Monday, August 13, 2018

Gotham City Digest, 8/13/18

     Making Nazi Germany Murrica great again, one rolling thunder of fascism at a time!

     Hm. I wonder what came to light? Maybe Manafort's Ostrich underwear was pinching him.

     Freudian slip from a guy whose name is now branding massage parlors in Communist China.

     "When somebody of a Middle Eastern background drove a car into a crowd in Barcelona, he called it terrorism. But when this happened in Charlottesville, 90 miles from the White House, in the home of an archetypal American president, suddenly he says, "Well you know there's good people on both sides." He could not distinguish who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side in a white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally."
      Sen. Tim Kaine nailed it. Either Trump couldn't distinguish between good and evil or he really was in simpatico with the NeoNazis.

      I've always wanted to know what Hitler would've said on Twitter from his bunker.
      I wonder no more.

     Look who just got shit canned a couple of hours ago from the FBI: Peter Strzok, over text messages. As if those outweighed the good he did for this country. Meanwhile, we still have living in Bedminster, NJ an asshole who'd openly threatened nuclear war against two countries.

     Please tell me this is all just a bad dream and that we really don't a president who's this stupid. I keep waiting for my mother to wake me up in my bedroom in Hempstead, NY to tell me it's time to get ready for school.

     Why would the Russians stop at hacking just the DNC? Of course they hacked the emails of Republicans. Lindsey Graham's were among them. The only reason the RNC emails haven't been released is because the Russians are holding them back and using them for leverage. That perfectly accounts for Graham's sudden, suspicious 180 on Russia and the Mueller probe.

     Mayor Rudy and his endless alternative facts.

     Stephen Miller's such a scumbag hypocrite, even his own uncle called him out for it.

     You've all heard about racists hiding behind the American flag. Now they're literally doing it, as CNN showed yesterday during the post-Charlottesville rally in DC yesterday. And finally...

     Please say a little prayer for the Queen of Soul.

Part Two- Just as the Winners Get to Write History...

     Yesterday, I went into some of the lies, omissions and whitewashes that Jeff fucking Bezos has been troweling out to his shareholders for 12 years running. Today, we'll delve into the Fantasy Island bullshit Tattoo has been giving them over the last eight.
     So let's resume with 2009's shareholder letter in which, as usual, Bezos lapses into his corporate doublespeak, such as this snippet when he talks about setting goals while pretending Amazon doesn't care about profits-
Senior leaders that are new to Amazon are often surprised by how little time we spend discussing actual financial results or debating projected financial outputs. ... Focusing our energy on the controllable inputs to our business is the most effective way to maximize financial outputs over time. 2009
      Now, I don't know why Bezos is telling investors that neither he nor the senior executive echelon at Amazon are focused on profits either in the long or short terms. Amazon is the same as any corporation in that their ultimate goal of achieving corporate primacy and maximizing as much profit as humanly and inhumanly possible is never far from his and his senior managers' thoughts.
     And what Bezos says about controlling the processes in order to achieve maximum "financial outputs" sounds very reasonable on the face of it but Bezos is all about control to the near exclusion of all else.
     According to Geoffery James of Inc.com, this is a partial laundry list of all the things largely controlled by Bezos and Amazon:
(I)t might surprise you to know that the fourth horseman of the digi-pocalypse, Amazon, may represent an even greater threat to democracy; After all, it's one thing to "own" the distribution of online news; it's quite another to own the distribution of absolutely everything else.
So far, Amazon and its mega-billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos have, in addition to owning a growing percentage of the sales and distribution of consumer goods, either staked out or captured the following huge sectors of the world economy:
  • Home services
  • Smart homes
  • Streaming entertainment
  • Health care
  • Managed hosting
  • Groceries
  • E-readers
  • Parcel delivery
     Bezos would never diversify into so many markets if he wasn't completely focused on world domination (a phrase that comes up more and more when people write about Amazon) and iron-fisted control (And that woefully inadequate list doesn't even include the Washington Post that Bezos bought for a quarter billion bucks or PillPack last June.). And for those of you who are more visual-minded, here's a helpful if frightening infographic that helps summarize the 10 ways that Amazon seeks to dominate the planet earth:

Many of the problems we face have no textbook solutions, and so we -- happily -- invent new approaches. 2010
     Because winging it when it comes to technology we're more likely to be mastered by than to actually master is fun and it's the maverick Jeff Bezos way of doing things! This statement was made the year before Amazon put on the drawing board a plan to create a vast cloud service for the CIA, NSA and the Pentagon that was vigorously applauded by the likes of James Clapper. Four years ago, this became a reality when the government signed a $600,000,000 deal with Amazon for just such a cloud. (As an aside, Amazon's denunciations of charges that it sells our information to the highest bidder is laughable when you consider its giant data centers, referenced in yesterday's article, when one remembers the simple truism that what gets harvested inevitable gets sold to that highest bidder.)
     Not coincidentally, in that same year, 2014, Bezos hired a former IBM computer scientist, Srikanth Thirumalai, with the intention of him turning Amazon into an AI powerhouse. The results have been mixed to day the least, with the creepy Alexa and Echo often becoming international punchlines. Amazon's algorithms, as stated yesterday, are much worse than jokes, with authors and customers alike capriciously getting their accounts terminated and books banned with no explanation and no appeals process possible aside from the laughable option of Amazon's deliberately one-sided arbitration. And, again, if Amazon can ban bestselling novelists for no reason, with no warning and no explanation, they can do it to anybody. Are we listening, Vincent Zandri?
Even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation. When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried, because there's no expert gatekeeper ready to say "that will never work!" And guess what -- many of those improbable ideas do work, and society is the beneficiary of that diversity. 2011
     Wow, I cannot believe Bezos had the unmitigated gall to talk about circumventing gatekeepers. Let's start with all 13 of Amazon's publishing imprints, which includes Thomas & Mercer. For quite a few years now, Amazon had their imprints slam their door in the faces of authors looking for a real outlet for their work that's a lot more legitimate than Kindle or Createspace. Like the monolithic and almost as monopolistic Big Five publishers that Amazon loves to squeeze, you're not allowed to submit your work to them. Instead, you have to wait forever in virtually every case for these arrogant cunts to come to you and offer you a deal. And even then, the contracts are, typical for Amazon, one-sided and one-size-fits-all. Amazon seems at times to be made up entirely of gatekeepers, with very few of them being fellow human beings.
One advantage -- perhaps a somewhat subtle one -- of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we're at our best, we don't wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. 2012
      Again, with their fucking cult of the customer, which smacks its nose into reality when one hears about people getting their accounts terminated, as usual, without notice and without explanation as the generic form letters they send out by the bale that blame the customer for their undeserved victimization. And it makes little sense to create a need to do something then use it as a rationale for pre-emptively doing it. Sometimes it works wonders to stop what you're doing for a second to look over your shoulder and see what else the competition is up to. The onetime big shots who ran Friendster, Myspace and Borders, Inc. can tell you all about that.

Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It's not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small), and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double-down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success. 2013
     Sure. Because as Thomas Edison once famously said when asked how he felt about 1000 of his inventions failing, "I didn't fail. I'd successfully found 1000 ways that didn't work." The thing is, while Amazon may famously embrace failure as a fact of life, Jeff Bezos hardly ever admits to personally failing (except when bragging about making billions off them) even though he has in many ways, beginning with his ongoing failures to more adequately serve its vendors, authors and customers who are victimized each and every day through its impersonal and inhuman capriciousness.
A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it's durable in time -- with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don't just swipe right, get married. 2014
     Again, if only Amazon had confined itself to those three business models, speculative fiction writers and fans would not now be penning frightening articles about Amazon's naked quest to dominate the world. They want to control the foods you eat through a colder, more impersonal version of Whole Foods and what drugs you ingest through its acquisition two months ago of PillPack. It's not Amazon's market share into these markets that's so scary. For instance, Walmart makes $481 million annually through food sales compared to Amazon's $136 million- It's how rapidly Amazon's market shares are growing even when compared to other corporate behemoths such as Walmart. If Jeff Bezos likens these business relationships to marriage, then he's obviously one very controlling and intolerant spouse.
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible -- one-way doors -- and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly. ... If you walk through and don't like what you see on the other side, you can't get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren't like that -- they are changeable, reversible -- they're two-way doors. If you've made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don't have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups. 2015
     Most decisions are reversible? Try telling that to the countless thousands of authors, customers and vendors you've victimized over the last two decades without them having any real chance of getting their victimization reversed. Ask Hachette what they think of your "reversible decisions." If you ask me, they should've dumped your corporate little ass and redoubled their commitment with Barnes & Noble.
To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations. 2016
     Oh yeah, because making rash, lightning fast decisions is always something a CEO should make when they employ over 100,000 people worldwide. Such rash decisions include gouging Amazon Prime members this year by $20, growing so quickly they had to lay off hundreds from their corporate headquarters this year even as they're scouting out a tax-friendly location for a second HQ, and of course, the oft-mentioned bannings and terminations of hundreds of books and accounts that aren't even generated by humans. But, hey, Jeffie, here's to lightning fast executive decisions!
To achieve high standards ... you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be. 2017 
     Bezos pontificating about  "high standards" is like Ted Nugent talking about animal rights and veganism. That high quality mindset resulted in China selling us, as usual, its shitty products through Amazon, the declining quality of its streaming Prime videos despite the $20 rate hike and counterfeit products that Amazon, a company that prizes control over its processes, allows to be sold despite protests by those most immediately affected by them.

     And, in one outrageous instance of third party greed, Amazon allowed one party's algorithm to try to sell a textbook for well over $23,000,000,000 (plus $3.99 shipping and handling). And I was pissed to see a copy of Tatterdemalion going for over $140.
     In the end, one must conclude that, its corporate culture aside, Amazon is all too typical of any other corporation except it's more dangerous than most. As with all internet-based corporation, they've long since outsourced human cognitive thought and judgment to algorithms that literally destroy careers and lives, their risible excuse for a customer service department seems solely dedicated to defending those brainless and destructive algorithmic decisions, they work their sweatshop workers to death, they demand tax cuts from every city in which they've set up a facility, they lie to and ignore their investors, they're in bed with police departments, the CIA, NSA and the Pentagon and they even ran a dirty campaign in Seattle to defeat a $500 head count tax already passed by the city council, a tax Amazon could've easily afforded, a tax that would have built low income housing units for Seattle's poor.
     Corporations are extremely poor stewards of civic responsibility. Why should Jeff fucking Bezos and the corporate cunts at Amazon be any different?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Part One- Just as the Winners Get to Write History...

     ...so rapacious, lazy-eyed corporate cunts such as Jeff Bezos get to write annual shareholder letters.
     Every once in a while in lickspittle writer blogs who think Jeff fucking Bezos is the greatest thing to happen to books since Johan Gutenberg or in places like the aptly-named Motley Fool, someone writes breezy articles extolling the brilliant wisdom of the Wizard of Seattle. Nowhere in these blogs is whispered even the merest rumor of the evil that Amazon has inflicted on the planet earth, starting with the publishing business, in its 22 year-long reign of terror. And the author, perhaps having a day as lazy as Bezos' right eye, decided to outsource the majority of his August 4th article to Jazzy Jeff, letting him, without challenge, speak his peace in 20 annual letters to his shareholders from '97 to last year.
     So, in the spirit of fair play, I decided to devote the better part of yesterday to offer rebuttals to Bezos' missives to his fellow elitists, kind of a constantly-engaged bullshit detector pointing out Jeffie's lies, omissions and revisionist history in every one of that score of letters.
Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh trade-offs differently than some companies. ... We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership ... rather than short-term ... Wall Street reactions. 1997
      Even 21 years ago, Jazzy Jeff was already looking forward to the day when Amazon would grow large enough to make corporate acquisitions that would cost literally tons of people their jobs, encourage workers to quit by offering them up to $5000 and even axing hundreds of corporate positions because they fucked up and tried to grow too quickly. So, in those respects, yes, Amazon is exactly like Wall Street, only deadlier to the American worker and consumer because, as Bezos predicted 21 years ago, they'll think in the longterm and not from trading bell to trading bell.
During our hiring meetings, we ask people to consider three questions before making a decision: Will you admire this person? ... Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they're entering? ... Along what dimensions might this person be a superstar? 1998
      Amazon enjoys a reputation for the cult of the customer, that no savings is too deep if they can pass it on to their hundreds of millions of loyal customers all over the planet earth. To a lesser extent, despite its layoffs of late, they also for some reason enjoy a rep for hiring lots and lots of good people and not only lots of people but, as Trump once bragged on the campaign trail, "only the best people."
     What Jeff couldn't have known was the day in the future when his own corporation would one day hire a Neo Nazi group to do security for several of their sweatshops "fulfillment centers" in, appropriately, Germany. Then, of course, there's Amazon's sleazy tactic of using multiple layers of contractor and subcontractor temp agencies to hire almost exclusively low-paid temp workers who sometimes work in 120 degree conditions and are given picking and packing goals that would exhaust an electron. But, hey, a guy who hasn't actually worked in over 20 years knows precisely what it feels like to be worked to death like a bee drone in a prison-like environment and he says it's not as bad as all that!
The current online shopping experience is the worst it will ever be ... but it will get so much better. 1999
     So, what does the Prematurely Bald Wizard of New Mexico have planned? Well, a couple of years ago, he was actually floating in public the idea of warehouses in outer space. Which, obviously, would require those low-paid temp workers to be repurposed into astronauts. And, at the same time, Bezos had seriously proposed using drones to deliver packages to your home within minutes. And, should that fail, Jazzy Jeff has really brilliant backup plans- Charging people at least $10,000 to deliver its shit or even letting random strangers into your home for the low, low price of $250.
     Sorry, Jeffy, but I was happy using old-fashioned, terrestrial-based, land-bound and non-invasive UPS and USPS.
In retrospect, we significantly underestimated how much time would be available to enter these categories and underestimated how difficult it would be for single-category e-commerce companies to achieve the scale necessary to succeed.2000
     In other words, we got greedy and stepped on our own dicks, being just another (sadly temporary) victim of the burst dotcom bubble of the 90s.
Focus on cost improvement makes it possible for us to afford to lower prices, which drives growth. Growth spreads fixed costs across more sales, reducing cost per unit, which makes possible more price reductions. Customers like this, and it's good for shareholders. Please expect us to repeat this loop. 2001
     Cue the hooded chorus to sing the sonorous song of the Cult of the Customer. Of course, what the little man behind the curtain doesn't tell his shareholders, not that many if any of them would give a flying fuck, is that cutting unit costs on goods still comes out of someone's pockets and Jeffie would much rather it not be his own. That's why he never says even in a semi-private letter to his investors that that money comes out of the pockets of, again, his low-paid, overworked temp workers, undercutting prices at the expense of what were then his serious competitors (Barnes & Noble and the late Borders, Inc). 
     That also comes about in the deep-cutting discounts Amazon demands, and often gets, from Big Five Publishers. And, if Amazon doesn't get those long-term, deep-cutting discounts from big and small publishers alike, they simply axe the publisher's entire catalog of titles and bloating "co-op promotional fees" by 30 times as they did between 2011 and 2012. And it's easy to cut off your own nose to spite your face when book sales make up less than 25% of your annual profit.
     So, far from Amazon being the Great Priest of the Cult of the Customer, they're really the multi-headed Dragon of the Cult of Corporate Profit, if this graph of its frightening fortunes from 2004 to last year is any indication.
One of our most exciting peculiarities is poorly understood. People see that we're determined to offer both world-leading customer experience and the lowest possible prices, but to some this dual goal seems paradoxical if not downrightquixotic. 2002
     I have to admit, calling Amazon's virtually non-existent customer service "exciting peculiarities" is a masterpiece of semantics worthy of a Frank Luntz on a Wheaties day. What Jeffie was saying 16 years ago was that if you want good customer service after the sale, real world retailers will have to pay for it but we just won't invest that much into it. In fact, they're even willing to cut off even more of their own noses to spite their faces by axing with Kafkaesque suddenness peoples' Prime accounts without a word of explanation from Amazon's "customer service" department whose sole remit is seemingly to keep sending out the same generic form email over and over telling them they're at fault.
     "Exciting peculiarity", indeed, Jeffie!

Owners are different from tenants. I know of a couple who rented out their house, and the family who moved in nailed their Christmas tree to the hardwood floors instead of using a tree stand. ... No owner would be so short-sighted. Similarly, many investors are effectively short-term tenants, turning their portfolios so quickly they are really just renting the stocks that they temporarily "own." 2003
     Does anyone hear the ghost of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the background? If so, why? Oh yes. The opening line of The Great Gatsby: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." Bezos was ostensibly talking about long term strategy but what he was really talking about in barely-concealed dog whistle language was his contempt for the short term investors as opposed to his long term major shareholders.
     But some shareholders whose veins don't bleed fountain pen ink have several problems with how Amazon makes them money, such as Bezos selling to police departments facial recognition technology. And, in 2014's third quarter, Amazon didn't grow according to crystal ball forecasts and investors lost a ton of money or didn't get what they were promised with, typically, hardly an explanation from Bezos or anyone. Maybe they should have directed their shareholders to Jayapal so he could send them a letter informing them they'd violated in some unspecified way Amazon's corporately-generated and self-dealt TOS.

A company can actually impair shareholder value in certain circumstances by growing earnings. 2004
      It's hard to understand what the fuck Jeffie is trying to say here but his obsession with revenue streams and paying little attention to profit is well-known in the corporate world. As proof of this, see above to 2014's disappointing 3rd quarter and Bezos's arrogant refusal to explain to his shareholders why he'd lost them money as he was on his way to becoming the world's richest man.

We can estimate what a price reduction will do this week and this quarter. But we cannot numerically estimate the effect that consistently lowering prices will have on our business over five years or ten years or more. Our judgment is that ... [this] creates a virtuous cycle that leads over the long term to a much larger dollar amount of free cash flow. 2005
     There he goes with free cash flow again. I don't understand what Bezos' obsession is with liquid cash flow especially if it comes at the expense of long term viability for his long-term investors for whom no one I know cares about. One is also perplexed how the making of billions of dollars every quarter at the expense of workers, authors, vendors and eventually shareholders can be possibly construed as "virtuous" without a tortuous redistribution that would've done the Spanish Inquisition proud.
     Of course, a closer examination of the letter in its full context tells us Bezos was marrying this idea to the concept of using data to make better informed decisions, which was really the entire evil scheme behind the Kindle, which harvests data that's then collected in vast data centers and its much more difficult to find cloud facilities that are near CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia for reasons other than mere coincidence.
We must convince ourselves that the new opportunity can generate the returns on capital our investors expected when they invested in Amazon...that the new business can grow to a scale where it can be significant in the context of our overall company... [and] that the opportunity is currently underserved and that we have the capabilities needed to bring strong customer-facing differentiation to the marketplace. 2006
     This is boilerplate corporate doublespeak that's intelligible only to other plastic corporate types. In other words, when seeking to diversify, Amazon asks itself three questions, all of them geared toward making itself and its shareholders richer and fuck the working class who are caught in the middle of these world-eating corporate machinations (see Whole Foods, job losses).

We identified what we believe is the book's most important feature. It disappears. When you read a book, you don't notice the paper and the ink and the glue and the stitching. All of that dissolves, and what remains is the author's world. 2007 
     In other words, Gutenberg had his time but I can do it better because it's not as if the book has any physical value to the reader, anyway!
     This one passage strikes at the very heart of the breathtaking corporate arrogance of Jeff fucking Bezos, who actually thinks the more than iconic book can be replaced well within his own lifetime with a hunk of plastic in which titles can capriciously disappear without, again, receiving any explanation or refund, and in which our reading habits are captured, scrutinized and sifted for any value down to the last page you read in bed last night. And, while some people have been conned into believing the Kindle is the book of the future and the medium doesn't matter, the fact remains paper book sales have been inching up and Japan, to name just one country, has been notoriously cold toward the Kindle. (And more about Jeff's ironically "disappearing books" a bit later.)

However, if used exclusively, the company employing it will never be driven to develop fresh skills. Eventually the existing skills will become outmoded. Working backwards from customer needs often demands that we acquire new competencies and exercise new muscles. 2008
     Cult of the Customer, yada yada. Yeah, we get it. Again, if Bezos and his corporate psychopaths gave a flying fuck about the customer, their customer service department would actually be worth that unproffered flying fuck. For instance, before Amazon lets you even write a review about anything, they first stipulate that you stuff $50 in their bulging, bottomless pockets before they'll deign to give you the privilege of writing that review. And, since your Kindle is on a constantly monitored network that would do Big fucking Brother proud, those who put Kindle titles on your device can just as suddenly and silently remove them without any explanation, refund, redress of grievances or any appellate process. Because you never actually buy a Kindle title, you only lease it, a codicil conveniently buried in their corporately-generated TOS that they count on nobody reading.
     They've also cracked down on erotic content whether or not it fits into the genre. Nine years ago, ironically, the same thing happened to George Orwell. And then there's the new scandal just coming to light about self published novelists having their accounts terminated and books banned for literally no reason and, as usual, with no explanation.


     But they care about you... the people. (Part Two comes tomorrow.)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Gotham City Digest, 8/11/18

     Making America Great Again, one impeachment and conviction at a time.

     I often see moderates telling us the vitriol is great on both sides and that the left needs to "understand" the far right. Right wingers are pure scum and I do not need to "understand" them. I already do. I've been blogging about them for going on 14 years. The far left doesn't pull thuggery like this as they did in London.

     Jailbird Rep. Chris Collins really is a cunt. Here's a criminal who was arrested by the FBI for insider trading and even in the act of announcing he was suspending his re-election campaign, it's all about the evil liberal Democrats. I hope they toss him in federal prison and throw away the cell.

     As if I or any of us need another reason to loathe Amazon and Jeff fucking Bezos with a screaming passion. Authors are getting their books pulled and their accounts terminated without reason, essentially destroying their writing careers. All they've gotten is a generic form letter telling them they've violated one rule or another and, because the federal fucking government refuses to regulate anything anymore, Amazon gets to write into the contract they can't be sued by their authors and have to go to (ha ha) arbitration. We authors need to rise up against these monolithic assholes and lobby Congress for more oversight of Amazon.

     Do no harm, eh, Google? I guess that didn't work out so well.

     Oh, I'm gonna laugh my ass off listening to Kanye try to spin this.

     If Andrew Miller is willing to risk being arrested and thrown in jail for contempt, can you imagine what he's desperately hiding?

     If Jeff Sessions was the Lucky Charms leprechaun, the hearts and clovers would be replaced with pink triangles and burning crosses.

     Meanwhile, as Jeff Sessions put himself in contempt of a court order trying to illegally deport a mother and child, this happened the day before yesterday.

     My old buddy Charles Pierce nails it again with this piece about fascist conspiracy theorist Kris Kobach.

     To paraphrase The Simpsons, Laura Ingraham: Not racist but #1 with racists.

     I'm still at a loss to understand what Trump and Pence consider "a new generation of threats" and why space is "the next battlefield." Did ISIS commandeer a few captured spaceships from Area 51 that we didn't know about?

     I think we've taken this, ":Any child can grow up to be president of the United States" a bit too far. Especially if they don't grow up before getting elected. And thanks to this asshole who finally discovered he can use tariffs as a club to beat up other nations who don't sufficiently stroke his bloated ego, Trump's just about destroyed Turkey's economy and sending it into free fall.

     Not only is ICE a neo fascist organization that loves to abuse its authority, they're also, as fascists and bullies tend to be, craven liars.

     So, to recap... Electoral conspiracy theorist and Trump knob gnosher Kris Kobach ran against his own Governor in the Kansas GOP gubernatorial primary. The Secretary of State's office was found to have cheated Governor Colyer of 100 votes, crediting him with just 422 votes when he got 522, shrinking Kobach's lead to 91.
      The Secretary of State for Kansas is... Kris Kobach.
      Fancy THAT.

     As far as Leni Riefenstahl Laura Ingraham goes, she probably looks upon her immigrant adopted children as part of Kipling's white man's (or woman's) burden. As far as her ex boyfriend Douche D'Souza goes, he's "one of the good ones" as they like to call their token black Republicans. Bobby Jindal's another, although he secretly wishes he was white, if his official gubernatorial portrait is to be believed.

     A Japanese medical school was just bagged for putting a thumb on the scale in favor of men and against women.

     So, they dodged paying over a million dollars in grazing fees, set fire to federal land, suggested using women as human shields and sighted down on federal law enforcement officers. So, naturally, they're the victims, says their racist lawyer Larry Klayman.

     California inmates are risking their lives battling the wildfires in the state for $1 an hour and even after they get released, they won't be allowed to be firefighters because their felon status will prevent them from signing up for the paramedic classes they'd need. By the way, Kamala Harris wanted this. How this is supposed to help them readjust to society and make something of themselves is beyond me.

     I'm sure Trump will get around to mentioning this on his Twitter feed any day now.

     This is the full clip of the Rachel Maddow Show from August 8th exposing Devin Nunes for the lying piece of shit he truly is. It's the secret tape that was made on July 30th of Devin Nunes exposing what the GOP's real agenda is.

     Why the fuck are our "allies" the Saudis targeting school buses filled with children and why are we selling them the means to do this?

     Even 14 years after the debacle of the 2004 election, Ohio still doesn't do democracy well, does it?

     The VA's being secretly run by three Mar-a-Lago buddies of Trump and one of them makes superhero movies. And finally...


Interview with Tara Devaney-Thompson

This month I’ve decided to do something a little different and leave my comfort zone to make British-Australian erotic author Tara Thompson my Author of the Month.

15) Tara, why did you choose to pursue writing erotic fiction as opposed to, say crime or thrillers?

Actually, I didn't choose it. I was given a challenge by someone who had given me a certain popular book to read. When my opinion was not well received this person challenged me to write a better book. The next day I began to write the Consort series.

14) I noted one of your titles is Consort In Blood: The Awakening. It’s an erotic vampire tale much in the vein of Anne Rice. Tell the readers a bit about that, please?

Actually, it is not like Anne Rice. I do not concentrate on their Vampire natures but rather question whether any humanity actually remains. I also explain, in theory, how the original Vampire came to be. I felt that this was never explained in any of the other tales of Vampire lore.

13) What are the advantages of writing in the modern age erotic fiction versus the disadvantages?

The advantages, hmmm, modern day erotic fiction is very much more graphic than it once was. Where in earlier books any sexual relationships were merely hinted at, we can now be much more explicit regarding the physicality of the characters. Disadvantages, well, it becomes very difficult to keep the sexual encounters fresh. It can become stale if you constantly rehash the same encounters so, one must find ways to change the sexual positions and locations. This can become very difficult owing to the limitations of the human body.

12) In a recent Facebook PM chat, you’d inveighed against the Australian government making it more difficult for Australian authors to place their work on Amazon’s American domain. Tell us a bit about that, please.

A while back our government decided to inflict more taxes on the goods being imported to our country. When they did this Amazon decided to ban Australians from having goods delivered to Australia. Now our books, in paperback form, have to be ordered through the Australian site. Kindle is not affected the same way but, having said that, I have found that I cannot place my books on as a freebie due to new rulings by Amazon. Actually, it is so complicated now that I cannot really explain it. I do not know in what format my books are available to possible purchasers from different parts of the world.

11) You’d said you also dabble in science fiction. Tell us more about that.

I have not published my sci-fi work as I am still working on it. So, I don't want to go into too much detail right now. I have always loved sci-fi and thought it would be as easy to write as fantasy...it is not. I need to do a lot more scientific research in order to make it at least semi believable. 

10) You seem to revel in the tension between opposites in both your writing and real life. For instance, you said you never read the erotic fiction of others yet you’ll gladly read, say, crime thrillers. Why is that?

I do not, as a rule, read any other books of any genre that resembles any of my work for fear of accidentally using the ideas or styles of other writers. It is very easy to, without intention, to end up being overly influenced by someone else's work and have it meld in with your own. At least that is what happens with me.

9) Describe the writing process for you. In our talk, you’d said it was like watching a movie in your head, which is eerily similar to my own process. Could you elaborate on that, please?

When a storyline comes to me and I begin to write the entire thing plays out in my head like I am visualizing a movie. I write it as it appears in my head. From beginning to end it flows out as though I were watching it on the big screen. It is very hard to explain but I am sure there are others out there who will understand.

10) I know you don’t like to set goals for yourself and prefer to wait for inspiration to strike. For those who don’t know you as well, describe your writing process when you are at the keyboard.

Ahhh, well, I cannot work, as many do today, by setting word goals or page goals for my work. Once I am in front of the keyboard I write only what comes into my head at that moment. Some days I may write hundreds of words yet others, nothing. My work is very much like a living entity. It grows and expands as it wants. My first book took me almost a year to write whereas my short story took only a week.

7) You’ve been in Oz since 1968. How does a transplanted British writer make a go of it in Australia, a country in which there are 12 or fewer literary agencies?

It is, I must admit, extremely hard. As you pointed out, there is a dearth of agents here and the big publishing houses do not accept, for the most part, unsolicited manuscripts. That leaves only self-publishing as a route to authorship. Personally, I published to Amazon first and then expanded to other platforms. I have had two publishers, both from overseas, that have not worked out. I am now back to being an indie author and hoping to be more successful this time around. Without the hope of getting representation here in Australia I must simply hope that one of the bigger publishers overseas will see enough merit in my work to offer me a contract. 

6) Originally, you were involved in theater and the movie business. How did that help inform you as a writer later on or did it?

Well, it gave me a grounding in what the industry needs from a writer to, possibly, make a book into a movie. This is how I write my books. I did not start out with the movie possibility in mind it simply gave me the direction subliminally.  

5) You said more than once, you’re juggling about 50 different novels in varying stages of completion. How do you keep all those plot lines intact or do you?

I have many, many notebooks and many, many folders on my computer. I open my main folder each morning and wait for my mind to pick a certain story to work on that day. Sometimes nothing inspires me so I look to the world to give me inspiration for another story or for an idea to add to one I have started. I write each new idea down on paper before starting to add it on my computer. So, I spend as much time writing by hand as I do transcribing them to the computer.

4) Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, definitely. I find that many things inspire ideas for stories. People I see when out, my grandchildren, the weather, something in the news. So many things can inspire an idea and I always carry a notebook and pen wherever I go just in case.

3) You said travel was one of your biggest ambitions. Do you think traveling to more places would make you a better writer?

I think that traveling and experiencing other places and cultures can only improve you as a writer. The more we expand our knowledge the more we can inform our stories. Seeing a different landscape or national traditions can open our eyes to many other ways to describe other lives and worlds.

2) You do something else that also facilitates my own character delineation- You image certain actors playing the roles of your characters. Your favorite actor is British thespian Henry Cavill but not for the reasons most people would assume. What is about Mr. Cavill that you admire more than anything and what qualities made you turn him into one of your vampires?

Firstly, it is his acting skill that inspires me. I have followed his career from the very beginning and, over time, he has continued to perfect his craft and his abilities. Also, it is his character. Humble, genuine and very intelligent he always comes across as someone i would love to have coffee with and talk about many things. I love the interaction he has with family, friends and, of course, his fans. There is also his dedication to giving back to the community. He is an Ambassador for the Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersy plus helps raise funds for the British Military. I find him both mysterious and open. This is part of the reason I admire him. As to why he is my muse for my Vampire Alexander Dante, well, I saw a picture online that had been altered to make him look like a Vampire and the story just took flight from there. He seemed so ideal for the role. Also, he is my muse for almost all my books. 

1) Do you see the democratization of desktop publishing as an empowering tool for writers who ordinarily would never break into print or as a dilution of the talent pool?

I think it is a bit of both. There are a huge number of writers out there who now have the ability to self-publish and this can be both a good and a bad thing. On the good side it means that many who would never have been able to find a way out to the public can now do so. Some of them are brilliant writers who we would never have known about otherwise. But, on the bad side, we have a great many who 'think' they are writers but they are not. Some churn out multiple books each month yet, while crowing about their achievement, do not stop to consider whether those books are good. Plus, this open platform has given scammers and cheats an open invitation to copy other people’s hard work and use it to their own profit. So, in one way it is a blessing but in another, yes it has diluted the talent pool.


     Tara's Facebook page can be found here and her Wix author page is here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Doll Maker

     THE DOLL MAKER, the sequel to TATTERDEMALION, launched a week ago last Saturday and is still hanging tough just outside the top 100,000. Help me keep it up as high as possible. And if you get a copy, please leave behind a review. Here's the synopsis:
     “Jack the Ripper was just the beginning.
     In 1889 New York, 22 year-old Scott Carson retreats to his parents’ basement on 69th Street. Unwilling to venture back into the world, the reclusive engineering genius is still licking his wounds after winning his final battle with Jack the Ripper and trying to reassemble his shattered psyche. Then his friend Jacob Riis, desperate to get him back into the land of the living, shows him a photograph given to him by a detective that seems to be of a dead girl sitting on the lap of an adult hidden by a shroud.
     Carson quickly realizes this person who’d had delivered the photo to NYPD HQ on Mulberry Street may be a more advanced photographer than him and his interest is piqued. Riis introduces him to this detective, Angelo Delmonico (of the famous restauranteur family) and he finds the scientific-minded detective and he are of a similar mind regarding this new killer. Together with teenager Kelley McCarthy, a pioneering female urban explorer "who goes where even the rats don’t go", the trio chase an ingenious and elusive serial killer who is murdering little girls and turning them into human dolls.”
     And here's the UK version for my friends across the pond.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Trump is His Own Best, and Worst, Crisis Actor.


(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
So today, this is what Dear Leader tweeted from his intellectual bunker
     This is an extraordinary step in the life of any president. Because even Trump's 44 predecessors knew enough about federal law to not even publicly mention a federal investigation. Even if Nixon had Twitter, one could lay 50/50 odds that even that paranoid psychopath would've refrained from mentioning Archibald Cox's probe into Watergate. And that reason is...
     ...obstruction of justice.
     The rest of the White House, realizing this, sought to get in front of Trump's latest self-inflicted wound by shoving Sarah Sanders behind the podium and telling her to tell the media that Trump's tweets were just "opinions." Except, Sean Spicer had something to say about that during his half year of living dangerously when he said Trump's tweets should be regarded as official statements.
     Because when a public official who serves at the pleasure of the president or, in this case, a Russian stooge like Trump, puts something on an official Twitter feed that's critical of said official, that official is more or less officially being put on notice. Trump attacked Comey on Twitter before firing him. He's attacked Mueller, Sessions and Rosenstein and probably has to be physically restrained from doing the same to them.
      It's not a mere "opinion." When it comes from Trump or a real president, it's official.
     From a purely psychological standpoint, it's a comic mini masterpiece. Trump of all people should know Sessions had almost immediately recused himself from anything having to do with the Russian probe. In fact, Trump's been raging about that, even saying he wouldn't've nominated Sessions had he known he would. And in that instance, Trump in essence admitted he installed Sessions not because he was the most fit person to be the top cop. As with everything Trump does, Trump installed Sessions with the blessings of Senate Republicans to benefit him in the short term. In this case, so the little racist from Alabama could spike any investigation in which he was the subject.
    And then, just to give this latest tweet storm the obligatory Theater of the Absurd ambience, there was this:
You Can Call Me Al
Yes, on the second day of Paul Manafort's trial, Trump compared his former campaign chairman to America's most notorious mobster, whose first name Trump, of course, misspells and even gives him Dillinger's title of "Public Enemy Number One." So, yes, let's take look back on history, Mr. "President"...
     When Eliot Ness was unable to get Capone on murder or any serious criminal charges, he hit him in the one spot Big Al couldn't protect himself- His fat wallet. Capone was tried, convicted and sentenced on tax evasion, a conviction that got him a one way ticket to Alcatraz. So, why did Trump choose to compare his former campaign chairman to a mobster who was convicted for not paying his taxes?
     Of course, the main difference between Trump and Capone is that we've actually seen Capone's taxes.
     Donald Trump is like a 72 year-old adolescent girl who cuts herself. When things go wrong in his domestic circle, he cuts himself by creating self inflicted wounds in the form of tweets that in some cases, investigators and judges factor in with their already growing pile of evidence against him. He's already surely committing obstruction of justice every time he screams about the "witch hunt". Regardless of what Sarah Sanders believes or is told to say, Trump's tweets are official public documents, wearisome overuse of the phrases "witch hunt", "17 angry Democrats" "fake news" and all.
     And when Trump directs them at his own Attorney General in relation to a nearly year and a half year-long probe into him and his dealings with Russia, that automatically puts pressure on the nation's top cop, recusal or no. And recusing himself from anything having to do with the Russia probe was the first, and only, decent and correct thing that Sessions has done since taking the job. And don't think for a minute that Mueller and his people aren't cataloguing as evidence every tweet that Trump's fat little thumbs have put out slamming the probe (and there have been plenty).
     This is not how an innocent man acts. An innocent man would welcome the investigation and the chance to clear his name. He wouldn't be impatiently and angrily demanding the shutting down of the probe, talking about "red lines" and to whom Mueller's team can speak or not speak. Trump publicly flagellates himself whether he intends to or not.
     He is his own best, and worst, crisis actor.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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