Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Who Stole Jesus?


How do a few wealthy people manage to induce a large group of Christian Fundamentalists/Evangelists to do their bidding, e.g. retain their mega-wealth and attain political power, against the Fundamentalist’s self-interests, e.g. voter suppression?

Trying to understand how people are manipulated is a life-long study for me. Why do people need to believe that “others” are to blame for both real and imagined “sins” against them? What are the sources of those clearly unscrupulous, erroneous and often fatal beliefs? And how are they implanted in the brains of the manipulated people?

One age-old, proven method of manipulation is through religion.

God, Jesus and religion have historically served as facile tools for manipulators and this presidential election seems to have provided ample opportunity for practicing the tactic – people will accept manipulation if they believe it’s about a spiritual battle, “Good vs. Evil”.

Here’s how and who metastasized Christian Evangelicals into the Ultraconservative "Republican" Christian Right.

Bill Moyer’s discussion with Anne Nelson, author of Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.

Here’s an excerpt:

"ANNE NELSON: That’s right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.”

Hear the interview (below).

For more about how religion has been used through the centuries...

The Battle for God and Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Karen Armstrong.

“…But modernity has also been spectacularly violent, and so Armstrong goes on to show how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence-and what hope there might be for peace among believers in our time.”

More about Christianity and the USA…

David Ray Griffin’s “The Christian Gospel for Americans: A Systematic Theology”, Edward Curtin, The Transnational, 26 Mar 2020.

"For one thing, the complete opposition of Jesus and his followers to the imperialism of their day has been largely hidden to readers of the gospels.  The main reason for this hiddenness is that the authors of the gospels, seeking to present the message of Jesus so as to serve the needs of the Christian movement 40 or more years after the death of Jesus, sought to make it appear that Jesus’ message was directed against, and evoked opposition from, ‘the Jews,’ rather than the Roman Empire and those who collaborated with it….This failure of later Christians to understand the beginnings of their religion has contributed to what is arguably the most fateful reversal in history: Christianity, in origin probably the most explicitly anti-imperial religious movement ever, has since the fourth century provided the religious foundation for the growth of empires even more extensive than Rome’s….He [Jesus] was crucified by the Roman Empire – not by ‘the Jews’ – because he was perceived as a threat by Roman authorities.  Given the nature of Jesus’ life and his death, American Christians today should be anti-imperialistic, rather than basking in the pleasures of Empire, as did the Roman populace two thousand years ago – ignoring the terror and poverty brought to other provinces by Roman rule.“

More about the big data manipulators…

'Just like propaganda': the three men enabling Trump's voter fraud lies, Sam Levine and Spenser Mestel, The Guardian, 26 Oct 2020.

“Armed with their misleading data, these men have influenced and shaped laws making it harder to vote.”

“The hysteria over voter fraud has reached an alarming pitch – and this dangerous moment in US democracy wouldn’t be possible without the work of these men”

Friday, October 9, 2020

No Gangs Allowed


Art credit: Chandler (Arizona) Police Gang Enforcement Unit

No doubt you are as relieved as I am that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer seems to have been “protected” by the Michigan State Police and the FBI. The "Wolverine Watchmen" militia* murder/kidnapping plot of the Governor and an attack on a Michigan State Police facility was recently  foiled.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saved countless Michigan lives because she stood up to Tea Party Republicans in the Michigan State Legislature and Mr. Trump during the COVID plague. She has proven to be a strong, intelligent stateswoman. A leader some people can't seem to appreciate. 

It certainly hasn't taken a whole lot of brain power to predict that something like this attempted plot was going to happen at the hands of crazed Trump zealots who have been repeatedly called to violence by Mr. Trump.

Additionally, it is good to note that the FBI for once used their “undercover” agents for the “good”. 

You may recall that the FBI has a terrible track record of doing the opposite, as do several other federal agencies. There are a multitude of instances, from the 60s, 70, 80s, 90s and even up to today, when FBI leadership used their undercover people for unlawful, evil purposes against protesters, e.g. Kent State, civil rights activists, BUS, etc., through COINTELPRO - the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program.

Each day, as Mr. Trump becomes more unhinged, his toy brown shirts, i.e. Proud Boys and other white supremacists’ groups, become more empowered.

Bad times seem to be ahead because win or lose Mr. Trump's “boys” will be out looking for Democrats and people of color to beat and murder. We truly are on the edge of disaster.

By the way, don't allow these white supremacists’ groups credibility by referring to them as, "militia*". They are lawless gangs akin to the street gangs infesting our cities and neighborhoods. Instead of white hoods and sheets, they wear camo outfits, preen about, leeching off the real thing - the sworn, Constitution-honoring military, both officers and enlisted.

* Militia - a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency; or a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities in opposition to a regular army; or all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, militias commonly support regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or conducting irregular warfare, instead of undertaking offensive campaigns by themselves. Local civilian laws often limit militias to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

Let's talk about Michigan, lost causes, and a sense of purpose....

Beau of the Fifth Column - 9 Oct 2020 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Air Force Combats Disinformation


This U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command project is using Artificial Intelligence software (represented by Robbie the Robot) and a neural network created by Primer to ferret-out and combat disinformation.

This U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command project is using Artificial Intelligence software (represented by Robbie the Robot) and a neural network created by Primer to ferret-out and combat disinformation.

Everyone knows that the U.S. spends more on military than any other nation in the world — $934 billion this year alone. More than half of FY 2019 discretionary spending went for “national defense”. Of course, we all also know that the nearly $1 trillion is not all the bucks devoted to our overseas, military-like escapades. There’s another astronomically jigumbus, super-secret hoard of greenbacks called the “black budget”. Nobody knows, or will say, at least, how much is in that one — or what we are buying with it.

Unbelievably, in all the years, at least since WWII, the Defense Department has never – as in, not onetime – passed an accounting audit of all that treasure spending. Even the recent attempted audit is ladened with trillions of dollars in mind-boggling “plugs” or get-arounds” rather than a report of where and how many tax dollars were budgeted and expended. The”plugs” are inserted in the “audit report” to acknowledge that the auditors have no verifiable idea where or for what our tax money was dispensed.

One thing is for certain, for years, we have spent like drunken sailors, only to wake up once in a while and wonder why our pockets are empty.

Anyway…. moving to the subject of this post…

Among the baskets of dough we’ve been putting out through the U.S. Department of Defense is one marked: new technology research. That one costs us about $107 billion and funds a bunch of interesting projects, including the one to, “…train a neural net to rank credibility and sort news from misinformation”, under control of the Air Force and the U.S. Special Operations Command. Basically, our military has realized it needs a new software/Artificial Intelligence(AI) tool to counter disinformation created by our “adversaries” and spread about through social media and old-fashioned media, e.g. TV news. 

My, we surely could use Primer's help through this current election…

This quote from the article:

“Sean Gourley, Primer’s founder and CEO, described how the cost of using disinformation is relatively low for authoritarian regimes that aren’t accountable to voters or democratic allies when they lie. Couple that with how quick and easy it is to produce and spread disinformation online and you run into a big problem for which the U.S. and other militaries from democratic countries have little defense. “Information attacks are cheaper to carry out than identity. There’s an asymmetry here. It’s much like an IED explosion. You can put it down very cheaply but the cost of defending against it is very high.” he said. “This is not something that’s going to be solved by humans… You're bringing a knife to a gunfight if you’re going to bring humans to this problem.” 

Here’s the story…

Can AI Detect Disinformation? A New Special Operations Program May Find Out, Patrick Tucker, defenseone.com, 2 Oct 2020.

“Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command fund year-long effort to train a neural net to rank credibility and sort news from misinformation.”

“For all the U.S. military’s technical advantages over adversaries, it still struggles to counter disinformation. A new software tool to be developed for the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, may help change that.”

“If you don’t compete in the information space, regardless of how good your operations are, your activities are, you will probably eat a shit sandwich of disinformation or false reporting later on,” Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former SOCOM chief, said in an interview.  “We certainly experienced that at the tactical level. That was the epiphany where we would have good raids, good strikes, etc. and the bad guys would spin it so fast that we would be eating collateral damage claims, etc. So, the information space in that very tactical space is key.”

“It even “stretches to the strategic space,” said Thomas, meaning that disinformation can spread until it affects larger geopolitical realities.”

“Thomas now serves as an advisory board member for Primer, a company that on Thursday announced a Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop software over the next year to help analysts better—and much more quickly—survey the information landscape and hopefully detect false narratives that show up in the public space.”

“Primer’s neural network technology can scan large amounts of text and extract themes and other information based on the frequency and prominence of words and phrases. It’s the sort of thing that can be very useful if you have a lot of text you want to very quickly summarize in an accurate headline, a capability they demonstrate here. To train their headline-writing neural net, they used a corpus “of millions of publicly available document-title pairs: news articles and headlines” according to their paper on the subject.”


Additional posts about truth finding…

TruthTeller App! Now here’s another reason for optimism!, Ron Baker, DownriverUSA, 2 Feb 2013.

Doubting Thomas App, Ron Baker, DownriverUSA, 16 Feb 2019.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Don't Give In to Voter Intimidation


Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone*

I was upset and disappointed the other night. 

I turned the debate off after about 20 minutes knowing I could read about the outcome in the morning. Mr. Trump is a walking disaster as a human being and a 1950s-era, grade B horror movie as president.

He is not only a psychopath, responsible for the deaths of over 205,000 Americans, he is the clear king of grifters and historically the unequaled traitor of the people of the U.S., clearly beholding to whomever holds his $421 million in debt… a discovery that I hope will soon be ferreted out. 

Trump’s loyal supporters certainly will never leave his side. 

Still, my hope is “the undecided” will begin to understand that they must vote this November to save their own lives and the future of their children and grandchildren in the USA our parents and ancestors helped to create.

For me, the most disconcerting moment of the night occurred with Mr. Trump’s comments supporting and enlisting the help of the neo-fascist, Proud Boys. Instead of disavowing violence, as Mr. Wallace asked him to do, he sent a clear message of support to one of the most violent, white supremacist domestic terrorist groups by telling them to, “Stand Back and Stand By”. 

Mr. Trump, the President of the United States, is clearly inciting riot, civil discord, and rebellion against the United States of America.

(See: Revealed: pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies, Jason Wilson and Robert Evans, theguardian.com, 23 Sep 2020. “Patriots Coalition members suggested political assassinations and said ‘laws will be broken, people will get hurt’, leaked chats show”.)

Not since the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era has a call to violence been so clearly sent and received than those words spewed by Mr. Trump to the likes of the Proud Boys.

Two historians describe the Reconstruction Era, a time most of our schools never discussed in civics or history class.

"Then, with the radical Reconstruction, you get political violence... You get organized groups -- the Ku Klux Klan and others, like the White League in Louisiana, the Knights of the White Camelia... whose purpose is to obstruct and destroy Reconstruction government, to assassinate or intimidate black and white Republican officials, to use violence to prevent people from voting. And this is quite widespread throughout the South. It's not a central organization. It's local groups all over the place. But they have the common goal of restoring white supremacy -- politically speaking, but also in many other areas. Blacks who get into contract disputes with their employers are often victims of the Klan. School teachers are victims of the Klan, people like that. In other words, they're trying to use violence to restore a system of white supremacy that's been disrupted by the coming of Reconstruction." - Eric Foner

"...This is a part of American history that isn't easy to face. It tells us that we had a moment in our history when our politics broke down, our society broke down, our police power broke down; the government wasn't functioning sufficiently enough to protect one group of citizens from another who simply engaged in wanton vigilante violence of the worst kind. We don't like to face that. We don't even want to know about it. We like to believe we are a society of security and progress and improvement. Reconstruction makes us face an era when we were something else." - David Bligh

Fortunately, the Proud Boys, and others like them, appear to be few numbers, unlike the nightrider, hooded terrorists of post-civil War South. Still, they are armed and determined to cause pain for anyone not deemed “loyal enough” to Mr. Trump. 

Should the Proud Boys Trumpsters make good on their threats, My hope is that our nation will be lucky once again and find the likes of Gen. Grant within our leadership. 

As president (1869-1877) Grant enforced the Constitution, confronted, and put down white racists’ violence, outright murder, and mayhem throughout the south. It was President Grant who ordered federal troops to southern voting places to defend and protect newly enfranchised black Americans from white terrorists armed violence. And it was President Grant who put down the KKK and several other white supremacist groups following numerous acts of heinous torture, slaughter of unarmed men women and children and untold numerous acts of night-rider terrorism. (See Grant, Ron Chernow’s recent, best-selling biography.)

I fear the unpleasant times to come - no matter who wins in November.

For an outstanding analysis of Mr. Trump, the debate, and an insightful prognosis of Mr. Trump’s tactics, please read: Why You Don’t Have to Feel Sick About What Happened Last Night, A counterintuitively optimistic take on the first presidential debate, by Douglas Rushkoff, for GEN/Medium.

Douglas Rushkoff, is the CUNY Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics**

Here is a portion of the article:

"Biden’s biggest job last night was not to win on the issues. That’s the easy part. His real job is to convince people that voting itself can still work. To counter Trump’s psychological warfare. That’s why the most important thing by far that he said last night wasn’t a jab at Trump’s policies, it was affirmation of the political process.:

'He says he is not sure what he will accept, but it doesn’t matter. If we get the votes, it is all over. He will go. He cannot stay in power. It won’t happen. It won’t happen. Make sure you understand you have in your control to determine what the country will look like in the next four years.'

So no, last night was not a debate. It was more of a competition over our perception of reality. Trump showed that the only way he can win a debate or an election is to convince us that there’s nothing we can do to stop him. That resistance is futile.

But according to Trump’s own logic, all we need to do to defeat him is to believe otherwise, and vote. It’s that easy."

*The Plot Against America: The GOP’s Plan to Suppress the Vote and Sabotage the Election, Andy Kroll, RollingStone, 16 July 2020, Blocking ballots, intimidating voters, spreading misinformation — undermining democracy is at the heart of Trump’s 2020 campaign

**Douglas Rushkoff is Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens, where he founded the Laboratory for Digital Humanism. He is a columnist for Medium, technology and media commentator for CNN, a research fellow at the Institute for the Future, and a lecturer on media, technology, culture and economics around the world.

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Team Human, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus. https://rushkoff.com/about/