From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America’s foreign policy – that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found – and in doing so has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.
The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civilians from U.S. airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa Province when the U.S. targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded the week earlier by the U.S. destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump’s first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALS in which 30 Yemenis were killed; among the children killed was an 8-year-old American girl (whose 16-year-old American brother was killed by a drone under Obama).
In sum: although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria – already quite high under Obama – has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: the number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama, but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.
I arrived on the Claremont campus in search of the Straussians, but for the first hour all I could find were feminists.
It was just before noon, and I was at the Motley, a student-run coffee shop and study space devoted, said a sign above the entrance, to “diverse feminist critiques.” One wall had been turned into a giant blackboard, on which students scribbled math equations. The others were decorated with posters of feminist icons, slogans promoting intersectionality, and advertisements for a forthcoming “Funk the Patriarchy” party. Another flier announced “We’re Launching Economic Warfare!” next to a drawing of the president’s face peeking out from behind a circular “No Trump” sign.
Did the Motley regulars know that, less than 400 yards away, the academic vanguard of the Trump administration had been provided with office space and tenure?
Charles R. Kesler, whose class on The Federalist Papers I would be attending that afternoon, is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, and presiding chieftain of an obscure (until recently) tribe of political philosophers known as the “West Coast Straussians” — named for the émigré philosopher Leo Strauss. Kesler is also the editor of The Claremont Review of Books, the conservative magazine that The New York Times says is “being hailed as the bible of highbrow Trumpism.” “Like Richard Nixon in ’68,” Kesler wrote in May 2016, in one of his many prescient columns, “Trump felt that this election might test whether the center could hold, whether a silent majority could be mobilized on behalf of the country itself. The issue was not so much a showdown over liberal or conservative policies, but the simpler, more elementary question of whether a majority still wanted America to be great again.”
Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak to Jane Mayer staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, about Robert Mercer, the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. (Democracy Now!)
Britain’s willingness to work with Islamist forces has been evident in Libya, where it took a brutal civil war between armed opposition forces and remnants of the regime to overthrow Libyan ruler, Muammar Qadafi, who was killed in October 2011. Massive NATO air strikes, mainly by Britain and France, were conducted during March-October in support of the rebel forces and significantly contributed to the rebel victory. What concerns the story here is not a review of the whole intervention but the extent to which it involved an Islamist element being supported by Britain in furtherance of its objectives in the Middle East.
The Islamist forces were only part of the military opposition that overthrew Qadafi, but were an important element, especially in the east of the country which was where the uprising began and which provided the centre of opposition to Qadafi. The episode, to some extent, echoes past British interventions where Islamist actors have acted as among the foot-soldiers in British policy to secure energy interests. That the British military intervention to overthrow Qadafi was primarily motivated by such interests seems clear – in the absence of access to government files – to which we briefly turn later. Such oil and gas interests in Libya, however, has been downplayed by ministers and largely ignored by the media, in favour of notions of Britain being motivated by the need to support the human rights of the Libyan people and promote democracy: concerns completely absent when it came to defending the rights of other Middle Easterners being abused at precisely the same time, notably Bahrainis.
Britain provided a range of support to the rebel Libyan leadership, which was grouped in the National Transitional Council (NTC), an initially 33-member self-selected body of mainly former Qadafi ministers and other opposition forces, formed in Benghazi in February 2011 to provide an alternative government. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed on 17 March, imposing a no fly zone over Libya and authorizing ‘all necessary measures…to protect civilians’ under threat of attack. In an echo of Kosovo in 1999, it was certainly questionable whether civilians in Libya were under the extent of attack described by British ministers as justification for their military intervention, such as David Cameron’s claim that ‘we averted a massacre’.
On Wednesday afternoon a car went on to the pavement on Westminster bridge and killed three passersby. A man leapt out and stabbed a policeman. He was shot. No one knew who he was, only that he was dark-skinned and bearded. The police later released the names of those who tragically died in this dreadful incident. The possibly intended victims – members of parliament – were not harmed.
That is how we normally report the people who die by knifing in London each year, usually by those who are enraged or mentally deranged. Yet more are run down by cars. This is sad but not unusual. Some of those involved are Muslims. Of course it seems different when the attack is on an iconic site in central London, but that is merely how it seems.
What made Wednesday different was its instant subjection to an avalanche of supposition and speculation. This was a choice made by the media and political community, a choice to direct the view of a terrible incident entirely in one direction, even when nothing was known of its cause. Because it looked like a terrorist incident – albeit ham-fisted – and it was not initially known if it was a decoy, it was assumed to be such. Without a shred of evidence, and no “claimed responsibility”, the airwaves and press were flooded with assumptions that it was “Isis-inspired”. It was squeezed for every conceivable ounce of sensation and emotion.
Last month, when President Donald Trump toured a Boeing aircraft plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, he saw a familiar face in the crowd that greeted him: Patrick Caddell, a former Democratic political operative and pollster who, for forty-five years, has been prodding insurgent Presidential candidates to attack the Washington establishment. Caddell, who lives in Charleston, is perhaps best known for helping Jimmy Carter win the 1976 Presidential race. He is also remembered for having collaborated with his friend Warren Beatty on the 1998 satire “Bulworth.” In that film, a kamikaze candidate abandons the usual talking points and excoriates both the major political parties and the media; voters love his unconventionality, and he becomes improbably popular. If the plot sounds familiar, there’s a reason: in recent years, Caddell has offered political advice to Trump. He has not worked directly for the President, but at least as far back as 2013 he has been a contractor for one of Trump’s biggest financial backers: Robert Mercer, a reclusive Long Island hedge-fund manager, who has become a major force behind the Trump Presidency.
During the past decade, Mercer, who is seventy, has funded an array of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise. Among these efforts was public-opinion research, conducted by Caddell, showing that political conditions in America were increasingly ripe for an outsider candidate to take the White House. Caddell told me that Mercer “is a libertarian—he despises the Republican establishment,” and added, “He thinks that the leaders are corrupt crooks, and that they’ve ruined the country.”
Trump greeted Caddell warmly in North Charleston, and after giving a speech he conferred privately with him, in an area reserved for V.I.P.s and for White House officials, including Stephen Bannon, the President’s top strategist, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Caddell is well known to this inner circle. He first met Trump in the eighties. (“People said he was just a clown,” Caddell said. “But I’ve learned that you should always pay attention to successful ‘clowns.’ ”) Caddell shared the research he did for Mercer with Trump and others in the campaign, including Bannon, with whom he has partnered on numerous projects.
Amy Goodman speaks to David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author of The Making of Donald Trump, who obtained part of Trump’s 2005 tax returns. (Democracy Now!)
Alex Jones, the conspiracy-loving media personality, apologized Friday for his role in promoting “Pizzagate,” the baseless viral story that a Washington pizza restaurant was the locale of a child sex-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta.
In a surprising and rare bit of backtracking, Jones posted a six-minute video on his website, “InfoWars,” in which he read a prepared statement formally distancing himself and his site from what became a textbook story of fake news run amok. He addressed his apology to James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant that was the supposed locale of the alleged conspiracy last year.
“I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said. “We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of [two] reporters who are no longer with us.”
He added, “To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate.” The story, he said, “was based upon what we now believe was an incorrect narrative.”
Jesse Jarnow on why Radiohead’s third album, OK Computer, was an instant classic from almost the day it was released on 21st May 1997. (Pitchfork)
- Exit Music: How Radiohead’s OK Computer Destroyed the Art-Pop Album in Order to Save It
- The Radiohead Prophesies: How OK Computer Predicted the Future
- A Thousand Feet Per Second: OK Computer’s Sublime Velocity
- Twelve Visual Artists Interpret the 12 Songs on Radiohead’s OK Computer
- An Airbag Saved My Life: Artists Reflect on OK Computer
A Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed “ethnic cleansing” in a plot to “liquidate” the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An “evangelist” and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.
These are some of the people the Trump administration has hired for positions across the federal government, according to documents received by ProPublica through public-records requests.
While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior.
Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called “beachhead teams” have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities.
While some names have previously dribbled out in the press, we are publishing a list of more than 400 hires, providing the most complete accounting so far of who Trump has brought into the federal government.
Amy Goodman speaks to journalist Justin Elliott who has been looking into the hundreds of officials Trump has quietly installed across the government. He describes the backgrounds of these officials in a recent piece for ProPublica. (Democracy Now!)
Several countries are developing nanoweapons that could unleash attacks using mini-nuclear bombs and insect-like lethal robots.
While it may be the stuff of science fiction today, the advancement of nanotechnology in the coming years will make it a bigger threat to humanity than conventional nuclear weapons, according to an expert. The U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research.
“Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction,” said Louis Del Monte, a Minnesota-based physicist and futurist. He’s the author of a just released book entitled “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat To Humanity.”
They wear the latest and most advanced body armour and helmets, camouflage gear and anti-ballistic sunglasses: the fashion statement favoured by frontline private security companies across the world’s combat zones. But Malhama Tactical is not from the West like most of the others. Its fighters are in Syria training Islamists: a “Blackwater of jihad” who have found a new way of cashing in on the self-styled “caliphate”.
Blackwater became the most high-profile of Western security contractors in Iraq, gaining notoriety as the most violent and aggressive of the corporate military firms that spotted a highly lucrative trade following the “liberation” of the country in 2003. Such firms were largely immune from scrutiny or prosecution: that changed after a particularly bloody day in Baghdad.
One late morning in September in 2007, I watched as Blackwater’s guards opened fire from their armoured cars into families out on a Sunday in a popular location, Nisoor Square: 17 civilians were killed and more than were 40 injured. Four of the guards were later convicted in connection with the deaths. Blackwater changed its name, first to Xe Services and then Academi and continues to receive US government contracts.
A civil war between news and opinion has broken out at the New York Times.
In a Times op-ed posted online Friday, Louise Mensch, a writer and former member of the UK Parliament, gives her suggestion for what questions the House Intelligence Committee should ask as it holds hearings on Russia’s influence in the US election. Mensch offers Times readers reason to trust her expertise: “In November, I broke the story that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court had issued a warrant that enabled the F.B.I. to examine communications between ‘U.S. persons’ in the Trump campaign relating to Russia-linked banks,” she writes.
On Twitter, Times reporters lashed out.
“Please note that the NYT newsroom disagrees,” national security reporter Charlie Savage tweeted. Savage highlighted from his report this month knocking down the FISA claim: “To date, reporters for The New York Times with demonstrated sources in that world have been unable to corroborate that the court issued any such order.”
The core of the dispute is whether the FISA court granted a warrant, which the Times and Washington Post have not reported, though the BBC and McClatchy have. The Guardian reported about a June FISA request but stopped short at confirming the supposed October one was granted.
[…] It was just six years ago that Ahmed Maher was celebrated around the world as a symbol of freedom and democracy. In January 2011, as the leader of a social-media-savvy network of young activists called the April 6 Youth Movement, Maher mobilized hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and across the country that took down President Hosni Mubarak. The movement was considered for a Nobel Peace Prize, and Maher traveled across Europe and the United States talking about the Arab Spring and Egypt’s future with the likes of Ban Ki-moon and Lech Walesa. But the hopes that were raised by the revolution dissolved into sectarianism and chaos, and Maher’s aspirations were extinguished within two years. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the defense minister and commander in chief of the armed forces, seized power in July 2013 and outlawed protests. Five months later, a judge found Maher guilty of illegal demonstration, rioting and “thuggery” and sentenced him to three years in jail. Another judge added six months to Maher’s sentence for “verbally assaulting a public officer while on duty” after he demanded that the police remove his handcuffs while in court for a 2014 appeal. Maher spent almost all of that period sealed in a small cell in a solitary-confinement wing at Tora Prison, a notorious complex on the outskirts of Cairo, built during British rule, that houses about 2,500 political prisoners and common criminals. Hidden behind 25-foot-high walls, the vast compound encompasses seven prison blocks, ranging from a minimum-security facility for policemen and judges convicted of taking bribes to the supermax “Scorpion Prison,” a labyrinth of cells largely reserved for Islamists and April 6 leaders.
Today Maher is nominally a free man, but the restrictions on his movements are stifling. The regime is deeply concerned that he could revive the social-media network that brought his followers to the streets six years ago. As it was explained to Maher, “tweets can lead to demonstrations, and demonstrations can lead to revolution, and that will bring down the regime and create martyrs,” he said. “So if you are tweeting, you are like a terrorist.”
Every day for the next three years, Maher must spend 12 of every 24 hours at his local police station, a “surveillance period” intended to ensure that he refrains from anti-regime activity. Under Egyptian law, he told me, low-risk felons “have the right to have their surveillance inside the home with a guard downstairs. But they are using this surveillance as punishment. It is a kind of control to keep me all the time under pressure.”
President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said, changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.
The new authority, which hadn’t been previously disclosed, represents a significant departure from a cooperative approach that had become standard practice by the end of former President Barack Obama’s tenure: The CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike. The U.S. drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in May 2016 in Pakistan was the best example of that hybrid approach, U.S. officials said.
The Obama administration put the military in charge of pulling the trigger to promote transparency and accountability. The CIA, which operates under covert authorities, wasn’t required to disclose the number of suspected terrorists or civilian bystanders it killed in drone strikes. The Pentagon, however, must publicly report most airstrikes.
At what point do egregious factual errors undermine the credibility of an otherwise carefully researched and thoughtful book? I can’t say with precision, but The Good Occupation by Susan Carruthers, a professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark, comes precariously close to that line.
The subject at hand is a cherished myth: that after World War II, U.S. occupation forces handily converted enemies into friends, inculcating into peoples with a prior affinity for militarism and totalitarianism a deep devotion to liberal values. In fascist Italy, the western precincts of the former Third Reich, and emperor-worshipping Japan, the United States military demonstrated a unique capacity to export democracy. In a mere handful of years, tutored by helpful GIs, the “other” thereby became a reasonable facsimile of “us.” So the story goes.
In the ensuing decades, liberal interventionists and neoconservatives have taken turns insisting that the United States military can (and should) replicate these putative successes elsewhere. Rarely have the results proved favorable. In Vietnam during the 1960s, the outcome was plain awful. During more recent endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has hardly fared any better. Yet even today, as Carruthers notes, “the virtuous aura around the post-1945 occupations remains undimmed.”
Take a closer look at what actually occurred when U.S. forces were calling the shots in former Axis countries, Carruthers insists, and such subsequent disappointments should come as no surprise. As with the “Good War” so too with the “Good Occupation”: between what actually happened then and what Americans have since chosen to remember, there yawns a very wide gap.
[…] If Russia has ties with WikiLeaks today, that certainly wasn’t the case seven years ago, says Mika Velikovsky, a Russian journalist who worked extensively with WikiLeaks and interviewed Assange three times.
While working for the magazine Russian Reporter, WikiLeaks’ main partner in Russia, Velikovsky received packets of U.S. diplomatic cables from Shamir, sorted through the documents and published articles based upon them. He also worked on the 2012 leak of emails from the intelligence company Stratfor and collaborated with WikiLeaks on the 2013 documentary film Mediastan.
In 2010, Velikovsky defended WikiLeaks on Russian state television’s political talk shows — programs that often reflect the positions of the Kremlin. There, he clashed with pro-Kremlin experts who claimed that WikiLeaks was the anti-Russian project of American spies.
“At the time, it seemed the authorities were worried about WikiLeaks and didn’t know what it was,” he says. “So the Russian mainstream media was very anti-WikiLeaks.”
Then, in 2012, Julian Assange got a show on RT, a Russian state-funded propaganda channel. The development came amid a worldwide financial blockade of WikiLeaks, when the organization desperately needed money. Velikovsky thinks Assange’s appearance on RT marked WikiLeaks’ transformation from a threat to an ally in the eyes of the Russian authorities.
However, he suggests that WikiLeaks’ seeming alliance with Russia stems from Assange’s own personal predicament. Hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy for over 4 years has robbed Assange of “a lot of the joy [of life] that you and I have,” Velikovsky says. “If someone did that to us, it would be very personal.”
From MSNBC politics shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.
The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.
Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.
- Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion
- Beware The False Temptations Of The Russia Story
- John McCain: Rand Paul ‘Is Now Working for Vladimir Putin’
- Inside The Investigation To Get To The Bottom Of Russia’s Role In The Election
- Leading Putin Critic Warns of Xenophobic Conspiracy Theories Drowning U.S. Discourse and Helping Trump
- Obama’s intel chief says he knows of no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion
- New Twitter Detectives Want To Bring Down Trump Without Becoming Alex Jones
Stephen Colbert pokes fun at Rachel Maddow for making a complete hash of her apparent scoop regarding President Trump’s tax returns. (The Late Show)
- Trump Denies Leaking His Taxes: ‘I Have No Idea Where They Got It’
- Stephen Colbert Rips into Rachel Maddow for Toying with Our Emotions
- White House Releases Key Details of Trump Tax Info Ahead of Rachel Maddow Reveal
- Rachel Maddow Turned a Scoop on Donald Trump’s Taxes Into a Cynical, Self-Defeating Spectacle
- Jimmy Fallon Didn’t Ask Rachel Maddow the One Question Everyone Wanted Him To
- Howard Kurtz: Trump Tax Reveal ‘Big-Time Blunder’ by Rachel Maddow
- Trump Weighs Legal Action Against MSNBC, Reporter Over Tax Return Release
- Is it illegal to leak Trump’s tax returns? Well, it depends
When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”
Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.
But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.
Steve Bannon has been propelled over the last year from fringe media outlier to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire as Trump’s Chief Strategist. From his Wall Street roots and apocalyptic film career to his cultivation of alt-right bigots at Breitbart News, Abby Martin exposes Bannon’s true character in this explosive documentary. Dissection of Bannon’s ideology of “economic nationalism” and desire to “Make America Great Again” reveals the danger of his hand in Trump’s agenda. (The Empire Files)
Amy Goodman speaks to University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings, author of several books on the Koreas, and Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, about ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye and North Korea’s latest missile test. (Democracy Now!)
In January, the CIA, FBI, and NSA released their much-anticipated report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It states that Putin had a “clear preference” for Trump and personally ordered operations designed to get him elected. Russia’s intervention, the report goes on, was the “boldest” in its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.”
The outcry over Russian machinations comes with a heavy dose of irony considering that, twenty years ago, the United States launched an even bolder interference campaign to ensure Boris Yeltsin’s reelection.
The 1990s were one of the most tumultuous and tragic periods in modern Russian history. In 1996, a chaotic mix of Russian schemes — from fraud and profiteering to old-fashioned conspiracy — worked to keep Yeltsin in the driver’s seat. Throughout, American players silently watched, facilitated, and at times, actively helped construct the Faustian bargain between Yeltsin and his oligarch supporters. This pact would have ruinous effects on Russia’s democracy and economy in the decades to come.
“I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole,” admits Rosie Kay with a slightly wild giggle, as she describes the world of conspiracies, cults and celebrities that she has been exploring for her latest work. The choreographer has long been known for her brave and sometimes surprising choices, and for the depth of research she undertakes. She and her dancers spent weeks in training with the British army for 5 Soldiers, while for Sluts of Possession she worked with the School of Anthropology at Oxford, investigating tribal and spiritual ritual. None of her projects, though, have taken her into such alien territory as MK Ultra.
Named after the experiments in mind control that the CIA developed during the last century, Kay’s new show explores the phenomenon of the Illuminati, a shadowy cult believed to be on an elaborate mission of global domination, spreading its agenda through the brainwashing of prominent individuals in politics and the media.
Belief in the cult is particularly strong among young people, and when Kay first began hearing about it from the teenagers who came to her dance workshops, she discovered that pop stars are considered to be the Illuminati’s most targeted “recruits”. Groomed from a young age, singers like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan and Kanye West have supposedly been made agents of the Illuminati’s New World Order, their songs and videos carrying messages designed to subtly alter the public’s consciousness. According to Kay, “the under-25s now have a whole system for decoding the imagery of music videos, looking for symbols like thrones, butterflies, checkered floors and bird cages, to see if they’re carrying the cult’s message and to see which celebrities have been programmed”.
Inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has pointed to the spread of “fake news” as one of three challenges stopping his creation from being “a tool which serves all of humanity”.
The exchange of personal data for free content and a lack of transparency around political advertising were also highlighted as areas of concern for the computer scientist.
In an open letter on the 28th anniversary of his original proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee set out a five-year plan to tackle these three “complex problems”.
[…] As George Stephanopoulos told me when we spoke by phone over the weekend, the trend may have been heading this way for a while — you don’t need an algorithmic feed to turn on Fox News or to catch Rush Limbaugh. But in the era of the curated digital news stream, the choose-your-news phenomenon has “ended up in a whole new place,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.
It’s easy to overdo it, he noted, given that no specially tailored plotline can fully tune out the contradicting details of another one. “Filters do have to contend with each other in some way, too,” he said.
Really, arguments between adherents of the different adventure plots are the stuff of cable news programming, with each narrative vying for supremacy in debates that too often become arguments over established facts that should be indisputable.
Because, after all, one of the plots we’re talking about here is of the sort that democracy depends on — that would be Adventure B, the one based on established facts that exist in the real world — and the others are of the sort that threatens to undermine any shared sense of truth while driving us into our corners.
Fox News’s sister channel, founded in 2007 as a direct competitor to CNBC, struggled for nearly a decade to gain any steam with viewers. It was only a few years ago that much of FBN was experiencing abysmal ratings, often in the single-digit thousands for its key demographic. The schedule routinely shuffled, programs were slashed wholesale, and the network constantly seemed to be grappling with an identity crisis.
That was until Trump ran for president.
Over the past two years, FBN—which employed this writer from 2009 to 2012—has experienced explosive ratings growth tracking with the ascent of the president to whom it has devoted hours and hours of unabashedly positive coverage. In 2015, it was the fastest-growing network on all of cable, raking in double- and triple-digit growth in almost all relevant ratings factors. And last year, it continued that impressive, record-shattering surge, this time claiming to have beaten CNBC in business-day ratings for an entire quarter—a trend that has continued into 2017.
Of course, a former reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate throwing punches on a daily basis for 17 months was an obvious boon to all of television news, as executives of all stripes have freely admitted. But Trump’s rise was especially integral in shaping Fox Business Network’s identity.
The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.
The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
[…] If ever there was a complicated and unwinnable war to keep out of, it is this one.
Despite Saudi allegations, there is little evidence that the Houthis get more than rhetorical support from Iran and this is far less than Saudi Arabia gets from the US and Britain. There is no sign that the Saudi-led air bombardment, which has been going on for two years, will decisively break the military stalemate. All that Saudi intervention has achieved so far is to bring Yemen close to all out famine. “Seven million Yemenis are ever closer to starvation,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in an appeal for more aid this week.
But at the very moment that the UN is warning about the calamity facing Yemen, the US State Department has given permission for a resumption of the supply of precision guided weapons to Saudi Arabia. These sales were suspended last October by President Obama after Saudi aircraft bombed a funeral in the capital Sana’a, killing more than 100 mourners. Ever since Saudi Arabia started its bombing campaign in March 2015, the US has been refuelling its aircraft and has advisors in the Saudi operational headquarters. For the weapons sales to go ahead all that is needed is White House permission.
[…] The Intercept’s reporting from al Ghayil in the aftermath of the raid and the eyewitness accounts provided by residents, as well as information from current and former military officials, challenge many of the Trump administration’s key claims about the “highly successful” operation, from the description of an assault on a fortified compound — there are no compounds or walled-off houses in the village — to the “large amounts of vital intelligence” the president said were collected.
According to a current U.S. special operations adviser and a former senior special operations officer, it was not intelligence the Pentagon was after but a key member of al Qaeda. The raid was launched in an effort to capture or kill Qassim al Rimi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the special operations adviser, who asked to remain anonymous because details behind the raid are classified.
Villagers interviewed by The Intercept rejected claims that al Rimi was present in al Ghayil, although one resident described seeing an unfamiliar black SUV arriving in the village hours before the raid. Six days after the operation, AQAP media channels released an audio statement from al Rimi, who mocked President Trump and the raid. The White House and the military have denied that the AQAP leader was the target of the mission, insisting the SEALs were sent in to capture electronic devices and material to be used for intelligence gathering. A spokesperson for CENTCOM told The Intercept the military has not yet determined whether al Rimi was in al Ghayil when the SEALs arrived.
Although some details about the mission remain unclear, the account that has emerged suggests the Trump White House is breaking with Obama administration policies that were intended to limit civilian casualties. The change — if permanent — would increase the likelihood of civilian deaths in so-called capture or kill missions like the January 29 raid.