Saturday, March 30, 2013

"On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero"

My problem with the anti-GMO folks and other movements similar to them is that they just don't grasp the big picture. When you're a one issue idealist, you operate with blinders on, regardless of whether you're left, right or other. I see this with Republicans who cling to the idea that they have to stop abortions and the notion that they're going to have their guns taken away. I see this on the left with those who think that by working with moderate Libertarians or Republicans on one issue, that they'll lose their high ground on others.

The recent "Monsanto Protection Act" hoopla has shown me just how prone to overreaction and fear-mongering people really are. We certainly should be concerned about foods that aren't natural and what they could do to us. I personally stick to a semi-Paleo diet, avoid processed foods and eat organic as much as possible. The problem is that when you subscribe to a particular religion, diet or ideology, you'll believe anything that comes along, and there's plenty of people who want to capitalize on that. For example, I'm gluten intolerant. I've gone searching across the internet for sources that can help me with that issue and there's been a number of them that have provided some useful information, and many more who want me to believe that by only buying their product, only then could I be safe.

When ideology meets an opportunity for profit, paranoia begins to resemble a runaway train. If we were to believe half the stuff that I run across in order to maintain my health, we'd never leave our houses, gyms, or health food stores. As the saying goes, "On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero". What does that mean? It means that no matter how healthy you eat, how much you exercise, or whatever precautions you take, you're gonna die one day.

This isn't to say that we should get all nihilistic, start our days off with a bottle of whiskey and a pack of smokes with our coffee. We should be cautious, we should make good choices and avoid dangerous things. However, we shouldn't allow fear to dominate our lives and instead of blindly believing things that you see on the internet, do some research with a healthy dose of skepticism, and then make a decision on how you want to go forward.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Amazon Kindle Gay Ad

Is this a step forward for equality or a way to create controversy and sell more Kindles? I saw this commercial for the first time during a rerun of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" and was surprised. I'm always skeptical of anyone's intentions whenever money and marketing are involved. What do you think?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Poisoning the tree of progressive activism

A couple of years back in Auburn, an Alabama Crimson Tide football fan who was angry at an Auburn Tigers victory over his team in the Iron Bowl decided to destroy something dear to Auburn and their fans. The oak trees at Toomer's Corner are where Auburn fans gather to celebrate victories by the Tigers. Harvey Updyke, a retired Texas state trooper no less, poisoned the trees with a large dose of herbicide.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with politics and you might be asking if I've poured a second glass of Jameson as I'm typing this. This is actually a fairly decent analogy to describe what I feel is going on within the liberal/progressive movement right now, especially when it comes to media. When you (the GOP) are outnumbered and watching your voting bloc shrivel every day due to old age, other tactics come into play. Voter suppression is too obvious and Fox News is a joke to most outside the GOP base.

You see, Mr. Updyke couldn't take down these trees with a chainsaw as it would have quickly alerted the community and got him placed in handcuffs after a couple slices with the saw. If you've seen the oak trees down South, they're massive and ancient with deep roots. Just like the progressive movement, they can stand up to all but the worst storms.

But what if you poisoned the tree or infected it with some virus? If Mr. Updyke hadn't called into a radio station to brag about it, he would have almost certainly got away with it and the trees would have died a slow death or been toppled by the next strong storm.

There's some clues that cause me to believe that perhaps a similar poisoning is happening with a dumbing down of the progressive dialogue through some media sources that seem like nothing more than a liberal mirror of Fox, Breitbart, Glenn Beck or Drudge. Instead of concentrating on an intelligent and inclusive debate to move our country forward, they instead manipulate those prone to group-think in order to exclude debate, as well as any competition. (Yes, if anyone tells you they're in media but they aren't there to make money, they're almost certainly lying) It's a "4 legs good, 2 legs bad" scenario which encourages sycophancy and discourages anything other than that sycophancy which includes the whole "like and share if you agree" thing on every single link that absolutely grinds my gears.

As if that wasn't bad enough, they've commanded their legion of followers to attack anyone who questions the ethics of how they run their operation. I can speak from experience as myself and the admins of my Facebook page, and other pages, have repeatedly been the target of coordinated mass false reports against us for refusing not to be silent as it happens. For nearly a year now, we've received (usually in waves) reports and suspensions for anything from "personal attacks" (telling someone to fuck off), to "hate speech" (for images mocking the KKK) or "spam" (a result of enough people repeatedly reporting specific links as spam).

"Why can't everyone just get along and work together?" Trust me, we've heard this so many times from people who just don't grasp what goes on behind the scenes or think that removing the rotten limbs from the figurative tree will hurt the cause. They couldn't be more wrong. Just look at the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandals that have plagued them for years now. If they hadn't closed ranks and outed the perpetrators to law enforcement when they knew about it, they wouldn't be in the position they are now.

When you have a rotten apple in your bushel basket, disposing of it preserves the integrity of the rest of the basket. Same with some for-profit web journalism that pushes articles with tabloid-esque titles to attract the maximum number of page views and shares across social media. One page (We Survived Bush, You Will Survive Obama) is a prime example of this. It tends to feature articles that are more "shock jock" than original articles that promote a rational and intellectual conversation. If you've read that page, you've probably seen articles about violence leading to castration or Amazon penis snakes. Another one of the admins who runs a number of Facebook pages you probably see links from on a daily basis is actually a Libertarian in real life according to my sources and makes a living from pushing recycled old news or unsubstantiated articles.

Pages like these do not further the cause, they denigrate it. In fact, they are more interested in finding ways to take over or work with as many Facebook pages as they can then expand their potential audience even further, thereby making even more money on traffic to the sites their articles are hosted on. They also attempt to silence those who don't believe in and speak out against their "our way or the highway" mentality that has stunted the potential further growth of the progressive movement by isolating reasonable centrists, independents and even moderate Republicans. What better way to try to destroy a movement than by poisoning it and driving away people who might find common ground on issues like gun regulations, all while turning a profit in the process?

These are people that seek out any negative comment towards their organizations and harass critics through a variety of methods including coordinated attacks on both the pages as well as fans who post anything they don't like. Personally, if you don't like what I write and have a reasonably civil and smart critique of it, you're always welcome to offer a rebuttal. That's how a debate works. That's how our process works on our page and that's how it should work elsewhere. Obviously someone who comes in swinging and tossing insults will be banned.

Political activism shouldn't be about silencing voices of dissent and promoting the approved repeated chorus of "Democrats good, Republicans bad" as you push article after pay per ad click article which poses as news. This is why, over and over again, a number of progressives such as myself have posted about this subject. It isn't because we're looking to make money and it isn't because we want some limelight or a chance to be on Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow's show. This is why you've heard people complain about images they created being taken and passed off by other pages as their own. This is why you now see pages putting watermarks and their Facebook URL on pictures they post, as well as openly feuding with other supposedly like-minded pages. It's because of unscrupulous individuals taking the work of others to drive traffic to their pages, and increase the number of viewers of their articles, which then makes them ever more money. If they were truly about just furthering the cause, they wouldn't try to stifle, absorb or exclude voices outside of their clique.

Whether or not people like this are poison planted or just rotten eggs that we've allowed to remain in the system, criticizing them in attempt to prune them from the tree of the liberal/progressive movement is just common sense. Either way, it's time to get the chainsaw.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Page admin Q&A Part 1

Time for our first fan Q&A session. If this is popular, we'll do it again.

Grace Lopez: How to best deal with trolls. Fight till the death or delete?

I just delete them. Most trolls want to cause a disruption and get attention. I don't feel like doing them any favors.

Non-Smokahontas Bizz: is it really the chick magnet ive been lead to believe it is?

I've had the same girlfriend for the last 2+ years, almost as long as I've had this page. I'm sure that with the semi-celebrity status you get with having a page, someone, where will naturally find you attractive but that's not what I'm looking for. Sometimes I'll get some fan who gushes over me and both my girlfriend and I realize that I'm sitting in my underwear on the couch, drinking a beer and farting. Then we both laugh.

Missie Bird: How hard is it for you not to argue with posters? How often do you actually delete a comment?

With my job and everything else I have going on, I don't have time to argue very often. I won't delete a comment under most circumstances unless it threatens someone, it's spam or it's obvious trolling.

William Friedman: How do you deal with the just...deluges of falsehoods, or bent truths people spew as fact in response to your articles?

You can't take anything too seriously on Facebook. You just have to realize that there's people who are willfully ignorant and want to dumb down everything, and that's all there is to it. Damn the trolls, full speed ahead.

Phoenix Conrad: Whats the point? is it just to get people to listen to your opinion or is there rewards/ money involved?

I work in a professional environment so I can't really blow off steam about politics and life in general. In my mind, it's cheaper than a therapist and it's nice to know there's other people who feel the same way I do. Unless you have tens of thousands of people read your articles a day, you're not going to make much money.

Greta G Bryant: Has there ever been a time when someone wrote a post that either hurt you personally or changed your thinking on an issue?

I've had people who knew me personally who made remarks on here back in the early days that were hurtful but I don't think I've ever dwelt on any of it. As far as changing my mind completely on something, no. I've altered an opinion on something a number of times though.

Jane Bartlett: How many people does it take to run a page?

Technically, just one. There's a bunch of admins here as backup if I ever need them but usually, it's just 4 of us who post on a regular basis. We all initial or sign our posts, except for me.

Randy Newlin: What was your reason for starting your page?

Originally, it was just to kvetch and just have something to do after work since I was broke. Then it kind of took off.

Kelly Erickson: What can you do to increase interest in your page?

Make good material, network with other page owners, and if all else fails, just post lots of pictures of kittens and material stolen from other people. *note* Don't actually do that last one. It just makes you an asshole.

Sherry Ilkanic:
How many silkwood showers did you have to take during the election and after Sandy Hook? Do you believe in the "paid troll" theory? How do you sleep at night? Cuz I can venture to guess you've lost your faith in humanity several times over... Amirite??

I've lost my faith in humanity more times than I can count, and have had it restored almost as many times. I do believe in the paid troll theory, and I can sleep pretty well most nights, unless my sciatica is flaring up.

Rene Richard Tsompanas: Do u get paid? If so does it depend on how many are fans?

I get paid for traffic. On a good day, I might get 1,000 page views on the blog but most of the time it's maybe 300-400 if I'm lucky. During the election, I had as much as 4,000 views when my articles were posted by larger political pages. Don't think you'll get rich doing this, there's child laborers in Bangladesh who make more than I do.

Keith Blaine: After drinking 13 beers, how difficult is it to refrain from making inappropriate responses to some page posts?

I rarely drink more than a 6 pack. If it's more than that, I'm most likely out having fun and not on Facebook. My self control on FB is pretty decent, all things considered.

William Trimble: does it give you a god complex being able to ban people?

If you let it go to your head, yes. I ban maybe 10 people a week total. Unless you're a total douchecanoe or a spammer, I tend to let stuff slide especially since things cooled off a bit after the election. I was deleting 10 or more people a day back then.

Barbara D. Westbrook: How hard is it to get your posting's out to the people you want to contact?

Very hard. Facebook makes it so that only a small fraction of your fans get to see your posts and many people have the attention span of a gnat. Unless it involves a cute baby animal, or a tabloid style headline. or a silly meme, they tend to glance it over and head on to the next shiny object.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Of chemtrails, junk food and reality TV

I don't believe in the vast majority of common conspiracy theories and here's why. In my opinion, most of them are a way of creating a complicated and often politically motivated explanation for something that has a really simple answer.

It's also funny to listen to the paranoid people on the right-wing who'll talk about how the US government is working with the UN to take our guns away, or some other complicated plot. Yet, they'll then bitch in a separate conversation about how the same entities are incompetent. The problem with most conspiracy ideas is that they tend to crumble under the pressure of logic.

There's the usual "Obummer is a secret commie, Muslim, Marxist, fascist socialist who's trying to take away our guns" verbal diarrhea I hear quite often from the pro-NRA trolls. That's to be expected from people who listen to Hannity, Savage and Limbaugh all the time, but I hear plenty of stuff I think is dumb from Independents, Libertarians, Democrats and the professional left. It's usually the same misinformation and urban legends about vaccines, HAARP, chemtrails, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I fully believe there forces constantly at work that do not have the best interests of the American people at heart. There's actual, not secret, conspiracies in place as I type this. Things like making it harder for people to vote, harder for women to get contraception and to funnel even more money to multi-national corporations. I know, because there's members of my own family working at this every day when it comes to reproductive rights. These things are real, they're right under our nose, and there's no need for some wacky hypothesis for which there is little to no proof.

Another downfall to a lot of conspiracy theories is their sheer size. Eventually, no matter how secret, the truth comes out. Especially in today's world of instant information, there's always going to be one journalist or whistleblower who'll break the story for a chance at TV time and a book deal. Even if that doesn't happen, someone confesses on their deathbed, or Anonymous gets hold of the info and dumps it.

But let's walk back to one of the most popular, and in my opinion, the easiest to discredit conspiracy theories, the chemtrails. I know plenty of otherwise intelligent people who believe in this fervently, and make a point to tell me about it on a regular basis. So I am going to ask them this and ask them to think about it. Why would the government go through all the time, money and secrecy to maintain a program designed to dumb down the population, when through junk food and reality TV, we're doing it to ourselves? Just think, we're making ourselves weak and stupid, and we're paying for it ourselves.