100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

THE ONLY THING SALTIER THAN THE DEAD SEA IS THIS FREAKIN' WEBSITE

Move over, Wisdom Of Chopra: there's a new 'bot in town.

Introducing InspiroBot, the greatest concern troll ever created. One click of the "Generate" button and you're presented with a social-media ready "inspirational quote" randomly generated by InspiroBot's algorithms. The results range, as you might expect, from the sublime to the ridiculous.


 

Go forth, and inspire new heights of confusion with your new best Internet friend and life coach: InspiroBot!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AND HERE I THOUGHT THE PRESIDENT* HATED FAKE NEWS...

Just when you thought our president* couldn't get any gaht damn weirder:
The framed copy of Time Magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump’s golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

This cover — dated March 1, 2009 — looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality-TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

But that wasn’t true.

The Time cover is a fake.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time Magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

In fact,the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.

“I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” Kerri Chyka, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
Who does this, for real? This kind of stuff goes waaaaaay beyond simply bullshitting the rubes; this is Brooksian-level conservative mythmaking taken out of the papers (sort of) and into the real world, and with about as much attention to detail.

It's like one of those fake magazine cover portrait things that your mom got you when you were five:

Behold: our 45th president!
Although I bet when Trump would cast his lecherous eye across it every time he shambled out to drive his cart across the fucking green (I hate golf as much as your average member of the proletariat, but c'mon...that's just fucking rude) this is probably closer to what he saw:

Loki's horns are...what's the word? Oh, riiiiiiight: Bigly.
It's clear that the president's* derangement has gone back a long time. It's also abundantly clear that none of his supporters ever gave a shit. That said, the news that Trump has fake TIME magazine covers plasterd across his country clubs is hardly surprising, but it does roil the pit of my stomach at the prospect of just how much more batshit nonsense we'll have to deal with from this maroon.

Meanwhile, bonus points to WaPo for the lesson in modern Scottish colloquialisms:
And at Trump’s Turnberry club in Scotland, employees said they recognized the cover. It had been added after Trump bought the course in 2014, said the employees, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the media. One employee said the fake cover had previously hung in the resort’s pub, called “The Duel in the Sun” after a famous golf match played at Turnberry in 1977.

But, she said, the cover was taken down a few weeks ago.

“We used to have a Time Magazine cover up — aye, it was there for ages and ages, as long as I’ve been here. I know the one you’re on about,” the employee said. “But they came and took it down a while back.”

In its place, the club had hung up an old-timey photo of the course.

Club officials did not respond to queries about why it was taken down. The employee said it was part of a general reduction in photos of Trump.

“We certainly have been hearing more grumbling about all the stuff like that up on the walls since his election,” the employee said. “From Americans, mostly, funny enough. That’s why we all assumed they started taking some of his photos off the walls.”

“But it was just a guess. I don’t actually have a Scooby,” the employee added, using an expression that means, “I don’t have a clue.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

For those of you still wondering if there's any greater depth to conservative voter motivations than making liberals cry...



...I can assure you: there isn't. This is it.

Well....that's not totally correct.

There's also "fuck you (insert appropriate social/ethnic slur here), I got mine."

Although I guess that's basically the same thing, innit?

GOOD RIDDANCE

Today in "don't let the door hit'cha where the Good Lord split'cha" news, shareholders at Uber have given Travis "High" Kalanick the boot from the very company he founded:
"In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors. [...]

The move caps months of questions over the leadership of Uber, which has become a prime example of Silicon Valley start-up culture gone awry. The company has been exposed this year as having a workplace culture that included sexual harassment and discrimination...In addition, Uber has been dealing with an intellectual property lawsuit from Waymo, the self-driving car business that operates under Google’s parent company, and a federal inquiry into a software tool that Uber used to sidestep some law enforcement. [...]

Mr. Kalanick last week said he would take an indefinite leave of absence from Uber, partly to work on himself and to grieve for his mother, who died last month in a boating accident. He said Uber’s day-to-day management would fall to a committee of more than 10 executives.

But the shareholder letter indicated that his taking time off was not enough for some investors who have pumped millions of dollars into the ride-hailing company, which has seen its valuation swell to nearly $70 billion. For them, Mr. Kalanick had to go."
Good riddance to bad rubbish. Under Kalanick's leadership, Uber has become emblematic of everything that is wrong with the culture of Silicon Valley, my home. The trickle-down effect (the only kind that actually works is cultural) of guys like him becoming "paragons of success" has been to fill every libertarian tech bro in my community with delusions of Randite grandeur to become a gaggle of aspiring John Galts in Warby fucking Parkers. The spirit of innovation that drove such incredible advancements as we have seen so far has been subverted by crass commercialism masquerading as "disruption," folding back in upon itself to build bigger, better mousetraps.

Not that I expect Kalanick's replacement to turn the whole ship about or anything, but a boy can dream, can't he?

Monday, June 19, 2017

ELON MUSK: BOO-BOO INSPECTOR?

"That's not exactly what I had in mind..."
Inc.com published a blowjob piece on Elon Musk the other day so fawningly wet and sloppy that I was genuinely surprised to discover it wasn't paid content:
A recent email Musk sent to employees indicates just how seriously he's taking the issue. Here's part of the email, as reported by news site Electrek:
No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.

Going forward, I've asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I'm meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.
This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team's safety above their own.
If Musk proves true to his word, it will be a remarkable example of a company leader who's willing to do what it takes to affect change--and show that he isn't afraid to get down in the trenches.

Emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, is an essential quality of effective leaders.

While Musk's opening words will prove touching to some, it's his promise to take action that is most powerful. To personally meet every injured employee and actually learn how to perform the task that caused that person's injury is remarkable for the CEO of any company.
 

Truly effective leaders know that to inspire their followers, they must practice what they preach and set the example. They aren't afraid to delegate, but they also know when they need to take matters into their own hands. When a serious problem lingers, they increase their involvement and work tirelessly to make things better.

Your people also need to know that you've got their back. Are you all talk? Or are you willing to put yourself out there for them?

Musk's offer is one of the best ways to do this. When a manager takes the time to work alongside a frustrated team member, with a goal of better understanding that person's perspective, good things happen. This exercise, although time-consuming, builds empathy and rapport, and can prove extremely motivating.
This is the same Elon Musk who, when one of his employees at the Tesla plant announced that a number of them had reached out to the United Auto Workers union to begin negotiating a potential contract, immediately jumped to Twitter and quite erroneously called him a "union shill" and falsely accused him of being on UAW's payroll. The same Elon Musk who's company has allegedly "illegally surveilled and coerced workers attempting to distribute information about the union drive" after requiring them to sign NDA's that chill worker's ability to engage in protected speech. The same Elon Musk that literally tried to buy off German union workers in exchange for disbanding. The same Elon Musk who recently investigated himself, and found himself, quite unsurprisingly, clear of any wrongdoing. But we're expected to believe that he will personally inspect ever employee boo-boo and learn how to do their job every time something happens?

If you believe that, drop me an e-mail; I've got some killer beachfront property in the Everglades for sale that's just too good to pass up.

"FREE SPEECH" ADVOCATES: SORE LOSERS IN THE WAR OF IDEAS


Students at Boston College listen to a speaker as they gather during a solidarity demonstration
on the school's campus, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. (PHOTO: NPR)
Thomas Healy of The Atlantic recently broke down the tired, old canard of "campus protest chilling the free exercise of retrograde ideas" in terms far more eloquent (and polite) than I ever could:
First, much of the social pressure that critics complain about is itself speech. When activists denounce Yiannopoulos as a racist or Murray as a white nationalist, they are exercising their own right to free expression. Likewise when students hold protests or marches, launch social media campaigns, circulate petitions, boycott lectures, demand the resignation of professors and administrators, or object to the invitation of controversial speakers. Even heckling, though rude and annoying, is a form of expression.

More crucially, the existence of such social pushback helps protects Americans from the even more frightening prospect of official censorship. Here’s why. Speech is a powerful weapon that can cause grave harms, and the First Amendment does not entirely prohibit the government from suppressing speech to prevent those harms. But one of the central tenets of modern First Amendment law is that the government cannot suppress speech if those harms can be thwarted by alternative means. And the alternative that judges and scholars invoke most frequently is the mechanism of counter-speech.

As Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in his celebrated 1927 opinion in Whitney v. California, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

Counter-speech can take many forms. It can be an assertion of fact designed to rebut a speaker’s claim. It can be an expression of opinion that the speaker’s view is misguided, ignorant, offensive, or insulting. It can even be an accusation that the speaker is racist or sexist, or that the speaker’s expression constitutes an act of harassment, discrimination, or aggression.

In other words, much of the social pushback that critics complain about on campus and in public life—indeed, the entire phenomenon of political correctness—can plausibly be described as counter-speech. And because counter-speech is one of the mechanisms Americans rely on as an alternative to government censorship, such pushback is not only a legitimate part of our free speech system; it is indispensable. [...]


This highlights a paradox of free speech, and of our relationship to it. On the one hand, Americans are encouraged to be tolerant of opposing ideas in the belief that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it in his landmark 1919 opinion in Abrams v. United States.

On the other hand, unlike the government, Americans are not expected to remain neutral observers of that market. Instead, we are participants in it; the market works only if we take that participation seriously, if we exercise our own right of expression to combat ideas we disagree with, to refute false claims, to discredit dangerous beliefs. This does not mean we are required to be vicious or uncivil. But viciousness and incivility are legitimate features of America’s free speech tradition. Life is not a debating exercise or a seminar room, and it would be na├»ve to insist that individuals adhere to some prim, idealized vision of public discourse.
In other words: campus protesters aren't "censoring" think-tank trolls like Charles Murray or Milo Yappitypapaya (h/t Tengrain) when they show up looking to peddle outdated racist gobbledygook to the Young Republicans Club. They're exercising their First Amendment rights, and they're doing it better than you.

Oh, you don't like it? GTFO.

THE RIGHT TO SELF-DEPRECATE (FOR PROFIT) SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED

The Slants.
The decision by the Supreme Court to allow Asian-American punk rock band The Slants to trademark their name is one of the few instances where it would seem that the best course of action really is to let the free market sort it out:
"The Slants' frontman, Simon Tam, filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office kept the band from registering its name and rejected its appeal, citing the Lanham Act, which prohibits any trademark that could "disparage ... or bring ... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," as the court states.

After a federal court agreed with Tam and his band, the Patent and Trademark Office sued to avoid being compelled to register its name as a trademark. On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with The Slants.

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court. Contrary to the Government's contention, trademarks are private, not government speech." [...]

As NPR's Nina Totenberg has reported, "the trademark office has denied registration to a group calling itself "Abort the Republicans," and another called "Democrats Shouldn't Breed." It canceled the registration for the Washington Redskins in 2014 at the behest of some Native Americans who considered the name offensive."
I for one would love to see "Abort The Republicans" and "Democrats Shouldn't Breed" try and take their ideas and/or products and/or services under a trademark, and see how quickly they try and wriggle out from underneath it the moment hot shit from the public square splatters across their face.

The consequences for bringing a product with a controversial name to market at no point fall on the shoulders of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: they fall on the shoulders of the person whom the trademark belongs to, period. In the case of The Slants, there's an obvious implicit reason for wanting to trademark the name they have. As a bunch of punkers of the Asian diaspora with a history of being derided for their heritage, what better way to reclaim that heritage while giving a finger to polite society to boot? If enough people got the joke to warrant the band seriously going through with the notion, then the conversation has already been settled.

There's an argument to be made for revoking a trademark ex post facto as a response to public pressure, but by all means, if someone is dumb enough to name their idea and/or product and/or service something obviously racist or bigoted or just flat-out offensive to most from here on out and then put their money where their mouth is to keep it, let 'em. The rest will take care of itself, and the schadenfreude will be delicious.

Read the SCOTUS decision on Matal v. Tam here:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

CAPACITY FOR REASON

Top to bottom: Alexandria, VA | San Francisco, CA | Fairfield, CA, 06/14/17
UPDATE: The Travis AFB situation turned out (thankfully) to be a false alarm.
So....given yesterday's bicoastal display of spectacularly random and excessive gun violence, can we maybe, just maybe, talk about guns again for a second?

I know, I know...there's no such thing as an "assault" weapon, just a moving goalpost of scary things that pussy-ass liberals don't like about your schlong AR-15, but for fuck's sake...the last time shit was this bad in one afternoon, twenty second-graders ended up dead.

We couldn't do it then, but can we do it now, given that your team got a taste of what mine has been dealing with from yours for way too fucking long now?
"How can this happen here? Because this is the United States of America in 2017, kids. It Can Happen anywhere. The suburbs are not sanctuaries. The ballfields are not sanctuaries. There is no big beautiful wall with big beautiful doors that will keep this kind of thing out, and keep all the Right People safe. There are no Right People who get shot. There are no Wrong People who get shot. Stop trying to convince us that there are. There are just victims and potential victims. And there are guns, too damn many guns too easily obtained."
That's the thing: I don't give a shit what people wanna call these guns. What I do care about is the inevitability of murderous impulses to overwhelm someone's capacity for reason, and what sort of weapons they have access to when it happens. Because it does happen, and it's happening more, not less:
"Let’s recap, in reverse chronological order: On June 7, a 24-year-old grocery worker in Pennsylvania fatally shot three co-workers with a shotgun, then turned the gun on himself. On June 5, a 45-year-old man in Orlando, Florida, fatally shot five of his former co-workers, and then killed himself. On May 12, a 43-year-old man in rural Ohio killed two employees in a nursing home, shot and killed the chief of police who responded to the scene and then shot himself. On April 18, a 39-year-old man opened fire on a downtown street in Fresno, California, killing three people at random. On Jan. 6, a 26-year-old man fired into the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport, killing five people and wounding six more."
Do you know who the victims voted for? Neither do I. So why the fuck is that every time one of these incidents make headlines, the Country Mouse Collective so willingly enacts legislation that puts even more lives in danger...
"Historically, mass shootings have been used as political opportunities. The NRA actually used the slaughter of kindergartners and educators at Sandy Hook to propose a program for putting more guns in schools (and selling more guns, conveniently). South Carolina relaxed its concealed carry regulations in response to the racially motivated Charleston massacre carried out by Dylann Roof. The Arizona legislature approved bills allowing guns on college campuses and in public buildings in the wake of an assassination attempt against then-Rep. Gabby Giffords. Those Arizona bills were eventually vetoed by the state's Republican governor, but turning proposals into law isn't always the point. Rather, the NRA politicizes collective grief to advance its narrative to the benefit of those who would commit acts of violence. We already know the outcome."
...without the slightest trace of irony?
Question: Congressman (Mo Brooks, R-AL), does this change your views on the gun situation in America?

Brooks: Not with respect to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment right to bear arms is to ensure that we always have a republic. And as with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people...These rights are there to protect Americans, and while each of them has a negative aspect to them, they are fundamental to our being the greatest nation in world history. So no, I’m not changing my position on any of the rights we enjoy as Americans. With respect to this particular shooter, I'd really like to know more about him - whether he was an ex-felon, by way of example, who should not have had possession of a firearm - I'd like to know other things about his background before I pass judgment.  (emphasis mine)
Mo Brooks literally voted against expanding the very sort of background checks that would provide him with the information that he desires, in addition to potentially preventing someone like James Hodgkinson from even doing what he did in the first place.

I say "potentially" because I know as well as anyone else should that there's no guarantee that some maniac is eventually gonna figure out how to kill a whole bunch of people at once without using an "assault" weapon. If Timothy McVeigh can do it, so can anyone else. It's a big fucking Internet.

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, and that didn't stop a guy from mowing down a bunch of people in on a UPS dock in San Francisco AND an active shooter at Travis AFB in Fairfield from going apeshit on the very. Same. Day. With these things. That's not just a gun control issue, that a gun culture issue. 

As a nation, Americans are addicted to violence, and especially to gunplay. In the endless quest to vicariously satiate our bloodlust, our media has continued to glorify these sorts of acts through a loosely coordinated vilification that can only be described as protesting too much. Although to be fair, it would seem that the names of the California shooters haven't been tossed around nearly as much as Dylan Roof or James Holmes or Adam Lanza. Maybe they are coming around. Or maybe bandying about the names of three killers felt unseemly even for them.

On the flipside, groups like the NRA are always ready to keep a good crisis from going to waste on behalf of their sponsors, regardless of its size or scale or horror. On the contrary: the bigger the body count, the bigger the cash grab, and the easier the legislative push. Those same sponsors then use that money not just to block restrictive legislation at home, but to loosen restrictive legislation abroad, fomenting global unrest that unfailingly makes its way back here, further strengthening the paper tiger politics that allow the NRA and their paranoid ilk to function as they do in the first place. 

Without breaking that cycle, days like yesterday no longer be the exception that proves the rule: they will become the rule itself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

OFFSIDES BE DAMNED

A scene from the aftermath of the shooting.
As if things weren't pressure-cooking quickly enough in the last six months under President* Trump, some idiot had to go and shoot up a baseball field full of Republicans:
"A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. [...]

Two members of Mr. Scalise’s protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the gunman in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. The police said two of the five people were critically wounded.

Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, “army crawled” his way toward taller grass as the shooting continued."
Of course, CNN's resident village idiot and half-melted Kevin Spacey wax sculpture Cris Cillizza couldn't let such a delicious crisis go to waste:
The Steve Scalise shooting has already become a political football
CNN, 06/14/17

The shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and four others at a baseball practice for Republican members of Congress on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, was always going to quickly turn to politics.

That pivot happened rapidly around 11:15 am when CNN confirmed that the alleged shooter was James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois. A quick scan of his social media presence -- Facebook and Twitter -- suggested that he was strongly opposed to President Donald Trump and was a supporter of the 2016 presidential candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who ran as a Democrat.

Hodgkinson also apparently volunteered for Sanders campaign in Iowa during the 2016 campaign. Sanders condemned the shooting in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign," Sanders said in a statement. "I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms."

Hodgkinson's apparent Facebook profile page is an image of Sanders as "Uncle Sam" and one recent post from June 12 carries this message from Hodgkinson: "I want to say Mr. President for being an Asshole, you are Truly the Biggest Ass Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office."

The Belleville News-Democrat, the local paper in the community where Hodgkinson reportedly lived, showed a photo of him holding a "Tax the Rich" sign in a protest outside a local post office. The newspaper described Hodgkinson this way:

"The shooter was James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, who belonged to a number of anti-Republican groups, including one called 'Terminate the Republican Party.'"
Police officials would not comment on any motive for the shooting or whether Hodgkinson was targeting Republicans. But CNN's Dana Bash reported that the shooting was deliberate and not a random act. (emphasis mine)

President Donald Trump made no mention of politics in a brief statement just before noon eastern time. "We are strongest when we are unified and we work together for the common good," Trump said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both gave speeches of unity to applause on the floor of the House of Representatives.

"An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Ryan said.
You'd be forgiven for wondering just whom is responsible for turning the shooting into a "political football" considering how deeply Mr. Cillizza buried the lede, which he only now gets around to mentioning:
None of that stopped some conservatives from concluding that Hodgkinson was aiming to injure Republicans specifically, and that he was driven by a liberal culture that glorifies violence against GOPers.
But I suppose we're to imagine that the shooter is the political football that Bernie Sanders punted through disavowal. Of course, Cilliza was only able to reach his vantage point on Bullshit Mountain by standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were:

And let's not forget the maestro of mendaciousness, Newton Leroy "I'm a Catholic, I swear!" Gingrich:


But the real credit goes to Governor Hedge Fund (H/T Driftglass and Blue Gal) Rodney Davis, who according to Mr. Cillizza, cracked the case before the shooter was even identified LIKE WHOA!
“We see stories about policies are going to lead to the death of people. That’s political rhetoric that has run amok and has turned into hate and it may, may be the reason why we saw the senseless tragedy that we saw today. And if it is, this could be the first political rhetorical terrorist act that we’ve seen on our soil. And we can change that. Only we can change that.”

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/news/local/article156065789.html#storylink=cpy
If Governor Hedge Fund and the rest put any more daylight between themselves and the dangerous, violent rhetoric the they and their cronies in the media have been have been dumping into the skulls of the American electorate for nearly seventy years, Donald Trump would be able to fly Air Force One straight through it on a one-way ticket to the Kremlin.

There was no way this incident was not going to be seized upon by opportunistic proto-fascists and their media enablers to push our country deeper into arms of madness from the moment it began, regardless of the shooter's allegiances. To do otherwise would violate their prime directives: to build a latter-day theocracy, and to fiddle for tax cuts while Rome burns.

Monday, June 12, 2017

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels (left)
and Louis P. Lochner, AP foreign correspondent.
(Wisconsin Historical Society).
One thing I love about On The Media is that they often bring to bring to my attention stories I'm certain I never would have heard anywhere else, like this one about the Associate Press exchanging photos with Hitler's SS during WWII.

The news first came to light in a paper published by German historian Harriet Scharnberg last year, which was rebutted by an AP report published last month. From there, former AP correspondent Matti Freidman penned a column criticizing his former employer's defense of their actions, which prompted his visit to On The Media. He is followed in the segment by AP's Vice President and Editor-at-Large for Standards John Daniszewski, who urges the public to consider the extraordinary circumstances of the time, and the duty of the Fourth Estate to report the news everywhere they can, in any capacity they are able.



What I love about stories like this is that the questions on offer are still relevant today. Where is the line between doing "access journalism" and pushing propaganda? How far does the notion of transparency take you? Does the media have a obligation to cease reporting from within nations that are hostile to press freedom? If so, what happens to the AP's DC bureau? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I guess there's a certain comfort in knowing that our generation isn't the first to be asking them, nor will they be the last.

WE'LL ALL BE GLASSHOLES SOMEDAY




There's every likelihood that augmented reality is going to become the next big game-changer in the digital revolution. Billions of VC dollars are being shoveled into it as we speak, and certain experts believe we might start seeing it the technology mainstream its way into modern society within as little three to five years.

Trouble is, he's probably right.
The reality of the situation is much more complicated, of course; as much as mankind is fascinated by any technology indistinguishable from magic, there is a limit to just how much we'll accept at once, especially in the form of things like AR glasses that will soon be "as ubiquitous as shoes," to paraphrase one techno-pundit.

But there's a certain inevitability, it seems, to the prospect that sometime within the next century or two, we're all gonna need a chip in our head to do just about damned near anything, with those who refuse becoming second-class citizens, if not worse. I've read enough William Gibson and Philip K. Dick novels to know what that flavor of dystopia might look like, and I can assure you, it won't be pleasant.

WHAT DOES CORBYN'S PM VICTORY MEAN FOR 21ST-CENTURY POPULISM?

"Got you, fam." - Actual quote from Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory last week in Britain’s special election for Prime Minister is one of the most stunning political upsets since Donald Trump became president*. HuffPost Senior Political Economy Reporter Zach Carter dropped a brief, yet compelling retrospective via Twitter on what it means for the massive populist revolution that is sweeping the western world once again, which I’ve taken the liberty of expanding upon in the context of the 2016 election:

Tweet #05: I disagree with the characterization of these institutions as failing to “get” that financial crises foment authoritarianism, particularly the “wonk-industrial complex” and the cable news networks. The truth, in my estimation, is far more mendacious. When it comes to the wonketariat, I turn to Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” As to the various cable/network news propaganda machines, they are beholden far less to truth than they are to narrative, which must strike a balance between compelling viewers and appeasing sponsors. In other words: they’re in the business of creating a false reality to appease the rubes, sell dick pills and reverse mortgages, and keep prying eyes off of the corporatocracy. It’s not difficult to see how that’s been working out. Given Carter’s credentials, however, I bid you cast your eyes across that Sinclair quote one more time.

Tweet #08: You say “accustomed,” I say “feeds off it like lampreys dangling limply from the belly of a rainbow trout.”

Tweet #09: You forgot “at any fucking cost.”

Tweet #13: Led, ironically enough, by the aristocracy. It strikes me that in England, because the caste system forms along different, more rigid lines, their aristocracy isn’t as interested in overtly pandering to the lowest common denominator as ours is. America’s “bootstrap” narrative provides a direct, empathetic link between the lowliest backwoods hick and the Leader Of The Free World, upon which the entire Southern Strategy has precariously balanced for decades. The Republicans, in a stunning feat of arrogance even for them, went for the coup de grace by essentially turning the former into the latter, which just might be the key to their undoing.

Tweet #15: And if after twenty-plus years of failed centrist politics you think that anointing the wife of the godfather of those politics as the heir-apparent to the presidency, you might have a tough sell on your hands. #justsaying #imlookingatyouDNC

Tweet #16: THIS.

Tweet #17: And if they do, and it turns out to be exactly the thing their voting base wants, then they need to stand the fuck aside and let it happen.

Tweet #18: *ahem* SO DID BERNIE *ahem* That Upton Sinclair comes to mind again…

Tweet #20: See above.

Tweet #21: True, but her rhetoric could have more than compensated for that. Such was Barry O’s strategy, and it churned out more people to vote blue in 2008 than the Dems had seen since Hillary’s husband took office. The sense of her electoral inevitability combined with the promise of maintaining the same managerial-style democracy that has clearly failed our nation was precisely what drove people away. There’s an argument to be made about how much our corporate media has had a hand in distorting that narrative, but you can’t distort something that didn’t happen. Had Hillary used the opportunity presented by candidate Sanders to move strategically to the left rhetorically as well as positionally, she just might have been able to seal the deal despite not campaigning heavily in any traditionally populist enclaves.

Tweet #25: This is the essence of what I referred to in a post I wrote the other day about the illusionary “center” of American politics. The Democratic Party seems to believe that they can straddle the line between labor and capital without any far-left parties providing ballast against an increasingly reactionary, authoritarian right-wing. This may have been possible once upon a time, but no longer. We’re in the middle of a massive shift of political allegiances and coalitions in this country, one that stands a good chance of dividing one of the two major political parties along populist lines. The question remains: which one is it to be? If the Republicans split between what’s left of the establishment and the fringe, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect America to witness the birth of a new fascist party, leaving the center-right as a completely ineffectual defense against their advance. However, if the Sanders/Warren wing of the party were to decide to break loose from the DNC and become an independent party, they could provide a much-needed counterbalance against extreme conservatism, leaving the Democratic Party free to be the vibrant, center-left, aristocratic party they have already become.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, CON'T.


Nathan J. Robinson's Superpredator: Bill Clinton's Use and Abuse of Black America just hit the shelves, and seeing as how we worked with extensively with the magazine Current Affairs on putting the book together, they saw fit to give Mr. Robinson bit of a nudge by publishing the following excerpt on their Facebook page:


Given the circumstances, I suppose Hillary should be thankful this book wasn't published during the campaign. I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference, but I can only imagine that if someone had questioned her about statements like these and whether she still felt now as she did then, she'd be hard-pressed to provide a straight answer. All the more reason for her to avoid the subject now, as she begins making the media rounds once again; the only people likely to challenge her on this issue are so far removed her presence as to render her impervious to their, or my, criticism.

For as unsettling as these comments are, they're not without context in a place like Arkansas, where the "slavery exception" in the 13th Amendment isn't so, well...exceptional. Recently, a decarceration activist named Samuel Sinyangwe traveled to Louisiana to lobby the legislature on behalf of Campaign Zero, a non-profit he co-founded. After touring the statehouse in Baton Rouge, he issued a harrowing set of tweets documenting the experience.
The most striking thing about both locations, he remarked, was that all the administrative and legislative staff members were all free, white men and women, and the menial service tasks – janitors, commissary workers, and the life – were black prisoners. In both cases, this was almost without exception. The "staff" was near-uniformly white, and the "help" was near-uniformly black prison labor. Or, as the 13th Amendment refers to them, slaves.
Additionally, he made mention of the fact that there's a lottery system that determines which prisoners are sent to work in the legislature, and which ones are sent to work in manufacturing facilities or as field hands.
Of course, the odds of getting the cushier gigs in the statehouse are in part determined by good behavior, but also by a great deal of politics designed to, for better or worse, pit House Negro against Field Negro in order to keep them from turning as one on the system that is exploiting them.
For as much as I’ve come to understand about the ravages of the prison-industrial complex and the modern carceral state on black communities natiowide, Sinyangwe’s tweets were still incredibly jarring to read, as much as they seemed to be for him to write. As I read every tweet, a cold, sinking feeling came over me as I began to realize that, in many places across the country, it's not just that racism still exists, and that it puts a lot of black people in prison for bullshit reasons; it's that, in many places, it’s as if winning the Civil War amounted to nothing.

And the worst part is: it’s all so horrifyingly...normal.

Meanwhile, we're patting ourselves on the back extra hard for finally getting around to tearing down a couple of unsightly (and admittedly super racist and fucking awful) pieces of late-era Confederate statuary, as if that's going to spell and end to all this nonsense. Mitch Landrieu may have made all the right noises, but he's still got a House Negro scrubbin' his toilets.

Monday, June 5, 2017

THE TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'


“The center cannot hold, because the center does not exist.”

But what if it did? What would it look like?

Chances are, it would look like today’s Democratic Party.

And truth be told, I’m just fine with that.

This is why, instead of trying to reform the Democratic Party from within, like many of my colleagues, I’d rather try and reform it from without, simply by leaving it the fuck alone.

There is a huge populist groundswell taking place in our country right now. I can feel it. I know you can, too. Our two-party system have proven to be fundamentally unstable. It was never intended to dominate electoral politics, but ultimately, the “slavery question” rendered such a thing inevitable.

Flash forward one hundred and fifty years, and the Mason-Dixon armistice is on the verge of unraveling. Through media manipulation, massive corporate corruption, and the politics of hysteria, the Republican Party has dragged the Democrats slowly, inexorably to right over the last several decades, to the point where they now shuffle aimlessly behind them, more concerned with rehashing the past than planning for the future. The question remains: where do we channel that groundswell before it finally breaks.

Seriously?
The rise in hate crimes since the election of our president* has become impossible to ignore. White nationalism is on the make, and antifa groups are responding in kind. “Open carry” rallies are becoming a bipartisan consensus. People are getting hurt, even killed. It’s unnerving. That’s the point.

The right has become incredibly adept at fostering division amongst the left. But the left has always been divided. It’s when we pretend to be otherwise that the tactics of the right become the most effective.

Inasmuch as it has been able to until now, right-wing authoritarianism has always been good at maintaining “separate, but equal” divisions between establishment Republicans and the mob of zealots and know-nothings that make up their base. But after the president’s* recent global hoparound, wherein he both joined the League Of Supervillains and tried to shakedown NATO for rent money, it should be abundantly clear to anyone with more that two brain cells to rub together that the lunatics are officially running the asylum. It should also be abundantly clear that despite their massively overwhelming incompetence – if anything, because of it – they are rending the very fabric of Western society to shreds.

Most importantly, there is very little we can do to stop them. Our electoral system is designed to allow their reign to run its course, whether any of us like it or not. Unless the Russiagate investigation reveals proof positive that the president* directly colluded with Russia to steal the election or his demented ass strokes out during press conference, we’re likely to have to contend with Donald J. Trump as America’s last “Leader Of The Free World” for the next four years. Even if he is gotten rid of, then we’re led by America’s Top Theocrat, Mike “I Call My Wife Mother” Pence. Barring him, it’s zombie-eyed granny starver (thanks Uncle Charlie!) Paul Ryan. And so on. It’s turtles all the way down.

Meanwhile, we’ve become such an unstable democracy in the eyes of the rest of the world that technocrats and hegemonists alike are beginning to realize that the balance of global power has begun a fundamental shift, and in the face of global calamity, they can no longer rely on the United States to assert an imperial profile in global affairs. For better or worse, I believe this will prove to be a good thing for humanity, if not for my country. Without a strong and insurgent third-party labor movement to stand as a bulwark against both conservative and liberal capital, there is nothing to prevent their illusionary “center” from being comprised of no one other than them. From there, a fascist state is not far behind. For countries gripped by extended, crippling austerity, it’s the only means of “pacifying” populations, and staying relevant on the world stage.

I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but it’s hard not to feel like the Point Of No Return is imminent. But within all of this tragedy, there is a tremendous opportunity to break the two-party logjam in a way that can take our country safely and sanely into the 21st century. But there is no way it will not break.

“The center cannot hold, because the center does not exist.”

Not until we create it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

AMERICASOCIAL.COM?

Producer Dave from Echoplex Media and I got into a conversation yesterday about my post about Portland killer Jeremy Christian and the broader ramifications of the “free speech” movement, specifically about the erroneous idea of free speech guaranteeing a right to a platform. Here’s the gist:
“The internet has been around for about thirty years. That means one generation grew up with it, and another one grew up in it. Initially, it wasn’t easy to gain access to an online platform; you generally had to roll your own, which involved having no small degree of technical skill. Flash forward a couple of decades, and you can take your pick from dozens, have it up and running within moments, connect very quickly with people who look, act, think, and fuck exactly like you do, and talk all the shit you want with little to no repercussions. Does this mean that you’re “guaranteed” the right to an Internet platform? Of course not. You (or your parents) have to pay for Internet access, and you also have to adhere to any platform’s Terms Of Service, however broad they might be. But therein lies the problem: no matter what those terms look like, they’re never enforced as strictly or as equally as they should be, leaving a lot of room for “legal creep” that almost always favors the right.

As such, these morons are often allowed to go on and on unchallenged well past any reasonable span of time, meaning that when they do face actual resistance – either from other people on their chosen platform or the platform provider itself – they’re so prone to fall back upon the “free exchange of ideas” argument. It’s more or less a legitimate one, given the circumstances.

So if it
feels true, it must be, right?”
Obviously, it isn’t; the First Amendment only guarantees freedom of speech, not freedom of consequence from that speech, which is the essence of the “right to a platform” argument. But there’s also no denying that the Internet has become, if not a public square unto itself, at least a part of the one that exists in the physical world. I shudder to think that what we have is the best that we can come up with, both in terms of legislative framework and the literal framework of our social platforms, but what other options are there?

Producer Dave argued that the whole concept of the “digital public square” is flawed at the premise, because the primary function of companies like Facebook and Twitter is not to provide a platform which users “pay” for by exposure to targeted ad content, but to serve as an ad content delivery system, wherein your social platform is merely a two-way portal to send and receive ads. Because yes: individual users have access (there’s that pesky TrumpCare caveat again) to the same tools corporations have to scale their platform as large as they like, provided they have the money to do so. The platform provider, however, remains the sole arbiter of who gets to say what and how loud. It’s their house; you just live in it.

As long as whatever passes for the “digital public square” remains the province of the free market, there’s no flipping this script, either. There’s just too much money to be made in the ad game. So what if, I asked, you were able to remove the profit motive? There’s all this talk of single-payer and public option health care; what about public option social media?

With all the push over the last several years to force the FCC to turn ISPs into “common carrier” services like phone and electricity, the idea of public option Internet access, at least, doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I’m all for the nationalization of any number of private sector services in varying degrees in order to create a truly “free” market, and given how indelibly connected to the Internet our society has become, I see no reason why telecommunications should be exempt from that. By extension, some sort of public option social platform doesn’t seem so ludicrous, wherein a lack of a profit motive precludes gaming the system in the “free exchange of ideas.” No ad content means no ad content delivery systems, which won’t prevent the creation of echo chambers but could eliminate the need for creating the “filter bubbles” in which they so easily incubate.

Dave thinks the idea is ludicrous, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s pretty laughable, given what we know about our current political climate and the national security state. But that’s the thing: if we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t, and the FBI, CIA, NSA, et al are going to have access to large quantities of our data no matter what, what’s the harm in trying? So much of their ability to collect that data relies on maintaining the illusion that they aren’t. If you remove that veneer, you (hopefully) create an incentive for people to self-censor that could potentially mitigate hate speech, and promote a legitimate “free exchange of ideas” of the sort that we desperately need. I know, I know...it’s sounds like Google+: ‘Merica Edition. But how is that such a bad thing, if you can actually people to use it?

There is another problem, which is that the internet is a portal to to someone else’s computer(s), which is/are usually private property. Peer-to-peer networking is a possible option, but ideally that requires everyone to own their own terminal. There are a great many people that can’t afford to own a desktop or a laptop, and while I don’t know the statistics on cell phone leasing vs. ownership, I don’t imagine that most folks who make less than thirty grand a year own their smartphone outright. So who’s computer(s) do you put AmericaSocial.com on, then? CIA? NSA? FBI? Or is it privately contracted, like so much of their own hosting is?

"So we can sit and discuss marginal
tax rates and be buddies!"
I’m just kinda spitballin’ here, and I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to this that I’m totally missing. Producer Dave has a background in this stuff that I can’t touch, and over cocktails at a street fair wasn’t the ideal time to hammer this whole thing out. But I think there’s some merit to the idea, and I want to know what you think. Can and/or should we have “public option” social media? Could it work? Would it even be worth it? Or is this the double decker couch of social experiments? Holla!