Friday, May 31, 2019

The Dictatorship of the Young


The end of every semester confronts the college instructor with an indignity: reading student “evaluations” of his performance. While the principle of student feedback is sound in theory, the execution exposes the embarrassing frivolity of American culture. Highlights from my literature courses include, and I quote verbatim:

“There was too much reading.”

“He should not assign Leaves of Grass because it makes no sense.”

“I didn’t like the class because it has nothing to do with my major, but the professor was pretty good. He wears cool boots and shirts!”

Far be it from me to argue with any endorsement of my sartorial sense, but these evaluations are not merely for the instructors’ enlightenment. Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness report in their recently published book Cracks in the Ivory Tower that university administrators are increasingly reliant on student evaluations to make hiring, firing, and promotional decisions, even as all of the available research indicates they have no effect on the quality of teaching in the college classroom. To argue against student evaluations, at least as they exist now, according to consequentialism, is an error. The more profound question is: why are educational institutions inflating the egos of teenagers by encouraging them to give their approval or condemnation of a professor? Furthermore, why are they able to issue judgments of Walt Whitman as if their inability to comprehend his masterpiece is somehow his fault and not their own?

Wendy Williams, a professor of Human Development at Cornell University, claims that the growth of student evaluations in the 1990s coalesced with dramatic increases in tuition. This applied pressure on colleges to “seek consumer satisfaction.”

A successful business must placate, even coddle, its customers. Education has an altogether different mission and standard. Edward R. Ward, a Catholic priest, author, and personal friend, began all of his university philosophy courses for freshmen with the words: “I’m not here to nurture you. I’m here to strengthen you.”

Ward’s pedagogy is woefully anachronistic in our culture of raw nerves. Student evaluations prioritize the likes, dislikes, whims, and feelings of students over any aim to strengthen young minds. They are also a small illustration of youthocracy – a dictatorship of the inexperienced and immature that exerts an insidious influence over American culture.

Like student evaluations, youthocracy did not begin in the 1990s, but that was when it grew dominant. Pop culture was the first pillar to fall, as marketing specialists discovered that America’s shopping mall teenagers had large amounts of disposable income, and were likelier to spend their money on entertainment than their working parents. The teenage and 20-something demographics became the ultimate prizes for any commercial venture in film, television, and music. As a result, adult complexity in cinematic plot, chord progression, and song lyrics became financial liabilities, at least in the mainstream. (Fortunately, there was a backlash on television with programs like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” and “The Wire” that appealed to adults. Older viewers tended to stay home for their entertainment even before the rise of streaming services.)

A cursory glance at any suburban movie theater is sufficient to demonstrate the rule of youthocracy. The Marvel Universe, scatological comedies, and slasher bloodfests in which different pitches of screaming qualify as dialogue triumph at the box office. Serious and thoughtful films, like The Highwaymen and First Reformed, go straight to a streaming service, or have theatrical runs so limited that they barely register.

In The Disappearance of Childhood, prophetic social critic Neil Postman wrote that the ubiquity of mass media was robbing children of an essential sense of “wonderment” and dangerously bridging the information divide between them and their parents:

As media merge the two worlds, as the tension created by secrets to be unraveled is diminished, the calculus of wonderment changes. Curiosity is replaced by cynicism or, even worse, arrogance. We are left with children who rely not on authoritative adults but on news from nowhere. We are left with children who are given answers to questions they never asked. We are left, in short, without children.

Postman did not predict that the disappearance of childhood would mean that children function as young adults, but rather that adult and child would blend together, creating a worst-of-both-worlds mutant. The “adult-child,” Postman wrote, is a “grown up whose intellectual and emotional life is not significantly different from a child.”

The consequences of youthocracy – a culture under the rule of teenagers, twentysomethings, and middle-aged people who think and act like children – go far beyond dumb movies and silly songs.

Youthocracy has poisoned American politics. Donald Trump is the epitome of the “adult-child,” a prankster-bully who has traded policy rigor for whiny finger pointing and name calling, most of it on his favorite medium, Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, media companies, and public figures are increasingly deferential to the hysterics of the Twitter mob. Publishing companies have delayed and canceled the release of novels due to preemptive objections from Twitter brigades. Candidates for the Democratic nomination for president are constantly recalibrating their positions to avoid outrage from social media obsessives. And journalistic coverage of significant issues looks to Twitter for direction.

The Pew Research Center recently revealed that Twitter, for all of its power, represents very few actual Americans, something that the most prestigious people in media, publishing, and politics are too insulated and onanistic to realize. Only 22 percent of Americans use Twitter; even more significant, the most prolific 10 percent of Twitter users are responsible for more than 80 percent of total tweets. The majority of users engage with the medium only a handful of times per month and rarely tweet about politics.

Hardly to anyone’s surprise, Pew also found that “Twitter users are much younger than the average U.S. adult.” Given the data, one could view the social media mob as the youthocracy’s cultural military – the rank and file fighting battles on behalf of the dictatorship of the adult-child. Because major corporations and political officials overestimate the size of the army, much of American culture now caters to a youthful and overly sensitive set who have turned panic into a lifestyle.

As the youthocracy amasses power and influence, previously reliable criteria for the investment of trust and confidence – such as maturity, wisdom, and accomplishment – are undesirable and often subject to ridicule.

Politico reports that the endorsement of first-term congresswoman and media sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “one of the most important in America right now.” Ocasio-Cortez’s ascension from bartender to federal representative captures the spirit of American democracy and makes for an inspiring story. Even still, she is not responsible for the passage of a single bill in Congress. No one with so little experience should gain such authority. While it is important that young people, who bring great enthusiasm and boldness in thinking, have some influence, it is even more essential that they advance in a dialogue with a wiser, older generation. The youthocracy, from student evaluations to party politics, is increasingly insistent on a one-way process: youthful demand and elder appeasement.

Rarely, if ever, does the “woke” cadre cite the insight of someone like Noam Chomsky, who, regardless of what anyone thinks about his politics, might know more about leftism and history than someone driving on a learner’s permit.

Mature adults recognize nuance and contradiction as unavoidable elements of a life moving towards death. Children, or those with the attitudes of adolescents, believe in absolutes, unable to see complexity and unwilling to compromise. Ocasio-Cortez has condemned Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden based on a rumor that his climate change policy will be “middle of the road.” The words are not Biden’s, and the former vice president has neither confirmed nor denied the story. But the search for truth requires patience – another virtue unwelcome in youthocracy.

A far worse political descent into simpleminded immaturity is the adult-child Donald Trump’s apparent belief that “supporting the troops” means pardoning war criminals. Something even as massive and multifaceted as the world’s largest military is either good or bad. There can be no in between.

It is dangerous to allow people who have not yet had formative experiences to gain such strength in a society.

I can already hear a popular rebuttal to my argument. Someone will compare me, at 34 years old, to an “old man” yelling “get off my lawn.” The “get off my lawn” insult is an example of the pervasiveness of the cultural reach of youth-oriented language. Criticism of youthful behavior sets one up to be called a “dad,” which is now a pejorative (“dad music,” “dad clothes,” etc).

I look forward to the day – probably many years from now when I actually am elderly and proudly warning neighborhood kids to leave my property – when “adolescent” becomes a term of derision. Until then, the rule of the youthocracy drags on.


This article has been republished with permission from The American Conservative. 

[Image Credit: Pixabay]


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Glenn Greenwald: US war on Assange a 'blueprint' for criminalizing journalism



The latest indictments of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange are a blueprint for making journalists into felons, a test case for dismantling the First Amendment that will destroy journalism as we know it, Glenn Greenwald warned. "If Assange can be declared guilty of espionage for working with sources to obtain and publish information deemed 'classified' by the US government, then there's nothing to stop the criminalization of every other media outlet that routinely does the same," Greenwald wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday, highlighting what he considers "the greatest threat to press freedom in the Trump era, if not the last several decades." By redefining Assange's actions as "espionage" rather than "journalism" or "publishing," the Trump administration seeks to exempt him from legal protections governing speech that belong to everyone, from the Post itself to the lowliest blogger, the Intercept editor and former civil rights attorney explains.


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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Debunking Seven Persistent Myths About Homeschoolers


In the last fifty years, homeschooling in the United States has grown from a tiny movement composed primarily of conservative Christians and John Holt “unschoolers” to its present size of around 1.69 million students. Despite these numbers, and despite the fact that most Americans are familiar with the concept of homeschooling, some misconceptions continue to make the rounds.

Let’s look at six of these long-standing myths.

Myth #1: If you homeschool your children, they’ll fail to develop certain social skills. “What about socialization?” Numerous people asked me this question when my wife and I began homeschooling our children in the late 1980s, and people continue to ask it of homeschoolers today. The fact is we are all “socialized” simply by living. So then the question arises: Will Johnny develop better social skills spending his days in a classroom with his peers or in a home with mom, dad, siblings, and other relatives? Over a period of twenty years I offered seminars in various subjects to hundreds of homeschoolers. I came to know many of them and their families, and can attest that homeschool graduates entered college or the work force “well-adjusted.” Studies as far back as twenty years ago back me up on this point.

Myth #2: Parents who educate their children at home are overly protective and don’t want them exposed to certain ideas taught in our public schools. True perhaps for a minority, but the majority of parents homeschool for a much wider variety of reasons, ranging from the desire to include religion in their curriculum to the time and freedom homeschooling gives to students to develop their talents. For example, one young man in my seminars, Bill, elected to homeschool so that he could spend more time swimming. That talent helped gain him entry into the United States Naval Academy. Of course, the main reason most parents choose homeschooling is that they find it academically superior to other types of education.

Myth #3: Homeschoolers are geeks and nerds who spend their days sequestered in the living room with their laptops and books. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most homeschoolers engage in such activities as sports and Scouts, volunteer in their library or a local soup kitchen, and even open small businesses, like the 15-year-old in my seminars who made jewelry and sold her creations online. (One mom whose four kids were engaged in sports, dance, and piano used to joke that she was a “van school mom.”) In Asheville, North Carolina, for example, you’ll find homeschool sports teams—football, basketball, tennis, track, and more—concert bands, a debating club, and co-ops offering courses from calculus to Latin.

Myth #4: Many parents aren’t qualified to teach their children. Those who toss this dart generally mean that most homeschooling parents don’t have degrees in teaching. The truth is that any competent adult with a high school education can teach their children at home. Why? Because help abounds for that teacher. The homeschooling mom or dad can choose from a wide range of curricula containing lesson plans, teacher’s manuals, tests and answer keys. Co-ops and classes shared with other homeschoolers are near universal among homeschoolers. If Mrs. Smith is a whiz at higher mathematics and Mrs. Jones speaks French like a native, they bring their children together and share these skills. Finally, the Internet is crammed with classes, tutorials, and seminars that can benefit homeschoolers.

Myth #5: Homeschoolers have trouble getting into college. Nope. In fact, the opposite is true. Colleges today are actively recruiting homeschooled students, regarding them in general as better prepared academically, more self-disciplined, and more mature than many of their contemporaries. Because of the freedom derived from homeschooling, many homeschooled students are also able to build a strong resume of extracurricular activities, making them more attractive to college recruiters.

Myth #6: Homeschool parents commit child abuse at a greater rate than the general population. Wrong again. In fact, studies have shown that far fewer homeschoolers as well as those who attend religious schools suffer from sexual abuse, neglect, and death than students in the public schools. This misperception arises in part because the media fails to distinguish between homeschooling families and truant families, that is, families who keep their children out of school and then claim to be homeschoolers.

Myth #7: Homeschooling hurts our public schools. No again. Most parents pay taxes for public schools that they don’t use and pay for their own school expenses out of pocket. Some states do allow tax credits for homeschooling families.

Time to put these misconceptions to rest once and for all.


[Image Credit: Flickr-Monica H, CC BY 2.0]


It’s Not Your Imagination: The Journalists Writing About Antifa Are Often Their Cheerleaders


On February 1, 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to give a talk about free speech at the University of California, Berkeley. But he was prevented from speaking by a group of 150 or so masked, black-clad members of a then-obscure movement calling itself “Antifa.” The protestors caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and injured six people as they threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Nine months later, again at Berkeley, an “anti-Marxist” rally descended into violence as approximately 100 masked Antifa members harassed journalists and beat rally organizers and attendees.

Berkeley was where Antifa rose to national attention, but it hasn’t been the only place where the group has engaged in sustained acts of violence. At a Washington, D.C. Unite the Right rally in August 2018, Antifa members hurled objects at police and assaulted journalists. In Portland, Oregon, violent street clashes involving Antifa have become regular events. Notwithstanding claims that Antifa is a peaceful, “anti-fascist community-defense group,” it has adopted tactics that often are more violent than those of the right-wing movements that the group opposes.

I was sprayed in the face point blank with pepper spray outside the @CiderRiot, where Antifa had amassed. They cheered as I was blinded. Before that, they threatened me & brought up my mother’s name. A woman helped me across the street. Please help me identify person:

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) May 2, 2019

And yet, Antifa often receives media coverage that is neutral or even favorable, with its members’ violence either being ignored by reporters or vaguely explained away as a product of right-wing provocation. What’s more, anecdotal evidence has suggested that many of the mainstream reporters who are most active in covering Antifa also tend to enthusiastically amplify Antifa’s claims on social media.

In October 2018, my research partner and I decided to investigate the truth of this impression by using a mix of network mapping and linguistic analysis to see which prominent journalists who covered Antifa also were closely connected to leading Antifa figures on social media. We then inspected the Antifa-related stories these journalists had written.

We created a data set of 58,254 Antifa or Antifa-associated Twitter accounts based on the follows of 16 verified Antifa seed accounts. Using a software tool that analyzed the number and nature of connections associated with each individual account, we winnowed the 58,254 Antifa or Antifa-associated Twitter accounts down to 962 accounts. This represents a core group of Twitter users who are connected in overlapping ways to the most influential and widely followed Antifa figures. Of these 962 accounts, 22 were found to be verified—of which 15 were journalists who work regularly with national-level news outlets.

It should be stressed that a journalist’s close social-media engagement with any particular group should not be seen as incriminating per se. Many journalists follow—and even interact with—all manner of figures online, either out of personal curiosity, professional interest, or even as a means of developing sources. In identifying this group of 15 journalists whose engagement with Antifa is especially intense, our goal was not to accuse them of bias out of hand, but rather to identify them for further study, so as to determine if there was any overall correlation between the level of their online engagement with Antifa and the manner by which these journalists treated Antifa in their published journalism.

That correlation turned out to be quite pronounced: Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way. In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.

These journalists include, for instance, Kit O’Connell, a self-identified “proudly Antifascist” “gonzo journalist,” whose work often reads like an FAQ that one might find on an Antifa web site. In one piece, for instance, he wrote that protestors wear masks so that they may “creat[e] a sense of unity and common purpose [as they] protect other activists from attacks by police and fascists.” Another article is bluntly (and somewhat ominously) titled “Nonviolent Activists Must Never Work With Police.”

Patrick Strickland, another journalist among the group of 15, specializes in reporting on the far-right in Europe, notably Greece. His book Alerta! Alerta! Snapshots of Europe’s Anti-Fascist Struggle has a blurb written by Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which reads: “As a fascist darkness descends over Europe, Patrick Strickland uncovers the bars, squats, fight clubs, and street corners where resistance burns brightest. Each page of his journey breathes with the tumultuous struggles of brave anti-fascists who risk imprisonment, assault, and even death to take a stand.” Unlike O’Connell, Strickland presents himself as a serious mainstream journalist, and has written for The New Republic and Politico. As of this writing, he is listed on Al Jazeera’s web site as a senior producer for Al Jazeera English.

A more prominent example is Jason Wilson, a Portland-based writer for The Guardian. One of his recent articles focused on a U.S. regional intelligence report whose authors concluded that Antifa and the far right share responsibility for street violence. “Experts say the report mischaracterizes the dynamics of the street violence,” Wilson complained.

One of Wilson’s main “experts” in the piece, it turned out, was none other than Antifa handbook author Mark Bray, who, predictably, denounced the report’s contents as “ludicrous.” In fact, Bray makes regular appearances in Wilson’s articles. So does fellow Portland resident and eco-extremist Alexander Reid Ross, who regularly writes for Antifa publications such as the It’s Going Down anarchist news site. (Ross also contributed to a 30-year-anniversary edition publication for Earth First!, an extremist environmentalist collective that advocates what activists euphemistically call “direct action.”)

In another column for The Guardian, this one about the 2018 “Occupy ICE” protest in Portland, Wilson quoted “local activist” Luis Marquez to the effect that “I think this occupation is a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing. Every single person here is a hero.” Marquez is in fact a prominent Antifa leader in Portland, and has been arrested on numerous occasions due to his militant behavior—including alleged theft and assault.

Writer Jason Wilson (left) photographs next to Portland Antifa leader Luis Enrique Marquez. Photo: Andy Ngo

Interestingly, while other Portland journalists such as Genevieve Resume of KATU News, Maggie Vespa of KGW News and Quillette’s own Andy Ngo (who has voiced concerns about Antifa’s actions) have been harassed and assaulted by Antifa activists, Wilson seems welcome to mingle freely among Antifa, and has even been photographed standing close to Marquez. In one piece, titled “How the world has fought back against the violent far-right and started winning,” Wilson effectively drops the pretense that he is a neutral reporter, and approvingly outlines the Antifa tactics set out in Bray’s book. He also defends such tactics as doxing, stalking, deplatforming and shaming as valuable means to attack individuals whose views he dislikes. In doing so, he cites both Bray and Emily Gorcenski, who runs a doxing site called First Vigil, and an associated Twitter account, which shame individuals she deems to be fascists before they have received due process.

Make no mistake: The original professed goal of Antifa—to oppose fascism—is laudable. And there are no doubt many Antifa activists who still reject violent methods. Moreover, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a journalist who has strong personal views about Antifa (or about any other radical group). But Wilson is not simply a pro-Antifa activist who also happens to write for the Guardian: He actively leverages his role as a regular Guardian writer to promote Antifa, whitewash its violence, and signal-boost its leaders (whom he presents as “experts”)—often under the guise of neutral news reporting.

Christopher Mathias, a senior reporter for the Huffington Post, applies the same cynical approach. Like Wilson, Mathias’ byline seems to pop up whenever Antifa stages violent protests—and he always can be counted on to deliver a play-by-play that favors Antifa. But he goes even further than his Guardian counterpart. Unlike Wilson, Mathias actually doxes individuals whom he suspects of being right-wing extremists. His doxing sources for an article about suspected extremists in the U.S. military included Unicorn Riot, an anarchic Antifa journalist collective, and other shady sites that exist as a sort of in-house 4chan for the Antifa movement. (Mathias cited similar sources when he published identifying details of a Texas schoolteacher, and of a Virginia police officer.)

Mathias’ apparent modus operandi is to gather doxes of individuals whom Antifa or Antifa-friendly groups suspect of being right-wing extremists. He (or a colleague) at Huffington Post then reach out to the target’s employer asking for comment, leveraging the media outlet’s name to ensure the individual is called out. Then Mathias posts the doxes in his column while investigations are ongoing. As with Emily Gorcenski’s First Vigil site, Mathias broadcasts detailed personal information whose release seems designed to destroy the reputation of the accused, no matter the results of any subsequent investigation. It’s unclear how this behavior differs from ordinary, everyday Antifa-style online activism.

Of course, all investigative journalists rely on tips from the general public. But collecting tips isn’t what Wilson and Mathias appear to be doing. Like other prominent writers whose names appear among the 15 journalists most closely engaged with Antifa, they seem to function not at professional arm’s length from their sources, but rather as cogs in an activist enterprise that churns out both pro-Antifa propaganda and doxing information about real or imagined ideological enemies. Their allies in this mission include trolls such as AntiFashGordon, the pseudonym of a Twitter user who declares that “I expose fascists, get them fired, de-homed, kicked out of school etc,” and brags that he passes “dossiers” of doxes to national-level journalists, whom he refers to as “our contacts.” His entire online mission is to ruin other people’s lives, and it is a mission being supported by “contacts” like Mathias and Wilson. In providing such support, they are discrediting their publications and misinforming their readers.

There is no doubt in my mind that many of the individuals targeted by Antifa trolls and protestors do indeed harbor noxious, hateful, bigoted and even fascistic opinions. But the intellectual dishonesty and disreputable methods being used to target these individuals is an example of the cure being as bad as the disease.


Eoin Lenihan is a Stuttgart-based analyst whose work is focused on online extremism. Follow him on Twitter at @EoinLenihan.

Feature photo by Andy Ngo.

The post It’s Not Your Imagination: The Journalists Writing About Antifa Are Often Their Cheerleaders appeared first on Quillette.


Dershowitz: Shame on Robert Mueller for exceeding his role | TheHill

Dershowitz: Shame on Robert Mueller for exceeding his role | TheHill 

Fast results for your health: One week of eating organic found to dramatically lower toxin levels in your body

Fruits-Vegetables.jpg (Natural News) With toxins seemingly everywhere these days, from the food we eat to the air we breathe and the water we drink, you might feel like there’s nothing you can do to avoid being exposed to dangerous substances. However, one study shows that you have a lot more control over it than you might...


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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Why obstruction and cover-up charges smack of desperation | TheHill

Bernie Sanders Asked Bill Kristol to Apologize for Pushing the Iraq War. Guess What Happened Next.


On Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., got into an online tussle about the Iraq War with Bill Kristol.

No one outside of the inner circle of the George W. Bush administration bears greater responsibility for the war than Kristol. He co-founded a think tank whose purpose was to make the case for war, wrote a book and dozens of articles calling for an invasion, and appeared constantly on TV explaining why it had to happen.

After Kristol attacked Sanders’s foreign policy acumen, Sanders asked him, “Have you apologized to the nation for your foolish advocacy of the Iraq war?” Here’s what Kristol said:

Nope. I dislike quasi-Stalinist demands for apologies. I've defended and will defend my views on Iraq, and Syria, and Milosevic, and the Soviet Union, and more, as you defend yours. How about a real debate on U.S. foreign policy–I'll ask for no apologies!–on a campus this fall?

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) May 26, 2019

Kristol’s response is particularly striking because on March 28, 2003, just 10 days after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, he appeared on C-SPAN and made a great show of being “happy to be held to a moral standard” if his predictions about the war were wrong. Specifically, Kristol said, the grounds for war would be grievously weakened if Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction; or Iraqis did not treat the U.S. as a liberating force; or the U.S. did not leave behind a democratic government.

Of course, none of those things happened. Kristol’s entire performance that day was a masterpiece of prevarication and bad faith. But 16 years later, as seen in edited highlights below, his most egregious lie is his pretense that he would ever be willing to be held accountable for his actions.

Sen. @BernieSanders asked @BillKristol, the Iraq War’s biggest cheerleader, to apologize.

Kristol refused.

But here’s what Kristol was saying when the war began in 2003.

— The Intercept (@theintercept) May 28, 2019

I would be shocked if we don’t find weapons of mass destruction, and I think that is one of the main rationales for the war. … I expect us to find them and if we don’t find them, that would undercut in part the rationale for the war. … Obviously that would be a great blow if Saddam has not been developing weapons of mass destruction. …

I would agree that if after the war, we aren’t treated more or less as a liberating force, then that would also be a rebuke to the Bush administration and to those of us who counseled that this war was just and necessary. I accept the possibility that I’m wrong. …

We should follow through and be serious about helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country and about helping promote a decent and democratic government in Iraq. It would be a less morally satisfying and fully defensible war if we don’t follow through as we should. …

I’m happy to be held to a moral standard. I ask that it be a serious moral standard.

The death toll of the Iraq War is incalculable, both because the U.S. doesn’t care enough to count Iraqi deaths and because the dying isn’t over. The consequences of the war will reverberate throughout the Mideast and the world for the rest of our lives. What we can say is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed.

We measure the number of American military dead more precisely: Almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. The families of many of them were surely visiting their graves this weekend. All you need to know about Bill Kristol is that he spent that time proclaiming that we should not expect him to apologize for cajoling us into a war that created so many tombstones.

The post Bernie Sanders Asked Bill Kristol to Apologize for Pushing the Iraq War. Guess What Happened Next. appeared first on The Intercept.


White Helmets hospital found stocked with German-made medical supplies -- Puppet Masters --

White Helmets hospital found stocked with German-made medical supplies -- Puppet Masters -- 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Clinton email records were found in Obama White House

It’s been a decade since Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State and used a private server for government business, transmitting sensitive and classified information in the process. It’s been exactly three years since the Inspector General said Clinton’s actions were improper. It’s been a couple of years since the FBI under Director James Comey more […]


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The Western Media is Key to Syria Deception


By Jonathan Cook

May 25, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – By any reckoning, the claim made this week by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that they were targeted with chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib province – their final holdout in Syria – should have been treated by the western media with a high degree of scepticism.

That the US and other western governments enthusiastically picked up those claims should not have made them any more credible.

Scepticism was all the more warranted from the media given that no physical evidence has yet been produced to corroborate the jihadists’ claims. And the media should have been warier still given that the Syrian government was already poised to defeat these al-Qaeda groups without resort to chemical weapons – and without provoking the predictable ire (yet again) of the west.

But most of all scepticism was required because these latest claims arrive just as we have learnt that the last supposed major chemical attack – which took place in April 2018 and was, as ever, blamed by all western sources on Syria’s president, Bashar Assad – was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by those very al-Qaeda groups now claiming the Syrian government has attacked them once again.

Addicted to incompetence

Most astounding in this week’s coverage of the claims made by al-Qaeda groups is the fact that the western media continues to refuse to learn any lessons, develop any critical distance from the sources it relies on, even as those sources are shown to have repeatedly deceived it.

It is bad enough that our governments and our expert institutions deceive and lie to us. But it is even worse that we have a corporate media addicted – at the most charitable interpretation – to its own incompetence. The evidence demonstrating that grows stronger by the day.
This was true after the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and it is now even more true after the the international community’s monitoring body on chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was exposed this month as deeply dishonest.

Unprovoked attack

In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April last year. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died apparently as a result of that attack.

The OPCW report concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic form of chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in Douma, and that the most likely method of delivery were two cylinders dropped from the air.

This as good as confirmed claims made by al-Qaeda groups, backed by western states, that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian military. Using dry technical language, the OPCW joined the US and Europe in pointing the finger squarely at Assad.

It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion not only because of the west’s overarching regime-change ambitions in Syria.

In response to the alleged Douma attack a year ago, the US fired a volley of Cruise missiles at Syrian army and government positions before there had been any investigation of who was responsible.

Those missiles were already a war crime – an unprovoked attack on another sovereign country. But without the OPCW’s implicit blessing, the US would have been deprived of even its flimsy, humanitarian pretext for launching the missiles.

Leaked document

Undoubtedly the OPCW was under huge political pressure to arrive at the “right” conclusion. But as a scientific body carrying out a forensic investigation surely it would not simply doctor the data.

Nonetheless, it seems that may well be precisely what it did. This month the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – a group of academics who have grown increasingly sceptical of the western narratives told about Syria – published an internal, leaked OPCW document.

A few days later the OPCW reluctantly confirmed that the document was genuine, and that it would identify and deal with those responsible for the leak.

The document was an assessment overseen by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW expert, of the engineering data gathered by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission that attended the scene of the Douma attack. Its findings fly in the face of the OPCW’s published report.

Erased from the record

The leaked document is deeply troubling for two reasons.

First, the assessment, based on the available technical data, contradicts the conclusion of the final OPCW report that the two chemical cylinders were dropped from the air and crashed through building roofs. It argues instead that the cylinders were more likely placed at the locations they were found.

If that is right, the most probable explanation is that the cylinders were put there by al-Qaeda groups – presumably in a last desperate effort to persuade the west to intervene and to prevent the jihadists being driven out of Douma.

But even more shocking is the fact that the expert assessment based on the data collected by the OPCW team is entirely unaddressed in the OPCW’s final report.

It is not that the final report discounts or rebuts the findings of its own experts. It simply ignores those findings; it pretends they don’t exist. The report blacks them out, erases them from the official record. In short, it perpetrates a massive deception.

Experts ignored

All of this would be headline news if we had a responsible media that cared about the truth and about keeping its readers informed.

We now know both that the US attacked Syria on entirely bogus grounds, and that the OPCW – one of the international community’s most respected and authoritative bodies – has been caught redhanded in an outrageous deception with grave geopolitical implications. (In fact, it is not the first time the OPCW has been caught doing this, as I have previously explained here.)

The fact that the OPCW ignored its own expert and its own team’s technical findings when they proved politically indigestible casts a dark shadow over all the OPCW’s work in Syria, and beyond. If it was prepared to perpetrate a deception on this occasion, why should we assume it did not do so on other occasions when it proved politically expedient?

Active combatants

The OPCW’s reports into other possible chemical attacks – assisting western efforts to implicate Assad – are now equally tainted. That is especially so given that in those other cases the OPCW violated its own procedures by drawing prejudicial conclusions without its experts being on the ground, at the site of the alleged attacks. Instead it received samples and photos via al-Qaeda groups, who could easily have tampered with the evidence.

And yet there has been not a peep from the corporate media about this exposure of the OPCW’s dishonesty, apart from commentary pieces from the only two maverick mainstream journalists in the UK – Peter Hitchens, a conservative but independent-minded columnist for the Mail on Sunday, and veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk, of the little-read Independent newspaper (more on his special involvement in Douma in a moment).

Just as the OPCW blanked the findings of its technical experts to avoid political discomfort, the media have chosen to stay silent on this new, politically sensitive information.

They have preferred to prop up the discredited narrative that our governments have been acting to protect the human rights of ordinary Syrians rather than the reality that they have been active combatants in the war, helping to destabilise a country in ways that have caused huge suffering and death in Syria.

Systematic failure

This isn’t a one-off failure. It’s part of a series of failures by the corporate media in its coverage of Douma.

They ignored very obvious grounds for caution at the time of the alleged attack. Award-winning reporter Robert Fisk was among the first journalists to enter Douma shortly after those events. He and a few independent reporters communicated eye-witness testimony that flatly contradicted the joint narrative promoted by al-Qaeda groups and western governments that Assad had bombed Douma with chemical weapons.

The corporate media also mocked a subsequent press conference at which many of the supposed victims of that alleged chemical attack made appearances to show that they were unharmed and spoke of how they had been coerced into play-acting their roles.

And now the western media has compounded that failure – revealing its systematic nature – by ignoring the leaked OPCW document too.

But it gets worse, far worse.

Al-Qaeda propaganda

This week the same al-Qaeda groups that were present in Douma – and may have staged that lethal attack – claimed that the Syrian government had again launched chemical weapons against them, this time on their final holdout in Idlib.

A responsible media, a media interested in the facts, in evidence, in truth-telling, in holding the powerful to account, would be duty bound to frame this latest, unsubstantiated claim in the context of the new doubts raised about the OPCW report into last year’s chemical attack blamed on Assad.

Given that the technical data suggest that al-Qaeda groups, and the White Helmets who work closely with them, were responsible for staging the attack – even possibly of murdering civilians to make the attack look more persuasive – the corporate media had a professional and moral obligation to raise the matter of the leaked document.

It is vital context as anyone tries to weigh up whether the latest al-Qaeda claims are likely to be true. To deprive readers of this information, this essential context would be to take a side, to propagandise on behalf not only of western governments but of al-Qaeda too.

And that is exactly what the corporate media have just done. All of them.

Media worthy of Stalin

It is clear how grave their dereliction of the most basic journalistic duty is if we consider the Guardian’s uncritical coverage of jihadist claims about the latest alleged chemical attack.

Like most other media, the Guardian article included two strange allusions – one by France, the other by the US – to the deception perpetrated by the OPCW in its recent Douma report. The Guardian reported these allusions even though it has never before uttered a word anywhere in its pages about that deception.

In other words, the corporate media are so committed to propagandising on behalf of the western powers that they have reported the denials of official wrongdoing even though they have never reported the actual wrongdoing. It is hard to imagine the Soviet media under Stalin behaving in such a craven and dishonest fashion.

The corporate media have given France and the US a platform to reject accusations against the OPCW that the media themselves have never publicly raised.

Doubts about OPCW

The following is a brief statement (unintelligible without the forgoing context) from France, reported by the Guardian in relation to the latest claim that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons this week: “We have full confidence in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

But no one, except bloggers and academics ignored by the media and state authorities, has ever raised doubts about the OPCW. Why would the Guardian think these French comments worthy of reporting unless there were reasons to doubt the OPCW? And if there are such reasons for doubt, why has the Guardian not thought to make them public, to report them to its readers?

The US state department similarly came to the aid of the OPCW. In the same Guardian report, a US official was quoted saying that the OPCW was facing “a continuing disinformation campaign” from Syria and Russia, and that the campaign was designed “to create the false narrative that others [rather than Assad] are to blame for chemical weapons attacks”.

So Washington too was rejecting accusations against the OPCW that have never been reported by the state-corporate media.

Interestingly, in the case of US officials, they claim that Syria and Russia are behind the “disinformation campaign” against the OPCW, even though the OPCW has admitted that the leaked document discrediting its work is genuine and written by one of its experts.

The OPCW is discredited, of course, only because it sought to conceal evidence contained in the leaked document that might have exonerated Assad of last year’s chemical attack. It is hard to see how Syria or Russia can be blamed for this.

Colluding in deception

But more astounding still, while US and French officials have at least acknowledged that there are doubts about the OPCW’s role in Syria, even if they unjustifiably reject such doubts, the corporate media have simply ignored those doubts as though they don’t exist.

The continuing media blackout on the leaked OPCW document cannot be viewed as accidental. It has been systematic across the media.

That blackout has remained resolutely in place even after the OPCW admitted the leaked document discrediting it was genuine and even after western countries began alluding to the leaked document themselves.

The corporate media is actively colluding both in the original deception perpetrated by al-Qaeda groups and the western powers, and in the subsequent dishonesty of the OPCW. They have worked together to deceive western publics.

The question is, why are the media so obviously incompetent? Why are they so eager to keep themselves and their readers in the dark? Why are they so willing to advance credulous narratives on behalf of western governments that have been repeatedly shown to have lied to them?

Iran the real target

The reason is that the corporate media are not what they claim. They are not a watchdog on power, or a fourth estate.

The media are actually the public relations wing of a handful of giant corporations – and states – that are pursuing two key goals in the Middle East.

First, they want to control its oil. Helping al-Qaeda in Syria – including in its propaganda war – against the Assad government serves a broader western agenda. The US and NATO bloc are ultimately gunning for the leadership of Iran, the one major oil producer in the region not under the US imperial thumb.

Powerful Shia groups in the region – Assad in Syria, Hezbullah in Lebanon, and Iraqi leaders elevated by our invasion of that country in 2003 – are allies or potential allies of Iran. If they are in play, the US empire’s room for manoeuvre in taking on Iran is limited. Remove these smaller players and Iran stands isolated and vulnerable.

That is why Russia stepped in several years ago to save Assad, in a bid to stop the dominoes falling and the US engineering a third world war centred on the Middle East.

Second, with the Middle East awash with oil money, western corporations have a chance to sell more of the lucrative weapons that get used in overt and covert wars like the one raging in Syria for the past eight years.

What better profit-generator for these corporations than wasteful and pointless wars against manufactured bogeymen like Assad?

Like a death cult

From the outside, this looks and sounds like a conspiracy. But actually it is something worse – and far more difficult to overcome.

The corporations that run our media and our governments have simply conflated in their own minds – and ours – the idea that their narrow corporate interests are synonymous with “western interests”.

The false narratives they generate are there to serve a system of power, as I have explained in previous blogs. That system’s worldview and values are enforced by a charmed circle that includes politicians, military generals, scientists, journalists and others operating as if brainwashed by some kind of death cult. They see the world through a single prism: the system’s need to hold on to power. Everything else – truth, evidence, justice, human rights, love, compassion – must take a back seat.

It is this same system that paradoxically is determined to preserve itself even if it means destroying the planet, ravaging our economies, and starting and maintaining endlessly destructive wars. It is a system that will drag us all into the abyss, unless we stop it.

Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. No one pays him to write these blog posts. If you appreciated it,  please consider visiting his website and make a donation to support his work. – Click here to suport Jonathan’s work.

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

==See Also==

Syria: Terrorists prepare for using chemical weapons in Hama, Idleb countryside with help of foreign experts

Russia says, The United States and some media outlets are spreading fake news about the use of chemical weapon in Idleb.

Sky News Collaborates with Idlib Terrorists to Create Syria War Propaganda




Saturday, May 25, 2019

“Wikipedia is…broken,” controlled by special interests and bad actors, says co-founder

I’ve done quite a bit of reporting about how Wikipedia is definitely not “the encyclopedia anyone can edit.” It’s become a vehicle for special interests to control information. Agenda editors are able to prevent or revert edits and sourcing on selected issues and people in order to control the narrative. Watch Sharyl Attkisson’s TedX talk […]


The Crisis of Sense-Making


Political events in recent years have crept over the postwar order like dark clouds, and the heavy air has shaped public discourse and sensibility in ways that are unexpected and confounding. Words recited in the headlines every day give us a litany of agitation or exhilaration: Trump, Brexit, Populism, Impeachment, Social Media, Social Justice Warriors, #MeToo, Alt-Right, Troll Farms, the Death of Journalism, the Rise of Authoritarianism, Fake News, ISIS, and so on.

A perceptive insight into this landscape has come from the “Intellectual Dark Web” and other commentators found on various internet platforms: we are facing a crisis of sense-making. The incongruity of decisions made in institutions against public feeling derives from a failure of individuals in society to make sense of the world together. It’s not hard to find an ostensible cause. The internet has transformed the medium of public discourse, with profound implications for how ideas and opinions are shaped and spread. At the same time, certain economic and cultural processes have begun to generate big problems for which we don’t yet appear to have solutions. What are we going to do about climate change? Income inequality and the lingering effects of the Great Recession? The attrition of religious feeling and communal experience?

The first impulse, typically, has been to understand these changes in purely political terms. And so, in this telling, the crisis in sense-making is merely a series of political conflicts, with winners and losers. But politics is too flat and too superficial to comprehend the processes that, like a tide, seem to move our fixations from below. This is because, in reality, these changes, when viewed systematically across a population, or even the whole world, are operating on multiple levels simultaneously—geographic, epochal, ecological, cultural, economic, social and political—and any part of what we may want to observe can be distinguished, with great delicacy, by a degree of contingency, and by a web of fractal relationships with everything else involved.

An honest result does not lend itself to rhetorical binaries and zero-sum struggles. And so when public discourse focuses on the political, and its Left and Right binaries, our priorities become scrambled, and our conclusions misallocated. If we look for examples in an American context, I worry about cases like the refusal of Republicans to hold hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, motivated in no small part by the opposition of evangelical voters to the legality of abortion; a religious concern for sexual proprietary, with abortion as its emblem, does not justify such an unprincipled trashing of institutional norms. On the liberal side, the firing of James Damore from Google demonstrated that aggressive “equity” initiatives in corporate hiring or promotion can create a toxic political atmosphere in what should be a more purely social space, with an economic focus.

I’m not interested in litigating these particular examples—I mention them merely to point at concrete instances that are, to me, concerning and synecdochal. The reader can find his own examples, if he dislikes these. Instead, I would like to propose a series of principles for a new sense-making in public discourse, and suggest that political action, for the time being, should be antedated by an application of these principles among the conscientious.

The Personal Is Not Political

One of the great mistakes of ’60s and ’70s radicalism was the idea that “the personal is political.” There is some merit to the feeling behind this slogan: both formal policies and cultural attitudes can have a profound effect on the fate of individuals, especially those whose physical or emotional lives do not fit neatly into conventional social frameworks or power structures. However, simply noting that two domains are impacted by one another does not justify conflating them.

Politics exists because people have different values and interests (for whatever reason), but we have to live near each other, and there are limited resources that must be shared if violence is to be avoided. We’re also a social species and so we depend on one another for common endeavors and for mating. Politics demands that there be compromise among individuals or groups, given conflicting interests, and that, through some kind of social process, an accommodation is found for every party involved. Our institutions are built out of the repeated necessity of finding these accommodations. “Political idealism,” as it is usually understood, is something of an oxymoron: the ideal of any political process is compromise.

Meanwhile, the personal sphere has different concerns, and they center around the unique fate of each individual. Will I fall in love? Do I get along with my family and neighbors and colleagues and friends? How are my children doing? Am I invested in my house or my city? Do the things I do every day—my work, my hobbies, my physical habits, my involvement in a local community—do these things have meaning? The answers to these questions, ultimately, have to be decided by individuals, or between individuals, or within local communities. And the ideal of the personal should not be compromise, but self-actualization.

Corruption Matters

Centrist pundits love to beat up on tribalism; lamenting the current media environment of sharp partisanship and extrinsic ideological conflict is de rigeur among “reasonable” commentators. However, this masks the real problem embedded in tribalism: not the anger and simmering violence it generates, but the corruption it enables.

The word corruption often conjures images of a man in a trench-coat passing out brown envelopes of money for contracts or favors. However, in America, this sort of thing isn’t nearly as pervasive or harmful as it has been in other places and other eras. Corruption can be subtle, and it can be enacted through public kabuki rituals that are not illegal on their face; corruption, nevertheless, is always unethical, and it always has the insidious potential to proceed step-wise through a whole society.

The classic corrupt political maneuver of recent decades involves politicians who overtly signal for policies that favor narrow special interests and receive large donations to their campaigns or to affiliated organizations from those interests, without having to make an explicit ask. In American government, everything from the military industrial complex to student loans to health insurance has this stench. Other countries, no doubt, have their own version of this. It also can permeate the private sector. Large companies often gain enough market clout to exploit their customers, vendors, and employees. In general, policies and business decisions that encourage rent-seeking, tax avoidance, and environmentally destructive behavior are deeply corrupt, regardless of the legality of such actions, and this should effect how we participate in our institutions.

In Policy, Outcomes Are More Important than Identity

Tribalism not only blinds us to corruption, it also disorders our expectations about what institutional processes are meant to achieve. Institutions are not merely intended as vessels of belongingness. Some may offer this as a fringe benefit, but, fundamentally, institutions have a purpose to fulfill in their actions, and they lose their reason for being when that purpose is not ethical, or necessary and clearly circumscribed. Humans should seek belongingness first from family and from friendships, and even where membership in some organization may be gratifying, the actions of the institution have to be differentiated from the feeling of membership itself.

When politics hinges on affirmations of identity, the institutions of politics, the government and its appendages, are no longer seen as the means by which compromises can be crafted among competing groups or individuals. Policy, then, becomes a mode of self-expression, and any degree of narcissism can find its justification in an ideology and its prescribed policies. The best response to a lot of what passes for political argument is: Get over yourself!

The entailment from policies to outcomes is largely empirical and testable. We should fully expect to have conflict and compromise with regard to preferred outcomes, but no one should listen to uninformed chowderheads trying to persuade us of bad ideas for the aggrandizement of an identity.

Religious Feeling Can Only Be Satisfied in a Local Setting

Religion allows for individuals to orient their emotional lives in ways that align with the basic social prerogatives of their respective communities. When a religion is able to express, iconically, the spiritual feeling of a time or a place, it allows for the individual, there, to experience a profound sense of belongingness and meaning. There has been an unfortunate tendency, since the Scientific Revolution, to reduce religious practice to a rehearsal of belief, as if the symbolism and feeling endowed in communal rituals were a compulsion of what can and cannot be known, in some deterministic sense. Feeling is not in what is known, except to the extent that wisdom might let us know something about feeling.

Religious identification has been in decline for decades now all over the world, but especially in Europe and America. It has been proposed that the politics of identity or of other ideologies have stepped into this breach. There may be some truth to this and, if so, then it is a dangerous truth. At a minimum, we should be concerned about decadence and empty hedonism in a world without the iconicity of purpose. I want to suggest, however, that this emotional need cannot be fulfilled at a high social level, and that most of the public discussion about religion is focused on the wrong things.

It’s not clear that poorly attended churches preaching millennia-old doctrine are relevant to a post-industrial world, nor should we be inspired by the obsession of fundamentalists to enforce sexual proprietary through law or violence. Big, capitalized terms like “Western Civilization” or “Eastern Spirituality” don’t really have anything concrete to offer us. The images projected at us through TV and the internet have been made into spectacles for entertainment.

Instead, we must look around us, and find meaning in our immediate surroundings, in people we meet face-to-face, and in actions that bring value to our personal lives. Whatever is beamed to us on the news every day should not be of profound emotional interest.

Spend as Much Time Cross-Examining Your Own Soul as You Spend Excoriating or Venerating Public Figures

Does this require elaboration? Who among the outraged has a deeply satisfying personal life? Who is driven to publicly perform their feelings, but an actor?

A Society’s Success Should Be Judged in Millennia

Despite everything that has been learned about long stretches of time in the history of the earth and of the cosmos, we’re obsessed, culturally, with “moment time.” There is something to this, psychologically: the individual has every reason to devote considerable attention to the events that make up his or her day, and what can be remembered, verbally, among friends and family, at most, around the span of a decade or two. As I just argued, this is what should occupy our emotional lives. However, the awesome power of technology, in an industrialized economy, has unleashed the terrifying possibility that we could liquidate civilization through nuclear war or environmental destruction within a few generations. Our goals and our values are not only emotional, and so when we are a little more clear-eyed about the wider world, our actions must be framed in civilizational terms, across hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years. Only through such a perspective can humans take responsibility for themselves at this time in history.

Our Intellectual Systems Are Theoretically Stagnant and Need New Ideas

The academy and other institutions mostly produce intellectuals who fall into two categories: jackals and rabbits. Jackals misuse their knowledge for political ends or for self-aggrandizement, and are attracted to ideas dead and decomposing. Rabbits patiently munch away at small problems while nervously avoiding the unknown, and are admitted to run and hide when approached by strangers.

There have been great intellectual triumphs in recent centuries, and amazing work is being done right now on scientific applications to produce technology. But theoretical work across disciplines has stagnated, and this makes febrile soil for conspiracy theories, ideology, and the idiocies of the weak-willed and wicked. Many feel entitled to their opinions above the exigencies of having to learn. All the while, so many essential questions remain unanswered, either because we pay them no mind, or because we have no fresh ideas. How do we account for the subjectivity of consciousness in physical terms? What is rhythm? Why are we taught that there are three observable dimensions of space and one linear dimension of time? How is paralanguage related, structurally, to music? What, exactly, are grammatical categories?  What is “information”? We have a solid Darwinian theory of function—where is the complementary theory of form, and which is more basic? What is “life”?

I might posit here another category of intellectual, the platypus. We need a venomous, duck-waddling, semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal, the last of its kind, the first comedian of Dream Time. Someone with a completely new idea of an old feeling, and enough sense of irony to communicate it. It’s very hard to make fundamental progress on big intellectual problems, and even the most talented among us can fail through no intrinsic fault of their own. But, socially, we must make a place for the awkward, original platypus, whether or not he succeeds. Or ours will be a kingdom of jackals.

One might say that at least some of these principles are self-evident banalities. Yes! Principles are platitudes! But each one of us must be reminded of them, from time to time, when we’ve forgotten the melody. Or the squawk of the platypus. Yes!


Jeffrey Quackenbush lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and works in the renewable energy industry.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

The post The Crisis of Sense-Making appeared first on Quillette.


Facebook Bans CrossFit Group For Advocating Low-Carb, High-Fat Diets

Actually no, you pathological liar

Merck Created Hit List to "Destroy," "Neutralize" or "Discredit" Dissenting Doctors - CBS News

North Dakota's Food Freedom Law Dodges Another Bullet


Powerful forces in North Dakota have once again targeted the state's popular food freedom law, but it appears the laws' supporters have successfully beaten back these attacks from state lawmakers and regulators.

The 2017 law, found here, "allows direct sales of many foods by a producer in the state to consumers in the state," I wrote last year. "That includes direct sales of virtually any foods—from apple slices to homemade pickles to homemade zucchini bread—except meat or raw dairy products."

In that column, I detailed how North Dakota health regulators were attempting to use the rulemaking process to undermine the law. As I explained, that effort failed in large part due to the fact the law doesn't allow the health department to draft such rules.

But the failure led some lawmakers opposed to food freedom—led by a lawmaker who's also a retired grocery owner and former head of the state's grocers' association, just in case you were wondering how the grocers' lobby feels about a little competition—to attempt to amend the law using the legislative process. Last month, that effort also failed. After the defeat, State Sen. Jerry Klein, the former grocery lobbyist, said he's now merely an "onlooker."

Klein no doubt looked eagerly on as the health department proposed rules once again to neuter the law. Those proposed rules were reviewed by North Dakota's State Health Council, which has oversight authority.

I'm happy to report the latest regulatory effort to destroy the food freedom law also failed.

Genny Dienstmann, a consumer member who chairs the council, confirmed to me by phone this week that the body had tabled the health department's proposed rules and has no current plans to take any further action on them, a big win for food freedom proponents.


Food freedom laws are only growing in popularity, as I detail in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. Such laws are on the books in a growing number of states, including Wyoming, Utah, and Maine (though the latter differs slightly from others). Nonpartisan groups such as the National Conference of State Legislatures track these laws. ALEC's website features model food freedom legislative language.

The spread of food freedom laws has only been limited by opponents—chiefly advocates for stricter food-safety laws.

Take Food Safety News's Dan Flynn. Not one to traffic in hyperbole, Flynn nevertheless painted the North Dakota legislature's failure to amend the law as a sign that state lawmakers are willing to "risk some botulism once in a while."

He's right. But everyone who eats food—regulated or unregulated—also risks occasional botulism. "Everyone is at risk for foodborne botulism," North Dakota's health department cautions. Along these same lines, a search for the term "botulism" at the website of Marler Clark, the law firm that publishes Food Safety News, yields three search results, each of which involves botulism in foods sold in the regulated commercial marketplace. It appears all lawmakers—those that oppose food freedom laws and those that support them—"risk some botulism once in a while."

I asked Julie Wagendorf, director of the Division of Food and Lodging in the state health department—which, again, opposes the law—if there have been any cases of foodborne illness in North Dakota involving foods sold under the law since it took effect. Wagendorf responded, but she didn't answer that question.

A quick web search revealed that North Dakota has been dealing of late with an outbreak of foodborne illness. It's one of eight states where sushi-grade tuna has been found to harbor Salmonella. But you can't blame the state's food freedom law. Tuna is subject to FDA inspection and is sold commercially, rather than under the state's law.

That said, there's no evidence anyone has ever been sickened by foods sold under a food freedom law.

Given that, do we really need more rules?

Wagendorf insists we do.

"Clarity is needed for what is already stated in law as not authorized under this chapter," she told me by email.

The law's supporters disagree.

"We absolutely do not believe [state lawmakers] have legal authority to write rules for this particular section of [state law]," LeAnn Harner, a North Dakota farmer and key supporter of the state's food freedom law, wrote to me in an email this week. "We believe the current law as passed in 2017 is working. Our producers are doing their very best to produce safe, delicious food and drink products."

"The current law provided much-needed authority to small farm and home business owners to provide healthy, wholesome food directly to their local consumers who prefer such products, and the law should continue to support such efforts," says Alexia Kulwiec, executive director of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund—a nonprofit advocacy group on whose board I serve—in an email to me this week.

I support state food freedom laws because they expand choice, not because no one has ever been sickened by food sold under these laws. Even if a person were to fall ill after eating, say, a homemade pie they bought at a farmer's market—and that will happen someday—I would continue to support such laws. Why?

It's simple. Foods are not legal because they don't ever sicken anyone. By which I mean, countless foods that are produced and inspected according to government regulations and sold in restaurants, groceries, and elsewhere have made people in this country sick. If we banned every last one of the regulated animal and vegetable products that have sickened or killed people over the years, there'd be nothing left to eat. Given the choice between choice and no choice—between food freedom and prohibitive rules—I'll take the former every time.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Spurious US 18-Count Indictment of Julian Assange: A Mockery of Justice

Global Research, May 24, 2019

It was just a matter of time before the Trump regime piled on more spurious charges against Assange, clearly prepared long before Thursday’s release.

They’re on top of falsely accusing him of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion,” according to an unsealed indictment, dated March 6, 2018.

New charges and the above one are all about waging war on truth-telling investigative journalism the way it should be conducted, providing vital information on issues related to the rule of law, fundamental rights, and the public welfare.

On Thursday, the Trump regime’s Justice Department headlined: “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Charged in 18-Count Superseding Indictment — Charges Related to Illegally Obtaining, Receiving and Disclosing Classified Information (sic).”

Spurious charges include the following:

  • Criminal No.1:18-cr-l11 (CMH)
  • Count1: 18 U.S.C. (US Code) § 793(g) Conspiracy To Receive National Defense Information
  • Counts 2-4: 18 U.S.C. & 793(b) and 2 — Obtaining National Defense Information
  • Counts 5-8: 18 U.S.C. § 793(c) and 2 — Obtaining National Defense Information
  • Counts 9-11: 18U.S.C. §793(d) and 2 — Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • Counts 12-14: 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) and 2 — Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • Counts 15-17: 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) — Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • Count 18: 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1030 — Conspiracy To Commit Computer Intrusion

According an accompanying DOJ statement,

“Assange conspired with (Chelsea) Manning…aid(ing) and abet(ing) her in obtaining classified information with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation” — a bald-faced Big Lie.

Manning is a courageous whistleblower. Material she released exposed US high crimes of war and against humanity, information vital for the public to know about how its government operates — extrajudicially time and again, accountability never forthcoming.

Assange is an investigative journalist. He earlier explained that WikiLeaks has the right “to publish newsworthy content,” adding: “Consistent with the US Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true.”

Everyone in the US has the same right, what the First Amendment is all about, affirming speech, press, and academic freedoms – the most fundamental of all democratic rights bipartisan hardliners in Washington want compromised and eliminated.

Arresting and detaining Assange by UK authorities for extradition to the US for prosecution on the above charges is all about wanting truth-telling on vital issues suppressed — the same true for actions taken against Manning and other courageous whistleblowers.

The US wants scrutiny of its dirty linen prevented. Targeting individuals courageously revealing it harshly is all about intimidating other potential whistleblowers with damning information to remain silent.

Manning, Assange, and others targeted like them are innocent of charges against them. They’re victims of US judicial unfairness, denied their fundamental habeas, due process, and equal protection under law rights.

Manning is currently detained indefinitely for invoking her constitutional right to remain silent — refusing to give grand jury testimony that could unwittingly be used by prosecutors against Assange, potentially leaving herself vulnerable to new falsified charges.

Like Manning in 2010, Assange is charged under the long ago outdated 1917 Espionage Act, relating to WW I, what should have been rescinded at war’s end.

Following Assange’s unlawful April 11 arrest in London at the behest of the Trump regime, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called the action against him “an attack on press freedom,” a flagrant First Amendment breach, leaving all independent journalists vulnerable to similar actions against them.

In response to Thursday’s 18-count indictment of Assange, ACLU speech, privacy, and technology project director Ben Wizner said the following:

“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information,” adding:

“This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump (regime’s) attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

“It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets.”

Each charge against Assange carries a potential 10-year sentence. Trump regime hardliners want him punished and silenced behind bars longterm — for the “crime” of truth-telling journalism the way it should be.

In response to Thursday’s indictment, WikiLeaks tweeted: “This is madness.” It represents “the end of national security journalism and the first amendment.”

At age 47 in poor health from his near seven-year ordeal in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid his current fate, a slow-motion judicial unfairness death sentence likely awaits him.

Given deplorable healthcare for US prison inmates, what greatly shortened human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart’s life from her unjustifiable four-year imprisonment ordeal, Assange may not last more than a few years behind bars, especially if abused by US prison authorities.

A Final Comment

Chelsea Manning and her lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen said the following in response to Assange’s 18-count indictment:

“The continued detention of Chelsea Manning is purely punitive. Today’s events underscore what Chelsea has previously said, that “(a)ll of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013.”

“I continue to accept full and sole responsibility for those disclosures in 2010. It’s telling that the government appears to have already obtained this indictment before my contempt hearing last week. (The Trump regime) describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people.”

“Today, they use the law as a sword, and have shown their willingness to bring the full power of the state against the very institution intended to shield us from such excesses.”

Manning’s attorney Meltzer-Cohen said “up until now, the Department Of Justice has been reticent to actually indict publishers for work implicating matters of national security, because the first amendment rights of the press and public are so constitutionally valuable.”

Assange’s 18-count indictment “signals a real shift, and sets a new precedent for the federal government’s desire to chill and even punish the vigorous exercise of the free press.”


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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2019