Got my ballot

Got my ballot gonna mail it in
Or drop it off because I can
Because I'm free and it's my right
And duty to put up a fight
When fools and bigots try to run
This, my country, with their guns
And lies and hate and broken laws
But truth and justice is our cause.

Read more Raw verse.

Read a book – free on me!

I’m like a lot of people who have some extra time on their hands these days. Instead of taking the bus to work and back, I walk downstairs to work remotely and walk back up later. With all that commute time saved, I’ve been poking around and moping around here at The Smith Compound.

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Today after work I Zoomed a friend to wish him happy birthday and catch up a little over a remote beer. His birthday was yesterday and a surprise party got canceled, like almost everything else. We adjust.

Anyhow, while I was poking (and moping) around earlier, I came across some free ebooks that I’ve been meaning to offer to whoever is interested. I have giveaway links for four (4) Detective Red Shaw novels, one for each of the next four readers who join my mailing list.

Which reminds me I haven’t actually sent anything to the fine folks on my list in quite a while. I did promise not to overdo it, but now I’ve got an idea for something that might work.

We shall see.

Read on, my friends, and keep your social distance.

B.J.

What is Des Moines?

Final words about jury duty, a Boulder murder trial and vicarious trauma

My recent summons to jury duty came as I was nearly done writing the manuscript for North of Grand, my second crime novel. Having no idea what was on the docket, I tweeted something to this effect shortly before leaving home for the Boulder County Justice Center:

Reporting for jury duty. Potential fodder for a new crime story?

I deleted it soon after learning about the nature of the case.

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Pixabay image

As it turned out, I wasn’t among the first 44 individuals to be questioned during voir dire, so I expected to be done soon. I was wrong. Several people in that group were excused for various reasons so other names, including mine, were drawn from the pool of dozens of prospective jurors.

One of the prosecutors asked if I thought I’d be a good juror, and why. I said yes. I mentioned that I had a longtime interest in the workings of the justice system, that I’d served on a jury in a criminal trial in the past and had covered police and courthouse beats at times as a reporter.

I also mentioned writing crime fiction, just in case that might be important to anyone. The prosecutor smiled and asked if I would be using the case at hand in a story. Not directly, I said, adding that listening to real courtroom dialog again and seeing how people interact certainly could be useful in some way.

Eventually I found myself one of 16 jurors who were sworn in to serve on the panel. We could only wonder about which four of us were alternates until after the lawyers’ closing arguments. I was among the final 12 tasked with reaching a verdict.

During the three-week trial it was difficult to focus on much of anything else. I fell farther behind where I had hoped to be on my new manuscript. No urgent day-job deadlines loomed but I was able to do a few tasks some evenings and weekends.

It became almost impossible to walk by my suitcase in the basement without seeing things I cannot unsee. A touch on the shoulder or a bit of pain in my hip brought to mind the sight of a reciprocating saw and other cutting tools that were used to dismember the body of young Ashley Mead.

After reading the guilty verdicts in the courtroom and releasing us from jury duty, the judge asked us to meet with her in a conference room. She thanked us, answered a lot of questions, and asked us for feedback about the experience. We learned that there is something called vicarious trauma, and that the county would pay for two counseling sessions for each of us. The judge gave us a list of several professionals who would make time for anyone within 48 hours, and she encouraged everyone to contact one of them soon. I know I wasn’t the only juror to take advantage of the offer.

Now that the trial is over, I’m back to work on my day job, where there is no bailiff to say “all rise” before I enter a room. It’s good to be inconspicuous again.

I am also back working on my new manuscript, the second crime novel featuring Detective Red Shaw. There was no trial in Blood Solutions, and there will be no trial in North of Grand, but it will be a better story for the delay.

I did move my suitcase just a little farther back in the space under the stairs to the basement, recognizing as I did it that hiding it completely would be futile. I do trust that the images it brings to mind will fade with time.

That’s one of the positive things I can think of right now. Another is that the trial is history and I don’t feel compelled to write another word about it.

B.J.

Throwing journalists out of the White House is throwing the people out

The Esquire story about ending the decades-old presence of reporters in the White House will warm the hearts of those who enjoy denigrating “the press.”

the-white-house-1623005_1280It certainly isn’t a surprise that the new administration would consider taking the matter so far. They know that it pays to pander to the minority of voting citizens who helped them win the Electoral College vote. News organizations are an easy target.

The story quotes someone identified as a senior official as calling the press “the opposition party” and saying, “We are taking back the press room.” The new press secretary maintains that the move is about logistics, that having press conferences and briefings elsewhere will enable more “press” to attend. (Coincidentally or not, it would also enable the positioning of more paid staff to cheer and applaud.)

The words and the symbolism are important, so I think we need to clarify some terms.

Journalists (news reporters and editors) play an important role in our society. Unfortunately in some cases, so do the analysts, columnists, commentators, propagandists, and bloviators that some citizens mistake for journalists.

Journalists report on what is going on in the world and help readers and viewers understand what’s going on by providing valuable context. The others may or may not do that.

The former keep an eye on those in power on behalf of the citizens to whom the powerful are accountable. Some of the latter have the best interests of the public in mind; others have their own political or financial interests in mind. Some will lie if necessary or profitable.

Powerful people and others who see it to their advantage throw all of these purveyors of information and or lies* into the nebulous category of “the press,” or the more all-encompassing “the media.”

If moving the “press room” out of the White House makes it more difficult for journalists to do their work, that is cause for concern.

When the incoming administration labels journalists an “opposition party,” it puts itself in direct opposition to the American people and the U.S. Constitution.

It slaps all citizens in the face, whether they feel the sting yet or not.


* Lie: Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation are among the popular euphemisms for this straightforward and easily understood term. See the Merriam-Webster definition of the verb form that means making an untrue statement with intent to deceive.