Blogroll With Most Recent Post in WordPress

WordPressThere is this thing on other blogs that I really like. If you go over to Ramona’s Voices, for example, you will see a list of blogs on the sidebar. But it isn’t just a list of the blogs, it also includes the most recent article that has been published at the site. This is very cool — especially for blogs like Frankly Curious that generate a lot of content. I’ve found that I get a lot more clicks from websites that list my most recent article than those that just list the website. And I’ve wanted to return the favor.

But when Frankly Curious was running on Nucleus, there was nothing around to allow me to do that. Almost everything I did that was special on Nucleus was hand coded by me. That was one of the exciting things about moving over to WordPress. But once here, I found that there was no easy way to do what I wanted. There is an RSS widget, but it is more for creating a whole section. Like over there on the right, you will see the “Category” section that lists the 17 categories that we use here. So I could great a “Ramona’s Voices” section and list the last five to ten articles. But I couldn’t create a section with all my blog friends and their most recent articles. At least not directly.

I searched online for ways to do what I wanted. And there were lots of articles. But they all depended upon widgets that WordPress no longer includes. It still amazes me that I never found what I was looking for, because clearly this is something that a lot of people would want to do. Well, after installing any number of plugins, I decided that I would have to do it on my own. Or not at all, because it wasn’t that important to me. But it turned out, it wasn’t all that difficult.

Individual Items

When an RSS widget is created, it is displayed as a list item (li tag) with the class “widget_rss.” So I starting mucking about with it. The main title — things like “Search” and “Calendar” and “Recent Posts” — are displayed with h3 tags. So that was the first thing I changed. I didn’t want hulking big letters with white on green. I also didn’t want the text too far separated from that above and below. So I changed it to what you will now see under “Friends”:

li.widget_rss h3 {
background: #ddd;
padding-bottom: 0px;
margin-bottom: 0px;
padding-top: 0px;
margin-top: 0px;

Another problem was that this header included an RSS image, so I got rid of it:

li.widget_rss img {
width: 0px;
height: 0px;
visibility: hidden;

And finally, I had to make the header link the right color and size. I’m not sure if I quite like this, but it works well enough:

li.widget_rss h3 a {
color: #333;
font-size: 12px;

The RSS feed itself is put in yet another list item — this is because you can put multiple articles under it. But I didn’t want any bullets. And again, I wanted to reduce the spacing between items:

li.widget_rss ul {
list-style-type: none;
padding-top: 0px;
margin-top: 0px;
li.widget_rss li {
padding-top: 0px;
margin-top: 0px;

The Header

Of course, in doing all this, I had no header. Thus, I had to add a fake header. For this, I just added a Widget Custom Menu with a menu that was empty. And what you get is the “Friends” section there on the right. Like most things, it isn’t too complicated after you know how to do it. There really ought to be some simple way to do it, and maybe there is. But I didn’t find it. So I figured that I would post my solution in case anyone else out there is trying to do the same.

Yes, Hillary Clinton Is Likely the Next President

Hillary ClintonJonathan Chait wrote a really interesting article yesterday, Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election. He goes after six arguments that people make for why Clinton is not a strong candidate. I think it is kind of interesting that we are even discussing such matters. The truth is that the people claiming that Clinton is a weak candidate are almost exclusively Republicans. They aren’t exactly the most objective sources of information. It reminds me of Brer Rabbit, “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” In this case it is, “You’re making a big mistake running Hillary Clinton against us!” Yeah, right. I think we are a bit smarter than Brer Fox.

The one point I want to discuss is Chait’s fifth, “Is it time for a change?” This is the idea that the electorate gets tired of having the same party in power. I’ve never found this to be a very compelling argument. For one thing, FDR won four terms in office. But let’s just look at recent history. George Bush managed to win a third straight term for the Republicans in 1988. And then, right after that, Al Gore won a third straight term for the Democrats in 2000. (The fact that the Supreme Court decided the election doesn’t change the fact of which party the people voted for.) So the last three times there has been a chance for three consecutive terms for the same party, it happened twice.

What’s more, people are pretty predictable in their voting. I have a hard time thinking that people are really going to be swayed by which party has been in the White House for the previous eight years. And that’s especially true when you consider that Constitutionally, that third term will have to be held by someone new. So people may be tired of Barack Obama (I know I am), but they won’t be voting for Barack Obama.

In his article, Chait pointed out the one thing that would kill a Clinton candidacy, “Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election.” And that is about it. In fact, if we look back at the candidacy of Al Gore, we learn something interesting. The unemployment rate was flat. In fact, from April to August, it was going up. The fact that Gore won that election is an indication Democrats really do have an edge in presidential elections. Yet Gore won that election 291-246 — not a bad margin — roughly the margin Carter beat Ford with.

So I’m with Chait: the 2016 election is not even at this point. It is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. And about the only way that she does lose is if the economy tanks. And that isn’t a question of tanking at any time. We could go into recession now, and as long as we were coming out of it by this time next year, she would be fine. Of course, that doesn’t make me feel good, because anything could happen in that time frame.

Will sent me the current odds on different candidates. Clinton’s were by far the best: 13/10. And the odds of the Democrats keeping the White House are -200 and the odds of the Republicans taking it are +160. If I understand odds correctly (and it has been a long time), that means you would have to risk $200 on the Democrats to win $100; and you would have to risk $100 on the Republicans to win $160. In other words, the gambling community is about correct on the state of the race right now. Hillary Clinton is sitting in a very good place.

Another Senseless Systemic Police Killing

Robert Charles BatesAn unarmed black man was shot and killed by the police. I guess I could write that as an opening for an article every day. This one occurred on 2 April when 73 year old “reserve deputy” Robert Charles Bates mistook his gun for his taser and killed 44 year old Eric Harris. Bates is a rich insurance executive who apparently gets to ride around with the real officers just like a kid from the Make a Wish Foundation. It’s not my intention to be mean, but it seems to me that Bates could spend his twilight years doing something more appropriate and positive than playing cops and robbers.

I don’t doubt that Bates did sincerely mistake his gun for his taser. But I know from my own life that as I’ve gotten older, these are precisely the kinds of errors that I increasingly make. So maybe having a 73-year old who is, after all not a professional, carrying a loaded death cannon is not the smartest thing in world. Of course, these mix-ups happen all the time with professional officers. They are doubtless the result of high anxiety situations. People don’t make the best decisions when under pressure and I think that law enforcement officers should be given more training with regard to this. Drawing a gun means there is a high likelihood of death. Roughly the same thing can be said about drawing a taser.

More important in this situation is why Bates felt the need to use his taser anyway. As you can see in the video, Harris was fleeing from the police. They caught him and tackled him. He was on the ground with various officers on top of him. They were, as usual, spewing out profanities as fast as they could because apparently that is what they learn at professional crime fighting school. (That, or they are just a bunch of thugs in uniform.) It was in this context that Bates saved the day by attempting to tase Harris.

Once he realized what he had done, Bates said, “I shot him; I’m sorry.” Harris complained, saying, “Oh man, he shot me!” One of the officers responded by showing his humanity, yelling, “You fucking ran! Shut the fuck up!” At that point, the video cuts out. According to the officials, it was not turned off by the officer, but I seriously doubt that. There is just way too much of this sort of thing. Police officers know that if there is no video, judges and juries will believe whatever they say.

Later, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Major Shannon Clark claimed that the officers did not hear the gun shot and so didn’t know that Harris had been shot. This is why they acted so abominably toward Harris. This absolutely can’t be the case. Guns are extremely loud and this one went off just a couple of feet from them. What’s more, I’m pretty sure I see blood on Harris’ shirt. I’m sure that they were pumped up on adrenaline and had all their attention focused on the “bad guy” who they probably would have summarily executed if they had been able to get away with it.

Yesterday, German Lopez reported, Tulsa Reserve Deputy Charged With Manslaughter for Shooting Eric Harris. I doubt very seriously that he will be convicted. For on thing, he is nominally a police officer. In that regard, it is shocking that he was even charged. For another thing, he’s rich. So he will get the best representation available. And finally, there will be an endless line of officers who will testify in court that he’s a great guy. What? You gonna destroy his life for one little mistake? On the other side of things, they will vilify Harris. In The Los Angeles Times article on the shooting, a whole paragraph was spent painting a picture of Harris as only slightly less terrible than Al Capone.

To me, none of it matters. The problem is not Bates. The problem is our policing. As it was, I don’t see the need for the big chase. But police officers love these kinds of adrenaline fueled confrontations. This is why we now have SWAT teams used for regulatory inspections. And none of this is going to change just because some doddering old fool who likes to play cops and robbers gets charged with manslaughter.


For the record, I don’t think that Robert Charles Bates ought to be convicted of this crime. The problem is systemic. I don’t doubt for a moment that this was an honest error and that Bates feels terrible about it. Our society has a habit of using the punishment of people like Bates as a way of not dealing with the larger problems that are literally killing us.

Morning Music: Jimi Hendrix

Electric Ladyland - Jimi HendrixThis morning we listen to the Jimi Hendrix version of “All Along The Watchtower.” It is a Bob Dylan song, of course — during that period where Dylan just couldn’t seem to do anything wrong. Clearly, the song relates to Isaiah 21:5-9. But more broadly, it is about a group of people waiting for some kind of attack or catastrophe. And because of that, some find it curious that the song ends just as “it” starts to happen.

To me, it seems like the siege of Troy. The people just wait around anticipating the inevitable. And there are two ways to approach that: look for an escape or accept death. Interestingly, it is the joker who looks for escape and the thief who is accepting.

Hendrix’s version of it is rightly considered the best. It contains the very best of his guitar work.

Anniversary Post: Pennsylvania Abolition Society

Am I Not a Man and a BrotherOn this day in 1775, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was formed. It’s interesting. The United States, from its very beginning was such a schizophrenic nation. The south really had no problem with being subservient to the British crown. The reason they were for independence was because they saw that very soon, Britain was going to make slavery illegal. So despite what you saw in 1776, slavery was not a side issue in the founding of the country; it is absolutely integral to it.

Mostly those in the north didn’t care. But some did. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society was founded primarily by Quakers. But one of the founding members was the one founder of this country who stands far above all the others: Thomas Paine. But on that issue as on most issues today, Paine was ahead of the curve. I never really accept the claims from conservatives that of course slavery is wrong. These same conservatives claim that the Bible is the literal word of God. And the Bible is downright giddy on the subject of slavery. And remember: it’s okay to beat your slaves, but not so badly that they die within three days. Have some humanity!

But the best recent example of how conservatives are in favor of slavery is Cliven “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro” Bundy. Remember what that one more thing was? It was that African Americans were better off under slavery because at least they learned a trade: cotton picking! That was much better than the fever dream of Bundy where African Americans are all enslaved by welfare checks. I assume he has about as much experience with African Americans as I do Basque separatists. But never mind.

Happy anniversary Pennsylvania Abolition Society!