No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
– Desmond Tutu (1931- )
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
– Arthur Ashe (1943-1993)
I’ve been curious enough lately to take a look at the current state of Presidential succession. Why? Just call it a feeling I have…
In grade school Civics class, we learned all about this. But that was many, many moons ago, and though I remembered the first four placements, I had no idea who currently holds the office of President Pro Tempore of the Senate. And really, after that, all I remembered was “secretary of something”. So since I was doing the research anyway, I decided to share it.
The following list gives both the position and the name of the person holding that position in the succession (and a wee bit more information I found).
Red for Republicans who are currently caught up at least tangentially in the #TrumpRussia scandal and are under investigation. (Notated as R/U)
Black for other Republicans, along with notations of any scandals I’ve found in which they were directly involved.
Purple for Republicans who seem to have no involvement in political scandals at all.
Blue for the two Democrats still holding positions until Trump nominees are confirmed: I was unable to find any scandals associated with their names.
Green for the Department Heads I was unable to find a party affiliation for. Note that neither of these gentlemen has any scandal I could find attached to his name.
Here we go:
1. Vice President Pence (R/U)
2. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R/U)
3. President pro tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch (R)
4. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R/U)
5. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R/U)
6. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R/U)
7. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R/U)
8. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (R) (previous scandals, multiple; possible involvement in Trump/Russia now coming to light)
9. Acting Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse (D) (Trump nominee: Sonny Perdue, involved in land deal scandal, but also investigated GA school cheating scandal)
10. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R/U)
11. Acting Labor Secretary Ed Hugler (D) (Trump nominee: Alexander Acosta, DOJ racism scandal, linked to Jeffrey Epstein pedophile scandal)
12. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (R/U) (corruption scandals, multiple)
13. HUD Secretary Ben Carson (R)
14. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (McConnell) (R) (Wells Fargo scandal)
15. Energy Secretary Rick Perry (R) (abuse of power scandal)
16. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (R) (Probably plagiarized answers to Congress)
17. Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin (N/R)
18. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (N/R)
Some further thoughts:
I have no real quibble with Orrin Hatch, though I’m not a big fan of his politics. Hatch is a mature statesman who understands how the government works and that the President is not the “boss” of the country. He could probably do a decent job. BUT…
As of today, Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House. His involvement in the #TrumpRussia election scandal is flimsy right now, though evidence seems to be piling up against him; it’s been reported that he used information closely identified as belonging to the DNC in his own campaign. And there are some questions arising as to whether a SuperPAC he consistently calls “my SuperPAC” was actively involved.
Now, with the ignominious failure of the ACHA bill (aka TrumpCare), many in politics feel his time as SoH is limited. Many are also positing that it will be next to impossible for the Republicans, who are split into so many camps, to come to a consensus on whom the next Speaker will be. I’m not sure what happens if there’s no Speaker of the House.
Incidentally, I read an interesting article that proposed a coalition of Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans (who may by now be disenchanted with Trump’s ham-fisted executive orders and irresponsible tweets); it posited that the coalition could conceivably result in the election of a moderate Democrat, like Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff, as the new Speaker. Should that occur, and should the current investigations pull down both Trump and Pence, we might yet wind up with a Democratic President, which is what the majority of people voted for in the first place.
Pipe dream? Probably, but without dreams, where would we be?
Note: If you know of any changes that should be made, please let me know and I’ll adjust the list – I want it to be as accurate as possible, whether that means adding something or taking it away.
Note also that there are only two women on the list and one is Mitch McConnell’s wife. Wonder why that is?
I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Reposting this today in honor of Mick Mulvaney, who stood in his green tie and shamrock pin yesterday to assure us all that feeding the hungry was an unnecessary luxury.
Most of the time I find history boring. But every once in awhile, I stumble over something fascinating. And usually, that something makes me cry.
I’d heard quite a bit about the Irish Famine at different places along the way, like in English class in high school when we read Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal (if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it. It gives an incredible satiric look at the British government’s feelings on “the Irish problem.” The problem, in short, was that there was such a thing as “the Irish”.)
At any rate, the subject cropped up now and again. But it wasn’t until I started writing my Donovan series that I realized how closely related I was to it. My father’s family emigrated from Ireland in the early 20th century, chased out by the British Army (or so the story goes). As I started…
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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)
Perhaps it’s time to pay attention to these words again. For “Socialists” read “Muslims”, for “Trade Unionists” read “Immigrants”.
Which of us knows who will be next? The time to speak out is now.
In the craft of writing, editing is accepted as a necessary evil. We all realize that our sentences must be properly punctuated, our noun/verb combinations must agree, our sentence and paragraph structure must meet certain recognizable norms.
Yes, there are exceptions. Books are written in verse. Writers experiment with no dialogue tags, single-sentence paragraphs, and chapters that consist of fewer than 10 sentences. And at least one author, Cormac McCarthy, has eschewed the use of almost all punctuation.
But for most of us, editing is an acceptable, if somewhat mundane, chore.
Revision, on the other hand, is greeted with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Revision is “hard”. Revision is “based on someone else’s opinion” and is “not the way I write.”
Yet revision can be the most satisfactory part of writing.
I’m not talking about the “Revise & Resubmit” advice an agent or editor may give, and which any author is free to accept or reject. I’m talking about recognizing the shortcomings in our own work, and making a concerted effort to improve them.
In a previous post, I talked about the books, primarily mysteries, that my grandmother and my mother have bequeathed to me. A few days ago, I was reading one by Ed McBain, an author very popular in the 70s-90s, whose style of terse conversation and fact-based investigation is a bit Hemingway-esque. McBain’s most popular book is probably HEAT, and if you’ve ever seen that movie FUZZ where Burt Reynolds dresses up as a nun to catch the bad guy, you know the one I mean. But the point is, in this book, POISON, McBain waxed poetic over the weather. Not the spring or summer weather, or even autumn. But winter weather.
It was unexpected, and breathtakingly beautiful. I can do that, I says to myself. In my first novel, LET THE CANYONS WEEP, I have a scene where the winter weather is at the heart of a conflict. I can make it much more dramatic. I can almost make it a character – an antagonist – in its own right.
That started me off. The next question was: where do I have weather? Or time of day? Or anything that has to do with the characters’ surroundings. I can do this. I will do this!
In most cases, it doesn’t take much. The description of a table as old and scarred; of a porch as sagging around its posts; of a cabin with grass that’s been seared to gray. Sometimes the scene calls for more than a few words. As an example, I’ve made a change at a critical point in the story. I started out with:
When he left her, the night was at its darkest hour.
Everyone’s heard “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” Most of us have spent at least one night awake, drunk or sober (oops, did I say that?) and have experienced it for ourselves. The sentence as it stands brings that idea to the mind of the reader.
But so much more has happened, so much terror and heartache was revealed in the previous chapter, that the opening was really, really trite. Revision created this:
When he left her, the night was at its darkest hour. The stars had faded, the tired old moon had set. But the night was no blacker than the wound on his heart.
And now, it’s not just a dark hour in the night. There’s a complete lack of light. And a more complete understanding of the character’s emotions.
Revising is difficult, yes. It takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and a whole lot of willingness to look at those perfect words we wrote and find a way to make them better.
No one can deny the importance of editing – every comma needs to be in its place, every pronoun needs to refer to the right person. But revision – I’ve come to believe that’s what makes the difference between a good book and a great one.
What are you working on now, and what specific revisions have you made or do you intend to make?
A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)