Saturday, March 30, 2019

 

Facebook & Selective Censorship


Enemies of freedom of thought and expression are hailing Facebook's recent reversal on banning "White nationalists" from its platform and from Instagram starting next week. Facebook's previous policy was as follows:
- Q: What is our stance on white supremacy, white nationalism and white separatism?
At the time, in May 2018, someone from Facebook allegedly explained to a Quartz writer that: "the company consulted researchers and academics while crafting this policy, and they noted that there is a difference between supremacists' drive to dominate and the belief that races should be separated. Another factor Facebook took into consideration was that there are other separatist movements, such as Black and Basque separatism, as well as Zionism. Such groups don't necessarily preach inferiority of others, the spokesperson said."

Since then Facebook has been lobbied and attacked by the Humpty Dumpty brigade. Here's how the new policy arose according to Vice:
"We've had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world," Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told us in a phone call. "We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can't make a meaningful distinction between them. And that's because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction."
Wow! "[M]ore than 20 members of civil society ..." That's surely representative of the full scope of views on the subjects of White nationalism and freedom of thought and expression. Of course, it is completely coincidental that Brian Fishman has been part of "regular consulting meetings" between Facebook execs and representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's (SWC) Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, including Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean.


Also coincidental is that, apparently, only "White nationalism" will be banned by Facebook because no one ever died from violent Jewish nationalists (see here, here, and here) or violent Chinese nationalists or violent Black nationalists (see here, here, and here). On that subject The Deseret News reports:
As Motherboard [a Vice subdomain] reported, Facebook will still allow content relating to black separatist movements and the Basque separatist movement to be posted, due to experts' arguments that white separatism should be handled differently "because of the long history of white supremacism that has been used to subjugate and dehumanize people of color in the United States and around the world."

However, Facebook does ban content centered on black nationalism, Motherboard reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized groups that espouse black nationalist ideology as hate groups, with the added proviso that "they should not be seen as equivalent to white supremacist groups — such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis — in terms of their history of violence and terrorism."
To paraphrase Orwell, when it comes to Facebook Farm: All nationalisms are equal but some nationalisms are more equal than others. We'll see what happens when the new policy is implemented but as of today the Facebook page featured below was still live on Facebook:


This seems to contradict the claim made in The Deseret News. You see, Louis Farrakhan is profiled as an "extremist", "antisemite", and a "Black Nationalist" by the SPLC and he is the head of the Nation of Islam (NOI), which is an "SPLC Designated Hate Group". The pictured video sub-page is entitled "Minister Louis Farrakhan - The Raw Evil Nature of White People Exposed" and Farrakhan's main page prominently features a link to the NOI main web site.

To be clear, I am no proponent of the SPLC and I don't support banning Farrakhan or the NOI from Facebook. Nor do I support banning White nationalists or supremacists. I do support banning people and entities advocating violence and related criminal activity although I don't think mere criminal advocacy or activity should be the threshold for censorship on Facebook.

For example, it was once a crime for Black people to, among other things, ride at the front of the bus or to dine in certain restaurants. Today, it is illegal, under Israeli law, for anyone anywhere in the world to advocate for a boycott of Israel; sedition is still, arguably, a crime in the United States; apostasy from Islam is punishable by death in some countries; and, a man in China was fined this year for using a VPN to access foreign web sites. Should Facebook censor speech reporting, supporting, or enabling those crimes?

While I have some sympathy with those who support regulating Facebook as a utility, I'm not fully convinced it would be a good idea. Moreover, I doubt that it will happen because that might open the door to treating Facebook as a common carrier and therefore intolerably impinge on the Left's ability to successfully pressure Facebook to censor crimethink.

In any case, my preferred approach to controversial speech is Millian:
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error ...

Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right ...

He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

 

The Mueller Report & the Media


So, the Mueller report is finished and the findings are starting to be released. Given their track record in covering the Mueller investigation it is likely that mainstream media outlets such as National Public Radio and the New York Times will be unable to adhere to the truth when discussing the report.

By this, I mean that, initially, they are likely to get the bare bones of the report correct then they will devolve into spins, distortions, and fabrications. I am not suggesting that the people who write, edit, and report the news will deliberately be dishonest—although there will likely be some of that—but rather that they will be overcome by their own bias.

Just about two weeks ago there was a striking example of this cognitive impairment in action. The Daily is a program produced by the New York Times that airs on National Public Radio stations. On March 11, The Daily aired "Part 2: What to Expect When You’re Expecting (the Mueller Report)". Host Michael Barbaro spoke with "Michael S. Schmidt, who has been covering the special counsel investigation for The New York Times."

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of the program (the highlights in bold below are mine):
Michael Schmidt: ... So if Mueller says, there's nothing here to be seen, then the Republicans — we know where they're going to be. They're going to be standing next to the president.
Michael Barbaro: So in that case, do you expect the Democrats would proceed with these [Congressional] investigations, but they would kind of limp along and there wouldn't be a ton of political support for anything approaching impeachment, no matter what is found? Or is it possible these investigations would literally just start to shut down?
Michael Schmidt: I don't think they shut down. I think that they limp along, because the Democrats will still have a base that thinks that Trump has done a lot of things that are terrible. And there will be pressure on them to continue to press. Democrats will say, Mueller may not have enough evidence to show the president broke the law, but we know that he has abused his power and done X and Y and Z. And they'll go on and on and on, and they'll say we can not ignore this.
In the next segment Barbaro raises the possibility that Mueller's findings will do something other than fully exculpate or fully inculpate Trump.
Michael Barbaro: So Mike, what could possibly be the third option? Because in our legal system, when it comes to the special counsel, there only seems to be two options — charge the president with a crime or not charge the president.

Michael Schmidt: For lack of a better term or to make up a term, I would call it the Comey hybrid.

Michael Barbaro: What is — (CHUCKLES) what is the Comey hybrid?
At this point Barbaro and Schmidt discuss former FBI Director Comey's July 2016 press conference. Their conversation is interspersed with recordings of Comey from the press conference. I'm going to skip most of that and get to my point.
Archived Recording of James Comey: There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about those matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

Michael Schmidt: But that at the end of the day —

Archived Recording of James Comey: Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

Michael Schmidt: It didn't meet the high bar of indicting her.

Archived Recording of James Comey: We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

Michael Barbaro: So a Comey hybrid is to come out and say no charges are going to be filed against the subject of an investigation, but here are all the things we found. Here are all the implications — essentially not prosecution, but a kind of scolding.

Michael Schmidt: It's not even about scolding. It's — we're not going to charge, but I'm going to give you a rare look underneath the hood.

Archived Recording of James Comey: Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system in violation of a federal statute that makes it a felony to mishandle classified information, either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.
I have omitted about two minutes of the program here. The next part is the really striking bit.
Michael Barbaro: So the conclusion was that it [i.e. Comey's press conference] was an unnecessary, kind of gratuitous sullying of Hillary Clinton, even though there was no evidence she had committed a crime.

Michael Schmidt: Correct. They're saying if the F.B.I. investigated the average American and found that that person had not committed a crime, we don't then stand up and say, hey, look at all the unsavory things they did — which we didn't think rose to something they should be charged with.
In case you missed it, just moments earlier Barbaro and Schmidt had listened to a recording of Comey saying: "there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information". Comey also makes a case of sorts that Clinton was grossly negligent in her handling of classified material which he later points out is a violation of the federal statute.

In other words, Comey clearly indicated there is evidence of a criminal violation. Yet less than three minutes later Barbaro is on to "there was no evidence she [Clinton] had committed a crime" and Schmidt is agreeing with him.

In coming days, we can expect the mainstream media and Democrats to do a sort of inversion of this. It will probably go kind of like this: 'Well, yes, Mueller found no evidence of collusion but he clearly failed to exonerate the President on obstruction of justice.' They will focus on the possible obstruction of the investigation of the non-existent crime of collusion. Then, in short order, they will omit or undermine the finding that Mueller found no evidence of collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.

As somewhat of an aside, Dana Milbank, writing in The Washington Post last Monday, has given us more evidence of the extremes to which Trump Derangement Syndrome has driven liberals, Democrats, etc.

In "Trump is right. This is a witch hunt!" Milbank actually takes up the defense of witch hunts (Milbank is not alone). He asserts: "The treatment of Trump by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and other investigators does have characteristics of a witch hunt. This is because Trump has characteristics of a witch."

He continues, quoting a community college history professor: "if what is happening to Trump is a witch hunt, 'it is only in a good sense, that is, this is society policing the boundaries that they believe to be ethically and morally right.' " You see, "witch hunts weren't all bad, and their targets weren't always innocent."

See also:

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

 

The Clowns (or is it Agents?) of TTPO


Okay, as it turns out, not only are the clowns or agents of "The Three Percenters - Original" (TTPO) communicating with their supporters and members through the privacy/communications security nightmare that is Facebook, they are also using a foreign company with deep links to the intelligence services of a foreign country for their web development and maintenance. As you can see from the screenshots below, TTPO web site was built using Wix, an Israeli company, and TTPO uses Wix domain name servers. TTPO also stores files, such as their bylaws, on Wix servers.




As reported by TechCrunch "technology companies, such as CheckPoint, Imperva, Nice, Gilat, Waze, Trusteer, and Wix all have their roots in" Unit 8200. Unit 8200 is "the cyberwarfare division of the Israeli Defense Forces." As TechCrunch reports Unit 8200's "technologists work directly with their 'customers' (the intelligence officers). All of the unit's technology systems, from analytics to data mining, intercept, and intelligence management, are designed and built in-house."

According to Forbes, quoting Yair Cohen, a 33-year Unit 8200 veteran, "90% of the intelligence material in Israel is coming from 8200" and "There isn't a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in."

Wix is known to have been used by BlackCube to carry out operations against US targets. And if you think that Wix has no ongoing relationship with Israeli intelligence then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

As I pointed out previously, TTPO is a target of the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League, which has been known to maintain extensive intelligence files on its target that it also shares. Israel has major espionage efforts directed at US government and American civilian targets.

So why doesn't TTPO take steps to harden its communications methods and platforms against known and potential risks and hostile actors? Why do they just hand over their internet comms and meta data on a silver platter? Perhaps, they don't really mean it when they say: "Our goal is to utilize the failsafes put in place by our founders to rein in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny." Perhaps they're just clowning. Perhaps they've been compromised.

See also:

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Friday, March 08, 2019

 

Fair Game


Fair Game is about the bogus intelligence used to justify the US' 2003 invasion of Iraq and, more specifically, the exposure of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Unfortunately, the film soft pedals the crucial role of the Israel-firsters in the drive to illegally invade Iraq. In any case, this film still tells an important story.


In late 2018, Fair Game director Liman released a director's cut of the film. This coincided with President Trump's decision earlier in the year to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff and a protege of Paul Wolfowitz. Libby is a key figure in the film. He was convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements in the Plame Affair.

See also (in chronological order):

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Thursday, March 07, 2019

 

Critical Analysis On Russiagate


In "Cohen's Testimony Against Trump" I mentioned that Aaron Maté and Glenn Greenwald have done some good reporting on the dubious Trump-Russia collusion story (see quote below). There are a few more people doing good work on this subject.

Gareth Porter, Ray McGovern, and others at Consortium News have written several pieces on the subject. Caitlin Johnstone has done extensive reporting and analysis at CN, Medium, and elsewhere that is worth consideration.

I recently learned about "Russiagate In Flames: No Evidence Of Collusion, New Findings Challenge DNC Hack Narrative" by Elizabeth Vos at Disobedient Media. There is also "Mueller's Investigation is Missing One Thing: A Crime" by Peter Van Buren at The American Conservative.

In addition to Maté's work, The Nation has also published "Russiagate or Intelgate?" and other on-point articles by Stephen F. Cohen and "Amid ‘Russiagate’ Hysteria, What Are the Facts?" by Jack F. Matlock Jr.

If you know of any critical reporting on the subject that I should read then feel free to leave a comment.

###
Now, I want to bring this back to the alleged Russian collusion and simply say that most while most of the reporting on the matter has been driven by Trump Derangement Syndrome there has been a tiny bit of worthy reporting on it from the Left. Most notably it has come from Aaron Maté, writing for the The Nation and The Intercept.* Maté has written: "Trump didn't get to the White House via Russia, but by falsely portraying himself as a populist champion. The only con he will be undone by is his own." ...

* Glenn Greenwald has also had a couple of decent pieces in The Intercept ("The FBI’s Investigation of Trump as a 'National Security Threat' is Itself a Serious Danger. But J. Edgar Hoover Pioneered the Tactic" and "Beyond BuzzFeed: The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump-Russia Story")

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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

 

Ilhan Omar in Trouble for the Truth Again


... I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?

Ilhan Omar was at it again last weekend uttering unutterable truths. If you think I'm exaggerating about unutterable then consider the Tweet below from Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA).


Yep, Vargas says it is "unacceptable" to question US support for Israel. Vargas is not alone. House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) claims: "it's unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship."


Curiously, just about a year ago Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was addressing an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference where he said:
Now, let me tell you why – my view, why we don't have peace. Because the fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East. The view of Palestinians is simple, the Europeans treated the Jews badly culminating in the Holocaust and they gave them our land as compensation.
Of course, we say it's our land, the Torah says it, but they don't believe in the Torah. So that's the reason there is not peace. They invent other reasons, but they do not believe in a Jewish state and that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin. We must, because that is the reason, not any of these other false shibboleths why there is not peace in the Middle East.
If only those lying, thieving Arabs would "believe in the Torah" and "a Jewish state" then all would be well. I am unaware of any outcry from prominent Democratic politicians over this, presumably, acceptable speech about Israel. America must stand with Israel because ... Torah.


See also:

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Monday, March 04, 2019

 

"The Three Percenters - Original" an (Un-)Intentional Honeypot?


"The Three Percenters - Original" (TTPO) bills itself as "a national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberty [and] are committed to standing against and exposing corruption and injustice." They further claim "We are NOT a militia" and "We are NOT anti-government."

Nevertheless they have been branded by the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which works closely with US law enforcement, as part of the "sector of the radical right known as the 'Patriot' or antigovernment extremist movement". According to the "anti-hate activists" at the SPLC, the " 'Patriot' movement ... includes the militia movement, which comprises groups such as the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers, who actively engage in paramilitary activities."

TTPO has been similarly and negatively profiled by Political Research Associates and media outlets (see e.g. here and here and here). They have also been targeted by the Anti-Defamation League, another outfit with a history of legally-actionable defamation and of spying on constitutionally-protected activities.

As a result, TTPO has indicated that the SPLC is an example of an external threat "defined as 'those threats and forces that originate from an individual or organization that does not identify nor ever has identified themselves as belonging to the patriot movement and have aligned themselves in staunch opposition of The Three Percenters Original or our affiliates and allies and have through direct action and behavior sought to harm, damage and defame our members or this organization and allies or affiliates damaging than threats posed to us from an external source." Thus, the SPLC is subject to placement on TTPO's official "Blacklist".

TTPO has also adopted, in their national bylaws, communications standards that designate "the forum located at ​www.thethreepercenters.org" as "the primary method of communications between all levels". The national and all of their state chapters have Facebook pages. The bylaws also state: "The use of Facebook pages should only be used for non-sensitive postings or to alert members to a posting on the forum."

So, I suppose someone thinks TTPO has implemented some level of communications security. Here's what I don't get: If you know you are an active target why would you have any Facebook pages at all for your group at any all level unless you want to give Facebook ("the perfect mass surveillance tool"), the National Security Agency, and law enforcement a great means to collect data on your members and supporters?

The national TTPO Facebook page has 166,922 likes and 166,896 followers—an intel treasure trove giveaway by TTPO, a group that claims: "Our goal is to utilize the failsafes put in place by our founders to rein in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny." I'm neither a supporter nor an opponent of TTPO—I'm not making a judgment about their purposes or activities. I'm highlighting the striking disconnect between what they claim to stand for and what they've done with Facebook.

Update: The Clowns (or is it Agents?) of TTPO

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