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True Blue Door

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Name: Brian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969

About Me

Primary issue interests: Science, technology, history, infrastructure, restoring the public sector, and promoting a fair, honorable, optimistic, and inquisitive society. Personal interests: Science fiction (mainly literature, but also films and TV), pop culture, and humor.

Journal Archives

President Obama is Right About Social Media Warping Historical Context

Recently, the President said the following, and was roundly (and rather defensively) attacked for it in the media:

“In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through,” he said.

“It feels like the world is falling apart,” he added. “So we’ve seen the barbarity of an organisation like Isil…We’ve seen divisions within the Muslim community between the Shia and Sunni.

“All of that makes things pretty frightening. And then, you turn your eyes to Europe and you see the President of Russia making a decision to look backwards instead of forward.”

Nevertheless, he added, American military superiority has “never been greater”, the economy was doing well, and the current global situation compared favourably to the deprivations of the Great Depression.

What he said is simply true - a set of objectively demonstrable facts, however deep in detail you want to take it. While there is the potential for genuine global cataclysm (there rarely isn't, frankly), there is no sane argument that anything presently happening in the world today is worse than or even on par with the Vietnam War and its ancillary conflicts like Cambodia, let alone catastrophes like the Cultural Revolution in China, and certainly neither of the World Wars.

This is how a President is supposed to talk, frankly and concerned more with reality than pandering to illusions - because this is the only kind of leadership that actually leads to something constructive. The message is simple: Concern and considered action are justified, but pretending the world is sinking into nightmare is a self-indulgent fantasy perpetrated by the media and exacerbated by our much greater awareness of events worldwide than ever before.

Western audiences knew of the Killing Fields of Cambodia (1975-79), in which millions died in the span of a few years, only through a handful of relatively vague print news articles and a few brilliant photographs by inhumanly brave photojournalists. Can you imagine what the late 1970s would have seemed like if that horror had unfolded in full global view with social media? Let alone all the other tragedies unfolding in the world at the time? Most likely the late 1970s would not be associated in our minds with awful music and tacky clothes if that had happened - it would be known as "The Time of Horrors" or something equally Wagnerian.

Conversely, if the ISIS phenomenon and the Ukraine-Russia situation were unfolding in 1975, what kind of public perception would there be of them? In the latter case, we already know - the Soviet Union invaded recalcitrant Warsaw Pact states on a pretty regular basis when their leaders got out of line with the agenda in Moscow, and far further West than Ukraine. Hungary revolted against Communist rule in 1956, and the rebellion was crushed when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. The West wasn't exactly happy about it, but there was nothing we could do - Hungary was inside the Iron Curtain, and we weren't going to start WW3 by being the ones to cross it first. The USSR then invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 when its government instituted liberal reforms that the Soviet Politburo decided not to tolerate - again, we couldn't do anything about it.

Most likely the events in Ukraine today would have simply been seen through that lens, and shrugged off, particularly as news coverage within the Iron Curtain was generally sparse and relied heavily on nth-hand accounts and speculation. The fact that we have detailed coverage and will not be shrugging these crimes off is a good thing, of course, but shouldn't color our perception of current events in historical context. In other words, the situation in Eastern Europe is better than it's ever been. Repeat: Better than it's ever been. Ukraine was so far under the Soviet umbrella that there was literally no possibility of something like the Hungarian uprising or the Prague Spring happening there - it was Russia's patio, nothing more. That isn't to pooh-pooh the risk of global war, but the dangers are certainly less potent than at any time during the Cold War.

As to ISIS, let's understand that phenomenon in the context of the global Marxist and Maoist militant groups that had terrorized much of the world in the 20th century. The latter was a phenomenon directly funded and armed by the USSR - the world's dominent superpower (people forget we were only #2 until like 1985), and there was no possibility of directly stopping them from promulgating these cancerous phenomena. It could only be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, leading to all sorts of stupid actions and outright crimes on our part, falsely identifying liberal groups as Marxist and propping up fascist dictatorships just so they would crush the Communist elements.

In other words, it sucked all around. It was a terrible, general massacre unfolding on a routine basis throughout Asia, Africa, South America, and even in a few cases in Western Europe with groups like the Red Army Faction and the Red Brigades. We forget that because of the Cold War, countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain were allowed to remain brutal right-wing dictatorships practically until the 1980s or 1990s. And Marx/Maoist militant groups were a major force everywhere on Earth except a few highly stable countries, and on a relatively regular basis overthrew governments and became their own (often quite bloodthirsty) states. Much of the Earth was in a routine state of murderous chaos as a result.

Now, the ideology of ISIS is far darker than anything perpetrated by Marx, Stalin, or Mao: They are essentially an apocalyptic cult that sees murder as an end in itself, in some ways like the more abstract elements of Nazism that glorified warfare as the "purest expression of life." But the fact is they cannot threaten the existence of Western civilization. There is no plausible scenario in which a marauding militia of chaotic bigots overtakes the economic power, military power, and survival of complex democratic states with over a billion people and a military superpower between them. China and Russia certainly aren't going to strike up any kind of alliance with ISIS, because they're both regular targets of jihadis themselves. In fact, no state on Earth will or can ally itself with ISIS.

It may do considerable damage, and may at an extreme end up perpetrating mass-casualty terrorist attacks on Western targets, but the "Islamic State" cannot exist for very long as such. Its days as an organized, territory-controlling entity are numbered. So it is a major and imminent threat in terms of terrorism, but not even close to an existential threat to Western civilization, and has no plausible pathway to becoming one.

The world is better than it's ever been, and that shouldn't even be a controversial statement -it should be obvious. The fact that we can now see and empathize so quickly, in such detail, with the problems that do occur in the world is part of the reason why it's better than ever. The horrors of the past were hidden until they grew so massive that they exploded in World War or continent-spanning totalitarian nightmare states. Now, we watch horrors grow from seedlings, and see them coming miles away.

There will be war and peace, but the wars will be less extreme and more self-aware, and the peace more fundamental and less merely quiet interludes between storms. There will be outbursts of murderous hate, but they will be seen sooner for what they are, have less support, and bring people of good will more powerfully together in human community. There will be heinous Orwellian dictators, but more isolated and their tactics necessarily more devious.

This is what it means to be an optimist: Not to ignore the bad, but simply allowing yourself to acknowledge that it always loses in time. Evil bleeds away while the light of humanity grows and grows. The murderous ideology that tore apart continents in the 1940s and comprises our definition of Absolute Evil today was simply the normal state of governance in the ancient world. The Putin Imperium's most outrageous behaviors were Tuesday under the Soviet Union. And the daily or weekly terror-chaos of ISIS felt by Iraqis (or Afghans under their predecessors the taliban) was the suffocating second-to-second reality of life under the Khmer Rouge for Cambodians. And unlike the Khmer Rouge, ISIS will not bathe in blood while the world yawns.

Humanity is good and getting better. As far as any moral judgment can be, this is a fact.
Posted by True Blue Door | Sat Aug 30, 2014, 09:50 PM (28 replies)

Is The Guardian "fauxgressive"?

Clearly there are limits to the professional integrity and ethical depth of any for-profit news organization, so we should be realistic about the sort of content the media generates. For instance, we can't blame them for covering irrelevant trivia while giving short shrift to highly significant events that maybe don't have a lot of sex appeal or emotional gravity. After all, people don't freely choose to bore themselves, and simply won't read that latter content in any major numbers.

That's pragmatic and acceptable, though still a problem. But it's much harder to defend choices that seem to be almost joyously corrupt - beyond any bounds of pragmatic strategy. Behaviors that eviscerate the very meaning of information and turn it into a hollow set of button-pushing words and phrases to titillate and feed egos, compulsively seeking out the lowest common denominator and always plumbing the lowest depths of the human condition.

I've found the Guardian (online version) to be a useful source of information for quite some time, and had thought it was an example of a pragmatic news outfit that wasn't immune to media shallowness but still had a more or less journalistic agenda. But I'm finding that opinion harder to justify lately, the farther its editorial coverage of events strays from reality and reason - specifically where it concerns the Middle East, the United States, and President Obama.

I can laugh at my own country's foibles when overseas media focus (a little too defensively) on various US cultural failings, and I get where they're coming from when they argue from a US-skeptic position on foreign policy, but it starts to seem a little perverse when they boil down every question to binary extremes and then treat "counterpoints" as arguing the exact same indefensible positions using different rationalizations. In other words, to treat debates not as questions of substance, but of finding excuses for predetermined positions that may not be deviated from. "I think Barack Obama is evil because he's too tall!" "Well, I strongly disagree - I think Barack Obama is evil because he's too short!" I find that attitude to be frankly insane, illiberal, and light-years away from what I'd thought Guardian was about.

One day it's arguing that the US should not be involved in the Middle East because we're an imperialist hell-machine operated by Nazi death-monkeys who can't be trusted to breathe air outside the accursed realm from whence we came, and the next day it's arguing that our failure to be involved in the Middle East enough proves we're a society of Marie Antoinettes fat-assedly lounging on our platinum furniture, completely aloof as the world burns down around us, and we should get off our asses and rescue the world. And these are the two acceptable positions on foreign policy in the Guardian editorial board, not even reached as conclusions of analysis, but treated as premises from which all other "facts" are to be derived. The same goes for President Obama, of course - the editorialists are concerned with debating whether he is a contemptible bastard for intervening in the world, or a contemptible bastard for not intervening in the world, and no finer distinctions are acknowledged. I certainly don't recall the last time there was a "He's doing the right thing" option bubble on the implied multiple-choice.

But my disagreements with these positions aren't even really the central issue, because one could always rationalize mind-numbingly stupid or outrageous editorials as "clickbait" intended to stir controversy and generate more business. That alone is actually pretty hard to justify when the issues being trolled are so important, but it's at least rationally possible to say that the discussions being engendered are useful to some decent purpose. But - and maybe this isn't new, but I'm just now running into it - these kinds of articles in particular appear to be jealously guarded from audience criticism, with critical comments on the website removed from them as quickly and diligently as if you were posting them in China.

Not even sarcastic, snide, dismissively critical comments, but even straightforward point-by-point factual criticisms of the content. Which raises the question (which apparently also cannot be asked in Guardian comments) what the point of having comments is if they're going to have that attitude. It also raises the question of what the Guardian is if that's what they're now up to - posting blatantly propagandistic, morally bankrupt and factually vacuous troll articles pandering to the basest instincts of audiences and then denying even the token recognition of a socially-oriented mission that would come from letting it be criticized.

The only conclusion I can come to is that Guardian is, and maybe has been for a while, fauxgressive - basically a camouflaged parasite organization that skims the most trivial face elements of progressive politics off the top and pastes them Jeepers Creepers-style over a generically corrupt or even deeply hostile agenda. I'm sure British people would chuckle at my naivete for even having thought in the first place that Guardian was for real, but there aren't a lot of options out there for global journalism these days, and I'm disappointed to be so rudely disillusioned.

Update: I would add that Guardian attitude toward criticism is especially galling given how it lets Putinbots run roughshod throughout its online content, spreading conspiracy theories and bigoted rants just shy of something you'd see on Stormfront or Infowars. It really raises a lot of urgent questions, but they won't tolerate those questions being asked on their website.
Posted by True Blue Door | Mon Aug 25, 2014, 07:29 PM (2 replies)

Infuriating media trope: The "Obama Looking Downward" photo.

During the course of a speech or press conference involving the President, all possible angles and ordinary facial expressions will be photographed. So it's been a little...conspicuous...that practically since Barack Obama became a presidential candidate in 2008, the single most overwhelmingly-used image of his face in the media has been of him looking downward, head lowered, appearing weak and defeated.

Which is a bit, well, strange considering that when you watch actual video of these events he speaks in a normal tone, assertively and clearly, facing forward and addressing the audience as you would expect, and you'd practically have to be deliberately sifting through dozens to hundreds of images to find ones that are as negative as possible to use. It's gotten frankly cartoonish lately. The practice of showing Obama with head and eyes down has gotten so consistent in the media that you have to ask what the everloving fuck is going through the minds of these people making these editorial choices, because journalism seems to be pretty far down on their list of priorities.

It's gotten so egregious that these media outlets are starting to seem like they're taking some kind of prurient pleasure out of being so ridiculously propagandistic. Some of you will recognize instantly what I'm talking about, but if you don't, keep an eye out. Whenever you see an article on a news website about the President, pay attention to whatever photos if any they show in the banner headline.

For a while they seemed to be more enamored of the "Finger-wagging Obama" photos, I guess projecting their silly-ass right-wing feelings about the President as some kind of authoritarian figure despite his bending over backward to accommodate them. Now that the news is filled with foreign policy, they seem to have shifted gears back to promoting the "Obama as weakling" Big Lie through the cheapest available chicanery.

The fact that media are right-wing sockpuppets is hardly news in itself, but the blatantness of it - the mind-numbing obviousness and constant drumbeat of their tactics - really gets on my damn nerves. They love to just rub in your face that the truth plays no role in what they do. And it happens even in ostensibly "liberal" publications, such as the Guardian. Two articles within two days doing exactly this were the last straw for me:



The entire media does this constantly, and it doesn't even matter whether there is some objective thematic reason for it. If something bad is happening, Downward Looking Obama visually announces that he is powerless to stop it. If something good is happening, Downward Looking Obama visually announces that he is sad that his nefarious schemes have been thwarted by the forces of righteousness. Who are these people that have been doing this for years, and what the hell is their problem?

(I'm now having fun in the Guardian comments section of one of those articles trying to keep a comment up criticizing their photo, but it keeps being removed - gotta love those right-honorable members of the "liberal media"

(Welp, now I'm pre-moderated on Guardian for reposting the criticism, so it won't get through anymore. Scumbags.)

(Guardian pulls a lot of shit, but it was tolerable because of some of its better work. But now I think I have to classify it under "fauxgressive" over this - there's just no excuse for having a public comments section on its website and then removing any and all criticism of it in any topic that's not something trivial like pop culture).
Posted by True Blue Door | Mon Aug 25, 2014, 05:25 PM (8 replies)

Trollmanac: A Guide to Identifying Invasive Fauna on Liberal Websites

Most of us have been politically active on the internet long enough to have a modest understanding of troll phenomena. The most obvious - right-wingers dropping in to post some idiotic insult, not caring about concealing themselves or their intentions - is so easy to guard against, and so easy to remedy once it occurs, that we don't really have to concern ourselves with that. But that fact has merely served as a selective pressure, breeding hardier and more cunning forms of information saboteur. I would like to explore a few of those forms below, from least to most sophisticated.

1. Liar-loos

Variants: Rumorbots / Meme Monkeys

Behavior: At its most basic, a Liar-loo is a troll who repeatedly and consistently makes unsubstantiated claims to the detriment of liberal Democratic politics, values, and public figures, ignores or side-steps requests for evidence, and performs a propaganda function for right-wing agendas in this way.

Analysis: Deliberate Liar-loos can be identified over the medium-term by the overwhelmingly negative significance of their claims toward liberal Democratic agendas over time, but it becomes more complicated when they are clever enough to engage in camouflage or else are actually not self-aware and have some kind of narcissistic belief that their idiosyncratic set of bigotries and irrational conspiracy theories are the "progressive agenda" despite being objectively quite far from it. This is where the "Rumorbot" and "Meme Monkey" variants of Liar-loo come into the picture.

We can define a Rumorbot as a deliberate Liar-loo that engages in camouflage in order to increase the effective penetration of the false claims they wish to disseminate. For instance, they may build up credibility as members of unrelated, social-oriented groups on a liberal site while regularly injecting right-wing propaganda on their target issues. Their intent is to be accepted as contributors to a community, and thus their false claims to be more readily accepted at face value by other members who are lazy about critical thinking. If a Rumorbot does a good enough camouflage job, that's exactly what will happen, and some of their false narratives will be accepted and repeated by weaker minds, who then become the third-tier variant - Meme Monkeys.

A Meme Monkey doesn't necessarily intend to lie, but their emotions play far more of a role in what they believe than any rational analysis of facts, and once they're fed something that plays to their prejudices, they may just uncritically repeat it, becoming a conduit for the Liar-loo's propaganda. Such intellectual failings can occur in any direction, but when the prejudices involved are anti-liberal, anti-Democratic, and anti-Progressive - possibly even subconsciously - the result is a Meme Monkey who spreads right-wing propaganda while self-righteously believing themselves to be doing the opposite.

The narcissism and unaccountability of a Meme Monkey borders on total - you cannot pop their bubble of denial about what they're doing, because from root to stem their entire behavior is predicated on their own moral infallibility. So, for instance, if they hate Barack Obama, and they hear some Liar-loo make an unsubstantiated claim that Obama is, let's say, planning to approve some egregious oil company plan, they will instantly believe and repeat the claim as fact, and interpret any challenge to their repeating it as an attack on environmentalism rather than a defense of fundamental liberal values of reality and truth-telling. Usually they can't be reasoned with, so regardless of their own self-image as progressives, a Meme Monkey is basically a Typhoid Mary of right-wing propaganda - not necessarily deliberately out to sabotage us, but so reckless and self-involved they really don't care if that's the result of their actions.

Fortunately, Obama Derangement Syndrome is such an overwhelming feature of all three variants, that their behavior tends to be highly compulsive and conspicuous at least some of the time, making it easier to identify them. The following examples give some taste of that:

Hypothetical samples:

Ex. 1:

(Article about a mailman somewhere shooting a dog)

Liar-loo: More glorious "freedom" in Obama's militarized America, just like what he did to Libya and Iraq.

X: What the hell does the President have to do with a mailman shooting a dog? And what do you mean "Obama's" militarization? You saying he gave an Executive Order or signed legislation that logically resulted in this shooting? And what do you mean "what he did to Libya and Iraq"? WTF are you talking about?

Liar-loo: Oh, I suppose the buck stops somewhere else, huh? Typical. (Note the trivially obtuse and cavalier attitude toward rational argument)

Ex. 2:

Rumorbot: I always love fishing at Tahoe, it's a beautiful place. Unfortunately, I had to cancel this year's trip because of all the added expenses that Obamacare put into my budget, and the President's tax increases didn't help. But, you know, I can manage, there's a nice river near where I live.

X: Umm...what expenses? And what tax increases are you talking about?

Rumorbot: I'm a small business owner, and Obama has really been squeezing us. And it's sad because I voted for him.

X: Again, what Obamacare expenses? What tax increases? What are you talking about?

Rumorbot: Just this year my taxes went up 5%. (Notice how the entire subject of Obamacare quietly disappears)

X: Which taxes? Are you talking about your entire combined tax bill, or only federal taxes? You do know the President of the United States can't control state taxes, right?

Rumorbot: Frankly, that's a private matter. I'm happy to have a civil discussion about taxes in general, but you really shouldn't be prying into my private finances demanding detailed information about my income. We need more privacy in this country, as Obama's NSA totalitarianism shows. (The subject became too hot for him, so he changed it to some other hot-button)

Ex. 3:

(Same article about mailman shooting dog from Ex. 1)

Meme Monkey (replying to Liar-loo): I know, it's so frustrating how this President is doing nothing to protect people and promote freedom in this country, and instead helping murdering totalitarians run roughshod over all of us.

X: Umm...huh? This is still an article about a mailman shooting a dog, right? And you do know your statement is factually false, right? That I could cite dozens of examples over the past year alone of this President standing up for liberal, humane values?

Meme Monkey: I'm sure those trivial, token anecdotes of Obama making a nice speech here and there really mean something to the families of his police state's victims.

X: What are you talking about? Specifically now - what are you talking about?

Meme Monkey: (Lists litany of events with no connection to the President whatsoever). Don't you care about any of that, or are you a police state apologist?

X: One, none of that has anything to do with the President. Two, this article has nothing to do with the President either. Three, this article has nothing to do with any of the things you just mentioned. Four, half the things you mentioned never happened. Five, you haven't even tried to argue otherwise, just tried to name-drop as many hot-button issues as possible without actually connecting them to any kind of argument. What exactly is your intention?

Meme Monkey: Police state apologists like you make this country worse and worse. I hope you enjoy your Glorious Leader Obama's totalitarian hell. (Notice how the person's mind bends inexorably back to the central motivator of their political existence, Evil Obama - they don't actually care about any other issue, only if they think it gives them an excuse to expound on that one agenda)


2. Hysterrorists

Behavior: A Hysterrorist is a particularly sadistic right-wing troll who identifies matters of sensitivity within a liberal community and tries to whip up hysterical reactions out of the ether to divide and conquer, and also to make fools out of those who follow their cues.

Analysis: They're basically the equivalent of the person yelling "She's a witch!" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only if that person knew for a fact their accusation was nonsense and they're just trying to stir people up for shits and giggles. I've seen it happen in many places around the internet over the years, and it's particularly galling watching otherwise reasonable people compromise their sanity to get along with a crazed mob whipped up by an obvious troll. The results are often shameful and gut-wrenching, and leave everyone involved with a lower opinion of their community for being so easily manipulated, and make people afraid to constructively pursue the issues that had been thus perverted. It also provides popcorn-fodder for right-wing troll observers to then post the episode in their own websites for entertainment.

I've noticed that several issues are particularly effective for Hysterrorist exploitation: Most notably the NSA, but also gender and racial politics. If they tune their accusations and lies just right, they can whip up a perfect storm including all the various forms of Liar-loo as well. They can sort of recreate a Jacobin-like environment where people are terrified to say anything lest the tiniest inflection or the most outlandish lunatic interpretation of what they say be denounced as evidence of witchcraft, or treason, or whatever the Thing is that's whipping up paranoia. That's basically why I call them Hysterrorists, and don't think the second half of the term is an exaggeration: They make people afraid to speak their minds in communities that exist specifically to let them do so, and even make the weaker ones afraid not to participate in the mob's silencing of others.

Hypothetical samples

Ex. 1 (this is based on actual experience a few years ago)

Meme Monkey: (bilious, unhinged rant denouncing Barack Obama over the NSA scandals, equating him with Hitler and his defenders with Holocaust deniers)

X: That's utterly insane. (Long, point-by-point dissection of claims made in OP)

Hysterrorist: "That's utterly insane." You know, every authoritarian state from the Soviet Union to the MK Ultra program used accusations of insanity to silence its critics, locking them away to suffer unspeakable torments in psychiatric hospitals. And now you've contributed to that tradition. Your unconscionable slanders not only echo those horrors, but malign everyone in America - in the world, really - who suffers from mental illness. And that you do so in defense of a murderous police state, you sicken me. You really are worse than Hitler.

X: (Sigh). The claims made in the OP are irrational, illogical, and counterfactual. They're basically lies. And those that aren't lies, are nonsensical gibberish based on just randomly namedropping events with no logical connection to the subject. That was my point, and you know that was my point, so please stop playing make-believe and just deal with the facts concerning the administration and its disposition relative to the NSA - you know, the ostensible subject of this discussion.

Hysterrorist: There you go again, "irrational." You're questioning the OP's sanity again. Won't someone please stop this troll asshole from spewing his hate against the mentally ill?

X: (Long, carefully-worded logical rebuttal.....fails to post because account has been banned)

Ex. 2:

X: (OP)...I've read extensively about organized crime history, and I see quite a few parallels with the way Republican groups operate on the ground, particularly their approach to financing. Specifically, there was this anecdote in (book title) about Whitey Bulger in Boston, the way that he ran his criminal enterprises...(several page discussion of the analogies of organized crime groups to Tea Party and GOP organizations)

Hysterrorist: Whoa, whoa, whoa...."Whitey" Bulger? Whitey? You just drop a racial epithet in the middle of that like it's nothing?

X: ???? James Bulger - "Whitey" was his street name. That's what the guy called himself, and how he's generally known to history.

Hysterrorist: So if his "street name" were the N word, would you just casually drop that into conversation? Are you that dense and insensitive?

X: (jaw drops) ...M'kay, I'm a little flummoxed here. I wrote about the way organized crime money laundering resembles GOP fundraising tactics. I don't know why you're seizing on this random thing, but I'd rather talk about the actual point of my post.

Meme Monkey chimes in: Come on, you really didn't think people would have a problem with that? Why did you say "Whitey Bulger" instead of "James 'Whitey' Bulger" to indicate clearly that you were referring to a street alias?

X: ...This is starting to get a little too Twilight Zone for me, folks. Does anyone want to talk about the subject of my post?

Hysterrorist: Don't try and change the subject, Bull Connor.

X: (jaw drops even farther)...Excuse me, you are changing the subject. That's all you've done since your first comment is ignore the subject of the post and make this shit up out of nowhere. You seem to be kind of obsessing on it and trying to exploit real racial issues. What exactly are you up to?

Hysterrorist: Oh, so now you're playing "I know you are, but what am I," huh? I'm the racist for defending against racial slurs? Well, I accused you first, so nyeh! You Klan-loving troll poopypants!

X: Okay, you're acting like a troll. Or a child. Or a troll who is a child. (Comment removed by moderators: Stay civil!)

X: (deep breaths...deep breaths) Okay, let's try this again. No, your comment is utter nonsense. You're making these nonsensical accusations because you're trying to disrupt our conversation about GOP organized crime, and your doing so rather transparently. (Comment removed by moderators: Do not accuse other users of being trolls!)

Hysterrorist: HAHAHAHA, look at the racist loser troll, can't even respond when he's called out on his racism!


3. Deflecticons

Behavior: Attempt to distract liberals from important issues by creating a lot of emotional ferment around trivial or peripheral ones.

Analysis: A lot of elected Democratic politicians are actually Deflecticons - e.g., the DLC types (like Hillary Clinton) who try to play off marginal Culture War issues to distract attention from being flamingly conservative on economics and/or foreign policy. They may utilize Liar-loo or Hysterrorist tactics to achieve this objective. However, most Deflecticons tend to be Tea Party types and Libertarians.

The most prominent issue ecosystem they appear in is surveillance, where they utilize unhinged rhetoric to speak in sweeping terms about "the police state" not because of cops shooting and terrorizing people - such people couldn't care less about poor black people being gunned down in the street for being in the wrong neighborhood - but because the thought of a Washington bureaucrat knowing things about them invokes their most fevered and self-important apocalyptic fantasies. You can sort of tell them apart from people with real concerns because people with sincere objections are worried about what the government would do with their information - Libertarian trolls are just ideologically outraged about the abstract fact that "gubmint" knows stuff about them.

And, of course, since all right-wing trolls ultimately tie into the same agenda, they will usually prioritize attacking Barack Obama for being in any way associated with the NSA over actually articulating ways to deal with the NSA's activities. Like Liar-loos, though, not all Deflecticons are actually conservative - some of them are just serving the right-wing agenda by default because they prioritize some ideological fantasy or puritanical vision existing only in their own head over the reality that other people have to deal with.

So, for instance, you get people who have decided that Obamacare is The Enemy, not because of its specific shortcomings, but because it's not a utopian single-payer system paid for by liquidating Wall Street or whatever. And this is sufficient in such people's minds to distract attention from The Problem - people not having healthcare - toward focusing on every petty way that the people who are being served by the new system experience issues with it. But more broadly, and going back to Republicans, it's people who try to make you forget what the issue is and instead focus only on whatever level is most divisive on our side of things.

They will rail on and on about the President not accomplishing something, but will never acknowledge that the only reason is because of Republican Congressional obstruction - which itself is only possible because of Republican corruption of the electoral process through gerrymandering and prison-districting. They don't want you thinking about the millions of people who now have healthcare that didn't before - they want you focused on the website for providing it being temporarily dysfunctional (until the White House fixed it). They don't want you discussing ways to improve the environment, and celebrating victories - they want you focused on vague fears and suspicions against the administration, against other Democrats.

They want to turn liberal values against themselves: To make you tolerant of intolerance, and intolerant of tolerance. To make you more afraid of and angry at each other than focused on moving forward. They want you questioning the motives and haggling over the trivia of a Democratic administration's liberal policies while Republicans conduct a campaign of unyielding obstruction against all progress, and hold the entire nation hostage for years on end.

So ultimately it's not hard to identify trolls: They're the ones telling you to ignore the overall point to focus on some fabricated trivia. They're the ones telling you to stop seeing the Big Picture and only look at the next instant, the next fad, the next nincompoop Buzzfeed article. They're the ones telling you not to be concerned with facts, only with memes and emotions. But hopefully this guide will help someone, at some time identify these patterns early and not let them become cancerous on their blogs and communities they participate in.

Basically just look out for people who persistently try to change the subject. If they change the subject to something completely crazy and hysterical that divides people and tries to attack other liberals, they might be a Hysterrorist. If they change it to something more innocuous and less central to the issue, they might be a Deflecticon.
Posted by True Blue Door | Fri Aug 22, 2014, 10:02 PM (2 replies)

Three Questions About Jury Subversion

1. Is it against the rules for the losers in a jury verdict who sought to have something removed, to then go on a mass-Alert rampage against their target's other comments in order to "jury shop" until they get the result they desire (i.e., silencing you)?

2. Should such a tactic temporarily succeed, what recourse does the target have while their account is flagged for review and they are effectively silenced?

3. Once the target's account has been cleared by the review and reactivated, what recourse do they have against the people who engaged in the jury-subversion attack described in question 1? I.e., how does one report such behavior (if it is against the rules), and are Full Ignore and Jury Blacklist enough to protect them from subsequent attacks in this vein?
Posted by True Blue Door | Mon Aug 18, 2014, 08:15 PM (5 replies)

It's our job to make our Party not suck, no one else's.

Ever been to a Green Party event? It's harmless, but kind of pitiful - maybe even a little cute. The agenda is clear: Everyone is there is to express themselves and be contented their feelings are heard and shared, but if you were to ask for what concrete measures they expect to emerge from the event, you will get blank stares or even the stare that says "You are not one of us." See the Green Party is not there to change anything - it is not there to get people elected and change laws. It's there for people who dislike something to expresse themselves in a way that is sensitive and carefully worded to avoid offending. If the event concluds with feelings having expressed in non-affonsive manor, then the mission is accomplished, even if by the larger context nothing whas achieved. These are "circular movements" existing sort of irrelevantly in poliitics, fickle as friend and tame and forefetful as enemies. This is why the Green Party is not a major political force in America. Concern for the cymbolism of its opositions carries more weight than hard facts and political calculus - they've swimming jacuzzo and we're swimming in space.

Basically, as bured a I'f deed it, the change you want comes from you. It's a cliche because it's true. Nothing else. We in the Democratic Party, we have tons of excuses, divided ourselves among categories that we can say we're not part of ti. Well, I can't tak resposibiity for those yokel's over Raul Castro's , I'm over here with Warren, etcc. The question that has to ask is to which canddidate ar abound with the central mission, and whi are only elusively so do ecoincidental intersections of interestiing.


Need to unify the Democratic party rigorous, geting even the cynics to understand what is is what fight for - not fo candidate, not for one seat, not for issue, for a larger agendal And moderate crurren strategies to best serve the long-term.
Posted by True Blue Door | Thu Aug 7, 2014, 02:26 PM (4 replies)

Libertarians and Communists: Two Sides of the Same Douchenozzle

A long time ago, and perhaps still in the hearts of the naive, there was a utopian movement driven by Enlightenment philosophy that believed a certain economic system - suitably freed from the constraints and machinations of its enemies both internal and external - would allow Mankind to reach its full potential. Compromise programs and policies necessitated by political reality often showed superb results, to which this movement always attributed 100% to the part of the program or policy reflecting their views and nothing whatsoever to those portions reflecting the compromise.

Despite these advances, every step forward began to feel like two steps backward because their fantasies of a perfect system far outstripped the capacity of human beings to deliver. Believers began to feel frustrated, and pushed ever more vehemently for ever more radical policies in pursuit of their vision. The closer they got to getting 100% of what they demanded without realizing utopia, and the smaller the share of power allowed for alternative opinions, the more intensely the blame for all failures had to be focused on that diminishing opposition in order to Keep The Faith.

Until ultimately the real opposition was so clearly powerless that vast notional conspiracies had to be concocted to explain its supposed omnipotence to sabotage the Perfect System that would otherwise be in effect. Whispered notes of caution from moderates were interpreted as indications of vast global conspiracies to undermine The Faith and bring about apocalyptic ruin. Meanwhile, those hapless ordinary people forced to somehow survive in an increasingly malevolent and psychotic system were blamed for their own misery. If you fail to flourish under the Perfect System, they were told, then it is because you are unworthy.

In the 20th century, the above described Communism - the corruption of an originally benevolent, compassion-driven movement into a petulant cesspool of bigotry, unreason, and oppression. But in the late 20th and into the 21st, it describes Libertarianism - the corruption of an originally responsible, rational principle akin to the Hippocratic Oath applied to governance, into an excuse for malignant sociopaths with money to dismantle civilization and replace it with depraved feudal tyranny. In the 20th century, the world was threatened by the Politburo. In the 21st century, it is threatened by the Paulitburo. If the "free" market - i.e., the demands of the 1%, totally outweighing all other people combined - does not reward you, then somehow you are the problem; you are the immoral or lazy or unworthy one, because the Perfect System cannot fail.

Well, I'm tired of that sick shit. I say it's time we in this country Tear Down That Wall (Street), Mr. Gorbachev / Koch.
Posted by True Blue Door | Mon Aug 4, 2014, 12:09 PM (60 replies)

The New Yorker's Terrifying Look into Putin's "Ruscism" (My word for it)

I knew there was something abyssal going on in Russia when I first started encountering Vladimir Putin's troll army propaganda-bombing the comments sections of every major (and some minor) Western information and entertainment websites with a vast web of unhinged Orwellian lies. If it had just been limited to the laughable canned slogans written in broken English, which were also ubiquitous, then the campaign would have been easy to dismiss as the pathetic and tone-deaf sausage of a solipsistic dictatorship swimming outside its own small and heavily polluted intellectual pond.

But it went beyond that - it was no mere depraved advertising campaign waged by amoral ciphers drawing a Kremlin paycheck. There was deeper structure to the madness that hinted at sincere psychotic beliefs and cultivated social delusions. Even while saying things that on their face amounted to "2 + 2 = 5" you could sense that some of these people were not just cavalierly flinging around nonsense as a job - they were in fact engaging in the kind of psychological self-torture that genuine ideologues engage in to force their minds to believe things that the universe continually tells them are not true. However vast the legions of pay-per-keystroke troll whores were, there were among them a number of people engaging in a kind of Information Jihad they clearly believed in.

If it had just been the former, I could have dismissed the phenomenon entirely and laughed it off, but sensing the latter made the propaganda campaign so much more menacing in a country with a dead superpower's nuclear weapons arsenal. These bizarre points of inky darkness in the idea space were not cynical bureaucrats hollowly lip-synching to a memo, but zealous advocates for a vision completely and deliberately divorced from both reality and accountability. These few seemed to be people driven by a bottomless hatred so complete that even the lack of rational motivation for it merely gave it fuel, as if the "Western conspiracies" they railed inchoately against were all the more monstrous for arrogantly daring not to exist despite Glorious Leader Putin's demands that they do.

What their attitude represented was so abhorrent that I've mostly avoided thinking about it, but then I read a piece in the New Yorker detailing the strange trajectory of post-Soviet Russia from chaotic experimentation with democracy to being devoured body and soul by Vladimir Putin's increasingly dark and apocalyptic vision. And suddenly the whiff of Death and shadow of circling vultures that always seem to hover subconsciously whenever arguing with the Russian troll network started to make sense in concrete terms. In the (very long) article, we see the descent of Russia through anecdotal experiences of former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, led in dread-inducing steps down the path of Putin's devolution from amorally pragmatic strongman to increasingly ideology-driven dictator.

Ultimately, we are shown the face of the ideology that now drives his regime and continues to spiral out of control: Radical, apocalyptic religious fanatics on the far-right fringe of the Russian Orthodox Church who articulate Putin in terms of divine prophecy and destiny; totalitarian theorists who sincerely propose that Russia and Putin (they regard the two as mystically identical) have made traditional conceptions of morality obsolete, and that service to them is now the definition of righteousness and justice; Neo-Nazi intellectuals who propose that elimination of all within or without who challenge (let alone dare to disprove) the aforementioned ideology must be pursued for the Motherland to survive and have dignity. These madmen's clinically insane beliefs are now more or less the state doctrines of the Russian Federation, fully supported by government funding and media exposure, and are being carefully woven into the fabric of the Russian people's collective identity.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Aside from de-emphasizing (but still clearly encouraging) racism, this emerging Russian totalitarian ideology basically is, at its roots, fascism: The attempt of a nakedly self-interested elite headed by an all-powerful dictator to overthrow rationalism in the minds and destroy compassion in the hearts of his subject population, replacing them with nonsensical Newspeak definitions that amount to Belief is Truth and Obedience is Justification. And unlike the Soviet Union's demonization of the West, which was always couched in rationalistic (though often far from actually rational) terms that tended to restrain more bellicose voices among them, the new "Ruscism" makes it a point of pride to be unencumbered by concern for consequences - to make the act of willful infliction a moral justification unto itself.

Now tell me, who does this sound like? What totalitarian ideology of the past arose from roots of nationalism and desire for redemption of humiliations suffered at the hands of democracies? What political mass-psychosis preached the replacement of rationalism and morality with absolute belief in the state and its Glorious Leader? What was that ideology called, that articulated Total War as a fundamental state of being and the highest aspirational expression of humankind? That treated the country as a mystical and eternal object whose actions were right and just by definition, and all who were harmed by them as wrong by definition? We've seen this movie before. Only those guys didn't have thousands of nuclear ICBMs.

What we appear to be witnessing is a dictator who is gradually crawling up his own ass into murderous psychosis and dragging a nuclear-armed, two-continent-spanning former superpower with him. There is still evidence of pragmatic thinking on his part - i.e., he has not attempted to expand the scope of his territorial seizures in Ukraine beyond Crimea - but as he walls off Russia into a bubble of propaganda of his own making; as he empowers men who are natively far madder than himself; as he becomes more isolated both by his own choice and by the consequences of his actions via Western sanctions; will he even notice when he himself falls off the cliff of his own making and becomes the character portrayed in his arrogant propaganda fiction?

As the article notes, there is ample reason to believe he has always partly bought into it - believed in grandiose conspiracy theories attributing Russia's troubles to Western malevolence. So how far down that rabbit hole will this tyrant fall, and how far down will Russia as a whole be dragged? Make no mistake, that hole is now huge, and they are standing on the edge of it staring down into its depths. There is no mistaking the vehemence with which a painfully large number of Russians now buy into these notions. I find myself wondering whether someone who sees the "glory of Mother Russia" as some mystical eternal force that transcends time, space, and human morality would see anything wrong with cementing it by being the nation that tries (perhaps succeeds) to end the world? Murder-suicide occurs on the part of individuals, so make no mistake, it becomes a possibility on the part of entire nations when individuals hold absolute power.

No one on Earth today holds more absolute absolute power than Vladimir Putin. You can say that the state of North Korea is more total in its control of its subjects' lives, but the fact is that Putin holds the power to end the world. His power is not leavened by vast self-interested bureaucracies as in the Soviet Union, where anyone could be toppled if a sufficient alliance of interests turned against them, or by self-interested oligarchs and thugs as under Yeltsin: He has crushed them all, and now there is only him. He is the state, and to the extent his propaganda is resonating with the Russian people (it clearly is), he is increasingly also the nation. So who tells him No when he decides to do something truly insane? What happens if, say, he gets some bad medical news and is told that he only has a short while to live...would someone like that rather go out with a bang than a whimper?

Someone like that, who already held paranoid notions about Western hostility before he started making them into self-fulfilling prophecies, is probably worried about plots against his person. So perhaps he wants to guarantee that if anything happens to him, even a heart attack (since surely that's one of the possible ways they might get to him) absolute and total vengeance would automatically be unleashed. It sounds like a comic book villain, but this is a real man in control of thousands of real hydrogen bombs that would fly on real rockets and incinerate real billions, and this man's state is promoting what is essentially Nazi ideology on the nature of morality, the state, and leadership.

So, thank you New Yorker, for making me shit myself. If you've got some time and a change of underwear ready, here's that article:

Posted by True Blue Door | Sun Aug 3, 2014, 01:44 PM (2 replies)

From NASA: Potentially, A Breakthrough (Understatement of The Century)

The word "breakthrough" has been so diluted by decades of Silicon Valley bullshit that when we hear it, we tend to think it means some company has found a way to increase cellphone battery life by 2%, or that a car gets 5 more miles per gallon, etc. etc. This...is not that. This is potentially something else entirely. Potentially, something more familiar in science fiction novels and TV series.

Now, when I say that, the intelligent skeptic will imagine something more ambitious than the above examples, but still relatively rooted in the status quo: Perhaps a practical battery capable of powering commercial aircraft? Perhaps a telescope with a hundred times better optics at the same cost? A solar cell with twice the performance at half the cost and twice the lifetime? Nope. Still too conservative. Once again, this is potentially something else entirely.

And I would stress the word potentially lest our imaginations run away with us at this point (and I have been tempted in that direction by this news, let me tell you). A lot of review, experimentation, and theoretical discussion has to take place before it's clear whether the breakthrough in question has actually occurred...but the first experimental results by NASA indicate that it has. Again, don't let your imagination run wild just yet. So first, some scientific background to explain what may potentially have been discovered.

Theoretically, according to quantum mechanics, "empty" space is permeated by a froth of quantum particles that pop into and out of existence in negative/positive pairs so that the net mass-energy of the universe never changes (i.e., each pair together has a net mass-energy of zero, so they don't technically exist when they stay together, but if you separate them they become "real" particles that can interact with things). In the normal course of events, random fluctuations in this froth can briefly separate particle pairs and create very, very small transient forces in otherwise empty space, and these forces are called quantum fluctuations or vacuum energy.

Now, that energy is not "something from nothing" - the net change in the universe is still zero. The fluctuations merely separate the positive mass-energy virtual particle from the negative mass-energy virtual particle, creating temporary and localized forces that together add up to nothing. But suppose you could harness just one side of that equation and let the other side fly off and do whatever, basically mooching off the universe and letting it handle its own bookkeeping to pay for your activity? This is the basis of a variety of speculative technologies that occur frequently in science fiction literature, in particular as they concern advanced in-space propulsion concepts that don't require propellant mass because they tap into transient forces that are omnipresent throughout the universe.

These concepts were theoretically plausible, but none of them had any foundation in applied science. Until now, that is. Potentially. According to a very cautiously-worded paper released from a team at NASA Johnson Space Center, one of these theoretical technologies appears to work: A "radio-frequency (RF) resonant cavity" designed to selectively transform quantum fluctuations into momentum in one direction while being unaffected by them in the other direction. If I understand the concept properly (and my understanding is far from professional), basically it's a box whose internal shape and material properties are such that one side is supposedly reflecting vacuum energy while the other side is designed to be transparent to it, resulting in a net acceleration in one direction.

According to the paper, NASA scientists, after devising a careful experiment to eliminate outside influences and confounding factors, detected just such acceleration in a not one but two different RF resonant cavity test articles with different configurations. The effect is small but large enough to be detected unambiguously. In other words, they built a couple of boxes a certain way, isolated them from the environment as best they knew how, and without putting any outside momentum into the boxes, somehow the boxes had a net acceleration and the scientists were unable to account for it through normal electromagnetic processes.

But again, don't let your imagination run wild just yet. Science has the excruciating but utterly necessary habit of finding very subtle, non-obvious reasons why things that appear to hint at radical new possibilities...don't. Five NASA scientists have done their best to disprove quantum thruster technology and have been unable to do so, but now their work and the theories surrounding the concept will be studied and discussed in-depth by the entire global physics community with subsequent experiments sure to follow. For a dash of cold water, just remember that a team of world-renowned physicists were recently unable to disprove their detection of faster-than-light neutrinos, and were only able to find the mundane explanation when the world scientific community focused on the topic.

So, the greatest likelihood per Occam's Razor is that some very subtle but nonetheless ordinary, non-quantum effect is producing the observed acceleration in a way that does not make it a useful technology. However, given the results and high credibility of the experiment, the likelihood that this is a real phenomenon is nontrivial - it has gone from "sheer speculation" to "observationally significant," and is now in the domain of the empirical rather than entirely theoretical.

Having made clear the limits of the finding, now we can go crazy and imagine the potential that may have opened up. If the effect is real, a spacecraft utilizing it - even at the likely very low efficiencies that this bleeding-edge test article achieves - could theoretically reach Alpha Centauri in a matter of decades rather than 70,000 years at Voyager speeds, because the effect would allow spacecraft to accelerate indefinitely to a substantial fraction of the speed of light. It could propel spacecraft to anywhere in the solar system in matters of weeks rather than years, potentially opening up every planet and moon in the solar system to human exploration and settlement. We would still need traditional rockets to land on and take off from surfaces, but traveling across the vast expanses of space between worlds would be downright easy.

Here's another thing: Since vacuum energy permeates all space, there is no practical limit to the mass you could transport. It makes no difference whether you're sending a little probe or a skyscraper-sized spaceship with thousands of people in it - you would just have to build a bigger RF cavity as the engine. A bigger empty box. Not the most staggering engineering challenge one could imagine, that. Of course, you'd still have to design decent life support, radiation shielding, etc. etc., but with transit times measured in weeks rather than years and mass no longer a limitation, those challenges become easily (and I do mean easily) surmountable. In other words, if these results prove out, a future just short of Star Trek opens up very quickly (short of it since you're still kept below light speed, but don't worry, NASA's working on that too).

There could possibly also be consequences for power generation here on Earth, although that's a good deal more questionable given the low power levels involved. Power is all about cramming as much energy into as short a time as possible, while the benefit of this potential technology is that it consistently provides a small amount of energy per unit area indefinitely. Solar energy is probably vastly more powerful, but perhaps it could be augmented? Ironically, the less profound potential applications (Earth-based gadgets and surface transportation) are far more dubious than the seemingly pie-in-the-sky possibilities of space travel that could be rapidly realized if this technology proves to be genuine.

So, as weird as it seems, if this turns out to be real, we could very well still be struggling to switch to electric cars and build up solar power infrastructure here on Earth at a time when we're swarming around the solar system in giant reactionless space cruiseliners. The very idea of the latter sounds ludicrous, but...that's the potential. And even if the devil-in-the-details proves the technology real but less useful than hoped, even intermediate possibilities are pretty staggering. Maybe there are mass limits, so instead of Carnival Cruise ships flying from Earth orbit to Neptune and back in a month, it's only mid-sized yachts with a hundred people. Or maybe the speed limit is lower than imagined, so instead of a month, it's three months (as opposed to ten years).

Either way, the very worst possible outcome of this news is that it's an illusion and changes nothing, while almost every single other scenario quickly turns into a science fiction novel. And I do mean quickly. Remember, we're talking about an empty box with a precisely-built internal shape, not some ultra-complex machine requiring an army of Lockheed employees and years of testing. Universities that today build their own small satellites could, in a matter of years, be constructing their own interplanetary and interstellar engines. Maybe.

But again, (and I'm speaking to myself as much to anyone else) one experiment is not a discovery, and eventual disproof remains the most likely outcome. Still, it's hard not to smell The Future in this news. If someone told you there was a 1% chance of the world ending tomorrow, you'd be pretty terrified. If someone told you there was a 1% chance you would become a billionaire tomorrow, you'd be pretty excited.

Well, without knowing the exact numerical probability, let's arbitrarily say there's a 1% chance that this proves out, and you will wake up one day soon and people will be on the Moon again; wake up the next day (figuratively speaking) and they will be on Mars and orbiting Venus; the next day, they're swarming around the Asteroid Belt; the next day, the moons of Jupiter; the next day, Saturn; on, and on, and on. And before you've repaid your mortgage from that first day, your species is headed to Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, and Epsilon Eridani when the day before that first day the world had almost given up on the very idea of space travel. Quickens the pulse, doesn't it?

I'll be monitoring the scientific community's response to these findings very closely. Hopefully the NASA experiment's results can be replicated in relatively short order.

Update: Here's a brief article on the PBS website about the potential breakthrough:

Posted by True Blue Door | Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:31 AM (12 replies)
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