Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

Belief and Government

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 18, 2016 @ 11:15 am PDT

userpic=levysWhile eating my lunch, I was reading the headlines about Trump’s selection for Attorney General. This got me thinking. We should all write to our senators, and insist that any nominee what takes precedence when determining government action or policy: the written law and any legal precedents for that jurisdiction, or their belief system.  If they answer that their belief system takes precedence, they should be denied confirmation. Why? To give a belief system precedent when determining government action is to impose that belief system on others — which is the government essentially establishing a religion and enforcing it on others. But, some will counter, that denies the nominee the freedom to practice their religion. It actually doesn’t. They are free to practice their religion in private times, and even when not performing government actions. But government decisions should not be enforcing one religion or belief on another.

If this makes it difficult for Trump to nominate certain individuals to positions such as Justice or the Supreme Court, that’s how it works. The same Bill of Rights that gives them the right to spew whatever hate speech they want and to practice their religion protects the people of this nation from imposing their religious beliefs or discriminatory practices on the populace. This is a nation ruled by law, and laws that are difficult to change. Sometimes it works to their advantage (such as the Electoral College); sometimes it doesn’t (they can’t discriminate, they can’t register — beyond what would be done for the census — based on religion, they can’t undo gay marriage, they can’t even easily undo Roe vs. Wade). We need to constantly remind them of this. We cannot discriminate in hiring based upon belief. We can, however, insist that they follow the law even when it conflicts with their belief.

[And, by the way, this applies to Steve Bannon as well. He may or may not hold white supremacist views. He cannot, however, act on those views when they are contrary to our laws — that is grounds for requesting his removal from office.]

The key point we must continually make: The President, Congress, and his advisors are not above the law. Their followers are not above the law.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 16, 2016 @ 7:57 am PDT

userpic=soapboxGoing into this rant, I want to note that I was not, and am not, a Trump supporter. You know this if you read my election posts: I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. You should also know that I was on the net in days when we elected Bush 43. I remember the rants on Usenet; I particularly remember the reactions in the 2004 election over on Livejournal. Back then, I used to think it was fun to make fun of President Bush with all of our “village idiot” memes. The good old days, so to speak. Since then, however, I’ve gained a bit more wisdom and perspective.

Then I read Facebook before heading off to work, and got disgusted. So much so, that this rant formed on the drive in and insisted on being written.

I am not saying we should quietly lie on our backs, spread our legs, and get fucked by the new administration (how’s that for graphic). H0wever, I don’t believe that spreading false news stories helps. For example, Trump is only trying to get his son-in-law cleared for briefings, not his entire family. We (that is, progressives like me) complained when the Trump side was spreading false stories and believing anything they read on the net about Hillary. Why are we so quick to do the same about Trump? We need to keep our mantra as “verify, verify, verify”. Many of these stories about Trump are overblown exaggeration, often spread by excessively political media or false news sites. Know which sites are real and which sites are not.

Fellow progressives: spreading false stories on Facebook — or even the funny Biden/Obama memes — does nothing to combat Trump or help those who will be vulnerable when he takes office. Actions speak louder than memes, and we need to be doing, not sharing:

  • Physically write, call, and/or email your Congressional representatives, and let them know that nominating unqualified individuals is unacceptable. If those individuals are subject to Congressional approval, they should be turned down. If not, they should be calling on Republican leadership to stress the harm employment such individuals could bring to the country, and to appropriately encourage the President-elect to select someone else.
  • As for individuals such as Bannon: Much as I would like to say “Don’t hire him because of his views”, would we want a person’s political views or religious views to prevent them from being hired? If the shoe was on the other foot, probably not. For such individuals, we need to press our Congressional representatives to stress to such nominees that one’s personal views must be set aside when they are in Government service, and they must work in the interest of the Nation, in accordance with the constitution and its values of equality, fairness, and justice for all.  If they cannot do that — if they can’t separate the personal/religious from National responsibilities — they must be pressured to decline the position.
  • We need to work to protect those most vulnerable, if we are in a position to do so. We need to let them know we have their backs — and then be there for them. We need to remind anyone harassing or threatening someone that Trump’s election has not changed the laws. Violence against others is not legal, nor is hate-oriented speech (except where constitutionally protected). We need to pressure our public service officials to enforce the law against *any* such speech/actions. We were doing this when we were battling for #BlackLivesMatter, so why should we stop now? Our law enforcement must be neutral in its enforcement: what is wrong is wrong, and having alt-right or equivalent views does not give one a pass, even with Trump’s election.
  • We need to push to ensure the election results are correct. This does not mean pushing to have the electoral college follow the popular vote this election — that won’ t happen, and would create an even greater crisis if it did. However… we can press investigations of vote tampering, vote suppression, miscounts, etc. in those states where the election was closes and whose electoral votes are critical – WI, MN, PA, MI, NH, etc. While we can’t get the electors to follow popular vote, if we can discover sufficient fraud for a state to flip, that can make a difference. But there isn’t much time — this needs to be done before electors meet.
  • We need to set an example. Protest is one thing. Vandalism during protest is something else. We should not let this turn us into thugs.

In short, instead of sharing false news and silly memes, we need to pressure Congress to do its job, and ensure the President-elect selects qualified advisors who are working in the interest of all the country, not their personal agendas. Given the lack of Government experience in our new leader, this is critical if we are all to survive, let alone succeed, in these times.

P.S.: Here’s a good article on how to really make a difference.

 

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Fear (fear ear) and the Echo (echo cho) Chamber

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 11, 2016 @ 5:56 am PDT

userpic=socialmediaEveryone is attempting to adjust to the results of this election differently. Those who have been marginalized for whatever reason — sex, color, orientation, etc. — are reacting in fear for what might happen with Trump (even though he is not yet in power, and won’t be in power until January). Those who have crawled out of the shadows and the gutters, emboldened by the man, have taken to harassing and abusing those marginalized (even though the laws have not changed, and likely will not change, making what they are doing illegal). Some, like me, who have been fortunate enough (dare I say privileged, which I do recognize) have been coping by hoping for rationality — believing (perhaps unrealistically) and hoping that the weight of the Presidency will change the campaign demagogue into a reasoned man concerned with his legacy, suitably constrained by our Constitution, the opposition Democrats, and our system.

We all have been taking to the streets and social media. Social media has done its job: amplifying the small fringe voices and actions so that they feel like a national groundswell; amplifying the resulting fears to make everyone more fearful; echoing those who have the same fear while hiding the reasoned voices on both sides. The reasoned people who supported Trump more to blow up the system rather than to support his behavior see only the riots and vandalism in response to his election, not the fear. Those who support Clinton only see the fear and the hate response. And it magnifies, like a mirror looking into a mirror, reflecting on and on forever deeply, even though we’re really only talking about perhaps a quarter-inch of glass.

And those who operate the social media — the Mark Zuckerbergs, the folks behind Twitter, etc. — where are they in all of this? Silent. They are silently allowing the echo chambers they created – and the algorithms they curated — to spread the fake news, to spread the parodies, to spread the words that amplify and isolate. They are not taking responsibility; they are not helping to heal. When we look back at this election, we’ll see much of the ultimate blame belongs with the Internet and Social Media for building up the hate and fear between both sides. For those us on the Clinton side, ask yourself: where would we be if Trump had been unable to tweet, but could only go through the news media, if we weren’t seeing the fear-mongering fake news on FB, if we weren’t seeing the parodies and believing them real. For the Trump supporters, the same question: how might your picture of Clinton differ without FB spreading the stories, and Wikileaks being enabled to spread overly sensationalized innuendo?

Those of us who were there in the founding days of the Internet: What have we wrought?

Shortly before the election, Vox ran an article about how the Internet is harming our democracy. I saved it planning to post and comment upon it the day after the election. The election occurred, and other reactions came first. But the article remained, and deserves to be heard. The article talks about the impact of fake news on the election; about how Facebook considers itself to be a technology company, not part of the media. Quoting from the article:

But that’s wrong. Facebook makes billions of editorial decisions every day. And often they are bad editorial decisions — steering people to sensational, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate stories. The fact that these decisions are being made by algorithms rather than human editors doesn’t make Facebook any less responsible for the harmful effect on its users and the broader society.

Further on, the article notes:

Facebook hasn’t told the public very much about how its algorithm works. But we know that one of the company’s top priorities for the news feed is “engagement.” The company tries to choose posts that people are likely to read, like, and share with their friends. Which, they hope, will induce people to return to the site over and over again.

This would be a reasonable way to do things if Facebook were just a way of finding your friends’ cutest baby pictures. But it’s more troubling as a way of choosing the news stories people read. Essentially, Facebook is using the same criteria as a supermarket tabloid: giving people the most attention-grabbing headlines without worrying about whether articles are fair, accurate, or important.

Post election, this algorithm is showing us the fear and the attacks because that is what our friends are sharing. It isn’t showing us the reasoned voices. It is isolating us, and not allowing us to confront the hate directly online. We’ve defriended the other side long ago. And so it magnifies. The following excerpt from the article points out why things feel so bad now:

This dynamic helps to explain why the 2016 election has taken on such an apocalyptic tone. Partisans on each side have been fed a steady diet of stories about the outrages perpetrated by the other side’s presidential candidate. Some of these stories are accurate. Others are exaggerated or wholly made up. But less sophisticated readers have no good way to tell the difference, and in the aggregate they’ve provided a distorted view of the election, convincing millions of voters on each side that the other candidate represents an existential threat to the Republic.

And now that that existential threat has been elected, look at the reaction. Facebook built that fear, folks. Facebook elected this man, folks. One in five people — that’s 20% — say that they changed their vote because of social media:

In a recent survey of 4,579 Americans, Pew found that most people who are exposed to political content across their social media feeds react negatively to it. Nearly 40 percent of respondents described themselves as “worn out” by political debates on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and 80 percent of respondents said that when they see political posts they disagree with, they usually choose to ignore them. Meanwhile, 40 percent reported blocking or filtering political content and/or fellow users who posted political content on their feeds; the vast majority said it was because they felt the content was “offensive.”

But that doesn’t mean said political content has no measurable effect on Election Day. In Pew’s study, 20 percent of respondents admitted that they had changed their minds about a political issue or candidate after seeing the issue or candidate discussed on social media.

Think now about all how all those stories about Hillary and her email server, about how Hillary was dishonest, changed minds about Hillary. I heard an NPR story last night about how Democrats were voting in large numbers for Trump because they didn’t trust Hillary. It was social media that built that distrust. It is also social media that permitted the White Power groups and other haters to be heard in much larger numbers than they actually are. Combine this with the fact that even a single percentage point difference in each state — one in one hundred shifting from Trump to Clinton — could have given the election to Clinton instead of Trump:

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida flip back to Clinton, giving her a total of 307 electoral votes. And she’d have won the popular vote by 3 to 4 percentage points, right where the final national polls had the race and in line with Obama’s margin of victory in 2012.

NPR asks: Did Social Media ruin this election? They note:

This is our present political social life: We don’t just create political strife for ourselves; we seem to revel in it.

When we look back on the role that sites like Twitter, Facebook (and Instagram and Snapchat and all the others) have played in our national political discourse this election season, it would be easy to spend most of our time examining Donald Trump’s effect on these media, particularly Twitter. It’s been well-documented; Trump may very well have the most combative online presence of any candidate for president in modern history.

But underneath that glaring and obvious conclusion, there’s a deeper story about how the very DNA of social media platforms and the way people use them has trickled up through our political discourse and affected all of us, almost forcing us to wallow in the divisive waters of our online conversation. And it all may have helped make Election 2016 one of the most unbearable ever.

We need to realize the impact of social media on this election. We need to realize that the hate voices we are hearing are an overly magnified and emboldened fringe. We need to realize that our fear and loathing of the President-elect — and indeed, much of his behavior and excesses — have been magnified through social media. It will continue to magnify, until we make the decision to stop letting it do so.

We need to take action. We need to speak up for the majority, not amplify the fears and behaviors of the minority. Remember the following:

Get away from the fear. Step away from the keyboard before you share that article about yet another hate attack. Use the amplifying power of Facebook not to share hate, but to share hope. Speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

It is not acceptable, because Trump campaigned so as to amplify hate, to take that hate out on others in society.

It is not acceptable, out of your fear of and in protest of Trump’s election, to vandalize and destroy.

It is not acceptable to lose faith in our American system, to believe that its checks and balances and restrictions will not serve to temper the behavior of our Chief Executive. It limited Obama, and it will limit Trump.

We are the best of America. We need to show it. We must remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt — the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

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To The Democrats / To The Republicans

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 10, 2016 @ 6:29 pm PDT

userpic=bushbabyTo My Democratic Friends: Take a deep breath and calm down. I’m seeing folks reacting just like the Republicans did when Obama was elected. He’s going to be a dictator! He’s going to take away all our rights! He’s going to undo everything the previous administration did! We thought the Republicans were unrealistic when they said that then, so why are we acting that way now? The same constraints exist on the office. Appointments must be confirmed by 60% of the Senate. The Constitution is still in play, and can only be changed by an amendment or a case that goes through the court system. The President is limited in what they can do. Here’s one good article on that. Congress will limit him further, because they have their jobs to protect. Further, Mr. Trump is going to be hit by the enormity of  the task he has taken on, which is very different than running a business. He’s going to want to win: which means not destroying America, but going down as the Best President Ever™. He’s probably feeling like a dog that has captured the car. I think we’re going to see the office change the man. It has happened to everyone else that has held the office.

To My Republican Friends: Just because Mr. Trump has been elected does not give you the right to act like he has in the past. There are still laws on the books regarding sexual harassment, sexual abuse, hate crimes, discrimination. These laws derive from the constitution, and are not going away even after Mr. Trump becomes President Trump. ACT LIKE ADULTS. Don’t gloat. Don’t be dicks. You’re only making it harder for our government to have a peaceful transition. You’re only making it harder for Mr. Trump to become a better man and this country to be strong. You are exhibiting the worst of America. Further, forget all this gloating about Sarah Palin and other unqualified people becoming cabinet officers. It didn’t happen with Obama, and it won’t happen with Trump, because the Senate cares about this country, and are part of the process to ensure that the right people go into office.

To America In General: Candidates change when they become President. The office changes them. They rarely achieve everything they promise; to do even 25% is remarkable. We all need to calm down, take deep breaths, hug our friends and be there for them. We need to let a peaceful transition occur, because that’s what America is. We need to have confidence in our system of government. It may zig-zag to goals, it may be slow, it may seen byzantine, but it is survived long beyond both good and bad Presidents, beyond honest and corrupt Presidents. Our founding fathers designed it very well, and that is why it has lasted so long.

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Don’t Panic

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 10, 2016 @ 8:10 am PDT

userpic=stressedI’ve been seeing a number of my friends on Social Media seemingly panicking over the election results (not to mention the protests in the streets). Please folks, if President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren aren’t panicking, why should you? Please keep the following in mind:

  • Mr. Trump does not take office until January. Until then, he is just a private citizen. He still has to testify in his upcoming fraud case, and he is not shielded from his legal problems. He still has to figure out how to address his conflicts of interest.
  • All those wild messages you see about proposed cabinet officers and Supreme Court Justices. None of them have been ratified, and they have to get through the Senate, where the Democrats have the power of the filibuster. Sen. McConnell, Majority Leader, has indicated he does not want to get rid of the filibuster. This means that the Democrats have the power to keep unqualified candidates, and those too far to the side ideologically, out of office (just like the Republicans did with them).
  • Trump cannot repeal Obamacare wholecloth immediately. He can do a partial repeal, but many regulations will remain in place.
  • The Military does not support everything Trump says. In particular, they will follow the Constitution, not unlawful orders.
  • Trump will be hamstrung by the nature of the Federal bureaucracy, and the ways the Congress works. He will discover — as Obama did — that the powers of the President are very limited.
  • All the existing laws on the books at the Federal, State, and local levels regarding hate crimes have not instantly gone away. His followers who commit hate crimes can still be prosecuted.
  • Trump does not have the full support of the Republican establishment. It is likely that in many areas they will not support his proposals, or will join with the Democrats to moderate them.
  • Trump will be held to task by those who elected him. What do you think will happen in two years when he hasn’t been able to “blow up Washington” as he promised? Remember, other Presidents have promised the same thing, and have been unable to do so.
  • Trump will also be held accountable by Congress. If he commits clear crimes or even somewhat crimes, the spectre of impeachment will be there. Moderate Republicans would be eager to do so, especially to get the more normative Pence into office. Further, Trump likes to win — and at this point, winning means going down in the history books as the greatest President. That won’t happen if he gets impeached or cannot get anything done. There is a high likelihood that the office, combined with the place he will leave in history, will change him.

I didn’t support Trump; I didn’t vote for him. However, he has been elected, and I respect the office of President even if I don’t like the man (a lesson I learned in the Bush years). I remember the transition from Clinton to Bush in 2000, and from Bush to Obama in 2008. It was peaceful, and we survived. Our nation is stronger than Trump, and we can survive at least two years. Now is the time to start finding those Democrats — future-Congresscritters and Senators — and getting them elected into office. Now is the time to elect Democrats to state offices and the Governorships so that when the redistricting happens, we can make fair districts. The pendulum will swing back. It always does. As they sing in Sweeny Todd: “Wait…”.

As for the people most in danger under Trump’s administration: That is the reason not to run away, not to give up. We must stay here and help them, and defend them. What the Government chooses not to do, we can. We can show the power of the people of America.

PS: Gene Spafford also shared this interesting “Don’t Panic” link. Here’s another on why you shouldn’t be worried.

PPS: Here’s an interesting link on how the checks and balances can prevent Trump from becoming a dictator.

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There’s Got To Be a Morning After…

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 09, 2016 @ 7:51 am PDT

userpic=rough-roadSome thoughts this morning on waking to a presumptive President-Elect Trump:

1. Lament for a Lost Election

Let us begin by singing the “Lament for a Lost Election”, by Tom Paxton:

Shit.

2. We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before

Let us continue by singing together with the Austin Lounge Lizards:

3. My Hopes for President Trump

Just as we wished Donald Trump would be gracious had Clinton won, and that President Clinton would realize there was hard work to unite this country, I feel the same way now towards President Trump. I hope that as he begins the transition the enormity of the office he is assuming hits him, and that he realizes he is governing a very divided country and he is the leader of all the people … not just those that voted for him. I hope he realizes that how he behaved on the campaign — and in the past — is not appropriate for a President, and that he uses this transition period to come up to speed on how government really works, and how a President needs to behave.

I hope he realizes that he was elected by people protesting what was wrong in Washington — and that means people who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock. They wanted to break that up by electing an outsider. He cannot continue to be partisan and angry without inciting a further revolt. That means he will need to figure out how to reach out. It will be outside his comfort zone, but he is a smart and a shrewd man — and I believe he will do what he needs to do to win over the country.

I hope that he surrounds himself with smart and talented advisors who also want to repair the divide, and that he listens to them. I hope he thinks carefully before speaking and acting.

I hope that the moderate Republicans in Congress, together with the Democrats, and serve to temper Trump’s excesses as much as they can. This is not to say that I expect Trump to abandon his agenda; however, Congress can serve to turn an ideological agenda into a realistic compromise that all the country can accept.

I worry about the preservation of the separation of Church and State. I pray that the justices of the Supreme Court go above their personal ideologies and ensure the constitutional separation remains intact.

I’m worried about the Supreme Court, but again, I hope that Trump thinks carefully before he nominates, and that the Senate really does its job. I pray for at least 6 more years of excellent health for the current justices of the Supreme Court.

I also pray that President Trump does not give into the radical elements that backed him: the KKK, the White Power movement. I hope he realizes that America is acceptance of all religions, colors, and orientations, and protection of the minority. While protection may not advance under President Trump, I hope and pray it does not regress. I also pray that Trump does not take revenge on his detractors and opponent; revenge is not an American value.

We never saw Mr. Trump’s tax returns. I hope he can extricate himself from his businesses and realize that, come January 20th, America is his only business. The Trump business empire will just have to do for four years without him at the helm. Hopefully, he can put good businessmen in charge there. I pray that he can govern America working in the interest of the Nation, and not the Trump family.

4. What We Must Learn

This election demonstrated much that we must understand:

  • There was a seething, underestimated current of discontent with “Washington Establishment” in this country. I believe that Trump was elected less for his policies, and more for who he was — and what he wasn’t. This discontent must be addressed quickly if the country is to heal.
  • Almost every polling and poll aggregation site got it wrong. In this age of the Internet and cell phones, can we ever effectively poll the people? Have robocalls and ignorance of the “Do Not Call” list doomed telephone polling? Our statistical gathering organizations needs to do some major methodology reevaluation.
  • The Tom Bradley effect is real. I believe people were unwilling to admit to pollsters they were voting for Trump.
  • This election highlighted the divide between the urban population in most cities (very diverse in so many ways), and the rural population (mostly homogeneous, white, with a Bachelors degree at best). I believe it demonstrated that the pace of change of the last eight years — from healthcare to societal issues such as gay marriage to #BLM — was far too much for the rural population. Too much. Too fast. They reacted with a backlash, or should I say, a white-lash.
  • We have sliced and diced our demographics in so many ways, and this has just served to divide us. I think both sides were trying to send a message — the Trump side by blowing up the system, the Clinton side by voting for someone who promised to reunite us — that we must find a way to come together.
  • Our media is broken. Just look at the shock and awe last night as returns came in. There needs to be a strong reexamination of how our media works, and how punditry and opinion is clearly distinguished from fact-based journalism.
  • Our social media is broken. I’ll have more on that in a day or two, but organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, and others must realize that have moved from a place to share family pictures to a national news aggregation source — and as such, have the responsibility to label what is what — from objective journalism, to partisan sites, to parody sites. We, as users of social media, must learn to think before we share.
  • We must investigate the extent of outside meddling in the election: from WikiLeaks to Russian Hacking to the timing of Comey’s announcements. American elections must be fair and free from such interference.
  • The Democrats must take the blame for having a clearly flawed candidate, whose flaws were of her own making. Instead of grooming the next generation of leaders, they put all their hopes on this flawed candidate. Major mistake. The Democrats need to do some soul searching (and no, Bernie would not have been better — with the veiled antisemitism in Trump’s campaign, going against a New York Jew would have been ugly ugly).
  • The Republicans must take the blame for having a clearly flawed candidate. They could have blown up the system without all the flaws. They must also take responsibility and rein in his excesses, while thinking about what their party wants to be.
  • The political pendulum swings, and it is very rare for a two-term president … of any party … to get an effective continuation of that term through election of a successor in the same party. Often, the pendulum swings from one candidate to the exact opposite. Clinton was the opposite of Bush 41, and Bush 43 was the opposite of Clinton. Bush 43 to Obama was a sea change, and if you look at Trump, he is the opposite of Obama. The pendulum swings.
  • Both parties need to consider the extent to which realignment is needed of what they stand for. Just because Trump was elected, does he represent the Republican position. Just because Clinton was the nominee, does she represent the parties values. We need a realignment: edges and the middle. Right now, the edges have control and the middle is discontent and scared.

5. Moving Forward

As I wrote yesterday, we must move forward recognizing that we are all Americans doing what we believe is right for the country. We must move forward recognizing that what built this country, and made it strong, was not partisanship but compromise. We must strive to find what we agree on and urge our leaders to move forward in those areas. Most importantly — and I pray that President-Elect Trump learns this — we must learn to listen to each other. We must step outside our echo chambers and our comfort zones, and interact with those on the other side of the spectrum (and interact with respect). We must listen to what they say without knee-jerk response; it is heart-felt to them and thus important. They must listen to us the same way.

We pray (or, for those who don’t pray, we hope) that our new Leadership finds a way to move beyond the partisanship to figure out a way to make our Government serve the people again. If they don’t, well, there’s 2018.

P.S.: If you didn’t get the reference in the title of this post: Morning After was the title song in The Poseidon Adventure, a movie about a luxury cruise ship sinking and a motley collection of passengers making their way out and surviving:

There’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on lookin’ for the light

Oh, can’t you see the morning after
It’s waiting right outside the storm
Why don’t we cross the bridge together
And find a place that’s safe and warm

It’s not too late, we should be giving
Only with love can we climb
It’s not too late, not while we’re living
Let’s put our hands out in time

There’s got to be a morning after
We’re moving closer to the shore
I know we’ll be there by tomorrow
And we’ll escape the darkness
We won’t be searchin’ any more

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The Oldest Echo Chamber

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 08, 2016 @ 12:54 pm PDT

userpic=angry-dogWe’ve just come off of a far-too-long immersion in the echo chambers of the Internet. We’ve hidden in our Liberal or Conservative cocoons, reading our news sources, looking at our favorite satire site, being gullible enough to fall for our fake news sites, and listening to our friends extoll the virtues of our views. We’ve also poopooed or discounted their news sources, found their satire sites not funny, wondered how they could have such fake news written, and gotten to the point of defriending those that disagreed with our view. We probably believe that these chambers are the fault of, and started with, Facebook.

A recent discussion with a FB friend reminded me that’s not the case, as we delved into one of the oldest echo chamber battles of the Internet: the legitimacy battle between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism (which were once referred to as RCO battles, including Conservative as trying to straddle the middle — and hence the term Progressive is used as a catchall for RC). For those unfamiliar with these battles, you could likely find something in the legitimacy battles between Protestantism and Catholicism — which was permitted to call themselves “Christianity”. Of course, we all know how well that turned out, and how accepting different Christian groups are of other flavors of Christian groups.

But the RCO battles are classic echo chambers, and mirror quite heavily the divide we see politically today. Many (but not all) Orthodox groups exist in an insular news vacuum: they tend to read only Orthodox-approved media, move in Orthodox circles, and have little exposure with the theology and current approaches of the more progressive movements. Note that I did not say they don’t have exposure to Progressive Jews. They’ve met a few in their lives, and have read about them in their publications, and have extrapolated from there what they believe the entire Progressive movements to be.

Is it better on the Progressive side? Do Reform Jews, with their supposed pluralism, accept the Orthodoxy? Some do. Others are in the Progressive echo chambers that portray Orthodoxy as rigid, insular, and unchanging. Their image of Orthodoxy comes not from participating in their communities, but from portrayals in movies and the occasional Chabadnik they met while in college who forced them to wrap tefillin.

Each side extrapolates from a small number of instances what they believe the whole to be. They don’t realize that there is a range of practice and belief within both, as well as a range of acceptance (spoken or silent) of official doctrine. Doesn’t this sound like politics? Haven’t you heard “All liberals are…” or “All conservatives are…”? Further, there is belief that each side aligns 100% with particular political views. I’ve seen Orthodox write that all Reform Jews are Liberals or Marxist or Socialist, and I’ve seen Reform Jews who believe that all Orthodox Jews are of a political Conservative bent. Of course, this is utter nonsense — there is a range of political views of both, and the official organs (movements, synagogues) are carefully non-political to retain their IRS status.

Why am I reminding you of this now? Simple. For over 15 years, I maintained a mailing list that attempted to eliminate the echo chamber — that operated under the supposition that we could talk to each other with respect. We could accept that the different movements had studied and come up with their own path to the divine. Even if we might believe the movement as a whole was on the wrong path, we did not discount the individual. We believed that if we operated in a way that respected the individual, what they had to say, and their right to say it, we might be able to understand our differences. This required the ground rules be applied to both sides. It was hard work, but we did it. We were able to discover that although we still had significant doctrinal differences, there was a lot that was the same. We all rested and worshipped on Shabbat. We lit Chanukah candles. We came together and told our story on Passover. We worked to make the world a better place, as we saw it. We maintained that respectful dialogue.

As we close down our precincts, and the noise from our various echo chambers die down, I urge you: remember this example. Treat those with whom you’ve disagreed with respect. Understand that we were seeing different paths to the same goal: a stronger America. Understand where we agree (which is probably in more areas than you think). Realize that the person you might think is trash due to their political views is the loved child of someone, the parent to someone else, a sibling, and possibly someone’s partner. They work and love and cry and try to make sense of this crazy world, just like you do. They try to do what they believe is right and moral.

Let’s figure out how to heal.

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The Power and Misuse of Social Media

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 31, 2016 @ 4:59 am PDT

userpic=socialmediaWhen I started blogging/journalling back in 2004, we were in the midst of Kerry vs. Bush. Facebook was still pretty much restricted to college campuses, and the hot place to be was Livejournal. I don’t remember much political discussion online then. Certainly, we didn’t have the explosion of pundit and commentary sites, we didn’t have the heavy satire sites and such. We still got most of our news from less partisan sources (I won’t go so far as to say non-partisan) such as broadcast and print media. But there was still a heavy amount of criticism of George Bush, and all the memes about village idiots and such started circulating. I’m sure you could find all the icons from that era and you would see the large amount making fun of Bush (and I’m sure there were equal ones making fun of Kerry, but I didn’t see those).

By the 2008 election, Livejournal’s star was starting to fade and Facebook’s rise, but I still remember loads of political discussions on LJ. Many of my political icons come from that era — especially during the primaries where it was Obama vs. Clinton. In my admitted progressive circles, there was lots of criticism of John McCain (especially when he chose Sarah Palin). Online news sites and prediction sites were starting up, but I don’t remember the large number of partisan sites and pages.

With the 2012 election, the shift to FB had begun in earnest, and online journalism sites were rampant. This was the battle of Romney vs Obama (and Obama had no serious primary opposition). Memes — as in the stylized photos with the large bordered text — were beginning to circulate. Romney certainly made sufficient gaffes to feed them.

It is now 2016, and social media has become the influencer of elections, not the reporting outlet. Parody news sites are rampant, as are partisan meme generators. In fact, memes have been the source of news for many people, believing any text they see on a meme. It has gotten really really bad folks. People have turned off their critical thinking; they are sheeple, willing to do or think anything the Internet says. This becomes a vicious circle, and the echo chamber that FB is has increased the partisan nature of discourse.

Reading my FB feeds brought this all back to me. I see posts about the situation at Standing Rock, about people should post their location as Standing Rock to confuse the police. I see memes going around expressing political opinions, and loads of sharing from hyper-partisan, non-journalistic sites. As I’m up early due to a headache, seeing this leads me to post the following reminders:

  1. Facebook is not the world. Police do not have the time to monitor everyone’s FB feed to determine who is where and who to arrest. Showing your location as someplace in solidarity with an action does not benefit those you are supporting. Similarly, liking or sharing positions pieces is only benefitting the “likes” of someone you don’t know. It is often a trick to entice you.
  2. Just because text goes around on top of an image doesn’t make it true. Anyone can claim something is a quote or a statement, pop it on an image, and people will believe it. Don’t keep circulating those, no matter how enticing. Confirm (or double confirm) anything you read, focusing on confirmation from well-known broadcast and print media, and especially international and multiple sources.
  3. Recognize satire sites. If it is from The Onion, Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker, or a number of other sites, it is likely not true. Very likely.
  4. Recognize partisan sites. Many of the sites that pose as news these days — e.g., Occupy Democrats, Partisan Report, Red State Blue State — spread news in a hyperpartisan manner. Don’t repeat what they say, you only make it worse. This article has a good summary of such sites from the progressive side; On the conservative site, such sites include Breitbart News, Wall Street Journal (oh, how the mighty have fallen), NY Post, and I’m sure there are more. Again, always double or triple confirm what you read.
  5. Remember that if you see it on the Internet, there is no guarantee that it is true. People can make up anything and easily make it look real. Confirm everything before you reshare or react.
  6. Facts are non-partisan. Do not believe the innuendo regarding the fact checking sites. Snopes, FactCheck.org, and such are not partisan mouthpieces — they call out all sides for incorrect use of facts.

We have just about a week to go in this election. As you see all the mud being slung, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. For those that like Trump, if his past and behavior were on the part of any other candidate, would you still support that candidate? For example, if it was a white, male Democrat such as Gary Hart, John Kerry, or Ted Kennedy, would you be calling for them to drop out of the race? Trump is not special; your hatred of Clinton should not blind you to the foibles of the man that disqualify him. Consider Bill Cosby: he’s had a lot of the same accusations and has fallen from grace; Trump has had similar accusations, and yet has grown in support. Double standard, anyone?
  2. Similarly, if all the behaviors that make you hate Clinton were attributed to a Republican candidate, would you accept them? Would you be demanding the emails from George Bush, Mitt Romney, or John Cain? Would defunding embassy security have disqualified Bush for a second term? Recognize that the FB echo chamber has made this worse, and that your hatred is inflamed because she is Clinton, or because she is, well, “she”.
  3. Are you reacting to manufactured news, or news slated so as to play to your biases and hatreds? If so, just say no. This is true from both sides.

Hopefully, this has given you something to think about, as we start the last week of the campaign.

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