Saturday, August 31, 2019

Google to pay up to $200M to FTC on YouTube probe


(Reuters) Alphabet Inc’s Google will spend up to $200 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation into YouTube’s alleged violation of a children’s privacy law, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters.

Politico reported the settlement is expected to be between $150 million and $200 million. The settlement is set to be announced next week and will be the largest ever fine imposed for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule by collecting personal information from kids without parental consent.

Google declined to comment.

The post Google to pay up to $200M to FTC on YouTube probe appeared first on WND.


Steve Jobs’s Unveiling of the iPhone Holds a Timeless Economic Lesson


Steve Jobs was a great visionary. But just how far did his vision extend? If you examine the history of the iPhone, it turns out his vision didn’t extend as far as we might think.

In his book Digital Minimalism, computer science professor Cal Newport reveals that the original vision Jobs had for the iPhone was an iPod that could make calls. At the time, iPods were ubiquitous; with the iPhone, you’d no longer need to carry two devices – a phone and an iPod.

In his 2007 keynote introducing the iPhone, Jobs began by saying, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” Apple aimed to make the iPhone “way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and stupid easy to use.” Listening to his talk, it’s clear that Jobs had only a partial view of all that would change.

As Newport observes, Jobs thought he had built a better iPod:

Accordingly, when Jobs demonstrated an iPhone onstage during his keynote address, he spent the first eight minutes of the demo walking through its media features, concluding: “It’s the best iPod we’ve ever made!”

Newport points out that Jobs was also “enamored of the simplicity with which you could scroll through phone numbers, and the fact that the dial pad appeared on the screen instead of requiring permanent plastic buttons.”

“The killer app is making calls,” Jobs exclaimed during his keynote.

At about 13 minutes into his presentation, Jobs introduced, to tepid applause, a rear-facing camera. The first iPhone had no video recording capability, and it was not until the iPhone 4 that a front-facing camera was introduced. No one in the audience that day imagined the role smartphones would play in the social media revolution.

Not until he was about 31 minutes into his presentation did Jobs demo text messages. At about 36 minutes he highlighted, to more tepid applause, the phone’s Safari web browser and integration with Google Maps.

Isn’t that extraordinary? Jobs was Apple’s greatest cheerleader. He was said to “cast spells” on audiences, and yet there was mere tepid applause for what was truly revolutionary – a powerful minicomputer in a handheld device at a fraction of the cost of a much larger device a mere generation ago.

Fast forward a mere seven years. Bret Swanson noted that “the computing power, data storage capacity, and communications bandwidth of an iPhone in 2014 would have cost at least $3 million back in 1991.”

In short, neither Jobs nor the audience had the vision to anticipate what would become the dominant uses for the phone. The real revolution would unfold. Jobs and the audience could mostly see what was already known and most visible – an iPod that made calls.

Newport confirmed Jobs’ limited vision by speaking with one of the iPhone’s developers:

To confirm that this limited vision was not some quirk of Jobs’ keynote script, I spoke with Andy Grignon, who was one of the original iPhone team members. “This was supposed to be an iPod that made phone calls,” he confirmed. “Our core mission was playing music and making phone calls.” As Grignon then explained to me, Steve Jobs was initially dismissive of the idea that the iPhone would become more of a general-purpose mobile computer running a variety of different third-party applications. “The second we allow some knucklehead programmer to write some code that crashes it,” Jobs once told Grignon, “that will be when they want to call 911.”

We’ve Just Started

In his seminal work The Constitution of Liberty, Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek challenges our assumptions about how civilization develops:

Man did not simply impose upon the world a pattern created by his mind. His mind is itself a system that constantly changes as a result of his endeavor to adapt himself to his surroundings. It would be an error to believe that, to achieve a higher civilization, we have merely to put into effect the ideas now guiding us.

Hayek continued, “If we are to advance, we must leave room for a continuous revision of our present conceptions and ideals which will be necessitated by further experience.”

Jobs probably never read Hayek, but shortly after 21 minutes into the presentation, Jobs wryly smiles and says, “We’ve just started.”

Little did Jobs know.

Did Jobs direct consumers or did consumers direct Apple as their use of text messaging and mobile browsing began to dwarf the use of the iPhone as a better iPod? Hayek explained that human reason cannot stand outside of experience:

The conception of man deliberately building his civilization stems from an erroneous intellectualism that regards human reason as something standing outside nature and possessed of knowledge and reasoning capacity independent of experience.

“The mind can never foresee its own advance” is one of Hayek’s most quoted lines. Hayek adds, “Though we must always strive for the achievement of our present aims, we must also leave room for new experiences and future events to decide which of these aims will be achieved.”

Politicians Know Nothing of the Future

If Steve Jobs couldn’t imagine how the use of his iPhone would morph, he was smart in learning from what users would teach him. And if he were ever tempted to impose his will, the 2008 introduction of Android with an open-source operating system would have disabused him of such folly. Android’s open-source operating system allowed for rapid innovation.

Every day, evidence of how society advances is overlooked by voters and politicians. Many people, voters and politicians alike, imagine the mind can foresee its own advance. Voters rally behind politicians claiming to know just what society needs to advance and promising to lead us step-by-step into their envisioned future. Little do voters understand how little politicians can “foresee.”

The future is largely unforeseeable. For that reason, Hayek explains, liberty is essential to advancing civilization:

Liberty is essential in order to leave room for the unforeseeable and unpredictable; we want it because we have learned to expect from it the opportunity of realizing many of our aims. It is because every individual knows so little and, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.

“We rarely know which of us knows best,” so why would we want to vote for politicians who proclaim they do?

It is no shortcoming of Steve Jobs that he could not foresee the advances made possible by the iPhone. Politicians couldn’t even conceive of an iPhone.

Because each of us has a limited view of the future, Hayek instructs us that “the case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievement of our ends and welfare depends.”

Dee Hock, the legendary founding CEO of Visa, fostered innovation to grow a global credit card company by decentralizing control around simple rules. Hock led from this belief: “From no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”

The case for liberty is hidden in plain sight in our phones and a million other things our lives depend on.


This article was originally published on Read the original article.

[Image Credit: Flickr-Ben Stanfield, CC BY-SA 2.0]


The Best Movie Ever Made About the Truth Behind the Iraq War Is “Official Secrets”


“Official Secrets,” which opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles, is the best movie ever made about how the Iraq War happened. It’s startlingly accurate, and because of that, it’s equally inspiring, demoralizing, hopeful, and enraging. Please go see it.

It’s been forgotten now, but the Iraq War and its abominable consequences — the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the rise of the Islamic State group, the nightmare oozing into Syria, arguably the presidency of Donald Trump — almost didn’t happen. In the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion on March 19, 2003, the American and British case for war was collapsing. It looked like a badly made jalopy, its engine smoking and various parts falling off as it trundled erratically down the road.

For this brief moment, the George W. Bush administration appeared to have overreached. It would be extremely tough for the U.S. to invade without the U.K., its faithful Mini-Me, at its side. But in the U.K., the idea of war without approval from the United Nations Security Council was deeply unpopular. Moreover, we now know that Peter Goldsmith, the British attorney general, had told Prime Minister Tony Blair that an Iraq resolution passed by the Security Council in November 2002 “does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council.” (The top lawyer at the Foreign Office, the British equivalent of the U.S. State Department, put it even more strongly: “To use force without Security Council authority would amount to the crime of aggression.”) So Blair was desperate to get a thumbs-up from the U.N. Yet to everyone’s surprise, the 15-country Security Council remained recalcitrant.

On March 1, the U.K. Observer threw a grenade into this extraordinarily fraught situation: a leaked January 31 email from a National Security Agency manager. The NSA manager was demanding a full court espionage press on the members of the Security Council — “minus US and GBR of course,” the manager jocularly said — as well as non-Security Council countries who might be producing useful chatter.

What this demonstrated was that Bush and Blair, who had both said they wanted the Security Council to hold an up or down vote on a resolution giving a legal stamp of approval for war, were bluffing. They knew they were losing. It showed that while they claimed they had to invade Iraq because they cared so much about upholding the effectiveness of the U.N., they were happy to pressure fellow U.N. members, up to and including the collection of blackmail material. It proved the NSA plan was unusual enough that, somewhere in the labyrinthine intelligence world, someone was upset enough that he or she was willing to risk going to prison for a long time.

That person was Katharine Gun.

Played craftily in “Official Secrets” by Keira Knightley, Gun was a translator at the General Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the NSA. On one level, “Official Secrets” is a straightforward, suspenseful drama about her. You learn how she got the email, why she leaked it, how she did it, why she soon confessed, the horrendous consequences she faced, and the unique legal strategy that forced the British government to drop all charges against her. At the time, Daniel Ellsberg said her actions were “more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers … truth-telling like this can stop a war.”

On a subtler level, the film asks this question: Why didn’t the leak make a true difference? Yes, it contributed to opposition to the U.S. and U.K. on the Security Council, which never voted on another Iraq resolution, because Bush and Blair knew they would lose. Yet Blair was able to shrug this off and obtain a vote by the British Parliament several weeks later endorsing his war.

There is one main answer to this question, both in “Official Secrets” and reality: the U.S. corporate media. “Official Secrets” helps illustrate the ideological malfeasance by the American press, which eagerly jumped on this grenade to save its foxhole buddies in the Bush administration.

It’s easy to imagine a different history than the one we’ve lived. British politicians, like American ones, are loath to criticize their intelligence agencies. But serious follow-up on the Observer story by the elite U.S. media would have generated attention from members of the U.S. Congress. This in turn would have opened up space for British members of Parliament opposed to an invasion to ask what on earth was going on. The rationale for war was disintegrating so quickly that even some modest delay could easily have become indefinite postponement. Bush and Blair both knew this, and it’s why they pushed ahead so relentlessly.

But in this world, the New York Times published literally nothing about the NSA leak between the date of its publication in the U.K. and the start of the war almost three weeks later. The Washington Post placed a single 500-word article on page A17. Its headline: “Spying Report No Shock to U.N.” The Los Angeles Times similarly ran one piece before the war, the headline of which explained, “Forgery or no, some say it’s nothing to get worked up about.” This article gave space to the former counsel of the CIA to suggest that the email was not real.

This was the most fruitful line of attack on the Observer’s story. As “Official Secrets” shows, American television was initially quite interested in putting one of the Observer reporters on air. These invitations quickly evaporated as the Drudge Report splashed claims that the email was obviously fake. Why? Because it used British spellings of words, such as “favourable,” and hence couldn’t have been written by an American.

In reality, the original leak to the Observer used American spellings, but before publication the paper’s support staff had accidentally changed them to British versions without the reporters noticing. And as usual when faced with an attack from the right-wing, television networks in the U.S. cowered in abject terror. By the time the spelling minutiae was straightened out, they’d sprinted a thousand miles away from the Observer’s scoop and had zero interest in revisiting it.

The little attention the story got was largely thanks to the journalist and activist Norman Solomon, and the organization he founded, the Institute for Public Accuracy, or IPA. Solomon had traveled to Baghdad just months before and co-written the book “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You,” which came out in late January 2003.

Today, Solomon remembers that “I felt instant kinship — and, actually, what I’d describe as love — for whoever had taken the enormous risk of revealing the NSA memo. Of course, at the time I was clueless about who’d done it.” He soon penned a syndicated column titled “American Media Dodging U.N. Surveillance Story.”

Why hadn’t the paper of record covered it, Solomon asked Alison Smale, then a deputy foreign editor at the New York Times. “It’s not that we haven’t been interested,” Smale told him. The problem was that “we could get no confirmation or comment” about the NSA email from U.S. officials. But “we are still definitely looking into it,” said Smale. “It’s not that we’re not.”

The Times never mentioned Gun until January 2004, 10 months later. Even then, it didn’t appear in the news section. Instead, thanks to urging from IPA, Times columnist Bob Herbert looked into the story, and, perplexed that the news editors had passed, took it on himself.

Now, at this point you may want to collapse from despair. But don’t. Because here’s the unbelievable rest of the story — something so complex and improbable that it doesn’t appear in “Official Secrets” at all.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 27: Katherine Gun leaves Bow Street Magistrates Court on November 27, 2003 in London. Gun was arrested in March this year on allegations of violating the Official Secrets Act, which requires that serving or former members of the intelligence agencies do not divulge information about their work without official authority. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Whistleblower Katharine Gun leaves Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London, on Nov. 27, 2003.

Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Why did Gun decide she had to leak the NSA email? Only recently has she revealed some of her key motivation.

“I was already very suspicious about the arguments for war,” she says via email. So she went to a bookstore and headed to the politics section and looked for something about Iraq. She bought two books and read them cover to cover that weekend. Together they “basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war.”

One of these books was “War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq” by Milan Rai. The second was “Target Iraq,” the book co-authored by Solomon.

“Target Iraq” was published by Context Books, a tiny company that went bankrupt soon afterwards. It arrived in stores just weeks before Gun found it. Within days after she read it, the January 31 NSA email appeared in her inbox, and she quickly decided what she had to do.

“I was stunned to hear Katharine say that the ‘Target Iraq’ book had influenced her decision to reveal the NSA memo,” Solomon now says. “I didn’t know how to quite fathom [it].”

What does all this mean?

For journalists who care about journalism, it means that, while you may often feel that you’re shouting pointlessly into the wind, you can never predict who your work will reach and how it will affect them. The people inside giant, powerful institutions are not all supervillains in impermeable bubbles. Most are regular human beings who live in the same world as everyone else and, like everyone else, are struggling to do the right thing as they see it. Take seriously the chance that you are communicating with someone who might take action you’d never expect.

For nonjournalists and journalists alike, the lesson is also this: Be not downhearted. Both Solomon and Gun remain deeply distressed that they did everything they could imagine doing to stop the Iraq War, and it happened anyway. “I feel gratified that a book I co-wrote had such ripple effects,” says Solomon. “At the same time, I truly feel it hardly matters what I feel.”

But I think that Gun and Solomon’s sense of failure is the wrong way of looking at what they did and what others can do. The people who tried to stop the Vietnam War only succeeded after millions had died, and many of those writers and activists saw themselves as failures too. But in the 1980s, when factions of the Reagan administration wanted to conduct full-scale invasions in Latin America, they couldn’t get it off the ground because of the base of organization and knowledge created years earlier. The bitter fact that the U.S. settled for its second choice — unleashing death squads that slaughtered tens of thousands across the region — doesn’t mean that Vietnam-style carpet bombing wouldn’t have been much worse.

Likewise, Gun, Solomon and the millions of people who fought the onrushing Iraq War failed, in some sense. But anyone who was paying attention then knew that Iraq was intended as just the first step in a U.S. conquest of the entire Middle East. They didn’t prevent the Iraq War. But they, at least so far, helped prevent the Iran War.

So check out “Official Secrets” as soon as it appears in a theater near you. You will rarely see a better portrait of what it means for someone to try to make a true moral choice, even when unsure, even while terrified, even when she has no idea what will happen next.

The post The Best Movie Ever Made About the Truth Behind the Iraq War Is “Official Secrets” appeared first on The Intercept.


Portland State U Punishes Professor For Proving Gender Studies Is A Joke

Friday, August 30, 2019

Andrew McCabe: Suing Justice Department & Seeking Clemency | National Review

Why I Don’t Live in Fear of White Supremacists  


The 21-year-old terrorist who attacked an El Paso shopping center on August 3 was a white supremacist who believed that the United States is experiencing a “Hispanic invasion.” He also expressed support for an even deadlier hate crime that had taken place months before: the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 51 innocents were killed and another 49 injured. Hate criminals tend to inspire one another. And in the months since the Christchurch slaughter, there have been widespread fears that we may be on the cusp of a new global epidemic of racist killings.

These fears are encouraged by the sense of immediacy that results from the 24/7 social-media coverage of such tragedies, which overwhelms the insulating effects of geography. Immediately following the Christchurch killings, for instance, the Chancellor of University of California, Berkeley, where I am employed, felt required to send an email to all students, staff and faculty condemning the attack, and offering up a suite of mental health and diversity resources for members of the University community—particularly Muslims.

I thanked the Chancellor for her well-intentioned note. But I also told her that I was not going to allow a deranged gunman half a planet away to cause me anxiety or panic. As awful as the attack in Christchurch was, such events are extremely uncommon and unlikely, both in New Zealand and the United States.

According to statistics compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, U.S. domestic extremists killed around 50 people last year, and 37 the year before. In 2016, 72 people were killed. These deaths are tragic and horrifying. But in a country populated by 320-million people, they are not symptomatic of a wave of white-supremacist terror, “spreading like an epidemic across the country,” as one international headline put it.

Following the terror attack in El Paso, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pledged to “go to war” against racism. This is the sort of language that was used by George W. Bush following the 9/11 attacks. And even in the aftermath of terrorism that had killed more than 3,000 Americans—two orders of magnitude higher than the current annual U.S. death toll from extremism—it became clear that “war” was a flawed approach to battling hate.

Sanders did not specify what his war on racism would entail. But he seemed to identify a broad set of targets. “My father’s whole family was wiped out by Hitler and his white nationalism,” Sanders told the Young Leaders Conference in Atlanta. “Too many people have fought over the years, too many people have died against racism to let it resurface and flourish in America…We will go to war against white nationalism and racism in every aspect of our lives.”

Genocide is abhorrent. White nationalism is abhorrent. Racism is abhorrent. But the casual conflation of these concepts into a single rhetorical flourish is troubling. When it comes to both law and policy, it’s important to make a distinction between individual bigotry and violent extremism. Experiencing or witnessing ordinary prejudice at some point in your life is quite common in every part on the planet, while experiencing an act of violent extremism motivated by group hatred is highly uncommon.

A 2019 Pew survey found that significant numbers of Americans report hearing friends or family members of their own racial backgrounds make comments or jokes about other groups that would be considered racist or racially insensitive. The numbers varied only slightly depending on the racial group of the respondent. Forty-four percent of blacks said they would often or sometimes hear racially insensitive remarks from friends and family. For whites, the number was 46 percent. If we were going to lump together ordinary prejudice with a predisposition toward violent extremism, we would expect there to be millions of racial terrorists in America. Thankfully, there aren’t.

One byproduct of this conflation of ordinary bigotry and mass murder is a growing campaign to censor offensive content wherever it appears. In the days after the El Paso attack, for instance, Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, called for a change in the law that would make it easier to ensure that social-media companies remove “hate speech and domestic terrorism” from their platforms. He added that “when any one community is targeted, the very idea of America is under attack. That’s why we need to all come together to not only connect the dots between the proliferation of hatred across our country and the acceleration of mass shootings, but actually do something about it.”

A problem is that accusations of “hate speech” come thick and fast on social media, whether the subject is the Middle East conflict, gender politics or immigration policy. The very fact that O’Rourke would use an apples-and-oranges phrase like “hate speech and domestic terrorism” suggests that he hasn’t really thought through the implications of a policy that would link all speech deemed hateful with the apocalyptic spectre of mass murder.

That’s the problem with allowing ourselves to live in fear of terrorists: It makes us react emotionally to crime rather than respond rationally. In the Bush era, this meant declaring metaphorical war on terrorism and literal war on Iraq. Today, it means focusing on a terrifying but marginal phenomenon that cuts down dozens of innocents annually, even as suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, took more than 47,000 American lives in 2017.

Though it’s hard to appreciate it in the age of Trump, the arc of American history shows we are trending towards greater tolerance, not intolerance. Researchers at Harvard recently used data collected between 2007 and 2016 to show that there has been a dramatic reduction in both implicit and explicit bias about race. The long-term trend is that Americans are getting more tolerant. And there is little that white supremacist terrorists can do about it.

If we start to restrict civil liberties, spread panic and exaggerate the amount of hate and violence in our societies, we will give terrorists what they want: greater control over our political narratives and personal psychology. The killer who murdered those innocent Muslims in Christchurch likely will be sent to jail for the rest of his life. Yet, if he causes me to fear going to a mosque, he would still continue to harm the quality of my life. (One recent survey found that a third of Americans are avoiding some gatherings or public events out of fear of mass shootings.)

We’ve seen this movie before. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies dramatically ramped up unnecessary overseas conflict, imposed surveillance on domestic populations, and promoted an all-pervasive social fixation with terrorism. The effect was to transform a terrorist movement into a dominant force in geopolitics. On a more banal level, it also spooked American travelers, massively damaged the airline industry, and caused untold millions of children and grandmothers to be subject to invasive and humiliating airport security checks.

Media outlets are part of the problem—though often in a way that runs opposite to what O’Rourke suggests. One study released last year found that the incidence of mass shootings went up after periods of heavy media coverage of previous mass shootings—perhaps because would-be murderers are impressed by the amount of psychological havoc they can create with a single spasm of evil.

CNN, which taught Americans to be paranoid about anthrax two decades ago, has hyped a supposed “school shooting epidemic”—despite the fact that school shootings are actually down since the 1990s. In response to the scare, panicked school officials and politicians have spent millions of dollars on school security theater that is unlikely to help anyone. More children die every year in pool drownings than in school shootings.

To make matters even worse, at least six states now require mandatory school-shooting drills—terrifying experiences for young children. And it’s not even clear these drills actually help students, even at those rare schools where a mass shooting will occur. The killer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, had been through these drills, and planned his 2018 shooting with that experience in mind.

None of this is to suggest that our governments shouldn’t respond to white-supremacist terrorism or school shootings. These are serious policy issues that demand a serious policy response. On a personal level, we also should consistently work to make ourselves, our friends and family more tolerant of those around them: A less racist society is a better society for a multitude of reasons. But there is little sense in allowing panic and fear to govern our lives. It’s trite, but true: Such a response is exactly what terrorists want.


Zaid Jilani, a journalist, is currently on fellowship, studying political and social polarization at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Follow him on Twitter @ZaidJilani.

Featured image: Mourners at a memorial for victims of the August 3, 2019 El Paso shootings.

The post Why I Don’t Live in Fear of White Supremacists   appeared first on Quillette.


Another Conspiracy Confirmed: How the Plunge Protection Team Rigs the Markets : The Corbett Report

9th Grade Reading Lists: 1922 vs. Today


(This story was originally published by Intellectual Takeout on September 2, 2016.)

Have you ever thought that high school graduates today… well, just don’t seem to know or understand as much as they once did?

According to a new research report from the Urban Institute, such a thought is not simply a result of generational pride. Data from The Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) confirms the assumption that recent generations of high school students are not doing as well as they once were.

Take reading scores. As the chart below demonstrates, 4th and 8th grade reading scores have experienced an increase in the years since 1992. High school seniors, however, have experienced a steady decline in reading scores over the same time period.

NAEP Reading Trends since 1992

Is it possible that these falling scores are the result of diminished rigor in the high school curriculum?

Having recently dug up a curriculum manual for Texas high schools from 1922, I decided to explore this question by comparing its 9th grade reading recommendations with those the San Antonio Independent School District recommended for the 2015-16 school year

Both syllabi included recommendations for poetry, fiction, short stories, drama, and non-fiction. Both syllabi implied that the books on the lists were simply suggestions, which might not necessarily be used in their entirety.

To give an idea of the difference between the two, I plugged the fiction titles from both lists into a text analyzer which measures reading difficulty. The results? Reading material in today’s freshman literature classes measures around a 5th grade level. In 1922, however, freshman literature fare often measured at an 11th or 12th grade level.

1922 vs. 2015 high school reading lists
When we see how the difficulty of reading material has declined in the last one hundred years, is it any wonder that high school reading scores have been trending downward over time?

If American students are ever going to compete on an international level, or even become the well-informed individuals who will lead the next generation, are we going to have to step up our game and get them reading beyond what a grade school child can handle?

Image Credit: Mary Miley's Roaring Twenties


Film Official Secrets Is Tip of Mammoth Iceberg  


Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in period pieces such as Pride and Prejudice, so her playing the lead in the new film Official Secrets, released in the US on Friday, August 30, may seem odd at first. That is, until one considers that the time span depicted—the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq—is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history.

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. I should say from the outset that having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date—”to date” because the wider story still isn’t really over.

Katharine Gun

The real Katharine Gun (photo: Sam Husseini)

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the secretive US National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair in their claims about Iraq. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act—a juiced-up version of the US Espionage Act, which has in recent years been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers, and now by the Trump administration against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

Gun was charged for exposing—around the time of Colin Powell’s infamous testimony to the UN about Iraq’s alleged WMDs—a top-secret US government memo from the NSA showing it was mounting an illegal spying “surge” against other UN Security Council delegations, in an effort to force approval for an Iraq invasion resolution. The US and Britain had successfully forced through a trumped-up resolution, 1441, in November 2002. In early 2003, they were poised to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to actual United Nations authorization for the invasion. (See a recent interview with Gun.)

The leaked memo, published by the British Observer, was big news in parts of the world, especially the targeted countries on the Security Council, and effectively prevented Bush and Blair from getting the second UN Security Council resolution they said they wanted.

US government started the invasion anyway, of course—without Security Council authorization—by telling the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours—and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

It was the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy (, where I work, Norman Solomon, as well as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who in the US most immediately saw the importance of what Gun did. Ellsberg would later comment:

No one else—including myself—has ever done what Katharine Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important—and courageous—leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.

Of course, we didn’t know her name at the time. After the Observer broke the story on March 1, 2003, we at put out a series of news releases on it, and organized a sadly sparsely attended news conference with Ellsberg on March 11, 2003, at the National Press Club, focusing on Gun’s revelations and Ellsberg’s call for more such truthtelling to stop the impending invasion.

Target Iraq cover

Target Iraq, by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich

Even though I followed this case for years, I didn’t realize until recently that our work helped compel Gun to expose the document. At a recent DC showing of Official Secrets, I learned that Gun had read a book co-authored by Solomon, published in January 2003, that included material from, as well as the media watch group FAIR, that debunked many of the falsehoods for war.

Said Gun about the period just before she disclosed the document:

I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media.

Thus in the film, we see Gun shouting at the TV to Tony Blair that he’s not entitled to make up facts—so the film may be jarring to some consumers of major media who think that Trump invented lying in 2017.

But Gun’s immediate action after reading critiques of US policy and media coverage makes a strong case for trying to reach government workers—handing out fliers and books, having billboards outside government offices—to encourage them to be more critically minded.

I honestly didn’t fully appreciate the value of the exposure as much as Dan and Norman did at the time. To my mind, the lies were obvious, as we debunked Bush administration propaganda in real time—see an overview of our work that I wrote to Rob Reiner when I learned of his then-upcoming film Shock and Awe. But Gun’s revelation showed that the US and British governments were not only lying to get to invade Iraq, they were engaging in outright violations of international law to blackmail whole countries to get in line.

It’s funny to read mainstream reviews of Official Secrets now—they seem to still not fully grasp the importance of what they just saw. The AV Club review (8/27/19) leads: “Virtually everyone now agrees that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake based on faulty (at best) or fabricated (at worst) intelligence.” Well, “mistake” is a serious understatement, even with “colossal” attached to it, for something so fervently pursued, and you just saw a movie about the diabolical, illegal lengths to which the US and British governments went to get everyone in line for it. So, no, “fabricated” is not the “worst” it is.

Gun’s revelations showed before the invasion that people on the inside, whose livelihood depends on following the party line, were willing to risk jail time to expose the lies and threats.

Other than Gun herself, the film focuses on dramatizing on the tension in her workplace, as well as the impact on her relationship with her husband, who happened to be a Kurdish refugee from Turkey—whom the British government moved to deport in an attempt to get at Gun. The other key focuses in the film are her able legal team at the human rights law firm Liberty and the drama at the Observer, which published the NSA document after much debate.

Nation: ‘Official Secrets’ Reveals How Little We Still Know About the Push for War in Iraq

The Nation (8/16/19)

Observer reporter Martin Bright, whose stellar work on the original Gun story was strangely followed by an ill-fated stint at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has recently noted (The Nation, 8/16/19) that very little additional work has been done on this key case. We know virtually nothing about the apparent author of the NSA document—one “Frank Koza.” How prevalent is this sort of blackmail? How exactly is it leveraged? If the US government does this sort of thing, why would they wait until the last minute? Does it fit in with allegations made by former NSA analyst Russ Tice about the NSA having massive files on political people?

Observer reporter Ed Vulliamy is energetically portrayed by Rhys Ifans—at one point getting tips from an unnamed former CIA analyst who is clearly meant to be Mel Goodman. In a subtle departure from the historical record, Vulliamy is depicted in the film as actually speaking with “Koza,” but that’s not what he originally reported:

The NSA main switchboard put the Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency, which was answered by an assistant who confirmed it was Koza’s office. However, when the Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told, “You have reached the wrong number.” On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza’s extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.

There must doubtlessly be many aspects of the film that have been simplified or altered regarding Gun’s personal experience; notably absent from the film is the role played by her parents, which I believe was considerable. A memoir from her would be a valuable historical document. A compelling part of the film—apparently fictitious or exaggerated—is the GCHQ security apparatchik questioning Gun to see if she leaked the memo, and laying stress on her ethical and educational background, particularly the fact that she was largely raised outside of Britain.

Gun’s revelations in all likelihood had the biggest impact on several non-permanent members of the Security Council members, especially Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan, Mexico and Chile. I’ve seen very little about what exactly happened in those countries and in those delegations. The most is probably known about Mexico, which was represented by Adolfo Aguilar Zinser. After the invasion, he spoke in blunt terms about US bullying—saying it viewed Mexico as its patio trasero, or back yard—and was compelled to resign by President Vicente Fox. He then, in 2004, gave details about some aspects of US surveillance sabotaging the efforts of the other members of the Security Council to hammer out a compromise to avert the invasion of Iraq, saying the US was “violating the UN headquarters covenant.” In 2005, he tragically died in a car crash.

Official Secrets director Gavin Hood is perhaps more right than he realizes when he says that his depiction of the Gun case is like the “tip of an iceberg,” pointing to other deceits surrounding the Iraq War. In a showing of Official Secrets in DC, Hood depicted those who backed the Iraq War as now having been discredited. But that’s simply untrue. Now-leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden—who not only voted for the Iraq invasion, but presided over rigged hearings on it in 2002—has recently repeatedly falsified his record on Iraq at presidential debates, with hardly a murmur. Nor is he alone; those refusing to be held accountable for their Iraq War lies include not just Bush and Cheney, but John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

Biden has actually faulted Bush for not doing enough to get United Nations approval for the Iraq invasion. In fact, as the Gun case helps show, the legitimate case for invasion was nonexistent, and the Bush administration had done virtually everything both legal and illegal to get United Nations authorization.

Most everyone attempts to distance themselves from the Iraq invasion, but it has effectively enveloped our culture. The wars it spawned, as in Syria and Iraq itself, and arguably elsewhere, continue with minimal attention or protest. The US regularly threatens Iran, Venezuela and other countries. The journalists who pushed and propagandized in favor of the Iraq invasion are prosperous and atop major news organizations—the editor who argued most strongly against publication of the NSA document at the Observer, Kamal Ahmed, is now editorial director of BBC News.

NSA document on UN spying

Excerpt from internal NSA document commending staffers for the good job they did spying on the UN.

Though the US and Britain failed to get a second resolution before the invasion, they did get a resolution after the invasion, UNSCR 1472, effectively accepting the US as the occupying power in Iraq  on March 28, 2003. (See the news release on the same day—”UN—Accessory After the Fact?”) Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the Intercept in 2016 boasted of how the NSA “during the wind-up to the Iraq War ‘played a critical role’ in the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions. The work with that customer was a resounding success.” The relevant document specifically cites resolutions 1441 and 1472, and quotes John Negroponte, then the US ambassador to the United Nations: “I can’t imagine better intelligence support for a diplomatic mission.”

The British government—unlike the US government—did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Chilcot Report in 2016. But that report—called “devastating” by the New York Times (7/6/16)—incredibly made no mention of the Gun case. (See release from 2016: “Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun.”)

Thus, Official Secrets refers not only to the Official Secrets Act, but also to the actions of so many who revere officialdom, and abide by the decorum of not acknowledging clear truths that would show the brutal face of the authorities.

Spoiler: After Katharine Gun’s identity became known, we at the Institute for Public Accuracy brought on Jeff Cohen, the founder of FAIR, to work with IPA’s Hollie Ainbinder to get prominent individuals to support Gun. The film—quite plausibly—depicts the charges being dropped against Gun for the simple reason that the British government feared that a high-profile proceeding would effectively put the war on trial, which to them would be nightmare.

Some have said that what Gun did was ineffectual, that it didn’t stop the invasion. Some have said the same about the quasi-global February 15, 2003, protests against the invasion. It’s an absurd, rotten notion. The solution to some truthtelling not being enough to stop the war, as Dan Ellsberg would put it, is more truthtelling. The solution to some powerful protests not being enough to stop the war is more effective protests. Had there been coordinated global protests beginning in September 2002, for example, rather than February 2003, that could well have made all the difference. If other numerous government officials had done what Gun did, and spoken the truth when it mattered most, that could have made the difference.

And, as these wars and lies continue, it still may.

Featured image: Keira Knightly as Katharine Gun in Officials Secrets.

A version of this article appeared on Consortium News (8/29/19).


Thursday, August 29, 2019

New York Times caves again to left-wing outrage


The New York Times once again has altered a published story in response to complaints from the left on Twitter.

Earlier this month, it was a headline favorable to President Trump that sparked outrage from readers. Now, it's a Times 10-year retrospective of the tea party that failed, in the eyes of many, to cast the movement as racist.

Once again, the editors scrambled to assuage the offended.

"We have updated this story assessing the policy failures of the Tea Party movement 10 years after its rise to include context about attacks on President Barack Obama and racist displays at some Tea Party rallies," the Times said on its Twitter account.

Among the critics of the original version of the story was ABC's Matthew Dowd, who wrote: "A fundamental flaw in this analysis is there is no mention of race and how much racism drove the Tea Party movement. You can't talk about the rage politics and leave out race."

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery called the original version journalistic "malpractice." He complained there was no mention of "the fact that it was essentially a hysterical grassroots tantrum about the fact that a black guy was president."

But there's no evidence that racism propelled the tea party movement, contended The Federalist senior editor David Harsanyi.

"The wealthy white leader of Congress at the time was just as unpopular among Tea Partiers as the black president," he argued, referring to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "And, as we've seen, if Hillary Clinton had won the 2008 election, she would have generated no less anger among conservatives."

Harsanyi wrote it was Obama's "leftist rhetoric and unprecedented unilateralism — he had, after all, promised 'fundamental change' — that ignited what amounts to a renewed Reaganism; a fusing of idealistic constitutionalism and economic libertarianism."

Every Democratic presidential candidate as well as the elite media insist America is an irredeemably racist nation. However, as the latest issue of WND's acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine proves, America is BY FAR the most diverse, multi-ethnic, open, free and opportunity-laden society in history, and thus is, as the headline proclaims, "THE LEAST RACIST NATION ON EARTH."

In a Fox News segment Thursday, Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh agreed that the tea party movement was driven by opposition to deficits and bailouts "and not race," pointing to the Obama administration's stimulus bill and Obamacare.

Earlier this month, the Times drew outrage with a headline about Trump's denunciation of white supremacy and racism after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that read "Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism." The editors changed it to "Assailing Hate but Not Guns."

Later, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet apologized, calling the original a "bad headline."

'Rage' against George W. Bush

Harsanyi pointed out that tea partiers a decade ago had a beef not only with Democrats but with the Republican establishment.

It's why they sought to primary so many Republicans, who happened to be white, he noted.

"If you really wanted to hear them 'rage,' you could always bring up the former Caucasian and Republican president, George W. Bush, who had 'abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.'"

Harsanyi acknowledged that, as with any spontaneous political movement, "some bad actors glommed onto protests." The Times article spotlighted "one demonstrator at a rally in Maryland hanged a member of Congress in effigy."

Most accusations of tea party racism, Harsanyi argued, are based on the unsubstantiated claim of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., that someone called him nasty names and spit on him when he and Pelosi strolled through protesters in front of the Capitol.

However, Harsanyi wrote, although "there were cameras everywhere that historic day, no one was ever able to find any evidence to back up his claim."

Contrary to the stereotypes of the left, a CBS/New York Times poll at the time found that the average tea party activist was more educated than the average American, and their concerns mirrored the mainstream.

The movement's three main grievances: Obamacare, government spending and "a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington."


The post New York Times caves again to left-wing outrage appeared first on WND.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

World Statesman Lingers in Jail While a Clownish Thug is in Power


Lula tells world he’s back in the game from jail

By Pepe Escobar, Brazil

August 27, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –   Brazil has always been a land of superlatives. Yet nothing beats the current, perverse configuration: a world statesman lingers in jail while a clownish thug is in power, his antics now considered a threat to the whole planet.

In a wide-ranging, two-hour, world exclusive interview out of a prison room at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva not only made the case to global public opinion for his innocence in the whole Car Wash corruption saga, confirmed by the bombshell leaks revealed by The Intercept, but also repositioned himself to resume his status as a global leader. Arguably sooner rather than later – depending on a fateful, upcoming decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court, for which Justice is not exactly blind.

The request for the interview was entered five months ago. Lula talked to journalists Mauro Lopes, Paulo Moreira Leite and myself, representing in all three cases the website Brasil247 and in my case Asia Times. A rough cut, with only one camera focusing on Lula, was released this past Thursday, the day of the interview. A full, edited version, with English subtitles, targeting global public opinion, should be released by the end of the week.

Lula is a visible embodiment of Nietzsche’s maxim: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Fully fit (he hits the treadmill at least two hours a day), sharp, with plenty of time to read (his most recent was an essay on Alexander von Humboldt), he exhibited his trademark breadth, reach and command of multiple issues – sometimes rolled out as if part of a Garcia Marquez fantastic realism narrative.

The former president lives in a three-by-three-meter cell, with no bars, with the door open but always two Federal policemen outside, with no access to the internet or cable TV. One of his aides dutifully brings him a pen drive every day crammed with political news, and departs with myriad messages and letters.

The interview is even more astonishing when placed in the literally incendiary context of current Brazilian politics, actively flirting with a hybrid form of semi-dictatorship. While Lula talks essentials and is clearly recovering his voice, even in jail, President Jair Bolsonaro has framed himself as a target of global indignation, widely regarded as a threat to humanity that must be contained.

It’s all about the Day of Fire

Cut to the G7 in Biarritz: at best a sideshow, a talk-shop where the presumably liberal West basks in its lavish impotence to deal with serious global issues without the presence of leaders from the Global South.

And that brings us to the literally burning issue of Amazon forest fires. In our interview, Lula went straight to the point: by noting the absolute responsibility of Bolsonaro’s voter base.

Yet the G7’s offer of an immediate $20 million aid package to help Amazon nations to fight wildfires and then launch a global initiative to protect the giant forest barely amounts to a raindrop.
The G7 did nothing but echo Lula’s words, with French President Emmanuel Macron stressing how NGOs and multiple judicial actors, for years, have been raising the question of defining an international statute for the Amazon – which Bolsonaro’s policies, single-handedly, have propelled to the top of the global agenda.

[Brazil, after this article was written, rejected the proffered aid from G7 countries, with a top official telling France’s President Macron on Monday to take care of “his home and his colonies,” AFP reported. “Maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told the G1 news website. “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a World Heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?” He was referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame Cathedral. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said. -eds.]

Significantly, US President Donald Trump did not even attend the G7 session that covered climate change, attacks on the biodiversity and oceans – and Amazon deforestation. No wonder Paris simply gave up issuing a joint statement at the end of the summit.

In our interview, Lula stressed his landmark role at the Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Not only that, he told the inside story of how the negotiations proceeded, and how he intervened to defend China from US accusations of being the world’s largest polluter.

At the time Lula said: “It’s not necessary to fell a single tree in the Amazon to grow soybeans or for cattle grazing. If anyone is doing it, that is a crime – and a crime against the Brazilian economy.”

COP-15 was supposed to advance the targets established by the Kyoto Protocol, which were expiring in 2010. But the summit failed after the US – and the EU – refused to raise their projections of CO2 reduction while blaming Global South actors.

In a sharp contrast with Lula, Bolsonaro’s project actually amounts to a non-creative destruction of Brazilian assets such as the Amazon for the interests he represents.

Now the Bolsonaro clan is blaming the government’s own Cabinet of Institutional Security (GSI, in Portuguese) – the equivalent of the National Security Council – led by General Augusto Heleno, for failing to evaluate the scope and gravity of the current Amazon forest fires.

Heleno, incidentally, is on record defending a life sentence for Lula.

Still, that does not tell the whole story – even as Bolsonaro himself also kept blaming “NGOs” for the fires.

The real story confirms what Lula said in the interview. On August 10, a group of 70 wealthy farmers, all Bolsonaro voters, organized on WhatsApp a “Day of Fire” in the Altamira region in the vast state of Pará.

This happens to be the region with the highest number of wildfires in Brazil – infested with aggressive rural developers who are devoted to massive, hardcore deforestation; they’re invested in land occupation and a no-quarter war against landless peasants and small agricultural producers. “Day of Fire” was supposed to support Bolsonaro’s drive to finish off with official monitoring and erase fines over one of the “Bs” of the BBB lobby that elected him (Beef, Bullet, Bible).

Lula was evidently well informed: “You just need to look at the satellite photos, know who’s the landowner and go after him to know who’s burning. If the landowner did not complain, did not go to the police to tell them his land was burning, that’s because he’s responsible.”

On the road with the Pope

A vicious, post-truth, hybrid-war strategy may be at play in Brazil. Two days after the Lula interview, a fateful paella took place in Brasilia at the vice-presidential palace, with Bolsonaro meeting all the top generals including Vice President Hamilton Mourao. Independent analysts are seriously considering a working hypothesis of the sell-out of Brazil using global concern about the Amazon, the whole process veiled by fake nationalist rhetoric.

That would fit the recent pattern of selling the national aviation champion Embraer, privatizing large blocks of pre-salt reserves and leasing the Alcantara satellite-launching base to the United States. Brazilian sovereignty over the Amazon is definitely hanging in the balance.

Considering the wealth of information in Lula’s interview, not to mention his storytelling of how the corridors of power really work, Asia Times will publish further specific stories featuring Pope Francis, the BRICS, Bush and Obama, Iran, the UN and global governance. This was Lula’s first interview in jail where he has felt relaxed enough to relish telling stories about international relations.

What was clear is that Lula is Brazil’s only possible factor of stability. He’s ready, has an agenda not only for the nation but the world. He said that as soon as he leaves, he’ll hit the streets – and cash in frequent flyer miles: he wants to embark alongside Pope Francis on a global campaign against hunger, neoliberal destruction and the rise of neo-fascism.

Now compare a true statesman in jail with an incendiary thug roaming his own labyrinth.

Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

==See Also==

School yard diplomacy: Amazon fires: Brazil will only take G7 aid if Macron ‘withdraws insults’, Bolsonaro says

School yard bully: Trump backs Brazilian president as he rejects aid for fighting Amazon fires

Trump pushes to allow new logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest



Lies, Bias, and Twisted Facts: MSNBC and Media Bias


Over my decades as a writer, I’ve seen the two faces of the media.

This past April, an editor from The Epoch Times (ET) sent me an email telling me she had enjoyed my articles on Intellectual Takeout and wondered if I might talk to her about writing for ET. When we spoke by phone, her first question was: “Have you ever heard of The Epoch Times?” “Never,” I told her. My ignorance didn’t seem to faze her, and by the end of the conversation I had agreed to write for the Family and Tradition, now Life and Tradition, section of ET. Within another week or two, another editor hired me to write for the Arts and Tradition pages.

Neither of these women asked me what religion I practiced, what party I voted for, or for my views on race, communism, and other subjects. They wanted me because they liked what I was writing and how I wrote it.

As I began sending them articles, I looked over ET’s website, which contains an abundance of news stories and feature articles, many of them having to do with Chinese history and culture. This emphasis made sense, as a team of anti-communist Chinese first established the paper and the online site. The news articles struck me as balanced in their reporting, much like The Smoky Mountain News, a newspaper that has published my book reviews for over twenty years. In both outlets, the news was the news, and the editorializing was kept separate.

I also investigated Falun Gong, a loose-knit spiritual movement founded in China in early 1990. This group advocates some physical and breathing exercises, and proclaims the virtues of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, principles that guide the philosophy of ET. Most countries would be happy to have citizens committed to such beliefs, but The Communist Party of China (CPC) attacked Falun Gong as a cult, describing it as “a heretical movement,” an odd label given that heretical implies a turning away from religious dogma. As I dug deeper, I discovered that the CPC had persecuted practitioners of Falun Gong, imprisoning hundreds of thousands of them, killing and torturing some, and even harvesting their organs for sale.

On August 21, a friend of mine, John, who enjoys my columns, pointed me toward an MSNBCexpose” of ET and Falun Gong he had witnessed on a television at his local gym. I watched this report on my laptop. I then looked at another report about ET and Falun Gong from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Based on what I found in these reports, I have reached some conclusions.

The reporters have their knives out for ET because of its support for the President. If you go the MSNBC site, you’ll find it nearly impossible to find any positive reporting on President Trump. Studies have shown that 92 percent of the coverage given the president by broadcast news media is negative.

Next, ET leans conservative in its reporting. One of its bywords is tradition. As it has grown in the number of people it reaches, ET was bound to come under attack by the PC media, especially when they see a news outlet whose audience is expanding while their own is shrinking.

During this report, no one mentioned that the parent company of NBC, NBCUniversal, is involved in a multi-billion dollar project in Communist China. That’s a little odd, isn’t it?

Worst of all, nowhere in this report was any mention made of the ongoing murderous persecution by the CPC. Not a word about the Chinese internment camps, about the well-documented torture, killing, and organ harvesting. Not one lousy word. And in their brief descriptions of Falun Gong spirituality the reporters become incoherent. 

This biased reporting raises some questions we might ask MSNBC. Why did you not report both sides of the story? Given the CPC’s unrelenting assault on Falun Gong and its discredited denials about organ harvesting, why did you fail to leave out these atrocities? How much of your information about ET and Falun Gong came from CPC sources? Given your enterprises in China, what exactly are your ties to Beijing? Have you become a mouthpiece for the CPC?

Here’s some advice: Quit trying to silence those with whom you disagree, deliver some straight up facts and information, and maybe you’ll win back some of the trust Americans once felt toward their media.


[Image Credit: Flickr-Tony Webster CC BY 2.0]


The Untold Story of Fluoridation: Revisiting the Changing Perspectives

Monday, August 26, 2019

Google Is Burying Alternative Health Sites To Protect People From "Dangerous" Medical Advice

Google Is Burying Alternative Health Sites To Protect People From "Dangerous" Medical Advice 

How Women Got the Vote: You Might Be Surprised


One hundred years ago this month, the Women’s Suffrage Amendment became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This amendment is simple and reads as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

For the past forty years, some Democrats have hammered Republicans as being against women’s rights, largely because so many Republicans oppose abortion. Some even claim that women who vote for conservatives, who vote Republican, or who vote against abortion, are traitors to their sex. 

Perhaps a history lesson on women and voting is in order.  

Let’s start with the suffragettes, the women who sought the right to vote in the United States. Susan B. Anthony and most suffragettes were longstanding Republicans, abolitionists whose oppositions to slavery were tied to their calls for women’s suffrage. These women worked tirelessly to win the vote, meeting with such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt and publicly protesting what they considered a repression of their rights. In 1872, Anthony herself was arrested for voting. That vote, by the way, was cast for a Republican. 

Now let’s move on to the passage of the 19th Amendment. From the National Federation of Republican Women we have this brief history of the struggle that led to suffrage for women:

At the request of Susan B. Anthony, Sen. A.A. Sargent, a Republican from California, introduced the 19th Amendment in 1878. Sargent’s amendment (also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) was defeated four times by a Democrat-controlled Senate. When the Republican Party regained control of Congress in 1919, the Equal Suffrage Amendment finally passed the House in May of that year and in the Senate in June. 

When the Amendment was submitted to the states, 26 of the 36 states that ratified it had Republican legislatures. Of the nine states that voted against ratification, eight were Democratic. Twelve states, all Republican, had given women full suffrage before the federal amendment was ratified. 

That’s interesting. 

In a Spectator piece, “Dems Revise History Regarding the 19th Amendment,” David Caron offers these thoughts:

The reality is that most Democrats were against the 19th Amendment, including President Woodrow Wilson — who was so reviled by the suffragists that they routinely referred to him as ‘Kaiser Wilson.’ What really delayed Congress from passing the amendment was a forty-year legislative war in which the Democrats did their level best to keep women out of the voting booth. That war began in 1878, when a California Republican named A.A. Sargent introduced the 19th Amendment only to see it voted down by a Democrat-controlled Congress. It finally ended four decades later, when the GOP won landslide victories in the House and the Senate, giving them what we now call a ‘super-majority.’

So ladies (and yes, I know some of you frown on that appellation, but I like it, and I’m too old to throw “ladies” in the waste bin of language), enjoy the centennial, but please keep your history straight. Perhaps it’s time to give credit where credit is due?



[Image Credit: Flickr-Kheel Center, CC BY 2.0]


The Horrors of Modern Public Opinion

The Horrors of Modern Public Opinion 

By 1944, Dawson asked, could one even spot the difference between the citizens and governments of the Allied governments and the subjects and despotisms of the Axis Powers? “Without this freedom a planned society is nothing but a gigantic prison, even though it may be a hygienic and scientifically organized one,” he wrote. “And in fact today we all see that the whole of Europe has become a great prison house.”

Socialization Isn’t Responsible for Greater Male Violence


Earlier this year, Dr. Julia Shaw wrote an article for Psychology Today entitled, “Why Are We Not Outraged that Prisons Are Filled with Men?” in which she argues that there is something “pernicious” and deeply wrong with a system that incarcerates men at far higher rates than women. “Prison,” she explains, “has always been an almost entirely male structure. It’s hard. It’s cold. It’s unempathetic. It’s punitive. Practically every descriptor we use for prison prides itself in its masculinity.”

"It's not their hormones that make men more violent, it's their socialization"

— Psychology Today (@PsychToday) August 4, 2019

Shaw says the heavily disproportionate incarceration reflects a lack of faith in men, who are then adversely affected by the experience of prison and the social stigma they are forced to carry upon release. And “what leads us to blindly accept that our prisons are full of men?” she asks.

I think it’s because we accept as dogma that men are naturally more criminal—particularly more violent—than women, thus they deserve to be incarcerated at higher rates. It’s about time we question this assumption.

As Shaw points out, men are overrepresented in prisons because they commit more crime than women and because, according to the FBI’s statistics, they do so in nearly every category of violent crime. This is especially true when it comes to homicide. The statistics Dr. Shaw herself cites in her article bear this out:

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Study on Homicide in 2013, an astonishing 95 percent of homicide perpetrators and 79 percent of homicide victims were male.

Since far more men are committing homicide than women, it follows that more men will be in prison for homicide than women. However, Shaw maintains that this does not reflect differences in the innate predispositions between men and women. The problem, instead, is the way in which society encourages different kinds of behavior in boys and girls from a young age. In the article’s final section headed “Toxic Masculinity,” Shaw writes:

Unfortunately, men are explicitly and implicitly taught by society that they don’t need to inhibit themselves when it comes to aggression. From when they are little, many boys are taught the harmful narrative that aggression and violence are just part of being a man. Pride, in particular, is deemed a masculine achievement, and violence as a means of defending it is often glamorized…It is irresponsible to socialize our boys thinking that they don’t need to control themselves, that they can hurt each other without consequence, that it’s uncool to act in a respectful and calm manner towards others.

Shaw does not produce any evidence in support of her contention that boys are socialized in this way while girls are taught to “be cautious, be empathetic, be kind.” Nor does she mention that a great deal of research appears to contradict her hypothesis. She fails to disclose, for instance, that numerous studies report that the asymmetry of greater male violence is cross-cultural—it is not a phenomenon only found in WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic) populations but also in small-scale societies.

Shaw’s socio-cultural explanation implies that all human societies socialize boys and girls in the same way, resulting in the consistent sex difference in rates of violence that we see across human societies and cultures. This is deeply unlikely, given that societies across the world vary immensely in their socio-cultural attitudes and arrangements.

Additional data show a virtually identical pattern of the sex difference in violence in chimpanzees. In one study of chimpanzees, 92 percent of attackers and 73 percent of victims of attacks were male. The disparity is not just observable in humans and apes, but across numerous other species in which males show greater tendencies toward violent behavior and aggression.

Shaw’s explanation cannot account for the consistent pattern of greater male violence in most other mammals. Is it plausible that males of other species (like, say, the rhinoceros beetle) are learning violent behaviors from socialization or culture, rather from their biological endowment of greater size, strength, muscle mass, more circulating testosterone, weapon-like phenotypes, etc., all of which are a likely consequence of the intrasexual competition predicted by parental investment theory? If Shaw wishes to make this case, she needs to show her work. Prima facie, it is unlikely that the sex differences in violence in humans, which are consistent with other closely related species, would all be mysteriously erased and then re-expressed exactly in accordance with the pattern found in other species but as a result of socialization.

The question then is not “Why are men so violent?” but rather “Why has violence been declining?” As Steven Pinker and others have argued, the world has become less violent over time as humans have used socialization to tame, constrain, and pacify our barbarous natures. Parents and education institutions are constantly telling young boys to keep their hands to themselves, to stop fighting with their brothers and sisters, to be nice and share, and so on.

In the most interesting section of her article, Shaw attempts to show that the link between testosterone and aggression is far less direct than many researchers have argued in the past. Here, she accurately explains some of the intricacies of the link between testosterone and aggression in humans. Good experimental designs have shown that testosterone does not cause aggression per se, but that it does seem to be more directly involved in social status and risk-taking. Testosterone appears to increase aggression only when it is necessary for a particular status competition, such as a public fight.

As prominent neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky has said: “[testosterone] prompts whatever behaviors are needed to maintain status.” For example, research has shown that, in an economic Ultimatum Game, in which two players have to decide how to split a sum of money, higher levels of testosterone can actually enhance generosity. Testosterone increases the amount of money that a player will give to another when the game is set up in such a way that one’s status and reputation rest upon the appearance of fairness.

In this respect, the socio-cultural argument for aggression gets a boost because the testosterone-aggression link is less about testosterone causing X behavior and more about the kind of behaviors that our society rewards in the first place.

Nevertheless, that does not necessarily invalidate testosterone’s facilitative affects on male violence. Situations in which violence is expressed are often risky, competitive, and revolve around social status. Additionally, her argument in this section does not entirely rule out biological influences on the sex difference in violence in humans—it only shows that researchers previously underestimated the complexity of testosterone’s effects.

I am not arguing that men as a whole are far more violent than women, nor that every man is more violent than every woman. However, when talking about violent criminals we are not talking about average levels of aggression, but extreme levels of aggression. Even if two normal distributions heavily overlap, slight differences in their means can lead to rather dramatic differences in the tails of the distribution curve. Therefore, even if men as a whole were only moderately higher in physical aggression than women as a whole, at the extreme end of the distribution of highly aggressive individuals, almost all of them will be men.

At the end of the article, Shaw writes, “We must be careful not to facilitate violence by misguidedly thinking it is simply part of the masculine experience.” But what if the “misguidedly” here is incorrect? If men really are naturally more predisposed to aggression, is Shaw implying that we should not talk about it lest we aggravate the problem? By embracing this view, we risk allowing our understanding of sex differences in violence to be determined, not by the available data, but by her a priori assumptions.

The evidence that men are more violent and more criminal than women is overwhelming, and yet it doesn’t imply that all men are violent, deserve to be incarcerated, or are undeserving of our sympathy or compassion if they are imprisoned. The inability to separate empirical truths from potential moral and political implications is the biggest problem with Dr. Shaw’s argument and one of the biggest obstacles that lie in the path of a scientific understanding of human nature.


Alex Mackiel is an undergraduate psychology and English double major at Carleton College who will be joining the SUNY New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab for graduate school. You can follow him on Twitter @ajmackiel

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