Some of these links almost ended up in a Weekend Update post, but I wound up going with some more upbeat news, instead. Let’s look at some news that broke after last week’s Friday Five that ought to be covered now rather than wait for Friday.
So, first, up, a drunk Fox news host!
Saturday night Judge Pirro’s show started a bit later than usual supposedly because of technical difficulties. Once things got going, well… Was a Disheveled Judge Jeanine Pirro Tipsy After Fox News Show Delayed for ‘Technical Difficulties’?. I’ve watched the video. Slurred speech, incoherence, at least one point you could see her putting the glass down… she was frikkin’ hammered.
Of course, she can’t admit the obvious that every single person watching saw, instead she screamed “haters!” on twitter all day Sunday: Jeanine Pirro responds to critics of appearance on Fox News show – Pro-Trump anchor appeared late and apparently disheveled on Saturday night, leading to social media speculation. I get it, she was broadcasting from home, had to do her own hair and make-up and didn’t have a teleprompter. But why does that cause her speech to be slurred, and his facial expression to have that classic drunk-off-her-ass look?
Meanwhile, let’s check in on the super hypocritical evangelical most famous for strange relationships with pool boys.
What’s he been up to lately? ‘He’s Going to Do Whatever He Wants’ – Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to reopen Liberty University’s campus amid the coronavirus pandemic has sparked anger and confusion—even among those usually sympathetic to him. That’s right, while other universities have switched to online classes and urged students to practice social distancing, Jerry insisted that students come back to campus! Don’t worry about the virus, he said! I’ve talked to several health experts and local government officials, and they are thanking me for insisting that all of you have to come back or forfeit tuition and room and board fees!
Except all of those experts and officials tell a very different story: Jerry Falwell, Jr. Lied About Who Supported His Decision to Re-open Liberty U.
Why is he doing this? You may remember in previous coverage of the pool boy scandals, that there is a lot of evidence Falwell, his wife, and kids have been using University resources to finance not just his lavish lifestyle but also a lot of questionable real estate deals. So, of course: Liberty University is resisting pressure from students to refund room and board costs during the coronavirus crisis.
All of which leads to the inevitable: Multiple Students Are Sick At Reopened Liberty Campus.
And never forget that Falwell Junior has never been a paragon of virtue:
Let’s move on…
The conspiracy-spouting scam artist
So what about the man who makes money spouting off conspiracy theories, including claiming that children killed in school mass shootings never existed, and how his “vitamin supplements” can cure literally anything: Google Store Finally Bans Infowars App Over Virus Lies – Apple kicked Alex Jones out of the App Store in 2018. The Google Play Store has finally followed suit.
The two uses of the word finally are definitely called for. But there’s more…
So there is a temporary hospital being built in Central Park in New York City. Sounds like a much needed facility, right? Well, there is one very big problem: Group Behind Central Park Coronavirus Tent Hospital Demands That Volunteers Support Anti-Gay Agenda. It’s Franklin Graham and the associated ministries behind this. And it is a very old trick of the bigots: pretend to do a charitable thing, but contrary to the teachings of the Jesus they claim to follow, they want to put conditions on the charity.
The entire point is to rub the message in the face of every faggot: “we hate you, you’re going to hell, and we think you deserve to die.” The only reason to add this kind of thing to the volunteer application is to get applauded for what they’re doing while most of the people doing the applauding don’t even look at the statement. It’s a chance to make clear they have the power to do this, the privilege to help those they deem worthy while spitting in the faces of their favorite enemies.
That’s enough news about deplorable people. Let’s close out with some sobering facts to remind us why we should be taking this pandemic seriously.
Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
So many stories popped up during the lunchtime read yesterday, that I was contemplating a different format of a Weekend Update this time, with a lot less commentary and just a bunch of links. Then I woke up this morning to a really big news story, which was related to a link that didn’t make it into this week’s Friday Five… so you’re going to get some commentary, oh some commentary!
For some context: 133 years ago, when Arthur Conan Doyle’s very first Sherlock Holmes story (A Study In Scarlet) was published, he introduced the world to both Sherlock and Dr. John Watson. Watson, we learn in the first scene, was a British Army medic serving in Afghanistan where he was wounded so severely he was mustered out and has returned to England to try to get his life back together. The British spent decades trying to tame Afghanistan during the 1800s, and never did.
It should have come as no surprise, I mean, 2350 years ago Alexander the Great was busy conquering the Persian Empire, and pursued one of his enemies into what is now Afghanistan which seemed to him an easy territory to conquer. At first. Later historians described the guerilla style insurgencies that kept coming up there to thwart Alexander’s plan as a many-headed hydra: whenever they struck one group down, two more arose to take its place. 1500 years later, Ghengis Khan’s grandson was killed in the Mongol’s failed attempt to conquer the territory. A century and a half later, the Mughal Empire technically conquered it, but never really had control, either.
There are at least a dozen more of those attempted invasions that mostly failed during the times before 1650 AD, and that is part of the issue with the territory. Because most of those failed invasions left a small population behind that would become yet another ethnic group with its own religion and culture (Most of the inhabitants of the Hazar Valley now are believed to be descended from the Mongol garrison left behind to keep a trade route open, for instance).
The British tried many times between 1845 and 1883 to turn the territory into a stable country that could be either part of the British Empire or at least an allied nation. The Russian Empire first tried to pacify part of what is now Afghanistan in 1885 and the Russians and the Brits basically treated Afghanistan as a football to score points against each other for the next 60-some years. Then starting in 1979 the Soviet Union tried again, eventually admitting defeat after ten years of costly war.
In other words, Afghanistan has been called the Graveyard of Empires for very good reasons.
On an older blog I ranted about all of these things when George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan in 2001. Yes, we needed to take action after the 9/11 attacks, but trying to turn Afghanistan into a stable country that would be our ally? That was (and still is) ludicrously unrealistic.
Now we have a little background to tackle today’s news:
Wonderful! Peace in Our Time (what could possibly go wrong?) So what is is in this agreement? There’s a pretty thorough break down here: What does the Taliban-US peace agreement say? – The long-awaited comprehensive peace agreement between the two sides is made of four parts.
Important points to consider:
- This agreement is between the U.S. and the Taliban (aka the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is not recognized by the United States as a state). The current Afghan government (such as it is) was not involved in the negotiations directly.
- Today we signed a separate agreement with them committing them to enter into a ceasefire and peace talks with the Taliban “and other involved Afghan parties” beginning on March 10.
- Also on March 10, we and the Afghans will release about 5000 Taliban prisoners of war (and the Taliban and their allies will release about 1000 prisoners of war they are holding).
- Over the course of the next 125 days the U.S. will pull about 3,400 troops from Afghanistan including closing down five bases.
- Over the course of the subsequent 9 months, assuming the ceasefire holds up, and assuming that the negotiations between all the “involved Afghan parties” are fruitful, the remaining 8600 U.S. troops (and however many coalition troops remain) will leave.
- The Taliban promises to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan will never again be used by groups to threaten the U.S. or its allies, and to help make Afghanistan a country where all people are equal and free.
Sounds good, right?
Well, except, that bit about if the ceasefire holds, all the groups come to an agreement. That’s another of the tricky bits: With Taliban Talks Soon to Start, Afghan Government Splits Apart – The Taliban gloat as Afghanistan’s chief executive refuses to accept the election outcome and vows to form his own “inclusive government”. The last couple of elections in Afghanistan have not gone smoothly. According to many within the country, the election in 2014 didn’t decided who the next President of Afghanistan was, but rather U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did. And the same people are claiming the same thing but this time it’s Trump’s appointed envoy who decided which side of the disputed race to back.
And a whole lot of people are having a very hard time, based on what the Taliban did when it took over the country in 1996, believing the promised to make Afghanistan a country where all people are equal and free. Back then, they made it illegal for girls and women to go to school. If women were found outside of their homes without a male relative as their escort and without wearing a burqua, they were subject to arrest and public flogging. Young women and girls of certain ethnic groups were abducted with government approval and sold into sex slavery. Then there were the targetting massacres of regions or some ethnic groups deemed as enemies of the Islamic state…
The truth is that if we stay there, we will continue to lose troops, and people within the country will be radicalized and become prime candidates for recruitment by terrorist groups. I completely understand that. And I understand that even if everyone plays nice until we exit, bad things will probably start happening all over again.
Trump needs to be able to claim he finally ended the war. You can bet that’s going to be one of the things he loudly congratulates himself on at his next rally and will continue to do so…
But you should also remember, that last summer he was proclaiming that an agreement to withdraw all troops was just around the corner. Then a car bomb killed a bunch of people, including one American serviceman, and Trump walked away from the agreement, and conveniently stopped talking about it…
So, no, I don’t really find anything to feel hopeful about in this mess at all.
The reasons I switched from the program I’ve been using for years isn’t important. The interesting bit was what I learned after setting up one specific account in the new reader. It’s an email account that is on a domain I own. The sole purpose of this account is to be the home account of one of my side Twitter accounts. I have an twitter account in the name of one of the fictional characters in my novel series. At the time I set it up I had vague plans to promote the books through it. Anyway, the mail services for that domain are outsourced, and for various reasons when I set up my new email reader to pull that account, the junk mail filters at the outsourced place are being ignored. So ever single bit of spam coming to that account gets downloaded to my laptop. This account has never been shared with anyone other than Twitter. The email account doesn’t appear on any contact anywhere, I don’t believe that I have ever sent an email message from it. But still, it gets hundreds of spam messages every day — and at most one legitimate piece of email, because once a day Twitter sends a message to the account with “hightlights” from the people that the twitter account follows, or to tell me someone replied to a tweet, or whatever, right?
So this account is just getting flooded with spam, and you would expect that most of said spam would be Nigerian-Prince-style scams, right? Nope. Don’t get me wrong–there are some messages about “Get in on this 10 Million Dollar deal!” or “Regarding your credit account” or “We tried to deliver your package” that try to get you to click on a link and enter your password for a service they can hijack or get you to confirm credit card information. And there are the ads for Viagra or quack remedies for various illnesses, yes. But that’s less than half. The other half are emails with subject lines: “Obama treason confirmed!” or “Birth Control Makes Women Violent” or “Planned Parenthood Still Selling Infant Organs” “You Won’t Believe What the Gay Agenda is Pushing Now” or “Hilary Crimes Finally Proven” or “You Won’t Believe this Obama Outrage!”
That’s right, a half year since Obama left office and the sexual-predator-in-chief was sworn in, there are bots out there cranking out anti-Obama and anti-Hilary propaganda, and mailing it to millions of people. And clearly, someone must be clicking on some of these mails.
I already knew about the literally millions of twitter-bot accounts that retweat Donald’s nonsense or hate speech and propaganda from alt-right news sites. I knew about the millions of twitter-bot accounts pretending to be Bernie Bros tweeting out slightly more dog-whistling hate speech and anti-Hilary disinformation. I’ve included in recent Friday Links posts some stories about the role of algorithms and those bots in skewing the way the people see and understand the news: The Threat From Artiﬁcial Intelligence May Already Be Here and Maybe the AI dystopia is already here.
I had thought I understood what was happening. But it took seeing thousands of these spam messages from several months worth of spam to one account to finally connect a couple of dots I hadn’t been thinking about it. The various alt-right faux news sites, plus Fox, the millions of twitter-bots, and so forth function like spam in more ways than one. One avenue of success similar to spam is that only a fraction of a percent of any message needs to be seen by the targertted person for it to hit. Most of them aren’t seen by any individual because some are caught in various filters such as junk folders. But as long as some get through, the person is still exposed to the misinformation.
But another aspect of spam’s effectiveness we don’t think about is this: the less tech-savvy someone is, the more likely they are to see the misinformation. And studies have shown that the more educated a person is, or the more knowledgeable they are in a variety of subjects, the more likely they are to be liberal. Conversely, the less knowledgeable, the more likely they are to be conservative. So there’s an asymmetrical distribution of the misinformation, with more of the people who see it being likely to view those ridiculous headlines and subject lines as confirmation of their current beliefs, rather than react with skepticism.
The other aspect is contagion. Certain types of malware and scams depend on people forwarding them on to other people. We all had that one relative who always, without fail, used to click on every single chain email and so forth forwarded to them by anyone they knew, and who in turn would forward it to all of their friends and family (no matter how many times we tried to explain to grandpa that he was forwarding viruses half the time, right?).
The person who sees the false headline and believes it may share the false news link to all their friends by posting it on Facebook or forwarding the message or whatever. And many of the people they know are sharing similar bits of misinformation, creating the impression that everyone they know agrees with their worldview and/or validates the misinformation.
It’s not just that they live in an information bubble, or that they inhabit an echo chamber, its that they are surrounded my scores of overlapping misinformation bubbles that invade and reinforce each other.
And the fourth area comes back to that bit I said about not being able to convince my one grandparent to stop forwarding the bad stuff. After awhile I just had to give up and quarantine all of his emails. Similarly, it’s not just that the misinformation drowns out the good information, but we’re socially conditioned not to argue with some of the vectors of misinformation. And because we get tired of having arguments with all those racist cousins, so we simply mute them or whatever. Then they assume that because we’ve stopped arguing, that we now agree with them.
I wish I had a solution to this. It would be so much easier if the enemy were an army of Cylons coming at us. Instead, twitter-bots and the like are turning our neighbors and relatives into the army that is trying to take away our rights, take away healthcare, and so much more.
But I really love this local news site’s take: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on Trumpcare Fail: “It Was Such a Sweet Moment To See”.
President Trump today blamed Democrats for
bungling internal party negotiations on a piece of legislation that they’ve been campaigning on for over seven yearsthe bill’s demise, to which Jayapal replied, “Hahahahahahah.”
They have a majority of both houses. They don’t need a single Democratic vote to pass anything. And we didn’t even get to the Senate and any attempt to filibuster, so there isn’t any way to put this on Democrats. Except that they will, and a certain number of their voters will believe it. Of course, they had a majority in both houses for most of Obama’s presidency, and they never managed to repeal Obamacare then, either. The ugly truth that they were keeping from themselves is that they only reason any of the votes to repeal passed in the house was because several factions within the Republican ranks knew it was a meaningless vote. Complete repeal wouldn’t pass in the Senate, and President Obama was ready to veto it if they did.Even pro-Republican news sites were reporting earlier in the week Only 17% of Americans support ‘Trumpcare’, yet just hours before the rescheduled vote, folks like Newt Gingrich were tweeting and bragging about how Obamacare was going down. I mention Newt because just 7 hours later, Newt had changed his tune to “Why would you even schedule a vote?”
One reason it failed is that, yes, thousands of constituents called their Republican congresspeople and urged them to vote no. But don’t forget that another reason it failed was because there exists a group in Congress who want the replacement to hurt even more poor people: TrumpCare Postponed: Too Horrible for Moderate Republicans, Not Horrible Enough for Freedom Caucus. Even when Donald tried to negotiate directly with this small group, they couldn’t get them. And each concession Donald and the Speaker of the House offered the Freedom Caucus drove more of the moderate Republicans into the no camp. Obamacare is seen favorably by 57% of voters, making it far more popular than the replacement, our so-called president, or congress itself. And the provisions that the Freedom Caucus want to remove enjoy a walloping 90% approval from voters (as mentioned in that article), which makes if really hard for me to see how, even if they got this thing through the House, how it would have passed in the Senate.
But that doesn’t mean we should relax!
If you go watch the video, you will see that I’ve actually made her argument slightly more coherently than she did.
Anyway, there are so, so many problems with that, and John Stewart on the Daily Show hit most of them in a far more funny and succinct way that I could. But there are some points John didn’t get to… Read More…