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Trump’s North Korea Summit: A Fraudulent Photo Op

Posted by on Jun 12, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 0 comments

 

 

NUCLEAR SUMMIT SCOREBOARD:

NORTH KOREA – 3
UNITED STATES – 0

“I may be wrong. I may be standing in front of you in six months and say, ‘I was wrong.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”

— President Donald Trump speaking at press conference in Singapore

 

Yeah, Trump really said that. “I’ll find some kind of excuse.”

Wow.

Typical.

Trump just got played like a clueless dope at the ring toss of a rigged carnival game. He blew his wad and ended up holding a stuffed teddy bear.

Just days after pissing off virtually all America’s longtime allies following the disastrously embarrassing G-7 summit, Trump’s monumental ineptitude was on full display, getting punked at every juncture by a murderous dictator lacking any social skills, an adversary with no previous experience whatsoever in international negotiations.  The so-called great American dealmaker was out-dealt on every single significant policy issue.

Trump got Trumped. He behaved like a human wrecking ball who mistakenly pulled the wrong lever and knocked down his own house.

What did Trump and the United States get in return for concessions?

Answer: An empty, vaguely-worded 426-word “statement” with no specifics whatsoever addressing North Korea’s “denuclearization,” which was the entire purpose of the summit.

North Korea scored the following huge wins:

1. Kim Jong-un garnered rock-star treatment on the world stage for the first time and achieved superpower status for North Korea. Meanwhile, Trump flattered the murderous dictator with one of the worst human rights records in the world, who continues to imprison, torture, and starve hundreds of thousands of his own people. Trump did not say a word about human rights. Not one word.  Major fail.

2. North Korea got the United States to cease all joint military exercises in South Korea, which was a major concession and huge victory for dictatorship. Meanwhile, South Korea was reportedly totally “blindsided” by this announcement. They were not consulted. Oh, and the Korean War is still apparently going on.  Peace between the two adversarial Koreas wasn’t addressed.

3. The joint statement failed to address any kind of verification process, nor provided any timetable for “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Both leaders, who have yet to demonstrate any trustworthiness whatsoever on any personal or political issue, promised to work towards peace. How nice. Maybe at the next summit, Trump will buy Kim an ice cream cone.  Two pals.

“I trust him,” Trump said, referring to Kim who has violated every single previous international agreement on nuclear weapons and testing.

Meanwhile, the United States got…..nothing. Zippo. Nada. Oh, Trump did get a handshake and a promise.

This wasn’t Nixon visiting China.  This wasn’t the Detente of the 21st Century.  This was a photo op ending with a scrap of paper signed by two men whose word means absolutely NOTHING.

The first World Cup match is over and done: North Korea wins 3-0.

Meanwhile, the American political Right, conservatives, and Trump sycophants guzzle more toxic Kool-Aid. The same crybabies who whined about the dangers of normalizing relations with Cuba (because that was an Obama thing) and tore up an effective (verifiably working) Iran nuclear agreement (that was an Obama thing, too) swallow Trump’s lies and fellate the hype.

Quoting Trump’s own hopelessly ill-prepared words at a post-summit press conference, six months from now when we evidence from clearly proves North Korea *still* has nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, proving NOTHING was accomplished, perhaps Trump will “think of an excuse.”

No worries. Trump’s clueless cultists will believe anything they’re told. In this regard, Trump and Kim have so much in common.

__________

Footnote:

1985: North Korea signs Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty
1992: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#1)
1994: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#2)
1999: North Korea signs historic agreement to end missile tests
2000: North Korea signs historic agreement to reunify Korea! Nobel Peace Prize is awarded
2005: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2005: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program and “denuclearize”! (#3)
2006: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2006: North Korea again support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2007: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#4)
2007: N&S Korea sign agreement on reunification
2010: North Korea commits to ending Korean War
2010: North Korea announces commitment to “denuclearize”
2010: North Korea again announces commitment to “denuclearize”
2011: North Korea announces plan to halt nuclear and missile tests
2012: North Korea announces halt to nuclear program
2015: North Korea offers to halt nuclear tests
2016: North Korea again announces support for “denuclearization”

 

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Talking Westerns with Doyle Brunson

Posted by on Jun 7, 2018 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Movie Reviews | 0 comments

 

 

I recently went to dinner with poker legend Doyle Brunson.

Prior to this interview, which took place at Roma Deli in Las Vegas in May 2018, I asked Doyle to come up with a list of his “20 favorite westerns.”

Doyle couldn’t contain himself.  He not only came up with 20 great westerns.  He tripled the request and listed more than 60 favorites.  Doyle probably could have listed at least 100 movies and talked about every single one of them.  Most incredible, without any notes or references, even at age 84, Doyle was able to remember and recite intricate details about each movie and shared with us why each film on his list meant something special to him.

Here is PART 1 of the series, which ranks Doyle’ favorite movie westerns — numbers #31 through #60.  The video clip runs about 20 minutes.  CLICK LINK HERE

You can also see the list of Doyle’s favorite westerns ranked at the 5th Street Sports website.

__________

 

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Winners and Losers in the SCOTUS Decision to Allow Legalized Sports Gambling

Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Blog, Essays | 4 comments

 

 

Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law which prohibited most states from allowing legalized gambling on sporting events.

By a 6-3 vote, the high court’s ruling overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was a 1992 law that banned state-authorized sports gambling (aside from Nevada).

What does this ruling mean?  Well, it’s really good news for sports gamblers.  It’s even better news for many states and companies with the infrastructure to begin offering sports betting.  And, it’s fabulous news for the State of New Jersey, and especially Atlantic City, which has experienced a steady decline in popularity as a recreational gambling destination over the last 20 years.

Here’s my list of the winners and losers in today’s historic decision which is expected to drastically alter the American sports gambling landscape.

 

WINNERS:

Recreational Sports Gamblers — Amateur bettors will soon have the option of making a legal wager within a licensed and regulated environment.  Recreational bettors who might previously have been skittish about placing a bet with an illegal bookie or depositing money into an offshore betting account, can now conveniently step up to the betting window at a local casino, place a wager, and expect to get paid quickly assuming the bet wins.  For the first time, sports bettors will be respected as legitimate consumers.  They will be entitled to the same protections as other citizens engaged in commercial transactions, rather than treated as outlaws.

Professional Sports Gamblers — There’s serious concern that some states might impose a so-called 1-percent “integrity fee” atop all sports wagers.  This is potentially quite problematic given the narrow margins of profit for even the most successful sports handicappers.  That said, as some states begin to legalize sports wagering, expect an increase in the overall betting handle.  In the long term (as more populous states come on board), expect a substantial increase in sports wagering, leading to what’s known as “public money.”  This means more casual wagering inside the overall betting pool, which typically translates into pointspreads that reflect mainstream biases.  Sharps tend to take advantage of inflated lines and inaccurate perceptions about teams and players.  In short, the more uninformed bettors there are in any market, the greater the advantages for the most skilled and disciplined bettors.

New Jersey/Atlantic City — As more states have legalized casino gambling, especially in the heavy-populated Northeast, Atlantic City’s market share of overall gaming revenues has declined substantially.  One-third of Atlantic City’s casinos have shut down.  Some casinos even declared bankruptcy.  Now, given the Supreme Court landmark decision which gives New Jersey a green light to offer sports betting, expect a flow of traffic back towards the Jersey Shore, especially this coming fall when NFL games kick-off.  For the first time in history, citizens within the Garden State (and from nearby states including Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia which are within driving distance) will be able to walk into casinos in New Jersey and legally bet on sporting events.  The same holds true for Delaware, which will also get a boost from legalized sports gambling, particularly from heavily-populated surrounding states.

States (Education and Other Programs) — Most state budgets are desperate for tax revenue.  This is why many states have legalized casino gambling over the past 25 years.  Taxing gambling profits supports many vital state agencies and important programs, especially relating to education.  Soon, states will reap additional revenues from taxes collected on profits from sports gambling.  Accordingly, they won’t be as pressed to raise taxes elsewhere to maintain essential services and protections.

The NBA — Credit NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being the first head of a major sports league to see the future and face obvious realities connected to the public interest in major sporting events.  A few years ago, Silver announced his support for legalized sports gambling, including fully licensed and regulated wagering on NBA games.  Silver clearly understands what drives fan interest at many sporting events.  Rather than deny realities as all the other leagues have done for many decades, Silver and the NBA embraced the proposal of fans being able to bet on their games.  Look for an uptick in interest in daily/nightly sporting events (NBA, NHL, MLB) since more fans will watch sporting events because of a personal financial interest in the outcome.

States’-Rights Advocates — “States’-rights” has been a pillar of conservative political philosophy for more than a century.  However, as federal powers have gradually increased, states have seen their responsibilities reduced in some matters of governance.  The high court’s decision reaffirms the rights of states to dictate their own policies on matters such as gambling, taxation, and morality.  Instead of a blanket ban against sports betting (outside of Nevada), which had been the law of the land, each state now has the option to make their own laws, and establish their own regulatory and taxation framework.

Fantasy Sports Companies — Fantasy sports companies made a big splash a few years ago when they overreached and bombarded the networks with an annoying number of bad television commercials, initially leading to explosive growth, followed by a legal crackdown on their quasi-legal activities within some jurisdictions.  With sports gambling soon becoming legal, fantasy sports companies — namely DraftKings/FanDuel — are perfectly positioned to transition into legal full-service sportsbooks.  These companies also have existing deals with many professional sports teams.  It remains to be seen exactly how they will shift operations into key states where the competition to run sports gambling operations will be intense.  However, fantasy sports companies already have millions of customers in their databases and some measure of brand loyalty, which provides obvious strategic advantages.

Professional Sports Franchises — Let’s face it.  There’s not much mainstream interest in a game between two losing teams with lots of bad players.  But add the sizzle of gambling on the game, and suddenly, the matchup becomes exciting to watch for most viewers.  Since team sports began, franchises have relied solely on their local fan bases for financial sustenance — in terms of ticket sales, merchandising, and revenues from television rights.  Accordingly, many franchises have struggled.  Some teams have moved to other cities hoping for greener pastures.  Sports gambling is the great equalizer.  It gives bad teams the potential to be watched and enjoyed with just as much enthusiasm as premier games.  Television ratings will increase across the board on all sporting events connected to gambling.  This means more revenues going to the teams and higher franchise values.

Sports Networks/News Sites/Media — Sports betting is largely predicated on access to reliable and up-to-date information.  A broader sports gambling landscape means an increasing flow of traffic to networks, programs, news sites, and periodicals which provide subject matter primarily of interest to gamblers.  Many sports fans won’t be content any longer with simple sports coverage or mundane personality-driven talk shows.  Instead, they’ll be seeking out more hard data and breaking news which could impact the outcome of a game.  Look for sports broadcasts to openly refer to spreads and totals for the first time, since a substantial percentage of viewers and listeners are focused on that element of coverage.  Since a rising tide lifts all boats, more viewers watching games on television and clicking various websites translates into an increase in traffic and advertising revenues.

 

LOSERS:

Offshore Sportsbooks — Sportsbooks located outside the United States, particularly those based in Central America and the Caribbean, have filled the void of the vast sports gambling appetite.  Since most Americans can’t wager legally on sporting events, millions were forced to bet through illegal bookies and/or offshore.  Now, as an increasing number of states are destined to offer their own legal sports betting markets, the demand for offshore sportsbooks will slowly decrease.  Most offshore sportsbooks won’t able to compete with the convenience of local casinos and quick, reliable payouts much closer to home.  Expect several smaller sportsbooks which rely heavily on the American market to go out of business, unless they offer reduced vig and other perks which appeal to most sports gamblers.  By contrast, increased competition translates into more options and better value for most gamblers/consumers.

Anti-Gambling Crusaders (Religious Fundamentalists) — The religious right and behavioral moralists have been proven dead wrong on just about every gambling issue since casinos began sprouting up all over the country.  Their dire warnings of increased crime and other ills supposedly associated with greater access to gambling were unfounded.  Thoroughly discredited on the gambling issue (and just about every moral issue), anti-gambling crusaders have been debunked and defanged to the point of political and cultural irrelevance.  As tens of millions of Americans wake up every Sunday morning, they won’t be attending church.  They’ll be far more interested in wagering on the day’s football games.  Stike another blow to the 19th Century puritans who have run out of arguments against legalized gambling and are being tossed onto the ash heap of history.  Bury them.  They’re done.

The NFL — The NFL remains the undisputed king when it comes to American sports gambling.  Anticipated legalization in many states will come despite their vigorous objections, kicking and screaming against legalized gambling for decades.  Over and over again, the NFL has repeatedly handled its public relations crisis horribly — whether it’s been player misbehavior/reinstatement, the CTE scandal, the National Anthem controversy, ripping off taxpayers to build new stadiums, and so forth.  Here’s yet another black eye and kick in the ass to a league that remains absurdly popular despite gross mismanagement and outright hypocrisy.

The NCAA — The NCAA is the most corrupt organization in sports.  It reaps obscene profits solely at the expense of student-athletes.  It pays its fatcat commissioners, athletic directors, and shady bowl presidents absurd salaries while all the risks are taken by an uncompensated and often exploited labor force.  It’s criminal what’s happening.  Fortunately, the NCAA was dealt an embarrassing defeat and now must face the reality that millions of Americans will soon be betting on their games, whether they like it, or not.  Hooray!

 

Winners and Losers?

Other Casino Games — Who wants to play keno or roulette when pretty soon you can walk into a casino and bet $20 on a ballgame, instead?  Studies find that most gamblers, especially millennials, like to feel as though they have some measure of control over the outcome of a bet.  Unlike most casino games where the action/results are random, sports betting will become an increasing attraction since the gambler’s decision matters.  New sportsbooks could divert traffic flow from the casino floor.  However, a strong case can be made that since sports betting will attract new customers to casinos, some gamblers will gravitate to games like keno, roulette, craps, blackjack, and the slots.  Hence, legalized sports gambling appears to be an uncertain win-lose proposition for other casino games.

Illegal Bookmakers — At first glance, bookies might seem to be the biggest losers when sports gambling becomes legal.  The reasons are obvious.  Bettors won’t have to rely on the illegal gambling market if a viable legal option is accessible.  Moreover, expect the heat to be turned up on illegal bookies since local law enforcement will be tasked with reducing the competition for gambling dollars.  In the long run, however, bookies might actually enjoy a boost.  Since most bookies extend credit to their customers, this presents a huge advantage.  If the sports gambling market increases (and it will), gradually many new bettors will become enticed by betting on credit rather than fronting money.  Hence, bookies might gain more customers.  Bookies might also be able to take advantage of significant pointspread differences in various betting markets.

Online Gambling/Online Poker — Good News:  Given that PASPA was declared unconstitutional, it’s now going to be next to impossible for the federal government to impose similar prohibitions against casino games and poker played online.  This should finally once and for all kill various bills proposed in Congress which might have outlawed online poker (and gambling games).  Bad News:  Don’t expect online poker or gambling games to get any boost in traffic, however.  In fact, interest and traffic could decline since gambling dollars will increasingly find their way into casino sportsbooks instead of in online poker accounts.  There’s only so many gambling dollars in the market available and if New Jersey and other states open up their betting windows, some percentage of the money used to buy sports tickets will come from other gambling ventures — probably, online poker and casino games.

_____

 

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Here’s a List of Movies Where I Walked Out….

Posted by on Apr 8, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 2 comments

 

 

Last night, I almost walked out of my first movie the year.

But morbid curiosity kept my ass parked in the seat and my eyes fixated on the screen.  This movie has to get better — I thought to myself.  It just has to.  So, I decided to stick it out until the very end.

Big mistake.  It didn’t get better.  It got worse.  Way worse.

The two lead characters kill themselves in the final scene.  They offed themselves by inhaling the poisonous exhaust fumes of a 1975 Winnebago.  No folks, I didn’t make this up.  Seriously.  That’s how the movie ended — two lifeless bodies charred like day-old brisket locked in a smoker.  Roll the credits!

Anyone up for some Lucille’s barbecue, afterward?  Never mind, doggie bags.  Two caskets, please.

Oh, and the movie was advertised as one of those light comedy-romance road trips supposedly filled with lots of wisdom and reflections of life.  Buckle up!  Start the engine!  Pure joy!

Man, I wish I’d walked out.

On average, I see about 20 to 25 movies per year in theaters which comes to one film every two weeks.  My walk-out frequency is about ten percent, which means I don’t fuck around, folks.  Yes, I storm out of 2 to 3 movies per year.  My departure rate would be much higher if I didn’t do some serious screening and filtering.  I do read critics reviews and tend to see movies on subjects that interest me.  I stay away from horror films and Adam Sandler movies, which for me is kinda’ the same thing.

Here’s a short list of ten well-known movies I remember walking out on.  Obviously, I’ve stormed out of many lesser-known (now forgotten) movies.  This list of ten movies includes some better-known and even widely popular films I couldn’t stomach until the end:

 

BIRD [1988] — This was Clint Eastwood’s pet project for many years and for him a departure from the usual westerns and crime dramas.  It’s an overly-long film biography based on the all-too-short life of jazz great Charlie Parker (a.k.a. “Bird”).  This sure sounds like a compelling story.  The soundtrack alone stacked with Parker’s original recordings and outtakes would seem to be more than enough to carry the film through to the end.  But I made it only about midway.  Every note is flat instead of sharp.  Parker sure loved his dope.  If he shared a few snorts, I might have lasted a bit longer.  Congrats, Bird — you were my first walk out.

 

LA DOLCE VITA [1960] — This Italian classic directed by Federico Fellini was made two years before I was born.  I saw it much later on at a retro-cinema which played nothing but old movies.  Wow.  What heaping pile of shit.  Yeah, sure.  I get all the cinematic breakthroughs film students woo about that were abundant throughout this film, and I sure love European period pieces from this era.  But holy spaghetti, couldn’t someone at least have written a decent script for starters?  Unsure if perhaps my earlier impression was wrong, I tried watching this again on television many years later (perhaps my tastes had changed, or perhaps I even matured — wishful thinking, indeed).  The second viewing, I didn’t make it as far as the first time.  Don’t ask me how La Dolce Vita ends.  I don’t know.  I don’t want to know.  I will never know.  I don’t care.  But if someone’s made it through to the end and can report it involves Winnebago exhaust fumes, please message me.  I’d be delighted to give it a third try.

 

STAR WARS [1999] — I forgot which Star Wars movie I hated.  Well, just about all of them.  But the one with Liam Neeson as a swordfighter with a giant man-bun where Natalie Portman plays a queen who looks like she has lip cancer was the worst of the worst.  I kinda’ liked the first Star Wars movie, but everything made since then has been horrible (I’ve only seen three films to be fair — realizing this franchise with spaceships, special effects, and grunting gorillas isn’t suited to my taste).  I made it through about an hour and 20 minutes of the Neeson-Portman Star Wars (Phantom Menace) but then gave up.  It was playing at the $1 movie.  I was tempted to ask for my buck back but the manager might have called the cops.  Damn place was packed with geeks, many apparently seeing the movie for the up-teenth time, hanging on every word from Portman’s lip melanoma.

 

LORD OF THE RINGS [2001] — I’m not into midgets, dancing ferries, and weird-looking old wise men with wild hair and long beards — although that last remark hits just a little too close to home.  I bought a ticket to the first Peter Jackson movie (I hear this was a trilogy — but all it took for me was ONE STRIKE, and I was OUT).  Beforehand, I was kicking and screaming and knew I’d hate it.  But hey, it won “Best Picture,” so everyone’s right and I must be wrong.  Well — I was right, again.  About 40 minutes into a parade of waddling midgets and doddering old people, I turned to Marieta (wife) and said, “fuck it….we’re out of here.”  She replied, “thank you!!!….I thought maybe it was just me.  Let’s fucking go!!!”  Great minds think alike.

 

MONSTER’S BALL [2001] — I had to see what all the hoopla was about surrounding Halle Berry’s Oscar-winning performance, even though from what I can tell she’s never made a decent movie — including this one.  At one point, Berry screws hillbilly hunk Billy Bob Thorton, who plays a redneck racist (I know, so hard to buy into the casting).  If the scene of Thorton banging Berry isn’t enough to make you squirm and storm out and head straight for a shower with a fresh bar of Lava, then nothing else will.  Afterward, I felt as though I’d overdosed on a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken at a Ku Klux Klan rally.  Bwwwwwaaaaah.

 

NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE [2004] — Dumb as fuck.  I lost IQ points inside the theater.  Give me some credit, please.  I gave it the old college try.  I gave it my best shot.  The movie theater was packed with pimply 14-year-olds all giggling like schoolgirls high on paint fumes.  Looking back now, I think the scene of the suicidal Winnebago I witnessed last night was funnier than Napolean Dynamite.  Total dreck.   By the way, what happened to the actor who played the lead?  Did he do a McCaulay Culkin?  No one’s seen him sense.  So, perhaps the film wasn’t totally without redeeming qualities.

 

THE BLACK DAHLIA [2006] — Not exactly Brian De Palma’s best work.  Wish I had a Full Metal Jacket because after seeing this I sure felt like Scarface.  Pre-crazy Angelina Jolie stars in this movie about a true crime that happened in Los Angeles during the 1940’s.  Josh Hartnett co-starred.  Something about Josh Hartnett seriously creeps me out.  I can’t stand the guy.  Gawd, this movie sucked.  Lasted about 40 minutes and then split the cinematic crime scene.  De Palma should have been charged with pickpocketing in a mass class-action lawsuit for making this film.

 

CASINO ROYALE [2006] — I’ve seen just about all the James Bond films.  This marks the downfall, the turning point where the franchise turned sour for me, which wasn’t entirely Daniel Craig’s fault (though he desperately lacks the panache and humor of his predecessors).  Casino Royale was a dull remake of an earlier film that wasn’t very good to begin with.  The Bond franchise has since become an extended 2-hour commercial, a shameless succession of product placements and little more than an excuse to squeeze every last dollar out of a corpse of creativity.  Even the once-great villains in Bond movies are boring as fuck.  Producer Barbara Broccoli, who inherited this film dynasty from her late father should not be allowed anywhere near a movie studio unless she’s holding a garden hose.  And besides, the poker scenes were atrocious.

 

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY [2011] — Someone should have received an Oscar for somehow making writer-spymaster John le Carre so boring as to be utterly unwatchable.  I thought such a thing would have been impossible.  Hard to believe the great Gary Oldman couldn’t salvage this snoozefest that seemed to be shot through a cloudy camera lens that desperately needed a blast of Windex.  This might be dullest, slowest-moving, most pointless movie I’ve ever attempted to stick through.  I didn’t make it and surrendered to the Russians about an hour in.  So dull, it makes the thought of attending an insurance seminar instead seem like a wild sex orgy.

 

ANCHORMAN 2:  THE LEGEND CONTINUES [2013] — I blame myself entirely.  What in the hell was I thinking even remotely considering this would be something I’d enjoy?  It can’t really be that bad, can it?  Well, yeah — it was that bad.  Holy shit — what an awful movie.  A painful experience.  Makes Mall Cop seem like Serpico.  Of course, defying all human decency, Anchorman and Anchorman 2 earned millions at the box office and they’ll probably make a dozen more.  The official title of this excruciating exercise in filmmaking is “The Legend Continues.”  Please, dear god.  Don’t let this legend continue.  Makes Police Academy 6 look like Vertigo.

  ______

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Like Minded People

Posted by on Apr 1, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 1 comment

 

 

What does it mean on social media to click the “like” button?  Liking something may not always mean what you think.

 

Everyone wants to be liked.

On social media, likes are the metric used to measure popularity.  Likes are an affirmation of mass approval.  Admit it — we’ve all checked to see if someone liked our posts.  When you see a dozen likes, it feels pretty good.  When you see zero likes, it kinda’ hurts.  Social media has become a coterie of high school cheerleaders.

So what exactly does it mean when we like a tweet on Twitter or like a post on Facebook?  Are we agreeing with the content?  Are we praising the person who tweeted or posted?  Or, are we simply saying — I find this post pleasing, amusing, interesting, or comforting?

This isn’t rocket science.  I think most can agree on a common definition;  To like something means “thumbs up” to the poster and the content.

The last few days, I’ve engaged in a few private conversations through Facebook chat about my liking of various posts.  I’ll keep the names and specifics out of this discussion because they’re irrelevant.  Let’s just say I liked one post which contained a strong religious narrative.  I liked another post which contained a political statement that I believe is wrong, but which nonetheless I found to be both crafty and provocative.  One person messaged me alarmed that my Facebook account had been hacked.

Since my Atheism and Leftism are pretty much a matter of public record, why would I ever like a post by a Christian proselytizing biblical scripture, or like a statement by a Trump supporter?  Such actions do seem odd for someone so passionate and seemingly set in his ways.  Isn’t liking the post an “affirmation of approval,” as I suggested earlier?

Not necessarily.  I like just about any post — indeed, anything I read — which is thoughtful.  I especially like posts where a friend, an associate, or even someone unknown to me appears have taken considerable time to prepare and then share an opinion.  I like people who think and are willing to pressure test their ideas within our town square known as social media.  Contrast this with re-posting memes, which are typically antithetical to honest discussion and debate.  Re-posting memes are for lazy people who are unwilling to do their own thinking.  I wish there was a DON’T LIKE button for memes.  I’d pound the hell out of it.

So, why would I ever like a pro-Christian or pro-Trump post?  The reason is simple.  If someone takes the time to post a comment about a topic I introduced, particularly if that comment is original and thought-provoking, I say that post deserves my respect.  Hence, that’s what the like button is for.

Unfortunately, I think way too many of us now use likes as stripes on a sergeant’s sleeve.  We divide ourselves into camps which have become more like bunkers.  Likes are weapons to be used sparingly.   We reserve our ration of likes for what our allies post.  Given the lack of a scoreboard, most arguments come down to — the post with the most likes wins.

In these often combative times on social media, one way to encourage more civility is to break away from our comfort zones and echo chambers.  Sure, it’s not easy.  We feel safer among our tribe.  Still, I increasingly try to search for common ground with adversaries whom I disagree with on issues (admittedly, some instances are futile).  Finding common ground can be a mutual beachhead where everyone wins.  Perhaps the other person will increasingly come to see things my way.  There’s also the very real possibility that I might change my mind about an issue if provided with enough evidence.

The bottom line is — it’s okay to like someone with an opposite persuasion.  It’s also okay to like their counterargument even if we disagree.  We need to start liking far more people who are smart, engaging, and open-minded — and start ignoring people who are dumb, divisive, and close-minded.

Now, can I please get a few likes?  Otherwise, I’m going to be devastated.

_____

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