How to stop another Trump


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Want to Block Trump from Your Facebook Feed? - Rebellious Magazine
Who is the Trump of tomorrow, and how can we stop him?

How would you disqualify another demagogue like Donald Trump from becoming president?

I’d set three conditions.

1. To ensure that the candidate knows the basics of American government:
A grade of at least 80% on the test that the Department of Homeland Security gives to prospective citizens.

2. To give the candidate a grounding in public service:
At least four years of full-time government service, civilian or military. (Why four years? It’s the length of a presidential term. Seems as good a span as any.)

3. To ensure that the candidate is fiscally honest and has the fewest possible financial conflicts of interest:
Full financial disclosure, including income taxes, for the most recent four years.

In addition, some people have favored abolishing the electoral college. Trump won in 2016 because he got more electoral college votes than Hillary Clinton, even though she got more of the popular vote. Abolish the college, they say, and you abolish the chance of getting another Trump.

I’m not so sure. Another Trump type more skilled at politics could come along and sweep the popular vote. Donald got more than 60 million votes despite the sexist “grab ’em by the pussy” tape and other controversies that depressed his polling. Imagine how well a smarter version of Trump could do.

Some people want candidates to take a test of general intelligence or psychological fitness. But determining intelligence or mental health is too complex and vague for me. I prefer something that you can evaluate more surely and precisely.

And others suggest that candidates promise to put their investments and businesses in a blind trust. Unfortunately, candidates can easily break promises after becoming president.

No, I think my three conditions could work. I’ll admit that they might require a constitutional amendment. I don’t know; I’m not a constitutional lawyer. But I think we should do something to prevent another Trump.

But enough about me. What conditions would you place on candidates?

Notes from The Grumpy Editor (me)


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Prepare for the grumpiness.

It’s not “$10 million dollars.” It’s “$10 million” or “10 million dollars.” “$10 million dollars” is redundant.

It’s not “Hi Jane.” It’s “Hi, Jane.” This error makes the Grumpy Editor especially grumpy.

Using “said” as an adjective makes prose sound precious or pretentious. Unless you’re writing a contract or the dialogue for a pretentious or precious person, don’t do it.

To put someone through the wringer is to wring him out or make him suffer an equivalent agony. To put someone through the ringer is –– well, I guess it’s to slip him through a bell, which doesn’t make much sense.

When a character says, “I trust [someone] implicitly,” either the character doesn’t know what he’s saying or the writer doesn’t. “Implicitly” means implied, not stated outright. If you state outright that you trust someone implicitly, then you’re being explicit, not implicit, and what you’ve said is nonsense.

Don’t preface an explanation with “Let’s unpack that.” A useful phrase, but overused.
As a substitute, let me suggest:
“Let’s dismantle that.”
“Let’s untangle that.”
“Let’s clear that up.”
“What the bleeding hell was THAT?”

Yours in helpfulness,
The Grumpy Editor

The worst year in movie history


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The Garbage Pail Kids Movie - Wikipedia
Just one of the classics from that special year

In 2019, the entertainment media looked back at 1939, sometimes called the greatest year in American movies: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, The Women, Wuthering Heights, Destry Rides Again, and on and on.

But what about the worst year?

I nominate 1987.

Sure, it had a handful of good flicks: The Princess Bride, Good Morning Vietnam, Dirty Dancing, Predator, Hollywood Shuffle, Broadcast News, Full Metal Jacket, and The Last Emperor (not technically an American movie, but what the heck).

But it was also the time of Ishtar, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Leonard Part 6 (Bill Cosby’s most notorious crime except –– you know), and so many lame sequels:

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland
Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise
Teen Wolf Two
Jaws: The Revenge
House II: The Second Story
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol
Creepshow 2
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Ernest Goes to Camp
Back to the Beach
(with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello)

Was any other year more suckalicious? Name it.

A warning for employers


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The Right Way to Turn Down a Job Offer - Camden Kelly
How to alienate job applicants

A new formula for hiring.

Employers often assess a job applicant by giving the applicant a sample assignment without paying for it. Assume that an applicant starts with 100% enthusiasm for an employer.

If the applicant has experience in the employer’s industry, subtract one percentage point of enthusiasm for every year of experience. (“I can show this company ten years of achievements. Why are they making me generate more?”)

The applicant’s enthusiasm shrinks by five more percentage points with each no-pay assignment beyond the first one.

Thus an employer who requires a ten-year industry veteran to produce three assignments reduces the applicant’s enthusiasm by 20%.

Human resources departments and hiring managers, please take note.

Who rules the world?


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Top 10 Casting Picks For Prince Namor/Sub-Mariner In Marvel Universe
Namor, king of the world. Art by John Buscema and Sol Brodsky.

A thought from a former comic-book editor:

Namor, Marvel Comics’ Sub-Mariner, rules the world, even if the world doesn’t know it. His ocean domain covers more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface. It surrounds the land masses and reaches into them via rivers.

But the ocean hides secrets beneath its surface, and so does Namor.

For years, he’s been quietly gaining political power. He started by befriending, threatening, and otherwise influencing small island and coastal nations that the world usually ignores. He gradually moved inland to larger countries, gaining leverage and forging alliances.

And he’s done it as secretly as possible. He has no reason to notify anyone who could stop him.

But the bigger Namor’s web grows, the harder it is to hide. When the world sees how much power he’s amassed –– enough to win a war with any nation, pound its economy to subsistence levels, and conquer its natural resources –– the world’s largest nations object.

Namor says that he’s not out to hurt anyone. He’s amassed power just to ensure the safety of his undersea domain and its people. But his previous attacks against the surface world make everyone from Nick Fury to Doctor Doom distrust him and plan to take him down.

And thus we have a conflict that could drive a new NAMOR series. He deserves it. He’s been a pillar of Marvel since 1939, but he hasn’t been a consistently top seller for decades.

I enjoy exercises like this. They let me use my editorial muscles, which flex not exactly in terms of specific stories but in setting up circumstances in which writers and artists can create great stories of their own.

Sometimes, I do miss being a comics editor.

“Defund the police”? Well …


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Good idea, bad phrasing

“Defund the police” is the wrong phrase, and it may cause the same problems as other ill-conceived phrases.

Take “global warming.” If you want to alarm people about a coming disaster, don’t refer to warmth. Everyone likes warm-hearted friends, warm spring days, and other kinds of warmth, so it might not seem so bad if the planet warms up by a degree or two. Calling it global warming may have kept people from understanding how serious the problem is.

Or “white privilege”: That one’s supposed to make my fellow palefaces realize that we enjoy special status. Instead, it just makes most of them mad: “I started without much and worked hard all my life. No one gave me any privileges.”

So it goes with “defund the police.” It sounds like its proponents want to get rid of the police completely. (Some proponents do. Most don’t.) The phrase is almost guaranteed to panic the millions of Americans who see cops as the people who keep them safe from crime.

As I understand it, “defund the police” actually means “divert some police funds to other uses.” We burden cops with jobs that they shouldn’t have to do. See a mentally ill or homeless guy wandering the neighborhood? Don’t call a mental health specialist or a city official who can direct the guy to a place that can take care of him. Just call the cops.

Even some cops say that they shouldn’t have all the duties that we dump on them. Dallas police chief David Brown has said, “Every societal failure, we put it off for the cops to solve. Schools fail, give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

To alarm the public about global warming, don’t call it global warming; call it climate crisis. To help white people accept their relatively high status, don’t call it a privilege; call it an advantage (only a favored few receive privileges, but anyone can have an advantage). And to help people accept removing responsibilities from cops, don’t call to defund the police.

Change the police, demilitarize the police, even liberate the police. But “defund the police” is the wrong slogan.

How old is Batman?


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How old is this guy? (Art by Svend Richter)

How can Batman seem ageless, or at least not yet middle-aged, while his Robins keep growing up? I’m posting this question because (a) it comes up from time to time and (b) I’m an utter geek.

Here’s an answer.

At age 8, Bruce Wayne watches a criminal gun down his parents in a Gotham City alley. Soon thereafter, he promises to fight crime.

Ages 8 through 15: Bruce obsessively studies and trains to build his crime-fighting skills.

Age 16: Bruce files for and achieves the status of emancipated minor. Thanks to this status, plus his muscular build, his six-foot height, and his somber, determined demeanor, he presents as an adult. He begins traveling the world to develop his abilities further.

Age 19: Bruce returns to Gotham. Soon afterward, he starts fighting crime as the Batman.

Age 20: At a circus, Bruce sees aerialists John and Mary Grayson die by gunshot. He comforts their eleven-year-old son, Dick, and takes the boy into his household. Soon thereafter, Dick becomes Batman’s partner in crime-fighting, Robin.

Age 22: Robin turns 13. Shortly thereafter, he joins other teenage heroes to form the Teen Titans while continuing his adventures alongside Bruce.

Age 23: Bruce has a liaison with Talia, the daughter of Batman’s enemy Ra’s al Ghul.

Age 27: Robin, now 18, leaves Bruce’s home to attend college. He soon drops the Robin identity to become Nightwing.

Age 28: After some solo adventuring, Bruce takes on a new Robin, Jason Todd.

Age 29: The Joker kills Jason.

Age 30: After more soloing, Bruce brings on another Robin, Tim Drake.

Age 31: Tim Drake becomes Red Robin. Tim’s girlfriend, Stephanie Brown –– also known as the crime-fighter Spoiler –– becomes a new Robin.

Age 32: Stephanie stops being Robin due to injury, death, or another reason, depending on which version of continuity you want to follow.

Age 33: Bruce discovers that his liaison with Talia produced a son, Damian, who becomes the new Robin.

Age 34: Batman today. He’s not as lithe and agile as at age 20 or 21, but he compensates by being tougher and more intimidating.

This timeline’s not perfect, of course. It leaves out the Batman adventures that, taken together, couldn’t fit in such a short time, plus the periods when Jean-Paul Valley and Dick Grayson served as Batman.

But it’s a start.

Sufferin’ Joe


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Joe Biden criticises Trump's response to coronavirus outbreak ...
The man of sorrows (photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

I have a lot of problems with Joe Biden, but I like his experience with suffering. I’m not kidding.

Biden grew up with so little money that he and his immediate family couldn’t afford their own home and had to live for years with his grandparents. He was asthmatic and a stutterer. He lost his first wife and their baby daughter in a car accident, and one of his sons died from brain cancer.

Pain and loss can make a person hard and cold: “I suffered through hard times to success, and anyone else who wants success should get ready to do the same thing.” Or it can make a person empathetic: “I suffered through hard times to success, and I don’t want anyone else to endure that kind of agony.”

I think Biden’s experience has made him empathetic. I think it’s also toughened him. Toughness and empathy are a good combination in a president.

The trouble with Trinity


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The Matrix 4 Can Undo One Of Cinema's Most Laughable Deaths
Who is Trinity?

A new movie in the Matrix series may be coming, which reminds me of the original movie.

It’s inventive in both its visuals and its ideas. A good movie. But then there’s the Trinity problem.

None of the movie’s characters are terribly deep, but the most important male characters have an entire web of feelings, thoughts, and drives.

> Neo, the innocent, slowly comes to terms — mentally, emotionally, physically, and in every other way — with becoming a messiah.

> The wise and formidable Morpheus feels driven to free humanity; although he’s firmly practical and realistic, he also has a mystical belief in “The One.”

> The earthy Cypher/Reagan is dangerously infatuated with Trinity, burns with jealousy over her love for Neo, hates his unsavory life, and is willing to deceive and murder his closest comrades in order to escape.

> Even Agent Smith, who’s nothing but a program, proves capable of deep thought and a burning ambition for a better life.

But Trinity? She starts out interesting. Neo recognizes her as the infamous hacker who cracked the IRS database. Morpheus trusts her so much that he’s made her his second-in-command and assigns her to recruit Neo. She’s tough and sly and apparently complex —

— but everything she does, she does for Neo or Morpheus. Does she have thoughts, motives or feelings other than the ones focusing on those two guys?

The movie doesn’t tell us what Trinity wants to do after Morpheus and Neo free humanity from the Matrix. We never see how she feels about herself or her job as a fighter. Does she have an inner life at all?

This vacuum inside such a major character is too bad, because the movie is otherwise so good.

Once upon a Trump


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Trump blasted top military generals as 'a bunch of dopes and ...
Trump, Trump, Trump, the boys are marching … (it’s a song, look it up)

A fantasy:

Donald Trump calls the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and says, “I’m invoking the Insurrection Act. Put the country under martial law.”

“I can’t do that,” the chairman says. “The Insurrection Act applies only when a state’s governor or legislature asks for it. None of them have done that.”

Trump: “Then find another way to do it.”

JCS chair: “I can’t, sir. We’re not at war. Martial law would be illegal.”

Trump: “Get me whoever’s next in line for your job. He’s now the chairman. You’re fired.”

The scene repeats with each new chairman until one of them agrees to carry out the order.

The fired JCS chairs contact other leaders: former JCS members, former Presidents, former Secretaries of Defense, and former and current members of the House and Senate armed services committees. They quickly write and sign a petition calling for Trump to rescind martial law.

They put the petition online. Millions of Americans sign it. Trump refuses to budge. The martial law order goes forward.

But some members of the military read the petition and respect the leaders who signed it. They doubt Trump’s wisdom. As martial law spreads, they find themselves under orders to attack non-violent protesters, which troubles them further.

Gradually, one by one, military personnel begin disobeying the orders –– sometimes by quietly ignoring them and sometimes by defiance: “Sir, I refuse this order on the grounds that it is illegal.”

At first, this disobedience infuriates Trump. Then, as it spreads, it panics him. “I’m the commander-in-chief! My word is law! Why don’t these losers do what I say?”

Finally, Trump has had enough. “Screw those ingrates! This country doesn’t deserve me! I quit!”

Mike Pence takes office. He doesn’t want to suffer Trump’s fate, so he rescinds martial law.

Trump’s re-election campaign shifts to supporting Pence. But the change is so jarring and requires so much last-minute scrambling that mistakes happen.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s campaign operates without such confusion. Biden becomes president in 2021.

Is the above unrealistic?

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.