2/28/2018

Facebook Isn’t Democracy

Let’s face it, Facebook is one of the many fake news sources the Russians exploited to wreak the 2016 election. You have to be a special kind of sucker by now to imagine that Trump voters weren’t played on social media, through the right wing “press,” and among themselves. They were conned. I’ve always said one of the beauties of being a pseudo-conservative is “never having to say you are sorry,” or admit you were wrong, foolish, or corrupt. There is, literally, no risk in getting absolutely everything wrong, as long as you are coming from the right wing.

The last time I cancelled my Facebook account was in early 2012 when Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s four founders, renounced his American citizenship to avoid taxes. (He claimed it was for other reasons, but he managed to save himself income taxes on at least $3.5B in 2012.)  I realized my use of Facebook was tying into the company’s privacy invasion policies and I was beginning to see way too many advertisments linked between my Google searches and Amazon purchases and Facebook. I cancelled my Facebook account and didn’t look back for about two years. There is no reason why I would ever want to help make someone like Saverin rich(er).

Three things happened that brought me back: 1) I retired and Facebook seemed like a good way to stay in touch with my MSCM students and work friends and 2) we moved to Red Wing and the chances that I’d be seeing many of those friends in person was slim-to-far-less-than-I-expected and 3) moving to Red Wing allowed me to sever my business with Comcast and the 1990’s quality service we recevied from that awful company, but my free websites died with that move. My only reason for rejoining Facebook was to promote my three blogs/websites: wirebenderaudio.blogspot.com/, theratseyeblog.blogspot.com/,  and geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/. I hadn’t intended to get tangled up in politics, hyping my home and musical woodworking projects, and reading everyone else’s stuff. But I did.

My routine began to be predictable: up in the morning, cobble some breakfast, read the on-line news, read the local paper, check my email, check Facebook, and, eventually, try to do some writing before Elvy got up and started her day. That isn’t the routine I want. I’m 70 and I don’t have many more years to do something productive with my time. My ideal routine would be: get up, fire up some coffee, take a shower, do a 30 minute yoga routine, eat breakfast while I look at the news, write for an hour or so, then do the low value stuff. That’s the routine I want and there isn’t anything about Facebook that adds value to my day.

I would absolutely like to stay in contact with all of the people I connected to on Facebook. I read my email at least twice in a normal day. Better yet, drop in and spend a day drinking my beer and whiskey. My FB policy was “never ‘friend’ anyone you don’t think of as a friend.” I’m leaving Facebook because I am disgusted at this company’s participation in the wreaking of our fragile and barely-breathing democracy. And because I’d rather live in the real world than the virtual one.

From the Mouths of the Next Generation

The survivors of the Parkland High School shooting are being threatened for their gun violence protests by the NRA’s supporters. That shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise. The NRA is a terrorist organization that supports fascist “militias,” has members of its board of directors who threaten to assassinate the President, and actively works to destabilize the country and our democracy. At the core, the NRA is just being consistent to its mission to sell guns to every nutcase who wants one. There is nothing about being an NRA member or a gun owner that indicates a citizen might be loyal to the country or the constitution or even a reasonably decent neighbor. The opposite mostly appears to be the case. The organization is primarily supported by massive “contributions” from gun nuts and their shills from the weapons industry.

28167103_10155277415441931_5263334924200012105_nThe fact that the current drive to shut down the country’s murder industry has come from kids seems to be upsetting some people. They are surprised when teenagers have opinions and that those opinions are not being ignored by the public. There is a long history of young people, students opposing fascism and paying the ultimate price for that fight throughout human history. In the United States, four college students were shot down in cold blood by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970 at Kent State protesting the illegal and grossly immoral war in Vietnam. Sophie Scholl was one of several students, including her brother Hans, who were executed for protesting the Nazi war machine and atrocities. Of course, none of those sacrifices did much toward ending the wars they opposed. The Vietnam invasion went on for another three years after the Kent State students were murdered. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were murdered for a “cause” Americans can still not define. Nazi Germany rampaged on with its vicious genocide and war against humanity until the Allies and Russia crushed that nation into submission. Small comfort to Scholl, but in 2003 a German magazine for women voted Scholl "the greatest woman of the twentieth century." If the NRA’s American Nazis act on their threats and kill some of the Florida high school student protestors, it will just be one more sacrifice of the young for the privledge of the old and evil.

The whole scene reminds me of a moment during one of the Faculty Meetings I suffered about a decade ago. The presenter, Stuart Anderson, was talking about “revealing revolutionary learning opportunities” in the classroom and described a scenario where “a young person creates a new form of music that revolutionizes where we go from here.” Immediately, one of the music department instructors raised his hand and said, “I’d be afraid of any new music that came from a young person” (or something close to that). Of course, all new music comes from young people. Often, really young people. I can’t remember any substantial pop culture invention that came from artists over 30. Not one. I do, however, remember lots of those inventions in my lifetime that terrified people over 30. Lucky for us, the future always belongs to the young and if they are committed, dedicated, and fearless maybe they will create a future that doesn’t include a bi-monthly school shooting.

2/22/2018

Grandma Is An Idiot

Most of the Trump supporters and voters were old white people. More than  a few of them are totally dependent on federal support for their income. But they hate “government” because Fox News and Breitbart and a gaggle of hate radio dimbulbs have told them government is their problem. If only government would get out of the way, those multi-national corporations would be creating high paid jobs by the barrell-full. Right. The government is keeping Santa Claus from cramming the living room with presents every December, too.

russiantrollbotI don’t think anyone has ever accused old white people of being any sort of brain trust, but these days their gullibility and incompetence is setting new standards in stupidity. The nitwit CNN interviewed in this program about Americans who worked for the Russian troll machine was pretty typical. The program was kind enough to call her and the other Russian surrogates “unwitting,” but that is a kind way to say “wittless.” (About 4 minutes into this video, you can listen to this idiot chitter like a poorly trained monkey.) The people at the Trump rallies were so over-the-top emotional that their already damaged brains were totally switched off. Since the 70’s, they’d been trained to automatically respond to Republican dog whistles and when Trump fired up an orchestra of whistlers they were sitting, begging, barking, rolling over, and lying down on command. When the Russian trolls discovered how easy it was to manipulate these dumbasses, they must have imagined themselves to be the rulers of the world.

The lesson younger people should be taking from the 2016 election is that you can’t listen to much of anything old people say. People get old, they get stupid, they become timid/conservative, and they fear change the most of all. The problem is, change is going to happen regardless of how afraid of it you may be. The more you resist it, the more unprepared you are going to be. But it’s still going to happen.

2/19/2018

Why We’re Nervous

Someone recently posted a like to a Politico.com article about our Wisconsin neighbors across the river, “The Wall That Trump Actually Built.” What followed was a lot of the usual mindless right wing drivel about liberal snowflakes and “why can’t we all get along with our fascist neighbors” sort of silly shit. Apparently, the wingnuts are confused about why “liberals” (Rove-code for “smart people”) are nervous about what Trump and the Trumpanzees say about the state of our nation.

I get why they are confused. These are the same people who were pissed off that a black man, who they desperately wanted to pretend wasn’t even a US citizen, bailed out the nation from the likely economic implosion that their favorite collections of privileged white nitwits had created. Here’s what we’re concerned about, in case you redneck fruitcakes ever come to your senses:

White people in this country have a special history of violent, decadent, racist, greedy, and amoral behavior and you have elected a man who epitomizes all of those negative characteristics. Don’t believe that? Read a history book; start with The Making of Donald Trump. From the first moments European rejects showed up on the shores of the New World, their behavior has been consistently mean and vicious. Euro-Americans institutionalized slavery to the point of documenting it in the freakin’ constitution. Remember the 3/5ths of a human bullshit? Remember a war fought to protect the assholes who profited from the sale of human beings? Of course you don’t, you don’t read and get your delusional information from actual “fake news.”

Another piece of this puzzle is that we’re confused about how you’ve managed to convince youself that electing a Russian ogliarch is an act of patriotism. All the evidence is out there for you to see, but you’d have to pull your eyes away from Fox and Friends and Breitbart and the other wingnut media to learn what the rest of us have known about Trump and the scumbags he’s drug into the swamp he’s creating. You don’t care, now. You are all wrapped up in the delusion behind your MAGA/swastika hats and the wild hope that Trump can turn back the clock and restore American dominance and world power, high paid-low skill jobs that are lost forever, and that kind of “respect” white people used to command from their slaves, servants, and peons. You’re so caught up in the con artist’s promises of lost power and glory you can’t even talk yourselves into looking at Trump’s past history of failed enterprise, broken promises, and even the constant lies in the face of not only facts but recent recordings of his own statements. If you can fool yourselves that easily and completely, the rest of us are seriously doubting your sanity and we’ve never had much faith in your intelligence.

Finally, you appear to be willing to let this country not only degenerate into a third world dictatorship, but you’re willing to condemn our children to life on a dying planet and you’re even willing to risk their safety and economic future for a few years of pretending you and your shallow “values” matter. You wonder why we are putting distance between you and your ilk and our families. We don’t trust you not to take the first Gestapo job Trump offers. We wouldn’t be surprised if you are itching to fire up the gas chambers and build your own personal concentration camps. We’re backing off in case we need the time and space to protect ourselves and our families from your radical, deluded, fascist inclinations. And protect ourselves and our families we will.

2/01/2018

Gun Fallacies


About 15 years ago, a friend (David) made the dumbest possible decision to use a gun to defend himself from a pair of stupid young men late one evening after a gig in a small Idaho town. He didn’t manage to kill anyone or even seriously injure them, but he did shoot two unarmed men and, in a panic, ran away and tried to hide the evidence. In every simulated and real scenario I have ever seen, ordinary people demonstrate no good reason to possess a gun during an emergency. People kill their kids, kids kill other kids, cops shoot unarmed victims or innocent bystanders, and people shoot themselves accidentally or on purpose. But the whole "good guy with a gun comes to save the world" bullshit is just that; bullshit. I just finished reading A Massacre in Memphis, The Race Riot thatShook the Nation One Year After the Civil War.  A couple of the scenes in that story reminded me of David’s experience with a gun.

The first incident in A Massacre in Memphis that is a classic example of dumb shits with guns demonstrating how criminally easy it is for a pack of idiots with guns to do everything except what they planned with their little toy pistols. The scene is--after a day of white and black idiots waving sticks, throwing rocks, and shooting guns in the general direction of their oppressors or the people they've decided are the reason nobody wants to hire drunken, lazy Irishmen--a group of black men decided to chase a group of white cops out of their neighborhood. Most of the black citizens in this encounter were recently discharged “Buffalo Soldiers” who were well-trained and experienced soldiers, supposedly competent with weapons and with being under fire. Like most modern cops, the white (mostly Irish) cops were more skilled at close-up brutality than being in a gun fight and they not only couldn’t hit a barn door at ten feet, although the only one who did hit something shot himself. Not an unusual story today. 

“To this point no weapon more dangerous than a stick or rock has been displayed. But now a pistol shot rings out. One of the more distant black men, intending no doubt to scare the police men and speed them along on their retreat, has pulled out a revolver and fired into the air. A few others follow his example. The policemen, thinking they are being shot at, halt on the bride and turn. Three of them reach for their revolvers. Two of them draw, level their weapons at the crowd and open fire. The black me who are shooting into the air immediate lower their guns and fire at the policemen. Within moments, twenty or more black men are firing.

“One of the officers, thirty-two-year-old John Stevens, falls. A should goes up from the crowd, “He is shot.” He has in fact been shot, but not by any of the blacks. In his panicky attempts to draw his weapon and return fire, he has pulled the trigger prematurely, putting a bullet into his own leg. It is a bad would: the bullet goes deep and shatters his right thighbone. All who see him go down assume he has been hit by gunfire from the blacks.

“The fusillade is quickly over. The firing has all been hasty and inaccurate. Dozens of rounds have been discharged, but no black person and no policeman but Stevens has been hit.”

In this episode of "Gun Dummies," the two cops who opened fire and started the shootout at the bridge ran away, leaving their wounded officer and the one sane cop who hadn’t panicked to face the black soldiers on their own. That cop and several of the black protesters helped get Stevens to a doctor and, then, to a hospital. The two panicky cops ran back to the police station, exaggerated what had happened and prettied up the fable of their own participation, and helped start a Memphis riot and race war. More of that kind of gun-owner behavior continues throughout the story, but another favorite moment of mine was when black non-participants in the fight were trying to flee the city and escape the white mob.

“Many of the blacks being shot at are fleeing down Rayburn or across the eastern branch of the bayou. Pendergrast sees one who appears to be lagging behind the rest: the man is running down Rayburn just twenty feet ahead of the (white) mob. Pendergrast can see only his back. He takes aim at him with one pistol and fires. The man pitches forward and sprawls facedown on the street. Pendergrast goes up to him and turns him over on his back. To the grocer’s astonishment he sees that his victim is white. ‘God damn it,’ he exclaims. ‘I am sorry I shot this man. I thought he was a God damn yellow nigger.’

“The man is fireman Henry Dunn, who in his eagerness to wreak vengeance on blacks raced ahead of the rest of the mob. He is alive but unconscious, and obviously cannot live long. Pendergrast’s bullet has entered the back of his head, plowed through his brain, penetrated the skull on the other side, and lodged under the skin of his forehead.

Pendergrast now seeks atonement for his error by claiming a black victim. Leaving Dunn, he goes down to the bayou and spots a short young man in an army uniform who is trying to get away. The man is Lewis Robinson, a former corporal in the 3rd. He is too far off to get a good shot at but is within shouting distance. Pendergrast calls to him, telling him to come back, that he will not be harmed. Robinson takes Pendergrast at his word. He halts, then begins making his way back toward the grocer. When he is close enough, Pendergrast raises a pistol and fires into his face. The bullet hits Robinson in the jaw. A policeman nearby also fires, hitting Robinson in the side.”

American history is littered with the wreckage of lives, families, and communities destroyed by the fable of the "gun that won the West." The west was "won' and became a semi-livable place when communities decided they'd had enough of the mindless fallacy of "good guys with guns." When law officers began to disarm the usual idiots who are inclined to carry weapons everywhere they go and when communities and states decided to disarm the usual suspects, the country finally began to achieve some sort of stability and security. Like most lessons in history, we seem to have forgotten that lesson and the NRA/Russian propaganda is doing everything it can to prevent a rational discussion about the problems a "well armed" society creates for itself. In fact, we have repeatedly disproved Bob Heinlein's drunken claim that "a well armed society is a polite society." It was dumb when he said it and it's even dumber to keep thinking it.