Anti-War

The Ignored Vitamin Cure

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

If you want to avert the development of a sight-robbing disease called macular degeneration you are going to have to step outside modern medicine.  Eye doctors only have treatment but no prevention for this dastardly eye disease that robs senior adults of their central vision for reading, driving and watching TV.

Don’t both your eye doctor about this proposed vitamin cure for macular degeneration.  Your eye doctor will demand a controlled human study before he/she prescribes a vitamin.  There are no published human studies to confirm its safety and effectiveness and none are planned.  So, it is unproven (but not disproven).  You will just have to endure slow progressive loss of vision (dry macular degeneration) and hope you don’t develop the fast-progressive form (wet macular degeneration), which requires monthly needle injections directly into your eye(s) to avoid permanent loss of vision.

The National Eye Institute promotes a multi-nutrient formula called the AREDS formula (Age-Related Eye Disease) that barely slows the progression of this disease (you still are losing your sight).  The AREDS formula does not benefit patients with early macular degeneration.  

A simple vitamin cure for macular degeneration has eluded eye researchers for decades and now that the ophthalmic industry has come to rely on a multi-billion dollar income stream generated by 12 million worldwide annual needle injections of medicine (5.9 million U.S. 2016) directly into the eyes to stave off permanent loss of vision. There is little if any financial impetus to prevent or cure this disease.  Would it be that modern medicine allows an eye disease to progress to precipitous loss of functional vision and then attempts to rescue vision only temporarily, requiring repeated treatment, rather than prevent the disease from occurring in the first place?

This eye disease is age-related, striking a significant portion of senior adults and robbing them of independent living in their retirement years.  What is the initiating factor that brings on this devastating eye disease that robs older adults of their central vision?

The medical literature points to chronic insufficient supply of oxygen to the retina, which is (incorrectly) called ischemia (iss-keem-ee-ah), as the instigating factor in macular degeneration.  This report makes a scientific argument that chronic ischemia initiates macular degeneration and is also the malevolent factor in the onset of a host of other eye disorders (glaucoma, macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion and uveitis) as well as many non-ophthalmic maladies such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, angina, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Numerous researchers conclude that oxygen deprivation is the starting point for dry macular degeneration:

“Our research supports the association of ischemia with dry macular degeneration.”  —British Journal Ophthalmology Aug. 2013

“All retinal nerve cells are most susceptible to ischemia.”  — Annals Ophthalmology (Russian) May 2010

“Ischemia may play a central role (in macular degeneration).”  — Progress in Retinal Eye Research Sept. 1999

One might say there is scientific consensus that oxygen deprivation is at the starting point for the disease.

The vitamin cure for macular degeneration

This report also reveals a single nutrient, thiamine (thii-ah-meen) vitamin B1, by virtue of its ability to facilitate the transport of oxygen on hemoglobin (the red oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells), as the antidote to eye, nerve, heart, brain and lung disorders.

By definition, ischemia is insufficient blood flow to provide adequate oxygenation to cells.   Ischemia may then lead to tissue hypoxia (hi-pox-ee-ah), reduced oxygen, or anoxia (an-ox-ee-ah), which is absence of oxygen altogether.

However, these defined terms do not encompass what actually may be happening.  It may not be impaired blood flow but rather impaired transport of oxygen to tissues that induces disease.  This etiology is generally not considered in research papers.

Reduced tissue oxygenation is strongly implicated in the onset of macular degeneration.  Impaired oxygen delivery can emanate from a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1) required for cell energy and oxygen delivery on hemoglobin.

To continue, an understanding of how the retina of the human eye is organized is necessary to understand how macular degeneration gets started.

The retina is organized from back to front as follows:

BACK OF EYES

The blood supply layer of the retina (choroid) is separated from the light (photo) receptors by a thin cellophane-like film called Bruch’s (Bruuks’s) membrane and a single layer thick row of cells called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).  Calcium and fats accumulate in Bruch’s membrane with advancing age.  This membrane doubles in thickness from 2.0 microns to 4.7 microns over ten decades.

It has been argued that lipid (fat) accumulation in Bruch’s membrane does impairs delivery of oxygen to the photoreceptors.  However, researchers rule out that accumulation of fats in Bruch’s membrane impairs blood flow or oxygen delivery in any significant way. 

A thickened Bruch’s membrane can delay oxygen to the photoreceptors. Calcification of Bruch’s membrane can impair oxygenation.  A more acute example is a disease called pseudoxanthoma elasticum which is characterized by calcification throughout the body.  Calcification is known to starve the photoreceptors of oxygen and induce destructive new blood vessels (aka neovascularization or angiogenesis) in cases of pseudoxanthoma elasticum.

Blood flow through the choroid is said to be the highest of any tissue in the body but oxygen extraction from hemoglobin is one of the lowest of any tissue in the body (less than 1 volume percent of oxygen).  This makes a shortage of thiamine/B1 critical in normalizing oxygen delivery to the retina.

Oxygen levels are high in the barrier layer (RPE) because it is in close approximation to the oxygen-rich choroid.  But further away from the choroid, oxygen levels decline to near zero at the photoreceptors in the dark.  This near-zero oxygen environment must be a defensive mechanism to limit oxidation.  But it also increases their vulnerability to oxygen deprivation.

Human body designed to rely on thiamine/vitamin B1

It has also been documented that as a total oxygen-less state develops in tissues (ischemia/hypoxia), molecular transporters of thiamine are increased on hemoglobin, evidence the body is designed and relies upon thiamine naturally for dynamic defense against oxygen-deprivation.

Sending a signal for ischemia/hypoxia without true lack of oxygen

Of interest, thiamin-deficiency can molecularly elevate a protein called hypoxia-inducing factor (HIF-1) and induce destructive new blood vessels without true oxygen deprivation, a condition called pseudo-hypoxia.

Changes in tissues due to true lack of oxygen (hypoxia-ischemia) are identical to those produced by thiamine deficiency.  This suggests many cases of wet macular degeneration may be induced by thiamin deficiency alone, without oxygen deprivation.  This may also explain why some patients with wet macular degeneration do not respond to anti-growth factor injections.

Dry versus wet macular degeneration

The so-called early form of macular degeneration, called the dry form, is distinguished from the wet form by leaky blood vessels (micro-hemorrhages) and oxygen deprivation so acute that new blood vessels outcrop and invade the visual center (macula) of the eyes.

There is no argument that wet-form macular degeneration is triggered by frank lack of oxygenation.  In an oxygen-less environment, a growth factor (vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF) activates the outcropping of invasive blood vessels that destroy the visual center (macula) of the eyes.  Eye doctors inject anti-VEGF medications periodically (monthly) to prevent permanent loss of vision.

The less invasive dry form of this disease “can only be caused by ischemia” say researchers at Colombia University Medical Center.  And certainly the absence of oxygen also triggers the more severe wet macular degeneration as well.

Autonomic control of blood circulation and thiamine

More specifically, researchers note there are dysfunctional small arteries (arterioles) in the blood layer (choroid) are under the control of the autonomic nervous system (not under conscious control by the individual).  Bodily functions like heart rate, respiration rate, temperature control, hunger and appetite, waste elimination, and sweating are automatically controlled in the human body.

Autonomic control goes haywire in dry form of macular degeneration.  Colombia University Medical School researchers hypothesize their investigation “supports a parasympathetic (autonomic) control of the arterioles as a causative factor in reduced perfusion (passage of blood) of the area surrounding the RPE (retinal pigment epithelium).”

Not noted by these researchers is that thiamine/vitamin B1 is essential for proper control of the autonomic nervous system.

Dilation of arteries by nitric oxide gas negated by lack of thiamine

Normally a transient gas called nitric oxide dilates (widens) arteries to maintain blood flow and pressure.  Drugs like niacin and Viagra-like drugs that activate nitric oxide would then have application for this disease.  But the production of nitric oxide is impaired due to loss of autonomic control, note researchers.  Albeit, the lack of nitric oxide gas is also associated with blockage of veins (retinal vein occlusion) as de-oxygenated blood exits the retina.

Dietary nitrates, such as found in sugar beets, may increase nitric oxide and inhibit autonomic (parasympathetic) constriction of arterioles(small arteries) in the retina.  Other molecules found in garlic (allicin) and grape wine (resveratrol) activate nitric oxide and improve circulation.  But again, lack of thiamine limits the capacity to produce nitric oxide.

Lack of cell energy is given as another reason why insufficient amounts of nitric oxide gas are produced in certain disease states.  Given that thiamine boosts cell energy (adeno-triphosphate or ATP levels) within the atomic power plants (mitochondria) of living cells, it is no surprise to learn that thiamine is a critical nutrient to enabling nitric oxide to do its job of dilating (widening) arteries to improve blood circulation and delivery of oxygen.

To test the oxygen-deprivation theory of macular degeneration

In further support of the oxygen deprivation origin of macular degeneration, it is well documented that sleep apnea (stop-and-start breathing during sleep) worsens macular degeneration whereas hyperbaric oxygen treatment is efficacious in preserving or improving sight.  Furthermore, in more severe oxygen deprivation (total or near-total absence of oxygen), hyperbaric oxygen rescues patients with wet macular degenerationUntreated sleep apnea hinders the response to anti-growth factor injections into the eyes of macular degeneration patients.

Thiamine/vitamin B1 theory of eye disease put to the test

Consistent with the thiamine-deficiency theory of wet-macular degeneration, it has been shown that a shortage of thiamine promotes more of a protein complex called hypoxia inducing factor (HIF1) that then triggers the production of growth factors (VEGF) that then sprout new blood vessels that destroy central vision.  Therefore, thiamine supplementation would be strongly indicated to head off wet macular degeneration and needle-injections of anti-growth factors directly into the eyes.  However, use of thiamine to prevent wet macular degeneration remains untried.

Low cellular levels of thiamine results in a decline in cellular energy and poor transport of oxygen to tissues, particularly in the retinal pigment epithelial cells that separate the retinal blood supply (choroid) and the photoreceptors.  In a state of thiamine deficiency excess lactic acid is produced in tissues throughout the body.  Patients with macular degeneration characteristically exhibit low cell energy and elevated lactic acid.

In 2009 vitamin B1 was heralded as a cure for uveitis, an inflammation of pigmented inner lining of the eye.  But it is not known if thiamine has come into common practice in eye clinics for this malady, given modern medicine’s reluctance to embrace nutritional medicine.

How laser treatment increases oxygen delivery to the retina

An explanation of how laser treatment rescues threatened vision centers on the restoration of oxygen supply to a starved retina.  It has been noted that if some retinal photoreceptors are destroyed by laser light, then subsequent scars that form at the back of the eyes allow oxygen to diffuse directly to the inner retina via these laser-induced scars rather than being consumed by the energy-making compartments (mitochondria) of the photoreceptors.  With adequate oxygenation, then growth factors are inhibited and destructive new blood vessel formation is halted.

Oxygen deprivation and other diseases

Thiamine deficiency and consequent oxygen deprivation is linked to many other maladies.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious lung disease.  It takes the breath out of COPD sufferers.  It is not surprising to learn that dietary intake of thiamine is lower than the Recommended Daily Allowance in over 75% of COPD patients.

Nor is it surprising to learn that the symptoms of an inherited mitochondrial disorder called Leigh Syndrome (maternally inherited) which encompasses night blindness, nerve disorders and abnormally uncoordinated movements called ataxia, are treated with thiamine.

Thiamine in its fat-soluble form (benfotiamine) is literally curing Alzheimer’s disease as evidenced in brain scans.  Given that benfotiamine does not pass through the blood/brain barrier, it is obviously working indirectly (autonomic control or by increasing oxygenation before it reaches the brain?).

Dementia, a progressive decline in mental function, is actually called transient ischemic attack (TIA).  Loss of autonomic control is at the core of all chronic brain disorders.  Thiamine is considered a protective factor for dementia.

Nor should silent ischemia that produces no symptoms of chest pain be overlooked.  Some 3 to 4 million Americans experience silent heart disease (angina).

Regardless of the lack of published evidence, any human disease that involves oxygen deprivation should be indicative of need for thiamine.

Why the eyes, but not other tissues and organs, are affected

It is not difficult to understand why patients with macular degeneration may not exhibit signs or symptoms of oxygen deprivation in other organs and tissues.  The human eye is particularly vulnerable to shortages of oxygen.

There are 140 million night vision (rod) cells and ~6 million color vision cells (cones) in the retina.  Rods can function in remarkably ultra-low oxygen environment.  In the dark the 140 million rod cells devour oxygen and virtually surround and overwhelm the far fewer cone cells, resulting in a zone of near-zero oxygen in the macula, the visual center of the eyes.  The central retina has very little oxygen reserve capacity.

Arsenic is the environmental toxin that induces hypoxia

An interesting environmental factor that exacerbates any oxygen-deprived tissue is arsenic, a heavy metal contaminant found in water supplies and in the widely used glyphosate herbicide, that can mimic a hypoxic effectArsenic can set the stage for oxygen deprivation diseases.

Few if any eye physicians would suspect arsenic toxicity in out-of-control wet macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.  Without knowledge of their cause, many cases of eye disease that don’t respond to conventional treatment will remain unexplained.  Given that glyphosate is associated with kidney disease, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the more vulnerable retina could also be harmed by arsenic toxicity via pseudo-hypoxia.   There is some scientific awareness that arsenic is related to macular degeneration.

Do macular degeneration patients have beriberi?

Beriberi is the name of the disease symptoms that emanates from a frank deficiency of thiamine/vitamin B1.  Oxygen deprivation due to poor transport of oxygen in thiamin-deficient individuals could theoretically produce abnormalities simultaneously throughout the body.  However, certain organs and tissues are better protected from thiamine deficiency and therefore other organs may exhibit symptoms of thiamine shortage without resulting in the classic and severe symptoms of beriberi – – the overt vitamin deficiency disease, characterized by pain (calves), loose stool, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, involuntary eye movement, paralysis, shortness of breath with activity, swelling in lower legs, loss of muscle control, difficulty speaking, and other autonomic system disorders.

Change in prognosis of retinal disease

Only recently have researchers recognized that the progression of vision loss due to macular degeneration is not as it seems.  The conventional way to assess prognosis is to determine the amount of cholesterol-like deposits (oxysterols) called drusen that appear as yellow deposits at the back of the eyes.  Now investigators realize drusen block oxygenation of the retina.  Impaired oxygen transport is finally being mentioned as the cause of progressive vision loss in old age.  This sets the stage for the preventive and therapeutic use of thiamine, but modern medicine will predictably pursue synthetic drugs rather than a simple nutrient like thiamine/vitamin B1

About thiamine/vitamin B1 dietary supplements

Thiamine/vitamin B1 is provided in food in small amounts (micrograms) as a water-soluble nutrient.  The best diets only provide 1.0 to 2.0 milligrams of thiamine.   There is only ~30 milligrams of thiamine stored in the body which will last only 18 days if totally deprived of this nutrient.  To ensure human populations receive adequate intakes of thiamine, flour is fortified.  According to US Department of Agriculture data, 81.6% of the American population consume an adequate amount of thiamine/vitamin B1.

But public health authorities overlook the problem of absorption.  Refined sugars, alcohol, refined carbohydrates (bread, polished rice, cereal and pasta, the basis of the Food Pyramid that public health authorities have now abandoned), as well as coffee and tea, block the absorption of thiamine.  Chronic use of antacids or diuretics (water pills) and the lack of stomach acid (often due to H. pylori infection) also block or impair vitamin B1 absorption. Tobacco use (nicotine) impairs cellular use of thiamine.  Tobacco use is also a risk factor for macular degeneration as is alcohol.

This is why the more soluble vitamin B1, benfotiamine, was developed.  Doses of benfotiamine are high (100-140 milligrams) to overcome absorption problems.  However the maximum amount of thiamine that can be absorbed by a single oral dose of thiamine hydrochloride ranges from 4.8 to 8.3 milligrams.

Super-soluble benfotiamine is almost six times more biologically available than water-soluble thiamin hydrochloride, the common form used in dietary supplements.  Allithiamine, another form of vitamin B1 available as a dietary supplement, unlike benfotiamine is able to traverse the blood/brain barrier and is advantageous.  Sulbutiamine is yet another form of vitamin B1 that is commercially available and is touted for its superior ability to enter the brain.

Almost all multivitamins provide economical forms of vitamin B1 in water-soluble form (thiamine mononitrate, thiamine hydrochloride) that convert in the body to the active from of the vitamin, thiamine pyrophosphate.

Regardless of dosage, side effects are generally not reported with thiamine supplements at any dosage.  Thiamine can be taken with any drugs.

Currently there is only one multivitamin (formulated by this author) on the market that provides benfotiamine and allithiamine.

Magnesium is an essential co-factor with thiamine.  The lack of magnesium may render supplemental thiamine useless.

Blood tests and risk for overdosage

Blood tests for thiamine are generally not accurate and only reflect recent consumption.  Asking your doctor for a B1 test is a waste of money.

Thiamine and gut bacteria

Today we now realize much disease emanates from altered gut bacteria.  Gut bacteria is now linked with glaucoma and macular degeneration.  The desirable family of healthy gut bacteria known as Bacteriodetes requires thiamine.  Some gut bacteria actually synthesize their own thiamine.  Thiamine was detected in humans whose diets were completely deprived of thiamine, inferring B1 was derived from their gut bacteria!  The human body does everything it can to hold on to this essential nutrient.  The promotion of healthy gut bacteria may help explain why benfotiamine, which does not cross the blood/brain barrier, reverses Alzheimer’s disease.

Prospect of public adoption of thiamine pills

It is unlikely macular degeneration patients will bolt from their eye doctors and venture on their own to use thiamine therapy.  Only patients for whom eye injections have failed are likely to consider thiamine vitamin B1 therapy out of desperation.

Many macular disease patients are over-reliant on doctors, cannot make independent decisions, are obviously vision impaired and are likely mentally challenged and are only in a financial position to use medications that Medicare pays for.  So it is unlikely aged macular degeneration patients will opt for thiamine pills.

Most if not all macular degeneration patients who inquire about thiamine will be confronted by clueless eye doctors who, even if knowledgeable, will act to protect their incomes.  Replacing an injectable drug that costs $9,926-$18,900 a year with a 15-40-cent/per day vitamin ($55-150/year) that doesn’t require a prescription is not likely to be embraced by modern medicine.

By personal experience, when a resveratrol pill this writer formulated gained attention in the news media for its ability to spare hopeless macular degeneration patients from vision loss when their treatment failed, eye doctors simply said the pill was unproven and that their injected medicines finally kicked in and the resveratrol pill was worthless.  This was despite published reports of its effectiveness.  So, like resveratrol, a crusade to get patients to take thiamine pills is likely an exercise in frustration.  Doctors have their fallback position: where is the double-blind placebo-controlled study?  Yes, where is it?

Thiamine/vitamin B1 blocks the most serious physical consequences of diabetes – heart failure (cardiomyopathy), kidney failure (nephropathy), retinal swelling (retinopathy) and numbness and tingling in nerves in the legs and arms (peripheral neuropathy), yet modern medicine shuns thiamine therapy.

Macular degeneration runs along family lines.  There is considerable increased risk to develop macular degeneration if older family members have the disease.  The lifetime risk for macular degeneration is ~50% for those with family members who have the disease and only 12% for those who don’t, a 400% difference.  These at-risk individuals who fear losing their sight to the same disease their grandmother suffered with, are the most likely to practice prevention and consider thiamine/vitamin B1 therapy.

People don’t need a disease to supplement their diet with thiamine/vitamin B1.  Life ceases without B1.  Given the calorie-rich modern American diet is rich in vitamin B1 blockers (sugars, carbs, alcohol, B1 blocking drugs, antacids, antibiotics, even coffee and tea), Dr. Derrick Lonsdale characterizes this as “high calorie malnutrition.”  Intake is adequate, absorption is blocked and the masses suffer.

Given the current set of circumstances in the 21st century, it is difficult to conceive that ANY American child or adult has adequate thiamine nutriture.  Proceed without thiamine at your own risk.  Don’t forget the accompanying magnesium.

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Can Government Punish Twice for the Same Crime?

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

Shop all books by Judge Napolitano

“…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…”
–Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The government in America is out of control.

Last week, this column discussed the unconstitutional efforts of federal prosecutors in Chicago to punish an American citizen for crimes that had not yet been committed. This week, I address the wish of federal prosecutors in Alabama to charge and to punish a man for a crime for which he had already been convicted and punished.

There is no happy ending here. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the same criminal event can trigger two prosecutions, one by the feds and one by the state; and it can also trigger two punishments.

Here is the backstory.

Terance Gamble, who had once been convicted of robbery in Alabama, was stopped by a Mobile, Alabama, policeman who claimed Gamble was driving a car with a damaged headlight. He then claimed Gamble gave him consent to search his car. Neither of these police claims is credible, but that is not the point of this argument. When the search revealed a loaded handgun, Gamble was arrested and his constitutional odyssey began.

Because Gamble was a convicted felon at the time his vehicle was stopped and the handgun was discovered, his possession of the handgun violated Alabama law and also violated federal law. Both laws prohibit convicted felons from owning or possessing firearms for life.

After he pleaded guilty in Alabama state court to being a felon in possession of a handgun and began to serve his jail term, federal prosecutors sought and obtained an indictment for Gamble’s violation of the federal statute prohibiting felons from possessing firearms. Gamble then pleaded guilty in federal court, reserving his right to challenge his federal conviction on the theory that it constituted double jeopardy.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no person shall “for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This is commonly referred to as the double jeopardy clause. Like the other initial eight amendments in the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment was written largely in response to government excesses and abuses during the colonial period. In the case of this clause, it was expressly written to prevent repeated attempts to convict.

Notwithstanding the plain language in the Amendment, the trial court dismissed Gamble’s challenge and a federal appellate court upheld that dismissal. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts and permitted the second guilty plea to stand, and the second incarceration to be served.

Isn’t double punishment profoundly un-American and clearly unconstitutional? In a word: Yes.

It is not only un-American and contrary to the Fifth Amendment; it violates the natural right to proportional punishment. That right guarantees that a defendant shall not be punished more severely than others similarly situated and not more severely than the defendant’s behavior warranted. I am not arguing here that all convicted felons should have access to firearms, though many — like those convicted of nonviolent crimes — should. Yet, Gamble’s mere possession of this handgun harmed no one, and it hardly merits a double dose of punishment.

No crime merits double punishment. We know that because it was a policy judgment made by James Madison & Co. when Congress passed and the states ratified the Bill of Rights. The framers were personally familiar with the British officials’ practice of repeatedly trying defendants — usually folks colonial officials hated or feared — for the same crime, until they got the verdict and the punishment that they wanted.

We fought a revolution over abuses like this, and we wrote a Constitution to prevent those abuses from happening here.

And here we are in 2019 and those abuses are still with us. If the feds fail to convict you, the state has a shot. If the state fails to convict you, the feds have a shot. If both governments want to charge you and try you and punish you for the same offense — the same criminal event and the same crime — they can constitutionally do so.

Why should you care about this? You should care because repeated attempts to convict are hallmarks of tyrants. Yet the Supreme Court, in an obeisance to textualism — the literal adherence to the words of a document no matter the outcome of that adherence — ruled that the Fifth Amendment only prohibits the re-prosecution for the same offense, not for the same crime; and Gamble’s behavior was actually two crimes, one state and one federal, not two offenses.

Come again? Isn’t it obvious from history that all repeated attempts to convict for offenses or crimes are barred by the values that underlie the words the Court has just abused?

This business of double prosecutions for the same event or offense or crime and double punishments is bad law. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in dissent, “A free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.”

Compare that clear liberty-loving language with the Court’s tortured idea of the textual differences between offenses and crimes, and one can see that judicial intellectual chicanery can always find a means to an end. The Supreme Court should be in the business of protecting our rights, not upending them.

The benefit of any historical doubt or textual ambiguity should always favor liberty over power, because liberty is inalienable and integral to our humanity and essential for our happiness. Power is whatever the government wants it to be.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

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Oberlin College and the Rise of Social Justice Vengeance

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

For those of us who have been the victims of a public shaming, as I was at the beginning of 2018, something rather wonderful happened last week. The jury delivered its verdict in a law suit that a bakery in Oberlin, Ohio had brought against the neighboring liberal arts college for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference. In brief, students and staff at Oberlin College engaged in a long campaign to brand the local business as ‘racist’, inflicting a terrible toll on its reputation, and the jury sided with the plaintiffs.

The story begins on November 9, 2016 when three students entered Gibson’s Bakery, a shop that’s been serving the town of Oberlin since 1885, and tried to purchase two bottles of wine using a fake ID. When the clerk refused to sell to them, they tried to leave with the wine but he ran after them and ended up being kicked and punched on the ground by all three until the police arrived and arrested them. Nothing particularly unusual about that, unfortunately. Between 2011 and 2016, 40 people were arrested for shoplifting from Gibson’s Bakery. But the three perpetrators on this occasion were black and the following day hundreds of student protested outside. The Dean of Students and other college officials brought the protesters pizza and helped them hand out leaflets saying, ‘Don’t Buy. This is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination.’

Needless to say, that wasn’t true. Of the 40 shoplifters arrested in the previous five years, 32 were white, six were black and two were Asian. A black employee of Gibson’s told a local newspaper that racial profiling had nothing to do with the arrest. ‘If you’re caught shoplifting, you’re going to end up getting arrested,’ he said. ‘When you steal from the store, it doesn’t matter what color you are. You can be purple, blue, green; if you steal, you get caught, you get arrested.’ Even the three students agreed. When they eventually pleaded guilty a year later, they each signed a statement saying, ‘I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale.’

In spite of no evidence of racism, the students continued to protest and demanded that Oberlin College sever all relations with the bakery, which it duly did, including canceling a longstanding contract whereby it supplied food to the refectory. As a result, three generations of the Gibson family had to stop paying themselves and most of their employees were laid off. The college’s administrators behaved in this way in spite of knowing the allegations were false – an email from a woman who worked in the communications department to her bosses said that all the black people she’d spoken to in the town were ‘disgusted and embarrassed’ by the protest. ‘To them this is not a race issue at all and they do not believe the Gibsons are racist,’ she wrote.

The Gibson family decided to sue and, not surprisingly, the jury of local townsfolk sided with the bakery. In a glorious rejoinder to the po-faced activists at Oberlin College, they awarded the plaintiffs $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages. In America, conservatives have hailed this as a turning point in the culture war, putting social justice warriors on notice that trying to destroy people’s reputations by labeling them ‘racists’ – or ‘misogynists’ or ‘homophobes’ – could cost them dear. That is probably overstating the effect of this case, particularly as Oberlin College may appeal, but there are a number of other lawsuits wending their way through the American courts and if they end in the same way it really might have an impact.

Read the Whole Article

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Is Artificial Intelligence Termination or Salvation?

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

I have to confess that ludicrous science fiction films are often a guilty pleasure for me, an interest I shared with my late father and still share with my brother. Many years ago, in theaters I watched the first and second films in the Terminator series, which postulated that in the not too distant future an Artificial Intelligence takes over the world by waging a genocidal campaign against humanity, which resists.

More recently, Netflix aired a film with a similar theme entitled I Am Mother. The official trailer is below.

(Incidentally, I’m not aware of a Chinese YouTube channel equivalent to Russia’s RT or Vesti News, but China’s take on America’s “elites” would certainly be of interest as well.)

Like any other tool, AI was created by human beings; it can serve a good and higher purpose, as Mr. Richardson discussed, or it could develop into yet another doomsday device, although I think the probability of any such system achieving sentience like “Mother” is remote, as detailed in my recent article for LewRockwell.com on the nature of consciousness.

Also posted on this site was an article The Risk of Artificial Intelligence by Martin Armstrong. He writes:

But the fears running around about AI are really unfounded. They are based upon a THEORY that somehow consciousness will emerge from creating a program. Not that someone codes this development, it somehow just is born. I will never say ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, for this is a untested theory. It assumes that somehow man could create a soul so to speak. I just do not believe that.

Absolutely every step has to be coded. How do you move your arm? The thought must first emerge in your brain, your mind must know what path to send an instruction down to move the muscles. There are countless paths. You have to decided the direction. Which precise muscle to move and how.  There is a tremendous amount of coding that would be required.

I am pretty good at programming. This is all conceptual design. You first have to see it in your mind and then figure a way to code it to accomplish that end goal. This is not eary stuff. Sometimes you have to stare so hard at the problem and suddenly you see through it like a pane of glass – ah the path. Then the coding. The debugging is enough to drive you insane. The slightest most subtle error can take days to find and then you feel so stupid for it was in plane sight all the time. All of that requires the concept of how to accomplish a task. But how do you create emotion? That is different. Now you are talking about the freedom to just act arbitrarily. Of I could mimic a random thought generator seeded with the timer taking the last digit of the second. But that only creates the appearance of randomness. In programming, it is IMPOSSIBLE to create a true random generator for you quickly discover, whatever the project, it will fall back into as cycle for pure randomness cannot be coded.

I do not even know where to begin to try to create REAL human emotion since it is impossible to create randomness. I can mimic human emotion. You will get to see some of that in the final launch of Socrates. He can even joke. If you want to buy something that will decline sharply and is nowhere close to reaching a low in time or price, he can even come back and ask – Are you really sure? Did you have a bad day? But this is simply mimicking human nature. It is not creating it.

There is a substantial difference between actual random thought and mimicking since the first I cannot create, while the latter is a piece of cake. I would not know where to begin to create true emotional random thought since it is impossible to create even a simple random number generator. This is extremely important. For computers to turn against mankind as in the Terminator series or the Matrix, it requires emotion from which a random decision is made – like no I had a nasty day and suddenly I decided I do not like you.

Absolutely every step has to be coded. How do you move your arm? The thought must first emerge in your brain, your mind must know what path to send an instruction down to move the muscles. There are countless paths. You have to decided the direction. Which precise muscle to move and how.  There is a tremendous amount of coding that would be required.

I can create a self-aware system that will protect itself. No problem! I can create a system that will self-destruct or even defend itself with an electric charge – no problem. All that can be accomplished with writing code. I can even give a computer the ability to see as well as speak. That is no problem. Police already have facial recognition software. A computer can know who you are when you enter a room. While all of that may be food for Sci-Fi movies, but it is not the type of computer that will turn against its creator! If the government wants to create robots to kill man on command or create an army, that is no problem. It does not take free will to do that. Soldiers are trained to obey orders and NOT to question authority. Police are the same.

On Wired, we learn that “God Is a Bot, and Anthony Levandowski Is His Messenger.” Levandowski is one of the people responsible for self-driving cars (and that’s worked out really well, if you recall all those kamikaze Teslas) and perhaps he inspired the creators of I Am Mother:

Many people in Silicon Valley believe in the Singularity—the day in our near future when computers will surpass humans in intelligence and kick off a feedback loop of unfathomable change.

When that day comes, Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer at the heart of the trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”

Pathetic doesn’t even begin to cover it. Therefore, let’s all take a deep breath and be more optimistic for a change: the world might be run by buffoons and lunatic occult obsessed sociopaths deluded into thinking they have the true secrets of the universe that are kept hidden from the unwashed masses but revealed to them (But the devil tells his victims what they want to hear, doesn’t he, starting from the Garden of Eden?), yet there is little likelihood that the Earth will all go up in flames—by either human or machine hands—any time soon. You don’t have to have a religious perspective to realize that truth.

Not that the religious should stop praying. Grave dangers are very real; but I’d like to think Mr. Richardson’s analysis is correct: Supercomputers and AI are making nuclear war less likely.

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Manifesto Destiny

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Calcutta-born NYU journalism professor Suketu Mehta takes pro-immigration polemics to their logical conclusion: “Immigration as reparations.” Historically white countries must open their borders because whites have sinned and deserve punishment. But just lie back and think of diversity:

Indeed, a huge bill is coming due to the West. And it is one that the West is not only morally obligated to pay, but one that it should look forward to paying.

Mehta’s book is rife with anecdotes about deplorable white people saying insensitive things to his family. (His clannish loyalty to concentric circles of his people might be his best quality.) He begins with a tale of which he’s particularly proud: An Englishman in London asks his grandfather why he is in his country:

“Because we are the creditors,” responded my grandfather, who was born in India…. “You took all our wealth, our diamonds. Now we have come to collect.” We are here, my grandfather was saying, because you were there.

Who wouldn’t want to let in more Mehtas? They sound like a delightful family, folks who definitely have your best interests at heart.

On the other hand, the author isn’t, technically, in Britain. He’s been living in the United States of America since his Gujarati diamond-merchant family arrived in Queens in 1977. As he sums up his manifesto:

I claim the right to the United States, for myself and my children and my uncles and cousins, by manifest destiny…. It’s our country now.

Of course, exactly why Americans merit vengeance for the sins, real and imaginary, of the British Raj isn’t fully explained in This Land Is Our Land. But that’s not the point; the point is that you white people have money, which means you are guilty, and therefore you must pay.

Seriously, in the current Scramble for America, the potential profits for colonizers like the Mehtas are so vast that it’s only natural for their pundits to not wait around to publish until they’ve first figured out arguments that can pass the laugh test.

But Mehta isn’t just spewing racial hate for the money. Like so many immigrant Indian intellectuals, such as Angela Saini, author of the hysterical science denialist book Superior, Mehta has a giant chip on his shoulder against whites. He feels humiliated that Europe was once able to colonize India, rather than vice versa:

It is every migrant’s dream to see the tables turned, to see long lines of Americans and Britons in front of the Bangladeshi or Mexican or Nigerian Embassy, begging for a residence visa.

To soothe his wounded amour propre, Mehta has retconned a vision of South Asian history that is Indian supremacist crackpottery:

Consider the subcontinent. For five thousand years we had been one people, ruled undivided from the borders of Persia to China by emperors from Ashoka to Akbar…. Then the British came and ruled us for two hundred years by pitting us against each other so that we couldn’t be pitted against them…

Actually, it’s not that hard to get South Asians to divide up, in part because they’ve been genetically dividing themselves up into a mind-bogglingly elaborate caste system of petty apartheid at least since the Aryan Invasion. For example, late in his book Mehta admits:

I immigrated over with not just my immediate family, not just my extended family, but a large part of my subcaste, the Dashanagar Vaniyas. It’s a subcategory of Gujarati merchants from the villages around Ahmedabad, “the merchants of the ten towns.”

And then he recounts how he delights in his subcaste’s annual picnic:

It was a fine day at the subcaste picnic. All my caste-fellows, young, old, were playing cricket, eating, strolling by the New Jersey lake, and the old ladies were pleased that not one of us had yet married an American.

It’s absurd, of course, for Hindus, the world’s most racist, reactionary, and inegalitarian culture, to be paid to lecture white Americans on our crimes against wokeness. It’s relevant to note that most of the new generation of South Asian pundits on the make, such as Mehta and Saini, aren’t egalitarian progressives in any abstract sense. They are regressives, loyal to their families, clans, and races. They wish their people to drive before them their enemies and hear the lamentations of their women.

Read the Whole Article

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The Double Edged Sword

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

In a world of increasing globalization and increasing resistance to it at the same time, via populism, nationalism is beginning to rise. Nationalism, in many ways is seen as the antidote to globalization, so to speak. Populism has began to sweep across Europe and the United States recently, as a reaction to what are seen as the “global elites”. While nationalism is a powerful tool in combating the attack on a nation’s sovereignty from global hegemony, it is on balance, a double edged sword. In certain forms, nationalism turns a given state into a hegemon of its own.

Turkey provides a good historical and contemporary case study of this “double edged sword” phenomenon. Since the founding of the Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey has embodied a strong spirit of nationalism, which has guided the country. One of the planks of the so called doctrine of “Kemalism”, is nationalism. Unlike other Turkish nationalists, Atatürk embodied a form of “civic nationalism”. His brand of nationalism was inclusive, i.e., one did not have to be a Turk by ethnicity to be considered part of the nation.

In 1969, as the multi-party system began to distill in Turkey, a new party, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), was founded by former army colonel Alparslan Türkeş. Türkeş, who believed that the party of Atatürk, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), had drifted away from true Turkish nationalism, founded the MHP in response, and would become a prominent Turkish nationalist. This new party embodied a different spirit of nationalism, one that was built around preserving the Turkish ethnicity within the Turkish State.

The Kurdish Problem

The question of what is to happen with the Kurdish population has long been a hindrance to the Turkish State. In 1993, while debating Kurdish political activist Orhan Doğan, then MHP leader Alparslan Türkeş brought up an interesting point when discussing the issue of Kurdish independence. Türkeş made a comparison of the Kurdish situation to the United States. He pointed out that in New York, there were millions of Italian speaking Americans. But these Italians could not, if they wanted, break off of the United States, and form a separate state comprised chiefly of Italians. They still had to adhere to the American national identity, and their official language was still English, Türkeş proclaimed.

Türkeş even went further to say that allowing institutions to introduce and aid in the spreading of Kurdish cultural identity and education was a self destructive path. He boldly proclaimed that to embrace such protocols would be equivalent to endorsing the splintering and destruction of the Turkish State, and that he was willing to spill blood if need be to preserve the State. Current MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli holds these same radical pro-Turkish national identity ideals.

Mises and The Right of Self Determination

The great Austrian philosopher and economist Ludwig Von Mises addressed the issue of the right to self-determination in his political treatise, Liberalismus, in 1927. Mises watched as authoritarianism and fascism began to rise in the 1920’s, and underscored the importance in spreading the ideas of freedom and self-determination in countering this nefarious trend in politics. To Mises, it would be contra freedom and democracy to not “guarantee that the adjustment of the government to the will of the citizens can take place without friction”. It is important to note that Mises was often dealing with the discussion of European polyglot states in his treatise, hence his analysis remains relevant to the current and historical treatment of the Kurds in Turkey.

“Liberal Nationalism”

A key insight that Mises took in was that in polyglot nations, people of like minded cultural backgrounds tended to group together. At the same time, a malicious state could counter this, and sanction hostilities between various groups. Mises fused these two insights to create a better understanding of his form of “liberal nationalism”. Mises viewed nationalism as a “liberation movement” of sorts, forging “wars of liberation” against monarchical despots. It would allow groups to determine their future prospects, in regards to political organization.

Mises’s view can be summed up here: Liberal nationalism adheres to the preserving of the people’s interests; Authoritarian nationalism, as seen in Turkey, adheres to preserving the interests of the state. The former seeks to give the people the right to self-determination, whereas the latter seeks to give the state the right to self-determination. It is a classic contrast of Lockeanism and Hobbesianism.

The liberal nationalism of Mises is irrespective of culture or ethnicity. It allows for the peaceful and smoothly functioning organization and reorganization of peoples, based on the principle of popular democracy. It is grounded in the idea of respecting the free movement of people, whilst also recognizing the importance of the individual and property rights.

The Kurdish phenomenon in Turkey is perhaps complicated by the Turkish State, rather than being a messy problem in of itself. Whilst the two phenomena have intrinsically different dynamic, at their hearts, the Kurdish problem and the polyglot problem in Europe in the early 20th century, are one in the same. Both underscore the importance of allowing the people to guide themselves, not the state.

Yes, it’s true that nationalism challenges globalization. Conversely however, it is rooted in the survival of the state and the needs of the state above all other things. Thus the goal of keeping the state as one strong entity trumps the goal of meeting the demands of the people. Democracy is no threat to nationalism, until the people’s demands begin to threaten the stability and unity of the state. This is the problem with nationalism, and why it is, in essence, a double edged sword.

Nationalism gives an individual state the right of self-determination, but does not to individuals. Nationalism creates an inherent quagmire by trying to convert other cultures to that of the state, and sanctioning hostilities between various groups. If nationalism is to succeed, it will only in its liberal form, as advocated by Mises. But nationalism as it is in its form today, only adds to the list of problems created by globalization.

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The Jackboots Are Coming

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence and illegal immigration have been convenient ruses used to terrorized the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Case in point: on June 17, the same day President Trump announced that the government would be making mass arrests in order to round up and forcibly remove millions of illegal immigrants—including families and children—from the country, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Gamble v. United States that placed the sovereignty (i.e., the supreme power or authority) of federal and state governments over that of the citizenry, specifically as it relates to the government’s ability to disregard the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.

At first glance, the two incidents—one relating to illegal immigration and the other to the government’s prosecutorial powers—don’t have much to do with each other, and yet there is a common thread that binds them together.

That common thread speaks to the nature of the government beast we have been saddled with and how it views the rights and sovereignty of “we the people.”

Now you don’t hear a lot about sovereignty anymore.

Sovereignty is a dusty, antiquated term that harkens back to an age when kings and emperors ruled with absolute power over a populace that had no rights. Americans turned the idea of sovereignty on its head when they declared their independence from Great Britain and rejected the absolute authority of King George III. In doing so, Americans claimed for themselves the right to self-government and established themselves as the ultimate authority and power.

In other words, in America, “we the people”— sovereign citizens—call the shots.

So when the government acts, it is supposed to do so at our bidding and on our behalf, because we are the rulers.

That’s not exactly how it turned out, though, is it?

In the 200-plus years since we boldly embarked on this experiment in self-government, we have been steadily losing ground to the government’s brazen power grabs, foisted upon us in the so-called name of national security.

The government has knocked us off our rightful throne. It has usurped our rightful authority. It has staged the ultimate coup. Its agents no longer even pretend that they answer to “we the people.”

So you see, the two incidents on June 17 were not hugely significant in and of themselves.

Trump’s plan to carry out mass arrests of anyone the government suspects might be an illegal immigrant, and the Supreme Court’s recognition that the government can sidestep the Constitution for the sake of expediency are merely more of the same abuses that have been heaped upon us in recent years.

Yet these incidents speak volumes about how far our republic has fallen and how desensitized “we the people” have become to this constant undermining of our freedoms.

How do we reconcile the Founders’ vision of our government as an entity whose only purpose is to serve the people with the police state’s insistence that the government is the supreme authority, that its power trumps that of the people themselves, and that it may exercise that power in any way it sees fit (that includes government agents crashing through doors, mass arrests, ethnic cleansing, racial profiling, indefinite detentions without due process, and internment camps)?

They cannot be reconciled. They are polar opposites.

We are fast approaching a moment of reckoning where we will be forced to choose between the vision of what America was intended to be (a model for self-governance where power is vested in the people) and the reality of what she has become (a police state where power is vested in the government).

This slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what happened in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

We are walking a dangerous path right now.

The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps weren’t kept secret from the German people. They were well-publicized. As The Guardian reports:

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust… They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand. They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters… The reports, in newspapers and magazines all over the country were phases in a public process of “desensitisation” which worked all too well, culminating in the killing of 6m Jews….

Likewise, the mass of ordinary Americans are fully aware of the Trump Administration’s efforts to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

These mass arrests of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant may well be the shot across the bow.

You see, it’s a short hop, skip and a jump from allowing government agents to lock large swaths of the population up in detention centers unless or until they can prove that they are not only legally in the country to empowering government agents to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to similar treatment unless or until they can prove that they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books, and not guilty of having committed some crime or other.

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

You may be innocent of wrongdoing now, but when the standard for innocence is set by the government, no one is safe. Everyone is a suspect, and anyone can be a criminal when it’s the government determining what is a crime.

Remember, the police state does not discriminate.

At some point, once the government has been given the power to do whatever it wants—the Constitution be damned—it will not matter whether you’re an illegal immigrant or a citizen by birth, a law-breaker or someone who marches in lockstep with the government’s dictates. Government jails will detain you just as easily whether you’ve obeyed every law or broken a dozen. And government agents will treat you like a suspect, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, simply because they have been trained to view and treat everyone like potential criminals.

Eventually, all that will matter is whether some government agent—poorly trained, utterly ignorant of the Constitution, way too hyped up on the power of their badges, and authorized to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—chooses to single you out for special treatment.

We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.

All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—started out as a seemingly well-meaning plan to address some problem in society that needed a little extra help.

Be careful what you wish for: you will get more than you bargained for, especially when the government’s involved.

Remember, nothing is ever as simple as the government claims it is.

The war on drugs turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with SWAT teams and militarized police.

The war on terror turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention.

The war on immigration is turning out to be yet another war on the American people, waged with roving government agents demanding “papers, please.”

Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

If you’re inclined to advance this double standard because you believe you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, beware: there’s always a boomerang effect.

As commentator Shaun Kenney observed:

What civil liberties are you willing to surrender in the apprehension of 12 million people? Knock and drags? Detention centers? Checkpoints? House-to-house searches? Papers, please? Will we be racially profiling folks to look for or are we talking about people of Chinese… Indian… Irish… Polish… Italian… people-who-might-look-like-you descent as well? If the federal government makes a 1% rounding error and accidentally deports an American citizen, that’s 120,000 Americans… what means will be used to restore their rights? Who will remunerate them for their financial loss? Restore their lost homes? Personal property? Families? … What happens when these means are turned against some other group of undesirables in America by a president who does not share your political persuasion, but can now justify the act based on previous justifications?

We are all at risk.

The law of reciprocity applies here. The flip side of that Golden Rule, which calls for us to treat others as we would have them treat us, is that we shouldn’t inflict on others what we wouldn’t want to suffer ourselves.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to be forcibly separated from you, caged and lost—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how compelling a case the government makes for it or how fervently you believe in the cause.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t live in a constitutional republic if you allow the government to act like a police state.

You can’t claim to value freedom if you allow the government to operate like a dictatorship.

You can’t expect to have your rights respected if you allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law.

Indeed, when the government is allowed to operate as a law unto itself, the rule of law itself becomes illegitimate. As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

In other words, there comes a time when law and order are in direct opposition to justice.

Isn’t that what the American Revolution was all about?

Finally, if anyone suggests that the government’s mass immigration roundups and arrests are just the government doing its job to fight illegal immigration, don’t buy it.

This is not about illegal immigration. It’s about power and control.

It’s about testing the waters to see how far the American people will allow the government to go in re-shaping the country in the image of a totalitarian police state.

It’s about the rise of an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government misconduct and power grabs in the so-called name of national security.

It’s about how much tyranny “we the people” will tolerate before we find our conscience and our voice.

It’s about how far we will allow the government to go in its efforts to distract and divide us and turn us into a fearful, easily controlled populace.

Ultimately, it’s about whether we believe—as the Founders did—that our freedoms are inherently ours and that the government is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Freedom does not flow from the government. It was not given to us, to be taken away at the will of the State. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

We must get back to this way of thinking if we are to ever stand our ground in the face of threats to those freedoms.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The treatment being meted out to anyone that looks like an illegal immigrant is only the beginning. Eventually we will all be in the government’s crosshairs for one reason or another.

This is the start of the slippery slope.

Martin Niemöller understood this. A Lutheran minister who was imprisoned and executed for opposing Hitler’s regime, Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Hack Away!

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

The best defense is a good offense: the US seems to have taken this maxim to its logical conclusion, and has “aggressively” hacked Russia’s power grid, according to a new report. God forbid the shoe were on the other foot.

An in-depth report in the New York Times on Saturday lays out an alleged ongoing US operation to penetrate and implant malware in Russia’s power grid, partly as “a warning” to Moscow, and partly to stake out the high ground should competition between the two powers one day spill over into outright cyber warfare.

Due to the clandestine nature of the subject, the article is light on specifics. All we know is that the authority to carry out offensive cyber operation is enshrined in the National Defense Authorization Act since last summer, and that President Donald Trump delegated approval for such attacks to Cyber Command – set up by the Obama administration in 2008 to counter alleged similar efforts by Moscow – around the same time.

“Russia is hacking the American power grid as a demonstration of its capabilities.”

Only, joking! It’s actually the US attacking Russia (reports @nytimes). But just try to imagine the hysteria in US/UK media, if it were the other way around? https://t.co/Y1oRthnoqY

— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) June 15, 2019

In the absence of details, the Times treated its readers to a carousel of security officials talking up their “aggressive”posture, including one faceless intelligence spook who bragged “We are doing things at a scale we never contemplated a few years ago.” A chorus of these same officials also justified the cyberwar efforts, including one who dropped the wonderfully Washingtonian term “defend forward” to describe the incursions.

But imagine for a second that the shoe were on the other foot? How would the Times cover a sophisticated Russian effort to infiltrate the US grid? How massive would the media uproar be?

It would be naive to think that both nations haven’t probed each other’s cyber defenses for weaknesses. However, the Times struck a different tone when “Russian hackers” were accused of penetrating the American utilities grid last summer.

The article then mentioned “hundreds of victims” in the event of Russia launching a cyberattack. (No potential Russian victims were mentioned in Saturday’s article). “It is hard to fully understand why they have put so much effort” into planting malware in the grid, the Times pondered back then. This week, the American efforts were explained as a simple matter of national security.

As for what response a cyberattack could warrant, the Times painted a picture of the US firing a “digital shot across the bow” while carefully avoiding open war. A Russian attack, meanwhile, would “almost certainly result in a military response,” a general quoted in both articles said.

Of course, last year’s article was written at a time when panic over “Russian meddling,”“Russian interference,” and “Russian hackers” was at fever pitch. The hysteria then was not confined to the pages of the New York Times, and US outlets competed with each other to deliver the most terrifying Russian conspiracy theories they could muster.

The heavyweight champion of fearmongering and conspiracies was undoubtedly MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Night after night, Maddow detailed new and sinister Russian ploys to interfere in elections, undermine democracy, and even freeze Americans to death in their homes.

That’s right, Maddow warned viewers earlier this year that Russian hackers may have infiltrated the US power grid and could literally “flip the off switch” at any time.

“What would you do if you lost heat, indefinitely, as the act of a foreign power?” she asked her viewers. “What would you and your family DO?” As Maddow rang every alarm bell she could, much of the United States was going through a record-breaking freeze, with temperatures in North Dakota down to -33 degrees Fahrenheit (-36 Celsius).

However, it gets cold in Russia too. Like, very cold. For all its talk of “warning shots” at Putin, the New York Times never considered the fact that an attack on Russia’s utility grid could leave ordinary citizens without heating, in a country where winter temperatures regularly drop below -33, and where at one point last year, one village recorded a temperature lower than that of the planet Mars.

But when the cyberwar is waged by Washington, geopolitical victory trumps human lives, and supersedes the danger of open war, and the harshest measures are necessary just to prove a point.

As one former Obama administration official told the newspaper: “We might have to risk taking some broken bones of our own from a counter response, just to show the world we’re not lying down and taking it.”

Reprinted from RT News.

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Biggest American Scandal: Wall Street Analyst Sheds Light on Obama’s Role in

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

While Donald Trump has kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign in Florida reiterating a vow to bring “deep state” figures out into the open, AG William Barr’s “investigation of investigators” is gaining steam. Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel has shared his views on the role of Barack Obama and his team in the so-called “spygate” case.

Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia “collusion” probe has prompted deep concerns among US intelligence officials, especially given the US president’s decision to grant AG Barr sweeping powers.

Some former US spooks argue that the probe may thwart US counterintelligence efforts aimed against Russia, citing Moscow’s alleged interference in the US 2016 elections, something that the Russian leadership resolutely denies.

“If Barr discloses the identities of CIA and CI sources providing information on Russia he is disabling our intelligence capacities to Russia’s advantage”, claimed former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa on 24 May via Twitter.

Make no mistake: If Barr discloses the identities of CIA and CI sources providing information on Russia he is disabling our intelligence capacities *to Russia’s advantage*. It puts sources providing intelligence in danger and cripples the ICs ability to recruit new sources 1/

— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) May 24, 2019

However, according to Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst who has been conducting a private inquiry into the Clinton Foundation’s alleged fraud for the last three years, what is really concerning former and current intelligence officials and their backers in the previous administration are their possibly illegal actions which may soon come to light.

Sputnik: On 17 June, Fox News host Sean Hannity said that AG William Barr’s “spygate” investigation caused panic among “deep state” actors. Hannity highlighted that at least three Trump campaign aides had actively been spied upon abroad by allied countries allegedly “subcontracted” by US top intelligence officials to circumvent US laws. Have there ever been any precedents of engaging US allies in an effort to undermine an American presidential candidate? What countries were supposedly involved in the “spygate”? Why did they agree to participate in those potentially illegal activities?

Charles Ortel: I am not aware of incidents in the past where elements loyal to an existing presidential administration have encouraged foreign powers to train their security forces to spy on a presidential campaign and/or upon the victor in a hotly contested election after the results became known, through the inauguration and then during the newly-elected president’s first term.

So far, one prime culprit seems to be elements within the government of the United Kingdom. Other culprits seemingly include the government of Australia, while there is also speculation that the government of Canada may have been involved. In time, perhaps we may learn that governments of other, supposed allies of the United States may also have been involved, perhaps Italy, France, and Germany, to name three.

What makes this story particularly galling is that nations named are among the staunchest long-term allies of America. Did no one in these nations, in positions of authority, question the wisdom of potentially interfering, especially given the ham-handed ways in which it seems the interference ultimately took place?

Sputnik: Hannity suggested that US State Department officials including Barack Obama knew about the dirty dossier and spying activities against the Trump campaign. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton echoed Hannity’s assumption citing newly obtained State Department emails at Fox News’ “Deep Dive” on 17 June. If it is proved that Obama and his associates were aware of the “spygate” effort how could this affect the ex-president and his team?

Charles Ortel: As a guess, Obama administration insiders likely did what they could do to insulate the former president from potential culpability in any scheme that might implicate actors in actual crimes. A review of public records suggests that Presidential counsellor Valerie Jarrett was one person who may have been the ultimate shield. But, other reports suggest that Barack Obama himself was keenly interested in political campaigns of all types, particularly key races of which the 2016 presidential contest was clearly most important.

Obama knew! pic.twitter.com/xOJcSE6zkU

— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) June 17, 2019

Obama loyalists, even now try to argue that the eight years from 20 January 2009 through 20 January 2017 were “scandal free”. I beg to differ – someone high up in the Obama administration had to bless the use by Hillary Clinton and her team of secret servers, unprotected electronic devices, alias emails, and the fact that Team Hillary was allowed to hold onto all of her government records through early December 2014, some 22 months after she departed her role as Secretary of State. One suspects that President Obama himself had to learn, early on, of the Clinton approach and had to know that it fell well afoul of applicable laws and regulations.

Moreover, Barack Obama likely communicated with Hillary Clinton using email and he was sold to the public as someone who was in tune with technology, even “wedded to his Blackberry” – how could Obama have failed to notice he was sending emails to Hillary Clinton on a non-government email address? 

All of which raises larger questions. Did Barack Obama use non-government email addresses to send or receive classified information? Did members of his close circle do so? Did any of these people use aliases in their communications? Do we really know whether all of the “presidential records” of the Obama administration were archived securely for posterity? With these latest revelations, and with each passing day, storm clouds darken over what remains of the Obama “legacy”.

Sputnik: Meanwhile, the US State Department has revealed that at least 15 State Department employees were responsible for 23 violations and seven security infractions related to Clinton’s server under the Obama administration. According to Hannity, Clinton’s activities presumably amount to violating the Espionage Act (18 USC 793 (F) and 18 USC 793 (D) and (E)). Conservative pundits presume that the effort against Trump was prompted by Obama administration officials who sought to conceal their crimes. Do you agree with this assumption? Will all the employees involved in the emailgate case be interrogated and probed given the latest revelations? Will it result in criminal proceedings against them and how will this affect Hillary Clinton?

Charles Ortel: As we consider these questions and issues, the timeline from June 2008 to present comes under much closer scrutiny. In early June 2008, when it became evident that Barack Obama would be the Democrat nominee, and that he would likely defeat John McCain, I suspect the Clintons (and the Obamas) hatched a plan to employ Hillary’s considerable resources to cement victory in the November 2008 presidential election.

What candidate Obama likely did not know back then was how dire the position of the Clinton Foundation had become – it was out of compliance with key laws and regulations around the world and millions of dollars in funding had “gone missing”.

Real investigations of mishandling classified information by many persons including Hillary Clinton will likely extend and intertwine with long overdue deep dives into the network of Clinton “charities” that seem, to me, to have been used as conduits to trade cash for contracts and favours, and certainly not for their intended and authorised tax-exempt purposes.

SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018

​Hannity and others are correct to call this unfolding scandal, the biggest in American history. When it grows to consider all contours of charity frauds and corruption during the period from 1988 forward, as unregulated globalism became the norm, we will be shocked to discover just how badly so many US presidents and other leaders behaved.

We cannot move forward productively until the public is shown what actually ​happened. Only with real investigations, indictments, prosecutions, convictions, and incarcerations can we prove that no American stands above our laws. With reason, many once powerful persons should be afraid – they are finally being called to account for lives in crime, pretending falsely to serve the people, even as they served themselves.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker and contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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Declassified U.S. Government Documents Claim The West Supported

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

The amount of evidence and information in the form of declassified documents, witness testimony, and much more that has leaked out over the past decade alone regarding this topic is overwhelming to say the least. It’s one of the best examples, if not the best example in existence today of how, even if there is significant evidence in support of the truth, most people are completely oblivious to this evidence and accept another narrative given to us by the powerful elite. It really goes to show how mainstream media controls the perception of so many people, so much so that even if one is presented with an alternative view to this narrative, even if there is evidence supporting it, it’s almost instantaneously dismissed and ridiculed.

This is what happens frequently when suggesting that major terrorist organizations are supported and even created by the western military alliance. If this is true, it means that the ‘powers that be’ are creating attacks as well as staging and encouraging certain events in order to justify military action and foreign intervention.

This idea completely shatters the current western political identity, which is one full of pride and the idea that it’s a necessity to have a big, strong military. This thought is encouraged by massive amounts of propaganda, public holidays and days of remembrance, which are used to further pump the populace full of false ideologies. This is why we see major sporting events used to commemorate military events, or the idea that soldiers are and have ‘fought and died for our country.’  The idea that soldiers are fighting, dying, and sacrificing their lives for the freedom of others is a widespread belief in North America.

Could the statement below from  Robin Cook, Former British Foreign Secretary, be true?

“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and any informed intelligence officer knows this. But, there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an intensified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive TV watchers to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the United States.” (source)

Again, there are multiple pieces of evidence in support of this narrative. I recently wrote about Riam Dalati, a well known BBC Syria producer that’s been reporting from that region for a long time. He shocked his nearly 20,000 Twitter followers a few days ago as well as other mainstream media journalists from major outlets like the BBC, when he concluded after a “six month investigation” that he “can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.”

In this article, I want to draw your attention to a nonprofit organization called Judicial Watch. They are an “American conservative” activist group that files Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to investigate claimed misconduct by government officials. They are the type of group that’s currently experiencing tremendous amount of internet censorship. The company was founded by activist lawyer and former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Larry Klayman. For many years, they’ve obtained sensitive U.S. government documents through Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits.

Not long ago, the U.S. government produced documents to Judicial Watch as a result of a Freedom of Information suit that showed the West has long supported ISIS. The documents were written by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in August of 2012, well before ISIS became a household name and made headlines on the world stage.

The below screenshot shows that extreme Muslim terrorists – salafists, Muslims Brotherhood, and AQI (i.e. Al Qaeda in Iraq) – have always been the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

This verifies what the alternative media has been saying for years: there aren’t any moderate rebels in Syria.

The document goes on to state:

… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime …

This shows how the powers that were supporting the Syrian opposition–the Western military alliance and their allies in the middle east–wanted an Islamic caliphate in order to challenge Syrian president Assad.

This type of activity is so well known that a few years ago, current presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, the terms of which her website outlines succinctly: “The legislation would prohibit the U.S. government from using American taxpayer dollars to provide funding, weapons, training, and intelligence support to groups like the Levant Front, Fursan al Ha and other allies of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda and ISIS, or to countries who are providing direct or indirect support to those same groups.”

And Gabbard herself was quoted as saying that the “CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. This support has allowed al-Qaeda and their fellow terrorist organizations to establish strongholds throughout Syria, including in Aleppo.” (source)

Gabbard,  co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Thomas Massie, also tweetedIf you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail.”

Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, sums it up best:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.(Propaganda, 1928)

Another great quote I like to use when writing about this subject:

We are dealing with a criminal undertaking at a global level … and there is an ongoing war, it is led by the United States, it may be carried out by a number of proxy countries, which are obeying orders from Washington … The global war on terrorism is a US undertaking, which is fake, it’s based on fake premises. It tells us that somehow America and the Western world are going after a fictitious enemy, the Islamic state, when in fact the Islamic state is fully supported and financed by the Western military alliance and America’s allies in the Persian Gulf. – Canadian economist Dr. Michel Chossudovsky, The University of Ottawa’s Emeritus Professor of Economics, spoken at the International Conference on the New World Order, which was organized and sponsored by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation. (source)

The Takeaway

Why doesn’t the mainstream media touch this topic? Why is it so hard for people to believe that our governments and the western military alliance are funding, creating and carrying out events that are blamed on supposed terrorist organizations, even when there is so much evidence supporting this?

Imagine if the global population found out that this was true? That would mean that soldiers are not dying and fighting for our freedom, and that all of this war and conflict was simply created for ulterior motives. What would happen to patriotism?

Reprinted with permission from Collective Evolution.

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Robert Mueller: A Scary and Mendacious Man

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

Robert Mueller’s troublesome, unethical, and corrupt FBI career prior to his appointment as the special counsel on the Trump-Russia Collusion investigation deserves a serious vetting.  I provide here two points of reference: a monograph by sitting congressman and former Texas State Court judge Louie Gohmert titled “Robert Mueller: Unmasked” and a book by Louisiana attorney and sitting Louisiana state senator John Milkovich titled Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order.

Congressman Gohmert’s 48-page monograph is a discussion of a “long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence.  He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”  Gohmert focuses on 18 examples, including:

  • Collusion with Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in criminality and framing innocent men for murder that resulted eventually in the release of innocent parties and 100 million dollars in compensation for for DOJ Boston Office misconduct. 
  • The FBI with Mueller as director harassed and hounded Congressman Curt Weldon in revenge for criticizing FBI failures related to 9-11.
  • Dishonest prosecutions of Senator Ted Stevens.
  • Prosecutorial abuses in the anthrax murder investigations post 9-11, producing one suicide and one award of 6.8 million dollars to the other innocent target.
  • Mueller’s unethical acceptance of the special prosecutor position when he was conflicted by his longtime personal and professional relationship with James Comey.
  • Mueller hired extremely partisan, biased, and conflicted attorneys for his special counsel team.
  • Mueller’s investigation ignored that FISA applications evidence presented to justify warrants to surveil Trump associates were not verified and thus a fraud on the court and illegal.

Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich

Milkovich’s book, Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order (2018), recounts Robert Mueller’s history of prosecutorial misconduct before his appointment as special counsel in the Trump matter.

Mr. Milkovich: “Mueller has left his imprint on some of the most notorious episodes of government wrongdoing of the last thirty years.”  Mr. Milkovich is and was assiduous in his research and provides almost 400 endnotes and more than 125 items of bibliography as reference sources for his 165-page self-published book.  When I asked him about the tough calls, he pointed to the sources and compelling evidence.

Read the Whole Article

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The Trust Project

Lew Rockwell - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:01

fter the failure of Newsguard — the news rating system backed by a cadre of prominent neoconservative personalities — to gain traction among American tech and social media companies, another organization has quietly stepped in to direct the news algorithms of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Though different from Newsguard, this group, known as “The Trust Project,” has a similar goal of restoring “trust” in corporate, mainstream media outlets, relative to independent alternatives, by applying “trust indicators” to social-media news algorithms in a decidedly untransparent way. The funding of “The Trust Project” — coming largely from big tech companies like Google; government-connected tech oligarchs like Pierre Omidyar; and the Knight Foundation, a key Newsguard investor — suggests that an ulterior motive in its tireless promotion of “traditional” mainstream media outlets is to limit the success of dissenting alternatives.

Of particular importance is the fact that the Trust Project’s “trust indicators” are already being used to control what news is promoted and suppressed by top search engines like Google and Bing and massive social-media networks like Facebook. Though the descriptions of these “trust indicators” — eight of which are currently in use — are publicly available, the way they are being used by major tech and social media companies is not.

The Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in favored news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives. Even if its effort to promote “trust” in establishment media fail, its embedded-code hidden within participating news sites allow those establishment outlets to skirt the same algorithms currently targeting their independent competition, making such issues of “trust” largely irrelevant as it moves to homogenize the online media landscape in favor of mainstream media.  

The Trust Project’s director, Sally Lehrman, made it clear that, in her view, the lack of public trust in mainstream media and its declining readership is the result of unwanted “competition by principle-free enterprises [that] further undermines its [journalism’s] very role and purpose as an engine for democracy.”

Getting to know the Trust Project

The Trust Project describes itself as “a consortium of top news companies” involved in developing “transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism.” It has done this by creating what it calls “Trust Indicators,” which the project’s website describes as “a digital standard that meets people’s needs.” However, far from meeting “people’s needs,” the Trust Indicators seem aimed at manipulating search engine and social-media news algorithms to the benefit of the project’s media partners, rather than to the benefit of the general public.

The origins of the Trust Project date back to a 2012 “roundtable” hosted by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, a center funded by former Apple CEO Mike Markkula. That roundtable became known as the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics and was created by journalist Sally Lehrman, then working at the Markkula Center, in connection with the New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lehrman has explicitly stated that the Trust Project is open only to “news organizations that adhere to traditional standards.”

The specific idea that spurred the creation of the Trust Project itself was born at a 2014 meeting of that roundtable, when Lehrman “asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate.” In other words, the idea behind the Trust Project, from the start, was aimed at gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.

As the Trust Project itself notes, the means of altering algorithms were developed in tandem with tech-giant executives like Gingras and “top editors in the industry from 80 news outlets and institutions,” all of which are corporate, mainstream media outlets. Notably, the Trust Project’s media partners, involved in creating these new “standards” for news algorithms, include major publications owned by wealthy oligarchs: the Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos; the Economist, directed by the wealthy Rothschild family; and the Globe and Mail, owned by Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons, who also own Thomson Reuters. Other Trust Project partners include The New York Times, Mic, Hearst Television, the BBC and the USA Today network.

Other major outlets are represented on the News Leadership Council of the Markkula Center, including the Financial TimesGizmodo Media, and The Wall Street Journal. That council — which also includes Gingras and Andrew Anker, Facebook’s Director of Product Management — “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators.”

These “Trust Indicators” are the core of the Trust Project’s activities and reveal one of the key mechanisms through which Google, Twitter and Facebook have been altering their algorithms to favor outlets with good “Trust Indicator” scores. Trust Indicators, on their face, are aimed at making news publications “more transparent” as a means of generating increased trust with the public. Though a total of 37 have been developed, it appears only eight of them are currently being used.

These eight indicators are listed and described by the Trust Project as follows:

  • Best Practices: What are the news outlet’s standards? Who funds it? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
  • Author/Reporter Expertise: Who made this? Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: What is this? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: What’s the source? For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
  • Methods: How was it built? Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced? Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community? Lets you know when the story has local origin or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: What are the newsroom’s efforts and commitments to bringing in diverse perspectives? Readers noticed when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions were missing.
  • Actionable Feedback: Can we participate? A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, ensuring accuracy and other areas. Readers want to participate and provide feedback that might alter or expand a story.

How the Trust Project makes these indicators available to the public can be seen in its new project, the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, where it provides a table of “transparency” for participating media outlets. Notably, that table conflates actual transparency practices with simply providing the Trust Project with outlet policies and guidelines related to the above indicators.

For example, The Economist gets a perfect transparency “score” for having provided the Trust Project links to its ethics policy, mission statement and other information requested by the project. However, the fact that those policies exist and are provided to the Trust Project does not mean that the publication’s policies are, in fact, transparent or ethical in terms of their content or in practice. The fact that The Economist provided links to its policies does not make the publication more transparent, but — in the context of the Newsroom Transparency Tracker’s table — it provides the appearance of transparency, though such policy disclosures by The Economist are unlikely to translate into any changes to its well-known biases and slanted reporting towards certain issues.

Trust Indicators manipulate big tech algorithms

The true power of the Trust Indicators comes in a form that is not visible to the general public. These Trust Indicators, while occasionally displayed on partner websites, are also coupled with “machine-readable signals” embedded in the HTML code of participating websites and articles used by Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter. As Lehrman noted in a 2017 article, the Trust Project was then “already working with these four companies, all of which have said they want to use our indicators to prioritize honest, well-reported news over fakery and falsehood.” Gingras of Google News also noted that the Trust Indicators are used by Google as “cues to help search engines better understand and rank results … [and] to help the myriad algorithmic systems that mold our media lives.”

A press release from the Trust Project last year further underscores the importance of the embedded “indicators” to alter social-media and search-engine algorithms:

While each Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read — providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.”

Despite claiming to increase public knowledge of “news sites’ commitments to transparency,” the way that major tech companies like Google and Facebook are using these indicators is anything but transparent. Indeed, it is largely unknown how these indicators are used, though there are a few clues.

For instance, CBS News cited Craig Newmark — the billionaire founder of Craigslist, who provided the Trust Project’s seed funding — as suggesting that “Google’s search algorithm could rank trusted sources above others in search results” by using the project’s Trust Indicators.

Last year, the Trust Project stated that Bing used “the ‘Type of Work’ Trust Indicator to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis.” It also stated that “when Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page.” In Google’s case, Gingras was quoted as saying that Google News uses the indicators “to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors. We’re looking forward to developing new ways to use the indicators.”

Notably, the machine-readable version of these Trust Indicators is available only to participating institutions, which are currently corporate, mainstream publications. Though WordPress and Drupal plug-ins are being developed to make those embedded signals to search engines and social media available to smaller publishers, it will be made available only to “qualified publishers,” a determination that will presumably be made by the Trust Project and its associates.

Richard Gingras, in a statement made in 2017, noted that “the indicators can help our algorithms better understand authoritative journalism — and help us to better surface it to consumers.” Thus, it is abundantly clear that these indicators, which are embedded only into “qualified” and “authoritative” news websites, will be used to slant search-engine and social-media news algorithms in favor of establishment news websites.

The bottom line is that these embedded and exclusive indicators allow certain news outlets to avoid the crushing effects of recent algorithm changes that have seen traffic to many news websites, including MintPress, plummet in recent years. This is leading towards a homogenization of the online news landscape by starving independent competitors of web traffic while Trust Project-approved outlets are given an escape valve through algorithm manipulation.

The tech billionaires behind the Trust Project

Given the Trust Project’s rich-get-richer impact on the online news landscape, it is not surprising to find that it is funded by rich and powerfl figures and forces with a clear stake in controlling the flow of news and information online.

According to its website, the Trust Project currently receives funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, Facebook, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (often abbreviated as the Knight Foundation), and the Markkula Foundation. Its website also states that Google was “an early financial supporter” and that it had originally been funded by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. As previously mentioned, the Trust Project’s co-founder is Richard Gingras, current Google vice president of News. The Trust Project’s website described Gingras’s current role with the organization as “a powerful evangelist” who “can always be counted upon for expert advice and encouragement.” Newmark’s current role at the Trust Project is described as that of a “funder and valued connector.”

Newmark, through Craig Newmark Philanthropies, who provided the initial funding for the Trust Project, and has also funded other related initiatives like the News Integrity Initiative at the City University of New York, which shares many of the same financiers as the Trust Project, including Facebook, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and the Knight Foundation. The Trust Project is listed as a collaborator of the News Integrity Initiative. Newmark is also very active in several news-related NGOs with similar overlap. For instance, he sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a longtime recipient of massive grants from the Omidyar Network, and Politifact.com, which is funded in part by Omidyar’s Democracy Fund.

Newmark is currently working with Vivian Schiller as his “strategic adviser” in his media investments. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former head of news at Twitter, and a veteran of well-known mainstream outlets like NPR, CNN, The New York Times and NBC News. She is also a director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian.

The Markkula Foundation, one of the key funders of the Trust Project, exercises considerable influence over the organization through the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, which originally incubated the organization and whose News Leadership Council plays an important role at the Trust Project. That council’s membership includes representatives of Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and Google, and “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators and advises on core issues related to information literacy and rebuilding trust in journalism within a fractious, so-called post-fact environment.”

Both the Markkula Foundation and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics were founded by A. M. “Mike” Markkula, former CEO of Apple. The Markkula Center’s Journalism Ethics program is currently headed by Subramaniam Vincent, a former software engineer and consultant for Intel and Cisco Systems who has worked to bring together big data with local journalism and is an advocate for the use of “ethical-AI [artificial intelligence] to ingest, sort, and classify news.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is another interesting funder of the Trust Project, given that this same foundation is also a key investor in Newsguard, the controversial, biased news rating system with deep connections to government insiders and self-described government propagandists. There is considerable overlap between Newsguard and the Trust Project, with the latter citing Newsguard as a partner and also stating that Newsguard’s demonstrably biased ratings use the project’s “trust indicators” in its full-length reviews of news websites, which Newsguard calls “nutrition labels.” In addition, becoming a Trust Project participant is a factor that “supports a positive evaluation” from Newsguard, according to a press release from last year.

Notably, Sally Lehrman, who leads the Trust Project, described the project’s trust indicators for news as ”along the lines of a nutrition label on a package of food” when the Trust Project was created nearly a year before Newsguard launched, suggesting some intellectual overlap.

previous MintPress exposé revealed Newsguard’s numerous conflicts of interest and a ratings system strongly biased in favor of well-known, traditional media outlets — even when those outlets have a dubious track record of promoting so-called “fake news.” It should come as no surprise that the Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives.

A familiar face in the war against independent media

The Democracy Fund, another top funder of the Trust Project and a bipartisan foundation that was established by eBay founder and PayPal owner Omidyar in 2011 “out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values.” It is a spin-off of the Omidyar Network and, after splitting off as an independent company in 2014, became a member of the Omidyar Group. The fund’s National Advisory Committee includes former Bush and Obama administration officials and representatives of Facebook, Microsoft, NBC NewsABC News and Gizmodo Media group.

The Democracy Fund’s involvement in the Trust Project is notable because of the other media projects it funds, such as the new media empire of arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol, who has a long history of creating and disseminating falsehoods that have been used to justify the U.S. war in Iraq and other hawkish foreign policy stances. As a recent MintPress series revealed, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund provides financial support to Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together initiative and also supports Kristol’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund think tank that is best known for its cryptic Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard. Omidyar’s Democracy Fund has also donated to the German Marshall Fund’s Defending Digital Democracy project and directly to the German Marshall Fund itself. In addition, Charles Sykes, a co-founder and editor-at-large of Kristol’s new publication The Bulwark, is on the Democracy Fund’s National Advisory Committee.

An acolyte of Kristol’s who works at the German Marshall Fund, Jamie Fly, stated last Octoberthat the coordinated social-media purges of independent media pages known for their criticisms of U.S. empire and U.S. police violence was “just the beginning” and hinted that the German Marshall Fund had a hand in past social media purges and, presumably, a role in future purges. Thus, the Democracy Fund’s links to neoconservatives who promote the censoring of independent media sites that are critical of militaristic U.S. foreign policy jibe with the fund’s underlying interest in the Trust Project.

Omidyar’s involvement with the Trust Project is interesting for another reason, namely that Omidyar is the main backer behind the efforts of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to become a key driver of which outlets are censored by Silicon Valley tech giants. The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but critics say that over the years it has begun labeling critics of Israel’s government as “anti-Semites.”

For example, content that characterizes Israeli policies towards Palestinians as “racist” or “apartheid-like” is considered “hate speech” by the ADL, as is accusing Israel of war crimes or attempted ethnic cleansing. The ADL has even described explicitly Jewish organizations that are critical of Israel’s government as being “anti-Semitic.”

In March 2017, the Omidyar Network provided the “critical seed capital” need to launch the ADL’s “new Silicon Valley center aimed at tackling this rising wave of intolerance and to collaborate more closely with technology companies to promote democracy and social justice.” That Omidyar-funded ADL center allowed the ADL to team up with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft — all of whom also collaborate with the Trust Project — to create a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. Since then, these companies and their subsidiaries, including Google’s YouTube, have relied on the ADL to flag “controversial” content.

Given the fact that the Trust Project shares with the ADL a key funder (Pierre Omidyar) and several external tech partners, it remains to be seen whether there is overlap between how major tech companies like Google and Facebook use the Trust Indicators in its algorithms and the influence of the ADL on those very same algorithms.

What is clear however is that there exists an undeniable overlap given the fact that Craig Newmark, who provided the seed funding for the Trust Project and continues to fund it, is also a key donor and advisor to the ADL. In 2017, Newmark gave $100,000 to the ADL’s Incident Response Center and is a member of the group’s tech advisory board.

Outsourcing censorship

Of course, the most interesting and troubling donors of the Trust Project are Google and Facebook, both of which are using the very project they fund as a “third party” to justify their manipulation of newsfeed and search-engine algorithms. Google’s intimate involvement from the very inception of the Trust Project tags it as an extension of Google that has since been marketed as an “independent” organization tasked with justifying algorithm changes that favor certain news outlets over others.

Facebook, similarly, funds the Trust Project and also employs the “trust indicators” it funds to alter its newsfeed algorithm. Facebook’s other partners in altering this algorithm include the Atlantic Council — funded by the U.S. government, NATO, and weapons manufacturers, among others — and Facebook has also directly teamed up with foreign governments, such as the government of Israel, to suppress accurate yet dissenting information that the government in question wanted removed from the social-media platform.

The murkiness between “private” censorship, censorship by tech oligarchs, and censorship by government is particularly marked in the Trust Project. The private financiers of the Trust Project that also use its product to promote certain news content over others — namely Google and Facebook — have ties to the U.S. government, with Google being a government contractor and Facebook sporting a growing body of former-government officials in top company positions, including a co-author of the controversial Patriot Act as the company’s general counsel.

A similar tangle surrounds Pierre Omidyar, funder of the Trust Project through the Democracy Fund, who is extremely well-connected to the U.S. government, especially the military-industrial complex and intelligence communities. And partnering with media outlets like the Washington Post, whose owner is Jeff Bezos, spawns more conflicts of interests, given that Bezos’ company, Amazon, is also a major U.S. government contractor.

This growing nexus binding Silicon Valley companies and oligarchs, mainstream media outlets and the government suggests that these entities have increasingly similar and complementary interests, among which is the censorship of independent watchdog journalists and news outlets that seek to challenge their power and narratives.

The Trust Project was created as a way of outsourcing censorship of independent news sites while attempting to salvage the tattered reputation of mainstream media outlets and return the U.S. and international media landscape to years past when such outlets were able to dominate the narrative.

While it seems unlikely that’s its initiatives will succeed in restoring trust to mainstream media given the many recent and continuing examples of those same “traditional” media outlets circulating fake news and failing to cover crucial aspects of events, the Trust Project’s development of hidden algorithm-altering codes in participating websites shows that its real goal is not about improving public trust but about providing a facade of independence to Silicon Valley censorship of independent media outlets that speak truth to power.

The post The Trust Project appeared first on LewRockwell.

The Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis

Anti-War dotcom - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:00

Recent weeks have seen tensions between the United States and Iran soar, initially after a May 2019 incident in which four commercial vessels were struck in the Gulf of Oman (two Saudi oil tankers, one Norwegian and an Emirati ship), ebb thereafter and escalate yet again when a similar attack took place one month later … Continue reading "The Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis"

The post The Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Categories: Anti-War

‘World Refugee Day’: Palestinians Keep Their Right of Return Alive Through Hope, Resistance

Anti-War dotcom - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:00

The United Nations’ World Refugee Day, observed annually on June 20, should not merely represent a reminder of "the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence." It should also be an opportunity for the international community to truly understand … Continue reading "‘World Refugee Day’: Palestinians Keep Their Right of Return Alive Through Hope, Resistance"

The post ‘World Refugee Day’: Palestinians Keep Their Right of Return Alive Through Hope, Resistance appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Categories: Anti-War

US Foreign Policy Exposed

Anti-War dotcom - Thu, 2019-06-20 11:00

In the last week, the realities of US foreign policy have been exposed by a leaked audio tape, a leak about a US attack on the Russian electrical grid, and US attempts to extradite Julian Assange. All the information points to a foreign policy that violates international law and standards, perpetrates wars and conflict and … Continue reading "US Foreign Policy Exposed"

The post US Foreign Policy Exposed appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Categories: Anti-War

Will our domination be our downfall?

Dissident Voice - Thu, 2019-06-20 08:48

For those of us who’ve been paying attention to the general state of the world and human society, it’s readily apparent that we as a species have sent ourselves hurtling into the depths of a global crisis that has the potential to wipe ourselves out along with many of our fellow Earthlings. So how exactly how has this happened?

It’s easy and certainly well justified to point our finger at the many harmful industries that have emerged from our society—fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture, overfishing, mining, the military complex, etc. (have a look at this list of Harmful Practices Critiqued for a more extensive list). And yet what if there is a deeper cause that we can point to—a common “seed” that underlies all of these harmful industries and practices?

I believe that there is such a seed, one that is surprisingly simple to name and yet highly elusive, difficult for many of us to grasp. In a nutshell, I would say that this seed is a domineering attitude that appears to have increased in magnitude over the past 10,000 years or so of our evolution. In recent years, our collective eyes have begun to open to the great harm and even horror wrought by our ongoing efforts to dominate each other. But as the even larger horror of the accelerating global ecological collapse has become increasingly apparent, many of us have come to recognize that our domineering attitude is also probably the leading culprit.

I suggest that we drop down even one more level on this causal ladder and ask oursevelves, what is it that feeds humankind’s urge and sense of entitlement to dominate each other, our fellow Earthlings and the Earth? And I would say that just as the justification of one human group to dominate another is typically fueled by that particular group’s belief in their own superiority, so it is that humankind’s general belief in our superiority over other living beings fuels our ongoing desire and entitlement to dominate the Earth and our fellow species.

It’s readily apparent that pervasive among contemporary society is the strong belief that human beings are superior to other species, which in turn has spawned a number of closely related beliefs, such as: “The Earth belongs to us,” “We made it to the top and are entitled to do what we want,” “We are the most important/valuable species on this planet,” “We have dominion over the Earth and all of its creatures,” etc. This belief is so insidious that it even reveals itself within seemingly virtuous beliefs such as, “We are stewards of the Earth,” or “We need to work hard to manage the environment/ecosystems.” So strong is this belief in our superiority that I would say that very few people even regard it as a belief; rather, it is generally seen as simply a fact of life.

But let’s take a moment to scrutinize this belief more closely. In particular, let’s look at what I believe are the major core assumptions that maintain and reinforce it.

Assumption #1—We are the most intelligent species on the planet

Initially, this assumption may appear self evident. Certainly it’s true that we humans are an extremely inventive and productive species—the signs are everywhere, in our vast technology, our sprawling cities, our complex cultures and societies. If we define “intelligence” broadly as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to the meeting of our needs,” then at first glance, it would appear that we are indeed very intelligent when compared to most other species.

However, I feel that there are three serious problems with this reasoning that need to be addressed—I’ll call them problematic sublevel assumptions: (1) that because the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior; (2) that we really are as intelligent as we generally consider ourselves; and (3) that superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and a general sense of entitlement to dominate those species with less intelligence. Let’s take a moment to look at each of these in turn:

(1) Since the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior.

Let’s approach this by first taking a more intuitive/spiritual tack…

Take a moment to remove the anthropocentric blinders off and look around at the world—I mean really look around at the world. Take in this incredible web of life composed of billions of complex living organisms living together in symbiotic harmony. Take in this complex dance of creativity and adaptation that has gone on continuously for billions of years, and which is far more complex than any human mind could ever fathom, let alone replicate. Think about it—with our vast knowledge and technology, we haven’t been able to replicate even the simplest single-celled organism.

So if this awesome intelligence and creativity hasn’t come from us, then where is it coming from? Some spiritual and philosophical traditions conjecture an omniscient, omnipresent source of intelligence and creativity simply inherent in the fabric of existence; others say that a more personal God or group of Gods/Goddesses play a prominent role; and still others say that an incredible stroke of “luck” has set the wheels/physics of the universe turning in just exactly the right way for this evolutionary flow of life to unfold.

Despite all of these differences, there is one answer to this question with which virtually all scientific and spiritual traditions agree—that this intelligence did not originate from humankind, but that rather humankind has originated from it. Philosopher Alan Watts offered the following helpful analogy: Let’s turn the word “apple” into the verb “to apple,” as in “An apple tree apples.” In this way, we can say that “the universe peoples.” The universe also “dogs,” “frogs,” “starfishes,”  “cockroaches,” “forests,” and “mountains.” This vast intelligence is the source of humankind’s much narrower intelligence. Certainly we have access to this intelligence, as it is our source after all, but we can say the same thing about every other living being on our planet and in our universe. From this perspective, how can we really say that our own intelligence is so superior, so special?

let’s move on now to the cutting edge of human science—don’t our latest discoveries in neuroscience and biology clearly reveal our superior intelligence?

Within the fields of these and related scientific traditions, it was initially postulated that intelligence is essentially correlated with the number of interconnections between the neurons of a brain. In the most simplistic and reductionistic terms, this theory says that a neuron functions more or less like a computer bit—it acts like a switch that either fires or doesn’t fire depending upon the signals it receives from its fellow neurons, which in turn determines the firing/not-firing of other neurons. And as more and more neurons are connected together in this way, an increasingly complex web of linear and circular causality forms and ultimately emerges into increasingly complex forms of intelligence. And since the human brain has more neural connections than the brain of any other species discovered on Earth (it’s estimated that we have approximately 100 trillion such neural connections), then we must therefore be the most intelligent species.

However, our understanding of this has evolved in recent years to embrace a much more complex picture. First of all, we now recognize that the intelligence (as defined above) of an organism is based on far more than simply the activity of the neurons of the brain (or more specifically, the cerebral cortex). As brought to the forefront by the pioneering work of Candace Pert among many others, we now understand that every cell in our bodies are individual living organisms in their own right, with each actively communicating with the other cells of the broader organism, and with each contributing their own intelligence to the overall intelligence of the entire organism.

We also now know that a number of other species have brains much larger than ours—both in size and in the number of cerebral cortical neurons and interconnections. For example, both the brain size and overall (full body) neural count of African elephants are about 3 times those of humans; and the long-finned pilot whale, a type of dolphin, has more than twice as many brain (cerebral cortex) neurons than humans, and likely a correspondingly far higher count of interneural connections.

So while the evidence mounts that an increase in intercellular connections does correlate with a general increase in intelligence (i.e., the capacity to gather knowledge and apply this to meet one’s needs), it is becoming well established that the neuron cell is not the only intelligence-generating cell in the game. All other living cells within an organism contribute to the intelligence of the whole, but with each kind of cell specializing in a particular kind of intelligence (i.e., retaining specialized sets of knowledge, developing specialized sets of skills, and applying these to specialized needs/functions essential to the organism).

Furthermore, we can say the same thing about the connections that exist between living organisms themselves—bee and ant colonies, flocks of birds, herds of deer, etc., clearly demonstrate much greater intelligence than can be found within any individual member of these groups. This concept is often referred to as swarm intelligence—a phenomenon that is very well established but the details of which we are only just beginning to grasp. And this brings us to a particularly profound concept within our exploration of intelligence within contemporary biology and evolution—what I believe is a real mind-bender, a game-changer, really.

So you know those simplest of all living organisms—the bacteria that we often think of as being little more than “germs”? They’re so simple that they don’t even have a nucleus, let alone anything remotely akin to what we tend to think of as a brain. Now let’s take a moment and expand our view backwards in time. Based on ever accumulating research, the bacteria (technically called prokaryotes, but the term “bacteria” suffices for this discussion) are the very first living organisms to have come into existence on the Earth, coming into existence over 4 billion years ago. They adapted and evolved over a vast amount of time, first converging to become nucleated single-celled organisms (protozoa, algae, etc.), with further convergences resulting in multi-celled organisms (fungus, plants and animals), which finally brings us to well… us.

Swarm intelligence demonstrated by leaf cutter ants (aboveEli Duke, CC BY SA-2.0) and a self-organizing flock of birds (below) [/caption]

Let’s now take a moment to look at our own bodies. The leading edge of our own science has brought us to quite a startling conclusion. Our entire body and every cell within it is essentially composed of an extraordinarily complex colony of bacteria culminating from a very long line of the Earth’s very first bacteria evolving ever more complex relationships with each other. This doesn’t even factor in the many trillions of “exotic” bacteria living within our gut, with whom we are also symbiotically engaged in order to digest our food among other essential processes to sustain our life. Let’s take a moment to let this seep into our sense of superiority for a moment.

Now let’s take a moment to look around—wherever we happen to be located, right here and now. Every single plant, insect, animal, mushroom, and other living form we see or can imagine shares this same basic feature with us. Just like us, they also are embodiments of what we think of as the most simple (“least intelligent”) living organisms having converged into more complex forms. The entire web of life, in other words, is the grand culmination of a mysterious universal life force emerging first into the simplest living cells (bacteria), and then spreading across the entire surface of the Earth, merging together and emerging into the extraordinary array of symbiotic communities of single-celled and multi-celled organisms that we call “organisms,” and ultimately forming the living ecosystems of the Earth.

Finally, let’s extend our view spatially across the surface of the Earth. In addition to the colonies of bacteria that have come together in various ways to form individual living beings, the entire surface of the Earth—the entire biosphere—is filled with these little guys. Actually, it’s more accurate to flip this statement around—this extensive web of bacterial life is itself the fundamental nature of the biosphere. Lynn Margulis, acclaimed microbiologist, puts it like this: “Bacteria initially populated the planet and never relinquished their hold.”

Now let’s weave back into this story the principle that intelligence emerges from the symbiotic interactions among living cells and living beings, and that greater interconnectedness generally results in greater intelligence. Firstly, there are untold trillions of bacteria hooked together in what is well established to be the far largest self-organized living system on the planet, what many refer to as the ultimate superorganism of the Earth; and secondly, we know that the bacteria communicate with each other very effectively, and even in ways that other kinds of cells can’t—such as being able to instantly (without sexual reproduction) share with each other bits of their genetic material and the information coded within them, and even doing so across bacterial species, genus and even family lines.

Many people, even many scientists with a particularly reductionistic bent, have come to recognize that this global bacterial superorganism is far more intelligent than we could ever imagine, and that it plays many crucial roles in maintaining the conditions for life on this planet. As the Gaia Theory has evolved (the well established theory that the entire biosphere acts as a unified and extraordinarily intelligent organism in her own right), a number of people have conjectured that it may be appropriate to consider this bacterial superorganism as being akin to Gaia’s “brain.”

One prominent lifelong bacterial geneticist, James Shapiro, has summarized this emerging understanding of our bacterial kin in this way:

The take-home lesson of more than half a century of molecular microbiology is to recognize that bacterial information processing is far more powerful than human technology….These small cells are incredibly sophisticated at coordinating processes involving millions of individual events and at making them precise and reliable. In addition, the astonishing versatility and mastery bacteria display in managing the biosphere’s geochemical and thermodynamic transformations indicates that we have a great deal to learn about chemistry, physics, and evolution from our small, but very intelligent, prokaryotic relatives”.1

Furthermore, in addition to this bacterial superorganism, there are other vastly intelligent living systems at play whose behaviours are still far beyond our own comprehension. For example, there are the myriad mycelial networks that facilitate the communication and exchange of essential nutrients among the plant and fungus life of most of the world’s terrestrial ecosystems; and there is the complex interplay among many other kinds of micro-organisms and inorganic elements that has successfully regulated the Earth’s temperature, oxygen, atmospheric composition and ocean salinity and pH levels for billions of years.

The mycelium of a fungus spreading through soil (outside) (Nigel Cattlin / Alamy); Microscopic view of mycelium — 1 square mm (inside). Bob Blaylock, CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption]

In summary, the more we begin to grasp the intelligences of other living organisms and living systems, the more clear it becomes just how limited (and un-superior) human intelligence actually is.

(2) Are we really as intelligent as we consider ourselves?

To answer this question, let’s return to our working definition of intelligence, but add one key emphasis: “The capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs.” Considering the key quality of sustainability and now being able to compare human intelligence with the much broader and much older intelligences found in living systems such as bacterial superorganisms and mycelial networks, challenging this particular assumption is relatively straightforward.

In contemporary society, it is well established that the Earth is entering its 6th largest extinction event (in the past billion years of complex life), and that it is we, the human species, who are causing it. Our behaviour is changing our climate in extremely dangerous and unpredictable ways, and we are decimating the Earth’s oceans and terrestrial ecosystems, due primarily to completely unnecessary eating habits and farming practices, along with other problematic behaviours. We consider it acceptable to generate energy by boiling water with extraordinarily concentrated radioactive materials (i.e., nuclear power), the leak of which we know will devastate the local environment for hundreds and even thousands of years. We have over 14,000 nuclear weapons ready to detonate, with the plan to continue making more, and with some countries actively threatening others who also possess such weapons. We continue to pour millions of tons per year of toxic chemicals into the environment and even onto our own food. And the list goes on…

So at first glance, observing that the human species has managed to inhabit nearly the entire planet, and that our population has grown over 1000-fold in the past 10,000 years, it may appear that we are indeed extremely intelligent. But when we consider the fact that it is very clear that we cannot continue to exist much longer with our present behaviours, and yet we persist with them anyway, this belief in our intelligence being so superior becomes very doubtful indeed.

(3) Superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and entitlement.

Hopefully by now, the case has been made well enough that considering our intelligence to be so “superior” to that of other living species and living systems on this planet is highly problematic at best, which then makes this final argument in favour of humankind’s superiority moot.

But for those who still find themselves hanging on to the belief in our superior intelligence, I’ll say a few words about this final point—that superior intelligence must imply superior worth and entitlement. This argument is often used to justify our exploitation of other species and the Earth, in general, and even the exploitation of one human group by another (i.e., racism, sexism, slavery, etc.). Fortunately, human society has evolved quite a bit in recent years with regard to recognizing the problems inherent in exploiting other human beings (though it is certainly still a major problem!). Many of us have been able to see the enormous suffering that this attitude causes, both to those who are exploited and also to the exploiters’ own sense of integrity and ability to live in a peaceful society.

And now it’s beginning to dawn on many of us that the exploitation of other living beings and living systems is at least as problematic as the exploitation of other human beings. The living systems of the Earth are clearly collapsing, and if we maintain our course, we will certainly collapse right along with them. So let’s honestly re-evaluate this assumption: Is the global catastrophe taking place right before our eyes the result of the sense of entitlement by the intelligent; or is it a result of a sense of entitlement by the ignorant…?

Assumption #2—We represent the pinnacle and/or cutting edge of evolution

This second primary assumption that props up the belief of human superiority, particularly by those who believe in the theory of evolution, is that the human species represents either the pinnacle or the cutting edge of evolution.

From a purely anthropocentric perspective, this is certainly true. We are the latest “model” in our own particular evolutionary lineage. But for those of us who may believe we’ve reached some kind of a pinnacle (a kind of climax in our evolutionary journey), where is the evidence that our evolutionary lineage must stop with us? And why would the process of evolution on the Earth move along so persistently for billions of years, and then suddenly stop with us? (…unless, of course, we manage to wipe out all life on Earth, but that is another story.) And for those who believe we may not have reached such a pinnacle yet, but that we must certainly represent the cutting edge of the Earth’s evolution, let’s keep in mind that there are millions of other evolutionary lineages taking place within this vast Gaian tree of life, many of which are far older than our own particular branch, and many that will likely continue to evolve far after we are gone. What makes our particular branch so special?

Assumption #3—We are essential to manage/maintain life on Earth

From the perspective of Gaia theory, all living beings and living systems existing on the Earth are merely manifestations of her, merely different aspects of this one unified organism. So they all play important roles in some way at any given point of time in her evolution. However, just as with our own physical bodies, some parts are simply more vital than others.

For example, our physical body could lose a toe or even an entire leg and most likely continue to survive. But if we lose both of our lungs, then the loss would be too great and our body would certainly die. Likewise, Gaia has evolved to where she has become highly dependent upon terrestrial plant life (particularly tropical rainforests) and microalgae within the open ocean to generate the oxygen necessary to maintain her life. These essentially act as her “lungs” providing this essential nutrient to the other parts of her organism. If these systems were depleted enough, it is possible that Gaia could die, or would at least be forced to regress to a much more primitive state. On the other hand, if humankind were to go extinct, our loss would probably be much more akin to Gaia losing a little toe, or more realistically, only sustaining a small cut to her little toe—certainly not terminal to the organism. In the big picture of Gaia’s life, spanning over 4 billion years now (that’s 4,000,000,000+), humankind in its current form (Homo Sapiens) has emerged only about 200,000 years ago. To put this in perspective, if Gaia were 80 years old, humankind would have emerged onto the scene about 36 hours ago.

So it’s really impossible for us to make the case that Gaia needs us. Actually, at this point, the case is all too easily made that this “little toe” of humanity has become cancerous and is now acting as a direct threat against the life of the entire organism—of all life on Earth. If you were Gaia, would you not seriously consider cutting off that cancerous toe? (btw, I’m not advocating for the extermination of humankind—I’m just pointing out that as we broaden our perspective, we should naturally find ourselves moving towards a much more humble position).

Assumption #4—Our religious scriptures say that we are superior

Granted, I find it a bit more difficult to challenge this particular assumption than those above. When a person’s convictions are based solely upon what they have read or what somebody else has told them, and they have chosen to abandon critical thinking or deep personal reflection, then there’s not likely to be much potential for a paradigm shift. However, even within the religious scriptures and creation stories found within different cultures and spiritual traditions around the world, we find a very interesting theme that many (most?) of them share—and that is the recognition that our sense of superiority has gone hand in hand with our separation from our source of abundance and vitality.

In the West, this theme is probably most well known as illustrated in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, which then led to their being banished by God from The Garden of Eden. Essentially, the story goes that Adam and Eve lived for many years as members of a thriving and abundant ecosystem. But then they became tempted to “eat the fruit” which shifted their paradigm from one of harmonious unity to one of disharmonious duality—the “knowledge of good and evil.” One way of interpreting this story is to see it as a metaphor that represents the moment when humankind replaced their value for living in harmony with the natural world (as merely one member of a thriving ecosystem) with a dichotomous value system—inferior/superior, better/worse, more/less valuable, more/less worthy, mine/yours, and of particular relevance to this article here, humans/nature.

For those who have studied the theory of human evolution, this theme has clear parallels to the historical moment when humanity abandoned its indigenous roots extending back hundreds of thousands of years. At this point of time, about 10,000 years ago, humankind is believed to have generally “stepped out of nature” to embrace a much more dualistic mindset—humans vs. nature, human superiority vs. other species’ inferiority, the Earth and other living beings as being ours to own as property and personally dominate, exploit, etc. And we can look around now and clearly see where this path has taken us—initially to enormous short term abundance and population explosion, but ultimately heading right off the cliff of our own extinction.

So even within scriptures that are often used to justify the superiority of humankind and our entitlement over other species, we find upon closer inspection this common core theme of a paradise lost, or of a deep ignorance having gripped us. As soon as humankind stepped out of their niche of living at one with the Gaian system, and attempted to instead place themselves outside of and superior to this heretofore unified living system, we ultimately lost our paradise.

So to Summarize…

Are we unique? Yes! Do we have unusual capacities and skills never before seen within the life of the Earth? Almost certainly. However, we can also say the same thing about every other species present and past.

As for our superior intelligence? Humankind does appear to possess a somewhat unusual form of intelligence combined with an upright posture and opposable thumbs, the combination of which makes all kinds of interesting technologies possible. However, considering the broad definition of intelligence as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs,” humankind has clearly not demonstrated a degree of intelligence anywhere near as advanced as that of other living systems on the Earth. To the contrary, humankind, or at least in its present form as manifested within contemporary society, has demonstrated an unusually profound ignorance, having made the terrible choice of attempting to remove itself from the Gaian system, which, of course, is just as impossible and futile as a little toe attempting to sever itself from the larger body.

As for our general sense of superior worth and our associated sense of entitlement to do what we please with our fellow Earthlings and the Earth in general? Well, as discussed above, from the perspective of Gaia, there are clearly other species and living systems far more vital to her ongoing survival than the human species…

This leaves us then with the question of our own continued survival. If humankind is not as intelligent nor superior as we have come to believe, and if it is true that our attempt to leave the Gaian system has been a very bad one, then what does that mean for our own future? I believe that the answer to this question lies within a close reflection upon our past.

Looking historically, the evidence is quite compelling that our departure from living harmoniously with the Gaian system coincided with an intensification of the belief in our fundamental “superiority,” as well as our fundamental sense of entitlement to exploit other species and the environment to our own very narrowly perceived needs. And if we track our progress over the centuries since we have adopted this belief, what do we find? We do indeed see that we have been able to experience tremendous benefit initially, in the sense of an explosion of our population and the capacity to survive on most of the surface of the Earth. But in recent generations this short-term benefit is finally revealing the very serious long-term harm of this belief system and its associated behaviours. Though the ride may have been good to many (and hell for many others) while it lasted, the writing is becoming all too clear upon the wall:  We have been “superior”ing our way to our own demise.

So what to do? We may not be superior to other species, but like all species, we do have our own unique capacities. And as humans, we appear to have an unusually strong capacity for productivity (both creative and destructive), self-awareness and self-reflection. What would happen if we shift the focus of these attributes to the serious attempt to return to the “Garden of Eden,” to establishing a harmonious niche as simply one species among many on this diverse and abundant planet?

I like to think that this would be possible, though certainly very challenging. What if we take our capacity for self-awareness/reflection/transformation, and work on shifting our paradigm to…

(a) expanding our understanding of ‘the self’ to contain all other living beings and the entire Gaian system;

(b) cultivating an equal compassion/regard/respect for all living beings, beyond simply other human beings and companion animals who are personally close to us;

(c) humbling ourselves in the face of Gaia—recognizing that she has a wisdom far deeper, older, and broader than our much more limited personal minds could ever fully grasp…

…and closely related to this, (d) reorienting our efforts at personal and human surviving and thriving to be much more in line with Gaia’s wisdom and natural behaviours.

This would entail shifting our focus from “managing” the environment (Gaia has demonstrated that she can do this perfectly fine without us, thank you very much) to managing ourselves—(a) stopping our destructive behaviours, and (b) simply stepping back from as much of the Earth as we can, and making space for Gaia’s own capacity to heal and regenerate herself.

In summary, then, it appears that the more our limited human minds begin to grasp the much vaster and more intelligent minds at play on the Earth, the more apparent it becomes that we simply need to lose the superiority complex and graciously re-engage openly and compassionately with our fellow Earthlings.

In other words, isn’t it about time that we got over ourselves and re-join the party?

• You can learn more about Paris Williams’ latest work and the Centre for Nonviolence and Conscious living at cncl.info

  1. as quoted in Buhner, 2014.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

PEPE ESCOBAR: Iran Squeezed Between Imperial Psychos and European Cowards

Greanville Post - Thu, 2019-06-20 06:56
PEPE ESCOBAR—In Cold War 2.0 terms, from Central Asia to the Eastern Mediterranean and from the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea, Tehran is able to count on quite a set of formal and informal alliances. That not only centers on the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran-Herat axis, but also includes Turkey and Qatar. And most important of all, the top actors on the Eurasian integration chessboard: the Russia and China in strategic partnership.

Congressional Interns and Congress Redirections

Dissident Voice - Thu, 2019-06-20 06:52

On a beautiful, breezy day last week, I spoke to a roomful of Congressional summer interns working in the House of Representatives. The subject was “Corporate Power, Congress and You.” (“You” referred to the interns as the citizenry).

I noted that they were a special group because they were willing to spend an hour listening to a talk about corporate power. I told them about how small groups of ordinary citizens became leaders in the nuclear arms control movements, the anti-tobacco drives, and consumer rights movement. I also talked about the expansion of equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. I took note that many of them in the room – women and people of color— would not be there if not for their predecessors’ tireless efforts to advance civil rights.

No more than one percent of Americans – sometimes far less – made the many advances in peace and justice take hold, backed by a growing public opinion.

In the 15,000 or 20,000 days these young people have, it will be their responsibility to stop the following omnicidal threats to humanity and the natural world:

  1. Climate crisis or climate disruption, which is already wreaking havoc. A student asked me about the ‘Green New Deal’, which urges dramatic action. I recommend that they make the strong case that we must plan ahead for the sake of the planet. It will cost trillions to solarize our economy and otherwise reduce greenhouse gases, but that pales in comparison to the trillions of dollars that will have to be spent on mitigating the effects of climate catastrophe, which would fundamentally damage our fragile planet. In fact, International Renewable Energy Agency research found that transitioning to renewable energy will save between “$65 trillion and $160 trillion [between now and] 2050.”  These costs would include spending to save coastal cities from ocean over-runs and all the other violent weather patterns and convulsions in habitat coming on this fragile planet Earth.
  2. A runaway nuclear arms race between countries, which threatens to cause untold destruction. A nuclear arms race can increase the risk of nuclear weaponry being used on innocents, whether intentionally or by accidental computerized launch. Donald J. Trump seems to think that ending our treaties with Russia (without Senate approval) regarding reduction of nuclear war heads will “make America great again.”
  3. Global pandemics caused by mutations of viruses and bacteria are a lethal threat. Malaria, dengue fever, and transmittable deadly avian flu are just a few of the diseases that have the potential to spread further because of habitat disruption, tourism, and travel. The U.S. is spending far too little money to protect its people from such invisible disease vectors. Less than a fourth each year of what one redundant aircraft carrier (largely obsolete except for purposes of Empire force projection) costs. While Americans today might not think much of this threat, millions of Americans died in the 1919-1920 flu pandemic.
  4. Endemic poverty and grave inequalities afflict billions of human beings. Roughly one in four children in the world suffers from chronic malnutrition, if not semi-starvation. Most will wither in pain and resignation. Some will be searching for vengeance using physical violence against the institutionalized violence of global corporations and corrupt governments taking their favors.
  5. The emerging corporate fascistic states are dispossessing the citizenry of their rights, remedies, and facilities to organize and express their voices. The U.S. is now a maturing corporate state. Wall Street owns more of Washington and turns our government against its own people while feeding privileges, immunities and gigantic freebies and tax escapes to demanding global companies. When commercial values are allowed supremacy over citizen values, societies decline relentlessly.

I continued my remarks about how corporations have been given by the Federal Courts the same rights as human beings. Even though, neither the words “corporation” or “company” ever appear in our Constitution. Add this corporate “personhood” to the expanding privileges and immunities of corporate power, in these times of corporate crime waves, and equal justice under law between U.S. citizens and Exxon/Mobil or Pfizer or Wells Fargo is a cruel mockery.

I told the students to look at the fine print contracts they sign or click on that have taken away their precious freedom of contract and sometimes their historic right to pursue wrongdoers in court.

What is worse, youngsters grow up ‘corporate’ rather than grow up ‘civic’ – think of all the corporate ads they are subjected to that are not contradicted. Young people don’t even realize what has been stripped away from their rightful protections.

Interns are spending the summer with Congress – the smallest yet most powerful branch of government in the Constitution – where some 1,500 corporations have undermined the peoples’ delegated power. These corporations rent or own a majority of the Senators and Representatives and tell them how to vote on many serious matters.

Yet, as Patti Smith sings, the people do have the power, if they wish to exercise it. People have formidable democratic tools – they are the sovereign power, they have the vote. They own the greatest wealth in the country (vast public lands, public airwaves, and trillions of dollars in pension and mutual funds, which own the stocks of large corporations).  The peoples’ tax dollars have led to government-sponsored research and development that have spawned the major industries of our times.

Led by one percent of active citizens in their communities the people – left and right – can achieve a living wage economy, full health insurance, law and order for corporations, a fair tax system, and organizing rights for workers, consumers, and small taxpayers. We can develop solar energy capabilities quicker. Our public budgets can be redirected to critical domestic public works infrastructure and away from costly Empire building abroad.

Students informed me of their focus on electoral reforms, the use of manipulative euphemisms, and opportunities for work in civic engagement. I was encouraged.

Most picked up our materials, including the card on how to reform Congress (see ratsreformcongress.org). They left the room, I hope, with higher civic expectations for themselves.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Israeli military analysts admits: “Israel Can’t Win the Next War.”

Greanville Post - Thu, 2019-06-20 05:29
GILAD ATZMON—Ben Yishai is honest enough to admit publicly that Israel’s enemies understand the psychological, spiritual, cultural and political fabric of Israeli society. They are aware of Israel’s weaknesses and the IDF’s paralysis and they act upon these. According to Ben Yishai, the Shiite axis, Hamas and the Salafi-Jihadists all understood that they “could not destroy Israel with one or two violent military moves, therefore they went on to wage a war of strategic attrition against us.” Any violent round or war whose results are inconclusive in favour of Israel, Ben Yishai says, are going to be seen as another nail in the Zionist’s coffin.

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