An American Editor

December 15, 2017

On Politics: A USA Today Editorial

Yesterday, the editorial board of USA Today, which tends to unquestioningly support Conservative Republicans and Conservative causes, shocked me by publishing this editorial:

Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?

(The Editorial Board, USA TODAY Published 7:30 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2017 | Updated 9:12 a.m. ET Dec. 13, 2017).

Some quotes from the editorial illustrate why I was shocked:

  • “With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office.”
  • “A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”
  • “Donald Trump, the man, …, is uniquely awful.”
  • “If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office.”

The editorial goes on to list additional reasons why Trump is a disaster for America and Americans.

When even USA Today is troubled by a “Conservative” president, America is clearly in trouble. (Interestingly, today’s New York Times reports that some Evangelicals are awakening to the problems of supporting people like Roy Moore and Donald Trump [“Has Support for Moore Stained Evangelicals? Some Are Worried“].)

I encourage everyone to read the USA Today editorial. I also encourage everyone eligible to vote to make sure they are registered and to put on their calendars now a reminder to vote November 6, 2018.

I also hope that when it comes time to cast your ballot on November 6 that you remember that it was the Republican Congress that failed to rein-in Donald Trump, and that Republicans (with a few exceptions) were more concerned about the Republican Party and its control of Congress and the presidency than about their country or fellow Americans who were/are being harmed by Donald Trump.

Come November 6, 2018, I hope voters will begin to lose their membership in the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 11, 2017

On Politics: Welcome to the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club

Lots of voters had lots of reasons — real and imagined — for voting Republican (or not for a Democrat) for president and congress. A good number of independent editors were among those voters. Now I can welcome them to America’s fastest growing group, the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club.

The attacks on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) weren’t sufficient to open many eyes. Republican-voting colleagues have expressed frustration that Obamacare hasn’t been wholly repealed, again giving a variety of reasons, some valid and some quite suspect (eg, “I never get sick and when I do I can just go to the emergency room,” which begs the question of how the emergency room gets paid when a service recipient doesn’t/can’t pay).

These same colleagues also believe that the Republican “tax reform” legislation will benefit them; that the Republicans aren’t lying when they claim the wealthy will pay more and the middle- and lower-income classes will pay less; that trickle-down economics, which has never worked before, will work this time and as a result there will be more money to be made by editors from publishers and authors who will suddenly find American editors to be price competitive or, if not price competitive, will gladly pay the price for an American editor and so help spread the wealth.

President Trump repeatedly says that he will pay more in taxes under the Republican legislation. Whatever happened to the Republican challenges, “put up or shut up” and “prove it”? Why doesn’t Trump set America’s mind at ease by releasing his tax returns so we can see that instead of saving himself and his children as much as $1 billion in taxes, he (and they) will actually pay taxes. (I find it interesting that the mortgage deduction has been gutted except for golf course owners.) It is worth noting that nearly every tax analyst says the president and his family and many of his cabinet members will actually pay less taxes. (It is also interesting that Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has failed to release an analysis of the tax legislation, which failure is now under investigation by the Inspector General.)

Fortunately, I am already retired. My Social Security is pretty well set, my retirement investments already are required by law to be drawn upon and taxes paid, and my Medicare is unlikely to be affected — at least that is what the Republicans are saying today as regards the benefits for those already 65 and older. But for those of you not yet able to retire, the Republicans have announced that to pay for the $1 trillion (yes, trillion, not billion) debt increase that will result even if Republican economic projections prove correct, it will be necessary to reduce your Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Currently, Social Security pays an established amount each month from the U.S. treasury, regardless of whether the stock market is up or down or there is a prolonged economic downturn. In the market downturn of 2009, I watched my retirement investments lose up to 40% of value. When the market began to turn around, I began to regain some of that lost value, and it took years before I regained it all. Social Security, however, remained not only steady, but grew by the rate of inflation (which was quite nominal, about 2% each year).

The point is that Social Security was and is a safety net that ensures we can put food on the table in our old age. The stock market cannot and does not provide such assurance. The stock market is great in boon (bull) years and merciless in bust (bear) years, yet Republicans want to privatize the Social security safety net so as to reduce its drag on the national debt, which was largely created and enhanced by Republican “tax reform”. And this will be an imperative when this new Republican “tax reform” becomes a reality.

Medicare is in a similar situation. The current Republican plan being floated is to give every Medicare participant a set amount of money to buy private-market insurance. The last publicized number was 60% of the annual premium for a Medicare-equivalent health plan. Where, exactly, do Republicans think most retirees will find the other 40%?

Okay, you can see some of the ways in which independent editors are becoming members of the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club. But Social Security and Medicare are not the only ways and for a lot of editors, those are safety net benefits that are a ways down the road and not of immediate concern. Of greater concern is income taxes (and Social Security taxes, of which freelancers, unlike employees, pay 100%).

I grant that the absolute final bill has not been enacted and there could be changes still to come, and I grant that my personal economic situation is different than yours. But I decided to give it a try and see how the legislation might have impacted me if I used my income and expenses from my last year of full-time freelancing.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I would be eligible for the pass-through rate given to small businesses. To get that rate, you need to be, broadly speaking, either a corporation or a partnership, not just an independent contractor; that is, there has to be a formal, recognized business entity through which the income passes to you. In my case, I have a partnership and a couple of subchapter S corporations. Even with the lower pass-through rate, I would have paid approximately $3500 more in federal taxes alone (and my accountant thinks the amount may be higher than that).

Something else needs to be noted. When discussing paying taxes, the tendency is to focus on the federal income tax. But that’s too narrow. You need to focus on all the taxes paid to all levels of government. There is nothing beneficial about paying lower federal taxes if as a result I need to pay significantly higher state and local taxes. Switching pockets doesn’t suddenly make things better.

Analyses by Congress’ own bipartisan budget analysis committee say that most middle- and lower-income taxpayers will see tax increases, and corporations and the top 1% in terms of income will be the only groups to see real decreases. I don’t know any editors in the top 1%, so I am unlikely to know anyone who will actually see a permanent decrease.

In addition, all of the nonpartisan analyses agree that any decrease seen by any middle-income taxpayer will evaporate and change to tax increases after a few years (only the corporate provisions are permanent; individual-oriented provisions expire). Finally, the Republican tax-reform-will-result-in-lower-taxes declaration is premised on an already booming economy becoming suddenly boomier, something more than 95% of economists — liberal, nonpartisan, and conservative — agree is nearly impossible. They also agree that most companies will use any tax savings to boost stockholder dividends, salaries for the highest level of management, and stock buybacks — not to increase wages. (Interestingly, one company indicated that with the tax savings it expects, it plans to invest in automation and reduction of the human workforce, just the opposite of what Republicans are promising.)

Even if the naysayers are wrong and companies do boost wages for low-level employees, we need to remember that we are not employees — we are independent vendors, the ones that companies squeeze for lower costs.

The point of this essay is to remind colleagues that you need to think less narrowly and more broadly about the effects of politics on things that may not matter immediately but could matter down the road. If you recall, in my essay A Continuing Frustration — The “Going Rate”, I wrote:

With a new year arriving soon, it is time to become more of a businessperson and focus more on the business aspects of being independent editors.

That is true not only about the issue of what to charge to be profitable, but for all aspects of your editorial business. When you decide for whom to vote, you need to look farther in the future than to just tomorrow or yesterday. I try to ask and answer the question, “If I vote for the Republican/Democrat candidate and the Republican/Democrat party implements ____, will I be better or worse off than if I vote for the other candidate?” I then try to add up the pluses and minuses and weigh them. For example, when I turned 50 years of age, Social Security became a much more important issue to me than it was when I was 25 years of age. Similarly, doing away with the mortgage interest deduction was more important to me when I still had years of mortgage payments to make.

If you haven’t yet taken the time to look at the “tax reform” and attempted to see how it will impact you and your business, you should do so now. And when you next vote, you should be sure to vote for your future, not just for tomorrow.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

September 15, 2017

If the bomb was dropped . . .

Filed under: Politics — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

An interesting website where you can enter a location, a bomb yield, and some other information (there are preselects to make it easy), then click the red Detonate button. “Detonating” the bomb tells you how much territory the bomb’s detonation affects. Makes for a very interesting experiment.

Click the following link to go to the Nukemap website:

If the bomb was dropped . . .

Another interesting website is Missilemap. Using this map, you can determine whether a missile launched from your backyard (or from any place in the world) can reach any location in the world. Click the following link to go to the Missilemap website to launch your missile:

When the missile blows . . .

Both interactive “maps” were created by Alex Wellerstein.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

September 8, 2017

On Politics: A Great Song Made Greater

One of the classics in pop music is Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” A future classic in the satire hall of fame political collection is this lyric-updated, politically astute version of that classic (here’s the link in case it disappears again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxCjvEabN70):

Some of you might prefer the original untainted, nonsatirical, but not nonpolitical version by Simon and Garfunkel, so here it is:

Additional parodies worth viewing include these:

Perhaps this is the best thing, so far, about the Trump presidency: a never ending resource for comedy.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 25, 2017

Charlottesville: Truth, Trump, & Alternative Facts

Will Charlottesville be Donald Trump’s Donnybrook? Only time will tell, but the following VICE News mini-documentary on Charlottesville certainly makes it seem so. (The documentary runs approximately 20 minutes but I encourage you to watch it in its entirety.) What I have trouble understanding is how easily and readily some people will ignore truth because the facts support a point of view that is counter to what they wish was true.

Watching the above documentary reminded me of the 1960s and early 1970s — Selma, Alabama; Kent State; Los Angeles and Detroit; and myriad other “incidents”.

Returning to the topic at hand, the following The Daily Show segment regarding Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Phoenix following his three Charlottesville addresses to America illustrate how divorced some people’s view of events is from truth.

Editors are supposed to be factually centered when editing. I wonder whether that will be the standard in coming years or will the adoption of alternate facts “trickle” down to editing? Will we have a new phenomena called “alt-editing”?

For a more humorous view of Trump’s flip-flop-flip view of Charlottesville, I give you Stephen Colbert:

What do you think about Charlottesville and Donald Trump’s responses to what happened? Will Trump successfully sideline facts and truth?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 


 

A Humor Bonus!

As serious as the Charlottesville incident is for America and America’s future, we still should not lose our sense of humor. To that end, I offer the following Saturday Night Live reenactment of Trump’s Phoenix rally.

 

December 14, 2016

On Ethics: Do Ethics Matter Anymore?

I have discussed ethics on An American Editor in a number of essays (see, e.g., “On Ethics: To Out or Not to Out Clients” [Part I and Part II]; “A Question of Ethics: The Delayed Project Further Delayed”; “A Question of Ethics: If the Editing Is Running Behind Schedule…”; “The Ethics of Distaste”; “The Ethics of Editing: Padding the Bill”; “The Ethics of Editing: The Sour Job”; “Trolleyology and the Ethics of Editing”; and “Ethics in a World of Cheap”), but I am now wondering whether ethics matter.

Editors do not live in isolation, cut off from the world around us — or we shouldn’t. We need to be engaged with our surrounding world because it is our worldly experiences, along with our education and interests, that shape our editing. It would be difficult to provide a quality edit for a book on genocide if we did not know what genocide was and how it has appeared in history. We do not need to be experts in the subject matter, but we need to have some, at least rudimentary, knowledge about the subject matter. Thus we are engaged with our world.

In addition, we are engaged because we are citizens of our world and country. We cannot shut our eyes and pretend that what is happening next door, across the street, around the corner doesn’t have an impact on our own lives. And that is what makes me wonder if I have been wrong all along when I thought that ethics matter, that following an ethical path is important, that ethics is part and parcel of being a professional editor.

What I see around me is a vast change. A pebble was dropped in the ocean and the ripples it created are becoming a tsunami as the wave approaches the other side of the ocean. We have always had unethical members of the editing profession; every profession, every trade, every job type has workers who are ethical and workers who are unethical — except, we hope, for one very specific exception: president of the United States.

It is not that our presidents haven’t been ethically challenged on occasion; they are human and have human failings. It is the striving to be ethical that matters most and I cannot recall or think of a president who I would declare as wholly unethical — until now. Which is why I am concerned.

My reward for being an ethical business person, an ethical editor, is that I have work, I earn a decent wage, I have a place among my colleagues (i.e., they do not shun me for being unethical). And just as I sought to be ethical in my business, I expected others to be ethical in theirs. If they were not ethical, I expected them to not be rewarded for being unethical. Consequently, when we discuss questions of ethics, we discuss them in terms of balancing the scales of right and wrong and how, when we strike that balance, the answer affects not only ourselves but others. That is and has always been the foundation of ethics.

Until the Donald Trump run for and election to the presidency.

Now my world of ethics is being turned upside down. I get work and earn a decent living, but I am not a millionaire, let alone a billionaire, and I have not been rewarded with the power to set editing’s future direction. I am just an everyday schmoe of little influence and relevance.

In contrast, a man who appears to have no ethical boundaries, who doesn’t separate fact from fantasy, who is divisive, who steals from others and calls it business, is rewarded with election to the presidency of the United States and monetary wealth.

Sure I go to sleep at night with a clear conscience, but, I am willing to bet, so does Donald Trump.

So I ask the question: Based on the example of Donald Trump, do ethics matter? Would editors be better served to ignore questions of ethics and do whatever it takes or they can get away with? For example, instead of checking references, should the editor just style them and not care whether the cite information is correct, even though the agreement with the client is for the editor to check references for accuracy? Think of how much time and effort could be saved — time that could be spent on other, perhaps more profitable, pursuits.

When we discuss our fee and what it includes with an author, should we justify our fee by mentioning services that we will not really perform? Had you asked me on November 1, I would have said doing so was highly unethical and no, we should not only not do so but we shouldn’t even think about doing so. But today I waver.

I do not waver for myself; I know what path I will follow — the same path I always have. I waver on the question of whether or not ethics matter today. Does anyone expect ethicality? If we are willing to elect someone who wholly lacks an ethical and moral compass to lead us, why should we expect more of those who work beside us or for us?

I recognize that matters of ethics are personal. Each of us will choose our own path, just as we did on November 1. None of that is likely to change. What is changing — or, perhaps, has already changed — is the community compulsion to be ethical, however ethicality is individually defined. We are ethical because of personal traits and because of peer pressure. It is like stopping for a red light. We stop because of peer pressure and our desire to conform to community standards. (Yes, I recognize that there are laws, but laws are simply written expressions of community standards. They are written so that all community members can know them. But no law is enforceable in the absence of our personal beliefs, peer pressure, and community acceptance of the law.)

We are entering what is being called the “posttruth age,” a time when truth is whatever someone declares it to be. I think it might be better labeled the Trumpian Fantasy Age. It is an age when ethics are mutable, when ethics flow in all directions simultaneously, when ethics and honesty take a back seat to enrichment and fantasy. While the effect may be minimal on the current generation of editors, what will the effect be on future generations? Will anyone ask, will anyone care, whether a particular action is ethical? Does the future of editing lie in an ungoverned, undisciplined editing profession?

Has the political world of 2016 so upended the community’s moral compass that anarchy looks as if it is disciplined? Do ethics matter anymore?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 30, 2016

On Politics: The Future of American Education

Most editors recognize that the foundation of our business lies in the education we received. It is hard to tackle grammar issues in a manuscript without having been taught grammar. And deciding whether the correct word is there or their requires having been taught the difference.

Of course, there is the issue of subject matter knowledge as well. Granted that editors are rarely expected to be subject-matter experts — especially not at the common rates paid to editors — but editors are expected to have some familiarity with the subject matter and to be able to understand what they are editing.

I have lamented in past essays about the decline of editing and of education. Now I worry even more with the nomination of Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos to be Secretary of Education in the forthcoming Trump presidency. Her selection is tantamount to declaring war on public education and on education standards — public and private. If her views on education permeate the educational system, what I see as a decline in quality of editors may well become a tsunami.

The foundation of America’s education system is that it is a public education system, meaning that every child has access to a “free” public education (and, yes, there is really no such thing as “free” in this context; public education is an expensive taxpayer burden, but a burden that since the early days of the republic taxpayers have been willing to bear in hopes that their children will do better economically and socially than they did). In DeVos’ world there would be no “public” education — all education would be by private schools, largely charter schools.

I admit that there was a time when I thought charter schools would be a panacea to our declining school systems, but that fantasy didn’t last long. The truth is that to fix our schools, we need to fix the way our teachers are taught and compensated. Rather than mid-level students choosing teaching as a career path, we need to find a way to make the highest-level students seek that career. And we need to require teachers to be subject-matter experts not generalists whose expertise is in classroom administration with a minor in subject matter.

Whereas I have progressed from thinking charter schools are the panacea to education’s ills, DeVos has not. In fact, DeVos not only abhors public schools, but she opposes setting standards for charter and private schools to meet. DeVos has been supporting proponents of her education views for years in Michigan. The result is that Michigan not only has more charter and private schools than any other state, but its educational ranking (in comparison to other states) has been steadily slipping, with no end in sight. (For an excellent review of DeVos’ history, see “Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools” by Kate Zernike [news item], The New York Times, November 23, 2016, and for why she would be a disaster for American education, see “Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools” by Douglas N. Harris [opinion piece], The New York Times, November 25, 2016.)

What does this mean for the future of editing? Even though education has been on the decline for years and this decline has been evident in the quality of new-generation editors and editing — as witnessed by the number of people hanging out shingles, proclaiming themselves editors, and then failing to do a quality job — there were rays of hope as colleges began to realize that they are a major part of the problem of education failure and steps have slowly been taken to revamp education curriculum and requirements for a teaching degree and license.

But what little progress has been made is now jeopardized because all of the controls that are exercised over education in public schools are nonexistent in the DeVos education world. DeVos believes that the free market, unfettered by chains of requirements to obtain a teaching license and unfettered by educational goals that part of standards such as the Common Core or national tests, will supply the needed fixes — even though this has been untrue in the 30 years she has pushed such an agenda.

If education further, significantly declines, then editing may be a doomed profession. After all, why would an author want a manuscript edited by someone without the skills necessary to edit her manuscript better than she can edit it herself? Why would publishers pay someone to simply run spellcheck?

This is not to say that our current system is the answer; it definitely has proven itself to not being able to solve the education crisis. The problem is that with DeVos we will swing from one extreme to another extreme, which is problematic when both extremes have conclusively shown that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Do I have a solution? No, I don’t. I do know that for years I have complained about the low standards that have to be met to graduate from a college education program with a teaching degree (I attended such a college in my college days). I know that I have clashed with teachers who should never have been given a teaching license but who were teaching my children in public schools. And I know that the way to fix the problem is not to replace it with another “solution” that is just an exacerbation of the existing problem.

Betsy DeVos should not be confirmed as Secretary of Education because her “solutions” have proven, in Michigan, to be worse than the existing problem. To institute those policies nationally would be to jeopardize America’s future. I encourage you to petition your U.S. Senator to not confirm Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education. Her confirmation would be disastrous for America and for the future of editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 8, 2016

On Politics: Vote! Be Part of the Solution

Filed under: Miscellaneous Opinion,Politics — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

Today is the day to make your voice heard ’round the world again and to preserve the freedom for which our ancestors fought, beginning with the “shot heard ’round the world” — the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the first birthing pang of an independent America:

or for sports fans:

 

and for those who prefer a musical version:

If you do not vote, you are part of the problem.
If you vote Republican, you are part of the problem.

Be part of the solutionVote Democrat!

Richard Adin, An American Editor and Voter!

Here is a final pre–election-results word on the 2016 election (the Game of Thrones parody is particularly well done):

November 7, 2016

On Politics: November 8, 2016 — Will It Be the Modern-Day Day of Infamy?

Filed under: Miscellaneous Opinion,Politics — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Election day, November 8, 2016, is a day that could live in infamy — if Donald Trump is elected president. It could be the modern-day Pearl Harbor — if Donald Trump is elected president.

November 8, 2016 is the day when we should each think of what is best for our country — and our world — and we should vote for Hillary Clinton for president. We should look at the total package being offered by each candidate, not just a single issue, and what effect that total package could have on our lives, the lives of our family and the families living in our community, and on our world — and we should cast our vote for Hillary Clinton for president.

But most important of all, we must vote. The right to vote was a right hard fought for — women could not vote until 1920; Black Americans could not freely vote until 1964 and some states still try to limit minority voting. Even white Americans were not free to vote in many states for decades after the founding of the United States — restrictions included poll taxes, an ability to read and write, land ownership, and myriad other ploys to restrict who could cast a ballot. It was not until after our Civil War that laws restricting voting began to crumble, and today there is an effort to resurrect some of those obstacles through voter identification laws.

Our right to vote as a free people is our most precious right
because it is the right that ensures we remain free.

When we do not vote, we leave it to others to decide our fate. If we do not vote, we leave it to chance that voters will not elect someone as ill-equipped, as ignorant, and as regressive as Donald Trump. Our freedom, America’s freedom, the freedom that draws the world to America’s shores, should not be left to chance — be responsible and vote for your future, your family’s future, and friends’ futures, your neighbors’ futures, your country’s future, your world’s future:

vote Democrat on November 8, 2016.

Make Your Voice Heard
Vote against racism, sexism, and hatred
Vote for America and America’s future.
Vote Democrat!

Richard Adin, An American Editor and Voter!

 

October 2, 2016

On Politics: Did You Pay Your Quarterly Estimated Taxes?

Filed under: Breaking News,Politics — americaneditor @ 4:25 am
Tags: , ,

Taxes were due for the third quarter a few weeks ago. I know because my accountant sent me the bad news. Like most Americans, I grumble about paying my taxes — which seems to be a never-ending chore — and I have never had a year when I owed zero.

Yet I see that there is hope for me. Hope that not only will I be able to avoid paying taxes for 20 years, but that I will be able to live a life of luxury while doing so. Even better, I will be able to look upon my colleagues and think about how smart I am to not pay taxes while living a life of plenty — all because you will pick up my share of the tax burden.

How do I do this? Easy. I just need to lose $916 million — just like Donald Trump:

Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal
He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades

The New York Times, October 1, 2016

What more does The Donald need to do to demonstrate he should be elected president? Even Hillary wasn’t smart enough to lose $916 million and pay no taxes.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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