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Fractious times

October 20, 2017 Leave a comment

A Facebook post from a friend of mine got me thinking. Social media has been part of my professional life for over a decade now and it gives one pause to watch its effect on  the level of debate in the world, but especially that realm.

There have always been agenda bias. Cronkite was lefty, whatever. Growing up, my folks watched John Chancellor because he never got to excited in case they needed news naps (with five kids that was often) and wanted to know about the world through sleep osmosis. Well rested and informed is a good package.

The point of the post was to highlight how much information has become devalued, that we have become a nation that talks like we are all posting comments in a feedback thread. I can’t disagree at all. He’s correct. We have become a nation of ADHD when it comes to gossip. We aren’t informed as much as we are cast adrift in sea of scuttlebutt. Technology has made it possible for any potential information flood to come from any number of directions and at all times. The President came out against freedom of the press because he doesn’t like what they say about him. I guess he didn’t think about that part of the job.

As more and more avenues for potential information have appeared, the more lazy and scared we’ve gotten. Instead of seeking out information, we are looking more for what we want to hear, not what we need to know. It’s more than a little concerning that that is the primary goal of our executive branch.

We need to do more than that. Double standards are becoming wrote.  A favorite singer of mine once opined before starting a song that “Blind Faith in anything will get you killed.”

There is an awful lot of truth that as intolerance and ignorance grow.

There is an often repeated piece of video from Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” that speaks in a little Capra-esque way about the decline and it centers on how “we were informed.” We weren’t catered to, we were informed.

If you haven’t seen it, here ya go.

Now we deride and are derided. There are people who are okay with “Fake News” as a label for information they don’t like. Instead of fully resolving, we have become whining “what about-s?’ The current leadership has practically made that attention deficit policy. What we want to hear is drowning out what we need to hear.

The aforementioned Sorkin both enlightened and annoys me, but he does have a way with a phrase.

“I say these are fractious times, professionally, personally and socially…It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other and I want us to start bucking that trend. We need each other badly. ”

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Categories: Current events

Bullet the Blue Sky

October 6, 2017 Leave a comment

I still like heading out for live music. As I’ve gotten older, I prefer the smaller circumstances, but occasionally a big spectacle is a good thing. I was able to forget all that was bugging at me during a big U2 show a few weeks ago. There is a joy there that you can’t capture in many other places.

The horror of gun violence in Las Vegas had ruined that release for  countless number of people forever. The scope of it has all of us thinking more than just twice as any gathering is more and more clamped down. In recent days, news that the shooter was selecting what music festival to commit his actions is even more unsettling. I’m sure there is a stronger terminology for that, but it escapes me currently. All I know is that 58 music fans aren’t coming home from what was supposed to be a fun night out and countless others will never be the same.

Could anything have stopped that person once he got everything stuffed into that hotel room? Doubtful. I don’t blame the guns as it was the person doing the shooting, but to leave it at that alone seems irresponsible, especially with 58 dead and over 500 injured. It was terrorism, horrible, tragic and stomach churning all at once. That has to bother people in power if they have any kind of conscious at all.

Air Force One departs Las Vegas past the broken windows on the Mandalay Bay hotel, where shooter Stephen Paddock conducted his mass shooting along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake – RC1585FEE8C0

No one is ever coming for your gun. I don’t want it. The last adminstration was accused of coming for your guns. They never were. Congress never was. I was shown around guns by folks who did have them and treated them with respect and care. I respect them enough to know that the one one I need is a super soaker. inaction on the part of our leaders just continues a cycle whose numbers are horrible tallies with no real end in sight.

Total bans aren’t likely to occur, but there are some workable notions out there that might reduce potential incidents. Can you completely eradicate? Again, probably not, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to take some steps forward. The only risk is the NRA doesn’t contribute to your election coffers as much.

Courtesy of an actual thoughtful facebook discussion (there are such things, however rare, here are some actual notions that could help the cause

1) universal background checks.

2) close gun show loophole.

3) Allow the ATF to keep electronic records and study gun crime. They can’t make a database to track people who are buying lots of weapons. They have to work on paper and the chances of nipping a trouble spot or even seeing it disappear when you have to surf through reams of paper.

4) Quit gutting the ATF budget so that they can actually enforce the gun laws on the books.

5) Ban assault-style rifles.

6) Ban stock repeaters.

7) Increase mental health funding (instead of trying to gut it through all the failed repeal and replace votes and the new tax ‘reform’)

8) Reinstate the mental health checks for gun purchasing. You know, the one that Trump just repealed.

9.) Let the ATF enforce the laws on the books already.

These are all small steps that won’t really impact anybody in the populace and will keep most guns right where they currently reside. What they might do is slow down the possibility, make it a little harder for someone off their rocker individual to go picking off citizens. If they have to work a little harder, perhaps something evil can be averted.

It isn’t perfect, but it is something. When the only thing happening is the pointless assigning of blame, it’s a start.


Shenanigans

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Can’t swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting some.

-The President Elect didn’t save jobs from Carrier. The state bribed them with tax breaks to not take them all. This is a strategy that worked out really well for Carrier in New York State where the only thing still functioning with the name Carrier on it is the dome.

-Saying you are “Draining the swamp” doesn’t preclude from the fact that you might just fool around and refill it.

-Coal jobs aren’t coming back. With wind and solar getting to be cheaper, it’s one of those industries that won’t dominate as it once did and for somebody to magically promise, without substantiation that the jobs are coming back is both exploitive and sad. But then again, so is believing that somebody.

-Did anybody ever take a more pained dinnertime photo than Mitt Romney? Whoever lit that table was editorializing in their own way. You can almost watch his soul leave.

-New York Times contributor Paul Krugman noted on Twitter that “Another metric: Trump would have to do one Carrier-sized deal a week for 30 years to save as many jobs as Obama’s auto bailout.”

-So the NFL decided to bust the Bills’ Offensive Lineman Seantrel Henderson for using medical marijuana…to treat Crohn’s Disease. First, just legalize it already. Look at the revenue that Colorado is reaping. Second, NFL? Really? Seriously? It’s not a performance enhancing drug, it’s a medical regimen. Good thing he isn’t beating anybody up. Oh, wait, you’re cool with that.

-The Affordable Care Act is a noble idea, but a flawed law. I think Congress wasted all those votes on repeal because they didn’t have to actually deal with the consequences of “what’s next?” Well, guess what, time to shine, obstructionists!

-Cutting Social Security and Medicaid, this confuses me a little, as they are things that we pay into, why would payouts need reduced? Oh yeah, because that pot of money keeps getting borrowed for other things.

-I’m not certain that Bernie Sanders would have won, but I’m glad the grumpy old man isn’t going gently into the good night.

-The recount efforts won’t change anything, but there is no harm in letting the process play out. I mean, unless you think it might not go your way, then panic on twitter.

-Nobody, and I mean, nobody ever gets everything they want or promise done once they get into office. That said, despite not being the most natural campaigner, Secretary Clinton was a pretty capable Senator.

-It would be good for our current President to take some action on Standing Rock, any action. And place his nominee on the court as a recess appointment. The court would be fully stocked for a year, while the obstructionists in congress publicly obfuscate, squirm and talking point their way around a nominee who actually meets their criteria.

-Steven Colbert was right, we are overpoliticked with the election. One of the worst mediums ever is the public comment sections of newspaper and tv websites. Laden with digital ninjas whose sole human contact is their moms yelling from upstairs to come up for breakfast, that style of uninformed, meme-posting, if you don’t agree with me, you must be a moron discourse is all over social media. I suppose this essay falls into that category, but it’s okay to disagree with me and I don’t live with mom.

-That said, everybody’s history has some poison in it. Every race, creed, color has a list of do-overs and we haven’t always come to grips with that. The naysayers who have issues with Black Lives Matter miss the point. All lives do matter and should matter, but the central point to me is that some lives haven’t mattered as much and correcting that takes time, time and recognition that a lengthy history of abuses, misconceptions and prejudice affects all involved and doesn’t magically go away. So, standing up for that is a good thing and that reminder very good.

So, another transition.

-The Buffalo Bills have me concerned. They had trouble with the 2-8 Jaguars at home and are going to play the Raiders, in Oakland, and the Raiders are pretty good again.

-It’s great that Jack is back, but should one guy….

It’s that time of the year where we act, mostly, like we should all year long. Let’s strive for less idiocy and realize that differing views don’t make the opposing parties morons. We can learn beyond facebook bickering.

 

 

“Long Walk Home”

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

“I believe in hope, not fear.” “I’m a leader, not a politician.” “It’s time for an American leader.” “America’s earned a change.” “I before ‘E’ except after ‘C’!” It’s the fortune-cookie candidacy! These are important thinkers, and understanding them can be very useful and it’s not ever going to happen at a four-hour seminar. When the President’s got an embassy surrounded in Haiti, or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor, or any of the fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don’t know if he’s thinking about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it, but if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets. Is it possible we would be willing to require any less of the person sitting in that chair? The low road? I don’t think it is..” — The West Wing

I was a little hooked on that program, but first step to recovery is admitting you have an issue, but that quote keeps coming back to me.

So, you found your candidate. Congrats! Not for nothing, now hush. Go read. I’ve been avoiding the bulk of the “discussions” on Facebook as they pretty much all are really stupid. People are forgetting everything but the most current zinger. Reading social media about the presidential election is a dizzying and nauseating idea. Everybody seems to be in the spirit of crapping all over the ideas they don’t immediately agree with, it’s like the whole campaign has come down to clever memes and easily forgotten double standards. It gave me pause reading through some of this stuff as my oldest friend and I probably don’t agree on much of this, but he’s still the best drinking bud I’m ever going to have. He’s never derided me nor I him. It’s a crazy notion, I know, respecting principles and all. Hell, having principles is tough enough. I say this because he is a smart fellow and informed and doesn’t browbeat anybody for their choices. I try to return the favor.

Everybody seems to be out to scare and frighten, paranoid of ideas that aren’t in lockstep with their own, clinging to words that barely make a meme as a position, intolerant of any facts, you know, those pesky things we studied before facebook status updates. I started writing this some time ago, and I was worried about focus. And then came the “no fact checking” headlines for the presidential debate and the quote about appeared in my head. We’re arguing over stupid things and not paying attention to what truly matters. “You can’t trust her” some wag posts on facebook. “He’s gone backrupt 4 times” posts another. “Her husband’s fooled around” “He’s on his third marriage.” Hey, guess what?

None of it or other non issues matter. Congressional leaders came out in 2008 and stated that their number one priority was to make sure the Obama administration failed. There have been email server issues since there has been email. There were 8 different Benghazi like incidents during the Bush administration and nary an investigation or question for that matter. One candidate has insulted gold star families, actual war heroes, handicapped reporters, advocated violence, shortchanging social security, wants to change freedom of speech so he can sue the media that doesn’t agree with him. He lost a billion dollars one year and got twenty years off from tax payments. That last part is legal, so I’m a little concerned about the losing a billion dollars in a year. That sounds like something out of Brewster’s Millions. She made Obamacare look good in the early 90s, promised New York state 200,000 jobs that never materialized, screwed up on NAFTA and was less the reverent with classified material. I mean now that Johnson and Johnson has said their insulin pumps are prey to hackers, perhaps we should let that go, but in light of all the mansplaining that has been going on, I miss Tim Russert. He wouldn’t take any guff from either side. The debates aren’t changing anything for anybody unless you are a meme-designer

Fact of the matter is that I’m with her if for no other reason that I prefer public service, to self service. There is nobility in the failure. The futility is in not trying. I’m under no illusion. Neither candidate gives a rat’s behind about my fortunes. That I spend part of 2015 unemployed isn’t an issue either candidate is going to address for me. You don’t get to profit from a system and complain it was rigged at the same time. That level of hypocrisy doesn’t work for me. You can’t have it both ways.  George Carlin was right. It’s a big club, but they don’t want us in it. You do have to play the cards dealt to you. I know I’m working through lunch on the day of my funeral, but I want a grown up at the wheel, not somebody prone to twitter rants at 4am. I  am making my choice based on the candidate who will reach for the whole thing and not just “Settle for the McNuggets.”

You don’t a President to bring us together. Officeholders don’t embue you with your humanity. If you post hateful things online or in newspaper columns, that’s on you. My folks put a premium on just being informed, knowing what is actually going on. That can be sometimes tough as every outlet seemingly has an angle and the supposed tough questions aren’t always getting asked, but I’m glad to see my kids are reading and digesting information from multiple sources. because these are complex times. It’s a strange thing where a white billionaire can say “America isn’t great” and have masses blindly cheer, and a black millionaire athlete can say the same thing and get a decidedly different reaction. We seem to be for freedom of speech until somebody actually uses it. It’s like we are looking to complain. While the candidates continue to bicker, I continue to hope they, like anybody running, would focus on what they would do on the job. Until that happens, debates are meaningless and skits like the Saturday Night Live debate parody contribute more to the conversation and raise the “Level of Debate”

In the meantime, the country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawyers, Guns and Money

June 15, 2016 Leave a comment

I started working on a blog post about the facebook-ization of everything. That is to say status updates being actual information, something to take seriously instead of the digital hieroglyphics that they actually are. Because we all have that digital soapbox, we are instantly experts at everything, from how to run a zoo, a campaign, policy race relations and the harsh reality is that nobody knows anything, but like a dinner of hyperactive kids trying to catch their folks attention, everybody is talking, and nobody is listening.
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A horrible event like what happened in Orlando has everybody spouting and nobody reading or looking a little deeper. All the horror is deeply complex, more so than self-congratulatory tweets from Vulgar Talking Yam candidates to every moronic meme that is populating most folks facebook news feeds.

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I didn’t set out to weigh into this particular subject area as it is one with more grey areas than we care to think about. About the only real conclusion that can be reached is that the system is definitely, flat out broken, and there doesn’t seem to be any get up and go make changes. Banning certain kinds of guns does slow down revenue for gun sellers, but I’m not certain that won’t keep things for finding their way. A lot of barstool philosophy has gone into this, but again no real action. I am of the mind that there should be some regulations on what someone can just show up and buy, as there doesn’t seem to be a logical use for certain weapons other that to injure as as much as rapidly as possible. For me that’s a problem. Ethical hunters wouldn’t stand by that.
But the broken system failed us. I don’t know if it is AR based weapons or another make of gun as there is a source saying that. I don’t think either are necessary for self defense or deer season, but you might disagree. A friend of mine who I have much respect for might be onto something that folks favoring AR or other gun bans are making the wrong case to support their point, not that a ban will save lives, but it would be morally incorrect to allow such things for civilian use.
If somebody wants to inflict harm, they will find methods of accomplishing that, but I agree with a few folks who posted that it shouldn’t be so easy for someone to get the guns they wish, especially when they have had documented domestic issues and caught the attention of the FBI.
Another poster mentions that “Terrorist used planes, not guns on 9/11.” We learned a little from that and made it harder for that to happen again (a work in progress, I grant you). Planes weren’t banned, it was made harder to use them as a potential weapon.

I found this article and will forward here to the three of you following my spiel: https://medium.com/@stinson/an-open-letter-to-liberal-friends-on-gun-control-c41d7a44d88b#.eexd0eglk

It’s a good read that spells things out a little more evening that a facebook post typically does.  And I didn’t know if you noticed, I’m not coming for your guns, nobody is. I mean they can have mine, but it’s up to them to refill it with water now and again.

I’m not so certain we’ve got the whole story, but we have gotten snippets that have all sides losing their minds, from ad-hoc conspiracy blusters to people who should never have a microphone placed in their faces again. And it doesn’t stop digital activists who activism stops at their enter keys.

Samantha Bee hit the nail on the head pretty good.

I’m not Orlando. I’m just a middle aged white guy who reads too much, but unlike other middle aged white straight guys, I’m not preaching about how others should feel. Nobody is in the position to do that and can you imagine how that much feel to the preachees?

But the system is fucked. I don’t know why the Vulgar Talking Yam (stolen from Esquire with respect) candidate wants the president to label the crime as that doesn’t accomplish anything other than rousing underinformed rabble. I know that if harm came to my kids in any fashion let alone the horrors of the folks in that nightclub, I couldn’t care less about the terminology being used as nothing would solve that hurt, no slogan will fix what happened. I wonder if the way to get the NRA to the table is for a bunch of folks to join and actually shift the agenda from within. Crazy, right.

I don’t blame the gun. He never should have had it.

The system is fucked. Let’s fix it.

 

 

Primary Colors

April 1, 2016 Leave a comment

“I’m the President of the United States, not just the people who agree with me”

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A fictional president said it, but you sort of wish all the folks running now would remember it as well. I worry about writing about the election at all since no one has ever changed the mind of anyone in a facebook post, yet there are plenty of folks in the “share if you agree” part of the electorate.

There are an awful lot of manufactured controversies that get big shift and real problems that aren’t getting addressed at all. There are some things don’t make a damn bit of sense to this semi-interested observer.

People really dig Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” but nobody has asked what that means. I mean no freedoms have been lost in 8 years, gas is $2.00  a gallon, unemployment and the deficit are headed in the proper direction. Show me what you mean there, o, curiously toupeed one.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton doesn’t know where Bernie Sanders was when she was championing health care as the first lady, but a picture revealed he was right behind her, literally.

Bernie, by the same token, I sort of admired at first, because he told you what he was standing for, actually taking a view. That is a rare thing, but redoing healthcare once more? I think the Senate might have millions of our dollars to waste taking that one down. Take what we have and make it better, refine what is there into something greater, so much so, the other side will want to take credit for it. It’s a million dollar idea, and it is yours for free.

Violence at a rally? seems like guy on the name plate should LEAD and shut that stuff down.

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The same show I quoted at the top of this piece also once said “People aren’t smart during elections.” Another character countered with people are talked to like they aren’t smart during elections. While I want to agree with the second sentiment, the first seems to be playing out in greater detail. That is the depressing part.

Ted Cruz apparently wants to be the president of the white evangelicals and lock everybody else out. Trump will pay legal fees for anybody who punches a protestor in the face. His supporters have been caught on camera threatening to punch people. And don’t get me started on the Chris Matthews interview. And psst, Cruz is a bigger threat.

I get that none of them like each other. That’s fine, but they don’t seem think much of us either. Because despite all the speeches, and pointless debates, absolutely nothing has been said yet that will hold any weight on the actual Election Day. It’s like political American Idol, but we need Simon Cowell to call them all out.

You want the job, why should you have it?

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But barely.

Vote, folks.

 

A Good Night for a Ride

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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When Bruce Springsteen’s current tour was announced earlier in the winter, I had a little anxiety. Our live relationship goes back to 1978 and I was a little concerned. At the time, I was between fulltime gigs and spending precious dollars on a show seemtwo hoed too much of a stretch. I’ve been ushering at the downtown arena for sometime and hoped to get the call. An vet of a number of Boss groups and collectives, I knew there might be a ticket drop of some kind, but the worry was alleviated when I got my usher assignment lists a few  weeks ago and it consisted of two hockey games and Bruce Springsteen

This seemed like nice karmic payback for sitting through cartoon characters on ice and faux-metal Christmas rock. I was a hired gun for my favorite. Like most folks with this affliction, I’ve been following the tour online and listening to a few shows. When it is your favorite, you pay more attention to everything when you report to work. When I checked in, the band was onstage soundchecking songs that hadn’t been played yet on the tour. All I could think was “wait until the gang on RMAS rebooted on facebook hears this,” momentarily forgetting that many of said group were going to be in the building.

I was curious where I would be watching the show, er, helping patrons from and the gods were smiling upon my pathetic fanboy self, with a good assignment, close enough and the corridor for the folks who were going to be standing closest to the stage got to enter. Seeing their joy and trading high fives, etc. was a lift, as was seeing my oldest pal – who 36 years earlier was my partner in crime in securing our tickets to the Buffalo date on the original River Tour. I got caught up with some other familiar faces and folks from my parents neighborhood, even bonding with a fellow usher type joking about our mutual plans to see the street businessmen about discounted concert shirts.

About an hour before the show began, a couple appeared in my corridor to survey their seats. He took a look then disappeared to get the obligatory $9.00 beer. She surveryed a little bit more and looked a little weepy. Me, being part bartender and usher, inquired if everything was okay. She asked if I was a fan. I said, of course, couldn’t wait for this assignment, and told what made it extra special on top of the band playing in great form, that of last year’s uncertain employment status, that it nearly amounted to me missing see Bruce and the E Streeters once more. She told me that it was her first show after the passing of her son, who had journeyed to a few shows with her and her husband.

She heard my story and that made her smile and she said “see, our faith got rewarded.” I replied yes, indeed, it was going to be a good night for a ride.

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I wanted to get the above poster to commemorate the experience. Like all concert merchandise, they were overpriced and scarce, and by the time I was finished for the night, they were gone to ebay.

34 songs and three hours + later and countless people who meandered during the ballads found on the River (some of the best pure musical moments of the show), it was indeed a good night for a ride.

While it is impossible to explain why your favorites are your favorites, they just do it for you. There is that extra bonus that those special moments not only happened, but they continue to still occur. Almost made me want to scramble for a Rochester ticket.

So, before I left the arena Thursday night, I did indeed order the download of the show.

Faith continues to be rewarded.

 

 

 

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