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Category: Current Events (Page 1 of 9)

Stuff that’s pop-tastic, pop-o-licious, and currently playing on FoxNews

Vaccine Spam and Bad Actors

If anyone has any doubt about the veracity of these anti-vaccine conspiracies going around, I can assure you they are pure unadulterated lies. These are not well meaning, but misinformed, people who really believe these things and just “want to help.” These are malevolent forces, bad actors actively trying to sow discord in the US. Probably other places as well, but I can tell you definitively about what I see in the US.

My day to day job is running communications and web infrastructure for a wide variety of clients – email, web, messaging. This means that I am privy to the attacks that happen, the attempts to sell pharmaceuticals, scam you out of bitcoin, steal money, phish identities – you name it, I’ve seen it for going on 25 years now.

Currently, there is a concerted effort to undermine people’s faith in government, public health, and society. I will share one example here in image form, because I do not want to give it any visibility to search engines.

excerpt of the body of a website comment form spam

The rest of the body contains various links to a google drive account with hundreds of meme-ready images to share on social media professing to the myth that the Covid-19 vaccines somehow shed live viruses to other people, something called vaccine shedding. If you want a quick history of this and to see if there is any truth at all, read the wikipedia article.

In short, there are no modern live virus vaccines in use. So virus shedding is not a thing, okay? It was only partially a thing with the oral version of the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Why are they posting this stuff, you might ask. Why work so hard to hunt down and post contact form, email, website spam?

Why would someone anyone do this?

Let me be clear, these are not concerned citizens “trying to get the word out.” These people, organizations, state actors are paid to spread this misinformation. Based on the webserver logs, I show that between 50% and 85% of all traffic to websites that I host and maintain is coming from China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Belarus.

There is no content I host that would interest any individuals in those places. The only interesting bit to them is that these sites are hosted using WordPress, the single most popular content management software in the world. It’s popular and predictable, so it draws in bad actors trying to foment discord and steal money.

This the reason that captchas exist, folks, in addition to all the behind the scenes stuff – mitigation techniques that attempt to weed out automated spam posts. Sometimes, however, it’s just people being paid to post stuff.

And someone is getting paid to do this.

If you are disposed to believe these sorts of posts, please understand that these people are not your friends. They are not aligned with you politically or spiritually. They are manipulating you for nefarious ends. They are attempting to undermine your faith in the rule of law, public health, science. What they gain is a divided country, hobbled both politically and economically.

But I Thought it was Trump’s Vaccine

So here’s another thing I don’t understand. Vaccine hesitant people – I see you on Facebook. Your sharing of crazy “facts” from random websites is truly awe-inspiring.

For example, there’s a thing where some people think that vaccinated people shed DNA and it affects people around you. Another is that the mRNA mechanism of the vaccine itself can rewrite your DNA. I am not making this up.

I apparently have never ever fully grasped the depths of human stupidity… but that’s a post for another day.

The short of it for now: I thought the vaccine was Trump’s triumph. Operation Warp Speed. Remember that? Dear leader saved us all with his remarkable leadership and vision.

I remember him and you decrying the liberal media’s ingratitude for the vaccine. Trump himself lamented that he wasn’t getting credit for the vaccine. Nobody thanks me.

Pouty face.

But then suddenly, there’s a good 40% of the US that says they don’t trust it. Is it now Biden’s vaccine? What happened?

No, I really want to know. No, I actually don’t. That’s a rhetorical question.

Shortcut to Waking Up

I love how Foxnews and the like are talking about Dr. Seuss in their ongoing segment, “Libs are trying to destroy America – Endless Culture War edition.” Frankly, the recent news is a gift to radical right wing media. They can’t get enough of the outrage.

But I don’t really want to talk about that, I guess. It’s sort of the context, but I really want to talk about the great white middle class, those with whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so impatient.

Why is it taking so long for us? Why is realizing that society is deeply racist and has been built that way for centuries rolling along in such slow motion? Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long and it does bend toward justice. But why so long, and why is the arc so gentle?

I reflect on my own journey of understanding and the increasing granularity of my own personal discoveries of racist things. I personally wouldn’t have found Dr. Seuss racist growing up. Haha, look at the funny characters. That’s what Chinese people are. Look at the interesting African tribal guys. Oh, that’s what Africans look like. My personal journey didn’t get me very far, because it’s a feedback loop of normality.

Why is your favorite dish something your mom made?

As time has gone on, I, like a lot of other normative white folks, have awakened to the realization that black people and Asians don’t like being portrayed like that, that stereotypes are bad. They would never draw themselves like that or portray themselves like that.

I get it. Now let me continue to take myself on my personal journey toward woke-ness. Bravo. Please let me pat myself on my woke-ass back.

Bah! It’s this personal journey bullshit that’s making it take so long!

But here’s the thing – there’s a shortcut.

Psst. They have been telling us for decades, and sometimes for even hundreds of years.

All we had to do was listen.

When people tell you what you said was hurtful, believe them.

When people tell you a depiction is racist and hurtful, believe them.

When people tell you that police profile and harass them, believe them.

When people tell you their city’s water is full of lead, believe them.

When people tell you they have experienced sexual harassment/assault in public and in their workplaces, believe them.

When people tell you they hurt, believe them.

Really, it boils down to – believe people when they tell you things they experience and don’t filter their words through your own completely different experiences.

Ad Hominem and Silly Arguments

Today’s big story on foxnews.com is a real head scratcher, but it perfectly encapsulates the silly arguments that they and radical right media make to distract, score vague emotional points, and stir up discord in society.

John Kerry’s family still owns private jet as he leads climate fight, FAA records indicate,” they breathless report while clutching their pearls.

Okay, so let’s break this down folks. First, this is a classic ad hominem, attempting to discredit the messenger rather than the message. Most of what Fox News does is attack the person, rather than policy position or relevant actions. What’s more, most of the time the person they are attacking is made of straw, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

What are you saying, Fox News? Kerry is a hypocrite? Okay, let’s go down that path. He’s a hypocrite. I agree with you. What now? Are you insinuating that he will not enact or support policy that will promote sustainable energy investment?

Are you saying he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

“Look,” you say, “he says he’s all about conservation, but he flies around in a private jet.” And then you leave that hanging in the air as if that’s it. Case closed, wrap it up boys, we’re done here. Dem discredited!

If we dig a little deeper, we have to ask ourselves if what you’re really saying is that John Kerry is a duplicitous energy wasting bastard who does not support what we, Fox News, support, namely that global warming is an existential threat.

John Kerry is not a serious proponent for real policy change with respect to renewable energy, because he flies around in a private jet.

I do not think your argument means what you think it means, Fox.

Glass Cliff in the White House

It’s interesting to see misogyny alive and well in Republican circles. Now, I’m not going to defend her aims, but I can sympathize and recognize when someone has been pushed off a glass cliff. For those unfamiliar with the term, a glass cliff is the cliff that weak men push women off when they need to accomplish something difficult and don’t know how to do it or if it will even work.

Have to do a bunch of layoffs but don’t want to look bad doing it? Bring in a woman, have her fire everybody, and when morale tanks, change her out for someone, “more aligned with our workplace culture.” Bonus points if you can smear her with some salacious detail on the way out. Examples include, Carly Fiorina or Ellen Pao. Anyway, check out this article from vox that goes into greater detail.

“Hey, hire a woman to do it. If she fails, we can fire her and say we tried to be inclusive.”

Chuckle chuckle chuckle. Backslaps all around.

And so we arrive at the 2020 election, and the allegations of fraud. Read this for backstory. Long story short – Sidney Powell has been disavowed, fired, terminated, and downsized with prejudice. None of the machinations of the Trump administration worked, so the guilty must be punished. Never you mind about the buck stopping anywhere but Trump.

Their legal team pawed at every legal door possible and came up empty handed. When things went sideways (because of lack of evidence), they fabricated it and lied about it in the press.

Sidney was there leading the charge, taking one for her President, with the tacit approval of Trump and Giuliani.

Now that things have pretty much completely failed, they’ve decided she’d make an excellent scapegoat.

“Mr. President, it was all her fault. We failed because she was unlikeable, incompetent, and opportunistic. She didn’t have your best interests at heart.”

And so, our little cadre of incompetent, unlikeable, opportunistic men nudged Sidney out of the circle, off the glass cliff, to tumble down and down.

Other Things I Have Learned In Puerto Rico

During the 2000s, Laura and I were election functionaries. We verified the identities of the voters on the rolls, we observed the rule of law concerning the casting of ballots and prohibited electioneering (political slogans and merchandise within a certain distance of the polling place). Each of us inspected and signed the blank ballots for accountability (so that we know how many ballots there were and that some “extra” ballots don’t just show up someplace), helped people with technical problems, and secured the ballots before, during and after the election. We were unable to leave the voting room (except bathroom breaks). Lunch was provided for us. We then counted the ballots and reported the final tally to the election commission.

This was all done on paper, hand counting, hand reporting, signatures, observed by poll workers representing the three major parties here. There were times I fought for the intended will of a voter even when it didn’t agree with my party. A stray mark from a frail hand no where near a candidate should not invalidate an obvious selection. The other poll workers were equally committed to a fair and impartial outcome.

Once the final numbers are reported, the original ballots are sealed in a briefcase and affixed with the final tally. We are then able to watch the precincts report the count and observe ours entered in the total.

You would think, listening to Donald Trump, that elections are a new thing, that hell, trying to steal an election is a new thing, as if no one has ever thought of that. Elections have been going on in one form or another for thousands of years. We have developed very robust chains of trust based on transparency, redundancy, checks and double checks.

I have personally observed and participated in the process as a poll worker, and I can confirm that there is no possible way that there could be fraud in an election.

If someone fudged the vote tally reports, we would know it, because we know what we counted. Votes are not tracked by individuals (of course), but they are tracked by polling place or by precinct or district.

Could an individual with a hidden pen change votes or invalidate them surreptitiously? Yes, it’s possible, but more than likely that person would be caught, and at most they wouldn’t be able to affect more than a few 10s of votes. It could never arrive to the levels required to change the outcome.

I walked away from each election I participated in confident in the outcome, even when it didn’t go my way. I was assured that the process worked and that the will of the people was being heard.

So stop. Please stop. There is no fraud. There could be no fraud. Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. Stop trying to undermine the will of the people and our democratic system.

Covid-19 in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a poor nation with crumbling infrastructure, high rates of obesity and diabetes, an aging population (20% is 65 or older), a densely packed urban population, and a very social tightly knit culture that values physical gatherings.

What else can I throw in there?

Puerto Rico ticks all the boxes for an uncontrolled rate of corona-virus infection and death.

And yet as of today, the 13th of November our case numbers are half of what they were 14 days ago, our mortality rate is 1.3% nearly half the rate in the U.S. (and has been since the summer). The U.S., is a nation with access to deep resources, higher per capita income, a more individualistic lifestyle, a decidedly younger demographic on average (14% over the age of 65% according to the US Census), and lower rates of diabetes.

What gives?

I went out today to run some errands for the house. I stopped at a small appliance parts store, a tiny little space nestled deep in the heart of working class Carolina on Campo Rico street. Only two customers were allowed in at a time. They had a mask mandate. They took my temperature. They gave me hand sanitizer. They had protective shields.

This is everywhere. I have never seen anybody without a mask. Every store, no matter how large or small has implemented recommended health protocols, social distancing marked with stickers on the floor, masks, hand sanitizer, and infrared thermometers. People have followed and continue to follow these guidelines. Sure we grumble, but we thank our cashiers and service people for the risk they put themselves in to serve their customers, and the last thing we want to do is put them in more danger by invoking some sort of right to not wear a mask.

It’s impressive to watch a nation with so few resources work together, listen to science and public health officials, and not politicize mask wearing.

The Only Explanation that Makes Sense

Look, Jim, you’re going about this all wrong. We know Donald Trump isn’t a great person. We know he’s intemperate. We know he’s a racist. We know he’s not competent. He’s no diplomat. He’s not empathetic.

None of that matters to us. What we want is someone who is going to tear down the federal government, globalism, and international diplomacy. We don’t give a flying fuck about other countries. Why would we? We don’t want to be beholden to their demands, their values. That’s why our ancestors came here, to get the fuck away from them.

We don’t give a flying fuck about federal agencies, either. They are uninvited guests. They bring nothing but sanctimonious regulations written in big cities among elite idiots that don’t care one whit of what our lives are like.

Leave. Us. Alone.

We don’t give a flying fuck about China. Why are we giving them business, when all they want to do is undermine us? Joe Biden and the rest of those globalists said for years it would be better, that we would have more prosperity, if we shipped manufacturing abroad. How did that turn out, Joe?

We don’t want any more Washington machinations, international gamesmanship, games of Risk involving our country where, we the people, are the pawns. We don’t want any of it. We like our states just fine, and we expect that other states will do what they like.

You do you, we say.

We think California is crazy, but fuck if we care what they do, as long as they don’t shove their shit down our throats.

Who is the best person to pull all this off? A uniter? A diplomat? Someone with 47 years of public service?

Pfft, you’ve got to be kidding.

We want that fucking federal level chess board to be flipped over and leave us the fuck alone to do what we want to do.

Donald Trump is the kind of bull in a china shop we need to tear it all down so the Federal government can get out of our lives after nearly 300 years of encroachment.

Liberals, your mistake is thinking we want Donald Trump to lead us, when in fact we have selected him solely for his incompetence and lack of reverence for tradition and norms.

The more nonsense and chaos he tweets, the better we feel.

Seriously, Sen Cotton?

Cotton, seen as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, made the comments in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette while attacking the New York Times 1619 Project’s effort to make slavery a focal point of American history for U.S. schools.

“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” Cotton said.

reuters.

Okay, Senator Cotten, I’ll agree with the evil part. Yes, it was evil. Now, I’d like to focus on the second part of your statement that you just made – with your mouth, right now, in front of all these people.

Why was it necessary?

Please explain to us why it was necessary? Why was slavery necessary, Sen Cotton? Oh, I’m attacking you? That’s not what you said? Really, we’re going to go there?

And I am not making this up:

“This is the definition of fake news,” Cotton wrote on Twitter. “I said that the Founders viewed slavery as a necessary evil.”

Sen Cotton

No they did not. They did not view it as necessary. They perhaps didn’t have the courage to get rid of it, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that they did not think necessary? Besides, they didn’t have some sort of magical foresight. They wouldn’t know what was necessary or not at that point.

And then there’s this:

In response, Hannah-Jones tweeted: “You said, quote: ‘As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built.’ That ‘as’ denotes agreement.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who launched the 1619 Project

Which of course is the very definition of not-fake news, that is reporting what people actually said, in context, factually.

So Covid-19’s from a Chinese Lab, huh?

Ok, it’s possible. I’m open to anything. If it happened it happened. Certainly, it is in the realm of possibility. State actors have done lots of verifiably bad things throughout the centuries.

So, where’s your proof?

Do you have any evidence that’s not the circlejerk of right wing talk radio and crackpots quoting each other?

Do you have any actual proof?

Oh, you’ll tell us later? Just like Obama’s birth certificate?

I’ll wait.

Now you say it is classified and that you shouldn’t tell us, but trust you?

Why are you even talking about something so sensitive then?

Seriously, America; three-card monte is a sucker’s game. How come you have not learned your lesson yet?

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