Thursday, December 31, 2015

Heartfelt rationality


The side effects of good intentions and tolerance can be more suffering. We must let our hearts set our goals, but use the mind to pursue them. Our former Editor-in-Chief reflects on rationality and the fallout of a TV-series.

The alternative industry: it doesn’t work and why it does

My last major project before leaving Oslo for openDemocracy was a six-part edutainment/documentary series on the ‘alternative industry’, its science and irrationality. It was produced by Teddy TV and broadcast on NRK1 (Norway’s  equivalent of BBC1, ie the country’s main television channel). We cheekily named ourselves Folkeopplysningen, “The Public Enlightenment”.

The various branches of the alternative industry make a lot of claims, and a lot of money off these claims. We looked into homeopathy, healing, detox, acupuncture and strange panacea machines supposedly utilizing bio-resonance or quantum mechanics. (Astrologists, psychics and mediums got a showing too, but let’s leave them alone to lick their wounds for now.)

We decided it was time for some critical scrutiny of this business, and based on reception and ratings, we are not alone in thinking this.

Public Enlightenment. (c) NRK/Teddy TV

With a physicist, a psychologist and researchers, we asked three main questions: Are the claims made by the various alternative offerings possible from a scientific point of view? What does the available research say? Why is it so popular?

And yes, we found it is pretty much all hokum. Anyone spending a good amount of time honestly and objectively surveying the available scientific material will agree. The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee did so on homeopathy.

Dear Jeremy Hunt, Beckhams, Orlando Bloom, Thorbjørn Jagland, Jennifer Aniston, Prince Charles and King Harald of Norway: there’s nothing in those pills besides the sugar and the faith.  

Only acupuncture has some credible documentation to show for itself. But it’s rather thinner than its standing suggests. Here too the placebo effect is due most of the credit, most of the time likely all of it.  

Yet, it works - raking in money, but more importantly: producing many genuinely satisfied patients.

While some of the popularity can be explained by our brain’s tendency to look for patterns where they don’t exist, ignore regression toward the mean, emphasise anecdote over data, justify its own choices and confirm the beliefs we already hold, many patients do feel better in a very real way.

This has been proven to stem from the bouquet of psychological and biochemical mechanisms that we lump together as the placebo effect. The placebo effect has clear limitations (rather than cure, it mostly alters our experience of symptoms), but we should all be happy that it exists. It means that visiting a homeopath can make people feel better. This does not mean that homeopathy works. But it does mean they feel better - and that is a good thing.

For many, what is needed to improve their well-being and outlook is attention and care. For someone to see them, touch them, discuss their life situation, unhurried and with empathy, to tell them that it’s all going to improve from now on, and that they’ve got a plan – this is what makes the difference. Some get this experience from their doctor, but many do not. Many people get nothing like this assurance from anywhere in their societies. In this regard, alternative therapists can perform an important service for people.

Let’s talk
But the alternative industry is more than this, and much of it is problematic. So, as well as to educate and entertain, we set out in the hope of sparking debate on questions such as the following:

  • -       Why is alternative medicine so popular?
  • -       Is it right that a large and diverse sector dealing with health is almost completely unregulated?
  • -       Can society harness the placebo effect as a harmless way of improving well-being in the population, taking some pressure off the health system?
  • -       Can medical doctors learn from the way alternative therapists interact with their patients?
  • -       Should we demand proof from those who sell a service or product claiming it cures disease or improves health, or let the market offer the widest possible array of choice?
  • -       If we let the market decide – should the public health service pay for any such services without evidence of effect other than placebo?
  • -       Should we accept that some, based on mythological expertise or conspiracy theories, discourage the use of proven, life-saving methods such as vaccination and chemotherapy?
  • -       What can be done with those few who contact people on their death bed with expensive miracle cures, making the dying spend their last time on earth, and often money they don’t have, chasing false hopes, instead of spending it in the mutual comfort with their loved ones?

Reasoned debates on these issues with those in the alternative industry was perhaps too much to hope for. But at the very least we expected the more responsible parts of the industry to demand a clean-up of the murkiest.

In one of the programmes we sent a perfectly healthy, young woman to three different alternative practitioners. They gave her a variety of different, very serious diagnoses for which they offered expensive treatments.

Physicist and host Andreas Wahl with Grete Strøm, healthy undercover reporter with a long list of serious diagnosis. (c) NRK/Teddy TV

One identified fungi growing in her blood due to excessive consumption of carbohydrates, another found a throat problem and several allergies (but OK’d smoking), while the third claimed she was poisoned by the vaccines she was given as a child, had narrow veins and that despite feeling fine now, could expect to succomb to powerful headaches imminently.

And while most practitioners are nice people with some ethical standards, we found that implying that one could cure anything from cancer to dyslexia wasn’t all that uncommon.

Into the trenches!
The alternative minded did not like what they saw in our series. They took to their keyboards. It is clear who the enemy is. Not those preying on the dying. Not obvious charlatans who give random diagnoses, or those who cause preventable deaths by convincing their patients to forego vaccines or chemo. No, the enemy is those who dare to question their faith on TV. Oh, and Big Pharma. But in all likelihood, these were one and the same.

The alternative practitioners appeared to loathe breaking rank and criticizing each other, except in the most careful and general terms. Wouldn’t the  mainstream ones benefit from distancing themselves from the wingnuts? Maybe there is too much overlap? Could this explain their unwillingness to offend the “most alternative” ones in their ranks?

There also seems to be a siege mentality. Us against the world. Combined with a culture for “my truth is as valid as your truth”, where extreme relativism functions to make questioning even the weirdest of beliefs taboo. The outcome: little willingness to question even the strangest of bedfellows.

Our programmes were quite assertive, more so than unconfrontational Scandinavians are used to. Unlike many previous ‘balanced’ looks at alternative medicine, we researched in depth and actually concluded where there was enough evidence available to conclude.

This, to our minds, is what journalists do. Approaching an issue with an open mind does not mean refusing to draw conclusions when there is every basis to do so. (Clare Sambrook calls it “Investigative Comment”.)

But to the practitioners, used to being interviewed as “alternative experts” alongside actual doctors, with their perspectives presented as equally valid, our conclusions came as a shock.

Instead of a fruitful debate, trenches were soon filled with unrepentant and offended alternativists raging on one side, and pretty smug skeptics snidely sniping from the other.

We’ve sometimes wondered if our critics have seen the same programmes as the ones we have made. We have never questioned the motives of the therapists, called for a ban, uttered a rude word, derided the placebo effect or claimed they were all of the same cloth. Nor did we edit anyone for the purpose of ridicule. Viewers were indeed afforded a few laughs, but some of these theories and practices can easily have that effect when explained in all seriousness.

Soon enough we were dismissed as hateful, propagandistic, dishonest, falsifiers, ignorant, closed-minded, fanatics, arrogant, satirical, populists, speculative, unethical, lying, proselytizing, pathetic, angry atheists, ridiculing and factually wrong. That’s what politely pointing to the prevailing scientific consensus gets you from the “open minded”.

The allegations of wrongdoing weren’t specified concretely of course. They remain as general and un-sourced as the assertion that “the good science says it works.”

Thankfully we’re a thick-skinned bunch and appreciate the extra publicity. Last Monday 621,000 people, more than a third of the Norwegian TV audience, watched the program, and its hashtag, #Folkeopplysningen, crowds the nation’s twitter streams.

The party line
While we expected a bucket of bile from believers, we had imagined that the official organisations would voice their disagreement in reasoned ways, and with some adherence to reality.

This hope was dashed. NHL, Norway’s largest organisation for homeopaths, attempted to sabotage the programme even before the first day of shooting. Early on in the project we contacted them and openly described our intentions. Perhaps naïvely, we believe in playing fair. It was all smiles at the meeting, but soon thereafter all homeopaths, as well as the other organisations for alternative therapies, received a letter from them – a “Warning”, no less – imploring everyone not to talk to us, as we might “be detrimental to all of the alternative industry”, and encouraging them to report back to them should they hear from us.

NHL also asserted that the series was instigated by the small organisation Norwegian Skeptics (which they amusingly branded “unscientific”), an untrue allegation they have refused to retract. Other alternative organisations have since actively propagated this idea in the social media, spinning a conspiracy theory involving the inevitable payments from Big Pharma. This fits perfectly into the underdog narrative so popular in the alternative sphere. The reality was and is a smallish, independent production company looking into a large industry. And I’m still waiting for my Big Pharma check.

The Norwegian Acupuncture Association’s broadside against the programme came last week, signed by their leader. In it she repeatedly misquoted the programme, scornfully dismissed the “science” (sic) presented, unashamedly citing as proof of effect a study that in fact concluded the opposite, giving misleading statistics on the popularity of acupuncture, and presenting as her trump card the fact that doctors and nurses are legally permitted to use acupuncture: therefore it must work.

She contended, “the most important thing is freedom of choice and the ability to individually find out what works best.”


Bloodletting was a successful and widely used medical treatment for centuries. Its effectiveness was a given. When statistics entered the scene, it was discovered to have been mass murderer all along. Many of those killed by the practice certainly believed it the right thing for them; after all that’s what their trusted doctor said, and their neighbour did eventually rally after one such treatment. Today’s alternative medicine isn’t nearly as dangerous of course; most of it is just ineffective, plus placebo, which is why it’s still around.

The author of the critique is a nice person. But to paraphrase Upton Sinclair: it is difficult to get someone to understand something, when their salary depends upon their not understanding it.

Those who call themselves a healer or psychic are in essence saying, “I have magical abilities”. Fair enough. If they charge money for these magical services, we might suggest testing it on TV, but hey, what’s the world without some wizardry?

It’s different for those who clad themselves in the garbs of science. If you want to give your treatment an air of authority by using scientific terminology and insisting on being backed up by evidence and trials, you have to play by the rules of science, and accept criticism if you disregard those rules.

Testing the placebo effect with ice water. (c) NRK/Teddy TV

Being human
As well as investigating the validity of certain commercial offerings, we wanted to highlight our inherent irrationality. Not theirs – ours. Perhaps our first mission sabotaged the second somewhat, because some have asked why we label the users of these treatments stupid. That was far from our intention.

Those who believe in alternative medicine aren’t stupid. They’re human. We are human.

Every bias and fallacy we discussed can apply across the board. People with no belief in alternative medicine can make utterly irrational choices in other areas. The placebo effect exists in evidence-based medicine too. All of us experience cognitive dissonance and illusory correlations on a regular basis. Much advertising and rhetoric is geared towards exploiting these quirks of the mind.

Our programme’s psychologist, who is extremely well read on (ir)rationality, recently caught himself googling the brand name of a car he was inclined to buy, plus the phrase “best in test”. He found exactly what he wanted to find; a prime example of confirmation bias.

With lack of quality-controlled information, inherent trust in our fellow beings and a brain prone to biases and logical fallacies, the popularity of alternative medicine isn’t very surprising. We’ve tried to assist the information part, while highlighting the fact that our brains play tricks on us all. 

Science = tools
Scientists are fallible humans too, which is why they use the scientific method, developed in large part to cancel out the effects of the mechanisms that make us so prone to drawing wrong conclusions.

Modern, evidence-based medicine is a young discipline, but its impact have been massive. Most of us would not exist without it. In developed countries, we now expect to live into our eighties, a century ago you would have been lucky to reach fifty.

It is imperfect of course, and so is the pharmaceutical industry, with extremely serious flaws that urgently needs to be addressed. But its underlying principles are sound. A casual stroll in a cemetery, noting the lifespan improvement in recent times, confirms that.

 “There is so much we don't understand yet”, we’ve been told repeatedly. And while that’s quite correct, unfortunately it’s often paired with an unwillingness to learn about what we in fact do know, and why it seems to be incompatible with their pet theory.

“Science can't be used for everything,” they say. And indeed, science is a terrible method for creating works of art, lovemaking, comforting the grieving, comedy or finding out the meaning of life.

But it’s a fantastic one for going to the moon, creating the technology you read this on – and concluding which medical treatments work and which not. Ancient Chinese wisdom, spirituality, good intentions and even empathy are all rubbish at those.

And make no mistake: despite loud claims, had healing or homeopathy had real effects other than placebo, these would be easy to measure. The trials have been done. They don’t.

Using the imperfections of evidence-based medicine, or the fact that treatments with effects may also have side effects, as a fig leaf to cover up the truth about alternative treatments is a cheap trick.

In fact, randomized controlled trials are so good at finding answers to certain types of questions (if something quantifiable works and how well, but not how), they should be applied more often to areas other than medicine. In a recent UK Cabinet Office white paper, Ben Goldacre and David Torgerson make a good case for using RCTs to test the effectiveness of certain kinds of policies, making for better results and less waste.

Science - bad a jokes, good at space travel and medicine. (c) NRK/Teddy TV

Cake, and the eating of it
Saying “we should do more research into alternative medicine” is at best a crowd pleaser, after all who can be against more research? But this ignores the fact that resources are limited. When there is reason to believe an alternative treatment has real and useful effects, trials are naturally warranted. Unfortunately, there is much to suggest most or all of the good bits of alternative medicine have already been adopted and enhanced by actual medicine by now. Willow bark was an effective alternative treatment, which is why it is no more – today we know it as aspirin.

We must spend our efforts on what is most likely to benefit humanity. Instead of trying to prove or disprove faith-based theories, we should focus on reasonable goals, such as cancer research, combating the diseases that ravage the developing world, or investigating the promising potential of drugs that have been off-limits to scientists for far too long, due to the taboo of the irrational “war on drugs”.

Hearts and minds
We’re emotional beings, but when we are to make decisions on our health and safety, we need facts. When we’re trying to solve the climate crisis, counter xenophobes wielding pseudo-demographics, or decide whether we should get vaccinated - we need solid data, not wishful thinking.

We must dismiss gut feeling and taboos and embrace honest, open, fact-based debate, so that we can use our resources for research in ways that give the most benefit to the most people.

Each of us possesses an exquisite brain. But it is capable of deeply irrational judgements. Despite it being fantastically adaptable, evolution prepared it for a very different life than the one we’re living; anecdote used to be key to survival on the savannah, data is a new concept.

The vast majority of alternative practitioners aren’t frauds, they’re believers, motivated by the desire to help others. There is no nobler motive. But without the tools developed to circumvent the biases and fallacies that are hardcoded into our brain, helping is a lot harder than it seems.

Isn’t acknowledging our human shortcomings and taking steps to reveal them the most open of all approaches?

We must set our goals with our hearts, but use our minds to figure out how to reach them.

'Read On' Sidebox: 

The programmes (at - in Norwegian  - available untill November 6)

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science (blog)

Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, fast and slow (book)

Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst's Trick or Treatment? (book)

Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational (book)

Warning letter from NHL (in Norwegian)

Critique from acupuncturists (in Norwegian)

Folkeopplysningen on Facebook (in Norwegian)

Psychologist Jan-Ole Hesselberg's Tankesmed (blog, in Norwegian)

Imagining conspiracies

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Bombshell: Obama’s policy in Syria is to DIRECTLY support the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda


Alex Thomas | President Obama’s active support for terror groups in Syria led to creation of ISIS

The post Bombshell: Obama’s policy in Syria is to DIRECTLY support the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda appeared first on Intellihub.


Iran denies it fired rockets near US aircraft carrier in Gulf, reports 'psychological warfare'

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Preview Tehran has officially denied that its Revolutionary Guards’ patrol vessel launched rockets in imminent proximity to the USS Harry S. Truman and its convoy entering the Persian Gulf, calling the allegation an act of “psychological warfare.”
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Police Violence Kills More U.S. Citizens Than Flu And Pneumonia Combined, Report Reveals


Police Violence A Public Health Threat More Serious Than Flu, Report Reveals

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The NYT cites two recent articles, one in Bloomberg by long-time Obama adviser Cass Sunstein and the other in Slate by Law Professor Eric Posner, that suggested limitations on the First Amendment in order to fight ISIS. It describes growing calls to ban the YouTube lectures and sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric whom the U.S. assassinated by drone in 2011 (and then, two weeks later, killed his 16-year-old American son). It also notes that the desire to restrict the internet as a means of fighting ISIS has seeped into the leadership of both parties: Donald Trump said the “internet should be closed up” to ISIS, while “Hillary Clinton said the government should work with host companies to shut jihadist websites and chat rooms,” a plan that would be unconstitutional “if the government exerted pressure on private firms to cooperate in censorship.”

January 1, 2016: The New Bank Bail-In System Goes Into Effect In Europe

SGTreport - The Corporate Propaganda Antidote - Silver, Gold, Truth, Liberty, & Freedom

by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog:

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Monday, December 28, 2015

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The Dirty War On Syria: Chemical Fabrications, The East Ghouta Incident

By Professor Tim Anderson, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney Department of Political Economy.  (Originally published at Global Research.)

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Government concerned that homeschool parents are "radicalizing" their children

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Friday, December 25, 2015

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

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The post Hugh Hewitt’s Demonic Visions appeared first on LewRockwell.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

“I Helped Create ISIS”: Testimony of An Iraq War Veteran

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SGTreport - The Corporate Propaganda Antidote - Silver, Gold, Truth, Liberty, & Freedom

by J. D. Heyes, Natural News:

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There Have Been Zero Terror Attacks in the U.S. by People Radicalized by ISIS Through Social Media Main RSS Feed
Talk of censoring free speech on social media omits the fact that social media didn't radicalize any of the recent attackers.

The term “radicalized” is a problematic one, namely because virtually no one who carries out sub-state political violence (which we’ll broadly refer to as terrorism) follows the same pattern. Some are hyper-religious while others have but a passing knowledge of the Bible or Quran. Some are battle-hardened fighters, while others carry out their “jihad” in a typical workplace violence mode. But in the wake of a terrorist attack, authorities and the press alike scramble to ask the question: When exactly did the attacker begin to show signs of violent ideology? In the case of Islamic-tinted violence, the question more specifically is: When did they first show support for either al Qaeda or ISIS ideology?

The answer to this question for the four last major "Islamic" terror attacks—two in the United States and two in Paris—is, to the person, before the rise of ISIS on social media was a significant force. Almost all the killers were known to authorities before they carried out their attacks and all of them were showing outwards signs of "jihad" before late 2013, when ISIS social media became a significant, independent online phenomenon. So why do governments and the media keep conflating the two? Why, in the wake of these attacks, do we see increased calls for censorship, monitoring or counter-propaganda when there's been no evidence that anyone who's carried out an attack in the west was recruited or radicalized via social media?

First, it's important to make a distinction between those who are radicalized to join the Islamic State via social media—for which we have some examples—and those who were radicalized to carry out attacks in the West—for which we have no examples. This piece will focus on the latter.

Over at Slate, resident technocratic authoritarian Eric Posner, who also gave us such liberal headlines as, “Obama Can Bomb Pretty Much Anything He Wants To" and “Prosecuting Dictators Is Futile" laid down the gantlet:

ISIS Gives Us No Choice but to Consider Limits on Speech

This polemic begins in earnest and is equal parts chilling and equal parts untrue:

It has become increasingly clear that terrorist groups such as ISIS can extend their reach to American territory via the Internet. Using their own websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms, they lure young men and women to their mission—without having to risk the capture of foreign agents on U.S. soil. The Americans ensnared in ISIS’s net in turn radicalize others, send money to ISIS, and even carry out attacks..

First, the link claiming ISIS propaganda has “ensnared” Americans to carry out attacks links to a story that does not back up this claim. The reality is there is no evidence that ISIS online propaganda has snared anyone to commit violence in the West. The phrase “it’s become increasingly clear” is a red flag for bogus trend stories. If it’s “clear,” then why is Posner writing this article? If it’s not, shouldn’t the burden be on Posner to show, specifically, how he came to this conclusion?

The only evidence Posner can produce is a profile in the New York Times about a 17-year-old boy in Virginia who was “radicalized” by ISIS social media and propagandized for others (but never carried out or planned an attack), and a rather dubious study by George Washington University documenting 300 “US-based ISIS sympathizers.” If true, this should be of concern to authorities, but all of this still doesn’t show clear causality between online ISIS propaganda and someone actually committing an act of violence in the West. Adding new war-time limits to free speech demands a clear connection. Thus far, there is none.

This casual conflation of ISIS propaganda with actual attacks was on full display after the San Bernardino shootings. Initial, anonymous law enforcement sources said the couple, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, had pledged support for ISIS on social media, further feeding this narrative. This later turned out not to be true.

Indeed, the New York Times story Posner links to in order to prop up his claim involves a sleight-of-hand that was later debunked by the FBI:

As the Obama administration takes on the multidimensional challenge posed by the Islamic State after the killings in San Bernardino, Calif., the online community of sympathizers in the United States is a critical focus.

But wait: The FBI announcement two days later says that the San Bernardino shooters never made any pro-jihadi social media posts. Why is the "online community of sympathizers in the United States a critical focus" if there’s no evidence such a community was being leveraged in support of these attacks? It’s natural in the wake of such horrific violence to want to “do something" to prevent another attacks, but the focus on "ISIS social media" continues to ignore the fact that there’s no evidence such a phenomenon has actually led to an attackin the West.

The Charlie Hebdo attackers, who were sponsored not by ISIS but AQAP, were radicalized sometime around 2010/2011. The Garland attacker, Elton Simpson, had been watched by authorities for radical statements as early as 2006. The Paris attackers were all well-known jihadists that EU authorities had been monitoring long before 2013. The San Bernardino attackers, says the FBI, had been interested in jihadist ideology (at that time the al Qaeda variant) as early as 2010. All this was before the rise of ISIS on social media as such.

Does social media make jihadi propaganda easier to disseminate? Probably. Does social media make it easier to terrorize after said attacks, or to promote the ISIS brand after said attacks? Possibly, but neither of these scenarios actually shows how ISIS propaganda leads to attacks in the West. While these features may be troubling, those, like Posner, who want to censor free speech on social media still have their work ahead of them: How does ISIS on social media present a unique problem that wouldn’t otherwise be satisfied by pre-social media platforms like message boards, email and good ol’ fashioned face-to-face meetings and phone calls (which Posner, of course, also wants to monitor and regulate).

To drive home his point, Posner says something uniquely troubling:

Speech that blasts the American constitutional system and praises America’s enemies has been held constitutionally protected time and again. 

However, these rules go back only to the 1960s. Before then, in the United States, people could be punished for engaging in dangerous speech. The U.S. government prosecuted Nazi sympathizers during World War II, draft protesters during World War I, and Southern sympathizers in the Union during the Civil War. It’s common sense that when a country is embroiled in a war, it should counter propaganda that could populate a fifth column with recruits.

Here, Posner casually claims that the free speech gains made in the '60s were simply a one-off, akin to an adolescent phase, and that a constant state of censorship and war is actually the natural state of things. For those who worked hard in the '60s to peel back some of the more authoritarian vestiges of red-scare infringements on speech, this may come as a shock. But again, Posner just smugly asserts it. A temporary restraint on free speech, or any other right, is understandable, but what Posner doesn’t flesh out is that this war, unlike WWI or the Civil War, is not a war that will likely end in our lifetime.

The war on terror is not a war anyone realistically thinks will ever end in a traditional sense, so what Posner is calling for—censorship of “terrorist” or "extremist" speech—means we will irreversibly alter the relationship between the state and those exercising free speech for the foreseeable future. Shouldn't such a radical step need more than sloppy assertions, vague impressions, and post-terror exploitation in order to be justified? Or, at the very least, shouldn't it provide at least one example of the problem it's ostensibly trying to solve? 


Friday, December 18, 2015

Fukushima is “unstoppable”… Journalists withholding shocking information

The Daily Coin
fukushimafrom ENENews Huge amounts of radiation are pouring out, “very serious” for Pacific Ocean — Plant Chief: “This is something that has never been experienced”… We must invent new science for unprecedented catastrophe Associated Press, Dec 15, 2015 (emphasis added): Fukushima decommission chief [Naohiro Masuda] warns with surprising candor: Nothing can be promised… not even robots have been able to enter the main fuel-debris areas so far… “This is something that has never been experienced. A textbook doesn’t...


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

US pilots in Syria leak info - ordered to 'ignore' ISIS oil smuggling convoys

Signs of the Times
According to reports, U.S. pilots in Syria have 'flown over oil tanker convoys 4 lanes wide at times and been told to stay silent' American officials and responsible western news pundits have had a hard time explaining why the U.S.-led "anti-ISIS" coalition, after more than one year, has been unable to stop ISIS' lucrative oil smuggling operation. Maybe because they were never trying to stop it in the first place? Via New Eastern Outlook: Reports from pilots and sources up and down the Pentagon chain of command tell an interesting story. Considering America's years of experience at "precision bombing" and the vast intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the world's largest military, America's utter failure in curtailing ISIS and her dozens of "sister organizations" has been inexplicable. American pilots flying over Iraq and Syria have quietly leaked their story for over a year now but no news agency will carry it. They say they have flown over oil tanker convoys 4 lanes wide at times and been told to stay silent. They report mysterious aircraft dropping supplies to ISIS and al Nusra, they are silenced on that as well. Hardly surprising. Add in the fact that the Pentagon consistently airdrops ISIS weapons and equipment "by accident", and one begins to question how serious this "anti-ISIS coalition" really is. If U.S. planes actually targeted ISIS oil convoys, they'd probably get shot down by Turkey.


Germany: Facebook, Google & Twitter Agree to Delete Hate Speech in 24 Hours

TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles

Germany said that Facebook, Google and Twitter have agreed to delete hate speech from their websites within 24 hours.

The post Germany: Facebook, Google & Twitter Agree to Delete Hate Speech in 24 Hours appeared first on TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles.


How did mistrust of mainstream media become a sign of violent extremism?


The Government’s Prevent strategy is founded on claims that mistrust of mainstream media and anger about government policies can be symptomatic of violent extremism.  

Counter terror police on duty London May 2015. ChameleonsEye/ All rights reserved. Counter terror police on duty London May 2015. ChameleonsEye/ All rights reserved.

The Safeguarding Children Board of the London Borough of Camden recently published a booklet entitled Keeping Children and Young People Safe from Radicalisation and Extremism: Advice for Parents and Carers. Its stated aim is to “help parents and carers recognise when their children may be at risk from radicalisation”, and to this end it sets out a list of signs which “may mean the young person is being radicalised”. These include “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and belief in conspiracy theories”, “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policy”, and “secretive behaviour and switching screens when you come near”.

This quite remarkable document is a product of the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism strategy (usually shortened to simply Prevent). It doesn’t actually mention this by name, but the give-away is that it states that parents can turn to advice to the Police Prevent Engagement Officer and Camden’s Prevent Co-ordinator, and helpfully provides their phone numbers.

Prevent in its present form was introduced in 2011, and has repeatedly been criticised for demonising Muslim communities, provoking the very radicalisation which it seeks to prevent, introducing a form of thought-crime, and posing serious threats to freedom of expression.  The present government, like its predecessor, has habitually dismissed such criticisms as paranoid, but the Camden booklet shows all too clearly where Prevent is leading, particularly in the educational arena.   

Prevent is part of the government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. Its stated aim is to ‘reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism’.  It has three specific objectives: “to respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat faced from those who promote it”; “to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support”; and to work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation”. The government has also explained that Prevent is designed to “deal with all forms of terrorism and with non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists then exploit”. It defines extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

Those thought to be at risk from radicalisation are liable to find themselves referred under the Act to the Channel programme, which, according to the government, “focuses on providing support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. The programme uses a multi-agency approach to protect vulnerable people by: (a) identifying individuals at risk; (b) assessing the nature and extent of that risk; and (c) developing the most appropriate support plan for the individuals concerned”. Since 2012, when Channel was first rolled out, some 4,000 people have been referred to it, half of them under eighteen, and the youngest a mere three years old. In this respect it’s surely significant that, in an interview with the Guardian, 24 May 2015, Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty, Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer, stated that children as young as five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as ‘haram’ (forbidden to Muslims), and that boycotting Marks and Spencer, in the mistaken belief that it is Jewish owned, might be a sign of radicalisation. In his view: “We have to be less precious about the private space. This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates. The purpose of private-space intervention is to engage, explore, explain, educate or eradicate. Hate and extremism is not acceptable in our society, and if people cannot be educated, then hate and harmful extremism must be eradicated through all lawful means”.

The inclusion of ‘non-violent extremism’ in Prevent makes it clear that the strategy is concerned not only with violent activity but with any ideas which are used to legitimise terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups. And the strategy also means intervening to stop people moving from groups which are regarded as extremist by the authorities (even though they are legal) into terrorist-related activity.

It needs to be borne in mind that the legal definition of terrorism itself is already alarmingly broad. Thus Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 makes it an offence to publish a statement which is “likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. Indirectly encouraging the commission or preparation of such acts includes any statement which “glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences; and (b) is a statement from which those members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances”.

Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on “specified authorities” (which include schools and universities) to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. Thus in the Higher Education sector, in which I work, universities are now legally required to:

assess how their students might be at risk of being drawn into terrorism, including non-violent extremism;

  • demonstrate a willingness to undertake Prevent awareness training and other training that could help the relevant staff prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas;

have robust procedures for sharing information both internally and externally about vulnerable individuals;

have policies relating to the use of university IT equipment which contain specific reference to the Prevent duty and which enable the university to identify and address issues where online materials are accessed for non-research purposes;

have clear policies and procedures for students and staff working on sensitive or extremism-related research.

The case of the Nottingham University postgraduate student Rizwaan Sabir, who was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and held for seven days after downloading the so-called al-Qaida Training Manual as part of his research, shows exactly where this kind of approach can lead. In spite of the fact that he was released without charge, and the Nottinghamshire police were forced to pay £20,000 and Sabir’s legal fees after his legal team brought proceedings against them for false imprisonment and breaches of the Race Relations Act 1976, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998, the catch-all qualities of Prevent and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act make an increase in such occurrences almost inevitable in the future.

Indeed, such is the jumpiness and hyper-sensitivity induced by Prevent that, in March 2015, even before the Act had passed into law, Mohammad Umar Farooq, a student on the Terrorism, Crime and Global Security MA programme at Staffordshire University was questioned about his attitudes to homosexuality, Isis and al-Qaida after an official spotted him in the library reading a textbook entitled Terrorism Studies. Not satisfied with the answers he received, the official then summoned the security guards. Significantly, when the university was forced to apologise, it actually cited the problems posed by the government’s anti-radicalisation policies, arguing that it was responding to a “very broad duty … to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ and that the duty was ‘underpinned by guidance … [that] contains insufficient detail to provide clear practical direction in an environment such as the university’s”. It also pointed out that making a distinction between the “intellectual pursuit of radical ideas and radicalisation itself” was a significant challenge.

Similarly, in May 2015, a few days after he had mentioned the term eco-terrorism in a French lesson, a fourteen-year-old Muslim schoolboy was taken out of his class at the Central Foundation school in Islington. He was then taken to an Orwellian-sounding ‘inclusion centre’ in the school, where amongst the questions posed to him by two adults, one sitting behind him and the other in front, was whether he was ‘affiliated’ with Isis. One of the adults turned out to be a child protection officer who had been summoned by the school, and who told the boy that there had been ‘a safety concern raised’.     

At its 2015 Congress, the University and College Union, of which I am a member, passed a policy which objected to the Prevent duty now imposed on universities This argued that

  • it seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech;
  • its broad definition of terrorism will stifle campus activism;
  • it forces members to spy on students and label them in a racist fashion;
  • it is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia, encouraging racist views to be normalised within society;
  • the monitoring of Muslim students will destroy the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment and encourage discrimination against BME and Muslim staff and students.

These points were also raised in a letter (to which I was a signatory) from 280 academics, lawyers and public figures to the Independent, 10 July 2015 . This also pointed out that Prevent is based on the faulty assumption that religious ideology is the primary driver of terrorism, whereas the evidence suggests that ideology becomes appealing only when social, economic and political grievances (of which Muslims in the UK have a great many) give it legitimacy. It is these factors which need to be addressed if the ideology is to be taken on effectively, whereas Prevent actually adds to the list of grievances by making Muslims feel stigmatised and demonised as potential or actual terrorists.

The letter also pointed out that the authorities, faced with a chorus of opposition to Prevent, have tried to give it a veneer of legitimacy by cloaking it in the language of ‘safeguarding’. But, in a UK context, this is another apparently benign notion, like preventing terrorism, with an unpleasantly authoritarian streak in its history. This is thanks to absurdly over-assiduous enforcement of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, when speakers visiting schools, parents taking their children’s friends to school, and volunteers of one kind or another suddenly found themselves faced with demands to submit to mass vetting in the form of Criminal Records Bureau checks. The result was a huge waste of scarce resources, many people no longer willing to undertake voluntary activities (thus disadvantaging the very people that the measure was supposed to safeguard), and, perhaps worst of all, the creation of an atmosphere of vague but nonetheless corrosive mistrust around those working with children, as if, in the eyes of officialdom, they were all potential paedophiles. Meanwhile, child abuse continued at a frightening level, much of it committed by people with CRB checks.

In the eyes of its critics, Prevent is equally counter-productive and ill-conceived, and indeed far more overt in its suspicion of certain groups – in this case Muslims. The ‘safeguarding’ (another seemingly benign word) which it offers looks suspiciously like snooping and spying, followed by snitching, and culminating in measures which are only vaguely specified but seem to amount to some kind of ‘re-education’ process. Beyond the reassuring fluff about helping the vulnerable and protecting the susceptible, there’s something really rather chilling about the language of the Channel Guidance document, with its talk of  ‘referrals’, ‘screening and information gathering’, ‘vulnerability assessment frameworks’ and ‘information sharing’.  This isn’t exactly the language of Orwell’s Ministry of Love, but the fact that it’s less overtly authoritarian actually makes it rather more insidious.  

It is, of course, absolutely no coincidence that the document mentioned at the start of this article emanates from Camden’s Safeguarding Children Board, but the broader question is a variation on quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Namely, from whom do we most need to be safeguarded?       

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mike Rowe to Bernie Sanders: Stop Telling Everyone College is The Only Thing Full Feed
Sanders implies "that a path to prison is the most likely alternative to a path to college. Pardon my acronym, but...WTF!?"


A New Year resolution that's good for you and the planet: stop eating meat

Network Front | The Guardian

Raising beef cattle requires 160 times more land and causes 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to crops like wheat, rice or potatoes

Choosing to live a life with less in an eco-friendly way goes far beyond what you consume, what you drive or whether you use plastic bags. It can also be drastically affected by what you choose to eat – or avoid eating, for that matter. Yep, you guessed it: I’m talking about meat.

In addition to being an unapologetic hippie, a toy denier and one step away from joining a commune and singing Kumbaya, I am also vegetarian – just like 4 million others in the UK, 7.3 million in the US, and 1.3 million in my home and native land of Canada.

Continue reading...


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Food Freedom Spreading Across States Full Feed
Wyoming's groundbreaking direct-to-market law, adopted earlier this year, appears to have sparked a growing movement.



The Daily Coin
cards collapse economy houseby Jim Quinn, The Burning Platform “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” –  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov The lies we tell ourselves are only exceeded by the lies perpetrated by...


Friday, December 11, 2015

New declassified report on Fukushima reveals devastation was worse than public was ever told

Signs of the Times
Fukushima nuclear power plant is still experiencing major contamination issues nearly five years after the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown. A new declassified report from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, written on March 18, 2011 just days after the disaster, sheds light on just how bad it was. We now know that "100% of the total spent fuel was released to the atmosphere from unit 4." According to nuclear expert and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen in an interview with WBAI in New York, unit four contained more cesium "than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground". Cesium has been linked to thyroid cancer, which is on the increase in the Fukushima area since the tsunami, according to the US National Library of Medicine.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Death-Spiral of American Entrepreneurism

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith


CDC Exposed As Private Corporation Colluding With Big Pharma

The Liberty Beacon

by The Edgy Truth The illusory notion that the federal regulatory agency…

The post CDC Exposed As Private Corporation Colluding With Big Pharma appeared first on The Liberty Beacon.


The Grapes of Death

Free Range Kids
. As you read this, note that the mom who wrote this, Alisha, is herself a retired “paramedic/firefighter is very aware of what is truly dangerous and is tired of EVERYTHING being treated as such.” Me too. Not tired of precautions. Not tired of safety. Tired of seeing all of childhood through the lens of […]


Yale Professors Quit Over Halloween Backlash

“I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems,” Erika Christakis said in an email to The Washington Post. - See more at:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Millennials Have Been Dumped Upon

Freeman's Perspective -

I’ve recently seen a lot of people kicking the ‘millennials,’ the generation born between roughly 1983 and 2001. The complaints suggest they don’t want to work, they still live in their parents’ basement, they are overly sensitive, they are morbidly self-involved, and they’re zombified with iGadgets. Such commenters prattle on about the virtues of the […]

The post The Millennials Have Been Dumped Upon appeared first on Freeman's Perspective - .


Monday, December 7, 2015

Iranian broadcaster raises suspicions about death of reporter on Syrian border

Her death occurred the day after she broadcast an item - as shown in the clip above - in which she said the Turkish intelligence agency had threatened her and accused her of spying.

She had reported that Islamic State militants had crossed from Turkey into Syria on trucks bearing the symbols of the World Food Organisation and other NGOs.

Evidence still raises questions over World Trade Center collapses

ALEX BEAM’S portrayal of “architect truthers” is yet another disappointing example of a journalist resorting to ad hominem attacks and avoiding the facts when discussing the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers on Sept. 11, 2001 (“The ‘truthers’ and 9/11,” Opinion, Nov. 16).

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Record levels of Fukushima radiation detected off West Coast — Massive plume stretches for more than 1,000 miles

The Daily Coin
fukushimafrom ENENews Contamination is spreading off U.S. shores — Radioactive cesium reaches 11 Bq/m3 at multiple locations Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dec 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Higher levels of Fukushima cesium detected offshore — Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600...


San Bernardino: This Would Never Happen at a Real Terrorist Shooting Crime Scene

Truthstream Media
Just in case you weren't absolutely sure, the dog is absolutely being wagged in San Bernardino.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Chilling UK government ‘advice’ asks parents to spy on their children | Sovereign Man

Chilling UK government ‘advice’ asks parents to spy on their children | Sovereign Man:

But even more unsettling are these:

  • Showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and belief in conspiracy theories;
  • Appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policy.

So apparently now questioning the propaganda and government policies are considered evidence of subversive, extremist behavior.

'via Blog this'

Thursday, December 3, 2015

27 Major Global Stocks Markets That Have Already Crashed By Double Digit Percentages In 2015

The Economic Collapse

Anyone that tries to tell you that a global financial crisis is not happening is not being honest with you.  Right now, there are 27 major global stock markets that have declined by double digit percentages from their peaks earlier this year.  And this is truly a global phenomenon – we have seen stock market [...]


Mark Zuckerberg just bought 26 days of world peace | Sovereign Man

Mark Zuckerberg just bought 26 days of world peace | Sovereign Man:

This isn’t charity.

The Zuckerbergs formed a limited liability company (LLC). It’s not a non-profit or charitable trust.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a for-profit, privately held vehicle that’s intended to make investments that will advance their vision.

Over the course of their lives, they’ll transfer Facebook shares to the LLC.

But as that transfer is considered a donation, the Zuckerbergs will be able to completely eliminate capital gains tax from their Facebook shares.

Plus they’ll be able to shield billions of dollars of other income from tax by writing off the donation as a charitable contribution.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that the Facebook shares could now entirely avoid US federal estate tax.

At the end of the day, Mr. Zuckerberg gets to retain -control- of his fortune and shares, directing funds as he sees fit into for-profit, private investments, while drastically reducing his tax bill.

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Obama’s ISIS Oil Scandal Deepens As Russia Produces Stunning Photographic Evidence

End Of The American Dream

How is Barack Obama going to get out of this one? On Tuesday, the Russian military produced an impressive array of evidence that clearly shows that ISIS oil is being smuggled into Turkey on an industrial scale. The evidence included photographs taken by satellite and during aerial reconnaissance missions. What the Russians have shown the [...]


Former Japan Official: “Unstoppable contamination of Pacific Ocean… is seriously menacing US West Coast” — “Fukushima now undeniably a global security issue… can’t be brought under control by single state” — Experts: Wave of radiation will be 10 times more than entire world’s nuclear tests combined - Energy News


We Don’t Really Know What’s Happening

Freeman's Perspective -

And, believe it or not, this is rather good news. I’ll explain. We all like to know what’s happening in the world, and for good reason… understanding our surroundings is essential to survival. We instinctively seek information… we need information. There is, however, a problem that we face: No matter how much “news” you consume, […]

The post We Don’t Really Know What’s Happening appeared first on Freeman's Perspective - .


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mom Rejects Plea Deal of “Just” 30 Days in Jail for Letting 4 y.o. Play 120 Feet From Home

Free Range Kids
. A mom who let her 4-year-old son play outside at the playground 120 feet from her home was arrested . Her neighbors had called 911 when they saw the kid outside. While many people might think four is too young for a boy to be outside on his own, the bigger question is: Is this […]


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Drudge Sends the Biggest Secret Viral: “America Has Been Arming ISIS”

SHTF Plan - When It Hits The Fan, Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
What would the world do if it realized the truth – that ISIS is the creation of Western forces?


Monday, November 23, 2015

Academic’s Research Shows NY Times, Wash. Post Don’t Do Follow-up Reporting to See if Civilians Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes


By now you know the drill: The CIA or U.S. military forces unleash a drone strike or other aerial bombardment in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or any other country that the United States claims the right to attack.

drone strikes, drones,

A U.S. government spokesperson reports 5 or 7 or 17 or 25 or whatever number of “militants” killed — Taliban, or al Qaeda or ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State fighters — according to its fill-in-the-blanks press release. Wire services, mainstream newspapers, television newscasters dutifully report in brief fashion on another successful drone or missile strike, fulfilling minimal journalistic standards by attributing it to the Pentagon, or intelligence or U.S. government sources — sometimes even naming the spokesperson who issued the news release.

And then — usually nothing. Yes, sometimes someone with a little clout raises a stink — say the Afghan president, or some prominent local official who was an eyewitness to the attack, or Doctors without Borders after the U.S.

Read the rest

The post Academic’s Research Shows NY Times, Wash. Post Don’t Do Follow-up Reporting to See if Civilians Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes appeared first on disinformation.