Friday, January 13, 2017

Obama unleashes NSA cache of your details



A new door for government agencies to share “raw information” about citizens has been opened by a rules change made by President Obama, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Report.

It was made in a document called “Procedures for the Availability or Dissemination of Raw Signals Intelligence Information by the National Security Agency under Section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of multiple privacy organizations expressing concern about the change, explains what is going on.

“President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.”

The organization reported the rules “will let the NSA – which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy – share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security.”

The group called it “a huge and troubling shift in the way those intelligence agencies receive information collected by the NSA.”

“Domestic agencies like the FBI are subject to more privacy protections, including warrant requirements. Previously, the NSA shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information, including about innocent people whose communications were swept up the NSA’s massive surveillance operations.”

The organization said there still appear to be “conditions that need to be met before the NSA will grant domestic intelligence analysts access to the raw streams.”

But EFF pointed out the change allows information that is “collected without a warrant – or indeed any involvement by a court at all” – to be used however prosecutors may choose.

Said EFF: “We had hoped for more. In November, we and other civil liberties and privacy groups sent a letter to President Obama asking him to improve transparency and accountability, especially around government surveillance, before he leaves office. This is not the transparency we were hoping for.”

At the Electronic Privacy Information Center there also were concerns.

For the rest of this report, and more, please go to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.


The US Economy: Back On Track?


Submitted by Erico Matias Tavares via Sinclair & Co.,

The weekly rail traffic report published by the Association of American Railroads (“AAR”) provides a great snapshot of US economic activity almost in real (weekly) time.

Last July we noted that we were starting to witness some signals of a trend change, now suggesting a softening. But much has happened since then, including a broadly unexpected change in the political direction of the US. Have those signals been reversed as a result?

Let’s start with some general indicators.


The US ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index reported by the Institute for Supply Management fell briefly into contraction territory last August, which is often a presage for economic weakness ahead. However, it recovered handsomely in the following months and just printed the highest number in two years.


A significant reversal to the upside was also observed in the latest National Federation of Independent Business (“NFIB”) Optimism Index for Small Businesses - the real wealth generators in the economy, which after some weakness mid-year just printed the highest level since the Financial Crisis of 2008.


Not to be outdone, US investors have pushed equities to new historical highs, as shown in the graph above (by

So things are looking up in the US right? Perhaps so… but the railroads aren’t feeling it.

Rail intermodal traffic registers the long-haul movement of shipping containers and truck trailers by rail whenever combined with (a much shorter) truck movement at one or both ends. It covers a broad range of goods that Americans consume regularly, from laptops to frozen chickens, and is thus a great indicator of how consumers are doing. Given the huge importance of consumption for the US economy as a whole, for us this is the most revealing category.

The grey cloud in our rail shipment graphs (in units) depicted henceforth shows the maximum and minimum volume range recorded for the same week over the five years prior (2011-2015). The green line shows the readings for 2016, now for the full year.


After a strong start of the year, rail intermodal traffic started to underperform, although some pickup was observed later in the year. Aggregating the numbers by year provides a clearer picture, and here are the figures since 2006 (in MM units):


For the first time since the lead up to the 2009 recession, yearly values are down versus the prior year. In percentage terms the 2015-16 decline is almost the same as the 2007-08 decline, when the Financial Crisis was raging.

While clearly not a good sign this is just a warning given the still high transactional levels compared to prior years. If weakness persists in this category into 2017 then we will start getting really, really worried about the broader condition of the US economy.

What about housing, another key industry? The forest products category includes lumber, a major input of house construction, and is shown in the graph below:


Volumes were generally weak throughout the year, setting new five year lows. However, as per US Census Bureau data privately-owned housing completions in November came out at a very solid 15% (±13.5%) above the revised October estimate and a whopping 25% (±15.0%) over the prior year. How can these two seemingly disparate trends be reconciled?

The answer might be in the brackets after the percentage growth figures. These statistics are estimated from sample surveys, so the Census Bureau provides a standard error to indicate a range where the real number might actually lie. And quite a wide one in fact. As such, the actual year-on-year figure could be somewhere in the range +10% to +40%. Given falling volumes transported by the railways even the lower estimate from these surveys looks optimistic. Another category to keep a close eye on.

The motor vehicles and parts graph shown below includes all sorts of vehicles (used and new), passenger car and bus bodies, parts and accessories and other related equipment:


This industry is of course very important for US manufacturing. Last July we noted that it had been the bright spot out of all the categories, recording new cycle highs up until then. And while that persisted for a while longer some weakness sipped in towards the end of the year.

Still, volumes reached the highest level in 2016 since the go-go days of 2007. Not bad at all, but hopefully that year-end weakness is nothing to worry about… because as we shall see other industries – particularly in the primary sector – continue to struggle.


After a terrible performance through 2015, metallic ores (shown above), which include all kinds of ores (iron, copper, lead, zinc and so forth) and waste scrap, managed to do even worse in 2016. Not much reason for optimism here (unless as a contrarian).


The same can be said about coal, with volumes collapsing since the start of the year. Not even the recovery in the second half could avoid a miserable performance overall.

What about oil production?


Using rail shipments of crude oil and refined products to gauge production levels is a little tricky because volumes can be diverted to pipelines and/or the mix can change. That being said, the declines in rail shipments throughout 2016 are consistent with the drop in US production as reported by the IEA, shown in the graph below (in MM bopd):


The silver lining is that the weekly oil rig count as reported by Baker Hughes has responded positively to the recent recovery in crude oil prices, as shown in the graph below (with WTI pushed forward a number of weeks):


So we may see some pickup in activity going forward, as long as prices continue to hold. Other than that it’s pretty safe to say that the US extractive sector as a whole had another miserable year.

And last but certainly not least, here are the rail shipments of grains:


Volumes exploded higher in the second half of the year. The flipside of such volume increases was a continued correction in grain prices, particularly in corn and wheat (soybeans managed to hold up). Great news for consumers, but terrible for farmers: according to the latest USDA estimates in 2016 net farm income dropped to the lowest level in six years.


If so many industries continued to struggle in 2016, with some key ones even deteriorating towards year-end, how come small businesses are so wildly optimistic?


Perhaps the graph above, taken from the same NFIB small business report, provides the answer: while actual sales have languished expectations of future activity have gone through the roof. And that differential between actual versus expectations reached the highest level in many years.

It is hard to dissociate this from all the economic promises of the incoming Administration. That may explain why small business owners across the US – and indeed stock investors – have become so optimistic. However, the hard goods-traded reality continues to show some concerning signs of weakness.

Whether or not the new economic policies will prove to be successful the railways will likely feel it before anyone else. That’s why we will continue to keep an eye on the data.

And with that, here’s our economic wish for 2017: Make Railways Great Again!



If You Think "Fake News" Is A New Phenomena, You're Wrong


Submitted by Mnar Muhawesh via,

The “fog of war” erupts in the confusion caused by the chaos of war. And in the media, it’s an intentional phenomenon that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

While the battles over war narratives evolve, they all have a common goal: to distort reality on the ground.

Such is the case on the crisis in Syria, the new cold war with Russia, and even the buildup for President Bush’s support for Kuwait’s “humanitarian” war against Iraq.

On Oct. 10, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators and leaving them on a cold floor to die.

Her testimony was cited numerous times by senators and even President George H.W. Bush as  justification for backing Kuwait in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein, which erupted just three months later.

However, it was later revealed that “Nayirah” was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and her testimony was arranged by a PR firm representing a Kuwaiti-sponsored group lobbying Congress for military intervention.

More recently, during the “Arab Spring” uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011, Libyan media claimed that Moammar Gadhafi loyalists carried out mass “Viagra-fueled rapes,” and that the Libyan leader had ordered rape as a weapon of war. When Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a prosecutor with the International Criminal Court, opened an investigation into these allegations, it grabbed international headlines, appearing in Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and Reuters, among many others.

Even as Amnesty International questioned the legitimacy of the allegations, other supposedly humanitarian groups hit a loggerhead on the veracity of the claims. One top U.N. official said he believed the claims were meant as a scare tactic to invoke “massive hysteria even as another top U.N. official defended them, creating a distraction from the war itself.

And today the fog of war is obscuring realities on the ground in Syria.

Major news outlets frequently cite unnamed sources, a convenient way to manipulate public perception. From CNN to Reuters, these outlets are publishing unverifiable claims and providing minimal evidence to support them, and readers are supposed to drink it all up

The crisis in Syria has attracted international attention and concern, and the corporate media is using the tragedies of war to push an agenda and boost its audience. This push for content — no matter what — has serious consequences. On Dec. 20, for example, Egyptian police arrested five people for making videos they claimed were set in Aleppo, but were actually filmed at a demolition site.

Social media further distorts reality on the ground, presenting a fragmented image of war as the media promotes only those accounts that align with the goals of the United States and its allies.

The media and public both accept the accounts of the White Helmets as gospel. Yet that group, which purports to serve as volunteer first responders in Aleppo, receives training from British mercenaries and funding from a PR firm with ties to George Soros.

Not only are the White Helmets making fake videos, but they’ve even been exposed as agents embedded in the Nusra Front and ISIS.. Armed and far from impartial, the White Helmets are a recipient of millions in USAID funding.

Whether the White Helmets are the apolitical first responders they claim to be or not, one thing is clear: The narrative being weaved by and about them supports U.S. intervention in the war in Syria.

The narrative is built around activists frequently cited by the media, like Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is embedded with the Nusra Front and recently glorified suicide bombers as revolutionaries.

Or Lina Shamy, the young Syrian activist who promotes sectarian terrorists from Jaysh al-Sham, who threaten genocide against religious minorities as revolutionaries.

It’s time to put a critical lens to the propaganda in the news and social media. It’s time to demand more than reporting that toes the government line and makes claims without real evidence.


Financial Times Editorial Seeks Restrictions On Free Speech To Stop False News "Propaganda War"


Submitted by Michael Shedlock via,

A pair of articles by the Financial Times offers quite the take on disinformation hypocrisy.

I suggest the Financial Times look into the mirror if it wants to understand where the problem is.

Worse yet, to stop the spread of fake news, the FT editorial board wants restrictions on freedom of speech.

Yesterday, in The Threat Posed by Putin’s Cyber Warriors the FT was so worried about “disinformation” that it proposed restrictions on freedom of speech.

“The Russian state is far from alone in using hacking as a form of espionage. What distinguishes Moscow’s activity is the malicious way it appears to be using the information garnered and disseminating fake news to further pollute the political atmosphere. The timing of leaks during the US election looked calculated to weaken Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate,” claims the FT editorial view.

After railing against “fake news” the editorial view went on to propose restrictions on free speech.

“Berlin is considering imposing hefty fines on media outlets that spread false and malicious information. This may seem an undue restriction to freedom of speech but in the context of a propaganda war designed to undermine western democracy, it may be necessary to do more than enforce existing laws on libel and incitement.”

FT Purveyors of Fake News

That was yesterday. Today, the Financial Times spread fake news. Please consider Trump blasts US intelligence on Russia dossier.

Actually it’s the subtitle I want you to consider.


The subtitle “President-elect acknowledges Moscow hacked election” is a blatant lie.

Trump did not admit Moscow hacked the “election”.

Let’s consult the press conference transcript.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people. And I — I can say that you know when — when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary. That was probably China.


But remember this: We talk about the hacking and hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.


That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it?

Key Differences

Trump never said Russia hacked the “election”. He did not even say Russia hacked anything. He said he “thinks” Russia hacked [the DNC].

  1. Hacking the “DNC” is not quite the same as hacking the “election”.
  2. “Think they did” is not the same as “did”.

The Financial Times should know the difference, especially in this heated environment.

By the way, the DNC was “hacked” by anyone. Someone at the DNC exposed their password in a phishing expedition.

And now we have Democrat Senators all wanting an investigation into a proven bogus dossier given to the FBI by Senator McCain.

To top it off, the FT wants to restrict freedom of speech to prevent the spread of fake news.

Who is to be the judge of fake news?

If the FT editorial board has an ounce of sense, it will immediately take back its preposterous stance.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

YouTube: ‘They are the most scared of real reporting’: Abby Martin blasts US intel hacking report

‘They are the most scared of real reporting’: Abby Martin blasts US intel hacking report
Almost one-third of the US intelligence report is dedicated to describing RT's alleged efforts to “fuel discontent in the US.” It goes on to accuse some former programs of being overwhelmingly critical of American and Western governments for years. RT talks with Abby Martin, who was the host of one of the shows cited in the report, “Breaking the Set.” RT LIVE Subscribe to RT! Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Google+ Listen to us on Soundcloud: RT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.
via YouTube

‘They are the most scared of real reporting’: Abby Martin blasts US inte...

The Embarrassments of Chronocentrism

It's a curious thing, this attempt of mine to make sense of the future by understanding what’s happened in the past. One of the most curious things about it, at least to me, is the passion with which so many people insist that this isn’t an option at all. In any other context, “Well, what happened the last time someone tried that?” is one of the first and most obviously necessary questions to ask and answer—but heaven help you if you try to raise so straightforward a question about the political, economic, and social phenomena of the present day.

In previous posts here we’ve talked about thoughtstoppers of the “But it’s different this time!” variety, and some of the other means people these days use to protect themselves against the risk of learning anything useful from the hard-earned lessons of the past. This week I want to explore another, subtler method of doing the same thing. As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s mostly an issue here in the United States, but here it’s played a remarkably pervasive role in convincing people that the only way to open a door marked PULL is to push on it long and hard enough.

It’s going to take a bit of a roundabout journey to make sense of the phenomenon I have in mind, so I’ll have to ask my readers’ forbearance for what will seem at first like several sudden changes of subject.

One of the questions I field tolerably often, when I discuss the societies that will rise after modern industrial civilization finishes its trajectory into history’s compost heap, is whether I think that consciousness evolves. I admit that until fairly recently, I was pretty much at a loss to know how to respond. It rarely took long to find out that the questioner wasn’t thinking about the intriguing theory Julian Jaynes raised in The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, the Jungian conception Erich Neumann proposed in The Origins and History of Consciousness, or anything of the same kind. Nor, it turned out, was the question usually based on the really rather weird reinterpretations of evolution common in today’s pop-spirituality scene. Rather, it was political.

It took me a certain amount of research, and some puzzled emails to friends more familiar with current left-wing political jargon than I am, to figure out what was behind these questions. Among a good-sized fraction of American leftist circles these days, it turns out it’s become a standard credo that what drives the kind of social changes supported by the left—the abolition of slavery and segregation, the extension of equal (or more than equal) rights to an assortment of disadvantaged groups, and so on—is an ongoing evolution of consciousness, in which people wake up to the fact that things they’ve considered normal and harmless are actually intolerable injustices, and so decide to stop.

Those of my readers who followed the late US presidential election may remember Hillary Clinton’s furious response to a heckler at one of her few speaking gigs:  “We aren’t going back. We’re going forward.” Underlying that outburst is the belief system I’ve just sketched out: the claim that history has a direction, that it moves in a linear fashion from worse to better, and that any given political choice—for example, which of the two most detested people in American public life is going to become the nominal head of a nation in freefall ten days from now—not only can but must be flattened out into a rigidly binary decision between “forward” and “back.”

There’s no shortage of hard questions that could be brought to bear on that way of thinking about history, and we’ll get to a few of them a little later on, but let’s start with the simplest one: does history actually show any such linear movement in terms of social change?

It so happens that I’ve recently finished a round of research bearing on exactly that question, though I wasn’t thinking of politics or the evolution of consciousness when I launched into it. Over the last few years I’ve been working on a sprawling fiction project, a seven-volume epic fantasy titled The Weird of Hali, which takes the horror fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft and stands it on its head, embracing the point of view of the tentacled horrors and multiracial cultists Lovecraft liked to use as images of dread. (The first volume, Innsmouth, is in print in a fine edition and will be out in trade paper this spring, and the second, Kingsport, is available for preorder and will be published later this year.)

One of Lovecraft’s few memorable human characters, the intrepid dream-explorer Randolph Carter, has an important role in the fourth book of my series. According to Lovecraft, Carter was a Boston writer and esthete of the1920s from a well-to-do family, who had no interest in women but a whole series of intimate (and sometimes live-in) friendships with other men, and decidedly outré tastes in interior decoration—well, I could go on. The short version is that he’s very nearly the perfect archetype of an upper-class gay man of his generation. (Whether Lovecraft intended this is a very interesting question that his biographers don’t really answer.) With an eye toward getting a good working sense of Carter’s background, I talked to a couple of gay friends, who pointed me to some friends of theirs, and that was how I ended up reading George Chauncey’s magisterial Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940.

What Chauncey documents, in great detail and with a wealth of citations from contemporary sources, is that gay men in America had substantially more freedom during the first three decades of the twentieth century than they did for a very long time thereafter. While homosexuality was illegal, the laws against it had more or less the same impact on people’s behavior that the laws against smoking marijuana had in the last few decades of the twentieth century—lots of people did it, that is, and now and then a few of them got busted. Between the beginning of the century and the coming of the Great Depression, in fact, most large American cities had a substantial gay community with its own bars, restaurants, periodicals, entertainment venues, and social events, right out there in public.

Nor did the gay male culture of early twentieth century America conform to current ideas about sexual identity, or the relationship between gay culture and social class, or—well, pretty much anything else, really. A very large number of men who had sex with other men didn’t see that as central to their identity—there were indeed men who embraced what we’d now call a gay identity, but that wasn’t the only game in town by a long shot. What’s more, sex between men was by and large more widely accepted in the working classes than it was further up the social ladder. In turn-of-the-century New York, it was the working class gay men who flaunted the camp mannerisms and the gaudy clothing; upper- and middle-class gay men such as Randolph Carter had to be much more discreet.

So what happened? Did some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy shove the ebullient gay male culture of the early twentieth century into the closet? No, and that’s one of the more elegant ironies of this entire chapter of American cultural history. The crusade against the “lavender menace” (I’m not making that phrase up, by the way) was one of the pet causes of the same Progressive movement responsible for winning women the right to vote and breaking up the fabulously corrupt machine politics of late nineteenth century America. Unpalatable as that fact is in today’s political terms, gay men and lesbians weren’t forced into the closet in the 1930s by the right.  They were driven there by the left.

This is the same Progressive movement, remember, that made Prohibition a central goal of its political agenda, and responded to the total failure of the Prohibition project by refusing to learn the lessons of failure and redirecting its attentions toward banning less popular drugs such as marijuana. That movement was also, by the way, heavily intertwined with what we now call Christian fundamentalism. Some of my readers may have heard of William Jennings Bryan, the supreme orator of the radical left in late nineteenth century America, the man whose “Cross of Gold” speech became the great rallying cry of opposition to the Republican corporate elite in the decades before the First World War.  He was also the prosecuting attorney in the equally famous Scopes Monkey Trial, responsible for pressing charges against a schoolteacher who had dared to affirm in public Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The usual response of people on today’s left to such historical details—well, other than denying or erasing them, which is of course quite common—is to insist that this proves that Bryan et al. were really right-wingers. Not so; again, we’re talking about people who put their political careers on the line to give women the vote and weaken (however temporarily) the grip of corporate money on the US political system. The politics of the Progressive era didn’t assign the same issues to the categories “left” and “right” that today’s politics do, and so all sides in the sprawling political free-for-all of that time embraced some issues that currently belong to the left, others that belong to the right, and still others that have dropped entirely out of the political conversation since then.

I could go on, but let’s veer off in another direction instead. Here’s a question for those of my readers who think they’re well acquainted with American history. The Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the right to vote to all adult men in the United States irrespective of race, was ratified in 1870. Before then, did black men have the right to vote anywhere in the US?

Most people assume as a matter of course that the answer must be no—and they’re wrong. Until the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, the question of who did and didn’t have voting rights was a matter for each state to decide for itself. Fourteen states either allowed free African-American men to vote in Colonial times or granted them that right when first organized. Later on, ten of them—Delaware in 1792, Kentucky in 1799, Maryland in 1801, New Jersey in 1807, Connecticut in 1814, New York in 1821, Rhode Island in 1822, Tennessee in 1834, North Carolina in 1835, and Pennsylvania in 1838—either denied free black men the vote or raised legal barriers that effectively kept them from voting. Four other states—Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine—gave free black men the right to vote in Colonial times and maintained that right until the Fifteenth Amendment made the whole issue moot. Those readers interested in the details can find them in The African American Electorate: A Statistical History by Hanes Walton Jr. et al., which devotes chapter 7 to the subject.

So what happened? Was there a vast right-wing conspiracy to deprive black men of the right to vote? No, and once again we’re deep in irony. The political movements that stripped free American men of African descent of their right to vote were the two great pushes for popular democracy in the early United States, the Democratic-Republican party under Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic party under Andrew Jackson. Read any detailed history of the nineteenth century United States and you’ll learn that before these two movements went to work, each state set a certain minimum level of personal wealth that citizens had to have in order to vote. Both movements forced through reforms in the voting laws, one state at a time, to remove these property requirements and give the right to vote to every adult white man in the state. What you won’t learn, unless you do some serious research, is that in many states these same reforms also stripped adult black men of their right to vote.

Try to explain this to most people on the leftward end of today’s American political spectrum, and you’ll likely end up with a world-class meltdown, because the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans and the Jacksonian Democrats, like the Progressive movement, embraced some causes that today’s leftists consider progressive, and others that they consider regressive. The notion that social change is driven by some sort of linear evolution of consciousness, in which people necessarily become “more conscious” (that is to say, conform more closely to the ideology of the contemporary American left) over time, has no room for gay-bashing Progressives and Jacksonian Democrats whose concept of democracy included a strict color bar. The difficulty, of course, is that history is full of Progressives, Jacksonian Democrats, and countless other political movements that can’t be shoehorned into the Procrustean bed of today’s political ideologies.

I could add other examples—how many people remember, for example, that environmental protection was a cause of the far right until the 1960s?—but I think the point has been made. People in the past didn’t divide up the political causes of their time into the same categories left-wing activists like to use today. It’s practically de rigueur for left-wing activists these days to insist that people in the past ought to have seen things in today’s terms rather than the terms of their own time, but that insistence just displays a bad case of chronocentrism.

Chronocentrism? Why, yes.  Most people nowadays are familiar with ethnocentrism, the insistence by members of one ethnic group that the social customs, esthetic notions, moral standards, and so on of that ethnic group are universally applicable, and that anybody who departs from those things is just plain wrong. Chronocentrism is the parallel insistence, on the part of people living in one historical period, that the social customs, esthetic notions, moral standards, and so on of that period are universally applicable, and that people in any other historical period who had different social customs, esthetic notions, moral standards, and so on should have known better.

Chronocentrism is pandemic in our time. Historians have a concept called “Whig history;” it got that moniker from a long line of English historians who belonged to the Whig, i.e., Liberal Party, and who wrote as though all of human history was to be judged according to how well it measured up to the current Liberal Party platform. Such exercises aren’t limited to politics, though; my first exposure to the concept of Whig history came via university courses in the history of science. When I took those courses—this was twenty-five years ago, mind you—historians of science were sharply divided between a majority that judged every scientific activity in every past society on the basis of how well it conformed to our ideas of science, and a minority that tried to point out just how difficult this habit made the already challenging task of understanding the ideas of past thinkers.

To my mind, the minority view in those debates was correct, but at least some of its defenders missed a crucial point. Whig history doesn’t exist to foster understanding of the past.  It exists to justify and support an ideological stance of the present. If the entire history of science is rewritten so that it’s all about how the currently accepted set of scientific theories about the universe rose to their present privileged status, that act of revision makes currently accepted theories look like the inevitable outcome of centuries of progress, rather than jerry-rigged temporary compromises kluged together to cover a mass of recalcitrant data—which, science being what it is, is normally a more accurate description.

In exactly the same sense, the claim that a certain set of social changes in the United States and other industrial countries in recent years result from the “evolution of consciousness,” unfolding on a one-way street from the ignorance of the past to a supposedly enlightened future, doesn’t help make sense of the complicated history of social change. It was never supposed to do that. Rather, it’s an attempt to backstop the legitimacy of a specific set of political agendas here and now by making them look like the inevitable outcome of the march of history. The erasure of the bits of inconvenient history I cited earlier in this essay is part and parcel of that attempt; like all linear schemes of historical change, it falsifies the past and glorifies the future in order to prop up an agenda in the present.

It needs to be remembered in this context that the word “evolution” does not mean “progress.” Evolution is adaptation to changing circumstances, and that’s all it is. When people throw around the phrases “more evolved” and “less evolved,” they’re talking nonsense, or at best engaging in a pseudoscientific way of saying “I like this” and “I don’t like that.” In biology, every organism—you, me, koalas, humpback whales, giant sequoias, pond scum, and all the rest—is equally the product of a few billion years of adaptation to the wildly changing conditions of an unstable planet, with genetic variation shoveling in diversity from one side and natural selection picking and choosing on the other. The habit of using the word “evolution” to mean “progress” is pervasive, and it’s pushed hard by the faith in progress that serves as an ersatz religion in our time, but it’s still wrong.

It’s entirely possible, in fact, to talk about the evolution of political opinion (which is of course what “consciousness” amounts to here) in strictly Darwinian terms. In every society, at every point in its history, groups of people are striving to improve the conditions of their lives by some combination of competition and cooperation with other groups. The causes, issues, and rallying cries that each group uses will vary from time to time as conditions change, and so will the relationships between groups—thus it was to the advantage of affluent liberals of the Progressive era to destroy the thriving gay culture of urban America, just as it was to the advantage of affluent liberals of the late twentieth century to turn around and support the struggle of gay people for civil rights. That’s the way evolution works in the real world, after all.

This sort of thinking doesn’t offer the kind of ideological support that activists of various kinds are used to extracting from various linear schemes of history. On the other hand, that difficulty is more than balanced by a significant benefit, which is that linear predictions inevitably fail, and so by and large do movements based on them. The people who agreed enthusiastically with Hillary Clinton’s insistence that “we aren’t going back, we’re going forward” are still trying to cope with the hard fact that their political agenda will be wandering in the wilderness for at least the next four years. Those who convince themselves that their cause is the wave of the future are constantly being surprised by the embarrassing discovery that waves inevitably break and roll back out to sea. It’s those who remember that history plays no favorites who have a chance of accomplishing their goals.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Survey of Police Finds Most Cops Believe Protesters Motivated by Anti-Police Sentiment, Incidents of Police Violence Are Isolated


A new wide-ranging survey of police officers around the country from the the Pew Research Center reveals a vast majority believe that the focus by the media and protesters on incidents of police violence have made their job more difficult.

The Pew Research Center surveyed nearly 8,000 police officers from departments ranging in size from 100 officers to more than 2000. It also found police officers mellowing out on marijuana, with more than two-third believing laws against marijuana ought to be relaxed. Additionally on the prohibition front, more than two-thirds of police officers opposed a ban on "assault-style weapons" (while nearly two-thirds of Americans support one according to a different Pew survey, which contained many of the same questions, used by Pew to compare to the police survey).

More than 85 percent of all cops surveyed said high-profile incidents of police brutality have made their jobs harder—nearly 75 percent of respondents say highly publicized incidents of police brutality have increased tensions between police officers and black community, while 72 percent say cops in their department are "less willing to stop and question suspicious persons" (with the number as high as 86 percent of cops in departments with at least 2,600 police officers). Few cops (just 14 percent) said they thought the general public understood their risks at least somewhat well. By comparison, 83 percent of American adults insist they understood risks police faced. 87 percent of big city cops said interactions with black residents had become tenser, while 61 percent of cops in smaller departments agreed.

93 percent of cops said they worry more about their personal safety than they did before police violence became a national issue. Younger officers say they are more concerned about their safety than older cops do—46 percent of cops under the age of 45 they are seriously concerned about their physical safety at least often, while just 37 percent of cops 45 and older said the same. 63 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2016, according to the Officers Down Memorial Page, an increase from 52 in 2015 and 31 in 2013, which was the lowest number of police officers recorded killed by gunfire since 1880. By comparison, in 2011, before police violence became a national issue and before the narrative of a "war on cops" was established, there were 68 police officers shot and killed in the line of duty, the highest number recorded since 1997. The small raw numbers mean small fluctuations appear as larger percentage shifts (2016 was 20 percent deadlier than 2015 for example by 8 percent less deadly than 2011). There are more than 750,000 sworn police officers in the United States.

A large majority of police officers—68 percent—say they believe protests against police violence are motivated in large part by anti-police bias. Just 10 percent told Pew they thought the protesters were motivated by genuine desire to hold cops accountable. Despite that, 72 percent of police officers agree that poorly performing police officers in their departments are not held accountable, while 53 percent aren't sure their disciplinary procedures are fair.

More than half of cops—56 percent—said they believed in certain neighborhoods being aggressive was a more effective tactic than being courteous, while 44 percent agreed that some people needed to be dealt with with "hard, physical tactics." Young cops were more likely to endorse aggression and physical violence than older cops.

Nevertheless, a full two-thirds of cops surveyed said they believed incidents of police violence were isolated incidents, the opposite of the general public, although 54 percent of black male officers and 63 percent of black female officers said they thought such incidents were indicative of broader problems. Pew notes that in a separate survey it found 60 percent of American adults said they believed incidents of police violence were not isolated but represented a broader problem. Two thirds of police officers supported the use of body camera, though nearly half of cops did not think body cams would make a difference. Half said it would increase the likelihood of cops acting appropriately.

Here and elsewhere Pew found unsurprising racial differences. Only 27 percent of white officers said they believed protesters were driven at least in part by a desire for police accountability, while nearly 70 percent of black police officers acknowledged as much. Older officers were also more likely to believe protesters were genuinely concerned than younger officers were. 63 percent of white cops said they would tell a colleague to break department protocol to do what is morally right—just 43 percent of black cops responded the same way.

More than 90 percent of white officers said the U.S. has done what was needed to secure equal rights for black citizens—just 29 percent of black cops agree. White cops were also more likely to have negative feelings about their jobs—54 percent said they're at least often frustrated by their jobs. 41 percent of black cops responded similarly. White officers are also more likely than black cops (36 percent vs 20 percent) to report getting into a struggle or fight with a suspect in the previous month—male cops are also more likely to report that than females (35 percent vs 22 percent). Just 27 percent of police officers reported ever having to fire their service weapon in the line of duty, and only 11 percent of female cops said they'd done so. 31 percent of white officers and 21 percent of black officers report ever having shot their firearm in the line of duty.

Police officers also complained about a lack of training—just 39 percent thought their employers were doing very well in training them, and just 37 percent thought their employers were communicating their job responsibilities clearly. About half of "rank-and-file" cops said they received at least four hours of shoot-don't shoot firearms training in the last year, with similar proportions reporting at least four hours of training on "nonlethal methods to control a combative or threatening individual" on dealing with mental health crises, and on de-escalation.

Nearly 80 percent of cops said they'd been thanked for their service in the last month (67 percent reported being verbally abused in the last month), and 58 percent said they felt proud of their work at least often, while 51 percent said they often felt frustrated by their work. Pew found some negative correlation between pride and frustration. 90 percent of cops who say they are rarely proud of their work report they are often or always frustrated by their jobs.

A full 91 percent of cops say police have at least a good relationship with white residents in their communities, while 56 percent say the same for relations with black residents. About 60 percent of white officers insist relations with black residents (whose motivations for protesting police violence this survey shows they largely question) are at least good, while only 32 percent of black officers say so.

Read the full report from Pew here.


The Well-Reasoned Basis Of Populism


Submitted by Jeffrey Snider via Alhambra Investment Partners,

At the start of this new year, a new law took effect in Illinois which required hairdressers to obtain training in domestic abuse prevention. Hairdressers. The seeds of the idea were where any stylist in the state would take advantage of what is presumed a very close relationship between a woman and the person, presumed also to be a woman, using a hairdryer on her to spot possible abuse or even violence and know how to direct the victim toward help. Though protected, for now, from reporting requirements and shielded in untested fashion from liability, this is now part of the credentialing process for anyone seeking to enter the profession or stay within its ranks, at least in Illinois (and whichever states ultimately follow, as you probably have a good idea already those that will).

Thus, without one hour of training every two years a formerly credentialed hairstylist will transition simply to being a former hairstylist. Her (presumably) ability to wield objects of beautification being fully undisturbed, the loss of ability to perform with them as an economic service is clearly, in this case, not about those abilities.

You see occasionally statistics bandied about the internet where in the 1950’s fewer than one in twenty jobs required some government body’s expressed, explicit approval, but sixty years later the imposition of government credentials is somewhere between one and three or four. The world has become enthralled by them to the point of these kinds of extremes. Some of it is surely the desire for reduced liability, to retain or hire the credentialed expert so that if something goes wrong you are less likely to be sued for it. But what happens when in the real world “credentialed expert” makes that disastrous outcome more likely? Would that be the case where credentials themselves aren’t what they are supposed to be?

In August 2013, Paul Krugman was writing favorably about Milton Friedman. The context of that discourse was the period immediately following the “fiscal cliff” which was supposed to bring about immediate disaster, as Krugman himself predicted on several occasions. The favorable light under which Friedman was being remembered in this one specific instance boiled down to what Krugman called him being a “realist.”

One way to think about Friedman is that he was the man who tried to save free-market ideology from itself, by offering an answer to the obvious question: “If free markets are so great, how come we have depressions?”

In Krugman’s view, Friedman was acceptable in the narrowest sense because he opened the door for government intervention among the so-called right. I doubt Krugman was unaware that it was this same door that caused Friedman to apologize for it in the 1990’s given what it became. Ironically, it was in Friedman’s Nobel lecture in 1976 which describes Krugman’s brief positivity about him:

I well recall a dinner at a Cambridge University college when I was sitting between a fellow economist and R. A. Fisher, the great mathematical statistician and geneticist. My fellow economist told me about a student he had been tutoring on labor economics, who, in connection with an analysis of the effect of trade unions, remarked, “Well surely, Mr. X (another economist of a different political persuasion) would not agree with that.” My colleague regarded this experience as a terrible indictment of economics because it illustrated the impossibility of a value-free positive economic science. I turned to Sir Ronald and asked whether such an experience was indeed unique to social science. His answer was an impassioned “no”, and he proceeded to tell one story after another about how accurately he could infer views in genetics from political views.

At one time, there was a difference between Friedman and Krugman, meaning Keynes. In 1980, for example, Keynes was so thoroughly debunked that there was enormous bipartisan support against it. Yet it didn’t go away, it simply found itself wriggling through Friedman’s open door and into the central bank monetarism that replaced it. Not long after 1980, Keynes and Friedman became fused, the activist central bank, rather than Treasury Department or Finance Ministry, the result. On the inside, economists think themselves arguing a world of difference among themselves; from the outside, they are all the same as none of them can actually produce scientific results and predictions.

The reason is that they are all working from the same general theories. The concept of “free trade” was as close to untouchable in “acceptable” economic discourse as anything. The politics of it was no longer “right” or “left”, but rather within or without. If you argue for “free trade”, you are welcomed by economists (really Economists); if you argue against it, you are a krank, a kook, or any other epithet that may be applied to show the world you have none of the right “credentials.” It is about conformity, not fact let alone truth.

The sudden rush in the mainstream of Economics to defend globalism isn’t specifically about globalism and its version of “free trade.” It is about Economics and the bigger questions that are being asked more often now outside of it. The voters in 2016 are following the questions, for even if there isn’t yet widespread awareness of the answers there is at the very least robust and open discussion taking place where over the past decade the application of argumentum ad verecundiam has been used ruthlessly to shut it down. If Janet Yellen or more so Ben Bernanke declared that there was recovery, nobody possessed the credentials to say otherwise.

The Wall Street Journal published an article this past Sunday that in just its headline perfectly sums up the current wedge, writing up the recent conference in Chicago where Top Economists Grapple With Public Disdain for Initiatives They Championed.

The nation’s leading economists are suffering an identity crisis as many of the institutions they helped build and causes they advanced have come in for public scorn and rejection at the ballot box.


The angst was on display this weekend at the annual conference of the American Economic Association, the profession’s largest gathering. The conference is a showcase for agenda-setting research, a giant job fair for the nation’s most promising young economists and, this year, the site of endless discussion about how to rebuild trust in the discipline.

What is never really asked is why are these particular people the “nation’s leading economists?” They are surely some of the brightest minds, possessing great intellectual capacity, displaying impressive educational attainments and industry-given awards, but by and large because of all that they are all the same. And none of it displays comprehension of economics, but instead Economics. They have all been required to say the same things, speak in a common language (statistics), and to not deviate too far lest it trigger implicit excommunication from among the wider group. It’s how Paul Krugman can spend eight years screaming for fiscal “stimulus” of any type, including the stimulus effects of preparing for an alien invasion that won’t happen, but the moment just the bland talk of fiscal spending being introduced by President-Elect Trump he declares it all wrong and absolutely certain to deliver the worst of the worst long run consequences. People tend to notice, from the outside, these non-trivial inconsistencies and at the very least start to wonder just how robust a “discipline” it all might be.

The chart included with the WSJ article is the most damning, by survey history showing that in early 2014 faith in “free trade” took a decided turn, at least for many. Among R’s, those who said free-trade agreements were good was about 55%; 60% for D’s. Those suggesting it is bad were only 35% or so for R’s, and just 30% for D’s. It swung to only 25% of R’s now feeling positive about “free trade”, with an astonishing 68% now against. The shift among D’s was sharper to the middle of 2015, but has mostly reverted to the 2014 levels.

One quoted economist explains quite well the dilemma, though more subconsciously than he seems aware.

“The economic elite did many things to undermine their credibility while people’s economic fortunes were taking a turn for the worse,” said Steven Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago. But a road map for regaining trust is elusive. “I used to think facts and analysis will ultimately carry the day but now I’m not quite sure.”

The incongruence (in arrogance) of that statement is striking, and for Economics it should be alarming. For a narrow segment of the “discipline”, it clearly is and has been. Economist Edmund Phelps, who along with Milton Friedman did great work in debunking the (exploitable) Phillips Curve infatuation in the 1960’s, was also there in Chicago presenting on “How the Right And Left Are Failing The West.” Joseph Stiglitz, for once, was more succinct (though still far short of an explanation about why).

“The promise was that globalization, together with liberalization, lowering tax rates, and advances in technology, would make everyone better off,” said Mr. Stiglitz. It was economists, not the economics, that over-promised, he said.

The end of the recovery in 2016 was not as one that had happened but as an actual, realistic idea that has had dire effects including among the credentialed “experts.” It is unsurprising to find those survey results about “free trade” breaking sharply where they do; the introduction of the “rising dollar” in the middle of 2014 and the broad, global consequences it unleashed was the evidence that the “science” of Economics refuses to consider, let alone comprehend. Despite the backlash from the inside, The People have been more than patient the past ten years, giving Economists chance after chance after chance (after chance, in the fashion of QE’s) to produce. The “rising dollar” was the last straw. Rejection of Economics is not irrational nor is it free of “facts and analysis” as (presumably Dr.) Davis is suggesting.

The past two years require no regressions. Economists said in late 2014 that the economy would take off; it did the opposite. They kept relying on mostly the unemployment rate to deny what was happening though in the US, like Europe and elsewhere, regular people had and have an intuitive, basic sense of why that was and still is just stupid. Very quietly, without too much disturbance, central bankers at least now agree, if still for now on their own terms. Is it really “too far” that people are now branching out, wondering what else Economists might be so wrong about? In terms of “free trade”, it’s not as if it is unrelated to the past decade.  

The rise of populism isn’t the politics of rejecting experts, it is the rejection of these “experts” – who quite frankly deserve more than voter disdain. Credentials have come to be seen by a very large and growing proportion of the global population to declare incompetence, having nothing at all to do with intellectual capacity apart from objectivity. It isn’t the denial of reasoned argument but rather the logical end of it.


U.S. Intelligence Agencies Have No Clothes


Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,


The true patriotism, the only rational patriotism is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it.


– Mark Twain, The Czar’s Soliloquy”

At this point, pretty much everyone in America has seen the results of Hillary Clinton media pet, John Harwood’s recent Twitter poll.

Who do you believe America?

— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 6, 2017

The significance of the above cannot be overstated. U.S. intelligence agencies, like so many other national institutions, have lost nearly all credibility in the eyes of the American public. The list is long, but includes economists, politicians, the mainstream media, central bankers, the financial system, and a lot more. The loss in credibility is well deserved and has nothing to do with Russia. Rather, it’s a function of a disastrous 21st century outcome for U.S. citizens both at home and abroad. A result that was achieved under eight years of Republican rule and then eight years of Democratic rule. The results were the same whether a donkey or elephant was in charge, because the people determining policy behind the scenes never really changed (same economists, central bankers, intelligence officials, etc), and the people selling the catastrophic policies to the public definitely never changes (mainstream media and its worthless pundits).

So here we stand at a moment where trust in essentially all U.S. institutions is at a well deserved all-time low, and the best the establishment can come up with is to blame Russia. Even worse, those pushing the whole “Putin is to blame for everything” conspiracy theories, consistently refuse to back up their assertions with any evidence whatsoever. In fact, with each passing week the case looks increasingly flimsy, with the latest declassified document issued Friday being particularly suspect. Even many of those largely convinced of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election admit the most recent report was pathetic, embarrassing and proved absolutely nothing.

Robert Parry of Consortium News summarizes the farce perfectly in his recent piece U.S. Report Still Lacks Proof on Russia ‘Hack’. Here’s how he begins the article:

Repeating an accusation over and over again is not evidence that the accused is guilty, no matter how much “confidence” the accuser asserts about the conclusion. Nor is it evidence just to suggest that someone has a motive for doing something. Many conspiracy theories are built on the notion of “cui bono” – who benefits – without following up the supposed motive with facts.


But that is essentially what the U.S. intelligence community has done regarding the dangerous accusation that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a covert information campaign to influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.


Just a day after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper vowed to go to the greatest possible lengths to supply the public with the evidence behind the accusations, his office released a 25-page report that contained no direct evidence that Russia delivered hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta to WikiLeaks.


The DNI report amounted to a compendium of reasons to suspect that Russia was the source of the information – built largely on the argument that Russia had a motive for doing so because of its disdain for Democratic nominee Clinton and the potential for friendlier relations with Republican nominee Trump.


But the report’s assessment is more than just a reasonable judgment based on a body of incomplete information. It is tendentious in that it only lays out the case for believing in Russia’s guilt, not reasons for doubting that guilt.


For instance, while it is true that many Russian officials, including President Putin, considered Clinton to be a threat to worsen the already frayed relationship between the two nuclear superpowers, the report ignores the downside for Russia trying to interfere with the U.S. election campaign and then failing to stop Clinton, which looked like the most likely outcome until Election Night.


If Russia had accessed the DNC and Podesta emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication, Putin would have to think that the National Security Agency, with its exceptional ability to track electronic communications around the world, might well have detected the maneuver and would have informed Clinton.


So, on top of Clinton’s well-known hawkishness, Putin would have risked handing the expected incoming president a personal reason to take revenge on him and his country. Historically, Russia has been very circumspect in such situations, usually holding its intelligence collections for internal purposes only, not sharing them with the public.

Another very good breakdown of the clownishness of the latest intel report was written by noted anti-Putin activist Masha Gessen in The New York Review of Books. Like many others, she finds the obsession with RT within the report bizarre to say the least. She notes:

Finally, the bulk of the rest of the report is devoted to RT, the television network formerly known as Russia Today.


A seven-page annex to the report details RT activities, including hosting third-party candidate debates, broadcasting a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street movement and “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health”—perfectly appropriate journalistic activities, even if they do appear on what is certainly a propaganda outlet funded by an aggressive dictatorship. An entire page is devoted to RT’s social media footprint: the network appears to score more YouTube views than CNN (though far fewer Facebook likes). Even this part of the report is slightly misleading: RT’s tactics for inflating its viewership numbers in order to secure continued Kremlin funding has been the subject of some convincing scholarship. That is the entirety of the case the intelligence agencies have presented: Putin wanted Trump to win and used WikiLeaks and RT to ensure that outcome.

Indeed, it appears the intelligence community is more concerned that RT is doing a better job than U.S. journalists at covering issues Americans care about than it is about Russia “hacking the election.” She also concludes:

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument…


It is conceivable that the classified version of the report, which includes additional “supporting information” and sourcing, adds up to a stronger case. But considering the arc of the argument contained in the report, and the principle findings (which are apparently “identical” to those in the classified version), this would be a charitable reading. An appropriate headline for a news story on this report might be something like, “Intel Report on Russia Reveals Few New Facts,” or, say, “Intelligence Agencies Claim Russian Propaganda TV Influenced Election.” Instead, however, the major newspapers and commentators spoke in unison, broadcasting the report’s assertion of Putin’s intent without examining the arguments.

Which brings me to the biggest red flag in the entire intelligence report. The part where it states:

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

If any agency should have high confidence it’s the NSA, and pretty much every security expert I follow seems to agree. First, here’s what Bruce Schneier wrote in his recent piece, Attributing the DNC Hacks to Russia:

Attribution is easier if you are monitoring broad swaths of the Internet. This gives the National Security Agency a singular advantage in the attribution game. The problem, of course, is that the NSA doesn’t want to publish what it knows.

Isn’t that interesting. The one agency with the most information is the one least confident in the conclusion. Why only moderate confidence from the NSA? I wonder.

Schneier isn’t the only one of course. As famed NSA whistleblower William Binney noted in a recent article coauthored with Ray McGovern, The Dubious Case on Russian ‘Hacking’:

With respect to the alleged interference by Russia and WikiLeaks in the U.S. election, it is a major mystery why U.S. intelligence feels it must rely on “circumstantial evidence,” when it has NSA’s vacuum cleaner sucking up hard evidence galore. What we know of NSA’s capabilities shows that the email disclosures were from leaking, not hacking.

Here’s the difference:


Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or other cyber-protection systems and then extracts data. Our own considerable experience, plus the rich detail revealed by Edward Snowden, persuades us that, with NSA’s formidable trace capability, it can identify both sender and recipient of any and all data crossing the network.


Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization — on a thumb drive, for example — and gives it to someone else, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did. Leaking is the only way such data can be copied and removed with no electronic trace.


Because NSA can trace exactly where and how any “hacked” emails from the Democratic National Committee or other servers were routed through the network, it is puzzling why NSA cannot produce hard evidence implicating the Russian government and WikiLeaks. Unless we are dealing with a leak from an insider, not a hack, as other reporting suggests. From a technical perspective alone, we are convinced that this is what happened.

Again, if any agency should have high confidence, it is the NSA.

Moving along, the U.S. government’s case gets even weaker the more you dig into it. A perfect example can be seen in how poorly State Department spokesman Robert Kirby handled a few questions during a recent press conference. Here’s the clip:

Three major red flags appear in this exchange. First, Mr. Kirby admits that no evidence has been provided to the public regarding Russian hacking and distribution of information to Wikileaks, and that none would be forthcoming.

Second, Mr. Kirby repeatedly insists that the fact “all 17 intelligence agencies” came to the same conclusion should be sufficient for the American public in the absence of any actual proof. To this I reply:

I don’t know about you, but the fact that seventeen agencies representing a bipartisan status quo that has been catastrophically wrong about pretty much everything came to the same conclusion, does not inspire confidence or credibility in the mind of this citizen.

Finally, there’s red flag number three. When AP reporter Matt Lee follows up wondering why the WMD assessment debacle holds no relevance to the current intelligence assessment, Mr. Kirby responds by highlighting all of “the kinds of gains that have been made in intelligence and analysis since then.”

Here’s the problem. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper does not have clean hands when it comes to the WMD affair. He also blatantly lied to the American people with regard to NSA surveillance before being called out by Edward Snowden. As Binney and McGovern explain:

Mr. Trump’s skepticism is warranted not only by technical realities, but also by human ones, including the dramatis personae involved. Mr. Clapper has admitted giving Congress on March 12, 2013, false testimony regarding the extent of the National Security Agency’s collection of data on Americans. Four months later, after the Edward Snowden revelations, Mr. Clapper apologized to the Senate for testimony he admitted was “clearly erroneous.” That he is a survivor was already apparent by the way he landed on his feet after the intelligence debacle on Iraq.


Mr. Clapper was a key player in facilitating the fraudulent intelligence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put Mr. Clapper in charge of the analysis of satellite imagery, the best source for pinpointing the location of weapons of mass destruction — if any.


When Pentagon favorites like Iraqi émigré Ahmed Chalabi plied U.S. intelligence with spurious “evidence” on WMD in Iraq, Mr. Clapper was in position to suppress the findings of any imagery analyst who might have the temerity to report, for example, that the Iraqi “chemical weapons facility” for which Mr. Chalabi provided the geographic coordinates was nothing of the kind. Mr. Clapper preferred to go by the Rumsfeldian dictum: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” (It will be interesting to see if he tries that out on the President-elect Friday.)


A year after the war began, Mr. Chalabi told the media, “We are heroes in error. As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful.” By that time it was clear there were no WMD in Iraq. When Mr. Clapper was asked to explain, he opined, without adducing any evidence, that they probably were moved into Syria. 

To conclude, I certainly think it is important to know if the Russian government hacked the DNC/Podesta and then handed that information to Wikileaks. Likewise, such an explosive claim necessitates publicly available evidence given the horrible track record of U.S. intelligence agencies. Until such evidence is made available I, like countless other Americans, will tend to believe Wikileaks, which has a track record of proving its claims and being accurate, as opposed to U.S. intelligence, which doesn’t.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Watch As Cops Raid Charity, Arrest 7 Volunteers For Feeding The Homeless TOPICS:Matt AgoristPolicePoverty


by Matt Agorist, Activist Post:

When feeding willing hungry people becomes illegal, that is a telling sign of a bureaucratic police state. And, in the ostensible Land of the Free, the enforcers of such arbitrary and cruel laws have no problem kidnapping and locking people in a cage for helping those in need. In fact, it happens on a regular basis.

The most recent case of police cracking down on caring people who dared to give organic rice and beans to the hungry happened over the weekend in Tampa.

Members of the charitable group Food Not Bombs gathered Saturday afternoon to hand out hot coffee and bagels to Tampa’s homeless community. However, their good deed was thwarted by police who quickly arrested seven of the people serving the food and one homeless man who dared grab a bagel from the table after cops ordered everyone to stop eating.

Why would a dozen cops descend on a group of volunteers donating their own food to willing people who need it? Well, Food not Bombs failed to pay the extortion fee to the city in the form of a permit.

Food not Bombs is not some fly-by-night charity looking to rustle feathers by ‘illegally’ distributing food the homeless. The group sets up to feed the homeless at least twice a week — so obtaining a permit and purchasing the city-required insurance policy is too pricey to be sustainable.

When kind-hearted people don’t have a limitless supply of money to grease the statist skids and pay their extortion fees to remove all the red tape — they become outlaws.

Credit: Anthony Martino

The good news is that the group is made up of brave people who are unafraid to disobey unjust laws. In an email to CL Tampa, a spokesperson for the group noted that Food not Bombs “has no plans to stop sharing food with the homeless and hungry and will continue to defy unjust laws that criminalize compassion and mutual aid.”

Read More @


Washington Post - Instrumental In Coining The Term "Fake News" - Now Wants It Gone


fullofIt looks like the propaganda wing of the establishment has decided to pull the plug on the whole "Fake News" thing they worked so hard on. Apparently their carefully crafted psychological priming mechanism designed to scatter Orwellian seeds of doubt regarding non-approved news agencies has gone awry - their own invention turned against them. Hmm. I wonder how that happened? It's as if the left and their minions have a credibility problem or something.

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes:


Sorry Washington Post, you had really bad material to work with but you tried your best. Not only did you dutifully participate in bashing President-elect Trump the entire election while downplaying Hillary's record, you were the first ones to the punchbowl to let America know (right before the Electoral College voted) about the CIA's evidence-thin conclusions in the Russian hacking scandal. You also tried to sell us on that whole "Russia hacked the electrical grid" thing, only to have to issue two retractions.

It should also be noted that the Washington Post was instrumental in planting the phrase "Fake News" - along with Buzzfeed,, and The Guardian. Once it gained momentum throughout 2016, Facebook's new fact checkers Snopes and Politifact, along with Vanity Fair, helped push the phrase into unaware and compliant minds towards the end of October.

Take a look at this google trends search:


Given that the inflection point where "Fake News" skyrockets is approximately the last week in October (into the first week in November), let's look at which major outlets had been using the phrase earlier in the year.

April 2nd, 2016: A search for "Fake News" sorted by relevance (Google's default) for results prior to 10/29/0216.  What do we have here? Oh my, if it isn't the CIA's trusted source for leaking national security rumors, Jeff Bezos' Washington Post:


Searching for "Fake News" by date vs. relevance:

April 11th, propaganda site Buzzfeed stokes the fire by following up on Facebook's commitment to eliminate hoaxes.


September 2nd, uses the phrase "Fake News"


October 5thThe Guardian reports that Buzzfeed was allegedly hacked on October 5th by a Saudi teen named Ahmad Makki, who defaced the Buzzfeed website with a message that read "Don't share fake news about us." Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was hacked by the same "Fake News" hackers.ourmine2

In fact, a whole bunch of tech CEO's and celebrities were apparently hacked by "fake news" Ahmad Makki, who conspicuously shares the same name as a famous Pro-Assad blogger who was [nsfw] murdered brought to justice by the Free Syrian Army (the jihadist rebels Hillary planned to support in toppling Assad).

October 7th, two days after The Guardian storybuzzfeed turns around and posts a story about a "Fake Hillary Clinton Speech Transcript" emanating from a "fake news" website.


October 8th, Snopes gets in on the Fake News action:

snoe October 13th, liberal Vanity Fair rehashes the Facebook "Fake News" story, which Facebook later put together a new and improved "task force" to deal with:


October 19th, our old friends at the Washington Post jump into the fray once again:


Closer to the election - Facebook Fact Checker Politifact uses the phrase "FAKE NEWS" in an October 23rd piece:  (click to enlarge):


After the election, Google and Facebook (re?)-declare WAR on Fake News!


November 17th, WaPo publishes a story from a "Facebook fake-news writer" who thinks he got Trump elected.


December 9th, Hillary Clinton gives her "Fake News" speech in her most victimy purple outfit, the same day propaganda seed-planting Buzzfeed was caught citing fake data in their fake news story.

So there you have it - the carefully woven phrase "Fake News" was trotted out by the MSM to try and discredit non-approved sources of information, only to collapse under the weight of their inability to lie to the general public.