Things we learned from djt

Our democracy is fragile

On Facebook last week, I made a request. What are things we learned from djt and his last four or five years in public life?

One couple has downloaded the Constitution, referring to it often for the past 4 years. Another has learned more about the document, “in particular the 12th amendment. But also the 13th and the 25th.”

Of course, I knew about the Electoral College, but prior to the 2020 presidential election, I’d thought of the post-Election Day aspects of it as often as I’ve considered gravity. The recent machinations on December 14 and January 6 are like the wedding guests storming the officiant’s office demanding to see the couple’s license.

A friend chimed in: “The legal meanings of the word treason and what distinguishes it from sedition; and the federal statutes regarding both. How martial law works.

Also, “the structure of the United States District Courts; how and the meaning of SALT (in addition to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).” Are you referring to that Angelina Jolie movie?

My buddy Steve noted: “The difference between simple corruption and an actual impeachable offense.” I thought when he was impeached they should have gone after him over the emoluments clause.

A friend suggests “There are innumerable norms that have provided guidelines for presidential behavior.” That’s irrefutably true. Will the other members accept djt into the former prez club? Doubtful. It got me thinking of the fact that I can’t remember half the people in his Cabinet.

Who knew the Hatch Act was so ineffectual on the highest-ranking folks? Who has violated it? Ivanka Trump, repeatedly. Kellyanne Conway, ditto.  And others.

You folks have done well

A parent noted “The names of dictators around the world, as well as names of responsible world leaders.” Yow, me too, and I hadn’t thought about it. Their child wants to know whether “there is any better leadership anywhere in the world, especially related to COVID and climate change.”

“Inherently good people can become mean and vindictive when pushed to their limits. Let’s hope that’s just a temporary condition and they can heal.” Unfortunately, the “good” and “temporary” nature I’m just not feeling.

The January 6 insurrection one can trace to a time before djt. In the last four years, it runs from Charlottesville (2017) to the planned kidnapping of the Michigan governor (2020) and beyond.

Some other responses:
Our democracy is fragile
The danger executive orders pose for human/civil rights. Methods a political party uses to suppress the vote of American citizens.
The “loving thy neighbor” commandment is frustrating and confusing. I knew that already but nothing brought it home as these four years have.

What “deplorables” can accomplish when they work together and by extension what any group can accomplish when they work together.
Some people are happily embracing their prejudices, and that empathy is a quality to be embraced.
Misogyny is our biggest problem. The majority of folks would rather have a racist president than a woman President.
There are more bigots and haters than I could ever imagine. And it makes me sick

Our culture is suicidal.
There are no checks and balances in our government.
The process of the transition of the president on inauguration day.
How is it that nearly one-half of the country could support after living through 4 years of narcissism, bigotry, and daily lying?

[“I learned…”] Not everyone who lives in America loves America and respects the Constitution. The symptoms of malignant narcissism. How easily we could go from a democracy to an autocracy. That I could really hate someone with every fiber of my being.

His accomplishments

Someone I do not know says, “Anyone saying Trump didn’t do a good job as President is full of Fake News BS…Pelosi is promoting sedition and Treason…this Congress is a Malcontent Group of vindictive people…Hillary Lost…period…now listening to PBS. I’m beginning to think the Durham Durham investigations have found out WASHINGTON is Corruption…and the best way to avoid exposure is for the Corruption to Cheat and Lie. Shame on Congress…”

If you’ve read my blog over the past quadrennial, you’ll note that I have a different POV. I will give him credit for two things, though. The First Steps Act. “The act was… an effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population…”

The other is to pour money into getting a COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, he totally undercut that effort by denying the pandemic’s seriousness, contradicting CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, failing to provide any federal coordination for PPE acquisition, and holding superspreader events, among other failures.

The big lie

Unfortunately, lies can trump the truth.

There was a bit of dialogue:
“I have learned is how effective ‘The Big Lie’ technique can be.”
“A man said the bigger the lie, the more people believe it because a big lie has the quality of being unbelievable, therefore people don’t believe that someone would make it up. So they believe it’s true.”
“If everyone believes it then it must be true. I have been debating the election fraud story with believers of it. I have shown and proved how everything they believe is not factual but even then, they won’t admit to the lie or acknowledge even a part of the truth.”

And in fact, part of that quote is attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It probably wasn’t him, though he is cited on millions of webpages.

Conversely, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That’s a quote by Maya Angelou

Back in August of 2020, he said, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”‘ He was announcing his strategy for undermining the election, attacking the postal service, et al. That was the birth of the series of baseless post-vote challenges.

In the midst of a 2020 election debated, he made a statement to the Proud Boys. “Stand back and stand by.” That dog whistle was blown just a few months later. Afterward, he tells the insurrectionists, “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” How sweet.

June rambling #3: Macca and Brian Wilson are 75

Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries


Plastic pollution in Antarctica 5 times worse than expected

America’s Amazon Problem

Are You The Husband Or The Wife?

“The good advice my mom gave me that I still don’t like” published in The Lily by Margaret Sullivan

Rachel Maddow: The Rolling Stone Interview

Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries

Political Violence is Our Issue Too

Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault

Russian official linked to South Florida biker club spent millions on Trump condos

What, He worry?

John Oliver blasts ‘human megaphone’ for the anti-vaccine movement

Power Causes Brain Damage Over Time, leaders lose mental capacities—most notably for reading other people—that were essential to their rise

The Daily Show presents: THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY

Nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office

The Racist History of America’s Chinese Restaurant Boom

vlogbrothers: Cheyenne, Wyoming

The length of a dog’s memory

Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely)

Comedian Bill Dana, Who Played the Character Jose Jimenez, Dies at 92. He penned one of the funniest ‘All in the Family’ episodes. Plus the TV Academy has put together a very nice page about Bill Dana

Stephen Furst, who I watched on St. Elsewhere, died at the age of 63. Film director Kevin Smith wrote: “As an awkward round kid, Flounder was the Delta I most identified with in #AnimalHouse, my fave comedy.”

Speaking of Smith, he and TV writer Ken Levine do a podcast crossover, first on Smith’s here, then Levine’s here and here

What Play Finally Brought Tim and Tyne Daly Together Onstage?

Ace magician Misty Lee creates her new show

Leptospirosis Death Warning Hoax – Rat Urine on Soda Can Top

How To Make A Bedtime Snack

KFC to launch fried chicken sandwich into space

The redesigned Names.org offers origins, statistics and popularity rankings for people names. Users can search and compare the most popular names, find trending names and review various list of names by origin, region decade and more

Stop Sending Me Chain Letters Because They Can Be Dangerous! Also, VERY annoying

Arthur mentions unmentionables

Now I Know: The People Who Can’t Take Socks For Granted and China’s Extremely Personal Loans and Why Parisian Bakers Can’t Always Go On Vacation and The Hamburger on Display in a Canadian Legislature

How do they make cake sprinkles?

MUSIC

The Impressions – Gypsy Woman (1961)

Highway Tune – Greta Van Fleet

With A Little Help From My Friends – The Gibson Brothers Bluegrass

Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys

Coverville 1175: 75th Birthday Celebrations for Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson

Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 – Elgar

Tunes from c 1987

Musicians Look Back on the Albums They Don’t Remember Recording

You Can’t Do That! Making Of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1995)

Steve Earle: ‘My wife left me for a younger, skinnier, less talented singer’

Pet Sounds v. Sgt. Pepper

U is for Untrue “news”

The Daily Currant and its ilk have fooled even US mainstream media organizations.

True-or-FalseIn September 2015, I was seeing this story on Facebook, disseminated by people I knew personally, that indicated that President Obama was going to receive his second Nobel Peace Prize. Instantly, I knew it was bogus – among other things, the award would be issued later in the year – but I wanted to know WHY it was spreading so quickly.

Both NationalReport.com and USAToday.com.co who published the story are notorious fake websites, that do not print legitimate news. USAToday.com.co is not affiliated with USAToday in any way, according to its disclaimer. USAToday.com.co is part of a growing number of .co websites that attempt to disguise themselves as reputable brands that includes NYTimes.com.co, washingtonpost.com.co and NBC.com.co. These are fake news websites and nothing on them should be taken seriously.

In fact, a USAToday.com.co report that the new Facebook “dislike” button would delete posts with 10 dislikes was gaining some traction. It’s a devilishly potent formula of taking a fact – in this case, Facebook installing a “dislike” button – then tapping into suspicions about Facebook, and coming up with a credible lie.

HowStuffWorks has a story on 10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story, not particularly useful. It does note that there are satire sites such as The Onion, which would also apply to the Borowitz report at the New Yorker. These are clearly designed to tell a greater truth.

A recent article in The Onion: Pope Francis Kills 3 Hours Milling Around Atlanta Airport During Layover To D.C. – shows how the leader of over a billion Catholics might spend time milling around the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, like many passengers actually do. Now that they are known as such, these web pages are less likely to be incorrectly disseminated as true, though, in the past couple of years, the governments of Iran and China have been fooled.

Whereas sites such as The Daily Currant and its ilk have beguiled even US mainstream media organizations. “The site’s business model as an ad-driven clickbait-generator relies on it. When Currant stories go viral, it’s not because their satire contains essential truths, but rather because their satire is taken as truth— and usually that ‘truth’ is engineered to outrage a particular frequency of the political spectrum. As Slate’s Josh Voorhees wrote…, ‘It’s a classic Currant con, one that relies on its mark wanting to believe a particular story is true.'”

This doesn’t even count the sites designed to distort the narrative, to meet a political agenda. Conservative media claiming a picture shows Syrian refugees with ISIS flags used a real picture, a counter-protest to anti-Islam policies. The flag wasn’t an ISIS flag, because in May 2012, when the picture was taken, there was no ISIS at the time.

One of the more clever cases involved the BBC, Dow and the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster.

As a librarian and someone who seeks to be an informed citizen, this is a challenge. One can’t always trust the (corporate) press to get it right; see Judith Miller and the New York Times on the run-up to the Iraq war, for a classic example.

I try to read/watch a variety of sources and determine whether a narrative passes the sniff test. It’s not always easy.

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

Soccer, a.k.a. football; and lies on the Internet

I’ve seen any number of people who refused to believe that an event happened because they read it on Facebook, and “Facebook can’t be trusted.”

The first time I ever even had a passing interest in soccer was watching some eight-year-olds play in the early 1980s. Now my daughter has participated the last three years, so I’ve become vaguely informed about the nuances. The Daughter wants one of those new soccer balls, called a brazuca, but I hear it costs $160; not happening.

Not that I would dis anyone who didn’t like the sport because they thought it was boring; I used to think so myself. But I figuratively rolled my eyes at certain Americans with their observations. Ann Coulter and her “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of moral decay” is self-evidently idiotic, but I note the source.

I was more annoyed, actually, with sportscaster Keith Olbermann, who suggested that the US shouldn’t have advanced to the knockout round because Portugal was the better team, based on “momentum.” If we were seeding the March Madness men’s basketball playoffs, one can factor in “momentum.” But it seemed to me to be the height of arrogance to suggest such a change at FIFA, who’s been doing this World Cup thing, in a sport most Americans still do not understand, since 1930. Keith should butt out.

Now satirical analysis, such as the piece Ken Levine provided, is welcome.

A female friend of mine noted, not just that the players collectively are quite buff, but that even her most macho-sounding male friends were making the same observations. And I noticed that the refs in these games have to move nearly as much as the players.

I saw bits and pieces of the earlier matches. But I managed to see the last 77 minutes of the epic 120-minute match between the US and Belgium, which the Americans lost 2-1, despite epic goal play by Tim Howard, the most saves in at least 50 years. After the US scored its goal at 107 minutes, I was on my feet the rest of the match, a clear sign I was really into that game.

Moreover, I started figuring out the notations online for the yellow card (penalty), substitution, and how much extra time would be allowed per period. I enjoyed it more because I understood it more than I ever have before. Still think the stoppage time is weird to me and seemingly arbitrary, but maybe it’ll make sense, eventually.

Amy Biancolli writes about the thrill of a good loss. And mostly unrelated, here’s a comic about the Existential World Cup.

Early on, I picked Argentina to win the World Cup. I figured it was a strong team that didn’t have so far to travel, and that the host Brazilians would wilt under the pressure. If the US HAD won its Belgium game, it would have been up against Argentina, and I would have had a quandary. OK, I wouldn’t really; it’d just be a classic head/heart bifurcation.

Oh, here’s something I don’t get: about a week into the World Cup, I saw an article that indicated that the Argentina team had been banned from play because of some infraction. When I click on the article, it was one of those GOTCHA phony stories, and I was 123,456th person (or whatever) to fall for it. As someone who values real information, the site made me irritable. (But not the temporary change in the Wikipedia entry for U.S. Secretary of Defense to ‘Tim Howard’, which was an obvious prank.)

It was the second time in less than a month I saw the more annoying version of this; some guy from Walking Dead, a show I never had watched, supposedly died. But it was another “GOTCHA to click through to this lie, dummy” thing.

I understand that one has to verify things, say, that one sees on Facebook. Designing Women actor Meshach Taylor died late on June 28 – at age 67, sad (yes, I watched the show) – and his family had announced that he had begun his “grand transition” on June 27. So some people began posting news of his death soon afterward. I waited until I had seen sources I trusted (both the LA Times and the Hollywood Reporter, which is generally good with deaths of celebrities) before I would post it.

But I’ve seen any number of people who refused to believe that an event happened because they read it on Facebook, and “Facebook can’t be trusted.” I’m not talking about anything mildly controversial, such as climate change; I’m talking PAST weather reports from NOAA.

OK, one more pet peeve often posted on Facebook: it’s this calendar showing, e.g., August 2014, which has five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. And the graphic says, “This won’t happen again for another 823 years.” But the calendar for 2014 is EXACTLY the same as the calendar for 2003, 1997, 1986, and will be repeated in 2025, 2031, and 2042. Moreover, any month with 31 days in which the 1st falls on Friday, is in this category. Examples from recent past and near future: January 1988*, 2010, 2016* and 2021; March 1996*, 2013, 2019 and 2024*; May 1992*, 2009, 2015 and 2020*; July 1988*, 2011, 2016* and 2022; August 2008* and 2036*; October 2004*, 2010, 2021 and 2032*; December 2000*, 2006, 2017 and 2028*. *leap years.

This meme is so OBVIOUSLY wrong (to me), that the fact that SO many people have sent it shows a certain math phobia or unawareness. Ah, an interesting observation that I can add to a book review I’m doing…

Curiouser and curiouser: 20 questions

Donald Trump, because he’s a twit. Planned Parenthood, because it’s constantly under attack.

There’s this website Curious as a Cat, and it asks one to three questions each week. Here are some from 2006 and 2007 I deigned to answer.

1. What is the one experience in your life that has caused the most pain?
Physical pain. Tie between a broken rib and oral surgery. Emotional, surely an affair of the heart.

2. If you had to pick one thing, what would you say is the single thing that can destroy a soul?
Telling so many lies that you start thinking it’s the truth.

3. What one thing always speaks deeply to you, to your spirit, no matter your mood or what else is going on in your life?
Music, always. I hear it all the time. Sometimes it’s something I’ve heard recently, but more often it’s a tune suitable for the moment.

4. What is the least appropriate thing to pray for?

Actually, the harm of someone else. But I get most irritated when sports figures seem to think that God was on THEIR side after a victory; I was reading a Guideposts magazine article recently, which said, and I agree, “God doesn’t care.”

5. If you could remove one of the current Supreme Court justices based on their moral positions, whom would you choose?
Tough. Clarence Thomas is SO awful, and ought to be impeached for ethical violations. But Antonin Scalia (pictured) tends to steer Thomas’ voting compass, so I guess I’ll say him; he ought to be checked out, too.

6. Name one event that changed your relationship with your family the most.
I think it was the rapprochement of my two sisters in the past few years, who used to argue a lot. They would (especially one of them) call me up and vent about the other. Now that that’s no longer the case, I get fewer calls.

7. If you were to make a collage to describe yourself to others, what sorts of pictures or symbols would you include?
Clearly, it would have a picture of red sneakers; I used to have a Christmas ornament of red sneakers, but it broke. A racquetball racquet, the picture of me as a duck, the cover of the Beatles Revolver album, the cover of a Howard the Duck comic book, a caricature of me singing several years ago, the front cover of the World Almanac, a picture of my two sisters and me when I was a kid, a picture of my parents, a picture of my wife & daughter & me.

8. Which year was the best of your life? How old were you? Would you want to live it again?
1978, when I moved to Schenectady, got a job I liked, had my first steady girlfriend in over two years. I was 25. Absolutely not.

9. What is your favorite way to travel?
By train. I like the light rail in San Diego a lot as well.

10. What spiritual concept, from any religion, is the hardest for you to understand? Is it something you have studied, or something you have only observed from the ‘outside’?
I think Christianity has a lot of difficult concepts: the virgin birth, the resurrection of the dead. But nothing seems to mystify as much as the notion of the Trinity, God in three persons. I’ve studied it a lot, but couldn’t explain it adequately if I tried. St. Patrick used to say it’s like the three-leaf clover, three flowers in one, but that falls short for me.

11. What is your earliest memory? Why do you think you have remembered that particular event or thing?
Trip to the now-closed Catskill Game Farm when I was three, which I remember because there were pictures. So it may be the pictures I recall, not the trip.

12. What position in any team sport is the hardest to play? Why? Have you played that position?
Catcher in baseball, and yes, I played it in a pickup league.

13. Imagine you could redesign your hands. Whose hands would you remodel yours to resemble?
Or would you keep the hands you’ve got?
I like my hands. I like the length of my fingers, the shape of my fingernails. I do which they didn’t have the vitiligo on the back.

14. What bothers you most in other people, generally?
Impatience. People four cars back beeping because the line isn’t moving, and it isn’t moving because some considerate driver’s actually letting an older pedestrian cross. Or the surge of shoppers at the front door on Black Friday openings, which is why I avoid that day like the Plague.

15. What one thing have you done that pleased your parents the most?
Graduating from college. Took five years. My one sister and I actually graduated on successive weekends, she from SUNY Binghamton and me from SUNY New Paltz, and my parents, who were by then living in Charlotte, NC, came up to both.

16. You have to choose one rich person to be forced to give all their money away to a cause or charity. Whom would you choose, and to which cause or charity will the money go?
Donald Trump, because he’s a twit. Planned Parenthood, because it’s constantly under attack.

17. Is there an emotion that you think has gotten stronger as you’ve aged? If so, why do you think that has happened?
I’m more of a sentimental sap, where songs or TV movies might make me a bit misty-eyed. I think it’s a function of the experiences, and the fragility, of life.

18. What kind of cowardice do you most despise?
Lack of conviction. I may hate Rick Santorum’s politics, but I believe he believes what he says (and that’s scary.) Whereas I think Mitt Romney will say just about anything to appeal to whomever he is speaking at the moment.

19. If the U.S. had to give up one state, which one would you pick? Why?
Texas. It was briefly its own country and still acts like it.

20. When were you most moved by a ceremony?
I’m often moved by ceremony – communion, weddings, a US naturalization. The funeral of a 20-month old, though…