The Overton Bubble

The Overton BubbleThe Overton Window and Political Control

By Warg Franklin

Nov 24 2016

http://thefutureprimaeval.net/the-overton-bubble/

The Overton Window is a concept in political sociology referring to the range of acceptable opinions that can be held by respectable people.

“Respectable” of course means that the subject can be integrated with polite society. Respectability is a strong precondition on ability to have open influence in the mainstream.

Thus the Overton window becomes a mechanism of political control. If you can define the coordinating ideologies of all enemy political coalitions as outside the Overton window, then respectable society, which is your own power base, will be free of their influence, and they will be fatally marginalized. It is difficult to get your people to play along just by fiat, but it can be done. This is the basic insight behind official ideologies and religions, inquisitions, political repression of speech, and so on. It is an indispensable system of power for any ruling coalition, and is thus present in all societies.

The trouble with the Overton window as a mechanism of political control, and with politicization of speech and thought in general, is that it causes significant collateral damage on the ability of your society to think clearly. If some thoughts are unthinkable and unspeakable, and the truth happens in some case to fall outside of polite consensus, then your ruling elite and their society will run into situations they simply can’t handle.

Thus a wise elite uses the politicization of speech very sparingly, only in situations where immediate political security is threatened, and they use it in concert with other destructive but effective mechanisms like martial law, state seizure of assets, and such, to quickly and decisively return to a state of political security. Once political security is restored, the lawful freedom which is necessary for clear thought and prosperity can be reinstated.

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Why Not Smart Guns in This High-Tech Era?

Why Not Smart Guns in This High-Tech Era?By the Editorial Board

Nov 26 2016

The Department of Justice has issued official guidelines for the manufacture of smart guns — weapons that, like smartphones, have technology to allow only the rightful owners to use them. The guidelines aim to “shape the future of gun safety technology,” as called for under an executive order issued in January by President Obama, in the face of Congress’s refusal to deal with the nation’s horrendous toll of gun deaths.

Nearly 7,000 children committed suicide with guns from 1999 to 2014, and thousands of people are killed every year with misappropriated guns. How many lives might be saved if guns were equipped with fingerprint scanners, radio frequency chips or other evolving technology that blocks anyone but the owner from using them?

The National Rifle Association gun lobby was quick to sneer that the guidelines, issued on Nov. 16, were a desperate effort by Mr. Obama to claim “a ‘win’ during his waning days in office.” Actually, the guidelines reignite the promise of smart guns — a promise cut short 16 years ago when the N.R.A. led a boycott of Smith & Wesson after the gun manufacturer pledged in a White House agreement to explore smart-gun technology.

The technology is available. In fact, Jonathan Mossberg, scion of the nation’s oldest family-owned gunmaker, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, patented a shotgun in 2000 that successfully blocked firing by anyone not wearing the shooter’s radio-frequency identity ring. The gun industry lacks not the high-tech know-how, but the fortitude to advance the safety of its weapons in the face of gun-lobby politics and threats. The new voluntary guidelines aim to create industry standards for reliable battery power in a smart gun, for ensuring unhindered speed in drawing the weapon and for the distance allowed between the gun and its owner’s ID device.

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The 13 impossible crises that humanity now faces

[Note: This item comes from friend Judi Clark. DLH]
The 13 impossible crises that humanity now faces

From Trump to climate change, this multiheaded crisis presages collapse. And there’s no hope of exiting the ‘other side’ if political alternatives are shut down

By George Monbiot

Nov 25 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/25/13-crises-we-face-trump-soil-loss-global-collapse

Please don’t read this unless you are feeling strong. This is a list of 13 major crises that, I believe, confront us. There may be more. Please feel free to add to it or to knock it down. I’m sorry to say that it’s not happy reading.

1. Donald Trump

The next occupant of the White House will be a man who appears to possess no capacity for restraint, balance or empathy, but a bottomless capacity for revenge and vindictiveness. He has been granted a clean sweep of power, with both houses and the supreme court in his pocket. He is surrounding himself with people whose judgment and knowledge of the world are, to say the least, limited. He will take charge of the world’s biggest nuclear and conventional arsenals, and the most extensive surveillance and security apparatus any state has ever developed.

2. His national security adviser

In making strategic military decisions, he has a free hand, with the capacity to act even without the nominal constraint of Congress. His national security adviser, Michael T Flynn, is a dangerous extremist.

3. The rest of his team

Trump’s team is partly composed of professional lobbyists hired by fossil fuel, tobacco, chemical and finance companies and assorted billionaires. Their primary political effort is to avoid regulation and taxation. These people – or rather the interests they represent – are now in charge. Aside from the implications for the living world, public health, public finance and financial stability, this is a vindication of the political model pioneered by the tobacco companies in the 1960s. It demonstrates that if you spend enough money setting up thinktanks, academic posts and fake grassroots movements, and work with the corporate media to give them a platform, you can buy all the politics you need. Democracy becomes a dead letter. Political alternatives are shut down.

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To Understand Facebook, Study Capgras Syndrome

To Understand Facebook, Study Capgras SyndromeThis mental disorder gives us a unique insight into the digital age.

By Robert Sapolsky

Nov 10 2016

http://nautil.us/issue/42/fakes/to-understand-facebook-study-capgras-syndrome

We start with the case of a woman who experienced unbearable tragedy. In 1899, this Parisian bride, Madame M., had her first child. Shockingly, the child was abducted and substituted with a different infant, who soon died. She then had twin girls. One grew into healthy adulthood, while the other, again, was abducted, once more replaced with a different, dying infant. She then had twin boys. One was abducted, while the other was fatally poisoned.

Madame M. searched for her abducted babies; apparently, she was not the only victim of this nightmarish trauma, as she often heard the cries of large groups of abducted children rising from the cellars of Paris.

As if all this pain was not enough, Madame M.’s sole surviving child was abducted and replaced with an imposter of identical appearance. And soon the same fate befell Madame M.’s husband. The poor woman spent days searching for her abducted loved ones, attempting to free groups of other abducted children from hiding places, and starting the paperwork to divorce the man who had replaced her husband.

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Has the internet become a failed state?

Has the internet become a failed state?The internet was once a land of promise, with few fears about crime or privacy. Thirty years on, scammers, thieves and spies have created a place of chaos

By John Naughton

Nov 27 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/27/has-internet-become-failed-state-crime-cyberspace

Here are some stories about the world we now inhabit…

• In February this year, Bangladesh Bank was hit by the biggest bank robbery in history when thieves got away with $101m. The heist was accomplished not by tunnels or explosives, but by acquiring the access codes for the Swift global messaging system, which is what banks use to securely pass payment orders to one another. The criminals used Swift to instruct the US Federal Reserve to transfer money to their accounts. Then they cunningly erased their digital fingerprints by modifying the bank’s software.

• In June 2015, the US Office of Personnel Management revealed that its computer systems had been hacked and that the hackers had stolen the social security numbers, names, dates and places of birth, and addresses of 21.5 million people, including some who had undergone background checks for sensitive government posts.

• In October 2015, nearly 157,000 customers of the UK telco TalkTalk had their personal data stolen in a massive intrusion into the company’s computer systems. Police later arrested six teenage boys in connection with this cyber attack.

• In the past two years, hospitals worldwide have found themselves on the receiving end of a vicious type of cyber attack. Medical staff suddenly find that their hospital’s computer systems are locked and inaccessible to them because they have been secretly infiltrated. They then receive a message telling them that their data will be unlocked on payment of a ransom in Bitcoins. The European police agency Europol now reckons that the threat from “ransomware” has eclipsed all other forms of online theft and extortion.

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Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts sayBy Craig Timberg

Nov 24 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

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The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.

The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.By Lawrence Lessig

Nov 24 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-constitution-lets-the-electoral-college-choose-the-winner-they-should-choose-clinton/2016/11/24/0f431828-b0f7-11e6-8616-52b15787add0_story.html

Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “Republic, Lost: Version 2.0.” In 2015, he was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.

The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.

Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason. 

So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?

Only twice in our past has the electoral college selected a president against the will of the people — once in the 19th century and once on the cusp of the 21st. (In 1824, it was Congress that decided the election for John Quincy Adams; likewise in 1876, it was Congress that gave disputed electoral college votes to Rutherford B. Hayes.)

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Trump’s climate denial is just one of the forces that point towards war

Trump’s climate denial is just one of the forces that point towards war
The failure to get to grips with our crises, by all mainstream political parties, is likely to lead to a war between the major powers in my lifetime
By George Monbiot
Nov 23 2016
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/23/donald-trump-climate-change-war

Wave the magic wand and the problem goes away. Those pesky pollution laws, carbon caps and clean-power plans: swish them away and the golden age of blue-collar employment will return. This is Donald Trump’s promise, in his video message on Monday, in which the US president-elect claimed that unleashing coal and fracking would create “many millions of high-paid jobs”. He will tear down everything to make it come true.

But it won’t come true. Even if we ripped the world to pieces in the search for full employment, leaving no mountain unturned, we would not find it. Instead, we would merely jeopardise the prosperity – and the lives – of people everywhere. However slavishly governments grovel to corporate Luddism, they will not bring the smog economy back.

No one can deny the problem Trump claims to be addressing. The old mining and industrial areas are in crisis throughout the rich world. And we have seen nothing yet. I have just reread the study published by the Oxford Martin School in 2013 on the impacts of computerisation. What jumps out, to put it crudely, is that jobs in the rust belts and rural towns that voted for Trump are at high risk of automation, while the professions of many Hillary Clinton supporters are at low risk.

The jobs most likely to be destroyed are in mining, raw materials, manufacturing, transport and logistics, cargo handling, warehousing and retailing, construction (prefabricated buildings will be assembled by robots in factories), office support, administration and telemarketing. So what, in the areas that voted for Trump, will be left?

Farm jobs have mostly gone already. Service and care work, where hope for some appeared to lie, will be threatened by a further wave of automation, as service robots – commercial and domestic – take over.

Yes, there will be jobs in the green economy: more and better than any that could be revived in the fossil economy. But they won’t be enough to fill the gaps, and many will be in the wrong places for those losing their professions.

At lower risk is work that requires negotiation, persuasion, originality and creativity. The management and business jobs that demand these skills are comparatively safe from automation; so are those of lawyers, teachers, researchers, doctors, journalists, actors and artists. The jobs that demand the highest educational attainment are the least susceptible to computerisation. The divisions tearing America apart will only widen.

Even this bleak analysis does not capture in full the underlying reasons why good, abundant jobs will not return to the places that need them most. As Paul Mason argues in PostCapitalism, the impacts of information technology go way beyond simple automation: they are likely to destroy the very basis of the market economy, and the relationship between work and wages.

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This space engine breaks a law of physics. But a NASA test says it works anyway.

This space engine breaks a law of physics. But a NASA test says it works anyway.
By Sarah Kaplan
Nov 22 2016
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/11/22/this-rocket-engine-breaks-a-law-of-physics-but-a-nasa-test-says-it-works-anyway/

NASA scientists have been daydreaming about a new kind of engine that could
carry astronauts to Mars in 70 days without burning any fuel. Now, in a new paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Propulsion and Power, they say that it might really work.

The paper, written by astrophysicists at NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratories,
tested a electromagnetic propulsion system, or “EM drive,”
that generates a small amount of thrust simply by bouncing microwaves
around a cone-shaped copper chamber. No propellant goes in, no exhaust
comes out, and yet, somehow, the engine can make things move.

If you think that news sounds too good to be true, you’ve got good instincts — it just might be. This “impossible” fuel-less engine appears to violate one of the fundamental laws of physics.

Say what?

Hark back to your high school science classroom. Avert your eyes from the unfortunate hair styles and acne, if necessary, and try to focus on what’s written
on the blackboard: For every action, there is an equal and opposite
reaction.

That’s Newton’s third law of motion. It’s the principle that explains why
pushing against a wall will send an ice skater zooming in the opposite
direction. It also explains how jet engines work: As hot gases are expelled out the back of the plane, they produce a thrusting force that moves the plane forward.

But the EM drive doesn’t work that way. Its thrust seems to come from the
impact of photons on the walls of the copper cavity. That would be like
moving a car forward by just banging against the windshield.

And that works?

According to the new paper, yes. The Eagleworks scientists report that their
machine generated 1.2 millinewtons of thrust per kilowatt of electricity
pumped in. (That electricity could come from solar panels in a
hypothetical spaceship.) That’s a fraction of thrust produced by the
lightweight ion drives now used in many NASA spacecraft, National Geographic noted, but it’s a lot more than the few micronewtons per kilowatt produced by light sails, a proven technology that generates thrust using radiation from the sun.

Where did this idea come from?

The idea for an EM drive was first published a decade ago by British engineer Roger Shawyer. He argued that the drive isn’t really “reactionless” — instead, he argued, the thrust comes from radiation pressure. Microwaves inside the cavity create an imbalance of radiation that pushes against the walls and generates thrust.

The idea was hyped in headlines and splashed across the cover of New Scientist magazine, but most scientists were, and still are, extremely skeptical. There’s
no theoretical explanation for how such an engine might work, and not
all the possible sources of experimental error have been eliminated.

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According to Snopes, Fake News Is Not the Problem

According to Snopes, Fake News Is Not the ProblemTake it from the internet’s chief myth busters: The problem is the failing media.

By Jessi Hempel

Nov 16 2016

https://backchannel.com/according-to-snopes-fake-news-is-not-the-problem-4ca4852b1ff0

The day after the election, news began swirling around social media that New York Times columnist David Brooks had called for President-elect Donald Trump’s assassination. Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski had a feeling it was fake. Because, come on now, would a prominent columnist for a reputable news outlet really make that kind of comment?

Snopes has made its business out of correcting the misunderstood satire, malicious falsehoods, and poorly informed gossip that echoes across the internet — and that business is booming. Traffic jumped 85 percent over the past year to 13.6 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore. The site supports itself through advertising, and in the last three years it has made enough money to quadruple the size of its staff.

Sure enough, a bit of Snopes reporting revealed that Brooks had written a column saying Trump would likely resign or be impeached within a year. A news item published on The Rightists claimed Brooks had then said in an interview for KYRQ Radio New York that Trump should be killed. Snopes found The Rightistsdoesn’t even pretend to traffic in truth. In the site’s “about” section, it describes itself this way: “This is HYBRID site of news and satire. part [sic] of our stories already happens, part, not yet. NOT all of our stories are true!” What’s more, the story’s facts didn’t add up. For example, the site claimed Brooks had made the comments on a radio station — KYRQ — that didn’t exist.

Verdict: FALSE.

This is the state of truth on the internet in 2016, now that it is as easy for a Macedonian teenager to create a website as it is for The New York Times, and now that the information most likely to find a large audience is that which is most alarming, not most correct. In the wake of the election, the spread of this kind of phony news on Facebook and other social media platforms has come under fire for stoking fears and influencing the election’s outcome. Both Facebook and Google have taken moves to bar fake news sites from their advertising platforms, aiming to cut off the sites’ sources of revenue.

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