Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stupid on a Stick Flu

What passes for facts in the Alt-right world (link here Caution: Language.)

By Bob Ferris

Okay.  Yeah.  I am fresh from another on-line debate.  No, that is not right.  I was expressing my outrage at the unfounded and manufactured attacks on these grieving high school students in Florida.  The response being one more shovelful of crap after another.  They are coached.  But the earpieceCrisis actors.  Not from Florida.  Already graduated from another school.  There was a second shooter.  Kind of deplorable in the full mouth of apple and half-eaten worm kind of way.  But this is what we have and we see it sprinkled over everything from the Florida shooting to the recent Mueller indictments and from climate change to vaccinations.

I tend to think of this collective phenomenon as a virus.  A societal disease that I wish was less wide-spread and not as fact-resistant as we what we see above.  In my efforts to inject facts into some of this discourse I have been told to "grow up" or "mature."  I actually have followed both those directives which is why I use calm insults rather than more forceful means when confronting those who spew unfounded rumors and disproved gossip like a Tiger Beat-reading teen. 

But holding the tone down is admittedly difficult in the face of ridiculousness when your entire being screams from the sting of acidic ignorance and the intellectual injuries resulting from exposure to the toxic twists of obvious lies and propaganda.     Take one of the vehicles used to deliver some of this morning's misinformation--a site called The Burning Platform (TBP).  They used the above graphic to protest being banned from Twitter.  Their thesis being that not all conservative websites were Russian bots.  While their claim may be valid, one of their main advertisers is Zeropark, a Warsaw-based company (see below), whose adds are frequently done in Cyrillic lettering and have kind of an Eastern Bloc vibe as does TBP's reposting of Kremlin-friendly Zero-Hedge articles.    It seems to me if you do not want to be considered a "duck," you might take steps to be a little less festooned with feathers. 

The above from TBP is illustrative also, because it presents another symptom of this insidious virus: the seductive guise of insider information that others might not have or certainly would not understand if they did.  The above is couched in what can only be classified as "conspiracy-speak."  Now I am not sure how one logically jumps to the conclusion that blind acceptance of anonymous information stored two standard deviations from the norm (i.e., MSM) is a sign of superior intelligence, but the sufferers of this malady wear this proudly like measles.     To me and many others it more closely resembles a child running naked through the streets anxious to show the world their foolishness and the large, red "F" on their report card.

We all know those so infected.  They post and post thinking themselves geniuses perhaps because of their limited or compromised lenses.  Figuratively, they stand on strange shadowed peaks not understanding that the darkness they experience comes from the shade thrown by heights they think they have already climbed, but have not.  They enthusiastically confuse earpieces used for remote interviews as mind-control or prompting and embrace the narrative that the Las Vegas shootings, like the moon landing and the Holocaust, never happened.

The woman in the CNN video clip wants to think herself a patriot.  She holds this notion even when confronted with the idea that she was connected electronically with Russians feeding her suggestions and wanting to do us harm.  The conversation follows the painfully-predictable course we have all seen as it degrades into the land of didn't-do-it, then progressing then to wouldn't-matter-if-I-did.  It seemed like it was probably warming up to a charge of ad hominem, but she retreated into her house clinging, limpet-like to her beliefs.   Knowing or unknowing collusion with our nation's adversaries seems about as far away from patriotism as one can get.  But many do strange things while they are fevered.

Hopefully, our nation is sufficiently resilient to weather this bout of flu.  Interestingly, the indications of healing seem to be springing from same source as the expressed symptoms.  That these students and others across the nation are willing to suffer this tragedy, persevere through this attack, and still speak up as those of my generation did in the 1960s is encouraging.  These student marches and protests are like the sweat of a breaking fever.  Please continue to have the courage of your convictions and lead us through this.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Where is the Rat-tat-tat Anthem We All Need to Hear and Hear Again?

By Bob Ferris

When I was in high school I used a radio for an alarm clock.  I awoke to music which was generally better than the dreaded buzzer.  But I remember one time waking to the above iconic song by Dion about who we had lost to assassination in this country.  The song and sentiment affected me deeply sending chills through me and evoking a strong sense of loss that I still feel half a century later.  It also filled me with purpose.

I remember this Dion song now mainly because there is a true need for an updated version by contemporary artists dealing with AR-15 type weapons and these mass shooting.  The good news for whoever writes this new anthem is that the beat is already written in the above clip.   And one cannot watch or listen to the above without being moved by the drama of it and the need for action. 

Thinking on this I am not sure why someone has not made an audio loop of this bump-stock augmented Las Vegas massacre of our fellow Americans for playing 24/7 while driving a sound truck circuit around Capitol Hill until meaningful action is taken.  Certainly the person or persons doing this would likely be stopped and probably arrested for disturbing the peace, but the stinging irony of that action would not go unnoticed.

I would think too that the lyrics would be fairly easy to write, because the surrounding images of violence enabled by greed flying on the wings of hate, ignorance, and corruption would trigger (sorry) so much.   Themes abound as we have everything from the self-interested spinelessness of Congress and an NRA-beholding president to Russian bots a-posting and foreign monies tip-toeing into American elections.  And this is not to mention to the tragedy of lost lives painting the landscape crimson.  It is a rich and repugnant tapestry.

I have started to write this short and simple piece and plea several times and then have been stopped by emotions or knocked sideways by another mass killing or school shooting.  At times it feels like body-surfing and waiting for that perfect wave as foam and chaos crash around you.   At some point you understand that it is time to paddle.  We all need to paddle now and I hope that starts with an anthem for this generation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Anti-Pirate in Pence's Pants

By Bob Ferris

Mike Pence is a prig.  No doubt about it, but there is more to it than that.  When one tries to define a universal theory of Mike Pence, one is forced to conclude that many of his core issues (read: fears and prejudices) seem to radiate from around his personal equator and the equators of others. This is where the genders live, play and bend.  What lives in someone's pants (or does not) and how it is used clearly occupies much too much of his time and thought. 

Let's start with those with something stored in their trousers liking others of the same and this idea of Mike Pence being a homophobe.  Certainly this has been claimed and also debated but my sense is that clarity on this issue comes from the confusion and purposeful clouding.  Without question Mike Pence has a set of actions and spoken words that cast doubt on the relative worth and rights of homosexuals and other members of the LGBQT community.  There is no level of welcoming embrace here from the vice president and this community, rightfully prone to sensitivity, feels it (1,2,3,4,5). 

And then there is the tricky narrative of his support for the ignorance and cruelty of conversion therapy.  To be clear, he never specifically said he supported conversion therapy.  But disclaiming specific language supporting this controversial therapy is miles away from saying Pence is in opposition to the therapy and that is and should be a big problem.   He never said that he opposed the therapy and seems through his nebulous approach to want to butter his bread on both sides while keeping his fingers clean. 

For better or worse males are largely trained for life by their fathers, uncles and male peers (with corrective action taken by mothers, sisters and wives).  Much of this is directed at making sure that what are technically known as "dick moves" do not become regular parts of our behavioral repertoire.  This is done through a complex matrix of example, teaching, cajoling and occasionally pummeling.   Mr. Pence seemed to have avoided this element of his education.  Not standing when the host country team enters the Olympic arena regardless of who they walked in with was dick move (1,2,3).  It could be argued that it was a dick move supreme because of the underlying apolitical and philosophical nature of the games, but I will leave that to experts.  Actually, Pence has a history of dick moves going back to college when he infamously led a dean to his fraternity's beer kegs on a dry campus.  Not cool, bro.

Pence again looks to his pants-based screen when it comes to the military.  Through his support of the former Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy he apparently sees his own sensitivities as more valuable than the right of others to simply and openly live life as they chose or must.  His support for Trump's policies on transgenders in the military only illustrates his position towards those who are different pants-wise with a bigger brush and brighter paint.  Both stances ignore war time contributions of homosexuals, cross-dressers and those experiencing gender identity discoveries.  Pence needs to study history starting with Alexander the Great and perhaps learning the lesson trying to be taught by former lieutenant JRR Tolkien and expressed in the scene below.

Pants content also plays a part in his rules about dinner partners.  Pence once claimed that he would not dine alone with a woman who was not his wife.  Nor would he attend events that featured liquor without his wife.  While I am sure that Angela Merkel and other female world leaders are relieved by this stricture, Pence should know that treating one gender differently is not an example of virtuousness, but wreaks of sexism.  Mrs. Pence might accept this and has every right to but that does not mean other women should or must.  Which brings us to pirates.

Cross Dressing Pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read seem capable of getting the job done without objections from their crews.
My late friend Gregor Barnum, whom I knew far too briefly and lived a much shorter life than he deserved, loved pirates and Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th).  I like pirates (and vikings too), but I also understand that they tended to take valued things from others in frequently grizzly fashion.  Mike Pence in an anti-pirate as he wants to make his values ours whether we want them or not.  Much as he wraps himself in red, white, and blue this is a deeply un-American desire. 

Certainly a long and complicated post.  Central in this is a plea to the vice president and president to stop focusing on their own, myriad below-the-belt issues and start working on our collective well-being--economically, environmentally, and socially.  This is truly their job rather than continually stabbing us with the devil's pitchfork of ignorance, hate, and greed.   

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The One No Trump Bid on a Bridge Too Fair

Bob Ferris

I feel sorry for my friends who play the card game bridge.  I don't play the game, but I have good friends who do.   I think of them and this idea of "trump."   The concept of a highest or better suit sharing an appellation with this president seems to stretch the limits of language.  Once clear, the meaning of trump is now clouded much like poison mixed with pastries. 

Now granted his name is more properly Drumpf from the days when his grandfather was given the boot from Germany and his pretend-Swedish father was conceived in that foreign land, but Donald John claims the made-up surname now.  And this must cause the lead-off bridge bidders (i.e., the one, no trump folks) some measure of intellectual distress each and every time they give voice to this bid.  It is for this reason that I believe that we should petition the American Contract Bridge League for a nomenclature change.  My sense is that the venerable Edmond Hoyle (above) would support this action as he always sought clarity.

Central here is the issue of confusion.  Bridge is a complicated game so why use a word that is now painted with confusion?  Think for a moment about the beginning player learning about the game.  With the current global association with this president does use of this word mean a stronger or weaker suit?  After all, this is the president with the lowest approval ratings and the least number of bills signed into law.  This is also the president who has taken a lead balloon approach to our nation's global reputation and seems intent on collecting magazine covers and political cartoons of an unflattering nature.

That is not to say that Mr. Trump does not visit the land of superlatives.  He certainly lies the most of any president in memory.  He recently had the largest stock market drop.  He also leads for the number of associates under indictment and the fastest rotation of lead press personnel in the White House.   Add to that most marriages, lawsuits, vacation days and bankruptcies along with highest court settlement of any sitting president and we have an established pattern that does not reinforce the notions of best or better. 

I am not the first to ponder this issue of meaning with this made-up surname.  It was done better and more comprehensively by Robinson Meyer.  But Mr. Meyer was looking at this issue in an exercise of extrapolation by projecting past and campaign behavior into the future and making speculations.  We now have experience making Meyer's etymological detour to the association of this term with "breaking wind" all the more appropriate.  And quite frankly, this president has pushed the weight of trump-meaning much closer to the fart-side than the one that encompasses triumph or trumpets.

So hopefully the folks at the American Contract Bridge League will proactively change the term to something that brings joy in its use like Bingo, Yahtzee or Gin do and will not be usurped by a family un-proud of their own name.  The flip-side of this is there is also a need for this presidential happenstance to be remembered and memorialized for what it has wrought.  The less forgiving lens of retrospection will likely place Trump somewhere south of Millard Fillmore and much closer to a one-legged, former Revolutionary War general named Arnold.   And we need a device for remembering that and avoiding it in the future.