My gloomy post-election forecast

This blog post is my thoughts on where America will be after this election and the general state of American culture, so please skip past it if you want a blue skies and sunny days ahead forecast for after November 3rd.

The rabid nature of the American culture war blares across our media every day via a spin information war, intended to drive and control public opinion in America. The American people remain the primary target of spin information war, as partisans and media try to prod us to overreact and become enraged (spin is ruthless agitation propaganda). If you consume a lot of political news, you’re constantly blasted in the face with spin attacks, but if you consume movies, TV shows, late night entertainment shows, crafting videos online and music, you can’t escape the partisan spin efforts. Even crafting channels on YouTube are filled with political ads right now. Just about everything in American life has taken on partisan political overtones.

We’re getting down to the last weeks before the 2020 election and the binary-thinkers on both sides believe that only their candidate in the Oval Office can “save America.” President Trump touts that only he can save America from the fa-left agenda that Biden will rubber-stamp. Former Vice President, Joe Biden, promises he’ll restore dignity to the Oval Office and a “return to normal.”

I believe the binary thinkers on both sides are completely off-base. Regardless who wins, the powerful people driving the spin war have no intention of ending this destructive spin war.

If Trump wins reelection and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, I expect an even more deranged media spin war/Resistance effort to destroy him and more Trump-driven chaos. If Biden wins and Republican maintain control of the Senate, I expect many more Congressional investigations and endless clashes and crazy media spin drama.

And the worst possible outcome for the country will be if Biden wins and Democrats control both the House and Senate, where they hold all of the power to ram through their progressive agenda. I feel this outcome will escalate and deepen the cultural/political divides and could lead to a rapid increase in civil unrest (especially if Dems use COVID as cover to impose more restrictions on civil liberties, under the pretext of “trusting the science.”) I worry that a large segment of the country feeling completely powerless and disenfranchised could escalate tensions dramatically.

This spin information war waged across every media avenue in America leads to only one outcome – a totally dysfunctional country, where the raging factions lose all sense of a shared set of civic values or national unity. The erosion of trust in our news media portends even more stormy political weather ahead for America, as news media create more chaos by being more dedicated to spin war attacks than to gathering facts first. We will become a failed republic, unless we find a way to end this scorched earth spin information war and find a way to reclaim some common ground.

I don’t want to leave this blog post on such a gloomy note, because all across America there are millions of good and decent citizens, who would rather be positive influencers and help in their communities, rather than tear our country apart. Finding ways to increase their numbers offers a path to a better direction for all of us. That centers on teaching people to calm down and talk first, before making rash judgments, rushing to anger or taking to the streets in rage. Too bad our leaders aren’t teaching people to respect other people’s right to disagree and hold differing opinions or modeling basic civic virtue in the public square..

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Filed under 2020 Election, Civility, Culture Wars, General Interest, Information War, Politics

Random thoughts

This blog post will just be a smattering of things that caught my attention and/or are on my mind. First up, The Wall Street Journal has a piece up, Coronavirus Hit the U.S. Long Before We Knew, by Rob Barry, Joel Eastwood, and Paul Overberg. which contains a lot of charts and maps with COVID information:

“The Wall Street Journal interviewed disease detectives and reviewed hundreds of pages of new research to piece together how the coronavirus infiltrated the wealthiest nation on earth. The latest genetic, epidemiological and computational research suggests it was spreading inside the country before anyone started looking.”

https://www.wsj.com/graphics/when-did-covid-hit-earliest-death/

I still suspect my son, husband and I had COVID-19 in January, but finding antibody testing is low on my list and knowing for sure that’s what made my husband so ill won’t change a thing. The more important aspect of knowing when COVID-19 hit the US is the lack of interest among most of the US media, among politicians and most assuredly among the nation’s “health officials.” Many of the top health officials seem to have spent more time trying to tamp down on even questioning their official story of the first US COVID-19 cases being in late February and they’ve tried to silence those who suggest an earlier COVID-19 arrival date

I noticed a writer on Twitter tweeted:

On to politics for a moment, with my post VP debate assessment – Pence did better, I think, but it wasn’t a knock-out win. Harris held her own and scored some points. The media got obsessed over the fly sitting on Pence’s head and his bloodshot eye more than the substance of the debate. Harris avoided answering the question on court-packing and Pence tiptoed around answering for Trump’s questionable Rose Garden COVID social distancing efforts.

Naturally, anti-Trump media rushed to get medical experts on to speculate Pence might have conjunctivitis and that conjunctivitis is sometimes a COVID symptom. Despite the mainstream media’s Trump Derangement Syndrome and valiant effort to be #Resist warriors, I thought Pence didn’t look well and his eye concerned me, in light of the number of Covid-positive cases in the White House right now.

If Pence gets COVID now, it will unleash a massive Dem and mainstream media negative spin offensive, that could aid Biden a great deal. And Biden would not be at fault; Trump’s reckless disregard for mask-wearing and staging large events with people seated close together would be at fault. Dems and the media would assuredly rehash all the Pence team complaints about not wanting plexiglass at the debate and the Trump campaign persisting with the large rallies, even as the WH has had 20+ cases of COVID in the past week or so.

Trump refuses to try any other strategy than his one-man show Twitter troll routine and his sideshow rally routine. He is his own worst enemy always.

Of course, the spin loons on the Left are also out of control with their #Resist efforts to destroy Trump, especially Nancy Pelosi, who is as vile as Trump when it comes to petty name-calling, bold-faced lying and addiction to her spin queen routine. The mainstream media fawns all over Pelosi, while aiding her spin attacks every step of the way. She drops vicious spin smear innuendo without any hesitation. Pelosi is set to discuss a commission to investigate the 25th Amendment, less than a month before a presidential election. If she thought Biden was a surefire winner, why on earth would Dems be floating removing Trump using the 25th Amendment?

That’s it on politics – I still am disgusted with the Trump vs Dems/mainstream media spin war and still can’t see how any of these people will “save America.” And frankly, if Americans are placing their trust in these shallow, dishonest, morally bankrupt politicians, we deserve our fate.

Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt blocks in progress.

I spent a lot of time writing on this blog about our destructive American spin information war, which can only be waged with massive media collusion advancing political spin messaging. I went on Twitter a few years ago “trolling” politicians, pundits and news journalists, attempting to disrupt spin attacks and perhaps some of my efforts had a tiny bit of impact, but I’m pretty much done trying to fight against spin war on Twitter.

The spin war has led the news media in America, across the board, to abandon any sort of journalistic standards or accountability, by placing political spin objectives as a higher calling than presenting accurate, factual, timely information in an objective manner. Spin requires corrupting words and choosing the most negative take when framing reporting on political enemies.

If you wonder why so many Americans buy into wild conspiracy theories, look no further than to America’s political class and the news media, with their dedication to waging 24/7 spin information war across all media venues in America. We’ve endured almost 4 years of “Trump the Russian agent” conspiracy spin crap spewed by Dems and “serious” journalists and then there are people like Trump, who will spread any rumor as fact (his infamous “someone told me”) or look to people like the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who will launch any vicious spin smear attack with a straight face. These people are way more dangerous than the nobody conspiracy theorists on social media. These people are supposed to be responsible reporters of news and political leaders in America.

My daily life is challenging – still doing full-time care giving for my husband, with the aid of wonderful hospice nurses, who check on him twice a week. I do wonder if COVID caused my husband’s acute respiratory failure in January, but he had serious medical problems for years. He’s still bed bound and requires complete care, but his vitals have been stable for months now and he eats good most of the time, but the dementia is worse and he has late stage COPD.

We take one day at a time here and I’ve decided to spend more time on learning new craft and needlework stuff rather than following the spin war sewer closely every day. Grandmother’s Flower Garden is my favorite quilt pattern. As a child I cut out plenty of hexagons for my great-grandmother’s quilts using this pattern.

The technique is called English paper piecing and I found a lot of helpful information on YouTube videos. I’ve learned a lot of things on YouTube… way more than I have ever learned following the spin war. My hexagon quilt blocks above aren’t perfect stitching and I’m working on improving my stitching, so that none of the stitching shows between the hexagons.

One positive development from this year’s challenges with the pandemic and political chaos, is it seems a lot of people have started looking to doing more things with their families and at home. Who would have ever thought it would be hard to find jigsaw puzzles, but the pandemic led to short supply of jigsaw puzzles for several months (it’s improving, because I bought a few recently).

Lots of Americans have been cooking and baking more, doing home repairs, taking up gardening, and learning about preparedness too. Americans all over the country went to work sewing face masks and offering to help in any way they could. All of these signs leave me hopeful that most Americans aren’t nearly as useless as our political class .

Why we still get so invested in supporting these thoroughly corrupt politicians remains a mystery to me… The presidential election pat answers for decades have been “this election is the most important election in American history” and “binary choices.” And nothing ever changes.

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Filed under 2020 Election, General Interest, Information War, Politics

A dose of prepping common sense

Just watched this YouTube video, by Prepper Potpourri, which I’ll call Prepping 101: Use Common Sense. This lady offers some great advice about not buying out of fear and making sure you take care of your normal bills and needs, before rushing out to purchase “prepper items or gear.” This video is only around 10 minutes long and really a departure from so much of the online prepper community, “Doomsady Is Near!” type videos.

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Filed under Emergency Preparedness, General Interest

The Clintons were in the news again

I’ve written so much about the Clintons’ corruption over the years, that I really didn’t want to rehash that, but once again the Clinton Foundation was mentioned in the New York Times the other day.  The mainstream media reports Trump’s lies daily and keep running tallies, but somehow they miss the Clintons notorious mendacity every time.

So here goes with the latest Clinton news:

The New York Times ran a story, In Politically Charged Inquiry, Durham Sought Details About Scrutiny of Clintons, which states that John Durham’s investigation is also looking into the handling of the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation:

“The Clinton Foundation investigation began about five years ago, under the Obama administration, and stalled in part because some former career law enforcement officials viewed the case as too weak to issue subpoenas. Ultimately, prosecutors in Arkansas secured a subpoena for the charity in early 2018. To date, the case has not resulted in criminal charges.”

During 2015 the news broke about Hillary having used a secret, private server in her home to handle her State Department email during her tenure as Secretary of State.  The big issue with that investigation was about Hillary using that unsecured server to send classified information, which she and several of her State Dept. staff absolutely did do.  Hillary gave her first statement on the server and lied through her teeth about that server and classified emails.  That initial statement was the Clinton machine setting up their spin talking points about the server.  Hillary lied about every aspect of that private server and the mainstream media bent over backwards to do damage control for Hillary.

Since, I’m a let’s start at the beginning type of person, let’s start with “Hillary’s private server.”  Hillary did not set up a private server in her home.  Bill Clinton had that private email server set up in the Clinton home in Chappaqua.   Around 2007, Bill Clinton had a private email server set up in his home to handle his Clinton Foundation business.  According to the FBI Notes released in the fall of 2016, Bill Clinton’s aide, Justin Cooper,  explained how he set up the server for Bill Clinton  and then in late Dec. 2008 – early January 2009, Huma Abedin coordinated to have Cooper work with Hillary’s campaign IT guy, Bryan Pagliano to upgrade that server.

Right after Barack Obama was elected and Hillary was selected to serve as Secretary of State, the Clintons decided to run Hillary’s State Dept, email on Bill Clinton’s private, unsecured Clinton Foundation server.  So, at that point it became the Bill and Hillary server.

Justin Cooper and Bryan Pagliano, both told the FBI that during that server upgrade there were only two email addresses transferred from the original server onto the upgraded server.  Cooper remembered it as Hillary Clinton’s email and BLANK (the FBI redacted that name).  Pagliano remembered it as Huma Abedin and BLANK.  Bottom line is that even if Hillary had Huma handling that email address on the server and Bill Clinton had a trusted aide working for the Clinton Foundation handling his email – that server was for the Clintons foundation email.

As a reminder, Bryan Pagliano was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to show up to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2016.

Abedin also saved thousands of Hillary’s State Dept. emails (some contained classified information) on the Weiner family laptop, which former FBI director, James Comey brushed under the carpet, after reopening the Clinton email investigation days before the 2016 election.  Comey quickly closed that investigation after assuring Congress those emails on the Weiner laptop were thoroughly investigated.

From the New York Times story about Durham looking into that 2016 FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation, there’s no concrete information  (more anonymous sources) on what Durham is really looking into, but I feel confident it won’t be looking into how much information from the Secretary of State’s official email traffic was shared to aid Clinton Foundation dealings.

Once again, the big Clinton cover-up with the email server wasn’t their concern about Hillary’s State Dept emails on that server – it was about the Clinton Foundation email traffic on that server.  David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson searched the server to separate Hillary’s official State Dept. emails from “personal emails”.”  The Clinton lawyers told the FBI they used keyword searches to locate State Dept email on the server, but refused to tell the FBI what keywords they used.  It seems highly likely their emails searches were more about cleaning up all the Clinton Foundation emails on that server, not about Hillary’s yoga schedule and wedding planning emails.

Huma Abedin, who arranged the server upgrade, right before Hillary became Sec. of State in 2009, told the FBI she didn’t know about the server until 2015, when it was reported in the news.  Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills also told the FBI that they didn’t know anything about the email server until it was reported in the news.

The Clintons spun so well that they managed to bury Bill Clinton’s central role in that private Clinton Foundation server, that he had set up in his home around 2007…  It’s amazing, but there you go.  That’s the truth about Hillary’s private email server  – it was Bill Clinton’s personal Clinton Foundation server.

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More about emergency preparedness

America’s political chaos keeps escalating and while the craziness hit new levels in 2020, the deepening polarization has been going on for decades.  Even a major national crisis, like 9/11 for instance, created only momentary national unity and then, in the blink of an eye, partisans were back to seething, raging and blaming each other.  This year, being a presidential election year, was bound to get very crazy as we got closer to November, but we’ve had COVID-19 hitting us, followed by massive nationwide protests and civil unrest.  The recent death of Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg just added another level of crazy to our political chaos and polarization.

If you’re waiting for the government, the experts, or “the science” to guide your most important life choices, you’ll be sadly disappointed, I believe. So, here’s another “becoming a prepper” blog post.

I’m late at mentioning this, but September is National Preparedness Month.  The Department of Homeland Security has a website to help you get started, but a lot of preppers on YouTube have put out videos with very good prepping advice too, so I’m going to share some of those.  The media keeps hyping that America is going to become even more chaotic this Fall, so rather than fixate on chaos we have no control over, we’ll all probably be better off if we invest our time and energy into preparing our own families and homes to weather whatever storms blow our way.

The main lesson 2020 should teach all of us is that learning and practicing basic preparedness should be an essential routine in our lives.  Before this pandemic I didn’t consider myself a “prepper,” although I’ve always had plenty of food, extra water, medical supplies, flashlights, extra batteries, and those sorts of things on hand.  However, I lacked any actual family preparedness plan or understanding about how long the supplies I have would last in an emergency situation.  Back in May, I decided to expand our food storage to a 3-6 month food supply and even this undertaking has been a learning process for me.

Although I always had extra food on-hand, I lacked any clear idea of how much food we really use in a month, because of all the little trips to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market store, which is very close to my house.  I did major grocery shopping, but didn’t really think much about all the little trips to the store.  Paying closer attention to the details matters, but be flexible and willing to adjust your prepping as you figure out what works for you.  Everyone needs water and some food, but what foods people deem “must haves” varies greatly.  I’m not buying any Spam, because I absolutely hate Spam and my husband’s stomach won’t handle Spam well either.

Many YouTube preparedness channels offer practical and useful information and yes, many offer impractical and useless information too, so if you weren’t a “prepper” you’ll quickly be bombarded by all sorts of unfamiliar prepper  terminology and lingo.  Once you figure out the prepper language, the next adjustment for me was getting used to being bombarded with a lot of apocalyptic fear mongering and advice (usually framed as “must haves”) or “prepper gear” to acquire, so sifting through all of that and considering your budget and where to spend money on prepping items can be confusing and way more complicated than I imagined possible.

Beware of being sucked down numerous “prepper” rabbit holes, because there are so many types of prepping, from basic food and water storage to preparing for natural disasters, preparing to live off the grid, to preparing for end-of-the world crises, like a civil war or nuclear disaster.  Figure out what basic prepping activity you want to focus on and stick to that to start.  Don’t start measuring your “preps” (supplies you acquire in your preparedness efforts) against what other people (especially diehard preppers online) have.  I’m a very basic prepper – food, water, thinking about cooking if the power goes out, and making sure I have extra supplies for my husband’s care and my own medical problems.  I am not wasting time preparing for a civil war or a nuclear disaster – I’m just not.

Here’s a video by Sensible Prepper to help you figure out what type of prepper you are:

The thing I like about YouTube is ordinary people put together videos and often they put together information in a clear and easy to understand way.  I came across this video on building a three-month food supply by a channel called Actively Family.  This guy goes through how his family put together their 3 month food supply and how they use and manage it:

Having some sort of emergency plan helps and although I’m big on comprehensive national strategic planning and have spent loads of time reading about big picture strategy for decades, I didn’t have any real family emergency plan that was well thought out.  Actually, the same rules apply – ends, ways, means and while no emergency plan can cover every possible emergency situation, having basic supplies on-hand and organized and going through the process of thinking about ways to prepare and cope with various emergency scenarios, has removed a lot of the anxiety about all the “OMG the sky is falling” hysteria that the media churns out everyday.  I mentioned this couple, The Provident Prepper, who have a YouTube channel and a website that covers a wide array of preparedness issues in another blog post, and they put out this video that explains how to put together a Family Emergency Plan:

When I encouraged my adult children to start stocking up on food, water, and making sure they keep their vehicles filled with gas weeks before the pandemic lockdown stuff started, none of them took my advice seriously.  Two of my kids told me I was overreacting, one kid told me he has prepared and has guns and plenty of ammo (home defense is an important aspect to prepping too,) and another kid told me my idea of stocking up was ridiculous.  By May, I decided to build up our food storage to a 3-6 month supply and that’s still a learning process for me.  I’ve read a lot of prepper information and watched many prepper videos, but what’s helped me the most is paying closer attention to how much of various food items we actually do use.

One drawback to stocking up larger amounts of food that isn’t mentioned much is that large stockpiles require time – time to organize, time to rotate, time to inventory, time to restock.  After working in retail for years, it’s ingrained in my brain to think in terms of avoiding “shrinkage,”

Having lots of overstock in a store is a recipe to create a lot of unnecessary shrink.  Shrink in home food storage seems like it could easily lead to wasted money from not properly storing food (spoilage), buying food no one in your home eats, buying quantities of food that will spoil before you can use it and not organizing your food storage, so that foods disappear into the nether reaches of your freezer or cupboards, only to be rediscovered far into the future.  Another thing to think about is large stores of food attract pests, both the creepy crawler bug kind and the scurrying, larger kind.  Thinking about pest prevention and control has to become part of your food storage planning.

All four of my adult kids think having a 3-6 month food supply is extreme (and nuts,) so I find my views on preparedness somewhere between the committed preppers in the prepper community and my kids, who think a 3 month food supply is totally unnecessary in America.  When I discussed my food prepper idea with two of my sisters, they had the exact opposite reaction as my kids and told me that they’ve been building up their food storage too.  Just accept that people near and dear to you will likely view preparedness differently than you do.  I’ve kept my kids in mind with my prepping, by buying some extra to share in an emergency.

As I’ve gone along with building up my food storage, I’ve learned a few things.  The first thing I learned (by failing to do this, obviously) is that before you embark on building a “prepper” pantry, do an inventory of your pantry and organize the food you already have on hand.  Don’t rush out and buy a lot of extra food without preparing a place to store it in your home.  It makes no sense to rush through grocery stores, dollar stores and Costco or Sams club stores, just piling stuff into shopping carts.  Take a deep breath, take stock of what you already have, then make some lists.  Prioritize based on what you can afford and then buy extra supplies you’ve already planned where to store in your home.  Deciding to build up your food storage isn’t a one time large haul shopping trip and you’re done effort; it’s a commitment to a new routine in how you manage your food pantry in your home. Prepping takes time and it takes making plans, as you learn what works for you and your family.

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Interesting take on the Kenosha killings

One of the most frustrating parts of trying to piece together facts in news stories, that end up being more fuel for the raging spin war, isn’t a lack of media reporting; it’s that the deluge of reporting ends up panning out as more propaganda pushing a political agenda than actual carefully verified information.  The mainstream media push spin narratives that advance the  Left’s political objectives, while Trump-friendly and conservative media outlets push the Right’s political objectives.  Usually each side leaps to conclusions quickly and clings to those rushed talking points, ignoring or dismissing new information that does work to advance their original narrative. This is how the false Mike Brown, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” framing still is widely believed by many on the Left and it’s how the equally false Obama birther narrative is still widely believed by many on the Right.

And that brings us to not only the events concerning the police officer shooting Jacob Blake situation in Kenosha, WI, how the media reported that event, the resulting protesting, violent rioting and looting, and finally to the armed teen, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two men.  There are so many threads to the Kyle Rittenhouse situation and while the partisans in politics, political punditry circles and the news media pick and choose facts and spin narratives to bolster political positions, here’s a piece that puts forth the most comprehensive sequence of events and information I’ve seen. Guy Benson retweeted this piece.  I don’t know anything about this site or author, but I recommend reading this and thinking about the multiple systems failures he lays out:

Anatomy of a Catastrophe

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A year worse than 2020

It’s understandable to feel 2020 is the worst year ever, with a global pandemic, an economic upheaval due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts imposed by government, and our partisan insane, hysterical spin information war blared across American media every day.  I’ve felt that way myself at times this year, but then I came across the above video.  This video mentions research by Harvard medieval historian, Michael McCormick.  I found this 2018 article on McCormick’s research:

“Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.”

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/why-536-was-worst-year-be-alive

Granted, we’re in August and have a ways to go in 2020, but still 536 AD sure seems like it was way worse than 2020.  It’s interesting that such catastrophic events in 536 AD were largely forgotten in history and the major events weren’t pieced together for centuries.

If you’re interested in the Fall of Rome, here’s a link to a series of podcasts by Patrick Wyman (hat tip to JK, who provided a link to a blog post, which had a link to this podcast series): https://soundcloud.com/fallofromepodcast

Clicking around a lot is how I landed on this Worst Year In History YouTube video too.

 

 

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China’s AI quest fueled by global data acquisition

The Atlantic has a must read piece, The Panopticon Is Already Here, by Ross Andersen about his trip to China’s Institute of Automation last year, where he met with a top Chinese computer scientist, Xi Zeng, who is involved in developing China’s AI capability.  Andersen explains the Chinese government’s aggressive data-accumulation efforts:

“China uses “predatory lending to sell telecommunications equipment at a significant discount to developing countries, which then puts China in a position to control those networks and their data,” Michael Kratsios, America’s CTO, told me. When countries need to refinance the terms of their loans, China can make network access part of the deal, in the same way that its military secures base rights at foreign ports it finances. “If you give [China] unfettered access to data networks around the world, that could be a serious problem,” Kratsios said.

In 2018, CloudWalk Technology, a Guangzhou-based start-up spun out of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, inked a deal with the Zimbabwean government to set up a surveillance network. Its terms require Harare to send images of its inhabitants—a rich data set, given that Zimbabwe has absorbed migration flows from all across sub-Saharan Africa—back to CloudWalk’s Chinese offices, allowing the company to fine-tune its software’s ability to recognize dark-skinned faces, which have previously proved tricky for its algorithms.

Having set up beachheads in Asia, Europe, and Africa, China’s AI companies are now pushing into Latin America, a region the Chinese government describes as a “core economic interest.” China financed Ecuador’s $240 million purchase of a surveillance-camera system. Bolivia, too, has bought surveillance equipment with help from a loan from Beijing. Venezuela recently debuted a new national ID-card system that logs citizens’ political affiliations in a database built by ZTE. In a grim irony, for years Chinese companies hawked many of these surveillance products at a security expo in Xinjiang, the home province of the Uighurs.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/china-ai-surveillance/614197/?fbclid=IwAR2ZMmvgRY5CYSUlHafb83HmIuWwkbdooEvX_wKZ_CWcg4ln3v22N_isLWk

There’s a surreal aspect to China’s growing surveillance state, as with so much of the AI development that eludes me, but this 2015 article, What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?, written by Thomas McMullan, explains a panopticon this way:

“As a work of architecture, the panopticon allows a watchman to observe occupants without the occupants knowing whether or not they are being watched. As a metaphor, the panopticon was commandeered in the latter half of the 20th century as a way to trace the surveillance tendencies of disciplinarian societies. Is it still a useful way to think about surveillance in an age of NSA and GCHQ?

The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon is this: there is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman. In the cells are prisoners – or workers, or children, depending on the use of the building. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. The people in the cells, however, aren’t able to see the watchman, and therefore have to assume that they are always under observation.”

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/23/panopticon-digital-surveillance-jeremy-bentham

McMullan wrote about Bentham’s idea from the 1780s:

“Bentham never saw a panopticon built during his lifetime. A number of prisons have since incorporated panopticon elements into their design but it wasn’t until the 1920s that the closest thing to a panopticon prison was built – the Presidio Modelo complex in Cuba, infamous for corruption and cruelty, now abandoned.””

The Chinese have embraced the panopticon concept by trying to build a surveillance state that can track a billion citizens’ movements, interactions, daily habits, and even control their behavior through digital monitoring, intervention and “reeducation”efforts.

Many Americans, myself included, have a naive and unsophisticated understanding of digital activities and assuredly AI, which seems like something out of a science fiction novel, rather than a reality.  As I was reading the Andersen piece, I had to stop several times to try and absorb the information and make sense of it, as all of these massive surveillance state ideas run diametrically opposed to my views on personal liberty and personal privacy.

Very scary times ahead with AI seem to be much closer than most of us realize.

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Another “What if” pondering

In my “what if” pondering in the past week or so, it seems very odd that Susan Rice, former President Obama’s scandal-prone national security advisor, should emerge as a top-tier Biden pick as his running mate.  The Biden delays in announcing a running mate and the top names (Karen Bass, Kamala Harris, Susan Rice) may fit the BLM moment, but they don’t fit the real power player battles within the Democratic Party.  Last night, Twitter was abuzz that Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, had visited Biden for a VP meeting too.  What if there’s an Obama camp power struggle and a Clinton camp power struggle going on behind the scenes.  It just seems inconceivable that Hillary Clinton, who has spent her life believing her destiny, is to become the first female POTUS and who has spent the past almost four years refusing to accept that she lost the 2016 election to Trump, would just sit back and gracefully accept Susan Rice lunging to the top of the Biden VP stakes.  There’s no love lost between Rice and Hillary Clinton.  Rice wrote in her 2019 memoir:

“Days after the tragedy, Rice was asked to do a round of Sunday TV interviews addressing the incident because Clinton was unavailable.

In her book she writes that her mother Lois Dickson Rice advised her to refuse, saying: ‘Why do you have to go on the shows? Where is Hillary?’

Rice told her mother that Clinton was ‘wiped out after a brutal week’ and that the Obama White House asked her to step up in the place.

‘I smell a rat. This is not a good idea. Can’t you get out of it?’ her mother said.

Rice told her: ‘Mom, don’t be ridiculous. I’ve done the shows. It will be fine.’

It was far from it and Rice committed what would become the defining error of her career.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7550115/Susan-Rice-says-mom-smelled-rat-went-TV-Hillary-Clinton-Benghazi.html

Bill Clinton continually pressured President Obama and other Obama officials (see Loretta Lynch tarmac meeting) in 2016, trying to force Obama to end the FBI Clinton email investigation and I’ve been wondering if the the Clintons want Hillary to be in position to finally step into the presidency, as Biden becomes unable to handle the duties.  In light of Biden’s obvious cognitive decline, that Hillary would sit back and meekly accept Susan Rice as Biden’s running mate just seems so completely unfathomable, after decades of watching Hillary fight and claw her way to attain power.  Would Hillary not try to push herself into that favorable “one-step-away-from-the presidency” position or would she gracefully cheer on some other woman (especially Susan Rice) stepping into that position.

While, it certainly seems Susan Rice is the Biden top choice, whom Obama would gladly embrace, the dark horse no one mentions at all is Hillary Clinton.

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Filed under 2020 Election, General Interest, Politics

Find good fortunes in uncertain times

Yesterday’s GDP news was dismal:

“U.S. GDP: The BEA released its initial report on GDP for the second quarter, revealing the largest quarterly drop since 1958. Down 32.9%, it was slightly less than the estimated 34.7% decline, but still severe. Consumption, which is a major component of GDP, fell 34.6% with goods falling 11% and services – the largest part of the economy, falling 43%. The second quarter was the first ‘full’ calendar quarter to be affected by Covid-19.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2020/07/30/gdp-hits-record-low-unemployment-claims-rise-treasury-yields-move-lower/#3cd9a2fd7019

All of the experts and politicians will be arguing for decades about the wisdom of  COVID19 lockdowns, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that America has entered uncharted economic territory and frankly many politicians, entrusted with making decisions that impact the fortunes of all of us, have proven feckless, incompetent, and in too many cases disturbingly corrupt.

No matter if you view 2020 as a Year of Compounding Misfortunes or “Oh well, pandemics and economic catastrophes happen,” for most of us we’re left feeling powerless and immobilized if we sit around expecting the government to fix things or provide a safe landing for us.

The other night my son picked up Chinese takeout for my husband and me. I always eat the fortune cookies later.  Two out of the three “fortunes” I kept to glue onto bookmarks or use in my junk journal making.  Both fit with a belief in learning self-reliance that my parents drilled into my brothers, sisters and me and it’s something I believe matters most in determining which people fare best, not only in a crisis, but it determines which people will set out to tackle problems and which will sit passively by and let the crisis tackle them.

Fortune cookie #1: “Apply yourself to the basics and progress will follow.”

With the crises piling one upon another this year,  I believe the people who will fare best are those who recognize we’re probably in for more major crises in the near future and if they haven’t prepared yet, they step it up now.  It’s fine to be worried and it’s fine to feel some anxiety, but the most important survival tool each one of us can acquire doesn’t cost a cent.

The must have survival tool is to develop and hone a positive, proactive, can-do attitude.  You don’t need to go out and buy all the gizmos and gadgets on the “Top 10 Survival Things You Need” lists that fill prepper and survival social media sites.  However, you should start assessing your finances and your basic needs, if you haven’t already done that and it’s prudent to start calmly, carefully and thoughtfully stocking up on some of the basics, while staying within your means.  If you can afford to buy a lot of extra canned goods and basics, that’s great, but even if you live on a very tight budget, try to spring for an extra staple item or two each time you buy groceries.

Being practical matters, especially if you live on a tight budget.  For instance, many of the serious preppers devote time to building up a food supply that can last for several months to a year and also long-term food storage with foods packaged to last 25-30 years.  Using common sense, focus on your short-term food supply now and buy foods that you and your family eat and that you can properly store in your home.

It makes no sense to buy a lot of foods that need to be refrigerated and frozen, if you don’t have a large enough refrigerator or freezer to store it.  It also makes no sense to go online and buy expensive dehydrated and freeze-dried food in large #10 cans, that will last for 25-30 years, if you don’t have your basic everyday foods stored up to last for the immediate future.

I thought I knew a lot about food preservation, but after doing a good bit of research online, I keep learning more dos and don’ts and also coming across great tips and solutions.  When it comes to food storage containers, sure it’s wonderful if you can afford to buy expensive airtight storage containers and all the high-tech stuff like mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, but honestly if that’s not in your budget, try using containers you already have or cheap ones you can afford.  Even empty food containers, especially glass jars with screw on lids work great, if washed and dried thoroughly before using for food storage.  The best tip is whenever possible, use what you have and look for creative ways to store food.

You can even use bay leaves to repel pests in flour, rice, dried beans, etc.  And here’s a hint, often you can find packs of bay leaves in the Hispanic food section in grocery stores, that are much cheaper than the bay leaves in the spice section.

Fortune cookie #2: “Allow your mind to absorb new knowledge.”

As important as stocking up on basics is, all of us should work on acquiring more basic skills before the next crisis hits.  Make it a point to learn to do as many tasks for yourself as possible.   It makes no sense to buy large quantities of dried beans if your family doesn’t like beans or you don’t know how to prepare dried beans.  Stockpiling 50 lbs. of dried pinto and black beans won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you have the skills and know-how to prepare them and incorporate them into meals your family will eat.

Make it a point to learn new skills.  For instance if you don’t know how to cook anything, start learning how to prepare a few simple meals.  If you don’t know how to do basic car maintenance, like changing the oil or changing a tire, take the time to learn how.  Same goes for things like learning how to thread a needle and sew on a button or sew a simple straight stitch.  Everyone should have a small sewing kit with some needles, thread and a pair of scissors.

Many years ago, I came across a bit of home decorating advice that applies to emergency preparedness too.  Shop your own house for items to use in your projects.  Most people can’t afford to go out and purchase a lot of special “prepper gear” or all of the items you will find on the crisis lists cropping up everywhere.

And here’s the most important Libertybelle preparedness tip:  Start thinking about the people around you realistically and with clear-eyed focus on their character.  This goes for family, neighbors, friends, acquaintances in your community and start seriously assessing which ones you think will likely just run around in panic mode, latching onto every dire rumor and conspiracy theory that circulates and which ones will be leeches borrowing everything from you (often these two personalities reside in one person, sad to say).  Then start thinking about who you think will likely be problem-solvers in a crisis and which ones will be helpers (here again, often these two traits reside in the same person).  Hopefully, you aren’t the former and if you are, you’ll need to strive hard to become the later.  Character matters most in a crisis.

Think about your support network right around you, because frankly, no one in the federal government is going to come and save you in a prolonged national crisis.  It’s doubtful anyone among your state officials are going to be a place to turn for immediate help either.  And your local officials will be inundated dealing with all the other mess from people who aren’t equipped to deal with a serious crisis and from people who will use a crisis as cover to perpetrate criminal activity.

Instead of running around acting like the sky is falling, it’s best to think about potential crises that might happen, but think about them with a positive, problem-solving attitude.  Set your priorities on what you can do and stick to these – no matter what.  Think about what things you might be able to do to keep you and your family safe, fed, clothed, with a roof over your head and as healthy as possible.  Once you begin to think about those scary “worst case” scenarios and focus on the things you might be able to do, it takes away the fear and panic.  No excuses, learn to be as self-reliant as possible.

In 2012 I started this blog and one of the early blog posts, Gimme A Knife, written by a friend, Gladius Maximus, focused on this very topic of self-reliance:

“It came to me that our inability as Americans to survive in meager circumstances, or put another way, our dependence on technology, gadgets and the government, is evidence of the decay of character in our society. By that, I mean, our inability to be independent, innovative and willing to put up with hardship reflects how truly weak we have become. Our lack of perseverance in the face of adversity is evidence of our impotence. Unless we are surrounded by what many in the world would consider sumptuousness, we don’t believe we can make it.

If we don’t get our water out of a tap from a government approved water system, where will we get it? If we don’t get our protein from the local mega-store, sliced, diced, shrink-wrapped and priced, how do we get it and process it? If the burners on the range don’t work, or if we at least can’t get charcoal for the grill, how do we cook it? Need vegetables? How do they grow? Where do we get seed? When our shoes wear out, what do we do? When it’s cold outside, how do we stay warm?

I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2012/12/22/gimme-a-knife-written-by-gladius-maximus/

Now if you want the original year in the Rockies kind of survival tale, also in 2012, I came across this fascinating piece, Looking Back at Lewis and Clark, by David M. Lenard, which mentions a half-Shawnee member of their expedition, Drouilliard, who was the go-to guy to send off into the wilderness alone to hunt for animals to bring back to the rest of the party.  Lenard writes:

“Lewis’s entry for August 3, 1805 begins this way: “We set out this morning very early on our return to the Forks. Having nothing to eat, I sent Drouilliard to the wood-lands to my left in order to kit a deer.”  The journals are filled with dozens of similar orders to several different men, although the half-Shawnee Drouilliard seems to have been Lewis and Clark’s most reliable and productive hunter, sometimes returning from such sojourns with hundreds of pounds of meat.  Still, from a 2012 perspective, Lewis’ laconic directive is truly astonishing.  Allow me to fill in the details that Lewis left out: he was ordering Drouilliard to leave the group and go off, by himself, in a dangerous wilderness, with no means of communication, and to not only survive, but to kill at least one edible animal, with only the weapons carried on his back, clean the beast, and bring the meat back to the main group, which of course he was expected to be able to find again, despite having wandered possibly many miles, in a wilderness with no artificial signs or landmarks.  It is remarkable that Lewis does not even mention the incredible risks faced by the men on these little excursions — they could be injured, or killed, in countless ways, or lost without hope of rescue.  This silence is not because he was unaware of the dangers; in fact, in many journal entries, Lewis fretted about the fate of party members who had become separated from the main group for one reason or another.  Rather, Lewis’s silence was because frontiersmen like Drouilliard faced such dangers almost every day of their lives; Lewis’s order was therefore nothing extraordinary to either man.”

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/09/looking_back_at_lewis_and_clark.html

When you think about the type of men on the Lewis and Clark expedition and compare them to the ‘brave” protesters/rioters in Portland and the silliness with their “shield-making” operation, you might be wondering what on earth happened to the American can-do spirit.  Here’s an entire thread on their “engineering prowess” (sarcasm intended):

We should all try to acquire just a fraction of the dauntless spirit, courage and most of all astounding self-reliance of people like Lewis and Clark, and most definitely Drouilliard.   Looking at that Portland  protester “shield-building operation,  Lenard’s piece on Lewis and Clark says it best:

“In our modern republic, where large segments of our population compete to be declared helpless victims so they can receive government handouts, one cannot help but think that little Jimmy might benefit from being sent out with Drouilliard: “Here’s a musket, son — now go kill that deer, and don’t miss, because if you do, there’s a strong possibility you might starve.”

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/09/looking_back_at_lewis_and_clark.html

 

 

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Filed under American Character, Emergency Preparedness, General Interest, Gladius Maximus