Friday, October 21, 2016

news on a news broadcast

It's not often that I find a compelling piece of news reporting on television news shows, but yesterday, perhaps because the presidential race and debates are so devoid of meat-and-potatoes issues, I found the following pretty damned compelling. News that doesn't work from the bottom-up is hardly news: There will always be someone at the top who has the 'broad picture' or is looking to feather his or her own nest. I get so sick of their well-fed demeanors, even as I recognize the need for their efforts. Meanwhile, people who deserve focus and support go begging.

Anyway, this banged my chimes and made me wish my country and its politicians would refocus their drift:

murder, rape ... it's all a game

"Would sex with a robot be infidelity?"

HBO appears to have a new series based on the premise that visitors to "Westworld" can do anything they want without fear of repercussion.
This is one of the major ideas being explored in Westworld, HBO’s newest drama, about a Wild West-themed amusement park where guests are able to do whatever they wish to the ‘hosts’, or robots, who populate the resort. As Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), a programmer, puts it to one of the robots, “you and everyone you know were built to gratify the desires of the people who pay to visit your world.” And importantly, robots can’t ever retaliate and hurt the guests. That’s the idea, anyway…
If anyone could do what anyone wanted to do, would it turn out that doing whatever you want to do is actually what you want to do?

coastal art in Sydney

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

sour grapes election

Faced with two unpalatable options, some Americans are urging voters to reject both of them.
Given the tremendous antipathy towards Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, many Americans will be holding their noses on 8 November and voting for the lesser of two evils - whomever they believe that might be. But some are calling for a total pox on both houses, in a vocal online drive to "Vote Nobody".
More than 100,000 people have liked the Vote Nobody 2016 Facebook page, one of the most popular of dozens of social media accounts actively campaigning against both of America's major party nominees.

short-circuiting terror ... yawn

A new White House plan aims to train teachers and mental health professionals to intervene and prevent Americans from turning to violence ideologies, work now mostly done by law enforcement, a draft of the policy seen by Reuters to be announced on Wednesday shows.
The 18-page plan marks the first time in five years the Obama administration has updated its policy for preventing the spread of violent groups, such as those that motivated the perpetrators of attacks in the last year in Charleston, South Carolina, San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, New York and New Jersey.
Are we really supposed to take this seriously ... the cutting off of the impetus? Didn't they try that with Prohibition?

True, it's a good means for spending money -- and there are those determined to do that at all costs -- but it really does sound stupider than a box of wet leaves.

Obama tells Trump to stop whining

Like the electorate, media have had a hard time getting their head around Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. His wild accusations are nonetheless grist for the media grill which (I heard the statistic yesterday) has given the candidate something like $2 billion in free advertising (masquerading as news stories.)

But for my taste, President Barack Obama hit the nail squarely on the head yesterday when he advised Trump to "stop whining." Whining sums up Trump's tsunami of facts, fictions and ever-louder assertions about as nicely as anything I can think of. You can't call him a sociopathic putz and expect the mud to stick.

But a whiner? Yes, I think Obama hit the nail on the head.

october column ... debate fraud

The following column appeared in today's local Daily Hampshire Gazette under the title, "Candidates Betray the Public's Trust."

“The trouble with higher education in the U.S.,” Susan said in her crisp British accent, “is that you don’t teach debating.” Both of us were a couple of drinks into a relaxed supper in a New York restaurant a lot of years ago. We were colleagues at the same book publishing house.

“For example,” she continued with a glimmering eye that let me know she was preparing to deliver an intellectual uppercut, “I could sit here, right now, and prove to you that a chocolate milk shake was vanilla. And you’d believe it.”

With her academic background at Oxford and Cambridge, I had no doubt that Susan could make good on her promise. But I had entered the restaurant with an eye toward a good meal in good company. I didn’t feel like being pummeled into grape jelly before the main course arrived.

“Please don’t do that,” I begged only half in jest. “If it makes you feel any better, I will concede that a chocolate milk shake is vanilla.” Susan accepted my surrender and the rest of the meal went off without mind-knotting fisticuffs. We ate, we drank, we talked shop and gossiped. We were friends – people whose abilities and leanings might differ, but people who found sustenance at the same table.

That long-ago dinner with Susan resurfaced in my mind recently as the last of three presidential debates — Wednesday night in Las Vegas — approached. Why did the crop of debates up until now feel so flimsy? I looked up the word “debate” on the internet and found that a debate was “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.”

Using that yardstick, a debate was not about the relationship between the size of anyone’s hands and their genitalia. Debates were not snark festivals or a means of sidestepping questions.

In the long ago and faraway, debates were the ability to marshal hard evidence to support a point of view about an agreed-upon topic. Present-day examples might include those pesky, flag-draped boxes delivered to Dover, Delaware, the value of a college education when balanced against $1.3 trillion in student debt, income inequality, the role of outsourced American jobs, a ravaged coal industry, banking legerdemain, highway infrastructure, climate change or racism. You know, the servings at the table around which all Americans are sitting in friendship if not agreement.

In 1920, six months before Congress ratified the 19th amendment to the Constitution and women were at last granted the right to vote, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was officially formed. Part of its mission was to encourage women — who had heretofore been widely regarded as their husbands’ chattel — to exercise their new rights. Between 1976 and 1984, the League sponsored a number of presidential debates. The League’s format for those debates focused on the interests of an electorate and the information required for an informed vote.
Then, in 1988, the League abruptly cited fraud on the part of the political parties and withdrew its debate sponsorship. What had happened? What had happened was that the two political parties came together behind closed doors and reshaped the ground rules of the debates in such a way that the candidates would no longer be subjected to a spontaneity of questioning from the audience. Who might be invited (and thereby excluded), what questions might be asked, and the potential for follow-up questions were all carefully choreographed by the two major political parties.

The media networks, sensing a potential income stream, piled on in support of the new format. Now, instead of defending the voting public, news outlets saw a herd of cash cows.

In its 1988 press release, the League wrote, “It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

Newsman Walter Cronkite, once dubbed “the most trusted man in America,” chimed in: “The debates are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become. Here is a means to present to the American people a rational exposition of the major issues that face the nation, and the alternate approaches to their solution. Yet the candidates participate only with the guarantee of a format that defies meaningful discourse.”

In exasperation, journalist Bill Moyers commented, “We can no longer leave the electoral process to the two parties or the media conglomerates with whom they’re in cahoots. The stakes are too high.”

If I had to pick a single word to characterize the current attempts to purchase the presidency of the United States, that word might be “betrayal.” From Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton to spit-slick media – betrayal. Democrats and Republicans and their debate-moderating handlers have illuminated just one small corner of that betrayal with their manipulation of a debate format.

What then is an informed electorate to do? Whining doesn’t accomplish much and bloviating doesn’t accomplish much more. Maybe the best anyone can do is to keep their wits about them and trust a little: A chocolate milk shake is not vanilla.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

patient succumbs

NIKON-WALKLEY PHOTO OF THE YEAR WINNER A patient, later identified as 43-year-old husband and father of four, Baynazar Mohammad Nazar, lies dead on the operating table inside the Médecins Sans Frontières Kunduz Trauma Center in Afghanistan, following the 3 October attack by an American AC-130 gunship on the hospital in which 41 were killed. ‘It’s an image to stop you in your tracks,’ the awards team said. ‘Even before you know the background to the photograph, that single frame damns all the horror and devastation of war to destroy the innocent’.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trump-inspired artworks

If little else, the 2016 Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, has exposed the disposable income of some of his opponents.

Brits squeeze Russian agitprop

When a banking entity turns away a revenue stream, it is hard not to think that something fishy is afoot. In this case, it feels a bit like, "my propaganda is better than your propaganda."
The UK bank accounts of Russian TV broadcaster Russia Today have been shut down, its editor-in-chief has said, in a move that the UK government appears to have been aware of.
In a tweet in Russian Margarita Simonyan said that “all the accounts” had been closed in the UK. She said the decision was final, adding sarcastically: “Long live freedom of speech!”...
It was unclear whether the British government was behind the move, but the foreign office was aware of the news when contacted by the Guardian and referred inquiries to the Treasury. The move – if confirmed – casts into doubt the ability of the Kremlin-backed news channel to carry on broadcasting. RT said on Monday it will continue operating.
Most of the propaganda I used to listen to as a teenager was pretty inept when it came from Moscow or Beijing. Clumsy. Sort of like Fox News these days. But the ascendance of Fox News has helped elevate all propaganda outlets. Dumb and loud has a new cachet.