Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fake-y

The first thing that struck me was the headline: "James O’Keefe Threatens To Release ‘Hundreds Of Hours’ Of Leaked Newsroom Footage Soon." The next thing I noticed was the category under which Yahoo News chose to report it: "Entertainment." The same source that I might click on to find out more on the Sinead O'Connor/Arsenio Hall feud or the mission Pink is on to lose that baby weight is the same bin in which I find a story about conservative provocateur James O'Keefe's plan to threaten/embarrass CNN. 
You might remember Mister O'Keefe from his questionably acquired video hijinks that lead to the de-funding of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and its eventual filing for bankruptcy. That organization has since reformed in three states, but it limps along with the stigma of having been "exposed" by O'Keefe and his minions
Now, armed with an alliance with the Trump Foundation, James is after a bigger fish: The Cable News Network. He has suggested that he has "hundreds of hours" of footage that was all legally obtained and would release that footage “WikiLeaks-style.” If that description is meant to inspire confidence in the material, then the jury is still out. That jury being comprised of a group of Americans called "the audience." An audience ranked as the second largest for cable news networks. And now we come to the real nitty gritty: Remember how that headline appeared in the Entertainment section? Well, it turns out that network news is a business, something those of us who are old enough to remember watching William Hurt and Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks do their jobs while falling in love can relate to. Combine this with the French Succès de scandale and we come up with the affirmation that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Who wouldn't want to tune in and see what's going on behind the scenes, or in front of them? Fake news or real, it's all infotainment and we spend an increasing amount of time wondering about what and whom to believe while we continue to watch. 
To find out what happens next. 
So, I imagine the folks at CNN may be the next ones to contribute to James O'Keefe's guerrilla video assemblage. Oscar Wilde would be proud.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Keys To The Kingdom

Wednesday morning my phone alerted me to Captain Kidd's breakfast buffet, including a number of four and five star reviews. This came as a happy reminder of where my family and friends had been just days earlier. Hopping out of bed and rushing up the stairs next door to shovel in a bowl of raisin bran and a piece of fruit before racing back down the stairs and across the street to the parking lot of the Happiest Place On Earth had been our experience over the Presidents' Day weekend. We were there to experience a joy-filled stimulus-packed couple of days in the Magic Kingdom. Those days started with Captain Kidd's.
There was a bit of a hangover as well. Dropping myself back into the working week after that blur of activity was a bit of a challenge. Our son, who revels in Disney because it is the wellspring of his pop culture, felt similarly the day he woke up and there were no Froot Loops in a paper bowl before embarking on a search of the shortest lines and multiple trips on the Jungle Cruise. For those of us who woke up on Tuesday with no days left on our park hopper passes, it was back to work. Sure, we had memories. We had photos. We had the souvenir maps that we could count off the attractions and rides that we experienced in those two magical days.
Did I mention magic?
If I didn't, I should. For my family and me there is a place where our cares and woes drift away. It is a place where we can find something to divert our attentions from the cares and woes that weigh us down on any given day. While we are there, we don't concern ourselves with the cost of everything and the overarching corporation that binds this universe together. If anything, we surrender to the Disneyness of it all and let ourselves be swept away in the animatronic pseudo-reality of it all. I know that I have consciously made this a place where I park my cynicism and curmudgeonly world view. I am not looking for the edge of the backdrop or the strings holding the puppets from the ceiling. I know they are there. I want an oasis, and this is mine.
When the alarm went off and I found myself meandering blearily into my own kitchen for a bowl of granola on the way to face another day in the work week, I sighed. And I remembered those breakfasts at Captain Kidd's. I know there is a place for me and those I hold close to get away. Does it have to be Disneyland?
No. But it sure is a magical place.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Say What You Will

“Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody thirteen years old who is sexually mature.  Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.” And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we begin to see the sun setting on the glorious and periodically fabulous career of Milo Yiannopoulos. You may remember Milo from some of his other greatest hits: “Given America’s obesity epidemic, the truth is that hot people are an endangered species. We are a marginalized group constantly punished by society’s unrealistically ugly beauty standards.” Or “America has a Muslim problem… The terror attack on Saturday is an expression of mainstream Muslim values," after the attack on an Orlando nightclub last June. How about “Women have huge competitive advantage when they go into tech because there aren’t many other women. They get coverage when they don’t deserve it, when they enter a room, people pay attention to them. Privately successful women will tell you this." And of course “If a white person gave Dr. King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech and said his line ‘I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’ they’d face charges of hate speech from liberals too ignorant of history to even know it’s Dr. King’s line.” Yup. This guy's a winner from way back. And now he is a former senior editor for Breitbart News
Milo resigned on Tuesday after some people, a whole lot of people, got angry about his definition of pedophilia. These remarks were made over a year ago, and after apologizing and resigning, he went on to complain, “But let’s be clear what is happening here,” Yiannopoulos said. “This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children. They care about destroying me and my career, and by extension my allies. They know that although I made some outrageous statements, I’ve never actually done anything wrong. These videos have been out there for more than a year. The media held this story back because they don’t care about victims, they only care about bringing me down. They will fail.” Feel free at this point to try and reconcile his rant about "Dr. King's words" and his own. If you're feeling like it doesn't exactly add up, you are not alone. That would be why the Breitbart folks didn't bother trying to save poor Milo. They cut him loose. Maybe because he had finally gone too far, or maybe because he was openly gay and it was only a matter of time before someone would have to explain that steaming pile of hypocrisy, but whatever the case Milo has moved on to the next great thing that any homosexual alt right journalist would. Oops. His book deal with Simon and Schuster was cancelled. Was it because he was too conservative? Was it because he was too gay? Was it because he was too much for conservative Republicans to deal with? Consider that the tapes of that interview were released by right wingers calling themselves The Reagan Battalion. Tune in tomorrow as the Republicans continue to feed one another to the lions. 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

It Burns

Staring into the sun is a bad idea. It can really hurt your eyes. Staring into the abyss can be just as painful. This is why I avoided watching "President" Trump's press conference last week. I was afraid of the damage that might have occurred in my cerebral cortex. Instead, I chose to take a page from the book on watching a solar eclipse: use a filter. For me, I find that what works best is time. If I watch his Creamsicleness live, I tend to tense up and start to whimper. So many emotions are competing, but sadness seems to win out. Finding some middle ground between rage and hysterical laughter, I am left with the sobs of a country who want a do-over in the most profound way. When Fox News starts defending CNN, end times are near. 
"Nuclear holocaust would be no like no other. They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we," he burbled about relations with Russia.
As for the BBC, he rolled his eyes, "There's another beauty." The power of the fourth estate. 
"The leaks are real ... the news is fake."
"Russia is fake news." His eyes continued their clockwise rotation.
"I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two: Racism. The least racist person." Spittle flies.
How did you win the 2016 election, daddy? "That's how I won, I won with news conference and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people, [pointing at reporters] listening to you people, that's for sure. But I'm having a good time. Tomorrow they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.' I'm not ranting and raving, I'm just telling you, you know, you're dishonest people. But, but, I'm not ranting and raving. I love this, I'm having a good time doing it. But tomorrow the headlines are going to be, 'Donald Trump rants and raves.' I'm not ranting and raving."
Bnow back to a certain Cable News Network: "I watch CNN. It's so much anger and hatred. And just the hatred. I don't watch it anymore."
"We're becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We're not going to let it happen any longer." Did he just take a bite out of a Snickers bar?
About Michael Flynn? "When I looked at the information I said I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right."
And pumping up his second nominee for Secretary of Labor, he gurgled, "I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta. He has a degree from Harvard Law School, a great student. Former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito and he has had a tremendous career."
Again, these were not all of his words. These were the ones that were attempts at making sense of the light at the end of the tunnel. Not daylight, but an oncoming train. If you need me, I'll be under my desk whimpering. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

You Wanna Go Where Everyone Knows Your Name

I remember San Clemente. I remember the Ranch. I remember Kennebunkport. I have heard stories about Warm Springs. These were all places that previous presidents retreated to when they needed a break from the action. Whether it was walking along the beach or clearing brush, these places were sanctuaries for the leader of the free world. A place to unwind, to get away from it all. The Western White House. The Southern White House. The Pretty Close Still To Washington D.C. White House. Call them what they were: Vacation homes. 
A lot of people, of a certain income, own vacation homes. And some people own other people's vacation homes. I'm not talking about timeshares here. I'm talking about owning a resort. Like the Crown Jewel of Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago. This exclusive golf club is one of his Royal Hightweet's resorts, featuring ocean views and beautifully landscaped grounds. "Since purchasing this landmark in 1985," the website tells us, "the Trump family has spent many weekends and holidays at their home away from home." And now, it would seem, they have found their White House away from White House. 
All of that would be fine if this were some opulent, T-shaped estate of some opulence, with the inclusion of round-the-clock secret service protection. Mar-a-Lago has all that plus. Plus paying guests. Other members of the club who are there paying dues to be able to hobnob with the hoi polloi. It's a golf club, after all, and if you want to shoot eighteen holes in the afternoon and go back to your room to change for dinner at eight, who knows who you might run into. 
Maybe even "Rick The Man." You probably won't get close enough to "The President" to snap a photo, but the guy who carries the briefcase containing the launch codes for all our nuclear missiles is, apparently, available. Club member Rick DeAgazio was able to get such a picture, with  arms around one another and big smiles, and then he posted it on his Facebook page. So much for that notion that aide-de-camps for the President of the United States have to be all stand-offish and uptight. Why worry about National Security? Why let a little thing like protocol stand in the way of a perfectly nice evening? An evening which saw our "President" discussing strategy with the Prime Minister of Japan just after North Korea test fired a ballistic missile of their own. In front of Rick and a great many other members of the club and their guests. Did they all have their top-secret clearances? Well, they had certainly paid their dues and probably a hefty campaign contribution to the club's owner in addition. Isn't that enough? 
I'm all for giving the country back to the people, but I'm not exactly sure this is what I meant. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Low Continuous Buzzing Sound

The future has arrived, and it is being delivered by a drone. Amazon is getting ready to drop packages in your front yard via parachute from hovering machines guided by satellite. Hooray. At last I can get my forty-one ounce bags of Skittles brought directly to me without all that fuss of a human being lumbering up my front steps and placing the box on the porch. Instead, the same technology that allows pimply-faced video game aficionados to launch missiles into bad guys' apartments from half way around the world while they sit placidly in their La-Z-Boy recliners in air conditioned trailers. Ah, progress!
And to think at one time I could have altered this flow of time. Twenty-some years ago, I was working as a warehouse manager for an employee-owned book wholesaler. We bought books from publishers and then turned around and sold them at a tiny profit to small local bookstores. At this point, I don't know how much farther I need to digress: Should I explain wholesaler? Warehouse? Books? In order to make any money at all, we needed to move our packages in and out of our warehouse as seamlessly as possible, and for a long time we relied on humans carefully stacking and stuffing books in boxes then surrounding them with crumpled bits of paper before we sealed them up and sent them off to their destinations. At one point during my tour of duty as warehouse co-manager, it was decided that we were going to invest in some machinery to refine that labor intensive process and switch to a machine that would shrink-wrap stacks of books to a cardboard flat, then a box would be formed around that flat, labeled and shipped. It was so very late twentieth century.
One day, a call came in from a group of folks from Seattle who were starting their own warehouse business. They were going to sell books over this newfangled invention of Al Gore's. We snickered at the idea, but happily offered to have them come and take a look at our operation. The job of showing these wacky kids around our warehouse fell to me. It was a slow day, so I had plenty of time to wander around showing these folks just how things worked.
Years later, when I was unwrapping a book or CD purchased from Amazon.com, I noted how well they had been paying attention, and I was pretty sure they were using the same brand of shrinkwrapper that we had used back in my warehouse days. Back when there were still neighborhood bookstores. Back when drones weren't delivering pizza and lighting up halftime shows at the Super Bowl.
It's only a matter of time before they figure out how to deliver math tests via drone. Goodbye, Mister Chips.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Words Their Way

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count,” the quote read. “It’s the life in your years.” It was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, by members of his own party. Inspirational? Sure. Lincoln? Not so much. Al Gore's Internet and the folks at Google would have you believe that this is the case, but a little further investigation makes things a little murkier. This aphorism was probably first written for a book on aging written in 1947 by Doctor Edward J. Stieglitz. It was not immediately clear what Doctor Stieglitz's party affiliation was, but since he was born some thirty years after Abraham Lincoln died, it is not likely that he passed this wisdom to him personally. 
So what? 
Well, let's start by looking back just a few months instead of a few years, to the Republican National Convention. The "President's" wife gave a speech at that time that lifted large pieces of Michelle Obama's speech for her husband in 2008. There was a lot of fuss made at the time, but after much denial, there may have been a little crilbbing and a definite lack of footnotes. No one was fired for this little bit of plagiarism. This should have been our first solid hint about alternative facts. 
In Bizarro World, if you need words, you simply borrow them. Don't worry about from whence they came. Let the chips fall where they may. Buffalo or otherwise. 
This might also be why the Department of Education, in their first public display since bringing new head Betty Devos was to misspell the name of civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP William E.B. Du Bois incorrectly. Again, not exactly a shock, and even though it appeared in a Tweet it still managed to continue a trend of shooting first and going to spellcheck later. 
This trend seems to value words more than ideas. The sound more than the quality of that sound. By keeping a constant barrage of words churning out there, perhaps they hope that they might eventually land on a good idea to match up with all that verbiage. 
Suddenly I am imagining a room full of chimpanzees banging away at their IBM Selectrics in hopes of generating the works Shakespeare. Or one orangutan with a smart phone.