Showing posts with label Hal Brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hal Brown. Show all posts

September 23, 2023

Wash. Post exposed Jim Jordan as the Disinformation Devil

Hieronymus Bosch/The Last Judgment
If it's on Amazon and Red Bubble does this mean it's true?

By Hal Brown

There's a good lead article in The Washington Post (which unfortunately you need a subscription to read) which I posted a comment to.

An escalating campaign, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans, has cast a pall over programs that study political disinformation and the quality of medical information online

This morning this was the main story on the website:

The Post uses the term misinformation while I use disinformation mostly because it sounds better with Devil. There is a subtle diffeence between the two. Misinformation is defined as false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive while disinformation is defined as false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.

Here's my comment:

Critical thinking should be taught early in primary school. Children are exposed at an early age to lies and distortions in television advertising so when they become consumers themselves they will believe commercials which sell products with exaggerated or bogus claims. The tendency for people to believe what they want to believe, at its most benign is exploited by companies that want to sell their new improved product when hasn't really changed for 50 years. Societally the way this human characteristic is taken advantage of by people who want not only your money (which they do want) but your votes is far from harmless.  

In the Bible Jesus says about Satan, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

The Devil is in the details and when the details are distorted, twisted, turned upside-down and inside-out the Devil wins and truth and, dare I say, humankind is harmed.

(Full disclosure: I am an atheist so this is meant to be a metaphor, though if the Devil existed I think Jim Jordan would have made a deal with him.)

The three comments that preceded mine:

The Post article begins:

Academics, universities and government agencies are overhauling or ending research programs designed to counter the spread of online misinformation amid a legal campaign from conservative politicians and activists who accuse them of colluding with tech companies to censor right-wing views.

The escalating campaign — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans in Congress and state government — has cast a pall over programs that study not just political falsehoods but also the quality of medical information online.

It includes a photo of Jim Jordan surrounded by reporterswith the caption: Academics, universities and government agencies are overhauling or ending research programs designed to counter the spread of online misinformation amid a legal campaign from conservative politicians and activists who accuse them of colluding with tech companies to censor right-wing views.

The escalating campaign — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans in Congress and state government — has cast a pall over programs that study not just political falsehoods but also the quality of medical information online.

The authors of the article interviewed more than two dozen professors, government officials, physicians, nonprofits and research funders. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their internal deliberations freely, describe an escalating campaign emerging as online propaganda is rising.

They note that "public health officials are grappling with medical misinformation, as the United States heads into the fall and winter virus season."

If you think it's hyperbole for me to call Rep. Jordan the Devil of Disinformation consider this:

In recent weeks, Jordan has sent a new round of record requests to at least two recipients of grants from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The program, one of many run by the independent agency to promote research, awards funding to groups creating tools or techniques to mitigate misinformation, such as software for journalists to identify misinformation trending online.

The article concludes with the following:

Many academics, independent scholars and philanthropic funders are discussing how to collectively defend the disinformation research field. One proposal would create a group to gather donations into a central fund to pay for crisis communications and — most critically — legal support if one of them gets sued or subpoenaed in a private case or by Congress. The money could also fund cybersecurity counseling to ward off hackers and stalkers and perhaps physical security as well.

“There is this growing sense that there need to be resources to allow for freedom of thought and academic independence,” said one longtime philanthropy grant maker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

University academics are also mulling ways to rebrand their work to attract less controversy. One leader in a university disinformation research center said scholars have discussed using more generic terms to describe their work such as “information integrity” or “civic participation online.” Those terms “have less of a bite to them,” said a person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak on the private discussions. Similar conversations are occurring within public health agencies, another person said.

“This whole area of research has become radioactive,” the person said.

Literal radioactivity can kill whether it is gamma radiation from a bomb, lingering radioactive dust, nuclear plant meltdown like occured after the Chernobyl disaster, or polonium-210 which was used as an assassination weapon against Alexander Litvinenko. 

The kind of radioactivty described in the article can not only kill research it can also kill people whether it comes from convincing people they don't need to get Covid and other vaccinations or from thwarting climate and medical research and sharing factual information and stopping the promulgation of lies about science.


Apparently a MAGA troll has a subscription to the Post and posted this. Note the two replies.
The commenter "Lecrtius do good" in a somewhat different way said what I said:

When everyone decided "liberal arts" was useless and education just became a worker job factory to learn "skills" and "earning power" then the path was set.

Whoever thought philosophy in high school and university was useless, well this is what we got. Usually this was pumped by the Right because (according to them) money is a value in and of itself and truth isn't a value. The Left jumped in the fray promoting postmodernism at the expense of thoughts of objectivity.

When people learn to engage in critical thinking from an early age they are less likely to be taken in by the propaganda promulgated by pros whether they work in government or for advertising agencies. When children pester their parents to buy sugary treats it may seem harmless for them to give in, but as adults they will waste their money buying useless products like Prevagen which is selling well enough so they can afford to pay for commercials on MSNBC where I'd hope viewers are more adept at critical thinking than those who watch Fox News.

For more on this read my blog:

Gullible people who believe Donald Trump may also believe anti-vaxxers like RFK Jr. and Dr. Zach Bush, and snake oil salespeople pushing products like Prevagen

Related: This was my New Yorker daily calendar cartoon yesterday:

September 11, 2023

Something about self-awareness


By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired clinical social worker psychotherapist (about me)

There are many articles with good defitions of self-awareness. This one should suffice to describe what I mean by this term for this blog:

There Are Two Types of Self-Awareness 

For the last 50 years, researchers have used varying definitions of self-awareness. For example, some see it as the ability to monitor our inner world, whereas others label it as a temporary state of self-consciousness. Still others describe it as the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

So before we could focus on how to improve self-awareness, we needed to synthesize these findings and create an overarching definition.

Across the studies we examined, two broad categories of self-awareness kept emerging. The first, which we dubbed internal self-awareness, represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. We’ve found that internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression.

The second category, external self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. Our research shows that people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives. For leaders who see themselves as their employees do, their employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective in general. From The Harvard Business Review

I got the idea for this blog when I was watching "Morning Joe" where the panel was interviewing Walter Isaacson, author of a soon to be released book about Elon Musk. The discussion centered on his personality and how his having a self-described form of Aspergers may effect his behavior. It's been repeorted that he's said some outraegous things to people and shortly afterwards claimed convincingly that he never said what someone heard. As you see below, Isaacson said there seemed to "be two, three, four different types of Elon" and he went on to say it was as if he had muliple personalites.

You can watch the 13 miute video here.

This really has little to do with what I want to advocate for here. Musk is just an example of someone who, if they had self-awareness and cared about being a force for good, would make a major difference in other people's lives. My impression is that Musk lacks self-awareness. He also may be a malignant narcissist (see my blog What to Make of Musk from Sept. 9th)

It is fair to compare him to Donald Trump because Trump probably has some self-awareness but just doesn't care, in fact he may be very much aware of how he hurts others and relishes doing it.

To the extent that Musk is like Trump in being a malignant narcissist (as I wrote the other day) he may not care either and may enjoy hurting others.

The self-awareness I want to focus on may be best understood by looking closely at people who have little or just about no self-awareness.

Of all the traits such as empathy and caring for others which we would hope are possessed by people whether in power to influence very large numbers, or who can by virtue of their positions make like good or miserable for those in their lives whether in the companies where the exert control over subordinates, or in their families, over all these characteristics is having self-awareness.

If someone wants to be what would generally considered a "good person" they must be able to take a long, hard look at who they are and how they're behaviors, their words an deeds, effects other people.

Again, one has to want to be a good person. If someone, for whatever reasons, doesn't care who they hurt in pursuit of their goals no degree of self-awareness will matter.

For those who do care, if you don't already have a depth of self-awareness, there is hope. The first step can be for everyone - I mean everyone - to decide to engage in a self-assessment beginning by asking people in their lives how their words and action effect them.

This means both family members, friends, and people who you work with. Those who are in postions of authority over people, and may have the power to deny them promotions or even fire them, could distribute a questionnaire that would be responded to anonymously. It could be a simple true/false list a rating scale for questions. For example:

25 Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions You Need to Ask

If you find out that people view you as judgmental, arrogant, distant, unapproachable, quick to express disapproval, or get anxious when they are dealing with you, or have any other characteristics you want to try to change psychotherapy is a good option.

If you even want to know how people in your life view you you are probably halfway there.


Thanks to those of you who read, or at least scrolled down, this far. For you, here an explanation of the photo I just took to use at the top of the story. I looked at various graphics under an image search for self-disclosure and not only were most copyrighted, but all were boring. Lots of them show people looking in a mirror.

I decided I take a photo of what's on my table with a few items added and rearranged (the yellow coffee cup was already there, I added the black one). What does it say about me? I'll leave that up to you to speculate about.

September 8, 2023

The $47,000 Question: What will it take for Trump cultists to fall out of love with him?


By Hal Brown

I'm showing my age in the title. The 64 Thousand Dollar Question was popular in the early 1950's when it was hosted by Hal March, the only famous person with my first name who I knew of even though actor Hal Holbrook was on Broadway playing Mark Twain at the time. I am old enough to remember when $64,000 was a small fortune. The household median income in the U.S. in 1950 was $2,990 and you could by a nice house for $7,000.

I titled this "The $47,000 Question" because Trump is running to be the 47th President of the United States and is making a big deal of this number. I suppose you could call this the $47 trillion question.

He even has something of a Mein Kampf-like manifesto called Agenda47 which I wrote about yesterday here.

There are Trump cultists and there are Trump cultists. A few can actually have an immediate effect on his electability if they fall out of love with him. One is Judge Aileen Cannon. 

We have no idea whether Judge Cannon is following Trump's shenanigans like this with another Florida judge:

If she has a EUREKA! moment where she falls out of love with her dreamboat she might actually rule in the Mar-a-Lago documents case treating Trump like he was any other defendant.

Then there are people like Walt Nauda:

Click above to read

I can't imagine that the other defendants in the Georgia case who aren't named Trump are thinking that the limits of loyalty ends along the line to the lockup.

The most important members of the Trump cult are the millions who worship at the fatasses' feet:

Experts have tried to analyze the appeal of Trump for ordinary people and cult experts like Steve Hassan have been trying to educate the country about the psychological hold Trump has on his folowers (read Cult Expert Steve Hassan is on a controversial cursade in Slate).

The millions of voters who will make the difference between Trump winning or losing in the primary and if he wins against President Biden may flush him down the drain not because of one revelation, but more likely I think they will experience the drip-drip-drip of damning news about him having decieved them into believing he was divine. I expect they won't wake up one morning and say "I'm so done with him" but instead will vacilate back and forth for a period of time.

It is incredibly difficult to admit you were taken in by a master con man. It takes a lot of self-awareness to admit one was gullible. Much will depend on where ordinary Trump cultists gets their news and how they shape their opinions. Peer groups have a major effect so if they surround themselves with other cultists their beliefs won't be challenged. If they have friends and family who try to get them to see the truth about Trump it might help break through their denial of reality.

We also have those in the right-wing media who influence Trump cultists. What will it take to disabuse them of their alligance to Trump? The answer is that they will drop him like a hot potato when their bosses tell them to because supporting him and giving him a forum no longer brings in revenue. This is all the better for the likes of Tucker Carlson on X and Steve Bannon (with his Warroom show) but they don't have the reach of television. Still, Fox News is on everyone's TV and has a major impact on what people think about Trump.

The known unknown that may have a huge impact is the Georgia trial and if Trump testifies is how his behavior under cross-examination will be perceived by his cultists. Trump is aggressive this has worked with his cult, they love it, but he's always snarled, blustered, and blown his stack on his own terms. He's never done it from a witness stand on live TV.

Another group who can tarnish Trump's golden glow are the other GOP candidates for president. I suppose you can break them into a few groups. Of course, there is Chris Christi. He doesn't stand a chance of winning the nomination.  He can only go after Trump if they ever share a debate stage. Then there those who have their sights on Trump chosing them to run as vice president and those who don't want to incur the ire of his base. Notably there's Nikki Haley who has come fairly close to breaking with Trump probably because she thinks DeSantis may crash and burn leaving her as the only credible candidate with a chance of success to take him on once she exposes Vivek Ramaswarmy for the fraud that he is.

One way for Trump cultists to fall out of love with him is to fall in love with someone else. It won't be the the dour DeSanstis for obvious reasons not the least of which is that Trump has dumped on him dubing him Ron DeSantimonious, but I can see it happening with Nikki Haley. This could happen if the bigots among the cultists overlook the fact that she's an Indian-American. 

They also might take into consideration that she might stand a better chance of beating Biden in the general election than Trump. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Hail Haley movement among Republicans that really want to win back the presidency and make sure America doesn't turn into the kind of country Trump, DeSantis, and Ramaswarmy want it to be.

I think she's a more appealling candidate for the Republicans to chose for the general election than Pence, Asa Hutchenson, or Tim Scott or  the currently declared candidates (here).

In conclusion:

Click to enlarge

September 7, 2023

If you're reading this in the US it is highly likely that if Trump becomes president you will be "Royally" or dictatorially "effed"

By Hal Brown

My original title was as follows: If you're reading this it is highly likely that if Trump becomes president you will be "Royally" or dictatorially "effed" but in recognition that by far I have more readers in Singapore which has many American expatriots and students living there (5,750 blog readers this week), China (1,400 this week), Germany, and at various times in Russia and other countries I changed it to add "in the US."

If someone is keeping track of even the most minor anti-Trump bloggers so that if Trump gets to be president and Agenda47 (not Agenda 47 with a space) is initiated people like me will join the prominent critics in new American gulags, or suffer worse fates. If you are reading this today sometime in Trump's administration this blog will be offline because I'll be sleeping on a narrow steel bed in a cell with no Internet let alone my trusty laptop.

Want to be depressed and not a little frightened? Read this:

"Trump's plans to become a dictator — denial will not save you" by Chauncey DeVega in Salon.

Here's enough of an excerpt to justify my point. 

Trump and his advisers are actively creating the infrastructure for him to follow through on his plans to be a dictator when/if he retakes the White House in 2025. Trump's Agenda 47 is a plan to radically remake the presidency and American government (and American society) in service to his neofascist vision that includes such goals as ending birthright citizenship, criminalizing migrants and refugees, putting homeless people in camps, instituting national stop and frisk laws, restricting freedom of the press, ending academic freedom at the country's universities and colleges and other institutions of higher education, replacing quality public education that teaches critical thinking and the country's real history with a form of fascist "patriotic" indoctrination, ending environmental regulations, more gangster capitalism and power for the richest Americans and corporations, reversing the progress of the civil rights movement and the Black Freedom Struggle, taking away the rights of gays and lesbians and other queer people, further restricting women's civil and human rights, and ending US support for Ukraine.

Project 2025 is a strategy that has been developed by right-wing think tanks and interest groups such as the Heritage Foundation. The main focus of Project 2025 is to launch a blitzkrieg assault on the American government by ending career civil service and replacing it with Trump loyalists with the goal of eliminating any internal opposition to the Trump dictatorship. In essence, these Trump loyalists will place his vision above the Constitution and the rule of law.

This is Vega's article about Trump's Agenda47.

Be very afraid: Trump's "Agenda 47" is no joke

 It is subtitled: "This is not a joke or funny: You should be very afraid of Trump's fascist Agenda 47 plan."

Here's an excerpt: 

Agenda 47 would consist of an end to birthright citizenship, further criminalizing transgender people and the LGBTQI community more broadly, expanding the thought crime and other censorship laws to end the teaching of "critical race theory" and to defeat "Woke" and "Black Lives Matter", attacking academic freedom and replacing it with "patriot education", implementing a national stop and frisk law, pardoning the Jan. 6 terrorists, putting homeless people in camps or some other designated area under threat of arrest, building high tech "freedom cities", ending the professional civil service and replacing it with right-wing political appointees and other such partisan agents, gutting the Department of Justice and other parts of the government that opposed Trump's attacks on democracy and the rule of law, executing drug dealers, starting a trade war with China, and making "peace" with Vladimir Putin by withdrawing support for the Ukrainian people and their freedom struggle. In many ways, Agenda 47 is a continuation of the fascist and other authoritarian policies Trump put in place during his first regime but now made even more extreme and cruel.

The "you" referred to above is you (unless you are a secret agent of Agenda47) the reader of this blog, and it is certainly me, the writer of these words.

I think I was in denial because I was puzzled why this was called Agenda47. I was wondering where the number 47 came from. I actually had to do a brief web search to find out it came from his plan of what he'll do as the 47th president.

Trump's Agenda47 is real. You can go to his website here for more details, but I doubt you will. I'll share screenshots for those who don't want to give him a click. Here's how the page opens (click to enlarge, does not link to Trump's website):

Above: Agenda47:
Ending the Nightmare of Homeless, Drug Addicts, and
 Dangerously Deranged on American Streets.

One might note that Trump's use of the term "dangerously deranged" (above) defines someone who is a malignant narcissist poised to become president of the United States.

Without going to the Trump website you can read the top of the website featured "plan" Ending the Nightmare of the Homeless, Drug Addicts, and Dangerously Deranged on American Streets by clicking here. It should be obvious none of this was written by Trump. You can also read it by scrolling down this page and clicking "Read more" which is a part of this blog on a second page.

Scrolling down his website this is what you see:

You can click each image to enlarge - this will not take you to Trump's website. You can read a very brief summary under the titles but to really see how chilling these plans are you have to go to his website.


On page two of Trump's website here's some of what is explained in detail:

  • Preventing World War III, 
  • Reversing Biden’s EO Embedding Marxism in the Federal Government, 
  • Protecting Americans from Radical Leftist ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) Investments, 
  •  Plan to Stop the America Last Warmongers and Globalists,
  •  Plan to Protect Children from Left-Wing Gender Insanity, 
  • Plan to Save American Education and Give Power Back to Parents, 
  • Calls for Probe into Intelligence Community’s Role in Online Censorship, 
  • Total Ban on Taxpayer Dollars Used to Free Illegal Aliens and Criminal Penalties for Administrative Noncompliance, 
  • Free Speech Policy Initiative

You really have to read each of these to see why Agenda47 means that Trump's vision of America is that it will become a dictatorship where nobody but a favored group feels safe from oppression and disenfranchisement.

We all know the meaning of "fucked" in this context - it has nothing to do with sex. It means to be in a really bad situation. Preface this with "royally" and it means to be in a really, really, really, really bad situation. Capitalize royally and it means not only to be in a really, really, really, really bad situation but to be fucked over by royalty, or in Trump's case, by a dictator.

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  "Morning Joe" covered this today with clips of local Sinclair owned station anchors reading the exact same script about the Wall...