Who Is That Masked Man?

I was reading through a thread in social media the other day.  One of the writers questioned the tactic of using masks when showing up to political events.  Why, she wondered, are the masks necessary?  It was a question I’ve asked several times…it’s why the thread caught my eye.

A little background.  There’s a group known as “Antifa.”  Apparently, that’s shorthand for anti-fascists.  (Really?  A special group to oppose fascism?  Sign me up!)  Word is, they support violence as a primary technique of disrupting “the opposition.”  (Crap, violence?  I’m out…)

I’ve always been bothered by the masks.  It seems they promise ill-intent.  But in response to the question “why the masks”, another writer suggested the masks were to protect the wearer’s identity to prevent “doxxing.”  That one got me.  At first blush, it makes sense.

“Doxxing” is the practice of searching out and publishing on the web identifying information about some person.  Names, phone numbers, addresses, employers, that kind of thing.  It’s often done with malicious intent – the idea is to open up a given individual to ongoing harassment.  It allows “your” group to intimidate and punish a member of “the other” group for not believing the way you think they should believe…

It wasn’t always about punishment.  There was a time, for example, when Paul Ryan got into some scrape with Americans about some thing and people wanted to deliver a petition of protest to him.  So, he bravely locked all his office doors so people couldn’t get in and unplugged his phones so people couldn’t complain and hid under his desk – you know, to show his connection with the people.  Since Ryan had taken such a bold stance at his office, some clever sod out there encouraged people to send postcards to Ryan, instead – and published Ryan’s home address in the hope that the postcards would be sent there.

I have to confess: I kind of liked that early bit of doxxing.  At the time, I thought that if Paul Ryan wouldn’t do his job at his job, he could do his job at home.  In truth, I hadn’t given enough thought to the reality that people surely sent more than postcards on the subject and, of course, made Ryan and his family subject to some of our more…unhinged elements.  (What can I say?  Sometimes it takes awhile to fully get one’s arms around new developments…)

So, when I read the suggestion that these Antifa individuals were simply trying to avoid doxxing, I thought that kind of made sense.  I thought that, perhaps, it had put a hitch in my giddy-up about the masks.  Maybe there WAS a legitimate reason to protect one’s identity.  As I said, on first blush, it made some sense…but not for long.

The idea that a person showing up at a political rally wearing masks to protect their identity in order to avoid doxxing is what I call a philosophical argument.  If you don’t think about it too much, it seems to make sense – but there is no practical application.

See, they aren’t JUST wearing masks.  They’re also wearing body protection of various kinds.  As often as not, they’re packing SOME kind of weapon.  To my mind, the most salient part of the question of showing up armored for – and, often armed for – battle is the “battle” part.  People don’t come to rallies like that ready to engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas.  They’ve come for the violence.  They’ve come to initiate the violence.

You can tell the difference by the people on BOTH sides of any issue who are NOT covered head to toe in protective gear and still managing to wave placards and banners and shout their various beliefs and who intend, after the event, to go home quietly and make jokes about how foolish the opposition is…and so are not worried about doxxing.  Why would they be?  Oh, I got caught out standing up against hatred?  Well, I’m standing tall…

But it turns out, if violence is your first response, I WANT you doxxed.  If violence is your first response, you clearly do not know how to live in a society and the society in which you dwell has a right, perhaps an obligation, to protect itself.  The society needs to know who you are so we can, as a group, try to correct your behavior.

As a bonus, we could all find out who you really are.  ARE you a far left nut ball trying to advance the cause of peace through violence?  Are you a far RIGHT nut ball pretending to be a far left nut ball?  Perhaps you’re just some apolitical individual on somebody’s payroll.  I’ll tell you this: whichever it is, I condemn your violent tactics and I WANT you unmasked…

Over the NFL…

Well, the preseason is underway.  Soon the regular season kicks off.  And, here I sit, unable to work up any real interest.  I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember.  My first favorite Quarterback to Receiver tandem was Roman Gabriel to Jack Snow, so…there’s a reference.  (Some people know, some are like, “who?”)

Truthfully, I don’t give a rat’s tail about Colin Kaepernick’s “protest.”  Well, no, that’s not right.  I don’t object to the protest.  In fact, I’d say he has a point.  I’m not going to boycott the game because some players think bad cops shouldn’t murder people.  I wish I was more surprised that so many of my fellow Americans think Kaepernick is out of line.

As I’ve indicated in the Gabriel-to-Snow reference, I’ve been watching a LONG time.  I don’t object to changes to the game, either, so long as the changes in question are for the better.  I know, who gets to decide what qualifies as “better?”  In this case, me…because this piece is about how the NFL is losing (has lost?) me…

I don’t mean to go all, ‘you kids get off my lawn’ or ‘back in my day’ on you.  I don’t hate the game.  In fact, I really like the change to the PAT and overtime rules.  I expect to watch games this season.  I feel certain I’ll watch the playoffs and their stupid “Big Game”.  (Apparently, the NFL sues anybody who makes reference to the Supr Bwl without paying the fee…)  To quote Hamlet, “…ay, there’s the rub.”  The money.  I’m of the opinion that, as is so often the case, the pursuit of the almighty dollar has damaged the overall product – in my case, to the point where I’m just not as interested in consuming that product.

If you want to watch a football game on television, you need to expect to give up three and a half hours.  According to the clock, football is played for sixty timed minutes.  With normal stoppages (timeouts, reviews, injuries, etc.) I could see two hours being consumed strictly with football-related events.  So that leaves an hour and a half…for commercials!

Every year, the NFL announces rule changes, insisting the idea is to “shorten the game” or speed it up, depending.  But it keeps being three and a half hours.  So, if they’re speeding up the game but I’m still dedicating three and a half hours, what’s changing?  More commercials.  I know, corporations have to make money.  The product cost has to be covered.  But you know what?  I don’t watch football to find out which beer I should be drinking or which truck I should be driving.  I watch for the game.

Sixty minutes of game time.  One hundred and fifty minutes of NOT game time.  That’s only 29% of the time dedicated to ONE game that’s actual game.  That’s a pretty massive waste of time.  It was bad enough when it was contained to Sundays and Monday night but then the NFL – ever mindful of yet another dollar – added Thursdays to the mix, as well.

I HATE Thursday Night Football.  It invades my space.  Worse, it ruined fantasy football for me, as well.  I can’t really explain this without you understanding how fantasy football works and either you know or you REALLY don’t care so just suffice to say that it forces you to make decisions you shouldn’t yet have to make on players who really should have a full week to recover but don’t get it because…well, the NFL needs more money…

And, oh, yeah, the players.  No one needs to explain to me about the player’s career being so short or the dangers of the game.  I know.  I get it.  But when I loved football, I LOVED my team.  “My team” was the players, not the uniforms.  “My team” was the philosophy one team would use to beat another team.  There was a time in the NFL when trades didn’t happen as often and WHEN a player moved from one team to another, they couldn’t – couldn’t – take the field right away because they had to learn the playbook and language of their new team.

These days, playbooks have been so standardized, I genuinely believe a player could play for his old team on Sunday morning, get on a plane, and play for their new team the next day, on Monday Night Football.  This happened because players wanted their cut of the pie, too.  I don’t blame them.  They ARE the product.  A football game is a damn boring three and a half hours without players.  But it means there are no teams anymore.  I mean, sure, there are team names and team colors…team statistics and team outcomes.  But the “team” is the group of players who play – individual strengths and weaknesses and how they fit into the whole…

I still admire the athleticism that goes into the game but I’ll tell you this: I want to root for a team, not the laundry.  The NFL only wants the money.  The corporate headquarters constantly works to maximize profits for the league and the players association has maximized profits for the players but, in the process, they’ve turned it into a bad deal for the consumer…

“Dr. Bannon” and His Creature…

Well, the creature is unhappy with his creator.  By which I mean Steve Bannon is out of the White House and fallen from grace.  Like most people who aren’t racists, I’m pretty happy about it…made my day, in fact.  Apparently, it didn’t make Steve’s day.  It’s going to cause friction.  (Maybe we could call it ‘The War Between the White Supremacists.’)

Steve Bannon was pretty proud of the fact that he had used Breitbart to deceive the minions of the conservative bubble into believing that Donald Trump was more than Donald Trump has ever been.  It took Bannon’s help to get Trump elected through the use of what are called “editorial decisions.”

Editorial decisions are simply decisions editors make regarding what gets reported (and how) and what doesn’t.  Conservatives are all aware of editorial decisions.  They all know that editorial decisions happen in what they call the mainstream media, or MSM.  As a group, though, they remain blissfully unaware that editorial decisions happen inside the conservative bubble as well as the reviled MSM.

Worse, bubble-dwelling conservatives have been conditioned to simply accept as axiomatic that in case of any discrepancy between information they receive from the bubble and information presented by the MSM, the bubble is always correct and the MSM is always “fake news.”  We see it all the time from bubble-dwellers.  “Why won’t the MSM report this?” they implore.  Um, because it’s bullshit…but they genuinely don’t know it.

It’s not entirely their fault.  They’ve been told that by sticking to the bubble they’re receiving information which nobody else in the world knows because, secretly, they’re the smart ones so only THEY get to be in the club.  People LIKE clubs.  They LIKE belonging to something.  Clubs need rituals, of course, to reinforce the feeling of being “in” and, in this case, the ritual is as simple as logging in on a computer, although trolling bubble outsiders seems very important to the process as well…

Remember Frankenstein?  The book, not the movies.  Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature.  The Creature (for reasons that have nothing to do with this simplistic analogy so I’m going to just slide past them) turns on the doctor and destroys everything the doctor ever loved.  So, Dr. Frankenstein hunts the Creature across the planet and (spoiler alert!) they kill each other.  Playing the part of Dr. Frankenstein, in this case is one Steve Bannon.  The Creature, obviously, is Donald Trump.

Bannon owns Breitbart.com, one of the flagships of conservative “thought.”  Bannon “created” Trump in conservative circles by making editorial decisions that made Trump look like a strong, powerful, decisive and even competent leader.  (The bubble dwellers don’t know this.  They think they were just getting the actual news – BECAUSE it conflicted with what they heard in the MSM, see?)  So, what happens now that pissed-off-Steve – who still owns Breitbart – starts making OTHER “editorial decisions?”

Is Breitbart suddenly going to get on-board with the Russia investigations?  “OMG, Breitbart just learned…”  I don’t know, for sure.  But I’ll tell you this: I’m pretty sure Bannon is going to start eroding Trump’s base – in the same way strip-miners “erode” a hillside – and I have to confess: I’m looking forward to watching Creature and creator destroy each other…

Jesus Is Disappointed In You…

I need a little help, here.  I’m not “in the club” so I may have missed some of the nuance that only an insider can appreciate.  I’ll just give you the bits I get and you stop me when we get to the part I missed, okay?  Religions – ALL religions – come with rules.  These are not suggestions, they’re rules.  If you subscribe to a religion – any religion – you’re supposed to follow the rules, right?  In Christianity, all the rules are all the rules.  They all “count” but some seem to be…bigger than others.  Some (10, apparently) are SO big, they have a special name: Commandments.

If I break down that word, Commandments, I see it contains the word ‘command’, which indicates to me that it’s’ MORE than just a simple rule…it’s, well, a command.  Because it’s sort of highlighted, I feel it’s SO important that it required special handling.  A person who claims to follow a given religion must, at a minimum, follow the Commandments, right?  How am I doing so far?

I’ve read the Bible.  I don’t pretend to have memorized it and there are some parts that will cause your eyes to glaze over in boredom – the “begats” spring immediately to mind – but I do not recall any part anywhere that allows believing ‘a la carte.’  It’s a package deal.  You take the whole thing.  No substitutions.  (I always think about that when I see someone with a ‘Jesus loves me’ tattoo on their arm.  No tattoos.  Leviticus – look it up…)

One of those commands says this:  Thou shall not bear false witness (Exodus 20:16).  This command has generally been understood to mean you’re not supposed to lie, right?  Misleading is a lie, right?  I’ve never seen the asterisk in the Holy Book directing me to the caveat “unless you need to in order to defend your political position.”

So, I hear – and I mean I hear it a LOT – that this is a “Christian nation.”  If all of the preceding is correct, that means this is a nation of people that don’t lie, right?  That’s not really my experience.  People will readily tell you they’re Christians, then proceed to say whatever they feel they need to say in order to “win” an argument, true or not.

I know there are a lot of people out there who claim to believe in a “hedge their bet” kind of way.  They don’t actually believe and they don’t want to live by the rules but…just in case, they’d better SAY they believe.  According to the book, God knows their heart so that one is clearly not going to work.  Those people are only deceiving themselves.  Ooh, two strikes with one swing…

I guess the rest are counting – heavily – on that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” bit.  Now, this is a bit of a “deep dive” into the subject but my understanding is that forgiveness isn’t automatic.  You have to ask for it and even then, you have to ask with a “contrite heart.”  ‘Contrite’ means feeling remorse.  That is, you have to be genuinely sorry and genuinely intend never to do it again.  (Sure, you might do it again but you have to intend not to when asking…)

But if you KNOW that you’re going back to your false-but-win-at-any-cost stance right after church this morning, your prayer for forgiveness is probably going to fall on deaf ears, right?  More importantly, the person, er, Being who will be judging you is not the guy on the other end of social media you just managed to deceive.  It’s a GOD whom YOU claim is omniscient.  Omniscient means He knows EVERYTHING, right?

The God you claim to believe in is going to know that you’ve been lying your ass off in an attempt to win a freaking argument on Facebook and that doesn’t slow you down?  What, may I ask, do you plan to tell your ‘God’ when you stand for judgement?

I’ll tell you this: something isn’t right.  Based on what I read and hear, either there is no “serious” Commandment prohibiting lying or I’ve overlooked the ‘unless you need to’ bit or, perhaps, there are just precious few actual Christians…


Beyond The Pale…

Three dead.  How many others hurt?  Our so-called “President” condemns “hatred, bigotry, and violence from many sides”.  Many sides?  No.  ONE side: the conservative side.  What’s their slogan for this “event”?  Oh, yeah, there it is: ‘Unite the Right’.  Doesn’t sound like “many sides.”

Can it actually be that Donald Trump is THAT far gone?  Apparently, he is.  His delusion that this problem stems from “many sides” has pushed me into the Amendment 25 crowd.  If he’s incapable of making an actual determination about who’s doing what to whom…and why…he’s clearly incapable of executing the duties of his high office and should be removed.

All this over a statue of Robert E. Lee?  Right-wing nut-balls are losing what’s left of their tiny little minds over the idea that the nation is beginning to see fit to remove statues of Confederate “heroes” from public locations and put them in museums.  But let’s be clear: the Confederate “heroes” in question were traitors, not “heroes.”  Continuing to laud the efforts of the south to break away from the United States and create their own little racist hell-hole seems, to me, to be about as un-American as one can get.

You want to remind me that Robert E. Lee had been a great general for the United States?  You want to remind me that Robert E. Lee was Lincoln’s first choice to lead the Union Army?  Save it.  Lee declined and led the rebellion army.  Lee became a traitor.  I know, many people don’t like that assessment.  Tough.  The same is true of Benedict Arnold, a once-respected hero of the American Revolution who ended up trying to sell out West Point to the British.  A traitor, pure and simple.  We don’t litter statues of Arnold around the countryside and in parks and such in recognition of what he did BEFORE betraying his countrymen and we shouldn’t do so with Lee…or Stonewall Jackson…or Jefferson Davis or any of the rest of the rebellious traitors of the south.

I’m guessing, here, but I suspect this little prick who drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors thinks he’s going to get away with it because of the recent introductions of bills – by conservatives, in conservative states – that defend drivers who hit protestors blocking roads.  He won’t.  Even those stupid laws are REALLY about accidentally hitting someone – not pointing your car and plowing in at 40 miles per hour.  But, again, we’re talking about tiny little conservative racists minds, here.  Nuance is not something they understand…

I realized this morning I’m expecting the same old tropes from the right.  “Now is not the time to play the blame game”.  Now is EXACTLY the time to play the blame game.  I blame racists, marching down the street in their Brooks Bros shirts carrying their tiki torches and complaining about how rough they have it.  I blame conservatives who have been tossing red meat phrases around casually because it’s “fun” to piss off “Libtards.”  I blame our so-called “President” who tacitly supports racism in his rallies and who pretended he didn’t even know who David Duke was and knew nothing about the Ku Klux Klan.  I blame racist conservatives who simply will not let go of the fact that the big, bad evil government forcibly took away their “right” to forcibly take away other people’s rights.

Conservatives like to rip on the left over what they call “identity politics.”  Well, I ask you, what could be more “identity” than “white”?  I’m pretty much sick and tired of conservatives pretending liberals do the things conservatives actually do.  I’ve noticed a dearth of postings in social media from my conservative friends on the topic so far.  I”m sure the conservative bubble is working feverishly on some “spin” explaining how this is actually liberal’s – or even Obama’s – fault.  They’ll come up with something, too.  They always do.  It won’t make any sense.  It most likely won’t even have a basis in actual fact.  Conservatives don’t care.  So long as they can evade responsibility for their actions, they’ll grasp at whatever straw the conservative thought-shapers offer.

But I’ll tell you this: white supremacists, themselves, have ALWAYS been the best argument AGAINST “white supremacy.”  They’re just too stupid to know it…

A Few Words on the “Dow”…

When it was conceived, “the Dow” was a pretty solid indicator of the overall economic health of this once-great nation.  It was a quick little snapshot of the strengths of various core industries.  Back then, “the Dow” was actually called ‘the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.’  It was comprised of various industries like Steel and Rail – things the US made and the mechanisms we used to move those good around.

Americans got the update on the nightly news telling everyone where “the Dow” was today.  When “the Dow” went up, America was a little bit stronger.  People got used to it.  They may not have been able to articulate exactly what was in “the Dow” or, perhaps, even what it meant but they knew it measured America’s overall strength of economy and they liked to see it go up.

People do a funny thing: when we like someone or something, we shorten it’s name…unless the name is one syllable, in which case, we lengthen the name.  It’s an odd form of demonstrating affection but it’s so common, so ubiquitous, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.  People liked the Dow Jones Industrial Average and everyone just started using the verbal shorthand, “the Dow.”  We, the people, still get the daily update on “the Dow.”  It still shows up on daily news programs.  And we still call it simply “the Dow.”  But a curious thing happened to “the Dow” between the time it was conceived and today.

As America dismantled it’s manufacturing base, more and more of the elements of “the Dow” were removed.  After all, how can one measure United States Steel when United States Steel doesn’t exist anymore?  So, one by one, as various industries failed or were off-shored in cost-cutting measures, industries were replaced by financial services.  Over time, “the Dow” stopped including any industrial stocks.  This made calling it an “industrial average” kind of dumb so they’ve even changed the name.  These days, “the Dow” is actually ‘The Dow Jones Index.’

There’s an old rule of economics.  We don’t talk about it much today.  It’s seen as poor form or something but the rule remains whether we ignore it or not: Capital is dependent upon, and secondary to, labor.  What we manufacture – what we build – is the true measure of our strength.  As we’ve off-shored industries, we’ve weakened America in every measurable way.  But the clever sods in the corner offices – the people doing the weakening – don’t want us to recognize the fact so they’ve very carefully replaced the industries of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with financial services companies and the nightly reports of the success of “the Dow” continue to this day.  And…oh my god, the thing has shot through the roof.

22,000 points and climbing.  Yet, Americans from sea to shining sea are struggling and suffering in this “gig” economy.  We don’t manufacture like we used to.  People don’t have good jobs in stable industries enabling them to provide for their families.  We don’t maintain our infrastructure.  We’re just not – by and large – building.  Most of us can look around and see that the average American is not doing as well as his or her parents did.  But look at “the Dow.”  It’s off the charts.  How can that be?

The answer is that the Dow Jones Index doesn’t measure America’s overall economic strength anymore.  All it indicates is the happiness level of certain CEOs.  That’s why some large company can lay off 4,000 workers and “the Dow” goes up.  Laying off 4,000 workers is harmful to the overall economy but often temporarily good for bottom line of the company laying them off.  The stock price goes up, the dividend will be higher, the CEO is happy, “the Dow” goes up.

So can we, please, all stop arguing about how well the country is doing based on “the Dow” and whatever number we’re breathlessly fed by the daily infotainment programs?  We already know that the CEOs of the Fortune 500 financial services companies are happy and doing quite well, thank you very much.  Now all we need is some indicator as to the overall strength and health of America.  I don’t know, some kind of…industrial average, perhaps?