Truth Tellers, Not Ratings Seekers

As someone who studied journalism and went on to work as a journalist for a little while, and who spent a lot of time writing headlines, I feel the need to illuminate a few things. Headlines are not news. They are clickbait. They were clickbait long before clicking was a thing. They are eyecatching, barely informative tidbits designed to get you to read the rest of the story. The best headline I ever wrote, which won me an actual award, was … Student Council Out For Blood. Doesn’t tell you much does it? Makes you want to know what the story had to say, I bet. That’s what headlines are created to do. It is their function. They are meant to attract your attention. Once again, repeat after me, all headlines are clickbait and always have been, throughout all of journalistic history. They are not news.

And here’s something you should know about the stories under the headlines … 75% or more of every story is mostly unnecessary fluff and cruft. Once upon a time, the first paragraph of a story would contain all the most important information. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. The rest of the story descended through layers of further information to flesh that out, and the lower any particular paragraph of information appeared in a story, the less important it was. Why, you ask? Long ago in the dark ages, those of us who worked in the layout and paste up room had to make stories fit into spaces. We’d trim from the bottom up until it fit. If doing so made the story incomprehensible or otherwise less readable, then it had to be rewritten or was simply left out. Being a journalist meant you wrote every paragraph as though it might the closing to your story, and you were always ready to do some light editing if that wasn’t going to work. My how times have changed, and quite frankly, I believe that most of the problems journalists and journalism itself face today have been caused by the lack of any necessity to be concise and precisely accurate in a limited space.

It’s not just the change to Google News that’s grinding my gears today. That was just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been irritated and sometimes enraged by the state of journalism generally and American journalism particularly for quite a long while. Without respectable news sources and journalists who are willing to be truth tellers rather than ratings seekers, we are … to put it bluntly … doomed. Why do you think one of the first things a dictator does is take over all sources of information? Because that’s where the power resides. That power can be used for good or evil, and I’m not seeing a great many news outlets using it for good these days.

News today feels like propaganda, because in essence, that is what it has become. It’s market tested, light on facts and heavy on opinion, and the vast majority of it is designed to persuade rather than inform. And in its mad glee to appear “unbiased”, modern journalism tells both sides of stories that only have one actual factual side. Such is the crazy world we now live in. Most days, I feel as though it has all gone so far over the brink that journalism as we know it now cannot be redeemed, and there is no coming back from this “scoop first, find out facts later” insanity. I hold out hope that somewhere out there are young people wanting to be journalists … old school, tell it like it is, hell-be-damned journalists, and not just using words and “access” to gain fame, fortune, glory, and power. I guess time will tell. I’ll be watching and waiting for a new generation of truth tellers to emerge, but I suspect I’ll be watching and waiting for quite a while.

Case Closed

Last night a little news story crossed my digital path, and I just have to share it with you. Now, before I do, let me just say that either this story is fake news that made its way into the real news stream, or this woman and her lawyers are bags of nuts.

Someone named Karen Goode is suing a San Antonio area Popeye's fast food restaurant because they … well, let me just quote the lawsuit …

“Plaintiff purchased rice and beans from Defendants’ restaurant that contained flesh eating New World Screwworms, and Plaintiff unknowingly ingested the flesh eating screwworms. The flesh eating screwworms entered Plaintiff’s digestive track, laid eggs which embedded in the interior lining of Plaintiff’s small intestine, and when hatched, infested Plaintiff’s body and began to eat Plaintiff alive from the inside-out.”

Okay, let me put on my judge robes and declare that if this lawsuit actually exists, it will be thrown out of court by any judge with any amount of brain cells and the slightest bit of education. Why? Just off the top of my pre-morning-coffee brain, I can give you three solid reasons that this is (in some way or another) bullshit.

Screwworms (fly larva/maggots) do not lay eggs. They are the product of eggs. They lead to flies, who then lay eggs which become screwworms/maggots, and the cycle continues.

Screwworms, like all living things, require oxygen to survive. The digestive system of the human body is not an oxygen rich environment. In fact, one method of removing screwworms that have burrowed into a living creature is to starve them of oxygen and force them to surface.

Screwworms would not survive passing through the stomach and to get to the small intestine. The human digestive system is designed to process proteins, and screwworms/maggots are a rich source of protein. If you ate a screwworm or even a number of screwworms, your digestive system would happily digest them.

Furthermore, while it is possible for a human to be infested with New World Screwworms, it is really, extremely rare. I mean EXTREMELY rare. So while I'm not saying it couldn't happen, I am saying that it didn't happen by way of eating rice and beans at a San Antonio Popeye's. Case closed.

And if you would like more information on the New World Screwworm, you can go look it up yourself. Not only did I learn all about it some 30 years ago when this critter made its first big appearance in the USA, I went and refreshed my knowledge recently when Florida had a little outbreak out in the Keys. I'm not going to dig up the links again, because EEEEEEEWWWWWW. The information will scar you for life!

A Very Weird Thing

Interesting little thing I heard about and then looked into myself. Thought I'd share, because … it's interesting, in a scary kind of way. At the official White House web site, there's a side menu (on my iPad anyway) that lists all the links to other sections. When you scroll down to see the bottom of it, you see the links to the branches of the U.S. Government. Only it appears that one branch has gone missing from the list of three. Yes, the Judicial Branch isn't on the list. Hmmm.

Since I'm a clever geeky type of person, I look at the format for the Executive Branch link and deduce what the Judicial Branch link would be. When I typed that in and waited for it to load, this popped up.
It's a fancy 404 Not Found error page. So not only has the link to the Judicial Branch been removed, the entire page has been removed. And since the Obama Archive link was right there, I hopped on over, where I verified that my deduced link to where the Judicial Branch page should be was correct, and then read the completely bland and not at all political explanation of our Judicial Branch the Obama White House site provided.
Now, if there had been any changes made to either of the other branch's pages, and if the Judicial Branch page hadn't been down so long, I'd just assume they were making some edits, but no … the page for the Executive Branch and the one for the Legislative Branch are, as far as I can tell, identical to what appeared on the Obama version of the site (and probably versions prior than that, it's really boilerplate boring stuff). So I'm left wondering … what the hell is going on? I could speculate, but I'd hate to speculate.
Anyway, remember how I told you all to remember the past and watch the future and make note of things that change? Yeah, this is what I'm talking about. It's a small thing. May even be nothing, but it's very, very weird and was worth noting for posterity.

She Said, He Said, She Said Again

The biggest problem with trying to blog about the ridiculously idiotic and/or revoltingly evil doings of the current American regime is that just about the time I finish a post on the most recent idiotic or evil thing they have done, they go and do another one. It really just never stops. It's difficult keeping up with it all while also having a life. The local reaction to Trump's empowerment of the far right crazies though moves at a slightly slower pace. Recently, some serious shit hit the fan. Let me tell you about it …

Last week, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced that unless an illegal immigrant had been charged or found guilty of a list of very serious crimes, she would not be honoring ICE's warrantless detainer requests demanding said immigrants be turned over for expulsion from the country or federal justice measures. Additionally, people in her department would not be asking anyone about their citizenship status whether they have been arrested of a crime or have come in to report being the victim of a crime. I'd say that she threw down the gauntlet, but really, it's more like lobbing a grenade. Good! She won her election by a very wide margin, the police departments in the area support her in her run for office, and she made no bones about who she was, what she believed, and what she would do as Travis County Sheriff. She has the support of the people and local elected officials, so I'm glad to see her following through with campaign promises.

Alas, her statement hasn't sat well with the far right regime running Texas, headed by Governor Gregg Abbott. He demanded she reverse her “misguided and dangerous” policy and announced he would be withholding funds from Travis County, to the tune of $1.8 million from the Criminal Justice System. Not content with that small amount, he has since set his budget director into action contacting state agencies and asking them to report on what other funds Travis County recieves that could be withheld as well. Governor Abbott has also been making mewling noises about working on some way to remove her and other elected officials like her from office using the Texas Legislature.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Hernandez is not backing down, and other elected officials such as pussy hat wearing Judge Sarah Eckhardt have stepped forward asking Governor Abbott to reconsider his actions (nope, he won't). Neither side will be backing down it seems, so it will be interesting to see what happens going forward, especially if the federal government gets involved. With Trump's recent declaration that he will “send in the Feds” to solve Chicago's problems, without defining if he meant police or soldiers (though there's very little differentiating the two these days), one has to wonder what sending in “the Feds” to Austin would look like.

A great many people forget, including far right wing Texans, that centrist Texans and liberal Texans are still very much Texans in the truest sense of the word. We're pig-headedly stubborn, loudly opinionated, quick to take action when offended, strong believers in the sanctity of property rights, lovers freedom, and dedicated fighters of authority figures trying to tell us what to do from on high. A large percentage of us are also firm supporters of the Second Amendment and neither fear nor loathe guns. If I were going to choose a liberal enclave to flex my right wing muscles in, let's just say that Austin, Texas wouldn't be my first choice. There's going to be pushback.

A Well Refilled

What follows is a post I started writing some weeks ago, on the day I decided that instead of returning to political blogging full on I would be stepping away from the Internet entirely deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts, taking down the blog, axing the Livejournal, and just not interacting with the digital world at all. I don't even remember what day it was or what had happened on that day, but I'd lost hope. The fire was gone from my belly. I let fear win. I fully intended to lurk around quietly until Inauguration Day, and then make sure I had physical contact info for those people who mean the most to me before just quietly disappearing from the online world. I felt I didn't have the energy to deal with what being a public opinionated female voice on the Internet entails. It takes a deep well of passion to face death and rape threats and stupidity on a daily basis merely for speaking your mind, and my well felt very, very dry.

Then … Inauguration Day happened. I watched, because I felt it was important to bear witness, and I haven't missed one since I was a child and old enough to know what a president is. It's important to me to see history that happened during my life with my own eyes, so that in the future when people try to rewrite it, I can say “No! That's not what happened!” because people always try to rewrite history to suit their needs. Anyway, I found myself posting on Facebook and writing Tweets and getting angry, but I still intended to wake up Saturday and begin extracting myself from the online world.

But … Saturday happened. I watched the DC Women's March, and over the course of the day, the spark that ignited in my heart and mind became a conflagration. My well of passion began to refill. And then the lies and gaslighting and absolute bullshit being spewed by the current administration began rolling in, and I found my voice. I found my passion. I found maybe I do have the strength to be an opinionate woman on the Internet, and while I doubt I will be making daily posts, I can't be silent. None of us can afford to be silent. Silence lets the win, and we can't let them win.

So for posterity and completion of public record, I post the following which was to be the last thing I said on the this blog. So you know, and I don't forget … that we can all be beat down but we can't stay down. The only way to go when you find yourself at the bottom is up.

*******Unfinished Undated Post*******

I'd intended to hop back into political blogging full on. I mean, there's plenty to rant about right now, isn't there? And I have tried. I have no less than three lengthy blog posts I have been working on diligently for over a week, but a couple nights ago, while I was toiling away trying to find just the right words to express the idea that we are all so fucked right now in a more polite and less offensive way, I closed my blogging app, stared at one of my paintings hanging in the living room, and contemplated my existence on the Tree of Woe. As the afternoon turned to evening, my soul searching came to an end, and I had come to a few conclusions.

I popped out of my mother's womb into a family that was very political and a world that was full of problems, and my interest and desire to solve these problems and be a part of creating a better world for everyone started early in my life. For all the decades of my life, I have seen my country slowly plodding forward into a more progressive, inclusive, and equal society. Baby steps all the way, and the occasional back step as well, but always moving generally in the right direction, even though we've had to drag some portion of our populace along kicking and screaming. Along the way, I always held firm to the belief that humans are inherently good. I was an eternal optimist. Sure, things might be messed up and crazy right now, but it's all going to turnout okay in the end. Maybe even better than okay!

But also along the way, a small part of my heart began to harden and cynicism found a home there, and over the years, that small part has grown larger and harder as I have watched my fellow Americans (and just my fellow humans everywhere) growing once again more vocally hateful, bigoted, and willfully stupid about all manner of important issues. I have watched as all the decades of work fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry, oppression, and discrimination began to roll backwards, and my inner cynic said, “I told you so! People are shit.” My inner optimist held firm though, insisting that most of humanity was good or at least redeemable.

That was all before the current U.S. election cycle kicked off and my household spent a year with zero income during which we lost a great deal of what we'd gained in our lives and nearly lost it all. Let me tell you, when you have no money and nowhere to be and nothing to do, it gives you plenty of time to contemplate things, and so I did. Over the course of my year long deep thoughts on life in planet earth, my inner cynic finally convinced my inner optimist that it's true … people are shit. Not all people obviously, but the vast majority of humanity is a lost cause with no hope of redemption. Oh sure, eventually everything will be okay, but it's not going to be okay this year, or next year, or maybe not even next decade. I very seriously doubt that the world will be okay again in my lifetime.

Read a Book, Mr. King

In response, Mr. King said: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

“Than white people?” Mr. Hayes asked.

Mr. King responded: “Than Western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

What … the … hell?! I saw a clip of this on the morning news, but I was too busy yelling about the clip that came before it to hear what was being said. So, I looked it up and discovered this crap. Dear Mr. King, go take a history class or something. You are apparently under-educated. Christian white people didn't create the world or invent all the things. Just saying, read a motherfucking book sometime.

And just for the record, Mr. King … Jesus wasn't a blond haired, blue eyed Anglo. He was a middle eastern Jew. So there's one thing a member of a non-white “subgroup” has contributed to the world, and it's just one on a long, LONG list of contributions made ages before white people started taking credit for everything. Methinks someone needs to reread their Bible and take some history classes at their local community college, in order to refresh their memories of how civilization and humanity began.

I'm never going to survive this election season. I'm certain my head is going to explode at some point. Ignorance, racism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds are out and on display 24/7, and it's driving me INSANE.


Then There Were Three

When the 2016 Presidential primary season kicked off, I was equally apathetic about the Democratic choices and equally appalled by the Republican ones. The only thing I was certain of was that whoever survived the Democratic race would have my vote, because the clown car carrying the Republican Party's potential nominees was stuffed to overflowing with a collection of buffoons, morons, idiots, blowhards, and religious zealots. In other words, the party I once was a loyal member of had once again presented me with no sane options to vote for, as they have repeatedly done for ages now. As far as whether I felt any special feelings towards Clinton or Sanders? No, I did not. Not my party, let them sort out which one they like, and I'll show up and vote for them.

In fact, I had equally good feelings about both Sanders and Clinton … and equally bad feelings. While I respected Sanders for having an ideology and walking his own path without seemingly wavering, it is an ideology that is exceedingly far left of my own fiscally conservative and socially liberal outlook on things. Clinton, on the other hand, says things I can agree with, and I know she is fully capable of running the government, but ugh … I just don't like her. It's not even that really. It's that after 25+ years of hearing this, that, and some other thing about one or the other Clinton pretty much nonstop, I'm sick to death of hearing the name Clinton. But like I said, whichever of them found their way to the general election ballot would have my vote, because none of the Republican options needed to be anywhere near the Oval Office unless they were visiting on a guided tour.

And so I didn't pay any attention to the primary brouhaha. This was easy to do since we no longer have cable television, and I had many other more personal and pressing matters to give a damn about. But sometime around the New York primary, I thought I should check in and see how things were going. I really wish I hadn't. I wish I would have gone on ignoring it all until November, because once I opened the Pandora's Box, there was no closing it. I'm a political junkie. I can't help myself once I get a taste.

So I have watched as Republicans marched into polling stations to vote for Trump, proving just how stupid, hateful, closed minded, and bigoted that party has become. Back before the Internet was a thing that existed, I began to lose faith in the Republican Party, which eventually lead to me no longer giving them my time, money, or attention, and I predicted then (and have continued to predict) that their ever rightward sliding would eventually lead to a complete nutcase being nominated for President. I'd envisioned someone more like Ted Cruz, but Donald Trump is, I believe, the perfect candidate for the current Republican Party. The ultimate panderer who will say whatever he has to say to the people in the room with him to make them like him, even if it's the exact opposite of what he said two hours ago. This is the end result of decades of the GOP doing more pandering to special interest groups and the far rightwing crazies than standing up and fighting for things they actually believe.

I watched as Clinton gained her footing, found her focus, and garnered votes while batting away the piles of poo being flung by all the usual suspects. As I listened to what she had to say, I discovered I don't dislike her as much as I thought, and occasionally I found myself excited about the idea of voting for her. I've voted for a great many people who didn't especially excite me and who I didn't especially like. I don't have to like them, I just have to have faith they'll keep the train on the tracks and not kill us all. I'm confident Clinton will keep America rolling in a generally good direction, and we agree more than we disagree. I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't have to roll my eyes or hold my nose to vote for her.

Then I turned my eyes to Sanders. As I listened to him speak and read his interviews, he annoyed me, not because I didn't agree with much of what he had to say about his big plans for America but because something felt “off”. Since I didn't really know much about Sanders, I started digging into his past. At some point during my journey backwards through this life, the warning bells that go off in my brain when I am exposed to far rightwing craziness began clanging loudly. I discovered that Sanders is a far left crazy. He is an example of the other side of the far right crazy coin, and just like Trump, he's a narcissistic, egocentric, “the rules don't apply to me”, win at all costs politician with a good helping of sexism lurking beneath the surface. But I told myself that people change over time, and maybe the Sanders of now wasn't like the Sanders of back then, and as Clinton pulled further ahead, I was sure he would eventually come around to helping her pull the party together to kick Donald Trump's butt in the general election.

Well, I feel stupid for not listening to my gut reaction and giving him the benefit of a doubt. So convinced of his own righteousness, he is determined he must be the Democratic nominee, even if it means burning everything to the ground and handing Trump the Oval Office.

Mr. Sanders, however, insists that the convention will be contested because he is still lobbying superdelegates — party officials and state leaders who cast their final votes at the convention — to withdraw support from Mrs. Clinton and back him instead. He plans to make the case that he is a stronger candidate against Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. A number of polls, he said, show he can beat Mr. Trump by larger margins than Mrs. Clinton can.

So Sanders would have the super delegates overturn the will of the millions more people who voted for Clinton than voted for him because polls say he has a better chance to win? Well, isn't that special. How arrogant and egotistical and disrespectful of the democratic process and the voters who have taken part in it. I am appalled and disgusted. Any hope that I might regain some measure of respect for him and his ideas is lost forever. I would now prefer he not be elected to any office anywhere ever again. If he believes the will of voters should be overturned on the basis of numbers churned out by pollsters, he isn't worthy of being called a statesman. I'm not even sure someone who believes such a thing should be called American.