Dreamer’s World February 27, 2018 – Starting Another Day And Hoping For The Best

    After a long Monday at work and a late night due to picking Hal up from his job, and night without quality sleep, Tuesday has arrived. I hope that all of the efforts I put into pushing through things yesterday will show results today by reducing the quantity of “emergency” items I have to deal with. I know that today will be an 8-hour day rather than the 9 from yesterday and that knowledge will help me to get through whatever Tuesday has in store for me.
    As I tried to organize things to get today started, I found a note from Hal reminding me that the first of the potential movers will be here today to have a look around and provide an estimate of what they would charge to move us in April. This will happen in the middle of the day, and I am hoping that it won’t cause too much interference in my day at work. Regardless, things like this have to be done.
    At least I know that there aren’t any conference calls scheduled during the projected time for the mover’s visit. Hal will handle the business with them and collect the estimate so we can make a decision later. It is best to get things like this arranged as early as possible since the move is just over 7 weeks away as of today. We would like to have everything all set as soon as possible so we can focus on other things right now.
    I am glad that yesterday is over. Today will present its own set of unique challenges, and I will be ready for them. I can be secure in the knowledge that there is nothing that requires us to go anywhere after work, at least, not at this time. I hope that things stay like this, but I am prepared to take Hal anywhere that he needs to go if necessary.
    All of the obstacles, both real and imaginary, will be overcome by the end of the day. There just might be some adventure out there that I am not aware of yet that will present itself later on. I think that it is best to keep an open mind for the possibilities that life might have in store for us, and just enjoy the ride.

Dreamer’s World February 27, 2018 – My New Libratone Noise-Canceling Headphones

For a long time, I have wanted to get a pair of good noise-canceling headphones. I had set my sights on the Bose QC-35 II headphones, but I never got them because of the high price tag. I had been getting my personal finances under control and really started trying to justify spending the money on them, but something always held me back. Perhaps it was the high price, maybe it was just common sense, but I wouldn’t buy them unless they came down in price by at least $100.
    Eventually, the desire to get new headphones subsided because Bose never recognized the mental messages I was sending to them. I am an audiophile because I love music, and I wasn’t impressed by any of the noise-canceling headphones on the market. After xmas, I figured that I would just wait until something new or better came along. I never gave up on the idea of getting new headphones with noise-canceling, but other priorities were more important to me.
    Just over a week ago I was browsing the web one evening, and I decided to check out the Google Store website. I looked at the accessories that are available for my Google Pixel 2 XL and was very surprised to see that there were noise-canceling headphones available in my price range. I had not heard of the company called Libratone before, but my curiosity was aroused.
    I began to search the web for Libratone and was surprised at the positive feedback that the company was receiving for their products, including the noise-canceling headphones. Of course, there were YouTube videos that showed the noise-canceling headphones, the Libratone Q-Adapt Wireless On-Ear Headphones. I was intrigued by them and kept up with my research.
    I reasoned that if Libratone was considered a good enough brand to be allowed in the Google Store, that there had to be something worth checking into. With the research I had been conducting, my mind began to realize that I might have found the headphones I was looking for.
    I finally broke down and ordered the headphones. They arrived a few days later, and I must say that I am tremendously impressed with them. There is an app that Libratone makes for my phone that allows me to control the noise cancelation without any trouble. I have tested them around the apartment, and I have had no problems at all. They are heavier than the Bose headphones, but not to the point of being uncomfortable to wear, and that is a huge benefit.
    I found that one of the advantages to the Libratones is that since they are on-ear rather than completely covering the ear, I don’t get the cabin pressure syndrome from wearing them for an extended period of time. They look classy, and that is an added bonus as far as I am concerned. The active noise cancelation works very well and is no problem to adjust as needed.
    Of course, any headphones are only as good as the sound quality that they produce. The Libratones are excellent in this regard. The sound quality is right up there with Bose, perhaps a bit more bass than the Bose give me, but I can live with that. The mids and high ranges are crystal clear at all times. I haven’t blasted them at full volume because I never do that with headphones under any conditions. That is why the noise cancelation was so crucial to me in the first place.
    I would recommend these headphones to anyone who wants a great sound experience with the option of noise cancelation and a stylish look that isn’t seen everywhere you go.
    Here are the links:
 
 

Dreamer’s World February 27, 2018 – My New Libratone Noise-Canceling Headphones

For a long time, I have wanted to get a pair of good noise-canceling headphones. I had set my sights on the Bose QC-35 II headphones, but I never got them because of the high price tag. I had been getting my personal finances under control and really started trying to justify spending the money on them, but something always held me back. Perhaps it was the high price, maybe it was just common sense, but I wouldn’t buy them unless they came down in price by at least $100.
    Eventually, the desire to get new headphones subsided because Bose never recognized the mental messages I was sending to them. I am an audiophile because I love music, and I wasn’t impressed by any of the noise-canceling headphones on the market. After xmas, I figured that I would just wait until something new or better came along. I never gave up on the idea of getting new headphones with noise-canceling, but other priorities were more important to me.
    Just over a week ago I was browsing the web one evening, and I decided to check out the Google Store website. I looked at the accessories that are available for my Google Pixel 2 XL and was very surprised to see that there were noise-canceling headphones available in my price range. I had not heard of the company called Libratone before, but my curiosity was aroused.
    I began to search the web for Libratone and was surprised at the positive feedback that the company was receiving for their products, including the noise-canceling headphones. Of course, there were YouTube videos that showed the noise-canceling headphones, the Libratone Q-Adapt Wireless On-Ear Headphones. I was intrigued by them and kept up with my research.
    I reasoned that if Libratone was considered a good enough brand to be allowed in the Google Store, that there had to be something worth checking into. With the research I had been conducting, my mind began to realize that I might have found the headphones I was looking for.
    I finally broke down and ordered the headphones. They arrived a few days later, and I must say that I am tremendously impressed with them. There is an app that Libratone makes for my phone that allows me to control the noise cancelation without any trouble. I have tested them around the apartment, and I have had no problems at all. They are heavier than the Bose headphones, but not to the point of being uncomfortable to wear, and that is a huge benefit.
    I found that one of the advantages to the Libratones is that since they are on-ear rather than completely covering the ear, I don’t get the cabin pressure syndrome from wearing them for an extended period of time. They look classy, and that is an added bonus as far as I am concerned. The active noise cancelation works very well and is no problem to adjust as needed.
    Of course, any headphones are only as good as the sound quality that they produce. The Libratones are excellent in this regard. The sound quality is right up there with Bose, perhaps a bit more bass than the Bose give me, but I can live with that. The mids and high ranges are crystal clear at all times. I haven’t blasted them at full volume because I never do that with headphones under any conditions. That is why the noise cancelation was so crucial to me in the first place.
    I would recommend these headphones to anyone who wants a great sound experience with the option of noise cancelation and a stylish look that isn’t seen everywhere you go.
    Here are the links:
 
 

Dreamer’s World February 26, 2018 – End Of Vacation

This morning marks the end of my vacation. I am back to work after a good night of rest. I made sure to go to bed early last night knowing that today was going to be an adventure, whether I am ready or not. I managed to get almost everything done over the vacation except for going to the casino. That will wait until another time. My money will stay with me for now.
    Of course, the first thing that greeted me when I logged onto the network this morning was an avalanche of emails. Hopefully, the people who sent them got the automatic out of office reply I had set up. Unfortunately, this probably means that my phone will start ringing off the hook later this morning. I have my caffeine and am ready to handle all of the emergencies that should have been avoided.
    My first task has been to answer all of the emails that required attention and to get my plan for the week put together so I can focus on that until Friday. I also remembered to submit my next leave request for April when Hal and I move to the new apartment. I will discuss that with my supervisor when I meet with her this afternoon for our weekly teleconference call. There should be no problem with taking that time off in April. Hal is taking the lead with arranging the movers so I will work according to his schedule on things.
    Lunch arrived, and I was still doing well. The afternoon round of meetings will start soon, and I know that this will be the real test of my endurance. Sitting through the conference calls is incredibly taxing at the best of times, and with me still wishing I was on vacation, I know that it will be difficult. I will make it through and then take Hal to work after I am finished with my day here. I suppose that things could have been a lot worse.
    As the workday enters the homestretch, I am making a list of things that we need from the store so I can pick them up after I drop Hal off at his job before I come home. I want to have enough here to cook for several days, so we don’t have to worry about eating out or getting something delivered. I prefer my own cooking anyway.

Dreamer���s World February 24, 2018 ��� A Foggy Start

Dreamer’s World February 24, 2018 – A Foggy Start
    The fog is slowly burning off this morning as I prepare to take Hal to work. I forgot to get a picture earlier when I couldn’t see across the street, but I am glad that I wont have to drive in those conditions.
    I am not sure how I will spend today since it is nearing the end of the week off work that I so desperately needed. Looking back, we got a lot accomplished during the week. We managed to find a new apartment. We can move out of here in late April. Hal and I also had lots of time spent together, and that was something that we nboth really needed. Now as Hal goes to work today, I start to realize that Monday is creeping up on me. I wish that I didn’t have to go back to work, but that isn’t a possibility worth worrying about.
    I will come back home after I take Hal to work and spend some time with my thoughts. I have neglected writing while I was on vacation, but I managed to avoid the guilt by staying busy most of the time. Neverthless I have multiple aborted blog posts laying around that I might be able to save by combining them into something useful, or I might just decide to let them be and start fresh. I am leaning toward just starting something new like this and moving on. There is no reason to revisit the past when the future is right in front of me.
    Today marks the return of the old routine. With Hal working today and tomorrow, there wont be much chance to get out together. Hal needs to rest, and I respect that. Perhaps one of theses days he can work a schedule that will give both of us the weekend off. I am cpontent working from home during the week and avoiding the rat race commute in the DC area.
    Because we know when and where we will be moving to, I will have to set up another week or so off from work in late April. This gives me something to look forward to that isn’t too far in the future. The move will be less than a mile actually. We like it here in Centreville and see no reason to move out of the area. The new apartment will give us a lake view rather than a parking lot, and that will be a welcome change.
    Friends asked us why we are moving again. The answer comes down to the management company that recently purchased the apartment community that we are living in. The new owensership is less than stellar, and that is being very kind to them. The community portal that is used to pay rent and submit maintenance requests never works, most of the maintenance staff have left as a result of the ownership change, and finally, we were accused of not having renters insurance by the new company even though the paperwork is on file in the office. All of this happened in just over a month, and we realized it was not going to get any better, so it is time for us to move on.
    After we found the next apartment, I managed to do most of the things that I wanted to while on vacation except going to the casino. That can happen another time, there is no rush for it. We never take risks when we go anyway. We show up with a set amount to spend, and when that is gone, we walk out with whatever we have won, or with nothing left from the original amount at all, and we always have a good time. We just never had the full day to make that trip this week.
    Hal is at work, and I am back writing once again. Hal forgot his cell phone, but if he gets away from work early, he can still call me from his job. If I don’t hear from him, I know to be there at 1630 to pick him up and bring him home. I am going to rest here today since it is raining and there is no need to be out. I have food here that was prepared in the Instant Pot, and that will tide us over for the weekend. I will try to catch up on sleep again tonight and tomorrow night to be ready for the expected avalanche of emails and phone calls on Monday morning. Fun times.

When It Comes to the Fake News Scourge, Russia Doesn���t Hold a Candle to U.S. Conservative Media

Fox News has for the better part of two decades functioned as the country’s most noxious source of right-wing misinformation. (Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)

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Features » February 22, 2018

When It Comes to the Fake News Scourge, Russia Doesn’t Hold a Candle to U.S. Conservative Media

The panic over Russian interference obscures the fact that fake news has always been with us—it’s just been pushed by the American Right.

BY Branko Marcetic

No serious discussion of “fake news” can possibly discount the role this homegrown disinformation campaign has played in subverting U.S. democracy and manipulating the American people.

On February 16, the Justice Department announced that 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups are being charged with criminal wrongdoing for attempting to interfere with U.S. elections, including during the 2016 presidential campaign. The charges include claims that these Russian actors operated social media accounts that attempted to “promote discord” in the election process in the United States.

In response, a number of prominent Democrats deemed the Russian effort act of war on par with Pearl Harbor, while others have pointed to the news as further proof that an online disinformation campaign run by the Kremlin had subverted American democracy in 2016.

In recent months, Russian-originated “fake news” has been cited by mainstream media outlets and politicians as a cause for everything from Black Lives Matter protests to fracking opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The message apparently being that Americans can’t get outraged about disproportionate police killings of African Americans or ecological destruction without being tricked into it by Russian agents.

Before the indictment, the panic over foreign fake news was inflamed by a Washington Post report detailing how Russian operatives created more than 100 made-up events during the 2016 election on “sensitive social issues.” This comes on top of a series of reports from the Post and the New York Times about an allegedly Kremlin-linked campaign to target specific voters with Facebook ads and fake social media identities, one that involved the Internet Research Agency—the company named in last week’s indictment.

Never mind that no firm link has been established connecting a person’s interaction with fake news to their voting patterns, nor the fact that a number of the cited posts had negligible reach. As researchers Duncan J. Watts and David M. Rothschild have pointed out, the fake Facebook ads cited by the Post and New York Times comprised a mere 0.1 percent of Facebook’s daily ad revenue.

Of course, foreign interference in American democracy is a serious problem. But the current media-inflamed panic can serve to obscure that fact that fake news is not a new phenomenon. It’s always been with us—it’s just been home-grown.

Misinformation U.S.A.

In November 2017, right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe made headlines for having organized a botched attempt to publicly embarrass the Washington Post. His organization, Project Veritas, hired a woman named Jaime T. Phillips to feed the Post false allegations against alleged child molester and then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. The stunt backfired when Post reporters dug into Phillips’ past, and she and O’Keefe’s efforts to manipulate the media were publicly exposed.

This gambit serves as a reminder that the Kremlin and Macedonian teenagers are simply trying to muscle in on a market that the American right wing has long had a monopoly on. One need only look back to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Outfoxed

A definitive list of all of Fox’s misinformation would be too long to list. But highlights of how the channel has been terrifying its viewers over the decades include:

  • Relentless broadcasting of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory which falsely suggested that Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, leaked the hacked DNC emails during the 2016 presidential campaign and was murdered for doing so.
  • Dozens of stories in the summer of 2010 inflating the threat of the so-called New Black Panther Party.         
  • Copious coverage of what then-anchor Megyn Kelly cited in 2010 as “voter fraud on a massive scale,” which has in fact never existed.
  • segment in 2015 that claimed the U.K. city of Birmingham was just one of numerous “no-go zones” where “non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” a lie the network was forced to correct and apologize for.
  • Numerous segments that falsely claimed people would be put in prison for not buying insurance due to Obamacare’s individual mandate.
  • Consistently misleading climate science coverage, only 28 percent of which was accurate, according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • Inaccurate Iraq War coverage, which left its viewers significantly more misinformed than those of other networks—a 2004 study found 67 percent of Fox viewers believed Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaeda and 33 percent believed the United States had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.     

This is just a drop in the bucket of the many falsehoods spread by the network.

This type of home-grown misinformation is far more influential than foreign-made, social media-based “fake news.” While a 2017 Pew study found that 67 percent of adults get their news from social media, only 20 percent say they do so “often.” Most say they only do so “sometimes” (27 percent) or “hardly ever” (20 percent). A Stanford study on the impact of fake news released in 2017 found only 14 percent of adults considered social media their “most important source of news and information about the 2016 election.”

By contrast, Pew found that 50 percent of Americans “often” get news from TV, a number that was seven points higher during the 2016 election. The Stanford study found that 23.5 percent of Americans considered cable news their “most important source of 2016 election news.”

A tangible effect

It’s no wonder, then, that while the concrete effect of social media-based fake news is yet to be determined, right-wing disinformation has had a tangible, measurable effect on public discourse.

As a result of the broadcasting of “birtherism,” the Hawaii Department of Health received around a dozen emails a day asking about the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate. By 2011, one in four Americans thought Obama was born outside the country. As of August 2016, 72 percent of registered Republicans still had doubts about the former president’s citizenship.

In 2015, the U.S.-based anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress circulated a series of misleading and deceptively edited videos on Planned Parenthood, purporting to show the organization’s employees discussing selling fetal tissue for profit. These videos set off a string of right-wing-led efforts to defund the organization and helped lead to an investigation into its practices, which ultimately found no wrongdoing.

This wasn’t the only time deceptively edited videos were used by the American Right to attempt to bring down a progressive organization. In 2009, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published videos of James O’Keefe and his fellow right-wing saboteur Hannah Giles meeting with representatives at the community organizing group ACORN.  

The videos appeared to show O’Keefe, dressed as a gaudy 70s-style pimp and accompanied by Giles, dressed as a sex worker, getting advice from ACORN employees on how to hide wages from the government. The videos, edited and in some cases overdubbed, left out a lot, according to the California Attorney General’s office and others who viewed the full tape: that O’Keefe was never dressed as a pimp, that he claimed he was trying to rescue the fake sex worker from an abusive pimp, that ACORN employees gave some advice based on their fear for the woman’s safety, and that one employee in San Diego even called the police over the incident.

The controversy, fueled by Fox News and other right-wing outlets, decimated ACORN, leading to the organization’s dissolution.

Similar was the case of Shirley Sherrod, an Obama-era Department of Agriculture official who Andrew Breitbart tried to paint as a racist by highlighting a video of a 2010 speech she had given to the NAACP. In the video, Sherrod discussed not giving a white farmer “the full force” of what help she could, partly because of his condescending attitude toward her, and partly because of her knowledge that so many black Americans had faced similar circumstances. The Obama administration subsequently fired her.

In fact, Sherrod’s speech had been truncated to leave out the real point of her story: that she overcame her own prejudice, and that, after witnessing the way the man had been cheated by the system and by his own lawyer, she realized “it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t.” She later reached a settlement with Breitbart’s widow.

Meanwhile, conservative media—including Fox News—circulated the myth that Obamacare set up so-called “death panels,” despite the fact that PolitiFact rated it 2009’s “Lie of the Year.” In part due to the broadcasting of this falsehood, as of 2015, a staggeringly high percentage of Republicans continued to believe the lie. The conspiracy theory was even written into that year’s House GOP budget.

All of this fits into a pattern of inaccurate and misleading reporting spewed out by conservative media in the United States. No serious discussion of “fake news” can possibly discount the role this homegrown disinformation campaign has played in subverting U.S. democracy and manipulating the American people.

We still don’t know the true measurable impact of Russian-originated fake news on the 2016 election, especially given the many, non-fake-news-related flaws of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But we’ve had decades to study the pernicious effects of right-wing misinformation. On this front, the Russians don’t hold a candle to U.S. conservatives.

Branko Marcetic

Branko Marcetic is a regular contributor to In These Times. He hails from Auckland, New Zealand, where he received his Masters in American history, a fact that continues to puzzle everyone who meets him. You can follow him on Twitter at @BMarchetich or email him at branko.95.m@gmail.com.

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