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Is a Russian Troll Farm Destroying US Democracy?

by Oui Sat Feb 17th, 2018 at 07:30:03 AM EST

Craziness! A Russian troll farm destroying American democracy? The Americans have been doing an excellent job themselves over the last few decades. The crumbling Empire of Pax Americana. Navel staring by US bloggers has led to stalemate and depression. America has so much to give, it's Washington DC that's not functioning as it should in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Meet Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Oligarch Indicted in U.S. Election Interference | NY Times |

Putting blame on outside forces will bring another great war so much closer. Thinking of the Doomsday Clock!

American democracy is doomed | Vox - Oct. 8, 2015 |

But voiced in another register, my outlandish thesis is actually the conventional wisdom in the United States. Back when George W. Bush was president and I [Matthew Iglesias] was working at a liberal magazine, there was a very serious discussion in an editorial meeting about the fact that the United States was now exhibiting 11 of the 13 telltale signs of a fascist dictatorship.

More below the fold ...

The idea that Bush was shredding the Constitution and trampling on congressional prerogatives was commonplace. When Obama took office, the partisan valence of the complaints shifted, but their basic tenor didn't. Conservative pundits -- not the craziest, zaniest ones on talk radio, but the most serious and well-regarded -- compare Obama's immigration moves to the actions of a Latin-American military dictator.

In the center, of course, it's an article of faith that when right and left talk like this they're simply both wrong. These are nothing but the overheated squeals of partisans and ideologues.

At the same time, when the center isn't complaining about the excessively vociferous complaints of the out-party of the day, it tends to be in full-blown panic about the state of American politics. And yet despite the popularity of alarmist rhetoric, few people act like they're actually alarmed. Accusations that Barack Obama or John Boehner or any other individual politician is failing as a leader are flung, and then abandoned when the next issue arises. In practice, the feeling seems to be that salvation is just one election away. Hillary Clinton even told Kara Swisherthat her agenda as a presidential candidate would be to end partisan gridlock [NY Times].

George Bush becoming more popular in time
12 Days That Stunned a Nation: How Hillary Clinton Lost | NBC News - Aug. 23, 2017 |

Munich Security Conference: America's Trump is putting Europe on the defensive ...

EU's new defense union must not undermine NATO, warns Stoltenberg | DW |

The US fears the EU could undermine NATO if it uses its military cooperation pact to protect the bloc's defense industry. NATO's chief warns there is "no way" the EU's armed forces pact could replace the alliance.

On the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg cautioned EU partners not to weaken the alliance with their new armed forces pact.

It wouldn't make any sense for "NATO and the EU to start to compete," adding that there was "no way" the agreement, known as PESCO, could replace the transatlantic alliance in guaranteeing Europe's safety.  

Europe-US Divisions on Stage at Munich Security Conference | Military Daily |

Germany's defense minister opened a major security conference here Friday by urging Europeans to rally together and become more independent of the United States.

"We want to remain trans-Atlantic, but we also want to be more European," Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said inside a Munich convention hall filled with leaders such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

"We intend to work on an army of Europeans," von der Leyen said, apparently referring to a plan adopted by the European Union in December establishing a defense and security network including 25 of the bloc's 28 members. According to the EU, the nascent defense pact will provide for greater cooperation among member states through joint projects aimed at boosting the union's military capabilities.

Over three days, scores of military leaders, heads of state and diplomats are meeting at the annual Munich Security Conference. Mattis and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster are leading the U.S. delegation.

The gathering is happening at a time of widespread global tension: North Korea, Syria and a more aggressive Russia are matters under discussion.

"The world has moved closer, much too close, to a brink of major interstate war," said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference.

Yet unease over Europe's relationship with the U.S. was apparent at the start of talks.

Von der Leyen took subtle jabs at a shift in U.S. policy under President Donald Trump, who has emphasized U.S. military power in his approach to foreign affairs, but has blasted institutions such as the United Nations.

In Munich, Warnings Of Nuclear Confrontation, 'Major Interstate Conflict' | RFERL |

The dangers of nuclear proliferation and talk of a "dire" global security situation dominated the opening of a high-profile security conference featuring world leaders and other top officials.

The battered relations between Russia and the West, as well as the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, are also at the forefront of the annual Munich Security Conference that kicked off on February 16 and has drawn world leaders and top officials.

Addressing a conference hall in Munich packed with dignitaries, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risks emanating from North Korea's nuclear activities, which have ratcheted up tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

"For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we are now facing a nuclear threat, a threat of a nuclear conflict," Guterres told the gathering in the southern Bavarian city.

Netanyahu to Follow Putin in Munich Wake-Up Call to the West | Bloomberg |

A decade ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin chose the West's annual security conference in Munich to say "what I really think" about the U.S. Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use this week's event for a similarly blunt wake-up call about the threat of war with Iran.

"The prime minister will tell the world if you want to avoid a huge war in Israel -- stop Iran," said Yaakov Amidror, a retired general and former Israeli national security adviser.

Netanyahu has used other high-profile platforms -- including the U.S. Congress and United Nations General Assembly -- to highlight the existential threat he sees from Iran's alleged nuclear-weapons program. On Sunday, when he addresses the Munich Security Conference, he's expected to focus on Iran's conventional military entrenchment in Syria.

Israel feels increasingly abandoned as regional partners prioritize their often conflicting interests in Syria's seven-year civil war, now that a common enemy -- Islamic State -- is largely defeated. That has left Israeli leaders with an unpalatable choice: Tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence on their border, or risk going to war to prevent it.

US-Israeli Policy in the Middle East - Create chaos and in the end confront Iran .... first Iraq and then Syria!

Came across this headline, need an explainer on this one!

Saudi-Russian Agreements Result with Two Nuclear Reactors in 2018 | Asharq Al-Awsat |

Posted a new diary @BooMan today

The Intercept: GCHQ Intrusion into Belgacom, an Ally

Excellent topic for discussion ...

Does technology threaten democracy?

At the Munich Security Conference, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan shared the stage on Friday with tech leaders from Facebook, Google and Microsoft to debate the risks that have emerged from their innovations.

Annan, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for helping create "a more peaceful world," pointed to the "social media revolution" in Egypt. In 2011, protesters organized mass pro-democracy demonstrations on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that eventually toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

"But for lack of leadership the revolution failed," Annan said. "The military came back and took charge. Now they are doing things that Mubarak couldn't even think of."

'Create nihilism in the West'

Since Egypt's uprising, social media has become ubiquitous. The technology not only threatens repressive governments, but also Western democracies -- a fact laid bare by alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

"The people who are trying to influence political speech are doing so in a much longer term than supporting one political party or supporting one candidate. They're trying to create nihilism in the West around our institutions."

But solving these issues isn't easy. For Microsoft President Brad Smith, governments and companies need to acknowledge that different mediums need individual solutions.

 « click for more info
Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI and Robotics Researchers

AI: The next challenge?

While technologies capable of undermining democracy or threatening government stability dominated the discussion, panelists also touched on how artificial intelligence posed one of the greatest technological challenges.

For Superpowers, Artificial Intelligence Fuels New Global Arms Race
G W F and McCarthyism In A Digital Age - Part 2

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sat Feb 17th, 2018 at 08:45:57 AM EST
Artificial Intelligence does not exist.  

GOFAI is deader than a door nail.  Neural nets are incapable of operating in the Real World (see recent comments by Hinton and Le Cun.) Watson is "not ready for prime time."  Deep Learning is a joke.

Unless you're into False Positives.

In summary ...

`AI-powered' is tech's meaningless equivalent of `all natural'

"The term is complete bullshit," said the CEO of a major robotics company that shall remain nameless, but certainly employs in its robots what most would agree could be called AI. It's a marketing term used to create the perception of competence, because most people can't conceive of an incompetent AI. Evil, perhaps ("I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that"), but not incompetent.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Feb 20th, 2018 at 07:31:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Joseph McCarthy
Reexaming the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator

New York Times Book Review - 1999

Unlike America's Jewish immigrants, of whom more than three-quarters were skilled workers, the Irish came from an overwhelmingly rural background. In the nineteenth century they had had to take jobs at the very bottom of the economic ladder and became caught up in urban political machines such as New York's Tammany Hall. To high-minded Anglo-Saxon Protestant observers, Irish politics was synonymous with corruption. "A more improvident, heedless, and dishonest class of people never defiled the fair face of the earth." Antebellum New Orleans even made up a rhyme about the Irish:

        Ten thousand micks
        Swung their picks
        To dig the New Canal.
        But the choleray
        Was stronger'n they.
        An' twice it killed them all.

"What ought to be surprising about the American Irish," writes Andrew Greeley, "is not that they have not been quite as socially and financially successful as the Jews, but that they have been successful at all." They did it by embracing what John Courtney Murray called "the American proposition," the principles of religious and economic liberty, of science and technological progress, and of democracy and the separation of church and state. For Irish Catholics of McCarthy's generation, anticommunism became one more way of erasing an ancient stigma. Having been unjustly accused of serving one secret conspiracy against America, they would dedicate themselves to rooting out another.

That determination to succeed in a hostile environment was one of the bonds that drew together Joe McCarthy and another prominent Irish Catholic family in the fifties, the Kennedys. Robert Kennedy had joined McCarthy's staff in 1953 at the behest of his father, the senator's keen admirer. Like McCarthy, Joseph Kennedy was a former Roosevelt Democrat and a fervent anti-Communist. He often invited McCarthy to stop by for drinks at the Kennedy house at Palm Beach and to stay at the family compound at Hyannis Port. The senior Kennedy's view of politics, and of life, was much like McCarthy's: "It's not what you are that counts, but what people think you are." McCarthy became a minor figure in the Kennedy circle. To the ex-ambassador's delight, he dated two of the Kennedy daughters, Patricia and Eunice, who discovered "he had a certain raw wit and charm when he had not had too much to drink," as Eunice later put it. Joe also played shortstop in family softball games (he did so badly that the Kennedys eventually had to bench him).

Robert Kennedy served McCarthy loyally as assistant counsel for his Subcommittee on Investigations, until a personal quarrel with the chief counsel, Roy Cohn, forced him to quit. But he and Joe remained close, and Joe McCarthy stood as godfather for Bobby and Ethel's first child.

Irishman Joseph McCarthy in a close relationship to Roosevelt Democrat Joe Kennedy. The other side of the anti-Communist coin appears to be fascism. For Catholics the Communist Party represented Evil, state atheism and persecution of all religious persons. A hundred years ago, fascism and dictatorship became rooted in European nations with a Catholic majority: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Poland. With Hitler's Mein Kampf  and blaming the Jewish population for all economic woes, it was easy to implement concentration and death camps. The final solution.

Don't Mess with Roy Cohn - A Profile | Esquire |

Roy Cohn was once the most feared lawyer in New York City. A ruthless master of dirty tricks, he smeared the reputations of his political enemies, helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair, and had more than one Mafia don on speed dial. But his most enduring legacy is Donald Trump, whom he took under his wing in the 1970s. In Ken Auletta's 1978 Esquire profile, we meet the man who tutored the president in the dark arts of gossip, power, and politics.  

The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism (Sept. 2014 )

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sat Feb 17th, 2018 at 05:33:05 PM EST
I dunno about that. Jesse Helms damn sure didn't go soon enough.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Feb 18th, 2018 at 07:20:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate to sound glib but US democracy is far too busy destroying itself. Its own mythologies about capitalism and the saintliness of the Constitution are eating it alive.

If the russians push at the rotting structure and it topples, they are only termites finishing what has already been done.

When did it start? When did it all begin unravelling? You can look at all sorts of events since WWII and say, this wrong thing started here, or that wrong thing started there. But my guess is that it was when Reagan ended the Fairness doctrine for media. When the media's role as a gatekeeper for truth was compromised. At that point, you chose your "team" and you chose the media that supported it and everybody was allowed their own facts as well as their own opinions.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Feb 21st, 2018 at 10:09:25 PM EST
Look at the Powell Memo from August 1971 that Lewis Powell wrote for the US Chamber of Commerce two months before Nixon nominated him for the Supreme Court.  It maps out what they've done since except that, like the German industrialists and aristocrats in 1932, they were rather over-optimistic about their ability to control the mob.
by rifek on Fri Feb 23rd, 2018 at 02:08:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, yes. There have been a lot of moments like that tho'. It's very hard to point at  specific thing as there are far too many checkpoints on the way down

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Feb 25th, 2018 at 05:46:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It must be the Russians.  And Muslims.  And people from "shithole" countries who are still coming here because they haven't gotten the memo that the US is sliding rapidly down the shithole slope itself.  After all, we can't blame ourselves for the destruction of our republic.
by rifek on Fri Feb 23rd, 2018 at 02:02:58 AM EST
Analysts Are Quitting the State Department's "Troll Farm"

The chief technology officer at the U.S. State Department's anti-propaganda center left last week, along with two other members of its analytics team, Defense One has learned. The departures raise new questions about the Global Engagement Center, the two-year-old office that remains leaderless nine months into the Trump administration.

The Obama administration established the GEC in 2016 to counter ISIS' various online messaging efforts, directing the new office to use data and to work with international partners in a bid to undermine extremist propaganda more effectively than State's previous such unit, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. GEC's toolbox included various outreach efforts, including highly targeted ad buys on Facebook.

Last year, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act gave the GEC an additional mission: fighting "foreign propaganda and disinformation directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests." The Act, which became law in December, allowed the Global Engagement Center to ask the Pentagon for $40 million, bringing its total 2017 spending to about $80 million. About $60 million of that was to be used to counter Russian influence operations; about $19 million was aimed at ISIS.

In August, Politico reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "spurning" the $80 million in funding, much to the chagrin of lawmakers.

Countering Terrorist Narratives | EU Parliament Report |

State Department Troll Farm Receives Huge Cash Infusion

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Mon Feb 26th, 2018 at 09:15:16 PM EST

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