Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Grab Bag Friday

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So you may have heard there’s this guy running for president – no, not that guy! I’m talking about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders! I’ll excuse you for thinking that I was going to talk about a certain billionaire demagogue for whom the mainstream media has been effectively, if not completely willingly shilling for since May. Of course, Sanders draws larger crowds, has a coherent policy agenda and a lifetime of experience in actual elected office, none of which said billionaire has, but that hasn’t helped Sanders.

His opponent in the Democratic primaries is also very well known, and while she has a coherent policy agenda and experience in governance, the press love her for the polarizing effect she has on the public and deserved or undeserved whiff of scandal that trails after her.

Secretary Clinton is the anointed choice of Democratic leadership, and their efforts to silence or marginalize Sanders by rigging the debate schedule, for instance, one can imagine encouraging the media blackout of his campaign would be expected in a high stakes, bare knuckle run for the presidency. But I suspect you will now hear a bit more about the Sanders campaign since a minor scandal seems to have erupted involving a breach in the NGP VAN voter data base which is vital to GOTV efforts for both the Clinton campaign and particularly the Sanders campaign.

So far, this doesn’t seem to amount to much but I suspect you will be hearing about it tomorrow night if you tune into the Democratic debate being held on the opening weekend of the most anticipated movie in recent history (thanks DNC), and more importantly on cable news channels that can’t find the will to concentrate on actual issues but love horse races and scandal.

With the collapse of the GOP into a shambling, drooling personification of the frightened Id of aging, rural white America is certainly an engaging storyline and worthy of better reporting than we’ve gotten from the press so far. The rebirth of a vigorous Progressive movement that has manifested itself in the Sanders campaign has simply been ignored, except in so far as it pertains to Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers. Let’s see if Bernie doesn’t get some press now that there’s a “gate” to suffix to whatever this database thing actually is.

Democrats punish Bernie Sanders campaign following Clinton data breach
Why the Bernie Sanders Revolution is Not Televised
Huge week for Bernie Sanders gets little coverage

~by Scott Price

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Recruiting for ISIS, Social Media

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“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” ~ Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

While some efforts are underway to curb terrorists’ easy access to social media for recruitment purposes, heavier monitoring is needed.

If our government does it, that’s a real slippery slope – though for national security matters, I think it would survive First Amendment challenges. I would rather see social media companies do it on their own.

“It was the second time in two weeks that Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had thrown herself into the brewing battle between Silicon Valley and the government over what steps should be taken to block the use of Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and a range of encrypted apps that are adopted by terrorist groups.”
Hillary Clinton Urges Silicon Valley to ‘Disrupt’ ISISThe New York Times

“Google’s YouTube has expanded a little-known “Trusted Flagger” program, allowing groups ranging from a British anti-terror police unit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization, to flag large numbers of videos as problematic and get immediate action.”
Social media companies step up battle against militant propagandaReuters

Schenck v. United States
“As the precedents stand at present, therefore, it appears that Schenck is still good law. Criminal attempts may be prosecuted even if carried out solely through expressive behavior, and a majority of the justices continue to view such prosecutions in the light of the majority opinion in Abrams: the Court will defer to legislative judgments, at least in national security matters, that some forms of political advocacy may be prosecuted.”

Let Us Now Praise Politicians (and the NRA that funds them)

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The BBC opened its article on our no good, very bad, massacre day by writing, it’s “just another day in the United States of America.” You can’t really argue with that. There is, however, the slightly interesting variation of having not just one regrettable massacre to worry about, but as of 9:51 p.m. this evening, two massacres. The first occurred in the wee morning hours in Savannah, Georgia, involving at least three wounded and one dead and the next occurred later during the day in San Bernardino, California where the final death toll has not been tallied but at least 14 people have been murdered, thus far. Not a good day, but not really that atypical either.

Gun deaths in the U.S. have killed more people in the last twelve years than AIDS, war, terrorism, and illegal drug overdoses combined. You can read about that below.

Why, you might ask, does this continue to happen?

Well, this link might help explain things. It is a listing of all the politicians who have received campaign contributions from the NRA.

The politicians on that list, by the way, were almost uniform in their sanctimonious offering of prayers for the victims of this latest round of killings in America. The largest recipients of the NRA largesse seem, somehow, always to be the first to offer their prayers of sympathy for those murdered by their calculated inaction. Such prayers, it should be said, are less than useless now.
~by Jack Johnson

Guns killed more Americans in 12 years than AIDS, war, and illegal drug overdoses combined.
Seriously.

Southern (dis)Comfort

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“The huge Golden Dragon facility has housing units on the factory grounds for the Chinese workers. The average worker so far makes $13 per hour.”

The disheartening news out of rural Alabama this week is enough to make you wonder how bad things have to get before the rest of the nation reads about them.

This one is on the front page of the Washington Post where Chico Harlan writes about “the best new opportunity in Wilcox County.” Egad!

A grim bargain
Once a weakness, low-skilled workers who get paid little have become the Deep South’s strength

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[PICTURED IN THE IMAGE, CARLTON OTT,  CLARK RICE,  STEVE HAMM, STEVE PARRISH, DAVID JAY, MICHAEL MAGRINO, DEWAYNE HERRING, ANDY HUGHES, GARY COLEMAN, AND SCOTT SMITH]

This one, by Jon B. Carroll, reports on police officer whistleblowers from the Dothan Police Department who have turned over “hundreds of files from the Internal Affairs Division.”

I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about this very soon, as the whistleblowers “believe that there are currently nearly a thousand wrongful convictions resulting in felonies from the 20th Judicial District that are tied to planted drugs and weapons ….” “Specifically young black men who had clean records were targeted.”
Leaked Documents Reveal Dothan Police Department Planted Drugs on Young Black Men For Years, District Attorney Doug Valeska Complicit

Stochastic Variations

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Visualized Stochastic Process

The word for the day is stochastic. Many times events or data points that mean nothing by themselves, but together mean a lot are stochastic. Let’s see how we can use this in a sentence: this weekend’s attack on the Planned Parenthood was stochastic in nature. When Carly Fiorina uses a fake video to accuse Planned Parenthood of harvesting fetus limbs for profit (get your baby parts here!) , not only is she lying, she is stochastically increasing the odds of an attack by a mentally unstable individual who might believe her. One could argue that in addition to acting in bad faith, she is, wittingly or not, engaging in a form of terrorism that is stochastic in nature, triggering unstable individuals across the country to act on her false accusations based on a fake film that she continues to flog despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Is there other evidence of stochastic triggering? Why yes there is; thank you for asking.

When Donald Trump encourages racism against immigrants by suggesting that Mexico does not send their ‘best’ people, but rather “… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”… etc., despite a complete lack of evidence, (and plenty of evidence to the contrary), we might suggest that not only is Donald Trump lying, he is participating in a form of stochastic terrorism by encouraging weak minded individuals to act on his faulty assumptions. When Trump tries to defend this statement by doubling down and saying a month later, “What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”… it can certainly tip the balance. Two men in Boston admitted they ambushed and brutally beat a homeless Latino man because they were “inspired” by Trump. Of course, Trump didn’t leave it at that. He also said that Muslim-Americans should be tracked, undocumented workers should be rounded up, and that a Black Lives Matter protester at his rally “maybe deserved to be roughed up.” Last August, when a man arrested for beating a homeless Latin man told police, “Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported,” Trump didn’t condemn the violence. Instead he said “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” Thus, enabling such behavior and even promoting it by designating as patriots those who are flat-out hooligans.

We can also think of stochastic in a reverse form, where multiple events can be attributed to a given phenomenon, but are not. Take climate change, for example. Each individual ‘storm of the century’ that has now become storm of the decade or even storm of the year is a discrete data point that, individually, does not directly impute man-made climate change but, in aggregate, these data points certainly do add up. That’s why the scientist converge with 99% plus certainty that man-made climate change is a real problem, even dabbling with the naming of our era the Anthropocene epoch—that is, our epoch begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystems. A bad snowstorm or drought does not equal man-made climate change. Years of record high temperatures and back-to-back droughts certainly do.

One last way we can use the term stochastic is in the very nature of the war on terror that we are purporting to battle but are actually inflaming. Again, it’s all about aggregate data. Like our homegrown disgruntled Planned Parenthood shooters and immigrant beaters, there will always be a small population of mentally unbalanced individuals for whom any agitation will be too much. The trick is to not grow their number. Thus policy makers and politicians would be advised to avoid inflammatory rhetoric; especially rhetoric which is patently false, like for example, accusing Planned Parenthood of harvesting body parts from fetuses, or accusing Mexico of sending us rapists.

We’ve already seen how this can lead to unnecessary violence. But the same principle holds true for military strategists and foreign affairs officers when they advocate using drones or our military when there can be significant civilian casualties. It’s a simple numbers game. Every accidental civilian death is someone’s brother or father or sister or mother. Every such death increases the likelihood that someone else will take up arms against our military presence or the ‘West’ in general. This is not rational, any more than attacking immigrants or Planned Parenthood workers is ‘rational’… but it is real. There is no better recruiting tool for ISIS than the death of innocent civilians by unmanned drones. There is no better propaganda to paint us as heartless monsters, and we do it to ourselves. Every mission gone wrong, every innocent civilian murdered by some robot in the sky only adds to the raging fury against us. But this is controllable, too, and that is the ultimate lesson for today. The term stochastic gives us a handle with which to understand – and lay responsibility for—everything from so called lone wolf attacks on our own soil to terrorism attacks abroad. It’s time we began paying attention to what those numbers are telling us.

~By Jack Johnson