Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Clark Kent considers a career change

May 13, 2022
Hat tip to ScheerPost.

The so-called “Russian world”: links

May 11, 2022

It is hard to find information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine that’s not war propaganda for one side or the other.  The only way to get at a semblance of the truth is to look at the situation from multiple points of view.

Here are web sites I check regularly.  If this is a topic of special concern to you, you may want to bookmark this page.  Also, if there are good sources I’m missing, please tell me in the comments.

The Vineyard of the Saker.  An eloquent Russian nationalist.  A view that is important for Americans to understand, whether they agree with or are offended by it, or not.

Russian Dissent.  A forum for Russians silenced in their own country.

Meduza – the Real Russia Today.  An independent news service.

Gilbert Doctorow.  An independent scholar.

Dances With Bears by John Helmer.  An independent report.

Videos from Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.  Alexey Navalny is in prison, and his Anti-Corruption Foundation web site has been shut down, but you can find their individual YouTube videos (with English subtitles) if you look.  Or click on this, this or this.

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Navalny in prison, but his work goes on

April 21, 2022

Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) team are among the best investigative reporters of our time.

They have documented the extreme corruption of Russian politicians and oligarchs, which goes beyond anything I would have imagined. The one on Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar palace, financed through graft, is just one example.

It is no wonder that Putin fears Navalny, and has railroaded him into prison on trumped-up charges.  

Russians are among the poorest people in Europe, the Russian government is among the most corrupt, and the gap between rich and poor is one of the highest of any advanced nation.

There is nothing more potentially explosive that showing the struggling Russian common people the extreme wealth and luxury in which their rulers live.

Of course rankings change year-by-year, and Ukraine also has extremes of poverty, corruption and inequality.  The point is that such conditions may become intolerable when Russians are asked to make more sacrifices for the sake of winning a war of choice led by their government.

Navalny started the FBK in 2011.  In 2013, he was indicted and convicted of embezzlement from his own foundation and given a suspended sentence.  Most human rights organizations regard the changes as bogus.

In 2020, he was poisoned and received treatment in Germany.  The FBK produced a documentary showing the Russian government was behind the poisoning.  He returned to Russia in January, 2021, and was arrested for parole violation.  He was tried in March on additional charges of embezzlement and sentenced to nine years in prison.  He is appealing that sentence.

Meanwhile the FBK had been shut down and some of its workers arrested on charges of extremism.  But it is continuing to produce videos, most of them with English subtitles, evidently from outside Russia.  The independent Meduza news service has relocated to Latvia and The Moscow Times to the Netherlands.

I worked on newspapers for 24 years, and I especially enjoy FBK videos as great examples of investigative reporting—the ingenuity with which the investigators track down the facts, their professionalism in document the facts, and the clarity and wit with which they present the facts.

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Jeffrey Epstein and his protectors, exposed

February 2, 2022

PERVERSION OF JUSTICE: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown (2021)

Jeffrey Epstein was a rapist and a pimp.  He sexually abused young girls and trafficked them out to be abused by others.  

Yet for years he was shielded from criminal charges by his wealth and by his network of rich and powerful protectors.  

We the public may never know the names of Epstein’s clients.  But thanks to the reporting of Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald, we do know some other things..

Her book, Perversion of Justice, touches on many aspects of the Epstein case, but the high points are how he used his wealth and connections to shield himself from prosecution for his crimes, and how he used seduction, blackmail and threats to trap young girls into sexual bondage.

She began her investigation in 2017 when Alex Acosta was nominated by President Trump to be Secretary of Labor.  Back in 2008, when Acosta was U.S. attorney for southern Florida, he signed a non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to get off with a wrist slap in return to pleading guilty to trafficking young girls.

The fact that Epstein was prosecuted at all was due to the dogged persistence of Palm Beach Chief of Police and Detective Joe Recarey (who is deceased).  When they began to interview young girls victimized by Epstein, it seemed like an open-and-shut case, but they met resistance every step of the way.

Epstein was a social friend of the mayor of Palm Beach.  He donated expensive equipment to the Palm Beach Police Department and created a scholarship fund for children of police.  He was one of the leading members of the city’s social elite, and he was a lavish giver of gifts and donations to charity..

Epstein’s legal team consisted of Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and high-profile lawyer; Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who brought about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton; and Jay Lefkowitz, a former senior adviser to both Presidents Bush.

He also hired a local lawyer, Jack Goldberger.  That resulted in an aggressive prosecutor, Dahlia Weiss, being pushed off the case, because her husband was one of Goldberger’s law partners.

The defense team gathered information about the girls Epstein had seduced, often looking at their social media and visiting them at their homes, trying to paint them as the seducers or at least as willing.  

One young woman phoned Recarey and told him Epstein’s investigators asked her about things that she had told him that she thought were confidential.  How did the investigator get access to that information? she asked. 

Reiter and Recarey got a search warrant for Epstein’s mansion, but when they got there, it had been stripped clean. Six computer hard drives had been removed.  Video surveillance cameras had been disconnected and the video recordings and other electronic data removed.  Nude photos of young girls that. had adorned the walls had been removed.

They never figured out who told Epstein of the warrant.

Palm Beach County prosecutor Barry Kirschner chose to take the case to a grand jury, although this wasn’t necessary.  He also chose to prosecute only one case, although Recarey had collected information on 14.

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The poisoning of Alexei Navalny

January 25, 2022

When Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned, I didn’t know what to think.  Not that I thought about it too deeply.

It seemed to me that if the Russian deep state had really wanted to kill him, they would have succeeded.  Also, I was hung up on the definition of “novichok.”  But most of all I didn’t pay attention because I was preoccupied with the lies of war hawks in the American deep state.

The video above shows detective work by Navalny, Maria Pevchikh and other Navalny supporters.  It proves that the Russian government was behind Navalny’s poisoning.  It is in Russian with English subtitles, and was released in June, 2021, but I only became aware of it a couple of days ago.  I’m posting it on my blog by I suspect most Americans aren’t aware of it either.

Navalny fell sick on an airplane flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, 2020.  The plane was diverted to Omsk, where Navalny was rushed to a hospital for treatment.  After two days, he was transported to Berlin for medical treatment.

Hospital patients in Russia, as in most countries, have the right to see their medical records, but the Omsk hospital refused to release Navalny’s.  In November, two Navalny lawyers, Ivan Zhdanov and Vyacheslav Gimadi, bluffed their was into the Omsk records department and took unauthorized photographs of the records.

They indicated that a biochemical blood test showed that Navalny had a deficiency in cholinesterase, which is a neurotransmitter, and the presence of organophosphate agents, which are a cholinesterase inhibitor.  In other words, Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent.

A month later, the Omsk hospital released what they said were Navalny’s medical records.  All references to cholinesterase and organophosphates had been scrubbed.

Poisoning by nerve agent was confirmed by physicians in Germany and by a Russian physician.  The German officials said it was a new type of nerve agent, deadly but slow-acting.  Navalny would be dead if the pilot hadn’t diverted the plane and his supporters hadn’t got him moved to Germany.

Navalny’s clothes were confiscated by the Omsk hospital and never returned.  Navalny tricked an FSB agent, Konstanin Kodryavstev, into confirming that his underpants were poisoned.  Impersonating an FSB official, Navalny phoned Kodryavstev and debriefed him on how he obtained Navalny’s clothes from the local police, carefully cleansed the underpants of any chemical agent and returned them.

The poison probably was added to Navalny’s underwear in his hotel room in Tomsk.  The room is under video surveillance, but no video footage of the room has been released.  There’s more evidence in the video, but you get the idea.

After having proved his government. had tried to murder him, Navalny returned to Russia in August, 2021.  To me, that was an incredibly brave thing to do.  He was promptly arrested, and is in prison now.

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Financial predators and the American press

December 15, 2021

A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newspapers: Inside Alden Global Capital by McKay Copplins for The Atlantic.  About the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.

How Democracy Dies at The Washington Post Editorial Board by Alan McLeod for Mint Press News.

Julian Assange and the eclipse of liberalism

December 10, 2021

President Biden is attempting to rally what he calls liberal democratic nations against autocratic China, Russia and Iran. But the Julian Assange case shows that liberalism is a sham in the USA and its vassal allies.

Assange in 2011

The USA under Obama, Trump and Biden has protected high-level officials who commit crimes and atrocities, while prosecuting persons such as Assange who reveal crimes and atrocities.

We got a reminder of this with the recent UK court decision to extradite Julian Assange for violation of the U.S. Espionage Act. The violation consisted of revealing killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. forces.

This is something that Woke Democratic and MAGA Republican leaders in the USA (though not necessarily all their followers) agree on, along with leaders of the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ecuador and other countries.

But if a government can commit crimes, and make it a crime to reveal those crimes, then what stands between the public and a would-be Hitler or Stalin?  And how can any impartial observer take U.S. leaders seriously, when they claim to be defenders of democracy and freedom?

LINKS

The Courage Foundation.  Julian Assange is not the only persecuted truth-teller.

Julian Assange Loses Appeal: British High Court Accepts U.S. Request to Extradite Him by Glenn Greenwald.  Why the persecution and prosecution of Assange is an attack on press freedom and the rule of law generally.

Julian Assange Has a Stroke in Belmarsh Prison by Susan Oliver for The Daily Mail.  [Added 12/15/2020]

There Is No Liberal West by N.S. Lyons.  I agree with Lyons’ eloquent defense of classic liberal principles against woke-ism, but notice that he does not mention people persecuted for truth-telling about militaristic governments and abusive corporations.  Freedom is indivisible.

The passing scene: Links 12/1/2021

December 1, 2021

The Next European War by John Michael Greer for Ecosophia.  Peace in Europe is not permanent..

The War Nerd: The Tigray-Ethiopia War.  War is hell.

When All the Media Narratives Collapse by Andrew Sullivan for The Weekly Dish.  Big news organizations have forfeited trust.

Ten Million a Year: David Wallace-Wells on polluted air for the London Review of Books.

How Delaware Sold the Greatest, Most Insidious Financial Security Tool the World Has Ever Known by Casey Michel for CrimeReads.

Hayao Miyazaki Prepares to Cast One Last Spell by Ligaya Mishan for the New York Times.  Some good news to end with.

China, journalism, strikes: Links 10/15/2021

October 15, 2021

The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning by N.S. Lyons for Palladium.   The clash of civilizations.

Intersectional Imperialism and the Woke Cold War: The New Faith Prepares for a Global Crusade by N.S. Lyons for The Upheaval.

‘Frozen Chosin’ Korean War Movie Set to Be Biggest Hit of 2021 by James Barber for Military.com.  In the movie, the Chinese are the good guys.

Out of the Newsroom by Spencer Ackerman for Forever Wars.  Newspapers whose reporters and editors all work from home.

“Government Without Newspapers”: the manufacture of ignorance by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.

A strike wave is coming to save America’s working class the old-fashioned way by Will Bunch for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Great Strike of 2021 by Jack Rasmus.  They also strike who simply refuse to take dangerous jobs for less than a living wage.

Why Record Numbers of Workers Are Quitting and Striking by Sonali Kolhatkar via Naked Capitalism. [Added 10/16/2021]

The Untraversed Land by John Michael Greer for Ecosophia.   How the structure of the world economy causes shortages.

The Afghan War Comes Home to Minneapolis by Thomas Neuburger for God’s Spies.

The Unvaccinated May Not Be Who You Think by Zeynep Tufeckci for The New York Times.

How many people get long Covid?  More than half of those infected, researchers say by Pennsylvania State University.

Matt Taibbi on the cult of the vaccine neurotic

October 8, 2021

I’ve been vaccinated for Covid, I think vaccination is a good idea for most people, but I think it very strange that the Biden administration, the mainstream press and the public health establishment say you shouldn’t consider treatments for the disease.

Why not explore anything and everything that might work?  Why limit yourself to just one thing?

The idea is that the general public is so stupid that if they think there is anything other than vaccination that is helpful in fighting the disease, they won’t get vaccinated.  The problem with this is that if you blatantly treat people as if they are stupid, they will stop listening to you.  Matt Taibbi had a good article about this on his Substack blog.

LINK

The Cult of the Vaccine Neurotic by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Big money in politics keeps forever wars going

September 2, 2021

After his appearance on Breaking Points, Matt Taibbi commented:

A lot of people want to look at the bright side with this withdrawal, and they should, up to a point.  However much he may have botched the planning, Joe Biden deserves credit for sticking to his timeline.  It is good news that the United States can eventually recognize that a war has stopped serving any purpose, and actually decide to leave a country ten years after the last theoretical reason for staying has expired.

However, the fact that both the government and the national commentariat remain essentially captured by contractor money remains as big a problem as ever, as this episode shows.  We haven’t even reached the stage of being able to identify the financial connections of the people occupying center stage on the national televised debate over military policy.  It’s a terrible look that the people willing to point things like this out mostly all work for independent media outlets, while the New York Times and Washington Post have to be harassed to do the ethical minimum on that score.

If we properly identified the sponsors of the people with the biggest voices in media and politics, a lot more of what America does at home and around the world would make sense.  We need more of that, and thanks to Krystal and Saagar for bringing the topic up.

On Afghanistan, the Revolving Door and Media Failure to Disclose Contracting Ties of Guests by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Truthteller Craig Murray goes to jail

August 4, 2021

We live in a world in which is you are more likely to be punished for exposing certain kinds of crimes than for committing those crimes.

LINKS

Keeping Freedom Alive by Craig Murray.

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move to snuff out independent journalism by Jonathan Cook.

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Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged

July 13, 2021

Last Friday a Twitter user named Darryl Cooper wrote a 35-tweet thread explaining the mindset of Trump supporters who think the 2020 election was rigged.

The thread was read verbatim on the Tucker Carlson show, and Cooper’s Twitter account went almost overnight from about 7,000 followers to about 70,000.

Glenn Greenwald invited him to write a summary of the thread for his Other Voices Substack account.  Although he did not agree 100 percent with Cooper, he thought Cooper’s viewpoint is important to understand. So do I.

Cooper said that for many years, most conservative Republicans, although they disagreed with the direction the country was moving, long had a basic confidence in the country’s institutions – the military, police and judiciary, the large corporations and even the press, which might be biased

This changed with the run-up to the 2016 elections and the victory Trump administration.  Intelligence agencies, Democratic politicians and the Washington press endorsed a conspiracy theory of Russian collusion which, it turned out, was based on opposition research conducted for the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Each of the claims were debunked one by one.

I happen to think Donald Trump was a terrible President.  But he was almost never attacked for the things he actually did wrong (nor was Hillary Clinton, for that matter).  Trump was attacked for his erratic statements, which didn’t matter, and for things he didn’t really do.

Cooper wrote:

Trump supporters know – I think everyone knows – that Donald Trump would have been impeached and probably indicted if Robert Mueller had proven that he’d paid a foreign spy to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton from sources connected to Russian intelligence and disseminate that information in the press. Many of Trump’s own supporters wouldn’t have objected to his removal if that had happened.  [snip]

Trump supporters had gone from worrying the collusion might be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to seeing proof that it was all a scam. Then they watched as every institution – government agencies, the press, Congressional committees, academia – blew right past it and gas-lit them for another year.  [snip]

This is where people whose political identities have for decades been largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed not only partisan, but all institutional boundaries. They’d been taught that America didn’t have Regimes, but what else was this thing they’d seen step out from the shadows to unite against their interloper president?

In the run-up to the 2020 campaign, the establishment press abandoned all pretense of neutrality, and, with the help of social media companies, imposed a news blackout on information that would help Donald Trump or hurt Joe Biden.

Is it any wonder, Cooper asked, that Trump supporters do not believe assurances from the Washington press corps and the Biden administration that the election was on the up-and-up?

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The news blackout on Julian Assange

July 8, 2021

Julian Assange is in prison, and may spend the rest of his life there, for the crime of telling the truth about U.S. government atrocities and blunders. 

What’s at stake in the Assange case is whether the U.S. government has unlimited power of secrecy, which pretty much the same thing as unlimited power.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and make it a crime to reveal its crimes, then there is no limit to its power.  How can the citizens judge or vote on what they are forbidden to know about?

The video above gives background on legal issues in his case.  The articles linked below tell of recent developments, which have been ignored by most of the press.

LINKS

Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law by Chris Hedges for Scheerpost.

The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control by Caitlin Johnstone [Added 7/9/2021]

Assange’s Persecution Highlights U.S. and U.K. Hypocrisy by the Courage Foundation.

Key witness in Assange case admits to lies in indictment by Bjartmar Oddur Peyr Alexandrsson and Gunnar Hrafin Jónsson for Studin, an Icelandic magazine.  These reporters broke an important news story that hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream press.

The Weird, Creepy Media Blackout on Recent Assange Revelations by Caitlin Johnstone.

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart by Craig Murray.

Desperate to Get Assange, U.S. Promises Prison Time in Australia, not in U.S. Supermax  by Joe Lauria for Consortium News.

UK High Court grants US government right to appeal on Assange extradition by Laura Tiernan for the World Socialist Web Site.

Glenn Greenwald in Brazil

May 19, 2021

SECURING DEMOCRACY: My fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Bolsonaro’s Brazil by Glenn Greenwald (2021)

Glenn Greenwald’s new book tells the story of his latest exploit, the publication in 2019 of leaked information exposing corruption and abuse of power in Brazil, his adopted country.

His reporting on leaked information about abuses of power by President Jair Bolsonro and Justice Minister Sérgio Moro threatens their political power.

The risks he faces—prison and death—are possibly greater than in 2013, when he helped publish Edward Snowden’s leaked information about abuses of power by the NSA, CIA and Britain’s GCHQ.

I’ve long been an admirer of Greenwald, and Securing Democracy is doubly interesting to me because it tells something of his back story.

I started reading his blog, Unclaimed Territory, in the mid-2000s.  Its theme was the Bush administration’s abuse of power.

When Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush, Greenwald held Obama to the same strict standard that he applied to Bush.  This won him a following across the political spectrum.

Greenwald was, and is, very lawyer-like.  His writing focused on the relevant law and facts, without any evident personal bias.  His judgments were without fear or favor.

In fact, I don’t know Greenwald’s political beliefs, beyond a general belief in democracy, freedom of speech and equal justice under law.

I followed Greenwald as his blog was picked up by Salon, then as he became a columnist for The Guardian.

I didn’t know at the time that he was (1) gay and (2) living in Brazil.

In the book, he told how, after quitting his job in a New York law firm in 2005, at age, he went to Rio de Janeiro to unwind on its famous Ipanema beach. 

A volleyball knocked over his drink, and a handsome 20-year-old man named David Miranda came up to apologize.

It was love at first sight, and they’ve been together ever since.  It is like an ideal love relationship out of Plato’s Socratic dialogues—a mature older man loving and mentoring a handsome and noble younger man.

Miranda grew up in a favela, one of the squatter shantytowns that have grown up around Brazil’s big cities. 

Favela residents typically live in shacks build of scrap wood, bricks and other scavenged materials.  They usually lack electricity, a public water supply or sewerage, although residents sometimes tap into the electrical grid illegally.

Drug gangs have more power in the favelas that the legal government does, Greenwald wrote.  They also are sometimes invaded by private militias financed by wealthy right-wing Brazilians.

Miranda was born in a favela to a poor woman who worked as a prostitute.  He never knew his father.  His mother died when he was five, and he was raised by an aunt, until he left home at age 13.

At first he slept in the street, but, by means of hard work, talent and charm, he had worked his way up to a stable job in offices at the time he met Greenwald.

After they met, Miranda got through junior high and high school, then got a degree in marketing from a top Brazilian university.

Miranda’s ambition was to design and promote video games.  Greenwald was unimpressed by that ambition, until Edward Snowden told him that he got his first ideas of duty, morality and purpose by playing video games as a child.

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The prevalence of fake news

May 4, 2021

I don’t watch network news very often.  I don’t even have a  functioning TV set.  So I needed this Trevor Noah skit as a reminder of just how goofy and irresponsible Fox News can be.

Joe Biden was going to take away Americans’ meat.  Kamala Harris had her children’s book distributed to unauthorized migrant children at the border.  Joe Biden wore a mask as he sat alone in a ZOOM call with world leaders.  Except none of these things was true.

There are plenty of valid criticisms you could make of Biden, and not just from a conservative point of view.  But if you think of yourself as a liberal and you think of Fox News or right wing talk radio as “the other side,” you are not going to be swayed in your view.

You have the same thing with the “mainstream media.”  A Capitol Police officer was beaten to death with a fire extinguished by maddened Trump supporters.  Rudy Giuliani was warned by the FBI against going to Kiev to dig up material to help Trump’s campaign.  Except none of these things were true, either.

I think it’s possible to get a relatively accurate idea of what’s really going on in the world, but you have to have more leisure time than most people have, and even then, it’s hard. 

LINKS

Corporate News Outlets “Confirm” the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct It by Glenn Greenwald.

The Media Lied Repeatedly About Officer Brian Sicknick’s Death, And They Just Got Caught by Glenn Greenwald.

The passing scene: March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

Here are some articles I think are interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Steve Donziger Ecuador Case: Q&A With Human Rights Lawyer Under House Arrest by Jack Holmes for Esquire.  This lawyer won a lawsuit against Texaco (since acquired by Chevron), which lasted from 1993 to 2011, on behalf of farmers and indigenous people who lived in the Amazon rain forest, who accused the company of dumping cancer-causing toxic waste where they lived.  THey won a $9.8 billion award.  Chevron refused to pay and counter-sued their lawyer. Awaiting a verdict, he has been under house arrest for more than 580 days for refusing to hand over his computer and phone with confidential lawyer-client information on them.  Incredible!

How the West Lost COVID by David Wallace-West for New York magazine.  “How did so many rich countries get it so wrong?  How did others get it so right?”  This is the best article I’ve read on this particular topic.

Your Face Is Not Your Own by Kashmir Hill for the New York Times. “When a secretive start-up scraped the Internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit—and blew the future of privacy in America wide open.”  (Hat tip to O.)

Nina Turner: “Good ideas are not enough.  We need to marry our ideas to power”, an interview for Jacobin magazine.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

New study shows microplastics turn into ‘hubs’ for pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria by Jesse Jenkins of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Crow Whisperer by Lauren Markham for Harper’s magazine.  “What happens when we talk to animals?” 

Biden says he told Putin he doesn’t have a soul

March 19, 2021

There are a number of disturbing things about President Biden’s interview on ABC News last Wednesday.  One is that he plans to retaliate against Russia over something that has not been defined and for which there is no evidence.

Another is his lack of discipline in his speech, and how easily he was led to say things that have important diplomatic repercussions.  He talked to George Sephanopoulos as if he were talking to a good friend in private over drinks, not to a reporter on public record.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Director of National Intelligence came out with a report today saying that Vladimir Putin authorized operations during the election to under — denigrate you, support President Trump, undermine our elections, divide our society. What price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He will pay a price. I, we had a long talk, he and I, when we — I know him relatively well. And I– the conversation started off, I said, “I know you and you know me.  If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you know he doesn’t have a soul.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I did say that to him, yes. And — and his response was, “We understand one another.”  It was– I wasn’t being a wise guy.  I was alone with him in his office.  And that — that’s how it came about. It was when President Bush had said, “I looked in his eyes and saw his soul.”  I said, “Looked in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.”  And looked back and he said, “We understand each other.”  Look, most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of ’em over my career, is just know the other guy. Don’t expect somethin’ that you’re– that — don’t expect him to– or her to– voluntarily appear in the second editions of Profiles in Courage.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Uh-huh. I do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So what price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The price he’s gonna pay we’ll– you’ll see shortly.  I’m not gonna– there’s– by the way, we oughta be able that ol’ — that trite expression “walk and chew gum at the same time,” there’re places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together.  That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him.  That occurred while he’s doin’ this. But that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity, that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.  But that and SolarWinds as well.  He’s been — they’ve done some mischievous things, to say the least.  And so we’re gonna have — I’m not gonna announce what I’m doing, but he’s gonna understand that —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Mohammad —

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: — it’s not free.

Source: ABC News

What’s all this about looking Vladimir Putin in the eye?  Is there a ZOOM connection between the White House and the Kremlin?

What’s all this about being alone with Putin?  Was he able to speak to Putin without an interpreter?

What gives an American President standing to accuse any other foreign leader of being a “killer”?  Doesn’t he remember that the U.S. has been waging war by means of assassination since the George W. Bush administration?  Doesn’t he remember that President Obama boasted of being “pretty good at killing people”?

Did he really tell Putin that he doesn’t have a soul?  How does that help where “there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together?”

This is much like the kind of interview Ronald Reagan might have given in his declining years.

If President Biden goes along with ramping up a new cold war with Russia and China, while continuing to wage other big and little wars all over the world, then his other announced goals won’t be achieved and probably won’t matter.

It’s early days yet, so Biden’s course is not set.  It is encouraging that he is at least willing to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which President Trump refused to do.  One can hope.

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Matt Taibbi on the one-party press, etc.

March 12, 2021

The Sovietization of the American Press by Matt Taibbi on TK News.  “The transformation from phony ‘objectivity’ to open one-party orthodoxy hasn’t been an improvement.”

HBO’s docuseries Allen v. Farrow: A shameful, vicious, McCarthyite attack on filmmaker Woody Allen by Joanne Laurier for the World Socialist Web Site.

Louis DeJoy Is Killing It by Casey Taylor for New York magazine.  “While Biden dithers, Trump’s minion wrecks the postal service.”

“Deaths of Despair” Are Rising – It’s Time to Define Despair by Bruce Bower for Science News.  “Scientists investigate whether despair is distinct from mental disorders.”

The emerging campaign against Substack

March 11, 2021

In Defense of Substack by Matt Taibbi on TK News.  “UCLA Professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential worship.”

Criticizing Public FIgures, Including Influential Journalists, Is Not Harassment or Abuse by Glenn Greenwald.  “As social media empowers uncredentialed people to be heard, society’s most powerful actors seek to cast themselves as victims and delegitimize all critiques.”

Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor Its Writers: to Bar Critiques of Journalists by Glenn Greenwald.  “This new political battle does not break down along left v. right lines.  This is an information war waged by corporate media to silence any competition or dissent.”

Conspiracy theories and official lies

March 9, 2021

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G.K. Chesterton remarked that when people stop believing in Christianity, they don’t believe in nothing.  Rather they become willing to believe in anything.

I think the same thing is true of belief in the credibility of the government or the mainstream news organizations. 

When people stop believing in the official version of events, a lot of them don’t adopt a position of skepticism.  They look for something else to uncritically believe in.

Public opinion polls indicate that barely half the American people believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected President of the United States.

One in five think protesters were justified to storm the Capitol to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified.  Forty-five percent of registered Republicans believe this.

Why would people doubt that Biden was legitimately elected? 

Donald Trump, the previous President of the United States, says he wasn’t, and a certain number of Republicans and conservative writers and broadcasters back him up.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party, a certain number of Republicans and the overwhelming majority of broadcasters and journalists say he was.

Why would anybody automatically believe the second group over the first group?  They don’t have a great track record. 

In the runup to the election, there was a clampdown on reporting about the relationship of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, with corrupt a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch.

After the election, I read article after article in my local newspaper stating that Trump had “falsely” claimed that the election was rigged, without any details about what he claimed or why his claim was false.  This information is available, but you have to know how to look for it.

As soon as Biden was sworn in, Trump was banned from Twitter and other social media.  Parler, a new platform for web sites, was shut down; it had attracted a lot of right-wingers and Trump supporters who’d been banned from other sites.

Silencing people is not a good way to convince them they are wrong.  What it does is make them think that you are afraid to let people hear what they have to say.

If I was told by a President of the United States whom I’d voted for and whom I trusted that the election was being stolen, I think I’d believe him.  I wouldn’t trust his discredited enemies.  I might even go to Washington to protest. 

In fact, as I recall, a lot of self-described liberals and progressives went to Washington to protest the election of Donald Trump.  They regarded his election as illegitimate.  Some talked of having members of the Electoral College violate their pledges in order to block Trump.

I wouldn’t have taken part in any storming of the Capitol, but I might be inclined to make excuses for it, just as some people make excuses for the vandalism and looting that has accompanied some of the Black Lives Matter protests.

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House Democrats threaten right-wing cable news

February 24, 2021

House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Press Freedoms by Glenn Greenwald.  “Democrats’ justification for silencing their adversaries online and in media — ‘they are spreading fake news and inciting extremism’ — is what despots everywhere say.”

Fake news and the storming of the Capitol

February 17, 2021

It is not true that Officer Brian Sicknick was beaten to death by a pro-Trump mob during the storming of the Capitol, Glenn Greenwald reported last night. 

This raises big questions about the credibility of reporting of the event and the justification for a “domestic war on terror.”

The report in the New York Times on Jan. 8, based on quotes from two anonymous law enforcement officials, and in a follow-up article.  It was cited as fact in the articles of impeachment against ex-President Donald Trump.

But on the same day, ProPublica published an article quoting Sicknick’s brother as having received a text from SIcknick after the riot saying he was okay, in spite of having been pepper-sprayed.  But then later they got word he had a blot clot and was on a ventilator.  He died that night.

Nobody has produced video evidence of the alleged beating of Sicknick.  Many of the rioters have been charged, but nobody has yet been charged with Sicknick’s murder. 

On Feb. 2, CNN published an article, noting in passing that the medical examiner’s report on Sicknick’s death has not been released, but quoting one investigator that there were no signs of head injuries and investigators no longer believe the fire extinguisher story.

I am not making excuses for Donald Trump or for the rioters.  It is clear to me that Trump intended the mob to storm the Capitol in order to intimidate Vice President Pence and the Senate into refusing to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory.  This was wrong.  It was a symbolic and real attack on the democratic process.

Neither am I trying to trivialize the tragedy of Officer Sicknick’s death or deny that it was duty-related.

However, nothing is gained by false reporting or by believing false reporting.  You only weaken your cause.

I don’t fault the reporters of the initial NYT article.  When you’re reporting on deadline, you go with the information you’ve got.  But I do fault the NYT and the rest of the Washington press corps for not trying to check or verify the facts the next day. 

The great temptation for any reporter, as I know from my own experience, is to come across information that seems to confirm your biases and assumptions, and look no further.  This is the great fault of the so-called mainstream press in the Trump era.

The New York Times over many decades built a reputation as a reliable source of information by taking great care to be fair and accurate.  But it is much more easy to lose a good reputation than to gain one, and that is what is happening now.

Self-described liberals mock President Trump for talking about fake news.  They can’t understand why so many people believe things like the Q-Anon conspiracy.  But if respected institutions such as the NYT can’t be troubled to get things right, its editors and reporters shouldn’t be surprised if some people turn to disreputable sources.

LINKS

The False and Exaggerated Claims Being Spread About the Capitol Riot by Glenn Greenwald.  “Insisting on factual accuracy does not make one an apologist for the protestors.  False reporting is never justified, especially to inflate threat and fear levels.”

“This Political Climate Got My Brother Killed”: Officer Brian Sicknick Died Defending the Capitol; His Family Waits for Answers by J. David McSwane for ProPublica.

Investigators struggle to build murder case in death of US Capitol Police Officer Brian SIcknick by Evan Perez, David Shortell and Whitney Wild for CNN.

MAGA Blood Libel: Why Are They Hiding the Medical Report? on Revolver News  [Added 2/18/2021]

Mom of US Capitol police officer Brian Sickwick believes he died of a stroke by Laura Collins for The Daily Mail.  [Added 2/24/2021]

What we know about Capitol Police officer Brian Sickwick’s death by Bill McCarthy for PolitiFact.  [Added 2/24/2021]

Slate Star Codex vs. the New York Times

February 14, 2021

Last spring a New York Times reporter named Cade Metz interviewed a San Francisco-based psychiatrist who called himself Scott Alexander about his influential Slate Star Codex blog.

Alexander requested that the NYT article not reveal his real name, and the reporter said that was against NYT policy.  Alexander responded by taking down his blog.

A huge controversy ensued, involving journalistic ethics, Internet anonymity, “toxic ideas,” free speech, the culture of Silicon Valley, the clash between self-described rationalists and self-described progressives and much else.

Since then Alexander has started a new blog under his real name, Scott Siskind.

I find the whole debate highly interesting, but don’t have any particular wisdom of my own to add, except to say that I think Scott Siskind is in the right. 

Instead I have gathered links for anybody who’s interested in delving into it.

LINKS

Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media by Gideon Lewis-Kraus for The New Yorker.  A reasonably impartial overview.

NYT Is Threatening My Safety by Revealing My Real Name, So I Am Deleting This Blog by “Scott Alexander” for Slate Star Codex.

Still Alive by Scott Siskind for Astral Codex Ten.

Silicon Valley’s Safe Space by Cade Metz for The New York Times.

Statement on the New York Times article by Scott Siskind for Astral Codex Ten.

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Journalists who are enemies of free speech

February 8, 2021

The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.  “The NYT’s Taylor Lorenz falsely accuses a tech investor of using a slur after spending several months trying to infiltrate and monitor a new app that allows free conversation.”