Words for Aretha

Aretha 70's

Aretha Franklin died today. I know everyone and their sister will want to write something to say how much she meant to them, so I do not want to be left out. I don’t like to admit to my actual age, especially since I think people will pay my writing no mind once they know it, but I am only 3 years younger than Aretha Franklin. First all it reminds me that I am at the end of my life. But what really strikes me is that we lived through the same decades and she sang songs that spoke to me all through those decades. She had talent she was born with and that she honed through practice and hard work and that talent carried her through a spectacular 50 year career.

She said she was not an avowed feminist, but she was beloved by women everywhere who realized that women are sisters at heart, sisters whose lives involve love and break ups and feeling empowered, feeling joyful, and feeling low down. She was an activist in the civil rights movement and we, who lived through those same decades, felt connected with Aretha through the social and political movements that have punctuated our days. My admiration for Aretha has accompanied me and her music has lifted me up; it has been belted out by me in the privacy of my home while I did my housecleaning; it has made me smile as she sang from my car radio while I did my errands or on long trips. I don’t want to miss her, because she has left a legacy for all of us that will continue to move us. I think it is more in line to celebrate a life well-lived. But my sympathies are with her family and friends who knew her well enough to miss the person, as well as the musician. From what I hear she was even greater in person.

This was the first album I owned by Aretha Franklin and it had so many great songs. You can look up the discography of all her albums on Discogs or ASCAP or All Music or even on Wikipedia.

Aretha Franklin 60's Discogs

In fact Discogs gets attribution for this album picture, although they most likely do not own it.

  1. Songs on this album:
  2. Respect
  3. Baby, I Love You
  4. I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)
  5. Chain of Fools
  6. Do Right Woman – Do Right Man
  7. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  8. Sweet, sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
  9. Ain’t No Way
  10. Think
  11. See Saw
  12. The House That Jack Built
  13.  I Say a Little Prayer
  14. The Weight
  15.  Eleanor Rigby
  16. Share Your Love with Me
  17. Call me

I also love many later songs like Pink Cadillac and Who’s Zoomin’ Who. My little eulogy to a much loved star of music and life must include a video.

 

https://youtu.be/d50aFTGZPIU

Can someone exist in this life and in the next life at the same time? If you love anyone who has died you know that it is possible. Thanks for the body of work you have left to comfort us in this life of joy and pain. And thanks for sharing your talents with us. We don’t always make that easy.

Discrediting Elections

russian-hacking-thelastamericanvagabond.com

What if discrediting elections in 2018 and beyond is a thing? What if the 2018 election is hacked? Clearly there is strong evidence that it could be.

What Does the US Congress Say

In March of 2018 Congress earmarked $380 million dollars to help insure election security. Since ‘money is speech’ these days committing dollars to this issue is a kind of confession that election interference is real. But Congress is not that committed to stopping cyber-influences on our elections. When members wanted another $250 million it was turned down.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-block-250-million-election-security-measure-1533144561

WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a Democratic effort to increase spending on election security measures, saying they wanted to see what states do with grants they have already been provided.

The amendment, which would have appropriated $250 million for grants to states through the federal Election Assistance Commission, garnered 50 in favor to 47 opposed, largely on party lines and shy of the 60 needed to pass. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in support of the amendment.

“A lot of the states want this kind of help to make sure their systems are not going to be hacked,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) “The Republicans are not standing in line to help them, which I think is a real testament to what they think about protecting our democracy.”

Sanctions placed on Russia recently also show that even a reluctant Congress gives some credence to the evidence that Russia is the foreign power that was responsible for the interference. Every intelligence agency and Senate committee, and there are many of them, has agreed that Russia has been interfering in our elections, perhaps since 2015.

Russian hacking 2016 Fox Spokane

 

What evidence exists

An article in The Atlantic tells us this:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/republicans-reticent-over-use-of-hacked-documents-in-midterms/559346/

Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 election—when Moscow hacked both Democrats and Republicans—has spurred fears of a recurrence in 2018. But although congressional Democrats are pledging not to use stolen or hacked materials in their campaigns this fall, their Republican counterparts have so far declined to match that commitment. That partisan split could leave the November elections open to malicious interference.

Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo added that officials had “seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle.” “We need to inform the American public that this is real,” Coats said, “and that we are not going to allow some Russian to tell us how we’re going to vote.”

The ways in which Russia has interfered have had varying degrees of success. Hacking into the headquarters of the Democrats netted lots of data which may have given the opposition information about how the Dems intended to run their campaign, therefore helping Republicans revise their own strategies to take best advantage of the data. We also know that some info from emails and memos was used to foment divisions between the Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign, by revealing that the party did play favorites. This angered many Democratic voters and may have affected votes.

Another thing we know is about Russian disinformation posted on social media sites like Facebook and others. Russia actually created fake people and bots who had access to all the amenities offered to real posters on these sites. These bots could act like actual people and post fake memes to rile the waters in an already rough election. They could slant their efforts to help one candidate more than another. They could start groups that regular Facebook users could sign into, and share their responses to the stimulus offered by Russian state hackers, and troll each other in all the usual ways that these things are done in groups not run by bots or hackers.

hackingstateelectionsystems CSO

We have evidence that Russians hacked into the elections of 39 states in one way or another. Usually they could not affect actual votes. But they could get access to voter rolls and they could remove names of legal voters from these voter rolls. How would you feel if you went to vote and someone told you that you were not registered, although you have always voted? Perhaps they would allow you to fill out a special registration form and vote, perhaps your state would not have such a policy. From what our intelligence people have learned, Russia has not actually removed people from voter rolls, although they could. While “visiting” they can leave a little back door on a state’s election data banks and sites so they can get back in whenever they wish.

CNN tells us some things about this:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/18/opinions/securing-our-next-election-against-hacking-leperruque-rosenzweig/index.html

“According to indictments released last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russian intelligence officers successfully breached voter registration databases during the 2016 election. This echoes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings in a preliminary report on Russian interference in the election, which stated that Russia was “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data” for a small number of states. The fact that a hostile foreign power had this capability is chilling, as voter registration databases may be our election system’s greatest vulnerability.

Last month’s California primary elections included a troubling incident at Los Angeles polls, where a printing error resulted in over 118,000 voters being left offregistration rolls. This mistake was enough to cause confusion and endanger individuals’ ability to cast a ballot — the actual number of people who simply opted not to vote when told they were not on the rolls is impossible to estimate. What if, on the eve of this November’s election, a state discovers that a cyberattack has removed millions of voters from its rolls?

A cyberattack on registration rolls has the potential to significantly damage the integrity of an election in two distinct ways. First, a targeted removal of a block of several thousand voters likely to support one candidate could effectively swing a close election. Second, a broad attack that purges an entire state’s registration database could endanger the ability of an election to functionally proceed. Both scenarios threaten to do permanent damage to the integrity of and trust in our electoral system.”

And then there is this piece of data, far from reassuring, found in this NYT’s article:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/07/16/us/elections/russian-interference-statements-comments.html

“The Russian assault on the U.S. election was “an attack from an unexpected direction against a previously unappreciated weakness,” said Hayden, who explores this theme in a new book “The Assault on Intelligence.” “It hit a seam between law enforcement and intelligence, between ‘sigint’ [electronic spying] and ‘humint’ [human spying], between state and federal agencies, between politics and policy.”

The government had no agency, no plan or strategy to counter such a threat, he said.

What Are the Implications

We have a President who loves to say that elections are “rigged”. He especially likes to say it if election results make him look like he is anything less than the most popular president ever.

He also seems to have nothing but admiration for Putin in Russia as we have heard him attest many times. He even tried to get Putin to come to Washington, DC for a visit in the fall, as if everyone didn’t remember what was coming up in the fall (the elections that Putin supposedly encouraged his people to meddle in).

Trump’s administration does not put up a fight when states limit voting by purging voter rolls, or requiring voter ID’s, or changing polling places or the number of days people can vote we are told in this NYT’s article from 8/13/2018:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/12/us/voting-rights-voter-id-suppression.html

The first time I remember an election seeming shady was the one for Bush-Gore where Florida had the ballots with all the “hanging chads”. That election ended up being decided by the Supreme Court, and, if I remember correctly, which I do, it was the GOP in the middle of that fiasco too.

Before that I used to believe that we had a pretty secure election process, however much it varied from place to place around America. Too bad they had to stop making those old voting machines with the levers. They seemed quite reliable. (Although perhaps there was tampering we never heard about.)

voting boots modern ABC News

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/us/politics/russia-2016-election-hackers.html

“The senators also sounded concerns on Tuesday about the shrinking number of voting-machine makers. The three largest vendors of voting equipment dominate the industry, and both the companies and their subcontractors that serve local election agencies are largely unregulated. That makes them and other vendors “an enticing target for malicious cyberactors,” the Intelligence Committee wrote.

A National Security Agency analysis leaked last June concluded that Russian military intelligence launched a cyberattack on at least one maker of electronic voting equipment during the 2016 campaign, and sent so-called spear-phishing emails days before the general election to 122 local government officials, apparently customers of the manufacturer. The emails concealed a computer script that, when clicked on, “very likely” downloaded a program from an external server that gave the intruders prolonged access to election computers or allowed them to search for valuable data.”

With a President who has no intention of going full out to protect our elections and a Congress that says they care but puts very little effort into a full-out program to combat people who are trying to make our elections seem unreliable (or to actually be unreliable) it is quite easy to imagine that there may be attempts on the part of Republicans and Trump to discredit some of the election results in 2018. And if there is no blue wave, Democrats may never know if the results are real or not. Messing with the stability of our elections is a slippery slope leading to uncertainty, anger, and possible chaos.

We only have three short months to prop up the credibility of the 2018 election and then we have to deal with these issues in the long term to have a valid 2020 election.

Vote2 Amped Up Racing Series

Please vote in spite of these reasons for paranoia. Physical turnout at the poles is a very real and countable thing. There is no reason to believe that Russians have a way to change our votes once they are recorded. We have to be assured that our very comprehensive (and sometimes quite invasive) security apparatus will find a way to stop Russia or any other nation from meddling in  America’s elections. And we have to refuse to give any foreign nation power over our feelings about exercising our right to vote, which has been one of the things that people around world have loved most about American democracy. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from exercising your right to vote.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: theamericanvagabond.com, Fox Spokane, CSO, ABC News, Amped Up Racing Series

 

 

Sinclair’s Long Game – Tribune Media Merger

sinclair tribune merger TheStreet

Sinclair Broadcasting, aka Sinclair Communications finds favor with Trump (our President who loves dictators) because Trump favors state media. He tells us almost every day that independent media providers are the “enemy of the people” when they are actually only trying to document the un-American tendencies in this administration by telling us what is really happening. Trump wants news sources to stroke his ego, to offer us hyperbole about the amazing performance of his unpopular policies. He wants a media that is unable to say anything about him that might be construed as negative. He is an enemy of the First Amendment.

Fox News already spews “state news” 24/7, but Trump’s little heart went pitter-pat when he found out that our local news is also becoming a propaganda arm of the Trump presidency. He thought that the FCC was in his pocket and would approve the merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media allowing Sinclair to gobble up more local markets. But the FCC did not stay with the program and recently offered a setback to the merger.

Sinclair and the FCC

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/07/trump-tweets-anger-at-fcc-after-pai-blocks-sinclairtribune-merger/

“President Donald Trump yesterday lashed out at the Federal Communications Commission over its vote to block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media Company.

‘So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,’ Trump tweeted.

A combination of Sinclair and Tribune ‘would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People,’ Trump wrote. Trump contrasted the Sinclair/Tribune denial with the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, which happened in 2011.

‘Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!’ Trump wrote.

The FCC voted unanimously to stop the Sinclair merger with Tribune Media. It would be nice for us if we could take a little victory lap and say “mischief managed,” but in a democracy decisions are rarely forever. We like to revisit things, especially in these days of policies divided along partisan lines. So you will notice that this article uses terms like this will “most likely” kill the merger. You would think a unanimous decision would represent an absolute end to this merger, but for some reason the outcome is not being celebrated as a done deal. We are told that only a court can make the decision stick. What will the court decide?

Why Should We Care

Sinclair, well over the limit in the number of news outlets considered acceptable according to FCC guidelines (laws), has offered to divest itself of a few large markets, one of them being Chicago. But, through leaking or the rumor mill, it became obvious that Sinclair was just setting up a new relationship with friendly companies where they would appear to be calving off a group of stations but the company buying the large market outlets would actually still allow Sinclair to have controlling input into broadcasting on those stations. When the FCC got wind of this they were not best pleased. Ajit Pai, current head of the FCC, who previously offered rulings favorable to Sinclair, has perhaps registered his pique through this FCC vote. But if Sinclair offers their divestiture deal again without the trickery  the FCC could, perhaps, reverse its vote on this matter. Or the court could ignore the decision.

Should Local News Become Fox Lite

Meanwhile Sinclair continues to send local stations “must run” segments with news from Washington (Trump) using its own commentators, not local news people. In some markets people still see controversial commenters like Sebastian Gorka, but in most markets the Sinclair staff people used in these “must run” tapes are relatively unknown. If you catch the names and do an internet search for them you will find that they are all employees of Sinclair. When people identify one pundit as a Sinclair employee, Sinclair uses another. It should be a positive that the commenters are not as obviously Trump supporters as they once were, but it just makes the slant so subtle that many listeners will not realize their knowledge of events is being shifted to the right. Our own local news people are now also Sinclair employees. There are strict penalties if they leave the company. After the debacle of the reading of Sinclair’s dishonest disclaimer and the subsequent exposure by the Deadspin video, Sinclair might have decided that a bit of discretion would allow greater scope to their propaganda campaign as long as it is targeted right into the villages and towns where we live.

Will There Be a Do-Over

“Let’s see if the unanimous decision of the FCC holds. If so there will be no merger between Sinclair Communications (Broadcasting) and Tribune Media and we the people will have won a small victory.

The FCC last week voted unanimously against approving the Sinclair/Tribune deal. Sinclair needed to divest some stations in order to stay under federal ownership limits, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the company’s proposal to divest certain stations ‘would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.’

The FCC didn’t block the merger outright, but it referred the deal to an administrative law judge. Mergers usually don’t survive that legal process.”

 

Do We Want to Escape from Freedom?

Escape from Freedom AbeBooks horz.

Erich Fromm, a social psychologist of some renown, researched and wrote his book, Escape from Freedom, in the years between WWI and WWII. He  was watching the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and he was shocked and puzzled by what he was seeing. He was seeing people who had just fought a consuming and destructive war being swept up in a fury of national fervor and ready to go to war again. The first war lasted four years and was seemingly triggered by the assassination of an Archduke, but was most likely caused by simmering resentments about national borders and national slights among powerful European nations. World War I changed the configuration of European and Middle Eastern states forever. People had difficulty adjusting loyalties to nations that held no history in their hearts. Many people were liberated from Empires that had governed their lives for decades or even centuries but they were not prepared for the political changes that resulted from the war.

https://voanews-vh.akamaihd.net/i/Pangeavideo/2014/08/1/16/16199b35-4022-4d10-b56c-3287414c6600,_mobile,,_hq,.mp4.csmil/master.m3u8

In his book, Fromm explores the conundrum that, although people long for freedom in the abstract, they often feel more secure under authoritarian rule by one person or one ruling party. When the leader is benign people tolerate authoritarianism well, but we know that power corrupts. Leaders find it difficult to remain benign. They get greedy and their people become more critical and must be squelched to justify the power of the leader. When people cannot speak freely, freedom is gone and rebellion grumbles in the villages, towns, and cities.

By the time Erich Fromm wrote his book, which was published in 1941, the same people who had lost so much in World War I were tuning in to the voice of a new, arousing, madman who offered the German people a restoration of national pride and the boundaries of the old Germanic Empire, shrunken by the Versailles Treaty and the end of World War I. (National boundaries and national pride cause most wars, both large and small.) Hitler was also tapping into the jealousy and hatred people felt towards “others”, non-Arians, and he was beginning his campaign that would eventually lead to the murder of 6 million Jewish people and the eviction of many more.

In the second Forward to his newest edition of Escape from Freedom, Fromm writes:

“After centuries of struggles, man succeeded in building an undreamed-of wealth of material goods; he built democratic societies in parts of the world, and recently was victorious in defending himself against new totalitarian schemes; yet as the analysis in Escape from Freedomattempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”

He cites three trends that may contribute to our fear of freedom. First he mentions the development of atomic energy and nuclear weapons. He says, “Yet only a relatively short time ago, during the Cuban crisis, hundreds of millions of human beings in America and in Europe for a few days did not know whether they and their children were ever to see another day…” This anxiety is still with us.

“Aside from the nuclear revolution, the cybernetic revolution has developed more rapidly than many could have foreseen twenty-five years ago. We are entering the second industrial revolution in which not only human physical energy – man’s hands and arms as it were – but also his brain and his nervous reactions are being replaced by machines.”

And third, he says, “Another danger has increased, rather than diminished: the population explosion.”

“The giant forces in society and the danger for man’s survival have increased in these twenty-five years, and hence man’s tendency to escape from freedom.”

quote-can-freedom-become-a-burden-too-heavy-for-man-to-bear-something-he-tries-to-escape-from-erich-fromm-65-24-07

He says, “[T]he drive for freedom inherent in human nature, while it can be corrupted and suppressed, tends to assert itself again and again.”

“[T]he development of man’s intellectual capacities has far out-stripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the twentieth century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself.”

So here we are, 73 years after World War II and after the man who almost succeeded in turning Europe into an empire ruled by the most dangerous dictator the modern world has seen so far. Yet we are once again seeing people vote for dictators to head their nation and then reelecting them again, even after they have proven to be suppressive. We see a Chinese dictator getting his people to make him President for life. We see Duterte more popular than when he became the leader in the Philippines. We see Erdogan reelected by a pretty big margin because he promises to keep Muslims from a Middle East in disarray out of Turkey. We see a significant group of Americans treating our President like the authoritarian leader of a cult of loyalty and backing his most undemocratic policies with a mysterious fervor.

(Perhaps there is a democratic – authoritarian cycle just like there is an economic boom – bust cycle. Maybe the universe of human governance is simply ruled by physics and perhaps sine waves rule. In America we produced a straight-line of democratic rule for almost 250 years. I was hoping that we could defy the physics of governance (if there is such a thing) and extend that out for at least another 250 years. We could bust the hegemony of the sine wave or make those sine waves intervals so long that the line became, for all  practical purposes, essentially straight.)

So a book that seemed passé might offer insight into current events. What social psychological research backs up Fromm’s claims? His premises strike a chord with us, and this very inexpensive book may provide us with some answers that will have relevance here at our current moment when we are experiencing our own “fear of freedom”, here at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Is what we are experiencing a case of the fear of freedom that prompts humans to give up freedom whenever they win it, or can we save our democracy/republic and harness intellect and rational thought to keep hard-won freedoms and make them so attractive that other nations want to join in. Can we stop America’s descent into authoritarianism or even nouveau serfdom and take the planet into a positive new world order that is humane and believes in the future rather than the apocalypse?

I realize it is boring to say these things over and over, I realize it is repetitive, but until #hope and #freedom and #equality are, once again, subjects that are understood and embraced, rather than contested ground, we, who think humans can be free, will keep bombarding the universe with this message. #Make it So.

On May 6, 2010, I wrote “Let Freedom Ring”, also about this book, Escape from Freedomhttps://www.thearmchairobserver.com/let-freedom-ring/

 

Conspiracy Theories and Elections

 

end of world Latestly.com

The drumbeat of conspiracy theories picks up whenever America gets close to an election. I have said this before, but I really want to call attention to this tendency. I want to know if it has repercussions in terms of who gets elected. How much do these “myths” and the hype around them influence votes?

In 2016 Conspiracy Theories were used to help demonize Hillary Clinton.

 

Hillary demonized

snowflakes-demons-and-democrats

Now an anonymous internet figure called by the quirkiest letter in our alphabet, Q, is appearing all over the internet and at Trump rallies. It does not supplant the old conspiracies which claim the 13 families and Democrats including the Clintons are all pedophiles, child traffickers, and even have demonic ceremonies sacrificing babies (which, I guess, is one step further than kidnapping children and putting them in cages with only a metallic space blanket to comfort them). Rather it suggests that Trump is the chosen one to rescue the world from these sickos. (Yikes!) Trump, according to this view, is actually one of those superheroes who presents a face to the real world that belies his role as a rescuer. Good disguise!

In 2018 Conspiracy Theories are being used to demonize all Democrats and to lionize Trump

Democrats demonized you tube

Trump as superhero funnyjunk.com

I don’t know about you, but for me this is a bit of a reach (this is an understatement) . I do not see the resemblance between Trump and any heroes, from comics or real life.

But I am curious about how well these Conspiracy Theories work as propaganda. Clearly they attract followers. Does this translate into votes for one group; against another; or both? A study of this effect would be very interesting.

Also see: https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/the-big-conspiracy-theory-that-explains-everything/

Photo credits: latently.com, You Tube, capitolhilloutsider.com, You Tube, You Tube