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TygrBright's Journal
TygrBright's Journal
May 30, 2024

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty,


Hats off to all the dedicated NY State Prosecutorial team and a HUGE nod of gratitude to Judge Merchan.

Now please, PLEASE protect those jury members.


May 6, 2024

Yet Another Failure of American Journalism: Campus Protests, 2024

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. They fucked it up pretty good back in the day, too - except that back then the messages were so simple that even with the media moaning about anarchy and violence and misguided youth and outside agitators and lock 'em up, the basics of "We have a right to vote regardless of skin color" and "We don't wanna be sent to a fucking swamp to die for bullshit" still got through.

Those were easy enough to understand in part because the people getting taken down by police dogs, occupying the campus buildings or lunchcounters, dodging the teargas and/or firehoses, etcetera, were the people directly suffering from the injustices and stupidities.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to parse out the nature of the failure this time, partly because the issue is so much more complicated, and partly because very few American college students are at risk of getting kidnapped and raped by Hamas terrorists or dying in an Israeli bombing raid - although doubtless some of them have families who are living with those risks.

And at first, I had a hard time understanding exactly what the protests were for. Other than "shitty stuff happening, make it stop!" Which is valid, to a point, and - also to a point- somewhat in the unofficial college student job description. Higher education students historically occupy (sorry, pun unintentional) a special niche in cultural evolution, by reason of their commitment to education, being in an environment of intellectual, philosophical and social dialectic, and their logistical concentration in place and numbers.

But the world is full of spectacularly shitty stuff happening, all day, every day - what specifically were these students targeting and what did they think they could accomplish?

I am fortunate to have my life experience as both a student who protested and family member of students who protested. So while I knew perfectly well that back then there WERE FBI informants and provocateurs among us, they were in no way 'running the show' and there was no way they could have ignited and sustained the level of effort for a really major protest. Yes, students are volatile. Yes, you can provoke them to do stupid, even violent and destructive things in the short-term (koff-koff, championship game post-game 'frolics' koff-koff). But no, there's no vast, well-funded conspiracy that can fool that many students into sustaining that much effort for that long, just to whatever, pwn the (group of choice here) or whatever.

There are thousands of well-educated young people, the future of our country, who find something important enough to skip the parties, give up study time, risk arrest, miss exams, etcetera. What is it? It couldn't be just "stop the shitty stuff happening". College students aren't naive enough to think that their school administration can phone up Bibi and make him resign, or stop the bombing. Few are even optimistic enough to imagine that the combination of publicity and second-hand pressure from college administration can accomplish any major immediate change actions/policy reversals by our own government.

So, I went looking for the equivalent of the reportage from years ago, when the media would send actual journalists to gather information about protestors' goals. Back then, of course, they would refer to them as "lists of demands". ::sigh:: But at least they asked. And reported what they learned.

I have seen almost NO media coverage of what protestors are trying to accomplish. Painfully, slowly, piecing together a little here, a reference there, it's becoming clearer. Here's what I've learned so far. I'm sure it's incomplete, and some of it may be wrong, but... While their specific goals vary from school to school, many of the protests are focused on one or more of the following:

1. Get the institution's fund managers to divest any and all investments in the parties doing shitty things - mostly Israel since Hamas doesn't have much exposure in the securities or equities markets, nor does the most active state accomplice of Hamas (Iran). (Shades of apartheid-era South Africa. This shouldn't be wildly outre' territory for media that was around then.)

2. Get the institution to examine any possible institutional bias in its own sanctioned dialectic of geopolitical and cultural content, and take steps to be transparent in identifying bias, presenting content that may counterweight prevailing assumptions or at least open up opportunities for contrast, discussion, and a wider understanding.

3. Get the institution to put some of its institutional power into raising visibility and scrutiny of what the students have identified (correctly, I think - but not always necessarily or solely because of malicious intent on the part of the institutional leadership) as a woefully one-sided public narrative, and make space for other voices and broader dialectic about the history, economics, and politics of this very complicated issue under institutional aegis.

These are entirely legitimate goals with a long history of achievement via student activism in other contexts. Big institutions with entrenched and comfortable fund managers, leaders concerned about 'public perception' and, most of all, the flow of substantial support from other institutions and big donors, are naturally change-hesitant if not change-averse.

So if we're looking to the media to pull the "hidden agendas" into the light, why aren't they examining and exposing some of the drivers of institutional overreaction, escalation, and generally stupid decision-making?

Certainly, hold protestors who do engage in loathsome, counter-productive violence and anti-semitism to account. But only in proportion, please, with the larger groups of students using better strategies, working toward goals consistent with their understanding of history and the future they will have to live in.


April 25, 2024

The Words (and phrases) That Have Silenced Me

(Is 'Semitism' even a word? Is 'Pro-Semitism'?)
Jewish Homeland
Jewish State

None of these words, apparently, means what I used to think it meant. Use of any of these words seems to have a very high chance of triggering misunderstanding, conflict, dismissal, assumptions, and/or confusion.

I would like to discuss what is going on right now, in that part of the world, but I daren't.

I am silenced by the words that have too many meanings to too many people, all different, all of whom seem certain that anyone who doesn't share THEIR understanding of the word(s) must be vile or stupid, or both.

In all the years we have had the capacity, here on DU, to auto-trash articles based on a topic, I have used it but rarely, and then only for minor annoyances (I believe the phrase "poll says" is still on my auto-trash list.) Certainly not for big, important topics where discussion might be the only hope of raising the light-to-heat ratio and promoting shared goals such as preventing Putin from stealing another election and implementing autocracy in America.

But this defeats me.

Silence it is.


April 13, 2024

Q. What happens to a nation that allows their bitterest opponent unopposed and unpunished...

...access to the most powerful propaganda tools ever invented for THREE DECADES?

A. Look around you.

Putin has been America's bitterest opponent since he was an apparatchik in the Soviet Intelligence machine. Like many of the Soviet helots, he believed the glory and victory that a great nation like Russia's USSR had achieved was denied them, even 'stolen' by Western democratic nations who refused to treat the Soviets as equals.

And in the wake of WWII as America implemented the Marshall plan, assisted Western Europe in rebuilding, and assembled NATO to deny the Soviets' expansionist agenda, America became the enemy of all enemies, the root cause of all the ills experienced by the Soviet Union. America was the agent behind its dissolution, and the architect of all its loss of territory, influence, and power.

Putin learned early that as long as America and its capitalist economic engine provided the world with a model of democratic power, Russia would never be able to assume its rightful, deserved, and stolen place as a behemoth on the world stage. That's been the most powerful driving force in his accumulation of influence and wealth, and his rise to supreme power in Russia.

Putin ALWAYS intended to damage America, expose 'democracy' as a sham inflicted on ignorant sheep by powerful and hypocritical oligarchs. He ALWAYS intended to weaken us by setting our diverse cultural, social, and political groups against one another. He ALWAYS planned to maneuver and manipulate the most venal and incompetent people into public office. He was always focused on degrading the capability of a government 'of and by' the people to act 'for' the people.

He knew from the start that military conflict was off the table as an option. Even the various proxy conflicts he provoked, funded, and encouraged were never regarded as game-changers, only as part of the multi-faceted long game. America must be made to implode, to eat its own, to expose its most shameful aspects on the world stage, to destroy its own reputation and subvert its own power.

The real tool to accomplish his end? Propaganda.

It's ALWAYS been his weapon. And then, in the 1990s, the Internet escalated the power of that weapon. The new propaganda weapon is to the older version as a nuclear ICBM is to a hand-thrown spear.

I hate to ascribe anything even remotely complimentary to him, but I have to admit this: Putin's genius was in recognizing exactly how powerfully these weapons could be exploited, and exactly how America's culture and economy make it supremely vulnerable to such attacks.

And so, for three decades now, he has waged a one-sided, increasingly effective war on America, which has done virtually nothing at all to defend itself or fight back. Yes, we've deployed some of the most advanced cybersecurity ever to protect the infrastructure of the Internet and our economy's growing dependence on it, and that's good - in terms of priorities, I can't fault that.

But what I CAN fault is our flaccid response to the sophisticated manipulation of our cultural communications, electoral system, and educational system. Our passive acceptance of the pummeling of our bedrock beliefs in the necessity of government's reliance on not just the consent, but the informed participation of the governed. We need to be having robust conversations about how to protect free speech when speech can be so easily weaponized to deny the voices of those opposing Putin's agenda of American dissolution.

Instead, we're letting ourselves be distracted and divided by the very agents Putin has manipulated into doing is work for him.

And so, here we are.


March 5, 2024

They tried to keep my sister from voting.

(edited to correct: This was at last week's primary vote.)
Recently retired and a lifelong Democrat, my sister moved from southern Illinois to Ann Arbor last summer. Ann Arbor is in Washtenaw County. It's the principal campus of the University of Michigan. It is reliably Democratic in its voting patterns, and my sis felt right at home there. Nice people, nice place.

Washtenaw County is surrounded by some of the reddest MAGAt-holes in Michigan, county-wise. But she knew that although Michigan is a swing state, it had a long progressive tradition, too - one of the wellsprings of America's labor movement, the home of Louis Brandeis. So she wasn't too worried.

Until the card dropped into her mailbox a couple of weeks ago.

It said "We have reason to believe you no longer live at (her address, which she'd used in registering to vote just LAST SUMMER). Unless you request and complete a verification form, you will be removed from the list of registered voters."

She didn't just request the verification form, she went, in person, to the county registrar and completed and submitted the form.

Nevertheless, when she went to vote last week, her name was "flagged" on the voter roll for her polling place. Fortunately, she had brought extra identification verification - not just her State ID but recent utility bills bearing her address, and her auto registration with the address. And eventually she was allowed to vote.

Were you, gentle reader, under the impression that such articles as this coverage were hyperbole? Isolated incidents? Anomalies?


They have shown their hand. The attempts to fuck up the 2024 election by any means necessary (especially suppressing the vote in reliably Democratic areas) are already underway. Well-coordinated and well-funded. Happening to ordinary people, in ordinary places.

Make no mistake, we ARE at war, to save our democracy. Fight voter suppression any way you can. Start NOW.

Verify your registration. If you live in a swing state, verify it again, every few weeks, right up to the election. Prepare to be challenged. Gather your documentation. Report suspicious incidents. Do not go quietly. Write letters to the editor. Show the evidence. Shine light on the weasels who want to work in the shadows.

Save our democracy.

February 29, 2024

Why the Supremes Ruling on the Presidential Immunity Case is a WIN-WIN!

It's a short strategy tree!

Option One: Supremes rule Presidential Immunity doesn't apply. [Redacted] is screwn, the election interference case grinds on, a bunch of other cases become increasingly viable and ultimately that dumbshit gets buried six feet under and well tamped-down.

Option Two: Supremes rule Presidential Immunity DOES apply. Joe Biden orders three of them assassinated, postpones the election until a new Court with his own appointees replacing them is convened and proposes an amendment to the Constitution denying Presidential immunity forever.




February 15, 2024

Things that make me go "Godz help us!"

Fair disclosure: I did not watch Monday Night's The Daily Show featuring Jon Stewart, so if you can prove that it was NOT an exercise in bothsidesism, I'm happy to review your evidence.

In the absence of that, there seems to be a fair consensus that, in fact, it was such an exercise.

Which is sad.

But it's not what made me go "Godz help us!"

No, that was sparked by going to the YouTube post of that episode, and reading the comments. (I shouldn't do that. Really, I mostly know better. But...)

And seeing how many versions of "I am totally ignorant of how America's political system works and completely unaware of my responsibility as a citizen to participate in the electoral process but I can sure do the complain about it thing real good, watch this!" were there.

Versions of "why don't "THEY" find someone younger!"

This one made my hair stand on end: "Honestly, the plan should be for Americans to boycott the next vote until both parties have proper candidates." If I wasn't 94.6% certain that "John335i" is a Russian bot, I'd be seriously worried.

And this nugget of 'wisdom': "Politician” shouldn’t be a job. You’re a public servant, not a CEO." Oka-a-a-aay, Brainiac, what would YOU suggest the function of running for elected office, representing a constituency, studying the various legislative proposals and policy actions, formulating a constructive response, exercising your office responsibly, communicating with your constituents, providing constituent assistance, raising money to run for re-election, attending endless meetings, reading endless papers, and generally not having a life for a few years should be, if not a job?

And of course, that hardy perennial favorite: "Used to think that people who dont vote are misinformed or dumb now i just realize there's nobody worth voting for and theyre two sides of the same coin"

For comic relief, there were all the variations on "But what about RFK Jr?"

Hundreds upon hundreds of comments and I'd bet that less than 2% of the ones made by actual human beings (as opposed to trollbots) represent the responses of people who have actually attended a local Party meeting, run for public office, taken a civics class, actually read the text of a bill, attended a legislative hearing, worked on a candidate campaign, or even called an elected official's constituent response line.

Dear DU friends, did you think the Moms for Liberty were batshit cray-cray when they started banning books and lobbying school boards to not teach history? Just wait until they ban civics.

Godz help us, because apparently WE ain't helping us...


February 10, 2024

Dear Republicans: Please keep banging on about Biden's age...

...and how incompetent it makes him, and how age is fit only to get shoved aside where it won't bother younger and better folks trying to do the job.

You've really got something there. It's your Great Hope to campaign effectively against Joe Biden.

Pay no attention at all to anyone who reminds you:

This election has the largest cohort of voters over 70 in U.S. history.

The highest voter turnout is always among seniors.

Seniors get pretty cranky, oppositional, and defiant when younger and less experienced folks engage in thoughtless ageist prejudice and discrimination.

Also, the guy "Methuselah Joe" is running against is a) only three and a half years "younger" than him, and b) vastly less competent at everything except criming.

Just ignore that shit.

Keep banging on about how AWFUL it is that Joe is so ANCIENT and totally incapable of doing the job he's been doing superbly for the last four years - running an effective campaign and running the country.

You're definitely digging in the right spot. Would you like a bigger shovel? We'll start a GoFundMe for a nice excavator for you.


January 7, 2024

Money buys racism (and other forms of hate)

There are a dozen versions of the little fable about the three people sitting at a table with a dozen cookies. One person has nine cookies, one has two, and one person has one cookie. The two people with three cookies between them start giving the side-eye to the person with nine cookies, when that person leans over to the person with two cookies and whispers "That person with one cookie wants YOUR cookies."

In some versions the person with one cookie is black, in some they're an immigrant, etc.

Racism goes back long before 1492 and it's certainly not exclusive to this slice of North America. Our efforts to acknowledge it, identify the damage, and undo racism are painfully small and slow - but up through 2008 they were steady. Progress was made, in excruciatingly tiny increments, but it was progress.

I knew when Obama was elected that it would provoke some backlash - but I also felt proud of America in a whole new way. It was a watershed moment. There was the usual stupid racist bullshit, but it wasn't until two years later that the Hate Machine got turbocharged.

What happened in 2010?

"Citizens United". Money stopped being a complex, somewhat problematic economic concept and became "speech." And in the land of "free speech", making money "speech" was the ultimate way of SILENCING the not-rich.

Granted, it was Reagan who started undoing America's progress toward a more equitable society, deregulating banks and communications, destroying the tools government was using to address inequity, idolizing wealth and consumption and defining 'success' as making a fuckton of money no matter what you had to destroy or degrade to do it.

But until 2010 it was still possible, if increasingly difficult, to use the electoral process to curb the worst excesses. Which really pissed off the people with nine cookies, who all thought they were entitled to the whole dozen. Crumbs are plenty for the rest of us. So if we keep voting for people who won't let them grab all the cookies, we have to be stopped.

"Citizens United" made it possible for them to do exactly that. Not just buying elections, but buying communications outlets, buying "think tanks", buying the commons, buying the conversation and controlling it for themselves. And as long as they can keep the other two people fighting over that last cookie, they can get on with sliding the cookies off everyone else's plate.

In 2010, the Supreme Court basically told us "Enjoy fighting over your crumbs, you dumb suckers."

The hate spewed unchecked. Racism. Anti-semitism. Misogyny. Xenophobia. Any kind of hate that can be used to keep us dumb suckers suspicious and mistrustful of one another, while they grift everything out from under us.

And it's working.


P.S. I'm NOT saying we shouldn't continue to fight hate in all its forms. We can do that as well. But until we undo the Great Grift, we'll be trying to move the desert one grain of sand at a time.

December 31, 2023

The cheapest form of warfare

I downloaded several books on spookery, an area that has always interested me (especially for the difference between reality and legend) to read over the year-end holiday.

Call it what you will - espionage, intelligence work, secret service, spying, etcetera, true spookery is the art of gathering and using information about one or more targets, unbeknownst to (though often suspected by) that target, for any of a number of economic or political purposes (and, in the end, aren't 'economic' and 'political' inextricable strands of the same thread?)

Cue the obligatory Von Clausewitz quote:
"War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means."

One thing that obtrudes in the study of modern spookery (*defining 'modern' as beginning with the build-up to WWI, at the end of the 19th Century) is the extent to which the organizations involved are vulnerable to misinformation, disinformation, common griftery by dishonest agents, and many types of error. Whatever 'information' comes in via the spook channels has a surprisingly high chance of being at best incomplete and/or inaccurate (partially or wholly) and at worst, the work of counterspooks deliberately working to deceive the recipients.

This isn't always information warfare (see: "The Tailor of Panama" - while such incidents are rarely so extreme or cinematographically lurid, they are distressingly (to the spook organizations) common.) With the best intentions to maintain some level of integrity or even just reliability, the nature of spookery breeds grifters like roadkill breeds maggots.

However, information warfare emerged as a major function of spookery quite early on in the modern era. While a certain amount of deception has been included in many mission goals from the earliest days, initially it was the case (and still is in some spook organizations) that such goals were limited and focused as elements of larger operations. A means to an end rather than an end in itself.

Enter the Bolsheviks, early in the 20th Century. Finding themselves in the position of the dog who has actually caught the car and discovered it to be an old beater with an empty gas tank, and additionally, being squarely in the crosshairs of virtually every better-funded, better-armed, and more stable government in existence, they had to improvise. With verve. And conviction. The Third International was a shitload cheaper (not to mention a whole lot easier) than bringing the remnants of the Russian military, plus the revolutionary comrades still busy squabbling among themselves, up to par as a deterrent force.

Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades knew from their decades of experience kicking around the nations of the world as exiles and gathering plenty of information about them, that absent a potent, overtly military common threat, it was every nation for itself. They all secretly distrusted or hated each other, were constitutionally disinclined for any kind of meaningful united action, and would backstab or exploit each other at the drop of a hat if they thought they could get away with it.

Had two or three national powers united and mounted a military action in the wake of the October Revolution (early November in the Gregorian calendar) it would have been a cakewalk to dislodge the Bolsheviks from power. Even one major power, had they been willing to commit substantial military effort, could probably have done it. But in the wind-down and aftermath of WWI, none of the many nation-states who saw Bolshevism as a terrible threat to the established order was willing to step up to that extent.

Instead, the Third International declared its goal of "World Revolution" and the Central Committee of the Soviet mounted a successful information war, working to convince the thicket of opponents surrounding it that a) the Soviet was a strong, capable, and united government with a firm grip on its own territory; and b) viable revolutionary cells were springing up in every opponent's very own backyard. None of which was remotely true, in hindsight. But bolstered by a ruthless and successfully scary counter-espionage effort within its own borders, it succeeded in buying them the time needed for the sting of the successful revolution to moderate a bit and sap the will of potential opponents for a major military action to dislodge them.

Spook organizations will generally admit some level of awareness of their own vulnerability to information warfare. Indeed, they spend a lot of time and effort coming up with protocols and systems to prevent infiltration, identify disinformation, etcetera. It's a literal game of whack-a-mole (in the spook sense of 'mole') that costs a lot of money and effort. Throughout the 20th century, and especially in the post-WWII heyday of Cold War high spookery, a large portion of any spook organization's resources was devoted to fooling, and not being fooled by, other spook organizations.

They got used to it, they created tools, they improved their skills, and most accepted a certain percentage of losses in the spook-versus-spook arena. Because everyone in the spook world knew the stigmata of disinformation and the dangers of information warfare, they managed to contain quite a lot of it, up through the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In 1991, the former Soviet Union broke up, foundering under the weight of a military and technological infrastructure its core economy had never been able to adequately support. Its power structure disintegrated into a kleptocratic scramble for control of economic resources, and its considerable cadre of spook resources hollered "sauve qui peut!" and went on the grab, too.

In 1993, just over 30 years ago now, the Internet went public.

In 2001, the 3G network made the Internet accessible by mobile phone.

In 2004, just about 20 years ago, Facebook hit the 'net and "social media" became a thing.

In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone.

As of today, an estimated 5.3 billion people - about 65% of the world's population - use the internet. In 'developed' countries that number approaches 100% of the population.

And sometime on that timeline, all warfare transitioned to a version of information warfare, taking place performatively and directly, not in the fetid swamps of spookery or between seasoned nation-state actors, but on the smart phones of virtually everyone.

Why mobilize vast military might or develop expensive new superweapons when you can horrify the world with a terrorist attack, and then proceed to successfully divide and conquer any potentially organized, thoughtful response? Why invade your enemy when you can divide their citizens and get them to immobilize and destroy their own effectiveness? Why create an elaborate disinformation program targeted to effectively deceive savvy professional spooks when you can propagate everything from misdirection to the wildest lunacy with a few bot networks?

Why try to hide your information warfare when you can successfully get your targets so tangled up in arguing about what it is and where it's coming from and who started it until they hate each other far more bitterly than they will ever hate you?

Think about it, DU friends, the next time you believe it's imperative to prove how wrong and/or malicious and/or misguided and/or stupid and/or deceived and/or mean and/or ignorant THAT bunch of your fellow DUers are.

The GOP may be scrambling for campaign cash, but their sugar daddies in the oligarchy can still fund a VERY successful information war. And they are perilously close to winning.


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