More Facebook Fail

I’m going through my notifications on Facebook. A tedious task that I frequently just hit Mark All as Read in order to complete it quickly, and then I go on to the next thing on my todo list. Today there was a video notification for Robert Reich being live in amongst everything else, and it was recent, so I figured I could click on it and at least catch the end of the video. Let’s see what the link brings up when I paste it here.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/142474049098533/posts/?notif_id=1574188482955442&notif_t=notify_me_page&ref=notif
Robert Reich was live.

Well, that’s interesting. The pasted link renders out as plain text even though WordPress recognizes it as a Facebook link and gives me the default warning Embedded content from facebook.com can’t be previewed in the editor while I’m in the editor. Robert Reich leaves his videos on Facebook, so I can go to the video later using the link and have it come up as the the video I wanted to see. This is the video:

Posted by Robert Reich on Thursday, November 21, 2019
Robert Reich was live. (that is what Facebook titles these. All of them)

Robert Reich talking with Solana Rice about the fifth Democratic convention, how the slate is shaping up for the future and what the Democratic party needs to do to address the concerns of minorities into the future. A conversation that I wanted to hear but couldn’t when I first saw the notification because when I clicked on the link, I got this video instead:

This swimmer got surrounded by three Killer Whales which she misjudged them for dolphins 😯Credit: storyful

Posted by Ben Phillips on Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Facebook

A over-dramatized video of a swimmer being investigated by killer whales (Orcas) complete with music designed to hype the terror and suspense. Will she get eaten? Won’t she? The answer is no, she won’t get eaten. Wild Orcas don’t attack people except by accident. There was one link in the comments that pointed to a story on a site named Orcazine (that spells quality journalism. A site name that excludes all other kinds of stories other than stories about Orcas. Are any of them true? You can’t know without further research) a story that purport to document one of the rare instances of an Orca mistaking a human for prey. This is an even rarer occurrence than a shark attack, which happens so rarely that you stand a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of being attacked by a shark. So, Orca attack? Not high on the list of things to worry about.

If you want to talk about Orcas killing someone the facts are not hard to find. A trainer at Seaworld died because one of the Orcas attacked her. It can happen. Orcas are carnivores. Orcas that have been mistreated by humans over and over again, kept in cages all their lives, etcetera, can become violent. It doesn’t mean that the swimmer was in any real danger in the hyper-dramatic bullshit video.

My beef here is, the two videos have nothing to do with each other, and wouldn’t have anything to do with each other unless an Orca appeared on stage at the fifth Democratic debate and ate one of the other candidates. Now, that video might have been worth watching.

Facebook video fail. Just because I click on a link that Facebook says is a video, it doesn’t mean that any video Facebook wants to serve up to me will be something I will find interesting. When I click on a notification, I expect to see the thing the notification says is there wherever you send me, Facebook. If I don’t, I’m liable to get angry and tell a pod of Orcas that seals live at your home address. You wouldn’t want that.

The Warrior

I think I’ve found the winner for the most 80’s of 80’s music videos.

Scandal featuring Patty Smyth – The Warrior (Official Video) – Oct 26, 2013

I probably should have figured that a song whose refrain was

Shootin’ at the walls of heartache, Bang! Bang!

Would have an amazing 80’s music video associated with it. Just another moment where I’m thankful that I didn’t watch much MTV or VH1 back in the day. Radio, radio and more radio. Also Texas disco bars, lots of Texas disco bars.

Texas disco bars were nothing like disco bars anywhere else. A man wearing a cowboy hat onto a disco dancefloor anywhere else in the world could be assumed to be wearing a costume. Not in Texas. Never insult a man’s hat in Texas. It’s always a fine lookin’ hat here. You wear it with style, even when you’re dancing to a song like this one.

Weirdly, I still like this song. I’ll just avoid watching the video in the future. Youtube auto-queued Pat Benatar after Scandal. Freaking Youtube and their mind-reading queues.

Highlander

Looper caught me again. The short clip on Youtube named The Untold Truth Of Highlander doesn’t really have anything untold or anything particularly decapitating in its truthfulness. It did, however, reference an anime movie spin off that I’d never seen before.

Highlander: The Search for Vengeance – Trailer

For that, Looper gets a hat/tip. Highlander was an obsession of mine for quite awhile. I never could get into the TV series spin-offs of the movie, even though I had friends who loved them and wrote fan fiction for them. Spin-off series for blockbuster movies have been things that I’ve avoided like a plague, with the significant exceptions of M*A*S*H and Stargate SG-1. I can blame youth for the first. I don’t have an excuse for the SG-1 addiction. I just like it, and there is no explaining taste. Planet of the Apes and Galactica 1980 burned me on TV series spin-offs, and I never looked back.

But I loved the first Highlander movie. I collected all the songs from the film that I could get my hands on, before a friend gifted me a copy of A Kind of Magic. I was so obsessed with the film that I knew immediately on listening to Queen, The Works that Hammer to Fall was the song that is playing in the gunner’s car when he stumbles on the sword fight in Manhattan. I knew that film backwards and forwards and even went to the trouble of tracking down the fabled European version (not mentioned in the Looper short) that has the scenes explaining how he adopted his loyal secretary. The woman who inexplicably loves him like a father, even though she is clearly older than he is.

Highlander II was the sequel that burned me on all movie sequels after it. If I decide to go see a movie that is a sequel to another movie these days, I do it with the memory of Highlander/Highlander II firmly held in mind. Surprisingly, there are very few sequels that end up being quite that bad. Some of them come close (yes, I’m looking at you Terminator 4. Alien 3, 4, 5, etc. don’t think I’ve forgotten how bad you all were. I haven’t) but they still can’t quite be as unforgivably bad as Highlander 2 was. Unless it was Highlander 3, 4, 5, etc.

After hating on Highlander II for about a decade the Renegade Cut showed up and I could see what Russell Mulcahy had in mind for the film when he shot the scenes in Argentina. What he had in mind, before the economy there tanked and he ended up losing control of the film. That film would at least have been watchable. It still would have been unforgivably bad (never, ever, remove the mystery. Your explanation will never be as good as the imagination of the audience.) but it at least made narrative sense, while still being bad storytelling.

I have to quit watching Youtube videos. That is clearly the only fix for this tangent problem. No, I probably won’t watch the Highlander remake that is supposedly in the works. Like Star Trek, Highlander‘s emotional vein has been worked out. There is no feeling left there for them to mine. They’ll probably make a goldmine off of it, though. Nothing sells like nostalgia.

Babylon 5: Believers. The Trolley Problem.

This discussion started in the Babylon 5 fan group. There is a rule in the group that disallows all politics and religion that isn’t part of the show from being discussed in the group. If a post strays too far into the real world, the moderators will delete it. I know why moderators do this, but I don’t honestly care. It is unrealistic to expect human beings to be able to separate their beliefs from the entertainment that they enjoy. Especially a show like Babylon 5 or Star Trek, shows that are always tweaking politics and religion in the course of their storytelling. Discuss any episode of the show without straying into weighty matters of philosophy or politics. Go ahead and try.

The long and the short of why I started the article this way is, I have no idea how long the writing I’ve done on the subject will exist within the Facebook group. It just takes one religious zealot, one antitheist, and the thread goes poof. Can you blame me that I want to export the writing so as preserve it?

This image is from the Babylon 5 episode Believers. Here is a link to a synopsis of the episode in case you haven’t seen it or if you don’t want to spend an hour watching the show right now. Also, you should stop reading now if you don’t want any spoilers before you watch the episode, because this article will be full of them.

Still with me? Okay then, here we go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The OP included this statement with the image, “I still remember how outraged I was when I saw it the first time.” A sentiment that I wholeheartedly endorse. When the episode aired back in 1994 I was furious when the credits rolled. As a young parent myself, I couldn’t imagine how any parent could be so blind as to do what they did in the final scenes. The story revolves around a sick child,

Shon, a young alien boy, has developed a “congested blockage in his upper air passages.” When Dr. Franklin explains to Shon’s parents that Shon’s condition can be cured by a fairly routine surgical procedure, the parents seem bewildered. “You will cut him open?” they ask, and explain that the “Chosen of God” cannot be “punctured” — for their souls will escape.

The main conflict of the episode, above, is introduced in the teaser opening. The show starts this way for a reason, and develops the way it does specifically in service to the moral quandary of the problem. “Oh, but his soul!” say his parents. The soul is unmeasurable, unidentifiable. The soul, for the purposes of this episode, is non-existent. The McGuffin, in scriptwriting terms.

There are other episodes of the show where the soul is treated as a physical or at least detectable energy presence. The episode Soul Hunter, eight episodes before this one in the first series, springs immediately to mind as an example of this. So the problem isn’t that there are no souls in the show, or that the writer, David Gerrold, didn’t flesh out the story well enough. It is simply necessary in this episode that the presence of the soul cannot be detected because if it could be verified as being present after the surgery, then there is no moral quandary. There is no story to tell.

When I ran across the thread discussing the episode it already had over 100 comments. However, in reading through the comments I found a near absence of understanding of the purposeful moral dilemma presented by the story. Comments like this one,

Sorry, but I call BS on that one. “Unmeasurable, unidentifiable; AKA, non-existent.” Is nothing more than an argument to silence. For the vast majority of human history things like cells, atoms, and gravity were “Unmeasurable, unidentifiable;” so they were “AKA, non-existent”, right? Just because it is not (yet) measurable does not mean it does not exist. 

As I have mentioned a number of times about this episode, the reasons for this particular belief were not addressed. That’s either a failure of Franklin or David Gerrold.

His willingness to blame the writer and actor simply reveals his beliefs on this particular subject. His rejection of the argument is far more revealing of his moral rigidity and lack of understanding of the mechanics of storytelling than it is a truthful observation about the episode and the moral quandary that it contains.

Like the trolley problem, there is no right answer to this problem. In the trolley problem you are asked to choose between taking one life or five under varying circumstances. When the problem is framed one way, you predominantly get an answer that underscores utilitarian ethics; i.e. most people will choose to sacrifice one life to save five. However, when the problem is framed another way, usually requiring the person making the decision to take an active physical role in the decision by pushing a person onto the tracks to stop the trolley, as one example, most people will chose to allow the five people to die.

The problem here, narrowly defined, is medical intervention vs. natural selection. The doctor is required to help his patients. He makes a reference to this fact when he alludes to taking a medical oath to do no harm. The good doctor saw his moral obligation as at least attempting to save the child’s life. The child will end up dead no matter what the doctor does. Of course, neither he nor the audience knows this until the reveal at the end.

The parents knew their child was dying. They expected to find him dead when they were summoned back to the medical lab. When he was instead alive and well, they knew that the doctor had violated their beliefs and saved the child against their wishes. So they acted on their beliefs and did what they thought should have been allowed to happen in the first place.

If the soul is measurable, produce a measurement. If it is definable, define it in a way that can be demonstrated empirically. In this specific episode of Babylon 5 there was no measurement, no definition. In the world that we exist in, believers have been trying to prove the existence of the soul for hundreds of years. They have yet to demonstrate a single method for determining the properties of a soul, and yet few humans will step forward and say they have no soul. Why is this? The soul cannot be shown to be real by any measurement that we humans can attempt, and yet we all still believe that we all have a soul. That it is important we not deny the existence of our own souls.

The doctor is certain that the parents will see reason. He is certain about what his moral path is. The parents are certain that their child should be dead. They are certain of their moral path. The conflict is unresolvable, on purpose. You are supposed to question “what is the moral course?”

Delinn asks the only important question “Whose beliefs are the correct ones?” when she refuses to help the parents stop the operation. Whose beliefs are correct, and how do you demonstrate the correctness of your beliefs? What would have happened if the parents had accepted that their child was healthy but unchanged? If they had taken him home to their planet, would the rest of their people have recognized him as a demon on sight? Or would they have blithely accepted that medicine had saved the boy without loosing his soul? They wouldn’t know that he had been cut unless they could sense the change in his body like a soul hunter would in that other episode.

The boy’s parents did know, because they said goodbye to him minutes before he would have died only to return and find him alive and well. But if they could have accepted him, would anyone else have noticed? This was the lesson I learned from the episode and I’ve carried it with me ever since. You cannot save a child from their parents without removing the child from the parents. The separation has to be physical, and the child has to accept that this is the right thing to do. Without that action, without the agreement of the person you are trying to help, you will simply deliver the lamb to the slaughterer at another time and place, and you might as well have not bothered to make the attempt in the first place.

Act or not act, the outcome is the same in this story. The only question is, what was the moral thing to do? I still side with Dr. Franklin. You, however, are free to disagree.

The avalanche has already started; It is too late for the pebbles to vote.

Ambassador Kosh

Daily Beef: What Debate?

You can tell that CNN needs to retire and let younger people take over. How can you tell? Simple. I needed to time-shift the second Democratic primary debate tonight (07/30/2019) so that I could listen to it while I sort laundry. While I sort laundry, after the Tuesday 7:30-10:30 pm raid that I simply will not miss unless a nuclear blast takes out the power grid and sends us back into the stone age. Then I won’t be able to log onto the game servers anyway, so it won’t matter.

I timeshifted watching/listening to the last one, no problem. Rachel Maddow put the entire debate audio on her podcast stream, I listened to all four hours of it and sorted all the laundry. Two tasks accomplished at the same time.

This week? I go online looking for the audio or video. Can I find it anywhere? No. CNN won’t let anyone post the stream online. They’re trying to figure out how this whole streaming things works. It’s live on the cable! Go watch it! Save it to your DVR! What is it? 1990 still? I’m surprised they remember how to make the television cameras turn on and off. I’m going to have to go to youtube and watch a pirate version (editor’s note, Google is whacking accounts for putting the public feed online) or give up and go to pirate bay and risk my ass on a torrent to be able to watch/listen to the thing without having to have it spoonfed to me by CNN’s nannies.

WTF!?!

I don’t want them to tell me who won or lost. They don’t know. I don’t want them to tell me what the high and low points were. They don’t know. They know how to put on their Depends and which shelf the Ensure is on in the refrigerator, and that’s about all they know. Give it up CNN. Let the young people take over. Go play golf with the Orange Hate-Monkey. You’ll never know how much he cheats because you won’t remember that golf is played with balls and clubs.

…my apologies to old people everywhere. I am one of them. There is a difference between being old and being dangerously out of touch with reality. CNN’s management is in the latter category.


Thursday morning, when everyone who has an interest in the subject has already been spoonfed the take-away that CNN wants them to accept, the video of the debate(s) (It’s still a round-robin not a debate. More like a free-for-all.) is up on CNN’s website. With the first question to Elizabeth Warren, CNN exposes themselves as the servants of big business that they are. At 15:31 in the first video Jake Tapper asks,

Are you with Bernie on raising taxes on middle class Americans to pay for [Medicare for all]?

CNN – NIGHT ONE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY DEBATE – 07/30/2019

Editor’s note. Notice the way the video is fubar? (you will on your phone) That ain’t me, that’s CNN not being able to supply a feed properly.

A question framed in that fashion doesn’t even deserve an answer, and Warren essentially refused to answer it. It’s about as misleading a question as “so have you stopped beating your wife?” How do you answer a question like that? You can’t, not without conceding that the battle will be fought on the moderator’s terms and not on the terms of the candidates themselves. As the rest of the first 30:00 minute video plays out, it becomes increasingly clear that the knives are out for the progressives on the stage. As Bernie Sanders rightly noted “you are repeating Republican talking points.”

Skip ahead an hour (ten minutes into video three) and you can hear Tim Ryan, who has been attacking his progressive opponents all night, talk about creating the office of Chief Manufacturing Officer. Just what we need, another bureaucracy that will centrally plan how America makes widgets and where. Anyone who proposes something like this hasn’t got room to criticize anyone for their plans to overhaul other parts of the system.

We make things in America. We are still one of the largest manufacturers on the face of this planet. The fact that the automobile industry is floundering is not because we don’t make things in the US. It is because the US car manufacturers are busy chasing profits instead of making cars that people will buy. It is because the average American simply can’t afford to buy vehicles the way they used to. Because half of America is poor. Let’s talk about that subject. Poverty in America. Let’s talk about the problem at the root of all the other problems. Don’t hold your breath.

There were several areas of agreement. Reparations for slavery was one of them. You want to point to an issue that will hand the election to Trump? That would be one of those issues. I’m not saying reparations are not owed. What I am saying is that racialising the issue of the wealth gap in the US is a surefire way of pitting all the white people against the black people. How about we just admit that poverty is the problem and set out to end poverty as we know it? It’s still more than what we’ve done in the past, but at least that approach will not set half the country against the other half right from the start.

We are fools to saddle our children with debt and then send them out into the world to try to pay all that debt back. This is why student loans are a bad idea. All of the hand waving on the stage won’t change the truth of this one way or the other. How we make sure that education is available and inexpensive to the student is the real question, not whether or not we give people who currently have student loans a free pass. The loans should be forgivable, and in most cases forgiven. But there shouldn’t be student loans in the future. This fact is demonstrable. That they argued about this subject at all baffles me.

What the hell did Marianne Williamson even say in closing? Did any of that make sense? I don’t know what debate everyone else was watching, for my money the clear winners here were Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Mayor Pete looked good and did well, as did Beto. But making Warren and Sanders the targets was the mistake of the other candidates. They look petty and mean, and their repetition of Republican talking points will not do them any favors with a Democratic audience.


CNN – NIGHT TWO DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY DEBATE – 07/31/2019

Night two. Is it just me, or did they arrange for Joe Biden to shine all by himself in this, the second night’s round? Kamala Harris seems less coherent this week than she did in the last debate. I was hoping to see her continue to shine as one of the possible alternative front-running candidates. Once again CNN’s agenda that the progressives be the targets is on full display, and Harris is the sole defender of the audacious ideas put forward by the progressive wing on the stage tonight. If she’s not the only defender, CNN would clearly like her to be perceived that way. Again, MSNBC did so much better with their debate. Maybe CNN should have taken notes?

…I’ve gotten all the way to the last thirty minutes of the second night, and I have yet to see a moderator attack any candidate on stage tonight the way that Jake Tapper went after Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Softball questions all the way around through the entire event. The only ones scoring points on Biden were his opponents. That is as it should be in a debate, but why was the first night so different? Joe Biden is clearly the candidate that CNN wants to be the next president. If anything, that is the most important reason not to vote for the man.

In the greatest movie of the 1980s, Streets of Fire, in the climactic scene, Willem Dafoe and Michael Pare fight with sledgehammers.

That’s right, sledgehammers.

Ten minutes. No soundtrack. Just the sound of two large men smashing the shit out of each other with those giant iron mallets. The ring of steel as they block and parry. The thud of metal slamming into flesh. In the end they both drop the hammers and resort to fists and there’s this great moment when Dafoe clenches his hands and screams in absolute rage before charging his opponent — only to get the crap punched right out of him by Pare wielding fists like a pair of canned hams.

Why bring it up?

No reason.

I’m just sitting here brainstorming some ideas for better leadership selection methodologies than this idiotic debate.

Stonekettle Station, July 30
The best image from the 2016 election. There is a 2020 version of this as well.

Good Night, and Good Luck

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men

Edward R. Murrow

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History contains a portion of this quote in the intro to each episode. I recognized it as being an Edward R. Murrow quote the first time I heard it. It was also featured in a scene in the movie about him titled Good Night, and Good Luck, Murrow’s signature tagline for his broadcasts.

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005) Official Trailer

Edward R. Murrow stared down the last demagogue that held high office. He did it at great cost to himself and his fellow journalists. Where are those people brave enough to stand up to the demagogue currently seated in the chair of the President of the United States? Are we too amused by the circuses to bother with it?

This instrument can teach; it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.

Edward R. Murrow

Treason

During my recent convalescence, I watched a lot of television. A lot of television for me, considering I haven’t watched TV much since cutting the cable three years ago. I went through the several series on Netflix that I mentioned previously, but I also spent a lot of time watching several Ken Burns’ PBS series that I’ve had bookmarked for years.

The one that stuck in my mind was The Vietnam War, especially episode seven. You know the one. The one where we discover that Richard Nixon committed treason, and Lyndon Johnson caught him lying about it? For some reason, that series and that episode specifically reminds me of the political climate of today. More than one person has said to me,

You can’t say Donald Trump has committed treason because he hasn’t been conspiring with anyone we have declared war on.

…and I’ve found that non-denial denial quite revealing. Yes it is true that he hasn’t been shown to be conspiring with anyone we are currently at war with, but it is rather convenient that congress doesn’t declare war on enemies anymore. It’s also rather convenient that conventional war is limited to puppet governments and so-called third world regions, while information warfare is carefully treated as different from conventional war. As if destruction of a country’s political and social structure is somehow less damaging than the wholesale bombing campaigns of previous generations.

I mean, it is easier on the furniture and the infrastructure. It costs fewer lives, for the most part. But the uncertainty created by the mis- and dis-information campaigns currently being waged is psychologically as harmful as physical violence. You never know what is true and what is not true these days. All words are lies, especially words that come from government authorities. Sources that most people want to trust, demonstrably cannot be trusted. This has been true since Donald Trump took office proven time and again by investigative reporting.

Just like in Nixon’s time, White House sources deny that the reports are true, but their denials are clearly stamped as false, stamped as face-saving bullshit put out by the Bullshitter-in-Chief. Nixon conspired with Hanoi to prolong the Vietnam war in order to gain the White House. Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to gain the White House. No, we can’t prove it aside from the synchronicity of events that bear out coordination of efforts. But those events do occur in a properly causal relationship, and Trump did have business interests in Moscow that he still denies existed.

No, we aren’t at war with Russia, so that’s not treason per se. But if you think that just because we aren’t at war with another country, it’s OK to take their stolen information, their disinformation structures and use them against our own people? If you think that is OK, then I seriously have to question your sanity, your loyalty.

I just finished watching All the President’s Men. That line that Robard’s character utters near the end? That line keeps replaying in my head now. Those same pressures that were on the Washington Post back in 1974? Those pressures are on every single American today. There are no more gatekeepers. There is no barrier to information any longer. If we are misinformed, it is because we allow ourselves to be misinformed. Not allowing yourself to be comfortably deluded? That is what it means to be a good citizen. To know what the truth is, and to stick to it no matter the pressure to conform.

“We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there,” Robards’ says. “Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Good night.”

All The President’s Men

Firefly Online

Allan Steele‘s in-game tribute planet. No relation.

I had some real hope once that this game would eventually see the light of day. Sadly it’s been four years now since its announcement, and there hasn’t been any news of the games continued existence as a work in progress since 2016. Rumor has it that the licensing has run out on the project and the game will likely never be released because FOX is possibly looking to restart the Firefly universe with a new version of the series in 2020. I guess that is a faint hope to hold onto.

h/t to thezombiechimp.com for the info and the links. There are a lot more images of ingame content at that link.

Firefly Online First Look Trailer From Comic Con 2013 – Gamerhubtv