As wildfires tore through large swathes of the land a week or so ago, some Israeli politicians used the disaster as an opportunity to fan the flames of hatred against Palestinians by calling it a “fire intifada”. Foreign firefighters from many countries came to Israel’s assistance, but it seems that those politicians had different priorities; they rushed to judgement in newspaper columns and appeared to show scant concern for the tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.
This was a time for politicians to demonstrate leadership and calm the people; to reassure the wider world that everything was being done to protect and save life. Legend has it that the reckless Roman emperor Nero fiddled as a blaze raged through ancient Rome for seven nights in 64 AD; while Benjamin Netanyahu picked up neither lyre nor violin, he did seize the moment to orchestrate a burning campaign of hatred against the Palestinians.
Never one to miss such an opportunity, the Israeli prime minister blamed “terror” as courageous firefighters from Italy, Croatia, Russia, Cyprus, Turkey and even the neighbouring Palestinian Authority risked their lives to help their exhausted Israeli colleagues. Words of support instead of hateful rhetoric should have been the order of the day, but from Netanyahu there was very little.
Now, though, as Israelis are beginning to count the true cost of the forest fires, the words and motives of Netanyahu and his cabal are being scrutinised more closely. The Israeli leader and other ministers — including Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Culture Minister Miri Regev — pledged to revoke the residency rights of those found guilty of arson. This is a threat normally reserved for Arab Israelis, so it was clear where Tel Aviv was pointing the finger of blame.
Of course, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman typically went one step further and, along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, called for the expansion of the illegal West Bank settlements in response to the alleged wave of terror.
However, it appears that some of the claims about terrorism have been wildly premature. Forensic investigators as well as fire and security experts believe that not all of the fires were started deliberately. “In most areas you won’t find many things that say whether it was arson,” explained Ran Shelef, the Fire and Rescue Authority’s chief investigator.
Another senior investigator, Herzl Aharon, said that the authorities still don’t know anything. “I wish I had a direction,” he told Israel’s Channel Two. “I go to a place and get an insight — and then I go to another place and everything changes. This is what you call an illusion of the topography, the bedlam of the mountainous region, and it is very difficult to investigate.”
Of the 35 people initially arrested on suspicion of arson or inciting others to commit arson, fewer than 10 remain in custody; only two suspected arsonists have been charged, one of whom insists that he was simply burning rubbish.
In the meantime, Netanyahu’s unsubstantiated blame has drawn blunt criticism from a former Israeli intelligence officer and the head of terrorist research at the Institute for National Security Studies. “The habit of inflaming the atmosphere by politicians is playing into the hands of the terrorists,” said Yoram Schweitzer. “A basic principle of fighting terrorism is to differentiate between the community which is allegedly or potentially supportive of such acts and the terrorists themselves. This is the first principle that was breached.”
Representing a coalition of Arab political parties called the Joint List, Ayman Odeh called on Netanyahu to be investigated for incitement for accusing Palestinians of deliberately starting the fires. Odeh said that he would formally request a probe by the attorney general. “Everyone knows that there wasn’t a wave of terrorism, that there wasn’t a ‘fire intifada,’” he said, citing the headline phrase used by some Israeli media following Netanyahu’s outburst.
While police officials say they suspect arson in 29 of the 39 major fires, and in about one-third of the 90 blazes investigated, they also admit there are no suspects in the largest fires, nor clear proof of arson.
As the investigators continue to rake through the embers of the wildfires, it’s worth remembering that the Palestinian Authority sent its own team of firefighters to help the Israelis. In other words, Palestinians set aside their differences and risked their lives to help those who enforce a brutal military occupation on their land. They didn’t expect gratitude from the likes of Netanyahu for their humanitarian efforts as the forest fires raged. Even so, the international community might want to consider whether they’d like to help the Palestinians firefighters in Gaza when Netanyahu next orders a blitz of blazes caused by hellfire missiles and bombs on the tiny coastal enclave.
As the firefighters from Ramallah showed, when it comes to putting out fires and extinguishing the flames of hatred, the Palestinians lead from the front.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) reiterated its demand that Israel comply with the Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution no. 497 for 1981 which declared Israel’s decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws and jurisdiction on the Syrian Golan as “null and void and without international legal effect”.
During a session on Tuesday, the UNGA adopted a resolution titled “Occupied Syrian Golan” after it was endorsed by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (the Fourth Committee).
The resolution was adopted with 163 in favor out of 193 countries, 1 against (Israel), and a number of abstentions, including the US and Canada.
The resolution called upon Israel to rescind its decision of annexing the occupied Golan, and to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, as these measures are null and void, asserting that all relevant provisions of the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention of 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, continued to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
It also called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens and to stop its provocative measures against them.
The resolution called upon the UN member states to not recognize the Israeli measures and procedures adopted in the occupied Syrian Golan as they constitute a breach of the international law.
The German neo-liberal class of lawmakers continue to push the “hate speech” agenda, which is really just the beginning of the German government (and eventually the entire European Union) censoring speech that they deem inappropriate in terms of their world view and agenda.
Who defines what “hate speech” is? Where does hate speech end, and full on government censorship begin? German lawmakers could never answer these questions, nor do they want to. They simply want to get the ball rolling on curbing dissenting voices, so as to have complete control of the media and social narrative.
Expecting Facebook to be judge, jury and executioner when defining “hate speech” is unrealistic, and sets a very dangerous precedent. It is also intrinsically anti-internet. The web was founded on freedom of expression. Germany lawmakers wish to break a core function of what makes the internet work.
Speaking at a party conference of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Volker Kauder suggested German politicians were running out of patience with efforts by social media companies to censor hate speech.
“I expect from big companies like Facebook that they adhere to laws. If they are not respected then we must think about new possibilities, fines for example.”
“They say there is too much. But a big auto manufacturer that produces millions of cars can’t say: ‘I produce so many cars that I can’t guarantee they are all secure.’ No, that is not on. I expect and demand from Facebook that laws are upheld.”
Very smart analogy by Mr. Kauder… comparing social media posts to building automobiles. We all know that building a car is exactly the same as composing a tweet.
Facebook declined immediate comment on Kauder’s remarks.
Germany is seen as a forerunner when it comes to forcing Facebook to step up efforts to police online hate speech, which has risen here following an influx of almost one million migrants, mainly from the Middle East, last year.
Politicians are also worried about how hate speech and fake news could sway public opinion ahead of elections next year in which Merkel will be running for a fourth term and facing an increasingly popular far right.
Last year, Justice Minister Heiko Maas set up a task force made up of representatives from Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Twitter as well as nonprofit groups to discuss ways to combat the rise in online hate speech.
The platform providers signed up to a voluntary code of conduct to take action to remove hate posts within 24 hours.
Results of a survey published in September by a group that monitors hate speech found Facebook removed about 46 percent of illegal content reported by users within 24 hours, significantly more than YouTube and Twitter which deleted just 10 percent and about 1 percent respectively.
Maas has repeatedly warned that he will propose legislation if the social media networks do not remove at least 70 percent of hate speech by March next year.
Kauder said Maas, a member of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, was being too easy on social media.
“We have a roundtable and now we must wait … but after the Christmas break is the end of the roundtables. We’ve sat at roundtables long enough. Now we want to see actions.”
I had never heard of ghost banning until I was ghost banned by twitter. That of course is the idea – they censor you without you realising that you are censored. People no longer get notifications when I post, and the tweet only turns up in the twitter line of followers who happen to be logged in at the time my tweet goes out. Those logging in later will no longer see tweets I issued while they were away. Most of my tweets no longer show up on twitter searches, and further restrictions are applied when people retweet my tweets.
Since ghost banning, traffic to my website from twitter has fallen 90%.
As twitter do not inform you that you have been ghost banned, it is hard to know exactly what prompted it, but I believe it immediately followed this tweet.
For anyone who gets their news through the mainstream media, the spirit cooking scandal referred to performance art by Marina Abramovic, to an intimate domestic display of which Clinton campaign chairman and paid Saudi lobbyist John Podesta was invited. The performance draws upon occult references and imagery – as an “artist” her inspiration appears to be early Hammer horror films. It involves painting with blood, milk and semen, presumably from animals. To add a frisson, Ms Abramovic has claimed it is art when performed in a gallery, but real when performed in a private home.
Personally, I view it as rubbish as art, and the sort of thing idiots with too much money pay for. I think the occult references give a frisson to the idle rich, like students playing with a Ouija board. Personally I believe that kind of thing is better avoided, but each to his own. What the Podesta emails undoubtedly show is that the rich are not like us. Just as David Cameron sticking his todger in the mouth of a dead pig was an upper class bonding ritual and not actual bestiality, I don’t actually think the Podestas are Satanists. Just weird.
But what is beyond doubt is that the #spiritcooking sensation on social media had a real effect on the US election, and in an election where the margins were so very close potentially an extremely important one. Tens of millions of people saw the images on social media. It galvanised evangelical Christians to vote for Trump and, perhaps much more crucially, it contributed materially to a massive depression of the African American vote for Hillary as millions of African American Christians, disgusted by seeing apparent endorsement of Abramovic’s voodoo and satanic references by the Clinton camp, sat at home and did not turn out to vote. That 2 million black Americans who voted for Obama did not vote for Hillary was not because they are racist – it was because they disliked Hillary for a number of reasons, and spirit cooking was a factor, especially as the famed Democratic machine is heavily reliant upon African American churches for the ground war. I should love to see the influence of the spirit cooking scandal measured, but given that the mainstream media who commission the polls are desperate to deny the effect of WikiLeaks on the election, they are not likely to measure it.
Instead what we have is the “post-truth” narrative. This holds that something is only true if the mainstream media says that it is. It is an easy trick to conflate a dozen ludicrous untrue stories released on social media, and then leap from there to saying everything on social media not endorsed by mainstream media is untrue. It is but a further step to argue that therefore social media must be censored. This is where we came in, with Twitter already doing this to me. Mark Zuckerberg has indicated that Facebook will take further action to prevent dissemination of “untrue” political information. Of course, they already do this, and again I am afraid to say in particular they do this to me. All my blog posts are posted to Facebook as well as twitter. Did you know when you share my post on Facebook, Facebook limits the number of your friends who can see it? In my case the limit is set to ensure that the percentage of incoming traffic to my site that comes through Facebook, is always precisely 5%. To do that, of course, they have to know precisely how much traffic is coming in to this site. Worrying, isn’t it? Before Facebook set the limitation -around the same time as twitter – the amount of incoming traffic from Facebook was around 30% of my traffic.
As with any grossly illiberal cause it is the Guardian which has led the charge for internet censorship in the UK. One hilarious recent Guardian article listed media bias towards Clinton as an example of a post-truth claim. The article did not mention the fact that senior CNN commentator Donna Brazile had been sacked by CNN after WikiLeaks revealed she had been feeding debate questions to Hillary Clinton in advance, nor Wikileaks’ numerous releases of emails detailing partisan collusion with the media to promote Hillary. It did not mention the deliberate and planned timing of primary elections and debates to disadvantage Sanders. In fact, it did not mention any of the inconvenient facts WikiLeaks had revealed. In that, it was absolutely typical mainstream media.
Mainstream media is not post-truth. It never had any connection to the truth.
To complete the chain of dishonesty, the trope of Russian interference in the election is getting a new airing. In a painfully obvious charade, Obama is being “pushed” by his own party to reveal security service information on “Russian interference” in the US election. The focus is particularly on the allegation that the Russian state hacked the Podesta and DNC emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.
The problem is there is no such evidence. There can’t be because both the DNC and Podesta emails were leaked by Washington insiders, to my certain knowledge. I repeat that, to my certain knowledge. Hillary’s pathetic election claim that the security services had information it was the Russians, depended on a statement that the leak was “consistent with Russian methods and objectives”. Look at that statement very carefully. It says “we have no evidence whatsoever, but the President has asked us to blame the Russians”. As I say, I know it wasn’t the Russians. The only “evidence” ever shown to me by those blaming the Russians is that an alleged hacker calling himself “Guccifer” sometimes uses Cyrillic. Which may or may not be true, but as “Guccifer” was neither the source of, nor a conduit for, the leaks it is utterly irrelevant.
Fear not. The truth is out there. People are trying to make it more difficult for you to find, but they will not succeed. In my own humble case, while visits from Facebook and Twitter are radically down, overall numbers are up. The internet somehow always finds a way to work around.
News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here’s a look at why.
A couple of years ago my colleagues and I helped uncovered a Ukraine “kill list” supported by NATO, the British Embassy in Ukraine, and by neo-Nazis bent on condemning pro-Russians in the Ukraine civil war. The so-called “Peacekeeper” movement was traced to NATO servers in 2015. Since that time we have all witnessed a dizzying barrage of lies, propaganda, and a controlled message of unprecedented scale. WikiLeaks revelations from the Clinton and Podesta files showed the world the depth of collusion, graft, and draconian measures on behalf of the elites in control of western society. Google and the others as tools of the security machine cannot be controverted. And now the same people who tried to buy the presidency of the United States, who fueled the Arab Spring, ISIL, the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, and endless war, they’re out to close the gates on a billion free people. Twitter’s blog post from yesterday gives us the underpublicized announcement.
“Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are coming together to help curb the spread of terrorist content online. There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.”
For those users of these networks who are not so aware, this disguised censoring apparatus probably seems as harmless and positively idealistic as Google’s “Do no evil” dogma from bygone years. Disguised as an anti-terror collaboration, this latest Orwellian move by the establishment is nothing of the kind. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange explains the extraordinary role of Google, Google Ideas, and other contravening evidence here, on the WikiLeaks site. For those who may remain unconvinced, Assange laid out how Google’s Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen, helped plan for just such collaborations as we see today:
“Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world.”
Normally I would lay out all the evidence and analysis on these points here, but there is no necessity for this now. All the reader needs to understand is the underlying warning, some main characters in this power play, and the immediacy with which we should address this situation. Now I shall enumerate.
US President Barack Obama and German Chanellor Angela Merkel’s last meeting in Berlin opened several dark corridors. Advising President-elect Donald Trump to “adhere” was one provocative note, the forthcoming “Fake News” business another. But the most telling rhetoric came in the form of Obama revealing the ultimate misinformation and strategy. This segment tells us Merkel and Obama were in war mode with Russia all along:
“We work very closely together on the issue of annexation of Crimea and Russia’s attempt to actually conquer Ukraine. And actually they did so — conquered part of the territory. We tried to come to a peaceful settlement here on this.” (WH)
Some days after the Berlin meetup, the European Parliament passed two controversial pieces of legislation. First, the MEPs in Strassbourg paved the way for creating an EU Army. Second, the same parliamentarians voted in a so-called collective anti-propaganda legislation that would essentially allow these same leaders to track down and silence anyone with a view outside their definitions of normal. The fast forwarded strategy to control news and messaging is in fever pitch now, as Germany’s chancellor and America’s president warning of “Fake News”, and CNN along with other owned media repeat the propaganda. CBS Interactive chimed in to bolster the mainstream’s sagging credibility, and to foster the social media corporation cooperation we see today.
The danger is clear. The players are known. Ignorance of the facts will end in dire repressions of freedom and heightened crisis. I contribute to a dozen or more of the independent media sites already targeted. Sputnik, RT, NEO, Global Research, and some others feature my analysis or reports, and I am not nearly alone. Those of us with some prowess on Facebook and the other social media networks will also become targets, I have no doubt. For my part, I am not so concerned. I helped in a meaningful way to evangelize and to develop much of the social and tech landscape you see. I am horrified for the greater implications of these moves though. Facebook’s stockholders, Microsoft’s, Twitter’s, should weigh carefully the audience here. I want to end this report on a meaningful note. So here is my best plea for you to understand the lie before you.
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are pretending, and here is the perfect evidence. While these social corporations contend the coming moves against “extremism” are based in altruism and correctness, the truth is revealed in their past actions. The best example I can give is the case of one Nedā Āghā-Soltān. Some will recall the outrage over a YouTube video showing a young Iranian woman dying in front of the camera. Shot by a sniper, the beautiful young philosophy student bled to death before our eyes. The video depicted death in its horrific finality, injustice in its banal cruelty, and more importantly the indecency the Internet has come to represent. For my part the nightmarish and soul darkening vision of life draining from this woman troubled my sleep. Make no mistake, I have seen death many times before, but never catalogued so intrusively. In the end, despite a fairly vast outcry to remove the video, Google refused. The political aspects of Neda’s death took over, the viral nature of the death on Twitter and YouTube was actually promoted, for many robbing her of her last moments was a sin. Now few raise a voice at even the most horrific scenes, and this was by design.
We are desensitized to nearly everything now. Few even know what to believe, so most believe whatever is shown them, at least on some passive level. The life draining from a young student, a man holding his child, the baby’s skull blown apart – it’s just one more dead child – heaped onto a mountain of dead children in far off places. Gaza running red with blood, the Donbass children riddled with shrapnel, dethroned leaders hung, make believe villains with bayonets stabbed into their rectums in Libya, laughing hyena presidential candidates bragging about murdering – and right now the Silicon Valley stock market is going to protect us? No, my friends, the gatekeepers are shutting down democracy, or at least trying to. When the purpose serves them, the next step will finally stun the world into recognition. I only hope we can stop them before.
Following public backlash, legal threats, and sustained mocking, the Washington Post has added an editor’s note distancing the newspaper from a shadowy website called PropOrNot which they had preciously endorsed as “experts” on “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.”
In an ironically fake news article about “fake news” by Craig Timberg the Washington Post claimed that Russian propaganda helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election. A large part of the basis for the piece was centered on evidence the paper presented that was gleaned from an aggressively anonymous website called PropOrNot, which lists over 200 websites that they accuse of peddling what they call Russian propaganda, and other false narratives. Popular news websites on all sides of the political spectrum are listed, including The Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, TruthOut, Sputnik News, and WikiLeaks.
The Washington Post has now added the following editor’s note to the article:
“The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.”
After the publication of its article, the Post was slapped with a letter from Naked Capitalism, one of the websites listed, demanding a full retraction and threatening a defamation lawsuit. “You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” the attorney representing the website, Jim Moody wrote.
“You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”
While declaring that the entities behind the PropOrNot operation were “experts,” the Post refused to name them. Though their motives remain unknown, the organization previously promoted a Ukrainian hacker group on their Twitter feed.
Interestingly, a bill was introduced November 22, just two days before the Post published the November 24 article in question, which would allow lawmakers to crack down on websites deemed to be “Russian propaganda” or “fake news.” Tucked neatly inside the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, the bill appears to be aimed at cracking down on free speech.
“It is easy to see how this law, if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called ‘fake news’ websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media’s proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration,” Global Research reported.
The bill must now pass through the Senate, but a top aide to Rand Paul has informed Sputnik News that the Senator is currently holding the bill for a variety of reasons.
Creator Admits He Made Up Who Went on Hit List
One of most pernicious means underway to crush independent news sites is the release of software tools that brand them as unreliable. This means that hidden developers and the parties that fed them information are beyond any accountability, yet would serve as censors.
Last week, the Financial Times described efforts to use software to designate certain sites as suspect:
Concern over the impact on voters of soaring amounts of fake news during the US election has sparked a hackathon where the technology industry and the media’s top thinkers are seeking to find new ways to prioritise the truth.
A community has gathered to share ideas around a 58-page Google document started by Eli Pariser, the author of a best-selling critique of social media, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you. A professor has circulated a spreadsheet of reliable and less reliable news sources for comment, while hackathons at Princeton and in the Bay Area have produced prototype products that Facebook could copy…
A team of students won a prize sponsored by Google at a Princeton hackathon last week by creating a quick and dirty prototype of a product that does just that: showing Facebook users a “trust rating” for stories they see, based on an online safety rating provided by “World of Trust”.
If you read the article in full, you’ll see it depicts Wikipedia as a gold standard. As Gary Null discussed yesterday in his Progressive Commentary Hour show (we were a guest; the archived interview should be up later today), it is in fact very difficult to get corrections of Wikipedia entries. Similarly, on certain topics, such as economics, Wikipedia minimizes or excludes non-mainstream views even when they have solid empirical underpinnings and have been given a hearing in academic journals and the press.
The faith in coders coming up with a magic bullet for information validation is similarly questionable. The concern about “fake news” on the Internet is almost comical given that more citizens encounter “fake news” via seeing National Enquirer and National Examiner covers in grocery stores than via websites. It is not hard to imagine that much of the tender concern expressed by the mainstream media is commercial: independent news and analysis sites threaten their legitimacy by exposing how dependent they are on stories planted by government or business sources that these press outlets often fail to vet adequately.
One approach is browser extensions that flag sites as suspect via undisclosed, unverifiable methods. Browser extensions are a particularly pernicious approach, since many users are not even aware that they have installed them, and they update automagically in the background. Most consumers do not know how to check for them or remove them.
Shadowproof exposed how this technological response is being deployed in a reckless, fact-free, libelous manner against Shadowproof, Naked Capitalism, and other long-standing, well-regarded websites. Worse, this dodgy tool was promoted by CBS News. As Kevin Gosztola reports:
CBS News reported developers increased pressure on Facebook to address its “fake news problem” with a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox called the “B.S. Detector.” It claimed the extension relies upon “a constantly-updated list of known fake news sites, propaganda mills and ‘promoters of kooky conspiracy theories’” as a reference point.
However, CBS News was wrong. The extension is not “constantly updated.” The extension, as developer Daniel Sieradski shared, was created to “make fun” of Facebook. Sieradski “scraped some data together” that included sites, which are not “fake news” websites. (One of those sites was Shadowproof.com.)
“B.S. Detector” displays a red banner that indicates a news website is “not a reliable news source.” Up until publication, the extension still flagged Consortium News, Naked Capitalism, Truthout, and Truthdig, even though Sieradski said they would not be listed in the update….
Sieradski claims he never expected this to achieve the kind of success or interest it has garnered in the past couple weeks. He seems reluctant to own the mistakes made and publish a list of the websites that were wrongly included in the initial launch in order to exonerate them.
It does not matter if the improper inclusion of certain websites was done maliciously or accidentally. The effect is the same, at this point. People who do not know better can install the extension, and if they become a unique or new viewer to Consortium News, Naked Capitalism, Truthout, or Truthdig, they will see a red banner that may discourage them from further reading and visits to these sites.
Gosztola is being unduly charitable in how he characterizes the casual way with which Sieradski went about smearing small websites. Sieradski’s Twitter handle is @selfagency and business name is The Self Agency, LLC. This page on GitHub, selfagency/bs-dector, contains this astonishing admission:
As I have repeatedly stated in the press, on our repo, and on our homepage, the dataset was somewhat indiscrimintely compiled and we are slowly making our way through it. We are also looking to partner with media watchdog groups to provide research to back up our inclusions and classifications so that it is neither arbitrary nor the decision of a sole authority.
This is an admission of reckless disregard for accuracy for someone who is making himself an arbiter and doing damage to small sites that have worked long and hard to establish their reputations. This is defamation, pure and simple. Sieradski claims that he is not acting as a censor when he is doing precisely that. The fact that he may get others to participate in this witch hunt does not change the fundamental nature of the activity.
In fact, Sieradski’s ability to rationalize that what he is doing here is on the up and up by virtue of his having donated to the EFF, ACLU, and Chelsea Manning’s defense funds is yet another example of Upton Sinclair’s aphorism, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Gosztola points out that the reason that Sieradski was so casual about smearing well-established sites and so unapologetic about reputational harm is that they are assumed to lack the resources to take legal action:
The developers also possess a few viewpoints, which may inhibit their ability to develop an extension that is objective and valuable to news readers.
One, Sieradski has no idea how to handle the problem of corporate news media, which publishes “fake news.” Journalist Marcy Wheeler asked Sieradski why “mainstream fake news” was not flagged through this extension. She wondered why “Squawk Box” financial-type news that pushes a made-up “market” narrative is not flagged. Or what about Fox News? Why aren’t they flagged as a “fake news” website?
Sieradski replied, “We’re working on gathering data on all NewsCorp titles,” and looking for “examples of false stories that point to a pattern of intent to mislead the public.”
It is abundantly evident the developers are going through a much more rigorous process to determine whether it is proper to include Fox News than it is going through other independent news media sites that possibly should not be flagged. Of course, their inclusion is much more detrimental to them because unlike corporate news outlets they do not have significant money and resources.
Due to the traditional media’s eagerness to use the “fake news” meme to regain control over what they once called “the discourse,” independent news sites are under the threat of death by a thousand at best uninformed and at worst malicious efforts to silence them. And for a soi-disant progressive like Sieradski to take up this rancid cause is deeply disturbing.
At the bottom of that rather flawed article from the Weather Channel is a series of photos of glaciers, all designed to suggest that they have been melting rapidly because of your SUV.
For instance, Alaska’s Muir Glacier:
For some reason, they forgot to mention what the USGS had to say about the Muir in 2001:
The glacier that filled Glacier Bay during the Little Ice Age began its retreat from the mouth of the bay more than 200 years ago and has exposed a magnificent fjord system about 100 km long. The massive glacier retreated past Sitakaday Narrows ~190 years ago, retreated past Whidbey Passage ~160 years ago, and reached the upper end of the main bay by 1860 (~140 years ago).
Perhaps Ms Parker would care to apologise on behalf of the Weather Channel for deliberately misleading Americans.
And maybe in future, if she wants to do some fact checking, she should give me a ring.
Dilbert creator, Scott Adams wrote a post on his blog yesterday that is well worth reading in entirety: The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science
It seems to me that a majority of experts could be wrong whenever you have a pattern that looks like this:
1. A theory has been “adjusted” in the past to maintain the conclusion even though the data has changed. For example, “Global warming” evolved to “climate change” because the models didn’t show universal warming.
2. Prediction models are complicated. When things are complicated you have more room for error. Climate science models are complicated.
3. The models require human judgement to decide how variables should be treated. This allows humans to “tune” the output to a desired end. This is the case with climate science models.
4. There is a severe social or economic penalty for having the “wrong” opinion in the field. As I already said, I agree with the consensus of climate scientists because saying otherwise in public would be social and career suicide for me even as a cartoonist. Imagine how much worse the pressure would be if science was my career.
5. There are so many variables that can be measured – and so many that can be ignored – that you can produce any result you want by choosing what to measure and what to ignore. Our measurement sensors do not cover all locations on earth, from the upper atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean, so we have the option to use the measurements that fit our predictions while discounting the rest.
6. The argument from the other side looks disturbingly credible.
One of the things that always fascinated me about jury trials is that attorneys from both sides can sound so convincing even though the evidence points in only one direction. A defendant is either guilty or innocent, but good lawyers can make you see it either way. Climate science is similar. I’ve seen airtight arguments that say climate science is solid and true, and I’ve seen equally credible-looking arguments that say it is bunk. From my non-scientist perspective, I can’t tell the difference. Both sides look convincing to me.
Again, read the entire essay: The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science
Steve McIntyre writes in comments:
I write the Climate Audit blog. I first began serious study of paleoclimate when I asked Michael Mann for the FTP location data of his data (for the Hockey Stick) and he said that he had “forgotten” the location, but that one of his associates would find it for me. The associate said that the data was not in any one location, but volunteered to find it for me. I was astonished that a result could have been so widely disseminated without any sort of formal audit – not realizing at the time that “peer review” for a journal was a limited form of due diligence.
Scot [sic] writes: “You probably are not a scientist, and that means you can’t independently evaluate any of the climate science claims.” I had mathematical knowledge and skill and decided that it would be an interesting task to actually try to verify Mann’s results. It turned out that he had made a grotesque error in his attempt to calculate principal components, had withheld adverse verification statistics and had weighted his reconstruction on stripbark tree rings that were inappropriate.
When I examined other attempts to estimate temperature in the past 1000 years, I encountered problems with every one of them, incurring, in the process, severe antagonism on the part of university academics.
However, after being involved in the controversy for many years, I think that far too little attention (none) is paid to a very fundamental difference between “skeptics” and warmists on their respective perceptions on whether human emissions of CO2 thus far have caused “serious negative damage” to the world or not. Skeptics universally think not. Many do not dispute the idea that we are carrying on an “uncontrolled experiment”, but have nonetheless concluded that, through good luck rather than good management, the consequences have been inconsequential or even beneficial. On the other hand, warmists are thoroughly convinced we have already incurred “serious negative damage” though what they view as “serious negative damage” may well be viewed by a skeptic as relatively trivial, or, at worst, an ordinary cost and outweighed by other benefits. When I challenge warmists to enumerate the most serious of the damages experienced so far, I do not get answers.
Of the potential damages, sea level rise seems one of the most serious to me, but even there, some, if not much, of the potential problem arises from very long-term (Holocene scale) events that are not materially impacted by CO2 emissions.
While I have made numerous technical criticisms of work by climate scientists, I have mostly avoided commenting on policy, other than urging far better data archiving practices – a policy which many of my adversaries opposed. Needless to say, this has not prevented demonization from climate activists – a practice that obviously does not enable them to “persuade” their opponents and critics. Quite the opposite. In my experience, more “skeptics” are born from poor conduct by climate scientists than from the eloquence of earlier skeptics.
MOSCOW – Russia expects from Germany specific details on an initiative on a new agreement on arms control in Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
“We expect from the German side the concretization of its initiative and formation of a concept of dialogue. The reaction to the initiative of NATO steps by whose efforts arms control dialogue was brought to a dead end and frozen is important. Russia is open for discussion of issues of international security on the basis of equality and mutual consideration of interests,” the statement read.
On Wednesday, 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will convene for its 23rd two-day Ministerial Council in Hamburg hosted by its current chair Germany. One of the topics that Germany has pushed for the broad discussions this week under the OSCE framework is new arms control agreement with Russia.
The International Institute of Strategic Studies, an influential UK diplomacy and security think tank run by prominent military, political, and business figures, has received over $38mn in secret donations from Bahrain.
Bahrain, a former British colony and oil-rich Arab country which accommodates the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, had secretly donated more than $38 million (£30 million) to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), a reputed UK think tank which positions itself as a leading global military and security research consultancy, according to human rights group Bahrain Watch.
The donations, which the IISS received over the course of five years, were said to form around a quarter of the think tank’s budget, or over $7.6 million (£6 million) per year, Bahrain Watch said citing confidential documents it obtained in cooperation with the Guardian.
Money from the Bahrain government was received in large part under a secret memorandum of understanding (MoU) between IISS head John Chipman and Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who had previously served as ambassador to the UK.
The IISS and Bahrain agreed to “take all necessary steps to keep confidential all classified information which is disclosed or obtained in relation to this MoU, and neither shall divulge such information to any third party.”
The leak comes amid UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s two-day trip to Bahrain to discuss post-Brexit trade with Gulf leaders. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is also expected to arrive in the Bahraini capital Manama on Friday to address a Middle East-related conference organized by the IISS.
The event itself, called the Manama Dialogue, was financed by Bahrain’s ruling family, which is paying for all the delegates to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the report said. Since 2011, the ruling family has donated $19 million (£14.9 million) to fund the conference, which is attended by influential figures from the Gulf and western nations, among others, the leaked papers show.
In a statement to the Guardian, the IISS said its agreement with the Bahraini rulers “expressly gives the IISS full freedom to develop the agenda and invite participants in line with priorities it judges to be important to encourage strong debate on regional issues and facilitate important diplomatic contacts.”
“The IISS for a number of years has received funding from a wide range of governments for conferences and major international summits,” it added.
“The Bahraini government is willing to spend so much on the IISS and the Manama Dialogues because they allow the government to portray itself as modern, liberal and business-friendly, in contradiction to the evidence of torture, abuse and political disenfranchisement,” Bahrain Watch said in turn.
In April, a report for the Foreign Affairs Select Committee blasted Bahrain’s poor human rights record, not least during the violent suppression of the Arab Spring protests, with direct support from another controversial UK ally – Saudi Arabia.
Earlier, Amnesty International accused London of “whitewashing” Bahrain’s record in the United Nations, having never condemned the country’s human rights abuses. The Bahraini royal family has enjoyed a close relationship with the British monarchy for several decades.
In mid-November, a new Royal Navy base in Bahrain was inaugurated by Prince Charles, with construction mostly funded by the Bahrainis. The US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) is also headquartered in the country, guiding the operations of the Fifth Fleet.
The IISS advisory board features high-ranking Western military brass, politicians, and business leaders, including George Robertson, former secretary-general of NATO, Field Marshal Charles Guthrie, former chief of the UK General Staff, Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, Amos Yadin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, as well as Carl Bildt, Sweden’s ex-foreign minister.
Founded in 1958, the IISS describes itself as a primary source of information on international strategic issues for “politicians and diplomats, foreign affairs analysts, international business, economists, the military, defense commentators, journalists and academics.”
Apart from the Manama Dialogue, the institute hosts the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual meeting of Asia-Pacific region defense ministers in Singapore.
It also publishes ‘The Military Balance,’ a comprehensive annual assessment of each country’s military capabilities. A 2015 Global Think Tank Index compiled by the University of Pennsylvania ranked IISS as the fourth-best non-US research institution.
US-based corporate-financier funded policy think tank, the Brookings Institution, published a particularly incoherent piece titled, “Should we work with the devil we know against the Islamic State?” The piece’s author, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, Daniel Byman, claims (emphasis added):
Saudi Arabia has proven a major source of terrorist recruits and financing, while the Syria-Turkey border was a major crossing point for Islamic State recruits. Both countries [Saudi Arabia and Turkey] still have much to do, but that’s the point—if the Trump administration alienates them, the Islamic State problem will get much worse. With the United States on the other side in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia might send anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels and otherwise escalate the fighting in ways dangerous for international terrorism—actions that, so far, the United States has helped reduce.
In essence, Byman is admitting what the rest of the world already long ago concluded – the vast fighting capacity the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) possesses is not only a result of immense state sponsorship, it is sponsored by two of America’s closest allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and NATO-member Turkey.
It was Turkey’s own foreign minister who inadvertently admitted while trying to make a case for the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Syria that Turkey itself served as the primary staging point for ISIS and supplied the summation of its weapons and reinforcements required in Syria and beyond.
A May 2016 Washington Times article titled, “Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out,” would quote the Turkish Foreign Minister admitting (emphasis added):
Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa, would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.
Byman confirms this with his appeal for the United States to remain aligned and committed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Retroactively Blaming Syria for a War the US Engineered
Byman continues by claiming:
Assad facilitated the flow of fighters to Iraq to kill American soldiers there after the 2003 U.S. invasion. He has supported terrorism against Israel and otherwise opposed U.S. interests. And an Assad victory would be widely, and correctly, seen as a triumph for its biggest friend—the clerical regime in Iran.
However, according to the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) in a 2008 report titled, “Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout: al-Qa’ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,” it is admitted that not only did Syria play a significant role in fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates since their inception, but that underground networks were involved in trafficking terrorists into Iraq during the US occupation, not the Syrian government itself.
It would state:
Syria can almost certainly do more to disrupt the traffic across the border. However, it is unrealistic to expect the regime to expend more energy, given the economic and internal political importance of the underground cross border trade to Syrian social and political leaders, and the inherent limits of the regime’s ability to enforce a crackdown indefinitely.
Byman’s other ‘moral metrics’ for opposing Syria include “supporting terrorism against Israel” and being otherwise opposed to “U.S. interests,” but neither accusation is qualified. In reality, Byman is admitting that the US is aligned with two of the largest regional sponsors of terrorism, including sponsors aiding and abetting ISIS itself, and seeks to depose the Syrian government because it otherwise opposes US interests.
Byman then claims:
Assad’s regime is the primary culprit in a war that has killed roughly half a million Syrians and driven millions more into long-term exile.
Byman also laments that an Assad victory would create more refugees still – apparently oblivious to the “successful” regime change the US carried out in Libya in 2011, leaving the nation a failed state and the epicenter of the current and still ongoing regional refugee crisis.
In his eagerness to blame the Syrian government for the ongoing war, Byman strategically omits his own direct role and those of other US policymakers who, for years before the war began, advocated and plotted for its fruition.
From the Beginning, an Alliance with Terrorism, An Alliance of Convenience
As early as 2007, US journalists like Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh warned of US policymakers plotting with Saudi Arabia to use militants aligned with Al Qaeda to overthrow the governments of both Syria and Iran. In his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” Hersh prophetically reported (emphasis added):
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Byman himself, in 2009, would sign his name to a Brookings policy paper titled, “Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (PDF), in which he and other US policymakers would advocate the use of terrorism, color revolutions, staged provocations, sanctions and a vast array of other methods to provoke war with and overthrow the government of Iran. As a prerequisite for war with Iran, the paper noted that Syria would need to be dealt with.
In 2011, it became clear that many of the methods described in minute detail in the Brookings policy paper were put into practice, targeting the government in Damascus, not Tehran.
In essence, the Brookings Institution and their gallery of desk-bound warmongers have not only advocated a destructive war they themselves calculate has cost nearly half a million lives, but have advocated both before and during the war, the state sponsorship of terrorist organizations to fuel this war.
Byman’s latest piece promoted by Brookings all but admits the US maintains an alliance of convenience with the state sponsors of ISIS – not to defend any sort of value, principle, or moral imperative, but instead to achieve a self-serving geopolitical objective at the cost of such values, principles, and moral imperatives.
Byman concludes by claiming the Syrian government is too weak to consolidate control over Syria, omitting that there exists no alternative more unified or capable than the Syrian government. He then claims that the US should continue backing the “Syrian opposition,” either oblivious of or indifferent to the fact that no such thing exists aside from ISIS and other foreign sponsored terrorist organizations. Aside from Raqqa and Idlib run by ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise – Al Nusra respectively, the Syrian government has already indeed consolidated control over the country’s main urban centers, including Aleppo.
For Byman and other policymakers like him, they find themselves moving imaginary armies across the battlefield that simply do not exist. In the end, the US will have to either abandon its enterprise in Syria, or pledge increasingly open support for ISIS and Al Nusra.