Doctored Videos are a Hallmark of Authoritarian Regimes

San Pedro Sula    It seems forever ago when the use of facial identification software in detecting members of the crown prince’s security detail implicated them in the murder of Khashoggi, the dissident and journalist in the Saudi Arabian embassy office in Istanbul.  I found the assassination frightening, but I also raised the red flag on the likely abuse that governments, both democratic and authoritarian, might use of this new, powerful, and somewhat frightening tool.  More recently in the endless Facebook foul-ups the almost seamless ability to put the faces of people on violent and pornographic images and videos, including former President Obama, has been a subject of our concern as well.  The role it placed in inciting genocide in Myanmar and communalist outrage and killings in India is well known.

We are not naïve.  Certainly, these tools were mastered in the US and in rich, industrial countries and our tech waste and wonderlands before they were able to put real blood on the knives of hate.  Nonetheless, to see doctored videos pushed out of the White House by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press spokesperson, in order to defend the indefensible barring of a CNN reporter from press briefings and the White House, is appalling.  It smacks of the common practices of dictatorships that we abhor.  Doctored videos are plainly and simply nothing more than propaganda and are hallmarks of authoritarian regimes.

If you missed it, the President in a rare open press conference after the midterm elections became offended at the questions being asked by Jim Acosta, a CNN White House reporter, calling him “rude” for persisting in asking him about Russia and the like.  An intern was dispatched to take the microphone from him.  He held on when she tried to grab it, saying “Excuse me, ma’am.”  The doctored video, that reports now say was done by the notorious and infamous Alex Jones and his much scorned Infowars shop, makes it appear like Acosta more aggressively chopped his hand down at the intern and deletes his “Excuse me, ma’am.”

In and of itself you might say, “whatever, no big deal, they’ll work it out.”  Wrong!  This is the marker of another place where the waters rose on the flood wall, before it swept us all away.  First, the barrage of constant lies and fabrications from the White House and the President that now numbers on average more than seven daily.  Now, we have deliberately doctored videos released with the White House seal of approval as legitimate in order to divide the country and justify curtailment of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  What’s next when there are now no limits?  I shudder to think, but it must be stopped.

We’ve just seen a historic number of at least one-hundred women elected to Congress for the coming term as part of the long footprint of the resistance.  We’ve seen 20,000 Google employees, part of the tech high priesthood of contemporary business and society, walk out over forced arbitration and sexual abuse policies.  We’ve even seen booksellers strike Amazon for barring books from purveyors in several countries. In all cases, these actions were successful.

Why are reporters talking about CNN filing a lawsuit, rather than standing together collectively to protest this propaganda assault with fabricated video?  There’s a lesson in recent actions:  if some protest, people will stand up in support.  If there is no protest, we continue to lose the semblance of rights we still have.

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Please enjoy Helter Skelter 2018 Mix by The Beatles.

Thanks to KABF.

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Calculating the Prospects for Change

First Native American women elected to Congress: Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland
Source: CNN

Houston    It’s still difficult to fully assess the election and its lessons, but some patterns continue to emerge in bits and pieces.

A text from Houston after the midterms underlined the hopes for Texas to move elsewhere along the color spectrum.  Democrats picked up eleven state representative seats for example on the Beto O’Rourke coattails.  This result won’t show up in a calculation of total control of the legislature which is still all Republican all the time, but it might make a difference in the election for Speaker which could stop a lot of terrible legislation and keep it bottled up in committees.

That may be too much in the weeds at this point, but there’s going to be a lot of that kind of data to absorb still.  Looking at highlights though:

  • The first two Native Americans were finally elected to Congress, one from Kansas and one from New Mexico.
  • The first two Muslim women were elected to Congress.
  • Michigan voted to legalize the sale and use of marijuana, while North Dakota did not. Medical marijuana was approved by voters in Utah and Missouri.
  • The San Francisco initiative that put a tax on large employers to pay for homeless housing and support prevailed, while the statewide initiative that would have allowed more cities to enact rent control failed by a 2 to 1 margin after huge opposition by developers and some smaller city mayors.
  • Washington State did not approve the first tax on carbon dioxide pollution although voters in Nevada approved a measure that would require electric utilities to get 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2030.Arizona on the other hand overwhelmingly rejected a similar measure in that state after fierce opposition by the local utility.

On the healthcare front and protection of the Affordable Care Act, the news was virtually all good on all accounts.  Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah – all red to the core – approved ballot initiatives to expand coverage under the ACA, which is a message Republicans can’t fail to hear.  Furthermore, as we have seen in Louisiana for example, the election of Democratic governors in Kansas and Wisconsin may finally move them into the coverage column.  In Maine, where the fight has been protracted and the now former governor has stood in the emergency room door to prevent expansion, the election of a Democratic governor there just about guarantees expansion now.  Of course, Democratic control of the House of Representatives also means that any repeal is now virtually impossible over the next two years, and, as we all know, the longer we have healthcare protection, the harder it will ever be to end it and not to expand it.

Sure, the election didn’t change some things.  President Trump is going on “war footing,” whatever that means.  Many of us thought that’s what he was already on.  For a second he was afraid less than 100% of the attention was on him, so within minutes of a post-election press conference, the White House announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no win for the people, was being temporarily replaced by a Trump hand puppet, guaranteeing that Russia will once again be in the headlines to drown out the increasingly loud voice of the people.

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