Thursday, April 20, 2017

Identifying Fake News

     I spotted an article earlier today by a self-described citizen journalist on identifying fake news Facebook's recent attempt to help users identify fake new essentially amounted to if it is from a conservative source, it is fake new, so I was anxious to see another perspective even though I was not really expecting one. To my surprise, the article was a thoughtful analysis.
    At the heart of the fake news problem is economics. Journalism does not generate a lot of revenue. I am excluding folks like nightly news anchors who are paid millions to read a teleprompter or the likes of Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow. Carlson and Maddow are hyper-partisan entertainers presenting opinions the viewers want to her in a way that makes viewers think they are informs. What I am including is the small time grunts churning out articles and stories to fill newspaper and magazine space as well as the local news channels. They are the men and women who are not getting rich, and they make up 99.9% of journalists.
      A low revenue generating industry requires low paid workers. Low paid workers are more often than not poor quality workers. But journalism is still a business that must compete for attention. Sensationalism catches lot of attention in general. With political journalism, it I partisanship that catches attention. By its definition, partisan journalism is not fair or balanced. Which is to say partisan journalism is often inaccurate. 
     I give the citizen journalist who authored the piece major credit for lay blame on both the left and right.  What this all amounts to is a lot of ow paid, unqualified people producing—and sometimes making up entirely—news presenting a perspective that will catch a certain type of consumer's eye. Let us face it, the truth is rarely a salable product. The author's conclusion was not to trust articles from small, partisan venues as anything but opinion pieces. One should also wait until at least two or three historically reputable news outlets confirm the facts. Of course, with more historically reputable news outlets rely on small blogs and websites—partisan one, at that—even that advice may be suspect.
      It goes without saying, but I will say it, anyway---my blog is not a new source. I flat out admit gods & monsters is nothing but opinion. It is my persona interpretation of issues I find of interest. I am deconstructing politics and culture. My assumption is the reader is well aware of the facts before arriving here. But with how difficult it is becoming to identify fake news, I may be making too big an assumption.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Selfie

  Another holiday, another selfie. Some photos make my blind eye look wore than others. The Easter selfie is a case of it looking particularly bad. Usually the angle of light or shadow will mask t. Oh, well. Consider it a picture of me raw and uncensored.
   Back in the days right after my retina detached permanently in spring 2004, I wore a patch over it. Considering I was simultaneously dealing with a ruptured and Team Chavis, you can imagine my emotional was not good. The patch was a bit of a crutch. At least I did not have to look at y eye in the mirror. No one else could see it, either. As tie passed, I dumped the patch and just accepted how it looked.
   Every now and then, I get the whim to resume wearing a patch for vanity's sake. Or at leaat darken the right lens. The mood always passe. Usually it is because the patch might make people's imaginations picture a scene even more horrific than reality. Such would be self-defeating. Nevertheless, I am coming up on the notion again. It will probably pass as it always has, but you never know. I might go full Nick fury this time.

The Significance of the Resurrection

We Christians celebrate the Resurrection every day, but it is good to recognize Easter Sunday for the holy day it is.  The resurrection was the most important event in history.  This is for a number of theological reasons.

First, the Resurrection proved Jesus was the Messiah:
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah]" (Acts 2:36)
Second, the resurrection proves his sacrifice on our behalf was accepted:
"Delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (I Corinthians 15:17).
Third, the Resurrection made being born again possible:
"We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3)
Fourth, the Resurrection brought about continued intercession:
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Finally, the Resurrection makes our resurrection possible:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (I Corinthians 15:20-21).
I spend a lot of time here recalling experiences with unsavory Christians in the past and not nearly enough exalting the good I have experienced in it.  Sometimes it is hard to keep sight of one’s blessings.  Easter Sunday is a time to count yours

Have a Blessed Easter

     I hope everyone enjoys a blessed Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Easter Bunny Opened the Wrong Egg

     I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit.  It's the

only way to be sure.

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    United Airline's Outrageous Actions

          If nothing else, you have seen the social media flare up surrounding Dr. David Dao being violently removed from a Untied Arline plane by Chicago cops. The details make the incident even wore. United overbooked the flight fro Chicago to Louisville. Four passengers needed to give up their seats for airline employees to fly. Dao refused to give up his eat because he had patients to see in Kentucky. United called on police to forcibly remove Dao. The cops gave him a vicious beating in the process of removing Dao from the plane. But another passenger recorded the incident. The recording ha now gone viral. Now United has both a public relations disaster and a personal injury suit on its hands.
         Why is the practice of overbooking allowed? The rationale for selling more seats than capacity is because some passengers cancel or do not show up. But many times every passenger does show up. Those who cannot use the ticket they paid for must be compensated to make up for missing out on the their flight. This assumes they agree to forgo their flight. On Dao's flight, they did not. The overbooked passengers were put to a random lottery to see who could not fly. Doo was chosen, but still refused to give up his right to fly. Selling more of a product than you have available to sell sounds unethical. At least if overbooking is going to happen, passengers' need for travel out to be prioritized. A doctor treating patients or a man traveling to a family member's funeral should take priority over two guys on a fishing trip, for instance. If some passengers cannot fly because the airline overbooked, deciding who cannot fly should not arbitrary.
          The other big question is why are police officers beating and dragging a passenger off the plane? Dao paid for a ticket t fly. He has a legal right to be on the plane. Those cops should have been defending his rights. Instead, they are acting like United's enforcers. I use the term enforcers deliberately. They were unethical brutal in beating Dao down at the behest of United. The cops have been placed on leave. They should have been fired. Depending on who or what entities are co-defendants in the inevitable lawsuit, they probably will be.
          Even though I have a legal background, I generally detest our litigious society. Too many people are unwilling to tolerate the rough edges of life because they can sense of way of making many off suing over their inconvenience. However, there are times when something occurs that is so outrageous, those responsible need to pay. Dao's treatment is one of those times. There is no way of estimating the sum total of his compensatory and punitive damages, but I hope he takes Untied to the cleaners.

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    The Left-Right Ideological Paradigm is Useless

        The left-right political paradigm is pretty much useless thee days as a classification for one's political ideology. Politics has been drifting away from the paradigm for a while with the decline of the major two parties at the expense of rising political independents who no longer wish too associate with either party's allegiance to its respective sie of the left-right spectrum. But now we have reached the point at which not only are both sides of the left-right spectrum are engaged in civil wars, they have in large part switched historical roles.
          The concept of the left-right paradigm dates back to the French Revolution. The national Assembly seated its members based on their loyalty. Members on the rght supported the king. Members on the left were supporters of the revolution. The right represented order. The left represented egalitarianism. Time and culture have shifted the paradigm over the centuries, but the generalizations have been valid.
          It is interesting what the reality I now, in the United States at least. Republicans ran an outsider candidate to send the establishment a message. He won the White House with the help of the so called alt-right, which appears to be a lot of libertarian nationalists who convinced blue collar workers to vote for him. In response, the left took to the streets to protest the old order losing power. The neoconservatives, who have sat on both sides of the spectrum, are waiting t o influence whoever I in change. They are who people are talking about when they talk about the deep state.
          Ideological purity is obviously a thing of the past. No one can quite define what they want or how they should go about making it come about. In terns of political science observation, it is fascinating to watch. In terms of our country's future, the cynical nihilism is alarming.

    Sunday, April 9, 2017

    Weighty Matters

          I have gained seven pound in the five weeks since adding three a day to my diet. Since the intention of supplemental nutrition drinks was to maintain my current weight with the possibility of adding a few pounds, the results are a pleasant surprise. Wit my metabolism, it is nearly impossible to boost my weight no matter how much I eat. High caloric drinks appear to be the solution.
          Hopefully, I will not hit a wall anytime soon. It took a lot of time to get to my heaviest weight of 122 lbs and that was with a feeding tube. So I am keeping my fingers crossed the natural way works just as well. There is no need to fret. I a not at risk of needing a feeding tube again. I was deathly ill at 68 lbs at the tie. The new diet is a plan of self-improvement that I going surprisingly well.
          I will continue to keep tabs on the progress as long as it lats. It would be great if I can eventually surpass 112 lbs. The general consensus is 120 lbs is somewhere close to my ideal weight. Dare I aspire to hit that high mark? I do not know, but if anyone wooed like to donate some fat, I will take it.

    Saturday, April 8, 2017

    The YouTube Vlogger Meltdown Continues

       We are about two weeks into YoTube changing its algorithm to root out controversial content, and the crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth spectacle rolls on. The corporate channels are okay. The folks who post funny cat videos and make up tutorials are not having any problems, either. But the pain coming from the vloggers who wax poetic on politics and religion are making video after video lamenting their collapsing ad revenue and shilling for their Patreon accounts.
          Do not misunderstand my snark towards vloggers. I spend most of my YouTube viewing on my favorites. I am a vlogger myself even though my channel has not yet become a source for discussion of serious issues as I want t to be. The thing is I have no intentions of monetizing. It is an incredibly silly idea to ask for money in exchange for in exchange for blathering on about your opinions. It is especially odd when you are just Joe Schmo sitting in your pajamas critiquing Donald Trump's healthcare reform plan in front of your web cam. Those vlogers who have been around since the early days of YouTube made videos for years without making a dime. Now many of them are pleading poverty and threatening to quit if their audience does not make up the difference.
         Which is where Patreon comes in. it is an online tip jar that allows users to pay a monthly or one time fee of their choosing to a vlogger's account. People are actually doing this. I am not blasting the practice. People can pend their money any way they want. I am a P. T. Barnum cynic on the matter. If someone is willing to fork over cash to hear a nobody's opinion on the issues, then the vlogger ha every right to take it. The whole concept I still bemusing.
          The group of vloggers most bemusing is the skeptic community. They make tons of video attacking religion, then beg their audiences for money. In other words, fleecing the faithless for donation just like the televangelists they despise. Heh. It is difficult not to be cynical these days. No one really seems to believe the narrative they are pushing.

    Friday, April 7, 2017

    The Consequences of the Airstrike on Syria

          The United States launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the al-Shayrat airbase in Syria in retaliation for Bashar al Assad's chemical weapons attack on civilians April 4. It was obviously a controversial move with both domestic and international political communities. It is too early to pose any reasonable speculation on the long term effects, but here are one short term observations.
          Although the cruise missile attack was the first direct assault on Assad’s forces, it does not mean inevitable war with Syria. I cones wariness of the about face regarding regime change by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson which come less than a week after saying regime change in Syria is off the table. Toppling secular regimes in the Middle East has proven disastrous as radical Islamist tend to seize power. Donald Trump campaigned against further nation building adventures in the Middle East, and my fingers are crossed he keeps his commitment to putting America first.
          Neither is the military strike the beginning of World War III. While Syria is an ally of Russia and there were Russian personnel at al Sayrat, Russia was given a heads up the attack was coming in order to get their forces out. The early warning also means the Syrians were given a heads up by proxy. The missile attack was a show of force to send a message, not to provoke a war. Russia knows this and is playing the game by sending a warship to Syria's coast. It is a game, but it I a dangerous game. A mistake can be costly, but no one will deliberately escalate the Syria issue to a conflict between Russia and the United States. The bottom line is if Russia wanted war with the United States, it would seize the Baltics and fight us in Europe. They have not made a move there, so the Russians definitely are not going to make a provocative move in Syria.
       I mentioned above my concerns about Trump spending time and resources on an international endeavor he campaigned against. Remember Hillary Clinton wanted to enforce a no fly zone over Syria. We probably would be on the road to war with her as president. Clinton was deeply entrenched with the deep state that really makes foreign policy. They favor globalism and may now have trump's ear. At least many of Trump's media supporters think so, as they have been denouncing the missile strike from the moment it happened. I am not lost much enthusiasm for trump yet, but I hope he will resume his focus on domestic issues and not get bogged down in 'saving the world.”

    Neil Gorsuch Confirmed to the Supreme Court

         Republicans were forced to push the button for the nuclear option, but Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as the 113th Justice of the United States Supreme Court this afternoon. The vote to confirm fell on heavily, though not total, party lines at 54-45. the odds Gorsuch could have reached the usual sixty votes needed to confirm are slim due far more to partisan bickering than Gorsuch's judicial skills. In a ore civil political climate, a jurist of his caliber would have been easily confirmed.
          Gorsuch's confirmation ends a year long Constitutional conflict over the president's power to appoint a candidate for the Supreme Court with the advice and consent of the Senate. After Anonin Scalia's surprising death last year, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland. The Republican controlled senate refused to engage the confirmation process with he argument a president ought not make an appointment during an election year. The real issue was the ideological balance of the Court. Conservatives wanted a conservative to replace the one who passed away. Liberals, incensed Garland was successfully blocked, were going to do the same for Gorsuch.
         I opted to remain silent on Garland's treatment because I am an originalist and want someone of similar judicial philosophy on the Supreme Court. I am especially adamant bout this when it comes to maintaining the current balance. Scaia was an originalist. Garland is more inclined to take the idea the Constitution s a living breathing document. That said, it most likely was proper for Obama to name a nominee and Garland probably should have gotten a confirmation hearing. You see my dilemma. My solution was to avoid contending on the issue.
          I am happy Gorsuch was confirmed, but wary of the consequences of how it all went down. It is highly likely the next vacancy on the Supreme Court will be by one of the liberal justices. The vacancy is also likely to occur while Trump is president. There I a brutal conflict potentially brewing in which a Republican president is going to nominate a conservative to replace a liberal justice. Considering how nasty the Gorsuch confirmation process was without the ideological balance of the Supreme Court affected, the next time around will be all out war.

    Tuesday, April 4, 2017

    Kendall Jenner and Pepsi Save the World

        The video above is the Pepsi advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner taken out of circulation after negative reaction. It is not particularly offensive to anything ecept your intelligence. The add features Jenner watching an ambiguous protest going on when she decides to intervene by handing a riot police officer a Pepsi. Because of her actions, the police and officers and protesters begin hugging.
        Pepsi blew this one big time. The company went full Social Justice Warrior. Never go Full Social Justice Warrior. But they managed to alienated the Social Justice Warriors by patronizing their various causes. It just gives the rest of us a reason to laugh. Neither group feels any more compelled to buy Pepsi than before. Some may be less inclined. We are all a little sick of Social Justice Warriors.
         I find it amusing as well, considering YouTube's current meltdown over pleasing advertisers' concerns over offending consumers, the commercial I on YouTube when it is supposedly taken out of circulation. It has over six million views right now, too. It has and will continue to earn a nice chunk of advertising cash for someone.