Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Friday, January 08, 2021

Apophenia

Apophenia is a word I recently learned. It means “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)."

In contrast to an epiphany (a moment of sudden revelation or insight), instances of apophenia do not provide insight into the nature of reality. They also do not create a factual interconnectedness, but instead creates an abnormal meaning that is then considered to be factual or real, even though it is not. 

Instead, what comes from an apophenia is self-referential, solipsistic (the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist, i.e., "this is my opinion and therefore it must be correct"), and paranoid, which would or could include thinking all the news media is out to create harm, that all government officials are evil (unless they're on your side or speaking your language), that people are following you, etc.

In today's world, it would be things like 5G is more than another advancement in technology, it's something sinister (so wear the tinfoil hat), we couldn't possibly have a pandemic without it being some covert operation (even though history is littered with instances of pandemics, the 1918 flu and the Black Plague being but two examples), there can't be a vaccine created so quickly (even though they've been working on vaccines for SARS and related coronaviruses for over a decade now), etc.

The falsehoods spread on social media are great examples of apophenia. It's how people are creating these alternate realities, where up is actually down, where fascism is "democracy," where wearing a mask is taking away rights, where someone can believe that people who went spent four to eight years in college and then went into the media are out to get them by telling untruths, where they really believe that Democrats suck the blood from babies and eat the hearts of their enemies, or whatever that idiotic stuff is that I see float across my Facebook pages from time to time because I haven't managed to unfollow the latest person to swallow the bait.

This word explains a lot about what is going on today. We have a large group of people - less than half of the nation, I suppose, but close enough, who believe certain things. These things are based on opinion, unrationalized suppositions, and information pieces that people are trying to put into a space that fits into their world view.

However, the information doesn't fit into their world view, so they create a way to try to make it fit. For example, Donald Trump was unfit for office right from the start, and those of us who voted against him knew that. He made it blatantly obvious that he was a racist, a white supremacist, that he wanted to be king of the world.

It was also obvious that he knew nothing about government, why we have it, or how it actually functions. 

I do not know how the people who voted for him could overlook all of that. They wanted a change, from what I've read and been told. To be sure, most people don't understand government, but I have been writing about it for 30 years. It has a function, but apparently people who voted for this man could not follow their thoughts through to the logical conclusion of his taking office (which was the insurrection seen on January 6). They wanted someone who could "speak to the common man," which means someone who knew the racist dog whistles. Did they honestly think Donald Trump would sink so low as to have a beer with them on a hot summer day after they've done hard work and smell like a working man? Maybe they did, I don't know.

There's a very good article that explains these delusions in video game terms here. It is where I learned the word.

I have experienced this apophenia myself, mostly visually in patterns. I have always seen things in random designs on bathroom floors, in tile, or in curtains. As a child, I had a dinosaur I saw on the bus ride everyday. It was a patchwork of brush that looked to me like a dinosaur. (This is actually called pareidolia, but it falls under apophenia.)

It's the same way we see things in clouds as they float by. Who hasn't looked up at the sky and thought, oh, that cloud looks like an elephant, or whatever.

This is all well and good and harmless. When these kinds of interpretations move into the real world because one cannot accept reality, truth, or facts, then we begin to have a problem.

Addressing why people cannot accept reality, truth, or facts then becomes the question.

I do not have the answer.



Thursday, January 07, 2021

Thursday Thirteen - Insurrection Edition

Biden calls Capitol riot ‘insurrection,' Trump tells mob to 'go home' - live updates (msn.com)

Trump’s election attacks on Twitter spark new online calls for violence as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol (msn.com)

Statehouses evacuate amid protests in support of Trump | News 4 Buffalo (wivb.com)

Pro-Trump protesters storm Pelosi's office, take over Senate chamber at US Capitol | Fox News

Protesters gather outside state Capitols nationwide as chaos sweeps Congress (nbcnews.com)

Woman shot capitol lockdown as Trump storm building Washington DC | wusa9.com

(8) Officials say the Capitol is secure after pro-Trump mob breached the building and forced lockdown / Twitter

Biden calls Capitol riot ‘insurrection,' Trump tells mob to 'go home' - live updates (msn.com)

TV Networks Shift From Coverage of Electoral Tally to Storming of Capitol - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Watch Live: Trump supporters breach Capitol as violence forces lockdown (cbsnews.com)

How Television News Outmatched Donald Trump on a Dark Day - Variety

Trump supporters, police clash at Capitol steps | king5.com

Georgia Senate results who won news & more | Live Blog | 11alive.com

Washington DC, Parts of Virginia Go Into Curfew After Wednesday's Attack (vadogwood.com)

§2383. Rebellion or insurrection

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

§2384. Seditious conspiracy

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

lincolnproject.us:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 6, 2021 - “Today’s violence and insurrection in Washington and in state capitols is the direct responsibility of Donald Trump. This shameful culmination of four years of lies, propaganda, dog whistles, gaslighting, and conspiracy theories at the hands of a dangerous, unstable president has now put our Constitutional system of government at risk. While our democracy has been under attack since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, today’s domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol highlights just how much Trump and his enablers have entirely abandoned the principles of the Constitution and the Republic.

This is no longer simply about Donald Trump’s charade. It is an armed, violent, and planned insurrection against the United States of America. It is a moment where the tenets of Trumpism replaced the tenets of American democracy with the inevitable, violent results.

“Make no mistake, this is sedition and insurrection,” said Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson, “People have long asked why the Lincoln Project has targeted Trump’s Republican allies, and today they have their answer. Those Republicans who have endorsed and encouraged Trump’s lawless coup attempt in the House and Senate deserve to be prosecuted, not seated in the halls of government.”

“The House should immediately impeach Donald Trump for directing and provoking this attack. The United States Senate should immediately vote to convict and remove him from office. Any Member of Congress who refuses to do so should be considered a co-conspirator.”

The Lincoln Project is a group of former Republicans who worked to defeat Donald J. Trump’s reelection and will continue to battle Trumpism in America.

****

I could not let the events of yesterday, Wednesday, January 6, 2021, go unmarked in my blog. On this date a mob of terrorists attacked the U.S. Capitol as the House and Senate convened to count the Electoral College ballots for the 2020 election.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, this preplanned coup involved a lack of police protection for the lawmakers, an inordinately long wait for approval for the National Guard to move in, and tweets from the president urging the violence to continue, with minimal "oh, gee, be nice to the guys in blue" tweets in between his continual falsehoods of "I won by a lot. Bigly." (That's all paraphrased because I'm so pissed and upset. His bullshit is on twitter and if anyone wants the exact wording, they can go look it up. (Twitter has blocked his account for 12 hours. I guess it is still up there.)

One person died (update 5:50 a.m. - NPR is reporting 4 deaths); I don't know how or who. More blood on this president's hands, along with the deaths of 350,000+ who have died from his mishandling of the Covid virus, and God only knows what else. 

I am shaking I am so angry. I have known from the moment this man was elected that he was nothing but an autocrat who would be king if he could. He doesn't give a flying fuck about anyone but himself and his cult of simpletons cannot see how he has deluded them and led them astray and right into the gaping maw of fascism. He surely doesn't give a damn about the United States Constitution.

Hopefully by the time this post hits my blog, he will be in a strait jacket or handcuffs.


_____________

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 689th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. Or so sayth the Blogger counter, anyway.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Disco and Today: There is a Relationship

The other night we watched the HBO documentary, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. The documentary was very good and informative.

I had no idea about the early recording history of The Bee Gees. I didn't realize they were famous long before Saturday Night Fever, especially overseas in England and Australia.

As a 14-year-old from hicksville, and one who played in a "Top 40" band at that, I loved disco. I still love disco. If I'm in a bad mood, I tell Alexa to play disco and I perk right up. It is hard to listen to disco and stay hurt, sad, or upset. It's such an upbeat, moving sort or music, the kind that makes your feet simply want to move around on their own.

When Saturday Night Fever came out, I did not see the movie. But I heard the songs. How could you not? Disco was all over the radio. The Bee Gees may have topped the charts, but they were followed up by songs from Donna Summer, ABBA, even Barbara Streisand.

And then disco went out of style, and the Top 40 songs of the 1980s had a different feel. Not as danceable, but ok.

I never knew why, because I never thought about it and because I was still a kid. Fads come and go.

What the documentary pointed out to me was the reason disco came and went.

Disco began underground, as a mixture of music from venues popular with African Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Italian Americans, and gay culture in Philadelphia and New York City during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some scholars say disco was a reaction to the 1960s counterculture.

This little ol' farm girl didn't know anything about that. I just knew it wasn't country and western, I could dance to it, and I could play it on the guitar. Well, some of it, anyway.

Then came the backlash. Actually, the backlash came with a mouth with a megaphone. Some fellow at radio station in Chicago hated disco. He bashed it and railed against it. He had the means to be in touch with probably millions of listeners in the Chicago area and beyond. Finally, on Thursday, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, the mouth teamed up with a MLB team for a stunt.

The stunt was to blow up disco records in between a double-header game. People could enter the ballfield for 98 cents and a record to blow up.

What caught my attention during the HBO documentary was a commenter who said he was working at the ballfield that night. The records that 50,000 people brought in (apparently mostly young white males), were not copies of Saturday Night Fever, although I'm sure there were some. No, the records, the gentleman said, were R&B music, soul singers - black singers, Latino singers, i.e., anyone not white.

In other words, the mouth with the megaphone dialed into the latent and apparently inbred fear that lives in that most cowardly aspect of humanity, the fragile white (mostly male) ego. They came out not to blow up disco, but out of fear that the black people, the Latinos, the women, the homosexuals - anyone not them, were gaining traction.

They could not have this. So they blew up their records.

Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh described this event as "your most paranoid fantasy about where the ethnic cleansing of the rock radio could ultimately lead". Marsh deemed the event an expression of bigotry, writing in a year-end 1979 feature that "white males, eighteen to thirty-four are the most likely to see disco as the product of homosexuals, blacks, and Latins, and therefore they're the most likely to respond to appeals to wipe out such threats to their security. It goes almost without saying that such appeals are racist and sexist, but broadcasting has never been an especially civil-libertarian medium."

Nile Rodgers, producer and guitarist for the disco-era band Chic, likened the event to Nazi book burning, according to Wikipedia. (Here's a good recap of the event, if someone wants further reading.)

This reminded me so much of the present day that it left me breathless. This is what the current Twit on Twitter has tapped into, this fragile white ego. The election of the soon-to-be-former president was a homophobic, bigoted, racist reaction to the election of Barack Obama. How dare a black man sit in the White House! And he looked good in a tan suit, too.

So for forty years, this racist, misogynistic, bigoted group of white fragility has simmered and boiled and no one in charge has addressed it. It's simply sat there, an underground music all its own, one that people with decency did not hear or understand if they did.

Then finally, another mouth with a megaphone tapped into this seething underground mash of decay, realizing it was there and ready to overflow, because he was a part of it.

And that's at least a little of the reason of why we are where are today - racists marching the streets of Charlottesville and Washington D.C., bigots in all areas of government, and a (leaving) administration that would sooner destroy democracy than see another black person (or a woman) in the seat of power.

It was an eye-opening few sentences for me, and certainly something I've given a lot of thought to since we watched the documentary.

Long live Democracy, and disco music, too.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

And Just Like That . . .

Whatever goodwill I was feeling towards #45 has vanished.

I'm glad he didn't die, but he is a monster.

He cannot acknowledge the 200,000+ people who have died.

He can't protect his Secret Service or the White House staff.

He lies every time he opens his mouth.

I want him out of the people's house.

VOTE BLUE.


Monday, April 27, 2020

The World Pities Us

The Irish Times is a well respected daily newspaper. I'm just going to park this read right here without comment.
Irish Times
April 25, 2020
By Fintan O’Toole
THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT
Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.
As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.
Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?
It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.
Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.
Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.
In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”
This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.
Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.
The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.
Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.
There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.
Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.
And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.
That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.
And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.
As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.
Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

Friday, April 03, 2020

For the Record

I took this from a Facebook post on The Atlantic page. I want to remember this, so I am posting it here.
 
Facts. For the record:
JUST SO WE ARE CLEAR ON THE TIMELINE:
Dec 18th - House Impeaches Trump
Jan 8th - First CDC warning

Jan 9th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 14th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 16th - House sends impeachment articles to Senate
Jan 18th - Trump golfs
Jan 19th - Trump golfs
Jan 20th - first case of corona virus in the US, Washington State.
Jan 22nd - “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
Jan 28th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 30th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 1st - Trump golfs
Feb 2nd - “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China."
Feb 5th - Senate votes to acquit. Then takes a five-day weekend.
Feb 10th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 12th - Dow Jones closes at an all time high of 29,551.42
Feb 15h - Trump golfs
Feb 19th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 20th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 21st - Trump campaign rally
Feb 24th - “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Feb 25h - “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”
Feb 25th - “I think that's a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
Feb 26th - “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
Feb 26th - “We're going very substantially down, not up.” Also "This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
February 27th: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Feb 28th - “We're ordering a lot of supplies. We're ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn't be ordering unless it was something like this. But we're ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”
Feb 28th - Trump campaign rally
March 2nd - “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don't think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”
March 2nd - “A lot of things are happening, a lot of very exciting things are happening and they’re happening very rapidly.”
March 4th: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”
March 5th - “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”
March 5th - “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”
March 6th - “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”
March 6th - “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
March 6th - “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”
March 6th - “I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault.”
March 7th - Trump golfs
March 8th - Trump golfs
March 8th - “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.”
March 9th - “This blindsided the world.”
March 13th - [Declared state of emergency]
March 17th - “This is a pandemic,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
March 18th - "It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate."
March 23th- Dow Jones closes at 18,591.93
March 25th - 3.3 million Americans file for unemployment.
March 30th - Dow Jones closes at 21,917.16
April 2nd - 6.6 million Americans file for unemployment.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Thursday Thirteen

The bills are starting to roll in on my husband's ankle fusion surgery. I thought a little breakdown might be interesting.

1. Basic metabolic panel  - $247.00 (labwork)

2. Cutting open his ankle - $2,147.00

3. Cutting his tibia - $1,629.00

4. Each of his pills he had to have (blood pressure meds), cost $3 each.

5. A countersink (?) - $1,559.50

6. A drill bit - $937.50

7. Another drill bit - $912.50

8. A blade (for cutting bone, I suppose) - $314.00

9. Another drill bit - $1,181.50

10. A bone graft augment (?) - $10,793.50

11. An implant screw (x 2)  - $3,629.50 each

12. An implant plate - $7,446.00

13. More implant screws (x 2) - $2,813.00 each

So far the total bill is over $75,000 and more bills come each day for things like the anesthesiologist, the doctor to read his EKG, the person to draw his blood - they bill separately for everything, now, and if that person doesn't partake in your insurance, you're liable for their entire bill.

Fortunately, so far as we can, our insurance is covering most everyone. Even so, we will be out five figures before this is over and done with.

A person should not go bankrupt because they have the misfortune of being sick or having something happen to them. Nor should they have to resort to "GoFundMe" or dances or cake bakes to pay off their hospital bills. Yet this is what happens around here - people really do have dances and things because of their medical expenses, hoping to pick up a couple thousand to keep the wolves of Isengard at bay - I mean, the medical professionals from garnishing your paycheck or taking out a lien on your house.

I don't understand why this is considered acceptable. We're supposedly the wealthiest nation in the world and people have to have cake bakes to pay their medical bills. There is something wrong with that scenario.

_______________
Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 637th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. Or so sayth the Blogger counter, anyway.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Stench of Deregulation

For the last several days, there has been a ring about the valley in which I live. It is hovering below the mountains, a line of pollution that I can see in every direction I look.

I can smell it, too, when I go outside. It reminds me of my childhood. When I was about 10 years old, I would frequently go outside in the mornings and smell this awful smell.

"I smell Covington," was the line we used. It was the line everyone used, because the paper mill was in Covington and it sent wafts of pollution into the air on an hourly basis. When the wind was right, we all smelled Covington, even though it's about a 45 minute drive away.

And now I smell Covington again, only I don't think it's Covington. I think it's the cement plant. We also have new industries that have sprang up in the last 20 years and who knows what they're throwing up in the air.

(Also, folks are burning wood in their fireplaces now because it's winter, it's cold, and despite all this winning we have in the economy, lots of folks must burn wood to keep warm.)

Many of these local industries in 2017 fell under deregulations put in place by the current administration. Regulations that were meant to stop pollution so that people like me, people with asthma and other breathing problems, might live our lives without choking when we walk out the door. Twenty-one different regulations that stopped air pollution were "rolled back" so that the company owners might make a higher profit.

In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to reread the rules to suit themselves, and in so doing, they allowed even more pollution to enter our air.

This is supposed to save every household $3,100 over a 5 to 10 year period. The White House has a lovely .pdf that I've linked to that proclaims this deregulation stuff to be the best thing since Nixon said, "I am not a crook." This is a bunch of made-up guess-work (some would call it Fake News). Does anyone really think the corporations are going to take their savings and make the cost of their products less? Do you see the cost of products lessening? I don't. Those savings are going to the pockets of CEOS and shareholders.

All this is doing for me is increasing my doctor bills.

An inhaler costs me $40 under my insurance plan. I'm supposed to use it every 4 hours, two puffs at a time. It only has 200 inhalations. At that rate it won't last a month.

So I skimp on my inhaler and don't use it as prescribed. That means I'm not taking in enough air and I'm tired all the time. The last time I was checked by my asthma doctor, I was only able to use about 70 percent of my lung capacity without an inhaler.

My father asked me a while back how my life has been affected under this presidency when I complained about this administration.

Well, this is one way.

I can't breathe.

Pollution rising from the cement plant, which is just over the ridge. Photo taken on 11-13-2019.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Big Girls Don't Cry

All I want to note here is that Hillary Clinton went through hours of testimony and BS for Benghazi and her email fiasco and who knows what else, and the lady from Ukraine testified this morning, even as #45 sent intimidating tweets during the hours she was in the chair, and neither one of them cried, or sobbed, or said anything remotely hysterical.

Feeling intimidated because the President of the United States tweets about you as you testify seems a perfectly logical feeling to me. And it was said with a little bit of exasperation and astonishment.

But not hysteria.

And then there was Bret Kavanaugh, who slobbered all over himself.

"They" say women are too hysterical to lead or rule. 
Actions speak louder than words, ladies and gentlemen. And it is not the women who dissolve into tears in the political arena.

Monday, September 09, 2019

My Thoughts On Sharpiegate

I have seen some silly things come out of the White House and the media in the last several years, but I thought this weird fight about a Sharpie and a weather forecast between #45 and, apparently, everyone else, was about the strangest thing I've ever seen.

It was doubly worse because there was a real disaster off the coasts of the Carolinas and here people were arguing over who said what when. (They were also watching the waves wash away a red SUV, but that's another weird story.)

The truth is, I too saw the initial weather talks that gave a small chance that Hurricane Dorian could pass over Florida and into the gulf and near or into Alabama. Those forecasts were early on and recanted by the time #45 took to the airwaves to offer up  . . . whatever it was he offered up. I didn't see what he said originally. I have long given up on hearing this man be the comforter in chief or do any of the things I used to expect from a president, such as offer empathy or understand disasters in a way that brings solace to people. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting anything from him so I missed what he said.

It wasn't until a few days later that I realized something was going on. In going back and reviewing, the best I can tell is someone noted that #45 was using an older forecast - which is what happens when you play golf instead of keep with the news during a major weather event.

Apparently #45 did not like being told he'd done something wrong, so he has continued (even up into Sunday morning) to tweet about it. In doing that, he marked up a forecast map with a black marker, and Sharpiegate became a thing when homes were being washed away by flood waters.

I know people who think they are never wrong. They never say, "I'm sorry." They are always right, in their minds, even when the facts contradict them.  
So #45 wanted an apology from what he calls "fake news" because the media hurt his feelings, or so it read to me in his tweets. They had nothing to apologize for, as best I can tell. He was using old information that at one time would have been correct but it wasn't correct when he used it.

That's a bit like eating a stale cracker after you've opened the package and left it sitting on the counter for four days, and then complaining because it is stale.

Had he stopped tweeting about it, this would have gone away. But he did not.

Sometimes I think the best thing that could happen would be if the satellites that function to make the Internet work all went down.

My final thought? I don't care about this at all. It's stupid, any way you look at it. There are more important things to be worrying about. I'm just writing about it because I think this is a great example of many things that are wrong with what is going on with not only the presidency but also the media.

Everybody is wrong in this particular instance.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Stepping on Toes

I have been watching the discussions on Facebook and other social media, along with reading articles in the news, etc., about guns.

This comes about after another round of shootings (yes, in the multiple) that occurred over the last week. Three large shootings in a relatively short time, two of them within less than 24 hours of each other.

Statistically, this country is a mess. No other country in the entire world has mass shootings like the United States. This is a phenomena that is distinctly ours.

It's not mental illness.
It's not video games.

Other countries have mental illness and their young men play video games. No, this is a problem unique to white males of North America and specifically this nation.

I don't know the answer. I think we need to try something, and better gun control would be a good start. I think we need to make people with guns have insurance. They need to be certified to own a gun, which, by extension, means an entire family would need to be certified, and I can see where that might become a problem. They also need to be recertified every so often, much like we do with driver's licenses. Japan has it figured out. Are they smarter than we are?

Certain guns do not belong within the public sphere.

I say this as someone who grew up around guns, who was taught how to use guns, and who has shot guns. I've never killed a deer and have no intentions of doing so, although I have shot a small critter a time or two. I always feel rather sick afterwards, because I don't like to kill anything at all. I think guns are necessary on a farm, though, especially in an area where it could take 20-30 minutes for police to arrive. By that time, the dog is dead and the rabid racoon has eaten a kid. So sometimes a weapon has a use. I'm not saying they don't.

But I think it's time for people to value life over rights. I don't understand why anyone's right to do anything at all takes precedence over someone else's right to live. Isn't that primary and first, the living part? Doesn't everyone's right to go buy groceries without worrying about being shot at take precedent over the right to carry a gun?

Yes, I know, criminals will kill. They'll buy guns. Blah blah. That doesn't mean we don't try to make things better, or institute better laws. We have laws on the books against murder but people still murder. Does that mean we shouldn't have any laws against murder?

What we seem to have are a lot of white men who, having been unable to marry the model of their dreams, or reach the career of their dreams, or masturbate to perfection or whatever their problem is, who decide they are going to reach a pinnacle of infamy via mass murder. And the media obliges.

There is also a contingency of young men who think the government is going to come after them (I guess to get their guns) and they somehow think they will be able to take on an entire battalion of police SWAT or whatever government agency they fear with their big stash of weapons. All it takes is one hand grenade and these little fellas are done. Overzealous preppers are part of the problem. Yes, the government is corrupt. Go vote, run for office, hand out flyers, or do some other productive activity to fix the problem. Stockpiling Bisquick, peanut butter, and rifles isn't going to save your ass.

Note that I've not named even the places where these latest mass shootings took place. For one thing, unfortunately, it could be anywhere USA. For another, the place isn't the point. The point is it could be the store down the street, the theater you next attend, or the laundromat.

I'd just as soon not be shot while I'm picking out the best cut of chuck roast at the supermarket. I'd also like to eat in a  restaurant and not get up and leave my food sitting because I see some person walking in with a gun strapped to his leg, looking like he's the Lone Ranger. How am I supposed to know who's a good guy and who's a bad guy? I don't know. I see a gun, I leave.

If you're carrying a gun on you and you're not hunting during a valid hunting season, as far as I'm concerned, you're a nut and I don't want to be around you. (That goes for concealed carry, too, although at least if that person has stuck a gun down his/her sock I don't see that, and if it goes off it's going to blow somebody's toes into the ground.)

But these people think their rights outweigh mine. Fuck you, I like guns, they say. Well, fuck you, I like my life and I don't want a bullet in my body. Is this really what the argument boils down to?

Here are a couple of interesting articles. This one is about the Second Amendment and what it really means, and this one is written by a former service woman who wants to see better gun control.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Listen to the Music

I've been thinking a lot about this great divide, these hideous, ugly cracks that have appeared in the landscape and throughout the minds of the citizens of the United States.

First, I wonder if it's really there - because I have always been able to talk to most people about nearly anything, in my work as a news reporter. Perhaps it was because I was listening and not arguing that I was able to do that. I may have disagreed with the person's words or point of view but it was not my job to judge. I reported what was said and let the public decide if a supervisor or county administrator or judge or whoever was a total idiot or one of the greatest minds ever to walk the grounds of Fincastle.

I think it is there, now, and I think the media is keeping at the forefront. Divide and conquer creates great copy, after all, and makes for excitement. Keeping the public stirred up, fearful, questioning, and confused works for those who crave power, whether that is a politician or a TV executive. The politicians do not help, of course. I will be so glad when the election is over tomorrow. Perhaps for a day we will have some time on TV with no political advertisement. Then they'll start for whatever election is next, I suppose.

Then I wondered how long this divide has been around. Unfortunately, I have determined it has been around for as long as I have been alive. I overlooked it. I missed it. It was right in front of me, staring me in the face, but I didn't see it. Maybe I didn't want to see it. Maybe because I was raised with racism around me, with hatred and bitterness simply a part of the landscape while I escaped to better places in my mind with my books and my own somewhat less angry heart. (I have a depressed and sad heart, always have, but at least it is not an angry one.)

How did I figure out it has always been there? I listened. This time I listened to things I'd been hearing all of my life - certain songs and words in music. And in those songs I find the beginnings of the discord, the great divide, the things that at the time seemed innocent but which ultimately are not.

I grew up listening to country music in my early years. I switched over to pop/Top 40 as soon as I was old enough to do that (let's say 11 or 12) and never looked back. I still don't listen to country music.

But it occurred to me that the divide was going on way back when. Two songs come to mind for me when I think about what we'll call "the right."  Those songs are Okie from Muskogee and Sweet Home Alabama.

The first song, by Merle Haggard, celebrates what I would call small town America. Here are the lyrics:

We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don't take no trips on LSD
We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street
'Cause like livin' right and bein' free
We don't make a party out of lovin'
But we like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo
We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do
And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all
Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear
Beads and Roman sandals won't be seen
Football's still the roughest thing on campus
And the kids here still respect the college dean
And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA

I presume everything "they" don't do, then "the left" does. Although I know plenty of folks of all persuasions who've smoked a little marijuana and had long hair, but whatever. This song spells it out about as well as anything. And it dates back to 1969. I was six years old in 1969.

The second song, by Lynard Skynard, is a one I've always liked. It falls more into the Southern Rock category than the first song, which is definitely country.

Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the south-land
I miss 'ole' 'bamy once again and I think it's a sin
Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don't need him around anyhow
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
In Birmingham they love the Gov'nor, boo-hoo-hoo
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you, here I come
Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they've been known to pick a song or two (yes they do)
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue, now how bout you?
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
Sweet home Alabama, oh sweet home
Where the skies are so blue and the governor's true
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

I always thought it was a song about a trucker going home to Alabama, and maybe it is. But the lines that really caught my attention recently were the ones about Neil Young (a liberal musician) and "Watergate does not bother me."

That stopped me short. Why wouldn't Watergate bother someone? Shouldn't it have bothered everybody? It was a crime, a violation of trust, a break in the sanctity of government, a breach of truth.

I strongly suspect that the same people who weren't bothered by Watergate aren't bothered by the things the 45th president says. I am greatly bothered by them, particularly the lies and the outrageous statements that serve only to create fear, disharmony, and discord.

That song came out in 1974. And from there I really stopped hearing that side of things, because I stopped listening to country music. I began listening to disco and songs that celebrated love. I also started listening to songs like Born in the USA, by Bruce Springsteen, which has a patriotic chorus but is not very flattering to the nation because it's really an indictment of the Vietnam War. And then there were the anti-war songs, in particular War by Edwin Starr (War! Good God, y'all, what is good for? Absolutely nothing.) I also loved White Rabbit byJefferson Airplane (and that has an inappropriate age restricted notice from youtube, I can't even imagine that), Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Peter, Paul, and Mary) and similar songs - mostly anti-war, pro-love, pro-peace, pro-people.

The thing is, had I spent more time listening to different types of music, maybe I would have picked up on the divide. It's rather like the shock I get when I watch something on Fox (which I seldom do but sometimes I feel compelled to check it out). Everything is different about that TV station, even the TV commercials. It's slanted, focused, and pointed at one thing - making sure the viewer knows that change is coming and whatever the change is, it is not good, and the viewer should be afraid.

Change always comes though. Music has evolved since 1969 - we have so many different genres now that it is truly an accurate reflection of the prism of our society, right down from the differences in country music to hip hop to new age to adult contemporary.

I thought I was being open-minded in my music styles, but I wasn't. I listened for a long time to adult contemporary, NPR classical stuff, a little jazz, and oldies music. However, I don't listen to country or hip hop (or reggae or the blues) and in the last two years I have stopped listening to new music for the most part. Mostly now I listen to songs from the 1970s and older albums by Sheryl Crowe and Melissa Etheridge.

I tuned out and turned it off.

I created my own little bubble without realizing that was what I was doing.

Such a fractured, fragile nation, full of bluster and humus and deranged personalities. I don't expect a single day of voting to change the rhetoric or much of anything else.

Only we, the people, can do that. We can come together, or we can continue to tear ourselves apart.

I wonder what we will choose.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy July 4!



 





The fireworks are pretty, but the real reason for the day is to celebrate the birth of this nation as a new experiment in government, a democratic republic with checks and balances that are supposed to ensure the rights of the people and guarantee everyone the opportunity to live a happy and productive life.

Let's not roll back the clock to a time best forgotten but instead look ahead to a brighter tomorrow, when we are all standing tall, stronger together.

Monday, June 25, 2018

When You Disagree

This weekend, a somewhat local restaurant (within 45 minutes of me, anyway, in Lexington) made the news because the owner asked the press spokesperson for the White House to leave and go eat elsewhere.

Given the horrors of this administration, I can understand the owner's desire to have the woman leave. This is an administration that separated babies from parents and put them in cages. Just today the president himself is calling for the end of due process for asylum seekers. He wants to round 'em up and send 'em back without even asking them why they want to come here.

To hell with the U.S. Constitution, right?

Some people are very happy with President Trump and that is their right. I hope that time proves me wrong about what I think of him. I always hope that with people in power, that I am proven wrong when I think they are doing bad things.

Generally, I am proven right. But only Time knows that; people have short memories, they twist events to suit themselves, the outcomes ultimately only matter if blood is spilled, and usually not even then. To be sure, at this stage, right or left, it's my opinion that we have all lost.

I don't know what I would do if I owned a restaurant and persons with whom I vehemently disagreed wanted to come in. I don't particularly like to deal with "the public," which is why being a news reporter suited me. I attended thousands of public events, but I was like a small bee. I was the invisible observer, polite if spoken to, otherwise obscure. I listened attentively if someone sought me out so I could hear their point of view, whether or not I agreed. It was up to me, later, to decide if I wanted to let their words find a larger voice (I usually did, because I am a professional and that was what professionals did.). Sometimes what they said was all blather and did not pertain to the issue at hand. I listened anyway because you never know when one thing will lead to something else. And since I was a reporter, and doing research, I freely spoke to folks when I wanted to, if I thought they had something interesting to say or something to add to the story.

For me, it was all about the story. It wasn't about opinion, power, or political sides. It was about facts, and that was all I cared about.

There was this one time, though, when I turned down hot dogs. You'd have thought I had done the unthinkable. Perhaps back then it was. It stands out in my mind because I think it is one of the few times I walked away from a story for personal reasons.

The year was 1997. It was August, and hot. Candidate Jim Gilmore, who would that November win the Virginia governor's seat and who in 2008 ran for President of the United States, was stumping in Craig County (population 4,950 about that time).

I was the freelance reporter who was covering Craig County for the little tiny weekly paper. I was paid somewhere around $25 a story, plus mileage, so I tried to get three or four articles at a whack every time I drove over there. Otherwise it simply didn't pay because New Castle (the Craig County seat), like Lexington, is 45 minutes away.

So on this hot August day, maybe around 11 a.m., I showed up in downtown New Castle to take a photo of Jim Gilmore roaming around shaking hands, and write up a little something about his visit.

I was the only media there. No TV reporters with cameras, no daily newspaper reporter. Nobody with a cellphone with a camera because those hadn't hit mainstream yet. There was just me with my little notebook and my Nikon FG-50 film camera.

Mr. Gilmore was accompanied by three men, his handlers, I suppose we would call them today. They had on dark black suits and sunglasses, and looked sweaty in the broiling sun. They were loud, boisterous, misogynistic, and racist. They called me "little lady reporter" and offered suggestions for photos, as if I hadn't been doing this for 12 years by that time and couldn't figure out a good angle for a picture. They whispered quotes into Mr. Gilmore's ear about the charm of the historic venue. One of them snickered about the fact that New Castle was once a "sunset town" - that is to say, there was a sign there, taken down during my life time, that threatened black people if they were caught in the county after dark. (Not long after Mr. Gilmore's visit, the KKK had a party over there, too, and then someone burned a cross in the yard of a man who was housing a black person. I refused to write those stories, too. Not for $25.)

These busy important fellows also all smoked cigarettes and threw the butts into the street, grinding the cancer sticks beneath the heels of their expensive shoes. They left their litter on the sidewalk.

They stunk in every sense of the word, these men.

When they headed for the little hot dog restaurant that used to be in town, one of them asked me if I'd like to join them for lunch. "You know, get an exclusive," he said. Wink, wink.

"No thank you," I said. "I have all I need."

With that I walked off, trying not to double over laughing at their slack jaws. I don't think anyone in the media had ever told them no before. I heard them talking as I walked away. "Can you believe that?" one of them said.

Maybe it was a missed opportunity. I could have written the greatest piece ever about the soon-to-be governor and how he loved chili and called the cook the best hot dog maker in the state. Or perhaps I could have overheard him say something like his cohorts did, something callous and racist, and printed it. It would have been in a newspaper that less than 2,500 people read, at a time when there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no social media. Maybe the daily newspaper would have picked it up, but I doubt it. They paid little attention to that area of their readership.

So I walked away, leaving Gilmore's handlers surprised and confused because the media - i.e., me - spurned them. They thought, I'm sure, that I was doing a poor job. What they didn't know was this: I was only being paid $25 and I had the story I was being paid to write. These men were jerks, they were smoking cigarettes, and I have asthma. I also thought Mr. Gilmore was insincere and I knew his "no car tax" mantra would ultimately fail if the legislation passed because I'd talked to two different commissioners of revenue who had done the math and shown me how it would never work. (The legislation passed. It destroyed Virginia's rainy day fund and we're still paying the car tax to this day. So much for slogans.)

So why would I go eat a hot dog with these people?

That was how I handled something I didn't want to deal with. I walked away from powerful men who were talking down to me, who were making fun of the community I was covering, and who were about as black-hearted as a vulture looming over the fence hungrily gazing at a dead deer. I've been a reporter for a long time. I can size people up fairly well.

Today? Today I'm older. Hopefully wiser. Would I do it differently now? Now I wouldn't even take the job. And if I took the job, I still wouldn't go eat a hot dog with chain-smoking, self-righteous braggarts who thought I owed them something simply because they existed. The only thing I might do differently is be more insincerely apologetic and say I had a previous engagement or something, simply because of social media. (Social media sucks but the reality is I wouldn't want some dude tweeting "news reporter just walked away from exclusive. What a bitch!")

After all, turning your back and walking away from someone is, in itself, a special form of power. It's a power we all have, if we only think to use it.

Throwing someone out of your restaurant is another form of power, similar to turning your back. Good or bad? Your guess is as good as mine.