Snapshot of America


I’ve got to stop doing this to myself. I am now parked at my favorite coffee shop on the island, after a very productive morning. I woke up this morning and the sound the ice maker in our freezer finally drove me beyond all forbearance. “Grind, click, grind, click,” all the time now. After cleaning out roughly a decade’s worth of dust accumulation from behind and below the machine I tromped to the garage and came back loaded for bear. Well, ice in any event. It took the heat gun and a screw driver, but the damn thing has been removed and now sits on my kitchen counter like the pesky critter it is. Maybe I’ll have it mounted and hang it over the fireplace.

So, knowing that I’d already been pushed well beyond my maximum patience threshold during the wee hours of the morning I came to the coffee shop and sat down preparing to write. A warm cuppa in hand, I sat down and opened up a browser menagerie. Facebook was front and center.

While wishing a few of my friends birthday salutations I glanced at Facebook’s trending window and “what the hell?” Out of pure disbelief, I expanded the window. “Wow!” I’m thinking to myself. “What a crazy place we live in.”

Perhaps, I should have stopped myself. Maybe I should have known enough to switch to Twitter or comb through the morning’s news stories via PRI. But three “stories” solely about Republican politics in American? This thing looked broken, and I’m all about fixing things this morning. I expanded the module in order to increase my sample size.

  1. Randy Weber: US Representative Endorses Senator and GOP Candidate Ted Cruz for President
  2. Donald Trump: Republican Presidential Candidate Announces Plan to Overhaul Tax Code and Cut Taxes
  3. Carly Fiorina: Republican Presidential Candidate Defends CIA Tortue During Bush Administration
  4. Munk Debates: Party Leaders Discuss Syria, National Security in Foreign Policy Debate
  5. Citizens United: Bernie Sanders Says Overturning Ruling Is His Test for Supreme Court Justices
  6. Elizabeth Warren: Senator Calls for Police Reform in Speech Delivered at Edward Kennedy Institute
  7. Carl Icahn: Billionaire Investor Says He Endorses Donald Trump for President
  8. UN Women: China Co-Hosts United Nations Summit on Women’s Rights
  9. NASA: US Space Agency Says There Is Evidence of Liquid Water on Mars
  10. Vladimir Putin: Russian President Meets with President Obama at UN Assembly Amid Syria Tension

Truth be told I know very little about the algorithm that governs this little module, my suspicion is that it’s a near-real time list of new-like articles trending in popular media bent toward my personal preferences. While the former seems to be true-ish, the latter seems contradicted. Of the ten articles trending at that moment I have only passing interest in half of them, all of them on the ass end of that list. Anything more than passing interests is invested in #9 and 10.

But wait, here’s an opportunity to understand how something in my world works (if only a little better). Yeah, I started googling. Sure, the internals of the code aren’t going to be exposed, I get that, but there’s plenty that can (should) be discovered by manipulation and deduction. I found this and it does a pretty good job of confirming some of my suspicions.

The good news is that the module can be taught. You’ve got to highlight the headlines you don’t want to see anymore and tell Facebook that they’re ruining your cup of coffee. Or go on ignoring the “click, grind, click, grind” of the damned thing a little longer, either will work and on balance they take about as much energy.

I think what bothers me the most about this is that, in the aggregate, this is where some measurable majority of my fellow Americans invest their time and interest. It is possible that there’s some sort of deal to rest a thumb on American media to skew the news, but despite this possibility, news is a participatory exchange of information. Cream apparently isn’t the only thing that will rise to the top.

While I’ve got your attention I want to appeal to your better natures. There are less than two days left to push this petition onto the desk of the President and we’re so damn close to making this happen. As of 10:00 AM PDT only 4,412 moderately compassionate people need to be found.

I know you’re out there, I’ve got to trust that you exist. Please take a moment and click on through to the We The People site. Add your voice to the many Americans that want to do their part to help the incredible humanitarian crisis sweeping through Europe.

If, for some reason, you can’t find the courage to help people so clearly in need by allowing them a place in your country, then take a moment to help them in another way. Donations to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontiers go directly to refugee relief efforts underway in the region. They seem to be the only organization (despite existing mandates) making material and logistical impact directly to these people.

Not since the Berlin Airlift has anyone provided the same level of material aid and there’s still plenty of need, plenty of innocents dying. If we want the suffering to stop, we’ve got to be the ones willing to stop it.


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