One of the big buzz words being thrown around these days is "Fake News," which is a perfectly-descriptive term for an all-too-frequent occurrence these days, and it became a significant factor in the United States' most-recent Presidential race. As a brief description "Fake News" is when hearsay, rumor, conjecture, propaganda, conspiracy theories, or even outright dishonesty is passed off as legitimate news correspondence. This behavior is currently in practice on hundreds of websites, and by lackeys from both the liberal and conservative sides of the country. (Note: This does not count satire from websites like The Onion or The Babylon Bee.)
The real danger that arises from "Fake News" websites (or Facebook pages) is that, to put it bluntly, many people are far more gullible than they think they are. And as a result, these beguiled patsies see an article with which they agree, and rather than establish the article's veracity through a reputable news outlet, they share it to Facebook or post it to a blog, and in so doing they perpetuate the inaccuracy. To be fair, in recent years the number of "reputable news outlets" has decreased significantly as the major news sources like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, and FOX have all resorted to pushing articles which meet their underlying political agendas at the expense of honest reporting. (Note: For this reason I prefer the BBC, which has a slightly left-leaning take on the news, but its generally pretty unbiased and blunt where the United States are concerned. Besides, no one with an English Accent would ever lie, would they? [Snicker])
In any event, after today's inauguration ceremony, the following image popped up from the folks at Occupy Democrats, which is one of the most-nefarious "Fake News" websites in existence:
This is a perfect example of "Fake News" in action; the two photos in this image are taken from opposite sides of the mall in order to exaggerate the crowd sizes. In addition, there is no indication that they were taken during the same hour of the respective inauguration ceremonies; the photo from 2009 might be an hour after the ceremony began, and the photo from 2017 might be an hour before the ceremony began. We have no context, but considering the source (the O.D. website) and the fact that the photos were already falsely utilized in order to support an opinion rather than an accurate portrayal of the facts, it's pretty easy to dismiss this image. And yet, I have seen dozens of people posting this image to Facebook with comments of overwhelming approval.
In this specific instance, it is far too simple for anyone to discredit the image. The video listed below from CNN shows an actual side-by-side comparison of the crowds during each inauguration ceremony:
Inaugural crowd sizes: Trump v. Obama
It is evident that there was a larger crowd for Obama's inauguration, which is as it should be; the nation's first African American president is considerably more-significant to history than Trump's election. However, the disparity was nowhere near the level of imbalance which that image was trying to convey.
Returning to my earlier point, this particular example of "Fake News" perfectly illustrates why the acceptance of these sorts of deliberately inaccurate images and stories do so much damage; these hoaxes replicate like viruses through social media, and they rapidly enter the collective psyche of those who eventually believe that these images and stories are true simply because they want them to be. This where another new term needs to be defined: "Post-Truth," which describes an all-too-common situation where opinions are formed and defended based on emotions rather than factual evidence.
Through honest self-examination, I think everyone can agree that we have all let our emotions get the better of us, (on more than one occasion), and we have all agreed with something simply because we wanted it to be right, even when common sense would argue otherwise. This philosophy led to a situation which was all-too prevalent during the election: everyone who was passing along inaccurate information created their own false reality, with which many of their friends actively participated, and yet no one was anywhere near the truth. After the election this syndrome was referred to as an "Echo Chamber," where people were simply hearing others repeat back what they said or wanted to hear. One such example was the poll numbers which everyone kept sharing on social media, which always seemed to indicate that Clinton would win the electoral college by a landslide, and yet on election day she lost the electoral college in a humiliating defeat. Of course, the 24x7 news coverage from all of the media outlets added a never-ending supply of fallacious data to the debate, but still - there were plenty of indicators that the election was a lot closer than the false narrative which everyone kept repeating; people just needed to take the time to look.
Nevertheless, we should all try to do better where "Fake News" is concerned. As a general rule, if you see something which seems too good to be true - or too bad to be true - please check with other news sources before posting anything to social media.
I think the following image sums up that sentiment quite nicely:
POSTSCRIPT: The following blog contains a small list of "Fake News" websites which everyone should avoid:
Please Stop Sharing Links to These Sites
There are many more, of course, but it's a good place to start.
01/21/2017 UPDATES: As another example of "Fake News," there was a bogus story making the rounds over a year ago about the Obama administration ordering guillotines in order to perform executions. On the one hand, I hate to include the link because I don't want to drive traffic to their website; but on the other hand, I want to show an example...
Obama Orders Guillotines To Be Used For Executions
There are hundreds of thousands of stories just like this on the Internet, so don't believe everything you read.
One additional point which I should mention is something that a good friend said to me earlier today: a fabrication isn't real just because you agree with it, and something isn't fake just because you disagree with it. (Wise words, my friend.)
After the recent long-awaited and highly-anticipated death of Fidel Castro, I must admit that I was shocked at the number of "famous people" who were emanating never-ending streams of revisionist history drivel about Castro's many "accomplishments," while falling over themselves in futile attempts to outdo each other with undo praise for this despicable despot. Make no mistake - Castro was a terrible, wicked, horrible dictator who sent thousands of innocent people to their graves.
However, on a completely related note is the number of misinformed idiots who walk around wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the following logo:
For those who are too stupid to know better, wearing a t-shirt like this in public is exactly like wearing a t-shirt with Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin printed on it. The subject of this ridiculous memorial attire is Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who was one of the worst mass-murders in the 20th century. Countless multitudes of gullible and easily-swayed malcontents read books like Guevara's "Motorcycle Diaries," and they fall victim to his knee-jerk deceptions about how much he cared for the plight of the poor in South America. While I completely agree that the corruption in South American politics is pervasive and often horrific, most people do not realize that the terrors which were brought about by Guevara were far worse than anything about which he had complained.
That being said, I recently discovered the following article which illustrates some of what I mean; this is a great article, and you should take a few minutes to read it:
The Truth About Che Guevara
To put it mildly, Guevara was a spoiled, upper-class brat who became one of the worst mass murderers in Communism's long history of putting innocent people to death simply for having a college degree and/or being able to think for themselves. There are no two ways about it - if you lived in a country where Guevara had helped to overthrow your government, you simply would have been killed. No trial, no appeal - just executed.
All of this is to say - there is nothing admirable about wearing a t-shirt with Guevara's faced printed on it; the only thing that it signifies is that the person wearing the shirt is an idiot.
Well, suffice it to say that 2016 was a weird year. The United States endured one of the worst presidential elections in decades, in which Americans were forced to choose between two utterly non-presidential candidates. (And of course, everyone on the planet knows how that turned out.)
Nevertheless, one of my favorite traditions each New Year is to read Dave Barry's Year in Review, which examines all of the newsworthy items for the past 12 months. Dave's reviews always remind me that no matter how stupid things seemed to be during the previous year, we should each take a moment to step back and thoughtfully contemplate just how stupid things really were...
And with that in mind, here is Dave's year-in-review for 2016:
Remember how I was running for President?
Well, it turns out that I would have won both the electoral college in a landslide AND the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who didn't actually vote for me.
For people who are either unhappy or ecstatic about this year's election, consider the following statistics:
The figures collected by United States Elections Project show that of the 231,556,622 people who are eligible to vote in our nation, only 131,741,500 actually participated, meaning that an estimated 99,815,122 people did not vote.(1) In other words, 43% of the population refused to contribute to this year's presidential race.
Think about that for a moment. That's almost 100 million people who could have made a difference.
With that in mind, let's look at some additional statistics from the election:
As of this writing, the New York Times' election website lists 60,071,781 popular election votes for HRC versus 59,791,135 votes for DJT, which is a difference of only 280,646 votes.(2) This means that even a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of votes which were not cast could have easily made the the difference between winning or losing for either candidate.
Just 0.003% more of the population would have given DJT a popular majority, although it would have taken much less than that for HRC to have swung a few of the Midwest states in her favor. For example, DJT won the state of Pennsylvania by only 68,236 votes, and he won the state of Florida by only 119,770 votes.(2) If those two states had gone to HRC, the election results would have been dramatically different; HRC would have had 277 electoral college votes on election day versus 241 for DJT. In other words, less than 200,000 votes could have elected HRC.
We all really need to let that concept sink in, regardless of whether you are satisfied or distraught by the results of this year's election.
What all this means for you personally is - you really need to mobilize your fellow party members to get out and vote for the next election. The participation of your fellow citizens will either swing the election in your candidate's favor, or it will widen the gap so that your candidate has a clear and uncontested victory.
- United States Elections Project (http://www.electproject.org/2016g)
- New York Times (http://nyti.ms/2fAyEAv)
Many years ago, I used to think that abolishing the electoral college was a good idea. To be honest, I felt that way for the majority of my life. But that was until I studied more about the history and purpose of the electoral college, and then I slowly came to realize that even though situations like 2016's election debacle are a distinct possibility, our existing electoral system actually makes a lot of sense.
The following videos came out over a year ago, and they explain not only why the electoral college is essential when trying to prevent a candidate from only focusing on specific states with high populations, but also why the abolition of the electoral college would have drastic outcomes.
Do You Understand the Electoral College?
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College
To summarize these two videos - doing away with the electoral college sounds like a good idea when you're upset at the results of an election, but it's really not.
That being said, the word which best describes most Americans after this year's election is "angry." And I get it. You're probably angry. I'm angry. Millions of people are angry. This year's election sucked.
But that being said, impassioned and uninformed responses are not the best way to bring about the changes which our electoral process so desperately needs. If people really want to make a difference, they need to encourage the Democratic Party to abolish their ridiculous system of "Super Delegates," which is what helped HRC to unfairly steal the DNC's nomination from Bernie Sanders, who most-likely could have defeated the Drumpf.
An acquaintance of mine recently posted the following image to Facebook, which has rapidly become the central repository for all sorts of stupidity:
Just for perspective, I have traveled to other countries where its citizens cannot build a house - ever.
Or drive - ever.
Or go fishing - ever.
Or do pretty much anything they want - ever.
These unfortunate souls often have to work 7 days a week for less money per month than our minimum wage workers make in two hours. But most-importantly, these citizens cannot speak their mind about how messed up their country is - ever.
Unlike the dude who created that meme.
The schmuck who created that image has no idea just how many personal freedoms he actually has; so now he takes his over-privileged life for granted and believes that a few inconveniences in a free society are some sort of bondage.
What an ungrateful idiot.
UPDATE: See 7 Harsh Realities Of Life Millennials Need To Understand for more information; especially point #4.
|Facebook Person 1: ||"My terrible candidate is nowhere near as terrible as your terrible candidate!" |
|Facebook Person 2: ||"No way! Your terrible candidate is more terribler!" |
|Facebook Person 1: ||"Not a chance! Your terrible candidate is the terriblest!" |
|Facebook Person 2: ||"Whaddabunchacrap! Your terrible candidate is the most-terriblest terrible candidate EVER!" |
Blah, blah, blah... Can we get back to people posting hideously-insecure "If you're my friend you'll repost this" drivel and ridiculous urban legends which are easily refutable on Snopes? Isn't that really what FB is all about?
To be honest, I could care less about the Trumps, or the Clintons for that matter. From my perspective, this is going to be a lousy election year. But that being said, the amount of attention that a single, stupid, and seemingly-insignificant speechwriter gaffe is generating in the press and social media these days is enough to make me want to hurl. (Although I will admit to finding #FamousMelianaTrumpQuotes pretty amusing; almost as much fun as #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.)
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, the following article should catch you up on what happened at the Republican National Convention (RNC) yesterday; Melania Trump's speechwriter lifted a handful of phrases from a speech by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) eight years ago:
The Melania Trump Plagiarism Scandal
The above article does a good job of pointing out just how much was copied, which amounts to around two paragraphs in which Melania Trump's speech was either substantially copied or paraphrased from Michelle Obama's speech. In my college days, if I had used the same level of copying or paraphrasing in a term paper without proper citation, the best-case scenario is that the entire paper would have been rejected, and the worst-case scenario is that I would have justifiably received an "F" in the class. However, as the above article points out, Melania Trump is not alone in the recent history of presidential campaign plagiarism.
To begin with, and what is most amusing to me, is that the same speech by Michelle Obama at the 2008 DNC leveraged a few phrases from Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" book without proper attribution, although to be honest I think those few phrases were probably added by Michelle's husband since he was a big fan of Alinsky's work. (However, if someone wanted to be as obnoxious as everyone in the press is being today, one could make the argument that Melania Trump's plagiarism is simply carrying on a tradition of campaign speech misappropriation by potential First Ladies which was first established by Michelle Obama.)
Nevertheless, if the gaffe in Michelle Obama's speech was indeed the fault of her husband's, that would not be too surprising, as Barack Obama has often quoted other authors' works in the past without proper attribution. Here are just a few examples:
Obama by the Numbers: Twice-Told Tales, and Nine in a Row
Obama's State of the Union Was Tantamount to Plagiarism
The Obama Plagiarism Scandal
Bush speechwriter accuses Obama of plagiarism in State of the Union
You might be tempted to take the following video with a grain of salt based on its origin, but it does do a good job of showing the levels to which Barack Obama (or his speechwriters) will go when leveraging other people's speeches:
When Obama Plagiarized Speeches from Deval Patrick and John Edwards
And of course, I could go on about John McCain, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and a host of others, but let us not forget Joe Biden, who seems to have made a career out of plagiarism. I love how Joe Biden not only stole material from other people - he actually stole other people's life stories and substituted them for his own. He also fabricated his academic records, and eventually his web of intentional deceit forced him to drop out of the 1988 presidential race. Of course, Biden went on to become the Vice President later, proving to future generations of politicians that outright plagiarism will not necessarily be the end of your career. Nevertheless, here are just a few articles about Biden's many transgressions:
The Write Stuff? Why Biden's plagiarism shouldn't be forgotten.
Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report
Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not 'Malevolent'
The Biden Plagiarism Scandal
All of this is just to say, a lot of people in politics have plagiarized other people, and the frequency with which it occurs does not make it right. However, from where I am standing it seems as though the way in which today's press has latched onto this single incident with such venom while essentially giving a multitude of other offenders a free pass is more than a little lop-sided. I guess we can see which candidate the mainstream media has chosen, as they have done in the past.
To be honest, nothing in this mini-scandal is going to do anything to sway me any more against either candidate; at the moment, the following image seems like my best option. And just to make sure that I give credit where it is due, I am pointing out - for the record - that I plagiarized it from someone else.
POSTSCRIPT: The following information was interesting, albeit somewhat outside the original scope of the blog, so I intentionally omitted it from my main narrative. However, I thought that it was worth adding to the end of this post. In an odd turn of events, Barack Obama has also been accused in the past of plagiarizing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in turn was guilty of plagiarizing other people:
Boston U. Panel Finds Plagiarism by Dr. King
So the saga of Melania Trump quoting Michelle Obama who quoted Saul Alinsky has a rich tradition in politics. Perhaps nothing is original anymore?
I have seen a great deal of Internet chatter over the past 24 hours regarding President Obama's speech at Hiroshima, with the central theme for most of the comments being a condemnation for any attempt by a United States President to apologize for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before I continue, let me make two facts perfectly clear: 1) I am no fan of President Obama, and 2) I fully support President Truman's decision to end World War II as expeditiously as possible. Let me address those two points out of order.
The second point in my introduction is difficult for many people of this generation to understand. Years of revisionist historians have deluded the weak-minded into a semi-apologetic state with regard to the decisions which were made in the latter years of the Second World War in order to quickly bring that conflict to a definitive end. By the summer of 1945, WWII had been raging for six years. Over 70 million people had perished as a result, and Japan's personal contributions to those death tolls were in the millions. However, the Empire of Japan impudently refused to surrender despite all indications of its imminent defeat. As a result, the U.S. would have had no choice but to invade Japan as it had done for Europe, and the war would have continued for several years. The expected number of military and civilian Japanese casualties which would have occurred as a result of such an invasion varies greatly depending on the source, but the numbers are generally in the millions; with the most-conservative estimates of at least one million per side of the conflict. So if we were to hypothetically assume a 'lower' number of just one-half million Japanese casualties as a result of an invasion of Japan, (and that number is excessively low by almost all estimations), then hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives were spared by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of invading. While I agree that arguing in favor of mass destruction seems counter-intuitive, the fact remains that a lower number of deaths is a preferable outcome - even if you are comparing a quarter-million to a million.
That being said, the first point in my introduction should be self-evident. To put it mildly, President Obama has been a bad president; he has managed to consistently bungle both domestic and foreign policy. All of the goodwill from countries around the world who celebrated with the United States upon the election of our first African-American president has evaporated as President Obama's misguided policies have continued to erode world-wide opinions of our once-great nation. When regions of our country erupted with racial violence, President Obama is the one man who could have stepped in and asked all sides to lay down their arms and restore peace. This was President Obama's single-greatest opportunity to behave like the President of the United States, and having done so he could have created a lasting legacy. Yet he did nothing. In short, President Obama has consistently failed in his duties and responsibilities to this country.
All of this brings us to President Obama's actions during this last year of his presidency; he is desperately searching for what will become his "Legacy." Like most presidents, he wants to be remembered for the good that he has done, and he needs something monumental to overcome his many shortcomings as president. His recent overtures to the Communist dictators still in power in Cuba are a perfect example of the levels to which his political distress have plummeted; attempting to normalize relations with an out-spoken Communist-ruled country which possesses Cuba's horrific human rights record is unconscionable. (In past years I have spoken with political refugees who have fled that corrupt and inhuman regime; the sufferings of Cuba's people have been abominable, and to recognize the Castro dynasty as legitimate nullifies its victims' anguish.)
So it hardly came as a surprise to hear that President Obama intended to become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima. As I mentioned earlier, he needs something significant by which to make himself remembered. And yet, I was immediately suspicious as to what he would say. Neither common sense nor the presence of facts to the contrary have ever stopped 'Great Liberal Minds' from apologizing for things about which they should not feel remorse. As such, it was with a small sense of trepidation that I watched President Obama's speech at Hiroshima earlier today.
Despite my admitted dislike for President Obama, I listened to his entire speech - and not just the sound bites which opposing Talking Heads have been posting. In addition, I vowed to keep an open mind as I listened. As a result, I did not see any part of President Obama's discourse where he "apologized" outright, nor did I necessarily consider any of his statements vague enough to be misconstrued as an apology. That being said, his speech was often redundant, naive, and simplistically idealist in nature.
Yes, war is evil.
Yes, many lives were lost in WWII.
Yes, peace is a good thing.
Yes, no one should ever use another atomic weapon.
I think everyone understands those ideas without having them drowned in waves of political rhetoric. But to be fair, some might argue that even though these these concepts are a given within civilized societies, they still need to be expressed. Perhaps that is so. However, those thoughts would have been considerably more palatable had they not been voiced in such a long-winded fashion. It took President Obama 17 minutes to convey a series of ideas which should have been whittled down to a five-minute speech at the most.
But the one thing which I heard that was truly deplorable was President Obama's continuous pontification about the need for peace in the world, yet his personal track record on the subject is atrocious and hypocritical. President Obama ascended to his office built on the empty promises that he would end U.S. participation in the wars throughout the Middle East, and yet he has continued to escalate the various conflicts, and through his mismanagement of declining situations he has made matters arguably worse in most areas of that region. I could go into detail about ISIS, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Israel, Syria, etc., but those subjects are really outside the scope of this blog.
However, what is within the scope of this blog is the president's continuous escalation of drone-based bombing campaigns. Personally, as a veteran I am openly in favor of killing terrorists with minimal risk to U.S. personnel, and unmanned drones fill that role quite nicely. That being said, President Obama cannot wax poetic about the necessity for peace and the end of bombing campaigns while simultaneously sanctioning innumerable bombing campaigns throughout the world. Such behavior is deceitful and duplicitous.
In the end, perhaps this is where President Obama may ultimately find his legacy. When several decades have passed and the dust of history has settled on his presidency, Obama may be remembered simply as 'The Great Hypocrite.'