“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” ― Mary Harris (Mother) Jones

Archive for April, 2016

I’m tired

I’m tired of hearing that poor people wouldn’t be poor if they’d just work harder.

I’m tired of knowing millions of people are one serious accident or illness away from bankruptcy.

I’m tired of people telling me rich people with more money than God shouldn’t have their taxes increased because they worked hard for money most of them inherited. And then used the inherited money to make more money.

I’m tired of wondering whether my grandchildren will have a world left by the time they’re grown.

I’m tired of seeing black and brown children cheated out of a quality education so hedge-fund managers and billionaires can make millions in the name of “school choice.” I’m tired of seeing children turn from eager-to-learn to overstressed, school-hating zombies because people who know nothing about education have declared themselves experts in the subject.

I’m tired of watching people who haven’t suffered a day in their lives turn their backs on men, women and children who barely escaped some war zone with their lives. I’m even more tired of war zones cropping up like poisonous toadstools.

I’m tired of those who are supposed to provide me with the truth instead being used to brainwash people into being terrified so the powerful can destroy their rights in the name of protection from an amorphous threat dressed in racist clothing.

I’m tired of being told I shouldn’t complain because there are people in other countries who don’t have all my advantages when there are people of color in my own country who lack those advantages simply because my complexion is paler.

I’m tired of hearing from people who are so insecure about their own sexuality they can’t stand it when someone is different. Seriously—what other reason can there be for having the arrogance to define who people have to be?

I’m tired of having to fight against power-hungry people who try to pit one generation against another as a way of keeping their power. I’m also tired of those  who let them do it.

I’m tired of hearing that yet more and deadlier weapons have been sent to further US policy while in those same areas people are dying for lack of food and medicine.

Mostly, though, I’m tired of seeing people who seem to have forgotten how to dream, who have surrendered all hope of anything getting better because “they” are running things. “They” is just a pronoun. We can be “they,” if we have the courage and the commitment and the willingness to say “I’ve had enough of being tired. The only thing your way has accomplished is to make people feel helpless and frightened and ready to take what crumbs you let fall from your table.”

There are more of us than there are of them, and the secret they don’t want you to know is that they are the ones who are frightened. They’re frightened we’ll discover they aren’t invulnerable. They’re frightened we’ll gather up that courage and commitment and willingness and use it against their schemes and their propaganda and their arrogance.

I say we go for it.

Review: Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann

1Revjumpcut-copy-2I have to apologize to Libby again. I’m in a group she started that gets dibs on her new stuff so we can write and post reviews as soon as the book or novella or whatever comes out.

So, back in January or February I downloaded a copy of Jump Cut, the new Ellie Foreman novel due out around the first of March, and started to read it with the best intentions of meeting my deadline.

Didn’t happen.

So, here, finally, is my review of Jump Cut, and I swear, Libby, I’ll try to do better. Honest.

I find it hard to like Ellie sometimes. I gather I share that with her friends—even though they love her, I get the feeling that sometimes, like me, they want to grab her and shake her and tell her to for heaven’s sake pay attention. Because every time she gets in trouble, it seems, it’s because she dives headlong into a situation before she’s really thought it through.

Case in point: a PR video commissioned by a major tech corporation that manufactures military hardware. Only when Ellie takes her B roll to a board meeting, the company cancels the production flat, without a word of explanation. Which was their mistake, because Ellie has ‘satiable curiosity when she doesn’t know why, and this time her effort to get an answer turns deadly.

This is only the second Ellie Foreman book I’ve read, although I have the boxed set sitting on the electronic TBR shelf. Since I’m very much a character-oriented reader, it both frustrates and delights me that I can so easily get emotionally involved with her, as previously noted. You know how people watching sports on TV are always shouting at the players and the coaches and whatnot? It’s all I can do to restrain myself from doing that with Ellie.

And given the complex mess Ms. Hellmann has concocted for her this time around, there are many, many times when that happens. Indeed, the mystery of why that little PR piece was cancelled evolves into a labyrinthine enigma I can’t even really talk about without spoilers. That, to me, is the quintessential sign of a superb mystery novel. Every time you turn around, something else is gumming up the works and knotting the yarn until you can’t put the book down without getting a case of the twitches wanting to know what happens next.

So, long review short, if you want a terrific story with a mostly unwitting sleuth whom you’ll probably end up, as I do, wanting to invite over for a beverage and a stern chat about the wisdom of occasionally not diving into the dark head first, do pick up a copy of Libby Fischer Hellmann’s new Ellie Foreman novel.

How to analyze the news, Pt. 1

There’s allegedly an old rule among professional journalists about facts. It goes like this: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

In the last half-century, it has become increasingly obvious that fact-checking is no longer considered necessary, even—or perhaps most especially in—the mainstream corporate media. Instead, “news” stories are composed in such a way that vital information is buried at the bottom, or the opinions of non-professionals are offered as “balance” for statements made by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

In one newsroom where I worked, it was standard policy that any reporter who had broad background and/or personal experience on a subject was automatically eliminated from being allowed to cover it. Oh, there were exceptions, which is what made the other examples so flagrant. Even then—and this was more than twenty years ago—a reporter known for doing excellent work was not just permitted but encouraged to write up an interview with an individual who had a personal axe to grind without any balance from the people he was criticizing.

This leads me to my first recommendation if you’re going to rely mostly on the mainstream media (MSM) for your information on what’s happening:

  1. Any news story regarding a subject that requires special knowledge—science, medicine, education, economics—that does not contain at least one contradictory voice from a professional source can be assumed to have that knowledge is slanted.
  2. The corollary to this is that any alleged “fact” on a subject requiring specialized knowledge that doesn’t come from someone possessing that knowledge is an opinion, not a fact, unless it’s supported by verifiable citations for the source of the information.

To put that another way, if I publish an article that says the moon is made of green cheese, that’s not a fact. It’s my opinion, because I’m not an astronomer or a lunologist. If, however, I say the moon is made of green cheese, and include in my article numerous links or references to information provided by astronomers and lunologists, the chance what I’m saying is true is greater.

However, it may also be that all those are not scientific sources. So, step two is to verify that my sources are, in fact, actual astronomers and lunologists. Step three is to then search to see if there is contradictory information, and whether the contradictory information outweighs what I claimed to be factual.

One of the best-known cases where “scientific” evidence has resulted in disastrous results is the anti-vaxxer movement. Most of those who adhere to it still base their belief vaccines are dangerous on a “study” that has not only been shown utterly without merit but resulted in the physican who wrote it having his license revoked. So pervasive has the fiction that childhood vaccines cause autism become it’s now more a religious tenet than anything else.

And then there are the X% of US residents who are firmly convinced Saddam Hussein had chemical and other weapons of mass destruction and was on the way to developing nuclear capability.

Those are just two examples. My goal with this series is to address the many, many ways the MSM is being used to manipulate the people who read the news and/or watch it on TV. While Fox News will likely come into the discussion, their position as a right-wing propaganda organization is so well established as to be a non-issue.

Meantime, when it comes to the news, the best advice is Fox Muldar’s: Trust No One. Not even me. And if your mother says she loves you…

THE PROPAGANDA WAR ON BERNIE SANDERS

So, now that Bernie Sanders has shown he not only can obtain the Democratic nomination but has a very good chance of doing so, the mainstream media that learned much too late that ignoring him wouldn’t keep his message from spreading has turned to undermining his integrity.
 
A headline in this morning’s Boston Globe reads: “A dark turn for the Sanders campaign.” Based on that, and the first few paragraphs, the implication is that Sen. Sanders has reneged on his promise not to engage in a negative campaign but to focus on the issues. Given that 40% of readers never go beyond the first three paragraphs of a story, it’s easy to see how those who fall into that category are going to be misled.
 
However, further down in this piece of Clinton campaign propaganda we read this:
 
“Sanders is increasingly embracing the tactics he once decried. Rather than trying to unify the Democratic Party behind its almost certain nominee, Hillary Clinton, he is ramping up the attacks against her. While once Sanders refused even to mention Clinton’s name, now he doesn’t go a day without hitting her.
 
“And the focus of his attacks is always the same — that she is too close to Wall Street, that she has flip-flopped on trade, and that she was wrong on the Iraq War.”
 
In other words, the first complaint is that instead of acting as though he’s given up and telling everyone they really should vote for Ms. Clinton because she’s going to win anyway. This is followed by a complaint that Sen. Sanders is…accusing her of doing what she did. And is doing. Because everything in that “oh, heavens, how rude” list is just that.
 
Sen. Sanders is running first and foremost on his honesty and integrity. It’s therefore a given the mainstream media, who have made clear from the beginning of the primary campaigns they will support Ms. Clinton in any way they can, are going to find ways to attack him on that basis. It’s likely safe to assume his campaign people—and he—know that and are prepared for it. Nevertheless, that the Globe chose to run this misleading piece of glaring propaganda as Ms. Clinton’s lead in the polls in the upcoming primary states is dropping like a boulder is the real “dark turn,” and smacks of the kind of unethical excuse for journalism we’ve come to expect from the mainstream.
 
Let’s be clear. It is not “negative campaigning” to attack one’s opponent’s record. It is not “negative campaigning” to point out where one’s opponent is obtaining the funds he or she is using to finance their campaign. Anyone who believes otherwise wants to believe it, because they’re so convinced they know the truth anything that contradicts it is a lie. There’s a word for that: religion. And religion has no place in politics.