Monday, December 05, 2016
stratfor | In the stream of post-election postmortems on journalism's performance, "post-truth" is the handiest of explanations in a campaign season that took fibs and fabrication to a new level. The Oxford English Dictionary has declared "post-truth" its International Word of the Year. A Google search on the term yields some 240 million results. Layer what the candidates said against the "fake news" manufactured on Facebook and elsewhere and, for some, this is all but a civilizational threat.
But the term is actually older than we think. It was coined back in 2004 by the author Ralph Keyes. It took a while, but now it has transformed into a new meme alive in the media ecosystem. It is an illustrative case study of how memes emerge and dominate discourse, refracting perceptions of political reality.
But first, a bit of background. The term "meme," devised in 1976 by sociologist Richard Dawkins from the Greek "mimema," or "something imitated," was originally used to describe patterns of belief that spread vertically through cultural inheritance (from parents, for example) or horizontally through cultural acquisition (as in film or media). Dawkins' point was that memes act much like genes, carrying attributes of beliefs and values between individuals and across generations. It is even a field of academic study known as "memetics."
Today the term meme is more popularly applied to videos, a bit of text, a viral tweet, becoming a fixture, a short-lived canon if you will, in social media-driven consciousness. "Post truth" is just one in a long line of them.
Which is not to be dismissive of the underlying issue of partisans planting fabrications into the echo chamber of partisan news media. I share the alarm at the speed with which misleading charges or downright falsehoods can spread through the Twittersphere. And it's not just an evil embedded in presidential campaigns. The new media age has many dark sides. I worry about "covert influence" that state intelligence agencies — and not just Russia's — can and do spread. Social media as a tool of terrorist recruitment is a real threat. While writing this column, I chanced across the news that Facebook (inadvertently I'm sure) enabled a far-right group in Germany to publish the names and addresses of prominent Jews, Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish institutions on a map of Berlin to mark the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Voting to keep things the way they are now is not "smashing the traditional political structure" or in any way "anti-establishment". Rather, the opposite. "NO" was the vote for political stability, and "YES" the vote for political instability. Hence the NYT article is complete BS. It's true Italian banks may fall into crisis, but it has nothing to do with this vote that I can tell. A "yes" vote would not have helped banking in any way that I can see.
All the news in English that I see about it falls into the "horse-race" category, with nothing of substance about the actual terms of the proposed legislation. See this Guardian piece for an example of content-free reporting.
One site admits: "The vote is not about any financial or economic issue, but its timing and its potential implication for political stability are such that a negative outcome could trigger some financial instability."
So, while the vote has nothing to do with finance, all media sites seem to be SAYING it "could trigger financial instability", and by saying so they contribute to it becoming a *faît accompli"
It also has nothing to do with "populism".
NYTimes | In a strategic blunder that echoed David Cameron’s call for a “Brexit” referendum, Mr. Renzi had tied his government’s tenure to Sunday’s vote when he was flying high in the polls.
But his support eroded, and world leaders anxiously watched the vote in Italy, the fourth-largest economy in Europe, as a referendum on Mr. Renzi’s centrist government and as a barometer of the strength of anti-establishment winds blowing across both sides of the Atlantic.
Financial analysts have warned that instability caused by Mr. Renzi’s premature departure could result in a renewed and possibly contagious financial crisis in Italy, where banks are saddled with bad loans, and where desperately needed investors are turned off by the return of Italian instability.
Some world leaders, seeing in Mr. Renzi a critical defense against populism’s rising tide, had urged him to stay. President Obama, speaking at the White House during Mr. Renzi’s visit in October, said he hoped Mr. Renzi would “hang around for a while no matter what.”
The incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump was less eager to see him remain. Members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle have closely watched, and rooted for, the surging populism in Europe.
What was clear, said Stefano Stefanini, who served as a diplomatic adviser to Giorgio Napolitano, a former Italian president, was that the vote was “a test of strength of the anti-Europe and anti-establishment forces in Italy.”
Sunday, December 04, 2016
milwaukeemag | As a young boy, Clarke lived with his family in Berryland, a housing project on the far North Side. When he was 12, his parents bought their first home, a compact house blocks from Berryland at 39th and Kaul Avenue. The neighborhood was made up of similarly compact houses clad in white aluminum siding and wide aluminum awnings.
Clarke went to St. Albert’s Catholic school. He was an avid reader and sports fan. He idolized his uncle, Frank Clarke, a pro football star with the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys, and kept a scrapbook of his career. Frank Clarke was the first Cowboy receiver to score 1,000 yards; he played in the 1996 NFL Championship as a Cowboy, losing to Vince Lombardi’s Packers. Another uncle, Edwin Clarke, was a reporter for The Milwaukee Journal who went on to work as a public relations specialist for Schlitz, Manpower and United Way and hosted black public affairs programs on local television.
But without a doubt, David Clarke’s biggest influence was his father. The senior Clarke bought used cars instead of new and skimped on home luxuries and family vacations so he could send his five kids to Catholic schools.
“My dad was very unselfish,” says the sheriff. “Our vacation was piling into the car and visiting my grandmother in Beloit. We were never wealthy… but we had a decent home life.”
The young Clarke’s world was small and sheltered. He walked to and from school and came home every day for lunch. He was taught not to walk across the neighbor’s lawn and wasn’t allowed to roam. An empty field a few blocks from his home served as the neighborhood park and formed his boundary line.
“I didn’t know how big the city was because I rarely left the neighborhood,” he says. “We weren’t running the streets – my father didn’t go for that and he didn’t go for hangin’ out.” Going to the nearby train trestle or corner drugstore with his buddies was frowned upon, and he was expected home when the streetlights went on. If he was late, his father would drive through the streets to fetch him. To keep him under his watch, his father would hide his son’s shoes so he couldn’t sneak out.
“We had to keep him close,” says the senior Clarke. “We had to keep an eye on him. We kind of kept him in a circle.” The Clarkes were one of just two African-American families in the neighborhood. Nearly all of the boy’s friends were white. Once in awhile, he found himself on the hurtful end of a racial epithet.
“Heck yeah, I got called ‘Little Black Sambo,’ I got called ‘nigger,’ ” he says. “But it was the sticks-and-stones thing. People are cruel. I didn’t dwell on it.” He learned to shrug it off.
“I told him just to ignore that stuff, walk away from it,” says his father. Clarke Sr. himself had grown up in a white neighborhood in Beloit. He learned to disregard the racial slurs, shook them off “like water off the back.”
If his father was authoritarian, his mother was nurturing. Raised on the North Side of Milwaukee, Jeri Clarke was a stay-at-home mom until her children were in school, then worked as a secretary for Milwaukee Public Schools. She, too, downplays any prejudice directed against her son. Students who used foul language, she says, were dealt with swiftly by the priests and nuns at St. Albert’s.
unz | An enormous but seldom acknowledged paradox exists in American race relations. On the one hand, white America has gone to extraordinary lengths to help blacks: billions spent on anti-poverty programs and education; enacting countless anti-discrimination laws; interpreting laws and legal doctrines to give African Americans every possible advantage, obsessing over diversity and if these measures were insufficient, there’s the self-flagellation of whites confessing to bigotry, white privilege and, most recently, micro-aggressions. And let’s not forget the plague of Political Correctness—speech codes, covering up black-on-white crime, taboos topics galore—and similar measures designed to insulate blacks from hate.
Nevertheless, the vitriol that blacks direct toward whites seems only to grow stronger. This animus, moreover, emanates from all segments of black society, from the most advantaged Ivy League students to poorly educated, inarticulate rioters. Think Ta-Nehisi Coats, Cornell West and similar “intellectuals” who earn handsome livelihoods excoriating whites. This message is remarkably uniform: America is a repressive, racist society that continuously kills innocent blacks and refuses to let up despite superficial gestures to the contrary. How else can you explain the demands for “safe spaces”? A visiting Martian would surmise that contemporary American blacks live under a government far worse than what existed in apartheid South Africa.
Tellingly, no amount of effort by whites to convince blacks of their good fortune and amazing progress, e.g., a black President, a black Attorney General etc. etc. cools the anger. One can only be reminded of British Prime Minister William Gladstonesitting in his Club reading The Times and being informed that a man was going about London telling the most awful lies about him. “I don’t understand it,” he said, “I never once did the man a favor.”
As per Gladstone’s quip, let me try to explain this paradox. It is “The Moon and the Ghetto” phenomenon and while it drew some attention in the late 1960s and early 70s, it is worth reviving. Its gist is a question: how can a society capable of astonishing technical accomplishment fail to achieve far simpler and less costly tasks? The contradiction applies broadly but put in terms of American race relations, the question is why a government can send a man to the moon but is unable to teach every black youngster in Detroit’s public schools to read? After all, moon shots required genuine rocket scientists and the investment of billions, while past successful efforts at imparting literacy only needed school teachers working for a pittance.
The “Moon and Ghetto” explanation rests on three implicit assumptions. First and foremost, all the problems that bedevil blacks are caused by whites and given white domination of American society, whites are responsible for curing these tribulations. Only whites can figure out how to educate black children, uplift blacks from poverty or any other item on the black agenda. Like some god, whites are all-powerful and doubters need only observe awe-inspiring white accomplishments.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
WaPo | Welcome to — brace yourself for — the post-truth presidency.
“Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams in 1770, defending British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Or so we thought, until we elected to the presidency a man consistently heedless of truth and impervious to fact-checking.
WaPo | It should be obvious that without the so-called mainstream media, especially newspapers such as the New York Times and The Post, no one would know anything that has any basis in objective fact — and yes there is such a thing. We will rue the day we forgot that newsgathering is a profession with demanding standards regarding performance and ethics. Notwithstanding the billion-member global newsroom, it’s nice to have smart, well-educated, experienced reporters and editors to pluck the pearls from the muck.
Therefore, the highest service the president of the United States could perform would be to actively engage the media in the national interest of nurturing an informed populace, without which a 8democratic Republic cannot long survive.
WaPo | You may think you are prepared for a post-truth world, in which political appeals to emotion count for more than statements of verifiable fact.
But now it’s time to cross another bridge — into a world without facts. Or, more precisely, where facts do not matter a whit.
WaPo | “I think that’s out of Trump’s hands. He should leave it to the Justice Department, and she should be prosecuted.”
His wife agreed, adding: “It was a debate. . . . He doesn’t always think. He’s not a politician. He just says it.”
Still, at Trump’s first mention of Clinton during the rally that night, the whole arena began chanting: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Trump stood by and smiled.
Sitting one section over from the Meyers was another couple in their 70s who were convinced that Trump’s change in tone on Clinton is just a strategic act.
Friday, December 02, 2016
thesaker | Let me begin by immediately say that I have the utmost respect for F. William Engdahl and that I consider him a person far more knowledgeable of US politics than myself. Furthermore, I want to also make it clear that I am not going to refute a single argument Engdahl makes in support of his thesis simply because I believe that his arguments are fact-based and logical. I strongly urge everybody to read Engdahl’s article “The Dangerous Deception Called The Trump Presidency” in the New Eastern Outlook and carefully consider each of his arguments. Of course, Engdahl only offers indirect, circumstantial, evidence and only time will really show whether he is right or wrong. What I propose to do today is to consider the other possibility, that in spite of all the evidence presented by Engdahl, Trump might not be a fraud and a showman. You will see that this conclusion is not necessarily more optimistic than Engdahl’s.
My main argument is much more primitive than Engdahl’s and even more circumstantial: I see clear signs of a *real* struggle taking place inside the US elites and if, indeed, such a struggle is taking place, then I conclude that Trump is not a showman who has been “selected” (to use Engdahl’s words) by the US elites but that quite to the contrary, his election is a nightmare for these elites.
My subsidiary argument is that even if Engdahl is right and if Trump is a showman, the ploy of the US elites to save the Empire and prepare for war will fail.
Guardian | Through the US Export-Import Bank, Barack Obama’s administration has spent nearly $34bn supporting 70 fossil fuel projects around the world, work by Columbia Journalism School’s Energy and Environment Reporting Project and the Guardian has revealed.
This unprecedented backing of oil, coal and gas projects is an unexpected footnote to Obama’s own climate change legacy. The president has called global warming “terrifying” and helped broker the world’s first proper agreement to tackle it, yet his administration has poured money into developments that will push the planet even closer to climate disaster.
For people living next to US-funded mines and power stations the impacts are even more starkly immediate.
Guardian and Columbia reporters have spent time at American-backed projects in India, South Africa and Australia to document the sickness, upheavals and environmental harm that come with huge dirty fuel developments.
In India, we heard complaints about coal ash blowing into villages, contaminated water and respiratory and stomach problems, all linked to a project that has had more than $650m in backing from the Obama administration.
In South Africa, another huge project is set to exacerbate existing air pollution problems, deforestation and water shortages. And in Australia, an enormous US-backed gas development is linked to a glut of fracking activity that has divided communities and brought a new wave of industrialization next to the cherished Great Barrier Reef.
While Obama can claim the US is the world’s leader on climate change – at least until Donald Trump enters the White House – it is also clear that it has become a major funder of fossil fuels that are having a serious impact upon people’s lives. This is the unexpected story of how Obama’s legacy is playing out overseas.
phys.org | In the UK, the poverty premium—the idea that poorer people pay more for essential goods and services—is an important and relevant social policy concern for low-income families.
A timely new study from the Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) at the University of Bristol revisits and advances earlier research conducted in 2010 by Save the Children.
The 2016 study reflects markets and household behaviour as it exists today, and, for the first time, explores how manylow-income households are actually affected by the poverty premium, and by how much.
The new research reveals:
- The average cost of the poverty premium is £490 per household each year. This is lower than the previous estimate of around £1,300 per year and this difference largely derives from the way that the average premium for each of the eight poverty premium components takes into account the proportion of households incurring it.
- Not all low-income households experience all components of the premium. The research identifies seven distinct groups (or clusters) representing the most dominant combinations of poverty premiums experienced by low-income households. This exposure ranges from experiencing an average of only three types of premiums, to an average of eight. Based on these combinations of exposure, the cost incurred ranged from an average of £350 among the 'premium minimisers' to £750 among the more 'highly exposed'.
- The largest share of the average premium incurred by low-income households related directly to low-income households that had not switched household fuel tariff. This was compounded by other smaller premiums associated with households' fuel payment methods. And even a household that had switched to the best prepayment meter tariff could still expect to incur an estimated premium of £227 compared to the best deals available to those who pay by monthly direct debit.
- The new research suggests that there is still scope for the poverty premium to be reduced, and there is clearly role for providers, government and regulators to help address it. Central to the solution may be striking a better balance between cost-reflective pricing and cross-subsidy (where cross-subsidy is possible) and roles for greater partnerships and involvement of trusted intermediaries. The clearest priorities for action relate to insurance, higher-cost credit, and fuel.
Sara Davies, Research Fellow at PFRC, said: "This study provides an important and timely update to previous research.
"While the average poverty premium we have calculated is lower than the previous estimate, it is important to bear in mind that averages mask significant variation in the lived experience of the poverty premium. For example, one highly exposed family is estimated to incur a premium of over £1,600 each year, considerably more than the average premium of £750 for their cluster."
Yvette Hartfree, Research Fellow at PFRC, added: "It is also important to remember that the poverty premium only reflects the additional costs low-income households pay compared to higher-income households. It doesn't take into account the extent to which low-income households avoid paying poverty premiums simply because they can't afford to and instead go without."
WaPo | The raw, lingering emotion of the 2016 presidential campaign erupted into a shouting match here Thursday as top strategists of Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused their Republican counterparts of fueling and legitimizing racism to elect Donald Trump.
The extraordinary exchange came at a postmortem session sponsored by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where top operatives from both campaigns sat across a conference table from each other.
As Trump’s team basked in the glow of its victory and singled out for praise its campaign’s chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon, who was absent, the row of grim-faced Clinton aides who sat opposite them bristled.
Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri condemned Bannon, who previously ran Breitbart, a news site popular with the alt-right, a small movement known for espousing racist views.
“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” she said. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, fumed: “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?”
“You did, Kellyanne. You did,” interjected Palmieri, who choked up at various points of the session.
“Do you think you could have just had a decent message for white, working-class voters?” Conway asked. “How about, it’s Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t connect with people? How about, they have nothing in common with her? How about, she doesn’t have an economic message?”
Thursday, December 01, 2016
theatlantic | What’s going on here?
It is perhaps easiest to quote the hive-mind at Wikipedia to clear things up. Here’s how it defines white supremacy:
White supremacy or white supremacism is a racist ideologycentered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior in certain characteristics, traits, and attributes to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore white peopleshould politically, economically and socially rule non-white people. The term is also typically used to describe a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial domination by white people (as evidenced by historical and contemporary sociopolitical structures such as the Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws in the United States, and apartheid in South Africa). Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white...
Next is this crucial-for-our-purposes addition:
The subsection on the academic usage adds:
Readers will be unsurprised that a term has a common meaning and many diverging academic meanings as members of the academy contest it across fields of scholarship. Adjudicating the best definition within an academic field is not our concern.The term white supremacy is used in academic studies of racial power to denote a system of structural or societal racism which privileges white people over others, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur both at a collective and an individual level. Legal scholar Frances Lee Ansley explains this definition as follows: “By ‘white supremacy’ I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”This and similar definitions are adopted or proposed by Charles Mills, bell hooks, David Gillborn, Jessie Daniels and Neely Fuller Jr, and are widely used in critical race theory and intersectional feminism. ...Academic users of the term sometimes prefer it to racism because it allows for a disconnection between racist feelings and white racial advantage or privilege.
Rather, this small, obscure exchange illustrates a larger point: It is awful to stigmatize people as cringeworthy for failing to speak in the vernacular of a tiny, insular subculture. Neither journalists nor academics speaking to a general audience can insist a term’s only meaning is a contested usage so little known that it confounds a longtime employee of Mother Jones and many residents of the Upper West Side. And it is deeply counterproductive to stigmatize those who use the common meaning of a well-known term with words like “embarrassing,” and “mortifying.”
The insularity and biases at work here are a significant reason that the academy, and growing parts of the press who mistake its subculture for conventional wisdom, are increasingly unable to reach anyone that doesn’t share an educational background many intellectuals now think of as normal but that is, in fact, unusual even among college students in the U.S., never mind the rest of the world. Why does this insular subculture think stigmatization of this sort will succeed beyond it?
In the weeks since Donald Trump’s election, many journalists and close observers of mainstream journalism have been grappling with how best to cover the president-elect, and furiously critiquing headlines in the New York Times and Washington Post that allegedly engage in “false equivalence,” or fail to adequately call out misinformation that is verifiably false. I have no objection to that sort of media criticism. Hashing these matters out in open debate is a strength, not a weakness.
unz | The US Government of the people, for the people no longer exists. With the help of the 7 “blind” men however the shadow government can now be illuminated; the invisible government can now be discerned and the double government can now be identified.
The totality of truths is that the US “elephant” consists of a power elite hierarchy overseeing a corporatocracy, directing a deep state that has gradually subverted the visible government and taken over the “levers of power.” Henceforth in stark contrast to Scott and Lofgren it shall not be known as the disparate deep-state, nor as Sach’s corporatocracy, but more aptly as the amalgamated corporate-deep-state.
The Holy Grail of the science branch of physics is to find what Einstein called a Unified Field Theory, also known as “a theory of everything.” This is quite simply one idea, one set of equations that could explain the entire physical universe.
Similarly the corporate-deep-state theory is the Holy Grail of political science and builds on the work of the giants, called “blind” men in this paper, diving deeper into what Lofgren calls the red thread that runs throughout the past 40 years of US government and politics.
The US’s founding fathers went to great lengths in their Constitution to separate the powers between the three visible branches of the US federal government, ensuring that no single branch could dominate.
What they failed to plan for was the separation of corporation and state. A failure highlighted by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, under whose leadership the corporate Pandora’s box was first opened with the establishment of the Federal Reserve: “We are at the parting of the ways. We have, not one or two or three, but many, established and formidable monopolies in the United States. We have, not one or two, but many, fields of endeavor into which it is difficult, if not impossible, for the independent man to enter. We have restricted credit, we have restricted opportunity, we have controlled development, and we have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.”
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
archive | The history of libraries is one of loss. The Library of Alexandria is best known for its disappearance.
Libraries like ours are susceptible to different fault lines:
So this year, we have set a new goal: to create a copy of Internet Archive’s digital collections in another country. We are building the Internet Archive of Canada because, to quote our friends at LOCKSS, “lots of copies keep stuff safe.” This project will cost millions. So this is the one time of the year I will ask you: please make a tax-deductible donation to help make sure the Internet Archive lasts forever.
On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change.
For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.
wikipedia | The Five Eyes, often abbreviated as FVEY, is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
reddit | Now, the transition is getting an assist from Heritage Foundation officials including Becky Norton Dunlop, a distinguished fellow at the foundation; former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, a distinguished fellow emeritus at Heritage; Heritage national security expert James Carafano; and Ed Feulner, who helped found Heritage. Rebekah Mercer, a Heritage board member and major pro-Trump donor, is on the transition team’s 16-member executive committee, and a transition team source said she is working with Heritage to recruit appointees for positions at the undersecretary level and below (though she has struggled to find people interested in taking lower-level jobs, according to a New York Times report).
The transition team also includes other prominent activists and thinkers with close ties to Heritage, such as former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the activist involved with several conservative groups who is running Trump’s domestic transition team. He has written for Heritage and has personal relationships with many at the organization. Fist tap Dale.
Mike Pence, self-described "evangelical Catholic"
Chris Christie, Roman Catholic
Newt Gingrich, Roman Catholic, Council on Foreign Relations
Michael T. Flynn, Roman Catholic
Rudy Giuliani, Roman Catholic, 9/11 coadjutor, alleged Knight of Malta
Jared Kushner, fan of the Count of Monte Cristo ("Count of the Mount of Christ;" story about the Jesuit General getting revenge on all of the Order's enemies during its suppression)
Steve Bannon, chief strategist and Senior Counselor for the Presidency of Donald Trump, former executive chair of Breitbart News, Jesuit-trained from Georgetown
Lou Barletta, Roman Catholic
Chris Collins, Roman Catholic
Tom Marino, Roman Catholic
Devin Nunes, Roman Catholic
Anthony Scaramucci, Roman Catholic, Council on Foreign Relations
Eric Trump, Jesuit-trained from Georgetown and serves as board member of Georgetown's Business, Society, and Public Policy Initiative
Ivanka Trump, attended Jesuit Georgetown for two years
David Malpass, Jesuit-trained from Georgetown, Vice President of the Council for National Policy, leading appointment selections for positions involving economic issues
Keith Kellogg, trained by Jesuit at Santa Clara University, leading appointment selections for positions involving national defense issues
Michael Catanzaro, trained by Jesuits at Fordham University and St. Ignatius High School, leading the policy implementation team for energy independence
Andrew Bremberg, graduate of Catholic University of America Executive Legal Action Lead
James Carafano, Jesuit-trained from Georgetown University , reported to be the primary aide to the State Department of Trump administration transition team
Ed Feulner, Roman Catholic former President and founder of Heritage Foundation; Jesuit-trained from Regis and Georgetown Universities
Ken Blackwell, Jesuit-trained from Xavier University, leading appointment selections for positions involving domestic issues.
Boris Epshteyn, Trump's foremost spokesman; Jesuit-trained from Georgetown.
nationofchange | The Washington Post article in question, written by Craig Timberg — surely either one of the most credulous and lazy journalists working in a major US news organization (and that’s really an accomplishment!), or a rank propagandist for the US government posing as a journalist at the Post — relied upon only two sources for his dramatic “exposé” purporting to prove that a massive Russian propaganda campaign had surreptitiously attempted to undermine (perhaps successfully!) the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and to throw the race to Donald Trump, at the same time undermining US foreign policy and faith in the US government while elevating the reputation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both sources are falsely described by Timberg as being “two teams of independent researchers.” The assumption we clearly are meant to have is that these organizations have no institutional bias.
In fact, the first of these sources, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), turns out to be a hoary relic of the Cold War founded in 1955 by Robert Strausz-Hupé, an Austrian emigré and passionate anti-Communist. It has continued its anti-Russian propaganda stance since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 2002 death of its founder and now boasts on its board of trustees jailbait like former Reagan National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, a key player in the Reagan-era Iran Contra scandal who pleaded guilty to four counts of lying to Congress but was pardoned by President Reagan, arch-neocon and Russia-phobe Robert Kagan, a key promoter of the the US invasion or Iraq in 2003, and a whole host of other right-wing anti-Russian fanatics.
At least FRPI is willing to let people know who it is and who is running the joint. In contrast, the other of Timberg’s sources, PropOrNot, an organization with a website, PropOrNot.com, founded only several months ago, remains totally secret, providing no information on its site about its origins, its funding, its leadership or its staff. And yet Timberg confidently claims its information about Russia’s alleged epic propaganda effort was the result of the painstaking analytical work of these “experts.” In fact Timberg says the organization’s executive director, whom he quotes, asked for and received anonymity along with all his staff because they wanted to “avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”
And the Post’s editors allow him to get away with this gutlessness and lack of transparency. To get the full picture of how credulous and unprofessional — or willfully biased — Timberg’s editors at the Washington Post (often still considered one of the nation’s top “newspapers of record”), were in not vetting his article, read the Intercept’s article Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist from a New, Hidden and Very Shady Group, which devastatingly eviscerates both PropOrNot and the Post.
Suffice to say that besides allowing Timberg to use as the key source of his article and dramatic media blacklist an anonymous and clearly partisan group, PropOrNot, the Post’s editors also never required their supposedly crack “technology reporter” to even attempt to contact a single editor or journalist at any of the named alleged purveyors or “useful idiots” he was accusing of secretly spreading Russian-sourced “false news.” There’s not even a perfunctory: “Efforts to contact the editors at Counterpunch were unsuccessful” in the entire piece. Timberg and the editors of a paper that once gave us the Watergate story that brought down President Richard Nixon clearly didn’t even consider such basics of journalism important!
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
slashdot | After a little over a month of learning more languages to translate beyond Spanish, Google's recently announced Neural Machine Translation system has used deep learning to develop its own internal language. TechCrunch reports:GNMT's creators were curious about something. If you teach the translation system to translate English to Korean and vice versa, and also English to Japanese and vice versa... could it translate Korean to Japanese, without resorting to English as a bridge between them? They made this helpful gif to illustrate the idea of what they call "zero-shot translation" (it's the orange one). As it turns out -- yes! It produces "reasonable" translations between two languages that it has not explicitly linked in any way. Remember, no English allowed. But this raised a second question. If the computer is able to make connections between concepts and words that have not been formally linked... does that mean that the computer has formed a concept of shared meaning for those words, meaning at a deeper level than simply that one word or phrase is the equivalent of another? In other words, has the computer developed its own internal language to represent the concepts it uses to translate between other languages? Based on how various sentences are related to one another in the memory space of the neural network, Google's language and AI boffins think that it has. The paper describing the researchers' work (primarily on efficient multi-language translation but touching on the mysterious interlingua) can be read at Arxiv.
scientificamerican | Howard J. Wilk is a long-term unemployed synthetic organic chemist living in Philadelphia. Like many pharmaceutical researchers, he has suffered through the drug industry’s R&D downsizing in recent years and now is underemployed in a nonscience job. With extra time on his hands, Wilk has been tracking the progress of a New Jersey-based company called Brilliant Light Power (BLP).
The company is one of several that are developing processes that collectively fall into the category of new energy technologies. This movement is largely a reincarnation of cold fusion, the short-lived, quickly dismissed phenomenon from the late 1980s of achieving nuclear fusion in a simple benchtop electrolysis device.
In 1991, BLP’s founder, Randell L. Mills, announced at a press conference in Lancaster, Pa., that he had devised a theory in which the electron in hydrogen could transition from its normal ground energy state to previously unknown lower and more stable states, liberating copious amount of energy in the process. Mills named this curious new type of shrunken hydrogen the hydrino, and he has been at work ever since to develop a commercial device to harness its power and make it available to the world.
Wilk has studied Mills’s theory, read Mills’s papers and patents, and carried out his own calculations on the hydrino. Wilk has gone so far as to attend a demonstration at BLP’s facility in Cranbury, N.J., where he discussed the hydrino with Mills. After all that, Wilk says he still can’t tell if Mills is a titanic genius, is self-delusional, or is something in between.
futurism | Researchers from the U.S. DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University may have solved the mystery surrounding magnetic reconnection, bringing us one step closer to better solar flare prediction and (pmost notably) problems surrounding nuclear fusion containment. Ultimately, this means that nuclear fusion, and the limitless energy it could provide, may be one step closer to reality.