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How else can one explain what is happening in China over the last few years? Mr T Tweets at 3am, and now he’s calling the Taiwanese Prez, which is like snubbing your nose at your big (or little depending on your POV) brother or sister. Only this sibling doesn’t sleep, and could suffocate you with his or her pillow all while continuing to pollute our environment.

Remember back in February when I recommended a compelling non-fiction book about China? “Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos. https://mountainmornings.net/2016/02/27/mj-fever/

If you’re not one for the long read, how about a couple of articles in this month’s Atlantic, “China’s Great Leap Backward?” Kisssinger explains China 101 and tells us how to avoid a trade war, among other things. And James Fallows tells us that freedom is even harder to find in the new China; “It has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution.”

We Americans have been asleep. We don’t want to wake to the nightmare of last month’s election, and why should we? We would rather come home from work, open a craft beer, and watch Netflix. Only the latest sci-fi series I told you about, Black Mirror, is actually coming true in China! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/10/25/feeling-twitchy/

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

So that’s what I said in October…and now China is creating a nightmare for its citizens with their tacit consent.

It is collecting “Social Credit Scores,” in other words, the dragon has a highly developed Big Brother with a big pillow under his head. All electronic purchasing data, social media networks, and algorithmic sorting devices are being collected to give each citizen a score between 350 and 950. This system not only monitors whether or not you could pay for your apartment. but how compliant you are politically, and what kind of spouse you might make! If you hit a score of 700+ you are allowed to travel to Singapore…

Black Mirror is no longer science fiction, it is becoming fact. The Regime can now keep a tally of any message with a mention of Tienanmen Square for example, which would not only lower your score, but those of your friends and family! All of the scores are available to everybody in China online, and strangely enough like salmon swimming furiously upstream, citizens have embraced this system.

And just like the American 12 year old I overheard bragging about how many Instagram followers she had, I am finding this brave new world frightening. After all, we have Google and Amazon and Facebook et al collecting our data, but our government isn’t quite yet in cahoots with them, is it? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-34592186

It’s enough to make me want to crawl right back under the covers and hibernate the winter away. But first a prayer for what it’s worth, please God, let Mr T pick Romney over Giuliani for Secretary of State. We don’t need any more bulls roaming free in a China shop. Let me know when it’s time to wake up and get off the grid. From an exhibition in LA at the Broad Museum – this is Jenny Holzer 1979 – it’s strangely prescient

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Beware what you put out there on social media. Through my jet lag fog I witnessed a battle royal last night on Facebook, one my sweet LA niece had no reason to be embroiled in, and I thought how a Shakespearian tragedy can unfold in real time with absolutely no effort. This semantic sparring had something to do, well everything really, with our President Elect (who shall forever be named Mr T to me). Just as our local political news is indirectly related to a newly discovered free/for/all/climate of intimidation and fear in the wake of last month’s election.

A young Black man, an activist who moved to Cville about the same time we did, is being vilified in the local press over some Twitter comments he made years ago. Wes Bellamy was a high school history teacher and the Vice Mayor of the Cville City Council – two positions I just learned he either voluntarily left or was asked to leave yesterday. I first met him at the Paramount when he was introducing a petition to remove General Robert E Lee’s statue from Lee Park. It was before the Confederate Flag issue had raised its ugly head in parts of the South. He struck me as sincere, and fired up about social justice.

But because a local blogger found a few 8 year old Tweets where Bellamy said some repugnant things, statements others have concluded were racist and sexist including, wait for it, “…beanpole body white women in these sundresses”…thank you for that sir since my beanpole days are far behind me, Bellamy issued this apology on Facebook:

“In the course of trying to mature and find my way I came to some false conclusions about the world around me and made them known,” Bellamy wrote. “Since then, I’ve furthered my education and gotten married. I’m raising daughters. I have and continue to strive to be a better man, community leader, educator, public servant and overall person. I work every day to become a better version of myself.” 

What surprises me is that Mr T has gotten away with saying and Twittering much worse. But I guess this is what male White privilege is all about. Cville Weekly calls our attention to an Albemarle County Supervisor, Chris Dumler, who was accused of raping a woman and continued to do his job while in jail and he had no intention of leaving his position! I was always loathe to use the term ” high tech lynching for uppity Blacks,” a la Clarence Thomas for you young’uns, but in this case it would actually seem to fit the bill. http://www.c-ville.com/tweetstorm-bellamy-apologizes-inappropriate-posts/#.WEBfjRRaHlI

So in the spirit of the season let me call your attention to an article my friend’s son ironically posted on Facebook from the NY Times, an essay on why social media may not just be an uncivilized wasteland and vortex of your precious time, but may also be detrimental to your overall health and career:  “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/jobs/quit-social-media-your-career-may-depend-on-it.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

As my dear late Sister-in-Law Anita would say, this is all “STUPID!” She had a way of seeing through the fog of problems, and getting directly to a point. She would tell our lovely niece to cut all ties with people who hate people and spread nasty comments all over her Facebook feed. I’ve lost a few friends and family myself this past year, and I’m honored to be in her company.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” or woman.  the Bard   This is the long view from our LA AirBnB. img_5664

 

 

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This will be a short post. Here is today’s news in guns: Today the man who took a bullet for Ronald Reagan died. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/us/politics/james-s-brady-symbol-of-fight-for-gun-control-dies-at-73.html?_r=0  I’m glad Bob didn’t work last night. This is what happened in his hospital’s community http://www.nbc29.com/story/26189153/5-dead-after-murder-suicide-in-culpeper

Every comment about this in the paper and on Facebook is all about praying for the family; but believe me, I don’t think praying at this point will do much good. It might help you to pray. But the grandmother who found her daughter and her grand daughters lying in pools of their own blood, blood that her son-in-law shed because he decided to pick up a gun, will never be the same again. The coward even shot himself, so this grandmother is deprived of a trial, of swift judgement, or even forgiveness if she were so inclined. I just don’t get it.

If you haven’t joined Everytown for Gun Safety yet, please think about it. I know there are more of us out there, more moms and grandmothers who know it’s about the guns. This happened in Maine a week ago http://www.pressherald.com/2014/07/28/deaths-of-5-in-saco-could-rank-among-maines-deadliest-crimes/ Another family of 5 dead.

We need to keep guns out of the hands of abusers, stalkers and the mentally ill…it’s as simple as that. It’s about the guns.

 

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Shouldn’t Animal Rights be a bi-partisan thing? We all know the EPA is a left-wing agency and that gun owners and hunting enthusiasts are pretty much right-sided. Yet shouldn’t they all want to protect the animals they love/eat/hunt equally? I posted an innocuous sentence on Facebook about one Canadian Goose and started a mini-firestorm.

Animal Rights. It’s a relatively new movement that gained steam with the publication of a book, Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer in 1975. Before we knew it, chimps were being freed from laboratory cages and walking in a fur coat down Madison Avenue could be considered dangerous. For me, I drew the line somewhere in the broad/general/middle. I grew up with dogs, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have a dog and though I never really dressed them up (except for that one Xmas picture), I considered each and every one a part of the family.

But my anthropomorphism stopped there. If we needed our medical students to learn something of a child’s vein and practicing on a cat was necessary, so be it. Today the dog and cat labs at most medical schools have been replaced by virtual learning devices. Sacrificing a rabbit to see if a woman was pregnant was common in the last century, but experimenting on a rabbit’s eye to test mascara seemed senseless. Even today, scientists will use pigs and not just crash test dummies, to determine the best, safest design in car seats for children. Maybe you can see where I’m heading?

If an animal’s life could serve a greater good – save a child’s life for instance – then I would be alright with that, within of course some pre-required ethical limits.

What’s troubling me lately is so many small, but extremely vocal groups have emerged that would like to see pretty much all animals exist only in their natural environments; even as we humans dig, damage and develop their natural habitat. Let’s get rid of the horse drawn carriages in NYC! What about Charleston, they are a big industry in SC. And though I do feel that Orcas should probably not be swimming around in a tiny Sea World pool, I’m surprised by the latest rally that will be taking place this weekend in front of the John Paul Jones Arena. You see the circus is coming to town!

A group called Voices for Animals says “…circus animals spend about 11 months a year traveling, chained up and isolated.” They are distributing a video that shows an elephant being abused to further their cause. “The tools of the training include bull hooks, which are similar to fireplace pokers and electric prods. Animals are beaten, they are isolated. Highly social animals are isolated,” said Wendy Harper, a member of Voices for Animals.       http://www.nbc29.com/story/25323589/animal-rights-group-protests-circus-coming-to-jpj

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus of course have denied any abusive treatment and say their trainers have absolutely lovely relationships with their animals. The truth I’m sure is somewhere in the middle, depending on the trainer and the size of the circus. But my kids grew up going to the Big Apple Circus every year, and it was a wonderful experience all around. And for the Love Bug, going to the zoo with friends is a favorite outing. Where else would we see a giraffe in the US? I remember bringing the Rocker to see a brand new baby Rhinoceros born at the Bronx Zoo, I’m sure I was more thrilled than he was.

Should we send our Giant Pandas back to China from the National Zoo? Send all the horses pulling tourists off to a farm in Montana and the elephants in the circus back to India? Let’s send all those geese back to Canada! I believe the Big Apple doesn’t have an elephant act anymore, partially because there are not a lot of them left, and maybe also because of the protesters. But our species doesn’t get to lay waste to animal habitats, pull more and more fossil fuels from the ground and continue to make trillions of dollars with disastrous consequences for our planet AND tell us where and when we can see wild animals. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work like that.

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

My Facebook sentence? “And in breaking Cville news, a lone Canadian Goose walked across Rt 29 N this afternoon and all 5 lanes stopped for him #whyiloveva”

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1993 A farm in PA

1993 A farm in PA

When I first joined Facebook, I thought it was a bunch of solipsistic nonsense, and I said so, all the while encouraging my friends to join. Why? Because for me, the youngest of 6 children to be raised as an only child, it seemed prudent. My foster mother didn’t know how to drive and she was old enough to be my grandmother – which in those days was really old! I was marooned, on top of a hill in Victory Gardens after the war, and to top it off I was sent to Catholic school.

Facebook was a way for me to reconnect; to see all the new baby cousins, to catch up with old friends, to stay in touch with our French summer student. Plus, it could interface with my blog!

Yet something was amiss. My friends noticed it too. And it’s not just people accounting for every minute of their day, or all the targeted ads popping up. It was all this preening in front of a camera, young people changing their profile pictures like you would change your clothes. The nuns would not have approved. And yet, here we are at the end of 2013, and President Obama is taking a “selfie” with David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister, Helle Thorning Schmidt: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/12/10/250027162/to-thy-own-selfie-be-true-but-not-in-all-places-at-all-times

Now who am I to say where one should take a selfie? After all, even our Person of the Year, the dear Pope Francis himself, allowed his selfie to be taken with a trio of Italian teenagers. He said he wanted to meet with them “…for selfish reasons … because you have in your heart a promise of hope.You are bearers of hope. You, in fact, live in the present, but are looking at the future. You are the protagonists of the future, artisans of the future,” the pope told the pilgrims.

“Make the future with beauty, with goodness and truth…Have courage. Go forward. Make noise.”

Well I certainly think it takes courage to attempt to take a selfie and post it anywhere on social media! Once I learned to actually push that little circular button to turn the lens around in my iPhone, I had to practice . Before, I might have snapped a picture in a mirror. Now I must hold the phone at arm’s length and attempt to push the button with the same hand – all the while getting into the “right” light and avoiding a double chin! Still a nearly impossible task.

As we are about to close 2013 and perhaps leave the word “selfie” on the scrap heap of history, I hope we can all laugh at my family selfies – a tasteful tutorial from the kids, and my feeble attempts at last weekend’s hospital party. OH, and at the top of this post is the latest profile picture for Facebook, which brings us into the 1990s with my Pretty Woman polka dot dress.

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Something psychedelic has been happening lately on Facebook. A friend from my high school’s Class of ’66 issued a challenge to her classmates to change our profile picture to our teenage self, preferably sporting that iconic hairstyle, the flip. Our generation bridged the gap between the long, straight hair type and the teased within an inch of your life Peggy Sue Got Married type. And nestled right there inbetween the greatest social changes imaginable, lots of us wore the flip with impunity.   CLR High School Web 20131107

Once your virtual self looks sixteen again, memories start floating back. I entered a public high school fresh out of Catholic school. My hair was the least of my worries. I had a severe case of poison ivy on my face Freshman year, and I only knew a few people. The bulk of Sacred Heart grads went on to a Catholic high school; I put my foot down. I was tired of memorizing Catechism. A girl named Margie introduced me to a boy named Bob and from that moment on my fate was sealed.

We sat together at the ‘nerd’ lunch table, which at that prehistoric, precomputer time meant the outliers. Those kids who didn’t play a sport, didn’t wear black leather, didn’t fit in. What we did like to do was drama club, so we would try out for all the plays and look dramatic over tuna fish sandwiches. Our town was salt of the earth blue collar, but most of this lunch table was headed for college. My counselor put me on track for secretarial school, so even though I wasn’t in many of their classes, they accepted me. We were brothers and sisters in Terpsichore.

Some of us became the Big Chill Thanksgiving troupe, gathering again year after year over turkey and cranberry sauce. Too bad my eyes are closed.12156_101119189911809_6561742_n

And it may be hard to believe, but we had a student at our school who suffered from polio. Before the ADA, this girl had to be home-schooled because she was in a wheelchair. I knew she lived in Victory Gardens, and that was all I knew about her. I remembered being lined up at Sacred Heart in the hallway, having to swallow some pink liquid. This was the first polio vaccine, and so I guess our generation bridged that gap as well.

Bob was just telling me how polio is making a comeback mostly because of war-torn Syria. How health officials can’t cross borders to get the vaccine to millions of children. He said it was nearly eradicated world-wide, a gem in the WHO world, and now this creeping viral outbreak.

Following reports of a cluster of 22 acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases on 17 October 2013 in the Syrian Arab Republic, wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) – See more at: http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek.aspx#sthash.FoP4dKlo.dpuf

Polio doesn’t need a mosquito as a vector, it is passed from person to person which makes it imminently treatable, and even more deadly. On this #ThrowbackThursday, let’s flip this disease around. Consider giving a charitable gift to Unicef this holiday season to help refugee children, to help contain this epidemic. http://www.unicef.org.au/charity-gifts/polio-preventers.aspx

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Sit down, take a load off. We’re not talking about Weight Watchers here; we’re going to talk about warrantless wiretapping. Just because you think they’re watching you…doesn’t mean they are, does it? I have to admit that conspiracy theories will always get my attention. Then I move on, attributing most of the paranoid delusional rhetoric to a bunch of crazies. But this past weekend, I was staying up late with Real Time and Bill Maher on HBO. Getting the TV fixed definitely cuts into my healthy sleep habits. Welcome back Bill to your new season you are the Left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. Maher routinely comes up with one or two-liners like this: “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what’s philosophically wrong with Republicans. It’s like asking what’s intellectually wrong with lobsters.” http://www.real-time-with-bill-maher-blog.com/real-time-with-bill-maher-blog/2013/1/18/party-foul.html

But his closing soliloquy left me sleepless in Cville. Now it’s probably not a good idea to lay your head down on your pillow after hearing that we Americans have just been giving most of our fundamental rights away without so much as a whimper. I’m talking about all of us, red and blue Americans and any other colorful configurations. He pooh poohed the idea that we are losing our 2nd Amendment rights and got right to the heart of the matter, saying,

“The Senate quietly reauthorized the National Defense Authorization Act while everyone was so concerned about the fiscal cliff, and there wasn’t even a peep out of the “freedom” crowd. In fact, people seem to be okay with government surveillance and warrantless wiretapping at this point….Does anyone care that this is the new normal?” I was lying awake and thinking about baby robotic drones overhead stealing my ideas about how to make a better lasagna.

Then I read this – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/google-transparency-report_n_2537153.html Now everybody knows that one usually needs to acquire a warrant from a judge before snooping through a private citizen’s home. But your email and internet searches are another matter; maybe your mail box is federally protected, but your inbox is fair game. “From July to December 2012, Google revealed, the company received 8,438 total requests for information about 14,791 users or accounts in the United States. Requests were up 34 percent from 2011 to 2012.” Yes folks, requests from law enforcement went up 34%!! I wonder what the stats will be for 2012 to 2013. The article goes on to say that only 22% of the time is a warrant involved; the FBI and/or police will simply write up an administrative subpoena.

It’s good to know that privacy advocates and Google (Facebook would you chime in here) are trying to reverse this trend, and hats off to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for passing an amendment to reform the very broad law ironically titled the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress in 1986 based on technology at the time. In 1986 the Rocker was 2 years old and we all were wearing shoulder pads! Leahy spearheaded his plan for governing internet surveillance in November saying this is the first step in corralling the Department of Justice, “…growing and unwelcome intrusion into our private life in cyberspace.” Still I’m not too hopeful it will go anywhere in our congenial House of Representatives.

The Tea Partyiers are worried the government will take away all their guns; that helicopters will be landing in their back yards. That’s why they need assault weapons. Maybe the “freedom” they are fighting for is misleading? Maybe both parties need to worry more about how incrementally we have given up our right to privacy. Background checks to buy a lethal weapon? Sure. Emails and social media about a shoe sale in Cville – What? Technology races ahead while civil liberty law limps along trying to play catch-up.
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