What’s Your Medium?

Facebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg and other lonely undergrads as a distributed system to rate and stalk girls, is anti-social media. That may seem harsh, but while some use it to organize charitable events, that must be set against Facebook’s unregulated distribution of propaganda (such as Russia used to help Trump gain the White House) and monetization of every site and post through targeted advertising.

The Holy Spirit, the original world-wide-web, joins people in bonds of love. That is social media.

Allocate your time accordingly.

Trial-by-“Fired”

Donald Trump’s presidential reality show is finally hitting its stride. Rather than betraying his promises to his blue-collar loyalists, this blogger has learned that Trump’s cabinet of big-money, corporate-welfare advocates was carefully selected for a humiliating process of elimination. The juiciest moment yet was the Russian Foreign Minister’s sneering “Really? He was fired?” response to the news of James Comey’s elimination. Rupert Murdoch and his team of script-writers at Fox are preparing even worse for the rest of the team that Trump gulled into serving in his Cabinet.

Las Vegas odds-makers are setting up betting pools now. Who will be the survivor of the ultimate reality show? The reality show that is, in fact, reality?

My money is on Kim Jong-un.

But until then, of course, every week the voters that elected Trump will be able to cheer as another swamp-monster falls. Price, Mnuchin, Tillerson: the end is near!

To be Trolled, or Not to be Trolled

Trolling – posting a comment on a discussion forum for the sole purpose of creating hostility among the participants – is the most dangerous threat to the exchange of ideas on the web. The tech community is seeking to moderate the damage. Some new artificial intelligence engines profile accounts, others monitor for certain logical constructs (for example, any statements starting “You think…”).

Engadget reports that a site in Norway disallows a comment until the poster demonstrates knowledge of the main article. A script engine presents a multi-choice question generated from the article, and disallows comments until it is answered correctly.

What would be even better is if they would verify comment relevance against the original post and the previous comments in the thread. Given that a script is generating the questions, and a script is able to answer them, it seems that should be possible. Maybe that could be verified by a question posed to the poster?

Unfortunately, all of these solutions play into the hands of state-run trolls, such as the Russian “fake media” mills. By generating scripts that determine the correct answer, they can post far more efficiently than others, and thus come to dominate forum contents.

Here’s another option: build an AI engine that ranks the relevance of comments against the article and discussion, and allow readers to filter content against that ranking. That would enable those seeking serious discussion not just to be protected from trolls, but also to skip past comments that are just socializing. Offering “Good point!” is nice, but posted enough times and more substantial commentary falls off the bottom of the page.

American Myopia

So I’m listening to Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow going on and on about the nominating process here in America, analyzing the psychology, political ideology, fund raising and electoral dynamics in New Hampshire. It was all very loud and breathless.

And then comes a notice for the Academy Award nomination for Winter on Fire, documenting the Ukrainian revolution, showing footage of citizens in confrontation with security services, and an under-age youth describing the dead falling around him.

What’s happening in American politics is exciting, but it’s not the only important thing going on in the world. Try not to feed the beast.

Climbing the Mountain of Healing

After eight years of fear-mongering and greed under the Bush Administration, on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, I stood in the conference room at work to watch the proceedings. Breathing more easily, I felt the will of Christ stretch itself across the nation to join with that of our new president.

I caught a clip of the Tea Party responder to this year’s State of the Union (a motivational speaker named Root) warming up the crowd at a Trump rally. While I can’t call it a message, the energetic peak of his oration was the statement “This is war!” That is one way to look at society, as a struggle to the death of factions in a world where there is just never enough. To survive, we have to find that mythical figure epitomized in our history by Washington, Lincoln or FDR: a great general and leader to whom we can entrust our lives.

The problem is that fear is a deeply ingrained physiological habit. It is a way of relating to the world that destroys reason. When the enemy is gone, the habit remains and turns inwards. For some, the escape is into substance abuse, but for others it finds release in seeking enemies among their fellows.

Again and again, our society has raised up representatives to heal those divides, and those representatives suffer terribly for our sins. Jackie Robinson and the Central High Nine were all abused for the privilege of entering the lily-white citadels of baseball and education, and understood that they could not respond in kind. I heard one of the Central High Nine speak on his experience, and while my first reaction was outrage, it was closely followed by awe at the strength and discipline he had demonstrated.

Barack Obama spoke about this problem in his confrontation with the bigots in the federal legislature who declared early on their intention to oppose him at every step. His response was of the type. It was captured for me in a photo: During one of the budget stand-offs with the House, he invited the Speaker to play golf. The event was memorialized on one of the greens with Obama crouched low over his ball, pointing to lay out the line to the hole while looking over his shoulder at Boehner for agreement.

I write this today because I find myself dumbfounded by the political analysis of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Obviously among the Republican front-runners we find those parroting the legacies of FDR (Trump) and Washington (Cruz). Their are bombastic and shallow, but raise fervor in their frightened partisans. There is much to be alarmed by in this phenomenon – it was the root of fascism in Europe. I consider it to be a cancer in the body politic.

On the Democratic side, we were promised a different dynamic, a dialog informed by reason. After the first Democratic debate, one headline characterized it as “The Adults Take the Stage.” But there are significant differences between the candidates, and these are not just in substance but in tone. The pundits have tried to characterize these differences, and now tend to settle “forward thinking” and “heart” on Sanders while saddling Clinton with “hanging on to the past” and “head.”

Sanders earns these designations for his fiery railing against the monied class. This appeals to the youth of our nation, those whose disdain for politics has allowed the establishment to secure its privilege by buying the House and Senate in off-term elections. Sanders promises a radical departure from the past, a storming of the castle to take back the wealth of the nation. He yells and gesticulates, demonstrating a strong emotional connection to his program that promises dedication to its achievement.

I have already expressed my discomfort with the similarities with the Republican front-runners.

I see Hillary struggling with her characterization. The body politic does seem to want passion, but when she projects it in her campaign stops, it rings false. That is picked on by the pundits, who have now taken to comparing her to Bush. But I believe that comparison reflects a deep and systemic misunderstanding of the disease facing our nation, and the fact that the temperament that makes Clinton so attractive to me at this time is simply incompatible with the politics of the males in the field.

Consider this: if you had liver cancer, would you feel encouraged by an oncologist who said “This is war! Your liver is evil! I’m going to take it out and stomp on it! And – oh yeah – thanks for putting my daughter through college.” Or would you like to be given sympathy and encouragement with specific options for treatment along with a description of side-effects and costs.

In other words, would you want a warrior or a healer?

In Hillary, I see the latter. Although I see it in Obama, it’s typically a feminine proclivity. Have some sympathy for her as she struggles against the burden of the pressures that have kept women from full and equal participation in our body politic.