Thursday, February 22, 2018

Marco Rubio And NRA Representative Jeered At Florida Meeting

The Governor of Florida and The President Of The United States, who winters in Florida, did not attend a meeting about the mass shooting in Florida.  They were smart cowards.  Marco Rubio, and a spokes person for the NRA, had to take the punishment and jeers from the parents and students in the audience.  Rubio was asked if he would continue to take money from the NRA.  His answer was as slippery as each of the positions that he took from the audience.  He claimed that the $3,000,000 in contributions he has received from the NRA had nothing to do with his position on guns.  After the jeers from the audience ended, he claimed that his position reflected the views of the public which he represents.  That was a bit more truthful because the NRA has a propaganda arm that defends the economic interest of gun producers.  A substantial portion of the Republican base has been convinced that government controls on access to guns violates their Constitutional rights.  Rubio and other Republican politicians depends upon their votes in elections.  They are a minority but their votes can be counted on by politicians like Rubio.  That explains why a politician as smart as Rubio pretends  that access to assault weapons is protected by a Constitution that was written when the US military consisted of private citizens who served in state militias with their own muskets.  He knows that the second amendment to the Constitution has provided a smokescreen that was invented by the NRA. He is constrained, however, to defend that nonsense in order to protect his seat in the Senate.

Rubio, and the NRA propagandist, took another position that makes Republicans comfortable.  They argued that guns are not the problem.  People who misuse guns are the problem.  That position is consistent with Trump's current views on the subject.  Instead of preventing dangerous people from having access to assault weapons we should try to cure their mental illnesses.  That is utter nonsense. We do not have more mentally ill citizens in the US than other nations.  We lead the rest of the world in deaths from guns because we possess almost half of the world's supply of guns available to households.  Politicians in Australia decided to reduce the number of deaths from guns by addressing the real problem.  They took actions to reduce the number of guns held by households.  That produced a huge decline in deaths from firearms.

Marco Rubio, and the NRA representative, may have lost a bit of sleep after hearing from the parents who lost one of their children and from students who lost classmates from the shootout.  They can also expect more pressure from the public to take some actions that might reduce senseless murders.  Their usual approach is to tinker around the edges of the problem.  They will not deal with the crux of the problem.  They will not ban the sale of assault weapons.  That is because our democracy is being held hostage by around 35% of the electorate.  Their votes can be counted upon in any election.  The only real competition in elections is for the 65% who are open to debate on most policy issues.  We don't have majority rule in the US for that reason.  That is also why the Russians have used cyberwarfare in the US and in Europe to exacerbate divisions over cultural and social issues like gun control, race and religion.  The goal is to undermine democracies without the use conventional warfare.

The social media contribute the divisions that are being exacerbated in the US.  It didn't take long for a video posted on YouTube by an obscure individual in Idaho to go viral with a conspiracy theory about the murders in Parkland.  Mike m posted a video of David Hogg is who a student at Parkland.  The video is about another incident that happened in August.  Mike m declared that David Hogg is an actor who has been hired the MSM (short for networks other than Fox News) which promote left wing ideologies.  The video was picked up other conspiracy sites.  It appeared on Facebook and Twitter as well as on YouTube which is owned by Google.  There were over 200,000 hits to the "trending" video  before it was blocked by YouTube.  Mike m was encouraged by his success.  He posted another video that YouTube blocked.  His account will be deleted by YouTube if another of his posts is blocked.  Of course, he can also create another account on YouTube to move from obscurity in Idaho where he resides. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Its Time To Vote NRA Prostitutes Out Of Office

Tom Friedman describes what Republican lawmakers get in return for blocking reasonable changes to gun laws in the US.  They get $174,000 per year in salary and they get free parking at Reagan National Airport.  They will do just about anything to hang on to their jobs.  They also understand that they could lose their jobs if they take any actions that concerns the NRA.  Those who receive campaign contribution from the NRA will have to find other sources and the NRA will do what it takes to turn NRA voters against them.  Friedman believes that some of them may have difficulty with their NRA deal when they see young children being shot in schools but most of them are more worried about losing $174,000 and free parking at Reagan National Airport. 

Friedman was encouraged by students at the most recent shootout who would like politicians to take actions that will keep more of them alive.  He understands, however, that there is only one solution that will protect them.  They, and other Americans must go to the polls and take away their $174,000 jobs and their free parking at Reagan National Airport.  Nothing else will work.  Its hard to get prostitutes to seek a more honorable profession when they have such a nice gig with the NRA.

Putin's Useful Idiots On The Social Media

It is now well known that Putin funded hundreds of social media trolls in a disinformation campaign that began in 2014.  He referred to social media users who were sucked into his disinformation campaign as "useful idiots".  It was easy to find the useful idiots because they were everywhere on Facebook and Twitter promoting socially divisive issues.  Putin's trolls joined with them in prompting conspiracies and fake news stories that appealed to splinter groups.  The goal was to amplify story lines that were socially divisive.  The trolls were quick learners.  They could write a book about the useful idiots and the issues that divided them from most Americans.  They tend to be many of the same issues that Republicans have used to win elections since Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy was implemented.  After, Trump won the GOP nomination, with the help of Russian trolls who put the GOP favorite Jeb Bush away early in his campaign, they backed Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein while doing everything they could to turn Hillary Clinton into Satan.  Its hard to determine the number of voters who were influenced by the Russian disinformation campaign but Clinton would have carried Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania,  and won the 2016 election, if she got all of the votes from Democrats who voted for Jill Stein.  They also provided Sanders supporters with information that might have discouraged many of them from voting for Clinton in the general election. 

Russia and many other nations, including the US, have used disinformation campaigns to serve their interests.  However, the social media have changed the disinformation game dramatically.  It was expensive and much more difficult to distribute information when a small number of news sources controlled the media.  Lyndon Johnson famously announced that he lost the Vietnam war when Walter Cronkite turned against the war.  His evening news show, on one of the three major networks, provided millions of Americans with the information that influenced their opinions on major issues. Those days are gone forever.  The social media have made the distribution of information more democratic and much less expensive.  It wasn't hard for trolls to locate the most likely audience for each of their divisive messages, and the disinformation that they provided did not have to go through an editorial process to determine the veracity of their messages.  Everyone has been given an inexpensive megaphone by Facebook and Twitter.  The Russian trolls, along with a host of splinter groups have learned how to amplify their freedom speech on the social media which do not employ editors to fact check the information that they broadcast.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Senator Marco Rubio's Speech Shows Why We Can't Stop Mass Shootings In US

Marco Rubio gave a speech which argues that making it more difficult for mass shooters to obtain assault rifles like the AK-15, which was used to murder 17 students in his state,  would be pointless.  If we made it more difficult for the 19 year old who used an AK-15 to murder 17 students, it would not have prevented the crime. The shooter would have found an illegal way to obtain the weapon that he used.  In other words, there is no way to stop mass shootings by restricting access to guns.  Guns are not the problem.  Demented individuals are the problem.  Rubio's logic would also make it pointless for the government to restrict access to drugs like heroin.  After all, drug addicts can often find illegal ways to obtain heroin.  We might just as well sell it at CVS.  That would make it easier to purchase, and it would reduce the price because illegal drug drug dealers must charge high prices to cover the costs of obtaining heroin and the risks of being arrested.

Marco Rubio is not stupid.  He only makes stupid arguments because it is in his interest to do so.  Rubio has received over $3,000,000 from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in campaign contributions.  He doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him and other politicians who have been bought and paid for by the NRA.  Rubio also understands that the majority of Republican voters in his state oppose government restrictions on access to guns.  They see no difference between an AK-15 and the rifles that are used  for sport by hunters.  Some of them even believe that the best way to protect students in schools from mass shooters is to arm the students so that they can protect themselves.  Fox News and popular talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh make that argument after each mass shooting.

The bottom line is that many politicians, especially those funded by the NRA, care more about winning elections than they do about mass shootings.  They are not stupid; they are immoral.  They offer meaningless prayers to those whose suffering they have enabled because they have sold themselves in order to win elections.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Thirteen Russians Indicted For Conspiracy In US Election

Special Counsel Robert Mueller unleashed a bombshell yesterday.  He indicted 13 Russians and two businesses for conspiring to created discord and to undermine democracy in the US.  The Russian program began in 2014 and it supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election while disparaging Hillary Clinton.  It focused on three divisive issues in the US:  immigration, religion and race.  They were also informed enough to focus in battleground states in the US which could swing the election in Trump's favor.  The names of the Russians and the firms indicted are available here.

The disinformation factory used by the Russians is described in this article.  Russians posed as Americans on the social media and they effectively exploited vulnerabilities in Twitter.  They used bots to amplify the number of hits on their tweets.  Twitter algorithms are set up to identify trending tweets which gives them more visibility.  For example, they exploited an issue at the University of Missouri to inflame racial tensions on the campus which were harmful to the University and to entire state of Missouri.  Russians also worked with the Trump campaign in Florida to promote political rallies.  Their Russian identities were unknown to the Trump campaign.

The indictments will have an immediate effect in the US.  Mueller has been being attacked by Republicans in Congress, and by Trump who denies that Russia interfered in the US election.  The indictments should end any debate about Russian interference in the US election.  Trump's henchmen in Congress should be disgraced and Trump will be forced to give up his efforts to deny Russian involvement in the election.  Trump, of course, used the indictments to argue that the Russian campaign began in 2014 and that it nothing to do with victory in 2016.  The US intelligence agencies take no position on the effectiveness of the disinformation campaign in the election.  However, they were very clear about the intent of Russian interventions.  They clearly favored Donald Trump.  They also worked hard to discredit Hillary Clinton and they even promoted Bernie Sander's campaign.  They probably wanted to discourage Sander's supporters from voting for Clinton in the general election.  The election results in several rust belt states were so close that votes for third party candidates that would have otherwise gone to the democratic candidate could have easily tipped the election in Trump's favor.

The Russian indictments, along with the information about how the Russians exploited the social media,  will also have an impact on the 2018 election.  The government should do whatever is needed to deal with the 2018 disinformation program that is already underway.  The social media firms have also been given a warning.  They will have to take steps to deal with the vulnerabilities in their systems or they will not be permitted to stay in business.  The general public which naively consumes disinformation provided in the social media should also become more critical of how the disinformation campaigns hooked millions of them in 2016.  Frankly, this should be a required subject in our school systems. Russians are already exploiting the mass shooting in Florida.  They have linked up to US groups that are receptive to conspiracy theories.  They are promoting the idea that the mass shootings did not really happen and that it is part of an effort to take away our guns.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another Trump Affair That Was Covered Up By Huge Payment For Silence

Trump's lawyer paid $130,000 to purchase the silence of a porn star who had an affair with Trump who was married at the time.  This article describes a similar payoff to purchase the silence of a woman who had a similar affair with Trump.  They both met with Trump at the same room in a Beverly Hill's apartment.   The same lawyer was involved in both payouts.  In this case the publisher of the National Enquirer put up $150,000 for the payoff.  The Enquirer purchased all rights to the woman's ability to sell the story.  The publisher of the Enquirer has had a long term relationship with Trump and the payoff occurred after Trump had won the GOP nomination.

The Politicians that Have Received The Most Funding From The NRA

We had another mass shooting in Florida.  A troubled teenager who had been expelled from the school used an assault rifle (AK 15) to randomly murder 17 people.  He had a record of depression, violence, and an attraction to guns.  He bought the assault rifle legally.    

After each of these senseless shootings, that are becoming more common,  our politicians announce that they deplore gun violence and they typically tell the relatives of the victims that they are praying for them.  So far, their prayers have not been very helpful.  That is because the NRA has been very generous  to the politicians that pray for the victims.

This article lists the politicians who have received the most funding from the NRA over the years.  They are  all Republicans.  They have received millions from the NRA which secures their votes.  Their prayers fall on deaf ears.  The victims are gone forever but they will win their elections.  The NRA, with help from Republican politicians, has also spent millions warning Republican voters that they have to defend their rights to guns, guaranteed by the Constitution, to prevent government from taking away their beloved guns.  They even oppose regulations that might make it more difficult for troubled individuals and criminals to purchase guns, including assault weapons.  By purchasing politicians with millions of campaign contributions, and by training Republican voters to defend their constitutional rights to weapons from government regulators,  the NRA is responsible for the gun violence that has become too common in the US.  The prayers from the politicians who protect their business interests are meaningless to the victims.

This article, by a conservative who believes in gun rights,  argues that Republican support for the NRA will eventually lead to its demise because the majority of Americans would like to see more control over access to weapons of mass destruction.  Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen.  The fervor that the NRA has created among Republicans is much stronger than the concerns that most people have after one of the mass shootings.  Nothing is done after a mass shooting and those who are horrified by the shooting quickly forget about it.  The NRA and most Republicans do not forget. The only way to defeat the NRA is for Americans who mourn the mass shootings to be more active politically.  They must be more active in elections than the NRA.  It won't be easy.