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The U.S. Re-Joining the UNHRC Speaks Volumes on Human Rights Violations Impunity

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 20, 2021

Much has been said about the Biden Administration’s re-joining international institutions, after former U.S. President Donald Trump broke away from the standardised participation in international agreements and consensus. Notably, the international community singled out the U.S. under Trump for the so-called “deal of the century”, which veered away from the two-state paradigm that has steered international diplomacy on Palestine and Israel for decades.

Trump’s decision to quit the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 was described by former U.S. envoy to the UN Nikki Haley as determined by the body’s “unending hostility towards Israel.” Echoing Haley, the former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the council “a protector of human rights abusers.” Perhaps Pompeo had conveniently forgotten the U.S.’s own track record of backing military coups which disappeared tens of thousands of political opponents. The same goes for the correlation between U.S. financial aid and human rights abuses – the countries which benefit from U.S. aid uphold similar political trajectories to the U.S.

Not much difference has been articulated in terms of U.S. President Joe Biden deciding to re-join the UNHRC in 2022. U.S. Secretary of State Ned Price stated his “concerns” about the organisation. “We will vigorously oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.” The Trump administration’s departure from the international community was based on the same alleged premise.

Agenda Item 7, which focuses upon Israel’s violations, is a permanent fixture at the UNHRC and the source of much criticism and allegations of “anti-Israel bias” – a term popularised during the Trump era and extended now through the Biden administration. At the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also accused the body of being anti-Israel and the U.S.’s return to the international fold as working in Israel’s benefit.

The UNHRC is just as farcical as the UN. Whether the U.S. re-joins or decides to boycott, nothing changes in terms of human rights violations. A U.S. seat on the UNHRC will not alter Biden’s foreign policy, nor will it impede the U.S. from warfare and violence. In 2020, the U.S. military spending increased by 4.4 percent from 2019, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The U.S. is the largest military spender globally, making up 39 percent of the global expenditure in 2020. Anyone rejoicing at the U.S. decision to re-join the UNHRC might do well to consider the political violence it is applauding.

Neither Trump nor Biden have portrayed a stance based on human rights values. The same can be said for previous administrations. However, much has been lost in terms of the significance with which Trump exposed and applied U.S. foreign policy.

As long as international institutions exist, and human rights rhetoric remains the only threshold in terms of purported accountability, the mainstream narrative will not take stock of the fact that the U.S., like international organisations, operates from within a manipulation of the human rights and democratic framework. The result is a cycle of violations which are then isolated in terms of the oppressed and the oppressor, to forge a collective concern about human rights. Having a few permanent scapegoats, such as Cuba, for example, which has faced decades of dead-end international support against the U.S. illegal blockade, allows the U.S. to preside over the democratic debacle, even as it annihilates democratic expression throughout the world.

With or without the U.S., the human rights debacle will continue unabated. If, according to the U.S., Cuba does not deserve a seat at the UNHRC, what has the U.S. done to deserve it? In the same vein, given the U.S. inclusion, what values is the UNHRC seeking to impart?

October 20, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting “insurrection” fears. Congress’s 1/6 Committee may be the worst abuse yet.

By Glenn Greenwald | October 17, 2021

When a population is placed in a state of sufficiently grave fear and anger regarding a perceived threat, concerns about the constitutionality, legality and morality of measures adopted in the name of punishing the enemy typically disappear. The first priority, indeed the sole priority, is to crush the threat. Questions about the legality of actions ostensibly undertaken against the guilty parties are brushed aside as trivial annoyances at best, or, worse, castigated as efforts to sympathize with and protect those responsible for the danger. When a population is subsumed with pulsating fear and rage, there is little patience for seemingly abstract quibbles about legality or ethics. The craving for punishment, for vengeance, for protection, is visceral and thus easily drowns out cerebral or rational impediments to satiating those primal impulses.

The aftermath of the 9/11 attack provided a vivid illustration of that dynamic. The consensus view, which formed immediately, was that anything and everything possible should be done to crush the terrorists who — directly or indirectly — were responsible for that traumatic attack. The few dissenters who attempted to raise doubts about the legality or morality of proposed responses were easily dismissed and marginalized, when not ignored entirely. Typically, they were vilified with the accusation that their constitutional and legal objections were frauds: mere pretexts to conceal their sympathy and even support for the terrorists. It took at least a year or two after that attack for there to be any space for questions about the legality, constitutionality, and morality of the U.S. response to 9/11 to be entertained at all.

For many liberals and Democrats in the U.S., 1/6 is the equivalent of 9/11. One need not speculate about that. Many have said this explicitly. Some prominent Democrats in politics and media have even insisted that 1/6 was worse than 9/11.

Joe Biden’s speechwriters, when preparing his script for his April address to the Joint Session of Congress, called the three-hour riot “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” Liberal icon Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), whose father’s legacy was cemented by years of casting 9/11 as the most barbaric attack ever seen, now serves as Vice Chair of the 1/6 Committee; in that role, she proclaimed that the forces behind 1/6 represent “a threat America has never seen before.” The enabling resolution that created the Select Committee calls 1/6 “one of the darkest days of our democracy.” USA Today’s editor David Mastio published an op-ed whose sole point was a defense of the hysterical thesis from MSNBC analysts that 1/6 is at least as bad as 9/11 if not worse. S.V. Date, the White House correspondent for America’s most nakedly partisan “news” outlet, The Huffington Post, published a series of tweets arguing that 1/6 was worse than 9/11 and that those behind it are more dangerous than Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda ever were.

And ever since the pro-Trump crowd was dispersed at the Capitol after a few hours of protests and riots, the same repressive climate that arose after 9/11 has prevailed. Mainstream political and media sectors instantly consecrated the narrative, fully endorsed by the U.S. security state, that the United States was attacked on 1/6 by domestic terrorists bent on insurrection and a coup. They also claimed in unison that the ideology driving those right-wing domestic terrorists now poses the single most dangerous threat to the American homeland, a claim which the intelligence community was making even before 1/6 to argue for a new War on Terror (just as neocons wanted to invade and engineer regime change in Iraq prior to 9/11 and then exploited 9/11 to achieve that long-held goal).

With those extremist and alarming premises fully implanted, there has been little tolerance for questions about whether proposed responses for dealing with the 1/6 “domestic terrorists” and their incomparably dangerous ideology are excessive, illegal, unethical, or unconstitutional. Even before Joe Biden was inaugurated, his senior advisers made clear that one of their top priorities was to enact a bill from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) — now a member of the Select Committee on 1/6 — to import the first War on Terror onto domestic soil. Even without enactment of a new law, there is no doubt that a second War on Terror, this one domestic, has begun and is growing, all in the name of the 1/6 “Insurrection” and with little dissent or even public debate.

Following the post-9/11 script, anyone voicing such concerns about responses to 1/6 is reflexively accused of minimizing the gravity of the Capitol riot and, worse, of harboring sympathy for the plotters and their insurrectionary cause. Questions or doubts about the proportionality or legality of government actions in the name of 1/6 are depicted as insincere, proof that those voicing such doubts are acting not in defense of constitutional or legal principles but out of clandestine camaraderie with the right-wing domestic terrorists and their evil cause.

When it comes to 1/6 and those who were at the Capitol, there is no middle ground. That playbook is not new. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” was the rigidly binary choice which President George W. Bush presented to Americans and the world when addressing Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack. With that framework in place, anything short of unquestioning support for the Bush/Cheney administration and all of its policies was, by definition, tantamount to providing aid and comfort to the terrorists and their allies. There was no middle ground, no third option, no such thing as ambivalence or reluctance: all of that uncertainty or doubt, insisted the new war president, was to be understood as standing with the terrorists.

The coercive and dissent-squashing power of that binary equation has proven irresistible ever since, spanning myriad political positions and cultural issues. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s insistence that one either fully embrace what he regards as the program of “anti-racism” or be guilty by definition of supporting racism — that there is no middle ground, no space for neutrality, no room for ambivalence about any of the dogmatic planks — perfectly tracks this manipulative formula. As Dr. Kendi described the binary he seeks to impose: “what I’m trying to do with my work is to really get Americans to eliminate the concept of ‘not racist’ from their vocabulary, and realize we’re either being racist or anti-racist.” Eight months after the 1/6 riot — despite the fact that the only people who died that day were Trump supporters and not anyone they killed — that same binary framework shapes our discourse, with a clear message delivered by those purporting to crush an insurrection and confront domestic terrorism. You’re either with us, or with the 1/6 terrorists.

What makes this ongoing prohibition of dissent or even doubt so remarkable is that so many of the responses to 1/6 are precisely the legal and judicial policies that liberals have spent decades denouncing. Indeed, many of the defining post-1/6 policies are identical to those now retrospectively viewed as abusive and excessive, if not unconstitutional, when invoked as part of the first War on Terror. We are thus confronted with the surreal dynamic that policies long castigated in American liberalism — whether used generally in the criminal justice system or specifically in the name of avenging 9/11 and defeating Islamic extremism — are now off-limits from scrutiny or critique when employed in the name of avenging 1/6 and crushing the dangerous domestic ideology that fostered it.

Almost immediately after the Capitol riot, some of the most influential Democratic lawmakers — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who also now chairs the Select 1/6 Committee — demanded that any participants in the protest be placed on the no-fly list, long regarded as one of the most extreme civil liberties assaults from the first War on Terror. And at least some of the 1/6 protesters have been placed on that list: American citizens, convicted of no crime, prohibited from boarding commercial airplanes based on a vague and unproven assessment, from unseen and unaccountable security state bureaucrats, that they are too dangerous to fly. I reported extensively on the horrors and abuses of the no-fly list as part of the first War on Terror and do not recall a single liberal speaking in defense of that tactic. Yet now that this same brute instrument is being used against Trump supporters, there has not, to my knowledge, been a single prominent liberal raising objections to the resurrection of the no-fly list for American citizens who have been convicted of no crime.

Axios, Jan. 12, 2021

With more than 600 people now charged in connection with the events of 1/6, not one person has been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, incite insurrection, conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping of public officials, or any of the other fantastical claims that rained down on them from media narratives. No one has been charged with treason or sedition. Perhaps that is because, as Reuters reported in August, “the FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result.” Yet these defendants are being treated as if they were guilty of these grave crimes of which nobody has been formally accused, with the exact type of prosecutorial and judicial overreach that criminal defense lawyers and justice reform advocates have long railed against.

Dozens of the 1/6 defendants have been denied bail, thus being imprisoned for months without having been found guilty of anything. Many are being held in unusually harsh and bizarrely cruel conditions, causing a federal judge on Wednesday to hold “the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court,” and then calling on the Justice Department “to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants.” Some of the pre-trial prison protocols have been so punitive that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — who calls the 1/6 protesters “domestic terrorists” — denounced their treatment as abusive: “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said, adding: “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.” Warren also said she is “worried that law enforcement officials are deploying it to ‘punish’ the Jan. 6 defendants or to ‘break them so that they will cooperate.”

The few 1/6 defendants who have thus far been sentenced after pleading guilty have been subjected to exceptionally punitive sentences, the kind liberal criminal justice reform advocates have been rightly denouncing for years. Several convicted of nothing more than trivial misdemeanors are being sentenced to real prison time; last week, Michigan’s Robert Reeder pled guilty to “one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building” yet received a jail term of 3 months, with the judge admitting that the motive was to “send a signal to the other participants in that riot… that they can expect to receive jail time.”

Meanwhile, long-controversial SWAT teams are being routinely deployed to arrest 1/6 suspects in their homes, and long-time liberal activists denouncing these tactics have suddenly decided they are appropriate for these Trump supporters. That prosecutors are notoriously overzealous in their demands for harsh prison time is a staple of liberal discourse, but now, an Obama-appointed judge has repeatedly doled out sentences to 1/6 defendants that are harsher and longer than those requested by DOJ prosecutors, to the applause of liberals. In sum, these defendants are subjected to one of the grossest violations of due process: they are being treated as if they are guilty of crimes — treason, sedition, insurrection, attempted murder, and kidnapping — which not even the DOJ has accused them of committing. And the fundamental precept of any healthy justice system — namely, punishment for citizens is merited only once they have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law — has been completely discarded.

Serious questions about FBI involvement in the 1/6 events linger. For months, Americans were subjected to a frightening media narrative that far-right groups had plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, only for proof to emerge that at least half of the conspirators, including its leaders, were working for or at the behest of the FBI. Regarding 1/6, the evidence has been clear for months, though largely confined to right-wing outlets, that the FBI had its tentacles in the three groups it claims were most responsible for the 1/6 protest: the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters. Yet last month, The New York Times acknowledged that the FBI was directly communicating with one of its informants present at the Capitol, a member of the Proud Boys, while the riot unfolded, meaning “federal law enforcement had a far greater visibility into the assault on the Capitol, even as it was taking place, than was previously known.” All of this suggests that to the extent 1/6 had any advanced centralized planning, it was far closer to an FBI-induced plot than a centrally organized right-wing insurrection.

Despite this mountain of abuses, it is exceedingly rare to find anyone outside of conservative media and MAGA politics raising objections to any of this (which is what made Sen. Warren’s denunciation of their pre-trial prison conditions so notable). The reason is obvious: just as was true in the aftermath of 9/11, people are petrified to express any dissent or even question what is being done to the alleged domestic terrorists for fear of standing accused of sympathizing with them and their ideology, an accusation that can be career-ending for many.

Many of the 1/6 defendants are impoverished and cannot afford lawyers, yet private-sector law firms who have active pro bono programs will not touch anyone or anything having to do with 1/6, while the ACLU is now little more than an arm of the Democratic Party and thus displays almost no interest in these systemic civil liberties assaults. And for many liberals — the ones who are barely able to contain their glee at watching people lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic due to vaccine-hesitancy or who do not hide their joy that the unarmed Ashli Babbitt got what she deserved — their political adversaries these days are not just political adversaries but criminals and even terrorists, rendering no punishment too harsh or severe. For them, cruelty is not just acceptable; the cruelty is the point.


The Unconstitutionality of the 1/6 Committee

Civil liberties abuses of this type are common when the U.S. security state scares enough people into believing that the threat they face is so acute that normal constitutional safeguards must be disregarded. What is most definitely not common, and is arguably the greatest 1/6-related civil liberties abuse of them all, is the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

To say that the investigative acts of the 1/6 Committee are radical is a wild understatement. Along with serving subpoenas on four former Trump officials, they have also served subpoenas on eleven private citizens: people selected for interrogation precisely because they exercised their Constitutional right of free assembly by applying for and receiving a permit to hold a protest on January 6 opposing certification of the 2020 election.

When the Select 1/6 Committee recently boasted of these subpoenas in its press release, it made clear what methodology it used for selecting who it was targeting: “The committee used permit paperwork for the Jan. 6 rally to identify other individuals involved in organizing.” In other words, any citizen whose name appeared on permit applications to protest was targeted for that reason alone. The committee’s stated goal is “to collect information from them and their associated entities on the planning, organization, and funding of those events”: to haul citizens before Congress to interrogate them on their constitutionally protected right to assemble and protest and probe their political beliefs and associations:


List of 11 private citizens who received subpoenas from the 1/6 Congressional Committee for deposition testimony and records

Even worse are the so-called “preservation notices” which the committee secretly issued to dozens if not hundreds of telecoms, email and cell phone providers, and other social media platforms (including Twitter and Parler), ordering those companies to retain extremely invasive data regarding the communications and physical activities of more than 100 citizens, with the obvious intent to allow the committee to subpoena those documents. The communications and physical movement data sought by the committee begins in April, 2020 — nine months before the 1/6 riot. The committee refuses to make public the list of individuals it is targeting with these sweeping third-party subpoenas, but on the list are what CNN calls “many members of Congress,” along with dozens of private citizens involved in obtaining the permit to protest and then promoting and planning the gathering on social media.

What makes these secret notices especially pernicious is that the committee requested that these companies not notify their customers that the committee has demanded the preservation of their data. The committee knows it lacks the power to impose a “gag order” on these companies to prevent them from notifying their users that they received the precursor to a subpoena: a power the FBI in conjunction with courts does have. So they are relying instead on “voluntary compliance” with the gag order request, accompanied by the thuggish threat that any companies refusing to voluntarily comply risk the public relations harm of appearing to be obstructing the committee’s investigation and, worse, protecting the 1/6 “insurrectionists.”

Worse still, the committee in its preservation notices to these communications companies requested that “you do not disable, suspend, lock, cancel, or interrupt service to these subscribers or accounts solely due to this request,” and that they should first contact the committee “if you are not able or willing to respond to this request without alerting the subscribers.” The motive here is obvious: if any of these companies risk the PR hit by refusing to conceal from their customers the fact that Congress is seeking to obtain their private data, they are instructed to contact the committee instead, so that the committee can withdraw the request. That way, none of the customers will ever be aware that the committee targeted their private data and will thus never be able to challenge the legality of the committee’s acts in a court of law.

In other words, even the committee knows that its power to seek this information about private citizens lacks any convincing legal justification and, for that reason, wants to ensure that nobody has the ability to seek a judicial ruling on the legality of their actions. All of these behaviors raise serious civil liberties concerns, so much so that even left-liberal legal scholars and at least one civil liberties group (obviously not the ACLU) — petrified until now of creating any appearance that they are defending 1/6 protesters by objecting to civil liberties abuses — have begun very delicately to raise doubts and concerns about the committee’s actions.

But the most serious constitutional problem is not the specific investigative acts of the committee but the very existence of the committee itself. There is ample reason to doubt the constitutionality of this committee’s existence.

When crimes are committed in the United States, there are two branches of government — and only two — vested by the Constitution with the power to investigate criminal suspects and adjudicate guilt: the executive branch (through the FBI and DOJ) and the judiciary. Congress has no role to play in any of that, and for good and important reasons. The Constitution places limits on what the executive branch and judiciary can do when investigating suspects . . . . .

Full Article $

October 17, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

IEA: More Renewable Investment Required to Stabilise European Energy Markets

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | October 17, 2021

According to Dr. Fatih Birol, $4 trillion per year of global renewable investment would reduce European dependence on Russian Gas, though Russia is also to blame for the recent energy crisis for not sending more gas.

IEA: Green energy needed to avoid turbulent prices

By Jonathan Josephs
Business reporter, BBC News

A failure to invest sufficiently in green energy means “we may well see more and more turbulence in the energy markets”, the head of the International Energy Agency has told the BBC.

Dr Fatih Birol said that “is not good news for the global economy.”

Energy prices in the UK, Europe and Asia have hit record highs in recent weeks triggering inflation concerns.

IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook warns clean energy and infrastructure need a $4 trillion a year investment.

Such an outlay would mean the world could limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in Paris six years ago.

The warning has been timed to greet the COP26 climate change summit, due to take place in Glasgow at the end of this month. Dr Birol said it was up to world leaders to incentivise the necessary investment at the summit.

“If you push clean energy, energy efficiency, solar electric cars and other [solutions], you don’t need any more to use fossil fuels, you switch to clean energy sources. […]

Russia, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of natural gas has been accused of withholding supplies that could ease those price pressures for political reasons. Dr Birol said “Russia could have been, and still can be more helpful. Our numbers show that Russia can easily increase the gas it is sending to Europe by 15%, which could underscore that they could be qualified as a reliable partner.

“There are some statements coming from Moscow, which are helpful. But in addition to the statements, I would be very happy to see some gas volumes come to Europe”. […]

The IEA boss says that government money could be the trigger for renewed private investment in clean energy and the he is optimistic about what can be achieved in Glasgow.

“It’s also very important that in COP government leaders around the world come together, unite and give a unmistakable signal to investors, saying that you investor, you see we are united to build a clean energy future”, but that “if you continue to invest in the old energy [such as fossil fuels], you may well lose money.”

If you invest in the clean energy, you can make handsome profits. That’s [the] political signal I hope will go to investors.”

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-58901566

My question to Dr. Birol – how is Russia expected to supply more gas to Europe, without investing in “old energy”? Is IEA head Dr. Fatih Birol demanding Russian investors sacrifice themselves for the greater good of Europe?

Can you imagine what it must be like for Russian trade representatives discussing energy sales with their European counterparts? “You guys are evil, but please send some more evil right now, because your withholding of evil is evil.”

No doubt President Putin has tears of laughter streaming from his eyes, whenever he receives an update of the latest insanity of his trading partners.

October 17, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

The New American Leadership: Biden Tells the World What He Wants It to Know

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 14, 2021

It is sometimes difficult to absorb how much the United States has changed in the past twenty years, and not for the better. When I was in grade school in the 1950s there was a favorite somewhat simplistic saying much employed by teachers to illustrate the success of the American way of life that prevailed at that time. It went “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” and it meant that the U.S. version of a robust and assertive capitalist economy generated opportunity and prosperity for the entire nation. Today, having witnessed the devastation and offshoring of the domestic manufacturing economy by those very same corporate managers, such an expression would be rightly sneered at and considered risible.

Currently the politically motivated expressions of national greatness tend to honor America’s quality rather than the jobs and prosperity that it is able to generate. Presidents speak of the country’s “Exceptionalism,” as well as it being a “force for good” and “leader of the free world” with all that implies. That Americans are now in fact both poorer and less safe has generated its own national myth, that of a country beleaguered by terrorists who despise “our freedom” and which has been stabbed in the back by others, mostly in Asia, who have been engaging in unfair practices to bring America down. President Joe Biden’s gang of apologists has as well been fixated on the positive assertions that “America is back” and that the president will “build back better,” surely meaningless expressions that reflect the vacuity of the Democratic Party pre-electoral hype that Donald Trump had led the country to perdition.

President Joe Biden’s United Nations address three weeks ago was indeed largely Trump without all the bluster, threats and admonishments. He lied to the world leaders that: “I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war.” According to the latest available information, the U.S. was involved in seven wars in 2018: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Now that Afghanistan is nominally over, the number of current American wars is six officially, though none of them are actually declared by Congress as demanded the Constitution. If one includes clandestine counter-terrorism operations the real number is certainly much higher.

Joe Biden issued a call for all nations to work together to deal with transnational and even global threats like climate change and the pandemic, promising “relentless diplomacy” from the United States with a pledge that “we will look ahead, we will lead.” The response by the audience was predictably tepid as no one asked Joe whether anyone really wanted to be led any more, most notably America’s oldest friend and ally France, which was recently stiffed on a submarine deal by the White House. There are even reports that Biden is on bad terms with Great Britain, usually a completely reliable partner in crime. It was as if the U.S. president were reading from the “General Motors” script, having forgotten to refresh himself on what happened more recently in the debacle retreat from Afghanistan, which was not mentioned at all.

But it wasn’t all sugar and spice as Biden demonstrated his required toughness, cautioning Iran and skewering those who do not “…give their people the ability to breathe free, …who seek to suffocate their people with an iron-hand authoritarianism. The authoritarians of the world, they seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong.” He was speaking, somewhat gratuitously, about Russia and China while also failing to mention the chaos on the U.S. southern border, demonstrating once again that everything is susceptible to change, but not in Washington.

To be sure, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the speech was the complete lack of self-awareness that the world has moved on without the United States, which has been locked into a certain foreign policy mindset since 9/11. In the past two decades Washington has invaded and brought about regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has attempted to do the same unsuccessfully in Syria. It has openly intervened in the electoral process in Ukraine, which brought about a change of government that also generated a major crisis with Russia. It joined together with European allies to overthrow the Libyan government, reducing that stable and prosperous country into what is currently little better than a gangster and terrorist stronghold. It has more recently been seeking to undermine the elected government in Venezuela and has worked assiduously to wreck that country’s economy. It has interfered in Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador and has dealt out devastating economic sanctions on adversaries like Iran.

It should be noted that all those initiatives, which Joe Biden might describe as “leadership,” took place under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, suggesting that if there is consensus in Washington it likely can be found in the willingness to wreck other nations. And Joe denounces “authoritarian” regimes without recognizing that many Americans have observed how the United States is itself becoming a model totalitarian state, irrationally obsessed with war while also having a health care system that has been ranked as one of the worst in the developed world. Witness the Patriot Act and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which have empowered any president to go to war without being endangered by a foreign threat. And then there is the Military Commissions Act which permits the indefinite imprisonment of terror and other suspects without having to charge anyone with a crime. And what about the prisoners still held without trial at Guantanamo after twenty years, or the Obama initiated policy of assassinating U.S. citizens overseas using drones? Or using drones to wipe out entire wedding parties while imprisoning the whistleblower Daniel Hale who had the temerity to reveal that 90% of the drone deaths in Afghanistan were of innocent bystanders who fit a “profile”?

And then there is the handling of the COVID-19 virus vaccination program at home, making it mandatory if people want to stay employed or in school. Or have a government job. The Biden Administration is now making health care decisions that impact directly on all Americans. Joe Biden is all for that and some in his administration are calling for mandatory booster vaccinations to include everyone who is already allegedly protected. Many Americans are resisting the government policies and there is growing dissent from the scientific and medical community over the efficacy of the vaccines, to include some legitimate concerns that they do more harm than good.

The government is also planning on looking at everyone’s bank accounts, an enormous invasion of privacy. A proposal working its way into law would require all banks to report directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all relevant information on any account that has more than $600 in transactions in a year. That would mean nearly all accounts and one can combine that with continued government surveillance of the phones and emails of citizens who have not been involved in any criminal activity plus increased broadening of domestic terrorism legislation and guidelines which will turn half the population into “suspects.”

So, the myth of America trudges on with some new labels attached but otherwise pretty much the same. Many would argue that it is time for a reboot, to return to constitutionalism, small government and an end to pointless foreign wars and interventions. But to do that would pit individuals and small groups against some very powerful interests, i.e. the defense industry, big pharma, and government itself, which sees its natural role as one of growth. It is an unbalanced struggle, but it must be won if the United States of America is to survive with some basic freedoms intact into the 22nd century.

October 14, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | | 3 Comments

Who represents Afghanistan: Genuine activists vs ‘native informants’

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | September 22, 2021

Scenes of thousands of Afghans flooding the Kabul international airport to flee the country as Taliban fighters were quickly consolidating their control over the capital, raised many questions, leading amongst them: who are these people and why are they running away?

In the US and other Western media, answers were readily available: they were mostly ‘translators‘, Afghans who ‘collaborated’ with the US and other NATO countries; ‘activists’ who were escaping from the brutality awaiting them once the Americans and their allies left the country, and so on.

Actually, the answer is far more complex than that offered by Western officials and media, which ultimately – although inaccurately – conveyed the impression that NATO armies were in Afghanistan to safeguard human rights, to educate women and to bring civilization to a seemingly barbaric culture.

Though political dissent is a basic human right, there is a clear and definitive line between the legitimate right to challenge one’s government/regime and willingly collaborating with another – especially when that collaboration can have dire consequences on one’s own people.

In the United States and Europe, there are thousands of political dissidents from many parts of the world – from South America, the Middle East, East Asia, and others – who are, sadly, used as cheerleaders for political and military interventions, either directly by certain governments, or indirectly, through lobby and pressure groups, academic circles and mainstream media.

These individuals, often promoted as ‘experts’, appear and disappear whenever they are useful and when their usefulness expires. Some might even be sincere and well-intentioned when they speak out against, for example, human rights violations committed by certain regimes in their own home countries, but the outcome of their testimonies is almost always translated to self-serving policies.

Thousands of Afghans – political dissidents, NATO collaborators, students, athletes and workers seeking opportunities – have already arrived in various western capitals. Expectedly, many are being used by the media and various pressure groups to retrospectively justify the war on Afghanistan, as if it was a moral war. Desperate to live up to the expectations, Afghan ‘activists’ are already popping up on western political platforms, speaking about the Taliban’s dismal record of human rights and, especially, women’s rights.

But what is the point of appealing to the western moral consciousness after 20 years of a NATO-led deadly invasion that has cost Afghanistan hundreds of thousands of innocent people?

In Afghanistan, an alternative narrative is evolving.

On September 11, hundreds of Afghan women protested in Kabul University, not against the Taliban, but against other Afghan women who purport to speak from western capitals about all Afghan women.

“We are against those women who are protesting on the streets, claiming they are representative of women,” one of the speakers said, AFP reported.

While AFP made a point of repeating that the women protesters have “pledged” their commitment to “all Taliban’s hardline policies on gender segregation”, emphasising how they were all covered “head to toe,” the event was significant. Among many issues, it raises the question: who represents Afghan women, those who left or those who stayed?

A large banner held by the protesters in Kabul read: “Women who left Afghanistan cannot represent us.”

The truth is no one represents Afghan women except those who are democratically-elected by Afghan society to represent all sectors of that society, women included. Until real democracy is practiced in Afghanistan, the struggle will continue for real freedom, human rights, equality and, obviously, representation.

This fight can only take place within an organic, grassroots Afghan context – whether in Afghanistan or outside of the country – but certainly not through Fox News, the BBC or US Senate hearings.

The late Palestinian-American scholar, Professor Edward Said, repeatedly warned of the pseudo reality painted by the ‘native informants’ – supposed political dissidents recruited by western governments to provide a convenient depiction of the reality in the Middle East and elsewhere, as a moral justification for war. The consequences, as the 2003 Iraq war and invasion have demonstrated, can be horrific.

Said challenged a particular ‘native informant’, the late Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese academic, whose ideas about the Iraqi enthusiasm for the US war, though proved disastrously wrong, were used by George W. Bush and others as proof that the impending war was destined to be a ‘cakewalk‘.

Ajami’s ideas were long discredited, but the political machinations that still prefer ‘native informants’ to genuine human rights defenders and good scholarship remain in place. Many of the Afghan escapees are sure to be strategically placed through the same channels, which continue to promote interventions and sanctions as sound policies.

The war in Afghanistan has ended, hopefully for good, but the conflict on who represents the people of that war-torn country remains unresolved. It behooves the Taliban to deliver on its promises regarding equal representation and political plurality, otherwise there are may others abroad who will be ready to claim the role of legitimate representation.

In the Middle East, in particular, we have already witnessed this phenomenon of the west-based ‘legitimate’ democratic representations. Ultimately, these ‘governments-in-exile’ wrought nothing but further political deception, division, corruption, and continued war.

War-torn Afghanistan – exhausted, wounded and badly needing a respite – deserves better.

September 22, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | | 1 Comment

An Evil Rationalization on Afghanistan

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | September 15, 2021

One of the arguments that interventionists, including many U.S. military veterans, use to rationalize the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is that U.S. forces were fighting to bring “freedom, democracy, and women’s rights” to the country. In fact, the Pentagon even coined the term “Operation Enduring Freedom” as one of the ways to justify the invasion and occupation of the country. Even though the effort failed, the argument goes, interventionists, including veterans, should nonetheless feel good about their “service” to both America and Afghanistan.

There is a problem with this rationale and justification, however. The problem is that it is evil to the core.

In any invasion and occupation, there are inevitably going to be people killed, injured, and maimed. There is also going to be destruction of homes, business, and infrastructure. That certainly proved to be the case in Afghanistan.

Therefore, what interventionists were — and are — saying is that all those deaths, injuries, and property destruction were worth bringing freedom, democracy, and women’s rights to Afghanistan.

But who died and made these people the arbiters of that type of mathematical life-and-death calculation? After all, those who were killed in the process would never have experienced freedom, democracy, and women’s rights. That’s because they would be dead.

Now, it’s one thing for the citizens of a country to decide for themselves whether to revolt against the tyranny of their own government. Violent revolutions can be very costly in terms of life and property. That’s why people might decide to put up with a lot of tyranny before they revolt. They don’t want to lose their family members, friends, and countrymen by revolting, until the situation gets so bad that they feel that they have no choice but to do so. In the final analysis, the decision to revolt and when to revolt can be highly subjective.

But that’s a far cry from U.S. officials making that decision from afar. Their decision is a cavalier one because they don’t put the same value on Afghan life that the Afghan people do. In fact, interventionists put little or no value on Afghan life. That mindset is reflected by the fact that early in the invasion and occupation, the Pentagon, with the full support of Washington, D.C., officials, made the conscious decision to not even keep track of how many Afghans they were killing. Moreover, there was never an upward limit on the number of Afghan people who could be killed, injured or maimed in the effort to bring freedom, democracy, and women’s rights to the country. It just didn’t matter. Any number of Afghan people killed in the effort would be considered worth it by U.S. interventionists. 

That’s why the purported concern that U.S. interventionists, including many U.S. military veterans, express for the Afghan people rings hollow, given that they were willing to kill or maim any number of Afghans to reach their political goal.

How many Afghan lives were worth the U.S. effort to bring “freedom, democracy, and women’s rights” to Afghanistan? None! It was never morally or religiously justified for the U.S. government to kill even one single Afghan citizen for the sake of a political goal. Killing, injuring, or maiming even just one single Afghan, much less tens of thousands of Afghans, for the sake of “freedom, democracy, and women’s rights” has always been the epitome of evil. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

The Bots That Are Not

By Mike Hearn | The Daily Sceptic | September 10, 2021

Since 2016 automated Twitter accounts have been blamed for Donald Trump and Brexit (many times), Brazilian politicsVenezuelan politicsskepticism of climatologycannabis misinformationanti-immigration sentimentvaping, and, inevitably, distrust of COVID vaccines. News articles about bots are backed by a surprisingly large amount of academic research. Google Scholar alone indexes nearly 10,000 papers on the topic. Some of these papers received widespread coverage:

Unfortunately there’s a problem with this narrative: it is itself misinformation. Bizarrely and ironically, universities are propagating an untrue conspiracy theory while simultaneously claiming to be defending the world from the very same.

The visualization above comes from “The Rise and Fall of Social Bot Research” (also available in talk form). It was quietly uploaded to a preprint server in March by Gallwitz & Kreil, two German investigators, and has received little attention since. Yet their work completely destroys the academic field of bot research to such an extreme extent that it’s possible there are no true scientific papers on the topic at all.

The authors identify a simple problem that crops up in every study they looked at. Unable to directly detect bots because they don’t work for Twitter, academics come up with proxy signals that are asserted to imply automation but which actually don’t. For example, Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project – responsible for the first paper in the diagram above – defined a bot as any account that tweets more than 50 times per day. That’s a lot of tweeting but easily achieved by heavy users, like the famous journalist Glenn Greenwald, the slightly less famous member of German Parliament Johannes Kahrs – who has in the past managed to rack up an astounding 300 tweets per day – or indeed Donald Trump, who exceeded this threshold on six different days during 2020. Bot papers typically don’t provide examples of the bot accounts they claimed to identify, but in this case four were presented. Of those, three were trivially identifiable as (legitimate) bots because they actually said they were bots in their account metadata, and one was an apparently human account claimed to be a bot with no evidence. On this basis the authors generated 27 news stories and 323 citations, although the paper was never peer reviewed.

In 2017 I investigated the Berkley/Swansea paper and found that it was doing something very similar, but using an even laxer definition. Any account that regularly tweeted more than five times after midnight from a smartphone was classed as a bot. Obviously, this is not a valid way to detect automation. Despite being built on nonsensical premises, invalid modelling, mis-characterisations of its own data and once again not being peer reviewed, the authors were able to successfully influence the British Parliament. Damian Collins, the Tory MP who chaired the DCMS Select Committee at the time, said: “This is the most significant evidence yet of interference by Russian-backed social media accounts around the Brexit referendum. The content published and promoted by these accounts is clearly designed to increase tensions throughout the country and undermine our democratic process. I fear that this may well be just the tip of the iceberg.”

But since 2019 the vast majority of papers about social bots rely on a machine learning model called ‘Botometer’. The Botometer is available online and claims to measure the probability of any Twitter account being a bot. Created by a pair of academics in the USA, it has been cited nearly 700 times and generates a continual stream of news stories. The model is frequently described as a “state of the art bot detection method” with “95% accuracy”.

That claim is false. The Botometer’s false positive rate is so high it is practically a random number generator. A simple demonstration of the problem was the distribution of scores given to verified members of U.S. Congress:

In experiments run by Gallwitz & Kreil, nearly half of Congress were classified as more likely to be bots than human, along with 12% of Nobel Prize laureates, 17% of Reuters journalists, 21.9% of the staff members of UN Women and – inevitably – U.S. President Joe Biden.

But detecting the false positive problem did not require compiling lists of verified humans. One study that claimed to identify around 190,000 bots included the following accounts in its set:

Taken from a dataset shared by Dunn et al.

The developers of the Botometer know it doesn’t work. After the embarrassing U.S. Congress data was published, an appropriate response would have been retraction of their paper. But that would have implied that all the papers that relied upon it should also be retracted. Instead they hard-coded the model to know that Congress are human and then went on the attack, describing their critics as “academic trolls”:

Root cause analysis

This story is a specific instance of a general problem that crops up frequently in bad science. Academics decide a question is important and needs to be investigated, but they don’t have sufficiently good data to draw accurate conclusions. Because there are no incentives to recognize that and abandon the line of inquiry, they proceed regardless and make claims that end up being drastically wrong. Anyone from outside the field who points out what’s happening is simply ignored, or attacked as “not an expert” and thus inherently illegitimate.

Although no actual expertise is required to spot the problems in this case, I can nonetheless criticize their work with confidence because I actually am an expert in fighting bots. As a senior software engineer at Google I initiated and designed one of their most successful bot detection platforms. Today it checks over a million actions per second for malicious automation across the Google network. A version of it was eventually made available to all websites for free as part of the ReCAPTCHA system, providing an alternative to the distorted word puzzles you may remember from the earlier days of the internet. Those often frustrating puzzles were slowly replaced in recent years by simply clicking a box that says “I’m not a bot”. The latest versions go even further and can detect bots whilst remaining entirely invisible.

Exactly how this platform works is a Google trade secret, but when spammers discuss ideas for beating it they are well aware that it doesn’t use the sort of techniques academics do. Despite the frequent claim that Botometer is “state of the art”, in reality it is primitive. Genuinely state-of-the-art bot detectors use a correct definition of bot based on how actions are being performed. Spammers are forced to execute polymorphic encrypted programs that detect signs of automation at the protocol and API level. It’s a battle between programmers, and how it works wouldn’t be easily explainable to social scientists.

Spam fighters at Twitter have an equally low opinion of this research. They noted in 2020 that tools like Botometer use “an extremely limited approach” and “do not account for common Twitter use cases”. “Binary judgments of who’s a “bot or not” have real potential to poison our public discourse – particularly when they are pushed out through the media …. the narrative on what’s actually going on is increasingly behind the curve.”

Many fields cannot benefit from academic research because academics cannot obain sufficiently good data with which to draw conclusions. Unfortunately, they sometimes have difficulty accepting that. When I ended my 2017 investigation of the Berkeley/Swansea paper by observing that social scientists can’t usefully contribute to fighting bots, an academic posted a comment calling it “a Trumpian statement” and argued that tech firms should release everyone’s private account data to academics, due to their capacity for “more altruistic” insights. Yet their self-proclaimed insights are usually far from altruistic. The ugly truth is that social bot research is primarily a work of ideological propaganda. Many bot papers use the supposed prevalence of non-existent bots to argue for censorship and control of the internet. Too many people disagree with common academic beliefs. If only social media were edited by the most altruistic and insightful members of society, they reason, nobody would ever disagree with them again.

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Bill Gates finally realises that lockdown hurts children

By Toby Green | Unherd | September 8, 2021

This week The Guardian featured two articles funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as part of its sponsorship of the paper’s Global Development coverage. One noted on Monday that hundreds of millions of children had fallen behind across the world during the last 18 months, and the other stated that Covid measures meant that education was at risk of collapse in one quarter of the world’s countries.

However, the articles did not mention that these outcomes were the direct result of the lockdowns enthusiastically supported by, er, Bill Gates. These results were entirely predictable — and were indeed predicted at the outset of the lockdowns by UNESCO.

On 18 March 2020, UNESCO reported that half of the world’s schoolchil­dren were not attending school, and outlined the potential consequences. These included interrupted learning, decline in nutrition, erosion of child protection and childcare, and inequitable access to digital learning leading to multiple future inequities. But no one listened.

Nearly 18 months since the catastrophic global policy response to Covid-19 began, the evidence of the appalling harms caused to children and their education is staggering. The Guardian report noted the case of the Philippines, which had some of the “world’s toughest restrictions for children”, with schools still not being reopened after 18 months. Translation? It was illegal for children aged 5-15 to leave their homes between March 2020 and July 9th this year.

Does it require a multi-billion dollar philanthropist and teams of well-paid researchers to work out that children’s learning outcomes are going to be badly affected if they can’t go to school or leave their home? Add to that the fact they live in a seriously impoverished country with scant internet access too. Thanks, BMGF, for putting us straight on that one.

Other bleak predictions from UNICEF’s March 2020 report are now becoming visible. A UNICEF report back in January found that more than 39 billion in-school meals have been missed globally since the start of the Covid-19. A July report in South Africa’s Business Day found that half a million fewer children were in school than a year before. A World Bank study found that Covid-19 school lockdowns had increased dropouts across the board in Nigeria, especially in the 15-18 age group, increasing child marriage and child labour rates dramatically. And these impacts are not limited to poor countries — a recent study found that in the US, poor and minority children were much less likely to have had in-person lessons last year.

Why then has the BMGF suddenly sat up to take notice? Rather than an awakening of sanity — and humanity — it’s more likely to be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing. I’m sure that many people at BMGF are appalled at these prospects — but for many poor children, their realisation comes far too late. A future with millions of impoverished, ill-equipped, cruelly treated and angry young people looks to be the ultimate result of these global lockdowns, which should give mainstream media figures cause for reflection.

September 9, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics

By Glenn Greenwald | September 7, 2021

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surprised even many of its harshest critics this week when it strongly defended coercive programs and other mandates from the state in the name of fighting COVID. “Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,” its Twitter account announced, adding that “vaccine requirements also safeguard those whose work involves regular exposure to the public.”

If you were surprised to see the ACLU heralding the civil liberties imperatives of “vaccine mandates” and “vaccine requirements” — whereby the government coerces adults to inject medicine into their own bodies that they do not want — the New York Times op-ed which the group promoted, written by two of its senior lawyers, was even more extreme. The article begins with this rhetorical question: “Do vaccine mandates violate civil liberties?” Noting that “some who have refused vaccination claim as much,” the ACLU lawyers say: “we disagree.” The op-ed then examines various civil liberties objections to mandates and state coercion — little things like, you know, bodily autonomy and freedom to choose — and the ACLU officials then invoke one authoritarian cliche after the next (“these rights are not absolute”) to sweep aside such civil liberties concerns:

[W]hen it comes to Covid-19, all considerations point in the same direction. . . . In fact, far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties. . . . .

[Many claim that] vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others. . . . While vaccine mandates are not always permissible, they rarely run afoul of civil liberties when they involve highly infectious and devastating diseases like Covid-19. . . .

While limited exceptions are necessary, most people can be required to be vaccinated. . . . . Where a vaccine is not medically contraindicated, however, avoiding a deadly threat to the public health typically outweighs personal autonomy and individual freedom.

The op-ed sounds like it was written by an NSA official justifying the need for mass surveillance (yes, fine, your privacy is important but it is not absolute; your privacy rights are outweighed by public safety; we are spying on you for your own good). And the op-ed appropriately ends with this perfect Orwellian flourish: “We care deeply about civil liberties and civil rights for all — which is precisely why we support vaccine mandates.”

What makes the ACLU’s position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.

The title of the ACLU report, resurfaced by David Shane, reveals its primary point: “Pandemic Preparedness: The Need for a Public Health – Not a Law Enforcement/National Security – Approach.” To read this report is to feel that one is reading the anti-ACLU — or at least the actual ACLU prior to its Trump-era transformation. From start to finish, it reads as a warning of the perils of precisely the mindset which today’s ACLU is now advocating for COVID.

In 2008, the group explained its purpose this way: “the following report examines the relationship between civil liberties and public health in contemporary U.S. pandemic planning and makes a series of recommendations for developing a more effective, civil liberties-friendly approach.” Its key warning: “Not all public health interventions have been benign or beneficial, however. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have encouraged abuses of state power. Atrocities, large and small, have been committed in the name of protecting the public’s health.”

2008 report of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

The immediate impetus for the ACLU’s 2008 report was two-fold: 1) the 2008 emergence of the avian bird flu pandemic, which produced highly alarmist and ultimately false headlines around the world about millions dying; and 2) new pandemic legislation and regulatory frameworks, enacted in the wake of 9/11, premised on the view, as the ACLU put it, “that every outbreak of disease could be the beginning of some horrific epidemic, requiring the suspension of civil liberties.”

The ACLU issued its 2008 report to warn that the worst possible way to respond to a deadly pandemic was through coercion and mandates. Instead, the group argued — as one would expect from a civil liberties organization — persuasion and voluntary compliance were both more effective and less likely to erode core liberties. As they put it:

The lessons from history should be kept in mind whenever we are told by government officials that “tough,” liberty-limiting actions are needed to protect us from dangerous diseases. Specifically: coercion and brute force are rarely necessary. In fact they are generally counterproductive—they gratuitously breed public distrust and encourage the people who are most in need of care to evade public health authorities. On the other hand, effective, preventive strategies that rely on voluntary participation do work.

The key dichotomy emphasized by the 2008 version of the ACLU was the difference between constructive and persuasive messaging regarding public health versus the use of law enforcement and forced mandates. Starting with the report’s title (“The Need for a Public Health – Not a Law Enforcement/National Security – Approach”) through every section, the ACLU urges that mandates and coercion be dispensed with in favor of voluntary compliance and educational messages:

Government agencies have an essential role to play in helping to prevent and mitigate epidemics. Unfortunately, in recent years, our government’s approach to preparing the nation for a possible influenza pandemic has been highly misguided. Too often, policymakers are resorting to law enforcement and national security-oriented measures that not only suppress individual rights unnecessarily, but have proven to be ineffective in stopping the spread of disease and saving lives . . . .

This law enforcement/national security strategy shifts the focus of preparedness from preventing and mitigating an emergency to punishing people who fail to follow orders and stay healthy.

Much of the report is devoted to an examination of how the U.S. government has historically treated pandemics. As it reviews each pandemic — including horrifically lethal ones such as the plague and smallpox — the ACLU concludes over and over that American health authorities excessively relied on coercion rather than education and persuasion, fueled by media-aided fear porn and alarmist narratives:

Lessons from History: American history contains vivid reminders that grafting the values of law enforcement and national security onto public health is both ineffective and dangerous. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have justified abuses of state power. Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots.

Amazingly, the model that the ACLU identifies as the one that must be avoided is precisely the one that it is now urging be used for COVID. Compare, for instance, the ACLU’s defense of coercive mandates in its New York Times op-ed this week (vaccine mandates “rarely run afoul of civil liberties”) with this ringing endorsement of the need to preserve freedom of choice in its 2008 report:

This model assumes that we must “trade liberty for security.” As a result, instead of helping individuals and communities through education and provision of health care, today’s pandemic prevention focuses on taking aggressive, coercive actions against those who are sick. People, rather than the disease, become the enemy.

What most worried the 2008 version of the ACLU was that authoritarian power vested in the hands of public health officials in the form of mandates and coercion will become permanent given that we will always live with such threats and endless pandemics. That was why, urged that iteration of the ACLU, we must opt for an approach that relies on education programs and voluntary compliance rather than state mandates.

“The law enforcement approach to public health offers a rationale for the endless suspension of civil liberties,” they explained. Using post-9/11 expansions of state power as its framework, the group explained that “the ‘Global War on Terror’ may go on for a generation, but the war on disease will continue until the end of the human race. There will always be a new disease, always the threat of a new pandemic. If that fear justifies the suspension of liberties and the institution of an emergency state, then freedom and the rule of law will be permanently suspended.

The ACLU’s New York Times op-ed this week repeatedly stressed that coercive mandates are justified whenever “the disease is highly transmissible, serious and lethal.” But its 2008 report argued exactly the opposite. The report was critical of forced vaccinations and other mandates in prior outbreaks of smallpox — certainly a highly contagious and lethal disease — but then argued that when the disease reappeared in the late 1940s, New York City handled it much better by offering voluntary vaccines and education programs rather than coercive measures:

In contrast, New York City relied on a different approach in 1947, one that viewed the public as the client rather than the enemy of public health. When smallpox reappeared in the city after a long absence, the city educated the public about the problem and instituted a massive voluntary vaccination campaign. Not surprisingly, no coercion was needed. Provided with information about the need for and benefits of vaccination, and reassurance that the city was helping rather than attacking them, the citizens of the New York turned out en masse for one of the world’s largest voluntary vaccination campaigns. The campaign was successful, and the epidemic was quashed before it had a chance to spread broadly in the city or beyond.

In the scheme of repressive measures that worried the 2008 ACLU, “compulsory isolation and quarantine are among the most coercive non-pharmaceutical interventions that may be employed during a pandemic.” They minced no words about such policies: “civil liberties concerns arise when these interventions are imposed by law.”

The ACLU did not merely warn with words of the dangers of excessive pandemic coercion. They also legally represented at least one client who they viewed as the victim of public health hysteria and tyranny. In 2006, “a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient named Robert Daniels was involuntarily quarantined in Phoenix, Arizona for disobeying an order by Maricopa County health officials to wear a face mask in public at all times.” Even once Daniels was released and it turned out he had a less severe case of TB than originally assumed, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio publicly threatened him with prosecution for the pre-quarantine events.”

The ACLU’s lesson from that case, and similar ones it had handled, was clear: these cases “are cautionary tales that illustrate the counterproductive nature of a punitive, law enforcement approach to preventing the spread of disease.” Most important of all, said the civil liberties group, coercive steps — such as mandates and quarantines — not only endanger civil liberties but are less effective in improving the public health, because they convert the public from cooperative allies into enemies that must be controlled and punished:

These efforts require working with rather than against communities, providing communities with as healthy an environment as possible, health care if they need it, and the means to help themselves and their neighbors. Most importantly, to protect public health, public health policies must aim to help, rather than to suppress, the public.

A separate ACLU report from 2015, issued during the ebola epidemic, contained a similar message. It warned “against politically motivated and scientifically unwarranted quarantines, which the report found violated individuals’ rights and hampered efforts to end the outbreak.” Hysteria over ebola became so intense that the ACLU “found that people were illegally deprived of their right to due process under the 14th Amendment because the quarantines and movement restrictions were not scientifically justified.”

While both reports acknowledge that more restrictive measures can be justified under extreme circumstances, the crux of each is that voluntary compliance is better than coercion, that state mandates typically fail, and that the far greater danger is vesting too much power in the hands of the state, which it will never relinquish given the permanence of pandemics.

How the ACLU fell from those traditional and vital civil liberties positions to urging this week in The New York Times that “far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,” is anyone’s guess. But what is beyond doubt is that it is a far fall indeed. And most of all, hearing the ACLU invoke the standard rationale of authoritarians — we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions, but these rights are not absolute — is nothing short of jarring.

Update, Sept. 7, 2021, 6:58 p.m.: Shortly after publication of this article, a former ACLU lawyer, Margaret Winter, noted in response: “It was NOT just ‘prior to covid’ that ACLU denounced vaccine mandates: Read ACLU’s 2020 position paper passionately and correctly arguing that vaccine mandates ‘exacerbate racial disparities and harm the civil liberties of all.’” Winter was referencing this ACLU report, from May of 2020, that warned of the serious dangers of “immunity passports,” under which citizens who already got COVID and thus had immunity would enjoy rights not available to others:

We at the ACLU have serious concerns about the adoption of any such proposal, because of its potential to harm public health, incentivize economically-vulnerable people to risk their health by contracting COVID-19, exacerbate racial and economic disparities, and lead to a new health surveillance infrastructure that endangers privacy rights. . . . This division would likely worsen existing racial, disability, and economic disparities in America and lead people struggling to afford basic necessities to deliberately risk their health.

While such a scheme is different in degree from vaccine passports let alone vaccine mandates — which the ACLU is now championing — its rationale for opposing such a system is fully applicable: “there are serious civil liberties and civil rights harms from making workplace decisions on that basis,” adding: “any immunity passport system endangers privacy rights by creating a new surveillance infrastructure to collect health data.”

September 8, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral to require vaccine passports for entry

By Ken Macon | Reclaim The Net | September 7, 2021

The Grace Cathedral in San Francisco will soon have proof-of-vaccination as a requirement for entry. The vaccine mandate will apply to congregants and people attending other services and events at the church.

Leaders at the church said that the vaccine passport move is in line with guidance from public health officials on gatherings and events. However, churches are not required to follow the city-wide vaccine passport mandate, as there is a religious exemption in the state.

Grace Cathedral says it wants parishioners and other visitors to feel “safe,” the church leader said.

The cathedral, one of the largest Episcopal Cathedrals in the US, hosts multiple services and events, including yoga, attended by a large number of people.

Dean Malcolm Young told reporters that there has been a mixed reaction amongst parishioners about the vaccine mandate, but he feels most people support it. He added that everyone in the church should feel safe, and vaccine passports were the best way to do that.

The mandate will apply to all parishioners and visitors over the age of 12. Enforcement of the vaccine for non-church events will begin on Tuesday, September 7 and for those attending church services, the mandate will come into effect on September 29.

Political commentator Calvin Robinson, speaking on the Trans World Radio Christian network, called the decision “evil.”

“They are divisive in that they’re saying who can and who cannot attend Church and that is separating people from God, and therefore the definition of evil.”

September 7, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | | 4 Comments

This Week in the New Normal #5

OffGuardian | September 5, 2021

This Week in the New Normal  is our weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.

1. MANDATORY VACCINES FOR NHS WORKERS?

The UK’s health secretary Sajid Javid is said to be considering mandatory Covid “vaccines” for all NHS employees. Such a move could be disastrous, and likely intentionally so.

The UK already has mandatory vaccinations for carehome workers, a policy which is predicted to cause 10,000s of posts to be emptied. Almost every care facility and old person’s home in the country already has a sign out front almost begging for staff.

The same policy in the NHS would see the same results… but worse. The NHS is the biggest single employer in Europe, with over 1.3 million full-time staff. A mass exodus of even 1-5% of them would mean tens of thousands of newly unemployed. Not to mention the effect on logistics and standard of care.

To enforce this policy in the autumn, just before the winter flu surge which cripples the NHS every single year, would be an intentionally destructive act. As staff leave rather than face forced injections, patient care will suffer, people will die… and the deaths will be blamed on Covid, and the unvaccinated, despite being the predictable result of bureaucratic mismanagement.

If it goes forward, this will not be incompetence, but deliberate sabotage.

2. THE TWO FACES OF JENNIFER

Jennifer Rubin is a warmonger who writes for the Washington Post, but I repeat myself. Her out put, from Syria to Ukraine to vaccines to Trump is exactly what you’d expect from the CIA’s paper of choice.

She’s also got a beautiful example of media “liberal” doublethink for us this week.

Here is Jennifer on abortion rights in 2019:

… and here is Jennifer suggesting vague legal repercussions for refusing the Covid “vaccine”.

Yup.

Oh, and be sure to out her latest for the WaPo too, where she extolls the virtue of fear as a tool of public manipulation, demands legal mandates for vaccines for everyone, insists that funding should be cut for schools who don’t force their pupils to wear masks, and says “If eligible people insist on remaining unvaccinated, it should be increasingly difficult for them to interact with others.”

In short, she’s a monster.

3. THE DANGEROUS ILLUSION OF PARENTAL RIGHTScontinue reading

September 5, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment