Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Palintology: the study of political dinosaurs?

Palin and Presidential Politics?

There was time when American politicians were taken more seriously. Now we have a new autobiography which by it its very title, describes the author as a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel.

How the game has changed! Looking forward to 2012, it looks like a rising star in the Republican party will have a real shot at running for President.

Of course, I refer to Sarah Palin, and her current success. She is creating her own little mini-boom in the publishing industry.

Her book, 'Going Rogue' is at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. She is traveling the country to promote her book, appearing in small towns and signing copies for her followers.

So who are her followers? Here is a really humorous video of interviews with her fans at one of her book signings.

OK, moving on to the other features of this mini-boom.

A parody of 'Going Rogue', titled 'Going Rouge' has already hit the bookshelves. The byline has changed from "An American Life" to "An American Nightmare" with an almost identically posed photograph of Sarah.

I fell out laughing when I saw the cover.

I sent it to Wayne, who Skyped back:

"that's hilarious
rogue - a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
rouge - makeup consisting of a pink or red powder applied to the cheeks"

For the enthusiasts of 'Going Rouge', there is a companion coloring book. (Again, courtesy Wayne.)

Click on the graphic and have a look at a sample of the pages from the book. It pokes some good-natured graphic fun at Sarah, which immediately evokes the elements of her speeches and interviews during her brief vice-Presidential candidacy.

I look forward to seeing Sarah as the Republican candidate for President in 2012.

Meanwhile, a look back to some of the video footage that made her such a nationally respected politician amongst Republicans in the United States.

Short clips:

And the kind of satire that is just too close to home!

We know, when we have President Palin, the people who will be doing the commentary on her speeches and platforms are likely to be comedians around the world, but none will be as good as Tina Fey, whoc simply repeats what Sarah has said in real interviews, to the explosive laughter of the viewers.

And, as Sarah Palin's Presidency advances, she is likely to become increasingly adorable when cornered.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What we "know"

We all know Glenn Beck did not murder and rape that girl in 1990 ... don't we??

Anybody who has seen Glenn Beck on Fox News is either mesmerized or repelled. He uses awful logic, makes associations that are bizarre, to say the least, and these antics have already been reported and analyzed so broadly on the Internet...

But there is now a backlash under way, that uses the exact same techniques as the Far Right and National Enquirer commentators like Glenn Beck, and the reason it is getting so much traction so fast is because it uses parody and satire, and the good stuff is really good.

First, let's look at the way in which Birthers used the media (which includes the Internet) to question Barack Obama's birthplace. They use massive assault, with web sites asking the questions. They are supported by Fox News, whose commentators ask the same questions. They are further supported by that segment of the print press that report on two headed Martian babies, because wild stories sell sensationalist fiction in tabloid form.

For anybody who understands scientific investigation, this barrage of disinformation is fairly easy to disprove, because behind the smoke, there is no fire. Nobody has hard facts. Slips of the tongue become proof of a conspiracy, invalidating the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

America has a very large percentage of True Believers. They are not inquiring minds. Some 45% of Americans believe the world is only 6,000 years old, despite utterly overwhelming evidence that it is over 4 billion years old.

To maintain these kinds of beliefs in the US is pretty easy. First, go to a church where this is a founding tenet of the beliefs, so you are surrounded by people who regard it as heretical to question it. Second, isolate yourself from people who question the concept. Third, watch television programs that either confirm your beliefs, or never discuss the issues.

Americans are overwhelmed by the huge amount of information available on every subject. The number of books and web pages published every day continues to grow, encouraging people to drill down ever more precisely into the publications and groups of people who most closely mirror their own beliefs. Americans do not learn math, or scientific investigative procedures, and consequently, are prey to illogical gossip.

This is profoundly the environment in which the Far Right finds itself. It is immersed in Fox News, Right Wing blogs, church activities and beliefs, all of which isolate them into a teeming backwater of misinformation. And the numbers of people in these backwaters are enormous.

Accordingly, when this huge group gets into any Belief Movement (defined as a group who simply Believe without looking at the facts), and the Belief is repeated often enough to other parallel thinkers, it becomes an unquestioned mantra, a foundational belief, that cannot be changed by investigation.

And now, we see the thinkers taking over with humor. Using satire and parody, the Far Right commentators are being help up to the light for their style and substance in the same way they have been creating clouds of confused belief in their media environment.

"Yes, it seems the dirty tricksters have adapted yet again and figured out that search engines and crowd-sourced “fact checking” is incredibly easy to manipulate and because so many lay people have no idea how to distinguish between verified facts and unsubstantiated rumor when using search engines, the rumors are perpetuated simply by people asking online whether they’re true.

But now the fun really begins as some web savvy pranksters have targeted Fox News commentator and all-around good time guy Glenn Beck for a little Search Engine Optimization bombing. Spreading like a wild fire is the phrase “Did Glenn Beck Rape and Murder a Girl in 1990?” They’re even hitting up Yahoo Answers and employing the exact same tactics as those used by Birthers to sow seeds of doubt regarding the President’s place of birth. A quick review of the thread is like a text book case of Search Engine Manipulation."

The Glenn Beck saga has been nicely summarized by Ben Sarlin at the Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-12/the-man-who-beat-glenn-beck/

The web site in question is now at http://gb1990.com/

If you spend a little time browsing the web site, you can find the same kind of anecdotal "evidence" that appears in Far Right web sites for Believers. One example: http://www.twiigs.com/poll/Politics/38512?results=1

In the 'Comments sections to the letters are a couple of excellent fake snapshots that mirror the rhetoric of the Far Right in a hilarious manner. Check out http://i.imgur.com/3qpo5.png and http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/7097/beck.jpg

Watch Jon Stewart's satirical piece on The Daily Show. He parodies Glenn Beck humorously and accurately, using Beck's style, mannerisms, and awful logic. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-5-2009/the-11-3-project

Then there is the Onion link. It is much more hard hitting but right in line with Beck's style in the way he makes illogical associations. http://www.theonion.com/content/video/victim_in_fatal_car_accident?utm_source=videoembed

When you have watched these, go watch Glenn Beck on Fox News. If you don't laugh out loud at his on-stage antics, then you are probably one of the "one-out-of two Americans" who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, who don't question unbelievable assertion and invalid association.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13th 2009: Skype chats

[7:51:16 AM] RG: When they make a movie of all this, they could get Ron Jeremy to make the movie. I figure he would be really good in all the sex scenes, and adding in some extra about Abu Ghraib could be on the cards.

[7:53:32 AM] WR: he does kinda look like Ron Jeremy, doesn't he?

[7:54:07 AM] RG: Yep. Maybe RJ is a terrorist? If it's the look that counts ....

[7:55:05 AM] WR: Nah. RJ's just a big teddy bear.

[7:55:09 AM] WR: with a big dick

[7:55:42 AM] RG: Yes. You could be right. The girls he fucks are much scarier than he is.

[7:56:14 AM] WR: it says, "Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ..." other than said "self-proclamations", is there any actual evidence this man had anything to do with 9-11?

[7:56:36 AM] WR: girls who fuck Ron Jeremy will fuck anybody

[7:57:07 AM] RG: Well, anybody for money. And make it look enthusiastic!

[7:58:21 AM] RG: And no, there is no evidence that has been revealed, because they are supposed to hold off with the evidence until it goes to court ... oops, that's a bit of a catch 21 isn't it? Under Bush, they didn't get their day in court, or even a lawyer.

[7:59:11 AM] WR: a friend of mine sent out this http://www.thebravest.com/fdny.htm

[7:59:30 AM] WR: non-conspiracy-crackpot person

[8:01:40 AM] RG: Yes. Let's throw out all those years of what America has learned about justice, and turn the courts into a Christian Jihadist movement where the course of justice is perverted. Sounds like the New America.

[8:02:49 AM] WR: I’m wondering if I should say anything to him. Prolly not

[8:04:18 AM] RG: No. You should refer him to well-written articles that point out the damage done to American justice systems by the Bush administration in their efforts to escalate the war on terror.

[8:05:03 AM] RG: Yesterday, Microsoft was stopping a million Xbox gamers from getting on to the Xbox live sites. Today ... the modders are selling upgrades! http://www.dailytech.com/New+Modified+Xbox+360+Firmware+Sidesteps+Xbox+Live+Bans/article7506.htm

[8:09:02 AM] WR: Microsoft will have to come up with a new way to ban people. Then the modders will have to find a way around that. Sounds like the beginning of an arms race

[8:10:12 AM] RG: Now some of the old hands are weighing in on the Afghanistan troop issue. I personally think the corruption issue needs to be addressed head on, because it is a major issue for the Taliban. Karzai is a cheat, and not democratically inclined. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6549475/US-Afghanistan-envoy-Gen-Karl-Eikenberry-urges-Barack-Obama-not-to-send-more-troops.html

[8:11:26 AM] WR: "But James concedes that the pet issue is real. He says he has written a pamphlet to worried Christians counseling that if people in Heaven find they miss their pets, they can decide to have them brought up later." hahahaha

[8:12:08 AM] RG: Yes. I read that, but I am not sure how you do this. Do UPS service Heaven? Or Hell, where most of these people are probably going?

[8:12:22 AM] WR: don't kid yourself, Karzai is a drug lord

13:10 AM] RG: Oh, I am not kidding myself about Karzai ... he is a crook and if the big money is in drugs, he and his brother will be there.

[8:13:36 AM] WR: under the Taliban, opium production in Afghanistan was very low. Today, Afghanistan provides 95% of the world's opium supply. The manufacture of heroin from opium has been moved into Afghanistan.

[8:13:54 AM] WR: why does the Karzai government allow this? Simple answer: they are doing it themselves!

[8:14:30 AM] WR: and I can't prove it, but I suspect they are doing it with full US government knowledge and support

[8:16:12 AM] RG: Yes. It is HUGE business. This whole mess is a result of George Bush Senior's actions after the Russians left in 1989. There was an opportunity then to go into Afghanistan and fix things from the inside, but instead, they were left to starve, 1.5 million children dies from starvation it is estimated, and Afghanistan discovered what an opportunistic fiend (not friend) America had become.

[8:17:14 AM] WR: omg that rapture ready website is crazy! (I shouldn't say 'omg', when I don't really believe in 'g'). You know what's really crazy, though? At an earlier time in my life, I believed all this stuff. When I look at it today, it looks as loony as believing in Santa Claus

[8:19:58 AM] WR: it's a huge mess alright. Afghanistan is the poorest country outside of Africa. NPR did a story a while back about rampant heroin addiction in the country.

[8:20:18 AM] WR: people become heroin addicts because heroin helps lessen the pain of starvation

[8:20:55 AM] WR: the level of violence in the country is off the charts, too...

[8:23:53 AM] RG: Yes, Afghanistan is a mess. Many Americans still believe all kinds of fictions about America, and one of them is that it is great to lose a war to America because you get lots of money out of it.

The end of WW II, the US spent a lot of money rehabbing Germany and Japan. The result is two great allies. If you look at the countries that have been devastated by their relationship with America since 1960, either as allies or enemies, they have all been economically devastated by the US Military-Industrial-Congressional complex.

[8:25:54 AM] WR: the idea that "it's great to lose a war with America, because you get all kinds of money out of it" ... hmm... where did I hear that idea before? I think I heard it from a man in California named RHG, maybe about 10 years ago...

[8:30:37 AM] RG: I don't think I professed it as my belief then, because the actuality died in the fifties. By the time Vietnam came along, it was already a myth. I think South Korea was the last example. Since then, America has been active in Africa, undermining democracy there in the same way they had been so successfully in Latin America for years, in the interests of American business. But it is a concept I have heard voiced from people again and again, who cites the Marshall plan after WW II as proof. In fact, one of the people who suggested this to me is a WW I history buff, and I blew him out of the water for it.

[8:31:26 AM] RG: But you should ask people what they think about the assertion. There are still a surprising number of people wallowing around in their own beliefs that embrace the assertion.

[8:31:44 AM] WR: ok

[8:36:47 AM] RG: I think there have been two kinds of wars. There have been wars where America has been threatened as a nation, in which I drop WW II and Korea, and the situations where America has so totally outclassed its enemy that it has been an exercise in manipulation for a desired outcome, often masterminded by the CIA and other spook organizations, and overseen by American business.

The mainstream military operations, huge and well reported, haven't had the same kind of scope for US Government skullduggery.

[8:37:41 AM] RG: Overseen by American business --- well, the direction has been given by American business for profit --- and that is what pays for war.

[8:38:40 AM] RG: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/nyregion/13pfizer.html on a completely different note ... Eminent domain laws that churn communities may cause more damage to the community than the economic benefit provides.

[8:40:26 AM] WR: when you say "overseen by American business" -- you're talking about the oil business?

[8:42:50 AM] RG: Yes, and the diamond and raw resources businesses --- Africa has deposits roughly 4 times the size of anything else in the world. Iron ore, coal, etc, and the Chinese are now in Africa building infrastructure so that they can get this stuff to the coast.

[8:46:28 AM] RG: And this all scares the crap out of the American spook agencies who have secretly worked behind the scenes at manipulating the dictators in these countries for all these years. The preferred manner of spooks to control a country is to install a dictator, give him the weapons and train his army to make him unseatable, then get him to perform like a trained seal.

This model is giving way to an independent income based on raw material supply. The Chinese are leading the way.

The rate of innovation in communications is accelerating. You have often spoken about exponential growth in the past, and now that Google is competing with Skype on a more even basis, Microsoft will have to be in there as well.

Meanwhile, the old-school communication companies (AT&T, etc) are still battling each other to maintain their phone revenues, almost seemingly unaware that this market will die exponentially fast.

The real driver for change will be the economy. People are getting more dollar-conscious, and this always drives change. The more people that make the change, the more people that are available to educate their friends, and tutor them in the new money-saving technologies.

Problem is, the FCC has been cleaning up selling bandwidth to private companies, who monopolize (or duopolize) the wireless spectrum, making huge profits on their ability to restrain trade.

Slowly, Americans are waking up to the obscene profits these companies are making, and the derailing of the spirit of free enterprise that founded the USA.

It remains to be seen if there will be major change. But the only long term solution is to have the owners of the bandwidth rent it out to anybody who is prepared to pay the freight.

The most interesting part is the equipment cost for infrastructure is continuing to halve in cost about every two years, making it cheaper and cheaper to provide the services.

Sooner or later, people will wake up to the fact that they are paying 100 times the value of the services they are receiving. It might take a decade, but the revolution will be driven by the observation that basic communication services are much slower and vastly more expensive in the US than they are in the rest of the world, because free enterprise no longer has anything to do with US business, which has devolved into a rationality of a few huge players dominating a market, who all overcharge for their services.

[9:40:14 AM] WR: Nathan Myhrvold predicted in 1993 that the cost of a long-distance phone call would be $0

All the news that's fit to print --- or not

Hi there, and welcome.

Every day, I spend some time with the news. I discuss the news on Skype with smart friends, all of whom have different and interesting perspectives.

Rather than try to write a newsfeed, I decided to patch these conversations together, pretty much as an opinion piece, that embodies the perspectives of these wise people on the happenings in the world.

Here it is. Some of it is silly, some angry, some hilarious, some serious.

Leave comments. We all need to share our ideas.