Facts are more important than opinions.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez catapulted herself into the limelight by being a firebrand, a torch-carrier for Democratic Socialism (which, I’m informed, is different than “Socialism,” and is definitely different than National Socialism), and an interview in which she offered this gem:

I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.

CBS News, interview with Anderson Cooper, 2019/Jan/6

Now, let’s be straight up here: there’s more context to this quote than just the quote itself. She actually said that facts were important, and she acknowledged that she’s fuzzy on a few numbers here and there – apparently by orders of magnitude, but that’s okay.

After all: what’s the US national budget? I can manufacture a number in my head offhand that sounds vaguely right, but it turns out that I was wrong by a … few trillion as well. So never mind that she said that the Pentagon spent more than sixteen trillion more than the actual national budget as a whole – the idea is that there are really big numbers involved, and perhaps we should be thinking about that instead of fretting over whether a junior Representative knows everything right off the bat.

However, it does speak to her character that she’s willing to claim things without, like, knowing them; for example, I just tested myself in the previous paragraph, by asking myself: “What is the national budget?” and coming up with an answer… and then, you know, looking it up. I didn’t write my answer down, because that’s a truth claim, and I don’t like making truth claims without data.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez apparently has no such qualms, even when she has actual agency in the government of the United States.

Pardon me, but yikes.

Facts are wayyyyy more important than opinions, because facts give us the basis upon which to form those opinions. Facts should be able to change our opinions.

The idea that being “morally right” is more important than “precisely right” is… terrifying. How do you know if you’re morally right without reality backing you up? If reality disagrees with you, are you going to choose your morality over, like, what’s real?

That’s living in a fantasy land, where one branch of government spends more than six times what our actual government takes in every year. Where unicorns sprout elves made of gold. Where what would help one borough in one city will help every person in every village in a country that consists of more than 3.5 million square miles – projecting the needs of roughly 1.3% of a population across the remaining 98.7% of it.

I respect Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ chutzpah. I admire her fire. As a person, I’m sure she’s admirable – we need people willing to stand for moral positions, even if we disagree with them.But it’s important that morality is based on facts, absolutely and irrevocably. If the facts are wrong, point that out… with other facts. Correct the perceptions. Adjust the positions accordingly.

Don’t make up stuff to justify yourself. It’s one thing to be wrong, but another thing to stick to your guns despite your data being wrong.

In the real world, we call that “lying.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez can accuse President Trump all she likes – but unless her positions change as her knowledge of actual, precise, correct facts change, she’s lying too.

Deliver what you promise when you write

I’ve gone on a number of (hopefully mild) rants about clickbait in writing: “Seven Reasons Your Wife Will Leave You!”, “Trump’s Bat-Baby!”, and so forth.

Today I read with great interest an article on CNN entitled “Why Trump wants you to be afraid of high speed trains.” It’s… an interesting article, but I came away wondering why Trump wanted me to be afraid of high speed trains.

It wasn’t actually poorly written as an article – surprising given CNN’s Trump derangement – but I kept waiting for the delivery. The main takeaway I got was that California’s failure to deliver high speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco was a political football for Trump.

The whole point of the article seemed to culminate in this line for me:

But that wasn’t the only time the President dunked on rail this week.

… oh no! The President “dunked on” rail multiple times this week! Given rail’s centrality in the “Green New Deal,” is this surprising?

I wanted to read why Trump actually wanted me to be afraid of rail. I think rail’s a great idea for the urban areas – I can think of five or six regions offhand that would benefit greatly from more civic railways (centered in a metropolis, like a subway system) and they’d benefit from being tied together by rail, too.

That’d play fantastically in the densely populated areas that voted heavily Democratic in the last Presidential election… and be pointless for the wide swaths of United States geography that voted for Trump.

Here’s a map, based on geography, from the University of Michigan:

The primary beneficiaries of a heightened (and important) rail system are some of those regions of blue: high concentrated population centers, interconnected.

All that red? Left in the cold. They still get to drive their own cars, consume their own gasoline, and provide food for all the blue areas.

So why, then, is Trump wanting us afraid of rail?

I can still think of a few reasons, some actually reasonable from his point of view.

One reason he might be want us afraid of rail is because it cements beneficiaries of rail against “his party.” (This makes little sense, realistically; the GOP is not “Trump’s party,” for one thing, and for another, those areas voted against him anyway. They weren’t his votes to preserve.)

Another reason is that he didn’t come up with the idea – except he apparently did have an infrastructure plan (as published on CNN, and cited in the article about why he’s afraid of rail!) – so the high speed rail he wants us to be afraid of was actually something he’s wanted to create. As with the prior point, this makes little sense, if any, to me.

In both of these cases Trump needs to act like he’s completely unaware of self – which isn’t a stretch, given his history – and the worst thing about all of this is that CNN expects us to be unaware, too.

As usual: stop it, CNN. You have editors; use them, please.

The Grammy Awards ignored Rock and Metal!, Gordon Ramsey, Larry Hogan on CNN

Things I’m thinking about:

The Grammies

An article in “Ultimate Classic Rock” was entitled “How the 2019 Grammy Awards Basically Ignored Rock and Metal“.

I’m… a little bit surprised, considering how rap and hip-hop (are those different?) have been ignored by the Grammy Awards ever since they became significant art forms, and rock – historically – has not especially been ignored. Sure, it’s been ridiculous sometimes – I’m not really a super-duper Metallica fan but Jethro Tull’s Crest of a Knave should never have gotten the nod over ..and Justice for All.

But the Grammies at least have had rock and metal winners, regardless of how insincere those wins might have been. So… okay, 2018’s awards were not rock- or metal- focused, let’s wait 30 years and then complain, okay?

I’m not even really a rap fan, but the lack of rap artists winning Grammy awards is ridiculous to me.

Gordon Ramsey

I’m a big fan of Gordon Ramsey (and cooking shows in general, really) despite not being able to cook worth a flip.

I like Ramsey even though I find his confrontational style unnecessary in a lot of cases – because by golly I think he knows what he’s doing and I think he means well

“A Dose of Reality” by Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland

Governor Larry Hogan, of Maryland, posted a really nice article on CNN, well worth reading: “A dose of reality for Trump, Pelosi and Schumer.”

Worth reading not only by the principals named, but by everyone. if I had any advice for the American populace, it might very well include “… everyone just calm down. Truth will be known, and God doesn’t care if your side wins.”

Blackface, Journalists not being “Journalists”, AI Title Generator – 2019/Feb/11

Things I’m thinking about lately

Blackface

This thing about blackface among Virginia political leaders is.. interesting and frustrating.

Look: blackface is problematic. At some point, the culture matters, but it’s always been about poking fun of African-American people – it’s never been good. Ever.

But now we’re seeing another witchhunt, and some of it has implications beyond what its natural purview should be.

Remember a few years ago, when a girl wore a Chinese dress and was slammed for “cultural appropriation”? We’re looking at that being the natural extension here, again.

We’re looking at something that says that a little girl who dresses up as Serena Williams – the tennis star – is crippling her future, by opening herself up for an accusation of “blackface.”

That’s not even silly. Some of the accusations going around in Virginia center around a dance contest where someone dressed up as Michael Jackson, makeup included.

That’s homage, not insult.

I’ve no interest in defending someone being racist, but we need to remember that the absolutes here are disastrous.

The Media Screwed Up – Color Me Surprised

Catlin Flanagan published “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story” in The Atlantic. It’s brutal, vicious, and right on point. Included are these two absolute smashing quotes:

By Saturday, the story had become so hot, and the appetite for it so deep, that some news outlets felt compelled to do some actual reporting.

…and this overlong paragraph, that would be devastating to any journalist who had the guts to read it …

How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.

Journalism has been absolutely wrecked by outlets screeching for clicks instead of keeping to their purpose of informing the public. It’s what got Trump elected. It’s amplifying hatred of the other – when “the other” is the fellow who doesn’t agree with everything you say politically.

I hope journalists are paying attention.

Speaking of paying attention…

AI Article Title Generator

BJ Campbell wrote a paywalled article on Medium, called “AI Article Title Generator.” In it, he suggests a business whose sole goal is to optimize titles for clicks, with said articles only having to be tangentially related to the titles. It’s sarcastic… but right on. I’ve thought of similar things, sadly, but not enunciated them… and had I said them, I wouldn’t have said them as eloquently as BJ did.

I write terrible titles, because I’m not trying to maximize traffic through clicks. I’m trying to write information, so I try to write titles that say what the article in question is actually about.

Since I tend to write composite editorials – like this one – that means my titles tend to be really boring. C’est la vie.

Outrage on Social Media articles; State of the Union

Things I’m thinking about, after switching back to a list-based list of thoughts because Gutenberg headers annoy me:

  • Gutenberg headers annoy me. I’m thinking of switching back to my comfortable editing process where I’m not constantly griping about my editor. It’s a flow thing.
  • Good article from Medium, paywalled (so if you don’t have a Medium account that you pay for – it’s $5/month – you may have to open this in a private window): The Power of Not Retweeting. Both the article and the subject are recommended. It’s very easy to be outraged by something that lacks context, and the context might make all the difference in how you actually react – but by the time you get context, it’s too late, you’ve committed your reaction to history and told all your friends.
  • Another excellent Medium article, this time from the New York Times’ Medium account: This Is Your Brain Off Facebook. It’s a little ironic that the NYT published this, given how manipulative they are for their readers… but the king of manipulation is still CNN in my opinion. Those guys should be ashamed. Their editors should be doubly ashamed.
  • I did not watch the State of the Union, but having people tell me that I shouldn’t watch it as a form of protest annoyed me and tempted me to endure the farce anyway. I want our politicians to love country over party, and that’s… not what we have right now.
  • Why didn’t I want to watch the State of the Union? Lots of reasons:
    • It’s Trump. His mode of speaking annoys me greatly. His inability to stay on topic annoys me. His stupid self-propping annoys me. I used to think George W. Bush wasn’t a particularly effective speaker because he always seemed to be searching for words – and now I find that I’d far prefer a President who actually searched for the right words to one who blathers out whatever foolish crap crosses his brain at any given time.
    • Do I need another reason? Oh, yeah.
    • The endless politicization of everything, and the seeming need to turn everything into a protest. I’m all for protesting police brutality, but sometimes a football game (or a State of the Union address) is … just a football game, and the protests don’t really make a difference besides signalling.
    • Circling back: I don’t trust Trump… or his opponents. They both lie. They both choose truths based on what plays to their bases. What’s funny is that Trump told us what he’d do in his campaign… and he’s actually held to that pretty strongly, for better or for worse. That’s somewhat commendable. His political opponents are changing their long-held opinions on lots of things just so they can oppose Trump – I’ve said before that he should just start echoing their campaign positions just to force them to change stances.
    • This is a lot less relevant of a list than I thought it might be.
    • Every State of the Union I’ve ever watched has bored me! There, there’s my best reason right there.

Intersections with Politics

Things I’m thinking about:

I’m changing the format up today, because one of the entries is longer than usual.

Trump and the Patriots

It’s really annoying that people are mad at the New England Patriots because Trump likes them. I dislike the Patriots myself – I nearly cost myself a job after they lost to the Giants – but for people to root against them just because of Trump speaks to a lack of basic reasoning on their parts. I don’t like thinking that my fellow humans are idiots. They’re acting like idiots.

Redemption is Being Considered Impossible

Speaking of politics, this thing with the governor of Virginia is making me angry.

Look, I’m not here to excuse the governor’s… anything. I don’t know exactly what happened; I think he’s been accused of being in either blackface or a KKK hood in an unidentified picture from a yearbook in 1984, and as I understand it, first he confirmed it, then denied it, then apologized, or… something.

Being in blackface is dumb. Being in a KKK hood is even dumber. Let’s get that out of the way immediately; I can’t condone either one, and won’t, even as a joke. Jokes are supposed to be funny, not threatening or harmful. Whoever was in the picture really should be ashamed of it, period, whether it was meant seriously or in jest.

But here’s the thing: it was in 1984. Thirty-four years ago! When he was a student! He may have been an idiot then – but who is he now?

With all the outrage, is the assertion that he’s a racist today? That’s what it looks like and should be. “Resign because you did something dumb 34 years ago” is… an idiotic thing to say, no matter what party he’s a member of (Democrat, if you’re curious) or what party the ones crying for him to resign are members of (both Democrat and Republican).

The implication is something we’ve seen shadows of before: There is no such thing as redemption. We’ve seen it mostly from the Left, although the Right is starting to pick it up as a useful political tool.

But the Left had better watch itself, very carefully… because if there’s no such thing as redemption, the Democratic Party itself is damned.

This is the party that fought for slavery… and after slavery was made illegal, overthrew the Republican government in North Carolina to restore the old order.

If there’s no redemption possible, then what in the world would make the Democrats think they can ever remove that stain from their history? They’re saying people can’t change – in 34 years, Governor Northam can’t have changed how he views people with different skin colors, Brett Kavanaugh can’t have become a decent man since he was in high school, and so forth. (Apparently Bill Clinton’s the only human being for whom redemption is a thing?)

If people can’t change, then people who claim the label associated with slavery are endorsing slavery. That’s the Democratic party, folks. There’s no sea change possible, is what they’re saying… and they chose a label that is by their own declaration and action irrevocably associated with endorsing slavery.

We’ve hit the slippery slope. Pandora’s Box has been opened, as I feared… I just hope that the cancer it represents eats its way to the extremes and leaves the middle confused but otherwise unaffected… until the extremes are eliminated and the middle ground can take care of its own with love and reason again.

Blogging, getting wordpress running properly on Ubuntu

Things I’m thinking and feeling:

  • I really don’t “blog” all that much. I record, I guess, and that’s sort of a “web log,” but I really don’t expose much of my innermost feelings – it’s like observations with a mirror in the way. I’ve always been that way when I write. Always.
  • Today I’m going to try something different.
  • I feel horribly sad today. Not really empty, not really morose, just… not even tired, but mournful, and I don’t even really know what it is I’m mourning. Maybe it’s memory, all the memories I feel like I could have had but don’t, maybe it’s the memories I do have but shouldn’t. Maybe I’m mourning the fact that I don’t know if I’m what I should be. But today, Me, I’m down. I’m not feeling bad, I’m just down.
  • I finally fixed some problems with my WordPress installation. When I upgraded to Ubuntu 18.04 on my server, apparently some PHP plugins didn’t get installed/migrated/somethinged – I went to a page on installing the LEMP stack on Ubuntu, installed the system dependencies, and lo and behold, things started working better again. Annoying, because this stuff’s been broken for a long time. Now if WordPress would only track the same hits that I see in access logs…
  • After a long dry spell, I’ve been writing poetry again. This is a good thing, but as usual my poetry is inspired by my mood, which is not a good thing. Oh, well. Maybe some of it will be worth publishing.
  • I also finally have been grinding my way through some new-ish music. Hurray.
  • I wonder if CNN – or any other news source, really – would be improved if you removed all the adjectives and subsidiary clauses. Some important information would get lost, but honestly? Most of the adjectives and subordinate clauses are used by the “journalists” to insert their opinions into the news, to sanitize it for the tribe most likely to read that particular bit… or enrage the tribe for which the bit isn’t targeted.

Lorelai, Maven changelog plugin, the government shutdown

Things I have travelled across:

  • github-issues-maven-plugin generates a markdown file with a list of closed issues for a target milestone. Useful for creating release notes.
  • The death of a child is always heart-wrenching. 🙁 Rest in peace, little one, even though I only knew you through friends of friends.
  • Bless social media for bringing people together… except social media as a benefit assumes that people are basically good. If we can learn anything from the arc of human history, it’s that many people are basically good… and the bad actors ruin it for everyone. Social media is affected negatively by the presence of a few bad actors, and there’s no real way to fix it that I can see. Every fix is worse than the original problem.
  • I don’t quite understand why people are feeling victorious over Trump ending the government shutdown: all this means is that – for once – he adulted first. He, unlike his political opponents, managed to put the good of the country above his political aims. Sure, it was late… but he still got there first. Way to “win,” Democrats?

Flit, Trump’s Address on 19 Jan, Elite: Dangerous

Things that are crossing my path lately:

  • Flit, in context of “Python Packages and You.” Python packaging is not a strength of mine.
  • I hate to say it, but the Democrats’ rejection of Trump’s offer to open negotiations about the government now look kinda stupid, based on their oppositions. They’re saying that a three year suspension of some of the deportations and other such hot-button issues … basically, getting the things they wanted was not enough. They’re idiots. Sure, he is one, too… but the whole three year delay for the application of law gives Congress three years to fix the law, which is what Trump said they should do when he said he was going to resume deportations in the first place! In other words, from me to them: Congress, do your flippin’ jobs. If Congress wasn’t relying on executive power to do what Congress was meant to do, a lot of this mess would have gone away, but they keep digging in their heels and saying “no.”
  • The worst thing about Elite: Dangerous is how long it takes to get into a gaming session. The best thing about Elite:Dangerous is “pretty much everything else.”
  • I just realized I can select a region in WordPress’ editor, and then paste a URL – and the region is converted to an HTTP anchor automagically. Now that is useful.
  • Few things are both more and less amusing than watching someone stomp about, screaming “I am not a prima donna!”

Jalen Hurts, Clemson, Politics, Teamwork

Things I am thinking about having thought about:

  • I feel bad for Jalen Hurts. Swapped out for Tua Tagovailoa, despite having been the guy for Alabama last year… and this year, gets put in on Alabama’s last drive for mop-up duty, when the game’s already lost and there’s no flexibility left to exploit. “Go in and lose us this game, Jalen!” — despite Hurts being a consummate team player. Never mind that I was thrilled that Alabama got crushed – I still feel bad for Hurts, who’s been the kind of teammate everyone wishes they had.
  • Speaking of, congrats to Clemson! I don’t like your team, because I’m a Seminole fan through and through, but you dominated. Good job. Now I hope you lose to FSU next year. And every year.
  • Glances looks neat.
  • Few things are as comfortable as seeing a co-author respond to a topic with “eek!” … oh wait, I meant uncomfortable.
  • I was highly displeased with the resolution of the Dr. Pepper National Championship trophy mystery. “Are you wearing a wire?” is burned into my ears now – hilariously phrased – but the resolution was dumb and manipulative. I get enough of that from politicians.
  • Speaking of manipulative politicians: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is playing games like a master. “Republicans are attacking me on social media!” with respect to her dancing… meanwhile, it’s one tweet from one anonymous account. Yes, it’s a stupid thing to complain about (the tweeter’s problem!), but her reaction is… overblown, too. It sure plays into her base, though!