Article 43

 

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Welcome

Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America.  It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.

This sticky post was written the day we appeared on the internet in 2004.

In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE.  Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.

Everything here can be viewed anonymously.  Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.

There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff.  The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here.  Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance.  Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers.  Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.

If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.

Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author.  If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity.  Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY

Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.

Information on the Pension Class Action Lawsuit against AT&T is HERE.  More pension-related articles are HERE.

Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.

Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.

If you’re looking for telco nostalgia, you won’t find it here.  Check out THE CENTRAL OFFICE, BELL SYSTEM MEMORIAL, MUSEUM OF COMMUNICATIONS, TELEPHONE TRIBUTE, and THE READING WORKS websites instead.

This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.

Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.

...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy

Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
- Aquinas

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

As we head into another depression, fueled by selfish corporate greed, and a corrupt, SOCIOPATHIC US government, MIKE WHITNEY wrote a solution in 2007 that still makes a lot of sense to me :

The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.

Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous sufbsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.

The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.

Posted by Admin on 09/05/04 •

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Price of a Caronavirus Test

image: caronavirus

Back in March 2020, CDC DIRECTOR ROBERT REDFIELD went on record saying the goverment will pay for testing and treatment of coronavirus regardless of insurance coverage.

Watch him speak his empty words HERE:

image: cdc director redfield

Here’s the LAW Representative PORTER pointed out that gives him the power:

The Director may authorize payment for the care and treatment of individuals subject to medical examination, quarantine, isolation, and conditional release

In the eight months that passed since, I haven’t been - and probably won’t be - tested.

I splurged for a mask to wear in public to help protect others, but if the disease winds up in my body, I hope it isn’t painful, and kills me quick, cause I can’t afford to get it fixed.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE.

Elvis/Ed

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Q&A: How much does it cost to get a COVID-19 test? It depends.

Josh Sharfstein, professor of practice and vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, on the nuances of insurance coverage and expenses that accompany COVID-19 testing.

Widespread testing for the novel coronavirus has proven an essential tool in fighting the spread of the disease. Testing allows public health officials to track the viruss path, understand disease prevalence, and determine the need for isolation and quarantine. As the demand for COVID-19 testing has grown, so too have questions about who bears the cost. To understand more about the nuances of insurance coverage and expenses that accompany COVID-19 testing, we reached out to Josh Sharfstein, Professor of Practice and Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How much does a viral test for COVID-19 cost?

There is a wide range in charges. An investigation by the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that the cost of a test can range anywhere from $20 to $850, with $127 being the median cost. Currently, the Medicare reimbursement rate for a COVID-19 test is either $51 or $100, depending on the type of test offered. For those who end up paying out of pocket, there was a smaller range of $36 to $180 per test. Again, any test would also likely require additional charges for specimen collection and a physician’s visit, which could potentially add to the cost significantly.

Does the cost vary depending on where you live?

Yes, in part. The cost for a COVID-19 test may vary a great deal based on type of laboratory where the test is processed, region of the country, insurance provider, and other factors. This unpredictability of cost is part of the larger, fragmented healthcare system in the United States that leads to a wide variability in medical expenses.

Does insurance cover the costs of a COVID-19 test?

Federal law requires insurers to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests, but unfortunately patients are still being charged for related expenses. The law does not require insurers to cover the cost of the medical consultation or doctors referral that may be required before a test will be administered. Another reason is that federal guidance only requires reimbursement for “medically appropriate” testing. An insurance provider might decide that certain types of testing (such as testing after a trip) may not be considered “medically appropriate.”

What about the uninsured?

The federal government has provided a path for reimbursement for COVID-related testing and treatment expenses for the uninsured, including testing. Details about this program are available here. There is no requirement that clinics or physicians avail themselves of this program. As a result, it is possible that the uninsured could still be charged for testing by their healthcare provider.

Why is there so much confusion about pricing and payment for COVID-19 tests?

Early on in the pandemic, in March, several faculty members at Johns Hopkins - myself included - recommended a very different approach to the piecemeal strategy adopted by the federal government. The idea would be to build a crisis insurance system centered on paying to test for and treat COVID-19, and to use the existing Medicare infrastructure and network to provide a payment system for all providers. Since the scale of the problem is national, a federal program would have the capacity to negotiate prices on a global scale, which would help reduce costs. It would also provide an easy route for billing among the large influx of requests for tests and materials that are inundating labs, emergency departments, and hospitals. Additionally, centralizing the expenses from coronavirus care under a crisis insurance program would greatly improve our data collection efforts as we continue to track the virus. Such an alternative path would have prevented many of the current frustrations with accessing and paying for diagnosis and care.

SOURCE

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COVID Testing Is Supposed to Be Free. So Why Are People Still Getting Huge Bills?

By Kristen Bahler
CNN Money
August 18, 2020

Free, universal coronavirus testing is critical to flattening the arc of infection. But while federal law aims to make such testing EASY TO ACCESS and WIDELY AVAILABLE, those efforts have fallen short for many Americans.

The U.S. healthcare system - chaotic in any normal year - is being stretched tissue-paper thin by a flood of coronavirus cases, and squabbling between insurers and legislators about who should pay for that influx isnt making things easier.

So while President Donald Trump has signed multiple orders designed to ensure Americans can get tested for COVID-19 for free, regardless of their insurance coverage, policy loopholes have left numerous ways for patients to get stuck with a bill anyway. (See: The California essential worker who was charged nearly $2,000 for COVID-19 testing, or the woman in Austin, Texas who got a $6,000 bill, according to NPR and the NEW YORK TIMES, respectively.)

Here’s everything we know about how much coronavirus tests actually cost and why some people are having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

[Note: The type of testing referenced throughout this story refers to the COVID-19 diagnostic test, not the antibody test. A complete guide to the where to buy coronavirus antibody tests and how much they cost CAN BE FOUND HERE].

How much is a COVID-19 test SUPPOSED to cost?

Prices for coronavirus testing aren’t federally regulated, according to a REPORT from The Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (Peterson-KFF). Like other types of medical fees, insurance companies have to negotiate the cost with the providers and labs that dole out the tests.

The CARES Act requires hospitals and other medical providers to disclose the CASH PRICE of COVID-19 tests on their websites, which, in theory, could help could people looking to take the test know exactly how much money they’ll be out if they end up having to pay for it on their own. But not all medical providers are following that CARES Act rule - and those that are publicly posting coronavirus test prices are disclosing costs ranging anywhere from $20 to $850 per test, according to the Peterson-KFF report. That’s quite a spectrum, and it doesn’t include fees for other services that may be required, like doctors visit charges, specimen collection, or other types of diagnostic testing.

How to get free COVID testing

Insurers are legally required to pay for in-network testing, so try to find a medical facility where you know you’ll be covered. Many insurers have also agreed to cover the cost of a COVID test if its done at an OUT-OF-NETWORK facility, but you’ll want to reach out to your insurance company (or Medicare/Medicaid provider) before your visit.

As of this writing, the government is REIMBURSING MEDICAL PROVIDORS that give coronavirus tests and treatment to uninsured Americans, as long as certain qualifications are met. So as long as you have a SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER AND A STATE I.D., you should be able to get a test for free or for a nominal fee - even if you don’t have insurance.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Insurers aren’t required to pay for fees incurred by patients who seek a COVID-19 test but don’t actually GET the test. So if a doctor decides not to test you for the virus, or the facility has run out of tests completely, you could still be on the hook for whatever fees you happen to rack up during your visit from a strep test to a five-night HOSPITAL STAY.

THE RULES for out-of-network coverage are even more muddled, which can be particularly burdensome for people living in rural and low-income pockets of the country where medical providers ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN.

“Such charges - can be financially burdensome or prohibitive for uninsured or self-pay patients, especially given the current labor market and high rates of unemployment,” the KFF report says.

Where to get a coronavirus test

Your state and local health department websites should have a list of the hospitals, clinics, and “drive-thru” screening facilities offering COVID-19 tests in your area, according to the CDC.

Many doctors and medical centers are scheduling TELEHEALTH APPOINTMENTS over video prior to administering the test in-person, so make sure you know what the procedure is before trying to get a walk-in appointment (you might get turned away if you just show up). Pharmacies like CVS and WALGREENS are also operating pop-up testing sites appointments for those facilities can be booked online.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/13/20 •
Section Dying America
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Monday, October 12, 2020

Dictatorship of the Billionaires

image: multinational pledge

The rich will receive $4.95 trillion from the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill.

The $2.2 trillion includes more than $450 billion for large corporations, allegedly in loans. The bill includes a provision that the Federal Reserve can print up to ten times that amount and lend that $4.5 trillion with a nod and a wink to large corporations.

The combined profits of all US corporations in 2018 and 2019 were slightly over $4 trillion before taxes. The rich and their corporations, in other words, are getting more than two years worth of profits from the stimulus bill. This money will mainly go to the largest corporations, which means the money will go to a small number of corporations, pretty much the 100 to 150 largest. This means a massive stock market bubble is on the horizon fueled by the Fed, lies, political corruption, smoke and mirrors.
- The CoronaVirus Stimulus Bill: The Rich Get 5 Trillion, We Get Crumbs, John Hively’s Blog, March 28, 2020

The United States is a Dictatorship of the Billionaires

John Hiveley’s Blog
June 13, 2020

DIVIDE AND CONQUER; nobody has done it better than THE BILLIONAIRES WHO HAVE CONTROLLED the United States via their two major political parties and their Supreme Court for the last forty years. But first a few comments.

I wonder if the downturn of the stock market on June 9-11, 2020 was just a correction, although I am suspicious it marks an increase in market volatility on its way toward the intersection where the real downtrodden economy meets the robust Wall Street market. In which case, we could be looking at a rapid or slow and long-term decline in share prices.

I do not think a lot of people understand that we are at the beginning of a recession and not at the end. I suspect that many people were buying the stocks of corporations for the last two weeks that are going bankrupt (think Hertz) because of desperation of their financial situations since 40 percent of US adults do not have $400 to cover an emergency, not in savings, not in credit cards or other assets, if I remember correctly.

I have read and listened to many experts on the rise of the stock market since March while the economy has tanked, but I have not heard how income and wealth inequality has driven the stock markets to record highs by redistributing trillions of dollars from the 99 to the 1 percent over the last forty years, nor do I hear how financially desperate many people are; not even those who are buying bankrupt Hertz and J.C. Penny shares. Those subjects are not allowed by the billionaires who own all the major news sources.

I have a good neighbor and he just got laid off from his job and fears losing his house. I see desperation written all over his face and in the tone of his voice when I speak with him. I see the middle class families in nice cars and wearing nice clothes rummaging through the recycle bins the night before the trucks pick that stuff up. Most, but not all of these folks, did not begin their rummaging pilgrimages until March. I watched videos a few days ago of the first food lines for the middle class since the Great Depression of 1929-40, a line of 600+ cars deep, people in their new Toyota Lexuss, and other high end newer cars, who needed to gather free food in order to feed themselves. 20 to 40 million people are unemployed and all the congress would do was save the billionaires. See THE CARES ACT. THE RICH GET $4.75 TRILLION AND WE GET THE CRUMBS.

We are at the beginning of a recession that will be severe because 40 years of the greed of sociopathic rich folks who control both major political parties and the Supreme Court, and who can never get enough money, and far more than they could ever spend, and who derive almost, and in many cases, all, of their income and wealth from the ownership of corporate shares, either through capital gains, dividends or corporate bonds.

Then you have the gullible grassroots on the political right who have been led to think the communists are controlling things; and then you have the gullible on the left who think the Democratic Party leaders actually give a rat’s ass about them; for the grassroots of both the left and right, the reality is unhidden and staring straight into their eyes.

All you need to do is look at Nancy Pelosis Heroes Act, the fifth stimulus since coronavirus shut down the U.S.; this legislation extends the government’s extra $600 unemployment insurance per week through the end of the year, and provides other income to the 99 percent too, although much of the money in the proposed legislation will still go to the rich. Pelosi waited to push the Heroes Act through the Democratic controlled House after both Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump said they were not interested in a fifth stimulus. Pelosi knew the Heroes Act was grand theatre for the blind faithful even though she could have easily negotiated more money for the 99 percent with McConnell and Trump during the first, second, and third bailouts, when McConnell and Trump were desperate to save the billionaires who pull their strings, which happen to be the same strings they use to pull Nancy Pelosi with. She did not negotiate for us little folks. Did she?

The billionaires pulled the strings of Pelosi, McConnell and Trump to come up with the notorious CARES ACT [local .pdf], which bailed out the rich and their corporations to the tune of $4.75 trillion while throwing crumbs at the masses, which made for good theatrical effect. The billionaires corporate news media did their duty and only reported on the crumbs and how great they were.

As for the grassroots on the right, the CARES ACT alone should tell them how insanely wrong they are to assume Democratic Party politicians are controlled by communists, and the CARES Act should tell them that Republican politicians would not give a snailҒs fart to help them out during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And you would think the blind followers of the Democrats could figure out that the Democratic Party politicians have not cared about them since Jimmy Carter was president.

The voters of both sides, you would think, would by now figure out that both Democratic and Republican Party politicians threw them overboard forty years ago. It only takes one thing: using your brains to put two and two together.

Billionaires own this nation, both political parties, they have at least five United States Supreme Court judges in their back pockets, along with a lot of other judges; they own the media and only tell you what they want you to believe, and most of you believe the propaganda and the lies used to turn the grassroots of the right and the left against each other.

No, this economic crisis will not be over soon. This is going to be a long economic nightmare. The rich have gotten richer while the rest of us have been drained financially dryer during the last few months alone.

We have to figure out how, as a people and as a nation, we want to come out of this crisis. Lurching forward into another economic wasteland like Argentina is for the vast majority of its people; or with a strong political change that reins in the obvious corruption at all levels of the U.S. government, and ensuring a government of, by and for the people, rather than just continuing to impoverish ourselves under the dictatorship of the billionaires.

We have a collective choice to make and the time has come to cast aside our petty differences and organize. The 1 percent were taking at least 37 percent of the income produced in this nation in 2019, up from 8 percent in 1980. They are probably raking in over 40 percent so far this year. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates owned more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and that was before the crisis began. They are richer now.

If our situation continues on this path, the rich will steal even more income and wealth than is currently the case. Then we will be a nation like Argentina, once boasting a prosperous middle class on a level with the best European nations, and now with a population of mostly desperate people.

In the USA, the dictatorship of the billionaires will continue and become stronger unless the grassroots of both sides come together and realize they have economic issues that bind them. Until that day, the dictatorship of the billionaires will continue to impoverish us all even more so than today.

The billionaires will continue to use their corporate media to divide us and make permanent their conquest and subversion of our democracy, our Constitution, and our governments at all levels, local, state and federal.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/12/20 •
Section Dying America
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Fake Videos

Do you think you’re good at spotting fake videos, where famous people say things they’ve never said in real life? See how they’re made in this astonishing talk and tech demo.

Computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn shows how, as a grad student, he used AI and 3D modeling to create photorealistic fake videos of people synced to audio. Learn more about both the ethical implications and the creative possibilities of this tech—and the steps being taken to fight against its misuse.

Watch the TED TALK below:

fake-video.jpg image: fake video ted talk border=0

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Fake And Manipulated Videos Find Fertile Ground As Elections Approach

By Wayne Rash
Forbes
July 14, 2020

By now you’ve seen them on Facebook being shared by your friends. They’re videos of one politician or another saying something you never believed they’d say. Perhaps it’s a video of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ENDORSING HIS OPPONENT. Or perhaps its Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting openly that HE WANTS TO OWN YOU.

But as the 2020 elections draw near in the U.S. you’re seeing more and more unlikely videos involving candidates for President or other high office being shared on social media.

As the technology for creating fake videos becomes more sophisticated, and the videos themselves get better and harder to detect, they’re showing up in all sorts of places, ranging from revenge porn to clickbait. Videos ostensibly of famous people are showing up all over, sometimes to cash in on their wealth, or simply to collect clicks for advertising revenue.

When it comes to elections, however, the threat is more serious. During the 2016 Presidential election, Russian intelligence agencies produced a series of fake videos that purported to show then-candidate Hillary Clinton saying things she never said. At the time, this formed part of the FBI’s investigation into election meddling.

The Russians are Coming

Now the Russians are coming back. They’re joined by intelligence agencies in Iran, China and North Korea in their production of high-quality fake videos attempting to make the rounds on social media. The resulting videos are good enough that gullible people post them and then share them, and of course, people with an agenda that agrees with the video will share them even more. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security expressed its concern about these fakes IN A REPORT to the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“Information warfare techniques are being used by all sides of the political spectrum, and being used by all governments around the world, now more than ever,” said Alex Heid, chief research officer at SECURITY SCORECARD. “Like any war that is waged between established powers, the casualties are oftentimes civilian and considered collateral damage.”

Finding the Fakes

There are really two types of videos that are considered fakes. One is manipulated video, in which a real video is simply changed. A recent one, revealed by The Washington Post, showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivering a speech, but the TIMING WAS CHANGED so that it appeared that she was slurring her words. The narrative that accompanied the video suggested that she was drunk. The real video of the event revealed what had been done.

A deep fake video uses a combination of still images and videos to manufacture a video of something that never existed.

College Admissions-Bribery-USC

“We’ve created two generations of deep fake detectors,” said Wael Abd-Almageed, research associate professor at the University of Southern California. We didn’t release them publicly.” The USC DEEP FAKE DETECTOR is said to be 99 percent effective, which is far better than the open-source products that are available for spotting deep fakes. The reason the products aren’t released is that they could be used by purveyors of deep fakes to improve their software.

Deep fakes are becoming extremely sophisticated. It’s hard to find out if a given video is fake or not, Abd-Almageed explained. He said that his group at USC has interests in the entertainment industry where deep fakes are also a problem, and he expects other industries will also want to work with USC. He said that he can work at scale with social media companies, as well as with other organizations.

“Other users could be media outlets,” he said.

So how do you work with USC? “We can give you access to our system where you upload the video,” Abd-Almageed said. “You will get notified when the system gets finished analyzing the video. It’s free for media outlets and other interested parties.”

He said that those interested parties should reach out to him by email at wamageed at isi.edu.

“I think it’s a big problem, part of a bigger problem which is disinformation, he said. “Don’t share something on social networks without thinking. This whole notion that seeing is believing is gone forever.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/12/20 •
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Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Election That Could Break America III

image: nazi trump

Are These the Last 25 Days of American Democracy?
Most Societies Don’t Come Back from the Brink of Collapse. Can America?

By Umair Haque
Eudaimonia
October 9, 2020

The more desperate that Trump gets, the more egregious his transgressions become. The latest, as he plummets in the polls, is to call for his opponents to BE PROSECUTED AND INDICTED.

That’s straight out of the authoritarian’s playbook. And it should be a clear sign of what is to come. Are these to be the last 25 days of American democracy?

Trump has long understood that he is unlikely to win the election outright. That the majority of Americans don’t back him - THEY DIDN’T THE FIRST TIME AROUND, remember. That’s no mere coincidence: it is the culmination of a trend. The same happened WITH GEORGE W. BUSH, and it was an ominous sign of things to come. Americas RANKED AS A FLAWED DEMOCRACY precisely because it’s obscure “electoral college” system at this point, a remnant of slavery and segregation, designed to EMPOWER WEALTHY LANDOWNERS, stands against the wishes of the majority who want a society more like Canada or Europe than the failed state of Texas.

And so what has developed over the last few months and the over the last several decades, with the GOP - is what looks like a sophisticated, complex strategy to thwart democracy itself, and steal the election. That’s no overstatement or hyperbole. AS I’VE WRITTEN IN THE RECENT PAST, the elements of this are in plain view - for those who care to look.

Before I discuss this strategy, and how its evolving, though, I want to point something out. Americans DON’T QUITE SEEM TO UNDERSTAND that they are living in a pre-authoritarian society now, and have been for quite some time. When the Supreme Court HANDED THE WIN TO BUSH, that was a major, major development in pre-authoritarianism. When Obama - as good a person as he is, he made several major mistakes bailed out the banks, but not Main St, that too was pre-authoritarianism, propping up failed predatory institutions. When WARNINGS OF TRUMP’S ABUSES OF POWER TO COME WERE DISMISSED in 2016, that too was pre-authoritarianism, as it was when Hillary got attacked for “but her emails!!” while Trump was busy scapegoating immigrants, refugees, Jews, Muslims, and everyone else who wasn’t a “real” American.

Pre-authoritarianism isnt just a political phenomenon, though. It’s also a kind of cultural and social current sweeping through a nation. And Americas long been pre-authoritarian in those ways, too. Americans are legendary the world over for their CRUELTY, INDIFFERENCE AND BRUTALITY - all of which are severe blinking-red indicators of pre-authoritarianism. Kids shooting each other up at schools - something which happens nowhere else in the world with such regularity? People having to BEG STRANGERS ONLINE to pay for basic medicine? Generations crippled by unpayable debt, beginning with ”LUNCH DEBT,” becoming “student debt,” then turning into “credit card” and “medical debt” - a society of neo-serfs, in other words?

All these things are severe indicators of pre-authoritarianism, and yet they have also become normalised in America to the extent that many Americans don’t understand that living this way, among such severe cruelty and brutality, is deeply, deeply abnormal. An example I often raise is that of Pakistan, a place where you can buy AK-47s at gun markets - but nobody is shooting up schools. America’s problems are cultural and social.

It’s no overstatement to say that America is a nation in profound social and cultural crisis, with cultural and social problems - like school shootings, medical bankruptcy, skyrocketing despair and suicide, mass distrust, a level of vitriol and indifference that’s truly shocking - that exist almost nowhere else in the world. And all those problems are the ones of pre-authoritarian societies: they are what tend to happen just before societies collapse full on into authoritarianism.

So what is their genesis? What made America fall apart socially and culturally by which I mean become a society in which NO ONE MUCH TRUSTS ANYONE ELSE, where INDIFFERENCE, DESPAIR, and rage are normalized? Like I said: itגs deeply abnormal for a society to feel this way, act this way, think this way, be this way.

America imploded into social and cultural crisis not out of the blue, but for a very simple reason, which predicted just such implosion. ECONOMIC COLLAPSE. The Soviet Union stagnated for thirty years - and that was enough to cause it to fracture into little nations, many of which are failing authoritarian states today. AMERICA STAGNATED FOR FIFTY. That’s almost twice as long, half a century where average incomes haven’t really risen.

Meanwhile, the prices of basics have spiralled completely out of control, becoming flatly unaffordable. Education will cost you as much as a house, and so will falling ill. Food and water and utilities cost far, far more than they do in rich or poor societies. Retirement is an impossibility for three generations and counting right about now. These basics have become things that nobody much can afford in America.

The result of this dislocation - incomes stagnating, while prices rose and rose to amounts that the entire rest of the world finds startling and unbelievable, LIKE $50K FOR CHILDBIRTH - was that the American middle class finally collapsed. It took about two decades for the middle class to eat through its savings and assets, and finally, for the first time, around 2010, the middle class finally BECAME A MINORITY.

Today, the average American DIES IN $62,000 OF DEBT. That’s a figure, an idea, that Americans have normalized - isn’t this how everyone lives? - but it is so profoundly abnormal and perverse that to an economist like me it’s like having a patient who can’t breathe and is about to go into cardiac arrest. There is nothing - and I mean nothing - more alarming in the world of social statistics and economic figures than a nation dying in mass debt.

What happens to societies where people die in mass debt? Debts they have never been able to repay? When entire generations fall prey to that failure? THEY IMPLODE INTO AUTHORITARIANISM AND/OR FASCISM.

That is PRECISELY THE STORY OF WEIMAR GERMANY, after all. It’s also the story of post-Soviet Russia. And the story of the Islamic world.

Why? What is the connection between a collapsing economy and an imploding society? Trust is. If you can’t make ends meet, no matter how hard you try, you live a life of panic, despair, fatalism, nihilism. You are perpetually angry, a human pistol with a hair trigger, ready to lash out. You have been denied the basics, and with them go peace of mind. And with all that goes trust. You being to grow suspicious of your neighbours, who were once friends. Now everyone is just a rival in a bitter, desperate battle for survival. Tribe turns on tribe, group on group. Atop it all stride elites, grinning, satisfied, because now the masses are too weak to even act for themselves. The bonds between them have been severed - and so NO COLLECTIVE ACTION IS POSSIBLE.

A society dies, this way: an economy collapses, and takes trust with it, which produces a political implosion, by way of social disintegration.

That is exactly what happened in America. As the economy collapsed, from 1970 onwards, steadily, slowly, then fast, and finally all at once, collective action stopped being possible at all. Americans by the 2000s distrusted one another so much that they REFUSED TO GIVE ONE ANOTHER HEALTHCARE, retirement, education, and so on. Do you see the irony? That deficit was of the very basics that produced the vicious cycle of implosion, and yet because trust had gone missing from society, collective action to simply give one another the basics was no longer possible.

And that created the opening for a demagogue. Sooner or later, someone was going to come along who blamed already hated minorities for all this. Who scapegoated Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants, for the problems of “real” Americans.

And that is exactly what transpired. Trump led A NEO-FASCIST MOVEMENT to power, and soon kids were in camps, being ripped away from their families, minorities being hunted down in the streets, people being beaten and gassed, women FORCIBLY STERILISED in the camps. And there Trump is today, calling for his opponents to be prosecuted and indicted - a classic and predictable authoritarian move, to finalise the seizure of power.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to really understand American collapse, so that you really understand what America is up against in this election. Let me put it bluntly.

For Trump to lose this election - really lose it, not just fail to win a majority but still retain power - America is going to have to commit its first act of collective action in a very, very long time. Its first positive act. Not just a negative one, as in denying everyone else healthcare, education, retirement, and so on - but an affirmative one, as in, we still want to be a democracy.

If that makes you shudder a little bit, then I’ve been successful - because you understand HOW BIG THE STAKES REALLY ARE.

America isnt just up against Trump. It is up against history. A TOXIC POLITICAL PARTY, a failed set of paradigms, a catastrophic set of ways of thinking about the world. That selfishness and cruelty and brutality - politely disguised as “self-interest” and “self-reliance” and “standing on your own two feet” and even “freedom” - can ever lead a society upwards, towards higher living standards.

Instead, those ideologies, toxic REMNANTS OF SLAVERY AND SEGREGATION, which had never really gone away, led to the following sequence: economic collapse, even for the “real” American, which led to social disintegration, as social bonds were severed, and trust died, which led to predictable and inevitable political implosion, into fascism and demagoguery.

That is all what it means when I say “America was a pre-authoritarian society.” It goes deep, deep into the heart of Americas interlinked crises, economic, social, political, cultural, and is the central thread weaving them together, by way of indifference, despair, and enmity.

This election is America’s last chance. It is a pre-authoritarian society. If Trump wins - and remember, I don’t just mean that he loses the majority, but STAYS IN POWER, thanks to legal challenges, the Supreme Court, voter intimidation and suppression - if he wins, whatever way he wins, America is finished. The transformation to an authoritarian society, which has been on the cards for decades now, will be complete.

That is why people like me survivors and scholars of authoritarianism - have been trying to warn you about all these links. Sarah Kendzior has written about THE DESPAIR IN “FLYOVER COUNTR"Y, Peter Daou warned HOW CIVIL WARS ERUPT, Jason Stanley discussed the EVOLUTION OF FASCISM. America’s pundits - the ones you hear, on CNN and in the NYT and whatnot? They have no idea about this. They have been wrong from day one because they have never lived this, experienced it, understood it in a VISCERAL, FIRSTHAND WAY. We have.

Take the warnings seriously.

These could very well be the last 25 days of American democracy. America is up against all its mistakes, who have culminated in one man, Trump, and his movement of fascists, theocrats, flunkies, sycophants, idiots, and militias. It has never taken a majority to topple a democracy - ONLY A FANATICAL ENOUGH MINORITY.

But do you know what it takes to save one?

A majority, who is capable of doing what is has not, for too long. Finally coming together, to resolve to stand up for decency, goodness, humility, truth, beauty, justice, wisdom, grace.

That is what needs to happen in the next 25 days. America needs to grow more in these last three and a half weeks than it has in the last three and a half decades.

CAN YOU DO THAT? You, my friend, TELL ME.

Umair
October 2020

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/11/20 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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