Monday, August 27, 2018

Redemption or the Swamp: Your Choice

Once upon a time, Ziggy and I were John McCain fans. We were amazed when the GOP nominated him in 2008. Of course that amazement turned to out-and-out despair when the wheels came off his running mate. We wondered how she could have passed vetting and why they didn't put an end to her wackiness before it completely derailed his campaign. And, in the end, much of his credibility. To be sure, he rallied in the Senate, but the damage was done. And it was the canary in our current coal mine.

That said, he was a honorable man, a man of deep convictions and strength of character. He served his country without hesitation from entry into a service academy to the halls of Congress. When he was released from Hanoi, he never stepped away from his core commitment to public service. I think President Obama expressed it best in this tweet:
John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to endure it forever remains that way.

Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.
Of course, 45 was equally elegant:

Apparently our feckless leader nixed a more eloquent statement from the White House. But that's okay. Whatever. We won't even talk about his press conference refusal to acknowledge the Senator's passing nor the refusal to keep flags at half-staff until the funeral which is consistent with US traditions regarding half-staff, until the outrage reached a fevered pitch and our gracious president relented on both accounts. 

So here's the takeaway from this latest tempest in a teapot: there is none. There is nothing this exchange has told We, the People what we didn't already know. So here's a Muppet News Flash to all you GOP supporters and devotees of your commander-in-chief: your guy just dissed a genuine war hero, the kind you all say you admire for courage under fire, and you all think it's okay because....well....because.....oh, you fill in the blank. I have no idea why some of you continue to support this joke. No matter this guy may or may not accomplished, he will be remembered as a classless troglodyte who, with the help of his ignorant cadre, did more to damage the planet than any single person in history. But that's okay. You like it because he says it like it is: lie after lie after lie. 

On an even more uplifting note, I went to a preview of OPERATION FINALE, the movie about the removal of Adolph Eichmann from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Israel. Much of the movie is pretty close to fact. The part about Eichmann refusing to sign the document allowing them to take him to Israel really didn't happen that way; he signed with little pressure. From everything I just read, they held Eichmann for 10 days in the safe house and they got him out pretty easily on an El Al plane. I remember watching parts of the trial on television. I was 9, but it was riveting even for me. I knew I was watching history being made. 

Which brings me to my last questionable note for the night: Some guy walked into video game contest in Florida and shot up the place, killing two and then put the gun to his own head. He was white, but his name is David Katz. Let's see how long until this sets off its own open-season for antisemitism. Dog whistle stuff. Oh, wait; those tweets and posts are already out there. Just google David Katz Jew. Scroll past the Jewish press news...and you'll see it. Just make sure you have a barf bag handy. 

We are not that far away from the Final Solution for the Jews of Europe, and we are not that far away from blatant antisemitism in this country. All the news this week just points out that it may not be on the surface, but it ain't that far below it, either. 

Yes, the midterms are coming. They will illuminate much of our current political conundrum. In fact, there will be one of two outcomes: 

  1. either we have changed direction and are on the road to redemption, or
  2. we have driven deeper into the swamp.

Take your pick; right now, it's a toss-up.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Pay attention to your local elections...these are not junior high offices,
The people you vote in are the first line of governance.
They are the your voice in your town, your county, and your state house. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bobble Heads: Collect the Whole Set ...At Your Own Peril

First, a little catch-up business. 

If you are one of the many readers who have sent comments over the course of the last few months and have either had trouble sending them through, or never saw them posted, my sincerest apologies. It would seem comments were not routing correctly and I was not seeing them at all. I thought no one cared. Au contraire! Well over a hundred comments flooded my in box on Friday, magically appearing with a simple email from Blogger: 
You have been invited to receive email notifications at when comments on blog The Wifely Person Speaks need to be moderated.  

Please click the Subscribe link below to accept this invitation. If you don’t want these email notifications, you can just ignore this message, or click the Decline link below. 
I checked, and this setting has never been changed on Blogger, and I have no idea why they stopped sending me notices, much less putting the comments in the WAITING FOR APPROVAL folder on my dashboard. But all the comments have been read, sorted, and posted to the right episode. So, if for any reason you stopped writing, please resume. 

For my next trick, I want to know if anyone else suspects the Canada-Saudi Arabia kerfuffle is somehow related to our 45th president. 

The original tweet condemning the Saudi government for the arrest and detention of Samar Badawi, sister of human rights activist and also Saudi prisoner Raif Badawi, was no more radical than any of the other global tweets condemning Saudi Arabian human rights abuses:
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi.
We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.
There were a number of responding tweets, but this, with theme and variation,is my personal favorite:
In Saudi Arabia we feel worried about Canada committing cultural genocide against Indigenous people. We also support the right of Quebec to become an independent nation.
The resulting hissy-fit saw the Canadian ambassador expelled from Saudi Arabia, and all Saudi students studying in Canada have been called home. Really? Who are you punishing?

Working on a reservation to Riyadh with one of my clients today, I asked how excited he was to be going back to Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a year. Knowing how much he enjoyed the last sojourn, I was taken aback by his answer:
Not real excited. I'm really Canadian. My wife is US born, and I have dual citizenship. These days, I've been flying internationally on my Canadian passport, but not this trip. So check to make sure it doesn't show up in the record. 
We had had this conversation once before, and I remembered him saying it didn't' matter which one he used. This time, however, being Canadian would've barred him from travel to Riyadh. Without my asking, he added:
This whole thing is a pretty stupid over-reaction. I don't get it. I wanna know who's driving this bus.
Ralph Kramden
It ain't Ralph Kramden, that's fer sure. And that's when I started thinking about this. Back in Mr. Ambruso's 6th grade class, we were learning about geopolitics...only we didn't call it that back then. We called it history and geography. We were learning about the Allies and the Axis, and who aligned with whom. On the blackboard he drew a line at the top and a line down. On the top left, he wrote: THE ALLIES; on the other side, he wrote, THE AXIS. Someone laughed and said  it should be THE GOOD GUYS and THE BAD GUYS. Mr. Ambruso said no, we can't label things like that because GOOD and BAD are subjective. That's where I learned that word. BIG one. Stuck with me forever. And he was right....sorta. 

However, if you look at that chart and compare it to a more modern chart, there are some  blatant, and very subjective moral equivalencies worth noting:

The list on the left is a combination of democracies, emerging democracies, and constitutional monarchies...except for the last two. How they got on the right-side of the list is beyond me. On the right, however, are some pretty well recognized and established 20th century dictatorships. 

I suppose one must now ask, with whom is the US aligning itself and who is being rejected? Russia and North Korea are welcomed with open arms, while most of Europe is being actively shut out. Who are our allies, anyway? And who are the wanna-be dictators? That may be the most important question of all. However.....

The tariff wars, the meetings with Kim Jong Un, the huggy-bear-kissy-face routine with Putin....where is all going? And how much behind the scenes manipulation is setting up guys like Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed bin Salman for continuing their questionable human rights policies. 

On August 8th, 2018, Robin Wright wrote in the NEW YORKER:
President Trump’s support, and a personal connection to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may have caused M.B.S. to feel that he has impunity to do as he pleases on the global stage. Trump’s first stop on his inaugural foreign trip as President was in Saudi Arabia, a visit orchestrated—with much fanfare—by the crown prince. Unlike the government in Canada, the Trump Administration has shied away from invoking human-rights issues with the Saudis, despite a graphic State Department report, released in April, detailing the sweeping scope of violations in the kingdom. The section on Saudi Arabia in the State Department’s 2017 Human Rights Report runs long—more than fifty pages. It cites the most significant abuses as torture; arbitrary arrest; unlawful killings; execution without requisite due process; restrictions on freedom of expression, religion, and peaceful assembly; trafficking in persons; violence and discrimination against women; criminalization of same-sex sexual activity; and the inability of its people to choose a government through free and fair elections.
I suspect Prince Mohammed bin Salman belongs in the left-side column despite some of  his progressive permitting women to drive. That act does not negate human rights violations. In fact, when you're doing this progressive thing at the same time you're cranking down on your citizens' right of free speech while simultaneously bombing civilians in Yemen, you are sending a whole bunch of conflicting messages. Of course, when your power-broker buddies, the UAE, the Palestinian Authority, and Bahrain, announce they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Saudi Arabia against anyone who criticized The Kingdom, you know the world has just gotta be shaking in its sandals. 

Who wins? I'm not sure. We are, yet again, bystanders watching Kitty Genovese's murder. No skin in the game...or is there? The people of Saudi Arabia? Definitely not; they are quite certain which side is up. The arms dealers? Yep, they benefit by silence. Hell, even the Canadians were selling arms to the Kingdom. Anyone want to guess?

Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Don't let the face fool you
I'll take a stab. This is attempt for 45 to call the shots on something, anything. He tells Prince Mohammed bin Salman to punish the Canadians, not because they tweeted something really innocuous about the Saudi government, but because Feckless Leader is mad at Trudeau. This dick-waving adventure is to give the prince some street-creds in the western world, at the same time creating a pathetic plan to annoy Canada. Truth be told, is so be-mad-at-Canada-because-I-am kinda second-grade thinking that it's a total joke and instead of jumping up and down, people are openly laughing at the absurdity of that interaction. The only one who stood to remotely gain, would one.

Whatever the genesis of this nonsense, it is not innocent, it is not what it seems, and it just adds another would-be-despot to the list aligning with our president. I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that Prince Mohammed bin Salman is yet another collectible bobble-head in the oval office. And every damn one of these could get your butt tossed into the clink sooner or later.
He's working on the set. You know that, right?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Art Of The Lie: Fake News, Fake Science, And Fake Quotes

124,000 people liked this tweet. 

Roughly translated, that means there are at least 124,000 people who choose to believe a man who has consistently and verifiably lied (as per The Washington Post Fact Checker) over 4,229 false or misleading claims in the 558 days since taking office. 

That mean there are at least 124,000 who support a president who routinely makes stuff up, cheats on all three of his wives and pays off women to say it didn't happen, and cannot keep his stories straight about what he knew and when he knew it.

But the number 124,000 pales in comparison to the number of people who post garbage on social media platforms on a daily basis without bothering to vet, verify, or at least check the dates of stories that sound plausible but are not. 

This is not limited to one side or the other. 

Some social media friends who are on the far-right side of the political spectrum post stuff that reflects our president's sensibilities...or lack thereof, usually coupled with unsupported material from like-minded friends. I'm not talking about the idiocy stuff here, I'm talking about the type with usually numerical facts like his claim that in his first year in office “we have done more than anybody in a year” and “I accomplished more than I promised,” when in real life, he signed fewer bills than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. These are not opinions; these are raw, certifiable numbers. The rate of liar,liar pants afire is pretty high, but rather than start flame wars, I usually send refutations behind the scenes in hope they might read one or two. Rarely are garbage posts removed; the lack of interest in verifiable information is pretty high on that side. 

The far-left side isn't any better. This morning, I was reading a post from a left-wing friend about changes poised to be implemented to Social Security. I confess, I was ready to have the big one....until I went back to re-read opening paragraph when I noticed the date was 2015 and nothing in that story ever came to pass. I immediately posted a rather terse scold, and within minutes, the story had been removed. This is a smart guy; how could he NOT check the date?  Well, he didn't and the post was quickly and mercifully gone.

Another friend on social media posts so much left-leaning bull-oney that I have apoplexy reading her stuff. And I immediately fire off links, usually from Snopes, explaining why her post is not even fake news; it's garbage. She will invariably write back (with smileys) telling me that's what she has me vet her scurrilous nonsense. 

And then, there are the purveyors of fake medicine and cures. I already know one person who opted for the crystal/pyramid cure for colon cancer and went from stage one to dead faster than you can say chemotherapy. Or the the friend who was pushing bone broth as a cure for everything from Crohn's to shingles. There are desperate people out there who read this crap and buy into it because someone they know/love/trust doesn't have the baseline intelligence to google this stuff. People, if wheat grass tea could cure colitis, don't you think everyone would be drinking wheat grass tea and getting cured??????? And if you're still one of the ones who believes vaccines cause autism, please home-school your kids. You don't want to expose them to anything science, much less the 21st century.

If you are posting opinion, that's great. Say it's an opinion. If you are writing about political beliefs and platforms, terrific. Identify and present those planks, positions, and expectations to your heart's content. Discourse is crucial to a democracy.  If you are posting stories about alternative medicine, great, but make sure there's well-documented quantitative science involved. 

If, on the other hand, you really want to shred whatever's left of the fabric of democracy, keep posting the bullshit stories. Don't bother to check if the quote is even real, or the article is from a reliable news source. Just keep the crap coming without verification. You are doing much more than just driving a wedge into this nation; you are actively polarizing the right and left with so much discord in the center, not even the Russians could compete. But of course, you are not colluding.  

Do us all a big favor: make sure you are giving yourself ample credit for your active role in the continued spread of divisiveness and ignorance. Give yourself a big pat on the back, happily knowing all your education and erudition is being put to good use fostering a return to feudal fiefdoms, tribalism, ignorance, and plagues.

I don't need to name names; you are on both sides of the spectrum.  You already know who you are.

And I know you are reading this. 

Just for the record, YOU are the real enemy of We, the People. Not the media, not the journalists, not the scientists, not even the people who believe in social justice, civil rights, or single-payer health care. If you are actively disseminating fake news, fake science, or fake quotes, you are, in thought, word, and deed, the real enemy no matter what side of the political fence, red or blue, you sit.

For the record, I am not your friggin' truth police, and as of right now, I am stopping that free service. If you want me to vet your crap when it goes up, send me an email and we'll work out the terms of service. Otherwise, you post it, you own it. 

Have I made myself clear?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you cannot cite the source or the science ~ don't post it
If you cannot provide context and vetted attribution for a quote ~ don't post it.
If you don't want your mother to know you wrote it, photographed it or shared it,
for G-d's sake, don't post it.

Monday, August 6, 2018

It's not easy being green

No blog episode today, folks. Yours truly has been sidelined by what appears to be food poisoning. 

See you next week!

Wifely Person's Tip o'the week
Cut up your own damn cantaloupe.