Link or it didn’t happen

This post was originally written in March of 2009. That’s almost 12 years ago. I can’t believe I was already posting random things no one read that long ago. Anyway, a lot has changed since I wrote this. Most news now does start with a link or a tweet. People aren’t generally hearing news for the first time on a live news broadcast. The link or it didn’t happen theory is still out there though. Soon after the bombing in Nashville(remember that? seems it faded from the news pretty quick) the police in Lexington, KY evacuated part of downtown while they investigated a suspicious RV. Many people first heard of this when a former Kentucky basketball player tweeted about being out at dinner with his wife when it happened. He was parked near the RV so he had a first hand account of what was happening. Someone responded to the tweet that says he is on scene with “Source?” He was there on scene but because he didn’t cite a source that was not “I’m on scene” they doubted the information. Kind of like the “link or it didn’t happen” scenario I wrote about 12 years ago. You can find that in the following paragraphs.

Like every other obsessed Kentucky basketball fan, I have been following the firing of Billy Gillispie and the search for a new UK basketball coach. One place I look for information is The Cat’s Pause message boards. One phrase I keep seeing in the board is “link or it didn’t happen”. As with most people of the internet generation, the people on the board believe that if it is not being reported on the internet, it is not real news. One such posting of the phrase was after someone posted something they heard live on the local news.  There is still journalism happening in the world that does not have it’s base in the internet, email or anything more sophisticated than a telephone. Here is the most likely scenario for the story heard on the news:

Local reporter with ties to university has friends on staff as sources. Source hears information the coach will be fired. Source calls local reporter to tell him. He alerts producers who break into live news broadcast to report the news. Notice the absence of the internet? I’m sure this type of reporting goes on all the time. Of course, eventually, there will be a link once the story is typed up and posted on the station’s website. The lack of the link during the live broadcast does not make the news any less real. I would be more likely to believe that story than the hundreds of internet rumors that pop up every day. These rumors have links that can be shared, but this doesn’t make them true. At least the reporters for the most part will actually verify the story before running it. Anyone with a computer can make up a story. Just having a link doesn’t mean it happened anymore than no link means it didn’t.

A Defense of Distraction

We are just a few days removed from the anniversary of 9/11. Someone mentioned on Facebook how all the TV networks covered the aftermath 24/7 and cable networks went dark, I remember the days of television being 24/7 coverage of the recovery efforts and stories of the day. I remember for a time it was necessary. I also remember a point where I voiced the opinion on a listserv that I thought it was time for the 24/7 coverage to stop and for entertainment television to return. I also remember someone writing back an angry response calling me insensitive. I still stand by my thought at the time that it was better for people to have the distraction of random television shows if they so chose.

We are now in the middle of a pandemic. There are massive fires out west. There is social unrest. In the midst of this we also have NBA basketball, NFL football, MLB baseball and the US Open. There was a article in the paper recently where the columnist implied that no one really cared about sports these days and that it was all just background noise. He is probably right that many people don’t care about sports. Many people didn’t care about sports before the pandemic and they wasn’t start now. There are some people who probably used to care about sports who now don’t. There are some like me who do care if their team wins and loves having sports back. Even if it is just background noise isn’t that important as well?

When we were in lockdown and I was working from home all day I would have the news on in the background. It didn’t take ling for me to realize that this was not healthy for me. I switched over to game shows and once the NBA started I had that on in the background while I worked. I needed a break from the stress of the news. I’ve binged shows on Netflix. We are catching up on shows we had on the DVR. I’m watching and caring about sports. I still read the newspaper every morning and I watch the morning news. I check my state’s Covid numbers every day. I’m not ignoring the news. I just find things to take my mind off the stress of all of the bad news.

Distraction isn’t insensitive. It’s a vital mental health need.

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Thoughts on Views and News

As I said in yesterday’s post I am trying to limit the amount of time I read and watch the news. I am also trying to look at social media less or at least unfollow the people who stress me out. I do, however, still read the paper, watch the news, and read social media at some point during the day. Here are some things I have noticed.

There are too many people who are on the extreme on one side or the other. There are people who think we should all stay locked in our houses until there is a vaccine and anyone who thinks otherwise is stupid and will lead to the death of us all. There are people who think we should open everything up with no social distancing measures because this is all a hoax. I hate to admit that I agree with Chris Christie on something, but he wrote a very good opinion piece in the Washington Post recently about how we can’t let either extreme dictate how we do things. We need to find a balance to do things safely and sanely. Unfortunately, the extreme voices are usually the loudest.

It doesn’t help that the media on both sides use misleading headlines and graphs. I say a post on social media yesterday from a local news station. The article was about how hospitalizations have flattened in Maryland. They talked about how the death numbers usually lag behind these numbers by a week or two so that flattening would happen later. The headline and the graph was all about the death rate so people who just saw that in their feed would think it was all about how people keep dying. I saw another post that said “doctors say social distancing went too far” and the actual article quoted one doctor from one location, not doctors plural. Local stations generally report mostly on the number of total cases and deaths in the state but don’t highlight negative tests, recoveries or the flattening hospitalizations while news agencies that cater to the reopen no matter what crowd will find people to talk about how the numbers are skewed or overblown.

My advice – read new sparingly. Read news from reputable sources. Read news from both sides of the issue. Actually read the story, not just the headline. Look at all the numbers reported by the health department and look at their graphs to get a total picture if you want the information. Think for yourself and don’t let politicians or celebrities tell you what to think.

A Quick Tater Note on the News

I’ve run out of time to write this morning as I actually slept to a reasonable time instead of waking up way too early. My planned post for today might come on Saturday now that I will be sitting on the couch instead of outside due to rain.

Yesterday, I wrote about the explosive devices being sent to various locations while watching the breaking news. When Trump finally spoke about the situation he called for unity. Anyone who believed he really wants unity is the voter who will go to the polls and vote R no matter whose name is on the ticket. They are the people who yell “Fake news!” whenever there ate negative stories about Trump(an everyday thing). If he really wanted unity, he wouldn’t be tweeting now about how the “fake news” is to blame for the situation. The people he calls fake news were one of the potential victims. Now, the president of the United States is blaming that victim for the situation. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. He will never admit that it’s possible that his calling the media the enemy of the people and encouraging violence at his rallies could possibly be part of the problem. Unfortunately, his supporters will never believe this either. It’s no longer a political party. It’s more like a cult.

It’s very important for reasonable people to take the time to vote this year. It’s time to take our country back.

Tater Talks Today’s Explosive News

I am at home this morning and following the news of the bombs being intercepted. Earlier in the week there was one sent to George Soros. Today there is news that the Secret Service has intercepted suspicious packages to the Clintons, the Obamas and the White House. I’m watching live reports on CNN of their NYC headquarters being evacuated due to a suspicious package. You have to assume there might be more out there targeting others. The hope is that if there are more, they will be found and neutralized before there are injuries or death. Days like this are bad enough in general, but especially bad when you have friends and family who work in government offices in and near DC.

The bombs are enough of a sign that the world is a terrible place. The responses are just as bad. When the reports first started coming out about the Clinton and Obama bombs people were jumping on Facebook to laugh about it and post comments saying they wished they would have let them blow up. Those who weren’t wishing for the death of people because they don’t share their political views were either placing blame on others or calling it fake news. I’m sure there are people out there saying they wish the White House had blown up. I’ve already seen comments from people saying the White House bomb is either fake news or the “conservatives” sending it to throw off the investigation in to their attempts to blow up the liberals. On Twitter I saw people who seemed OK with CNN blowing up. I’m sure others would say the same about FOX News.

How did we get here? How did we get to a point where we would want people dead because we disagree with them? When did we stop caring about other people unless they agree with us? We should not be cheering or laughing about the attempt to murder people. If you are someone who is cheering or laughing about a murder attempt, you have serious issues. We need to find a way to get back to the point when we can have different opinions and still not wish the other person dead. Why is that so hard?

Too Much Weather

I’m not talking about the rain. There has been too much rain lately with more on the way. I miss our dry hot summers. Maybe we can get a nice, cool, dry October. I doubt it. Anyway, I mean there are too many people out there giving weather forecasts. You have the TV weather guys, the newspaper weather guys, former TV weather guys with a website, amateur weather guys with Facebook pages, science teachers with a Facebook group, etc.  There’s too much weather out there.

Anyone with a computer and an interest in the weather can become a social media weather guy. I could start a page right now in less than five minutes and start posting my thoughts on the weather. It wouldn’t make me an expert. It would just make me a guy with a computer and time on his hands. I could probably still get a few people to follow me and, if I guessed right a few times, swear that I am the most reliable weather guy on Facebook.  Maybe I should experiment by posting weather guesses on my Tater page and see what happens.

There are multiple problems with the multiple weather guy issues. TV weather guys need viewers. Retired weather guys with a website and a business need clients and clicks. Random weather enthusiasts feel good about the number of people following their page. How do you get the attention? HYPE! Sensational posts and headlines highlighting the worst-case scenario. Push for the idea that the NWS snow totals are low and we could get a massive snowstorm instead. Pick the model that shows the hurricane will come closest to the area and cause the most damage. Who cares if you create unnecessary panic. You got some extra hits and some more money from ads and clients. You got some more people liking your weather page. More people are watching the news. This is what it’s all about, right? Not accuracy. Accuracy is for nerds.

There’s also the “I don’t really know what I’m doing” issue. These are the guys who are weather enthusiasts but don’t really know how to read the models properly This is who I would be if I started a page. I can look at a radar and a model forecast and make some guesses about what will happen, but it really is just a guess. If I guess right a few times, people will think I really am an expert. When I’m wrong I will just throw out some meteorological babble that sounds good and gives me a reason why I couldn’t have possibly seen this coming. I don’t think these guys are purposely trying to fool people. I think they like the weather and like trying to forecast it. The problem here is the people who use them as their main weather source. Why are you asking them about the forecast instead of going to more legitimate sources? Do you think the rest are fake news?

An example of the bad weather forecasts: Yesterday, the Washington Post weather people, the TV weather people and the one weather guy I trust on Facebook(Christopher Bressi) all said our area could expect 2-4 inches of rain from Florence based on the current models. Pretty good agreement there. It could change because models can be wrong, but for right now, that was the estimate from almost everyone. Soon after these forecasts were released, a guy with a Facebook group put out a post that the area would get 5-7 inches of rain. That’s 3 more inches than anyone else is projecting. That is a significant difference and there are people who will only read what he said and not the rest. Where did he get these numbers?

So, be careful who you are trusting when it comes to weather forecasts in the case of extreme weather.

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Congress, The Bad Employee

Congress works for the American people. They are our employees. We have hired them to run our country. They are terrible employees. Here’s a little play to illustrate.

A company hires someone to run things. The company is America. The boss is us The employee is Congress.

Boss: Congratulations. Based upon your resume and the ideas we discussed in the interview, you’ve been selected to run the company.

Employee: Yeah, I lied in the interview. I’m not actually going to do any of that stuff. I just said it to get the job.

Boss:  OK. Here are our ideas for how to make the company better.

Employee. Nope. I’m smarter than you so I’m just going to run the company my way and ignore you.

Boss, at the annual review: You are really bad at your job, but I’m going to give you an extension because I know you and the unknown is scary. Please try to be better at your job.

Employee continues to ignore the boss and do a terrible job running the company.

Boss, next review: You are still terrible at your job, but I’m still not going to fire you.

Employee: I’m shutting the company down!

You wouldn’t keep an employee like this in a business. Why keep an employee like this in charge of the country? Let’s fire them and try to replace them with people who might actually care about what we think.

Tater Takes on Some Current Events

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about stuff in the news. Here are some thoughts:

Kathy Griffin: Griffin recently posed  holding up a bloody head resembling that of President Donald Trump. Griffin issued an apology after almost everyone agreed that it was disgusting, inappropriate and possibly criminal(threats on a president’s life is a federal crime). She has since been fired from CNN’s New Year’s Eve show. I agree with almost everyone else that this was disgusting, inappropriate and possible criminal. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I throw up in my mouth a little every time I have to type the words. This does not mean I support anyone who would even joke about his assassination. Regardless of how you feel about him, he is a human being with a family. How would you feel if someone posed with a bloody head resembling one of your loved ones? Or posted on social media that they hoped you died? Get some perspective.

Portland’s Burritos: There was a recent article in the Washington Post about a Portland burrito cart that was forced to shut down because people were angry that two white women had “stolen culture for profit and gain.” Someone even created a Google doc listing all of the white owned restaurants “that have appropriated cuisines outside their own culture.” They even singled out a place called Voodoo Donuts for “profiting off a religion thought to combine African, Catholic and Native American traditions.” This is all ridiculous. Portland has lost its mind.  As a friend put it on Facebook, “Whatever happened to the concept of “melting pot?” White people aren’t allowed to learn from other cultures? A white person who loves Mexican food and can cook it isn’t allowed to open a restaurant? Is a person from Mexico allowed to own a pizza shop? Should we shut down hot dog stands not run by white people? Dumb.

Sports: The Wizards are out of the NBA playoffs. The Caps are out of the NHL playoffs(not that I’m a hockey fan), the Braves are bad again, the annoying Nats are in first place and we are far away from football season.  I get the Post so this down sports time is filled with whiny Nat’s coverage. Wah, little Brycey got hit by a pitch. Wah, little Brycey got suspended for charging the mound. Wah, wah, wah. They are the whiniest bunch of baseball people. They don’t deserve a good team. These are the same columnists that spent years bitching about John Wall and trying to run him out of town because he couldn’t single handedly turn their crappy basketball team around. Now that hey are winning they love him.  As soon as they have a bad stretch they will hate him again. Is it football season yet?

Weather: This month has 31 days. It has rained on almost all of them. I can’t find the actual number, but I’m pretty sure it is over 25 days of rain this month, Enough already. I need the sun.

Donald Trump: Still a bad president. Still possibly colluded with Russia. Still tweeting stupid stuff.

Running Out of Ways to Respond

I hesitate to write anything in regards to the Manchester attack last night. I’m not sure I have anything of import to add to the discussion and I don’t want people to think I am using the tragedy to get readers. It has, however, been on my mind today.

As a father I think about how horrible it would be to send my kid off to enjoy a concert and have it end in tragedy.  I think about the times my son has gone to concerts with friends and thank God he always arrived home safely.  I think about future events my kids will attend and pray that they will not be marred by terror and tragedy. I pray for those who lost family members in the attack.

I would rather not think about politics, but the takes are out there. People are once again using the tragedy to push a political agenda. I’ve seen several posts saying this is why we should not allow refugees in the country. Never mind that the suspect was born in Manchester. Somehow, the refugees are responsible. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. You can’t fight hate with hate and fear is exactly what the terrorists want.

There are once again positive stories from the aftermath. People in Manchester were taking in survivors. Cab drivers were giving free rides. Doctors were offering services for free. Many of the people helping were Muslim. If you look, you can always find the good even in the worst of times. I will try to remember to look for the good.

I will end with something I copied from a post after the Paris attacks and something I still believe today: Offer help to those in need. Don’t hate others because they don’t look like or worship like you. Don’t assume an entire religion can be judged on the actions of a few. Don’t let the terrorists make you scared to leave your house. Be vigilant, be aware, but don’t stop living.

Tater Takes on United, Hitler, Egg Rolls and A-Holes

  1. United: Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen the video of the man being dragged off a United flight to make room for United employees who needed to fly. To be fair, United only ever said the skies were friendly. They never promised to be friendly before takeoff or after landing. I might consider adopting this management style. No volunteers to take the desk shift? Let me re-accommodate you. I like it.
  2. Spicer and Hitler: So, Sean Spicer when talking about Syria actually said Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in WWII. We had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” He then tried to clarify with “he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing” I think it’s time for a visit to the Holocaust museum. I’m sure he would be allowed to do that on work time. I’m sure the alt-right is pleased with the thought that he might not consider Jews people.
  3. White House Egg Roll: It seems based on recent reports that the White House is way behind on the planning of the White House Easter Egg Roll. I can see the reason behind this now: “President Trump, we need to get things going on the egg roll” “I love egg rolls. I like to dip them in ketchup. But no egg rolls unless the Chinese pay for them” I’m glad we got a chance to take our kids to the event when they were little. It was a lot of fun. Too bad it looks like it won’t be well planned this year.
  4. False Equivalence: I’m not really sure if that term applies here, but it’s the closest thing I could think of for this section. I’m tired of seeing people argue that we shouldn’t help refugees until we help homeless veterans. Why can’t we help both? I saw a comment on the topic of drug addiction saying we shouldn’t spend money on treatment for addiction because kids have cancer. Again, can’t we fight cancer and drug addiction? No one is saying we should only help refugees or only fight drug addiction and I think the people with the false arguments know this. They just don’t want to help refugees or drug addicts, but it sounds better to say they care about others than to say they just don’t like these people. I wonder how many of them are actively helping homeless veterans or donating to organizations fighting cancer.
  5. People Suck: The last couple of days I’ve had some situations that remind me that most people only care about themselves. They can’t take a minute to stop and think about how their actions might affect other people. There is a knee jerk reaction to do what is easy for them instead of some consideration for others. I’m not claiming to be a saint, but I like to think that more often than not I try to do the right thing and help others when I can. On days like this I sometimes think that I’m done with that. I’m going to become the asshole who only cares about himself. I never will though(unless I already am and don’t realize it. The asshole is usually the last to know) I don’t think I could live with myself if I did that. Please, stop and think about your decisions. Do the right thing when you can. Try to be a positive influence on the world. Look outside your personal bubble and think about those around you.

Currently Reading: Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century