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The Facebook hearings.

Does the thought of Facebook using AI (artificial intelligence) to provide “safeguards” for Facebook user data send shivers down your spine?

It should.

Right now, Facebook cons content providers into giving them tons of free content with the promise that they will help them monetize (that means get paid to allow access to the personal data of others for the purpose of providing targeted advertising leads) on the company’s Pages.

People apparently found that all kinds of scary when it became public knowledge that they weren’t just harvesting which sites you click on, but tracking your every move.

That leaves FB with the unenviable task of convincing us that all of this is benign, and we shouldn’t let either the right or left wing conspiracy nuts scare us.

The company’s answer is AI, which they assure us is something they won’t have ready for 5 or even 10 years.

Wrong.  The technology is available now.

Before his death, Steven Hawking came out strongly against AI, warning that it had the potential power to destroy civilization.

There are already AI applications that can completely fabricate a news interview.   For an example, you can visit this link and view a video that illustrates this. The video, which is overlaid at the end with the videos from which it is lifted, is a total fabrication, essentially fake news in its purest form.

It isn’t perfect, especially if you can read lips. All that proves is that there needs to be a little mechanical perfecting done. You have already seen the end product of this technology in its infancy for years.  It makes dogs and horses talk in commercials and comedies.

With the addition of AI, which has an almost human capacity to “learn” and thus independently evolve into something its creators never released, the only way you will be able to trust your eyes and ears is if you are physically present with the speaker.

Mr. Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook is a publisher, editor or media enterprise, rather than a social media platform.

Of course it is. It routinely censors or manipulates content to present a slanted view of the interests of the people. Mr. Zuckerberg’s hollow assurances that they do not have bias in their screening protocols  didn’t sound like even he believed that.

The company’s business model is based upon your acceptance of its operating philosophy.

The only other way for it to generate income would be to make it a subscription service or to charge advertisers  a typically exorbitant fee for market exposure.

That’s essentially what WordPress does.

For instance, if Musings didn’t want to pay for hosting, it would have to allow random ad content to be attached to each posting. The alternative is to pony up an annual subscription fee, which we do.  It is then up to the hosted site whether to pass that cost along to its readers through a paywall or subscription fee of its own.

The difference between the two platforms is that WP is up front with that model.

As the Facebook founder goes through one more day of Congressional inquisition, pay close attention to his testimony.

At days end, it is up to you whether you believe he is being totally candid.

 

What is the left really resisting?

As predictably as the sun rising in the morning, the Resist movement has trotted out something to take the public’s attention off the President doing something his base approves of, specifically in this case, sending the National Guard to the border.

This time that’s raiding his personal attorney’s home and offices, hoping to get enough leverage on Cohen to turn him into an FBI asset to use against the President.

If the President launches some sort of operation against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, or solves the DACA conundrum, or has any other sort of success, there will be something else, guaranteed.

If Cohen and the President are correct about having already voluntarily turned over hundreds of thousands of documents to the Special Counsel, this action should forever drive a nail in any ideas of the President ever meeting face-to-face with Mueller on any grounds whatsoever.

While the legal ramifications of raiding Michael Cohen’s office are suspect regarding attorney-client privilege, the more interesting part of this is the way in which  the Special Counsel moved from investigating Russian collusion to trying to peel off another Trump ally through New York’s Federal court system, rather than the Federal grand jury convened by Mueller.

Make no mistake, if Cohen is found guilty of bank and wire fraud as charged, this could result in him being disbarred, as well as jailed for up to 20 years, and that’s a pretty big club.

What does all this have to do with Russia meddling in our political processes?

Not one damn thing.

This is, as it always was, about deposing Donald Trump and thwarting the will of the people who voted for him.

It’s about those who were in power and their determined attempt to regain that power before the depth of their own corruption is fully exposed.

Does the timing of this have anything to do with the outcome of the Inspector General’s investigation?

Hard to say. IF you believe that the IG is operating as he should, as an impartial internal affairs  investigator, then the answer could be yes.

Certainly, ahead of former FBI Director Comey’s new book, you are seeing a whole lot of people scrambling to cover their behinds.

Comey seems to be an equal opportunity louse.  If something makes him look good, he hasn’t seemed to be above throwing friend and foe alike under the bus.

If the book provides new grist for the IG’s mill as he investigates the handling of the Clinton’s conduct, the much anticipated “imminent” release date of the IG’s report could slip substantially.

All this palace intrigue is interesting and titillating to be sure, but that isn’t why it matters.

It matters because it is putting the nation at large in harm’s way.

The President has some important stuff coming up.

Stuff like denuclearizing North Korea for instance, not to mention defending the border, immigration reform, healthcare reform, defending the Second Amendment, and oh yes, keeping the GOP in control of Congress, (because if the Dems can take over both houses of Congress, their very first act of business will be to file impeachment proceedings against Trump).

Every time his enemies can distract him, even momentarily, from those things, we become a little less safe as a nation.

Think about that the next time you peruse the salacious headlines, and you might find them a little less entertaining.

The afternoon shift – The Syrian situation.

Normally, Musings tries to stay out of the international political realm, primarily because it isn’t top-of-mind on Main Street.

The subject of Syria has crossed that threshold.

There are two schools of thought on the U.S. involvement in world politics among Trump voters.

One side says we should mind our own business unless we are attacked, while the other says that limited involvement, particularly when it involves national security is a necessary evil.

Syria isn’t overtly threatening the United States. It hasn’t bombed us, or infiltrated our elections.

To the extent that it allowed us to operate within its borders to break up the ISIS caliphate, it may have even been an uneasy ally, in the sense that politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Does that mean we should ignore the  bad things it does to its own people?

Gassing people to death because they don’t acquiesce to your political views would be one of those red lines that politicians love to bandy about.

This President has said and demonstrated that to him, red lines are things to be enforced.

That should be everyone’s business.

First, there shouldn’t have been any deadly gases left in Syria.  Didn’t Russia assure us that Assad had no more of them?

Second, while regime change is a sticky wicket,  Assad should have drawn more than just handwringing from the international political world long before now.

Ideally, there should be an international warrant out for him for crimes against humanity.

To do that, the world would need to convene a war crimes tribunal, which is essentially an international criminal court.  Most recently that has been done under the auspices of the United Nations.

(Case Western Reserve University published a dissertation by Michael P. Scharf on the politics of how and why that is done in 1997 for those that want more information on the process.)

Much as many might see the easiest solution to the Assad problem as a bunker buster, it doesn’t work that way in real life.

How does all that play into American politics?

First, there’s the cost of keeping troops in Syria after our stated reason for being there, i.e to destroy the physical ability of ISIS to strike us at home is mostly over.

For the cost of fighting what appear to be holding actions in Afghanistan and the Middle East, we could buy every single pilot a new plane.

President Trump ran on disentangling our military from the Middle East and it won him a lot of votes.

Yet here we are, still spending taxpayer money to defend people in the Middle East while we argue about spending even a dollar on defending our own borders.

You can understand why the President finds that incongruous, and why he thinks it might be a good idea to stop doing it.

Maybe so, but there is a right and wrong way to disengage.

Advertising our intentions on a website smacks mightily of the folly committed by many of his predecessors, particularly the most recent one.

Most people who read his intention to withdraw from Syria when he tweeted it had one of those WTF moments.

Whether that emboldened Assad to attack his own citizens with chemical weapons is a matter for conjecture.   It’s far more likely he did it with instigation, if not actual assistance from Russia, to test our commitment to our principles as well as our resolve.

With only 2,000 troops in Syria, we can’t mount a full-fledged military operation against him even if we wanted to do so.

One thing the President is right about, is that it would behoove the Middle East to start solving its own problems.

No matter what action is taken in response to the use of chemical weapons in this instance, making that happen needs to be a U.S. priority.

That could mean approaching the UN about a tribunal as well as perhaps a NATO peacekeeping mission.

That’s one place where the U.S. could participate without having to shoulder all of the cost, and still take a stand against a dictator who solves his  political problems with nerve gas.

 

The end of the road.

WTF is he doing?

That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind as President Trump doubles down all at once on everything from border security to North Korean nukes to Russian aggression to Chinese economic manipulation.

It isn’t so much what he is doing, as when he is doing it that seems to be boggling everyone’s mind.

It seems like a bad time to do all this, just eight months before the midterm election. Is it?

In a word, no.

The GOP seems to want candidates to run on what has already been accomplished. The President wants voters to support how much there is left to do.

That brings us to the question of timing. Unfortunately, for most people there never is a right time.

That’s kind of how we got to where we are today. Take the so-called trade war, for instance.

Although as yet none of the threatened actions by either side have actually happened, just the threat has roiled the stock market and affected prices for everything from pigs to gasoline.

That is undeniably hurting real live people, from the auto parts delivery driver to hog farmers, and those are essentially the heart of Trump voters.

New and smaller investors, used to seeing the stock market go up but never down aren’t any happier, especially if their portfolio is funding their retirement.

Like it or not, this what happens when the last kick of the can sends it over a cliff, and given our never-ending election season, these issues are always going to affect some election.

This day was always coming.

At some point, North Korea was going to try to go full-on nuclear, Russia under Putin was going to start going out in the open with its attacks in and on the West, and China, whose leader-for-life no longer has to worry about even sham elections, was going to leverage its economic clout.

It’s unfortunate that all those things happened at once, but they did. That’s the inevitable consequence of appeasement politics.

It would be easier to give Kim Jong Un a few plane loads of cash, turn a blind eye to state-sponsored attempted murder in hopes it wouldn’t happen here yet, or wait until the voice on Alexa started speaking in Chinese.

Maybe that way President Trump could get through at least one term without any major upheavals. That’s how politicians think and after all, it’s been working for both parties for decades.

That’s pretty much what globalism was supposed to accomplish, i.e. making each nation so dependent on the rest that everyone would stay in their corner and play nice with each other.

The only problem is, it didn’t work, even though we certainly tried to do our part.

We pared down our military, opened our borders, apologized repeatedly for our very existence, handed over our technology and at least grudgingly accepted $5 a gallon gas prices, all in the name of getting along.

We played the part of the perfect patsy about as well as we possibly could, until we couldn’t.

All of a sudden the mouse found it had to roar, or keep reaching for the cheese until the trap snapped shut.

That’s how we got Donald Trump, and only time will tell if we chose the right man at the right time for the job.

Lord knows, even his staunchest supporters wince at some of his rhetoric, and his apparent strategy of seeking public feedback through Twitter and open comments that are meant to appear off-the-cuff. Sometimes silence is the best strategy, but sometimes it’s not, and this may be one of those times.

Comments like “…there will be a little pain.”   He knows tariffs, if fully implemented, will hurt some people  and he wants you to know he does.

Make no mistake, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

That’s the trouble with standing up to the bad guys. Being a bad guy has worked for so long, they will always try to keep doing what has worked before.

Like a spoiled child who hears the word “no” for the first time, there will be tears and tantrums.

It’s kind of up to us whether we are the “good” parent that caves in and hands them the lighter, or the one smacks their hand and says “it’s for your own good.”

 

TGIF – April 6, 2018.

Whose National Guard is it?

The various state National Guard (essentially a state militia) units have a dual chain of command. In peacetime they are controlled by the governors of the states, while in times of war, disaster or insurrection they are under the command of the sitting President as commander in chief of the military.

Under that duality, among other Democrat governors, Oregon governor Kate Brown announced on Twitter yesterday that if asked, she will not allow her National Guard members to be deployed to the southern border, apparently believing that unless we declare war on Mexico, President Trump cannot assume command of the Oregon Guard.

In other words, like another governor named Brown, she is apparently quite OK with not defending the sovereignty of the nation’s borders.

She may be in for a rude awakening, although politically, it might be better to just let her rattle along.

It is useful to know that there are codified exceptions to the “posse comitatus” restrictions, under which the President could assume control of her Guard members.

One of the statutory exceptions is that under Title 32 authority, the President may deploy the militia, as follows:

Use of Militia and Armed Forces to Enforce Federal Authority. Whenever thePresident considers that unlawful obstructions, assemblages, or rebellion makeit impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State orTerritory, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State.

This is another statutory exception to Posse Comitatus.”

Source : National Guard Fact Sheet Army National Guard (FY2005), pub. 3 May 2006.(pdf)

Certainly the sanctuary movement could easily qualify as both an unlawful obstruction and a rebellion against the Federal government.

Frankly, there are enough states that support securing the border that Oregon’s unit probably would not be needed.

Still, it’s nice to know who is on our country’s side and who is not.

Can Facebook save Zuckerberg?

In the grand scheme of things, the fact that Facebook provides free hosting services in exchange for harvesting user data to sell to advertisers and maybe a few Russians might not rank up there with the Rosenberg executions.

As Musings has noted before, if you haven’t figured out by now that everyone on Facebook is a product, you are a little slow on the uptake. Privacy and your Facebook pages aren’t exactly synonymous.

The fact that it copies and retains your private Messenger phone interactions, where you do have an expectation of privacy, is quite something else. In fact in most states recording a private phone conversation requires a warrant.

Will that result in any criminal charges against Mark Zuckerberg, or perhaps even worse for him, a removal at the behest of shareholders from the company he started?

We don’t know yet, but rest assured, there will be a scapegoat found for the sale of at least 87 million user’s data to a company that then sold that information to Cambridge Analytica to be used for political purposes in the 2016 elections.

Apple fired Steve Jobs, so we hope Mr. Zuckerberg has an exit strategy that doesn’t involve a cell…the kind with walls, not a screen.

Déjà-vu

Once again, we have a shooter who should have been stopped. Of course it’s a she, not a he, and she wasn’t a Christian of  Anglo-Saxon origin, but there’s no doubt she, like the Parkland shooter,  was also a few bricks shy of a full load.

And once again, someone saw something and said something and still, Nasim Aghdam never was put on anyone’s capture and control list.

The media is reporting that Aghdam’s father reported her as a missing person and when she was contacted by police near Mountain View, they called him to tell him she appeared to be all right and they had just let her go on her way.

Supposedly about an hour after that call, the father called them back and told them that she might be on her way to YouTube to do some sort of mischief. He maintains he didn’t know she had a weapon, but thought that she might “start a fire or something.”

In this case the person sounding the alarm was the woman’s own father according to news reports, which you would think would have given his call more credence.

So, twelve hours before she shot up YouTube, she was contacted by police, not because she was known to be a public menace, but because she had been reported as a missing person.

Admittedly, this wasn’t as clear cut as the Parkland shooter’s numerous contacts with the law, but you wonder if anyone even looked at her social media presence after the father’s warning.

At the very least, you have to wonder if the father’s concern might not have at least warranted a cautionary call to the YouTube security department.

Maybe we need to tell a cable news or opinion commentator or a DJ on the radio.  There’s a lot better chance that they would at least broadcast the contact where the intended targets might hear about it.

 

California to cops – Don’t shoot…ever?

Did California just take the first steps toward disarming police?

The ever-unbiased Huffington Post reports that on the heels of the shooting of Stephon Clark, Democrat Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced a bill to restrict when police officers can use their weapons, seeking to restrict it to “only when necessary,” that standard apparently to be determined by a bunch of arm-chair quarterbacks.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of doubt, based only upon the video that has been made public and what the media narrative has been, that the Clark shooting will not be proven to be a good shoot.

The fact that he was shot in the back certainly indicates that he wasn’t threatening the officers when his back was turned to them. (We haven’t heard whether any of the shots also struck him in the front.)

If that’s so, the officers should be fired and charged. The system shouldn’t be slanted to protect cops who use bad judgment or worse.

But to have the ACLU, Black Lives Matter and the other far left elements in the California legislature decide when an officer can shoot is essentially declaring open season on the police, not to mention politicizing police work.

There are already too many areas that cops simply don’t get involved in unless there’s a massacre going on, for fear of being accused of racism. Often those are the areas experiencing the worst black on black or brown on brown crime.

If they now will have to pull out a checklist before they can draw their weapons, those areas are going to increase substantially.

One fact that isn’t particularly noted in most news stories is that if you run from the police when told to stop, you define yourself as a fugitive.

Fugitives tend to do whatever they can to avoid being caught, including shoot at police. In the heat of that moment, it can be pretty hard to decide just what someone is holding in their hand until you see the muzzle flash.

One problem that isn’t being addressed is the constant drumbeat among communities of color that cops become cops because they want a license to kill people, particularly people of color, and thus you are always justified in running from them.

There’s not much point in mentioning that perhaps that narrative, coupled with studies that show an awful lot of violent crime is committed by people of color, might play into the conversation.

Do we need to find some way to stop a fleeing suspect without shooting them? Undeniably that should be part of the conversation too.

Maybe the cops should carry tranquilizer guns as well as lethal weaponry, and shoot the fugitive in the butt with a tranquilizer if they are running away, like an antelope or a zebra.

Of course that also presupposes that criminals will also choose to use non-lethal weapons, but that’s a conversation for another day.

But that isn’t the aim of this proposed California law, not by a long shot.

This is about giving fleeing suspects the first shot, and that isn’t going to make anyone in California safer.

It used to be said that as California goes, so goes the nation.  Lately, the nation is not on board with that idea, and this proposed legislation does nothing to change that perception.

George Washington would be appalled.

When dictators begin plotting to assume power, very often the first thing they do is to find a bogeyman towards whom they can direct first discontent, then scorn, and finally vengeance.

Thus,  in economically distressed post-WWI Germany, Hitler began by focusing on the Jews. He blamed them for everything from lack of food to control of the nation’s money. He gave the nation a target, and from there he went on to build the Nazi Party and ultimately to ignite  another World War.

Post-WWII the Soviet Union and the Communist Party under Stalin simply outlawed all forms of religious expression, making the new “religion” Communism.

We are seeing disturbing echoes of that in the shrill ravings of some in the far, far left against “white Christian privilege” as one George Washington University workshop calls it.

Although the course description has now been taken down on the university website, one of the stated aims of the workshop was for participants to leave the training able to name at least three examples of “white Christian privilege.”

This was supposed to “foster diversity.” and was grounded in “improving multiculturism”

The far left has been using “diversity” as a code word for some time now. The only problem with that is it promotes the identification and ultimately the  exclusion of the bogeyman, “white Christianity” to achieve a “multicultural” state.

There is no doubt that the United States has become a more secular country.

There are many possible causes for that, but in general it boils down to two things.

One, religion doesn’t provide a utopian world, at least not among the living, and two, it seeks to exercise control over humanity’s baser instincts.

The interesting thing about the stated goal of the GWU workshop is that it totally ignores Christians of any race other than Caucasians.

If Christianity is inherently bad, then why not rail against Hispanic, black, Middle Eastern or Asian Christians as well?

It probably isn’t fair to single out GWU in pointing out this disturbing pattern of anti- Christian, anti-white propagandized indoctrination on college campuses, since the thread runs through most of the higher education system we pour so much money into today.

Still one can’t help but wonder how the first President to govern under a Constitution whose very first amendment codified not freedom FROM religion, but Freedom OF religion would feel about having an institution bearing his name offering a workshop whose stated goal was to attack Christianity.