♫ One Tin Soldier ♫

Rarely do any of you request a song, and I don’t actively solicit requests, though I always give consideration if someone mentions a song or an artist they particularly like.  Tonight, I had a request and, as I like the song and think the song speaks volumes, has meaning for us all, even today some 50 years after the song was released, I am offering this one tonight.  Most of my readers from across the pond may have never heard this song, for I understand that it never made it big outside of Canada and the U.S., but give it a listen … you might like it!

One Tin Soldier is an anti-war song, released in 1969 by Canadian pop group The Original Caste.  The song charted each year from 1969 to 1974 by various artists and on various charts in the United States and Canada. However, it did not chart outside North America.

Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, One Tin Soldier tells the story of two neighboring tribes, the warlike Valley People and the peaceful Mountain Kingdom which possesses a great treasure buried under a stone. The Valley People demand the treasure. The Mountain People respond that they will share it with “their brothers”, but the Valley People invade and slaughter the Mountain People. On overturning the stone, they find nothing except the words “Peace On Earth” inscribed beneath it.

The song’s message, that human greed and violence is futile, is as meaningful, as imperative as it was when the song was first written.  Unless I miss my guess, it is a lesson that on the whole we still will not have learned when the human species finally leaves the earth forever.

Thank you, rawgod, for an excellent suggestion!

One Tin Soldier
The Original Caste

One tin soldier
Listen people to a story
That was written long ago,
’bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley folks below.
On the mountain was a treasure
Hidden deep beneath a stone,
And the valley people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing,
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.
Came the answer from the kingdom,
With our brothers we will share,
All the riches of the mountain,
All the treasure buried there.

Now the valley cried with anger,
Mount your horses, draw your swords
And they killed the mountain people,
So they won their just rewards
Now they stood before the treasure
On the mountain dark and red
Turned the stone and looked beneath it
Peace on earth, was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat and friend,
Do it in the name of heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away.

Songwriters: Brian Potter / Dennis Earle Lambert
One Tin Soldier lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Jolly Monday Once Again!

Welcome, friends!  Did you notice what was in the front yard as you came in?  No?  Then come … you simply must see!  Yes, there … see them?  The crocuses are coming up!!!  It will be a while before we get blooms, but I am so happy to see their fresh green sprouts! crocus-sprouts.jpgSo, how was your weekend?  Mine?  Meh.  It was very cold this weekend, and I’m still not quite up to snuff these days, tire too easily, so while we went out for lunch and the bookstore, that was about enough for me.  I was ready to come back home and put on my warm, cozy sweats and thick book socks.  Daughter Chris’ band played in the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown on Saturday, but Miss Goose and I stayed home where it was warm.  Apparently not many people did, though, for it was so crowded it took her over an hour to be able to make her way back to her car after the parade!

Chris' band.jpg

Chris, my li’l drummie girl, is 3rd from the right, front row

Well, since it is Monday, let’s make it a jolly one with a bit of humour, shall we?  Grab a snack and a cuppa.  I put extra tea out for you, rawgod, since you said somebody sipped yours last week.  And David … there’s BFG just for you!

 


Playing music for … cheese?

Say What???  This one doesn’t come from a satirical site, but you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it did.

A team of Swiss researchers has been studying the effects of music on cheese.  Yes, you heard me right.  Nine wheels of Emmental cheese weighing 10 kilos (22 pounds) each were placed in separate wooden crates last September to test the impact of music on flavor and aroma.

One wheel was played Mozart 24/7, while another was subjected to Led Zeppelin, and yet another to some hip-hop group of whom I’ve never heard and don’t care if I never do!  One lone wheel was left in peace and quiet.

According to the researchers from Bern University …

“The most obvious differences were observed in strength of flavor, smell and taste. The hip hop sample topped the list of all cheese exposed to music in terms of fruitiness … [it] was the strongest of these in terms of smell and taste. The differences were very clear, in term of texture, taste, the appearance, there was really something very different.  All the energy is directly resonating inside of the cheese.”

cheese-3.jpgInteresting, but my question is … taste varies from person to person, so the cheese I might prefer might well (likely would) be the one that had Mozart playing in its … um … what does cheese have in lieu of ears?  Who comes up with these ideas, anyway!  And why?


Ghost or Gimmick?

ghostThe Habitat for Humanity Restore of Rowan County is a second-hand furniture store in North Carolina.  They recently acquired a queen canopy bed frame and highboy chest of drawers that the previous owners said were haunted.  Store Operations Director Elizabeth Brady says she felt obligated to advise potential customers of the possibility of a ghost or ghosts residing within, so she posted photos on Facebook, along with the disclaimer …haunted furniture sign.jpg

And suddenly there was a flurry of interest in the pieces, culminating in a sale for $1,000 just last week.  Now, perhaps I just have a suspicious nature, but I have a funny feeling it was an intentional tease to pique the public interest and have people vying to own these ‘haunted’ pieces, thereby raising the going price. haunted furniture.jpg


Turn some lights out, Bud!

I’ve had a few eye-opening electric bills in my time, but I think the highest ever was probably under $400.  I would love to have seen the look on poor Tommy Straub’s face when he opened his monthly bill from Con Edison in New York and found this …electric bill.jpgHis average bill is $74.  Tommy took it all in stride, however, tweeting …

“I own a 600 square foot apartment in Astoria. I do NOT own the entirety of Manhattan Island. THIS IS INSANE. FIX IT.”

I think I would have been on the phone to Con Ed, rather than on Twitter, but that seems to be where everybody heads when things go amiss!  Happily, the problem was quickly resolved with a phone call, but if I had been the one to get a bill like that, it would have been too late to resolve, for I would likely have suffered heart failure right then and there!


ATM mobbed?

Back in November in Houston, Texas, I think perhaps the men who loaded an ATM near Interstate 45 and Farm to Market Road 1960 in Harris County, may have been a bit hungover or somehow distracted.  Perhaps there was a pretty little filly trotting down the FM road?  Anyway, where they were supposed to place $20 bills, they instead placed $100 bills! atm-fight.jpgCustomers contacted Bank of America, to whom the machine belonged, when it was discovered that the machine was dispensing extra cash, but not before a few people grabbed the money and ran, and a few fights broke out!  No word yet on the amount of excess cash that was distributed, or on whether those found having taken the cash will be charged with some criminal offense.

Personally, I would have waited for the cops and turned the extra money over.  No, really, I would have!  I’m he one who drives back to the store and goes back in to tell the clerk she gave me 25 cents too much change!


Dragonlord the Pig … or CAT???

What would Jolly Monday be without a cute animal video?  I say I post these for the young set of readers, but in truth, I have a ball with them!  Last night, I was sitting watching animal videos to find just the right one for this post, and literally laughing!  I really think we ‘oldsters’ enjoy the animals as much as the youngsters, don’t you?  Dragonlord is a pig who, having been raised with house cats, thinks he is one of them.  Watch …


humour-1humour-2humour-4

 


jollyAnd now, folks, I am sorry to say that we must all get this show on the road.  I, of course, have laundry, bathrooms & a kitchen to clean, and a nap to take email to answer.  And you all … well, some of you anyway … have a job to go to so you can pay the electric bill next week.  I do so love seeing your beautiful smiles, and I hope you will share them with everyone you see this week!  Thank you for sharing part of your morning with me and Jolly!  Hugs ‘n love from Filosofa and Jolly!

Maxine.jpg

A New Batch of Snarky Snippets …

There was much big news this past week, mostly the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the two mosque shootings in New Zealand and add to that Trump’s veto of the bipartisan bills to halt his emergency declaration and his frequent Twitter rants.  So, smaller stories may have gotten lost in the shuffle.  Now that I have caught my breath, I’ve caught up on email and would like to bring you some of those little stories, along with, of course, my snarky commentary.


Kellyanne speaks … sort of

Just as Trump shuns our friends, nations that have long earned our respect, and panders to dictators who have by no means earned our respect, he shuns the legitimate press and panders to the likes of Fox, Breitbart and even Alex Jones.  Thursday, he gave an interview to Breitbart, and here is a snippet of what he said …

“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Oooohhh … tough talk from a wuss who cries every time somebody says something negative about him!  But then, the next day, America’s #1 bimbo, Kellyanne Conway, appeared on CNN for a segment with Chris Cuomo.  Cuomo mentioned Trump’s remark and asked Kellyanne if she really thought that was appropriate speech for a world leader, given that it sounds more like something Don Corleone would have said.  Kellyanne’s response?

“You’re just reading into it like you usually do. He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.  Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence.”

Cuomo gave up on that one and moved to another topic.  In a Wednesday interview, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said that morals don’t matter much when it comes to presidents.  Cuomo played that clip for Kellyanne, and mentioned, as a lead-in to a question, that the Republican Party once had a mantra, “character counts”.  Before he could get to the question, Kellyanne burst forth with …

“I’m sorry is there a question lurking in there or are you pontificating? Because you invited me on here to answer questions.”

The entire interview was ridiculous, but good for a few laughs if you have the stomach for it and ten minutes to spare.


A real shocker!

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was attending a vigil for victims of Friday’s massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, when she was confronted by a student who seemingly blamed her for the massacre.

“This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”

Clinton handled the situation with remarkable aplomb …

“Certainly, it was never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity.”

But here is the strangest thing of all.  Somebody you would least expect came to her defense.  Take a guess … a wild guess.  Give up?  It was Don Trump, Jr.!

“It’s sickening to see people blame @ChelseaClinton for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism. We should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate. Chelsea should be praised for speaking up. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is part of the problem.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather!


Thumbs-up x2 for New Zealand’s good sense …

In the wake of Friday’s mosque shootings, a few people have said some really, really ignorant and cruel things.  One of those people was none other than radical Milo Yiannopoulos, who is apparently trying to set a record for being uninvited to the most places.  Yiannopoulos was scheduled to visit Australia and had just been issued a visa over the objections of the home affairs department.

But then, in a Facebook post, Yiannopoulos blamed the radicalism behind the attack on left-leaning progressives, and called Islam a “barbaric, alien religious” culture.  After that, immigration minister David Coleman said on Saturday that comments about Islam made by Yiannopoulos in the wake of the Christchurch massacre were “appalling and foment hatred and division” and he would not be allowed in the country.  Score one for common sense!

In the aftermath of the shootings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a promise to the people:  “Our gun laws will change”. While most European nations ban them, New Zealand allows, with a special permit, pistols, semi-automatic weapons and machine guns.  That is the only major difference between NZ and most other European nations’ gun laws, and it was the reason the shooter, Brenton Tarrant, came to the country from his native Australia, to do his dirty deeds.

New Zealand Attorney General David Baker announced at a vigil late Friday that the country would ban semiautomatic weapons.  Although this will require more than a statement by the Attorney General and the Prime Minister, and is far from a done deal, isn’t it refreshing to see a country that doesn’t hide behind a shield, a country where the heads of government put the lives of the people they represent ahead of the profits of gun manufacturers?  Listen up, U.S. lawmakers!

Score two for common sense!


A bit of good news …

I conclude with a tidbit of good news.  The University of Tennessee announced recently it would guarantee free tuition and fees to admitted in-state residents with a family household income of less than $50,000.  University President Randy Boyd announced the program, to start in the fall of 2020, saying …

“This isn’t a school just for the wealthy or the elite. This is a school for everyone. It is critically important that we take a lead role in ensuring students can achieve their dream of obtaining an undergraduate college degree. It is our mission and responsibility to do everything we can to ease the financial burden for our middle- and working-class families, and UT Promise is an ideal conduit to achieve that.”

Let us hope that this paves the way for many, many more colleges and universities to offer similar opportunities.  Similar free-tuition programs are available in Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana. Lawmakers in eight other states are considering similar programs.  Eat your heart out, Betsy DeVos!


I think that’s about enough of my snarkiness for one day, so enjoy what’s left of your Sunday, and I shall return in the morning with Jolly Monday!

♫ The Way We Were/Try To Remember ♫

This song is actually a compilation of two songs, The Way We Were, originally sung by Barbra Streisand, and Try To Remember, originally sung by just about everybody, including Gladys Knight.

I hope you don’t mind if I just give you the music tonight, sans background trivia, for I am simply exhausted and cannot go digging tonight.  I do like the song, though, and love the way she sings it, so sit back, relax, and just listen …

The Way We Were – Try To Remember
Gladys Knight

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we?
Could we?

Memories may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
The way we were

Songwriters: Alan Bergman / Marilyn Bergman / Marvin Hamlisch
The Way We Were – Try To Remember lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Be Prepared …

I have long thought, and likely said it here once or twice, that Trump is a loose cannon, his behaviours seeming to become increasingly strange and uncontrolled when he senses he is threatened.  His tweets, never exactly intellectual, become erratic when a new indictment is handed down by Robert Mueller’s team, or when he is called out on one of his many daily lies, or when his boot-lickers don’t behave quite as he wants them to.  This is one of the reasons that, while I would love to see him thrown off his royal perch, evicted from the Oval Office, I cannot support a move toward impeachment at this time, for I suspect he would become even more deranged and call for his base to take to the streets with their AR-15s in hand.  Now, I am a nobody and have no basis for my opinion other than observation, but I’ve run across somebody who shares my opinion, somebody who is certainly qualified to make this statement.  That somebody is Robert Reich, whose words I have shared here before, and today I do so again.

From The Guardian, 16 March 2019 …

Trump is cornered, with violence on his mind. We must be on red alert

Robert Reich

What does a megalomaniacal president of the United States do when he’s cornered? We’ll soon find out.

House Democrats are beginning a series of investigations and hearings about Donald Trump. Senate Republicans have begun to desert him. Twelve defected on the wall. Seven refused to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Almost all have gone on record that they want Robert Mueller’s report made public. That report, not incidentally, appears imminent.

Trump cannot abide losing. His ego can’t contain humiliation. He is incapable of shame.

So what does a cornered Trump do? For starters, he raises the specter of violence against his political opponents.

In an interview with Breitbart News published on Wednesday, Trump noted: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

In case you missed it, “they” are Trump’s political opponents, including House Democrats and the mainstream media. And the “certain point” could be impeachment but is more likely to be reached if the House investigations reveal crimes Trump committed both before and after he became president.

“I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,” Trump warned in the same interview. “But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this investigations – that’s all they want to do is – you know, they do things that are nasty.”

Here we have it, in a nutshell. In Trump’s mind, congressional investigations that could cause him shame and humiliation, and quite possibly result in a prison sentence, will be countered by forces loyal to him: the police, the military, and vigilante groups like Bikers for Trump.

To put it another way, the work of a democratically elected Congress will be met by Trump loyalists who, he asserts, are “tougher” because they have brute force on their side.

It is impossible to know what bizarre scenario is playing out in Trump’s head. But another hint came on Friday, when, in the wake of the horrific shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, Trump told reporters he didn’t believe white nationalism was on the rise.

“I don’t really,” he said. “I think it’s a small group of people.”

As usual, the facts are otherwise. The number of hate groups in the US increased 7% last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crime reports increased 17%, according to the FBI.

Recall that 11 people were murdered at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on 27 October, at the hands of a white supremacist. A few days earlier, a white supremacist murdered two black people at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

It is hardly the first time Trump has played down white nationalism, or signaled his support for those who might use violence on his behalf.

At a Las Vegas rally during the 2016 campaign he said he’d like to punch a protester in the face; at another event encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of any protester making trouble.

“I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees,” he said.

But as Trump becomes ever more entrapped in the web of his own misdeeds, his threats are becoming more ominous.

At a rally for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley in September, Trump said his opponents “were lucky that we’re peaceful”. He continued: “Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump … They travel all over the country … They’ve been great.” But, he warned, “these are tough people … they’re peaceful people, and antifa and all, they’d better hope they stay that way.”

In February, the White House Correspondents’ Association called on Trump to make it “absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable”. To date, he has not.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, another of Trump’s bottom feeders, predicted that “2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since the civil war”.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has given cover to some of the most vile bigots in America. As he grows more desperate, he is giving them encouragement.

It is our job – and the job of all senators and representatives in Congress, regardless of party, and of military leaders – to condemn hatred and violence in all its forms, even when the president of the United States makes excuses for it.

And it is up to all of us to reaffirm our commitment to democracy, even when the president of the United States threatens to unleash the military and vigilantes against it.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

The Hope For Our Future …

The best news of the week was brought to us by students skipping school!  That’s right … kids from 123 nations chose to take a stand, to make their voices heard about climate change, so they played hookey, skipped school and engaged in peaceful protest on Friday.

Last October, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that without dramatic change, global emissions are set to rise to a level that would usher in catastrophic consequences in just over a decade. Exactly one month later, the historic Camp Fire broke out in Paradise, California, claiming 85 lives and destroying more than 15,000 structures.

There are three types of reactions to this:  1) those who still claim to deny that human activities are destroying our atmosphere, 2) those who agree and somewhat understand that climate change is indeed a very imminent threat, but do nothing, and 3) those who are doing something, either making changes in their own lifestyle, lobbying Congress to take action, or speaking out loudly enough to get the attention of the first two groups.  These kids are in the 3rd group!

The young people understand, for they are not blinded by the things we are … convenience, laziness, and greed.  They also realize that it is their future, far more than ours, that is threatened.  It is reminiscent of the young people who turned into activists for gun control after the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, but on a much grander scale.

Around the world, students in 123 countries will not be attending classes in protest, instead taking to the streets to demand their leaders take meaningful action to address climate change.  In the United States, the Youth Climate Strike group, founded by three young women from Colorado, New York, and Minnesota, has helped organize strikes in over 100 cities across the country.

One such group, Minnesota Can’t Wait, is co-founded by Isra Hirsi, aged 16, who just happens to be the daughter of freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar.  When asked why she and her group were participating in Friday’s protest, she had this to say …

“Because you need dramatic action for dramatic change. And it’s really important, especially in the United States, when we probably are the biggest contributors to climate change in this entire world, to take that action and to show our politicians that younger people really care about this issue from all different communities and all different places and we want to do something about it, and we’re not going to stand idly by [while] you [are] not doing anything.”

Thunberg

Greta Thunberg – Stockholm, Sweden

The youth climate strikes began last September, when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, stopped going to school on Fridays. She quickly became known for skipping school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament, all in an effort to draw attention to climate change and demand her government implement policies in line with the Paris climate agreement. Since then, students of all ages and from most nations have been striking to demand action on climate change.

It is estimated that 1.4 million young people took part in the protests.  According to Greta Thunberg …

“This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. We knew there was a climate crisis … We knew, because everything we read and watched screamed out to us that something was very wrong.”

They could see what our leaders in Washington D.C. cannot see, that ‘something’ is ‘very wrong’.  I give two thumbs up to these young people who are determined to make themselves heard for the future of this planet … for their future!  I will let them tell you of their efforts through pictures from around the world yesterday.

Capetown-SA

Capetown, South Africa

Delhi-India

Delhi, India

Dresden-Germany

Dresden, Germany

Dublin-Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Edinburgh-Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Lisbon-Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

London-England

London, England

Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

Quezon-City-Philippines

Quezon City, Philippines

San-Francisco

San Francisco, California, USA

Seoul-2

Seoul, South Korea

Stockholm-Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Sydney-Australia

Sydney, Australia

Taipei-Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

Tokyo-Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Washington-DC

Washington, D.C., USA

Perhaps we could all take a page out of these kids’ books?  Great jobs, young people!  I’m proud to know that you are the future of our planet … perhaps there is hope after all!

♫ What The World Needs Now Is Love ♫

It has been an awful week, my friends.  We have seen examples of just about the worst the human race has to offer.  Typically when we have a week like this, I either play Lennon’s Imagine, or Wonder & McCartney’s Ebony and Ivory, but tonight this song came to my mind, and it seems just the thing to play at this time, the song to end the week and lead into the weekend.  No back story or trivia tonight … just the song.  I’m particularly struck by the lyrics “No not just for some, but for everyone.  Think about it.

What the World Needs Now
Dionne Warwick

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.

Songwriters: Burt F. Bacharach / Hal David
What the World Needs Now lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Apologies And Thoughts …

My apologies, but there can be no Saturday Surprise today.  In light of the terrible Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, then the tragic mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand by a white supremacist on Friday, I simply could not get into ‘fun’ mode and felt that perhaps it would be inappropriate anyway.  Saturday Surprise will, hopefully, return next Saturday.

I am deeply disturbed and saddened by both of the aforementioned events.  Each took the lives of innocent people, and each was preventable.  And, while the causes of the two may seem to be completely different, they really aren’t all that different.  They both track back to arrogance and a sense of entitlement.  Today I would like to share a few of my own thoughts about the two aforementioned events with you.

First, the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.  I’ve already written about this at some length and won’t repeat what I’ve already said.  But this crash could easily have been prevented.  Boeing knew that the 737 Max 8 had a flaw, and one crash had already occurred, Lion Air flight 610 on October 29th, 2018.  Boeing was negotiating with the FAA for a software fix when the government shut down and talks came to a halt for 5 weeks.  And the rest is history.

This, my friends, is a tragic example of capitalism run amok.  Corporate greed.  Profit vs people’s lives.  We live in a corporate world, where governments pander to rich industrialists such as Boeing, Smith & Wesson, Exxon, General Motors and many others.  People are put on the back burner.  People’s lives take a backseat to the bottom line.  189 people lost their lives on the Lion Air flight and 157 people lost their lives on the Ethiopian Airlines flight.  346 people died because Boeing was more interested in their profits than in those 346 lives.  How many lives will be lost due to the burning of fossil fuels, because coal and oil companies care more about profit than lives?  How many will be lost due to the spraying of known toxic chemicals on the food we eat, because ‘Big Ag’ cares more for its bottom line than your life or mine?  The time has come … actually came long ago … to rein in capitalism, to impose strict safety regulations on every company doing business.  Will it happen?  Probably not, for those corporations buy our politicians about as easily as we buy a can of peas.

There is a lot of blame to go around for the killings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center, it would seem, for everyone seems to be pointing fingers.  Many blame the internet and social media, and yes, there is an element of blame there, since the killer had apparently been posting images of weapons and a “manifesto” for his actions online.  Some blame right-wing leaders, such as Trump, who have given voice to and even encouraged and emboldened the white supremacists, and certainly they must share a portion of the blame.

But, the reality is that the internet is … us.  It is people, expressing their opinions, their hopes, sharing family moments, keeping up with sports, communicating, and in some cases, promoting hate.  People.  Trump and other right-wing personas exist only because they are given a voice … by people.  Who is to blame?  The man, Brenton Tarrant, who planned and carried out the massacre, and any associates who may have helped him, certainly carries the lion’s share of blame.  Perhaps he got his ideas from radicals and white supremacists on the internet, but who put those ideas out there?

I propose that there is enough blame to go around for most all of us.  Sure, Donald Trump opened a can of really nasty worms with his hate speech, his call for a Muslim ban, his denigration of all races other than Caucasian.  But people did not have to fall in line behind him.  They did, because they chose to, not because he forced them to.

But here’s the other thing, and it is, as I think about it, the main reason I write this blog:  We have an obligation to speak out, nay … to SHOUT out … about the injustice of Islamophobia, of homophobia, of misogyny, of white supremacy.  It is not enough for those of us who know it is wrong to just shake our collective heads and roll our collective eyes when these things happen!  It is NOT enough to send “thoughts and prayers”!  Unless we wish to keep seeing bastards like Brenton Tarrant shooting up mosques, shopping malls, movie theaters and schools, then we need to use our voices.

Remember that oft-quoted quotation by Martin Niemöller?

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We need, more than anything, to have conversations, not screaming matches, not hateful speech on social media sites.  We need to speak to and treat each other with respect.  It is okay to disagree, but we are getting absolutely nowhere by demeaning others and shouting at the tops of our lungs.  But speak we must, for to remain silent is to ensure that tragedies like those from this past week will be ever prevalent.  Freedom of speech is not only a right, but also a responsibility. Will we sit quietly by and allow bigots to rule the world in which we live? Think about it.

Cory Booker: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I am happy to bring you the next in TokyoSand’s series, The 7 Issues Guide, which is introducing us to the democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election. Today’s piece is about Cory Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Now, I like Cory Booker, he has many times stood up for what he believes in, and he generally shares my beliefs. He does, however, have a bit of controversy in his background, but I suspect we won’t find a single candidate who doesn’t. Thank you, TokyoSand and your diligent volunteer helpers, for all your hard work in preparing this series.

Political⚡Charge

booker2Let’s get to know Cory Booker!

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as…

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Something to Ponder …

In this day where everyone seems to have to wear a label – democrat, republican, moderate, liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, snowflake – David Brooks is hard to pin down.  He has been dubbed a moderate, a centrist, a conservative, and a moderate conservative.  He has even been called “one of those Republicans who want to ‘engage with’ the liberal agenda” {gasp!!!}, “not a real conservative” or “squishy”.  To me, labels can mean whatever one wants them to mean at the moment, or nothing at all.

David Brooks is a Canadian-born American who is currently a columnist for the New York Times and commentator on PBS NewsHour.  Along with The Washington Post’s George Will and a couple of others, he is among the conservative writers who gets my attention, commands my respect, whether I agree with him or not.

Mr. Brooks’ column of March 11th  is, I think, worth reading and giving some serious thought to.  This particular piece is neither right nor left, conservative nor liberal, but it is, rather, a statement of our ‘techno-society’, for lack of a better term.  Give it a glance, then give it some thought.  Are we walking straight into the mouth of the giant alligator?  Your thoughts?


If Stalin Had a Smartphone

Suddenly technology has a centralizing effect.

David-BrooksBy David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

I feel bad for Joseph Stalin. He dreamed of creating a totalitarian society where every individual’s behavior could be predicted and controlled. But he was born a century too early. He lived before the technology that would have made being a dictator so much easier!

In the first place, he’d have much better surveillance equipment. These days most interactions are through a computer, so there is always an electronic record of what went on.

The internet of things means that our refrigerators, watches, glasses, phones and security cameras will soon be recording every move we make. In 2017, Levi Strauss made an interactive denim jacket, with sensors to detect and transmit each gesture, even as minimal as the lifting of a finger. Soon prosecutors will be able to subpoena our driverless cars and retrieve a record of every place they took us.

And this is not even to mention the facial recognition technology the Chinese are using to keep track of their own citizens. In Beijing, facial recognition is used in apartment buildings to prevent renters from subletting their apartments.

One Chinese firm, Yitu, installed a system that keeps a record of employees’ movements as they walk to the break room or rest room. It records them with blue dotted lines on a monitor. That would be so helpful for your thoroughly modern dictator.

In the second place, thanks to artificial intelligence, Uncle Joe would have much better tools for predicting how his subjects are about to behave. As Shoshana Zuboff wrote in her book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” when you are using Google, you are not Google’s customer. You are Google’s raw material. Google records everything you do; then it develops models that predict your behavior and then it sells those models to advertisers, which are its actual customers.

Thanks to this business model, some of the best minds in the world have spent tens of billions of dollars improving tools that predict personal consumption. This technology, too, has got to come in handy for any modern-day Stalin.

Third, thanks to big data, today’s Stalin would be able to build a massive Social Credit System to score and rank citizens, like the systems the Chinese are now using. Governments, banks and online dating sites gather data on, well, everybody. Do you pay your debts? How many hours do you spend playing video games? Do you jaywalk?

If your score is too low, you can get put on a blacklist. You may not be able to visit a museum. You may not be able to fly on a plane, check into a hotel, visit the mall or graduate from high school. Your daughter gets rejected by her favorite university.

Back in Stalin’s day, social discipline was so drastic. You had to stage a show trial (so expensive!), send somebody to the gulag or organize a purge. Now your tyranny can be small, subtle and omnipresent. It’s like the broken windows theory of despotism. By punishing the small deviations, you prevent the big ones from ever happening.

Fourth, you don’t have to go through all the trouble of staging a revolution. You just seduce people into a Faustian bargain. You offer to distract them for eight hours a day with animal videos and relatable memes, and they surrender their privacy to you and give you access to their brains.

As online life expands, neighborhood life and social trust decline. As the social fabric decays, social isolation rises and online viciousness and swindling accumulate, you tell people that the state has to step in to restore trust. By a series of small ratcheted steps, you’ve been given permission to completely regulate their online life.

This, too, is essentially what is happening in China.

As George Orwell and Aldous Huxley understood, if you want to be a good totalitarian, it isn’t enough to control behavior. To have total power you have to be able to control people’s minds. With modern information technology, the state can shape the intimate information pond in which we swim.

I don’t want to pretend that everything will be easy for the Stalin of the 21st century. Modern technology makes it easier to control people, but it also creates a mind-set in which people get much angrier about being controlled.

When people have a smartphone in their hand, they feel that they should have a voice, that they should be broadcasting, that they should have agency and dignity. When they discover they are caught in an information web that is subtly dominating them, they react. When they realize that ersatz information webs can’t really create the closeness and community they crave, they react.

Angry movements and mobs arise spontaneously. What you get is a system of elite domination interrupted by populist riots.

Human history is a series of struggles for power. Every few generations, just for fun, the gods give us a new set of equipment that radically alters the game. We thought the new tools would democratize power, but they seem to have centralized it. It’s springtime for dictators.