An American Eclipse in Donaldland

“This American solar eclipse, a terrific eclipse, believe me, and I know this, and it’s one hundred percent American, not Mexican, and not Chinese, even if those fake news sites will have you believe so, which happens just in my first year as President, an amazing year so far, is far more spectacular, amazingly spectacular, than any American solar eclipse that ever happened in America during Obama’s two whole terms! Two whole terms! Not a single solar eclipse as spectacular as this one. Our administration has been working hard on this issue, very hard, great work, amazing people, not even NASA has better people than I do, and definitely not the Russians, and it has been proven, absolutely proven beyond doubt, not even the slightest doubt, that my presidency is making solar eclipses great again!”

Well, OK, as far as I know Trump hasn’t actually said this about the upcoming joint solar and lunar event, and I know this because I totally wrote that little piece of garbage myself, but I know he would want to, and I can definitely hear him say it:

“I know eclipses! I have the best eclipses!”


All Your Social Media Are Belong to US

The Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security now want visitors to USA to surrender their social media login information before being allowed through security.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” [Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly] told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

Right, so this rotten idea pretty much wipes the United States straight off of my list of places to visit, until the whole thing is declared irreversibly dead and cremated. No, it’s not about whether I have anything to hide, it is about the fact that I have no intention of giving any of the cretins seated in or working for the Trump administration full access to and control over any of my Facebook, Twitter, blog or email1 accounts. I don’t bloody trust them!

1) Email is not quite social media, but with the merging of messaging services and social media, the boundary is becoming more and more blurred. I hardly ever get personal emails anymore; most private messages go through Facebook, and fewer and fewer people can even tell those things apart.

It’s been suggested to me that you could simply wipe the contents of your phone or laptop, and once through security, you can then download everything from an online backup service. Or you could simply leave your devices at home. However, this won’t make any difference.

Because it’s not just about what might be stored on your phone or laptop; they want your Facebook password, Twitter password, Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress blog, Reddit, WhatsApp, Flickr, Snapchat, you name it. And you might as well forget right away the thought of lying and saying that don’t have any. These are the DHS, the NSA, FBI and other American security agencies; you can pretty much count on them knowing if there are social media accounts related to your person. And regardless of whether you have any of your devices physically with you, once you provide them with your login info, they can then log into your accounts on their own computers, with full access to not only see, but also delete, modify, or post content on your behalf, as well as downloading your entire history of posts for later scrutiny, as well as your contact lists.

Moreover, and this is equally or perhaps even more important, they can also view friends-only content on your friends’, family members’ and acquaintances’ profiles, as well as restricted content in closed and/or secret groups and forums, so that it’s not just your own privacy which gets compromised and violated, but also that of anyone you know, on any social network platform that you happen to use.

This, to use a metaphor, quickly escalates from the equivalent of ripples on a pond, to the equivalent of an ocean–wide monster tsunami which kills and injures tens or hundreds of thousands of people almost immediately, and destroys highly polluting industrial installations and nuclear power plants for long term damage.

Although the general rule is that you should never post anything on the Internet, whether public of private, that you don’t want anyone to see, and although you may be careful about what you post, it is highly likely that a good number of, say, your Facebook contacts are posting personal details about their lives, or even about lives of other people they know even if you don’t, that were never intended for the public eye (including but not limited to opinions, feelings, political views, likes and dislikes, loves and hates, references to their own or others’ emotional or mental issues, criminal offences, relationship status and/or history, much of which oneself wouldn’t consider even remotely serious), and which might be used against them by sufficiently skilled and motivated adversaries such as lawyers and security agencies.

Considering the principle of Six Degrees of Separation, it is highly likely that insight into the social network profiles of a small number of people, would reveal “useful” and possibly damaging information about a significant number of other individuals.

To use a slightly different metaphor, the dent in your own personal privacy may be as insignificant as the tiny, round hole left by a hollow point fragmenting bullet on one side of a water melon (or someone’s forehead, if you want the morbid version), but that is practically nothing compared to the explosively splattered mess which is the exit wound on the other side (and a personal word of caution: do not google images of this unless you have a very strong stomach).

Know what other country was formerly at the top of my list of places not to visit? Saudi Arabia. Many reasons, but one being that they’ve declared me to be a terrorist. Why? Simply because I’m an atheist. Mind you, with the religious fanatic leanings of the GOP, the prospect of getting banned from USA for simply being an atheist doesn’t seem all that far fetched anymore.


It Ain’t So Bad Here

So it’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but as the author puts it, “a work in progress”, aiming for an ideal goal which, though perhaps not quite entirely reachable, helps guide us towards an increasingly beneficial society which works for, if not absolutely everyone, then at least as many as possible, and leaves if not no-one then at least as few as possible behind.


A crash course in social democracy by Ann Jones

We’re not strangers to praising ourselves and our own ways — as would be the case of most any nation and flavour of government and social structure — but we’re also willing to take that self-praise, and also, perhaps especially, that of our governing powers telling us how wonderful we are, with the appropriate amount of grains of salt.

Outside praise, however, is a measure that enables us to see how we look from the outside. It’s kind of heartwarming, and makes me appreciate what we have even more.

Again, not perfect, but I’m grateful for what we’ve got, for the freedoms, equality, security and benefits that are the cornerstones of the society that I’ve been lucky enough to be born into. I only hope that we possess the collective wisdom to carry on the good work, and keep building and improving on that which we have.

This year is an election year. Vote with your heart AND with your brain.


The Two Extremes

One side wants women to be objects of property, the other wants women to be objects of sexual desire, both of which are hardly different from the other in terms of respect for women as human beings.

There needs to be another version of this animation, where the woman slaps both men silly, then proceeds to wear and do whatever the heck she wants, and walks off with a man, or woman, who respects her and treats her as an equal.

(Animation source: giphy.com)

Rooting for Hope, not Hate

This Facebook post of mine, which I wrote it in response to the terrorist attacks in Oslo on July 22, 2011, popped up as a Facebook Memory today.

💬

Photo of a butterfly.
Archive butterfly photo © bjornarhaveland.net

I take it as a tiny reminder to myself from five years ago that, although terrible things happen in the world, and terrible people make them happen, all is not terrible, that there are wonderful and beautiful things still in the world, and that we need to see and remember those wonderful and beautiful things or else the terrible things may make us forget them, and choke us with fear and horror.

There is beauty and wonder great and small in nature around us, but most importantly also in us humans and in the things that we do together and for each other, and in the children whom we raise to live in the world and the society which we leave to them, who will be people like us and have to live with the consequences of the choices we make and the actions we take.

It is important that we hang on to those things of beauty and wonder because they’re what we must work hard to keep, and with what’s happening in the world it’s easy to lose sight of them. It’s too easy to divide humans into “them” and “us”, and to say that we must hate “them” to protect “us”. Blacks and whites. Easterners and Westerners. Christians and Muslims. But if you look at the terrible things that some people do, you will find that they are doing them out of hate. That’s what hate does. Hate divides, and hate destroys. Hating has never made anything better. Telling people to hate other people, even other people who hate, will only make matters worse, and if we embrace hate, even if only to protect ourselves from others who hate, then the beautiful and wonderful things that we want and need to protect and hang on to won’t stand a chance. Either they will be ruined and gone, or we will be too blind to see them.

It doesn’t matter if the hate or the arguments that support or encourage hate come from a terrorist group, or from people among ourselves, or from politicians and national leaders who base their political careers or election campaigns on hate rhetorics. It is destructive whichever form it takes.

I don’t believe that the wrongful or hateful actions of one person or a few individuals represent the entire ethnic group or nation or religion to which they belong.

I don’t believe that the murderous actions of a lone hateful Muslim lorry driver in Nice represents the average Muslim, any more than I believe that a lone Christian white supremacist on a murderous shooting rampage in Norway represents the average Christian.

Nor do I believe that Daesh or IS represent the average Muslim, because much as they are a threat in the West, they are at least equally much a threat to other Muslims in their home countries.

And I do not believe that Christian extremists who kill people at abortion clinics, or Christian evangelists who say that the real tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Miami is that not more gays died, represent the average Christian.

We as humans must deal with those who do terrible things, but not with hate. Hate is their tool, their weapon, and if we try to use it, it will turn back upon us and take us down, and we will become precisely that thing which we tried to fight against in the first place. Then we will be doing the work of the people who do terrible things for them, and then they will succeed anyway.

We must try to do just things, not with hate against those who do terrible things, but with love for the wonderful and beautiful things that we don’t want to lose. Only then can we deal with the people who do terrible things without losing those things that are precious to us.

I really, really think that this is not just important but completely essential, if we as humans are going to be able to become who we wish to be. We must be very mindful of what kind of society we want to have, and leave for our children, and how our attitudes and actions may help or hinder us on our way to that goal.

While I was writing this, not one but two butterflies fluttered in through the open balcony door, made rounds around the room and fluttered back outside, as if to remind me of the beautiful and wonderful things that made me start writing this in the first place.

I’d just like to say that I wish you all a wonderful, beautiful day, every day, filled with more love, and less hate, with more joy, and less fear.

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