Mission Statement

Mission Statement

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Democrats are warned not to underestimate Trump


Veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who has worked for dozens of top Democrats including former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Cuomo, told The Post. 

“Democrats are doing what they always do, telling themselves a story, and the story is that Donald Trump can’t win, and that’s just not true,’’ Shein­kopf said.
“What has been happening, and the Democrats haven’t been paying enough attention to this, is that the Republican Party of Donald Trump has become the ‘action party’ in the country and the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton and President Obama has become the ‘passive party.’ ”

“Trump is creating an extraordinary combination of right and left in one place. He’s taking on the elites in both parties, giving all those having some grievances a place to go, and how the Democrats get out of that, I don’t know,’’ he said.

Sheinkopf praised Trump’s “brilliant’’ strategy at the end of the Republican convention of delivering a “populist message that appealed to all those pissed-off average guys,’’ while reaching out to gays and lesbians — whom he promised, to cheers, to defend against attacks — in a move that “reduced the fear of the religious right that many non-Republicans have.”
“The Democrats have convinced themselves that Trump can’t win, but I don’t think they fully realize what’s happening out there”
“The gay thing was very important in terms of adding a libertarian streak to the Republicans’ appeal, basically saying, ‘I don’t care who you are — we’ve got to do this for America. I work for you,’ ’’ said Sheinkopf.

A second prominent Democrat who has worked closely with Mrs. Clinton and has strong ties to Cuomo, other top state Democrats, and to Trump himself, said he, too, is convinced that many Democrats misjudge the Trump threat.

“The Democrats have convinced themselves that Trump can’t win, but I don’t think they fully realize what’s happening out there,’’ he told The Post.

“Donald Trump is an extraordinary person who is difficult to define and therefore difficult to figure out how to deal with,” he said.

“No one, for instance, expected him to have that LGBT reference in his speech, and that’s clearly a way to redefine the Republican Party in a way that will make it appealing to some Democrats,’’ he said.

“I’m seeing a guy in Trump who I thought was playing at running for president a year ago but who now has become comfortable at doing it and is really beginning to plot, and that’s nothing to underestimate.’’

Clinton Campaign: Russia Rigging US Election by Exposing How We Rigged Election


Philadelphia, PA — Russia is manipulating the 2016 U.S. presidential election by leaking hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers — emails that show the DNC rigged and manipulated the Democratic primary in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Call it an exercise in hypocrisy, or call it a deflection to detract from the fact that America’s political process is corrupt beyond belief. Either way, this is the narrative prevailing in the media as the Democratic Party, led by Clinton surrogates, attempts to downplay its own internal corruption by pinning the blame on Russia in what can be described as a “neo-Red Scare.”

For those living under a rock, the issue at hand is Friday’s WikiLeaks DNC email dump, which showed coordination within the Democratic Party to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign while working to uplift Hillary Clinton. The revelations led DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — long suspected of favoring Clinton over Sanders, even before Friday’s leaks — to resign in shame as the Democratic Convention was set to begin (she was hired shortly after by the Clinton campaign).

But rather than owning up to the corruption and literal rigging of the 2016 Democratic primary, the DNC and Clinton campaign have deferred to a relatively common political tactic: blame someone else. This time, the Russians are the culprit, claims the newly anti-Russian Democratic Party. The Russians, according to the Democrats, are supposedly trying to undermine Hillary Clinton by exposing the DNC’s corruption.

Sure, some experts believe it is possible Russia was behind the DNC hack, but other experts disagree. The truth of the matter is that it’s too early to know because the facts are not in yet. However, that has not stopped a flood of mainstream news stories from saying they’re “Almost Certain Russia Is Behind the DNC Email Leak,” with an investigation being conducted by the experts at the FBI.

However, it would be tough for any U.S. official to claim the moral high ground, considering America runs the largest hacking operation in the world — the NSA — which routinely targets foreign governments. It even spies on U.S. allies.

Perhaps the energy being funneled into the investigation should be directed elsewhere, like toward the documented facts released in the DNC leaks and how they undermine the entire notion that America is a democratic country. You’d think maybe the media would take that kind of information a little more seriously — instead of re-invoking unproven cold war-era Red Scare propaganda. Maybe.

This is How Facebook ‘Accidentally’ Blocked DNC Email Leak Scandal


Once again, the impartiality of Facebook’s news feature is being called into question. This time, the social network claims it“accidentally” obstructed all links to the leaked Democratic National Committee emails published by Wikileaks just ahead of the party’s convention.
This past Friday morning, the infamous publisher of anonymous leaks released nearly 20,000 internal emails between members of the formal governing body of the Democratic Party. The news, where it was seen, provoked outrage, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders, who was shown to have received unfair treatment by officially impartial party operators.

While social media outlets have helped facilitate the spread of uncovered information in the past, Facebook is no trusted ally of Wikileaks.

“@Facebook is blocking #DNCLeak email links,” Wikileaks tweeted Saturday evening, following other individual reports of Facebook suppressing the documents hours earlier.“Monday is the Democratic National Convention.”

In a reply about three hours later, Twitter user @SwiftOnSecurity said,“@wikileaks Facebook has an automated system for detecting spam/malicious links, that sometimes have false positives. /cc @alexstamos”
Then, without elaborating, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos replied to both tweets: “It’s been fixed,” Stamos said.

Wikileaks later tweeted that Facebook explained it all away as an“accident.”
A Facebook representative attempted to clarify, telling Gizmodo, “Like other services, our anti-spam systems briefly flagged links to these documents as unsafe. We quickly corrected this error on Saturday evening.”

But tech blogs aren’t just letting this go. The Next Web said Facebook’s correction “is great — but also not really the point,” adding that there seems to be a “very tight reign on what’s allowed on Facebook.”

Complaining about Facebook is nothing new, but this episode of newswire censorship amounts to more than ignored demands for a Dislike button.

In May, former employees of the social networking service blew the whistle on how news stories and trends were generated on the platform. Instead of an unbiased algorithm, human “curators” were revealed to be making decisions on what deserved to be a top headline.

More recently, Facebook took down and re-uploaded a Facebook Live video showing the immediate aftermath of the police shooting death of Philando Castile — an anomaly the site chalked up to a “technical glitch,” TechCrunch reported.

One of the more peculiar cases of Facebook post policing occurred in November 2015, when U.K. student Roua Naboulsi had a lengthy status update removed. Her criticism of the selective sentimentality over the terrorist mass shooting attack in Paris, France, asking why the same response didn’t come for brown-skinned victims of terror, garnered 9,000 shares and 12,000 likes before Facebook took it down, RT reported.

In a twist, Facebook also faced harsh criticism for what it refused to censor earlier this month; it shared a graphic Instagram video of victims in the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, proving that as egregious as Facebook’s latest censorship campaign may be, it is merely yet another expression of the same pattern.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Police Arrest People for Criticizing Cops on Facebook and Twitter


Four men in Detroit were arrested over the past week for posts on social media that the police chief called threatening. One tweet that led to an arrest said that Micah Johnson, the man who shot police officers in Dallas last week, was a hero. None of the men have been named, nor have they been charged.
“I know this is a new issue, but I want these people charged with crimes,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “I’ve directed my officers to prepare warrants for these four individuals, and we’ll see which venue is the best to pursue charges,” he said.

Five police officers were killed in the Dallas shootings, constituting the highest number of police casualties in an attack since September 11. And as a result, law enforcement officials everywhere are suddenly much more sensitive to threats against their lives.

But one result has been that several police departments across the country have arrested individuals for posts on social media accounts, often from citizen tips — raising concerns among free speech advocates.

“Arresting people for speech is something we should be very careful about,” Bruce Schneier, security technologist at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, told The Intercept.

Last weekend in Connecticut, police arrested Kurt Vanzuuk after a tip for posts on Facebook that identified Johnson as a hero and called for police to be killed. He was charged with inciting injury to persons or property.

An Illinois woman, Jenesis Reynolds, was arrested for writing in a Facebook post that she would shoot an officer who would pull her over. “I have no problem shooting a cop for simple traffic stop cuz they’d have no problem doing it to me,” she wrote, according to the police investigation. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

In New Jersey, Rolando Medina was arrested and charged with cyber harassment. He allegedly posted on an unidentified form of social media that he would destroy local police headquarters. In Louisiana, Kemonte Gilmore was arrested for an online video where he allegedly threatened a police officer. He was charged with public intimidation.

Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is convinced the nation is facing a potential existential threat: a rising tide of Muslim extremists.

“The Field of Fight” by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.


Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is convinced the nation is facing a potential existential threat: a rising tide of Muslim extremists. Since being forced to retire in August 2014, Flynn has been an outspoken critic of the administration, alleging the Obama White House has failed to confront what he calls “radical Islam.”

Flynn is now taking his message to the biggest stage possible: the 2016 presidential election. Last week, the New York Post reported that Flynn, a registered Democrat, was being considered as a running mate for Donald Trump on the Republican ticket. In the days since, Flynn has been making the media rounds praising the GOP frontrunner.

The odds are long for the retired three-star general. Flynn is up against a stable of veteran political operatives, including Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. According to the most recent media reports, Trump is leaning toward a candidate with a background in politics, rather than the military. Trump is expected to hold a public event on Friday with his selected running mate.

Flynn has vowed to support Trump regardless of whether or not he gets the VP nod.
On Friday night, Flynn spoke to The Intercept on a range of topics, including his new book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, his prescriptions for U.S. national security, and his admiration for Trump’s platform. In doing so, he offered a window into his worldview and a glimpse at a vision of national security that resonates in the Trump camp.

For Flynn, the decision to step into public life preceded the rise of Trump and boiled down to two core issues: perceived lies peddled by the Obama administration and his self-imposed duty to confront them. “I watched our own government lie to us about a number of things,” Flynn told The Intercept.

“I just see us going in the wrong direction, and that’s really why I sort of jumped into the middle of the fray,” he explained. “I don’t mind doing that. That’s kind of me.”

The US Trains Vast Numbers of Foreign Soldiers and Police With Little Oversight


In rapid succession, they confirmed that 204 police officers, soldiers, sailors, and airmen from 11 countries had committed no gross human rights violations and cleared them to attend one of more than 50 training efforts sponsored by the U.S. government. The programs were taking place at a wide variety of locations, from Italy, Albania, and Jordan to the states of Louisiana and Minnesota.

Thirty-two Egyptians were approved for instruction in, among other things, Apache helicopter gunship maintenance and flight simulators for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Azerbaijanis were cleared for a U.S. Army course on identifying bio-warfare agents in Maryland and underwater demolition training with Navy SEALs in San Diego. Thirty-three Iraqis were certified to attend a State Department training session for bodyguards, held in Jordan. Bosnians were bound for Macedonia to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. Ukrainian police were selected for peacekeeping training in Italy. Romanians would study naval operations in Rhode Island and counterterrorism in Skopje.

This was only the beginning of one day’s work of vetting security personnel for U.S. training. A joint investigation by The Intercept and 100Reporters reveals the chaotic and largely unknown details of a vast constellation of global training exercises, operations, facilities, and schools — a shadowy network of U.S. programs that every year provides instruction and assistance to approximately 200,000 foreign soldiers, police, and other personnel. The investigation exposes the geographic and political contours of a U.S. training system that has, until now, largely defied thorough description.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Myth of the "Job Creators"


The problem with a term like "job creator" is that it belies the relationship between the working class and the owners of this country. As Nobel laureates, secretaries of labor, Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporters, small business owners and millionaire entrepreneurs point out, the real job creators in this country are consumers and the welfare state. The commodities that fill the spaces of small and large businesses in the US are not going to be purchased if the average American is worried about paying rent, day-care bills or an upcoming visit to the doctor. Lower tax rates on the bottom 95 percent, higher wages, universal health care, overtime, paid parental leave and other Keynesian interventions are what drive economies dependent on the constant production and sale of goods. "All that is solid melts into air," said Karl Marx when he described the never-ending circulation of commodities under capitalism. However, in today's post-Reagan Tea Party dystopia, all that is melting into air are real wages and government support for the US working class.

As the overwhelming majority of the population has experienced stagnation and decreases in income and wealth, the rich now possess historically high concentrations of both. Yet, despite the fact that the rich have accumulated more economic power, job creation has not returned to its early Carter years, and the US has not seen a watershed of entrepreneurs taking advantage of low tax rates, which would supposedly result in a "trickle-down" benefit for all. In other words, capitalists have not invested their new capital in a way that would validate the job creator narrative. Fictional Wall Street character Gordon Gekko's brutal honesty -- "I create nothing. I own" -- is a more accurate reflection on class positions in a capitalist economy than the aestheticized statistics that simply tell us how many people are employed by a capitalist.
Subsequently, instead of an increased rate of job creation, the tax cuts of recent decades have ushered in an era of polarizing economic inequality that mirrors the last period of US history when tax rates on the rich were this low: the late 1920s. As the financial crises that began in 1929 and 2007 demonstrate, this conjuncture not only poses a threat to the working class but to the US economy. The rich, as economists like Laura Tyson and Owen Zidar argue, also benefit when the working class has the spending power that the economy needs. Even George W. Bush, who sliced taxes for the wealthy, couldn't help but acknowledge that it is consumers who drive the US economy. In his post-9/11 address, he encouraged Americans deluged with patriotism to "go shopping more."

Although the debate between supply-side economics and demand-side Keynesianism is not new, the veneer that's been adopted by the bourgeois class has taken on an especially mystifying appearance in the epoch of neoliberalism. In his TED talk "Rich People Don't Create Jobs," venture capitalist and self-described "0.01%-er" Nick Hanauer expounds the way the job creator myth endows the capitalist class with a godlike aura. After refusing the idea that people like him create jobs, he explains,
The language and metaphors we use to defend the current economic and social arrangements is telling. It's a small jump from 'job creator' to 'the creator.' This language was not chosen by accident. And it's only honest to admit that when somebody like me calls themselves a job creator, we're not just describing how the economy works, but more particularly we're making a claim on status and privileges that we deserve.
In a corporate, neo-feudal world where subsidies, bailouts, loopholes and tax rates on top earners have created an inverted welfare state, the entitlement rhetoric often leveled at millennials better fits the capitalist class.
Yet, the anger and criticism that should be aimed at the plutocrats toasting behind closed doors is instead directed at those who have the least. Across the United States, the influx of post-Citizens United spending has manufactured victim blaming and hostility towards immigrants, public employees, unions and the unemployed. It's no coincidence that an unabashed business mogul like Trump, who has never held a political office, was able to (presumably) win the Republican presidential nomination by a landslide at the same time the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the worst jobs report in six years. From the capitalist sanctum of Trump Tower, the Donald proclaimed that he "will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created!" Just like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan told us in 2012, there are "makers" and there are government-dependent "takers."

While the deification of a billionaire who attracts votes with fascist rhetoric is alarming, so is the way the term "job creator" has marginalized important issues that pertain to working-class Americans. Like the well-crafted political slogan "support our troops" obscures the central question of whether you're for the war or against the war, the creation of jobs doesn't say anything about exploitation and maltreatment. Do workers deserve a wage with which they can support a family? Do they deserve health care? Should they have the right to bargain collectively? Should mothers and fathers be entitled to maternal and paternal leave? In the absence of these questions, capitalists like Trump and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick can emerge as godsends in an economic universe that mirrors the simplicity of the creation myths pushed by Christian fundamentalists. Having faith in the capitalist class -- rather than skepticism, critique and collective action -- is what we are told will deliver us from poverty and inequality.

Ultimately, the war of position that is being waged over language is not just a struggle for a better set of terms and concepts, it is a struggle for better material conditions. One of the great contributions of Bernie Sanders and the Occupy Wall Street encampment movements of 2011 is that they have pushed terms like "billionaire class," "owning class," "exploiters," "union-busters" and "solidarity" into mainstream discourse. As the rhetoric of elites continues to cast a façade over the reality of class positions and economic conditions in the United States, the language of the oppressed will remain as important as ever. Workers, here and abroad, are not just the creators of jobs, commodities, services and affects; they are the creators of history. And history will continue to be a struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors, not "job creators" and unemployment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Homeland Security Wants to see Your Facebook Profile


File this under Another Unsettling Development: People who want to travel to the United States may soon have their Facebook profiles and other social media accounts “vetted” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before entering.
A proposed change to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and to Form I-94W posted to the government’s Federal Register last week suggests adding the following question: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

These forms are filled out by all international travelers who wish to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

The report states that this would be an “optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information.”

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case,” the department further notes.

As Fusion reporter Kashmir Hill wrote, this overly broad request raises many questions for travelers.

“As phrased that could include your Twitter handle, the url for your Facebook page, your OkCupid or Grindr handle, your Instagram account, your Tumblr, your Vine account, your Snapchat, your Reddit account, your Pinterest page, your PornHub account, and any random messaging forums in which you take part,” Hill said. “Where does it end? Must you include an account if it’s private?”
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist with The Center for Democracy & Technology, who first drew attention to the change, told the BBC that he hopes that U.S. government “rethinks” the proposal.

“Democracy in general requires having spaces free from government scrutiny and increasingly social life happens online,” Hall said. “We would have a poor society if people were chilled from participating in social activity online so I really hope they rethink this.”

For what it’s worth, the government is accepting comment on this proposal for the next 59 days.

The Truth About Black Lives Matter


We have become a culture on edge, fearful of when and where the next tragedy might be perpetrated by some opaque or obscure enemy ‘other’ seeking to inflict maximum harm on innocent lives.
But this abstract, pervasive, and fearanoid trepidation hasn’t been pulled from the blue — in fact, it amounts to little more than governmental propaganda meant to divide the populace and distract from the desire to reform pervasive, systemic issues the State might otherwise solve.

In other words, we live in fear — often of each other and usually devoid of reason — because the State wants it that way. Whatever fingers of blame take aim at various groups aren’t able to point to the corrupt, mendacious government — a construct so formidable, most don’t realize they’re facilitating the State’s divide and conquer methodology.

Perhaps the most timely example of this insidious propaganda surrounds misconceptions about the Black Lives Matter movement — and after the murders of five police officers in Dallas, perpetrated during a perfectly peaceful but emotional rally by Black Lives Matter, those misconceptions must be addressed.

The Chilcot Report Fails to Speak Plain Truth: Bush Lied, So Did Blair


The newly released Chilcot Report on Iraq is British understatement, to a fault. In fact, it is understated so far as to miss the plain truth of the matter. Saying only that extremely questionable intelligence "was not challenged [by the Bush and Blair regimes] and it should have been" is failing to say plainly what the evidence so clearly shows: George W. Bush lied; so did Tony Blair.

To demonstrate that, let's try a simple exercise: let's compare what White House officials said about Iraq in the run-up to war with what they knew at the time -- or at the very least, should have known, because the intelligence was available to them.

What they said: "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in law" (in the words of Dick Cheney).
What they knew: Testimony obtained by reporters in 2003 showed that Saddam's son-in law told UN weapons inspectors that "all weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear -- were destroyed." In other words, he said the opposite of what Cheney claimed he said.

What they said: Saddam Hussein is "aggressively seeking nuclear weapons" (Cheney). Iraq attempted to acquire aluminum tubes that were "only really suited for nuclear weapons development" (Condoleeza Rice). The US has "irrefutable evidence" that the tubes were destined for centrifuges (Cheney). "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" (Rice).

What they knew: Department of Energy scientists had concluded that these tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges, but were the proper size for conventional, non-WMD rockets. Post-war CIA inspectors concluded that, indeed, the tubes had been used for this purpose and were, in inspectors' words, "innocuous."

What they said: There is a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network (Colin Powell).

Friday, July 8, 2016

Iraqi Lives Don't Matter


The bitter political debate over the 2003 Iraq War resumed once again on Wednesday in the United Kingdom and the United States, thanks to the release of a report on the British role in the invasion and occupation.

Parsing the report, prepared by a committee of Privy Counsellors chaired by Sir John Chilcot, will take time since it runs to 2.6 million words, but the reaction online has already begun. Partisans for and against the war are sifting through the text for new details that might support their original positions, a reminder that Iraq has only ever mattered to most Americans and Britons as material for attacks on their political opponents.

That becomes glaringly obvious when you compare the intensity and volume of commentary on the report to how relatively little was said about a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed 250 Iraqis.

One current of reaction to the report in Britain focused on what it revealed about the startling lack of planning for the post-war governance and rebuilding of Iraq. Angus Robertson, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the British Parliament, compared the lack of foresight displayed then to the current government’s failure to prepare for the British exit from the European Union before putting the matter up for a vote in last month’s referendum.

One of the first former officials to defend the war, despite the deadly chaos it unleashed that has yet to be contained, was David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, whose claim to fame was coining two-thirds of the phrase “Axis of Evil.”

He was soon followed by an unrepentant Tony Blair, the former British prime minister whose private letters to George Bush released with the report revealed that he was involved in the plan to use the September 11 attacks as an excuse to topple Saddam Hussein as early as October 11, 2001.

When Blair appeared at a news conference to say that he still considered the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power the right call, he was condemned by the relatives of British soldiers who were killed in the war and roundly heckled online.

Chilcot Report and Glenn Greenwald


The release on Tuesday of the massive Chilcot report — which the New York Times called a “devastating critique of Tony Blair” — not only offers more proof of this causal link, but also reveals that Blair was expressly warned before the invasion that his actions would provoke al Qaeda attacks on the U.K. As my colleague Jon Schwarz reported yesterdaythe report’s executive summary quotes Blair confirming he was “aware” of a warning by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-U.S./anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”

None of this is the slightest bit surprising. Just as the British did, multiple Western intelligence agencies have long recognized (usually in secret) that at the top of the list of terrorism’s causes is the West’s militarism and interference in predominantly Muslim nations — as a 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report specified in listing the causes of terrorism: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world”; our “one-sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The report concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” Countless individuals who carried out or plotted attacks on the West have said the same.

Nobody should need official reports or statements from attackers to confirm what common sense makes clear: If you go around the world for years proclaiming yourself “at war,” bombing and occupying and otherwise interfering in numerous countries for your own ends — as the U.S. and U.K. have been doing for decades, long before 9/11 — some of those who identify with your victims will decide — choose — to retaliate with violence of their own. Even Tony Blair’s own Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott acknowledged this self-evident truth in 2015: “When I hear people talking about how people are radicalized, young Muslims — I’ll tell you how they are radicalized. Every time they watch the television where their families are worried, their kids are being killed or murdered and rockets, you know, firing on all these people, that’s what radicalizes them.”

Recognizing this fact is not — as is often absurdly claimed — a denial of agency. It is the opposite: an affirmation of agency, a recognition of how human beings make choices.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Millennial Generation Is a Perfect Fit for Socialism


Few developments have caused as much recent consternation among advocates of free-market capitalism as various findings that millennials, compared to previous generations, are exceptionally receptive to socialism.
recent Reason-Rupe survey found that a majority of Americans under 30 have a more favorable view of socialism than of capitalism. Gallup finds that almost 70 percent of young Americans are ready to vote for a "socialist" president. So it has come as no surprise that 70 to 80 percent of young Americans have been voting for Bernie Sanders, the self-declared democratic socialist. Some pundits have been eager to denounce such surveys as momentary aberrations, stemming from the economic crash, or due to lack of knowledge on the part of millennials about the authoritarianism they say is the inevitable result of socialism. They were too young to have been around for Stalin and Mao, they didn't experience the Cold War, they don't know to be grateful to capitalism for saving them from global tyranny. The critics dismiss the millennials' political leanings by repeating Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan's mantra, "There is no alternative" (TINA), which prompted the extreme form of capitalism we now know as neoliberalism.

But millennials, in the most positive turn of events since the economic collapse, intuitively understand better. Circumstances not of their choosing have forced them to think outside the capitalist paradigm, which reduces human beings to figures of sales and productivity, and to consider if in their immediate lives, and in the organization of larger collectivities, there might not be more cooperative, nonviolent, mutually beneficial arrangements with better measures of human happiness than GDP growth or other statistics that benefit the financial class.

Indeed, the criticism most heard against the millennial generation's evolving attachment to socialism is that they don't understand what the term really means, indulging instead in warm fuzzy talk about cooperation and happiness. But this is precisely the larger meaning of socialism, which the millennial generation—as evidenced in the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements—totally comprehends.

Capitalism has only itself to blame, forcing millennials to look for an alternative.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Dark Money: How You Can See More of It, Thanks to the FCC


While the Federal Election Commission may be hopelessly gridlocked along partisan lines when it comes to campaign-finance regulation, another arm of the government is providing journalists and citizen watchdogs with an important new tool for understanding who is trying to influence the election and how much is being spent to do so.

On June 24, the Federal Communications Commission began requiring the nation's radio broadcasters and cable television stations to upload all of their political ad contracts to a public online database. TV broadcasters have been doing so since the last presidential election. The FCC's decision to expand its online public file is important in the context of campaign 2016 because it vastly expands the field of vision for reporters and citizen monitors who are trying to track the efforts of dark-money groups to influence the elections.

Dark-money groups refer to political organizations masquerading as social-welfare non-profits. Since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United, they have become popular venues for big political donors who'd rather remain anonymous. Because of their tax-exempt status, such groups never have to make public the sources of their funding. And because they are considered corporations, they can, thanks to Citizens United, raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Unless outside groups' expenditures come within 60 days of a primary election or 30 days of a general election, they never have to be reported on campaign-finance disclosures.

In New York, Republicans and Democrats Join Forces to Overturn "Citizens United"


A bipartisan majority of New York's Senate and Assembly issued letters to Congress on June 15 calling for a 28th amendment. Both Republican and Democratic versions of the letter demand the new amendment say that corporations "are not entitled to the same rights and protections as natural persons under the Constitution," which moves the country toward overturning the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United.

In the four years since Citizens United, outside spending on Senate races nationwide more than doubled.

That decision has resulted in a great expansion of "outside spending," meaning spending by political action committees and nonprofits rather than by candidates' own campaigns. In the first four years after Citizens United was passed, outside spending on Senate races nationwide more than doubled to $486 million. Across all campaigns, super PACs have spent more than $1 billion on races since 2010, with more than 60 percent of that amount coming from fewer than 200 individuals and married couples.

June's letters make New York the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment on money in politics. The development comes after more than three years of grassroots campaigning, led by the consumer-rights advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen.

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, or a constitutional convention called by at least three-quarters of state legislatures. Both are daunting notions. But activists hope that if enough states show support for the amendment, Congress will answer the call of their constituents.

Nationwide, 80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats oppose Citizens United, according to a 2015 Bloomberg poll.

Field of Vision


Field of Vision is a filmmaker-driven visual journalism film unit co-created by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook that pairs filmmakers with developing and ongoing stories around the globe.

Obama Admin releases its Dubious Drone Death Toll


In a long-anticipated gesture at transparency, the Obama administration on Friday released an internal assessment of the number of civilians killed by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not officially at war.

According to the data, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya killed between 64 and 116 civilians during the two terms of the Obama administration — a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings catalogued by reporters and researchers over the same period. The government tally also reported 2,372 to 2,581 combatants killed in U.S. airstrikes from January 20, 2009, to December 31, 2015.

Releasing the figures — which appeared on a Friday afternoon, on a holiday weekend, after seven years of selective leaks and official secrecy — along with an executive order prioritizing the protection of civilian life in counterterrorism operations, reflected core American principles, the president asserted.

In addition to mandating an increased emphasis on civilian protection in U.S. tactics and training, the executive order also called on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release annual reports on civilian casualties resulting from counterterrorism operations, such as drone strikes, in nations where the U.S. is not at war  — a move that, in effect, signals the further institutionalization of borderless wars for the foreseeable future.

“As a nation, we are steadfastly committed to complying with our obligations under the law of armed conflict, including those that address the protection of civilians, such as the fundamental principles of necessity, humanity, distinction, and proportionality,” Obama’s order read.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Police Already Made 2016 Deadlier Than 2015 By The End Of June


Mental illness was a known factor in almost a quarter of cases in which people were fatally shot by police so far this year, according to The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fatal Force project. 

As controversy continues to swirl around the issue of police violence in the United States, the media continues to be our main source of data about the scope of the problem.
The Washington Post, which tracks fatal shootings by police as part of its Fatal Force project, reports that there have already been 20 more fatal shootings this year compared to the same period of 2015.

In April, the Post’s Fatal Force project won a Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most prestigious award, in the national reporting category. The project originated when Post staff realized that no government agency tracks police violence, reported Paul Farhi:

“After covering several high-profile incidents involving the killings of civilians by police officers in 2014, Washington Post staff writer Wesley Lowery was surprised to discover that there were no official statistics about such fatalities. So Lowery pitched an idea to his editors: The newspaper, he suggested, should collect the information itself and analyze it for patterns in law enforcement.”

While the FBI does track police killings, reporting by departments remains strictly voluntary, even despite what the Guardian’s Jon Swaine described in 2015 as a long-running “debate about why the American government has failed so badly to monitor this issue of national importance.”

Beyond Racism & Xenophobia: Brexit Supporters Reject The EU’s Neoliberal, Anti-Democracy Empire


British voters bravely rejected a profoundly undemocratic, neoliberal EU, which is perceived as placing the interests of the financial elite ahead of the needs of ordinary citizens.  

It was one year ago when “leftist” activists across Europe and around the world declared that the European Union had effectively staged a coup in Greece, blackmailing the Mediterranean country into accepting harsh austerity measures after it had already rejected a referendum against more austerity.
Yet these same activists are now decrying the British referendum result in favor of a “Brexit.”

I sense some hypocrisy here.

British voters bravely rejected a profoundly undemocratic, neoliberal EU, which is perceived as placing the interests of the financial elite ahead of the needs of ordinary citizens. Indeed, despite the claims of international media and numerous “intellectuals,” the British referendum result has nothing to do with racism or xenophobia.

The EU: An unrepresentative, anti-democratic institution

The bloc’s center of decision-making, the European Commission, is led by an unelected leader. And it’s current president, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently stated that European prime ministers “listen too much to voters.” 

“Too many politicians are listening exclusively to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and a feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans,” the Telegraph quoted Juncker as saying in May.

Juncker was heavily implicated in the “Lux Leaks” scandal, which revealed that the Luxembourg finance ministry helped multinational corporations “slash their global tax bills” during Juncker’s time as prime minister.

Instead of punishing Juncker or members of his government who enabled this tax evasion, it is the whistleblowers who have been convicted. In the meantime, Juncker and other EU officials wag their finger at the people of countries like Greece, scolding them for not paying their taxes.

Classic Who: Is This About You? Great Quotations on Skepticism


The word “skeptical” comes from the Greek, “σκεπτομαι,” “skeptome,” which originally meant “to think,” and not necessarily with suspicion. Although thinking can lead to quarreling, we believe this can be a good thing, especially if the quarreling is with yourself — and if you keep in mind the following great insights:

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. (Mark Twain)

There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em. (Louis Armstrong)

He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions. (Confucius)
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. (Richard P. Feynman)

Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection. (Henri Poincare)

The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons, but in seeing with new eyes. (Marcel Proust)

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. (Albert Szent-Györgi)

Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history. You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. (G.K. Chesterton)

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.(Carl Sagan)

You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks. (Dorothy Parker)

A danger sign of the lapse from true skepticism in to dogmatism is an inability to respect those who disagree. (Leonard George)

Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth. (Albert Einstein)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. (Jean Paul Sartre)

I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything. (Thomas Henry Huxley)

Scientists say Hurricane Sandy likely linked to record Arctic Sea ice loss this year, but f**k them. They’re just scientists. What does the bible say?  (Bill Maher)

I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. (Bill Maher)

The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. (Mark Twain)

The only gratification that science denies to us is deception. (Ann Druyan)

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.(Neil DeGrasse Tyson)

It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible. (Richard P. Feynman)

Florida GOP’s Anti-Abortion Law Struck Down In Another Huge Planned Parenthood Win


Anti-abortion advocates were dealt another heavy blow on Friday after a federal judge blocked parts of a bill that would have put new restrictions on clinics that provide abortion-related health services. The bill, HB1411, was signed into law by Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott. The bill aimed to cut funding for health clinics that provide abortion services such as Planned Parenthood. If this bill had been allowed to remain law, it would have cost Planned Parenthood $500,000 dollars a year in funding.

It’s important to keep in mind that Florida law already prevents government funding of abortion services. That means that the relevant funding portions of the bill were not going to actually stop funding of abortion services but every other service that Planned Parenthood provides.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle put in place a last minute injunction after Planned Parenthood affiliates challenged some of some of the provisions in the bill on conditional grounds. “The state’s only beef is that the plaintiffs provide abortions,” Hinkle wrote.

According to Reuters, Hinkle based his injunction on the reasoning that “clinics were unacceptably targeted by state efforts to eliminate funding for other health care services they also provide, such as birth control and screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.”

This comes just days after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of women’s reproductive rights. The decision in Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt has had a domino effect when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. Since Monday’s ruling, six states have had similar abortion laws struck down either permanently or temporarily. That’s a major setback to the Republican Party’s war against Planned Parenthood and women’s rights.

It’s almost laughable at this point that Republicans are trying to spin their attacks on our health care system as being an attempt to protect women, as this bill was described by its proponents.

‘Quite Disturbing': Leaked Docs Reveal How Easily FBI Can Spy on Journalists


Newly leaked documents published by The Intercept expose just how easy it is for the FBI to spy on journalists using so-called National Security Letters (NSLs).

The classified rules, which had previously been released only in heavily redacted form, “show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information,” The Intercept‘s Cora Currier wrote on Thursday.

According to the reporting, an attempt to access journalists’ call data with an NSL must be approved by the typical chain-of-command as well as the FBI’s general counsel and the executive assistant director of the agency’s National Security Branch.

“Generally speaking, there are a variety of FBI officials, including the agents in charge of field offices, who can sign off that an NSL is ‘relevant’ to a national security investigation,” Currier explained.

Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an advocacy group which had petitioned for the release of these documents, calls Thursday’s revelations “quite disturbing, since the Justice Department spent two years trying to convince the public that it updated its ‘Media Guidelines’ to create a very high and restrictive bar for when and how they could spy on journalists using regular subpoenas and court orders. These leaked rules prove that the FBI and [Department of Justice or DOJ] can completely circumvent the Media Guidelines and just use an NSL in total secrecy.”

The Intercept added: “There is an extra step under the rules if the NSL targets a journalist in order ‘to identify confidential news media sources.’ In that case, the general counsel and the executive assistant director must first consult with the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.”