Sunday, December 31, 2017

Voter Suppression the Most Under Reported Political Story of 2017

motherjones |  On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.

Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”

The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention. When it did, it was often dismissive. Two days after the election, Talking Points Memo ran a piece by University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen under the headline “Democrats Blame ‘Voter Suppression’ for Clinton Loss at Their Peril.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was “a load of crap” to claim that the voter ID law had led to lower turnout. When Clinton, in an interview with New York magazine, said her loss was “aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” the Washington Examiner responded, “Hillary Clinton Blames Voter Suppression for Losing a State She Didn’t Visit Once During the Election.” As the months went on, pundits on the right and left turned Clinton’s loss into a case study for her campaign’s incompetence and the Democratic Party’s broader abandonment of the white working class. Voter suppression efforts were practically ignored, when they weren’t mocked.

Stories like Anthony’s went largely unreported. An analysis by Media Matters for America found that only 8.9 percent of TV news segments on voting rights from July 2016 to June 2017 “discussed the impact voter suppression laws had on the 2016 election,” while more than 70 percent “were about Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and noncitizen voting.” During the 2016 campaign, there were 25 presidential debates but not a single question about voter suppression. The media has spent countless hours interviewing Trump voters but almost no time reporting on disenfranchised voters like Anthony.

 Three years after Wisconsin passed its voter ID law in 2011, a federal judge blocked it, noting that 9 percent of all registered voters did not have the required forms of ID. Black voters were about 50 percent likelier than whites to lack these IDs because they were less likely to drive or to be able to afford the documents required to get a current ID, and more likely to have moved from out of state. There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election. Clinton’s failings, James Comey’s 11th-hour letter, Russian interference, fake news, sexism, racism, and a struggling economy in key swing states all contributed to Trump’s victory. We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hell Hath No Fury, Courage, Honor, or Proportionality...,

WaPo |  On the Internet, the logic of road rage reigns supreme: Alone before your screen, without trusted friends and other social mediators to provide context or perspective, and with no relationship between yourself and the offender, vastly disproportionate responses to perceived slights begin to make sense. In daily life, you might respond to an obnoxious joke or snide remark with an eye-roll or a barb of your own, but online, the temptation to retaliate in much stronger terms looms.

Often — too often — it takes the form of campaigns to get people fired.

Last week, Vanity Fair released short video features of several of its staffers providing New Year’s resolution ideas to various politicians, among them Hillary Clinton. Their suggestions for Clinton essentially amounted to don’t run again. The tone of the video struck many, including our own Erik Wemple, as “snotty and condescending,” and some felt the content of some suggestions (one writer quipped that Clinton should take up knitting, for instance) was sexist. Backlash came swiftly, Vanity Fair apologized, and an infuriated twitter mob has been demanding that the editors and writers involved in the video be summarily fired ever since.

Firing the Vanity Fair staff responsible for the video wouldn’t make the video go away, nor would it do anything for the candidate’s low favorables. The urge to drive people who have said or done offensive things out of their jobs isn’t about pragmatism; it’s punitive, and remarkably unprincipled.

And it’s common.

Broken Machines Automatically Responding To Corn-Pressing...,

WaPo |  the centerpiece addiction of this year, widespread and growing, is to outrage itself — to the state of being perpetually offended, to the need not only to be angry at someone or something, or many people and issues, but also to always and everywhere be, well, hating. We are all trapped in this ongoing carnival of venom, a national gathering of unpleasant souls like that assembled in C.S. Lewis’s 1959 essay “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” in the Saturday Evening Post (written two decades after Lewis’s famed “Screwtape Letters”). Google and read it. It is remarkably resonant with the times.

This outrage isn’t a current that is always on full strength, like Boston’s Citgo sign. But it never quite turns off either, as once upon a time the television stations did with a ritual playing of the national anthem. (Quaint, especially this year.)

Outrage, rather, pulses, sometimes quicker and sometimes slower, like the human pulse. And like the human pulse, it is nowadays a sign of life. Not to be outraged is to be almost disqualified in the eyes of many from being a participant in politics, even though the perpetually outraged fall across the political spectrum. Not only can they not imagine anyone not being outraged, but also they can’t imagine any kind of outrage save their own.

This may be the fault of Silicon Valley’s algorithms, which provide us with near-constant friendly echoes of what we already believe and a steady stream of bias-confirming stories from bias-bent sources that further bend our biases along the arc they were already traveling (and it isn’t, believe me, some preordained arc of history). All very convenient, these self-congratulatory seances with the unseen millions who agree with us about our own particular outrage.

Wait a bit after this column posts online, then check the comments. It will be a cut and paste of every other comment section of every other column, left, right and center. Just as cable news talking heads are beginning to blur into one long declarative sentence of certainty surrounded by nodding heads.

The amplification of the incendiary and the extreme in the comments section has broken through into podcasts and some into talk radio, cable and network news. Outrage is the kudzu of all media platforms. It will cover us all completely soon enough.

Friday, December 29, 2017

For Those That Are Awake, The Lies Are Plain To See

theburningplatform |  The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
– Edward Bernays, “Propaganda”

Edward Bernays (1891 – 1995) was a famous pioneer in the field of public relations and is, today, often referred to as the Father of Propaganda. Perhaps Bernays became thus known because he authored the above quoted 1928 book titled with that very term. He was actually the nephew of the famed psychopathologist Sigmund Freud and was very proud of his uncle’s work. More than that, however, Bernays accepted the basic premises of Freud towards the use of emotional manipulation of the masses through advertising. It was, in fact, Bernays, who changed the term propaganda into “public relations”.

If the excerpt above from Bernays’ book “Propaganda” is true, then it would imply there are men of great power who utilize psychology in order to message and manipulate the minds of the masses. Are these the men that Thomas Jefferson, supposedly, once warned about? Indeed. They are the ones who control the issue of currency; the ones who first by inflation, then by deflation, caused the banks and corporations to grow up around the people thus depriving them of all property until the people’s children woke up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

These are the men who financially and politically manage sovereign governments as well as the handful of corporations that control 90% of the media today.  It is not hard to imagine, therefore, why it would be in the best interests of these men to mentally maneuver the masses into complacency. But how is this psychological manipulation implemented?
Through lies, of course.
Adolf Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, once asserted that:
 A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.
In like manner, I now question if this sentence could be modified as follows:
A lie told to a few people is still a lie but a lie told to thousands, even millions, of people becomes the truth.
Yet, it is those who question the lies today that are labeled the conspiracy theorists.  What irony.
Carroll Quigley in his book “Tragedy and Hope: The History of the World in Our Time” exposed the takeover of the world’s financial system by these few, powerful men when he wrote on page 51:
In time the (the “Order”) brought into their financial network the provincial banking centers, organized as commercial banks and savings banks, as well as insurance companies, to form all of these into a single financial system on an international scale which manipulated the quantity and flow of money so that they were able to influence, if not control, governments on one side and industries on the other.
It appears control is the result of money equaling power as both give rise to an alternative reality which, paradoxically, is subsidized by the vanquished; by those who want to believe.  Yes, it is the masses of people who finance their own dreams via various monthly installment plans while their own eyes rely upon what they see on any number of electronic screens before them. The people pay their taxes, they borrow, they consume, they believe.

Poor Cass Sunstein, Out of Power and So Very Misunderstood...,

NewYorker |  In 2010, Marc Estrin, a novelist and far-left activist from Vermont, found an online version of a paper by Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School and the most frequently cited legal scholar in the world. The paper, called “Conspiracy Theories,” was first published in 2008, in a small academic journal called the Journal of Political Philosophy. In it, Sunstein and his Harvard colleague Adrian Vermeule attempted to explain how conspiracy theories spread, especially online. At one point, they made a radical proposal: “Our main policy claim here is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories.” The authors’ primary example of a conspiracy theory was the belief that 9/11 was an inside job; they defined “cognitive infiltration” as a program “whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups.”

Nowhere in the final version of the paper did Sunstein and Vermeule state the obvious fact that a government ban on conspiracy theories would be unconstitutional and possibly dangerous. (In a draft that was posted online, which remains more widely read, they emphasized that censorship is “inconsistent with principles of freedom of expression,” although they “could imagine circumstances in which a conspiracy theory became so pervasive, and so dangerous, that censorship would be thinkable.”)* “I was interested in the mechanisms by which information, whether true or false, gets passed along and amplified,” Sunstein told me recently. “I wanted to know how extremists come to believe the warped things they believe, and, to a lesser extent, what might be done to interrupt their radicalization. But I suppose my writing wasn’t very clear.”

Sunstein has studied the spread of information since the mid-nineties, when he co-wrote a series of law-review articles about “cascade theory”—a model describing how opinions travel across juries, markets, and subcultures. He was particularly interested in what he called the Law of Group Polarization: how ideologically homogenous groups can become “breeding grounds for unjustified extremism, even fanaticism.” In 2001, his first book on political polarization on the Internet, “,” warned that, even when people have access to a range of robust and challenging views, many will favor information that confirms what they already believe. He updated the book in 2007, as “ 2.0: Revenge of the Blogs,” and again this year, as “#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media.” When he wrote “,” social media didn’t really exist; when he wrote “ 2.0,” social media’s impact was so negligible that he could essentially ignore it; in “#Republic,” he argues that services such as Facebook comprise the contemporary agora, and that their personalized algorithms will make it ever more difficult for Americans to understand their fellow-citizens.

In the endless debates about what constitutes “fake news,” we tend to invoke clear cases of unfounded rumor or outright deceit (“Melania has a body double,” or “President Trump saves two cats from drowning after Hurricane Harvey”). More prevalent, and more bewildering, are the ambiguous cases—a subtly altered photograph, an accurate but misleading statistic, a tendentious connection among disparate dots. Between the publication of “ 2.0” and “#Republic,” Sunstein became a target of the same online rumor mill he’d been studying from a distance, and many of the conspiracy theories about “Conspiracy Theories” fell into this gray area—overheated, but not wholly made up. “If you had told me that this obscure paper would ever become such a publicly visible and objectionable thing, I would have thought it more likely that Martians had just landed in Times Square,” Sunstein said. “In hindsight, though, I suppose it’s sort of appropriate that I got caught up in the mechanisms I was writing about.”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The FBI Obviously Conspired To Stop Trump

Buchanan |  The original question the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign was to answer was a simple one: Did he do it?

Did Trump, or officials with his knowledge, collude with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to hack the emails of John Podesta and the DNC, and leak the contents to damage Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump?

A year and a half into the investigation, and, still, no “collusion” has been found. Yet the investigation goes on, at the demand of the never-Trump media and Beltway establishment.

Hence, and understandably, suspicions have arisen.

Are the investigators after the truth, or are they after Trump?

Set aside the Trump-Putin conspiracy theory momentarily, and consider a rival explanation for what is going down here:

That, from the outset, Director James Comey and an FBI camarilla were determined to stop Trump and elect Hillary Clinton. Having failed, they conspired to break Trump’s presidency, overturn his mandate and bring him down.

Essential to any such project was first to block any indictment of Hillary for transmitting national security secrets over her private email server.

That first objective was achieved 18 months ago.

Why Trust Anything Privileged, Cozy And Personally Dependent On The Status Quo?

NewYorker |  Even in a stable constitutional republic, a cynical or unmoored citizenry presents an opportunity for demagogues and populists. As much as stagnant wages in former manufacturing regions, glaring economic inequality, or white backlash after the Obama Presidency, the country’s disillusionment with institutions enabled Donald Trump’s election. Trump had a sound instinct as he took office that public disgust with √©lites, including those running the Republican Party, ran so deep that he—even as a New York billionaire—could get away with outrageous attacks on people or agencies previously believed to be off limits for a President, because of the political backlash that the attacks would generate. After his Inauguration, for example, Trump did not hesitate to denigrate the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies for promoting their independent judgment that Russia had sought to aid his campaign. And the President’s opportunistic assaults on less popular institutions—such as the news media and Congress—have riled his base.

It is tempting to think that an institution like the F.B.I. enjoys such credibility and public support that its agents and officials—and Mueller himself—can rely on cross-party backing in a crisis, even if Republicans remain silent now. Perhaps. But this was a party that refused to challenge Trump’s backing of Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race. And an understanding of what core Trump supporters believe about the F.B.I. and Mueller has to take into account Gallup’s trend lines. While celebrating this new year, it will require a certain degree of evidence-light optimism to be convinced that the center will hold.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

DOJ Sex Harassment: Deep State Swamp Comprised Of Phuktards About To Drain Themselves...,

WaPo |  The Justice Department has “systemic” problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires “high level action,” according to the department’s inspector general.

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with “approximately” nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We’re talking about presidential appointees, political appointees, FBI special agents in charge, U.S. attorneys, wardens, a chief deputy U.S. marshal, a U.S. marshal assistant director, a deputy assistant attorney general,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in an interview. 

On May 31 — before the issue exploded into the national consciousness — Horowitz sent a memo about sexual harassment to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

“When employees engage in such misconduct, it profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency’s reputation, undermines the agency’s credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale,” Horowitz wrote. “Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue.”

Rosenstein said he would review the IG’s memo and consider whether additional guidance to Justice employees was required to ensure all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately.

“It is fortunate that there are relatively few substantiated incidents of sexual harassment, but even one incident is too many,” Rosenstein said in a statement at the time.

Just Like Ballers - Peasant Rustlers Immune To Pound Me Too...,

Like I said a month ago, it'll never reach up to snatch down a real baller - and by that exact same token - it'll never bend down to ease the working and living conditions of peasant women, either.

theatlantic |  The man who Sandra Pezqueda says sexually harassed her and ultimately got her fired has never been disciplined for his actions. That’s even though the man, who was her boss when she worked as a dishwasher and chef’s assistant at the luxurious Terrenea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, beginning in 2015, persistently switched her schedule so she’d be working alone near him, repeatedly offered to give her more hours if she’d go out with him, and twice tried to kiss her in a storeroom at work, according to Pezqueda. That’s even though, when she complained about his behavior to the staffing agency that employed them both, Pezqueda says supervisors began seeking reasons to fire her, eventually letting her go in February 2016. “I knew if I spoke up there would be retaliation,” Pezqueda, now 37, told me. “That’s why other women never speak up about what happened to them.”

For all the Harvey Weinsteins, Al Frankens, and Russell Simmonses who have lost their jobs after allegations surfaced of sexual harassment, there is a sobering truth often lost in the #MeToo movement—the push for accountability has class dimensions. Many other less famous men, who have harassed women in less high-profile fields, have not been held accountable. Virtually all of the men who have been publicly excoriated for their conduct have worked in industries like Hollywood, or politics, or law, that the public tends to study with laser-like focus. “If an employer isn’t worried that there’s going to be some huge public-relations issue stemming from harassment, then that is one less reason for the employer to take it seriously,” Emily Martin, the general counsel and vice president for workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, told me.
Sexual harassment happens just as frequently—if not more frequently—in industries dominated by low-wage workers, according to analysis of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Half of women working in the restaurant industry experienced “scary” or “unwanted” sexual behavior, according to a 2014 report from the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a nonprofit that advocates for workers in the food-services industry. Around 40 percent of women in the fast-food industry have experienced unwanted sexual behaviors on the job, according to a 2016 study by Hart Research Associates, and 42 percent of those women felt that they needed to accept it because they couldn’t afford to lose their jobs. Harassment is frequent in these industries because of the wage and power differences between the women and the men who supervise them, according to ‎Sarah Fleisch Fink, the senior counsel for the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. “An imbalance of power in people in two different positions is a big part of sexual harassment occurring, and I think that there’s probably nowhere that occurs more than in lower-wage jobs,” she said. According to the Center for American Progress, the most sexual-harassment charges filed by workers from any one industry between 2005 and 2015 were in one sector: accommodation and food services.   

Pound Me Too - The Fruit of Macktivism...,

WaPo  |  Donald Trump didn’t do it.

Nor did Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly.

None of these famous men, each publicly accused of sexual harassment or assault, touched off the cultural reckoning that has swept America and other parts of the world over the past three months.

The honor, or perhaps dishonor, goes to a far more obscure and unlikely figure: Harvey Weinstein. The Hollywood producer’s alleged predations unleashed the outpouring of #MeToo revelations on social media along with echoing volleys of claims against more than 100 prominent men in news, entertainment, government and other fields.

Why Weinstein? Why did his story inspire a cultural eruption, particularly given that most people probably couldn’t identify him before the New York Times and the New Yorker revealed his secret history in articles that became the spore of the anti-harassment movement?

There’s no hard and fast explanation. But there are a few theories.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Congressional Black Caucus A Collection of Useless Self-Dealing DNC Sock Puppets

NewYorker  |  At eighty-eight, Conyers was the longest-serving active member of Congress, having represented his district since 1965, the year that the Voting Rights Act was signed. Earlier this year, the film “Detroit” depicted his attempts to defuse the riots that struck that city in 1967. In 1971, Conyers, with twelve other representatives and the delegate from Washington, D.C., founded the Congressional Black Caucus, a legislative bloc that has since more than tripled in size. Since 1989, he has annually introduced a bill to create a commission to study the institution of slavery and to recommend appropriate reparations. Before November 20th, when BuzzFeed posted a story about numerous allegations of sexual harassment made by former staff members and the payment of a secret financial settlement (Conyers denies the allegations), those were the primary reference points for Conyers. After the revelations, two weeks of acrimony, Conyers’s hospitalization for what his attorney called a “stress-related illness,” and his subsequent decision to retire, it is difficult to predict how his legacy will be assessed, and the extent to which these events will color his prior career.

Like other men accused in the post-Harvey Weinstein reckoning, Conyers’s position of power created the context in which the allegations against him are being discussed. But his case is complicated by the fact that he is also responsible for institutionalizing a social movement. The Congressional Black Caucus formed at the end of the civil-rights era, at a moment when African-American leadership was attempting to transfer its success in grassroots organizing into political power. The next year, Shirley Chisholm, a Caucus founder and the first black woman to serve in Congress, from New York, ran for President. The Caucus divided over the issue of supporting her—Conyers calculated that there was a bigger potential return in endorsing George McGovern—but the attention paid to Chisholm’s campaign brought recognition to the new group. Eventually, the ability of the C.B.C. members to hang onto their seats longer than other Congressional incumbents translated into seniority and authority on the Hill.

But, to some observers, the allegations against Conyers have renewed a sense that, over the years, authority has been challenged in a disproportionate way, particularly with regard to matters of ethics. It has been widely noted in the past that, in 2009, all seven of the House Ethics Committee investigations involved C.B.C. members. (An eighth, of Jesse Jackson, Jr., of Illinois, was dropped when the Justice Department began a separate investigation.) The next year, Charlie Rangel, another C.B.C. founder and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was found guilty of ethics charges relating to a failure to report income on a property in the Dominican Republic, improper fund-raising, and the wrongful use of rent-subsidized apartments in the building where he lived. He kept his seat, but when he was forced to relinquish his chairmanship some wondered whether part of the motive was to insure that the Obama era would not also feature a black man chairing the one of the most powerful committees in Congress. In 2012, National Journal reported that a third of sitting black lawmakers had been named in ethics investigations. Any number of factors may account for these figures, of course, but it was against this backdrop that the accusations involving Conyers played out.

On CNN, Angela Rye, who previously served as the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, denounced “hypocrisy in the Democratic Party” for pursuing Conyers’s resignation more aggressively than it did for other officials accused of misbehavior. Politico reported that the caucus chairman, Representative Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, concurred, saying, “I think the chorus of people that are calling for John to resign is noticeably larger than everyone else.” Last Thursday, Rep. Jim Clyburn, of South Carolina, urged Conyers to resign, but the majority of Caucus members made no comment. On November 28th, Richmond released a statement agreeing with Conyers’s decision to step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, noting that “any decision to resign from office before the ethics investigation is complete is John’s decision to make.” Richmond added, however, that “the Congressional Black Caucus calls on Congress to treat all members who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other crimes with parity, and we call on Congress and the public to afford members with due process as these very serious allegations are investigated.” Over the weekend, at a rally for Conyers in Detroit, the Reverend Wendell Anthony, of the N.A.A.C.P.’s local chapter, echoed that sentiment, telling the assembled supporters that they had “one commonality today, and that is due process.”

Reauthorize Mass Surveillance, Or Else...,

medium |  With the rare glimpses we’ve been given behind the curtain of USIC opacity, we’ve seen that US intelligence agencies don’t actually use their surveillance capabilities for fighting terrorism nearly as much as they pretend to. With WikiLeaks’ massive leak drop earlier this year on the CIA’s sprawling surveillance system, there was no reference in any of the documents to terrorists or extremists. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said in a press conference at the time that there was a “conspicuous” absence of any such references, adding the following:
“What is not there is any reference to terrorists, any reference to extremists. And that actually shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; no one no one who studies the intelligence world that’s a surprise to. Because even if you just look at the budgets that came out in 2013 to the US intelligence black-budget, you don’t see anything like the majority of the budget going towards extremism, even though there are very strong political reasons to try and couch any operation in countering terrorism and countering extremism to get more money.
Despite that political pressure, something like a third of the entire US intelligence budget is described as countering various forms of extremism. And the overwhelming majority is not, but particularly for the CIA, the vast majority of the expenditure and attack types are geopolitical. They’re about, you know similar to the information revealed about the CIA attacking of the French election cycle — understanding who could be pals with the CIA, who could help out the institution in one way or another. So for example, you spy on Airbus. That information you then pass to the US Chamber of Commerce amongst others, which is listed in the material, and US Chamber of Commerce can then adjust what is doing in order to assist Boeing, and these companies are closely connected to each other.”
So going by what we ordinary people can actually put our eyes on, surveillance is not even really about fighting terrorism at all; it’s about having access to as much information as possible which can be used for geopolitical manipulation and leverage for America’s unelected power establishment. And yet these intelligence agencies, which appear to spend far less energy fighting terrorism than they pretend to, are warning of terrorist attacks should the American people’s elected representatives fail to grant them the reauthorization they demand.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Collusion, Obstruction, Doesn't Matter, We'll Make Something Stick!

WaPo  |  “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!”

Republicans in Congress took the cue, seizing upon the texts to attack the credibility of the FBI and the Mueller investigation.

“The senior levels of the FBI have been infected with an intractable bias that seemed to favor Hillary Clinton and work against President Donald Trump,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on Fox News on Wednesday, adding, “It’s time for Bob Mueller to put up or shut up: If there’s evidence of collusion, let’s see it.”

The calls for Mueller’s ouster are strongest in the House, where a group of Republicans has been calling for the special counsel to resign.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has said Mueller’s investigation should proceed without interference. But he has allowed several committee investigations that are calling into question the integrity of the probe.

“The House has a constitutional obligation to exercise congressional oversight, and the speaker is supportive of our committee chairmen carrying out their work,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

In recent days, for example, three House committees grilled McCabe over his participation in the FBI’s Russia investigation and his role in the FBI examination into Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Democrats called it a thinly veiled attempt to weaken McCabe and slow down Mueller’s probe. McCabe plans to retire in a few months when he becomes fully eligible for pension benefits, people familiar with the matter told The Post.

“Those people should be investigating the real crime, which is Russia’s interference in our democracy, and instead they’re being hauled before a six-hour series of interviews,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.).

At the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and a small group of Republican lawmakers are discussing writing a report next year that would highlight alleged “corruption” at the FBI, according to people familiar with the plans. Such a report would focus on information about the conduct of FBI officials in the course of the Russia investigation, those people said.

On the Senate side, one of the loudest voices has been Republican Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and has raised questions about the impartiality of Mueller’s probe.
He has called for McCabe to be fired and shown a willingness to dig into Mueller’s past tenure as FBI director, complaining Thursday that the FBI and the Justice Department have been too slow to rout out people peddling “political influence.”

Grassley has also called for a second special counsel to look at decisions the FBI and the Justice Department made at the time that the Obama administration approved a uranium deal giving Russia a significant stake in the U.S. market. The inquiry would bring de facto scrutiny of Mueller, who was FBI director at the time.

Grassley said that his staff is in touch with Nunes’s staff, though he would not specify exactly what elements of their committees’ parallel inquiries they were communicating about.

It's Our Story Dammit - And We're Sticking With It!!!

conservativetreehouse |  Several new developments happening today center around the FBI’s use of the Christopher Steele Dossier in gaining FISA warrants to wiretap and monitor the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump; ie. “The Trump Project”. Doug Ross continues to update the ongoing conspiracy Timeline – SEE HERE. And that timeline just gained a big addition from a recently discovered visitor to the White House.

Before going to the White House visitor angle, it’s important to express appreciation for Tablet Mag who did a deep dive into the Fusion-GPS connection to the creation of the Steele Dossier, and more specifically how Fusion-GPS head Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby were instrumental in getting the dossier assembled and into the hands of the White House prior to the DOJ and FBI applying for the FISA warrant – SEE HERE.

Tablet Mag outlines how Mary Jacoby even bragged about getting the “Russiagate” narrative started:
A Tablet investigation using public sources to trace the evolution of the now-famous dossier suggests that central elements of the Russiagate scandal emerged not from the British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s top-secret “sources” in the Russian government—which are unlikely to exist separate from Russian government control—but from a series of stories that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby co-wrote for TheWall Street Journal well before Fusion GPS existed, and Donald Trump was simply another loud-mouthed Manhattan real estate millionaire.
Understanding the origins of the “Steele dossier” is especially important because of what it tells us about the nature and the workings of what its supporters would hopefully describe as an ongoing campaign to remove the elected president of the United States.
[…] In a Facebook post from June 24, 2017, that Tablet has seen in screenshots, Jacoby claimed that her husband deserves the lion’s share of credit for Russiagate. (She has not replied to repeated requests for comment.) “It’s come to my attention that some people still don’t realize what Glenn’s role was in exposing Putin’s control of Donald Trump,” Jacoby wrote. “Let’s be clear. Glenn conducted the investigation. Glenn hired Chris Steele. Chris Steele worked for Glenn.”
This assertion is hardly a simple assertion of family pride; it goes directly to the nature of what became known as the “Steele dossier,” on which the Russiagate narrative is founded. (read more)
The Tablet-Mag outline shows the distinct trail of the finished Steele Dossier entering into the White House and how President Obama likely saw and reviewed the content.  However, missing from the this report is an origination angle even more nefarious.

Remember, previous media reporting -in conjunction with Clinton campaign admissions- have confirmed the DNC and Clinton Campaign financed Fusion-GPS through their lawyers within Perkins Coie.   Fusion then sub-contracted with retired British MI6 agent Christopher Steele to write the dossier.

The dates here are important because they tell a story.

The origin of the Clinton effort with Fusion-GPS was April 2016.  That’s the same month Fusion hired Nellie Ohr, wife of DOJ Deputy Bruce Ohr, to gather opposition research on candidate Trump.  It would be most likely that Nellie Ohr was in contact with Christopher Steele.  DOJ Deputy Attorney Bruce Ohr was later demoted for his unreported contacts with Christopher Steele and Fusion-GPS founder Glenn Simpson.

However, there was another event in this April 2016 timeline which enhances the trail of the Dossier origination. [Hat Tip KaticaCheck this out:

In April 2016 Mary Jacoby shows up on White House visitor logs meeting with President Obama officials. In April 2016 the Clinton Campaign and DNC hired Fusion-GPS to organize the Russia research, that later became known as the “Steele Dossier”.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Only Prospect for Civilizing Society and Detoxifying Politics is ____________?

project-syndicate |  The Anglosphere’s political atmosphere is thick with bourgeois outrage. In the United States, the so-called liberal establishment is convinced it was robbed by an insurgency of “deplorables” weaponized by Vladimir Putin’s hackers and Facebook’s sinister inner workings. In Britain, too, an incensed bourgeoisie are pinching themselves that support for leaving the European Union in favor of an inglorious isolation remains undented, despite a process that can only be described as a dog’s Brexit.

The range of analysis is staggering. The rise of militant parochialism on both sides of the Atlantic is being investigated from every angle imaginable: psychoanalytically, culturally, anthropologically, aesthetically, and of course in terms of identity politics. The only angle that is left largely unexplored is the one that holds the key to understanding what is going on: the unceasing class war unleashed upon the poor since the late 1970s.

In 2016, the year of both Brexit and Trump, two pieces of data, dutifully neglected by the shrewdest of establishment analysts, told the story. In the United States, more than half of American families did not qualify, according to Federal Reserve data, to take out a loan that would allow them to buy the cheapest car for sale (the Nissan Versa sedan, priced at $12,825). Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, over 40% of families relied on either credit or food banks to feed themselves and cover basic needs. 

William of Ockham, the fourteenth-century British philosopher, famously postulated that, when bamboozled in the face of competing explanations, we ought to opt for the one with the fewest assumptions and the greatest simplicity. For all the deftness of establishment commentators in the US and Britain, they seem to have neglected this principle. 

Loath to recognize the intensified class war, they bang on interminably with conspiracy theories about Russian influence, spontaneous bursts of misogyny, the tide of migrants, the rise of the machines, and so on. While all of these fears are highly correlated with the militant parochialism fueling Trump and Brexit, they are only tangential to the deeper cause – class war against the poor – alluded to by the car affordability data in the US and the credit-dependence of much of Britain’s population.

True, some relatively affluent middle-class voters also supported Trump and Brexit. But much of that support rode on the coattails of the fear caused by observing the classes just below theirs plunge into despair and loathing, while their own children’s prospects dimmed.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Atlantic Even More Devoid Of Solutions Than Its Protege Ta-Nussy....,

theatlantic |  It isn’t just chain stores in economically distressed suburbs that are going belly up, but high-end luxury-goods purveyors along the retail corridors of America’s leading cities, such as New York’s Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and Chicago’s Miracle Mile. All told, roughly 100,000 retail jobs were lost between October 2016 and April 2017. In the next five years, one out of every four malls is projected to close, according to an analysis by Credit Suisse. The square footage of America’s already dead malls covers more land than the city of Boston.
But painful as this retail retrenchment may be, it creates real opportunities that cities and suburbs can take advantage of.

First things first: Brick-and-mortar retail is not going away. Even as it sheds workers, the sector is still growing at a rate of 3 percent per year. The IHL Group, a research- and advisory-services firm, estimates that retail sales are up by more than $100 billion this year, and 4,000 more chain stores will have opened than closed in the U.S.

Much of the retail apocalypse is in fact a long-overdue correction. The United States devotes four times more of its real-estate square footage to retail, per capita, than Japan and France; six times more than England; nine times more than Italy; and 11 times more than Germany.

The way Americans shop is also undergoing a fundamental reset. As more and more people shop online, the stores that are drawing in customers are those that emphasize experiences. Customers want to sit on that new sofa, feel the weight of a stainless-steel skillet in their hands, and try out new gadgets.

In fact, the line between e-commerce and physical retail is not as traceable as most people think. The most successful virtual stores are currently increasing their physical presences. Amazon is opening up bookstores, and with its acquisition of Whole Foods, it has gained a footprint in hundreds of affluent cities and suburbs. As the physical embodiment of Apple’s brand proposition, Apple stores showcase cutting-edge designs, provide service and advice, build community, and are a big part of what differentiates the company from its competition.

While there can be no doubt that the lost jobs and diminished tax bases that accompany the retail retrenchment hurt, the shift has an upside as well.

WeWork’s takeover of Lord & Taylor could be a good portent for urban economies. Work, not shopping, is the key to urban productivity and growth. When asked why rents are so high in cities like New York and Chicago, the Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Lucas famously answered that it had nothing to do with the availability of high-end shopping; higher urban rents, he said, are a function of higher urban productivity.

Wandered Into A Still Working Time Machine Yesterday

Forty years on and functioning relatively well - not yet ruined by the Morlocks....,

Morlocks broke and killed every other time machine hereabouts...,

Friday, December 22, 2017

Unintended Consequences of Decades of Deep State Hegelian Headfakes..,

melmagazine |  Dale Baker was introduced to simulation theory five years ago as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Iowa. The idea that our reality may be nothing more than a computer-generated simulation was first presented to him in his Religion vs. Science class. Later, he discovered the work of Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom, one the world’s leading simulation theorists.

Still, Baker didn’t believe in simulation theory outright; he merely considered it plausible. The Earth, as we know it, is 4.5 billion years old, he reasoned. That’s enough time for a civilization to evolve to the point where they could create such a simulation.

That all changed last November, though, when the Chicago Cubs, the most futile franchise in the history of professional sports, won the World Series, and Donald Trump, the most unqualified candidate in the history of the U.S. presidency, won the Electoral College.

The tweet was part-joke, part-truth. “I was dumbfounded at the events that occurred,” Baker says. “If Trump and the Cubs can win, anything is possible.”

Few would argue his point that the past year has been strange. Apart from the two examples above, there’s been a constant barrage of natural disasters; the New England Patriots’ improbable comeback victory in Super Bowl LI; a possible nuclear war with North Korea; the reality-distorting effects of fake news; the sudden deaths of Prince, David Bowie and other legendary pop culture figures; and most recently, the spate of sexual abuse and harassment charges that have upended industry power structures that once seemed indestructible.

Some have welcomed the changes, but for others, they’ve been so drastic and swift that they defy all logic. Rather, they’re proof that the simulation is real — and that whoever is at the helm has started fucking with the levers.

Why Alien Abductions Are Down Dramatically

BostonGlobe |  Belief that alien life exists on other planets is persuasive, sensible; nearly 80 percent of Americans do believe it, according to a 2015 poll. But belief that the aliens are already here feels like something else, largely because it requires a leap of faith longer than agreeing that the universe is a vast, unknowable place. Abduction and contact stories aren’t quite the fodder for daytime talk show and New York Times bestsellers they were a few decades ago. The Weekly World News is no longer peddling stories about Hillary Clinton’s alien baby at the supermarket checkout line. Today, credulous stories of alien visitation rarely crack the mainstream media, however much they thrive on niche TV channels and Internet forums. But we also still want to believe in accounts that scientists, skeptics, and psychologists say there is no credible evidence to support.

The abduction phenomenon began with strange case of Betty and Barney Hill. On Sept. 19, 1961, the Hills were driving from Montreal to their home in Portsmouth, N.H. Betty spotted a UFO following them. Barney stopped the car on the highway, near Indian Head in the White Mountains, and got out to look at the craft through binoculars. Seeing humanoid figures in Nazi-like uniforms peering through its windows, he ran back to the car, screaming, “Oh my God, we’re going to be captured!” They drove off, but two hours later, they found themselves 35 miles from the spot where they’d first seen the craft (there is now a commemorative marker at the site), with little memory of how they’d gotten there. Soon after, Betty began having nightmares.

In 1964, the Hills underwent hypnotherapy. Under hypnotic regression — hypnosis with the intent to help a subject recall certain events with more clarity — the couple said that they had actually been pulled on board the vessel by aliens and subjected to invasive experiments. The Hills’ story, revealed to the public in 1965 with an article in the Boston Traveler and a year later in the book “The Interrupted Journey,” launched a flurry of public fascination with abductions.

Barney died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1969, but Betty went on to become a kind of sage of paranormal experiences. Their story became the blueprint for alien abduction experiences in the years that followed, especially after the airing of the 1975 made-for-TV film “The UFO Incident,” starring James Earl Jones as Barney Hill. Subsequent experiencers would describe similar missing time or have bizarre dreams and flashbacks of things they couldn’t understand. Many would use hypnotic regression to recall their experiences.

Over the next two decades, the alien abduction narrative wound its way into the American consciousness, fed by science fiction films like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and breathless news reports of mysterious incidents. In 1966, a Gallup poll asked Americans if they’d ever seen a UFO; 5 percent said they had, but they meant it in the literal sense of an unidentified flying object — only 7 percent of Americans believed that the UFOs were from outer space. By 1986, a Public Opinion Laboratory poll found that 43 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “It is likely that some of the UFOs that have been reported are really space vehicles from other civilizations.”

Some experiencers said the aliens were here to save us and study us, some said they were here to harvest our organs and enslave us. But by the late 1980s, people whose stories would have been dismissed as delusional a generation earlier were being interviewed by Oprah and “true stories” of alien experience, such as Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” and Budd Hopkins’s “Intruders,” were bestsellers. By the 1990s, those who believed in the literal truth of alien abduction stories gained an important ally in John Mack, a Harvard professor and psychiatrist who compiled his study of the phenomenon into a 1994 book titled “Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens.” He later told the BBC, “I would never say there are aliens taking people away . . . but I would say there is a compelling, powerful phenomenon here that I can’t account for in any other way.”

Billionaires The Future Of Space Policy

FP |  Last month, the first space nation left the International Space Station.

That space nation, Asgardia-1, is actually a satellite containing personal data from some of the “nation’s” 300,000 “citizens,” launched into space by billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli. 

Asgardia is as yet unrecognized by the United Nations, and its citizens are people who filled out an application form. The goal “is to provide permanent presence of humans in space,” Ashurbeyli told Foreign Policy in a recent interview. 

Ashurbeyli isn’t the only billionaire with unusual ideas about what humanity should be doing in space. On Saturday, Politico and the New York Times both published articles revealing that another tycoon, Robert Bigelow, had convinced lawmakers to secretly appropriate money to have the Pentagon look for UFOs. 

In fact, a number of private individuals of great wealth are charting the future of space policy, whether through money or influence. Some are in it for commercial interests, others for scientific curiosity. But whatever the reason, their new space race will change the rules of the game — space is currently the realm of governments (the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was written for countries, not business magnates), and so the involvement of wealthy individuals is changing the nature of all that’s out of this world. 

Here are some of their plans:

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Space Is White

opendemocracy |  Fundamental to this process is the recognition that space is a potential destination for everyone. Contemporary Afro-futurist Denenge Akpem has attempted to spark this discussion through, “The MARS Project – Teaching Afro-futurism as Methodology of Liberation.” Akpem, a performance artist and sculptor who has taught at both the School of the Art Institute Chicago and Columbia College Chicago, invites her students to imagine the first mission to, and settlement of Mars through the lens of Afro-futurism and diversity.

In contrast, Mars One, a private Dutch initiative to settle Mars by 2026, has raised eyebrows for seeming to select its astronauts using a format akin to reality TV. And while National Geographic’s upcoming docu-drama miniseries MARS features an internationally, racially and gender diverse crew in 2033 aboard the Daedalus, it’s noticeable that they are led by an all-American white male mission commander who will “be the first to walk on Mars”.

In addition, if we are to colonize Mars or any other planet or space station for that matter, then genetics and population dynamics call for the largest and broadest sample of who we are to be included among the settlers. As Sun Ra highlights, the worlds of art, music, philosophy, science and literature are created by all of us. In space as on Earth, there is a deep value to embracing and maintaining the plurality of our existence: it celebrates our empathy and love for one another.
As Ra presaged, Space Is The Place for us to take this love—the best of Earth’s legacy—to Mars and beyond.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Information Industrial Complex

corbettreport |  So what is the problem with this? As Ike explained:

“Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Here again the warning is of fascism. But instead of the military-industrial fascism that dominated so much of the 20th century, he was describing here a new fascistic paradigm that was but barely visible at the time that he gave his address: a scientific-technological one. Once again, the threat is that the industry that grows up around this government-sponsored activity will, just like the military-industrial complex, begin to take over and shape the actions of that same government. In this case, the warning is not one of bombs and bullets but bits and bytes, not tanks and fighter jets but hard drives and routers. Today we know this new fascism by its innocuous sounding title “Big Data,” but in keeping with the spirit of Eisenhower’s remarks, perhaps it would be more fitting to call it the “information-industrial complex.”

The concept of an information-industrial complex holds equally explanatory power for our current day and age as the military-industrial complex hypothesis held in Eisenhower’s time.
Why is a company like Google going to such lengths to capture, track and database all information on the planet?

The information-industrial complex.

Why were all major telecom providers and internet service providers mandated by federal law to hardwire in back door access to American intelligence agencies for the purpose of spying on all electronic communications?

The information-industrial complex.

Why would government after government around the world target encryption as a key threat to their national security, and why would banker after banker call for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to be banned even as they plan to set up their own, central bank-administered digital currencies?
The information-industrial complex.

The effects of this synthesis are more and more felt in our everyday lives. Every single day hundreds of millions of people around the world are interfacing with Microsoft software or Apple hardware or Amazon cloud services running on chips and processors supplied by Intel or other Silicon Valley stalwarts. Google has become so ubiquitous that its very name has become a verb meaning “to search for something on the internet.” The 21st century version of the American dream is encapsulated in the story of Mark Zuckerberg, a typical Harvard whizkid whose atypical rise to the status of multi-billionaire was enabled by a social networking tool by the name of “Facebook” that he developed.

But how many people know the flip side of this coin, the one that demonstrates the pervasive government influence in shaping and directing these companies’ rise to success, and the companies’ efforts to aid the government in collecting data on its own citizens? How many know, for instance, that Google has a publicly acknowledged relationship with the NSA? Or that a federal judge has ruled that the public does not have the right to know the details of that relationship? Or that Google Earth was originally the brainchild of Keyhole Inc., a company that was set up by the CIA’s own venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, using satellite data harvested from government “Keyhole” class reconnaissance satellites? Or that the former CEO of In-Q-Tel, Gilman Louie, sat on the board of the National Venture Capital Association with Jim Breyer, head of Accel Partners, who provided 12 million dollars of seed money for Facebook? Or that in 1999, a back door for NSA access was discovered in Microsoft’s Windows operating system source code? Or that Apple founder Steve Jobs was granted security clearance by the Department of Defense for still-undisclosed reasons while heading Pixar in 1988, as was the former head of AT&T and numerous others in the tech industry?

The connections between the IT world and the government’s military and intelligence apparatus run deep. In fact, the development of the IT industry is intimately intertwined with the US Air Force, the Department of Defense and its various branches (including, famously, DARPA), and, of course, the CIA. A cursory glance at the history of the rise of companies like Mitre Corporation, Oracle, and other household electronics and software firms should suffice to expose the extent of these relations, and the existence of what we might dub an “information-industrial complex.”

But what does this mean? What are the ramifications of such a relationship?

What Is Art Good For?

frontiersin |  Does neuroaesthetics have a problem? Sherman and Morrissey (2017) criticize the field for focusing narrowly on how art elicits pleasurable responses, and for neglecting its social relevance and impact. Neuroaesthetics, they argue, reduces the experience of art to isolated individuals' ratings in artificial lab settings, and ignores “socially-relevant outcomes of art appreciation or the social context of art creation and art appreciation.” Consequently, it fails to “capture or appreciate the social, cultural, or historical situatedness of the art-object or the person whose experience is being studied.”

There is no question that we know little about the social aspect of art behavior and its underlying psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. Because art is often a transient phenomenon created as function of a social act, as in music, dance, or performance, the features of collective settings surely modulate cognition and affect. Dance, for instance, can coordinate emotional responses to promote social cohesion (Vicary et al., 2017). Nevertheless, the precise way in which social settings influence brain activity when experiencing art remains largely unknown.

We know of no neuroaestetician who would not welcome research on the psychology and biology of art behavior in social contexts. Yet, Sherman and Morrissey (2017) portray neuroaesthetics as dismissing such research topics and promoting an a-social conception of art experience. They fault neuroaesthetics for “conflating the art with aesthetics,” for having “privileged investigating individual judgments of beauty or preference,” for construing art appreciation as a “passive reception of perceptual information from art-objects,” and for discounting “what many would consider the very essence of art: its communicative nature, its capacity to encourage personal growth (…), to challenge preconceptions (…), and to provide clarity on ambiguous concepts or ideas.”