Social media redux
A few months ago I posted about social media and how its landscape is changing in the wake of Elon Musk's Twitter fiasco. I'd signed up at Hive at that point, looking for a Twitter alternative, but I didn't stick with it and, frankly, it has a severe limitation in that it doesn't have a desktop version, it's phones only. It also was going through the expected growing pains of lag time and function misfires and such, and maybe it's better now, I don't know. Because I don't check it.
I don't check my other platforms either, not often. I still waste tons of time looking at my phone, of course, but it's shifted from Twitter and Facebook to SimCity and sudoku.
But now there's Spoutible.
I got interested in this new platform after listening to an interview with its creator, Christopher Bouzy, on Bob Cesca's podcast. I signed up there and have found it to be just as Bob said it was: "Twitter without the fuckery." I'll be checking in there more often, I think. It needs to build its user base, of course. Social media only works when people post things and right now my feed is "spouts" from just a few people. Hopefully by the time baseball season gets here—and that's when I generally use such things more frequently—there will be more folks to interact with.
Anyway, if you like/liked Twitter, check it out. I'd like for it to succeed.1 Comment
Class is in Session With Professor John Oliver
Everyone watch this. That is all.
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I was on a Zoom call yesterday with members of my softball team, just shooting the breeze about whatever, you know, trivialities and silliness, but near the end of the hour-plus we were talking, we inevitably got to discussing the current state of chaos outside our windows and in the country generally.
I remarked that I was feeling a greater level of anxiety than ever, an unprecedented-for-me nervous anticipation of disaster, and one of my teammates asked me what, specifically, I was anxious about. I found it to be a tougher question to answer with any eloquence than it really should have been. I suppose that's partly due to the anxiety itself, flummoxing my search for appropriate words. And part of my lack of eloquence may have stemmed from a stunned reaction to the question. Wasn't the source of my anxiety self-evident? Weren't the disasters I was afraid of obvious?
Well, maybe not. I'm more immersed in news and current events than a lot of folks, and I'm older than some of my teammates on the call. My politics might be different than theirs, which wouldn't matter in years past, but today means I get information that other people aren't necessarily exposed to. So maybe I need to try again, to better articulate my anxiety. I'll give it a go.
What is happening in this country today, this week, this month, this year—pandemic, racism and police brutality, an impeached president that got away with his crime, all of it—is fucking insane and plenty enough cause for alarm, but most of my anxiety comes from the government response to all of that. Mayors and governors are gaslighting their constituents about the police brutality perpetrated in response to protests over police brutality. The president of the United States is demonstrating his unabashed fascism without any real pushback from within the administration. These are extremely upsetting developments and there is absolutely zero reason to assume they will fade away on their own. Locally, things seem to be calming with some real communication happening between protesters and the mayor of Seattle, and our governor is plenty sane. But the nation's government is on the verge of becoming an enemy force, of we the people and of the states and cities, and that freaks me out.
That sounds like a hyperbolic statement. It isn't. Donald Trump is a literal fascist. Even if everything he has said and done prior to this hasn't bothered you, just look at what he has done in the last two or three days. He has an unidentified and therefore unaccountable paramilitary force patrolling Washington, DC. He has ordered police and military to assault Americans for no reason beyond his convenience. He has threatened the nation's governors with military invasion if they don't start cracking heads. He has had fencing erected not just around the White House, but around public grounds near the White House to fortify it against American citizens that have the temerity to dislike him and say so, in ways expressly permitted in the U.S. Constitution. He has indicated that he considers protests of American citizens against racism and police brutality to be insurrection against the United States government. He has said so by threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act, which he thinks would allow him to mobilize the American military as his own personal gestapo.
Perhaps more importantly, he has people supporting him that appear to be completely on board with his fascism. Not just the MAGA redhat idiots that are fast becoming a new KKK, but the Attorney General of the United States, the Senate Majority Leader and scores of House and Senate Republicans, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, many if not all of the other members of the Cabinet. (Yes, Defense Secretary Esper went on TV to say he didn't support Trump's threat to use the military on Americans, but hours later he caved to pressure and got back in line behind fascism.) The United States is threatened today as it never has been before, and that is because elected (more or less) leaders are betraying their oaths to respect, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States on a daily basis.
If not for these betrayals, if not for these people who value personal power and oppression over the Bill of Rights, if not for these so-called leaders shrugging their shoulders when abuses are committed over and over and over again, Donald Trump would have been removed already. By invocation of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or by conviction in the impeachment trial. He'd be gone. Even if you choose to ignore everything that came before in these 3½ years, the actions taken in the last 48 hours would be enough for a truly American cabinet to remove this president right now.
The fact that this president remains president, the fact that Mitch McConnell and the McConnell Minions refuse to do anything to constrain him, sets the tone for leaders in other offices. The governor of Texas "jokes" about shooting journalists. Senator Chuck Grassley says "it's OK" to use police force to clear peaceful protesters from a park if a small fraction of them could be a "potential problem." Senator Marco Rubio called the protesters in Washington, DC, "professional agitators." Even Democratic officials are taking cues from the White House—Andrew Cuomo and Bill DeBlasio, both Democrats, are today defending the New York police department and claiming they don't brutalize people despite the evidence of our own eyes and ears. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti praised the LAPD this week and downplayed the brutality perpetrated by that same LAPD. It's all fine. Keep on with the thing that has people outraged and demonstrating in the streets in the first place. We can lie to the public and say nothing bad is happening; after all, that's what the president does.
Maybe younger folks are inured to this. Maybe people whose formative years coincided with 9/11 and the reaction thereof don't have the same sense of shock and outrage and fear because some level of lawless and un-American behavior from national leaders seems normal. It's not. The Bush years, bad as they were—and they were very, very bad, as bad as a lot of us thought this country would or even could ever get in terms of presidential leadership—were a scratch in comparison to the gaping, infected wound the Trump Administration has inflicted on the entire world. Horrible as he was, George W. Bush never wanted to be a fascist dictator. And in the Obama years, Mitch McConnell stoked an opposition party and screw-you-all policies that fed the same kind of authoritarian, trample-the-Constitution ideology that Trump now personifies.
So maybe this seems like more of the same and nothing to freak out about, because isn't this the way things just are?
No. Not by a long shot.
For anyone not sufficiently convinced that we're in a dire and critical juncture of history here, I recommend listening to or reading the transcription of this interview from the podcast Deconstructed. It's published by The Intercept, which counts among its staff people I do not consider to be reputable journalists (looking at you, Glenn Greenwald), but Deconstructed host Mehdi Hasan is not Greenwald, and the content of this individual report is bang-on.No Comments yet
Reform the Police
Why do we have police?
Seriously. I'm asking. Because right now it looks like they're part of the problem.
This weekend's protests against the kind of casual police violence and brutal behavior that we've all become somehow accustomed to were hijacked. By anarchists, by agitator plants, by right-wing chaos agents, by people who just look for any excuse to break stuff and loot. But also by the police.
Thank god for pocket cameras and the internet. Those technological marvels allowed us to see and hear so many examples of police departments doubling down on the offenses that prompted people to protest them in the first place. Police firing gas and projectiles at bystanders, some while standing on their own front porch. Police shoving, kicking, and bludgeoning protesters. Police using their vehicles and horses to assault people. Police pepper-spraying people, targeting reporters with tear gas, and generally behaving like government-sanctioned thugs.
The reports from some towns where police joined the protests are heartening, I don't want to overlook those. But even here, in my city of Seattle that has what is supposed to be one of the more enlightened police forces among large American cities, the cops were out last night to "restore order" and in so doing escalated things to violence and pepper-sprayed and manhandled crowds indiscriminately, with more unprovoked violence today.
Seattle cop pretends to try and pass a protestor on his bike and runs into him from behind - then puts the protestor in a headlock. #Protests2020— McAuley (@McAuleyATL) June 1, 2020
Last night I watched Seattle police officers victimize and brutalize countless peaceful protesters. With my own eyes. I stood toe to toe with the officers who I have likely walked past in the precinct. Toe to toe people who likely work under my own father.— white silence=white violence (@GlenCoco626) May 31, 2020
So I ask again, why do we have police? What's their purpose? What should be their purpose?
Obviously, we need some sort of public safety agency. We are, in theory anyway, a culture based upon law and a social contract that requires those laws to be enforced somehow. Those laws are sometimes flawed—horribly so in too many cases—but makeup and details of the laws in general are a different matter than how the police operate. If the police are simply there to enforce the laws, then why are they permitted to break said laws?
I'm a straight white guy that has never had any sort of serious run-in with the police. When I got pulled over by traffic cop for the ridiculous offense of driving below the speed limit on an empty freeway late at night, I didn't fear for my safety. I have never even been in the vicinity when a cop has drawn a weapon. My personal experiences are not difficult in this manner. Nevertheless, I no longer trust the police even to the degree I did before this week, which was not as much as you might think, because I have to be suspicious of their tendency to use violence as a first resort in any given circumstance.
This was in Seattle, his partner had to physically move the knee off the guys neck #riots2020 #GeorgeFloydProtests pic.twitter.com/7zd94oZpqd— mexicant (@coggs__) May 31, 2020
The history of how police forces came to be is not pretty. Police forces were formed to shield the wealthy from the rabble, to be a power arm of slaveholders, to be protectors of property. Theoretically, the rationale for police has evolved over time to "protect and serve" the public interest generally, to be agents of the law in broader terms as a way to keep people safe as well as to prevent theft and vandalism and the like. Yet, what we saw last night, what has happened many times before during civil unrest—this is, after all, the anniversary of the Tulsa massacre—was police forces in cities across the nation violently and indiscriminately clearing streets and otherwise wreaking their own havoc to protect property. Few if any police appeared to be doing anything to protect people, to promote public safety, to even apprehend criminals.
"But the police needed to restore order!" you might say. Well, (a) that regular order includes the sort of thing that prompted the protests in the first place, so there's that; (b) was that really the way to clam things down, by escalating to the point of chaos?
I get it, things can get a little crazy when the looters and vandals get involved. Those agitators used the protest crowds as cover for their criminality. But that wasn't the sequence of events in some cases, in some cases the police were the cause of craziness, provoking the start of something where those looters and vandals could have the cover they needed. Once that sort of chaos is happening, I don't know what alternative I'd suggest for handling it. But let's not actually create the chaos first, OK?
Police culture is steeped in violence. Police are trained to assume any interaction with a civilian can become deadly. Nuance is not a concern. Perhaps more importantly, police are likewise trained to revere and protect each other regardless of circumstance. Just look at the scene in Minneapolis that sparked this mess: One officer did the actual murdering of George Floyd, several others aided and abetted, and one looked on without taking any action. One might assume that the onlooker wasn't on board with murdering Mr. Floyd, but did he act to stop or in any way oppose his fellow policeman's behavior? Why not? If he witnessed a civilian doing anything remotely like that he would likely have been all over it, but this was a fellow cop, so he did nothing. (Yes, that's a supposition, I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt when he may have, in fact, been just as cruel and indifferent to snuffing out a black person's life.)
The purpose of the police force needs to be clarified. The tactics of the police force need to be focused away from the "force" part. The people that join the police need to be vetted to a far greater degree. And the police need to be policed, and a reformed police culture should welcome such oversight instead of resent it. Cops are not above the law. Individual cops who are out there making things worse for everyone should not be cops, and decent cops should be all in favor of weeding the bad cops out and keeping violent white-supremacist types and power-drunk asshats from becoming cops in the first place.
My reaction when seeing a police officer in even the most routine of circumstances is not reassurance or safety, it's apprehension and suspicion. I'm less apprehensive if the officer is black, but not a lot. Because I know police are violent. I know they will assume even the most trivial interaction can be a reason to use force. I know they are armed with lethal weaponry, and even if they opt for a taser instead of a pistol—not harmless, incidentally—they can be assumed to "subdue first, ask questions later."
The police need to change. Society needs to change them.No Comments yet
I went out today. I was responsible about it, I didn't interact with people. I went for a lengthy walk around the neighborhood and then made a stop at Fred Meyer for a few groceries. Then I had a brief exchange with a neighbor before returning to the safety of the indoors.
I overheard some stuff at Fred Meyer (where all the employees were wearing cheap plastic gloves and maybe 10% of the customers were wearing surgical masks) that revealed the frustrations people are having with this crisis time—and they're all about the inconvenience of it. My neighbor had similar attitudes. I very much hope these people are outliers, but I think they're not. I think too many people are being stubborn and/or ignorant—willfully or otherwise—to reality.
The general gist of these comments was:
- This is being blown way out of proportion
- It's all fine, we're overreacting, it's not like it's a zombie apocalypse
- My health is good, I always get better if I'm sick, so I don't much care if I get the virus
- My friend has been isolating for two weeks, so it's OK to go see her now
- I'm so pissed X was canceled for no good reason
The governor announced a stay-home edict today. He resisted it for a while, but people were just being too stupid.
I get that it's frustrating. Especially for the more extroverted of y'all. Staying home all the time is hard, especially if your home is small. But apparently we need to go over some things.
- Do not listen to the President. He's a moron. He cares about big business, the stock market, and making money for himself, and everything he says and does is to further that interest. He doesn't give a shit about you. More importantly, he has no idea what he's talking about and is misinforming people about "15-day periods" and drug therapies and basically everything else to do with this.
- We aren't overreacting; if anything, we are underreacting. It may not be a zombie apocalypse, but you know zombies are a metaphor for, um, pandemics, right? This is a Coronavirus that nobody has an immunity to. It is not like the flu, which many people have a level of immunity to. In order to change its danger level, one of two things needs to happen: People get immunity or people stop spreading it. For people to get immunity, they either need a vaccine (doesn't yet exist, won't for at least 18 months at best) or they need to be exposed to it, get sick, and recover. As we've seen in stark terms, a lot of people who get sick aren't going to recover, so that seems like a bad strategy.
- That leaves stop spreading it, and since our government screwed the pooch on this when there was opportunity to prepare, we have essentially no testing capacity to determine who has it and who doesn't among the general populace. This bug can infect you and essentially lay dormant for two weeks before symptoms manifest. It's generally another week-plus before you'd be sick enough to need medical attention if you're among those that would need it. So there's a large span of time when you would unknowingly be shedding virus as a carrier, and transmission doesn't have to be direct—you can leave the virus on objects, where depending on the type of surface, it can live for many days. So yeah, you can give it to someone by shaking hands, but you can also give it to someone by, say, pumping gas in an otherwise empty gas station and the next day another person uses that same pump then absentmindedly scratches his nose. You can give it to someone by paying for something; you shed it on your money then the money changes hands. You leave it on the buttons of an ATM, the next person to use the ATM picks it up.
- You might be healthy and recover find if you get the virus, but you can pass it to someone else who isn't and doesn't.
- Isolating for two weeks means the person isolating is letting enough time pass in order for his/her own potential symptoms to manifest. If you isolate for two weeks/15 days/whatever similar period, it's to protect other people from you, it does absolutely nothing to prevent you from catching the virus from others once you're done isolating. So to that woman at Fred Meyer today that thought it would be safe for her friend to get visits now: you had it backwards. She probably won't infect you because she'd been isolating; you can still infect her because you weren't.
- I'm upset that stuff got canceled too. I was supposed to do my season ticket draft tonight, but now we don't know if there's even going to be a baseball season, and yeah, that sucks. But it would suck more to have 35,000 potential disease carriers get together at the ballpark. Or even 100 carriers with 34,900 "normals," 'cause then 300-900 or so people would leave infected and infect more people and infect more people... exponential math might sound complicated, but it's really not.
Unless you've truly been a hermit for two to three weeks with zero interaction with the outside world, you don't know if you've got the bug. Probably not, just based on laws of numbers, but you don't know. I could have picked it up off my shopping cart at Freddy's today, or from the checkout machine (staffed checkout lines were few and long and I didn't want to be in a line of people, some of whom had surgical masks on), or from a passerby in the salsa aisle. I washed my hands when I got home, but still.
Take this seriously. Heed the new rules. Listen to your local officials.
Not the President, though. He and his people will gladly kill you in order to pump up their stock portfolios.