All posts by Marcy

About Marcy

Advocate of Constitutional guarantees to individual liberty.

Culture Wars Rage on Social Media

Scene from WC Movie

Pictured:  Scene from one of W.C. Fields’ immortal movies, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man.  Well, you can’t fool voters who don’t want to be fooled either.  But…, read on.

Twitter Calls it Quits on Political Ads

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, made news on October 30th when he Twitted,

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.

The ban, which will contain some exceptions, will take effect November 22. Guidelines will be published November 15, according to Jack Dorsey.

The Twitter Announcement is Big News

Banning political ads on any social media platform these days is not only big but huge.
Commercial TV viewing is not what it used to be. Cable networks do not need to abide by the same rules as do broadcast networks (requirements for equal time afforded to opposing views and prohibition of “censorship” do not apply to Cable political ads). A vast number of people obtain their “news” from social media platforms.

Advertisers, including political advertisers, are able to pitch their message to highly targeted audiences when advertising on social media. As everyone should know, targeted ads are the holy grail of all advertisers. A candidate for political office will search for targeted audiences as fiercely as will a seller of baby playpens.

These factors make social media platforms valuable assets in raising awareness for candidates, legislation, issues, and most importantly cultural trends.

The Cultural Initiative

In an earlier post on the Just Vote No Blog there was reference to Andrew Breitbart’s quote “Politics is downstream from culture.”

This is powerful stuff. Change the culture and political change will follow. Today the most likely place to change cultural trends is social media. Thus the battle for who determines the content of platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Of particular interest these days are the skirmishes over political “lies” on social media. Here are a couple of examples, not from Twitter, but from Facebook.

* Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently endured five hours of questioning during a Congressional hearing supposedly intended to discuss Facebook’s proposed alternative currency Libra.  However, not much of what transpired during the hearing had to do with Libra. The majority of Congressional comments zeroed in on Facebook’s policy regarding political ads, which supposedly does not call for fact checking such ads.

During the hearing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Mr. Zuckerberg,

You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future. So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year…

So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no.

Once again during this interminable hearing, unable to respond with a “simple yes or no,” Zuckerberg found himself at a loss for words.

* Senator Elizabeth Warren engaged in a clever strategy with a Facebook campaign ad that ran on October 10.

If Trump tries to lie in a TV ad, most networks will refuse to air it. But Facebook just cashes Trump’s checks.

Since FCC rules prohibits “censorship” on broadcasting networks (not counting Cable), Warren came up with the brilliant fine print on the ad claiming that her campaign included purposefully incorrect information to test whether Facebook will post untruthful ads.

It should be an obvious question what Ocasio-Cortez and Warren consider lies to be. In politics facts and untruths are often interchangeable.

Given the quantity of political ads social media such as Facebook and Twitter receive, as well as the complexity of issues involved in such ads, it would be fair to ask how accurate, cost effective, and blow-back free fact checking all of them would be. For example, what would a fact checker do with a political ad that mentioned the “climate crisis?”

The word “lies” has joined the lexicon designed to change culture and chance politics. Point deficits in any candidate or legislation and run the risk of being branded a racist, a homophobe, a baby killer, a liar, or some other weaponized set of adjectives.

It is no wonder that Twitter decided to call it quits, at least for the moment, on political ads.

As an Aside

Here the discussion purposefully leaves out questions such as political benefits that might or might not accrue to shareholders of social media for supporting or not supporting political sides, and possible algorithmic or human decisions on the reach of unpaid posts. Those could perhaps constitute strategies as powerful as paid ads, but outside the purview of the present discussion.

Jerry Brown Blames the Feds for Wildfires Too

 

Four days ago, former California governor Jerry Brown testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee panel on the environment. Here is what he said,

California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all. The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up.

His point was that climate change is the primary cause of California’s devastating wildfires, and the Trump administration is not interested in either the state’s plight or in California’s leadership in fighting climate change.

The governor’s specific reason for visiting Washington DC was to testify against the Administration’s plan to suspend the federal waiver that allows California to impose vehicle emission standards more stringent than those mandated by the federal government. The state views strict emission standards as essential in lowering CO2, the focus of California’s climate fight.

Let’s Review California’s Wildfire Scenario

Indeed, climate changes, and with change comes the need for adaptation. But the governor’s words when stacked up against some obvious facts sound more like prescribed rhetoric than a call for solutions. Here are some variables that are absent from the governor’s rhetoric.

* California wildfires have always been a fact of nature. Forest fires naturally take care of overgrowth and help seeds explode and propagate. However, while in the old days early inhabitants suffered smoky air and heat from the conflagrations today’s inhabitants are faced with tragic destruction of life and property.

* Recent poorly-managed population growth force people seeking room to build to locate in fire zones next to tinder-dry forests.

* An exploding number of homeless individuals and their campfires have spread out into fire-prone zones, just like their housed neighbors.

* Overzealous environmentalists have succeeded in stopping the culling of trees and trimming of underbrush.

* Nature-loving homeowners understandably enjoy forests, rendered deadly by droughts, right by their backyards.

* California’s perennial distaste for investor-owned utility companies such a PG&E and Southern California Edison preclude peaceful and efficient transition to renewable sources of energy.

Blood in Whose Soul?

Jerry Brown made headlines with his “blood is on your soul” accusation. But his climate change blame game sounds unconvincing when other factors affecting the destruction caused by California’s wildfires are ignored.

The former governor’s words brings to mind an image of another unraveling society of long time past, where someone fiddled as the city burned. Whose soul was tainted with blood then? And now?

More on the Subject

*  For a more scathing opinion of California fires, the Just Vote No Blog recommends

California is Becoming Unlivable, Atlantic, October 2019 issue

*  Picture: Note the dry dead branches in the center of this tree grove in a northern California residential community.

Trees 2

Big Tech as Ideological Enforcer

Big Digital, also known as Big Tech, has joined Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma in the pantheon of industries capable of exercising vast control over the lives of average people.

However, at present, Big Digital enjoys greater potential for control than do the other biggies. Big Digital, via the growing Internet of Things, is literally everywhere. One can do without a private automobile, refuse to smoke, or try alternative remedies when unwell. But living without some government entity or business requiring on-line interaction for some needed service is becoming increasingly difficult.

Baby monitor over child's cribActually, most consumers welcome the Internet of Things. Many cannot imagine living without a baby monitor over their child’s crib or going anywhere without their GPS navigation device. Many welcome the concept of smart cities, where everything and everybody is connected.  Cell phones are always at the ready to post one’s dining experience or one’s successful business endeavor.

Big Digital and Corporate Socialism

The assumption that Internet usage is universal combined with consumers’ love affair with digital gadgets translates into fertile ground for control. As in the case of imaginary worlds such as predicted in 1984 or of real worlds such as the former Soviet Union, the objective of control is ideological enforcement that benefits ruling entities.

Michael Rectenwald, retired New York University liberal studies professor and author, recently published The Google Archipelago, in which he discusses “corporate socialism.” One’s first intuition might be to reject such expression. Isn’t Google a big capitalist corporation, and doesn’t socialism hate capitalism? Not so, says professor Rectenwald.

An article in The Epoch Times, The Endgame of Big Tech Is Corporate Socialism, explains Michael Rectenwald’s view of corporate socialism, and how closely the objectives of monopolies align with the objectives of socialism.

Rectenwald acknowledges that Big Digital leaders genuinely believe in leftist politics. He points out, however, that many aspects of leftism align with practical corporate interests too, at least for companies with monopolistic ambitions.  The Endgame of Big Tech.

Three good examples of alignment:

* Open borders = free flow of labor
* Identity politics = market niches
* globalization = only one set of rules applied to corporations

Hardly a Free Marketplace of Ideas

If we accept the premise that Big Digital benefits from and thus espouses global socialism, then we need to also accept that Big Digital cannot be the free marketplace of ideas it purports to be. It needs to be a place where control maintains dogma. A free marketplace is where all goods, services and ideas are civilly exchanged without fear of banishment. Is that what today’s on-line or social-media experience offers?

Joseph Stalin made the landed Kulaks and other dissidents disappear. Although not by means as drastic as those of Stalin, one can also easily disappear at the hands of Big Digital by simply using the “wrong” pronoun.

A Just Vote No Blog Postscript

It is the prerogative of private companies to run their business as they wish within the legal framework in which they operate.  If a private company wishes to espouse the religious principles of its owner, fine.  If a company wishes to adopt progressive views, fine too.  The challenge for average consumers is the growing power of government-encouraged monopolies to control thought and action.

In the case of Big Tech, as controlling monopolistic growth becomes harder to camouflage, a new strategy is emerging, one that embraces control as beneficial to consumers.  This will be the subject of another Just Vote No Blog post.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Warnings From a Former Communist

Shen Yun

Report from the Trenches

On October 17, Meet Up Group Golden Gate Liberty Revolution hosted speaker June Gilliam, who shared her story with an audience of about 40 assorted conservatives, libertarians, skeptics, and ordinary seekers of truth. Ms. Gilliam called her presentation a Journey From Indoctrination To Awareness: From a Collectivist Mindset all the way to Conservatism, From Chinese Communist Patriotism to American Patriotism.

The presentation had much information about the nature of the Chinese Communist Party, repression of traditional culture and spiritual belief, pervasive indoctrination, and veiled cracks in the CCP’s economic edifice.

However, the main takeaway of the talk was a recommendation that members of the audience acquaint themselves with 4 items. Then spread the word about those items.

* Item 1: The Naked Communist, a book by Cleon Skousen (1958). Central to Skousen’s work are the 45 Communist Goals. A few of the goals might not entirely pass muster with libertarians, but some of the goals highlighted in the presentation are worth noting.

#15 Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
#17 Get control of the schools.
#20 Infiltrate the press.
#22 Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression.
#29 Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step.
#30 Discredit the American Founding Fathers.

Readers can place a check mark “Done!” after the goals they feel have been accomplished.

* Item 2: Shen Yun. The website of this splendid show lists the “9 Characteristics of Shen Yun.” The very first is Reclaiming a Lost Heritage. Heritage, culture, spiritual experience needs to be anathema to any form of tyrannical government. A people steeped in any of these three attributes will more likely fight against tyrannical encroachment into their practices. Beautiful art uplifts the soul whereas tyranny aims to squash it.

* Item 3: Falun Gong. This spiritual practice, unsurprisingly, is also banned in China, for the same reason Shen Yun is banned. Here is a brief description from their website.

Falun Gong is a Buddhist-based practice of meditation and moral living. Although introduced to the public in China in 1992, its roots extend back thousands of years. Tens of millions of people practice in China. Falun Gong is also practiced in over 90 countries around the world.

* Item 4:  The Epoch Times. This weekly publication is both print and digital. It is published in the U.S., but carries a National and a China section. From their website:

The Epoch Times was founded in the United States in the year 2000 in response to communist repression and censorship in China. Our founders, Chinese-Americans who themselves had fled communism, sought to create an independent media to bring the world uncensored and truthful information.

Note: Whether The Epoch Times is published by Falun Gong, is pro-Trump, is banned on social media, or suffers from all the other ills the mainstream media ascribes to it is irrelevant to this present discussion. What is relevant is that the publication contains stories not likely found elsewhere that readers can see and then dig for some more information if desired.

Truth is Available to Those Who Dig For It

June Gilliam’s presentation on October 17 was riveting. Her message is that the acknowledged objective of Communism is global infiltration. In her view the infiltration in the U.S. is pretty much widespread in the guise of progressivism, socialism, democratic-socialism, or green deals.

A Word About Golden Gate Liberty Revolution (GGLR)

This San Francisco-based Meetup that hosted this presentation on Chinese Communism has over 700 members. It started as the Ron Paul Meetup Group in 2008. In those days weekly meetings were packed with folks of all shades of the liberty movement focused on helping garner voter attention for then Texas U.S. Congress Member and Presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Today, the group meets monthly, the room is not packed. But the loyal liberty loving members, many going back to the days of Ron Paul precinct walks, do fill the room when from time to time GGLR presents a guest speaker. It has become an accepted fact that only quality speakers show up at GGLR.

San Francisco – Slouching Toward Gomorrah

Drug injection needles on the street

San Francisco, once a lovely city, is now a poster child for urban decay. The Drug-Homeless Complex rules this once home to strong retail stores, industry, and port activity. What San Francisco has now is a cadre of tax-benefitted app makers, a gargantuan government bureaucracy, and Poop Patrols tasked with washing human feces from sidewalks. What happened?

The Just Vote No Blog recommends a beautiful opinion piece by Lee Edwards, Heritage Foundation Fellow, that appeared in the Washington Times on October 14, Is San Francisco the Future of America?  In this piece, Dr. Edwards speaks of visiting The City after some time of absence. He vividly describes a society that no longer believes in right or wrong, accepts a premise that the purpose of government is to rectify every injustice, and that disdains the universal benefits of the limited government our Founders envisioned.

The vividness of Dr. Edwards’ opinion piece is enhanced by his alluding to the fact that in an uncontrolled spiral, things fall apart. Also, the whole of America might have plunged into the spiral.

What has happened? Why is America slouching like some rough beast — not toward Bethlehem, but Gomorrah? Beyond dispute, things feel as if they are failing apart, and the common rules of a civil society no longer seem to apply.

So true that once civil society starts disintegrating, salvaging individual liberties, personal privacy, private property, and opportunity for upward mobility of all people becomes increasingly challenging. At this point halting and reversing San Francisco’s march towards Gomorrah – as well as halting the national tendency to march along – will require that responsible people pay attention to another admonition in W.B. Yeats often quoted poem The Second Coming.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Founding Fathers envisioned a limited government hopefully free of special interests such as San Francisco’s Drug-Homeless Complex. Halting the slouching away from such a vision will require responsible people to acquire conviction and the same passionate intensity as those who espouse anarchy and decay.

Syrian Kurds: Stateless and Depending on Assad

Map of the Kurdish Region
The dotted area on this map is occupied by Kurds. Readers can find this map on the website “The Kurdish Project.”

President Donald Trump last week ordered the withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from Kurdish-occupied northern Syria. Immediately after, invectives rained upon the President’s head for suddenly leaving the Kurds, who helped the U.S. defeat ISIS, to fend for themselves against attack by Turkish troops.

The media is in a frenzy of Trump accusations. Both sides of the Congressional aisle stand united in rebuke of Trump. Vocal opponent of U.S. interventionism, Representative from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard, called the Turkish incursion into northern Syria genocide against the Kurds, and stated that because of “Trump’s failure to end the regime change war in Syria the Kurds are now paying the price.”

President Trump has a way of making his decisions seem impulsive, and he is in the habit of speaking loosely. No one should be comfortable with Turkish troops bombing Kurds, or with taking such a scenario lightly. However, it might be useful to review the other side of the current media narrative.

The Background

Trump was elected in part based on his campaign pledge to end forever wars. After assuming the presidency, Trump has on numerous occasions condemned U.S. foreign incursions, unless the underlying conflict involved clear and resolvable threats to U.S. specific interests abroad. Therefore, the withdrawal of ground troops from Syria should not have surprised anyone.

In December 2018, President Trump specifically said he would withdraw ground troops from Syria. He indicated that ISIS had been sufficiently defeated, and therefore, there was no further need for U.S. fighting in Syria.

ISIS perpetrated enough destruction that it needs to be viewed as a threat to orderly democratic social structures. In 2014, the newly-formed Coalition to Defeat ISIS consisted of 79 member countries, several of which engaged in actual military action against ISIS in the Middle East.  Thus, although the U.S. acted in a leadership position, the U.S. is not the only country responsible for ensuring against the resurgence of ISIS or assuring the safety of Kurds.  Russia is a member of the Coalition and also an ally of Syria.

A rough estimate of 18 million ethnic Kurds reside in Turkey, some of whom have militantly called for a separate Kurdish state for the last 10 years. Turkey has vehemently opposed Kurdish separatism, clamping down Kurdish language and culture inside Turkey. It should not be surprising that as soon as the opportunity arose, Turkish troops started bombing Syria in an effort to establish a buffer zone inside Syria to put distance between Turkey and Syrian Kurds.

Since 2011, millions of Syrians have fled the country’s civil war. Turkey accepted 3.6 million of the fleeing refugees. With the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Turkey wants to carve a “security zone” along the border on Syrian territory in which Syrian refugees can be resettled.  This zone would be in territory occupied by Kurds.

One of President Trump’s responses to criticism over the Syrian withdrawal is that the Kurds and the Turks have been fighting over Kurdish autonomy for a long time, so a new fight upon U.S. troop withdrawal would be nothing new. Indeed, the conflict can be said to date back to the end of World War I.

At the end of WWI, the victorious Allies partitioned the defeated Ottoman Empire into newly-created countries under the control of Britain, France and Italy. Several treaties ensued, but for the purpose of this discussion the last two treaties are the most significant. The Treaty of Sevres (August 1920) included the regions of Anatolia and Kurdistan, and no specific Turkish country. Soon after the signing, prominent Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk, began a fierce battle for Turkish independence. The new Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923) was ratified, Anatolia became independent Turkey, and the Kurds were left without their autonomous region.

Kurds Today

The region today sometimes unofficially referred to as Kurdistan is an area spanning parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey – the general region of Kurdistan under the Treaty of Sevres. Kurds are considered the largest stateless ethnic group in the world. They have some level of autonomy in Iraq, but little or none elsewhere.

Since 2011, the U.S. has been critical of Syria’s President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, accusing him of tyranny and use of chemical weapons. It is understandable that the U.S. military and officials hate to see Kurds in alliance with him, but alliance with Assad is what Kurds had to do, and did, in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. Upon some thought, one should realize that Assad is protecting his own country by agreeing to fight the Turkish incursion.

Statelessness is painful, as Jews, Palestinians, Kurds, and so many other ethnic or religious groups now or formerly without a country can attest. Kurds are a capable people, and of course deserve a country of their own. The question is where. Meanwhile Kurds forcefully defend the territory they inhabit, anticipating that some day they will be able to establish meaningful autonomy for themselves.

Transportation Funds Suffer Some Major Bait & Switch

Bait and Switch

Central Valley State Assembly Member Jim Patterson made news a few days ago by calling attention to funds being diverted from lane widening on Route 99. Patterson attributed the halting of road work to Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-19-19 signed September 20, 2019, which states in part:

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is directed to invest its annual portfolio of $5 billion toward construction, operations and maintenance to help reverse the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector. CalSTA, in consultation with the Department of Finance, is also directed to align transportation spending, programming and mitigation with the state’s climate goals to achieve the objectives of the state’s Climate Change Scoping Plan, where feasible. Specifically the Governor is ordering a focus for transportation investments near housing, and on managing congestion through innovative strategies that encourage alternatives to driving.

With uncharacteristic speed, the State Transportation Agency published on October 4 its 2020 Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan (ITSP), proposing to repurpose “uncommitted funds” from several current projects, including Highway 99 work, and retain “$61,331,000 in uncommitted 2020 ITIP programming capacity to be held in reserve for priority rail projects and other priorities aligned with Executive Order N-19-19.”

Since Assembly Member Jim Patterson’s clarion call, other entities have taken up his warning that California has just witnessed a major case of bait and switch and other cases will soon follow.  For example,

ABC30.com reported Highway 99 expansion funding cuts elicit angry reactions.  This news segment featured Assembly Member Jim Patterson saying,

This is classic bait and switch. We were promised streets, roads and highways and we are getting everything but.

In an Opinion piece in the San Bernardino Sun of October 13, The Gas Tax Bait and Switch, Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said,

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that has redirected gas tax money to fund railway systems and other projects, rather than repairing and upgrading the state’s broken highways and roads. The governor and Caltrans claim that the diversion of funds is justified by the need to do something about climate change.

Like Assembly Member Jim Patterson, the Just Vote No Blog expects to see a lot more cases of Bait & Switch in the name of climate change.