes from the belief many people have that because they went through school, they’re experts in education, or because they play an instrument or sing, they’re experts on music, or because they follow politics, they’re political experts. Or because they’re experts in their field, they’re experts in all fields.

Another part occurs because people have a tendency to believe that what they like is good or excellent, whether it is or not and often feel that what they believe is correct even when facts show otherwise.

Part of it is also because knowledge in many fields becomes dated, more quickly than ever before in human history, and even older experts in a field, unless they keep up to date, may not be aware of recent advances or discoveries. (Fear of becoming dated is why I subscribe to and read a wide range of periodicals dealing with science, avionics, economics, environment, politics, archaeology, and history).

But then, since when has ignorance ever stopped anyone from revealing it?

Presentation World

The other day I was talking to one of my children about some of the problems high school students have in applying and getting into the better colleges. While I’d heard some of this from what my wife the college professor has told me, it’s clear that times have definitely changed from when we applied for college. Back then, anyone who had a straight A average, near perfect SAT scores, was a National Merit Scholar, and had a range of other activities or outstanding achievement in one particular field, often athletics of some sort, could usually get into one of the more demanding colleges. Today, that simply isn’t enough.

Without perfect or near perfect scores on advanced math or science courses, or other demanding subjects, and test scores to back those up, without intellectually demanding outside activities, and without an overall perfect presentation on essays and questionnaires, the “merely” highly intelligent student will have a hard time impressing elite schools.

But, as I thought it over, I realized the college-seeking- and-acceptance process was just another facet of the “brave new world” in which those in the high-tech cultures of the world live. No longer is great expertise in a field – any field – enough for success. Expertise must be presented expertly and with great appeal, often with great visual appearance as well. And, in too many cases, the visual and personal appeal greatly outweigh the expertise.

My wife has seen this transformation in the world of opera. Once, a singer with a great voice and less than great physical beauty could be a star – but there hasn’t been a star diva who isn’t also close to a beauty in the last two decades, and few of the recent divas have lasted all that long compared to their predecessors.

In the popular music area, I don’t doubt that Taylor Swift can sing; but there are many singers who sing as well or better, and some of them are doubtless as attractive as Swift. What they don’t have is the strength of overall presentation.

And sometimes, the presentation is so appealing that no one seems to notice its flaws, as in the crypto-currency fraud perpetrated by Sam Bankman-Fried with his FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

Donald Trump is an outstanding performance and presentation artist, so much so that he can get away with lies, crimes, and criminal charges, although he’s done far less constructively than Joe Biden. Despite Biden’s greater achievements and lack of documented evidence of wrongdoing, almost half the USA prefers the Trump presentation to the Biden presentation.

So, I have to ask, “How’s this Presentation World thing working out for you?”

A Nation of Laws?

One of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, said that a republic was “a nation of laws, not of men,” meaning that men were not above the law.

And for generations, politicians and others have claimed that a distinction of the United States was that we are a nation of laws, and that no one is above the law.

Yet today, we have a former president asserting that, as president, he was and is above the law.

Legal scholars, some of them quite conservative, have also charged that Trump cannot be president again, because the presidency is forbidden to him by the wording of the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares that no one who has taken an oath to the United States and then betrayed it by taking part in an insurrection can hold public office.

Both these issues are being appealed and will likely come before the Supreme Court.

Trump supporters and populists are opposing limits on Trump, primarily on the grounds that the application of these laws would deprive the American people of a free choice.

What this “free choice” argument means, make no mistake about it, is that any man popular enough to gain great support is above the law.

Now, the Supreme Court may issue a weasel-worded opinion allowing Trump to run for President, or create a narrow exemption for him, but such an opinion, however worded, is simply an endorsement of power over law.

The Trumpists will come up with legal contortions to deny that, but the fact remains that Trump created an insurrection in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

They may also claim that Biden is “corrupt,” but so far, there is no evidence to prove that. More important, even if Biden were corrupt, that has no bearing in law on whether Trump should be allowed to seek the presidency again.

Also, Trump has already been convicted of sexual assault and defamation. He has also been found guilty of tax evasion and fraud. And he faces four indictments and ninety criminal charges. Equally important, he’s already stated that he’ll set aside the Constitution if it gets in the way of what he wants to do.

He has built a campaign on denying the laws, and vilifying those who want to hold him legally accountable… and gaining greater and greater popularity and power through those continuing lies.

The question before the Supreme Court is rather simple.

Will we continue as a nation of laws, however imperfectly? Or become one based solely on power and lies?

One-Star Review?

There are certainly books that deserve a one-star reader review, but there’s one phenomenon that I find amusing in a cynical way. That’s when more than ninety percent of the hundreds or thousands of reader reviews of a book are four or five stars and the one star-reviews barely register.

All of that suggests to me, in such instances, that the handful or less of readers who post one-star reviews not only don’t get the fact that the book isn’t one-star bad, but they’re screaming in print that no matter what the universe says, that their opinion is the only one that counts. That’s true in the sense that their opinion is all that matters to them.

But why post a one-star rating or review that suggests, not that the book is bad, but far more that the author didn’t do what you wanted?

No author does what every reader wants. Some authors come closer than others, and some authors who are critically acclaimed can be a sales disaster. One award-winning author published a SF novel with a 98% return rate, according to the late David Hartwell, who definitely knew. That makes The Green Progression, my worst-selling book, look like a best-seller in comparison, even if comparisons are odious, a phrase that has been around since 1440, and has been joyfully pirated by Cervantes, Marlow, Dunne, and, of course, Shakespeare.

But then, despite their insidious and often overwhelming presence in our electronic society, ratings are all too often overrated. Of the 50 highest rated books on Goodreads with more than 10,000 ratings, 39 (if I counted correctly) are part of a series of some sort. Most are genre books of some sort. And what does that indicate? Only that people rate what they like as excellent, which means that ratings are indeed excellent for determining what people like, but far less valuable for determining any form of excellence besides popular appeal.

But then, that’s why I’ve found that some highly-reader-rated books left me cold enough that I never finished them. Unfortunately, I’ve found a number of books with great reviews from critics that I only finished through sheet willpower.

The Real Trump Campaign

Here’s a letter I’d like to send, but which I’ll just post, because it will have the same impact. That is, no impact at all.

Dear Media –

Would you please stop giving Donald Trump moment-to-moment continuous campaign exposure?

Are you so stupid to think that all your negative coverage of Trump is doing anything but boosting his image – or perhaps we’re stupid in believing that you’re interested in presenting the news rather than obsessed with gathering every last viewer and every last penny of advertising revenue, regardless of the effect on the nation… and likely the world.

Like every bully, Trump’s reveling in the attention, and every attack results in more voters and more donations.

You’ve even aired shows describing that effect, but you keep up attacking and analyzing, as if that would do anything. The only thing that would have any possible effect would be a Trump news blackout or brief bulletins saying, “Trump Made Another Legal Motion Just Like All the Others.”

But you’ll keep on, regardless of the consequences, and I won’t even be able to tell you that I told you so, because once he becomes President, he’ll likely abolish you as Fake News, unless you can fawn enough to become his de facto ministry of propaganda.


What made me think about this was something my publisher, Tom Doherty, told me more than twenty-five years ago, when I worried about a not-so-good review one of my books had gotten.

He said, “There’s no such thing as a bad review. Even bad reviews increase sales. The attention helps.”

For years, I had my doubts, but Donald Trump has proved that Tom Doherty was right.