Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Awan Indictment is an Exercise in Prosecutorial Omission


NationalReview |  To summarize, the indictment is an exercise in omission. No mention of the Awan group’s theft of information from Congress. Not a hint about the astronomical sums the family was paid, much of it for no-show “work.” Not a word about Wasserman Schultz’s keeping Awan on the payroll for six months during which (a) he was known to be under investigation, (b) his wife was known to have fled to Pakistan, and (c) he was not credentialed to do the IT work for which he had been hired. Nothing about Wasserman Schultz’s energetic efforts to prevent investigators from examining Awan’s laptop. A likely currency-transportation offense against Alvi goes uncharged. And, as for the offenses that are charged, prosecutors plead them in a manner that avoids any reference to what should be their best evidence. 

There is something very strange going on here.

On Alleged Russian Hacking the MSM was and Still is Colluding with the DNC


WashingtonTimes |  The conventional wisdom that last year’s Democratic National Committee computer hack, which triggered WikiLeaks to release thousands of emails revealing Democratic Party favoritism of Hillary Clinton over Bernard Sanders, was conducted by Russian operatives is facing increasing scrutiny.

Theories once considered fringe and extreme have begun entering the mainstream, with a prominent group of former NSA and CIA officials claiming the hack that rocked the 2016 presidential election was not actually a hack at all but rather a leak by an insider with physical access to the DNC computer network.

Speculation around the claim by the group, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), is also being fueled by investigators re-examining statements by key players in the drama, including former President Barack Obama and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose carefully chosen words on the hack have drawn fresh attention.

A research memo compiled by VIPS last month directly conflicts with the U.S. intelligence community’s January claim that it was Russian operatives who orchestrated the cyberattack on the DNC network.

The memo, which the group sent to President Trump last month under the title “Was the ‘Russian Hack’ an Inside Job?” — investigates metadata and data transfer speeds found in the records of the alleged Russian cyberintrusion into DNC computers.

Democrat IT Staffers Compromised Sensitive Data to Foreign Intelligence


NYPost |  Federal authorities are investigating whether sensitive data was stolen from congressional offices by several Pakistani-American tech staffers and sold to Pakistani or Russian intelligence, knowledgeable sources say.

What started out 16 months ago as a scandal involving the alleged theft of computer equipment from Congress has turned into a national security investigation involving FBI surveillance of the suspects.
Investigators now suspect that sensitive US government data — possibly including classified information — could have been compromised and may have been sold to hostile foreign governments that could use it to blackmail members of Congress or even put their lives at risk.

“This is a massive, massive scandal,” a senior US official familiar with the widening probe told The Post.

Alarm bells went off in April 2016 when computer security officials in the House reported “irregularities” in computer equipment purchasing. An internal investigation revealed the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in government property, and evidence pointed to five IT staffers and the Democratic Congress members’ offices that employed them.

The evidence was turned over to the House inspector general, who found so much “smoke” that she recommended a criminal probe, sources say. The case was turned over to Capitol Police in October.
When the suspected IT workers couldn’t produce the missing invoiced equipment, sources say, they were removed from working on the computer network in early February.

During the probe, investigators found valuable government data that is believed to have been taken from the network and placed on offsite servers, setting off more alarms. Some 80 offices were potentially compromised.

Most lawmakers fired the alleged “ringleader” — longtime IT staffer Imran Awan — in February. But Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chief, kept Awan on her payroll until his arrest last month on seemingly unrelated charges of defrauding the congressional credit union.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Did Bannon and Mercer Game the Whole System but Finally Play Themselves?


theatlantic |  Taboo and sacredness are among the most important words needed to understand Charlottesville and its aftermath. Taboo refers to things that are forbidden for religious or supernatural reasons. All traditional societies have such prohibitions—things you must not do, touch, or eat, not because they are bad for you directly, but because doing so is an abomination, which may bring divine retribution. But every society also makes some things sacred, rallying around a few deeply revered values, people, or places, which bind all members together and make them willing to sacrifice for the common good. The past week brought violent conflict over symbols and values held sacred—and saw President Trump commit an act of sacrilege by violating one of our society’s strongest taboos.

The “Unite the Right” rally was an effort to mobilize and energize a subset of the far-right around its own sacred symbols—including swastikas and confederate flags—by marching to another symbol that is its members believed was under attack, a statue of Robert E. Lee. The psychological logic of the rally was to bind white people together with shared hatred of Jews, African Americans, and others, under a banner and narrative of racial victimhood and racial purity. Marching and chanting in unison has been shown to intensify feelings of oneness and social cohesion. The psychology of sacredness and its function in binding groups together is essential for understanding the method and the motives of the marchers.

Taboo violations are contagious. They render the transgressor “polluted,” in the language of anthropology, and the moral stain rubs off on those who physically touch the transgressor, as well as on those who fail to distance themselves from the transgressor. When people march with Nazis and Klansmen, even if they keep their mouths closed when others are chanting, and even if they don’t personally carry swastika or Klan flags, they acquire the full moral stain of Nazis and Klansmen. By saying that some of these men were “very fine people,” the president has taken that stain upon himself.

You can’t just apologize for breaking a taboo, especially a taboo as deep as the one on Nazis and the KKK. Many religions offer methods of atonement, sometimes involving fasting, self-flagellation, and temporary separation from the community. But even if an anthropologically sophisticated chief of staff could devise a secular form of atonement, Trump would not undergo it. He does not believe he has done anything wrong.

So the stain, the moral pollution, the taint, will linger on him and his administration for the rest of his term. Business leaders have quit his panels and projects; artists who were due to receive honors from the president have changed their plans. Pollution travels most rapidly by physical touch, so be on the lookout for numerous awkward moments in the coming months when people refuse to shake the president’s hand or stand next to him. It is unclear how far the contagion will spread, but it will surely make it more difficult to attract talented people into government service for as long as Trump is the president.

Bannon: Alt-White Clowns, Losers, and Useful Idiots


thenation  |  In Steve Bannon’s now-famous call to Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect the day before he was fired, Bannon described the white supremacists who had marched in Charlottesville as “losers” and “a collection of clowns.” Of course, those are the same sorts of people Bannon mobilized to vote for Trump, the most loyal part of his base. I asked Joshua Green about that—he wrote the definitive book on Bannon, Devil’s Bargain. We spoke the evening before Bannon was fired as chief strategist at the Trump White House.

“He said similar things to me,” Green said; “he called them ‘freaks’ and ‘goofballs.’” Bannon, he said, “views these kinds of alt-right Internet trolls as useful idiots whom he can manipulate to do his bidding. He sees them as a small but powerful and energetic cohort that will help him tear down the Republican political establishment and open up room for Donald Trump. He sees them also as a group of people who won’t hesitate to attack the mainstream media, which is another obsession of Steve Bannon’s.” 

The big questions about Bannon, of course, are how Trump views him, and how he views Trump. Green emphasized that Trump’s biggest problem with Bannon always was the way Bannon got credit for Trump’s victory. For a long time, he said, Trump has been “furious at the idea put forward in the press, and frankly that’s also the thesis of my book—the idea that…without Bannon’s guidance, Trump probably wouldn’t be president.” Green pointed to a Saturday Night Live sketch that “portrayed Bannon as the real president, making Donald Trump sit at the little boy’s desk—Trump hates that sort of thing.” 

Trump: Opposing the Establishment and Driving the Hard Bargain


theatlantic |  Sam Harris, the atheist philosopher and neuroscientist, has recently been using his popular Waking Up podcast to discuss Donald Trump, whom he abhors, with an ideologically diverse series of guests, all of whom believe that the president is a vile huckster.



This began to wear on some of his listeners. Wasn’t Harris always warning against echo chambers? Didn’t he believe in rigorous debate with a position’s strongest proponents? At their urging, he extended an invitation to a person that many of those listeners regard as President Trump’s most formidable defender: Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, who believes that Trump is “a master persuader.”

Their conversation was posted online late last month. It is one of the most peculiar debates about a president I have ever encountered. And it left me marveling that parts of Trump’s base think well of Adams when his views imply such negative things about them.
Those implications are most striking with respect to extreme views that Trump expressed during the campaign. Harris and Adams discussed two examples during the podcast: Trump’s call to deport 12 million illegal immigrants from the United States, a position that would require vast, roving deportation forces, home raids, and the forced removal even of law-abiding, undocumented single mothers of American children; and Trump’s call to murder the family members of al-Qaeda or ISIS terrorists.

Trump took those positions not because he believes them, Adams argued, but to mirror the emotional state of the voters he sought and to “open negotiations” on policy.
Harris expressed bafflement that such a strategy would work:
Harris: If I'm going to pretend to be so callous as to happily absorb those facts, like send them all back, they don't belong here, or in the ISIS case, we'll torture their kids, we'll kill their kids, it doesn't matter, whatever works—if that's my opening negotiation, I am advertising a level of callousness, and a level of unconcern for the reality of human suffering that will follow from my actions, should I get what I ostensibly want, that it's a nearly psychopathic ethics I am advertising as my strong suit.
So how this becomes attractive to people, how this resonates with their values—I get what you said, people are worried about immigration and  jihadism, I share those concerns. But when you cross the line into this opening overture that has these extreme consequences on its face, things that get pointed out in 30 seconds whenever he opens his mouth on a topic like this, I don't understand how that works for him with anyone.
Adams: Let me give you a little thought experiment here. We've got people who are on the far right. We've got people on the far left. In your perfect world, would it be better to move the people on the far right toward the middle or the people on the far left toward the middle? Which would be a preferred world for you?
Harris: Moving everyone toward the middle, certainly on most points, would be a very good thing.
Adams: So what you've observed with President Trump through his pacing and emotional compatibility with his base is that prior to Inauguration Day, there were a lot of people in this country who were saying, 'Yeah yeah, round them all up. Send all 12 million back tomorrow.'
When was the last time you heard anybody on the right complaining about that? Because what happened was, immigration went down 50 to 70 percent, whatever the number was, just based on the fact that we would get tough on immigration. And the right says, ‘Oh, okay, we didn't get nearly what we asked for, but our leader, who we trust, who we love, has backed off of that, and we're going to kind of go with that, because he is doing some good things that we like. And we don't like the alternative either.’
So this ‘monster’ that we elected, this ‘Hitler-dictator-crazy-guy,’ he managed to be the only guy who could have, and I would argue always intended, to move the far right toward the middle. You saw it, you know, we can observe it with our own eyes. We don't see the right saying, ‘Oh no, I hate President Trump. He's got to round up those undocumented people like he said early in the campaign, or else I'm bailing on him.’ None of that happened. He paced them, and then he led them toward a reasonable situation, which I would say we're in.
I don’t agree with parts of Adams’s analysis. But as he tells it, Trump targeted voters who’d be attracted rather than repelled by calls for policies that would inflict great suffering; he told those voters things that he didn’t really mean to gain their emotional trust; and all along, he probably intended to go to Washington and do something else. That sounds a lot like the way that Trump voters describe the career politicians who they hate: emotionally manipulative liars who will say anything to get elected, get to Washington, and betray their base by moving left on immigration.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Human Design: Humans Can Look And Perform Any Way You Want Them To


rantt |  But as you saw, eye color and hair color are controlled by a lot more than a few genes and those genes can be altered by everything from hormones in the womb to environmental pollutants. Our genome didn’t evolve for easy, modular editing in the future. It evolved in response to diet and stressors in our ancient past. If you wanted to make sure that your child was 6' 3" tall, weighed no more than 200 pounds, and was really good at football, that’s going to involve total 24/7 control over thousands of genes and the child’s environment from the moment of conception.

Maybe this could be possible one day, but it certainly won’t be any day in the foreseeable future, and it definitely wouldn’t be practical if it was ever possible, or even remotely advisable. The kind of eugenic thought which gripped the world in the early 20th century and kicked off the Holocaust was actually based on a profound misunderstanding of statistics, and very pseudoscientific approach to evolution. Basically, Francis Galton and his followers mistook more people becoming literate and educated as a rise in mediocrity through a mathematic concept known as regression toward the mean, triggering a wave of racist and classist alarmism.

Eugenicists were worried that their “superior” genes were being corrupted by interbreeding between classes and races, that genetic diversity was just dragging them down towards brutish mediocrity. It’s a train of thought you can still find resonating among today’s racists, or ethno-nationalists as they like to call themselves. But this worry reveals a profound lack of scientific understanding that’s fairly critical to any future effort to modify DNA, and shows they’re using the wrong ways to measure human progress.

Genetic diversity is essential for any species to survive and adapt to its new environment. Without a significant enough library of genes that can help us deal with a future stressor, we may be unable to cope with drastic changes in diet or new diseases that come at us. Similarity in genes results in severe inbreeding, making us a lot more vulnerable to an environmental blow that could kill off an entire population without giving it a chance to develop any useful mutations. History is replete with examples of inbred organisms dying off when climates changed or during disease outbreaks.

Ultimately, this is why even in a far future where we can customize children, we have to be extremely mindful of allowing diversity and not messing with too many genes which could one day contribute to disease resistance, or give us the ability to adapt to a new diet. Nature doesn’t necessarily care if we’re getting high IQ scores because those are fairly arbitrary, and are much closer correlated to household values and income than biology. It’s also completely disinterested in our athletic prowess or how conventionally attractive we are to a particular culture. It only cares about reproduction rates.

In fact, in the grandest scheme of them all, nature is a series of trials which test random organisms with random genetic make-up in different climates with different resources and against different stressors. The ones able to live long enough to reproduce and pass down their genes are successful, even if they don’t end up with long lives and building civilizations that explore new worlds. Evolutionarily speaking, we’re pretty successful, but nowhere near as successful as insects or bacteria which typically live fast, die young, and are constantly reproducing in large numbers.

Generative Design: The World Can Look and Perform Any Way You Want It To


newatlas |  One little button in a piece of CAD software is threatening to fundamentally change the way we design, as well as what the built world looks like in the near future. Inspired by evolution, generative design produces extremely strong, efficient and lightweight shapes. And boy do they look weird.

Straight lines, geometric curves, solid surfaces. The constructed world as we know it is made out of them. Why? Nature rarely uses straight lines. Evolution itself is one of the toughest product tests imaginable, and you don't have a straight bone in your body, no matter how much you might like one. 

Simple shapes are popular in human designs because they're easy. Easy to design, especially with CAD, and easy to manufacture in a world where manufacturing means taking a big block or sheet of something, and machining a shape out of it, or pouring metals into a mold.

But manufacturing is starting to undergo a revolutionary change as 3D printing moves toward commercially competitive speeds and costs. And where traditional manufacturing incentivizes the simplest shapes, additive manufacturing is at its fastest and cheapest when you use the least possible material for the job.

That's a really difficult way for a human to design – but fairly easy, as it turns out, for a computer. And super easy for a giant network of computers. And now, exceptionally easy for a human designer with access to Autodesk Fusion 360 software, which has it built right in.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I've Got To Be A Colored Funny Man, Not A Funny Colored Man...,


WaPo |  Mr. Gregory ran for mayor against Daley in 1967 and for U.S. president in 1968 as a write-in candidate with the left-wing Freedom and Peace Party, campaigning against what he saw as rampant political corruption in the two major parties. 

Mr. Gregory said he was appalled that the Democratic Party would host its national convention that year in Chicago, a city where black demonstrators were regularly brutalized by the police. The convention drew a large contingent of white anti-Vietnam protesters, and the outbreak of violence that ensued prompted Mr. Gregory to take mordant glee in the melee. 

“I was at home watching it on TV, and I fell on the floor and laughed,” he told GQ magazine in 2008. “My wife said, ‘What’s funny?’ And I said, ‘The whole world is gonna change. White folks are gonna see white folks beating white folks.’ ”

Increasingly inclined to believe conspiracy theories, he was once arrested for attempting to wrap yellow “crime scene” tape across the front gates of the CIA, for what he alleged was the spy agency’s involvement in distributing crack cocaine in inner cities.

Like Muhammad Ali, “who always thought of himself as more than a boxer, Greg always considered himself more than a comic,” New York Times sports columnist and Gregory biographer Robert Lipsyte told the London Independent in 2004. “Both men suffered enormously for their political convictions. But unlike Ali, Greg was conscious of his role from the beginning. He knew that his presence at Southern demonstrations would save lives, even if it killed his career.”

He caught a break in 1961 when Hugh Hefner requested that the comedian perform one night at Chicago’s Playboy Club to substitute for Irwin Corey, who had canceled at the last minute. 

As Mr. Gregory told it, when he arrived at the club that night, he was stopped by the manager. The man feared an especially hostile audience — a convention of white Southern frozen-foods executives.
Mr. Gregory strode onto the stage anyway and grabbed the microphone. A heckler quickly stood up and threw out a racial epithet.

The comic was ready. He calmly explained that he had an arrangement with the club that he received a $50 bonus each time someone used that word and invited the audience to keep on saying it.
Another in the crowd asked Mr. Gregory if he’d consider performing in Mobile, Ala. He replied: “Mobile? I won’t even work the south of this room.”

He won over the audience, and an ensuing profile in Time magazine led to invitations to appear on Paar’s TV show and other career-building stops. As he rose in the national consciousness, he also relished playing the provocateur. He often said he titled his 1964 memoir “Nigger: An Autobiography” — a book co-written with Lipsyte — so that every time the slur was spoken, it would serve as advertising for the book. It quickly became a bestseller.


Doing Their Best To Be Accepted Until Their Host Community Tired Of Them..,



NYTimes |  Israelis know well that Jew-hatred fuels much of the continuing Arab assault on the Jewish state. But worry about anti-Semitism outside the region and unrelated to the conflict is ballast we have long-since jettisoned.

This summer, I taught a course at Jerusalem’s Shalem College on foundational American texts. We read the Declaration of Independence; some Federalist Papers including James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 on the danger of “factions”; Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 “Lyceum Address” on the rule of the mob; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”; Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”; and more.

To illustrate how alive the issues raised in these texts remain, this week I had the students — a highly knowledgeable group of undergraduates — watch video footage of Charlottesville. They sat stunned as they watched the parade of the torches, an image they understood. When I explained that the men with flak jackets, helmets and semiautomatic weapons were the protesters, not the police, they were incredulous. When the Nazi flags appeared, the room was silent except for the sounds of the protesters onscreen.

Then the video cut to one of the marchers, who explained their “republican principles.” The first was the supremacy of “white culture.” The students listened, disgusted. The second was free-market capitalism. Still, they were quiet. Then, the third principle, the protester said, was “killing Jews.” The entire class burst into laughter.

Stunned, I paused the video. Even with the video stilled, they were chuckling. I asked them what they found so amusing. Finally, one student said: “What, does this guy believe that in today’s world you can just go out and kill Jews? It’s funny, that’s all.”

It is, of course, not funny at all, but I chose to focus their attention on the history behind their laughter. “You,” I said, “are actually the living embodiment of that new Jew of whom Nordau and Jabotinsky wrote. People say they hate blacks, and you watch in stunned, horrified silence. They say they’re going to kill Jews, and you laugh.” Israel has normalized Jewish existence in ways of which the headlines rarely remind us.

Not everyone is equally complacent. The morning after Mr. Trump’s Tuesday news conference in which he walked back the conciliatory tone of his Monday statement, I woke up to an email from our 27-year-old son Avi, studying law at Hebrew University after eight years in the army.

“Has the day arrived?” was the subject. “I have a very clear memory from 7th grade of coming home from school after several hours of classes on the Holocaust,” he wrote. “I remember saying to you, ‘Abba, I don’t understand why we spend so much time learning about the Holocaust. It can never happen again and the U.S. will always be there to protect us.’ As the years went by, I wondered if I would live to see the day when America would no longer ‘be there’ for us anymore. I thought about that a lot during my time in the army. Today, for the first time in my life, I asked myself if that day had arrived.”

Has it? I pray not, though it is too early to tell. But here is what we do know. The tiny, embattled country our family now calls home has raised a generation of young people to understand that ultimately, the only people who can be fully trusted to safeguard the safety of the Jews are the Jews. For having afforded our children a chance to grow up with no sense of the vulnerability that we knew growing up in America, we owe Israel and its founders a profound debt of gratitude. It is a debt that I don’t believe we fully appreciated until Charlottesville and its disgraceful aftermath.

Vastly Overrepresented Yet Feeling Less Than In Control...,


extranewsfeed |  To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the President’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.

To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars’ worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.

To the government of Israel, and our fellow Jews living there: Wise up.

To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis: I’ll sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.

Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

To our fellow Jews, in North America, in Israel, and around the world: What side are you on?

Virtue Signalling: When Selfishness Comes Home to Roost


NYTimes |  Any suggestion that the Trump campaign trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes was an outrageous slander based on flimsy evidence and contradicted by the candidate’s Jewish grandchildren. The real enemies of the Jewish state were, anyway, almost exclusively on the political left.

There were additional points, and other excuses, but that was the gist of the Jewish conservative’s case for Trump. The Jewish conservative’s case against Trump was far more simple: Breathe in deeply with your nose and … smell.

You could smell it in the shyster methods by which Trump built his business: the unpaid bills; the endless lawsuits; the deceitful advertising; the shady business partners.

You could smell it in the sort of people drawn, like flies to sewage, to Trump’s candidacy: David Duke, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Richard Spencer, Pat Buchanan and Stephen Bannon, lately of the White House.

You could smell it in the tweets: an approving citation of a Benito Mussolini quote; an image of Hillary Clinton alongside a six-pointed star and a pile of cash.

You could smell it in the denunciations of “globalism” and “international banks” and the “enemy of the American people” news media.

You could smell it in the Muslim ban and the border wall and the trade protectionism and the calls to revoke birthright citizenship and the resurrection of “America First” as an organizing political slogan — a politics of exclusion that has never served Jews well even when we were suffered to be included.

Above all, you could smell it in Trump’s indifference to truth. Hillary Clinton may have been a “congenital liar,” as William Safire famously put it. But Trump is something else: a Jabberwock president, nonsensical, menacing and beyond reason.

All this smelliness explains why nothing that’s happened in Trump’s tenure, culminating in Tuesday’s embrace of the “very fine people” who turned up for the neo-Nazi torchlight rally, comes as a surprise. The president’s newfound (or long-hidden) Confederate sympathies are an extension of his other ethnic antipathies, just as the rally’s anti-Semitic chants of “Jews will not replace us” are an extension of the alt-right’s other hatreds. It’s an unbroken chain of nastiness, in which the president has offered himself as the vital link.

The president’s Jewish supporters are left to wonder why the Iran deal remains in force, the United States Embassy is still in Tel Aviv, Bashar al-Assad is stronger than ever, the Israeli government is outraged by the deals the administration has cut with Russia at Israel’s strategic expense, and Jared Kushner has not proved a worthy strategic heir to Henry Kissinger. What’s the mystery? A man whose word is worthless when it comes to his legal contracts will have no compunction breaking his political promises, no matter whom his daughter married.

If conservatism is supposed to teach anything, it’s that, even in politics, character counts above everything. Trump’s Jewish supporters, like so many on the right, ignored the lesson. After Charlottesville, they’ve discovered too late that the price of that support will fall, as it so often has, disproportionately on them.

It’s not going to get better.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The American Imperium Losing Control of Its Domestic and Foreign Vassals



unz |  The tumultuous events that dominate international news today cannot be accurately understood outside of their underlying context, which connects them together, into a broader narrative — the actual history of our time. History makes sense, even if news-reports about these events don’t. Propagandistic motivations cause such essential facts to be reported little (if at all) in the news, so that the most important matters for the public to know, get left out of news-accounts about those international events.

The purpose here will be to provide that context, for our time.

First, this essential background will be summarized; then, it will be documented (via the links that will be provided here), up till the present moment — the current news:

America’s aristocracy controls both the U.S. federal government and press, but (as will be documented later here) is facing increasing resistance from its many vassal (subordinate) aristocracies around the world (popularly called “America’s allied nations”); and this growing international resistance presents a new challenge to the U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC), which is controlled by that same aristocracy and enforces their will worldwide. The MIC is responding to the demands of its aristocratic master. This response largely drives international events today (which countries get invaded, which ones get overthrown by coups, etc.), but the ultimate driving force behind today’s international news is the aristocracy that the MIC represents, the billionaires behind the MIC, because theirs is the collective will that drives the MIC. The MIC is their collective arm, and their collective fist. It is not the American public’s global enforcer; it is the American aristocracy’s fist, around the world.

The MIC (via its military contractors such as Lockheed Martin) also constitutes a core part of the U.S. aristocracy’s wealth (the part that’s extracted from the U.S. taxpaying public via the U.S. government), and also (by means of those privately-owned contractors, plus the taxpayer-funded U.S. armed forces) it protects these aristocrats’ wealth in foreign countries. Though paid by the U.S. government, the MIC does the protection-and-enforcement jobs for the nation’s super-rich. Furthermore, the MIC is crucial to them in other ways, serving not only directly as their “policeman to the world,” but also indirectly (by that means) as a global protection-racket that keeps their many subordinate aristocracies in line, under their control — and that threatens those foreign aristocrats with encroachments against their own territory, whenever a vassal aristocracy resists the master-aristocracy’s will. (International law is never enforced against the U.S., not even after it invaded Iraq in 2003.) So, the MIC is the global bully’s fist, and the global bully is the U.S. aristocracy — America’s billionaires, most especially the controlling stockholders in the U.S.-based international corporations. These are the people the U.S. government actually represents. The links document this, and it’s essential to know, if one is to understand current events.

For the first time ever, a global trend is emerging toward declining control of the world by America’s billionaire-class — into the direction of ultimately replacing the U.S. Empire, by increasingly independent trading-blocs: alliances between aristocracies, replacing this hierarchical control of one aristocracy over another. Ours is becoming a multi-polar world, and America’s aristocracy is struggling mightily against this trend, desperate to continue remaining the one global imperial power — or, as U.S. President Barack Obama often referred to the U.S. government, “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.” To America’s aristocrats, all other nations than the U.S. are “dispensable.” All American allies have to accept it. This is the imperial mindset, both for the master, and for the vassal. The uni-polar world can’t function otherwise. Vassals must pay (extract from their nation’s public, and then transfer) protection-money, to the master, in order to be safe — to retain their existing power, to exploit their given nation’s public.

The recently growing role of economic sanctions (more accurately called “Weaponization of finance”) by the United States and its vassals, has been central to the operation of this hierarchical imperial system, but is now being increasingly challenged from below, by some of the vassals. Alliances are breaking up over America’s mounting use of sanctions, and new alliances are being formed and cemented to replace the imperial system — replace it by a system without any clear center of global power, in the world that we’re moving into. Economic sanctions have been the U.S. empire’s chief weapon to impose its will against any challengers to U.S. global control, and are thus becoming the chief locus of the old order’s fractures.

This global order cannot be maintained by the MIC alone; the more that the MIC fails (such as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, …), the more that economic sanctions rise to become the essential tool of the imperial masters. We are increasingly in the era of economic sanctions. And, now, we’re entering the backlash-phase of it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Open Thread: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response ASMR


wikipedia |  Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a colloquial term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia.[1][2] ASMR signifies the subjective experience of "low-grade euphoria" characterised by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin". It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control.[3][4]

The term "autonomous sensory meridian response" was coined on 25 February 2010 by Jennifer Allen, a cybersecurity professional residing in New York[5] in the introduction to a Facebook Group she founded entitled the ASMR Group.[6]

Prior to the subsequent social consensus that led to what is now the ubiquitous adoption of that term, other names were proposed and discussed at a number of locations including the Steady Health forum, the Society of Sensationalists Yahoo! Group and the Unnamed Feeling Blog.

Proposed formal names included "Attention Induced Head Orgasm", "Attention Induced Euphoria" and "Attention Induced Observant Euphoria", whilst colloquial terms in usage included "brain massage", "head tingle", "brain tingle", "spine tingle" and "brain orgasm".[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Whilst many colloquial and formal terms used and proposed between 2007 and 2010 included reference to orgasm, there was during that time a significant majority objection to its use among those active in online discussions, many of whom have continued to persist in differentiating the euphoric and relaxing nature of ASMR from sexual arousal.[13] However, by 2015, a division had occurred within the ASMR community over the subject of sexual arousal, with some creating videos categorized as ASMRotica (ASMR erotica), which are deliberately designed to be sexually stimulating.[14][15]

The initial consensus among the ASMR Community was that the name should not pose a high risk of the phenomenon being perceived as sexual. Given that consensus, Allen proposed "autonomous sensory meridian response". Allen chose the words intending or assuming them to have the following specific meanings:[16]
  • Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, within or without control
  • Sensory – pertaining to the senses or sensation
  • Meridian – signifying a peak, climax, or point of highest development
  • Response – referring to an experience triggered by something external or internal
Allen verified in a 2016 interview that she purposely selected these terms because they were more objective, comfortable, and clinical than alternative terms for the sensation.[17] Allen explained she selected the word meridian to replace the word orgasm due to its meaning of point or period of greatest prosperity.

The term "autonomous sensory meridian response" and its initialism ASMR were adopted by both the community of contributors to online discussions and those reporting and commentating on the phenomenon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Only After Hoover Died Were Blows Struck Against the Mafia


bitterqueen |  The Mafia historically controlled gay bars as part of their vice rackets in many cities across the United States including New York and Chicago due to their once illicit status. A common misunderstanding among the general public is that the wise guys were eliminated from the gay bars following the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. However, organized crime kept a hidden hand -- often through violent means resulting in a few murders -- over many watering holes for the gay community at least into the mid-1980s if not later.  Indeed, the Mafia even hijacked gay liberation for political cover and used so-called Auntie Gays -- the Uncle Toms of the gay community -- as frontmen for their bars to evade suspicion.  The Mafia and the Gays provides a comprehensive look at the mob's involvement with gay bars from the post-war years through the mid-1980s when federal prosecutors targeted the Outfit in Chicago and the Genovese family in New York for their alleged protection rackets and skimming operations involving some establishments.

Ed Scarpo, the blogger behind Cosa Nostra News and author of Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire, says The Mafia and the Gays is "a worthy addition to your library of books about the Mafia." The History Channel website cited The Mafia and the Gays in its excellent overview of the historic role of organized crime in New York gay bars.  Crawford was interviewed by Helen Nianias for VICE and appeared on Mark McNease's podcast about his book, and quoted in an article by Logan Hendrix for the New York Press on the closing of The Candle Bar.


An Odyssey to the Edge of City Life...,


vice |  In the second half of the 20th century, New York City saw a boom in organized crime, with New York and New Jersey at the epicenter of mob rule in the US. Meanwhile, the gay scene had exploded. 

The Mafia—which had a stranglehold on nightlife since the end of Prohibition—spotted a gap in the market. There was a whole new audience who wanted to go to a bar or nightclub to experience the then luxury of being among other gay people. In the aftermath of Prohibition, a new underground scene developed, and naturally the Mafia wanted in on the action. What followed was years of pimping, financial exploitation, the NYPD completely ignoring the LGBT community's concerns, and gossipy FBI files speculating about certain mobsters' sexualities. 

Phillip Crawford Jr., author of the book The Mafia and the Gays, argues that the Mafia were much more than proprietors of illegal nightspots; he says that they are in fact an intrinsic part of the LGBT movement, sparking the Stonewall riots and enabling the gay community to thrive. VICE called him up to talk about all that. 

VICE: Hi, Phillip. When did the link between the gay community and the Mafia begin?
Phillip Crawford Jr: The Mafia was behind many speakeasies in the big cities, such as Chicago and New York, during Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed, state agencies regulated bars with vague standards against disorderly premises and moral indecency, which were interpreted to prohibit serving gays. Accordingly, the Mafia took its experience with speakeasies and used it to operate gay bars, which involved paying off the police departments and liquor authorities charged with enforcing these discriminatory laws. 

It seems like an unusual fusion...
Well, the Mafia didn't much care about enforcing societal mores or respecting government rules. Ernest Sgroi Sr, one of the principal fronts for gay bars controlled by mob boss Vito Genovese in Greenwich Village, obtained his first liquor license right after the repeal of Prohibition. He was involved with some of the most popular gay bars during the post-war years, including the Bon Soir and the Lion, which started off as nightclubs with live entertainment attracting both straight and gay patrons but ultimately became predominantly gay bars. The Lion was where Barbra Streisand made her first public singing performance in 1960. 

So do you think the Mafia exploited the gay community purely for their own financial ends?
The Mafia controlled most gay bars due to their illegal status, and extracted a monetary premium from the gay community. This recognized both the legal risk the Mob was taking and the near-monopoly status it enjoyed. After all, where else were gay folks going to meet? There were often high cover charges and minimum drink requirements. Moreover, gay men were at risk of blackmail from their Mob overlords. The Mob's exploitation of the gay community was among the reasons for the 1969 protests outside the Stonewall Inn. Indeed, after the Stonewall protests, once of the principal goals of the activist groups such as Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Liberation Front was to get organized crime out of the gay bars.

A Pride Story - Aww, How Sweet, Heroic, and Romantic...,


HuffPo |  In the ’30s and ’40s lesbians formed an unusual alliance when they started working for and with the mafia in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Back then, dressing in a suit was illegal for women — It could mean the difference between life and death. Butch women were taking real fashion risks and the mafia offered lesbians much-needed protection.
Although it might sound surprising to hear about out lesbians working with and for the mob, there was a time in New York City when all the gay clubs were mafia-run. —Vice
There’s always been an attempt to erase women from his-story, but make no mistake, the suffragettes were the first to plant their flag in the Village. The Village was run by lesbians. Working with the mob gave them clout and there was a good amount of money to be made.
Most of the bars in the Village were lesbian...The Village belonged to the gay girls, because the suffragettes had been there first, and they were all queer as pink plates. —Vice
While the mafia used their power to pay off the cops, lesbians in the Village found their own brand of power. Many performed as drag kings, dressed to the nines in suits and ties. They put together acts that included a variety of talents. They worked the biggest drag shows in town, and were some of America’s first drag superstars. Drag was appealing — it meant cash and freedom. Coming out of the Depression, lesbians in Greenwich Village were living it up, buying cars and spending like there was no tomorrow.
“It was mafia bosses who founded hot spots, from the famed Stonewall Inn to the lesbian haunt the Howdy Club to the 181 Club.” —“New York Post
Off stage, women who broke the dress code oozed with style and sex appeal. Their hair, sleek and daring. Their style choices, undeniably seductive. Women never needed men to tell us what was sexy— We already knew.