April Fools

Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife, daughter, sons and son-in-law all gathered around the Presidential Oval Office trough, has signed into law a decree that designates officially which Americans are April Fools.

All of us. Every American, regardless of how they voted, political party membership, height, weight, gender identification, hopes, dreams, goals and moral turpitude (or lack thereof) is officially designated an April Fool.

Unfortunately for Americans (and, unfortunately for the rest of the world, too, each and every human, animal, plant, fish, or inanimate object on the planet is encompassed by this legislation), the decree specifies that each and every day of each and every year is officially designated: April Fools’ Day.

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Fake News: Part…uh…2.38…or maybe part 2.5…

I planned back a month and a half or so ago…another aeon in today’s world…to finish the third part of “Fake News.” What a joke. All news is fake news, so it now seems. We have alternative facts proferred in place of…what? Real facts? According to the New American Oxford Dictionary, a fact is a thing that is indisputably the case, or, to quote the WordWeb Pro On-Line Dictionary, a fact is a concept whose truth can be proved. Well, that’s the fourth defination of fact listed on WWP.

Fuck me running, to quote Kurt Vonnegut and several other men who had such a daring way with words. Back in the day, as some old codgers mumble, a fact was simply the truth. Not a Bill Clintonesque distortion of depends on what IS is. Well, the truth is no longer…the truth. We’ve tumbled through the looking glass, we’re down the rabbit hole, we believe six impossible things every morning before the first bite of an egg McMuffin or a swallow of 197 degree coffee that we’re about to spill on our laps thus scalding our nuts and putting us in line for a big liability payout. ‘Course with no nuts we’ll merely pass the reward on to our kids or grandkids who can use it…wisely.

So: here’s our tautology for the day. At some point I either will or will not finish this three-part series concerning fake news. That’s the truth.

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Add Lip Gloss and Electoral Votes to a Cochina…Yeah…Still the Same…

Thought for the New Year: Add lip gloss to a cochina, provide it with a sufficient number of Electoral College votes to be ordained in high office…and underneath the makeup one discovers…yeah…same old, same old.

My apologies to Associated Press for purloining the above image then modifying it. Further apologies to the genus Sus and the many even-toed ungulates within the Suidae family for comparing their habits to the creature depicted in the above image.

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Self-Driving Cars: Absolutely, Positively Gotta Have One!

Woke up this morning–always a good sign–and realized that it’s Christmas Day 2016, which means I survived through another annual Christian holiday. This is three in a row since I played basketball with my head on the wooden floor of my office. Now that I seem to be back on track somewhat, I decided what I’d like for Christmas. Daddy. Please. Fucking Please, if that increases my possibility of getting what I want. Otherwise I’ll hold my breath until I turn purple. No. I take that back. I tried it a few years ago; didn’t like the way I felt.

So, back to what I want for Christmas.

I want a self-driving car, one like the Google God drives around cities clipping bicycles and flattening neighborhood pets who inopportunely wander onto the street. I’m not sure about the Tesla self-driver. It doesn’t see semi-trailers if they’re painted white. Cut the guy in the front seat’s head off but didn’t harm the computer. Gotta see the bright side, don’t we, Mr. Musk? Maybe Trump will require that all trailers and other large objects be painted a color the computer can see.

Self-driving cars seem like such a wonderful idea for people who don’t like to drive, people who know where they want to go before getting in the car, people who find such mundane tasks as turning the steering wheel while simultaneously operating fuel feed, clutch, gear shift and a multude of other controls just too, too boring. I mean, how many people do YOU know who pile into the family jalopy and go for a cruise around town with no idea of where they’re going to end up or even how they’re gonna get there? Surely no one…right?

These cars that drive themselves certainly are much more safe than the ones everyone else drives. Well, aren’t they? The only impediment in the path of self-driving cars is a bunch of cars driven by fucking human beings who don’t know where they’re going, don’t know how to get there and just want to poke around senselessly through town while cars that drive themselves need the road to themselves in order to be safe.

OK, so we remove people from the cars entirely. That’s a wonderful idea. Much more room inside for packages, items being delivered by Amazon, bags of drugs shipping from dealer distribution point to user end point, you get the idea. Car design changes are in line, too. No glass for windows; computer doesn’t need windows. No seats; computer doesn’t sit while it’s driving. No money wasted on colorful paint. Computer doesn’t care what color the car is.

Road requirements change simultaneously with the take-over of these new cars. No shitty scenic routes to be built or maintained. Computer don’t need no fuckin’ scenic route. More lanes available on extant roads. Computer don’t need space on each side to miss the other computer-driven cars. Lots more profit…LOTS MORE PROFIT…for Google, Amazon, Tesla, Uber, Unter, InsideYout, and all the poor, starving tech companies…when human-driven cars are removed from the roads.

What I really look forward to is self-driving motorcycles. Not enough space for packages, no practical application for the device, so it’s fun only for the computer itself. I’ll make sure my computer gets a Ducati.

Yep. I’m sold on the idea. Can’t you tell?

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Political Life with Filters Removed

Carl Paladino, Donald Trump’s New York State Presidential Campaign Co-Chair, has provided us with one more indelible image of political communication with all filters removed. Read about it here. So, one more old, ugly, obnoxious, overweight white male has vomited his hatred onto the national stage then grinned at the stinking mess he created. Did Paladino always think this way? Likely, but even in the edge of the civilized world environs of Buffalo, NY, (my domestic partner was born and raised in Buffalo, she says my characterization is unfortunetly accurate), Paladino probably limited his desire that Barrack Obama die and Michelle Obama return to being a man to sotto voce comments among his ignorant, overweight, rude and obnoxious, white male companions.

Not any more, folks. Pussy grabbing is in, people. Referring to people by the lowest possible common denominator terms is in. Ignorance is in. Hatred is in.

Maybe it always was but those polite society filters removed our awareness of such reality. Does anyone remember how shocked the nation was to read President Richard Nixon’s vulgar comments captured on a hidden audio system in the Oval Office? Well, neighbors, soon the Oval Orifice will reside in the Oval Office and rude pronouncements will be the order of the day.

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Memorable Occasions: 3rd Anniversary

Three years ago today I hit the floor of my office like a large sack of shit. My fucking heart had stopped.

Many fortuitous coincidences combined to culminate in my posting this web log entry today. My significant other was home at the time–not unusual but quite necessary in the overall scheme–and she heard the thud when I collapsed on the maple boards. My office chair has been modified, the right armrest has been removed so I might be able to practice guitar without wacking the instrument on a metal support. That missing section allowed me to fall from the chair instead of sitting upright until rigor mortis set in and I began to smell worse than usual.

Next, instead of ignoring the sound, SO investigated. Upon discovering me in the prone position, glasses askew, she grabbed the phone and called 911. According to the paperwork I read after returning home from University Medical Center in Tucson, I was Code Blue. Fucking dead. Prompt arrival of the paramedics and appropriate action on their part kick started my ticker.

And so on.

On December 23, 2013–two weeks after the big office party–Dr. Robert S. Poston, my cardio-thoracic surgeon, ripped my chest open with a chainsaw and carefully threaded three, shiny, new, stainless steel braided fuel lines and a fresh in-line fuel filter onto my heart. He did a wonderful job. Thank you, Dr. Poston. Wish you could have included six inches taller, forty years younger, a few million richer and much more handsome into the procedure but a functioning heart is still a good deal.

Three years later:

Memory of the events surrounding my heart attack is a tabula rasa. I lost about nine days from my hard drive. No recollection of a couple of days before the myocardial infarction, no memory of about five days after. No recall of the helicopter flight to Tucson. Likely that’s the way it is, folks. I awakened with the beast in my arms, no idea how she got there or what part I played in the performance.

I’m still irascable, as one might tell from reading my ramblings, flatulence and blather.

Three days ago, 6 December 2016, my cardiologist performed an echocardiogram. My EF–ejection fraction, not ejaculation factor–is in the mid-40% range. My system looks fine. Meds work. I take them every day, just as the doctor ordered. Carvedilol, lisinopril, atorvastatin. This morning, before breakfast, I walked two miles in the early frost. Felt great. Later today, I’ll add a couple more walks for a total of five or six miles. This is my normal, daily, aerobic activity. No shortness of breath, no angina.

In February, I visit my VA physician for my annual meet and greet. Each year his nurse asks me what my health goals are for the coming year. Each year I tell her, “I want to return next year without having had another heart attack or other significant health disorder.” Same old, same old…for another year.

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Fake News Part II

Fake News stories aren’t accurate. Usually the inaccuracy is intentional, agenda driven distortion. No shit, I can imagine someone murmuring. How long did it take for you to figure that out?

Interestingly enough, these distortions have been with us for many years, varying primarily in the sophistication of their distortion. Fin de siecle (end of the 19th century) newspapers published in New York City by Hearst and Pulitzer were noted both for their extravagant claims and the bright yellow ink splashed across the front page. Yellow ink in a day of black ink, white paper, drew attention to the stories so effectively that the technique was eventually known as Yellow Journalism.

Examples of the genre: news coverage of the sinking of the USS Maine when it was anchored in Havana harbor back in 1898. Blatant charges of Spanish complicity in the explosions of the ship soon resulted in a war between the United States and Spain even though the US Navy itself believed the battleship fell prey to coal dust ignition in the hold. Of course those claims of Spaniards planting a mine of the outside of the ship’s hull had been preceded by many stories concerning mistreatment of the Cubans rising to the level of human rights atrocities.

The US won this little fight, and as a settlement claimed control over both Cuba and the Philippines. Well, our guys  won…so no harm, no foul. Right?

Skip forward a few years. WWI-era US newspapers were rife with vilification of people of Germanic descent, folks who thought socialism might have its merits, delusional union workers who thought the common guy had inalienable rights…the list goes on and on.

Two more modern examples of Yellow Journalism or…Fake News…occurred in Vietnam and Iraq. Lyndon Johnson wanted…really wanted…a war to be waged against the Communists in North Vietnam. Troops, supposedly unarmed and there for humanitarian purposes, had been crossing the Pacific to assist the South Vietnamese government since the time of President Dwight Eisenhower. Under President John Kennedy the flow of men and materiel had increased. A bit of manipulation by Johnson resulted in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, unfettered flood of soldiers guns, planes and all the other delightful accoutrements of war and…as we know…the collapse of the South Vietnamese nation, loss of more than 50,000 American lives and so on.

Then, we have President George W. Bush and his fixation with Iraq, massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and, of course, another war. The US media was complicit by adding its own weapons of mass distraction so that we were mired in the mess before most people realized that once again we, the people of the US, had been bamboozled.

All of this Fake News, this Yellow Journalism, is old news. Men with an agenda, especially men with power and money, win out over the best intentions of honest legislators and forthright journalism every fucking time.

Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s1984–the guidebook of the twenty-first century–is alive and in deep shit. Big Brother, antagonist of Orwell’s book, has just been elected President of the United States and Breitbart News, now reborn as the Ministry of Truth, has provided a slovenly advisor to the about to be crowned fat man in the White House.

In Fake News Part III we’ll examine the state of truth and honesty in journalism and why the paradigm of words meaning whatever people of power say they mean at the moment has arrived. Bigly…

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Fake News – Part I

I’ve been seeing, encountering, reading more articles about…Fake News. Fake News? Yeah, the shit stories spread by minions of Donald Strumpet’s BFF Vlad Putin. Lies written by guys and girls working in alt.right dark environs like bugs under piles of feces and comments posted at the end of legitimate stories by paid shills for the creeps who are destroying our nation.

Note: Fake news as I understand the term excludes errors, misconceptions and poor research so endemic to newspapers and magazines. I should probably exclude radio, television and Internet writings from consideration as sources of fake news as these three categories predominently consist of erroneous material. Remove the fake news from radio, TV and the Internet and there would be no news at all.

The fake news so decried recently is merely our current iteration of fake news. In reality–if there is such a condition as reality–fake news might well have begun before there was real news.

David Brinkley–he of Huntly and Brinkley on NBC TV for those who aren’t old enough to remember the guy–was the speaker at an RTNDA convention (Radio Television News Directors’ Association). Brinkley noted, “The problem with TV News is it presents no news with the same emphasis that it presents news,” or words to that effect. I’m not quoting from an archive story, this is what I remember him saying, more or less.

He was right. I was a television journalist back in the 70s and when our small operation (WDTB-TV, Channel 13, an NBC affiliate at the time) in the panhandle of Florida had no real news stories, we presented whatever we could find. After all, we had to fill thirty minutes with something. OK, not really 30 minutes, since we had 6 minutes of commercials, 4 minutes of weather presentation, between 6 minutes of sports, another minute involved in intros, outros and segues, leaving us with between 12 and 14 minutes to shovel full of news or something that purported to be new. This sometimes included a local lede that was not really a lede (or lead, if that’s how you prefer the spelling). “City fathers announce funding for a new stop light at the corner of main and 7th…” uttered with urgency and backed by a chromakey slide of a stop light.

Part of a small market operation (larger markets, too) involved keeping a few video segments on hand that could be used to keep from having one of our female staff performing a strip on camera (thanks, Donald, for the suggestion…Megyn…que up David Rose…) while we searched for something to read. Where did those fillers come from? They magically appeared in the mail, sent to us from politicians, corporations, public relations companies, and so on, who knew the need for a well-produced segment to keep the system from toppling into the sounds of silence or a moment of the ever ready “We’re currently encountering technical difficulties” slide.

Did we vet the mail-in material? Sometimes. Maybe. Reels of two inch video were usually accompanied by a print read of the script. Maybe someone in news would read the shit. Other over-the-transom submissions were 16mm film, often with an optical sound track, sometimes with a magnetic track of single-system sound, occasionally with a separate script we could read.

Fake news, people.

All this nonsense with filler was worse when considering print journalism. Thousands of trees, maybe even millions, lost the lives to be pulped into pages of crap that appeared in newspapers without a cavaet concerning the source. If there was sufficient time available, the shit might have been rewritten or at least edited. Often it appeared with no more than a cursory jab with a pencil, a line or three deleted as too blatent to print…or maybe not even that. Images–yeah, black and white glossy prints which could be sized and tossed in to fill two or three, maybe even four columns wide by a proportionate number of inches deep with screened nothingness. Wonderful stuff to have when the advertising department came in with several inches of classifieds causing the paper to expand by two or four pages.

Some of this filler was submitted by political groups, people with an agenda other than just selling a product. Some–maybe even much–of it was ugly, material that shouldn’t have appeared in print because it was never vetted, questionable in value or occasionally even blatantly false.

Sounds much like what we encounter today, doesn’t it? Where did the term Yellow Journalism originate? Sure, with the color of the paper…but the moniker really referred to the content, the agenda-driven material that sucked readers into an emotional maelstorm of nonsense. Example: Remember the Maine? I don’t and I’m relatively old so I doubt you do either. Stories about the USS Maine’s destruction in Havana harbor led directly to a confrontation with Spain and the ensuing war. The perfidious Spaniards planted a fucking bomb in the innards of the ship and caused it to explode, destroying not just the ship but several hundred lives…at least according to the stories printed in newspapers from coast to coast of the United States.

False news, as it turned out to be. Likely culprit for the explosion was coal dust in the bin in the heart of the USS Maine. Oh, well. Tooo late.

In Part II of False News, we’ll look at stories which incited wars, destroyed nations and cost vast amounts of money and human lives. Part III of False News will move into the modern day lies of the Internet.

 

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Too Sad to Consider

It’s been several months since I added more ramblings, flatulence or blather. Watching, however obliquely, what has passed for a political campaign…was too sad for me to consider. Two incontrovertable truths: Hillary Clinton is the waddling epitome of everything I believe is wrong with the Democratic Party. Donald Trump is the waddling, groping, whining, snarling epitome of everything I believe is wrong with humankind.

People, this election cycle was not a choice; it was a threat. I repeated almost endlessly during the past few months that I had no idea who would win the 2016 US presidential election but I had no doubt who the loser would be. Us. To trot out one of my favorite (slightly paraphrased, no offense to Walt Kelly) observations, We have met the loser and he is us.

It’s still much too soon–and much too painful, particularly seeing the absolute morons who will surround sTrumpet in Washington–to add anything. I’ve sworn off reading media for the time being as part of my mental health program.

So, as Sister Placebo–my favorite clergyperson–said after a few months of not bathing or washing her clothing, “Just to please the Lord I’ll change my habits…”

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A Viable Alternate to Trump’s Wall

Donald Trump, the Grand Old Party’s 2016 Presidential nominee, steadfastly defends his determination to build a wall between the US and Mexico…but wait, people…there IS a viable alternative to consider. No, not a nuclear device nor a laser eradicator tuned to the frequency of people from south of the border, though Trump would likely consider such a suggestion.

16-07-26-mexico-us-border

First, lets do a quick examination of the putative wall. Yeah, that’s a map of the southern border between the US and Mexico. Land mileage–after all, the wall will be built on the ground, is somewhere between 1300 and 1500 miles, give or take a few measly thousand feet here ‘n there. Look closely at the lower right hand corner of Arizona. There’s a little town called Naco shown on both sides of the border line. Why both sides? ‘Cause Naco is a pimple on a horny toads ass plopped right on the border extending across on both sides.

I live about six miles north of Naco, Arizona. I’ve walked every street in Naco, Arizona, with a handheld GPS. You paid me to do it, too. (I did geo mapping for the 2010 US Census, one of my assignments was Naco.) I know this country along the southern border of the US. I’ve hiked, bicycled, motorcycled, driven cars and flown an airplane along probably every dry, dusty and usually deserted mile of the border between San Diego, California, and Brownsville, Texas.

People, this is not flatland just waiting for a backhoe to dig a trench. Mountains, valleys, billions of rocks…and an amazing amount of flora and fauna to be destroyed whilst digging and blowing up the border, not that any of that would bother The Donald.

How much would this fantasy cost (just in construction dollars, not ancillary damage to the environment)? Guesses have ranged from a few hundred billion dollars to well over a trillion, not to include the cost of on-going maintenance and surveillance to keep intruders from blowing up, knocking down or crawling over the wall.

What about an alternative? Should the two-headed hydra known as Hillary and Billary suggest it or will they leave the idea up to The Donald and his partner, the Que-Tip Batboy, Pants Pence?

What about single-payer, covers every US Citizen from birth to death: Universal Health Care? Hmmm? Would health care cost more than the great wall of the west? If the rest of the industrialized west is an indication, no it wouldn’t.

OK, people. Which one would you prefer?

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