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Category Archives: Media

Valid Concerns About Flynn Shouldn’t Excuse Leaks

Retired General Michael Flynn was shitcanned from his job as National Security Adviser this week, which gives him the distinct “honor” of being forced out by not just one, but two Presidents! Yes, that’s a pretty impressive feat, and we need to look at this event from an objective perspective.

First and foremost, spying on foreign ambassadors is nothing new. The press has been reporting on this since before Snowden stole millions of files from NSA and handed them over to foreigners to peruse, and if you think we’re the only ones who spy on foreign ambassadors on our soil, I have this bridge.

U.S. installations abroad also remained a primary target for espionage, particularly by the Soviet Union. Twice in one year, the Department learned that the Soviet intelligence agency had seriously compromised security at the embassy in Moscow. In January 1985, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that one of its security guards at the Embassy had passed classified information to a Russian woman.

The fact that Flynn was talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak made him the subject of what is called “incidental collection.” It means he wasn’t the target, but since conversations are two-way things, he was captured in the intercept as well. That’s a concept that has apparently escaped House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is shitting himself, because “an American citizen had his phone calls recorded.” For the record, no one was spying on Flynn. The target was Kislyak, and the collection on Flynn was incidental. That’s first and foremost.

First, he was talking to the Russian ambassador, who is an agent of a foreign power. Agents of foreign powers are acceptable foreign intelligence targets and the government could have a warrant to surveil Kislyak under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) since 1978.

Next, phone calls are wiretappable. Congress ensured that would be true with the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA).

Further, while wiretapping in the criminal context involves only recording when the targets talk about illegal activity, foreign intelligence wiretapping is comprehensive. All conversations are collected and important bits mined out after the fact.

So, no. This wasn’t a matter of Obama targeting Trump and trying to destroy him, as some conspiritards claim. It also wasn’t Obama operatives conspiring to target the Trump administration.

Fact is Flynn has been a concern to the Intelligence Community long before Trump decided to even run for President.

GOP 2016 ConventionLet’s remember Flynn in 2010 was removed by current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, then-CENTCOM commander, and investigated for sharing classified information with Pakistan. Pakistan! Not exactly a close ally. And revealing sensitive U.S. intelligence capabilities being used to monitor the Haqqani network to Pakistan is not exactly something that’s encouraged. This from the same guy who screeched “LOCK HER UP!” about Queen Pantsuit during the Republican National Convention for putting “our nation’s security at extremely high risk with her careless use of her private email server”

So while Hillary used her private email server “carelessly,” Flynn intentionally shared classified information with other countries – more than once – and never punished for it, because he apparently didn’t know better. Sound familiar?

Although Flynn lacked authorization to share the classified material, he was not disciplined or reprimanded after the investigation concluded that he did not act “knowingly” and that “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result,” according to Army records obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Flynn was even bragging of the fact that he shared classified information he was not authorized to share with our allies Britain and Australia! “I’m proud of that one. Accuse me of sharing intelligence in combat with our closest allies, please.”

Really?

Whether he likes it or not, there are protocols and channels through which one has to go to release intelligence – even to our closest allies. Flynn, who was accused of telling allies about the activities of other agencies in Afghanistan, including the CIA, apparently felt he was above such constraints. He wanted to do it, so intelligence protocols be damned! He did what he did, because apparently he felt he was too important to follow procedures, and his mission was too critical to be limited by bureaucracy.

General Igor Sergun GRU Director from December 2011 until his death in January 2016.

General Igor Sergun GRU Director from December 2011 until his death in January 2016.

This was all long before Trump, as was Flynn’s now infamous trip to Russia to celebrate RT’s anniversary alongside President Putin and rub asses with Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). While Flynn was no longer DIA director, having been forced out by the Obama Administration, he received a DIA briefing before heading out to Russia and got paid for speaking there.

Of course, these “speaking fees” weren’t exactly for a traditional address. Flynn received an undisclosed amount of money for agreeing to be used as a propaganda tool by the Russian owned and controlled RT.

‘I was asked by my speaker’s bureau, LAI. I do public speaking. It was in Russia. It was a paid speaking opportunity,’ Flynn told the paper.

‘The gig was to do an interview with [RT correspondent] Sophie Shevardnadze. It was an interview in front of the forum, probably 200 people in the audience,’ he said.

[…]

‘I had a great trip. I was the first U.S. officer ever allowed inside the headquarters of the GRU [Russian intelligence]. I was able to brief their entire staff,’ Flynn said.

‘I gave them a leadership OPD. [a professional development class on leadership] and talked a lot about the way the world’s unfolding.

Uh-huh.

Flynn believes Russia could be an invaluable ally in the war against Islamic extremism. He said so during the RT forum. And he’s not wrong. The problem with sharing those views on a forum like RT is the optics. The forum took place after Russia illegally annexed Crimea, after more than a year of Russian funding of militant separatists in Ukraine, and after two years of the United States imposing economic sanctions against Russia for threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors. It doesn’t look great when the ousted director of DIA heads over to Russia and advocates for closer relations. It looks like a bitter former employee impugning his former boss’ foreign policy.

But besides that, we have no idea what was said in the GRU briefing. Given Flynn’s former penchant for briefing sensitive intelligence about IC operations “unknowingly” in a presentation in Afghanistan, the concerns about his trip aren’t unwarranted.

Again, this was all pre-Trump, so to claim that somehow the IC is targeting the President through Flynn is just disingenuous, given the concerns about Flynn’s continued flaunting and disregard for good intelligence practices, since long before the Presidency was even a gleam in Trump’s eye.

Once Trump won, and announced that Flynn was to be his National Security Adviser, I can’t blame old intel hands for freaking out a bit, given Flynn’s history. When Flynn spoke with Kislyak the day sanctions were announced, and then lied about the conversation to the Vice President, this became an even bigger concern. I said at the time that even if he didn’t mention sanctions – about which the President-Elect Transition Team was briefed prior to them being announced – the optics were worrying, to say the least.

Is it any surprise that a National Security Adviser to the President of the United States who doesn’t understand what he should and should not release to foreign powers, who doesn’t see that perceptions about him impugning U.S. foreign policy on an adversary’s state-owned media channel and chatting with said adversary’s Ambassador prior to a critical foreign policy announcement would be concerning as the leader of our country’s national security apparatus?

No, the IC is not trying to bring down Trump by targeting Flynn. They’re right to be concerned.

Which brings me to the leaker, whoever it might be.

The screeching conspiritards are right in one regard. Whoever leaked the information about the intercepts between Kislyak and Flynn did so illegally. While it’s common knowledge that we spy on the Russians (DUH!), releasing that information is illegal.

Listen I get it. Whoever leaked these conversations to the public had to have been paralyzingly concerned about Flynn. Hell, I was worried about having someone like that sitting in charge of the National Security Council and receiving sensitive information. Flynn was a profound concern for the IC, and whoever leaked that information had to have known that if caught, they would be prosecuted and would likely lose their job and their freedom, but was concerned enough to do it anyway.

And while identifying Flynn internally was legal, because his identity was critical to the analysis of Kislyak’s calls, the leak of the unminimized (unmasked) identity of Kislyak’s interlocutor to the public is and should be punishable by law.

Whoever leaked this information wreaked indescribable havoc.

They gave an adversary information about collection methods – signals intelligence – without which, we probably no longer have the ability to conduct surveillance on our targets.

They handed our enemies insight into the workings of the Presidential administration. Such insight is gold for our adversaries.

It gave Russia a window into the chaos in our national security apparatus.

It showed Russia our weaknesses.

This is unacceptable under any circumstances, no matter how concerning Flynn’s actions were, and make no mistake, they were worrisome.

But there was more at stake than just Flynn, and while we don’t know how compromised he was by the Russians, if at all, and whether his actions were due to arrogant stupidity or an actual desire to betray our country to the Russians, incalculable damage was done by whoever leaked this information to the public, and that cannot be ignored.

So while Flynn’s connections – and anyone else in the Administration who has had questionable interactions with the Russians – are a fair target for law enforcement and intel investigators, so are the people who are leaking this sensitive information.

Leaks are no reason to cheer. They’re a reason to be afraid.

 

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The Media

I read an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today. BLUF: Donald Trump has spent the past year and a half trolling the news media with everything from outright lies, to outrageous statements, to egotistical exaggeration, but it’s all part of a greater strategy: to send the media off on pointless “fact checking” errands in search of intrinsically worthless data.

Meanwhile, Trump does what Trump does.

Now that he is president, reporters assigned to Mr. Trump are in a tough position. They have to pay close attention to what the White House says, but they know the White House may give them garbage and dare them to spend an entire working day trying to verify or debunk it. Meanwhile Mr. Trump will make the ordinary decisions any president must make—court nominations, executive orders, negotiations with foreign leaders—while reporters are off trying to disprove some idiotic claim about the president’s approval ratings. They’ll feel as if they’re in an impossible bind, trolled into looking the other way, futilely insisting on their authority as the nation’s guardians of truth.

I’ve often said on this very blog that I don’t care about the idiot minutiae that the media digs up on 45. I don’t care how many books he’s sold. I don’t care how big his inauguration crowds were compared with 44. I don’t care if and when he opposed the Iraq war. He wasn’t a public official back then – merely a bloviating rich guy – and it’s completely irrelevant to me what he said on the Howard Stern show about the Iraq war more than a decade ago. While the media goes off chasing down Trump’s latest claims, blows hot air about which Trump lawsuits we should be keeping track of in 2017, and dutifully covering Charlie Sheen’s tweets about how much he hates Trump, Trump’s National Security Adviser Flynn was chatting on the phone with his Russian counterpart – on the day sanctions were announced. Now, I’m not saying he revealed anything about the sanctions, but the optics aren’t good, given his connections to the Russians. Two weeks later, the media was catching up. “Oh! He spoke to the Russians on the day Treasury announced sanctions!”

Barton Swaim, the author of the column, suggests that the media are going to have to find new ways to deal with Trump. He doesn’t do business in any way they’re used to, whether you agree with him or not.

mediaI would suggest the media start actually covering the story, covering the presidency, and letting us know what is going on, rather than wasting time spinning, “fact-checking,” and analyzing every word he says to death, in an attempt to discredit him.

If you’re going to be the “nation’s guardians of truth,” perhaps you should start by reporting actual news rather than chasing down silly, inconsequential claims. Stop digging for ways to discredit Trump on stupid issues, such as how many people attended his inauguration. Nobody gives a shit! You are reporters. So report, goddamit! Report accurately. Report the truth. Leave spin and analysis at the door, because frankly, most of you aren’t sufficiently versed in policy to analyze it.

Stop blurring the line between journalism and editorializing. No one gives a fuck what you think. Report the story, and let the audience decide what they think about it.

Confirm accuracy before publishing stories with buzzwords such as “unverified,” in a pathetic effort to beat everyone to the story. Verify.

And most of all, make rational decisions about what is important to the American people, and leave Buzzfeed, Breitbart, and other clickbait purveyors to their tabloid chaff.

BBC’s Harry Law: Pushing political agenda and displaying cultural ignorance

second-amendmentAs I said previously, I do consider BBC’s straight journalism considerably superior to almost any American “news” outlet. Someone pointed out that BBC does lean considerably left, but it is easy to discern their reporting efforts from their features/editorials, so while I respect their journalism, their other work leaves a lot of be desired.

A few days ago, a writer named Harry Low decided it was time to add some spittle-flecked ignorance to the already-vast library of anti-gun loonery that the “journalists” of the world dutifully created in order to advance a global anti-freedom agenda. He penned a piece for BBC Magazine entitled “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime.” This is hardly a news piece in any way, shape, or form, nor does it explore any new ideas. The author’s only goal with this dull-witted screed was to emphasize one message: GUNZ BAD!

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?

suicidesNow, let’s start with the fact that the gun rate cited in the United States also includes cases of legal self defense as well as suicides. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the 33,599 deaths via firearms in 2014 – or 21,334 were suicides, according to the CDC.

Do you want to know how many people committed suicide in Japan in 2014? According to the BBC itself, in 2014 on average 70 Japanese people committed suicide every day.

Every. Day.

That’s 25,550 people per year, which may be a function of another problem, which I will discuss below.

So comparing deaths by firearm in 2014 and including suicides in the United States, which comprise 63 percent of the deaths being compared is abject inability to analyze data at best, and outright disingenuous manipulation of data at worst.

A country that banned handguns and has incredibly tight controls on all other types of firearms in 2014 saw a higher suicide rate than the United States.

So point one: Harry Law is either a liar or an idiot.

But let’s remove the suicides from the picture. Out of the remaining 12,265 deaths by firearm, 464 were listed as legal intervention. That means a thug got ventilated by a would-be victim, which leaves 11,801 firearm deaths. Now, remember, these are legal interventions which resulted in the death of the violent vermin in question. This does not include incidents in which the gun was merely brandished, or the vermin was only injured. We have no idea how many lives were saved by those acts of bravery, but let’s leave those alone for a bit.

There were also 586 unintentional deaths – or accidents – which leaves 11,215, and there were 270 firearm deaths in which the intent could not be determined. This brings the gun homicide level to 10,945.

Still, Harry Law might say, nearly 11,000 firearm deaths compared to six is a big difference! While Japan in 2014 had a 0.3 gun homicide rate, the United States came in at a whopping 3.43 percent! And of course, Harry Law’s answer to the disparity is the lack of guns.

If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.

There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.

That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

And this is where point two comes in: Harry Law is ignorant on Japanese culture writ large.

The people are comfortable, he says.

There’s no clamor for a relaxation of firearms laws, he says.

And Japanese police officers rarely use guys, he says.

Japanese police officers rarely use guns and put much greater emphasis on martial arts – all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms.

“The response to violence is never violence, it’s always to de-escalate it. Only six shots were fired by Japanese police nationwide [in 2015],” says journalist Anthony Berteaux. “What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down.”

Now, my juvenile giggling at a perp being turned into a burrito aside, I’m also not a fan of the militarization of police. I’m much more a proponent of effective training, whether with firearms, a baton, or hand-to-hand combat.

japan-homicides

That said, what Harry Law wrote demonstrates a remarkable lack of cultural awareness.

First, despite the lack of guns in Japan, the homicide rate actually increased by 6.76 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the World Data Atlas.

But more than that what Harry Law is missing is the fact that the homicide rate writ large in Japan has always been significantly lower than in the United States. Japan saw 697 homicides in 2003 overall, compared with 11,920 firearm deaths in the United States. But while gun ownership has been on the rise since 2003, the gun homicide rates have generally declined.

Gee, maybe there’s something else at play that Harry Law, in his ridiculous zeal to advance a “GUNZ BAD!” message is missing?

In 1988 Dave Kopel wrote an article about Japanese culture that might clear up Harry Law’s confusion a bit.

The Japanese criminal justice system bears more heavily on a suspect than any other system in an industrial democratic nation. One American found this out when he was arrested in Okinawa for possessing marijuana: he was interrogated for days without an attorney, and signed a confession written in Japanese that he could not read. He met his lawyer for the first time at his trial, which took 30 minutes.

Unlike in the United States, where the Miranda rule limits coercive police interrogation techniques, Japanese police and prosecutors may detain a suspect indefinitely until he confesses. (Technically, detentions are only allowed for three days, followed by ten day extensions approved by a judge, but defense attorneys rarely oppose the extension request, for fear of offending the prosecutor.) Bail is denied if it would interfere with interrogation.

Even after interrogation is completed, pretrial detention may continue on a variety of pretexts, such as preventing the defendant from destroying evidence. Criminal defense lawyers are the only people allowed to visit a detained suspect, and those meetings are strictly limited.

Partly as a result of these coercive practices, and partly as a result of the Japanese sense of shame, the confession rate is 95%.

For those few defendants who dare to go to trial, there is no jury. Since judges almost always defer to the prosecutors’ judgment, the trial conviction rate for violent crime is 99.5%.
Of those convicted, 98% receive jail time.

In short, once a Japanese suspect is apprehended, the power of the prosecutor makes it very likely the suspect will go to jail. And the power of the policeman makes it quite likely that a criminal will be apprehended.

The police routinely ask “suspicious” characters to show what is in their purse or sack. In effect, the police can search almost anyone, almost anytime, because courts only rarely exclude evidence seized by the police — even if the police acted illegally.

The most important element of police power, though, is not authority to search, but authority in the community.

Bottom line: The Japanese public has had a historically very different relationship with law enforcement, police have broad powers, including the power to stop, search, and coerce confessions during interrogations. The Japanese culturally respect police officers as much as they respect teachers, and have willingly ceded their rights. I don’t know a whole lot of people in the West, and especially not in the United States, who are willing to scrap their constitutional rights in the way the Japanese have. Additionally, crime rates are generally low because culturally, to commit a crime is to bring shame to one’s family.

And in Japan, culturally, the sense of shame is significant. Shame, honor, and duty are a historic part of Japanese culture. Going to jail carries with it an extraordinary social stigma, which compared to other countries, where prison time gives you street cred, would make more sense in explaining the low crime rates than the presence or absence of firearms. And at the same time, there is a focus on keeping crime statistics low, and violent crimes such as rape go underreported in a society that is apparently still male-dominated and so intent on keeping its image clean, that no autopsies are performed, on even most obvious cases of foul play, and no crime is reported.

The existence of chikan (“perverts”, meaning men groping women in public) is a massive problem and has led to the creation of “women-only” carriages in most major cities. Japanese police are also criticized for failing to take victims of sexual crimes seriously time and again as a result of either chauvinist bias or an inability to investigate such crimes.

What are most disturbing are however arguments that the low crime is partially a result of a police culture that are obsessed with keeping crime statistics low. Former detectives claim that police is unwilling to investigate homicides unless there is a clear suspects and frequently labels unnatural deaths as suicides without performing autopsies. Coincidentally, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

This brings me to point three: Harry Law apparently knows fuckall about Japanese culture, and uses that ignorance to his advantage when pushing a political agenda.

Point four: Harry Law shouldn’t be taken seriously.

That Fake News, Tho

“Fake news” has been all over the Interwebz lately. Fake news websites deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation. They twist and manipulate headlines and use social media to drive web traffic to their sites.

Most of my conservative friends immediately point to the mainstream media (CNN, NBC, CBS, the Washington Post, and the New York Times) as an example of “fake news,” while venting their outrageary at their favorite clickbait garbage (see: Zerohedge, Conservative Treehouse, Breitbart, and others) being named to the list. There’s no doubt the mainstream media leans left. I mean, really – Donna Brazile feeding the Clinton campaign debate questions? Democrats significantly outnumbering Republicans in newsrooms? That’s nothing new.

But there’s a difference between obvious manipulation of reporting, fake news, and slanted editorializing and coverage.

It makes a difference in the larger scheme of things to point out those differences, because right now, what I’m seeing is everyone jacking off to their own confirmation biases, based on some pretty spurious “reporting.” And it’s coming from both sides. Liberals immediately point out that they don’t trust Fox News or the Washington Times, while conservatives spit on the New York Times and other mainstream media, while worshiping the likes of Breitbart as gospel. Libertarians won’t trust any corporate media outlet, and prefer anything “reported” by Zerohedge, the Kremlin’s propaganda arm RT, and the conspiritards at InfoWars, if you can even call it that.

Outright manipulation is what media outlets like Zerohedge and Breitbart engage in on a regular basis, with misleading headlines meant to foment outrage, and legitimate news stories spun into utter excrement. I wouldn’t call them clickbait, but the manipulation is so clear and so intentional and transparent, that one has to wonder how stupid these outlets think their audience is.

Unfortunately, given the number of people I know who share these stories with froth-flecked zeal without doing further research, I may already have an answer to that question.

Biased reporting is generally true and verifiable, but manipulates and shapes public opinion by the information it omits, or how it shapes the story.

Clickbait is just that. Stupid, completely worthless, many times old news, marked by a lack of due diligence, research, or background.

disinformationFor example, Zerohedge report recently hysterically and conspiratorially claimed “Obama Quietly Signs The “Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act” Into Law.”

Oh noez! EVERYBODY PANIC! OBAMA IS GOING TO TOSS THE FIRST AMENDMENT OUT THE WINDOW!!

Not quite, boys and girls. What Zerohedge intentionally left out of the title of its panic-fomenting piece and the name of the legislation itself was the word “Foreign.” It sounds much better to imply that your evil government will control communications, doesn’t it? Just eliminate one little world, and your story becomes much more odious than it actually is.

Also, if you look at the Act itself, it’s a lot less nefarious than the Big-Brother-Truth-Ministry-Control-Your-Freedom agency this ass monkey Tyler Durden, writing for Zerohedge, makes it sound. It was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and is appropriate in a national defense context.

Information warfare is a real thing. Russia has been buying media outlets abroad to help shape a pro-Russia message, even as it threatens the stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of its neighbors. Foreign propaganda, outright false reporting (see: little green men or the downing of MH-17) is a problem that could threaten national security, especially when barely informed conspiritards take to the streets and demand foreign policy action about issues they barely comprehend based on little more than outrage and a refusal to research and analyze information. It makes all the sense in the world to have a panel to evaluate its effects and come up with messaging to counter outright lies, and that’s really what this legislation does. It doesn’t threaten free press in the United States. Hell, it doesn’t even threaten foreign press! It simply creates (sigh) yet another bureaucracy, which will analyze information and come up with appropriate strategies to counter adversarial propaganda efforts.

(a) Establishment.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response (in this section referred to as the “Center”). The purposes of the Center are—

(1) to coordinate the sharing among government agencies of information on foreign government information warfare efforts, including information provided by recipients of information access fund grants awarded using funds made available under subsection (e) and from other sources, subject to the appropriate classification guidelines;

(2) to establish a process for integrating information on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into national strategy; and

(3) to develop, plan, and synchronize interagency activities to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against United States national security interests and advance narratives that support United States allies and interests.

(b) Functions.—The Center shall carry out the following functions:

(1) Integrating interagency efforts to track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies, subject to appropriate regulations governing the dissemination of classified information and programs.

(2) Analyzing relevant information from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think-tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations.

(3) Developing and disseminating thematic narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners in order to safeguard United States allies and interests.

(4) Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.

(5) Facilitating the use of a wide range of information-related technologies and techniques to counter foreign disinformation by sharing expertise among agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.

(6) Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes.

(7) Identifying the countries and populations most susceptible to foreign government propaganda and disinformation.

(8) Administering and expending funds made available pursuant to subsection (e).

(9) Coordinating with allied and partner nations, particularly those frequently targeted by foreign disinformation operations, and international organizations and entities such as the NATO Center of Excellence on Strategic Communications, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the European External Action Service Task Force on Strategic Communications, in order to amplify the Center’s efforts and avoid duplication.

And while, I’m not a fan of additional bureaucracy, Russian propaganda, is a real issue – especially when it comes to our allies – as the Russians buy up foreign media outlets, establish hubs in major countries, while restricting foreign ownership of media outlets at home.

Unfortunately, those who believe this crap simply grab the story and help propagate it, rather than doing research to see what it’s really about. Another conspiritard grabs it, then another, and another, and another. Before you know it, the manipulated story goes viral, and people are citing it as the gospel truth.

Another recent example is a story in the Washington Examiner – a snoozer of a website aimed at ignorant conservatives that in late December claimed that national newsrooms were “sanitizing” the Ivanka Trump harassment story, after the daughter of the President-elect was harassed by an unhinged, hysterical passenger on a JetBlue flight.

What’s really remarkable here is that even though media’s coverage of the incident has centered almost entirely on Lasner’s say-so, many headlines have omitted any sort of allusion to his own use of the word “harass.”

harassmentA little research would have revealed the Examiner bullshitting its readers by pointing to these outlets’ Twitter feeds as proof of  some kind of censorship conspiracy. But each story very specifically mentions the harassment of Ivanka as the reason why the unhinged individual was removed, and the Examiner’s own headline manipulates facts.

If you actually CLICK on the stories linked in these Twitter feeds, as I did, here is what you will find.

Reuters: Lasner tweeted earlier that his husband was chasing the couple down in the terminal “to harass them.”

Yahoo: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial,” Matthew Lasner, a professor at Hunter College, tweeted. “My husband chasing them down to harass them.”

AJC: “My husband (is) chasing them down to harass them,” Lasner wrote in one of the since-deleted tweets.

Washington Post: In since deleted tweets, Lasner, who specializes in urban housing policy, wrote that he and his husband were “kicked off the plane” after his husband “expressed displeasure in a calm tone.” In a previous tweet Lasner wrote that the couple had spotted Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner and that his husband “was chasing them down to harass them.”

CNN in story highlights: Someone allegedly harassed Trump’s eldest daughter and her husband onboard a flight

CNN in a full version of the story: Another now-deleted tweet posted to Lasner’s account at 8:29 a.m. ET said, “Ivanka and Jared at JFK TF, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil

The Washington Examiner was obviously relying on its readers indolence and unwillingness to do their own research, but merely read the stories cited in hopes of fomenting misplaced outrage at this particular case of media bias.

medalAnd then there’s Breitbart Trumpbart, which ranks right alongside Salon, MotherJones, and Occupy Democrats Social Regressive Retards on the scale of utter douchebaggery, and that has provided today’s Internet stupid! Not satisfied with merely biased reporting, these shitslurping fuck goblins went a step further to disseminate an absolute lie of a headline that was not only factually inaccurate, but so quite obviously meant to foment unhinged batshittery among its readers, that one glance ought to tell you to run, not walk to your nearest research facility – virtual or brick!

Warner Todd Huston, who wrote this particularly opprobrious turd, apparently didn’t even bother to do research on what the medal is, and if he did, he chose to leave out the facts, choosing instead to highlight the unhinged Twitter rage by hysterical ignorami and try to pass it off as journalism.

It isn’t. It’s simply batshit crap. Trust me, there’s plenty of issues on which the current POTUS can be criticized, without manufacturing outrage that’s so stupid, it feeds into the left’s confirmation bias about conservative media. Like that’s needed!

The Distinguished Public Service Medal is not given by the President. It’s given by the Secretary of Defense. There’s no basis to assess that Obama somehow ordered Ash Carter to give him a medal, other than the right’s deranged hatred of the current POTUS. A little bit of research would have also revealed that two Presidents in recent times have received the Distinguished Public Service Medal: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both awarded toward the end of their presidencies. Is Trumpbart really going to claim that Bush and Clinton both ordered their respective SECDEFs to award them medals? Or does that dubious honor only apply to Democrats? Apparently the rights’ disdainboner only gets turgid for Democrats – to such a degree, that publishing obviously misleading information is not frowned upon.

If we are going to criticize the mainstream media for obviously biased reporting, shouldn’t we at least make a nominal effort to look in the mirror first?

Otherwise, all we’re doing is giving the left ammunition in showing that conservative media is exactly what they claim it is.

Cue screeches of “BUT CNN, NYT, WAPO, ETC. ARE FAKE NEWS!” in 3… 2… 1…

OA: Beautiful, Mysterious, Engrossing

oa-like-stranger-thingsI just finished binge watching Netflix’s new series “The OA.” I had no idea what it was. There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare when it was released Friday. A few folks I know and respect watched and recommended it, so I decided to give it a try.

I’m still trying to process what I saw – part spiritual, part science fiction, part mystery, part very human drama. It was psychologically difficult to watch and process, but it dragged me in, breathless, as I watched the story unfold.

I’m not revealing any mysteries here, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. But I will tell you that the writing is thoughtful, provocative, and complex.

A previously blind young woman comes home after having gone missing for seven years with her sight restored. Turns out she was kidnapped and held prisoner. Her parents should be overjoyed to have her back, but you get the sense that something’s not kosher. Prairie Johnson’s return should be a delightful, exultant event, but something is heavy. Something is off.

She calls herself “the OA” pronounced like “Oh Ay,” and she immediately draws five misfits into her story, engaging them to help her achieve her mission. The mission is part of her mystery, as is her new identity, but the five she brings together are unlikely and incongruous.

There’s the teacher, who has lost her love for teaching, her joy for life, and her twin brother.

There’s the drug-dealing, violent bully, who punched a talented choir kid in the throat in a pique of jealousy, and is on the verge of being sent to reform school.

We have an honor student, who takes care of his drunken mother.

There’s a shy, transgender boy.

And finally, there’s a stoner kid, whose story isn’t quite developed.

Prairie gathers these five to help her. In the process, she helps them find their inner selves and their happiness, and allows them to get in touch with their inner joys.

As Prairie tells her story, we follow along. That part is difficult to watch. Held prisoner by a sociopath with a medical degree, brilliantly played by the inimitable Jason Isaacs, Prairie and four other prisoners discover their true nature. They discover who they are and why they are being held. They discover hidden talents and untapped potential.

If the experience sounds positive, it isn’t. It’s difficult to watch these young people trapped in glass cages underground, drugged, hurt, threatened, and demoralized. The sociopath is engaged in medical experience no living human being should be forced to experience. The psychological trauma of a seven-year imprisonment can cause even the strongest mind to break, which brings up some interesting questions.

Is Prairie’s story the result of the psychological trauma she’s suffered, or was it real?

Did the five help her by taking on her pain – by allowing her to tell her story in her own way – or did they help her by allowing her release?

Did the group really stop a school shooting via supernatural means, or did the weird movements simply distract the gunman long enough for a courageous cafeteria worker to tackle him?

Was the entire experience supernatural, or logical and able to be explained scientifically?

You’ll have to watch for yourself to determine the answers, but you will enjoy every minute you spend binge watching this intelligent, captivating series.

Brit Marling’s OA is whispy, gentle, and light, despite the psychological damage she’s endured.

Steve, the drug-dealing school bully, is violent, out of control, hungry for affection, and yet somehow vulnerable, loyal, and aching so much for some real human contact!

Teacher Betty Broderick-Allen outwardly hurts and is eaten alive by the guilt she feels after her brother’s death.

But in a way, the entire series is a study in isolation.

OA is isolated from the world, she’s isolated from her counterparts in Dr. Happ’s insane set of cages. She’s isolated from her parents and from the rest of society when she returns home. She’s isolated from family love before she’s adopted by her parents after her father dies.

Happ is isolated from his test subjects, as they get emotionally ever closer to one another, and begin to push him further outside their group and spiritual resistance.

The five are isolated from family, from schoolmates, and from co-workers. Buck Wu, the transgender is isolated in his own way, as are the stoner kid and the honor student, whose drunken mom is doing her very best to sabotage his future. Steve is isolated by his own acts of uncontrolled violence.

And somehow this isolation brings them all together and helps each heal in a complex climax in which an isolated school shooter begins murdering his classmates.

Some are comparing this show to “Stranger Things” – another Netflix hit from not too long ago that paid homage to awesome 80s hits from ET to Alien – but this show is much more nuanced and complicated.

stranger_things_logoneedfulthingsbookcover“Stranger Things” was a tribute to pure entertainment and the horror stories we all loved best. Yes, there were elements of mystery and the supernatural. It was very Stephen King-ish in nature. Even the logo screamed “Needful Things” cover!

But it was inherently different and less complicated than this series. It didn’t leave us with burning questions about life, death, other dimensions, and the types of things the mind is capable of due to intense psychological trauma.

As I said… complex.

But well worth your time to binge watch on a chilly winter day.

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