Not the Best, Not the Brightest…

The other day, March 12, 2019, marked the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web.  Only 30 years before misinformation and propaganda brought down the “greatest country on Earth.”  Not bad, I guess – if that’s your goal.  (And for the richest of the rich, that was TOTALLY the goal…)

Really, between that and Fox “News” it’s a wonder it took them so long.

Americans, as it happens, are not the brightest lights ever to shine.  As a group, I mean.  Sure, there are plenty of bright lights, individually, but as a group…OMG!  Some people will fall for anything and far too many do.

Climate change denial, racism, readiness to take up arms against the government in support of the aristocracy (the actual, long-term goal of conservatism) – all of these have found new energy, a new home, on the Web.

Of course, I can always find out what my friends had for dinner, too, so, there’s that…

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I wish people would stop with the notion that Donny Dumbass won’t leave the Oval office because he’s afraid he would go to jail.  He GOT that ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card when he became President – even if he DID become President thanks to the Russians.

Because America does NOT respect the rule of law, Presidents don’t go to jail.  Poor optics, you know.  All you’ve got to do is consider George W. Bush, aka Bush 43.  People are STILL dying in wars he started in violation of American and international law and he’s home painting.

So, no…Donny won’t go to jail.  His associates will – and have.  His family may very well.  But the worst that may happen to the Trumpster would be a fine.  If you’re going to spend a bunch of time hoping to see him in an orange jumpsuit, you’re going to be disappointed…

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I’m no longer surprised that his supporters remain loyal to him, either.  It’s a matter of faith with them.  They’ve decided to withdraw their faith in that Jesus guy and go with Donny, instead.  (Apparently, Jesus didn’t bring enough hatred and punishment in His message…)

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When it comes to the college admissions scandal the FBI dubbed ‘Operation Varsity Blues’, I don’t believe the kids didn’t know.  It doesn’t matter, of course.  They’re the offspring of rich people.  They’re USED to being coddled and having someone else solve any problems that come their way.  They don’t care.  It’s a “meritocracy”, see?  THEY have the “merit” because their mommy and daddy have money.  So when one kid was told to “act dumb” – well, THAT was easy.  Try telling her to “act smart.”  Let’s see what happens, then.

Anybody who didn’t know before learned about the fixed rules from Bush 43, the genius who attacked Afghanistan AND Iraq in response to an attack from Saudi Arabia.  That’s some quality education HE got from Harvard, yes?  He was quite open about the fact that he benifitted from a ‘legacy admission’ and a “Gentlemen’s C.”  A ‘legacy admission’ means he got to go because someone ELSE once “earned” their way in and a “Gentlemen’s C” is a passing grade he received because his family built a building.

When you think about it, the Ivy League schools are often little more than diploma factories.  The family pays, the kid gets a sheepskin.  Why make them show up at all?  Why not just send the money and get the diploma?  Oh, I know – the parents don’t want to rob the child of the “college experience”…

For me, the Ivy League has reduced itself to the same position as cops and Catholic Priests.  Because of the closed ranks and coverups involved, NOBODY can know who’s good and who’s bad, who’s safe and who’s not, who did the work and who bought the degree.  Which cop is a killer and which is an honorable person?  I wouldn’t leave my kid with ANY Catholic Priest.  If I was hiring for my company and two applicants came in, one with a degree from the local community college and the other with a “degree” from one of these Ivy League schools – I’d take the local guy…

Facepalm…

I don’t normally have occasion to log on to Facebook during the day so I can’t say, for sure, what’s normal and what isn’t.  But I tried yesterday and was surprised to find I couldn’t log on at all.  Instead, I was sent to a page saying Facebook was down for routine maintenance.  Really?   In the middle of the day?  A day you could have to scoop up more user data to use against your users?  THAT’S when you schedule “routine maintenance?”  That doesn’t seem right…

Elizabeth Warren put out a position that suggested the largest tech companies, like Facebook, should be broken up.  She bought ads supporting the position – on Facebook.  Facebook took the ads down.  Well, for awhile, anyway.  They claimed the ads violated Facebook’s terms by using the Facebook logo.  Facebook was eventually forced to return the ads.  Democrats were very upset.  Apparently, they think it’s unfair as hell for an oversight organization to use it’s controlling position to affect the outcome of a campaign.  They seem to have missed the irony entirely…

But Warren’s ads wouldn’t crash Facebook.  Why would Facebook be down in the middle of a normal, data-collecting, profit-enhancing day?
“There are profits to be made, here, people!  If our system is down and the Sheeple can’t log on we’re not going to – wait, what?  Investigation?  What investigation?”

ZuckFace
ZuckFace lying to Congress…

So, as it happens, Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Facebook.  Remember when Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to go rooting around in your private parts for profit?  When they got caught, they promised (a standard, Facebook “promise”) that they’d never, ever, cross-our-hearts-hope-to-die do it again.  English can be so tricky.  Apparently, the “it” they promised to never do again was “get caught” but we were all supposed to think they meant they were going to stop sharing data with third parties.

I write these little missives in WordPress.  They used to post automatically to my Facebook page.  After Cambridge Analytica, that convenience was eliminated – you know, to “protect” me.  Now I have to copy and paste the link if I want to reach people on Facebook.  But it turns out, Facebook never cut off access to the big players in the data collection market.  To quote from the Guardian: “Facebook gave companies including Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Sony and Amazon the ability to access user data long after it had stopped sharing data with most third-parties…

Is it at all possible that Facebook was down in the middle of the day because so much had to be done to clean up the site so quickly they couldn’t do it under “normal” operating conditions?

Now, if you would all please take out your ‘Corporate Excuse Hymnal’ and turn to ‘Facebook.’  Please, recite with me; “We know you trusted us and we failed in our responsibility.  In trying to provide the best user experience for you, we accidentally allowed people with ill-intent to use your data for profit.  (Fanning his face) Oh, my!  Why, I may just…swoon at the error!  That’s on us and we’re looking into taking steps to correct the situation going forward…”

There, now.  Don’t we all feel better?

Changing Times…

There’s another effort underway to move California to a single, year-round time – no clock changes.  I really like the idea.  The thing is, people keep trying to move it to Daylight Saving Time year round, not “Standard” Time.  You can check this but when Bush 43 screwed up time by changing the start and end of DST, it cost the country MORE in fuel – even though the words spoken were about SAVING fuel.  Hmm, is it possible the oil man just made an honest mistake?

The reason is simple: people don’t have the ability to make choices about the mornings the way we do about the evenings.  If politicians move the darkness forward, when we HAVE to get up and get going to work, it forces most of us to use more electricity for lighting and fuel for heating.  Ah, Crapitalism…

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The vape company, Juul, is running a commercial that really irritates me.  It has a woman talking like one of those “use our product to quit smoking” ads but speaking only of “switching” from cigarettes to the Juul.  She even uses the line, “Nobody thought I could switch.”  Really?  Nobody thought you could get your nicotine from one source over another?  How stupid are the people around you?  And, really, just how stupid do the people at Juul think Americans are?  (Please don’t answer that question.  The full depth of American stupidity has yet to be plumbed…)

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WHAT WE ARE, WHAT WE’RE NOT:
The United States is NOT a “meritocracy.”  That’s just a comforting story the hyper-wealthy feed into the national consciousness to stroke their own egos.  It reinforces the fiction that THEY got to where they are by their own “pluck” and hard work.  Sure, it almost always included hard work.  The thing is it’s someone else doing the “hard work.”  There are precious few mega-fortunes that were NOT built through crime and/or wage theft.  The story enjoys the nice side benefit of pretending that those who are NOT obscenely wealthy “deserve” their lower position because, obviously, only the meritorious “earn” their way to the top.

But the “meritocracy” tale is destroyed the instant some thieving rich guy hands his useless children the fruits of his crimes…

The United States is NOT a “nation that respects the rule of law,” either.  As long as wealth and/or skin color dictates the outcome of trials and the severity of sentences, the rule of law is nothing but a slogan used to oppress the non-wealthy and people of color…

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Okay, I recognize it has taken me awhile but I’ve finally settled on a life dream: I want to found a town, named after myself.  I plan to call it ‘Baconburg.’  People who live there would be ‘Baconburgers’…

Whose in?

Paying For Things…

Did you see Diane Feinstein address those kids the other day?  The kids – along with a teacher and an aide – came to Feinstein’s office to ask her to support the Green New Deal, a plan put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey to address climate change.  Feinstein said she couldn’t support the plan because there is “no way to pay for it.”

“No way to pay for it” is politician-speak for “it doesn’t help rich people” and isn’t it always the story?  Preferably to the wringing of hands and the rending of garments, “Oh, there’s just no way to pay for it!”  Even children know it’s the epitome of bunk.  I don’t know if politicians really think nobody has noticed the limited set of excuses offered up to explain why they’re never able to even consider anything that might help Joe Six-pack but we have.  We’ve also noticed there always seems to be money for wars…and tax cuts…

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I’m becoming increasingly concerned that the Democrats plan to return The National Shame to the Oval Office in 2020.  I saw an episode of the Samantha Bee show in which she highlighted “all” the Democratic women running for President so far.  Tulsi Gabbard was mentioned only in passing, as an afterthought.  Worse, she was dismissed as part of a joke, “Sorry, Tulsi!”

Okay, I want to be fair.  Gabbard has some issues with the LGBTQ community.  She has, in the past, said some things she shouldn’t have.  (No equivocation in the statement.  Her thinking was…outdated.)  However, she’s also apologized for her earlier ignorance.  She explained that she was raised in a conservative Christian household and it took her awhile to get past that upbringing and evolve on the issue.  For me, that falls under Maya Angelou’s admonition ‘when you know better, you do better.’

But the Democrats want an excuse to crucify Gabbard and that’s the one they’ll pursue because it will work.  Here’s the thing: Gabbard, the SAME Tulsi Gabbard was once a rising star of the Democratic Party.  She was once the vice chair of the DNC fercrissakes!  She’s being sidelined now because she objected to the DNC rigging the primary against Bernie.  She quit her role as vice-chair…and supported Bernie.

Democratic Party loyalists effing HATE Bernie!  He’s the boogieman they’ve chosen to blame for that time when they backed the only candidate in the country who couldn’t beat Donald Trump.  But then, Democrats hate progressives, in general.  They’re working as hard as they can to marginalize the progressive wing of the party despite the fact that most Americans WANT what the progressives are offering…which, of course, is progress…

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So…speaking of Bernie and paying for things, I came across this little graphic of how Bernie proposes to pay for all of those pie-in-the-sky programs he proposes.  Turns out, it CAN be done…

How Bernie will pay for it

I imagine he could wind down the war machine a bit, too – shift some money from invading and killing to helping Americans.  Mind you, I’m not crazy.  Of COURSE the United States will continue invading and killing – it’s the American Way!  But I’d just BET there are places in the Pentagon budget where a little trimming wouldn’t hurt…

Right Side, Wrong Side…

I’m happy to report that I believe we’re all done bickering about Trump’s stupid vanity wall.  His decision to declare a non-emergency National “Emergency” was, in effect, a surrender.  He never got the funding for his useless wall from his own party.  It finally penetrated his head that he REALLY wasn’t going to get it from the opposition party.  So he declares an “emergency” even while admitting it’s not an emergency and throws the whole thing into the courts – where, I suspect, he’ll lose based on his own words.  But he’ll have an “out.”  The thing can be adjudicated for years and when the rulings finally go against him, he can blame someone else.  It’s the only thing he’s really good at: blaming others for his own failures…

Trump is stubbornly wrongheaded.  He doesn’t admit defeat.  He is actually defeated on a fairly regular basis; he just doesn’t admit it.  I know, that sounds silly in view of the fact that, while declaring his “not-emergency”, he DID mention “defeats” in his stupid travel ban fight.  But that was a fight he ultimately “won”, meaning he didn’t suffer “defeat” so much as “setbacks.”  Talk of early “defeats” served only to make the outcome that much more “glorious” to himself and his base.  In this wall fight he got his ass handed to him – by a girl.  But he just did what he does – he pretends he won anyway – the TRUE ‘Delusional Trump Syndrome.’  Sadly, losing the wall fight doesn’t mean there won’t be more horror stories about his maladministration’s cruel treatment of human beings at the border…

I used to be surprised – really surprised – that so many people continue to stand with him despite all of the available evidence of his complete failure as a human being.  But I’ve been spending a LOT of time with history, lately, and I’ve recently become quite comfortable with a realization I probably should have made years ago: there are ALWAYS people on the wrong side of history – and there always will be.

Think of the worst atrocities of humanity throughout time and no matter what the subject, you’ll find people supporting the worst.  They’ll lie, they’ll scream, hell, they’ll fight wars in the name of the very worst of humanity – and they’ll do it with pride!  There’s just something…wrong…with some people.  They start wrong and stay wrong – and they’re still out there.  The US finally fought a war to end slavery but there are still plenty of people out there who would readily return to the slave system if the law allowed.

Think of the Walton family of Walmart infamy.  They have workers and managers because the law limits their options.  But if they could, I believe they would replace the workers and managers with slaves and overseers.  Sure, they would deny and feign outrage at such a suggestion but their actions have already exposed them.  Walmart could easily pay it’s employees a living wage and remain profitable but they steadfastly WILL NOT do one thing for the workers that made them so rich if not required by law – and even at that, they try to “trim the edges.”  Walmart’s shoddy treatment of employees is the poster child of greed in this once-great nation but they’re hardly alone…

It’s tempting to want to identify and name the “reason” but the reason doesn’t matter.  Stupid?  That’s the easiest one and it’s probably correct in some cases, but I know far too many smart people who support the wrong things for that to be a blanket explanation.  Greed?  To be sure.  Hate?  Sometimes.  Fear?  Absolutely.  Ignorance (not the same as stupid) is often in play.  The one thing I can say for certain is this: there are many possible adjectives to describe people on the wrong side of history but none of them are “nice.”  None of them – not one – reflect the best qualities of humanity.

So how does one know which side of history one occupies?  It’s quite simple, actually.  The moment your position includes harm to some innocent person trying only to do the things you, yourself, want to do, time for a re-think.  If you need a rule of thumb, try the so-called “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  In this case, it’s credited to Jesus but one can find that idea expressed in every major religion and/or philosophy in the history of mankind – because it’s so…obvious!

If YOU wouldn’t be a slave, don’t enslave.  If YOU wouldn’t be a victim of theft, don’t steal.  If you wouldn’t have your child taken from you for some…Trumped up reason, don’t take children away from others.  If YOU wouldn’t have yourself returned to the hands of your would-be killers, don’t return others to their would-be killers.  See how easy it is?  I hope you’ve paid attention and I hope I’ve helped.

I’ll tell you this: there IS a test…and it happens every day…

The Worst Among Us…

I’ve been re-reading some history recently.  In this case, it’s American history but I keep reflecting on the fact that some history just repeats itself, over and over, without regard to time or location.  One of the most important takeaways I’ve come to on this round is that nearly every social problem this country faces could be solved by requiring a living wage.  I can imagine the push-back on a declaration like that, all of it the contrived and false arguments of the wage pirates.

Jeff Bezos has been in the news quite a bit recently.  One of the things that stuck in my mind is the comment in his response to the attempted blackmail that he started Amazon in his garage and drove the packages to the post office himself.  Uh-huh.  It’s one of the more common stories the wage pirates tell, how they succeeded with hard work and “pluck” – whatever the fuck that means.  It seems they ALL start in the garage or on the kitchen table.

Bezos didn’t become the richest man in history by driving packages to the Post Office himself.  He became the richest man in history by over working and underpaying hundreds of thousands of employees.  Microsoft held the position of richest company in the world for awhile.  They got there by committing crimes.  They’ve been convicted of various anti-competitive business schemes so many times, I lost count years ago.  Apple?  Oh, the vaunted Apple.  Chinese workers held in compounds at near slave wages build the phones  while Apple charges premium prices.  Wage piracy.

The Kennedy fortune was reportedly built on bootlegging during Prohibition.  The official family story is Grandma Kennedy working doggedly in her dry cleaning store.  The Bush fortune was built selling weapons and poison gas to the Nazis during WWII.  (Not speculation.  The company was convicted.)  Even the Drumpf fortune was reportedly built on prostitution.  I’m actually a proponent of legalized prostitution but back in those days, the most common way to acquire the “girls” was to kidnap them.  Human trafficking.

I’ve long held that the people who rise to the top of the economic pile tend to be the people most willing to do whatever is necessary, ethics be damned.  Invariably, these people are NOT the “best and the brightest.”  They tend to be the LEAST among us.  You, too, can succeed, son, if you’re willing to kill grandma and your grandchildren.  I know, hyperbole, right?  Consider this; Prescott Bush sold weapons to the Nazis during WWII.  George H. W. Bush (41) was a pilot during the war.  His plane was shot down.  WAS 41’s plane shot down with ordinance sold to the Nazis by Prescott?  Who can say?  But it’s possible.  Whether it was or not, Prescott was willing to risk George H.W. for a dollar.  THAT’S the “glorious truth” of the people who rise to those positions.

History is littered with these bottom-feeders, willing to do anything, to anyone, for a buck – so long as nobody tries to do the same to them.  For me, the American Civil War sums it up, nicely.  The South was willing to fight a war (okay, send poor people to fight a war) because the North was trying to forcibly take away their right to forcibly take away the rights of other human beings.  That kind of convoluted thinking is still out there.  There are still plenty of people who would utilize slavery if they could get away with it, today, but since they can’t, they’ve carved out a multitude of alternatives that get as close as possible.

I’ll tell you this: it’s time to stop assuming these people – given the chance – will do the right thing.  History proves they won’t.  Your best bet is assuming they’ll do the wrong thing – the worst things.  It’s time to stop treating these people as anything other than the thieves they are…

Pulling For the Saints…

I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember.  My first favorite Quarterback to Wide Receiver tandem was Roman Gabriel to Jack Snow.  The two played together for the Los Angeles Rams from 1965 to 1972 so…it’s been awhile.  I ran a Fantasy Football League for YEARS – long before fantasy football was “cool”…or profitable…or easy.  In the early days, we used to have to wait for the stats to come out in the Wednesday paper and add up our own scores.  (No computers to do the work for us and NEVER in real time.  I have to admit, I like the new way better…)  So, as you can imagine, it’s a big deal for me to say that I don’t intend to watch the Super Bowl.

For me, this Super Bowl (number 53 – screw the Roman Numerals) embodies everything that has changed in the game for the worse.  I’m pulling for the New Orleans Saints.  Yeah, I know, they’re not playing.  But every person in the world who knows the game knows they should be playing.  Anybody who knows anything about football knows the Rams are in on a clear foul that was simply ignored by an officiating crew that is normally SO dedicated to detail they can find a football in a pile of human beings and place it within a chain-link of where it’s supposed to be.  But they didn’t see the two-foul penalty everyone else in the world saw.  A multi-Billion dollar operation that got egregiously sloppy for two seconds and changed the outcome of one of it’s most important games.  That seems likely…

Then there are the New England Patriots.  Again.  The greatest team ever with the Greatest Quarterback ever.  Just look at the numbers.  Football fans always measure success by Super Bowl wins.  It’s not an unreasonable measure.  But it can leave a QB with greater career stats and NO Super Bowls automatically below a QB with…sometimes terrible stats but at least one Super Bowl win so it’s not perfect, either.  Through the years, I’ve been exposed to an additional, unexpected statistic: number of asterisks.  I think the higher the number of asterisks that can rightly be associated with your team or players, the lower that team’s standing in the G.O.A.T. conversation.  It’s the first number that should be sorted.  In my mind, the Patriots have three, ‘Spygate’, ‘Deflategate’, and invulnerability to parity, though I’m only going to discuss one – ‘Spygate’ – here.

Inevitably, the  subject irritates Patriots fans.  It shouldn’t but it does.  I’ve had the conversation many times.  I’ve heard many assertions.  I’ve heard so many re-interpretations of Patriot cheating from people I trust, I started to accept some of them as factual.  So I decided to double-check my understanding of events regarding the first of their scandals, the practice that became known as ‘Spygate.’  As it happens, my memory was not entirely correct on the topic.  In fact, the details were far worse than I remembered…

Teams used to use hand signals from the coaches on the sidelines to tell the players what to do.  ALL teams knew that if they could decipher even one of the signals, they could enjoy a sometimes significant advantage during the game.  Trying to decode signals was, really, just part of the game.  But Bill Belichick and his Prep School buddy Ernie Adams had a better idea: what if they could recreate opposing teams defensive playbooks and hand signals for their own use?

Contrary to popular belief, the scheme started in 1991, when Belichick was first hired as the new Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns.  By all accounts, the scheme there failed and Belichick was out after two years.  But by the time he was hired as the head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he and his buddy Adams had refined the system.  Through the years, the details have been softened; a camera was set up where it shouldn’t have been.  Belichick simply misinterpreted a rule.

In fact, a couple of guys were dispatched to opposing teams’ practice facilities where a Videographer would disguise himself as a member of the media or NFL films and record defensive coaches hand signals while another guy would create hand-drawn diagrams of the player positions.  If they got caught, they were told to say they were from NFL films or Kraft Productions.  An honest “misinterpretation” doesn’t require disguises or cover stories, right?  Mostly, they didn’t get caught and the raw footage and diagrams were turned over to Belichick’s buddy, Adams, who collated the information into detailed breakdowns.  Each shot would include the down and distance markers, the hand signals, and – as an “inside joke” – a tight shot of a cheerleader’s top or skirt.  Each film set was associated with the proper diagram.  Essentially, the Patriots were recreating opposing teams defensive playbooks.

Think about it: if deciphering ONE hand signal during a game might provide an advantage, consider what having access to the entire playbook could do.  And did.  The scheme ran from 2000 through 2006.  During that time, the Patriots “won” the Super Bowl in 2001, 2003, and 2004.  The other teams in the league all suspected something…untoward…was up.  Apparently, it was constant chatter around league insiders but since nobody had any proof, it was all just talk, dismissed as success envy.

The Patriots finally got caught in 2006 – twice.  After the first time, the league sent out a memo to ALL teams reminding them that recording opposing hand signals was against the rules.  The Patriots kept doing it anyway but now the other teams were on the alert for what to look for and the second time it happened the information became public knowledge.  Among that public was one Arlen Specter, a United States Senator from Pennsylvania – and a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  The Eagles had been one of the teams cheated by the practice and he was irritated.  He threatened to pull the NFL’s antitrust exemption so the NFL went into damage control mode.

But the league didn’t really investigate the extent of the scheme.  They took the Patriots’ word regarding the extent – which means nobody can say, for sure, how much information may have been retained by the Patriots, even after they were caught and the improper information destroyed.  For their part, the Patriots didn’t volunteer one bit of information they didn’t have to.  Think of it as the NFL’s version of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell.’  Even in damage control mode, Belichick eventually admitted to “at least” 40 games…

Through the years since, I’ve auditioned several possible reasons the league just allows the Pats to get away with the various things they get away with, none of which made much sense.  The most likely reason in my mind?  Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, is one of the most powerful men in the league.  Apparently, he’s often referred to as the “assistant commissioner” and he’s one of three men on the “Compensation Committee.”  The Compensation Committee sets the annual pay rate and bonuses of the League Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  How much garbage are YOU likely to throw at the guy who sets your pay?

Bear this in mind: this is the simplified version!  I left out truckloads of detail in an attempt to keep it “short.”  But I want to be clear.  I was really just trying to refresh my own memory.  I don’t care if you watch and enjoy the Super bowl.  (Four hours of your life for eleven minutes of action?  Awesome!)  I don’t care if you maintain loyalty to the Patriots.  But I don’t plan to watch the “big game” because…well, I just don’t care anymore…