Archive for February, 2018

Information Warfare

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Readers of my occasional rants and my Internet newsletter Current Invective may be confused by special prosecutor William Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russians for “information warfare.” Neglecting to mention their ethnicity, the Russians posted stuff on the Internet accusing white people of racism and defaming Democrat Hillary Clinton, among other offenses. They spent over a million bucks on their project–described as an act of war by leading Democrats–aiming to expose the USA and our political system to ridicule and to “sow discord” among our people. That’s pretty much what I do. I thought it was my right. I treat it as a civic duty.

The fact that the defendants live in Russia may not be the only impediment to a successful prosecution. The First Amendment is a limit on the power of the state to control speech, anyone’s speech. It’s not reserved for citizens. Our Bill of Rights gives Russians, Australians, Japanese, Canadians, Israelis and everyone else the right to express preferences in US elections. Non-citizens can’t vote, but their right to express political opinions may not be infringed. Carve out an exception to free speech for these guys, and you’re asking for trouble.

It’s funny that we’re OK with media companies actually meddling in our elections–the news media boycotted Sanders and ignored his supporters–but we fret when foreigners heap well-deserved criticism on us and our system. And it’s ironic that the beneficiaries of the First Amendment–our own mass media–are demanding in unison that we abridge it. They continue to holler “Russia!” even though the indictments cite no evidence whatsoever that Putin or any agent of the Russian government was involved. Reporters seem to have no misgivings about their portrayal of this as an “information warfare” campaign against the USA, neglecting or declining to mention that criticism of our government is a variety of free speech. What we have here is an industry that wants to enjoy all the benefits and privileges of the Constitution but is unwilling to bear the inevitable costs. That’s the USA for you: the land of double-standards. And I hope I’m not committing treason by saying so.

It may be worth pointing out that the USA is not presently at war with the Russian Federation. Russian nationals have the same status with us as Canadians and Koreans. You have a right to express approval of Putin, just as you can say what you like about Trudeau or Moon, and we have no right to remonstrate when Russians criticize us or our leaders. On the contrary, as heirs to republican government we should welcome the critical views of people in distant lands as we work to better ourselves and our nation. Yeah, right.

I hope the Kremlin 13 come here to face the music. Their verdict will either vindicate freedom of speech or curtail it. I’d defend them. Advertising is protected in our system, including political advertising. A competent defense will emphasize that the federal government exceeds its authority when it forbids foreign enterprises from criticizing candidates for office, even under the pretext of a ban on expenditures of money. The amounts in this case, as the defense will point out, are trivial. Compared with the tithes our own legislative branch exacts from its benefactors in private business, this is chicken feed. Do we really have the effrontery to blame the corruption of our own system on Russia?

This is a phony crisis created by the embedded mass media and government to distract from the catastrophic failure of our social institutions. Journalism and our national government top that list.

Humpin’ ‘n’ Pumpin’ with Trump

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Looks like we’re going to find out the true configuration of Trump’s appendages and protuberances from somebody who’s seen him naked and wants to talk about it.

Film actress Stormy Daniels came very close to initiating a public discussion of Trump’s sexual prowess in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, but Trump’s lawyer, on his own initiative and with his own money, paid her $130,000 to keep her mouth shut. Common Cause has hauled the lawyer before federal election authorities, where he’s could receive a talking-to. The lawyer’s not Russian, and so what he did was probably OK.

Leading lady in at least 100 sex thrillers, including “Pornstar” and “Porking with Pride,” Stormy is younger than the eldest of Trump’s kids and is as good-looking as the First Lady, who was pregnant when Trump and Stormy were exchanging bodily fluids.

Just today, Stormy said she’s willing to tell all about the “affair,” claiming the other party to her extortion deal is in breach. Could be that when the media finally get to the bottom of all this, they’ll literally get a glimpse of  the old redhead’s bottom.  Stormy must have access to any number of images of micromembers surrounded by yellow fringe. Who’s goinna say it’s not him? Graphic evidence of genital insufficiency may be what this is really all about. A hundred thirty thousand bucks sounds a little steep for bare allegations.

Some may suspect Stormy’s looking for another cash installment, and the Republican Congress may well be considering a special appropriation for that purpose. No suggestion to that effect is forthcoming from the embedded mass media, however, who are treating the whole escapade as routine Trump scandal: worth a bit of gossip, but of no consequence to the national interest or image.

Mr. Christian, Front and Center!

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Sometimes, when a soldier is ordered to do something that violates his or her oath to defend the Constitution, the soldier refuses to obey.  When a group of soldiers receives such an order, mutiny can result. 

There have been published reports that the current commander-in-chief Donald Trump is considering a military attack on Iran. Not only would this be contrary to Trump’s constitutional obligations, it would be career suicide for the military brass that would be charged with carrying it out.

Theirs is an army that has been kicked out of Iraq, defeated in Afghanistan, discredited in Libya and ignored in Syria. To fight another war 7,000 miles from home with that sort of army plus a quarter million green recruits and zero support from the nation at large would be about the dumbest mission an officer could undertake. If Trump is in fact determined to attack Iran, we can be confident that there is at least one general or admiral who is now considering the possibility of mutiny, and some may even be plotting it.

The landscape surrounding Iran is dotted with outposts where U. S. forces are stationed–or maybe stranded–many within easy range of Iranian missiles. On their own turf, Persians are know to be formidable fighters, and, as victims of unprovoked attack, they would have world opinion on their side. Iran’s rulers, who enjoy widespread approval among the general public, wouldn’t abandon their posts because of a few drone attacks. As our intelligence sources tell us, Iran is pretty well armed and may be able to call in assistance from erstwhile allies to the East.

There can be no general officer who believes, in the exercise of sound professional judgment, that war with Iran is winnable or in any way a good idea. On the contrary, all evidence indicates that this war would be launched solely for the glorification of the commander-in-chief, whose recent command to organize a military parade for his personal aggrandizement must raise concerns among members of his staff. At least one of them found the plan sufficiently alarming to disclose it to the media, an insubordinate act in itself.

If this commander-in-chief were to issue an order to attack Iran, and a general officer declined to obey, what might happen? Trump would probably order a sergeant to take the general out and shoot him, and the sergeant would probably obey out of fear for his own survival. This possibility leaves responsible general officers with a conundrum. What do you do about a deranged commander-in-chief with the power of life and death in his hands? In the past, assassination has been considered for such leaders, and it’s occasionally succeeded. If real life were a work of fiction, high-ranking military officers would today be plotting the assassination of their commander-in-chief as a preemptive measure to avert a catastrophic application of armed force.

Trump, a paranoid fellow to begin with, might sense a mutinous atmosphere among “his” generals, even if it’s not there. After all, he’s known to be a voracious consumer of fiction, and, as a creation of the mass media, is essentially a fictional character himself. That may be why this all sounds so much like the plot of a Shakespeare play. The tendency of absolute power to transform narcissistic people into tragic, destructive characters is a recurring theme, in history as in fiction.

If it’s plausible that a deranged president might suspect his generals of plotting his assassination and take some sort of action to forestall any such plot, it’s also plausible that putative plotters might act preemptively to save themselves. So if you read that Trump or one of his generals fell down a flight of stairs or succumbed to indigestion, your skepticism will be entirely justified.

Taking Sides

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

If you’re uncertain which side to favor in any of the myriad conflicts raging in these complicated times, you’re not alone. Here in the USA, we’re picking up debris left over from an election contest between two of the least popular celebrities that ever adorned a magazine cover. Which one do you hate less? Which political party should we repudiate, considering that, in tandem, Pubs and Crats gave a us a choice between crime families? Suppose you had to select the lesser evil from these two choices: the Trump Administration and the FBI. It’s almost a joke. Public policy as situation comedy. Are you obliged to hate Assad and love Netanyahu? Can you honestly detest Nunes without also gagging on Schiff? Is it really treachery to be rootin’ for Putin?

If we wanted to assess our potential allies and adversaries on the basis of merit, we might start with a list of virtues and vices that institutions and nations typically exhibit. Most Americans would probably favor humane, fair-minded, egalitarian systems over brutal, arbitrary, autocratic ones. Whether we’re talking about nations, businesses, political parties, or even families, we like to think of ourselves as caring and generous folk. Our actions as a nation say we are nothing of the sort.

With the approval of both political parties and big swaths of the mass media, our government displays armed force in over 100 foreign countries and has killed people in dozens of them as a matter of course. We have been bombing Afghans for 17 years, and we have no plans to quit. We deny education to poor children and we deny health care to their families. We incur debt like the most desperate of degenerate gamblers. We give our law enforcers the power of life and death. We imprison people without charge for indeterminate periods. We reject science and worship fame. We consume advertising like candy. Among endorsers of this system–employers, members of Congress, rich people–fair-minded egalitarians will find few allies.

On the theory that an enemy of your enemy is your friend, good citizens of the USA might reasonably express approval of adversaries of their own government and condemn its allies. You might resist the urgings of Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Donald Trump and simply repudiate their ally, Israeli leader Netanyahu (who bombed some Arabs this week), but embrace their mortal enemy, North Korea’s Kim Jung Un (who has initiated diplomatic contact with his nation’s long-time enemy and US proxy to the South). If Democrats tell you Russians are bad, and the CIA is good, Russians are probably good, and the CIA isn’t. If Republicans tell you immigrants are not to be trusted, but Fox News is, it’s probably the other way around.

This analysis will require a bit of adjustment when both parties to a conflict are equally corrupt. Consider issues of war and peace as addressed by the US government. Republicans express their approval of armed force with displays of weapons, military parades, and F-16 fly-bys, while Democrats do it by spending tax dollars with local arms dealers and pledging allegiance to the flag. The two parties claim to disagree on key issues of what they both call “national defense,” even as both subsist on rich peoples’ money, much of it derived from weapons sales.  Who you gonna favor in that staged and scripted showdown? You might as well try to choose between Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Sometimes you can’t even figure out which side is which. Turkey is in an alliance with the USA. Turkey is also fighting a rebellion by Kurds, members of a distinct ethnic group that reside in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The USA has been arming Kurds for over 20 years in an effort to destablize governments in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Lately Turkey has been in close consultation with its neighbors Iran, Syria, and Russia, in hopes of mitigating some of the bloody conflicts on its borders and beyond, even as it’s dropping bombs on Kurds armed by the USA. In the meantime, Israel, the UK and the USA work tirelessly to keep the armed conflicts going, even to the point of arming combatants on both sides. Sometimes it looks like the object of all this is to shed blood, destroy property and expend munitions, a highly profitable enterprise for those who can afford to invest in it.

Your safest bet in taking sides may simply be to oppose the interest of the rich in every conflict. By this standard, you’d have to repudiate both Democrats and Republicans, both NPR and Fox News, both Lockheed and the American Red Cross, all funded and controlled by wealthy interests. Rich people don’t want us to know that economics is a zero-sum game in which their gain is our loss, but you can do the math and maybe discover who’s on your side and who’s not.

A. S. S.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Geeks engaged in the creation of artificial intelligence may be tempted to abandon that slow-moving effort in favor of the latest cyberfad, artificial stupidity. It’s a much more complicated field, in that accuracy and precision, the focus of artificial intelligence, typically produce a single “right” solution to a particular problem, whereas artificial stupidity must take in a wide range of “wrong” answers, all of which must be evaluated and digitized. The object, of course, is to find the answers that are least likely to solve the problem.

You might think that wrong answers have no practical use, but you would be wrong. Consider, by way of example, the problem of what’s popularly known as wealth inequality. The disparity in wealth and income between people at the top of the economic scale and people at the bottom is widely believed to be the source of numerous social problems. It would seem that a straightforward redistribution of resources could relieve some of the distress, but that might present a risk to the fragile economic structure we all depend on for sustenance. With never-ending trials of solutions that are certain to fail, we can preserve inequality even as we condemn it. Today, the patently ridiculous prescription for wealth inequality is tax relief for rich people. When that proves a demonstrable failure, artificial stupidity will provide us with new suggestions for futile initiatives to mitigate wealth inequality and allow us to continue the fight against social evils like war, racism, domestic violence, suicide and drug addiction far into the foreseeable future.

Artificial stupidity may also someday yield a social gullibility inventory, possibly as a by-product of its search for ineffective solutions to solvable problems. The high hurdle for nonsense explanations of conditions, events and phenomena is social acceptance. If the artificial stupidity community can find a way to mimic the process by which large numbers of people come to reject, for example, Darwin’s theory of natural selection in favor of divine planning, it will be a huge break-through. Even now, computers are buzzing, as scholars try to compile and collate instances of foolishness with brain scans of idiots, imbeciles and schmegeggies. The object: an Artificial Stupidity Scale (ASS), to serve as a compendium of 21st Century inanity.

ASS may be able to tell us why people get all worked up over their favorite sports team but couldn’t give a crap about the honesty or decency of their leaders.  With ASS we’ll have no further need to fret over why a motorist risks life and limb to gain a car length.  We’ll be able to stop wondering how two skyscrapers could be demolished in New York with people in them and the guys who did it still be walking the street. ASS will give us answers. Wrong ones, but answers nonetheless.

Television is certain to emerge as a principal element in the stupidity of humans, but its role in ASS is still in doubt. TV programming and advertising reduce humans to a state of reeking stupor, but they seem to have no such effect on digital processers of any kind. The machines just don’t respond to the “I’m worth it” and “Win/Win” principles that infect human viewers. Research might take a big leap if the machines could compile an exhaustive inventory of human stupidity simply by watching TV, but that seems unlikely. ASS developers may have to enter the various instances of idiocy one by one.

It may well be impossible to document every moronic move made by every person, and so ASS is programmed to focus only on the most grievous failures of cognition. Even at that, the ASS inventory is running to about 250 volumes, and the inanities keep on coming.