Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Category: Opinion

Grab the popcorn

Novembers have always been¬†interesting. There are the elections and all the related issues, some more “interesting” than others depending on the year. There is Thanksgiving. For writers, there’s NaNoWriMo. And that’s just to name a few. But now, on top of all that, there is the soap opera that is the NFL. More on that in a moment.

Let’s start with NaNo. I share my thoughts on it over at Mad Genius Club today. The short version is that NaNo can be a useful tool for writers. By setting a goal and having accountability, by telling the internal editor to stay silent for a month, a writer can get into the habit of writing. I know that sounds strange, but it is very easy to be pushed away form the writing habit by real life demands. NaNo can refocus the writing — if you let it.

This is where I grab the popcorn. Yesterday, I posted both here and at Victory Girls about the ongoing soap opera that is the NFL. Since then, things have only gotten worse — or better, depending on your point of view. Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, wants $50 million as salary, more than $10 million above what he is currently making. He also wants a private jet for his personal use FOR LIFE. Add to that health insurance for his entire family FOR LIFE. I don’t know about you, but I’d love that sort of pay and benefits, especially if I ran a company that is in worse shape now than when I took it over.

Jerry Jones wants accountability. He says his demand is not personal toward Goodell but toward the office of the commissioner. He say the commissioner has too much power without enough checks and balances. From what I’ve seen over the last few years, I’d have to agree with him. And I don’t like Jones. For me to agree with him on anything takes a lot.

But Goodell and certain other owners don’t like it. Members of the committee responsible for negotiating the contract with Goodell have now served Jones with a cease and desist letter. Jones needs to shut up and play the good little owner or they might take action against him. They can fine him. They can suspend him. They can try to take his beloved Cowboys away from him.

Is there anyone who thinks this will end well for the league?

Yep, it is popcorn and beer time. If you need me, I’ll be over here, writing and waiting for the shoe to drop. If Goodell and company aren’t careful, they might find out that Jerry Jones isn’t just a nightmare but he is their worst nightmare. This is going to fun to watch, certainly more entertaining than the current season has been.

He has it right

This morning, as I was painting a cabinet for my bathroom, I heard an interview with a former college professor of mine. Pretty much anyone in the DFW area who listens to the news is familiar with Dr. Alan Saxe. A small man with a huge heart, he has never met a topic he isn’t willing to research and discuss. Today, he took on the topic of political correctness and how it is silencing a number of Americans because they are too afraid to speak for fear of what others will think.

Dr. Saxe is a small man, not someone you would normally look twice at. Back in the Dark Ages when he was my Political Science prof at the University of Texas at Austin, he was energy personified. That was the first thing that struck me. The second was his joy for teaching and for making his students think. I had him for at least four classes, probably more. He was my favorite professor. It didn’t matter that we disagreed on a number of political issues. When we did, it was a civilized disagreement, one where we could discuss our views and learn.

And boy did I learn from him and, as today proved, he is still teaching any and all who are willing to listen and think.

To the surprise of the radio interviewer, Dr. Saxe said this trend toward being afraid of what we say started in the ’50s and ’60s, with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Society was changing and words that had been accepted, if not necessarily acceptable, were now forbidden. These words became loaded and the use of them, even innocently, could mark you as, at be, unenlightened, and at worst a racist.

Social media increased this trend. As Dr. Saxe said, we are too quick to use the term “hate speech”, diluting its meaning and impact. We are just as quick to call someone a racist or Nazi, often to simply silence points of view we don’t agree with. It is a dangerous trend, one that needs to not only be slowed but stopped.

As Dr. Saxe said, he teaches people to think, to consider the context and the meaning of a word withing the context. He noted that the quickest and easiest way to avoid a number of the pitfalls we face today with so many trying to silence speech they don’t agree with is to simply think and be nice. No name-calling, no shouting down to silence an opinion that doesn’t match our own. Discussion and consideration.

What a revolutionary idea — not.

One thing that dawned on me as I listened to Dr. Saxe (beyond the fact he isn’t as liberal as he was years ago — or at least he doesn’t seem to be on certain issues) is that two of my favorite instructors, the two who taught me the most about critical thinking and really listening to what others say and framing discussions only after listening were two of the the most liberal. Of course, back then, a Texas liberal was a conservative most everywhere else in the country.

But I digress.

Dr. Saxe was right when he said we are on a slippery slope where free speech is concerned. We have to stand up for our ideas and quit being afraid to speak. Sure, we might say something to hurt someone’s feelings but no one ever guaranteed any of us a life where we wouldn’t get upset or insulted. It is up to us to listen to what people said, learn from it and learn how to discuss issues we don’t agree upon.

On Amazon, Clinton and Reviews

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about Hillary Clinton’s latest book being published on 9/12. I’m not a fan of Clinton to begin with. But for her to have a book come out on the anniversary of the Benghazi attack went beyond the pale. I don’t care if it was her decision or her publisher’s. It was too much. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Amazon’s removal of 1-star reviews of Clinton’s book, What Happened.

I don’t know a single author who hasn’t at least considered asking Amazon to remove a review at some point or another. It is no secret that indie authors feel helpless when it comes to having reviews that attack our work and which we feel are from people who haven’t read the book. Nor is it any secret that many of those complaining about Amazon removing reviews from Clinton’s book have been vocal in demanding Amazon remove 1-star reviews that attack books by authors they support.

Here’s my view. If Amazon removed reviews that did not address the contents of the book but were simply attacks on Clinton, fine. I have no problem with that. My issue will come if they don’t apply the same standard when other authors want reviews removed for the same reason. As an author, I can’t support reviews that don’t discuss the contents of the book. As a reader, to be honest, I don’t want to read those reviews either. If you don’t like Clinton — or Trump or anyone else — then take to social media or your blogs to post your opinions of them as people. Don’t clutter up review pages with those attacks unless you have read the book and the attacks are germane to the book’s contents.

I will also admit to being disappointed in some people who are up in arms about Amazon’s response to those reviews when, not that long ago, they were calling for the same action to be taken with regard to reviews of books by conservative authors. That sort of double-standard does not sit well with me. Now, if Amazon is applying a double-standard as well, then it needs to be held accountable.

And this brings up my next point. Amazon is a company, a very large one. When you have a problem with it, understand that the first level of customer support you get probably won’t be able to help you. It doesn’t matter if you are complaining about formatting going wonky on a book you just uploaded or with the removal of reviews. If, as an author, you think you are being unfairly attacked in reviews based on your political opinions and not on the content of your book, don’t just stop at that first phone call or email or chat. Go up the chain of command. It isn’t difficult at all to figure out how to send an email to Jeff Bezos. And trust me, sending an email to his office gets you a response just about as quickly as sending a complaint to the FCC will get you one from AT&T — pretty damned quickly.

Is it an instant response and is it always the response you want? No, but it is better than taking to social media to whine because you didn’t get your way.

Anyway, back to Clinton and the reviews disappearing. I want to see Amazon apply the same standard to all books and I hope they will moving forward. But, for those of you who are upset because reviews by people who 1) hadn’t read the book and 2) were attacking Clinton and not the contents of the book, ask yourselves this: would you want those reviews to stay up if it were your book? Or would you want Amazon to take them down?

Amazon, for your part, you need to be fair in the application of this rule. If you remove such reviews for Clinton’s book, you need to do the same for Milo’s or for Trump’s or for any other book where reviews do not address the contents of the book. If not, then you deserve any criticism about your double-standard.

Now, I need to get to work. Otherwise, I will be tempted to get hold of a copy of the book just so I can review it. Hmmm, maybe I should. I haven’t done a good snark review in a long time and from the excerpts I’ve seen, this book is rife for it.

Guns, Violence and Journalistic Integrity

Sunday night there were a number of watch parties going on in the DFW area. It was the first game of the regular season for the Dallas Cowboys. Zeke Elliott was playing, after weeks of uncertainty. Dak Prescott was starting his second season at quarterback and everyone waited anxiously to see if he could continue the magic of his rookie year. Added to that was the fact the ‘Boys were playing their arch rivals, the New York Giants. Unfortunately, one of those parties exploded in a hail of bullets that left, as of this morning, 9 dead. Cue the media to start yet another round of calls for gun control and cue the local media to forget all about journalistic integrity and identify the shooter even though his name has not yet been released by the authorities.

Let’s start with the latter first. Only one of the victims has been identified so far. She was the owner of the house. Her mother has claimed to the media that the shooter was her estranged husband. That is the only information we have so far and yet the media has been running with it. A local columnist has used this alleged identification as the basis for an op-ed piece calling for more gun control because we can’t let guns get into the hands of folks who might have anger issues.

There was a time when the media wouldn’t identify a victim — or a suspect — until that identification was verified by the authorities. It certainly wouldn’t identify someone killed, whether in an accident or as the result of a crime. It was part taking the time to make sure the facts of the incident were confirmed and part because it was the decent thing to do. They gave time to the authorities to notify the family of the person killed. But I guess that’s no longer a consideration in this day and age of reporters not reporting the news but wanting to shape it and make it. To hell with the emotional toll such actions might take on family members who had nothing to do with what happened.

Well, to hell with these so-called journalists.

Moving on. I start getting concerned when people want to limit the right to own, much less carry, a gun because of the possibility someone might have anger issues. How is this possibility supposed to be judged? More importantly, who is supposed to make this assessment? To limit a right based on something that might happen at some point in the future based on some set of circumstances that might never occur is not only foolish, it’s unreasonable.

But let’s be honest, this is simply another way the anti-gun faction wants to limit gun ownership. At least this particular columnist finally turned her post into the need to address impulse control and anger issues. But all too many will take what happened in Plano to argue that anyone going through a divorce shouldn’t be allowed access to guns or to argue that everyone wanting to buy a gun go through psychological evaluations.

Not only no but hell no.

The media needs to take a step back — maybe several, especially if a tall cliff is involved — and remember what it is there to do. Unless it is an editorial, they are there to report the news. They should pride themselves on presenting the facts in a fair and unbiased way. Reporters should report and not be part of the news. They should help us shape opinions based on facts and not on their own personal biases.

Newspapers and network news wonders why they are losing followers. It’s simple. We are tired of being shown slanted views of events. We are tired of being considered too stupid to know what is happening. With so many new ways to find out what’s happening in the world, the media should be adapting instead of digging its heels in. Of course, considering it is the twin to traditional publishing, their approach doesn’t surprise me. All I can say is that they will continue to lose viewers and readers until they once again put facts above opinion, integrity above attempting to manipulate the issues.

Grow up, news media, or go home.

Busy, Busy

The title says it all. The last 24-hours have been very busy. Between work around the house (mainly painting), getting started on Light Magic (the next book in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series) and blogging, I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going. The results are more than satisfying, however. Of course, Myrtle the Evil Muse being evil, the opening of Light Magic changed from what I thought it would be but I think it works. At least I hope it does. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Yesterday was my regular day at Mad Genius Club and I blogged about why some people really do want heroes with human flaws over superheroes suffering from the Mary Sue syndrome. It led to some great discussion in the comments.

I also did a piece over at Victory Girls blog about a “new” form of microaggression. This one, called invisible microaggressions, came from a study of a whopping 13 women of color at 5 universities. Apparently that was a large enough sample pool to not only “discover” this new form but to break it down into 5 different forms. Riiiiiight.

This morning, I have two more posts up. The first, over at According to Hoyt, discusses the controversy over removing Confederate statues and the PR debacle Six Flags Over Texas created for itself by removing not only the Confederate States of America flag (and not the battle flag so many object to), but also every other flag except for the U. S. flag. It is more than ironic for a park named for the six national flags that have flow over the state, including the Republic of Texas, now flies only one.

The last is another post at Victory Girls. This one discusses the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to stay the lower court order tossing out parts of Texas’ Voter ID law. This decision will allow the state to proceed as usual with the November election. What pleased me about the decision is how the court not only looked at the law but also applied common sense in coming to its ruling.

Now it’s time for another cup of coffee and then it’s to work. I’m excited about getting back to Mossy Creek and the characters that inhabit that most unusual town. Besides, it keeps me from worrying about how the beta readers are liking the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes. Hopefully, I’ll hear back from them in the next few days. (To be fair, I told them I didn’t need to know until next week. Whimper.)

 

Zeke Elliot and the NFL

No one living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area can avoid the Zeke Elliot/NFL controversy that has been stewing for months. Dallas Cowboy fans cheered last season as Zeke, along with quarterback Dak Prescott, lit a fire under the offense, making the team so much more fun to watch than it had been in years. Unfortunately, where Zeke is concerned, he didn’t keep his fireworks contained to the gridiron. In the last year or so, he has been accused of physically abusing a former girlfriend, he was videotaped lifting a young woman’s top and baring her breast as they rode on a float in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. There’s been at least one incident at a bar where he was accused of being in a fight. None are the sort of behavior he should have been taking part in and the abuse accusation brought him to the attention of the cops as well as the NFL.

Earlier this summer, after months investigating the allegations against Zeke, the NFL announced he would be suspended 6 games this season. If I remember correctly, that is the minimum number of games he can be suspended for this kind of offense. This ruling came months after the police and DA in the jurisdiction where the alleged offense took place decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. That, as you can imagine, had many of the Cowboy faithful up in arms, asking how the NFL could say he did something when the authorities didn’t not.

That really isn’t the issue. The Cowboys and, by extension, the NFL are Zeke’s employers. Just as other companies have the right to fire employees, or place them on probation, for behavior they feel is detrimental to the company, so do the Cowboys and the NFL. After years of having football players brought up on charges — and often convicted — of spousal abuse, the NFL finally decided to take a hard stand where such accusations are concerned. I have no problem with that. Where I have an issue is with how the investigations are conducted and the appearance the NFL did not want to hear anything against the accuser, including the recommendation of the only investigator to interview her. But that is for another post.

Today’s rant comes to you as a result of a sports editorial I saw this morning. In it, the reporter took on those who fault the NFL for suspending Elliot even though the DA involved with the case chose not to file charges against him. The reporter said this is no different from all those times when the NFL, or any other professional sports group, suspends a player for drug violations. He pointed out how, in the majority of those cases, there are no charges filed. That, according to him, set the precedent for what happened with Zeke and he had no problem with that.

There is one problem with his logic in this. With the drug violations, the NFL has conducted drug tests and have received positive results. That is something tangible with which to base their decision on. That’s not the case in situations like the Zeke Elliot case. There is no drug test on which to base the decision. There is testimony and expert opinion.

If the NFL had listened to all the evidence and had talked with the investigator who interviewed the accuser, I’d have no issue with their decision — other than the fact it took them so long to come to a decision. That smacked of them waiting until Zeke did something else they could use to hang him. — and would, in fact, support it. But when I hear things like they didn’t want to talk with the investigator, a woman who talked with the accuser and who would have told them she had doubts about the accuser’s veracity, I have to wonder why. Then, to hear they didn’t call her because they were “aware” of her recommendation, seems to say they didn’t put much weight in her professional judgment. Why hire someone to investigate if you aren’t going to bring them forward to explain not only what they found but what their recommendation is and why?

Do I know if Zeke Elliot hit or otherwise abused his accuser? No, I don’t. If he did, I want to see him hung out to dry. This is a young man who needs to grow up and fast. Other examples of bad behavior show that. However, the NFL needs to be fair and open in how it handles these cases. The league will do more harm than good to bringing awareness to the seriousness of spousal/partner abuse if it goes into investigations with preformed conceptions of guilt. One major lawsuit proving bias will undo any and all good the league has done to not only show its players that it will no longer abide by abusive behavior but it will also undermine it with the public.

Is there a gasoline shortage?

Early yesterday morning, and I do mean early, I switched on the news as I made my first mug of coffee. This is my morning ritual of sorts. News, coffee and then checking the headlines of the local papers before moving onto national and international news. Needless to say, much of what I heard as I went through the motions of making coffee had to do with Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. That was expected. Harvey’s aftermath is going to be with Texas for a long time. What surprised me, however, was news that gas prices had jumped more than a little. At that point, they had gone up a minimum of $0.20/gal. As someone who’s spent most of her life in Texas, I know how important the Houston and Gulf Coast areas of Texas are to the petroleum industry. Had Harvey pushed us into a gasoline shortage?

Dallas Gas Line

A 7-Eleven employee tries to keep order as cars in West Dallas stream toward gas pumps, trying to fill up amid a panic in Dallas-Fort Worth about rising prices and shortage of fuel in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on oil production on Aug. 31,. Brandon Formby

Having lived through the gasoline rationing of the 1970’s, I knew what a shortage could be like for those of us in the Lone Star State. Texas is a wonderful place to live — except when you can’t find fuel. Many of us drive 50 miles or more each way to work on a daily basis. Mass transit in most areas is minimal at best. Add to that this is a holiday weekend and more cars will be on the road. So…off I went to find the car keys to check to see how much gas I had in the tank.

Half a tank. That would be enough to get us through the weekend but not much further. It was also where I usually tried to fill up. That’s a habit born of years of having a family member with a critical illness, of having friends ill as well, and never knowing when I’d be called out. So, off I went to dress and go fill up before everyone on their way to work decided to do the same thing.

Several of the bureaucrats have said not to worry as long as you have half a tank of gas. I’ll admit to laughing, albeit a bit hysterically, at that. Obviously that person has never been stuck in traffic in Dallas. I’ve burned through close to half a tank stuck on 635 more than once. So pardon those of us who have lived through this before if we know better.

With the news still playing in the background, I started hearing of stations in the DFW area reporting they were out of gas and didn’t know when their next delivery would come in. QuickTrip was recommending their customers download their mobile app where they kept fuel status for their stations up-to-date. So I checked and, yep, the station I usually go to was dry. Another station, only a little further away had gas.

Off I went, not wanting to wait any longer and run the risk of that station running out as well. By the time I got there, the station was busy but not much more than usual on a work day morning. When I went inside to pay (which is one reason I don’t normally go to that station. The printer at the pumps always seems to be broken), the clerk checking me out said they were down to 700 gallons and didn’t know when they would get more. Word from Corporate was they would try to keep the stations along the highways stocked but even that was iffy until the situation along the coast eased up.

You can imagine my response when, later in the day, I saw Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton saying there is no fuel shortage. He put the blame on consumers panicking and trying to fill up when they really didn’t need to. Now, while this might technically be correct, there is more to the story than he admitted. I understand he needs to put a positive spin on the current situation, but Texans have “been there, done that” before. We know how storms like Harvey can impact the fuel industry, and do so for a long while.

One thing Sitton didn’t take into account with his statement is the fact stations and their corporate offices were already letting consumers know they weren’t getting fuel deliveries as planned and that it would impact supplies at least over the weekend and possibly long. Then you have to look at the fact that, while we knew prices would climb over the Labor Day Weekend — they always do — they don’t climb as much or as quickly as they did between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. People tend to think about their pocketbook in situations like this and that is exactly what happened yesterday.

In this situation, the problem isn’t that there’s not enough fuel. The problem is getting fuel to the stations from the refineries along the coast. The problem is making sure pipelines and transit ways — be they roadways, rail or water — are passable. Or, as one reporter put it this morning as he sat in a boat in the middle of a flooded area, “Beaumont doesn’t have a water shortage. It has a problem with getting drinkable water.” Yes, there is plenty of fuel. The problem is getting it to the stations right now.

Seeing stories in the media about how Texans are panicking aren’t helping the situation. Are there some folks filling up who don’t need to? You bet. But guess what? Anyone who has ever lived through a fuel shortage, especially one where price are increasing on a daily basis, would as well. That doesn’t equate to panic. It equates to us having been there before and understanding that the distribution chain isn’t going to be back to normal in a day or two.

Yes, it will improve as the waters recede. But all the tanks where the fuel has been stored will have to be checked and the fuel tested before it can be shipped. Then the distributors are going to have to find the trucks to move it from one place to another — and trains, etc. A number of those trucks, etc., have been damaged or destroyed by the floodwaters. Others will have to be checked to make sure they weren’t too badly damaged and can safely haul the fuel from Point A to Point B.

As for today, I just checked the QuikTrip app on my phone. Of the 10 stations located within 10 miles of my home, 6 are out of gas. The price for unleaded is up to $2.65/gal. That is almost $0.20/gal more than I paid yesterday morning. Yet, as I sit here writing this post, the news is telling us that there is no problem getting gas and prices really aren’t going up all that much. If i have to choose between believing what the bureaucrats say and what I’m seeing for myself, I’ll believe what I see.

http://www.papercitymag.com/culture/texas-gas-shortage-absolute-panic-drives-fights-long-lines/

Paper City Photo. Article by Chris Baldwin.

There might not be a true “shortage”. But, when you can’t find affordable gas, or any gas, for your car, you really don’t give a flying rat’s ass if it is a shortage or a distribution problem. No gas means no gas. All we can do is be smart with our driving over the weekend and keep an eye on the local stations, refilling when we need to. This situation will pass. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

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