complaints, controversies, LDS, mental health, narcissists, social media, YouTube

Self-preservation and the “gift of fear”, rather than bigotry…

I kind of don’t really want to write this post, because I have a bad feeling that it might be controversial… But I saw something yesterday that annoyed me a bit, and since it’s been kind of a difficult week anyway, I figure I might as well post about it.

Some time ago, someone out there in Facebook Land encouraged me to follow Father Nathan Monk. I think it might have been someone in the Duggar Family News group. According to his “about section”, Father Nathan Monk is a best selling author, “depressive humorist”, and former priest. He often posts things that are wise, funny, and insightful. However, there are times when he’s a little too “woke” for me, and I get annoyed. I know at least one time, I unfollowed for awhile. I think last month it happened, and I took a break for a month. Recently, his posts started popping up on my feed again. I mostly enjoyed them, until I saw the one below…

Naturally, he got many comments from people who completely agreed with his take on why so many people don’t like Meghan Markle. Lots of people were jumping on the bandwagon that people “hate” Meghan just because she’s “black”. I noticed that anyone who disagreed with any part of Father Nathan Monk’s post was immediately piled upon by other posters, seemingly eager to shut up the lone dissenter. People were calling the guy a bigot and a misogynist. Granted, he did turn out to be a Trump supporter from Britain, but even that doesn’t necessarily make him a bigot. I thought his comments regarding Meghan made a lot of sense, his political preferences notwithstanding. To me, it just proves that not all Trump supporters are necessarily crazy or stupid. They just haven’t reached the conclusions that I have, for whatever reason. Like the guy posted, “it’s okay to disagree.” I don’t know why he can easily see Meghan Markle’s issues and not see Trump’s, but then, I don’t know anything about him. Maybe he’s right about Trump and I’m wrong, although I doubt it. I suspect he just cares more about money than I do.

Now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might know that I’m not one of Meghan Markle’s fans. My dislike of Meghan Markle has absolutely NOTHING at all to do with her racial makeup. I couldn’t care less about that. I don’t care that she’s an American who had the audacity to marry a British prince, either. I think people should be allowed to love and marry whomever they choose. And I also think that Harry should have been allowed to chart his own course in life, as we all should. I watched the interview Meghan and Harry had with Oprah Winfrey, and a lot of what Harry said made sense to me. I’ve always liked him, and when he and Meghan first got together, I was genuinely happy for both of them. I cried when I watched their wedding, especially at this part…

The man who sings the solo never fails to bring me to tears. This is just beautiful. I was even inspired to make my own version of this song based on this interpretation, which is one of so many over the years.

Here’s proof that I watched and loved their wedding, and this song…

When I heard this and watched the wedding, I had high hopes for this union.

What surprises me is looking at the congregation and not seeing that much emotion… but it is Britain. If I had been there in person, I would have been sobbing. That rendition is– indeed– glorious!

Below is what I had to say in late November 2017, when Harry and Meghan’s engagement was announced…

A screenshot from my original blog in an entry posted on November 29, 2017, so you can see that I’m not making this up… On another, unrelated point, I see that the post in question was about 85% about a certain lurker from Colorado. And given that it was late 2017, when we were having serious issues with our ex landlady, I now know it was the former tenant, spying on me and reporting her findings. I had titled the post “Snoopin’ and poopin’,” and that was definitely what she was doing. Sorry… I know I should forget about this, given what happened to former tenant, but it still really pisses me off.

As you can see, I had nothing bad to say about Meghan in 2017. I thought she was pretty, and Harry seemed happy. I did not give a shit about her race, and in fact, the two people I posted about her resembling are famous and beautiful WHITE people. But even if they were Black, it wouldn’t matter to me.

In May 2018, a few days after Harry’s and Meghan’s nuptials, I posted this :

See? Nothing derisive here about Meghan’s skin color.

Also from May 2018, I had written a post about gun violence in the USA, and added some comments about the royal wedding between Harry and Meghan. Again, totally positive and hopeful comments from yours truly.

Are these comments racist?

And finally, two more comments from October 2018, when Meghan announced her pregnancy… Nothing negative or racist here, either. And here’s a link to my post about Harry’s interview with Oprah last year. I had sympathy then, too, even if, by that point, I was liking Meghan less.

I’m not going to claim that there aren’t a lot of racists out there who don’t like Meghan Markle only because of her skin tone. I’m sure there are plenty of small-minded people who think she had no business marrying a British prince simply due to her being a biracial American woman with middle class roots. My point is that not all of us dislike her for those reasons. And just as it’s not right for people to make assumptions about others due to things they can’t help, like their skin color, it’s also wrong to assume that people are racist just because they’ve come to conclusions that you haven’t. I would gather that coming to that conclusion, even if it’s just for well-intentioned “woke” purposes, is just as wrong as stereotyping people due to their skin color is. In other words, people who instantly cry “RACISM” when someone says something disapproving of Meghan Markle are really not much better than the gossip mongers.

H.G. Tudor, who has been notably relentless and snarky in his observations of Meghan Markle’s behavior, put out what I think is a pretty good video. The main idea is that no, we don’t know her… but people who DO know her have spoken about her behavior. How many more people need to speak up before people realize that not everyone dislikes her due to her skin color?

I don’t like Meghan Markle because I don’t like her behavior. She makes my “cluster B” chimes go off. I’m not the only one who feels this way. And we’re not wrong to have these feelings, because we have had exposure to narcissists, and experience has taught us that these types give off signals that are triggering. Once you’ve been around that type of person, you can pick up on the vibes. Even though I get those vibes– mainly those of hypocrisy, fakeness, and self-centeredness– I totally get that I could be misinterpreting. Experience has told me that I’m pretty perceptive, and my perceptions are often right on target.

There’s a reason that people have this “sixth sense”, by the way. It’s part of self-preservation. Back in 2010, in my old blog, I posted about a book I read called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It was recommended by a YouTuber who called himself Lithodid Man. I blogged about the video by Lithodid Man, and he eventually found the post and left me a comment. Below is his video, which is now twelve years old…

Lithodid Man, who is an atheist, talks about being approached by a very insistent evangelical proselytizer who was trying to wear him down and get access to his minor son. He explains that he had read de Becker’s book, and it opened his eyes to the manipulative techniques the guy was using to get Lithodid Man to agree to let his son go to a church group.
An excerpt of my 2010 post about The Gift of Fear.

Gavin de Becker’s book is about recognizing when your senses are telling you of a threat, and acting accordingly, and in your own best interests, to protect yourself from harm. Our culture often pushes us, through peer pressure, to think one way or the other, to be agreeable and not make a fuss, to not be a “Karen”, to always cooperate and not make any waves… And people who are manipulative, narcissistic, or otherwise up to no good, are only too happy to exploit those pressures we live under to be nice at all costs.

Being nice is not a bad thing, but one shouldn’t be nice simply because it’s the path of least resistance. Sometimes, those instincts are DEAD ON… and tragically, we don’t realize until something heartbreaking has happened. For more on this, read any of my posts about Bill’s ex wife, and what has happened because he was “too nice” and too afraid to upset other people. Granted, it hasn’t been all bad. If he hadn’t married Ex, we might not have gotten married. Some other woman would have almost certainly treated him a lot better and he probably would have stayed married to her, even if the match wasn’t as compatible as ours is. But a lot of people were hurt because Bill ignored “the gift of fear” and didn’t listen to his instincts. He has told me on many occasions that on his wedding day to Ex, he had a voice telling him not to do it. He ignored that voice and suffered the consequences– kind of like Diana, former Princess of Wales, did. He learned a lot of tough lessons. Some of them have rubbed off on me.

Here’s another example. For years, I was quite vocal about how much I dislike Mormonism. I still dislike it, but feel less compelled to speak out about it these days, mainly because Bill’s younger daughter, who is LDS, now talks to him. I know that there are really good people in Mormonism. I knew that, even when I was more outspoken about Mormonism. My disdain for the church had NOTHING to do with the people within it. I don’t dislike people simply due to their religious beliefs. If that were the case, I never would have married Bill, who was still LDS on our wedding day. It was the institution and doctrine itself that I saw as damaging, because it was used as a tool to separate my husband from his daughters. He wasn’t “worthy” to be their father or baptise them, according to Ex and the church itself. He didn’t believe in the church’s teachings, so he was less fit. This, even though Ex was the one who was abusing and neglecting their children, and Bill himself.

So I determined that I don’t like Mormonism for that reason, not because I’m overall a religious bigot. And I also know that the Mormons aren’t the only ones who pull that shit… they just happen to be the ones who have affected us directly. I don’t like the other religions where those kinds of divisive practices prevail, either. In fact, I’m not that big on religion as a whole, but I especially dislike really restrictive, controlling ones where everyone has to believe and think the same way, and criticism isn’t allowed. Does that automatically make me a bigot? I don’t think so. But some people insisted that I am one, no matter how much I tried to explain my reasoning to them. Thankfully, most of them are now out of my life. Likewise, my disdain for Meghan Markle has nothing to do with her skin color or race. It’s because I recognize problematic behaviors that I think are toxic.

It annoys me to read posts like Father Nathan Monk’s, that presume to lecture everyone about being “racist” against Meghan Markle and discounting why people might not like her. First of all, she is a very public figure. She chose to be a public figure. One could argue that making that choice, in and of itself, is kind of a narcissistic thing to do. Yes, there are famous people out there who aren’t really all that “public”. I’ve read and heard about Meghan Markle’s desire for “privacy”, and yet she’s still everywhere.

Sure, I could give Meghan a pass for attending the Queen’s funeral, and even the Platinum Jubilee, but she’s clearly been trying to monetize her association with the British Royal Family. She still uses that title– the Duchess of Sussex– even as she publicly disdains Harry’s family and disowns her own family. This might be easy to ignore if these folks were regular citizens, but they aren’t. The British Royal Family is extremely public.

While I’m not generally a fan of saying, “you knew what you were getting into”, I do think that Meghan had to know that she wouldn’t be living a private life if she married Harry. It’s not even like she was like Diana. Diana was 19 years old when she got married, and didn’t even have a college degree. Meghan was a divorcee in her late 30s when she and Harry got married. And Meghan is certainly old enough to remember Diana, and what happened to her. Moreover, other people who married into royalty have been harassed– Sarah Ferguson definitely was. Camilla Parker Bowles was. Even Kate Middleton was. So, in that sense, she wasn’t alone… and wasn’t really treated that differently, other than the fact that Meghan is biracial and American. I’m not saying it’s right that the press harassed these ladies. What I am saying is that they were all being pursued and treated similarly poorly by the press. Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie, is the only one I don’t remember being messed with as much by the press. Maybe it’s because she was involved in public relations herself, if memory serves.

I don’t know Meghan Markle personally, and almost surely never will. So, the fact that I see her behavior as obnoxious and don’t like it is irrelevant, anyway. It’s not like I’m sending her hate mail, or even posting a lot of toxic stuff about her. I don’t even hang around with a bunch of girlfriends and giggle as we drink wine and trade catty gossip about her. I just pick up on these toxic vibes that I can’t ignore. I still wish Meghan and Harry luck with their marriage, particularly since there are now children involved. And I even hope that the two of them prove me wrong and have a long, successful, and happy marriage. I would be even happier if Meghan stopped seeming so artificial and tone deaf to me. And yes, I will continue to write about my observations of her behavior as I see fit. But, whether or not people believe me, my feelings have nothing to do with Meghan’s race. And to make that sweeping and insulting judgment about anyone who has criticisms of Meghan Markle is pretty lazy, limited, and disrespectful, in my view. People are going to “do themselves”, though… so for the sake of my sanity, I’ll try to ignore the bullshit and drive on.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, Germany, healthcare, language, politics, psychology, social media, social welfare

Am I really that “funny” to some people?

Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of puzzled about how I seem to come across to people. I know that sometimes people find me funny. Sometimes, they even find me funny at appropriate times, like when I make an obviously humorous comment. But then, sometimes I find puzzling laughter reactions to things that aren’t meant to be funny.

For instance, yesterday, I shared an old photo of Bill and me at a beer spa. We were in a tub shaped like a keg with a beer spigot next to it. I suppose that could be kind of funny… but it was actually more awesome than humorous. Several people laughed at it. When I asked what was funny, no one responded. I wasn’t necessarily offended by the laugh reactions to that photo. I was just confused by them. I don’t see what’s funny about a couple sitting in a beer spa keg, especially since we weren’t naked.

I did get some laugh reactions at another post, though, that I did find kind of obnoxious. I have ranted a few times on this blog about how certain people in the United States like to tell me how life is in Germany. It’s usually conservatives who do this. They have this idea that Germany is a dystopian communist hellhole, where people are paying taxes out the ass, living in tiny boxes, can’t get medical care, and are subjected to death panels by Muslim terrorists. And yet, my guess is that most of them have never so much as ever left the United States. Or, if they did, they didn’t stay away long enough to understand that life can be good outside of the United States.

The mocking, derisive effect of the laughing emoji is annoying enough when it comes from strangers. It’s actually kind of hurtful when it comes from “friends”. Below is something I wrote in September 2019, after having a very frustrating discussion with a friend of a friend, who was convinced that no one in Germany feels safe, because people don’t walk around with guns here. She stated that she knew Muslims were taking over Germany, and that life here is a nightmare. And she was saying this from Dallas, Texas!

Twice this week, Trump supporters in the USA have tried to tell me how things are in Germany. I have heard how unsafe I am, how I can’t get medical care, how Muslims run everything, crime is rampant, and no one is allowed to have weapons. Do I really look like I have no ability to draw my own conclusions about what life is like over here? Folks, Germany is a nice place to be. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s pretty good, despite those pesky “socialist” policies that make healthcare and higher education affordable and guns more difficult to obtain.

I swear, I must come off as just plain dumb to some people. I don’t get it.

I shared this again, because it still happens regularly. I was completely serious when I wrote it, and when I shared it as a memory. Yet some friends “laughed” at me for this. People who don’t know me presume to tell me how bad it is where I live. What’s especially strange is when they assume I’m not American, and lecture me about life in rural America. It’s inconceivable to some US citizens that anyone can be happy beyond the shores of the United States. Especially a fellow citizen! It’s like– how in the world can one stand to be away from the most fabulous country in the world?

Uh… yeah. A country where people are still screaming about an election that happened two years ago, in which a delusional and obvious narcissist LOST… and on his way out of the White House, which he had threatened to refuse to leave, he STOLE highly classified documents and took them home! A country where children have to learn how to behave in case some unhinged young man with a gun comes in and opens fire on them. A country where more and more states are denying physicians the right to practice their profession without speaking to a lawyer first… and women are being denied the right to choose whether or not they want to be pregnant. A country where we speak of freedom and the right to pursue happiness, while in practice, people who aren’t conventional are pushed to the peripheries– their rights and personal safety threatened regularly. A country where a hell of a lot of people think anyone who has their well being in mind should be sent to prison. A country where a large segment of the population are incarcerated and treated inhumanely!

I could go on… but I think you get the point. It’s not that I don’t love my country. I do. I am proud to be American. But it’s really not the most awesome place there is. There are other countries where life is very good, and even preferable, to some people– Americans included. Personally, I like the lifestyle in Europe much more than I do the US lifestyle. I like the fact that people here don’t obsess so much over work. People take vacations, spend time with their families, enjoy hobbies and clubs, and engage with their communities. New parents can take paid time off to take care of their babies, rather than handing them off to a childcare facility after six weeks. And yes, it’s a huge plus that there’s a lot less violence here.

I’m not saying life here is perfect. It’s not. There are global issues that affect life here as much as they do in the United States. Sometimes I really miss my friends and family back home. I miss being able to do things easily, simply because I can easily speak and read the language. I miss certain foods, and having things like a big kitchen, closets, and the ability to buy a king sized American mattress with ease. I miss being able to go to the beach without spending ages in the car. But, by and large, it’s been nice to live in Europe. I like it here. I think this experience has forever changed me, too.

A few years ago, Bill and I attended a Christmas market in our village, and we met a German lady with an adorable little shih tzu dog, who was wearing a t-shirt that read “Security”. The lady spoke excellent English, and explained to us that she had lived in Tennessee for years, having worked for the drinks company, Seagrams. When we told her about how we’d been in Germany for years, she smiled with recognition and said, “Well, you’ll never be the same again. When you go back to the US, you’ll be too European.”

She’s right, of course. Every time I live abroad, I’m irrevocably changed. This latest stint has been the most life altering. Sometimes, I wonder if I can stand the idea of moving back to the US. Other times, I think that of course I can. That’s my home. But living over here has opened my eyes to its many shortcomings. Why is that funny to some people?

I think social media has really made people more thoughtless and callous, anyway. I started my morning today by blocking a young lady named “Ashlie” who left a rude response to a comment I had left about Dr. Fauci, who had just announced his retirement. I expressed support for Dr. Fauci, because I think he’s done some incredible work for humanity. His job has truly been thankless, because there are so many people in the world– especially in the United States– who think that COVID is a hoax, and vaccines are useless. I just want to ask those people– where the hell do you think all those people who died went? Are they all in Roswell, New Mexico with all the people who disappeared on 9/11? COVID is very real, and it’s killed millions of people. The vaccines have been life savers.

I had COVID myself over the summer. It was like a bad cold. Maybe it would have still been like that if I hadn’t been vaccinated, given that it wasn’t the original variant that got me. Or maybe I would have had to be hospitalized and would have been left extremely debilitated or even dead. I have a few of the risk factors for severe COVID. I’m still not a big fan of face masks, but I cooperate with the rules. I trust people who went to medical school and work in public health.

But this young woman wrote “straight to prison where you belong.” to my well wishes about the octogenarian, Dr. Fauci, who is finally going to retire. I assume she means Fauci should be imprisoned, but the fact that she presumably accidentally wrote that I should go to prison was enough for me to block her. Lately, my block list has been growing by leaps and bounds… and in a way, it makes me sad. People can’t all be this awful, can they? And yet, they are… even though Facebook keeps disciplining me with bots, claiming that I’m a poor citizen of the ‘Net.

I wonder if the young woman who left that comment wanted me to block her. Maybe she doesn’t care. If she doesn’t care, why should I?

Ehh… I know some people would miss me if I quit social media, and I would miss them. But, I have to admit, I do think about doing it every day, because I’m tired of interacting with people who don’t think. I suppose I could have asked “Ashlie” what the hell is wrong with her. I could have addressed her, stating that I haven’t done anything that warrants going to prison, and neither has Dr. Fauci. I admire Dr. Fauci for the lifesaving work he’s done, in spite of massive hostility and stupidity directed toward him. And I could have made a firm statement that COVID vaccines have saved lives worldwide… and Dr. Fauci is just one of many competent healthcare professionals worldwide who have touted them.

I live in Germany, and COVID vaccines have been heavily promoted here. Dr. Fauci doesn’t work in Germany. Should I adopt the belief that Germany’s healthcare minister, Karl Lauterbach, who is a physician and has a Ph.D. in public health from Harvard University, should go to prison for the work he does? I don’t like all of Lauterbach’s opinions or policies, but he has a tremendous responsibility. His job is necessary. My guess is that he’s lost a lot of sleep over the past couple of years. Yes, he’s in a position of power, and some of his policies have been highly annoying and tedious. But again– he has a tremendous responsibility and is in a position of huge trust. Same as Dr. Fauci. Saying that either of these men should go to prison, simply because of their unpopular policies, is ludicrous, disrespectful, and frankly, very stupid.

I could have told Ashlie all of that, but in the end, I just decided to remove her from my sphere, because I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with such idiocy. It just seems like here in Europe, there are fewer people like Ashlie to deal with. They do exist, but they’re in much smaller numbers. Or… maybe it just seems that way, because I don’t speak German very well. Anyway, I like it better. No need to laugh at me for that. At least my opinions are based on real experience instead of conjecture.

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communication, complaints, rants, social media, technology

Why do I tolerate being disciplined by bots?

It’s a beautiful, cool, rainy morning here in Breckenheim. Seriously… it’s GREAT to have some rain at last. It’s been many weeks since we’ve had the kind of soaking rain that is going on right now. The topsoil in our backyard is parched; the grass is dead; and there’s an actual fissure in the ground, thanks to the drought we’ve had. I love to see the rain in September, because it means relief from hot temperatures. There’s a change in mood, too. People seem to want to get down to business again, probably because September is when a lot of young people go back to school.

I hope the rain lasts all day. It will match my mood, which is a bit cranky this morning. Why? Because I’m still “restricted” on Facebook for an infraction that happened in August, and the punishment was only supposed to last a few days. I typed a forbidden three word comment regarding Donald Trump on a friend’s post, and within a couple of minutes, the bots descended upon me with a nastygram and my “punishment”. It was SUPPOSED to be 48 hours restriction from posting in groups. I got my ability to post in groups sooner than I expected, but I still had the red badge of shame, as unbeknownst to me, Facebook bots had decided to give me thirty days of lower ranked posts in groups. I should be done with that “punishment” on September 16th.

I won’t be surprised, though, if I still have the stupid red badge of shame a month from now for a comment I posted yesterday. A friend from my hometown posted about how it annoys him that people post whatever they want on Facebook and he never comments, but when he posts something controversial, people get pissed off. I got curious, and soon found a video he posted

@mississippichris39 #fyp #foryourpage #mississippi #funny ♬ original sound – chrisalexander3595

My honest response to the above Tik Tok video was, “I think I’d probably kick him in the nuts.” It was a joke, of course. I’ve long since outgrown indulging my urges to kick people in their private parts. The point is, I don’t think I’d appreciate someone telling me to “Shut up” as they insisted on “loving” me, especially since I don’t know what “love” entails to someone so bold. Does it mean loving from afar, or a more physical kind of love that involves the risk of pregnancy (for someone younger, anyway)? A previous commenter posted a vomiting emoji. I wonder if I would have still gotten in trouble if I had posted something like this…

People post all kinds of offensive crap all the time, but Facebook never does anything about it. Twice, I’ve complained about someone ripping off my profile and pretending to be me. They don’t do anything about it. I post a figure of speech and the bots descend on me like flies on shit! I get accused of inciting violence, hate speech, etc. They ask me if I want to agree with their decision. I have found out from experience that disagreeing doesn’t do anything, as no live person will ever look at the context of the offending post. So I just accept the “punishment”, which has nothing to do with the infraction and simply makes Facebook more annoying and harder to use. I run a couple of groups, neither of which have any issues. Yet Facebook bans me from participating in groups because I posted a forbidden comment on a friend’s post. That doesn’t make sense. And it’s not like I’d learn anything, either, because you never know what will set off the bots. This crap makes me glad I disabled the official Facebook page for this blog.

Common sense would tell me that the right thing to do is to close my account and go back to living the way I did prior to August 2008, when a former friend convinced me to join Facebook. But now, everything is so tied up in social media that I feel like leaving the platform would make things complicated on several levels. So maybe the better thing to do is just spend less time on Facebook, and more time on other platforms. I just recently discovered Twitter and arranged my settings so I don’t get comments from toxic people… or really, anyone, anymore. However, I think Twitter is also pretty toxic, and just reading some of the hatred that gets spewed there is hard on my mental health. I know that sounds “snowflakey”, but life is tough enough without some of the rude, snarky, mean spirited shit people post.

Though I know some people might say the comments that got me in trouble were also mean, neither were personal insults toward anyone who would actually read and be hurt or insulted by them. They were joking comments made to friends. Meanwhile, people can be as sarcastic, nasty, and vulgar as they want to be in any newspaper’s comment section, and nothing will get done.

Is this really what the powers that be at Facebook want? To drive people away with draconian bots and their nonsensical policing of people’s innocuous comments, constantly taken out of context? I feel stupid allowing bots to discipline me, and I’m tired of being Mark Zuckerberg’s ass monkey. So maybe it’s time I spent more time reading books and watching videos than engaging on Facebook. I’d like to travel more, too… for as long as we’re able to, before the next pandemic or having to move somewhere else.

Anyway… it’s a minor complaint. Bill will be home tomorrow. He’ll take Arran to the vet to see if he needs hormonal help or anything else. Arran is a bit perkier this week, but I still want to see if he can use some meds. We’ll have a wine fest, which I can’t post about in my wine group until Saturday, thanks to this asinine “sanction” placed on me by a bot. I’m glad I don’t use Facebook for business purposes. It’s utterly useless for that.

Time to wrap up this post and get on with the day… which will consist of vacuuming, practicing guitar, maybe making a new video, and walking the dogs, if the rain lets up.

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communication, complaints, News, technology

Google nightmare reminds man that Big Brother is always watching…

Last night, I read a frightening New York Times article about a San Francisco dad named Mark whose life has been upended over photos he took of his naked toddler son. I know that on the surface, it sounds like Mark’s life should have been upended. Nobody should be taking naked kid pics, right?

But what if it was in the middle of a pandemic? What if the photos were necessary for a doctor to see what was wrong with the boy, whose penis was swollen and hurting him? That’s the situation Mark was in, back in February 2021, when the COVID pandemic was routinely killing people apace. That was when people were being encouraged not to congregate indoors if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. When Mark’s son needed help, it was also a Friday night. His wife had called a nurse’s advice line to schedule an emergency telemedicine consult for the next morning. The nurse had told her to take photos of the infection and send them to the physician for review.

As requested, Mark’s wife took the pictures on Mark’s phone, then sent them to her iPhone, so she could upload them to the doctor’s messaging system. Under those circumstances, she didn’t realize that the photos might be seen by anyone other than the healthcare professionals who were entrusted to take care of her toddler’s very real medical problem.

The pediatrician received the photos, examined them, diagnosed the child’s medical problem, and prescribed antibiotics. The toddler quickly recovered without further incident. Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends. The naked toddler’s photos tripped Google’s screening system and were flagged by “an algorithmic net designed to snare people exchanging child sexual abuse material.” The end result is that Mark lost over a decade of contacts, emails and photos. He also became the target of a police investigation. 

A couple of days after the photos were taken, Mark’s phone made strange noises. It was then that he realized that Google had flagged his account because of “‘harmful content’ that was ‘a severe violation of Google’s policies and might be illegal.’ A ‘learn more’ link led to a list of possible reasons, including ‘child sexual abuse & exploitation.'” Mark was surprised and confused, but then remembered the photos of his son’s genitals. Realizing that Google’s screening system probably flagged the photos and labeled them as abusive, Mark thought that eventually a human being would review them and let him off the hook.

Still, being flagged by Google wasn’t a small inconvenience. Mark’s whole online life, including his cell phone plan, was through the company. He filled out a form requesting that Google review the decision. He explained that his son had an infection, and he had only taken those photos so that the doctor could diagnose him properly. But because Google had shut down his cell phone plan, Mark had to get a new phone number from another carrier. And then, because he couldn’t access his old phone number or email address, he couldn’t get the security codes that would let him access his other accounts.

A few days after Mark asked Google to reconsider their decision, he received a flat denial from them, with no further explanation. The company had also flagged a video Mark made and sent everything to the San Francisco Police Department. He was already under investigation by the police and didn’t even know it. In December 2021, Mark received a letter from the San Francisco Police Department informing him that he had been under investigation. The envelope included copies of search warrants, as well as other documentation generated by the investigation. The investigator’s name was included, so Mark called him. The investigator, whose name was Nicholas Hillard, told Mark that he’d tried to get in touch with him. But… his phone number and email address didn’t work. Go figure!

Fortunately, Mr. Hillard told Mark that the case against him was closed. He had looked at the evidence Google sent him and determined that no crime had taken place. The police did not consider the photos and video abusive or exploitative. So, at least Mark would not be arrested… but, when he asked Mr. Hillard to tell Google he wasn’t a criminal, Mr. Hillard said that there was nothing he could do to help Mark get his online life back from Google.

So Mark appealed to Google again, this time sending them the police report that exonerated him. But Google still wouldn’t budge. In fact, they sent him a message letting him know that his account was being permanently deleted. Mark contacted a lawyer to ask about suing Google, but when he was told it would cost at least $7000, Mark decided the lawsuit wasn’t worth the money. And even though it’s been proven that the photos and the video were not abusive or exploitative, Google refuses to reconsider.

The article included a story about another man who was wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child due to intimate photos on his phone that were taken out of context by Google’s AI system. The other man faced similar repercussions, and basically lost his online life because of artificial intelligence that flagged photos that weren’t taken for abusive or exploitative purposes. For some reason, the HUMANS at Google are incapable of discernment, and fail to see that while the technology they use is very valuable for preventing child abuse, it also poses serious privacy issues and potentially ruins innocent people’s lives.

Mark says that the police department has his information on a thumb drive, and he’s hoping they will give a copy to him. The police department says they are “eager to help him”, which sounds like good news. But according to the article, it’s “easier” for Google to just deny people in Mark’s situation access to their services, rather than exercise discernment. In other words, too bad, so sad. I hope Mark changes his mind and sues. Maybe he and the other guy, both victimized and treated unfairly by Google, can team up and sue. What happened to them isn’t right.

And now, a loosely connected rant…

Naturally, a lot of people had comments about this situation. Many of the comments came from people chiming in, even though they hadn’t read the article and simply reacted to the headline. As my regular readers know, this is one of my pet peeves. Especially when they also complain about paywalls, and make a statement like “I think journalism should be freely open to everyone.”

That sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? Until you realize that newspapers are in business, and the people who provide the news have to eat, too. Most people can’t and don’t want to work for free. This was an excellent investigative article by reporter, Kashmir Hill, for The New York Times. Below is a screenshot of Hill’s information page on the newspaper’s Web site.

I see that Ms. Hill is a graduate of two fine private universities. She is based in New York City, which is not a cheap city to live in. She’s a successful and experienced journalist. She probably owes student loans, too. Delivering the news is a very important job, but newspapers are in decline. Why? Because people don’t want to pay for subscriptions and expect that the news ought to be “free”. But you get what you pay for, right? Someone has to pay the bills.

Even if the news is “free” for everyone, someone still has to pay expenses. So– they either get paid for by taxes, which most Americans would prefer to keep as low as possible, or they get paid by wealthy people who have their own agendas to push. That means people like Donald Trump or George Soros… or Jeff Bezos, who already owns The Washington Post, or Bill Gates… or Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and other news publishing outlets. The New York Times is not a cheap publication, but it’s not owned by the likes of Bezos, Murdoch, or Trump. It’s owned by The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded. How would the paper change if it was purchased by a politically affiliated billionaire with an agenda to push?

I have repeatedly stated that I subscribe to several newspapers, ranging from local publications like The Gazette Journal in my Virginia hometown, to The Irish Times. Yes, it costs money, but we can afford to pay, and I am grateful to have access to the news from excellent and reputable sources. The newspapers help me create content for this blog and keep me engaged in the world. I know not everyone wants or needs to pay for newspaper subscriptions, but I also think that if you’re going to comment on something in the news, you should know what you’re writing about. At least take a moment to read comments made by people who did read before spouting off ignorance. And have some respect for the journalists who took the time and spent the money to get trained to deliver the news properly.

Journalists– especially the ones who bravely go into harm’s way and/or cover difficult or challenging topics– help keep us free by reporting the unbiased truth. Isn’t that interesting? Paying for a newspaper subscription and supporting journalism, rather than expecting it for free, will help keep all of us free. Think about that.

And now, for a funny anecdote involving The Irish Times.

I have been a subscriber for a few years. I don’t read The Irish Times as much as I should, even though the journalism is excellent and offers an interesting perspective. The paper covers US news, but naturally, most of it is about Ireland and Irish issues. And sometimes, a reporter will cover a really unique topic. The other day, I read a poignant piece about a man who realized that his power garden tools were killing machines for the creatures who dwelled there. The thought never occurred to him until he noticed a headless frog, accidentally decapitated by his weed whacker. The guy wrote that he immediately decided to buy new tools that weren’t powered in hopes of sparing the wildlife. I don’t think I would have read something like that in a US paper.

Anyway, The Irish Times also has an advice column, and yesterday, I read a letter a young mom wrote to the advice columnist. The troubled woman explained that before she had her baby, her husband regularly wanted to have at least an hour of sex, preceded by showering and shaving. The mom wrote that her baby is very needy, and she simply doesn’t have the time or stamina to give in her husband’s demands for extended sex sessions.

The comments on this were hilarious, but one in particular was hysterical. A man wrote:

My wife and I have an hour long sex session every week by playing doctor and patient. She’s the doctor and makes me wait outside the door for 55 minutes before I can have 5 minutes with her.

At this writing, his comment has 819 likes and laugh reactions. I responded:

I’m an American, but I subscribe to The Irish Times just so I can read Irish witticisms. (62 likes!)

And the guy came back and wrote:

We’re great at taking the piss out of ourselves. That’s not true about my wife. She’s actually an Olympic Performer……….. Once every 4 years!

To which I replied, “In that case, my husband and I are also Olympic contenders.”

See? Besides the news, when you subscribe to a paper, you also get witty comments from other people who read! Of course, the quality of the comments tends to be commensurate to the paper’s readership. I used to be a Wall Street Journal subscriber, but I got rid of it when I realized it was much too conservative for me, and I never used the subscription. And then I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get rid of the subscription, which I ranted about in this blog some time ago.

Well, I think I’ve prattled on long enough. I need to practice guitar and walk the dogs. I hope you have a good Monday. And if you don’t already subscribe to a newspaper and have the means, please give it some consideration. The papers need your support, and the rest of us don’t want to read your erroneous and misled reactions to headlines.

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complaints, music, technology, YouTube

I am, once again, a Facebook inmate…

Greetings, y’all. Today has gotten off to an annoying start. First off, last night I got put in “Facebook Jail” for a comment I made on a friend’s post about Donald Trump. What I wrote was not too terrible, when you consider what people regularly post on Facebook. However, my comment tripped the super sensitive bots, and within a couple of minutes, it got “schwacked”, as Bill would put it. I had a nastygram on my iPad, telling me that I was in trouble for posting “hate speech”.

As usual, they gave me the pointless option to appeal, which I decided not to bother with this time. Then they handed down my punishment… two days of not being allowed to post in my groups. Since I run two groups, that’s kind of a pain in the ass. It also really annoys me that my online activity is being dictated by bots. I’ve been giving serious thought to deleting Facebook, mainly because this kind of crap pisses me off. I mean, people can post all sorts of hateful, homophobic, transphobic, racist, and sexist craziness, and nothing gets done. But I make a simple three word comment about Trump, and I immediately get “restricted” from posting in groups for two days. Granted, it’s not much of a punishment, but that’s not really the point. I don’t like feeling like Zuckerberg’s chump. He has way too much power, and he’s delegated it to bots who don’t understand nuances, and don’t get context. That is BULLSHIT. Way too many of us are tolerating it.

This isn’t a nice thing to post, but it’s no worse than a lot of what of people post on Facebook. Moreover, I think euthanizing Trump would do a lot for the safety and security of the world’s people. Now I wonder what will happen the next time I have to put one of my dogs to sleep. Will I also get punished for posting “He needs euthanasia” in that case?

Anyway, this won’t be a big problem for me, even though I run a couple of groups. I do think, however, that Facebook shoots itself in the foot when it “punishes” people for minor crap like this, but ignores the really personal, toxic shit people post to each other all the time. Eventually, people will move on from Facebook, when someone comes up with something better. You know it will happen, too, because there was a time when people couldn’t live without MySpace. Look what happened to that quaint artifact from the early 2000s. Every time this happens, to me or to other people, I think Facebook sucks more.

Moving on…

I did succeed in making a music video yesterday. I can do it better, though… Bill came home unexpectedly while I was recording, so I wrapped up my session sooner than I would have. Anyway, if you’re curious, here it is. Keep in mind, I literally learned this song yesterday, and I do this strictly for fun and artistic purposes. I’m not a professional in any capacity of the word. 😉

It’s a pretty song. Maybe it would be better for me in a higher key, although I do enjoy occasionally exploring the low registers of my voice.

The other annoying thing that has happened so far today is this… I happen to love Beth Nielsen Chapman’s music. I use Apple Music to organize my library. I’m sure there are better options, but I don’t have the time or inclination to look for them. Consequently, sometimes I try to manually maintain the library, especially when I get double entries for the same songs on the same albums. For some reason, when I tried to delete some duplicate tracks, Apple Music inexplicably deleted my whole BNC catalog.

I still had the songs on my computer, of course, but they weren’t being recognized by Apple Music. Moreover, when I went looking for the files, they were all listed individually, instead of in a big file. I ended up having to manually adding over 100 songs back to Apple Music. And I had to do that twice, because when I had the same problem after fixing it the first time, the same thing happened. The positive side of this, of course, is that I got to be reminded of what a great songwriter BNC is, and how many of her songs I love. I continue to improve my guitar skills, so maybe someday, I can tackle a couple of her songs that I can’t find backing tracks for.

One final event that will happen today is that I will be getting a new iPad. The one I’ve been using is getting hard to charge. At this point, it is possible to charge it, but it’s a pain to do it. I decided to go with an iPad Pro, because I use the iPad a lot when we travel, and want the better camera that comes with it. I have it on my phone, and it is superior to what comes with the lower models. I also got an Apple Pencil and a Smart Keyboard Folio, because as long as I was making the order, I figured “what the hell”.

The next big purchase I want to make somewhat soon is a new car… and I want that simply because my old car is 13 years old and has an obsolete stereo. 😉 But as I rarely drive, we can definitely wait on doing that.

Because I’m waiting on an expensive electronics device, I have to wait to walk the dogs, which I know will annoy them. But, at least we have some rain, at long last. It’s been so dry lately… I doubt we’ll get much rain today, but whatever falls will be much welcome, if only to cool things off.

And finally… just for my political friends, check out this ad for Ryann McEnany’s conservative dating app, “The Right Stuff”. Ryann is the sister of former Trump press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. This kind of makes me want to puke… but I’m sure some people will love it.

ROTTEN.

This sounds like a bad idea for many reasons… I recommend listening to Farron Balanced’s video for reasons why this dating app potentially sucks. Generally speaking, I agree with the host’s comments about not necessarily cutting out people with different political leanings. On the other hand, politics has changed wildly in the Trump era.

I never thought I’d swear off voting for Republicans, but yet here I am. I heard Liz Cheney’s concession speech, as she was beaten in her primary race by a Trump devotee. I don’t like Liz’s politics, but she’s at least fair, decent, and sane. I hope she can make a comeback. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of her, especially as Trump goes down in flames. But for the time being, Liz Cheney’s dedication for not championing sociopathic wannabe dictators has cost her. Maybe she’ll run for president, though. So we’ll see.

Well, I think I’ll sign off now, and play some guitar. Hopefully, the new toy will get here soon, and I can get set up with my new iPad while I wait to be sprung from Facebook Jail… AGAIN.

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