Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Conclusion of The Plot to Betray America

February 23, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the first part of a title of a book by Malcom Nance. The remainder of the title is How Team Trump Embraced Our Enemies, Compromised Our Security, and How we Can Fix It. This is his third book on how Trump is destroying democracy. Nance writes, “I have written numerous books on intelligence tradecraft, counterterrorism, the rise and fall of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and the fundamentals of the Russian plot to hack the American elections. However, nothing done by the worst terrorists filled me with more horror than realizing that Alexander Hamilton’s “unprincipled man”—the American-grown autocrat that the founding fathers had warned the nation about some two hundred years earlier—had finally cheated his way into the Oval Office with the assistance of an ex-KGB officer. This was not only an insult to all Americans living in a democracy but to all of us who have served in America’s military and public service to defend her.” Nance continues, “The worst part of the story is how easily one-third of the nation has been brainwashed into backing a man who thought the pinnacle achievement of his life would be to construct a building emblazoned with the word Trump in Moscow, the capital of our enemy. This American story is a shameful, sorrowful tale the likes of which we should be seriously embarrassed about.”

It also appears that General Ulysses S. Grant had a certain prescience regarding the future of the United States: “If we are to have a contest in the near future of our natural existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s but between patriotism and intelligence on one side and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other.”

Being less prescient than Grant, George Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette about the separation of powers under the Constitution: “The general Government is arranged that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an Aristocracy, or any other despotic or oppressive form so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the People.” It is clear that there is no virtue in Trump or the Republican Party. How much virtue remains in the body of the people awaits judgment.

Nance notes that Trump has seemed hell-bent on destroying the pillars of national security while acting as if he was increasing them. Russia has been so pleased with Trump’s work that Alexander Dugin, Vladimir Putin’s extremist philosopher, claimed that “the peak of American dominance is behind us.” Nance writes, that “it would appear that Trump sought to ensure that this was made a reality.

In Helsinki Trump forbade the presence of any staff and once again met Putin for two hours privately with only their interpreters present. Trump took the notes of the interpreter and forbid her to reveal what was discussed.

Trump attacked and continues to attack the FBI and the world’s best intelligence agencies that have documented the support Russia provided to Trump. The Russians not only supported Trump but also fomented discontent among different groups in the United States. When not only the size, but also the sophistication of their campaigns is considered, it is clear that Trump would not have won (and remember he did not win the popular vote) without their aid. It is also clear that he is shutting down our intelligence agencies so that the Russians will have a free hand in his re-election.

Even if the Democrats manage to overcome this interference and manage to win the election, Trump will likely declare fraud and refuse to leave the White House. Shortly thereafter he will likely declare himself president for life. Remember all the charges and lawsuits he is subject to if he does leave office. Perhaps there will be negotiations for the dropping of all pending and future charges, so he will leave the White House for his own dacha in Russia.

So what measures might be deployed to prevent this disaster? Russian disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz wrote in her article The Disinformation Vaccination, “What we need is something familiar to many who have worked in foreign assistance: capacity building. But rather than mounting such an effort abroad, we should pursue it for our own people. It’s a harder, longer process, but one that seeks to move beyond band-aids and vaccinate against the virus, prioritizing the citizens who fall victim to disinformation.”

Finland has successfully deployed the following digital literacy solutions:
*Equip every citizen with digital skills and educate them in digital literacy.
*Strengthen and support an independent media and fact checkers.
*Adapt electoral laws that are sensitive and adaptive to the digital era.

Nance writes, “There can be only one solution when a tyrant like Trump raises his hand: Impeachment.” Unfortunately impeachment is insufficient. The Republican Senate, in spite of overwhelming evidence, refused to convict.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Homo Sapiens

January 3, 2020

As the immediately preceding post said “Too many humans are not living up to the name of their species” readers might have drawn the conclusion that these humans are all Republicans. The objective of this post is to correct this possible misconception. First of all, not all Republicans are guilty, there remain a few Republicans who hold fast to their true Republican beliefs. The husband, if he is still the husband, of Kellyanne Conway is one of these individuals, who is both extremely intelligent and extremely articulate.

There are many Democrats and liberals who also do not live up to the name of their species. One concerns GMOs (genetically modified organisms). GMOs have been developed by scientists to solve the hunger problem in the world. Farmers are provided the information and technology needed to promote crop growth. Entirely new crops, that are not only safe, but also more healthy, have been developed. Many hundreds of studies have resulted in the consensus that GMOs are safe to eat. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine commissioned a comprehensive study of the science, and in 2016 their report declared GMOs both safe to eat and environmentally benign. Of the scientists in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 88% think it’s safe to eat GMO foods. This is almost exactly the same percentage of those scientists who say climate change is real and man-made, the latter a data point regularly used to demonstrate right-wing anti-science craziness. So people on the left also choose to ignore evidence and disbelieve important science they find upsetting. It is also the case, that there will never be 100% agreement on any topic. Rather one uses a measure of the strength of consensus.

Another example is the false belief that vaccines cause autism and other terrible illnesses derives from an excessive mistrust of experts, and the conviction that some vicious conspiracy is behind everything. The study that ignited the hysteria appeared in 1998, when diagnoses of autism had been increasing. A doctor studied ten children who showed autistic behavior after they were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, published research in a medical journal, and became the guiding light of a new movement.

Replication is the sine qua non of science. This research could not be replicated by other doctors and scientists. Nor could another article of faith, that a mercury-based preservative was the autism trigger, be substantiated. Major study after major study ever since has found stronger and stronger evidence that vaccines do not cause autism. Not until a dozen years after publishing the original paper—after the doctor was stripped of his medial license and found to have acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” did The Lancet finally retract his study calling it “utterly false.” The other major British journal called it an “elaborate fraud.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., had been the movement’s big star, repeating the argument that the U.S. government scientists were “involved in a massive fraud.” So even prominent liberals and Democrats provide doubts about belonging to Homo sapiens.

Other examples could be cited, but the basic point is that all of us can reason in a manner counter to Homo sapiens.

What Has Happened to the Global Engagement Center?

December 2, 2019

This post is a follow up to the post titled “Information Wars.” A few weeks before the end of the Obama administration Congress codified the Global Engagement Center (GEC) into law in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. It’s mission was to “lead synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining the United States national security interests.”

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally requested the money, it was not for more than a year. When Tillerson finally did make the request, a year and a half into the administration, he asked for half of the $80 million that Congress had authorized. The sponsors of the legislation, Senators Portman and Murphy said this delay was “indefensible” at a time when “ISIS is spreading terrorist propaganda and Russia is implementing a sophisticated disinformation campaign to undermine the United States and our allies.”

The GEC is no longer in the business of creating content to counter disinformation. It has become an entity that uses data science and analytics to measure and better understand disinformation. Over the past two years, a steady stream of people has quit or retired and the GEC has had a hard time hiring replacements.

What is especially worrisome is when one hears Republicans arguing the points of Russian disinformation, for example, that the Ukraine was involved in disrupting the 2016 election in debating the Democrats. One has to think that true Republicans like Ronald Reagan and John McCain are thrashing about in their graves.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Unhealthful Memories Can Lead to Alzheimer’s and the Loss of Democracy

May 3, 2019

This post is motivated by an article by Greg Miller titled “With Mueller silent, Barr speaks for him—and defends the president” in the 2 May 2019 issue of the Washington Post. The article is about how Barr has gotten ahead of Mueller and completely misrepresented the report of the special council. Mueller has remained silent trying to observe the normal protocols. Barr has completely misrepresented Mueller’s report and continues to lie and misrepresent his characterization of the report when questioned by Democratic members of the Senate. Most Republicans seem to be complicit in Barr’s lies and misrepresentation.

Mueller will eventually testify, but much damage has been done by Trump’s puppet Barr. However, it is more than time that truth will need to overcome. The failure of too many Americans to use their critical thinking processes also hinders their reaching truth.

A brief review of Kahneman’s two process theory of cognition is appropriate here. System 1 is fast and is called intuition.  System 1 needs to be fast so we can process language and make the fast decisions we need to make everyday.  System 1 is also the seat of our emotions.  System 2 is called reasoning and corresponds loosely to what we mean by thinking.  System 2 requires mental effort and our attentional processes.

The default mode network will be mentioned in future posts. Basically it corresponds to System 1 processing. What is important is the word “default.” Once misinformation has gotten into memory it takes cognitive effort to remove and correct it.

Without knowing it, Trump is a genius at exploiting the default mode network. The default mode network is also responsive to emotion. Emotion comes first. That’s why it is important to stop and think, when you become angry, so you do not respond foolishly. But by exploiting pre-existing biases and out and out lying, misinformation gets into memory. And it will remain there until the individual thinks, discovers the information is wrong, and corrects this memory.

This problem is exacerbated by social media. As has been shown in previous posts, social media reinforces this disinformation. Much of this misinformation is emotional. Hate spreads easily, unfortunately, much faster than does love and caring.

There have been many previous posts on how cognitive activity, system 2 processing, getting free of the default mode network decreases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Moreover, there are many cases of individuals whose brains have the defining characteristics of Alzheimer’s, the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, who die never knowing that they had Alzheimer’s because they had none of the behavioral or cognitive symptoms.

Effective democracy also depends on healthy memories. It requires that citizens know how democracy works and seek and evaluate information as to how the democracy should proceed. There is ample evidence that few citizens know how the government is supposed to work as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. And there is ample evidence that most voting citizens have little understanding of the issues and candidates on which they are voting.

If Russia waged a conventional military attack on the United States, citizens would be outraged and demand that we fight back. But the Russians are smart, and too many Americans are stupid. The Russians used cyberattacks. These cyberattacks have been described in previous healthy memory posts. These cyberattacks promoted Trump for president and created disruption and polarization among the American public. Remember that Trump was not elected in the popular vote. He lost that by three million votes. He won due to an irresponsible electoral college.

Trump built his campaign on lies, and continues to support himself on lies. Obviously it requires too much mental effort for too many citizens to recognize this individual as the fraud and obscenity he actually is.

Regardless of the Mueller report, there is ample evidence that Trump needs to be impeached. And reading the Mueller report one quickly realizes that if Trump did not commit any crimes of which he could be convicted, his behavior still puts democracy at risk. Should he not be impeached and should he lose a reelection, he will claim fraud and refuse to leave the office. Our democracy is at risk of becoming a de facto totalitarian dictatorship. Obviously that is something that Barr would prefer, as he thinks there are no limits on presidential power.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Disturbing Data on What We Believe and Trust

April 27, 2018

This post is based on information in the book “Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions are So Compelling” by psychologist James E. Alcock. A 2017 Pew Research Poll carried out in the United States reported that 85% of Republicans and Republican leaners, compared to 46% of Democrats, believe that the reports of the traditional news media are having a negative effect on the country. The same research poll found that while 72% of Democrats in their sample consider colleges and universities to be an “overwhelming positive force,” only 36 % of Republicans share that belief, and more than half of Republicans view colleges and universities as having a negative effect on the nation. It is frightening to think that more than half of the people in a major political party regard higher education as having a negative effect.

Dr. Alcock writes, “The core beliefs of dogmatic political or religious fundamentalists are unlikely to change no matter what we do, for those beliefs are well entrenched. Even Marcel Proust observed about the facts of life, “do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; they did not engender those beliefs, and they are powerless to change them.”

In terms of Nobel Winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s Two Process Theory of Cognition, these people are for all intents and purposes System 1 processors. System 1 is termed intuition and refers to our usual mode of thinking fast based on our learning and emotional feelings. To question and reevaluate thoughts, System 2 processing, called reasoning, or more commonly thinking, requires us to use attention. Virtually all learning involves System 2 processing, and System 2 processing is essential for critical thinking.

Republicans having negative views about the news and higher education characterized them as primarily System 1 processors. The world is changing rapidly and the news reports the changes. To understand the news requires System 2 processing, something these Republicans do not want to do. Similarly colleges, at least good colleges, need to advance with the thinking of the times. They need to be critical, but nevertheless there are topics that need to be studied and evaluated. One of the worst deeds these parents can do is to not send their children to college or to send them to colleges with a parochial (in the narrow sense, not necessarily the religious sense view). It is also harmful to the country.

It is important that not all Republicans be painted with the same brush. Republicans who have recognized that Trump is no Republican and have either left the party, as George Will did, or have refused to support Trump are clearly System 2 processors Their System 2 processing clearly indicated that not only is Trump not a true Republican, but that he also is a risk to the country and the world.

However, Dr. Alcock has some hope for people whose beliefs are not so dogmatically anchored that they are beyond influence. Even so, this is an arduous process. University courses that encourage critical thinking to help students distinguish science from pseudoscience have had mixed results. Psychologist Tom Gray assessed the effects of a one-semester university course that both emphasized critical thinking in the evaluation of evidence and offered natural explanations for various supposed paranormal phenomena. He found that, while belief in ESP, alien spacecraft, and reincarnation fell from 85% to 50%, over the course of the term many students simply did not change their beliefs at all. In other research, he found that university-level research methods and statistics courses, which might be expected to stimulate critical acumen, do not on their own enhance general critical thinking ability.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bursting Your Twitter Bubble Actually Makes You More Extreme

April 21, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title in a News Piece by Marie LeConte in the 7 April 2018 Issue of the New Scientist. How can people’s minds be altered is the question asked by teams from Duke University, New York University, and Princeton University. More than 1,000 people participated in this research.

Before and after the trial the team measured the political leanings of participants by asking them to rate how much they agreed with such statements as “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient” and “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” These questions were used to identify Republican and Democratic Twitter users. Over the course of a month, Republican Twitter users followed a bot that automatically retweeted posts from Democrat politicians, pundits, and journalists, and vice versa for Democrat Twitter users.

Rather than becoming sympathetic to ideas retweeted by the bots, participants views became more entrenched. After leaving their echo chambers, Republicans became substantially more conservative and Democrats slightly more liberal.

This study does not offer hope to those who want to reduce polarized views. The team concluded, “Well-intentioned attempts to introduce people to opposing political views on social media might not only be ineffective, but counter-productive.”
(SocArXiv, doi.org/cmwx)

Attempts to change people’s views are not only likely to fail, but actually harden those political views. When people think that their beliefs are under attack, they not only put up their defensive shields, but also fire back. This called the Boomerang Effect.

The only known way to affect opposing views is to try to find a point or two of agreement and then work from there. Expressing the same idea or problem differently to attain some degree of agreement can work. If it does, then try to build on this to find other areas potential agreement and then work from there. This is painstaking work.

This article reminds HM of a Prickly City cartoon in the 19 April 2018 issue of the Washington Post. The cat, Winslow asks the human, Carmen, “Why can’t we agree on the truth?”
To which Carmen answers,”Big question”, and continues, “maybe it’s because truth can challenge our deeply held beliefs, making us cling to them harder in the face of reality.”
To which Winslow responds, with the query,”So people would rather feel right than be right?”
and Carmen responds, “That’s about right.”
To which Winslow responds, “Your species is crackers, you know that?”
and Carmen responds, “I’ve often felt that way.”

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.