Syria’s Not The One…

A thought for my left-leaning brethren about Syria.  It’s been a widely held belief on the left that, sooner or later, our National Embarrassment is going to start a war as a distraction from all of his various and sundry investigations and self-inflicted wounds.  The result is, when a missile strike is issued, there’s not just concern but something of a group freak-out that “this is it.”  I think it isn’t and I’ll tell you why: France.

Do you remember when many Americans started calling the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and eating “Freedom Fries” instead of French Fries?  That was because 43 and that Dick Cheney wanted to launch their illegal invasion on a foreign, sovereign nation based on trumped up “evidence” and France refused to allow the US to use French airspace for an attack they felt had no basis in reality.  (They were right.)

I’m not sanguine about declarations from the US government.  The fact that the UK goes along with the story doesn’t impress me, either.  The US and UK have been shown to conspire for oily purposes before and surprise is no longer on the menu for me where that’s concerned.  But France still seems to think verifiable evidence has a role in military conflicts.  I think it also matters that Macron doesn’t much like Trump (although the two seem to getting along a little better, these days).  I doubt they would “buddy up” for a military engagement lightly.

So when France came on board, I felt better that there was a solid basis for the action.  As it happens, France is MORE than “on board.”  France claims they directed the action, keeping the strikes to chemical weapons plants and slowing the so-called “President’s” roll a bit.  I’ll tell you this: if France thinks the evidence supports the position that it is, in fact, Assad using chemical weapons, I’m going to be comfortable that this is not just a distraction…

Stormy Sailing…

Apparently, James Comey has a new book coming out this Tuesday.  Now, I know that my conservative brethren have already dismissed it as full of lies.  They’re certain that it’s so full of lies it might not even be written in English, fercrissakes.   For the rest of us, I’d like to point out one small thing…

There’s an accusation out there that at one point, Trump hired a couple of prostitutes to pee on each other on a bed once used by the Obamas.  According to the charge, the Russians surreptitiously filmed the party.  According to Comey’s book, Trump repeatedly tried to get Comey to take some stand against the whole “pee tape” allegation, claiming that he (Trump) is a “germophobe” who would never allow himself to be anywhere near such an event.

This from a person who, apparently, went “bareback” with an adult film actress.  Now, I mean no disrespect to Ms. Clifford but even she would have to admit that she is certainly in a “high-risk” group for sexually transmitted diseases…

Anyone know Howie Mandel well enough to get a question to him for me?  You see, Howie Mandel is a long-known, well-documented “germophobe.”  He’s open and honest about it.  He doesn’t shake people’s hands; he does the fist-bump, that kind of thing.  I once saw him on a television show and he was having a difficult time just standing next to a stripper pole.  (He thought somebody should have at least wiped it down.  He might have been right about that one…)

Let’s ask Mr. Mandel if he would ever consider having sex with an adult film actress without using a condom.  I think the answer might provide some context as to how germophobes handle…you know…germs…

I have to say, with all of the other things swirling around him, I think it’s…appropriate that Trump’s illicit affair with a porn actress is increasingly looking like the thing that might bring him down and I’ll tell you this: I’ll bet Melania’s happy about it, too…

The Zuckerberg Show…

Did you catch Mark Zuckerberg’s performance?  Not great but apparently, good enough to bring the stock price back up so…goal met.  He dumped his trademark t-shirt and put on a suit.  You’d think with the kind of money he makes, he could find somebody to cut his hair for him but apparently, he prefers to do it himself.  In the dark.  With his eyes closed.  It was a dog-and-pony show.  The whole thing felt, to me, like it was set up on purpose to prop up a big business (donor) in trouble.  A whitewash.

He lied.  The Congress critters let him get away with it.  Asked about allowing users to control their own data, he was ready with his stock answer.  “Oh, we have a button for that”, he intoned without mentioning that the button is strategically located in some difficult to find spot and only works if you also check another box in a different strategic location.  No follow-up question.

Asked about Facebook collecting text and phone data, he claimed they only collect texts and only if the user opts in.  He got to say that even though recent news stories have claimed they were collecting text AND phone information.  No follow-up question.

He claimed users can delete their information and it’s gone.  Users can’t even delete their own accounts.  If you try to leave, Facebook just deactivates your account.  It’s a service done for you, you see.  All you have to do is sign in again and – voila! – you’re back in the saddle.  Meanwhile, Facebook will just hold on to this data – for your protection, of course…

Ted Cruz was kind of funny.  Cruz was a likely victim of the “election” irregularities and, I imagine, might well have some issues with the Data Analytics “breach.”  But he went all in on the ‘conservative-posts-are-being-deleted’ position currently being enjoyed by conservatives across the land.  I don’t accept the position.

Facebook makes it’s money selling YOUR data to other people – just like the hackers on “the dark web.”  It doesn’t serve their bottom line to marginalize any group, so long as the group itself won’t drive away a larger number of users.  In fact, it came out that Facebook has found a way around it’s own age limit policy by allowing younger people to “join” on their parents accounts.

That’s why people keep finding various unsavory accounts that Facebook “misses” until someone complains.  That’s why so much propaganda was allowed to flow so freely until the public became aware they had been duped.  NOW, Facebook has to make a big show of deleting “fake news” posts.  (Don’t worry, conservatives.  It will pass just as soon as the heat is off and the stock price rebounds a bit…)

Facebook habitually gets “caught” misusing the data they collect on their users.  From time to time, Zuckerberg is required to come out and claim “mistakes were made” and promising to do something about it “the very next time” a breach is discovered – or maybe the time after that.  Or perhaps the time after that…

I’ll tell you this: actions speak louder than words.  Call it an axiom.  Facebook isn’t going to stop doing what they’ve been doing.  They’re just going to engage in damage control from time to time.

Now…let’s see if I can post this to Facebook…

Making Money…

Okay, a mea culpa, of sorts; I’ve written in the past that I want to see manufacturing jobs come home from overseas.  I note two reasons.  One, I feel that American military strength has been weakened by the loss of working factories that might be converted during an actual, existential war.  (What, do you think China would continue to supply the US with steel should the US and China go to war?)  Two, they were good-paying jobs.  Both statements remain true but the second half, the “good-paying jobs” part needs a bit of an update.

I had occasion to watch Bernie Sanders’ internet Town Hall with Michael Moore and Elizabeth Warren.  They had a guest on the panel, Cindy Estrada – the current Vice President of the UAW.  She made the point – correctly, to my mind – that those jobs weren’t “good paying” because of the job itself but because they were unionized jobs.

A large segment of our society has been deceived by what people call Right to Work states.  28 states have instituted “Right to Work Laws.”  Right to Work takes the position that people have the right to work without joining unions.  Whenever I hear Right to Work, I always think, “Wait…the slaves had a “right to work” as well…”

The fact is, labor is a commodity.  The idea that workers might band together to protect worker interest is VERY “Capitalist.”  It’s just that the Capitalists don’t like unions.  Being forced to pay a fair wage, they contend, harms their overall profits.  I’d say that’s true.  The Antebellum South didn’t pay their “workers” at all and profits soared – for a few.  Today, the closer an employer can get to that model, the higher the profit for the company.  But it’s not good for the workers and, long-term, it’s not good for the overall economy.  The Antebellum South was a poverty-stricken hell-hole for most of the inhabitants.

So, in retrospect, it wasn’t “manufacturing jobs” the corporations outsourced so much as it was the UNION jobs.  They told us, honestly, that the US was going to become a “service economy.”  As it happens, many service jobs weren’t unionized.  Note that they were and are low-paying.  So, my correction is this: it’s less important to “bring back” manufacturing jobs (at least for that reason) and MORE important to start unionizing service jobs.

Yes, I include burger-flippers.  No, I don’t want to pay $15 dollars for a fast food product.  Of course, if all workers are paid a decent, living wage one COULD pay that but the truth is, these corporations make BILLIONS of dollars in profits every year.  They COULD pay a living wage and still make money – just not quite so much.

I’ll tell you this: when all is said and done, it all comes down to one point; if a person is ready, willing, and able to work 40 hours a week, they have a right to earn a living wage.

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Speaking of making money, I’ve begun to suspect that our National Embarrassment is doing so with his mouth (or his Twitter account).  He puts out a comment, say, about tariffs on Steel.  Stocks drop.  He updates his position.  Stocks recover.

During the drop – if you know it’s coming (because you’re about to say something that will bring it about) – why wouldn’t you use what’s left of the vast fortune your daddy built to buy the temporarily declined stocks at bargain basement rates and then “update” your position, bringing the stock price back up?

I’ll make the numbers up for an example.  Let’s say a stock trades at $10 dollars a share.  Trump throws out some threat and the stock drops to $5 dollars a share.  Trump buys 5,000 shares and then recants his threat.  He just made $25,000 and all he had to do was undermine the stock market for a few hours – or days, depending upon how much he needs.

Of course, Trump supporters (yes, there are still far too many) will call that “smart.”  I don’t think he’s smart.  I think he’s a schemer and schemers don’t have to be smart.  What I call it is illegal stock market manipulation.  Insider trading at it’s worst.

I’ll tell you this: I’ve stopped being surprised to find ‘Trump’ and ‘worst’ in the same sentence…

Wrecks…

There’s an old joke: A man walks up to a woman in a club and asks if she would sleep with him for a million dollars.  She considers him and his request and finally answers, “A million dollars?  I guess so…”
“Great,” he answers.  “How about for twenty-five bucks?”
“Twenty-five bucks?!?” she asks, insulted.  “What do you think I am?”
“Oh, we’ve already established what you are,” he answers.  “Now we’re just haggling over the price…”

I’m actually starting to feel badly for Melania.  Sure, she’s a gold-digger who thought she’d hit the jackpot by marrying such an extensive fortune.  She HAD to know he wouldn’t be faithful.  He’s never been faithful…to anyone or anything.  But a porn star?  I’m guessing she didn’t realize she was signing up for…

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TeslaModel-xC780x439

Tesla came out in full offensive mode after this crash.  I can hardly blame them.  They made the point that Tesla’s Autopilot mode isn’t REALLY a full Autopilot mode.  They stated the driver’s hand were not on the wheel at the time of the crash and that the driver had ignored -or, at least, not responded to – warnings from the car.  They suggested the car hadn’t been properly repaired after a previous accident.  They pointed out that the highway abutment was missing it’s attenuator.

In 1965, Ralph Nader published a book called ‘Unsafe At Any Speed.’  The book was really about the automobile industry’s unwillingness to adopt safety standards quickly enough but one chapter focused on a particular model on the road at the time, the Chevy Corvair.  He pointed out that because of a design decision that could have been done differently (and inexpensively), if you took a corner fast enough in a Corvair, the rear wheels might well tuck under the car sending you into an uncontrollable spin.  Within four years, the Corvair was out of production…

Ford introduced the Pinto in 1971.  A design flaw caused the car to burst into flames if it was rear-ended hard enough.  Somewhere between 27 and 180 people died as a result.  The danger got into the press.  People found out.  The Pinto was out of production by 1980.

The ONE piece Tesla hasn’t mentioned in their various defenses of the Model X is that the car in question burst into flames after the accident.  I don’t know how common it is.  It happens from time to time, particularly in very bad accidents.  So, Tesla has little option but to distract.  They know history.  They can’t afford to allow the public perception that under the right circumstances, your shiny new Tesla might become an impromptu crematorium…

…but it might…

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Our national embarrassment is attacking Amazon.  He’s claiming they don’t pay enough taxes.  When HE didn’t pay taxes, he claimed it was because he was “smart.”  He claims the “failing” Post Office isn’t getting what they should from Amazon.  It’s time to repeat – and never forget – that the Post Office is suffering under an artificial financial burden imposed on them by Republicans in Congress.  The P.O. would be doing just fine if they weren’t required to fund pensions for employees they haven’t even hired yet.  The Post Office is established in the Constitution.  The only way Republicans can kill it is to artificially bury it financially…

What Changed?

As the gun debate once again rages across this once-great nation I saw a question pop up in social media that I thought deserved some attention: ‘What changed?’  The premise of the question is that guns have been in our society…literally longer than we’ve BEEN a society.  One can go back through the years and NOT find mass shootings.  If you represent a certain age group you know that people used to drive around with rifles in their gun racks and really, nobody cared.  Students could have fights at school and nobody ever went out to their car or truck, grabbed a gun, and came back shooting.  So?  What changed?  Here are two possible answers, both of which are correct, neither of which is intended to be all-inclusive.

One thing that changed, quite frankly, is the National Rifle Association.  The NRA used to be a gun safety group.  They sponsored clubs and taught safety and responsible firearm practices.  Once upon a time, the NRA was on the side of the good guys.  These days, though, the NRA has morphed from the gun safety club they started as into a lobbyist group for gun manufacturers.  They’ve taken a “no compromise” position on the 2nd Amendment supported by an intentional misreading of it’s one sentence.

The other thing I point to that has changed is the media.  Information flow in the United States used to be (mostly) limited to newspapers and evening news reports on the three networks.  The people involved used to practice a thing called “Journalism.”  The media would provide the facts; who, what, when, where, why, and how.  People would come to their conclusions.  Opinions were limited to the Editorial pages.  On TV, if someone offered and opinion, they had to provide equal time for dissenting opinions.  (Imagine if FOX “News” was required to provide free equal time for dissenting opinions…)  It was MUCH more difficult for self-interested parties to inject disinformation into the discussion in support of profits.

With deregulation of broadcasting and the advent of the internet, though, all of that changed.  We started to see various outlets feeding certain types of information to certain groups of people.  We witnessed the rise of conservative media, then the conservative bubble.  Eventually, a liberal media branch was born, as well, but it has never been so fully developed as the conservative media.

And the conservative media is ANGRY.  They make their money stoking fear and anger.  At the risk of being accused of over-simplifying the message, conservative media maintains certain subtexts: the government is bad and only bad.  Business is good and only good.  “They” (defined as nearly as I can tell as anybody not conservative enough) are coming to enslave the population.  Conservative media hammers constantly on an “us-vs-them” mentality which they frame with existential overtones.  Over time, the weakest thinkers in the crowd begin to act on their anger and fears…

I have to take a moment, here, to talk about that term, “weak thinkers.”  I know it sounds like a slam but I don’t mean it that way.  It has nothing to do with “stupid.”  I actually mean people who were never taught to think properly or, perhaps as the result of some medical condition, for example, can no longer think as effectively as they once did.  The Austin bomber is an excellent example.  This white male conservative Christo-terrorist was raised in a super-conservative, super (pseudo) Christian household.  He was home-schooled with a goal of keeping him from having contact with “outsiders” – non-believers.  He participated in a group that taught shooting and the Bible.  He was specifically, intentionally isolated from “the secular world” ostensibly for his own protection.  (Truthfully, I’ve never been able to figure out why it doesn’t qualify as child abuse…)

Christian households are not teaching their children critical thinking.  The moment one answers “The Lord works in mysterious ways” to an honest question, one has planted the seed that critical thinking has limited application.   Conservative households specifically denounce critical thinking as some sort of conspiracy of the “intellectual elite.”  Now toss in a bit of Alex Jones or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.  Essentially, that kid didn’t stand a chance.  But by every account, he seemed intelligent enough.  His problem was not stupidity, it was weak thinking.  So…conservative media radicalizes weak thinkers – and a shooter (or bomber) is begotten.

I’ll tell you this: I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and predict that my conservative brethren will take issue with my positions, particularly regarding conservative media.  But there’s a reason the shooters keep coming up white, male, conservative, and pseudo-Christian and I think these are honest responses to the question; ‘What changed?’

Thoughts, March 19, 2018

I suppose, by now, you’ve had a chance to look up some of Stormy Daniels’ work.  That girl can act!  I mean, I really believed her anguish at not having the money to pay for that pizza…

I hear Trump gets his parade.  Bully for him.  I’m glad the United States has finally found a way to project her military strength to the rest of the globe…

FINALLY, we know who’s going to lead Russia for the next six years.  I guess he’ll be leading the US, as well.  At least until we can get rid of Trump…

The United States Supreme Court.
That’s it.  That’s the whole joke…

Republican leaders are warning Trump not to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.  They want him to let it play out.  I think they know that, politically, it’s the best way to get rid of him…

California lawmakers seem to be catching on to the idea that taxing cannabis at 50% just sends buyers back to the black market.  Apparently, the “fix” they’re considering is to lower the tax by 9% for three years.   I don’t know if Gavin Newsom intended to be so supportive of California’s black market in cannabis but he couldn’t have done a better job if he had tried…