Wednesday, April 6, 2016

MOOCs, Mitch, and Social Media

It's been a while since I've posted anything here, but it's okay; I got my excuses all polished and shiny and ready to roll out.

I bought a workbench, and spent about a month playing with DIY projects. That had to end when the credit card bills for tools and supplies started rolling in. So, I returned to my computer, but it died when I removed some ransomware that didn't want to be removed. It trashed my system. Getting a new computer, setting it up, restoring old files from back-ups took some time, and then I discovered MOOCs.

If you are the curios sort, or the person who loves learning, you're gonna love MOOC. I spend hours everyday on free home study courses, more hours, even, than I was putting into Facebook and Twitter. I've gone through lessons on fiction writing, World War I, internet research techniques, a history of the British Empire, and a course on literature and mental health.

And I wasn't blogging.

I would have continued on that course but for an item that popped up on Yahoo's news page: Mitch McConnell boasted of an "incredibly productive session" to a conservative radio host.

I'm not making this up. He actually said that.

The man should know not to talk when he's off his meds, but I'm glad he did... It brought me back here to continue what I started.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dissent and Diversion

Saturday 27 February 2016

Facebook, and social media in general, do not offer a forum for robust debate on contentious subjects, making it necessary to keep discussions focused narrowly on select topics. Nowhere is that more evident than in arguments over "Gun Rights" vs. "Gun Control." In those discussions, pro-gun advocates (and gun control people, to a lesser extent) have learned to derail arguments with questions and statements unrelated to the opening argument or comment. In a recent example, a statement saying that states with strict gun laws experience more gun violence was met with the counter-claim. Immediately, a response claimed that the counter-claim did not explain Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit.

Notice that the response did not affirm nor deny the accuracy of the comment that a correlation exists between looser gun laws and higher gun violence, but instead chose to change and expand the subject by bringing in an exception to the rule, by raising questions of gun trafficking and gang violence, and thereby increasing the complexity of the discussion and veering it away from a debunked comment while simultaneously forcing that complexity into the narrow confines of social media.

Gun control advocates sometimes use the same tactic, but from my experience, only when they show a lack of firm grasp of the facts, and not because their argument is weak.

Could it be that those who seek to distract and derail a debate are those that know they have lost the debate, but rather than withdraw, try to force the thread into an endless pursuit of ever-changing topics?

Give up? The answer is "Yes."

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/01/29/us/where-50000-guns-in-chicago-came-from.html


Thursday, January 7, 2016

For Sale: Internet

Someone said that statistics show a decline in religious faith, and religion will gradually die out as reason and science come to the fore in the world's collective view of reality. I commented that the decline in religion does not mean religion is dying. The United States has a history of religious revivals every few generations. "But," he said, "The internet changes everything."

I knew what the meant. The internet allows the free exchange of ideas... an environment antithetical to belief in the supernatural. But, standing on that simplistic argument denies two trends that refute it.

First, the internet also gives voice to conspiracy theories, lunatic fringe politics, and pseudo-science, as well as religious beliefs.

And second, corporatism and right-wing extremism hold greater economic power to take control of the world wide web than liberal thinkers who strive to promote reason and secularism. Where we once had unlimited access to the daily news, we're now seeing paywalls on news sources, thereby limiting access to valuable citations and expanding avenues for the expression of the amateur's opinions over the professionals truths. I foresee a time when traditional new outlets will require a paid subscription in order to access their contents. That would leave blogs and social media as the only sources of information, and those voices are notoriously partisan. As more websites choose to seek profits from paid subscriptions as well as from advertising, information will become increasingly more expensive to obtain.

I see that happening in my internet research, particularly on the subject of gun violence, in which I must read stories in newspapers from across the country. Slightly less than one-hundred people are killed or injured by guns in the US every day. Add in crimes committed with guns and the numbers become immeasurable. Not many of us can afford subscriptions to every newspaper for the purpose of tracking any daily occurrence.

That leads to a golden opportunity for corporate powers to use the internet for their own ends, and since nationalism serves those ends better than does socialism, advertisers might pressure their clients to paint the views of the oligarchy in rosy colors.

Those thoughts would be mere crystal-ball gazing if it were not for the trend in that direction having already kicked in. An object in motion will remain in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force. I can only imagine that outside force as a race to dominate an underground web filled with group-think voices screeching at each other, with one side using those controlled news outlets as citations, the other having only its own updated version of the Weather Underground.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Gun Maker's Dilemma


Which side will the NRA take... will they go with the guy who organized the Show-the-Muslims-Your-Guns in the hope of sparking a confrontation, or will they throw their support behind the murderous religious extremists who want to shoot anyone and everyone who disagrees with them?

For gun-totin' Americans the choice is obvious. Those righteous men who consider every Muslim a member of ISIS are true-blue red-blooded Christian soldiers, and are-- of course-- on the side of truth, justice, and the American Way.

But, the NRA's focus on gun industry profits makes the choice more difficult. The arms industry has nearly maxed out sales to Americans, and could focus their attention on the Mid-East market, a market not yet saturated and thus showing potential for greater financial return.

Still, the dilemma persists... there exists massive numbers of unarmed and extremist Islamist reactionaries in the world.  If only Ted Nugent and company can find a way to arm both sides in the Muslim Middle-eastern crisis, the NRA would likely engage in a propaganda campaign to justify the arming of groups perceived to be America's enemies.

What to do about ISIS? And what to do about declining gun sales in America?

Gun slingers in this county are, for the most part, drama queens who use guns as elements in a costumed farce, as aids in crime, as props for anti-government rhetoric, or as accidents waiting to happen, while ISIS actually shoots large numbers of people. Surely, the NRA can see the logic in joining the blood-letting and gun industry profit potential inherent in arming ISIS.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rules of Engagement

Every commenter is expected to follow the rules here. They are:

1. Civility: Keep comments civil. I will delete insults and personal attacks immediately on seeing them.
2. Proselytizing: This is not a church and I am not a Christian. There exist blogs that accept that sort of silliness, but this is not one of them.
3. Spam: I preach against consumerism, so I'm not going to allow spam on my site. Don't get me wrong... I respect entrepreneurship even as I loathe modern Citizens United capitalism, but respect and loathing do not cancel each other. My low opinion of the plunderbund's greed carries greater weight than any warm, fuzzy feelings I have for entrepreneurs.
4. Hillbilly Junction has no agenda and no theme. I leave it open for whatever captures my attention and feed my obsession for scribbling. I'll work hard to keep it interesting and readable.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cheated

I don't get it.

Religion.

My parents had me baptized at a very early age-- five years at most, probably younger.

People stood at the bank of a creek that ran between a stone church and a two-lane blacktop road. A preacher standing in the creek with me said something to the congregation, told me to hold my breath, and dipped me into the chilly water. Preacher said a few more words about salvation by Christ the Redeemer, and sent me off to be led to a room in the church where I dried off and changed out of the baptismal gown, and then a deacon led me back to the creek bank to join the observers there.

I felt cheated.

No one had told me what to expect, but I had overheard my parents' conversations about the ritual in which I would soon engage. From those eavesdroppings I inferred that I would become a "Christian"; that the event held magical powers to make of me something new and different.

But the sky did not open to reveal great truths, Jesus did not descend from heaven to welcome me into the fold. I felt, for a few minutes, embarrassed by the attention from smiling, fawning adults who praised me, praised Jesus, and then wandered off to the next wet-haired youth to emerge from the creek.

I felt cheated.

On the drive home, the rushing air from an open window in my father's old Plymouth ruffled my hair. My parents talked about the preacher, the frowning woman in the flower-print dress who sat in the front row, and the hope that none of the baptized get a fever from the still-cold water in the creek. I sat in the back seat with a my brother and wondered, what had just happened here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fear and Loathing Among the Semi-Literate



12 September 2014

The First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Read that first part again. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

Michelle Bachmann didn't read that part. It's the First Amendment. I can only wonder if she has read the rest of them.

“If you want take away my religious liberties,” she said in a radio interview with Lars Larson, “you can advocate for that but you do it through the constitutional process and you don’t intimidate and no politician should give away my religious liberties or yours.”

Somehow, in that muddled brain, she equates the call for gay rights as a move to take away her religious rights, and then assures us that her religious rights are ensconced in the Constitution; that human rights are a violation of her interpretation of the Constitution. Can she perceive why the term "batshittery" was invented to describe her incoherent ramblings?

Some of the more conservative elements within the Christian religion have translated Bible verses in any manner that they feel promotes their views. It doesn't matter what the scripture in question actually says, it only matters how it can be twisted, spun, bent, and mangled. That same thinking drives those Christians into reworking the Constitution, our history, the words of the Founders, and the pronouncements of political figures. Anything can mean anything to semi-literate, and it does.

Michelle Bachmann and her cronies-in-kind-- Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz among a legion of others-- thrive on fear and hate, the two-sided coin that drives the reactionary right.

A wise man once told me, "Do not ever-- ever-- make a crucial decision when you are in the throes of fear or hate. Nothing good can come of it. Wait until your senses return, and then decide."

It's unfortunate for our country that many of our right-wing politicians have not had a wise man or woman in their lives.