Viewers Leave ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ with Somber Weight of Responsibility

I saw Michael Moore’s new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, at the theater last weekend. “11/9” refers to the date that Donald Trump’s presidential win was officially called. And while Moore clearly captures Trump as a terrifying catalyst of fascism, the film is not a two-hour-long Trump bash. That, alone, would be superficial.

Systemic Corruption

In Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore explores political corruption, greed, the misuse of power, and the loss of American democracy. He does so with his signature ability to tease significant “dots” from out of the chaos, so the rest of us may connect them with ease.

Flint was an experiment in running government like a business, and Trump admired the results… The U.S. Army bombed empty buildings in Flint… President Obama accompanied Gov. Rick Snyder on a PR gig to pronounce the return of safe water in Flint…  In several states during the 2016 Democratic primary, superdelegates overrode the voters’ choice for  Bernie Sanders and nominated Hillary Clinton instead… Today’s Americans may be fairly compared to the good German people during Hitler’s rise to power… U.S. citizens, all across the country, can expect more Flint.

An Alarm Bell

Fahrenheit 11/9 rings the alarm bell. What action is required? Moore highlights examples of powerful resistance movements: student survivors of a mass-shooting initiate national demonstrations for gun control, teacher strikes that spread from West Virginia to Oklahoma, and persistent Black Lives Matter activism.

But what about the country, in general? Despite a proliferation of anti-Trump rhetoric, the American will for real political revolution remains faint-hearted. So, how will people respond to the alarm?

Folks lulled by a steady diet of mainstream corporate network news may be stunned and discombobulated by Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9. Trump loyalists will simply explode with knee-jerk “Fake News!” accusations. Viewers accustomed to reflective thinking will leave the theater with the somber weight of responsibility on their shoulders. 

‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ Official Trailer

Related Resources

Michael Moore talks with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about his new documentary film, Fahrenheit 11/9:

It’s time for REAL Resistance.

I Read About Comic Book Geniuses, Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I recently got around to reading it — and enjoyed every single page! The story is the fictional history of two brilliant innovators in the early days of the golden comic book era.

The book cover of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael ChabonTwo cousins… Sammy Clay is the writer and Joe Kavalier the artist. When they combine their talents… whoosh! From Jewish superheroes to vagabond dads, from young love to lost love, from the Prague Ghetto to the Empire State Building, this novel bears a multi-faceted jewel-of-a-plot.

The book venerates iconic comic book art, of course, while sketching the view of a tremulous American Dream that begins to emerge after World War II. It depicts an age that reveled in heroes… and fearless cigarette smoking.

Chabon’s writing style is vivid, intrepid, and psychologically insightful. You may want to look at Ken Kalfus’ 2000 review, which succinctly delves into the book’s major themes…

…Set in Prague during the Nazi occupation, (the novel) introduce(s) its two interrelated themes: escape and the mystery of the Prague golem, a legendary automaton-giant created from mud by a 16th-century rabbi. For the purposes of the novel, Chabon offers the conceit that the golem actually existed and was hidden in a Prague apartment house, where it awaits the day it will deliver the Jews from their enemies. As the noose tightens around the city’s ghetto, 18-year-old Josef Kavalier makes a daring flight abroad in which he abets the removal of the golem before it can be found by German anthropologists and shipped to a Berlin museum. The inanimate figure is given a new hiding place in Lithuania, but it is recalled repeatedly in the novel, every time one character provides another with the passage to freedom…

READ MORE: The Golem Knows | The New York Times

Yup. It is an imaginative, colorful book — quite like the comics that it celebrates.

Much more could be said about this richly evocative novel. If you’ve read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, I’d love for you to share your impressions in the comment section below. Thanks!

The Amazing Adventure of Reading

Playing With the Gutenberg Block Editor

Dear writers and bloggers, WordPress is evolving. The future “Gutenberg” block editor will allow WordPress users to fancy-up their blog or website with ease. Meanwhile, “Gutenberg” is available as a plugin for users to play with and learn.

Not being able to resist a fun experiment, I installed the “Gutenberg” plugin — as well as the “Atomic Blocks” plugin and the “Atomic Blocks” theme, both of which are specialized and styled to enhance “Gutenberg” blocks.

So far, so good.
Nice, clean editing interface.
You can add background colors to paragraphs!

Building Blocks in the Editor

In case you’re wondering, “blocks” are sections of text or media that build your post or page, like building blocks. The paragraph block is the default mode, and continues with every strike of the enter key, unless you choose to insert a different kind of block.

For instance, you could insert a quote block…

Blocks are a great new tool for building engaging content. With blocks, you can insert, rearrange, and style multimedia content with very little technical knowledge.

~ WordPress

As a helpful touch, the quote block reminded me to include a citation. Nice.

Image Block Variety

The image block deals with images just as you’d expect. You can set a left, right or center alignment, and a custom link. But its simple to add more pizzazz. Let’s see what can happen…

Chester the Alpha Bichon
This image is set to wide-width.

The wide-width setting is exactly what I wanted. The image expands beyond the text margins on both sides.

(Shortly, however, I will need to remove the Atomic Blocks theme, as it doesn’t provide the array of features I need for my website. But you will still be able to see how the wide and full images look, if you follow the link to the Atomic Block theme demo.)

Now if you’d rather create a division, transition, or a special focal point, you can set an image to full-width…

Dog playing with stick in water
This image is set to full-width.

You can use the cover image block to create a hero header, which is a title laid over a background image. A cover image is especially useful for branded promotions that are meant to be placed on the homepage or a landing page. In fact, it’s clear that “Gutenberg” will greatly facilitate the creation of a stunning static homepage.

Exploring Embed Blocks

What other blocks can we play with? How about embedding a Twitter Tweet? I’m partial to center-aligned social media embeds. Can “Gutenberg” do that?

No, “Gutenberg” cannot center a Tweet. Sigh. For that, you’d need to use a regular paragraph block and follow the instructions from ThemeSkills: How to Embed a Tweet and Center Align It in WordPress.

Maybe “Gutenberg” will allow embed alignment options in the future. I’m sure there will be many refinements. (However, if “Gutenberg” is a complete turn-off for you, the tweet tells you how to outmaneuver the upcoming change.)

How does a WordPress embed appear? See for yourself…

“Gutenberg” has done a crackerjack job with the WordPress embed. (Although, not centered.) It’s an elegant solution for sharing a fellow blogger’s post, with the featured image and a perfect attribution included.

Testing “Gutenberg” With Other Themes

I’ve fooled with “Gutenberg” blocks long enough. Now I want to see how well the editor works with other themes — themes that have not been specifically designed for “Gutenberg.” Bye…

…OK, I’m back. I quickly tested “Gutenberg” with several other themes, which made me realize something. The page attribution option in “Gutenberg” is missing. There is no way to select a full-width (no sidebar) page. Therefore, the beautiful wide-width and full-width images in this post are not revealed to full effect on pages with a sidebar. In addition, a theme must be designed to accommodate wide-width and full-width images, in the first place.

No worries. Before long, there will be an army of “Gutenberg-Ready” themes from which to choose.

My “Gutenberg” Take-Away

“Gutenberg” incorporates page-builder properties right into the native WordPress editor. It enables users to create sophisticated and appealing websites — easily. No exaggeration.

I have tried almost every page-builder theme or plugin known to man, free and premium. Each boasts how user-friendly it is. In reality, they are all clunky, royal pains-in-the-neck with long learning curves.  

But I think “Gutenberg” is pure elegant simplicity… that works… as intended… easy-peasy. Dear Reader, have you explored “Gutenberg” yet? What are your impressions? (See comment section below.) 

And, thank you, WordPress. You’re the best. And thanks to Johannes Gutenberg…

This is the “Gutenberg” Youtube embed block with caption, by the way.

The Joy of Writing

285 Progressive Primary Wins, So Far… and More

There are many shocking and depressing political goings-on in the news. But the news cycle could exhibit a far more democratic and hopeful tone, if it were to include fair coverage of progressive advancements. Believe me, people would pay attention — and they’d know who to support and what to do!

Today, I aim to fill-in the progressive news gap a wee bit — just enough to banish the political blahs — so that you may enjoy your precious weekend with renewed patriotic faith and vigor.

285 Progressive Primary Wins

Mainstream news outlets claim that progressive candidates are fairing poorly in the 2018 primary elections. Never-the-less, my 2018 Progressive Candidate List shows that, as of August 10th, 285 progressive candidates have made it through the primaries and are on their way to the November 6th General Election.

There are still 14 state primaries to go! (Hawaii is holding its primary today.)

In my estimation, progressive candidates are definitely making an impact in the primaries.

Legislative Advancements

Alaska instituted a state anti-corruption act. Michiganders got, and kept, an anti-gerrymandering initiative on the November ballot.

In the Final Analysis

After absorbing the teachings of great religions and wise philosophers for millennia, you’d think Earth would be a more civilized place by now. However, the opposition is a well-heeled, finely-honed, precision force. It is too much for individuals to face alone. It is only when we organize and stand together, that we win fight after fight for the common good. After all, our side is composed of countless legions of… The People.

The Political Revolution Advances

Real Progressives Deal with Political Corruption

A couple of days ago, I received one of those “Let me introduce myself” emails from a politician, a Democrat candidate running for the House of Representatives in Florida’s 25th Congressional District.

After perusing her website, I added Mary Barzee Flores to the 2018 Progressive Candidates Nationwide List. She supports Universal Healthcare, which is one of the two criteria that a candidate must meet in order to make the List. I had to add her.

As is the case with many nice Democrat candidates who put Universal Healthcare or a Living Wage on their campaign platforms, I wonder if they really mean it — if they do not also express determination to get Big Money out of politics.

Because, of course, Big Money donors from the pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries do not want Americans to have universal, single payer, Medicare for All healthcare. Nor do the general horde of Big Money corporate donors want to pay millions of Americans a fair, living wage.

Still, I added Flores to my list. (I had to, for the sake of complete and utter objectivity.) However, the following is my reply to her campaign email:

I’ve added Flores to my 2018 Progressive Candidate List, based on her expressed support for Universal Healthcare. Here’s how that section looks:

25th CD – Mary Barzee Flores (D-FL) – Facebook – Twitter
— Universal healthcare

25th CD – Dr. Alina Valdes (D-FL) – Facebook – Twitter
— Her campaign refuses corporate PAC donations
— Single payer healthcare
— End corporate welfare
— Campaign finance reform

Which candidate do you think is more progressive — Flores or her opponent Valdes? It’s a fine thing to support progressive goals, like universal healthcare or a living wage, but you also need to focus on ending the corrupting influence of Big Money in American politics, which is comprised of pathetically obvious conflicts-of-interests and is nothing short of brazen corruption.

Big Money creates an oligarchy and blocks democracy. That is why Americans do without the citizen rights and securities that all other developed nations provide for their people. If Flores actually does not accept corporate PAC money, or has a priority to end Big Money in politics, please have her emblazon that on her website, and you may leave a comment saying so on the 2018 Progressive Candidate List page. I will be happy to verify and update accordingly.

Was I too hard on Flores? I expect she is a decent woman. But my view is this: A real progressive deals with political corruption.

Meanwhile, I wholeheartedly support the personal political confrontations that citizens are making in public restaurants. Just as we don’t allow an alcoholic to take down the entire family, we cannot allow individuals who are addicted to money and power to take down the United States. For example, the following up-close-and-personal confrontation is an attempt to break through Scott Pruitt’s denial of the massive harm his political actions cause American citizens. The courageous woman making the confrontation is acting out of tough love for her government… and a strong survival urge to protect her child.

Progressives deal with corruption.

Animals Give Love and Deserve Love Right Back

I retweeted this @TweetChester, but don’t want my blog followers to miss out. I have onetwoonetwo… followers. (“Two” means a lot more from where “one” comes from.)

I know this for sure: animals feel love, respond to love, and give love. This short video from the Humane League proves it — and will make your day. Watch it! (((tail wag)))

But just remember: dogs are your very BEST friends. #FriendsNotFood #ChooseCompassion

Sharing Love with Animals

A Record of the American Progressive Movement, Circa 2018

The 2018 Progressive Candidates List is finally complete. Including more than 800 candidates, you could call it comprehensive.

Progressive Candidate Selection Process

The selection of candidates was based on two criteria. The minimum standard meant a candidate must prioritize at least one of the following progressive causes on their campaign platform:

  1. Universal healthcare (i.e., Medicare for All, single-payer)
  2. Getting money out of politics

Simple. Objective. Long. (The 2020 list will be based on only one progressive cause.)

The candidates range from grassroots activists to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Some candidates run in highly progressive areas. Others run in ultra-conservative areas — where you can hardly blame them for espousing a toned-down progressive message. (We don’t want them run out of town!) The candidates demonstrate different strengths, and see varied visions. Candidates may not be equally progressive, nor equally prepared for public office. In short, there is variety, and some will shine more brightly in future races.

2018 Progressives on Record

But the list isn’t about judging candidates, nor predicting which ones will make it to the General Election. Neither is the list merely an information resource, though that was my sole intention at the beginning. About halfway through the project, I realized something. The list was turning out to be a record of the American Progressive Movement, circa 2018.

Compiling the list was a long endeavor, but a fascinating task. The candidates are interesting, vibrant, and earnest. At times, so struck by their words, I had to quote them right on the list, or share an outstanding campaign ad, or embed a striking tweet. When a candidate states he or she refuses corporate PAC donations, or expresses a revolutionary idea, it is noted on the list.

I urge anyone interested in progressive politics to browse the list when they have a little spare time. The sheer magnitude of numbers, and the overall quality of 2018 progressive candidates, will blow your socks off!

For the record, the list is updated with state Primary Election results, and the last update will record the November 6th General Election results — unless something relevant and noteworthy should spring up in the aftermath. Nothing will surprise me. We are living in interesting and progressive times.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ 

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
~ Bob Dylan

Progressives on the Record

Daniel Ellsberg’s New Book Calls Us to Anti-Nuclear Activism

Climate change and nuclear holocaust are the eminent threats of irreversible catastrophe that we face. Climate change takes considerable time to build momentum. A nuclear disaster could happen in a heart beat.

Anti-Vietnam war organizer Robert Levering wants his baby grandson to read an important book when he grows up. That is Daniel Ellsberg’s new work, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, which tells the inside story of nuclear preparedness during the Cold War era. Levering hopes his grandson will someday carry on the family endeavor of anti-war activism.

…Last August, I was arrested with [Daniel Ellsberg] and several dozen others at Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, where scientists create new devices to blow up the world. Our demonstration commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Coincidentally, my grandson Rocky Barnes-Levering Ly was being born at the very time as we were being carted off to jail.

After reading Dan’s book, I knew that I had to give it to Rocky. Hopefully, no country will unleash its nuclear arsenal before he is able to read the book…

Assuming we escape a nuclear nightmare for the next two decades, Dan’s book can help Rocky comprehend the precariousness of our lives in the nuclear age…

I want Rocky to read The Doomsday Machine for yet another reason. I want him to develop an appreciation for why his grandfather has felt it necessary to commit civil disobedience several dozen times over the past half-century. Because I’m in my mid-seventies, I’m acutely aware that I may never be able to explain to Rocky why I tried to block the entrance to a government building the day he was born. Dan’s book does more than impart historical information and a critique of the entire nuclear madness. The Doomsday Machine offers a full-throated call for ordinary citizens to act to avert the catastrophe…

Robert Levering

READ LETTER TO ROCKY: A Nuclear War Planner’s Guide to Resisting the Bomb | Waging Nonviolence

Book cover of "The Doomsday Machine" by Daniel EllsbergEllsberg is telling us, in short, that it’s time to step-up the anti-war movement.

From the blurb on the back cover of The Doomsday Machine, by Daniel Ellsberg (released Dec. 5, 2017):

…Here, for the first time, former high level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking first-hand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization — and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration — threatens our very survival. No other insider with high level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era…

Step-up Anti-War Movement