Monday, May 20, 2019

Week of 05/20/2019

Democrat Complacency Is Failing America
In the 2016 movie “Captain America: Civil War”, billionaire hero Tony Stark meets Peter Parker for the first time and asks him why he does what he does as Spider-Man.  This incarnation of the classic Marvel hero flubs up the legendary line of “With great power comes great responsibility” which was crafted by the late Stan Lee, but he still manages to convey it in a unique way.
“When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen?  They happen because of you.”
This is certainly applicable to recent events.
It has been often said that America is either getting into or is already in a constitutional crisis thanks to Narcissist President Donald Trump and his cohorts in the fascistic and sociopathic GOP.  Except that those who are sounding the alarms now are far too late.
America has been in a constitutional crisis.  For quite some time, in fact.  It’s been this way when those in the GOP decided that they didn’t need to formally pass a budget, just string along a series of continual resolutions.  It’s been this way when those in the GOP decided government shutdowns and legislative stagnation should be standard operating procedure.  It’s been this way when those in the GOP decided they can choose who should be in the Supreme Court in opposition to everything in the Constitution.  It’s been this way when those in the GOP decided that the rules only apply to everyone else and not them.
All of these didn’t start when Narcissist Trump took over the White House.  It’s only gotten to the point to where he and his minions can flaunt their abuses of power without consequence.
But it didn’t get this way in a vacuum.
While the GOP has gone through two recent phases where they were one party in charge of everything, there have also been several periods when they weren’t.  And yet, they still were able to manipulate the system to get what they wanted.  Why?  Because those in the Democratic Party let them.
Twenty years ago, a sitting President of the United States was impeached for lying under oath about oral sex with an intern.  The party that raised the stink and pushed the investigation all the way to impeachment said that they did it because of the rule of law.  Even though they knew they wouldn’t get the conviction they wanted, they went through it anyway.
Today, a sitting President of the Untied States is accused of much serious charges.  A special investigation was held, a report filed, and some people even went to prison over it.  But the sitting President now claims “executive privilege” prevents the public from seeing it.  The same party that pushed for impeachment two decades ago – the GOP - now wants this to just go away.
And the Democrats?  Well, they could call for impeachment, like the GOP did two decades ago.  But they don’t want to.  House Speaker and perpetual fail Nancy Pelosi has made it clear on more than one occasions that she doesn’t like impeachment.  At all.  Ever.  And the rest of the Democratic fail machine are running lock-step with her.
Ignore a subpoena?  Oh the horror!  Fail to show up at congressional hearings?  Shame!  Declare a fake emergency to go around the constitutional authority of the Congress just to fund an ego-wall?  Shake fist!  Shake fist!
No, the horror and the shame belong to the Democrats for their self-imposed impotence.
Yes, Speaker Pelosi and her friends in the Dem-controlled House of Representatives could do more.  They could.  But they don’t.  Because they want to focus everything on their favorite subject... “the next election”.
The 2018 Mid-Term Hoax wasn’t even finished when people started looking ahead to the 2020 Presidential Fraud.  There are over twenty Democratic challengers and one GOP challenger to Narcissist Trump, and Pelosi and company just want to focus on that next election.  And it certainly helps them if Narcissist Trump and the GOP are seen as belligerent, abusive, aggressive, hate-filled, bigoted, amoral sociopaths and psychopaths.  That just makes their side look that much better.  Hell, Narcissist Trump makes Panama’s late dictator Manuel Noriega look like a Cub Scout!
That’s what it’s all about, folks.  Pelosi and her lackeys don’t want to impeach Narcissist Trump or do anything remotely resembling restoring those “checks and balances” that they love to talk about, because they can use the abusive GOP and their narcissistic self-appointed savior for their own elections.  Scare their own base to keep voting for them and keep them in office.
So, yeah, who cares of Narcissist Trump and his lackeys abuse their power and violate the Constitution and turn the rule of law into a joke?  All that matters for the Democrats is the “next election”!  It is always about that “next election”!  Always!
And I predict that even if the Democrats manage to unseat Narcissist Trump in 2020 and he doesn’t decide to behave like a certain former Panamanian dictator and actually leave in 2021, power-monger Pelosi and the rest of the Dem leadership will still do nothing about the abuses of power by the GOP.  Nothing at all.  Because, after all, there’s 2022 to consider.  And, after that, 2024.  And, after that, 2026.  And so on, and so on, and just keep upping the year by 2 and you get the picture.
Let’s get brutally honest here... for all that the GOP does, for all of their abuses, all of their violations, and all of their aggressions, the Democrats are guilty of complicity in those actions; for letting them happen for the sake of that “next election”.
That’s why the GOP love to say “both sides are at fault” in their endless fetish of negation through false equivalence.  Yes, the GOP are abusive thugs, but the Dems are guilty of letting it happen for the sake of that “next election”.  It has nothing to do with equivalence.  It has to do with them doing things and the other side doing nothing about it except complain.  And, while their actions are aggressive and abusive and even bigoted, the GOP are actually seen as doing something, as opposed to the Dems, who are afraid of taking a stand.  That’s why the tactic of waiting for that “next election” will often fail the Democrats.  The GOP are seen as doers, and the Dems are seen as a bunch of incompetent and impotent do-nothings.
The Democrats need to stop complaining about the GOP and start taking action when they can.  They have majority control of the House of Representatives.  So what if the GOP-controlled Senate kills your bill on the spot?  Let that be on them!  So what if the GOP-controlled Senate will not convict Narcissist Trump if he is impeached?  Let it be on them!  So what if the GOP causes the government to be shut down again?  Let it be on them!  Let them do nothing.  Then the tables will be turned on the GOP.  Then *they* will be seen as the impotent do-nothings.
Remember that line from “Civil War”.  “When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen?  They happen because of you.”  It may not be as simpler than “with great power comes great responsibility”, but it certainly makes things crystal clear.  If you have the ability to do what is right, and you don’t, and the wrong things happen, then it’s on you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Week of 05/13/2019

Break Up Big Tech?  Why Just Them?
So the big talk when it comes to Big Tech is that it’s just too big to keep it going.
By “Big Tech”, of course, we really mean Big Social Media.  That’s primarily Facebook and Alphabet (aka Google).  Yes, some people want to include Apple, but, really, Apple keeps sabotaging itself.  They show all the traits, they get really good at something, and then, for whatever reason, they just fail.
So right now it’s Facebook and Alphabet, because they seem to have a stranglehold on all the really big things, don’t they?  Well... “big” in terms of online social media and interaction.  “Everyone” has a presence on Facebook, this columnist included.  “Everyone” has an account.  Or two.  Or three.  People put up pages for their pets as well as their pet projects and business ventures.  Again, that includes this columnist.
But Facebook also has a problem with... well, itself. 
Most people see Facebook as a medium for social interaction.  However, as I pointed out in my “Don’t Be Facebook” article, Facebook is really an information brokerage group using social media as a means to collect data.  From day one, they collect information about every interaction we make through their service and then they make some form of that information available to others, be it through polling or advertising.  That’s how they make their money.  They sell your interaction as data.
Facebook is “Big” because it gobbles up anything that could replace it.  Instagram was considered a “threat” to Facebook... until they bought it.  WhatsApp was considered a “threat” to Facebook... until they also bought it.  And what they couldn’t buy, they pretty much rendered useless.  Snapchat used to be a “threat” until Facebook and Instagram copied many of Snapchat’s prized filters, and now it’s pretty much a dying media.  Yahoo’s Messenger service was driven into oblivion by both Microsoft Skype and Facebook’s Messenger.
Then there’s Alphabet, the “Big” that used to just be Google.  Much like its much older rival Yahoo, Google was originally just a search engine that made money off ad revenue.  But then it bought out all sorts of other things.  They bought out Blogger (which is the service this column is hosted through) and YouTube.  They bought out the Android operating system, which is now on almost all non-Apple cellphones.  They came up with their own browser, their own email service, their own maps, their own translators, their own streaming media service, their own home security service, their own laptops, their own... well, they had their own social media service but they couldn’t compete with Facebook so they dropped it.  Oh, and they also have been laying down some serious Internet cable, and getting into the cellphone business itself.
Like I said before, Apple tries to be a “big”, but they keep on sabotaging itself from getting too big for their own good.  They come up with one niche product, excel at it, and then that’s usually it.  They survived because of iTunes and the iPod, then because of the iPhone and all of the apps that were developed for it through iTunes.  They’re just hanging on right now, looking for the next “pop” venture to put everything into.
And, really, I’ve been on everything from Apple starting with the Apple IIe back in the pre-Internet days, and from what I’ve seen, they don’t really do anything to get past the stage of “wannabe”.  They may control their own hardware and software, but that rigid control has also limited their own scope so they will never be anything but a wannabe “Big”.
Am I missing anyone?  Oh, yeah, there’s Amazon; owner of the Washington Post, king of the online shopping business, and the sworn enemy of Narcissist President Donald Trump.  I guess they count as a “big” as well.
So, yeah, let’s break them all up.  Split them into smaller groups.  Scatter them so they can’t be so all-imposing and abusive and stifle progress and stifle innovation.  Because, you know, “Big” is bad, right?  Well, except when it comes to banks... and airlines... and healthcare... and oil... and political parties.
Yeah, we broke up AT&T back in the day.  They were “the” monopoly back then.  The original Ma Bell.  They owned all the phone lines and all of the phones and all the phone service.  And we broke them up.  We declared that they were a monopoly and that it was wrong for them to own and control everything.  They got split up, and we had a whole bunch of local and long-distance carriers.
Ever wonder what happened to Ma Bell?  Well they got bought out by one of those “new upstart” services, and then that company renamed themselves AT&T, and now they are the biggest media service in America, owning not only phone service, but also DirecTV and the mega-media conglomerate Time-Warner, which, in turn, owns Warner Brothers, the CW, DC Comics, CNN, TNT, TBS, Headline News, Cartoon Network, TruTV, HBO, Cinemax, etcetera, etcetera.  The current AT&T essentially became far bigger than the original AT&T ever could be, and nobody is saying that it is wrong or that they should be broken up.
But, yeah, let’s break up Big Tech.
Let’s talk about Microsoft for a minute.  I came to their defense twenty-plus years ago when the White House under President Bill Clinton (who is a novice in the field of narcissism compare to Trump) decided that the house that Bill Gates built was “too big” to keep intact.  Their supposed “crime” was having the most dominant operating system of the time, and then having their own in-house browser.  You may have heard of it.  It’s called Internet Explorer.  Yeah, *that* Internet Explorer!
Well Microsoft had to politic-up and learn to bring in lobbying groups in order to keep from being broken like Ma Bell.  But what happened to them since then?  Well, they’ve ventured into the cellphone service... which they failed at.  They came up with a really cool-looking cloud-based netbook that’s overpriced.  They put up a half-hearted attempt at a streaming device which is junk.  They have a gaming system that they are fumbling at.  And they’ve decided to replace Internet Explorer with the buggy Microsoft Edge browser that people hate and instead rely on Alphabet’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers.  Oh, and they declared that Windows 10 would be “the last” operating system.  And they’re working on including Android-compatible apps.
In other words, like Apple, Microsoft has really been sabotaging itself.  Instead of being “too big” like the Clinton White House proclaimed, they have been slowly working themselves into oblivion.
But, yeah, let’s break up Big Tech.
Let’s get brutally honest here... while “Big Tech”, or at least “Big Social Media Tech”, is, in fact, big and over-imposing and behaving like the abusive giants they are, they are far from the only “big” that we need to worry about.
Big Healthcare and Big Pharma have been teaming up to form much more abusive conglomerates to the American people than Big Tech.  We can say “no” to the new $1000 cellphone, but we can’t say “no” to paying through the nose for drugs that keep us alive.  We don’t need a wireless speaker, but we do need to see a doctor. 
Tell me, which do you think is more important: a voice-over home assistant to play songs, or an urgent care service close by that will see us when we need it?
We’re looking at cable services and satellite services and we’re saying they’re “too big” and “too expensive”, but also look at what’s popping up to challenge them!  Cord-cutting services like Roku are making streaming media a suitable replacement.
Don’t want to pay for that $1000 cellphone?  Hate paying those huge cellphone service costs?  There are affordable substitutes to both!  This commentator not only knows they exist, but this commentator also uses them!
The truth of the matter is this: Facebook and Alphabet are only “big” because we made them this way!  They are monsters of our own creation.  And we can also break them down if we want to.  We don’t need corrupt government officials or well-meaning politicians to do that for us.  And, really, they have much bigger and more menacing “big” groups to target.
Social media is just that... social.  That means we make it what it is.  We can also turn to something else if we don’t like it.  Don’t like Facebook?  Fire them and find something else.  Don’t like Google?  Go Bing or even Yahoo.
You want to break up “Big Tech”?  Do it yourself.