Monday, July 8, 2024

What Liberal Media?

That’s the old conservative fallback, right? Blame everything negative you hear about Republicans on the “liberal media.”

The thing is, the “liberal media” doesn’t exist, if it ever really did in the first place.

Once upon a time, broadcast media tried to be fair. The Fairness Doctrine required that for every news bit that slanted one way, (or featured sources from one side) there had to be an opposing view to balance it out. For the most part, the national news outlets tried to play it down the middle… report on what happened without taking sides.

The Fairness Doctrine applied because these private networks were using public airways, so they not only had to be fair but they had to devote a certain amount of hours to public interest issues (which were usually buried on weekend mornings, (before cartoons came on, even) or the middle of the night.

News shows weren’t broadcast for ratings; they were like loss leaders*. They were required to produce these news shows so they didn’t let ratings drive the show’s direction.

*Loss leader is a retail term meaning an item a store puts on sale and doesn’t worry if they don’t make money on it, or even lose money, the point is to bring people in the door and sell them something else.

Watergate seemed to change that and every time there was bad news about the Republican scandal, Republican operatives blamed the “liberal media.” It became an easy excuse.

The Reagan Administration eventually got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, which gave rise to Fox “News” and started the slow march to the shop-by-brand version of news we have now.

TV news and newspapers dwelled on the juicy Clinton hearings, lingered over every tawdry detail, and hounded him until he was out of office. But when certain outlets questioned the wisdom of the Iraq War, suddenly they were the “liberal media” again. The same applied any time the media didn’t get in bed with the latest GOP illusionary scandal, like the Birther thing or the Tan Suit incident, et al. I clearly remember Republicans denigrating the “liberal media” for ignoring these “vital” stories.

Over time, media ownership has consolidated into a mere several major players, and each one is part of a vast conglomeration. Are they still out there working hard for the common man? Hell no. They have their own goals now, which always boil down to “mo money, mo power” for themselves. What we now have are conservative media outlets masquerading in liberal sheep’s clothing. NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, and all the Big Three networks, are owned or operated by Republican-leaning overseers.

If I had a subscription, I’d cancel it too, or at least register my condemnation.

In 2024 the “liberal media” is an illusion; nothing more than a quick cover conservatives slap on the occasional bad news story that can’t be ignored. (Despite the craters full of legitimate bad news stories that are completely ignored.) News is no longer about “truth,” or “benefitting society.” It’s about circulation and ad sales in print media and eyeballs in broadcast media. The stories are only tools to get you to pay attention.

I’m seeing it all play out in real time, here in Baltimore, after the sale of the once-respected Baltimore Sun to the owner of Sinclair Media. His stated goal is to make it like the local Fox News channel (that he also runs.) While stories still appear addressing both sides of the aisle, there is a pronounced bias toward conservative-driven storylines.  Take a look at this page from yesterday’s Sun:

This is the spot where the national news goes. Notice how all three stories benefit Republicans:

·         Dems call for Biden to step down

·         Negative analysis of Biden’s ABC interview

·         Trump wins another delay in his documents trial.

Do you know what you don’t see? Anything about Project 2025 or the new corollary, Agenda 47.

Some of these may merely be “stated goals” and not necessarily part of the original document.

Nor do you see any analysis of the garbage that spews forth from TFG during any of his campaign appearances.

I don’t mind calling out my guys on their problems, but when you ignore the other side’s foibles, you are no longer a news outlet, but a shill, a cheap shill hiding a no-pants wizard behind a curtain.

There should be daily updates on Project 2025. After all, it’s only the end of our democratic system of government. SCOTUS already took us halfway there with the advent of the imperial president. Maybe they already know the fix is in on this election and they are trying to avoid being in the crosshairs when TFG starts looking for heretics to prosecute.

The November election is our first “last chance” to stave off government by oligarchy, for the rich, by the rich. If we’re ever going to get a fair shake, we have to start shaking now, no matter who is running against TFG. The last 50 years of progress are about to be flushed down the crapper in favor of a White Christian Male ruling class. (And I’m a White Heathen Male and I’m more Christian in practice than any of these bloodless fuckers.)

We need to get our shit together, stop clutching our pearls over Joe Biden, and unite against the common opponent. Several very good outlets have already demonstrated that trying to come up with a replacement in this time frame is a no-win proposition on logistics alone. It would take from now until November just to settle on a name. And if that name isn’t Kamala, start funding the campaign from scratch.

Our literal futures rest on this next election. Social Security, Medicare, the EPA, Dept. of Education, Reproductive Freedom, contraception, and so much more, it’s all on the line. The rich and the religious wingnuts want all that gone.

And we’re quibbling about someone older and slower than he used to be? Old Joe got more done than any president with a split Congress should have been able to. And he’s old right now and things are running fine (more or less.)

We need to focus on what’s truly important and stop watching the sideshow being peddled by the “liberal media.”

Monday, July 1, 2024

Apocalypse Pretty Soon

Well, our vacation was quite fine, thank you very much for asking. We visited Ocean City MD for the week and sat on the beach or by the pool every day, read a couple books, and visited various bars and restaurants. Then between 7:30 and 8:00, we’d adjourn to our balcony to have some drinks, play some music, and watch the sun set over the bay.

Best show in town!

Wednesday night we got to watch a storm roll in, which gave us quite a different show.

We decided to pull the chairs in behind the sliding door and watch the rain pour from our nice, dry, room. Sweetpea’s idea. And that kept the chairs dry for the next morning.

The trip wasn’t without incident though. I had some trouble checking in because the room I ordered and what they received were two different things. I went around and around with the front desk people but to no avail. They explained that if I hadn’t used a travel site to book the room, they’d have the leeway to at least reimburse me for the downgrade on the room. (I used my bank’s travel site to get extra travel points. I won’t be doing that again.)

But the main tragedy was when we wheeled our bags and supplies into our room with the hotel cart. As we hit the bump between the carpeted hallway and our room’s tiled floor, the bag containing two unopened 1.75L bottles of vodka fell off and one of them smashed. Oh, the humanity!

The other tragedy was Thursday night when we watched the debate. Damn, was THAT ever a let-down. I thought Joe would show a little more life than that… I kept waiting for him to use his favorite debate tactic where he lures you in by speaking softly, then BAM, he’s thundering with outrage and raining verbal bombs. But it never showed up.

Meanwhile, TFG was his usual self. It’s no wonder he famously refuses to prepare for debates. There’s no reason for any prep at all. He just spews forth about how everything he did was great and whatever Biden did was the worst of all time, and lob baseless accusations. It’s the kind of thing any kid on the playground can do. There’s no need to remember facts or statistics when you just make shit up! And who cares about what questions the moderators ask when you don’t intend to answer them in the first place. The MAGAs would rather see him look forceful in telling lies than quietly telling the truth.

I came to learn the next day that what TFG did is known as a "Gish Gallop."

If that isn't the very definition of what TFG does during debates and interviews, I don't know what is.

In addition to his stutter and a cold, Biden had to carry the burden of remembering actual facts and figures. Bringing up data like that upon demand in front of the nation is not an easy thing for anyone to do, let alone an octogenarian.

But what really bugged me was that there was so much meat left on the table. There were some great arguments and rebuttals to be made but he never brought them up, no matter how loudly I was yelling them at the TV.

To that end, Sweetpea wished she’d packed a tranquilizer gun to use on me as I paced around the room. I just couldn’t sit still as I saw all the headlines for the week being written about how the President froze up or mumbled, with hardly a mention of the fact-free blithering from the challenger.

While I really wished Biden’s showing was better, I take comfort in the fact that face-to-face debates have nothing to do with being president. It’s really just a campaign appearance.

Presidents don’t sit down to have a standardized debate with foreign leaders, or even the domestic ones. They all get together, experts and advisers present information, the President discusses it with everyone and he gives direction on what he’d like as the next course of action.

He’s already done the job for three and a half years and I think his performance has been wildly underrated. The fact that Democrats have gotten as much as they have, (with things like the infrastructure bill) with a split Congress is nothing short of miraculous. I have every confidence he can do the job; he just won’t necessarily look flashy while doing it.

And if the stakes couldn’t get any higher, today the Supreme Court issued its latest travesty in finding that the President has at least partial immunity on actions taken while in office. This decision destroys the last shred of impartiality the high court might have claimed and creates a King out of what is supposed to be a public servant. The platitude that no man is above the law has been decimated for generations, thanks to The Federalist Society and their willing proxies, the Republican Party.

Even schoolchildren know that rules have to be applied equally or else it’s “no fair.” And this is exactly how TFG considers the concept of fairness… if he’s not allowed to stomp on the rules and do whatever he wants, it’s somehow “unfair” to him.

I’m sure there will be more in-depth analysis to come and I’m hoping this decision is not as bad as it seems at the outset. But I don’t think there can be any clearer signal that Republicans have to be stopped NOW, and resoundingly. It’s not just TFG, it’s the whole team. Nothing that they seek benefits the non-rich, the non-evangelical, and non-sexist/racist/xenophobic. And they’re not going to change until the People demand it.

And even then, they’ll just hide their intentions again and run on some other populist message that doesn’t cost anything to the donor class.

Adding to attacking reproductive freedom, overturning reasonable healthcare access, cutting Social Security and every other safety net program, opposing drug price negotiation for Medicare, and tax cuts for the rich, Democrats need to hang this new thing around their Republican opponents’ necks and call them out at every opportunity.

A stuttering president is the least of this country’s problems.



Monday, June 24, 2024

Mid-Year Meme Dump!

I’m preparing this ahead of time because, by the time you see this, I’ll be sitting on a beach earning 20% on vacation. So what better opportunity than this for a MEME DUMP!

Now I can finally do something with a bunch of pictures, cartoons, and memes that have been collecting digital dust in the Bluz Vault while I figure out how and when to use them. Let’s start with:

Current Events

From the Baltimore Sun, quite some time ago:

Still true.


Republican use of Voter ID is 100% attempted voter suppression. No matter how they dress it up, likely Democratic voters get the shaft.


Another persistent lie. The 1% have been dying for access to Social Security money for generations but will do backflips to avoid paying into it any more than the pittance that they do.

And because it’s Stanley Cup Finals season…

The Cup can be won or lost tonight (as of this typing.)


Hannibal Shyster


Put the secret documents in the fuckin’ basket!

Religion

It’s a wonder anyone takes this thing seriously.


It’s like going along with adults who have “deeply held beliefs” in the Easter Bunny. (I was going to say Santa Claus, but we know that at the root of it, there was a St Nicholas who actually existed.)


It’s unanimous.

Goofy Shit

From 1984 to about 2005, (before I knew anything about the effects of sodium on the aging body) I had a package of Ramen noodle soup every morning for breakfast. This could have happened to me.

This one just made me laugh.


From Bluz Sister. In my case, that fridge would be in a beachside cabana somewhere.


Courtesy of Bluz Uncle Joe. My only nit to pick is that on the Classic Rock example, the drum solo only comes with the live show.

I’ll be seeing quite a lot of these over the next week, I expect.

See you all on the flip side!


Monday, June 17, 2024

How To Rig the System (to get what you want)

There was a big article in today’s paper about the lengths that forced-birth enthusiasts are taking to overturn the will of the people.

From inside today’s Baltimore Sun. Click the pic to embiggen.

The evangelical right has taken notice of how statewide referendums enshrining or defending reproductive freedom have passed easily in seven out of seven elections. That’s bad for their brand. So what are they doing about past and future referenda?

·         Contesting and removing signatures.

·         Creating competing ballot initiatives to confuse voters.

·         Filing lawsuits over language used in the measures.

·         Doxxing people identified as canvassers for abortion rights.

·         Allowing campaigns to convince people to withdraw signatures already provided.

Notice how none of their strategies involve trying to change people’s hearts and minds, or reason with anyone. Instead, they’re just going straight to manipulating the system to create minority rule.

The issue referendum is about as pure a democratic measure as we have. It’s not a matter of personalities or politics, but merely taking a measure of what citizens think about an issue that affects their state, county, and community. What the majority says, should go.

How toxic is it that when faced with a clear message from the populace, a small but loud set of zealots intend to substitute their own narrow view over that of a significant majority? They don’t care about people’s values or morals; they are bent on installing their own.

That’s as undemocratic and un-American as you get.

I can see why they do it, too. They have a hard time winning on science, facts, or reality. They can’t even win on morality, not in the big picture. When championing the rights of a small blob of cells over the free will of the women carrying them, without taking a single step to help that same organism once expelled from its mother, it’s a massive dent in their claims to value of “life.” No food benefits, no day care, no medical care; none of it is supported by their political party. And that’s where all the high-minded outrage of the “sanctity of life” collapses.

But rather than take the “L” and look for solutions (like actually providing some of those things for children and mothers) they instead try to rig the process to force their beliefs on an unwilling majority. They know that spending money on children will never fly with their own party bosses, who are only interested in siphoning money upward, into the coffers of their rich friends.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Floaters - Round Two

With the success of my first surgery for eye floaters (aka a “vitrectomy”) two months ago, I was eager to get the other eye done. And this time, there would be no need for an air bubble to be injected and then dissipate over the next 10 days. (They had to do that the first time, to protect an area of the retina I’d already had repaired.) I expected I’d be able to see clearly again, right away. When I went back for my 1-month follow-up, I practically did cartwheels when they told me they could get me in to do the other eye the next week.

I should have known better.

The surgery went even more smoothly this time than it did the last. There was no long wait beforehand so I was in and out in 90 minutes, again with a plastic guard taped over my eye.

When I went back the next day to get the bandages and shield removed, I had fairly decent rudimentary sight. It was hard to tell because they had to dilate me again. But I could at least get several lines on the eye chart.

That night, as I was watching TV, I experimented a bit. With my right eye, it looked like I was watching HDTV, with everything crisp and clear. With the newly repaired left, it was like watching an old, non-HD TV. Not perfect, but serviceable. Considering this was the day after surgery, I was thrilled.

Then Friday happened.

Overnight, I noticed that whenever I moved my eye around, I was getting light flashes, like lightning. It wasn’t something uncommon; that happened a lot following my three prior eye surgeries. So I wasn’t panicking yet. But in the morning, when I took off the sleep guard, my previously serviceable-but-a-bit-blurry world was replaced by a mass of indistinct color. I could not recognize anything I looked at with that eye, other than maybe an outline.

OK, now it was time to panic.

I tried to contact my doctor’s office but all I could get was an impenetrable voicemail tree. Once I remembered to try to “jimmy the system” by pressing “0”, I got a live person and was able to make an appointment for later that morning. Sweetpea was at school and unreachable, so luckily my brother was gracious enough to give me a ride. I sure as hell couldn’t drive.

The doctors gave me the once-over and determined that I’d lost pressure in that eye overnight and the eye had “deflated” a bit. (Picture a football with about a third of the air let out.) They prescribed some more eye drops and set up another appointment for the next Wednesday.

I’d already been using some of the drops but now the regimen was changed: 6 daily drops of the anti-swelling agent, 4 daily drops of a steroid, and 2 daily drops of a dilating fluid. I had to create a spreadsheet just to sort out all the dosing times.

That was the Friday before Memorial Day. Over the long weekend, I started to see some changes. By Monday, I could see that there was a face on the front of a head, not just a pink blob. But there was more. There were also some vertical lines that looked like green tally marks blocking my focus point, so I was unable to read anything. If I stared long enough, the green would disappear but there was still an obstruction, like reading through blurred glass.

The biggest problem seemed to be that all the straight lines I could see… wall corners, doorways, tabletops… were all wavy like they were designed by a kid with an old grade-school compass. Or maybe Picasso.

Looking out at our slatted backyard fence, the slats were bending every which way, like they were guarding a haunted house.

By the following Wednesday's appointment, that was my primary problem. The pressure was back to normal and I could make out some lines on the eye chart (when I looked through the thing with the holes in it, like a colander), but otherwise, it looked like I was stuck living in the movie Beetlejuice.

The doctor was able to show me a good visual of what was wrong. He said that the lining of the eye contracted and wrinkled at the loss of pressure. But it would take time for the wrinkles to “iron out” now with the pressure back to normal. Showing me this helped:

This is a scan of the affected eye. The top image is from after the surgery, the bottom is before it.

See the wavy lines running through the “after” picture? That’s what’s causing the problem. When the lining is smooth, you get an accurate reflection of the world around you. But wavy lining functions like a funhouse mirror and bends the image every which way.

Doc said that this after-affect usually only happens after glaucoma surgery, not what I had. In fact, he said he’d never seen it before following a vitrectomy. Said the odds of this happening were like 100-1.

Lucky me.

When I went back the next week, I could do a little better on the eye chart, but still had the full-on funhouse mirror effect. He said he expected the waves to dissipate over the next several weeks to a couple of months.

There looked like some progress on the scans though:

The top is the newest scan, the bottom is from the previous week

You can see that the lines have smoothed out a bit so there’s some improvement physically, but not much practically.

At this point, all I can do is be patient, because it has to heal itself. He said there are no surgeries to correct it, nor eyeglasses that will compensate. So I just have to sit here and wait to get better while contemplating a possible lifetime of being one-eyed.

Around the house, I can get by. It’s frustrating, but I can function. What I can’t do is DRIVE, and that’s what frustrates me the most. I hate having to depend on others to get around. When I look out at the road, from the front seat of a car, it looks like what I used to see back when I was a college student, driving home from a late night at the bars. I was lucky I found my way home in one piece during those nights. I don’t think that will make a good “new normal.”

I do know that it’s not illegal to drive with one eye, as long as you pass a test. I have to figure out whether it’s better to have wavy but wider vision, or wear a patch and have 20/20, but no peripheral vision to my left.

So I’ll just have to be patient and see what comes next, while I contemplate the nagging question, “Why the hell didn’t I just learn to live with the goddamned floaters?

Monday, June 3, 2024

The Felonious Guy

I presume you heard the good news last week about a certain trial in New York? A jury found TFG guilty on all 34 counts and there was a great rejoicing in the streets! (And like the title says, “TFG” now stands for “The Felonious Guy.”)

I remain surprised that there wasn’t one MAGA intent on jamming up the works, and maybe there was, but the strength of the prosecution’s case could have made an impact. It’s one thing to hear a biased interpretation of the evidence on Fox “News,” but quite another to see the evidence presented with context, in court.

So it’s a good first step to accountability. I still don’t think he’s ever really going to get there. I’m positive he never sees the inside of a jail cell. Just the sheer logistics of his situation as an ex-president makes it likely they’ll seek other accommodations.

I said as much in a post last year, that the courts should get creative in finding suitable ways to punish such a suit.

For example, maybe they can ban him from using a golf cart, or only allow him a one-iron and a wedge in his golf bags. And he has to hit from the “lady’s tee.”

They could replace all his gold fixtures with aluminum or tin.

Or they can remove all the ketchup from his house detention and only serve chuck steak, cooked rare.

They can put every TV channel on MSNBC and take away his cell phone.

Or even better, tune the channel to some network that won’t mention him at all, like BBC or something. Maybe Al Jazeera.

OR, eliminate all the news stations and limit his viewing BET.

No spray tanning, makeup, or hair products.

They can limit his visitors to Don Jr. only.

If they actually want him to grow and learn while away, they could limit his TV watching to Sesame Street, in hopes he might pick up a more grown-up vocabulary.

They should eliminate all newspapers and magazines, but fill every room with books. Big ones, with no pictures.

Or if they really want to screw with him, they can take the last 15 minutes of the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice was pre-empted for Obama’s announcement that we killed Bin Laden, and run it on a loop.

Naturally, the GOP establishment is howling it up big time, because they have to. They are obligated to show fealty toward TFG no matter what happens if they want to stay right with their base. And I think their hearts are really in it because they’re terrified that someone might start looking at THEIR OWN campaign finances. If I was the prosecutor hearing all these jagoffs crying about it being unfair to pick on TFG, I’d be like, “OK pal, let's keep it fair and look at some more Congresspeople.” I’d also want a look at the books from a bunch of the rich mega-donors too, because that’s where the real power is. Start looking at the politicians and then follow the money to see from whence it came.

This is likely to be the only trial for TFG. The Republicans have already bent the system to their will to prevent the other three trials from coming to pass any time soon (or ever). As is their custom, they know they can’t win on facts or evidence, so they have to work the system to evade justice. Hence, we have one Trumpist judge who will slow-walk the secret documents case until it collapses, the DA in Georgia under personal legal attack, so to hamper her ability to prosecute the case, and the Federalist Society SCOTUS Six ready to rule that the president had broad immunity, shielding him from prosecution of leading an insurrection against the government.

I can’t believe anyone is taking the idea seriously that Alito or Thomas might recuse themselves from making decisions regarding the January 6th Insurrection. They know it looks bad but at this point in time, they no longer care how things look, including Justice Roberts. They know it’s time to do what they were installed to do, which is protect the Republican Gravy Train of tax cuts and deregulation. They will never step aside voluntarily. I’m sure they’ve noticed that Jeff Sessions still can’t get service at the country club after recusing himself from the Justice Dept. investigation of TFG’s Russia ties.

TFG has also taken time out of his busy schedule of crying about the indignity of having to actually attend his own trial and abide by the outcome, to criticize the Republican candidate for Maryland’s senate seat.


As I’ve written before, Maryland’s Senate seat is critical if the Democrats hope to keep the Senate. Hogan was a popular Republican governor of a blue state and he got that way by not being a Trumper or religious fanatic. So he’s got some heavy math to do here.

If he falls in with TFG, he loses in Maryland, because we don’t play that shit here. There aren’t enough MAGAs alone to put him over the top.

But, if he loses the MAGAs, he needs that many more suburban dads to cross party lines and vote for him. Given the commercials I’ve already seen, he’s trying to pick up crossover Dems. His ads are all about supporting reproductive freedom and not voting lockstep with Republicans.

I hope his opponent (Angela Alsobrooks) starts running spots soon about how it doesn’t much matter how he’ll vote on single issues, but that he’ll count among the Republicans to decide who controls the Senate. And THAT determines a great deal about where we go next. He may not be a wingnut, but he’s still a shill for big business, just like any other Republican. And he can be pressured to vote with the majority just like any other Senator, by waving choice committee assignments in his face or adding dollars to his home state’s budget allotment.

So I’m thrilled to see the RNC hanging him out to dry. Sure, the spokesperson is literally a Trump, but the more they put doubts about him in MAGA minds, the more that may stay home on Election Day, or at least skip on the Senate race.

Director’s DVD Commentary: It took me a bit to figure out how I wanted to play with the new “TFG.” At first, I was thinking, “The Former Felonious Guy,” (TFFG) or the other way ‘round, (The Felonious Former Guy) but settled on just switching out one F-word for the other. I hate when acronyms get too long.

Monday, May 27, 2024

You Only Need One

I keep reading doom and gloom projections about the Democrats losing in the November elections in general and the Senate in particular. Given the bounty of toxic issues the Republicans have provided, I just can’t see how it’s possible to lose so badly, or at all. Every Democrat should be able to beat every Republican just by hanging the GOP’s current stances around their neck and making them own it. There’s just so much to work with…

Starting at the top, TFG has shown to be completely unfit for office. He’s an agent of chaos and Vladimir Putin. He is a raging narcissist, obsessed with his own standing, and oblivious to the needs of the country. He is a career criminal whose full history of malfeasance is only just coming to light. He has shown that he can’t be trusted with national secrets and will hide or manipulate them for his own benefit, possibly even selling them to outside interests. His blithering, vanity, and obfuscation at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic cost America over one million lives. The man shouldn’t even be in the same zip code as the presidency. And not for nothing, my father died alone because his hospital was filled up with idiots who believed the COVID misinformation.

But the thing is, TFG isn’t even the worst part. He’s the distraction behind what Republicans are truly trying to do, which is remake America into a Corporate Theocracy. They will use religion to elect those who will loot the national treasury of money and assets. And WE, ourselves, are among the assets. (There has to be someone to provide the money the rich want to siphon off.)

These are among the actions they want to take, most of which are specifically described in their “Project 2025.”

National Abortion Ban. They downplay it now, but it’s on the agenda. They started with the right for States to impose bans and restrictions, and now they want to make it nationwide.

Bans and limits on Contraception. The religious whackaloons see many forms of birth control as a means of abortions, and they can’t have that, can they?

Publicly funded Religious Education. What better way to control adult minds than to indoctrinate them while they’re young? Catholic schools have been doing it for years, but only for those who can afford it.

Putting Women Back in the Kitchen. This is the expected result of the prior three points, all designed to move women out of the workforce and back into the service of men.


Repeal Same-Sex Marriage.  Another payment to the Religious Right. And they currently have the Supreme Court who can do it.

Decimate Social Security as a Safety Net. Yes, it needs to be fixed, but the Republicans’ way to do this is to raise the retirement age and cut benefits, as opposed to increase funding. (Which can be done simply by raising the income cap, currently set at $165,000 per year, as proposed by Democrats.)

Decimate Medicare. Basically, the same problem as with Social Security. The rich don’t want to pay for it and Big Pharma does not want to lose their cash cow.

Gut the IRS. Sure, it sounds nice on the surface, but the goal is to hamper efforts to collect from the rich. You and I will still have to file or face the wrath.

Gut Financial and Environmental Regulations. Rules and regs cost companies money. It’s so much easier to spew pollution into the air and waterways rather than filter it out. And it’s far more profitable to fleece investors with fine-printed flimflammery than offer legit financial products.

Drop Out of or Ignore NATO. TFG danced around that for his entire administration but principled cabinet members and aides prevented it. That won’t happen a second time when he surrounds himself with sycophantic yes men. Abandoning NATO will roll out the red carpet for Russia to steamroll Ukraine and every other European territory he desires, without worrying about repercussions from the US. This act alone spits on the memory of those we honor this weekend, who fought and died for a free country and world.

Turn the Justice Dept. into a Personal Police Force. One of the more chilling aspects of Project 2025 is the installation of loyalists throughout the Department of Justice, turning an independent law enforcement agency into a president’s personal Gestapo. Again, this is something our forefathers and even direct relatives fought and died to prevent. TFG is already keen to start arresting those who have opposed him before. That’s not presidential power, that’s dictator power, and we can’t have that regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.

Replace Apolitical Governmental Employees with Partisan Loyalists. Just like with the Justice Dept., they want to remove anyone who might try to keep the president from executing his most damaging actions on the basis of right or wrong, the Constitution, or any other trivial rationale. Just like with any legitimate business, some people have experience with how to get things done. To remove tens of thousands of government employees and replace them with the equivalent of “nepo babies,” will spell the end of government as a tool of The People. The Republicans are already taking applications.

Continue to Appoint SCOTUS Members via the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has produced the six Justices who have already trashed 50 years of social and financial progress. Regardless of what they testify during confirmation hearings, if they’re blessed by the Fed Society, they’re guaranteed to support religious principles over popular consensus and the business elite over the common citizen. Just look at their most recent ruling, upholding a state’s right to use racial data to gerrymander their Congressional districts. That leaves the state free to round up every minority vote into a single double-asterisk-shaped district, thus reducing any legal standing by X to 1. (X = sum of all other districts.) But only until they figure out how to eliminate the “1” as well.

Look at this list. These are not accusations or projections; they are things Republicans, themselves, have said they want to do. There is no reason to think they’re not serious. In years past, such a moment of transparency would result in massive election losses. But now, they’re so secure in their misinformation campaigns, voter suppression, and management of the media, they don’t even bother to hide their ultimate ambitions.

Each one of these issues is important enough to be the only one necessary to ensure a vote for Democrats. The fact that there are so many speaks to the gravity of the scenario. If you agree with any of what Republicans propose, feel free to vote Republican. I think you’re destroying America, but it’s your vote.

If you have concerns about other Democratic principles, compare them to what you see above. I don’t agree with everything that every Democrat puts forth, but I can tell you my concerns are dwarfed by the heinousness of the alternatives.

When you’re lost, you don’t pass up a ride because it won’t get you all the way to your house, you take the ride because it gets you closer and then go from there.

If the Republicans assume control in November, there will not be another “from there.” We will have turned over power to those who will have the media, money, laws, judges, and police force to keep them in power for the rest of our lives while they turn America into a pseudo-Christian Iran.

We can stop that, but it has to start now and continue into every election afterward until our voice is loud enough to make our expectations for America clear.

Monday, May 20, 2024

AI and the World of Disinformation

Last week I was watching TV and another story came on about artificial intelligence (AI) and it got me thinking. I said to my wife, “Congress is going to have to do something about this soon, or we’ll never be able to trust our eyes to ferret out the lies from the truth.”*

*It probably didn't sound as eloquent at the time, more like a series of meaningful grunts and gestures. But she knew what I meant.

I told her I ought to do a post about it this week and entered some notes into my phone, to avoid that dreaded blog post amnesia I always get…

“What the hell was I going to write about today?”

But in rolling through the news the next day, I saw that there was already a bill in progress. Naturally, the story was about how Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are trying to kill it.

I don’t know what’s in the bill, but I know what it should be. There’s a pretty simple metric to make it clear whether a creation should be illegal or not.

My law would include the following:

·        It is illegal to use AI to create a photograph or video of someone doing something they didn’t do and claim that it is an accurate depiction of the event.

·        It is illegal to use AI to manipulate audio to produce the sound of someone saying something they never said.

·        Any such media created for legitimate artistic or satiric purposes would be required to include a permanent watermark or indication showing that it is a fictional creation and not an actual event.

·        In addition to criminal penalties/jail time for the creators and original distributors, the person illegally portrayed would have the right to sue for damages commensurate with the seriousness of the infraction. The penalty has to have teeth, or else the rich pricks bankrolling these disinformation campaigns will just pay the fine as the “cost of doing business” and continue on their merry way. So a conviction has to hurt or else it’s worthless.

In all fairness, these things should be illegal no matter how they’re created, but I’m focusing on the AI end of it, because AI makes it so much more realistic, with minimal effort.

It’s important to be able to distinguish such things because we know that bad actors will use this tech to pursue their own nefarious ends. (Hi Russia!) If we can no longer differentiate real from fake, we are at the mercy of those who would create damaging truths out of thin air and use them to pull the public’s puppet strings.

What’s worse, when we DO see something real, the culprit will immediately scream, “But that wasn’t me, it was AI!” With such a law, if they claim it was AI and didn’t pursue damages, we’d know the claim is hollow. And of course, if someone does sue and it’s found to be baseless, similar penalties should apply. (We can call that the DJT Clause.)

Without such a law, we’ll end up living in a fantasy world, provided by whomever is the most persuasive in their AI-generated fabrications. Subjective truth will be nearly impossible to confirm.

There is probably a movie to be made about how future AI becomes self-aware, but can only look at the world through what AI has created, which could bear zero resemblance to the real world. It could either be a horror movie or flight of fantasy, depending on who’s making the movie.

So like I mentioned, the Republicans are against any such legislation. They know that their only hope for acquiring and maintaining power is a massive campaign of disinformation because their basic positions are horrific to anyone who’s not filthy rich, a religious zealot, or a raving racist/ sexist/ homophobe/general hate-monger. They have nothing they can point to as something they accomplished for the average American, other than giving them permission to hate people unlike themselves.

Mitch is wrapping himself in the blanket of the First Amendment, which he’s always FOR when Republicans are “speaking,” preferably with their wallets. Lord knows he doesn’t want any impediment to creating the fanciful lies they’ve concocted over the recent years. Mitch doesn’t care about right or wrong, or freedom of speech, he cares about power and money. With power comes money. That’s the Republican platform. And if the rest of us have to live in a dystopian future where no one knows fact from fiction, it’s all the better for him.

 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Storm Front

Last week, for better or worse, the Stormy Daniels testimony dominated the news. From what I read in the transcripts, Stormy put forth a compelling story and breezily swatted away the Defense Counsel’s many attempts to brand her as a greedy and vengeful liar.

After the first day of testimony, I started jotting down notes for this post, but by the end of the second day, the notes were rendered irrelevant.

The original angle was that her testimony was mostly unnecessary; everything she said in court was already in the public record by way of her 2018 book, “Full Disclosure.” I ordered it (from a discount book website) a couple years ago and read it in about a day or two.

Your Honor, I’d like to admit this document as Exhibit 1.”

But by the second day, TFG’s defense attorney was trying to infer that because there were facts she told the book that she didn’t mention in other interviews, or in court, and the other way around, the story had to be a lie.

This is a ridiculous assertion when you think about it. I mean, just from a storyteller’s perspective, when you tell a story multiple times, you rarely tell it the same way twice.

First, you have to consider your audience. Not every fact about the story is necessary, so you include the ones that are crucial to the structure, advance the story, or are the most interesting and entertaining. A different audience (like an interview in a fluff magazine versus court testimony) requires a different eye for details.

Further, the more you tell a story, the more you self-edit, keeping the material that works and discarding things that didn’t or were found to be unnecessary. But that doesn’t necessarily change the truth of your story (unless you’re changing critical details, like who you slept with or where it happened, which was not an issue here.)

So the defense is claiming that (and this is a made-up example) “because you said the bedspread was blue in the interview and you didn’t mention a bedspread during our testimony, you must be lying.”

Verbal flimflammery like this is what they have to rely on because they can’t defend the truth. It’s the nature of legal defense to throw a bunch of crap at the wall to see what sticks, as well as the nature of Republicans to use misdirection and logical fallacy when they can’t support (or refute) an inconvenient fact.

And as far as that goes, TFG’s legal team also suggested that because the witness is a porn star, she cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

It really IS like the 1920s again on the right side of the aisle. Such an assertion is so off-base it’s like inferring that eliminating child marriage promotes abortion. And who would ever say… Wait a minute…

Everything leads back to abortion with these guys… women voting, having jobs, getting an education, even pockets in women’s clothes, it all leads to more abortions and must be stopped, according to the religious wingnuts currently running loose in the Republican party.

But I digress…

It’s all so silly because if competent, unrestricted attorneys were running the defense, Stormy would never have had to tell the story on the stand. The crime is in how the payments were made, not that there WERE payments. So whether he had extra-marital porn star sex or not would not be relevant. But because he complained that it never happened, it opened the door for the prosecution to show that it did, and hence, we have the salacious testimony out in public that he was so desperate to squelch.

TFG is also chaffing under the bond of his gag order, which prevents him from attacking witnesses, jurors, and court personnel. It’s like, when you take away his ability to smear people, you’ve cut Samson’s hair and silenced the jawbone of an ass. He has no other weapons if he can’t threaten and malign. When do you ever hear him attack an argument? It’s always a personal attack on an opponent. The guy hasn’t left the playground in 70 years.

The obvious solution, if he’s upset about how mean old Stormy is talking about him in court, is to take the stand himself and smear away. But I’m sure his attorneys will tie him to the chair before they allow him to testify. They could have a perjury counter, right there in the courtroom, and it would be lighting up like a pinball machine until smoke would pour out.

Former Fix-it lawyer Michael Cohen is testifying today, which I’m sure will send TFG into apoplectic fits. This is a guy who knows where the metaphorical bodies are buried. The Defendant also complained about Cohen’s tweets about him last week, again asserting that he can’t defend himself. In a rare show of decency for anyone involved in this fiasco, Cohen agreed to stop tweeting about him until after he testifies and once again becomes fair, non-gag-able, game.

I’m sure we’ll get plenty of this sort of thing over the next few days:

Lawyer told to lie for defendant.

Lawyer lies for defendant.

Lawyer gets caught, does time, flips on defendant.

Defendant says, “Hey, how can you believe a convict and a liar.”

However much a shit-show this case is, at least there’s a trial happening. It doesn’t look like any of the others are going to be adjudicated any time soon. That’s another Republican truism… when you can’t win on facts, attack the process. Work the system. Call in favors from judges you placed there and the reason for that placement.

This may be the only case to see the inside of a courtroom, so I hope they get it right.

 On the lighter side, it looks like the Fox “News” sycophants are getting their post-conviction stories lined up:


Thanks C&L.

I almost spit my drink. Someone seriously thinks TFG is coming out of prison with muscle bod? Please tell Jesse Watters that it’s not the prison that gives you the bod, it’s the hard physical work you do while inside. Can anyone even picture this doughboy working out? Or lifting anything heavier than a Big Mac? Spare me. If anything, he’ll come out of prison looking like a cross between Golum and Jabba the Hutt.