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Social media is ripping apart society

Former Facebook exec: Social media is ripping apart society
www.fastcompany.com

Facebook’s former vice president for user growth Chamath Palihapitiya recently gave a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that’ll probably make you think twice about your social media use (via the Verge). The entire talk is well worth a watch, but some of his most prominent remarks included:

  • That he feels “tremendous guilt” about Facebook. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
  • “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [including the hearts, likes, and thumbs up of various social media channels] are destroying how society works.” He added, “[There’s] no civil discourse, no cooperation; [only] misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem–this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
  • Regarding an incident in which seven innocent men in India were lynched after a hoax about kidnappings spread through WhatsApp: “That’s what we’re dealing with. And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
    Unsurprisingly, when it comes to social media, his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.”
    MG

 

3 MEDIA SCREW-UPS IN 1 WEEK!

The media’s Russia probe meltdown: 3 screw-ups in one week – Axios
www.axios.com

Rep. Trent Franks announced his immediate resignation on Friday, after saying Thursday he would be resigning effective January 31st after admitting he’d raised the topic of surrogacy with several of his staffers.

“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment. After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today,December 8th, 2017.”

Meanwhile… (same week)

CNN Botches Major ‘Bombshell’ Alleging Contacts Between Don Jr. And WikiLeaks
dailycaller.com

CNN misreported key details of an offer made to Donald Trump Jr. last year of a batch of stolen Wikileaks documents.

The story, which CNN published on Friday and covered extensively on TV, was touted as the first evidence that the Trump campaign was given a heads-up about documents stolen from Democrats.

But the story appears to have been riddled with errors, while also lacking key context.

Perhaps the most jarring error in the CNN report is the date on which Trump Jr. was sent the email. The network reported that a person named Mike Erickson emailed Trump Jr. and others on the Trump campaign on Sept. 4, 2016, with a link to Wikileaks documents as well as a decryption key to access them.

The email also offered access to emails that had been stolen from former Sec. of State Colin Powell, according to CNN.

But a copy of the email provided to The Daily Caller shows that Erickson sent the email on Sept. 14.

That date is significant because WikiLeaks had released a batch of stolen documents on Sept. 13. The group touted its release of the DNC documents, which were published by Guccifer 2.0.

The email shows that Erickson messaged Trump Jr. stating that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC.”

“It is too big for me to send you by e-mail attachments, but you can download it yourselves,” he added, providing a link to the same website cited by Wikileaks the day before.

He also included a link to a decryption key that could be used to access the documents.

The Washington Post first reported on the true date and wording of the Erickson email.

The site that Erickson linked to leads to a page where a file with the same file name referenced in the Wikileaks tweet could be downloaded.

Powell’s emails were also published online on Sept. 13. DC Leaks, a group that has been affiliated with the Russian government, published the documents online. The group granted access to the documents to several news organizations, including The Daily Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Colin Powell’s Emails Hacked, Published Online)

How CNN got its report so wrong is unclear.

The article states that its information was based on a read-out of the Trump Jr. email provided by multiple sources, none of who are identified. Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, speculated on Friday that the source was on the Democratic side of the House Intelligence Committee, which interviewed Trump Jr. earlier this week.

The spokesman for the committee Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

Erickson also appears not to be a super-secret Kremlin agent. The Post identified him as the president of an aviation management company.

Attempts made by The Daily Caller to contact him were unsuccessful.

Futerfas, the lawyer for Trump Jr., said that the real estate executive received “tons of unsolicited emails” during the campaign.

“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said in a statement.

“This email arrived after published media reports disclosed 12 hours earlier that hacked documents had been posted. The suggestion that this information was not public is false.”

Futerfas blasted the House Intelligence Committee over what he says is its leak of the story.

“It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” he said.

COMMENTS (858)

30 YEAR HOAX – BIG GLOBAL WARMING ZERO

After 30 Years, Alarmists Are Still Predicting A Global Warming ‘Apocalypse’
dailycaller.com

For at least three decades scientists and environmental activists have been warning that the world is on the verge of a global warming “apocalypse” that will flood coastal cities, tear up roads and bridges with mega-storms and bring widespread famine and misery to much of the world.

The only solution, they say, is to rid the world of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil — that serve as the pillars of modern society. Only quick, decisive global action can avert the worst effects of manmade climate change, warn international bodies like the United Nations, who say we only have decades left — or even less!

Of course, human civilization has not collapsed, despite decades of predictions that we only have years left to avert disaster. Ten years ago, the U.N. predicted we only had “as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more.”

This failed prediction, however, has not stopped the U.N. and others from issuing more apocalyptic statements.

To celebrate nearly three decades of dire predictions, The Daily Caller News Foundation put together this list of some of the most severe doomsday prophecies made by scientists, activists and politicians:

1. Apocalyptic warnings on repeat

A group of 1,700 scientists and experts signed a letter 25 years ago warning of massive ecological and societal collapse if nothing was done to curb overpopulation, pollution and, ultimately, the capitalist society in which we live today.

The Union of Concerned Scientists put out a second letter earlier this year, once again warning of the dire consequences of global warming and other alleged ecological ills. Now numbering 15,000, the group warns “soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

“We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home,” the scientists and experts warned.

It’s a terrifying warning — if you ignore the fact that none of their 1992 warning has come to fruition.

2. The planet will be “uninhabitable” by the end of the century

New York Magazine writer David Wallace-Wells published a 7,000-word article claiming global warming could make Earth “uninhabitable” by “the end of this century.”

Wallace-Wells’s article warned of terrors, like “Heat Death,” “Climate Plagues,” “Permanent Economic Collapse” and “Poisoned Oceans.”

“Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century,” Wallace-Wells wrote.

3. Prince Charles’s global warming deadline passed…and nothing happened

Prince Charles famously warned in July 2009 that humanity had only 96 months to save the world from “irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it.” That deadline has passed, and the prince has not issued an update to when the world needs to be saved.

Though the recently-released “Paradise Papers” show Charles lobbied U.K. lawmakers to enact policies that benefited his estate’s investment in a Bermuda company that does sustainable forestry. So, there’s that.

4. ‘Ice Apocalypse’ Now

Liberal writer and climate scientist Eric Holthaus claimed manmade global warming would set off the “ice apocalypse” at a pace “too quickly for humanity to adapt.”

Holthaus warned the wholesale collapse of two Antarctic glaciers — Pine Island and Thwaites — could happen sooner than previously believed, resulting in “flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.” Sounds terrible, but his conclusions aren’t really backed up by the science.

“I think his article is too pessimistic: that it overstates the possibility of disaster. Too soon, too certain,” Tamsin Edwards, a scientist who’s studied Antarctica, wrote in The Guardian about Holthaus’s article.

5. 2015 is the ‘last effective opportunity’ to stop catastrophic warming

World leaders meeting at the Vatican  issued a statement saying that 2015 was the “last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2-degrees [Celsius].”

Pope Francis wants to weigh in on global warming, and is expected to issue an encyclical saying basically the same thing. Francis reiterated that 2015 is the last chance to stop massive warming.

But what he should really say is that the U.N. conference is the “last” chance to cut a deal to stem global warming…since last year when the U.N. said basically the same thing about 2014’s climate summit.

6. France’s foreign minister said we only have “500 days” to stop “climate chaos”

When Laurent Fabius met with Secretary of State John Kerry on May 13, 2014 to talk about world issues he said “we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos.”

Ironically at the time of Fabius’ comments, the U.N. had scheduled a climate summit to meet in Paris in December 2015 — some 565 days after his remarks. Looks like the U.N. is 65 days too late to save the world.

7. Former President Barack Obama is the last chance to stop global warming

When Obama made the campaign promise to “slow the rise of the oceans,” some environmentalists may have taken him quite literally.

The United Nations Foundation President Tim Wirth told Climatewire in 2012 that Obama’s second term was “the last window of opportunity” to impose policies to restrict fossil fuel use. Wirth said it’s “the last chance we have to get anything approaching 2 degrees Centigrade,” adding that if “we don’t do it now, we are committing the world to a drastically different place.”

Even before that, then-National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center head James Hansen warned in 2009 that Obama only “has four years to save Earth.”

8. Remember when we had “hours” to stop global warming?

World leaders met in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 to potentially hash out another climate treaty. That same year, the head of Canada’s Green Party wrote that there was only “hours” left to stop global warming.

“We have hours to act to avert a slow-motion tsunami that could destroy civilization as we know it,” Elizabeth May, leader of the Greens in Canada, wrote in 2009. “Earth has a long time. Humanity does not. We need to act urgently. We no longer have decades; we have hours. We mark that in Earth Hour on Saturday.”

9. United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there was only 50 days left to save Earth

The year 2009 was a bad time for global warming predictions. That year Brown warned there was only “50 days to save the world from global warming,” the BBC reported. According to Brown there was “no plan B.”

Brown has been booted out of office since then.

10. The U.N.’s top climate scientist said in 2007 we only had four years to save the world

Rajendra Pachauri, the former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 that if “there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late.”

“What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment,” he said.

Well, it’s 2017 and no new U.N. climate treaty has been presented. The only thing that’s changed since then is that Pachauri was forced to resign earlier this year amid accusations he sexually harassed multiple female coworkers.

11. Environmentalists warned in 2002 the world had a decade to go green

Environmentalist write George Monbiot wrote in the UK Guardian that within “as little as 10 years, the world will be faced with a choice: arable farming either continues to feed the world’s animals or it continues to feed the world’s people. It cannot do both.”

About 930 million people around the world were undernourished in 2002, according to U.N. data. By 2014, that number shrank to 805 million. Sorry, Monbiot.

12. Global warming apocalypse 1980s edition

The U.N. was already claiming in the late 1980s that the world had only a decade to solve global warming or face the consequences.

The San Jose Mercury News reported June 30, 1989 that a “senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.”

That prediction didn’t come true 17 years ago, and the U.N. is sounding the same alarm today.

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COMMENTS (230)

SOLITUDE AND CREATIVITY

Study: Being Alone Can Be Good For Your Health, Sparks Creativity
www.studyfinds.org
2.1k SHARES

BUFFALO — When it comes to seeking solitude, many people often blame mental health issues as an underlying cause. But a new study finds that being alone has its benefits too, particularly when it comes to people looking for a surge of creativity.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo interviewed 295 privacy-valuing individuals who reported a variety of reasons for their tendency to spend a lot of time alone, ranging from feeling fear or anxiety around others to preferring to use spare time working on a craft.

Just because you prefer to be alone doesn’t mean you’re depressed. A new study finds that being anti-social from time to time is linked to creativity.

Although research has traditionally suggested that excessive time alone can be unhealthy, some seclusive pursuits, such as trying to connect to nature or get a better sense of self, can be constructive, the researchers found.

“We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits,” says Julie Bowker, the study’s lead author, in a university release.

“When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective,” she continues. “During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”

Bowker believes that the presumed downsides of being alone and withdrawing have lent such a preference a hard-to-erase stigma.

More recent research, including this latest study, has begun to recognize the potential benefits of alone time — provided it’s an intentional choice prompted by positive emotions.

Deeming individuals who follow such guidelines “unsociable,” Bowker explains that they may enjoy reading, working on the computer, or otherwise spending precious time alone.

Importantly, unsociable individuals, whether young and old, are not at increased risk of experiencing negative health outcomes. In fact, the researchers found that they may enjoy a special benefit: improved creativity.

“Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial,” Bowker emphasizes. “They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”

Other, less healthy forms of isolation include social avoidance (i.e., choosing to withdraw due to fear), and social withdrawal (i.e., shyness), she notes.

While these two forms may overlap with unsociability, neither would appear to confer the benefits of the latter.

“Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal,” Bowker concludes. “But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”

The study’s findings were published Personality and Individual Differences.

LATEST STUDIES ON STUDYFINDS.ORG:

2.1k SHARES
COMMENTS (165)

The Bill Clinton Affair – Gross Disservice to Women

What if Ken Starr Was Right?
www.nytimes.com

Former President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton in 1998. Credit Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

In the longstanding liberal narrative about Bill Clinton and his scandals, the one pushed by Clinton courtiers and ratified in media coverage of his post-presidency, our 42nd president was only guilty of being a horndog, his affairs were nobody’s business but his family’s, and oral sex with Monica Lewinsky was a small thing that should never have put his presidency in peril.

That narrative could not survive the current wave of outrage over male sexual misconduct.

So now a new one may be forming for the age of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. In this story, Kenneth Starr and the Republicans are still dismissed as partisan witch hunters. But liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign.

This new narrative lines up with what’s often been my own assessment of the Clinton scandals. I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. So I’ve generally held what I’ve considered a sensible middle-ground position on his sins — that he should have stepped down when the Lewinsky affair came to light, but that the Republican effort to impeach him was a hopeless attempt to legislate against dishonor.

But a moment of reassessment is a good time to reassess things for yourself, so I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.

After doing all this reading, I’m not sure my reasonable middle ground is actually reasonable. It may be that the conservatives of the 1990s were simply right about Clinton, that once he failed to resign he really deserved to be impeached.

Yes, the Republicans were too partisan, the Starr Report was too prurient and Clinton’s haters generated various absurd conspiracy theories.

But the Clinton operation was also extraordinarily sordid, in ways that should be thrown into particular relief by the absence of similar scandals in the Obama administration, which had perfervid enemies and circling investigators as well.

The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton’s priapism was bad: the use of the perks of office to procure women, willing and unwilling; the frequent use of that same power to buy silence and bully victims; and yes, the brazen public lies and perjury.

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton’s panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times’s reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers’ account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos’s portrayal of Clinton’s behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.

I have less confidence about what was real in the miasma of Whitewater. But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

There is a common liberal argument that our present polarization is the result of constant partisan escalations on the right — the rise of Newt Gingrich, the steady Hannitization of right-wing media.

Some of this is true. But returning to the impeachment imbroglio made me think that in that case the most important escalators were the Democrats. They had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.

And what they did instead — turning their party into an accessory to Clinton’s appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism — feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation.

For which, it’s safe to say, we have all been amply punished since.

COMMENTS (193)

DIRTY DOG AL FRANKEN

Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It
www.kabc.com
By Leeann Tweeden

Proof – pervert Sen Al Franken (D) groping Leeann Tweeden, asleep.

In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks. My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to servicemembers stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege.

Also on the trip were country music artists Darryl Worley, Mark Wills, Keni Thomas, and some cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. The headliner was comedian and now-senator, Al Franken.

Franken had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.

As a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model familiar to the audience from the covers of FHM, Maxim and Playboy, I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.

When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.

No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened.

At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it.

I tried to let it go, but I was angry.

Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again. I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.

Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.

But he didn’t stop there.

The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture.

I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.

But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.

Today, I am the news anchor on McIntyre in the Morning on KABC Radio in Los Angeles. My colleagues are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with in my career. Like everyone in the media, we’ve been reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations since they broke, and the flood of similar stories that have come out about others.

A few weeks ago, we had California Congresswoman Jackie Speier on the show and she told us her story of being sexually assaulted when she was a young Congressional aide. She described how a powerful man in the office where she worked ‘held her face, kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth.’

At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me.

I had locked up those memories of helplessness and violation for a long time, but they all came rushing back to me and my hands clinched into fists like it was yesterday.

I’m still angry at what Al Franken did to me.

Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was there to entertain the troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours. Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story.

That day is now.

Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.

You wrote the scene that would include you kissing me and then relentlessly badgered me into ‘rehearsing’ the kiss with you backstage when we were alone.

You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.

While debating whether or not to go public, I even thought to myself, so much worse has happened to so many others, maybe my story isn’t worth telling? But my story is worth telling.

Not just because 2017 is not 2006, or because I am much more secure in my career now than I was then, and not because I’m still angry.

I’m telling my story because there may be others.

I want to have the same effect on them that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me. I want them, and all the other victims of sexual assault, to be able to speak out immediately, and not keep their stories –and their anger– locked up inside for years, or decades.

I want the days of silence to be over forever.

Leeann Tweeden is morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles

COMMENTS (14)

LIBERAL FASCISM BLAMED ON TRUMP!


Do Trump’s liberal critics seem increasingly unhinged?
thehill.com

Last week’s anniversary of Trump’s election sparked widespread teeth-gnashing by the nation’s pundits.  Trump is supposedly the gravest threat to American democracy since the secession of the Confederacy. His presidency, probably, continues to be a boon for antidepressant sales across the land.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, in a column last week headlined “Anniversary of the Apocalypse,” lamented the “terror-struck and vertiginous days” after Trump’s win and the ongoing “metaphysical whiplash” and “hideous interregnum,” which leaves her “poleaxed by grief at the destruction of our civic inheritance.” Professor Henry Giroux of McMaster University frothed that Trump’s “ascendancy in American politics has made visible a culture of cruelty, a contempt for civic literacy, a corrupt mode of governance and a disdain for informed judgment that has been decades in the making.”

It is understandable that folks would be riled by Trump’s bluster about revoking the broadcast licenses of his critics or calling for the firing of protesting football players. His administration’s rhetoric on trade and the drug war threaten to revive moronic policies that should have been banished forever by perennial failures.  But while Trump poses plenty of constitutional perils, many of his opponents are even more authoritarian.
Anti-Trump fervor is making liberals far more illiberal. Commentators in the Washington Post and New York Times have called for selective censorship of ideas and doctrines they abhor. A recent Washington Post article touted 38 fixes for democracy including mandating three years of compulsory labor for young people in the military of AmeriCorps-like programs, outlawing private education, punitively punishing gun owners, and vastly increasing redistribution to end racial inequities.

Thanks to Trump’s firing of James Comey, Democrats are exalting the FBI as if J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO never existed. Political mob violence by Antifa against conservatives was vindicated in the Washington Post and cheered by prominent Democrats as the moral equivalent of the American soldiers who stormed Normandy beaches in 1944.

Some liberals believe the federal government should become domineering to vanquish the fascist tendencies of Trump supporters. But this is imprudent unless liberals irrevocably control all three branches of the federal government.

Unfortunately, Trump’s biggest follies (thus far) have evoked the loudest cheers from his Washington critics. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, was sending 59 cruise missiles to blast the Syrian government based on mere allegations that it had carried out a chemical weapons attack. Pulling the rug from under the Iran deal (one of Obama’s solid achievements) was cheered by much of the foreign policy elite as if destabilizing the Middle East was akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea spurred no effective resistance on Capitol Hill. But blundering into another war would do more harm to American democracy than 10,000 raving Oval Office tweets.

Many Democrats sound ready to rush to impeachment regardless of what Trump has actually done. They seem inspired by the Soviet secret police chief who declared: “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.” Desperate assertions that $3000 in Russian-linked Facebook ads swung the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are indicative of the pathetic logic of many Trump critics.

Many Trump opponents are the same type of zealots who, in the late 1700s, proudly labeled themselves “Friends of Government.” In their eyes, Trump’s greatest sin is tarnishing the majesty of the presidency and the federal government. Trump is exposing the sham of a Leviathan Democracy which pretends that presidents will be philosopher kings — instead of merely talented vote catchers. However, Trump cannot be blamed for destroying Americans’ trust in Washington. This was already achieved by presidents such as George W. Bush and Obama who the media occasionally exalted to the skies.

Trump’s critics are correct that the president has too much arbitrary power. But many people happy to believe the worst about Trump will heave all their skepticism overboard when the next political savior is anointed. Such naivete is being encouraged at the highest levels of Democratic Party. Recall that Hillary Clinton’s recent book declared that the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 is that people should trust their leaders and the media.

Hysteria remains the 2017 political badge of honor. Last Wednesday, thousands of people gathered across the nation to shout at the sky to protest the anniversary of Trump’s victory. But righteous rage is no substitute for focusing on the real perils that Trump and any other president poses to our rights. The Friends of Freedom need to keep their intellectual ammo dry.

James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

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INSATIABLE TAX APPETITE

“For the ungodly hungry beast, too much is never enough” – M Souza

Feds Collected Record Taxes in October;  Still Ran $63 Billion Deficit!
www.cnsnews.com

(CNSNews.com) – The federal government hauled in record total tax revenues in the month of October, taking in a total of $235,341,000,000 during the first month of fiscal 2018, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

The federal government also brought in record individual income tax revenues for the month of October, taking in $127,832,000,000 in individual income taxes.

Despite its record total tax intake of $235,341,000,000 for the month of October, the federal government still ran a deficit of $63,214,000,000 for the month because it spent $298,555,000,000.

Prior to this year, the largest federal tax haul in October came in fiscal 2017 (October 2016), when the Treasury took in $226,360,090,000 in total tax revenues in constant 2017 dollars. (Dollar amounts were adjusted to constant September 2017 dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.)

Prior to that, fiscal 2015 (October 2014) saw the largest tax haul in October, with the Treasury taking in $221,128,030,000 in total revenues in constant 2017 dollars.

This year’s record $127,832,000,000 in individual income taxes collected in October bettered the previous record which was set in October 2016 (the first month of fiscal 2017), when the Treasury collected $124,135,980,000 in individual income taxes in constant 2017 dollars.

The Treasury also collected $3,729,000,000 in corporate income taxes in October, as well as $84,018,000,000 in Social Security and other payroll taxes, $7,463,000,000 in excise taxes, $1,615,000,000 in estate and gift taxes, $3,239,000,000 in customs duties and $7,445,000,000 in other taxes and fees.

 

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NEXT ANAL PROBE: CROOKED HILLARY

Sessions considering second special counsel to investigate Republican concerns, letter shows
www.washingtonpost.com

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia — and has directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

The revelation came in a response by the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.

The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.

In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and that those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized his Justice Department for not aggressively probing a variety of conservative concerns. He said recently that officials there “should be looking at the Democrats” and that it was “very discouraging” they were not “going after Hillary Clinton.” On the campaign trail, Trump’s supporters frequently chanted “Lock her up!” at the mention of Clinton’s name.

What you need to know about the Uranium One deal 

House Republicans have announced a probe into a deal involving U.S. uranium reached under the Obama administration in 2010. Here’s what you need to know. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

“Hopefully they are doing something, and at some point, maybe we are going to all have it out,” Trump said recently.

Sessions’s relationship with the president has been significantly strained since he recused himself from the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. The president has publicly lambasted his attorney general and noted that had he known in advance of Sessions’s recusal, he would not have appointed him to the post. It was after Sessions’s recusal that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller III to lead the investigation into the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

While the Justice Department is part of the executive branch — and the attorney general is appointed by and answers to the president — the White House generally provides input on broad policy goals and does not weigh in on criminal probes.

In that context, the letter is likely to be seen by some, especially on the left, as Sessions inappropriately bending to political pressure, perhaps to save his job. The possible reigniting of a probe of Clinton is likely to draw especially fierce criticism, even as it is welcomed by Trump’s supporters.

When Trump said during the campaign that he would “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor” to look into Clinton, former attorney general Michael Mukasey — a Trump supporter and vocal Clinton critic — said Trump having her investigated and jailed “would be like a banana republic.”

“Putting political opponents in jail for offenses committed in a political setting, even if they are criminal offenses — and they very well may be — is something that we don’t do here,” he said.

Trump would later back down from his threats, before breathing life into them again with his more recent comments.

How the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Jeff Sessions

The Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a Department of Justice oversight hearing on Oct. 18, asking him about issues from Russian meddling to immigration enforcement. (Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

Sessions, who was a Republican senator from Alabama before being appointed attorney general, is set to testify before Goodlatte’s committee Tuesday and is likely to face questions on the topics raised in the letter.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment for this article, as did a lawyer for Comey.

Brian Fallon, who served as the press secretary for the Clinton campaign, noted that the Justice Department letter became public not long after revelations that Donald Trump Jr. had communicated with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

“Like clockwork, just as we learn of damning details of Donald Trump Jr.’s contacts with WikiLeaks, the Trump administration is firing up the fog machine to distract from the Mueller probe,” Fallon said.

In asking for a second special counsel in July, Goodlatte wrote that he wanted to “request assistance in restoring public confidence in our nation’s justice system and its investigators.” His letter, signed by 19 other Republicans, said Judiciary Committee members were concerned that Mueller might not have a broad enough mandate to investigate other election-related matters, which he said included actions taken by Comey, Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

Many of the items Goodlatte wanted investigated had long been conservative talking points, some having to do with matters many considered resolved: various decisions made in the Clinton email case, the Uranium One purchase, the “unmasking” of people by the intelligence community and allegations by Trump that he was wiretapped by his predecessors. Unmasking is a routine part of intelligence officials’ jobs; officials have said there is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped; and while conservatives have sought to cast the Uranium One deal as an example of Clinton taking Russian money to influence U.S. policy, there is no evidence that Clinton participated in any discussions regarding the sale, which was approved during the Obama administration while she was secretary of state.

In the Justice Department’s response, Boyd did not indicate whether any of the topics might draw greater interest than others, though he said the review by senior federal prosecutors would “better enable the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to more effectively evaluate and manage the caseload.” He noted that the Justice Department inspector general already was investigating several aspects of the Clinton email case and said that once that probe was complete, the department would assess “what, if any, additional steps are necessary to address any issues identified by that review.”

“We will conduct this evaluation according to the highest standards of justice,” he wrote.

A special counsel can be appointed when the Justice Department or a U.S. attorney’s office has a conflict of interest, when there are other “extraordinary circumstances,” or when it would otherwise be “in the public interest” to do so, according to the federal regulation governing such appointments.

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FBI PROBES PLANNED PARENTHOOD

FBI seeks Senate documents, signaling possible probe into sale of fetal tissue
thehill.com

The FBI has asked the Senate for unredacted documents it obtained from abortion providers, signaling agents may be investigating whether Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers illegally sold fetal tissue and body parts, according to sources familiar with the document request.

The request was made in recent days, the sources said, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), last December referred Planned Parenthood and several other abortion providers to the FBI for investigation after a lengthy probe into the transfers of fetal tissue.

Grassley said at the time that his committee had uncovered enough evidence in its final investigative report to show abortion providers had transferred tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses to firms for use in research by charging dollar amounts above their actual costs.

Abortion providers are allowed under a 1993 law to transfer fetal tissue for research at a cost equal to the price of obtaining it, but are not allowed to sell it at a profit.
The Justice Department declined comment, saying it does not confirm nor deny whether an investigation is taking place.

A spokesman for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Planned Parenthood said that while it is aware of Grassley’s prior request for a criminal probe, none of its affiliates has had any contact with the FBI. It noted it provided more than 30,000 pages of documents and several witnesses to the congressional probes and believes it has complied with the law.

“Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a Grand Jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong,” said Dana Singiser, Vice President of Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“These accusations are baseless, and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research,” she added.

The Senate probe and a similar investigation by the House were prompted by the public release in 2015 of several undercover videos from an anti-abortion group showing abortion providers or fetal tissue firms discussing how they took money for aborted fetuses. The Senate committee conducted interviews and gathered documents on its own as part of an investigation triggered by the videos.

It is that information, including the unredacted documents Senate Judiciary gathered from abortion providers and fetal tissue firms, that was requested by the FBI, the sources said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

“The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue,” Grassley wrote last December when he asked the FBI and Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood and other abortion and fetal tissue providers. “… It also documents substantial evidence suggesting that the specific entities involved in the recent controversy, and/or individuals employed by those entities, may have violated that law.”

Grassley staff is working to comply with the FBI’s document request in compliance with Senate rules, sources said.

One option would be for FBI agents to be allowed to come to the committee’s reading room and review the documents. A full Senate vote would be required if copies of the documents needed to be transferred to a grand jury, according to a source directly familiar with Senate document procedures.

Lila Rose, a prominent anti-abortion activist, praised the FBI’s document request.

“We, of course, applaud any action taken to follow the evidence to where it leads and to hold Planned Parenthood accountable,” she said. “The only thing that could hinder this investigation from leading to indictments of Planned Parenthood and the companies involved in the sale of fetal body parts is politics.”

The advent of a criminal investigation into abortion providers would mark a major escalation in a controversy ignited by undercover videotapes made by an anti-abortion group back in 2015.

The Center for Medical Progress, which released the videos, saw two of its executives charged with state privacy violations for making the undercover tapes. The charges were dropped in Texas but remain pending in California, where they are being appealed. The group denies any wrongdoing.

The center’s head, David Daleiden, said Monday that an FBI probe is “long overdue” and that the ”sale of aborted baby body parts is the greatest human atrocity of our times and must finally be brought to justice under the law.”

The Senate report concluded that the prices paid for tissue and body parts exceeded the actual costs, and that in some cases such costs weren’t even calculated until after investigators began asking questions.

In one example cited by the Senate report, a firm’s own records show it paid $60 for an aborted fetus from a Planned Parenthood clinic, then transferred the various parts for $2,275 – including the brain for $325, two eyes for $650, and a part of a liver for $325. The firm also charged additional fees for shipping and disease screening, the report said.

“The companies involved in transferring fetal tissue have been free to receive substantial payment with impunity, relying on an expansive interpretation of the exception to the ban on buying and selling fetal tissue,” the report said.

Some of the companies involved in the transactions “had not, in fact, conducted any analysis of their costs when setting fees, and their post ad hoc accounting rationalization invoked a bevy of indirect and tenuously related costs in an attempt to justify their fees,” the report added.

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