Enough.

I’m burned out on politics. Are you burned out on politics yet? We still have nine months to go to the U.S. Presidential Elections and already I’m sick of reading about candidates, hearing candidates voices, and see ads from candidates. My YouTube feed is full of ads, the television is full of ads, Twitter is full of its typical shtick and Facebook is full of its typical propaganda. I started talking about politics tonight at the family dinner and Earl asked me to stop. He’s burned out too.

Plus, I get loud and emotional.

I just want good times to come back. I want people to stop being mean to one another. I want sanity. I want stability. I want people to stop promising things they have no hope of delivering on all to get votes. I’m tired of news channels and pundits and opinions and shenanigans and ad clicks and hashtags. Everyone claims to know what everyone needs but no one seems to be able to get there.

I could go on but I’m tired of this blog entry. You should be too.

Be kind to one another.

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CLOSEd.

I’ve posted this image on Twitter today.

Back in the days when cash registers had 7-segment LED displays, this is how they spelled out messaging indicating that particular checkout lane was closed. I always thought this was quite the nifty way to relay a simple message and I like the retro look to the message.

I posted it on Twitter because I’ve checked out of the dialog for a little while. A minute? An hour? A day? A week? Who knows. After seeing tweets praising Trump for posting photoshopped images of Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi in Middle Eastern type religious garb, insinuating their conspiring with terrorists, I came to the realization that Twitter hasn’t learned anything, despite the PR claims of being a better Internet citizen. Trump can post outright hate speech and Jack Dorsey and friends will never do anything about it.

Why should I contribute to any dialog on the platform, let alone lending my response to any political discourse.

I’m often too emotional in my responses to political discussions and debate. I am emotional because I’m passionate about doing the right thing in and for society. Belching and barking on Twitter isn’t going to change anyone’s mind and it just feeds the trolls.

So I’ve checked out. I’ve closed my lane for a bit. I’m on break.

Choices.

I deleted the blog post that originally occupied this time slot. It was the first thing I did upon waking this morning. It wasn’t like it was making me sleepless or anything, I simply woke up, decided I didn’t like the original post and deleted it. Because, of course I don’t want a Giant Meteor to wipe out the planet. I wouldn’t mind a close call, just to scare everyone a lot and to reboot perspective of our place in the Universe, but extinction? Not my jam.

The original post was about the choices thus far in the 2020 Presidential election, the associated monotony, and commentary on the general chaos gripping the United States. You see, I’m tired of people saying Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have enough experience to be President. I’m tired of candidates making promises they have no intention or capability of keeping. I’m tired of people promising “free stuff” to win votes. And I’m really tired of this narrative of demonizing people that are successful and thus living a very rich life.

I have always believed one must work hard. You give more than you take from society. Of course I believe in safety nets; everyone in the United States should have some sort of healthcare that is reasonable and affordable, but I don’t believe every citizen should have the same healthcare. I also don’t believe college should be free. Trade schools? Yes. Vocational programs? Yes. But my tax dollars shouldn’t fund some hippy dippy individual that wants to study something frivolous for four years just so they can declare they have a degree. Do you want to become a teacher? I’ll help fund that, as long as you promise to use your degree for education for (solve for X) number of years after obtaining the necessary education.

The majority of candidates for the Democrats are swinging way too far left. And of course the failure in the Oval Office is a nut job that really doesn’t know where he is, let alone where he’s swinging.

We need reasonable candidates in the center. Don’t hug the far left and then say you’ll drift to the center closer to the election. When I’m watching the endless litany of debates and town halls and every other ad generating ploy for the news media, I want to see who you are. Period. Full stop. End of story. I’m taking you for your word, right now, that you’re going to do what you’re saying you’ll do and if you’re too far in one direction or another, mark me down for not interested.

Theatrics, hysterics, grandstanding… all of these things must come to an end. Perhaps a close pass by a really big meteor will help get things back to a more reasonable timeline.

Debate.

My husband and I watched the debates tonight. I foolishly subjected my Twitter followers to my commentary.

PBS doesn’t handle debates well. I felt like we were cutting to pledge breaks when the candidates took time to drink water. The commentators were stumbling, unlit, and asking idiotic questions.

I’m not a fan of many of the candidates that were on stage tonight. Any one of them would be better than Trump but I didn’t feel a lot of hope.

Honestly, I don’t feel like these debates are productive and I feel like there’s too much chaos between the candidates to ultimately take the country where we need it to go.

Few are speaking to the center. The vast majority of Americans are centrists. I fear all of this super progressive talk is going to scare people away from the polls.

Loyalty.

“Authoritarian states are typically not governments of laws, but governments of leaders, who demand loyalty from their subjects and are hostile to dissent.”

Edward Snowden, “Permanent Record”

I’ve been reading Edward Snowden’s biography, “Permanent Record”. I’m around 6/10ths of the way through the book and I’m finding it a fascinating read. The book is written well, paints the intended picture well, and is not dry in anyway.

The quote above is mentioned in a discussion around online privacy in general, which is something I will be blogging about soon, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the need for this reminder today.

The country side of my family is mostly Republican. The rural roots of the family tree lends itself to this type of thinking, and until the 21st century, I subscribed to much of the thinking of my family: work hard, contribute more than you take from society, and obey the law. Taxes suck. Use your money wisely. I still believe in all these things.

My mom and dad would have a little tension between them on Voting Day, as I know my Dad would pretty much click his way along the “R” in the mechanical voting booth whereas my Mom would take her time and make choices she wouldn’t later discuss all that much. My parents rarely talked politics as it was part of the “big three” what I’ll call ‘hesitant’ discussion points: Politics, Religion, and Homosexuality. My dad didn’t say much and when he did say stuff it rarely had much to do with the “big three”. But I always had this feeling he had an expectation his spouse would follow along with clicking on the “R” and my mother was a more independent thinker, being from the ‘big’ city of Syracuse.

I still believe in working hard, contributing more than you take from society, and obeying the law. Outside of breaking the speed limit, there are very few things I purposely do to break the law. And in my naïveté I’ve always believed this is how the legacy Republican party behaved. I vividly recall a scene on the 1970s sitcom “Maude” where Bea Arthur’s Maude and Conrad Bain’s Arthur are having a discussion about a gay bar. Arthur is trying his hardest to get the gay bar shut down because he doesn’t believe there should be such a thing in the neighborhood. The thing is, when he finds out the gay bar is not breaking any laws he drops the fight.

Because as a Republican he believes in the law, the Constitution, and upholding the law of the Constitution. The dialog of this episode describes my understanding of Republican beliefs beautifully.

So what happened to the Republican party?

The number of people I know that have jumped on the Trump train wreck boggles my mind. Trump breaks the law. Often. Trump has always broken the law and he has done his best over the years to do less than his law-required share of paying taxes, following due process, etc. Trump demands loyalty to him, not to the country.

Read the quote again. Loyalty to a leader is not part of the democratic process. It is the demand of an authoritarian.

Do we really want to continue this trend to an authoritarian state?

I’ve been watching the Democrats’ nomination process for who is going to run in 2020 and there’s a part of me that wonders if the Democratic Party is doing their best to hand the election over to this Authoritarian again. I don’t have answers; I’m basically bitching from the cheap seats, but if I had the answers I would run for office.

Let’s face it, the U.S. government became terrified on 9/11, and they want everyone terrified. The country went crazy the moment the Twin Towers came down and we have never recovered from it. I’m doubtful I’ll ever see a pre-9/11 version of the United States again in my lifetime. We might start to turn things around but it will take decades to get us back where we used to be.

I don’t have the answers, but I know pledging loyalty to a leader, or even blindly to one political party, is not going to take us where we need to go.

We are better than this. We need to start acting that way. More importantly, we need to start expecting better from the people we vote for.

Digital Rights Are Human Rights.

Donald Trump’s 2016 digital campaign director claimed to have run 5.9 million visual ads on Facebook, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000.

When I was in Junior High School we had a “lifestyle” class the rotated each quarter, or 10-week marking period. One of the lifestyle classes in the rotation was General Art. Taught by a passionate Mr. Tassone, one of our exercises included taking turns standing on a desk and modeling in front of the class while our peers sketched our pose. I’m horrible at drawing; I’m lucky if I can sketch a stick figure and remember all the appendages, but one thing stuck out during this lesson: “no two people will sketch the exact same thing because no two people can have the exact same perspective.”

While this certainly applied to the stick figure I was drawing at the time, it really is something that applied to life. Who knew that Mr. Tassone would offer such a nugget of wisdom in a required class?

The differing perspective of an art subject is very much like what we experience on services like Facebook today. Because of the careful curation, regurgitation, and thousands of other data points in the Great Algorithm of Facebook, no two experiences on the social media platform are alike. What I see on my Facebook feed is nothing like what a straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, Red State is going to see. True, we might both see the same Gillette ad, or the latest rage in a snack chip, but when it comes to pushing ads tailored to our respective demographics, there’s going to be little overlap.

Now, imagine one of us has been identified as a “Persuadable”. Let’s say the straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, R.S. has been on the fence when it comes to voting for Clinton or Trump in the 2016 Election. He knows Clinton is a Democrat but she’s rather middle of the road on a lot of the things he believes in. He also knows Trump is a blowhard from Manhattan who’s lost a lot of money in casinos and god knows what else. Our friend in R.S. really doesn’t feel like he has a great choice for President and he’s trying to make a good decision at the polls. His vote is a secret, after all, so he might just vote for Hillary after all and not just talk about it. He partakes in a few political discussions on Facebook and is subsequently identified as a Persuadable.

Cambridge Analytica then uses that data to flood his timeline with a crazy amount of propaganda swaying him in the direction of their client. There are no guard rails to guarantee the ads being pushed at him are based in any sort of truth, but the FCC doesn’t apply here, so the spin on television is a walk through a poppy field compared to the ridiculous vitriol spun through Facebook ads.

Our friend’s family back East can’t figure out why he’s solidly flipped to Trump because they don’t see the ads he’s being subjected to on his timeline. Everyone’s Facebook feed is different and unless you pose as a Persuadable, you’re not going to see an ad targeted to at them. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg don’t care; they’re worried about rolling in as much money as possible because in the United States, money is power. Status is power. Fame is power. Mark and Sheryl want to be rich and famous, and they have set aside any resemblance of a moral compass to feed that demon they have inside. I’m sure I’ll chat about my disgust of them in many future blog entries.

Folks like to screech about Cambridge Analytica and their scandal and quite frankly, they deserve to be screeched about because they’re a company devoid of any sort of moral foundation. Like Mark and Sheryl, they want money, and some folks at Cambridge Analytica would probably get elementary school kids addicted to Meth if it increased their bottom line and pleased a top paying client. But the truth of the matter is Facebook does whatever they want, paying token fines for their behavior, because they are unregulated.

Personally, I believe if you can’t make that claim on the Evening News on traditional television, you shouldn’t be able to advertise it on Facebook.

Are things going to change? Not under this administration, it benefits them too much. Right now the only way to change Facebook is to abandon the platform. Hard to do? Absolutely. Hell, I have an account on Facebook and I’m still active on there, mostly sharing photos and talking about stupid crap. One day I’ll get an ad for MAGA hats and the next day I have Kamala Harris begging me for money. The Gillette ads still coming along with regularity.

But I do my very best to eliminate Facebook from any other of my online interactions. I don’t “Sign In With Facebook”, I don’t allow cookies, and I use “Private Browsing” mode in both Safari and Firefox. Google Chrome? Oh hell no. Using Google Chrome for web browsing is like walking through town naked while screaming your personal business at the top of your lungs.

As I said in an earlier blog entry, technology has vastly outpaced society’s grasp of what we have at our disposal these days.

Digital rights are human rights. Interestingly enough, personal data is now more valuable than oil.

It’s time to take our digital rights back.

A little more about the documentary “The Great Hack”.

The Great Hack.

We sat down and watched “The Great Hack” on Netflix. For those not familiar, “The Great Hack” outlines the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal around the 2016 elections. The production value of the documentary is typical 2019 fare and sometimes the narrative wanders a little bit, but the documentary as a whole is well done. It’s interesting, and more so chilling, to see what bad actors will do with the data of individuals.

tl;dr Cambridge Analytica had at least 5,000 data points on every citizen of the United States. They used that data to target people they categorized as persuadables, and then blasted propaganda at those people to convince them to vote and to sway them to vote to the wills of their clients, including The Trump Administration.

Illegal? Debatable. Immoral? Depends on who you’re talking to. Unfortunate? Absolutely.

I firmly maintain the growth of technology has outpaced the ability of society in general to use it responsibly. So many folks fear AI and sentient robots and the like, but technology is already being weaponized against the populace. Since this benefits the bad actors currently in power in the U.S. government, I have little hope that something will be done from a governmental level to address this issue. So it’s up to us to be vocal about what’s happening and to educate those less tech-savvy as to what’s going on behind the curtain. Oz was not a benevolent wizard.

Neither are the actors behind the curtain of our democracy.

Politics.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read a social media update that says, “Just because I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I support his ideals”. Actually, these people are supporting his ideals by putting him and his incompetent, racist, unqualified ass in the Oval Office.

I have no tolerance for excuses.

I still maintain we had weak choices for President in 2016. Inexplicably we ended up with the weakest. And we are paying the price for it.

I have little faith in the American public to do the right thing in 2020. I have little faith in the Democrats to do the right thing. And we all know the media is going to frame anything and everything in most dramatic, contentious, confusing way possible to guarantee themselves as much ad revenue as possible.

And that’s why I’m not blogging much about politics these days. There’s actually too much to say.

Voting.

Today was Voting Day in Chicago. According to the results coming in this evening, today had one of the lowest voter turn outs in recent history. They’re thinking less than 35% of eligible voters in the city of Chicago voted today.

Earl and I made the trek to our voting location, which was just down the block in a vacant storefront. The lighting was sparse, the process was uneven, and the placement of the voting booths and machines was tight, but we did our civic duty.

The mayoral race is going to end up in a run-off in early April. I’m happy the candidate I voted for made it to the run-off. I haven’t seen what happened with the race for Alderman yet; I’ll be checking that out as soon as I finish this blog entry.

I think folks are soured on politics, even more so than usual. The constant bleating from cable news (which seems to be piped into every restaurant that has an early-bird special), the constant chaos from the White House, and the constant pearls clutching from the Democrats is exhausting. It feels like people want to escape from the cacophony of idiocy. Unfortunately that’s a dangerous thing because then our elected representatives don’t represent the will of the people. They represent the crazy, the determined, and the passionate.

Sometimes we need more even keeled individuals in public office.

I don’t know what we need to do to get more people involved with the voting process. Whatever we’re doing now is barely working. I hope it gets better in my lifetime. It’d be nice to exit stage left on a high note.