Category Archives: Culture

Anti-Social Media

In the early days of the Internet, its primary users were academics who saw it as a forum for the free exchange of ideas. As such, it was afforded some legal protection by Section 230, which says:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

That’s Section 230 in its entirety—short, sweet, straightforward. However, as we know, no good deed goes unpunished. Today, much of the internet is used as to present falsehoods, launch attacks, conduct illegal transactions, etc. all while remaining anonymous.

Why? Section 230 treats “interactive computer services” as conduits, like telephone companies. The phone company (supposedly) neither knows nor cares about what you say on the phone. On the other hand, newspapers, radio, and television must adhere to certain guidelines. For example, they cannot broadcast the tone used by the National Weather Service for emergencies unless it’s either an emergency or a clearly identified test. Likewise, certain language is prohibited.

The infamous website Backpage, protected by Section 230 until it was shut down, acted as a link for sex—including sex with minors. How many of these “sex workers” were, in fact, victims of human trafficking?

So, what’s the difference between communication and content providers? I see at least two major differences:

  • Telephone conversations are between two people or, in the case of a conference call, to a group of people who choose to participate. In any case, the audience is limited in some manner.
  • Mass media, like newspapers, radio, and television are intended to be available to anyone.

To my mind, social media are, today, more like mass media. In fact, I don’t see a fundamental difference. So why aren’t they regulated like other mass media?

Money.

The owners of social media have made so much money that I believe it is unlikely, if not impossible, for any control to be imposed.

When I write a blog, even when I’m aggressively challenging someone’s position, I endeavor to write factually, civilly, and coherently. I hope someday, this will be the norm. With Section 230 in place, this is unlikely.

How About a Little Reality?

(Typing one-handed–sorry)

A million years ago, when I was in uniform, if there was a threat, I expected immediate notification of whatever was 1) known, and 2) expected. My Sailors knew, far better than me, what was important. Their experience and expertise allowed me to coordinate efforts to support them. They were better at their jobs, thank God, than I was.

When a unit is being fired upon, when a squad is pinned down by a sniper, or a ship is taking on water, the facts–however ugly–are important. If the troops at a certain position are under attack, it doesn’t matter if they are calm. Reality is reality. If they have a reasonable view of the operational environment, they will do everything to succeed.

Some politicians worry about how events make people feel. I recommend that they worry more about giving people the information to make rational decisions. Adults who feel badly, unless personally affected, will be fine.

Being upset is better than being dead.

75th Anniversary WW II

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War ended.

That was my parent’s war. The Greatest Generation’s war. At that time, every American was, in one way or another, invested in it. It was a very different time with very different values.

In a small gesture, I’ve been watching Band of Brothers–the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. The first time I saw any of this series was at the Pat Tillman USO in Afghanistan. I didn’t see much of it, as I was waiting for transportation to a FOB (forward operating base) or something. Nevertheless, the small exposure piqued my interest. Years later, my family gave me the set of DVDs.

The movie portrays the essence of the soldiers’ experiences. if not every precise detail. The movie is too intense for some, so the first time I watched it was with my son, Adam, when everybody else was away on a trip. Even for me, it was intense–as well it should be.

Today, when people view the history of warfare, some say, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?” They’re right they don’t get it,” and it’s sad that they have passed through this life without  experiencing honor, courage, commitment, and camaraderie.

Survival of the Republic

Is progress really beneficial? I’ve been contemplating that–seriously–and I’m not sure.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College. The initial idea was to avoid political parties. The candidate with the most votes became president, and the second place became Vice President. Therefore, George Washington became President and John Adams the Vice President.

After Washington served two terms, John Adams was elected the president, with Thomas Jefferson in second place and therefore the Vice President. The next election, Jefferson opposed Adams, won, and became president. Voila, the effort to avoid political parties died.

John Adams, who was one of the driving forces for independency, as it was called at the time, was described by others as “obnoxious and disliked.” His personality was matched by a short, rotund body, with few teeth. He might have been brilliant, but was not, in any way, attractive.

If Adams made a harsh comment, in those days, it would have merited little notice. Newspapers of the time were small and printed weekly or less. President Adams pronouncements would have been little noticed outside of Washington, DC.

Today, every comment, statement, quote, burp, or fart is immediately broadcast across the world with video of the incident, commentary, point and counterpoint within minutes.

Washington might survive today’s news cycle. Adams and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, probably wouldn’t.

Think about that. Think about the republic without Adams and Jefferson because of 24/7 cable news. I’m not saying it’s better or worse–I’m just asking you to think about it.

Are we better off today?

What Can I Do?

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc on most people who are not in the ultra-rich 1 percent. Businesses are closing. People have lost jobs. Some will soon leave their homes.

5,909,970 Americans have contracted COVID-19.

180,965 Americans who have lost their lives.

2,707,783 Americans have contracted the disease and have not recovered. Some will die. Some never will recover, experiencing life-altering effects that will diminish their ability to live and work as they did before.

I haven’t seen any definitive studies, but I’d love to know how many wouldn’t have been infected if everyone had accepted that the disease is real and taken appropriate precautions–social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. Unfortunately, some think it is a hoax.

However, it is very, very real to 5,909,970 of our fellow citizens–so far.

Take the appropriate precautions.

Guns

I generally try  to stay away from politics, but sometimes I just need to say something.

I enjoy guns. The wall of my office is a collection of antique firearms–most too old to safely fire, but interesting pieces nevertheless. I have other firearms I enjoy taking to the shooting range at a nearby USMC Base to blow holes in paper targets.

In the past, when deployed, I’ve carried a .45 caliber M1911, a 9mm Beretta, and an M-16. In each case, I was in a combat zone.

Nevertheless, there are rules relating to firearms and they are basic and sensible rules. These are true whether in combat, when you hear a noise in the middle of the night, and any other context.

  1. Treat every gun as loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.
  3. Identify your target.
  4. Always be aware of where the muzzle of the weapon is pointed (see above).
  5. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Here is the most important one:

  • You only fire your weapon when there is no other option. Unless you’re in combat in a legal war zone, this means that you can only fire when your life is in danger and you have no other option. That means that your back is to the wall.
  • Someone running away is not a threat to your life.

As I said, I have been armed with an M-16. However, to all the people who insist that they need an AR-15 (the civilian version of an M-16), I have the following advice.

  • If you need a high capacity magazine, you must be planning on killing many people.
  • If not, it means you’re a truly lousy shot who needs 30 rounds to ensure that you hit the broad side of a barn.

Either way, you should not have an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.

Growing Up in the 21st Century

Most the world is moving from analog to digital. It’s no longer “A bit before 8 o’clock,” it’s now “7:58.” On the other hand, raising kids has gone the other way.

It used to be:

  • Birth to age 3        Infant
  • Age 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age 6 – 13              Grade/Middle School Student
  • Age 13 – 18             High School Student
  • Age 18 – 23             College Student (Away at school)
  • Age 23 – 35             Young Adult (Moving out and on their own)

Now, it’s a bit different:

  • Birth to ~ age 3        Infant
  • Age ~ 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age ~ 6 – 13              Home Schooled / Online education
  • Age ~ 18 – 23            Distance Learning College (Living at home)
  • Age ~ 23 – 35            Living at home looking for a job

What used to be distinct stages have become a continuum, with blurred lines. It’s common for our children who are now mature, educated, and desperate to be employed and independent. They’ve done everything right, but it hasn’t turned out the way they–and we–had planned.

It’s no reflection on our kids, it’s just the way things are today. I don’t know how I would have reacted to the current situation, but I suspect I would more-or-less hate it. Just like our kids.

Sorry, kids.

 

 

 

Is the Electoral College Leftover from Slavery?

I read a lot. I read all kinds of material, because it makes me think. I prefer not to rely on “echo chambers” that only reflect the ideas I already have.

I’d always been taught that the purpose was to ensure that smaller states were not drowned out by the larger states. It’s a clumsy system that has resulted in a number of elections in which the winner did not receive the most votes. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to accept that the electoral college was an effort to ensure fairness.

Now however, I’ve read a few things that challenge that belief.

Electoral votes for each state are based on the states total representation in Congress–senators and representatives. Each state gets two senators, but the number of representatives is based on population. However, for roughly the first century of the country, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.

Slaves could not vote, of course, but they counted toward representatives and therefore to the number of electors. In essence, slave states ended up with a disproportionate amount of influence in choosing presidents.

Was this coincidental?

Is anything in politics coincidental?

COVID-19 Update

I’ve blogged in the past about my simplistic projection for the COVID-19 disease. So far, I haven’t been too far off, meaning my projections and actual cases have been reasonably close. I’m moderately surprised. Nevertheless, I’m continuing my project.

I now have about 2 1/2 months of data for new cases per day and new deaths per day. I extended the trend line projections out through the end of the year. Here’s what I’m seeing. The graph above shows the number of deaths per day. For a while it actually appeared to be trending downward, but in the past few weeks, it has dramatically increased. The massive swings from day to day, I believe, are not completely accurate. My theory is that this reflects when the paperwork was actually recorded–not necessarily when the deaths occurred. It may also reflect the delay after the death when an autopsy or other method is necessary to determine the actual cause of death.

In any case, if there is any accuracy to this projection, it’s discouraging that we might soon see more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 per day, every day. It’s worse to think that the number of deaths may, in fact, increase.

The number of cases per day is the second graph (above). It sort of looks like the curve is turning downward, but the math indicates that overall, it is expected to increase. We’ll have to wait and see how the numbers turn out. I’d prefer it would decrease, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that cases will decrease. (Let’s all cross our fingers!)

Unfortunately, in the media it seems that after a person suffers from COVID-19, the only two outcomes are–1) Death, or 2) Everything returns to normal. Unfortunately, it appears that there are other outcomes.

Some COVID-19 survivors suffer long term effects. Lungs can be damaged to the point that normal life will never again be possible. Some people have suffered from multiple organ failures. Others have experienced vascular problems requiring the amputation of limbs. I do not have access to the data specific to these outcomes, so they may be unusual or they may be common. I just hope it isn’t me.

I hope that the trend reverses. Unfortunately, it is dependent on people religiously committing to wearing masks, maintaining social distances, hand washing, etc.

I’m not optimistic.

 

Values? What Values?

For many years, in discussions with others I would propose a litmus test to guide them as to whether a behavior was appropriate or not. My test was, “If 60 Minutes was filming you doing this, or if your mother were watching, would you do it?” It seemed like a reasonable benchmark.

Today, however, neither would halt people from charging ahead with inappropriate activities. They would not feel bad and many would proudly post their shameful activities on Facebook. Facebook would get a couple of million clicks and laugh all the way to the bank.

Well, actually, they’d laugh while the electronic money transfers went to some tax haven.

What the hell happened to us? Do we all believe that we’ll never face the consequences of our choices?

I don’t believe that is true. So act as if your mother is watching.

Space – A Great Frontier

Echo 1 was a Mylar balloon satellite launched in 1960 that was visible from the earth. At night, we’d rush outside at the time printed in the paper and watch it go by.

During the Mercury launches 1961-1963, we sat in the classroom clustered around a transistor radio.

For Gemini launches in 1965 1nd 1966, someone brought a 45 pound “portable” black and white television into the classroom.

For the Apollo Missions, especially Apollo 11, we watched from home on console TVs with a 17 inch color cathode ray tube screen.

I lived in Florida for a portion of the shuttle era, I walked down my driveway, turned tight, and saw it live. For most people, there would be a brief mention with a few seconds of video on the evening news.

Today, I watch the Space-X Crew Dragon return to earth, with live video from inside the craft and the recovery boats on my iPad.

Cool.

LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle, We’re Proud of You!

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: ecgspwvwoaipfmv.jpg

I guess it’s easy to let expectations exceed reality.

I spent many years serving in the Navy Reserve and the active duty Navy. During that time, I saw many things progress. I saw female officers command ships. I served with and under a number of female officers.

I was surprised to find out that it has taken the Navy until now to have its first Black female fighter pilot.

I have three things to say:

  1. LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle – Bravo Zulu! You, and you alone, earned this. Feel free to be proud of yourself.
  2. The next generation of tactical pilots will look to you for inspiration.
  3. And to my beloved Navy–it’s about damn time.

Change comes far too slow far too often. However, when positive change finally occurs, it’s a wonderful thing.

 

Heroes Wear Masks

In the midst of the COVID-19, where are our inspirational influencers?

  • Batman wears a mask.
  • Black Panther wears a mask.
  • Spiderman wears a mask.
  • The Green Lantern wears a mask.
  • Ironman wears a mask.
  • Captain America wears a mask.
  • The Lone Ranger wears a mask.
  • Medical and Surgical teams wear masks.
  • Dr. Fauci wears a mask.

On the other hand, who are the trend setters in the other direction?

  • The Joker does not wear a mask.
  • Jabba the Hutt does not wear a mask.
  • Lex Luthor does not wear a mask.
  • Lord Voldemort does not wear a mask.
  • Captain Hook does not wear a mask.
  • Snidely Whiplash does not wear a mask.
  • Neither Boris nor Natasha wear a mask.
  • [Fill in your anti-mask politician here]

 

 

Oath to the U.S. Constitution

I served as an officer in the United States Navy.

I am currently a federal civilian employee.

I took the following oath to the United States Constitution:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Not only did I take the oath “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” but I took it with pride.

I am bound by that oath and will be for the rest of my life.

Please note that there is nothing in the oath requiring me to blindly obey any and every order. There’s a reason for this–I am expected to refuse any illegal order.

After World War Two, many Nazis attempted to defend their brutality by claiming that they were only following orders. That defense is insulting.

Why am I writing this? I read “Illegal Order” and the linked news story dated 26 July 2020 on https://diogenestoday.com/

 

Today’s Cartoons

New! Series 2 LOL Dolls! - YouTube

Image courtesy YouTube

I grew up with cartoons that were leftover from the 1940s. There was Popeye fighting Nazis, Woody Woodpecker, and, of course, Looney Toons with Chuck Jones art and Mel Blanc voices.

The newest we had were Hannah Barbera products–the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, etc. Television was only available during limited hours, ending with the playing of the National Anthem after the Tonight Show.

My granddaughters watch cartoons on cable. Cable cartoons are apparently like cable news (You get the picture). I can only watch about 30 seconds at a time, but as near as I can tell, they are all commercials all the time.

One they watched on their latest visit was LOL Dolls, which is apparently a Disney product. The entire program–based on the compilation of the aforementioned 30 second views–seemed to consist of hands opening up the various LOL products accompanied by manically enthusiastic girls’ voices.

My favorite (?!?) was the kitten character series, which come with various accessories, including a litter box. Children are expected to gleefully peel through simulated cat litter to find surprise toys that are hidden therein.

These cartoons are truly different than Popeye.

The New Normal

By limiting my exposure to the news, I’m beginning to feel much better.

When I see something, instead of letting it upset me, I merely ask myself, “Is this fundamentally different than it was yesterday/last week/last month?” Most often, the answer is, “No.”

I guess I’m just adapting to the new normal.

Luddite Audiophile

Today I saw an advertisement for bone-conduction headphones at Sam’s Club.

In my young adulthood, I enjoyed stereo systems with awesome fidelity. I  worked my way up to a Dual turntable that had stroboscopic speed adjustment, a top of the line Fisher amplifier and speakers, a Technics-by-Panasonic cassette deck, and Koss Pro-4AA headphones.

Today, fidelity has given way to compressability–how much music can be fitted into the smallest space. Almost everything is MP-4 or other streaming media, which is relatively low fidelity. And bone-conduction? That was once a last desperate method to convey sound into the auditory nerves when the natural routes failed.

Cochlear implants use bone-conduction, not fine music systems.

Or do they? Maybe bone-conduction is superior. I don’t know. The range of frequencies I can hear has narrowed with time, so maybe bone-conduction would be better.

I’m not quite ready for that. I’ll stick with my Koss Pro-4AA headphones. By popular demand, they began manufacturing them again.

Luddite – Part Two

I actually did write this out in longhand with my Cross pen circa 1985 (75 percent off when I bought it), which I carried and wrote with through Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. My article was barely legible to me, and if I scanned it, it’s too small to post, so I had to resort to the word processor.

When I was young, most cities had one or more newspapers. Toledo was ahead of its time, with two newspapers owned by the same company and printed on the same printing presses–much like many cities see today. The owner supposedly said that the biggest news was the Dempsey-Tunney boxing match of 1919 and if he had his way, it would stay the biggest news.

In any case, most newspapers published one major edition each day. Unlike in the movies, the editor screaming “Stop the presses!” was rare, as was newsboys in ill-fitting clothes and funny caps yelling, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!.” There may have been an extra edition when President Kennedy was assassinated, but since that was early afternoon, it’s unlikely. The evening news was a half-hour (including commercials), as was the 11:00 PM news.

Today, we are bombarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year on multiple channels, news feeds, social media, etc., much of which is intended to draw you to click-bait, sell you hemorrhoid medicine, or miracle cures for erectile dysfunction. It’s all BREAKING NEWS that’s JUST IN.

I think the old style was better, thank you–one newspaper and 30 minute news programs.

Becoming a Luddite

I have always appreciated technology. I had one of the very first home computers (RCA Cosmac 1802 processor with 256 BYTES–yes, bytes–of memory and a hexadecimal keypad). At last count, I have five computers running in the house. That does not count smartphones, iPads, Kindles, or any devices belonging to other family members.

Every time I turn on the television, the radio, or check online news I get frustrated. It doesn’t matter your political views or whether you like masks or not. It doesn’t matter as to your religious views or lack thereof. The world has raised stupidity to an art form.

If I touch a hot stove, I immediately remove my hand and avoid the heated element. If I taste something nasty, I spit it out and don’t consume any more. If the news disgusts me . . . .

So, don’t expect me to be writing a lot. If I do, it will be written using a real fountain pen in my renowned, mostly illegible, chicken scratch.

Aging

Clocks Challenge - The Winners by annewipf on DeviantArt

I don’t do hip-hop or whatever young people listen to today. If I tried, I’m sure I’d hurt something or maybe even cause some body part(s) to fall off. It would be embarrassing. That’s how Mother Nature ensures that old people will eventually give way to the younger ones. Like it or not, it’s the way it is. It has worked for eons and is not likely to change.

When I was young, I had fresh ideas because I had no clue as to what would work and what wouldn’t. However, as I gained grew older, bold thoughts were more difficult to come by because they were tempered by experience and reality. Today, bold ideas are not my job.

However, that doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate someone else’s fresh new idea or root for their success. In some cases, I can help younger people with good ideas maneuver through the bureaucratic mishmash that reality throws in their way. I understand mishmashes, especially bureaucratic ones.  That’s where I can help.

The progression from old to new needs to be a collaborative hand-off, not an abrupt change. Outcomes must not be seen as a personal triumph, but instead as a step forward for all of us.

As the saying goes, it’s amazing what you can do if you aren’t concerned with who gets the credit.