How to Disable Remote Content in Junk Mail Folders in the MacOS Mail App

I just spent a whole afternoon trying to figure out how to get the stock MacOS Mail app to show images automatically except in the Junk folder(s). I finally got it, so I’m sharing my results for anyone else who would benefit from this.

Note: this solution depends on the app Keyboard Maestro, which I use heavily in my daily workflow.

The Mail Preferences pane (under “Viewing”) gives the option to “Load remote content in messages” or not, regardless of the folder. (By default, it hides remote content, including images, in mail the app itself considers junk, but that is pretty limiting and will not play nicely with any external spam filtering.)

There did not appear to be any built in AppleScript support for changing this option without interacting with the preferences pane, but it turns out there is; it’s just not officially documented. The option is called download html attachments in AppleScript. So, all you need is a couple of if actions to figure out whether to toggle the setting and a few lines of AppleScript to toggle it when necessary.

Here’s my macro:

Note: one piece of this got cut off, namely the text in the second if condition. The text that got cut off is:

^(General|Accounts|Junk Mail|Fonts & Colors|Viewing|Composing|Signatures|Rules)$

This prevents the setting from changing just because you have the Preferences open.

I hope this helps somebody else! Feedback is welcome.

Election 2020: Mea Culpa and Taking out the Trash

After every presidential election since the first one in which I got to vote, I have posted some thoughts on this blog or in various other places on the ‘net. You can read the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 posts on this site; the 2000 post and a longer 2004 post have apparently been lost to the mists of time. This is my 2020 wrap-up.


As has become my tradition, I’m popping back on here to write up a few thoughts on the election. Only, this year, it’s going to be very different.

I won’t be talking about how I voted. I won’t be talking about how I feel about the outcome, except to say that, as I write this, it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected to the offices of President and Vice President, respectively. I have yet to see or hear of any shred of anything resembling evidence to the contrary, despite the many wild claims, slanderous allegations, and conspiracy theories being thrown about. Counting votes cast before an election ends is not “stealing” anything or “cheating,” even if some of the counting happens after the voting stops (as it literally always does). A shift, during the counting, in the balance of votes between a candidate who discouraged early voting and one who encouraged it is evidence of nothing except that actions have consequences; it hardly indicates fraud or other misbehavior.

I also won’t be talking about how I feel about the winning ticket or their policies or about how I feel about the losing ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence or their policies. If you know me offline, you may already know my thoughts on those topics, but I’m not going to post them publicly for many reasons.

What I do want to talk about, briefly, is the incredible division in the United States right now. This can’t continue, because a country can’t continue when it has been this destabilized, unless it reverses course quickly and enthusiastically. It has been incredibly hard to watch the rise of completely irrational conspiracy theories, slander of various kinds, and extremism. That’s not to mention the many false, theologically unsound, and completely unreasoned statements I’ve seen along the lines of, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Trump,” “You can’t be a Christian and not vote for Trump,” “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Biden,” or, “You can’t be a Christian and not vote for Biden.” You’re probably sick of all of this, too—at least, I hope you are—so I’m not going to rehash everything so many good thinkers and writers have said about how divided we are, how gross many of the divisions are, how we got here, or how to make it better, if that’s even possible.

I am going to say this: I’m sorry for my role in getting us here. I have tried, especially over the last decade, to maintain a very even, respectful, fair, and civil tone on here. To my shame, that was not always true. I wrote some very divisive, unkind, poorly supported things in some earlier years, especially in my 20s, even as I prided myself on steering clear of the worst conspiracy theories and forms of misinformation. But my hands were not clean. Not even close.

Part of the problem is that I listened to some of the wrong people to get my facts. Especially in my early 20s, I took some people seriously who did not deserve then—and, frankly, deserve even less in 2020—to be taken seriously. I might tell myself, “This blogger puts out a lot of great stuff and is a great aggregator of news, even if some of her views are over the top,” or, “These people have a professional reputation outside of politics to uphold, so their report of these [alleged] facts is surely at least basically honest.” That, alas, is not a very good way to think about the internet, talk radio, television, or life in general.

Over time, especially over the last couple of years, I have removed a large number of old posts from this site. Most of them were political in nature. In many cases, they no longer represent my views on this or that topic or simply stated my views in a way I would not stand by today. Many dated from the early 2000s, when this blog (like many others) served much the same role Twitter or Instagram might now: the post might be no more than a link or image, and many of those links or images went offline long ago. In some cases, I don’t even know what the post was about or what the link pointed to.

In short, in twenty years, this blog accumulated a lot of clutter and debris that has become either useless or harmful, with no value even for archival purposes. I don’t want to leave even a link up in some cases because I do not want to drive even one more visitor to certain sites or one more listener to certain voices. So, I’ve taken down a lot of junk and cleaned up my blog, and I have revised a few posts here and there to correct inaccurate statements or remove broken links or links to unreliable information. That process is by no means done; I’m still taking out the trash as I find it.

All that said, I do owe some people apologies. Most notably, I think I owe an apology to former Secretary of State John Kerry. While I never said anything about him that I knew to be false, I disseminated some links and statements in connection with the 2004 election that I no longer believe were accurate or fair. And I apologize to everyone for the role I have played over the years in boosting bad ideas and dishonest actors and in thus helping to bring about some of the divisions we see in the United States today. I am sorry. I am working—on here and on my social media accounts—to consistently, honestly, carefully disseminate only the truth and fair analysis. As a Christian, I am absolutely committed to truth, love for my neighbor, and grace, and that extends to how I conduct myself online. Alas, living well, online or off, is a learning process, and I haven’t always gotten it right. I am sorry.

Back to this election: good grief. I can’t discuss here the entire history of the breakdown in our society that has led to alternate realities in which some people can be absolutely certain of an observable, verifiable, fact, and others absolutely certain of the opposite “fact.” But I do know that each presidential election from 2000 to the present has featured more and more conspiracy theories, slander, character assassination, and general dishonesty. Now would be a good time, if it’s not too late, for us all to commit to dealing honestly and fairly with those who do not see things the way we do. If we can’t at least reestablish a shared understanding of reality—a more or less shared ontology and epistemology—things look bleak indeed. And if we are to have any hope of that, we must stop lying about each other, declaring people are heretics (or worse) for their political opinions, and choosing to believe the worst about each other.

I don’t put my trust in earthly leaders. (See Psalm 146:3-4.) And I cannot name a single politician or other leader who speaks perfectly for me on every issue or even every issue I consider important. I will no doubt have many disagreements with everyone elected or reelected to any public office this week, as with everyone who has gone before them. But I do commit to—and hope we can all commit to—trying to treat them and everyone else with civility, charity, and respect, no matter how much I may dislike certain opinions.

Here’s hoping the next four years represent a period of healing and repair from the hatred and divisions accumulated over the last four.


Image by Bianca Mentil from Pixabay

Image

I’ve been thinking a lot about events in the news, especially about how indifferent we can become when people who are suffering aren’t just like us.

So, I wrote something and wanted to share it. I haven’t performed any of my own music for any audience other than my kids in almost 20 years, but here goes…

Lyrics:

“Image”
Ed Cottrell
2020

A little dust and the breath of life
And He made us out of clay.
He formed us in His image and
It will never pass away.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
We must all walk down that way.
Yet I talk about all of my “rights,”
I have no time for you today.

My brother’s face and my sister’s hand,
From them both I turn aside.
Like mine but colored differently,
If my eyes they have not lied.
I think the image that matters most
Is the one on your outside.
So I won’t take your pleading hand
Or put death to all my pride.

Oh, God, Your name I profaned again today!
The widow, fatherless, and poor I simply cast away.
Have mercy on me, but don’t ask me, Lord, to change.
This mirror suits me just fine, but Your image I won’t face.

The news today has more numbers,
Stories of the price we’ve paid.
The numbers, they don’t move me, and
The stories, I can’t relate.
Unborn or old, woman, man, or child,
Or a different shade than me:
I think that I get to decide
Who will stand, who bend the knee.

Life’s journey’s full of stepping stones,
On each my foot shall stand.
I don’t glance down, so I won’t see,
Faces crying, “I am a man!”
I don’t fit the description,
So I’ll just go about my day,
Focus on things more comfortable.
Yes, it’s easier that way.

Oh, God, Your name I profaned again today!
The widow, fatherless, and poor I simply cast away.
Have mercy on me, but don’t ask me, Lord, to change.
This mirror suits me just fine, but Your image I won’t face.

Stopped

I have been stopped by the police a number of times in my life. Once, it was because I was actually speeding. Once, I was jaywalking. Once, I made an illegal turn when I was new to town and couldn’t see the “no U-turn” sign in the twilight. Once, it was because somebody didn’t renew the registration or fix a tail light on the car I was driving. A couple of times, to be honest, I did not actually do anything wrong. On one of those occasions, I was legally carrying a concealed firearm on my person at the time and told the officer as much as required by law in that jurisdiction. In not one of those encounters did I ever feel like my life was in danger. I was never asked to step out of the car, never forced onto the hood or to the ground, never put in cuffs, never put into a squad car, never taken to the station. I got a ticket or maybe a warning and went on my way. Obviously, I always made it home safely.

I know and care about far too many people, though, for whom every one of those incidents would have been understandably terrifying. People who drive by the book but have been stopped far more often than I. They were stopped for entering a college campus where some officer thought they didn’t belong or for leaving it, for being in too nice a car, for being in too ugly a car, for dressing too well, for dressing too casually, for driving too slow, for driving too fast, but really, if we’re honest, for “driving while black.” And in many of those incidents, it was far from clear that all would end well. After all, so many such incidents don’t.

There are many good things about the history of the United States of America, things we should celebrate. How this country has treated and thought about people who are not “white,” however, is not one of those good things. That has always been and remains to this day a story of horrific evil, with shockingly few moments of partial redemption.

You say we have made progress? That’s true, but from what starting point? You say we have to “move on” or “give it a rest?” I doubt very much that you would feel the same if you, your parents, or your children regularly felt fear for their lives and freedom based solely on skin color. No, it’s not the 1760s, 1860s, or 1960s. That’s not the point. The point is that injustice still abounds. If you overlook injustice on the grounds that “things used to be worse,” all you’re really saying is that a particular level of injustice is okay by you.

I can’t always speak to current events. Being an attorney (or at least, trying to be an ethical one) means that I have to be very careful what I say, especially about particular cases. But I can say this.

It’s never necessary for four able-bodied men to choke to death a man who is laying on the ground in handcuffs.

It’s never reasonable for anyone, including the police, to deploy deadly force just to respond to an alleged forgery in progress or an alleged instance of public intoxication.

There really are differences in how people are treated by law enforcement and the justice system based on skin color. There just are. There are countless men and women of all races who serve honorably in law enforcement and in our entire legal system. Yet the fact remains that it is much safer for me to encounter law enforcement than it would be if I simply had a different color skin. Why is that?

We all need to speak up.

We all need to care.

Those of us who haven’t been on the receiving end of injustice all need to start listening. You may not agree with literally everything another person says, but if you actually care you will listen.

And then, if you really care, you will do something.

God, have mercy on us.

#GeorgeFloyd

Blindly Trusting the Untrustworthy

We have a weird desire to justify and validate information we hear. This is especially true if the information comes from someone we trust or feel like we should trust. We try to find ways to believe even absurd information if it comes from any kind of authority.

One of the wildest examples I’ve encountered involved a newspaper overseas. The paper reported that a young woman was attacked by a male intruder and died. The paper, however, didn’t attribute her death to the attacker. Instead, the paper claimed that the fright of the attack caused this previously-healthy, young lady to develop a spontaneous cancer of the blood, which immediately overwhelmed her system and proved fatal in a matter of seconds. So, you see, it wasn’t the upstanding young attacker—who insisted he did nothing wrong and was playing some sort of joke—or the victim’s physical injuries that killed her. It was the victim’s fault for having a bad reaction to being attacked.

This is patently insane, not to mention incredibly misogynistic. But in the many times I’ve told this story, about 40% of people who hear it try to find some way to argue that the newspaper account must have been basically accurate. They invent new cancers off the tops of their heads, argue that the attacker is presumed innocent until proven guilty (which isn’t even true of the legal system where this happened, by the way), or, in the very worst cases, argue that the newspaper must be right somehow: it must be the victim’s fault that she died. This is both stupid and evil, yet people keep arguing it to me.

We want so desperately to believe that those with power or a platform are good, honest, and acting with the public’s best interests at heart. Sometimes, they are! But sometimes, they aren’t. Each of us has to learn to see the difference.