America meddled in Russia’s election?

For those who see Russians behind every rock, working to subvert the 2016 US presidential election and causing every problem short of our dogs pooping on the carpet, you might want to consider the fact that America meddled in Russia’s elections long before there was any controversy in our country.

Time Magazine’s July 15, 1996 edition carried a fascinating story called “Rescuing Boris: The secret story of how four US advisers used polls, focus groups, negative ads and all the other techniques of American campaigning to help Boris Yeltsin win.”

Reporter Michael Kramer clearly lays out how Boris Yeltsin, the candidate most favorable to US interests, was headed for certain defeat, until he secretly hired a team of US political gurus who used modern methods to pull him from the brink and put him back into the president’s seat. Yeltsin’s people used connections to the California GOP to recruit the consultants. And, using Dick Morris as an intermediary, the Clinton White house specifically helped to make Yeltsin viable:

Communicating in code – Clinton was called the Governor of California, Yeltsin the Governor of Texas – the Americans sought Morris’ help. They had earlier worked together to script Clinton’s summit meeting with Yeltsin in mid-April. The main goal then was to have Clinton swallow hard and say nothing as Yeltsin lectured him about Russia’s great-power prerogatives. “The idea was to have Yeltsin stand up to the West, just like the Communists insisted they would do if Zyuganov won, says a Clinton Administration official. “By having Yeltsin posture during that summit without Clinton’s getting bent out of shape, Yeltsin portrayed himself as a leader to be reckoned with. That helped Yeltsin in Russia, and we were for Yeltsin.

The American team wanted Clinton to call Yeltsin to urge that he appear in his ads. The request reached Clinton – that much is known – but no one will say whether the call was made. Yet it was not long before Yeltsin finally appeared on the tube.

While that was at the behest of the Russian president (we’ve also interfered in at least 80 elections without such an invitation), can you imagine how heads would explode in the US if the situation were reversed? What would CNN say if they found that Trump hired Russian campaign advisors, or that Putin had been asked to “take one for the team” and do something to make Trump look more presidential?

Welcome to America, where our cheap exports are weapons and hypocrisy.

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Trump, already owned

I voted for Trump, not because I like the man, but because of the positions he consistently put forth. Nonintervention. Border security. Restructuring trade deals. Less than four months in, he’s either abandoned or reversed every position on his platform.

After talking repeatedly about nonintervention, he’s staffed up with neocons, bombed Syria, threatened North Korea, is exploring major buildups in Syria and Afghanistan, and is about to push through one of the biggest arms sales deals in history to an autocracy that beheads more people each year than ISIS (ie Saudi Arabia). His olive branch to Russia is gone. His proposed budget has a huge boost to military spending.

During the campaign, he said the UN and NATO are obsolete; now they’re fine.

He put forth a nationalist economic vision as a candidate, then staffed his administration with globalist Goldman bankers who are ready to gut our regulations in the banks’ favor.

Legislatively he failed to come through on pushing a real alternative to Obamacare (the current bill is spectacularly weak sauce, and has not even made it to the Senate yet). The first continuing resolution to go through Congress has no funds for his much-vaunted wall.

I don’t regret my vote, in the sense that I had no choice: Either vote for the person who says they’re going to create change, even if there’s a 90% chance they’re either lying or incompetent, or vote for the person who advocates for the status quo, when there’s a 100% chance they’re going to succeed.

But to me, this was the final proof that change is impossible on the political front. If things are going to change, they’ll have to change despite – not because of – politicians.

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Blaze of Glory

I started to wake up to the unsustainability of our system back in 2008, and once you start down that road it’s only a matter of time before you start to wonder if you’re crazy: While you’re in a near-panic about the imminent collapse of our country, the rest of your fellow Americans, supported by the media, think that our “happy motoring” lifestyle (h/t Jim Kuntsler) will go on forever, and that you’re some kind of tinfoil-hat-wearing nut for suggesting otherwise.

Of course, numbers, facts, and logic don’t lie, and the fact that the majority are engaging in denial and wishful thinking doesn’t make them right. But that doesn’t make it any easier to be in the minority, feeling like a “Cassandra” while your friends and family go merrily and ignorantly about their lives.

For those who feel the same, I give you Blaze of Glory by The Alarm: Hopefully it reminds you of the strength you have, and the importance of continuing to speak out no matter the cost.

(It’s not the easiest to understand; lyrics can be found here.)

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The H1b scam

The federal H1b program is intended to allow foreign workers into the US to do high-skill jobs for which employers can’t find qualified domestic workers. In reality, it’s a way for US employers to lower their labor costs, ignoring the large pool of fully qualified (but more expensive) US workers in favor of cheap foreign labor.

This isn’t a small program, either; in 2014 there were 124,326 new applications approved and 191,531 renewed. Since this is a three-year program with one possible renewal, the total number of H1b foreign workers in the US is triple that, or close to a million lower-wage workers in positions that should otherwise go to US workers at much higher wages.

Where are those workers coming from? According to a recent report to Congress, in 2012 most – 64% – come from India, with no other country sending anywhere close to that many (China came closest at 7.6%).

Given that so many come from India, and that they’re coming under the pretense that they are significantly more qualified than their American counterparts, you may be stunned to learn just how poor the Indian training system when it comes to computer programming.

According to a 2017 skills assessment of graduating Indian software engineers conducted by Aspiring Minds, an Indian skills assessment company:

  • Out of the 2 problems given per candidate, only 14% engineers are able to write compilable codes for both and only 22% write compilable code for exactly one problem.
  • Only 14.67% of engineers are employable for IT Services company, while a worryingly low percentage of 2.47% are observed to be employable in IT Product company.
  • Amazingly, just 2.21% of candidates are able to write functionally and logically correct code.

This is the labor pool from which we’re pulling the majority of overseas workers, who our US staff supposedly cannot compete with.

If you want to learn more about how we’re being played by the H1b program, see this recent 60 Minutes story, or spend some time on the Protect US Workers site. It’s an outrage, and it needs to be stopped.

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No public in public education

“All politics is local,” as the old saying goes – and the same is supposed to be true of public education. Education isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, which means the issue is supposed to be left entirely up to the states. And most would prefer that it remain true to its early days as a city or community concern, as evidenced by the rise in local-control charter models.

But politicians seem unable to keep their hands off of public education, and as a result we have seen a gradual increase in federal influence – which has morphed into control – since Jimmy Carter created the federal Department of Education in 1979 as a favor to the teacher unions. And, as business has become more and more politically powerful, we have seen growing corporate influence as well.

Consider, for example, this reporting from the Seattle Education blog, in which they document two very concerning developments:

  • To be eligible for federal funding (the leverage the feds need to control what the states do), every state is required to submit an annual plan, one which is supposed to be shaped in part by the community. In Washington state, there was virtually no parent involvement – not a single parent on the state plan workgroup, just a “parent representative” from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. (There was also a Parent and Community Engagement Workgroup, but only three of the 22 members were parents, and only one of those three attended their three meetings.)
  • Before Washington’s state plan is submitted to the Feds, it’s being sent to two nonprofit education groups – Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners, both of which are funded by the Gates Foundation (also the primary source of support for Common Core efforts) – for “review.” This is apparently common across the states.

It’s been clear for some time that the public has no voice in public education – this is just one more example.

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Automation, jobs, and IQ

We all know that automation takes jobs. Historically, this has produced more new jobs than were made obsolete; however, going forward, that may no longer be the case. Oxford University (2013) predicts that in the US, 47% of jobs are at risk due to computerization, and it’s hard to imagine that we’ll find productive employment for those displaced adults in that time.

The National Academies of Science says that “The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market.” But that’s either disingenuous or shallow-minded. The reality, as Dr. Jordan Peterson points out in the video below, is that automation is eating the job market from the bottom up, taking jobs that require the lowest IQs:

If someone with a lower IQ loses their job to automation, there’s not enough education or job retraining in the world to make them capable of a higher-IQ job – it’s a matter of intellectual capacity, not knowledge. I’m not saying they couldn’t eventually learn the skills, but rather that they wouldn’t be able to compete with people who have the same skills and a higher IQ. If you’ve got someone intellectually suited to be a warehouse worker, you may be able to train him to code (eventually), but there’s no way he could hold his own against others more intellectually capable of working in the field. You’re setting him up to fail, and ultimately wasting everyone’s time and money in the process.

As Dr. Peterson notes, the way this has played out so far is with an epic wave of opioid addiction, both legal and illegal, among those who have been displaced. Hopefully people will figure out better options as automation continues to consume more and more jobs.

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Cheating for Macron?

The French election, which Emmanuel Macron won yesterday, was a big deal: It had implications not only for France but also for the European Union, which Macron wants to strength and Le Pen had promised to leave.

So it’s odd that there were a significant number of “anomalies” in the voting process, all of which favored Macron:

  • In the first round of voting, which winnowed down a large number of candidates to two finalists, there was a computer “error” in which 500,000 French citizens living abroad (a group much more in favor of the EU) were sent duplicate ballots, allowing them to vote twice. In a large field, this may have swung the vote enough to ensure Macron a place in the second round.
  • In the second round, there were thousands of reports of people receiving damaged and invalid ballots for Le Pen in the same envelope as intact ballots for Macron, with others reporting that they received two ballots for Macron and none for Le Pen!

Obviously this doesn’t prove conspiracy, but I’m always skeptical when all of the errors go in one direction. Regardless, I think this is the beginning of a story in France, not the end of one – there are already reports of protests in the country, and there’s no real chance, due to structural factors, that Macron can actually fix any of the problems faced by the French.

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