We have a broken machine – can we fix it already?

I do my best to stay away from political noise – but today the FBI is indicting Paul Manafort and his number 2. This is bigger than political noise – this is the beginning of an story that will live on past us. Years from now people will be asking “where were we when…,” to the events that might unfold from this point forward. It might be that big. But still, I can’t help but notice that the political machine that brought us here, which is the the same machine gamed by this administration, still has the same broken cogs, and there is no effort being made to call the machinist to fix it. Hopefully the outcome of whatever is about to happen can lead to more than arrests and real voter reform – anything less than that would be an empty victory.

2017 Visit to Renn Faire

On Saturday we had the opportunity to visit the PA Renaissance Faire. Elizabeth dressed up like the cutest pirate in the world, and Bernadette put on her elf ears. You can view the images by clicking here.

Renn Faire is always fun – it’s like a big medieval flea-market with unique shows and entertainers. In past visits we saw a lot of children and adults dressed up in their Dr. Who gear. Get it, people flying through time and space to end up in the medieval time period–but not this year–this year there were furries. And lots of them. Times change I guess.

My favorite shop was something called Cane Enabled, where they were selling antique and weaponized canes. I don’t know how and when I’d use one, but if I can think of a reason for a weaponized cane sometime in the next year maybe I’ll get one. They had the cutest un-weaponzed cane as well with a rabbit handle. I think it was an antique, either way it was adorable.

Next year I hope we can go more than once, or maybe even try a different renn faire out. My understanding is that there are quite a few in the PA area over the summer months.

The Biggest Threat to National Security might not be Climate Change

I’ve been doing some thinking about the concept of evil recently. Much of this stems from our president’s response to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, as well as his desire to make healthcare unattainable to those that need it most.

There was a question during the 2016 debates that was posed to Bernie Sanders regarding the biggest threat to national security, and Bernie cleverly responded climate change. I believe our president said illegal immigration when posed the same question–don’t quote me on that, though it sounds like something he’d say. But isn’t a lack of empathy towards the poor and less fortunate from those in power just as big of a threat to national security as climate change, immigration, or some rogue nation? Could lax gun laws also pose a similar security threat? They are supposed to keep us secure, but somehow the math in that equation isn’t really adding up.

What I’m dancing around is that the president doesn’t have any real interest in helping Puerto Rico recover. Puerto Ricans do not vote. Texans do. Environmental regulation isn’t really in the best interest of large corporations profiting on abusing the earth’s resources. Ensuring that all citizens have access to affordable healthcare isn’t in the interest of insurance providers or those that govern. And ensuring that strict gun laws exist to help prevent more senseless killings is not in the interest of the gun lobby or the NRA. War though is big business and the big boys like that. See the thread here? I’m proposing that maybe the biggest threat to our national security might not be as easy as a canned answer that tested well in a focus group, works great on a debate stage, and generates media soundbites. Shoot, Donald Trump might not even be the biggest risk to national security, he is just a man–an evil man, but just a man nonetheless. America will continue to survive after him. But what drives him and those like him will remain, and that is self-interest, which is at the root of climate-change crisis and all of the other crisis we face. It might be that we have created a system that has enabled it’s own undoing.

Is it possible for people and leaders within a democratic capitalist system to shed their self-interest for the sake of national security?

More Food for Thought

Here’s one to help get started with as it relates to national security and our wants (self-interest) – The US population is increasing exponentially. The need for a better food management system is imperative. American’s eat meat because they want to, not because they need to. If we shifted to a plant-based diet and used arable land more efficiently, we’d be able to feed more people here and around the world. There are a lot of studies proving this – I’m not going to cite one, simply turn to your Netflix account and watch a food documentary. But if you are still insistent on some proof – here’s something from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition you could read. The study concludes that the lactoovegetarian diet is better and more sustainable, but not sustainable in the long-run considering it’s fossil-fuel requirements. If as a society we acted on what was best for what we need now and for the future, we’d reconsider our diets entirely and use technology to help us develop sustainable farming methods. But the thing is, I’m not a baby calf nor do I intend on growing up to be a 400 lb bovine–keep your milk and cheese, Dr. Lactoovegetarian.

Go vegan.

Don’t Stand so Close to Meme

While we are off in left field talking about Russia, we must keep in mind that Russia isn’t the only one to blame for what happened in November. Yes, they created fake news outlets and fake Facebook and Twitter accounts, but as painful as it is, we must look upon ourselves and shoulder much of the blame. Russia didn’t vote, albeit they might have tampered with the electronic voting machines a bit (that’s yet to be proven), but they didn’t vote. Americans did (and maybe not all were counted, but that’s another issue that has to deal with election laws and gerrymandering). We allowed ourselves to be influenced, not only by the Russians, but from those inside of our circle responding to hate-filled memes. The memes that are circulated do not fall from the sky, and many of them did not come from Russia. Instead, many of them came from a little corner on the internet known as 4Chan. You can read about who they are and their influence on the election here. Memes and Facebook are the perfect combination. They have a way of saying so much without saying anything at all. They are designed to illicit emotion and make us react strongly one way or the other. So let’s re-focus the blame a bit. Russia did tamper with the election–one cannot argue that. Rachel Maddow can talk about Russia all she wants for the next eight years, or for as long as her ratings tell her its a beneficial thing to do. But the truth is, if we didn’t react to an article or a meme, it wouldn’t have legs on social media. I once said that I feel that I should shoulder some of the blame for November’s results because I did not speak up when I saw some of these memes being passed around. I’m beginning to re-think that, and maybe not speaking up in some instances is stronger than saying something, because in essence–and simply by how social media algorithms work, one’s silence and lack of reaction is a direct chop at the knees of a meme. And as I finish this last sentence, Kenny Rogers’ Gambler appears before me with the ace up his sleeve.

Should the Attention Economy be Regulated?

The red notification indicator on our favorite apps, the “like” button, the downward refresh-feed sweep, all of these things are the backbone of what is now being referred to as, the “attention economy.” This new economy drives our national discourse, which is very reactionary, and has partly-created the dreaded feedback loop that drives social media interaction. At best, these queues let us know when grandma likes our most recent brain fart, but on the other hand, it has enabled an attention-seeking reality TV star to become a president. The Guardian has a nice article on the impact of the attention economy here, which is well worth reading. It discusses the dangers of this new economy and how it came to be. It also highlights what some of the well-meaning tech gurus responsible for the habit-forming queues we’ve grown to rely upon are doing to pull away from their own inventions, recognizing that they are dangerous. Ironically enough, like most monsters, it’s creation didn’t come from a place of bad-intention. And maybe it can be reeled in before things get even more out of hand. The question we might need to begin asking is, if drugs, alcohol and tobacco can be legislated and regulated, can code, and the application of it be as well? And if this is asking too much, those that are paying attention might need to deactivate a few things.

The Tragedy of the Gun Industry

This article, published by the New Yorker after the Orlando shooting, traces how “concealed carry” came to be and who benefits. A lot has changed since its publication, but the money trail remains the same. The gun industry booms after national tragedies by feeding off of people’s fear. Their marketing is wrapped around that. But interestingly enough, it was a dying industry until about 1992–which, is if you recall, is when the LA riots took place and the media, doing what it does best, replayed the riot so many times that in the wake of the event a new enemy was created. After 9/11 gun sales boomed again, and after each subsequent tragedy they do as well. Ironically though, many of these tragedies are enabled by lax gun laws, which only exist because the NRA are big political donors. See the trap?  As highlighted in the article, the gun industry was loosing money when they focused on hunting, but tragedies present big business and opportunity. “Concealed Carry” is a marketing ploy gone legislative. Its efficacy is grey but the pain it has enabled is not. It is another case of the tail wagging the dog. As long as the money keeps on lining the pockets of politicians, we will not see a change in gun legislation.

Status Report: #AntiFacebook Experiment – 2 Weeks in

It’s been about two weeks. So far so good. Almost ready to “publish” this site. I have noticed that since I started this I’m not reacting to the world as much. I find myself looking for information at my own pace. But the big wins are that ads aren’t following me around, and Google isn’t telling me that I want to read a particular story now (that’s the Google Now service, which I turned off–it comes stock on Android phones). Overall, it’s a much healthier internet experience. I’ve also been texting more with friends and family – checking in with them as opposed to passively monitoring them on the interwebs. The other thing that I need to mention is that it’s nice to have my very own corner on the web where content I post is all mine. It’s very liberating. You should give it a try.

Thoughts and Prayers aren’t Enough. Gun Violence Needs to End.

Most of us this morning woke up to the news of what was happening in Vegas. Politicians are sending thoughts and prayers, and I’m sure social media is lit up with the same. Truth is, we all feel good about sending thoughts and prayers at times like this. Even non-church-goers send their prayers. We move on. Then it happens again. And in between each event, the national discourse shifts quickly to ending Obamacare, travel bans, the wall, immigration reform, and whether kneeling during the national anthem is un-American or not—yet no politician or group dares speak up about gun violence and real domestic terror. It’s simply forgotten.

See a trend here? healthcare, travel bans, the wall, immigration, national anthem–these are all issues the rich use (with the help of the GOP and other purchased politicians) to maintain their status quo, silence dissent, and keep the complexion of the majority of America familiar and white (and by now we all know what Making America Great Again really means–let’s stop pretending like it’s something above and beyond its implied intent). But when the violence is caused somebody with the same complexion as them, as it usually is in these instances, thoughts and prayers are good enough–no travel bans occur, no executive orders, no mad tweets to democrats from the president. Their tails are tucked firmly between their legs, and they move on with tweets the following Sunday targeting NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem–and the result is another engineering of public amnesia (you know, that Jedi mind trick thing they do).

Gun violence is real and scares us all–it is an act of terrorism and a question of national security. It is not something we should brush away. If politicians are truly in office to support what is good for the people they represent – it’s time to focus on stronger gun laws, healthcare for all, and build towards an America that compassionate and all-inclusive. They need to stop hiding behind their big donors who only have their interests in mind.

Politicians – I’m talking directly to you – stop allowing the NRA to peddle their bullshit and pass the kind of legislation that will prevent something like this from happening again–and if this effects your payday Mr. Congressmen or Congresswomen, remember, you signed on to be a public servant and not an NRA stooge.

VegFest 2017, Phoenixville, PA

This weekend had the opportunity to swing by the VegFest in Phoenixville, PA, which is a street fest celebrating local vegan cooking cooking, brands, and other animal and environmental activist organizations. It was a great thing to see the vegan community so alive, and it was even better to see how long the lines were at each food station. I didn’t get any food but did pick up some pins and met people promoting some forward ideas. One brand in particular, Supernatural Foods/Ghost Vegan, was promoting a delicious coconut jerky and merchandise. The jerky was excellent and its smoky and peppery flavor notes hit all the right places. Some other vendors that were there that caught my attention were:

As mentioned, there were also plenty of food vendors. The lines were way too long for each, so I can’t really comment on them. But if the lines are any indication of what was happening on the plate, I’m sure they were awesome. For a full list of vendors, click here.

Here is a picture of Pee-Wee doing a trick

Pee-Wee of the Pig Placement Network
Pee-Wee the Pig performing a trick at the VegFest in Phoenixville, PA

Why I was There

I was there for Green Party activities, primarily promoting Jules Mermelstein for Superior Court for PA. I met up with a few other folks from the Delaware County Green Party, and the chair of the Chester County Green Party.  Together we canvassed and promoted the Jules, and a Green that is running for mayor of Phoenixville, PA, Nate Craig. The folks I spoke to were very receptive and excited that a we could have a Green judge elected in PA.

And on Sunday, there was a food vest in Media, PA–no real vegan options except the Indian restaurant, Shere Punjab, and they only had one dish for vegan consumption. In comparison, the VegFest was extremely vibrant with a great crowd, whereas the food fest in Media was just kind of just slow-moving and there. Simply put–vegans just have better and healthier parties.  Something like this has to be done in Media.