Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why Not Simply Release The FISA Application?


RT  | FBI Director Christopher Wray has declined to tell the House Judiciary Committee if he was prohibited from sharing documents that would show whether the notorious Steele dossier was used to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. 

Wray was appearing before the the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, after President Donald Trump’s recent tweet that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Wray about the FBI’s possible use of the Trump–Russia dossier, also known as the Steele dossier, named after its author ex-British spy Christopher Steele. It was a document paid for by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign to be used as opposition research against Trump in 2016. It contained allegations that Trump colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 US presidential election and engaged in lewd acts. The veracity of the salacious claims in the dossier were further undermined by the revelation that Steele paid Russian sources for information pointing to collusion.

Jordan also referred to Peter Strzok, an FBI agent and former deputy head of counterintelligence who led the investigation into Clinton’s use of private emails, and reportedly recommended that former FBI director James Comey describe Clinton’s actions as “extremely careless,” rather than “grossly negligent” – a term that implies felony charges under US law. It was revealed this week that Strzok was dismissed this summer from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collaboration between Trump and Russia for sending “anti-Trump text messages.”

Jordan alleged that Strzok used the Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warrant for spying on members of the Trump team.

“My hunch is it has something to do with the dossier,” Jordan said. “Did Peter Strzok help produce and present the application to the FISA court to secure a warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign?”

Wray refused to answer, saying, “I'm not prepared to discuss anything about a FISA process in this setting.”

Jordan wouldn’t let Wary off the hook. “We're not talking about what happened in the court, we're talking about what the FBI took to the court,” he said. “The application. Was Peter Strzok involved in taking that to the court?”


Rank, Dank, and Stank Swamp Gasses Billowing Out The DOJ...,


conservativetreehouse |   However, the ongoing Dossier story gets far more intriguing as it is now discovered that Bruce G Ohr’s wife, Nellie H. Ohr, actually worked for Fusion GPS and likely helped guide/script the Russian Dossier. (Link)
Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.
But wait, it doesn’t stop there… Mrs. Nellie Ohr was not only a Fusion GPS contracted employee, but she was also part of the CIA’s Open Source Works, in Washington DC (link)

Both Mr. and Mrs Ohr worked on a collaborative group project surrounding International Organized Crime. (pdf here) Page #30 Screen Shot Below

But wait, it gets even better.

 

Deplorables Whining About the FBI Perfectly Mirrors Black Folks Complaints About the FBI


thehill |  Politifact asserts that “just because the FBI sometimes operates in secret does not mean that it’s a ‘secret police.’" But the FBI’s secrecy is profoundly skewing American politics. More than a year after the 2016 election, Americans still have no idea the true extent of the FBI's manipulation of the presidential campaign. Did the FBI wrongfully absolve Hillary Clinton on the email server issue? What role did the FBI have in financing or exploiting the Steele dossier? Will we ever learn the full truth?

The so-called fact checkers insists that any comparison of the FBI and KGB is “ridiculous” because the FBI is “subject to the rule of law and is democratically accountable.” But there is little or no accountability when few members of Congress have the courage to openly criticize or vigorously cross-examine FBI officials. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs admitted in 1971 that Congress was afraid of the FBI: “Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) ... has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny ... which is ensnaring that Constitution and Bill of Rights which we are each sworn to uphold.” The FBI is currently scorning almost every congressional attempt at oversight. Thus far, members of Congress have responded with nothing except press releases and talk show bluster. 

Politifact repeatedly scoffs at the notion that the FBI is “a secret police agency such as the old KGB.” And since the FBI is not as bad as the KGB, let’s mosey along and pretend no good citizen has a right to complain. A similar standard could exonerate any American president who was not as bad as Stalin. 

In the 1960s, some conservatives adorned their cars with “Support Your Local Sheriff” bumper stickers. How long until we see Priuses with “Support Your Secretive All-Powerful Federal Agents” bumper stickers? But those who forget or deny past oppression help forge new shackles for the American people.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Only Sixty Years Late: Nazi Designed Reactors In Space


newatlas | "The reactor technology we are testing could be applicable to multiple NASA missions, and we ultimately hope that this is the first step for fission reactors to create a new paradigm of truly ambitious and inspiring space exploration," says David Poston, Los Alamos' chief reactor designer. 
"Simplicity is essential to any first-of-a-kind engineering project – not necessarily the simplest design, but finding the simplest path through design, development, fabrication, safety and testing."

Rated at 10 kilowatts, the Kilopower reactor puts out enough power to support two average American homes and can run continuously for ten years without refueling. Instead of plutonium, it uses a solid, cast uranium 235 reactor core 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. This is surrounded by a beryllium oxide reflector with a mechanism at one end for removing and inserting a single rod of boron carbide. This rod starts and stops the reactor while the reflector catches escaping neutrons and bounces them back into the core, improving the efficiency of the self-regulating fission reaction. Until activated, the core is only mildly radioactive.

The heat from the reactor is collected and transferred using passive sodium heat pipes. These feed the heat to a set of high-efficiency Stirling engines. These are closed-loop engines that run on heat differences that cause a piston to move back and forth similar to the piston in an internal combustion engine, though with a compressible gas medium instead of an exploding mixture of petrol and air. This cools the reactor via a radiator umbrella as well as powering a dynamo to generate electricity.

The design is modular, so the self-contained reactor units can be hooked together to provide as much power as needed, whether it's a deep space probe or a Martian outpost. According to Lee Mason, STMD's principal technologist for Power and Energy Storage at NASA Headquarters, the technology is "agnostic" to its environment, allowing it a wide range of applications.

The Kilopower project is currently working toward a full-power test lasting about 28 hours. From there, NASA hopes to move to a test in space, but the Nevada tests are more of a breadboard test in a vacuum to show that the technology is feasible. 

"What we are striving to do is give space missions an option beyond RTGs, which generally provide a couple hundred watts or so, says Mason says. "The big difference between all the great things we've done on Mars, and what we would need to do for a human mission to that planet, is power. This new technology could provide kilowatts and can eventually be evolved to provide hundreds of kilowatts, or even megawatts of power. We call it the Kilopower project because it gives us a near-term option to provide kilowatts for missions that previously were constrained to use less. But first things first, and our test program is the way to get started."

Disclosure Week? .45 Signed To Put Boots Back On The Lunar Ground



spacenews |  A White House schedule of the president’s activities, released late Dec. 10, includes a 3 p.m. Eastern “signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive 1.” The schedule didn’t provide additional details about the event or the document, but a White House official later confirmed that the directive is linked to human space exploration policy.

“The president, today, will sign Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) that directs the NASA Administrator to lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in an statement Dec. 11.

The directive, Gidley said, was prompted by initial work of the National Space Council, which was reconstituted by the president in a June 30 executive order and held its first public meeting Oct. 5. “The president listened to the National Space Council’s recommendations and he will change our nation’s human spaceflight policy to help America become the driving force for the space industry, gain new knowledge from the cosmos, and spur incredible technology,” he said.

The event will coincide with the 45th anniversary of the last crewed mission to land on the moon. The Apollo 17 lunar lander touched down on the moon on Dec. 11, 1972. Statements from administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, has have made clear their interest in human lunar missions.

“We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said at the first meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council Oct. 5 at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

Pence, at that meeting, directed NASA to provide a 45-day report on plans to carry out such missions. “The Council is going to need the whole team at NASA to work with the Office of Management and Budget to provide the president with a recommended plan to fill that policy,” Pence told NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot at the meeting.

Lightfoot, speaking at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council Dec. 7, said the agency had delivered a version of the report on those plans to the Council. “We continue to work with the Space Council on that action, and they’re reviewing the preliminary draft of that now,” he said. “Once that report becomes more final, we’ll share more information.”

Disclosure Week? What Is NASA Going To Announce On Thursday?




It has said only that it will brief the press on Thursday and that the discovery has been made by the Kepler space telescope. It also said that Google has been involved in the breakthrough discovery.

But beyond that it said very little. Still, some clues give us a little insight into what the major announcement might be about to actually reveal.

Perhaps the strangest and most mysterious thing about the announcement – at least, beyond what the announcement actually is – is the fact that Google is involved.

"The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google," the otherwise mysterious and not very detailed announcement reads. "Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analysing Kepler data."

Nasa and Google haven't talked about this focus on machine learning much before, so it's not clear how exactly it's being used and to what purpose. But we can have a decent guess: Google is expert at using artificial intelligence to find patterns and learn like a human, and it's probably using the technology to sort through the data being sent by Kepler to pick out things that are of interest.

Disclosure Week? Is Oumuamua Giving Off Radio Signals?


TheAtlantic | The email about “a most peculiar object” in the solar system arrived in Yuri Milner’s inbox last week.

Milner, the Russian billionaire behind Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, had already heard about the peculiar object. ‘Oumuamua barreled into view in October, the first interstellar object seen in our solar system.

Astronomers around the world chased after the mysterious space rock with their telescopes, collecting as much data as they could as it sped away. Their observations revealed a truly unusual object with puzzling properties. Scientists have long predicted an interstellar visitor would someday coast into our corner of the universe, but not something like this.

“The more I study this object, the more unusual it appears, making me wonder whether it might be an artificially made probe which was sent by an alien civilization,” Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department and one of Milner’s advisers on Breakthrough Listen, wrote in the email to Milner.

A day later, Milner’s assistant summoned Loeb to Milner’s home in Palo Alto. They met there this past Saturday to talk about ‘Oumuamua, a Hawaiian word for “messenger.” Loeb ran through the space rock’s peculiarities, particularly its elongated shape, like a cigar or needle—an odd shape for a common space rock, but ideal for a ship cruising through interstellar space.

For Milner, the object was becoming too intriguing to ignore. So he’s decided to take a closer look.
Breakthrough Listen announced Monday that the program will start checking ‘Oumuamua this week for signs of radio signals using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The interstellar asteroid is now about twice the distance between the Earth and the sun from our planet, moving at a brisk clip of 38.3 kilometers per second. At this close distance, Green Bank can detect the faintest frequencies. It would take the telescope less than a minute to pick up something as faint as the radio waves from a cellphone. If ‘Oumuamua is sending signals, we’ll hear them.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Moral Dependency: #ThatAss = Truth Every Time


motherjones |  Later in the review, Magnet summarizes The Dream and the Nightmare, which he wrote in the 90s:
In that book, I argued that the counterculture’s remaking of mainstream white American culture in the 1960s — the sexual revolution; the fling with drugs…the belief that in racist America, the criminal was really the victim of society…[etc.] — all these attitudes that devalued traditional mainstream values trickled down from young people and their teachers in the universities, to the media, to the mainstream Protestant churches, to the ed schools, to the high schools, and finally to American culture at large.
And when these attitudes made their way to the ghetto, they destigmatized and validated the already-existing disproportionate illegitimacy, drug use, crime, school dropout, non-work, and welfare dependency there, and caused the rate of all these pathologies to skyrocket startlingly in the 1960s and beyond.
….Aghast at the minority-crime explosion that rocked not just the ghettoes but much of urban America, voters began electing officials, especially in New York, who believed that the real victim of a crime was the victim, not the criminal — who ought to be arrested and jailed — and crime fell accordingly.
In other words, blacks today have no cause to blame their troubles on anyone but themselves. Unless they want to blame it on lefty counterculture. This is pretty putrid stuff, and I don’t feel like taking it on right now. Instead, I’m going to change the subject so suddenly you might get whiplash.

Here we go: it’s hardened beliefs like this that make it so hard for many people to accept the lead-crime hypothesis that I’ve written about frequently and at length. A lot of teen pathologies did start to skyrocket in the 60s, but the primary cause was almost certainly lead poisoning. Certainly lead was the proximate cause of increases in crime, teen pregnancy, and school dropout rates. And these effects were more pronounced among blacks than whites, because blacks lived disproportionately in areas with high levels of lead. The opposite is true too: the decline in these pathologies starting in the 90s was due to the phaseout of lead in gasoline.


In theory, none of this should be too hard to accept. The evidence is strong, and given what we know about the effects of lead on brain development, it makes perfect sense. In practice, though, if lead poisoning was the primary cause of the increase in various pathologies in the 60s and beyond, then the counterculture wasn’t. And if the phaseout of leaded gasoline was responsible for the subsequent decline, then the EPA gets the credit, not tough-on-crime policies. And that can’t be tolerated.

On the left, the problems are similar. Liberals tend to dislike “essentialist” explanations of things like crime rates because that opens the door to noxious arguments that blacks are biologically more crime prone than whites. As it happens, lead poisoning isn’t truly an essentialist explanation, but for many it’s too close for comfort. And anyway, liberals have their own explanations for the crime wave of the 60s: poverty, racism, easy availability of guns, and so forth.

Coonius Octoroonius Could Not Endure Facial Emotion-Reading AI


nydailynews |  Campaigning against Alabama’s lightning-rod Senate candidate Roy Moore, a leading Democrat called on President Trump to resign over sexual harassment claims several women have made against him.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) made the comments at a weekend campaign appearance in Alabama for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who is locked in a tight race against Moore, the Republican nominee facing his own allegations of sexually abusing minor girls.

“I just watched Sen. Al Franken (inset left) do the honorable thing and resign from his office,” Booker told Vice News. “My question is, why isn’t Donald Trump doing the same thing — who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward.”

Franken (D-Minn.) announced Thursday he would be resigning from the Senate in the “coming weeks” after eight women accused him of either groping or trying to kiss them.

breitbart |   Booker’s efforts to push inaccurate information about both Moore and Trump—and his decision to use a Jones campaign event to call for Trump’s resignation as president of the United States—only serve to undermine Jones’ efforts to win the election in Alabama. Jones has already had a tough time claiming he is a moderate who can work with Republicans, and he is literally running television ads right now claiming he is not a radical leftist Democrat, despite his record on the issues.

But when his surrogates are pushing for President Trump’s removal from office—and they consider this election a referendum on whether Trump should remain president—it makes it much easier for Moore to publicly support Trump’s agenda and note that Jones is a radical leftist who will oppose the president at every turn. It also helps President Trump’s criticisms of Jones on the issues, for which he has many, and Trump’s call for Alabamians to back Moore for the Senate resonate further in Alabama.

Booker may have just blown whatever slim chance Jones has left, and if Moore does end up pulling through and winning on Tuesday as expected now, Booker may have just handed the moral high ground back to Trump and Moore and the anti-establishment by making this a referendum on Trump’s presidency.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#ExcitedPeasants Hot Breath Masks Terror Of The Real Abomination


NYTimes  |  It’s a legitimate observation. It’s also a dead end. Turnabout may be fair play, but it’s foul morality. It’s also foolish politics. Mirroring the ugliness of white nationalists and the alt-right just gives them the ammunition that they want and need.

Which is precisely what some fevered activists at Evergreen State College did when they shouted down a white biology professor and the school’s white president, who stood there as one woman screamed: “Whiteness is the most violent system to ever breathe.” (I deleted the profanity between “violent” and “system.”)

It’s what an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware did with a Facebook post saying that Otto Warmbier — the American student who was imprisoned in North Korea, came home comatose and died soon after — “got exactly what he deserved.” The professor wrote that like other “young, white, rich, clueless white males” in the United States, Warmbier thought “he could get away with whatever he wanted.”

Meanwhile a professor at Trinity College in Hartford used his Facebook page to post an incendiary story about the Republican lawmakers who found themselves under gunfire on an Alexandria, Va., baseball field. Its headline included the language “let them die,” a phrase that the professor also folded into a hashtag accompanying a subsequent Facebook post.

Thanks in large part to social media, which incentivizes invective and then magnifies it, our conversations coarsen. Our compasses spin out of whack. We descend to the lowest common denominator, becoming what we supposedly abhor. I’m regularly stunned by the cruelty that’s mistaken for cleverness and the inhumanity that’s confused with conviction.


Next Up: Ekmanized Pre-Cog Face-Reading AI...,

https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/emogifs/map.html


berkeley |  Using novel statistical models to analyze the responses of more than 800 men and women to over 2,000 emotionally evocative video clips, UC Berkeley researchers identified 27 distinct categories of emotion and created a multidimensional, interactive map to show how they’re connected.

Their findings are published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

“We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video,” said study senior author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and expert on the science of emotions.

Moreover, in contrast to the notion that each emotional state is an island, the study found that “there are smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration,” Keltner said.

“We don’t get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected,” said study lead author Alan Cowen, a doctoral student in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. “Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought.”

“Our hope is that our findings will help other scientists and engineers more precisely capture the emotional states that underlie moods, brain activity and expressive signals, leading to improved psychiatric treatments, an understanding of the brain basis of emotion and technology responsive to our emotional needs,” he added.

Collective Intelligence Will Solve Identity Politics The Way The Internet Solved Racism...,


nautil.us |  A more optimistic view would expect us to learn the cultural habits of being part of a collective intelligence—better able to share, listen, or take turns. It would hope too that we can learn the wisdom to cope with opposites—to understand suspicion as necessary for truth, fear for hope, and surveillance for freedom.

It’s tempting to link possible future evolutions of collective intelligence to what we already know of evolution. John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmary offered one of the best summaries of these processes when they described the eight main transitions in the evolution of complexity in life. These were the shift from chromosomes to multicellular organisms, prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, plants to animals, and simple to sexual reproduction. Every transition involved a new form of cooperation and interdependence (so that things that before the transition could replicate independently, afterward could only replicate as “part of a larger whole”), and new kinds of communication, ways of both storing and transmitting information.

It’s entirely plausible that future evolutions of intelligence will have comparable properties—with new forms of cooperation and interdependence along with new ways of handling communication that bring with them deeper understanding of both the outer as well as inner world. The idea of an evolution of consciousness is both obvious and daunting. It is obvious that consciousness does evolve and can in the future. But social science fears speculation, and much that has been written on this theme is either abstract or empty. We see in films and novels visions of machines with dramatically enhanced capacities to calculate, observe, and respond. They may be benign or malign (they’re more interesting when they are evil), but we can grasp their implications when we see them scanning emotions on faces, shooting down swarms of attacking missiles, or manipulating complex networks to direct people.

#ThatAss Works Objectively! Accept No Substitutes...,



NewYorker |  Still, the force works selectively. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” said Franken, referring to Donald Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country.

That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of—and in clear reaction to—genuine moral depravity on the other side. The Trump era is one of deep and open immorality in politics. Moore is merely one example. Consider Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won his congressional race earlier this year after not only being captured on tape shoving a newspaper reporter but then also lying to police about it. Consider the tax bill, which is stitched together from shameless greed and boldface lies. Consider the series of racist travel bans. Consider the withdrawal from a series of international agreements aimed at bettering the future of humanity, from migration to climate change to cultural preservation. These are men who proclaim their allegiance to the Christian faith while acting in openly hateful, duplicitous, and plainly murderous ways. In response to this unbearable spectacle, the roughly half of Americans who are actually deeply invested in thinking of themselves as good people are trying to claim a moral high ground. The urge to do so by policing sex is not surprising. As Susan Sontag pointed out more than half a century ago, Christianity has “concentrated on sexual behavior as the root of virtue” and, consequently, “everything pertaining to sex has been a ‘special case’ in our culture.”

 

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Pank Wymyn Systematically Destroyed Shame..., Too Bad!


NYTimes |  “I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

This irony reveals the limits of the #MeToo movement. This week, Time magazine named those who’ve spoken out against sexual harassment — collectively called “The Silence Breakers” — as its Person of the Year. “When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former ‘Today’ show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door,” the cover article says. In truth, however, this new door is open for only some people — those whose harassers are either personally or professionally susceptible to shame.

Since October, when the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was outed as a serial sexual predator and shunned by the social worlds he once ruled, an astonishing number of powerful and famous men have been fired and disgraced. It sometimes feels as if we’re in the midst of a cultural revolution where the toll of sexual harassment on women’s lives and ambitions will finally be reckoned with. 

But the revolution is smaller than it first appears. So far, it has been mostly confined to liberal-leaning sectors like entertainment, the media, academia, Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party. It hasn’t rocked the Republicans, corporate America or Wall Street — with some exceptionsbecause these realms are less responsive to feminist pressure.

Harold Ford Jr. Clipped For Being An Overpriced Underperforming Token


CNBC |  Finally, it's important to remember that the actions that constituted serious misconduct several years ago are not the same as they are now. The resignations of Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Trent Franks on Thursday seem to be much more the result of something closer to a new zero-tolerance policy on harassment and lower-level assault.

That doesn't excuse Franken, Franks, Ford or anyone else recently ensnared in this wave of scandals. And there's a lot to be said for holding our elected leaders to a much higher standard on this issue. But it's also fair to say that Wall Street may have only purged itself from the most egregious examples of bad behavior toward women based on standards from the 1990s or even the early 2000s.

That's the assessment financial journalist Susan Antilla, author of the groundbreaking book, "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles that Exposed Wall Street's Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment." Antilla has recently spoken out about how she believes Wall Street has made strides to battle harassment over the past two decades, but adds that bias still very much exists. 

In a world where sitting senators and congressmen can be forced out in a matter of days over unproven allegations, that means Wall Street is still very vulnerable. This is something everyone from the lawyers fighting for Goldman Sachs in federal court to the H.R. departments at every other big firm need to realize.

Getting back to Ford, it's important to note he isn't going quietly. "I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life," Ford said in a statement released Thursday. In an even more telling comment, a lawyer for Ford said that, "Morgan Stanley has still not told Harold directly of his termination, and unlike every other circumstance I've been in, the company has refused to provide me with a reason. This all demonstrates how this was a matter of convenience during a hyper-sensitive time and not based on real facts."

Those comments stand as very strong proof that rules are already starting to change on Wall Street. If the standards for Ford are extended industry wide, expect a dozen or so managing partners and higher-level executives to be ousted in the coming year. 

Once the dust settles from those firings and resignations, Wall Street will have to join Congress, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Main Street in a major re-evaluation of its workplace rules. Anyone who thinks we're even halfway through this process is fooling themselves. 

SMDH@Creepy Old Harelips Tryna Bust...,


CNN | What did Franks do, you ask? Let's let Franks tell you himself. Here's an excerpt from his statement announcing his resignation:

"Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.
 
"I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."
 
Um, what?
 
So, here's how the Franks statement -- in meticulous detail -- casts how this whole thing came about:
1. He and his wife had problems conceiving and carrying a baby to term. (Franks notes in the statement his wife had three miscarriages.)
2. Eventually they found a woman to be a surrogate. That woman gave birth to twins.
3. He and his wife wanted more children. So did their kids. ("We continued to have a desire to have at least one additional sibling, for which our children had made repeated requests," writes Franks.)
4. He discussed the possibility of surrogacy with two women who worked for him.
 
Simple enough!
 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Still Not A Peep From The MSM On Trump Israel Collusion...,


theintercept |  The Trump transition team — in the form of key Trump advisers Kushner and Flynn — reached out to the Russian government in order to undermine the U.S. government because the Israeli government asked them to.

Where’s the outrage? How is the sheer “scope and audacity” of the Trump-Netanyahu backchannels — to quote one U.S. official who spoke to me on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on this issue — not a bigger story? For a start, as University of Chicago law professors Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner argued in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, the much-mocked Logan Act of 1799 remains “a serious criminal statute that bars citizens from undermining the foreign policy actions of the sitting president.” These two legal scholars point out that “if Mr. Flynn violated the Logan Act, then so did the ‘very senior’ official who directed his actions. If that official is Mr. Kushner, then Mr. Kushner could go to jail.”

Then there is the issue of Middle East policy itself. It wasn’t outsourced to the Israelis by Trump and Co. only during the transition or only over settlements. The outsourcing has continued in office. Tomorrow, Trump is expected to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — another key Israeli demand that every single previous president, Republican and Democrat, has resisted. The decision on Jerusalem is so contentious that it both undermines any chance of reviving the peace process and threatens to cost lives — not just those of Israelis and Palestinians, but of Americans too.

One Casket-Ready, Useless Old Sac of Pus Down, Four Hundred Thirty Four Left To Go....,


thesoundingline |  The logical next question that sprung to mind was:  “how has the average age of members of Congress changed since its inception?”

The cynic might suspect that, in addition to being increasingly disliked and out of touch, Congress may be getting increasingly old. It should come as little surprise that that is exactly the case. The two charts below show the average age of serving members of the House of Representatives and the Senate every year since 1789 (the few members whose birth dates are unknown were excluded).  Both charts show the unmistakable trend toward an older and older Congress. Remarkably, the average age in the House of Representatives has surged from around 52 in 1995 to its all-time high of nearly 60 today and the average age in the Senate is even higher at nearly 65.

It would be baseless to say that seniority, and the experience that it brings, should be viewed negatively across the board as there have been great leaders much older than 65. Yet, when taken within the context of Congress’s dismal approval rating, the overwhelming feeling of Americans that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and the fact that members of Congress are serving for longer and longer, the aging of Congress does not seem emblematic of a healthy institution. To the contrary, it seems symptomatic of an insular and out of step group that is failing to create a relevant vision for America.

In nearly all ways: technological, social, and economical, we are living in a rapidly changing world. It seems that perhaps the only thing that isn’t changing is the people’s representation in Congress.


One Long-Winded, Expendable Gasbag Down, Only Ninety Nine Left To Go...,


thesoundingline |  Perhaps most principle on the list of grievances against Congress is the sentiment that they simply don’t get anything done. Any bill, no matter how routine, is hijacked by an increasingly insular, partisan, and corrupt political class. Bills are so full of divergent add-ons, riders, and pet projects that they become so long that it is often physically impossible for any single person to read them before the vote is held. If one could read them, it would be impossible to reconcile the opposing elements of the bill to permit anything resembling a principled vote. It has often been said that it is the fate of republics to devolve into oligarchies as power is consolidated by a few corrupt families who hold it for too long.

This begs the following question whose answer may explain the increasingly insular, partisan, and unproductive nature of Congress. Are members of Congress trending to serving longer terms?
To answer that question, we have compiled a database of every member of Congress every year since 1789. Using this database it is possible to determine, for every year, the number of years each member of Congress had previously served.

Having accounted for the careers of over 13,000 Congress men and women, over a period of 227 years, we are able to chart the average years served, or ‘tenure’, of the House of Representatives and the Senate every year from 1789 until today.

As you might suspect, and as the charts below testify, there has been an unmistakable trend towards Representatives and Senators serving more and more terms. Until the start of the 20th century, the average years served in the House was typically less than four years, equivalent to about two terms. After that, the average tenure started to rise dramatically, hitting a high of 12 years or six terms in 2008. The Senate follows a similar trend going from four to five years (a single term is six years) for the first 100 plus years of American history to a high of about 15 years (nearly three terms) in 2008.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Peasants Will Be Matched and Bred Via eHarmony and 23andMe...,


DailyMail |   Location-based apps like Tinder have transformed the dating world.
But how will technology help us find Mr or Mrs Right 25 years from now?

According to a new report, the future of romance could lie in virtual reality, wearable technology and DNA matching.

These technologies are set to take the pain out of dating by saving single people time and effort, while giving them better matches, according to the research.

Students from Imperial College London were commissioned by relationship website eHarmony.co.uk to produce a report on what online dating and relationships could look like by 2040.

They put together a report based on analysis of how people's lifestyle habits have evolved over the past 100 years.

3-D Printed, WiFi Connected, No Electronics...,


Washington |  Imagine a bottle of laundry detergent that can sense when you’re running low on soap — and automatically connect to the internet to place an order for more.

University of Washington researchers are the first to make this a reality by 3-D printing plastic objects and sensors that can collect useful data and communicate with other WiFi-connected devices entirely on their own.

With CAD models that the team is making available to the public, 3-D printing enthusiasts will be able to create objects out of commercially available plastics that can wirelessly communicate with other smart devices. That could include a battery-free slider that controls music volume, a button that automatically orders more cornflakes from Amazon or a water sensor that sends an alarm to your phone when it detects a leak.

“Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3-D printer at home and can send useful information to other devices,” said co-lead author and UW electrical engineering doctoral student Vikram Iyer. “But the big challenge is how do you communicate wirelessly with WiFi using only plastic? That’s something that no one has been able to do before.”

The system is described in a paper presented Nov. 30 at the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia.

3-D Printed Living Tattoos


MIT |  MIT engineers have devised a 3-D printing technique that uses a new kind of ink made from genetically programmed living cells.

The cells are engineered to light up in response to a variety of stimuli. When mixed with a slurry of hydrogel and nutrients, the cells can be printed, layer by layer, to form three-dimensional, interactive structures and devices.

The team has then demonstrated its technique by printing a “living tattoo” — a thin, transparent patch patterned with live bacteria cells in the shape of a tree. Each branch of the tree is lined with cells sensitive to a different chemical or molecular compound. When the patch is adhered to skin that has been exposed to the same compounds, corresponding regions of the tree light up in response.

The researchers, led by Xuanhe Zhao, the Noyce Career Development Professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Timothy Lu, associate professor of biological engineering and of electrical engineering and computer science, say that their technique can be used to fabricate “active” materials for wearable sensors and interactive displays. Such materials can be patterned with live cells engineered to sense environmental chemicals and pollutants as well as changes in pH and temperature.

What’s more, the team developed a model to predict the interactions between cells within a given 3-D-printed structure, under a variety of conditions. The team says researchers can use the model as a guide in designing responsive living materials.

Zhao, Lu, and their colleagues have published their results today in the journal Advanced Materials. The paper’s co-authors are graduate students Xinyue Liu, Hyunwoo Yuk, Shaoting Lin, German Alberto Parada, Tzu-Chieh Tang, Eléonore Tham, and postdoc Cesar de la Fuente-Nunez.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

It's Koch/Pompeo Spearheading Anti-Deep State Mercenary Security Worldwide


See, I thought global private "security" would be part of Rex Tillerson's portfolio, but evidently Exxon is compromised on multiple fronts and multiple levels: 


theintercept |   Prince told a top fundraiser that Maguire was working on part of his Afghanistan plan, characterizing it as the first part of a multi-pronged program. The fundraiser added that Prince never directly asked him for money. But sources close to the project say Maguire did seek private funding for Amyntor’s efforts until a CIA contract materialized. “They’ve been going around asking for a bridge loan to float their operations until the CIA says yes,” said a person who has been briefed on the fundraising efforts.

Beginning last spring and into the summer, Maguire and a group of Amyntor representatives began asking Trump donors to support their intelligence efforts in Afghanistan, the initial piece of what they hoped would be a broader program. Some Trump fundraisers were asked to provide introductions to companies and wealthy clients who would then hire Amyntor for economic intelligence contracts. Maguire explained that some of the profit from those business deals would fund their foreign intelligence collection. Others were asked to give money outright.

“[Maguire] said there were people inside the CIA who joined in the previous eight years [under Obama] and inside the government, and they were failing to give the president the intelligence he needed,” said a person who was pitched by Maguire and other Amyntor personnel. To support his claim, Maguire told at least two people that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, in coordination with a top official at the National Security Agency, authorized surveillance of Steven Bannon and Trump family members, including Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. Adding to these unsubstantiated claims, Maguire told the potential donors he also had evidence McMaster used a burner phone to send information gathered through the surveillance to a facility in Cyprus owned by George Soros.

Amyntor employees took potential donors to a suite in the Trump Hotel in Washington, which they claimed was set up to conduct “secure communications.” Some White House staff and Trump campaign supporters came to refer to the suite as “the tinfoil room,” according to one person who visited the suite. This account was confirmed by another source to whom the room was described. “John [Maguire] was certain that the deep state was going to kick the president out of office within a year,” said a person who discussed it with Maguire. “These guys said they were protecting the president.”

Maguire and others at Amyntor have boasted that they have already sent intelligence reports to Pompeo.

Cruelty Is The American Way


Counterpunch |  With the Senate and House all but assured to pass the $4.5 trillion in tax cuts for businesses, investors, and the wealthiest 1% households by the end of this week, phases two and three of the Trump-Republican fiscal strategy have begun quickly to take shape.

Phase two is to maneuver the inept Democrats in Congress into passing a temporary budget deficit-debt extension in order to allow the tax cuts to be implemented quickly. That’s already a ‘done deal’.

Phase three is the drumbeat growing to attack social security, medicare, food stamps, medicaid, and other ‘safety net’ laws, in order to pay for the deficit created by cutting taxes on the rich. A whole new set of lies are resurrected and being peddled by the media and pro-business pundits and politicians.

Counterpunch |  Pay no attention to the ongoing palace intrigue. Mueller’s investigation will at most act as a speed bump of sorts. Don’t mistake symptoms for the disease. Should the President or one of his minions be dismissed they will almost certainly be replaced by another donor class proxy. There’s no shortage of political mercenaries (in either party) willing to ply us with carefully crafted distortion.

Despite internecine squabbles the majority of lawmakers in congress can all agree on more military spending, more surveillance, more money for corporate executives… and less for everyone else. And so a parade of talking heads trot out the usual pleasant fiction about trickle-down economics. And it is fiction. Corporate leaders have openly conceded they have no intention of creating jobs or raising wages with money attained through tax cuts. They’re simply going to take it and pass it on to their shareholders.

This is what happens when business interests call the shots. Society ends up in a place where three oligarchs own as much as the bottom half of society and allegations of Russian “interference” somehow overshadow the reality of a billion dollar presidential race which is funded heavily by concentrated sources of private power.

Counterpunch |  By associating success (e.g. physical, emotional, financial, etc.) with evolutionary value, this ideology ignores historical structures of power and inequality and distorts the public’s understanding of their true conditions.

When people come to believe individuals’ conditions are determined solely by their genetics, or by how hard they fight to survive, impoverished people are seen as lacking the abilities or motivation to reach a privileged place in society, while privileged people are seen as having the abilities which brought them their success.

The origin and history of this phrase, which understandably misleads people, explains why there is this deep-seeded psychological inclination to equate “fittest” to the best.

The phrase is often and incorrectly attributed to the father of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, and though Darwin did use this language later in his life, the phrase was actually coined by Herbert Spencer — an English philosopher, sociologist, and social Darwinism’s most enthusiastic proponent.
Spencer believed that Darwin’s biologic theory of evolution could be applied to society, arguing that social transformation was a progressive process leading to more perfect human beings and social formations. He claimed that if people should struggle or die because of their conditions, it was because they were not biologically fit enough to achieve a better position in life.

“The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better … If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die” [10]. He used this system of thought to theorize about the evolutionary benefits of warfare and to justify a laissez faire approach to the economy as well.

Prominent American philosophers, theologians, scientists, and politicians espoused and popularized Spencer’s ideas. Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was the richest man in America, and Edward Youmans, the founder of the magazine Popular Science, were among his American admirers. “Successful business entrepreneurs apparently accepted almost by instinct the Darwinian terminology which seemed to portray the conditions of their existence.” [6]

Countless instances of social Darwinist messaging can still be observed in our media. Publications like The Economist (where Spencer was once an editor), The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, provide examples of this.

Lotta Restless Unemployed Killers Out'Chere Yo!


theintercept  |  The White House press secretary did not directly dispute the revelation that Blackwater founder Erik Prince and former Iran-Contra figure Oliver North pitched a plan to develop a private spy network to members of the Trump administration.

The plan, detailed in a story broken by The Intercept on Monday, is to develop a private intelligence network to counter perceived “deep state” enemies within the ranks of government. Prince denied the report, and North did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

“I’m not aware of any plans for something of that definition or anything similar to that at this time,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in response to a question from CBS News’s Major Garrett about the story.

Garrett followed up to ask if President Donald Trump “would be opposed” to an outside spy network operating on his behalf. Sanders said she was unaware.

Garrett asked to Sanders to confirm whether any administration official had been briefed on such a network.

“I’m not going to answer some random hypothetical. Did some random person off the street come in and say something? I don’t know,” Sanders said.

And finally, Garrett asked if it was an idea Trump would consider.

“Again, I haven’t asked him, but its not something that’s currently in the works,” Sanders replied.

A White House official later told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that the proposal was indeed pitched to the Trump administration, but that there is no sign the president himself was briefed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Russiagate Conspiracy Theorists Don't Scrutinize Power, They Protect It!


medium |  Lately I’ve been getting a lot more accusations of being a Kremlin agent and questions about my motives and agendas in response to my writings and far fewer actual arguments against the content of my writing, as well as demands that I stop arguing with this Russiagate thing and move on to writing about other matters. I’ll tell you what: I’ll stop writing about the Russiagate lies when they stop happening, how’s that sound? If you foam-brained pussyhat-wearing cultists are going to keep using lies to inadvertently manufacture support for America’s new cold war escalations, the least I can do is try to throw a monkey wrench in it.

If Russiagate was legit, the people responsible for selling it to us wouldn’t have to come up with new lies about it constantly. There are many very real dangers of the Trump administration that we can focus on without fanning the flames of world-threatening tensions between two nuclear superpowers based on lies, and the longer we spend fighting over this crap the more of those dangers manifest unnoticed.

Russiagaters are the very worst kind of conspiracy theorist, and as long as they’re imperiling my world with their complicity in the manipulations of the US power establishment I’m going to keep fighting them. Get used to it.

From ‘Russia-Gate’ to ‘Israel-Gate’


unz |  Reading the mainstream media headlines relating to the flipping of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to provide evidence relating to the allegations about Russian interference in America’s last presidential election requires the suspension of one’s cognitive processes. Ignoring completely what had actually occurred, the “Russian story” with its subset of “getting Trump” was on display all through the weekend, both in the print and on the live media.
 
Flynn’s guilty plea is laconic, merely admitting that he had lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about what was said during two telephone conversations with then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, but there is considerable back story that emerged after the plea became public.

The two phone calls in question include absolutely nothing about possible collusion with Russia to change the outcome of the U.S. election, which allegedly was the raison d’etre behind the creation of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel office in the first place. Both took place more than a month after the election and both were initiated by the Americans involved. I am increasingly convinced that Mueller ain’t got nuthin’ but this process will grind out interminably and the press will be hot on the trail until there is nowhere else to go.

Based on the information revealed regarding the two conversations, and, unlike the highly nuance-sensitive editors working for the mainstream media, this is the headline that I would have written for a featured article based on what I consider to be important: “Israel Colluded with Incoming Trump Team to Subvert U.S. Foreign Policy,” with a possible subheading “FBI Entraps National Security Adviser.”

Russiagate The Excuse For Stifling U.S. Dissent


consortiumnews |  So, where are independent-minded Western journalists to turn if their stories critical of the U.S. government and corporations are suppressed?

The imperative is to get these stories out – and Russian media has provided an opening for some. This has presented a new problem for the plutocracy. The suppression of critical news in their corporate-owned media is no longer working if it’s seeping out in Russian media (and through some dissident Western news sites on the Internet).

The solution has been to brand the content of the Russian television network, RT, as “propaganda” since it presents facts and viewpoints that most Americans have been kept from hearing. But just because these views – many coming from Americans and other Westerners – are not what you commonly hear on the U.S. mainstream media doesn’t make them “propaganda” that must be stigmatized and silenced.

As a Russian-government-financed English-language news channel, RT also gives a Russian perspective on the news, the way CNN and The New York Times give an American perspective and the BBC a British one. American mainstream journalists, from my experience, arrogantly deny suppressing news and believe they present a universal perspective, rather than a narrow American view of the world.

The viewpoints of Iranians, Palestinians, Russians, North Koreans and others are never fully reported in the Western media although the supposed mission of journalism is to help citizens understand a frighteningly complex world from multiple points of view. It’s impossible to do so without those voices included. Routinely or systematically shutting them out also dehumanizes people in those countries, making it easier to gain popular support to go to war against them.

Russia is scapegoated by charging that RT or Sputnik are sowing divisions in the U.S. by focusing on issues like homelessness, racism, or out-of-control militarized police forces, as if these divisive issues didn’t already exist. The U.S. mainstream media also seems to forget that the U.S. government has engaged in at least 70 years of interference in other countries’ elections, foreign invasions, coups, planting stories in foreign media and cyber-warfare.

Now, these American transgressions are projected onto Moscow. There’s also a measure of self-reverence in this for “successful” people with a stake in an establishment that underpins the elite, demonstrating how wonderfully democratic they are compared to those ogres in Russia.
The overriding point about the “Russian propaganda” complaint is that when America’s democratic institutions, including the press and the electoral process, are crumbling under the weight of corruption that the American elites have created or maintained, someone else needs to be blamed. Russia is both an old and a new scapegoat.

The Jan. 6 intelligence assessment on alleged Russian election meddling is a good example of how this works. A third of its content is an attack on RT for “undermining American democracy” by reporting on Occupy Wall Street, the protest over the Dakota pipeline and, of all things, holding a “third party candidate debates.”

According to the Jan. 6 assessment, RT’s offenses include reporting that “the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’” RT also “highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.” In other words, reporting on newsworthy events and allowing third-party candidates to express their opinions undermine democracy.

The report also says all this amounts to “a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest,” but it should be noted those protests by dissatisfied Americans are against privileges of the wealthy and the well-connected, a status quo that the intelligence agencies routinely protect.

There are also deeper reasons why Russia is being targeted. The Russia-gate story fits neatly into a geopolitical strategy that long predates the 2016 election. Since Wall Street and the U.S. government lost the dominant position in Russia that existed under the pliable President Boris Yeltsin, the strategy has been to put pressure on getting rid of Putin to restore a U.S. friendly leader in Moscow. There is substance to Russia’s concerns about American designs for “regime change” in the Kremlin.

Moscow sees an aggressive America expanding NATO and putting 30,000 NATO troops on its borders; trying to overthrow a secular ally in Syria with terrorists who threaten Russia itself; backing a coup in Ukraine as a possible prelude to moves against Russia; and using American NGOs to foment unrest inside Russia before they were forced to register as foreign agents. Russia wants Americans to see this perspective.

Tell Truth, Risk Consequences...,


theatlantic  |  Little distinguishes democracy in America more sharply from Europe than the primacy—and permissiveness—of our commitment to free speech. Yet ongoing controversies at American universities suggest that free speech is becoming a partisan issue. While conservative students defend the importance of inviting controversial speakers to campus and giving offense, many self-identified liberals are engaged in increasingly disruptive, even violent, efforts to shut them down. Free speech for some, they argue, serves only to silence and exclude others. Denying hateful or historically “privileged” voices a platform is thus necessary to make equality effective, so that the marginalized and vulnerable can finally speak up—and be heard.

The reason that appeals to the First Amendment cannot decide these campus controversies is because there is a more fundamental conflict between two, very different concepts of free speech at stake. The conflict between what the ancient Greeks called isegoria, on the one hand, and parrhesia, on the other, is as old as democracy itself. Today, both terms are often translated as “freedom of speech,” but their meanings were and are importantly distinct. In ancient Athens, isegoria described the equal right of citizens to participate in public debate in the democratic assembly; parrhesia, the license to say what one pleased, how and when one pleased, and to whom.

When it comes to private universities, businesses, or social media, the would-be censors are our fellow-citizens, not the state. Private entities like Facebook or Twitter, not to mention Yale or Middlebury, have broad rights to regulate and exclude the speech of their members. Likewise, online mobs are made up of outraged individuals exercising their own right to speak freely. To invoke the First Amendment in such cases is not a knock-down argument, it’s a non sequitur.

John Stuart Mill argued that the chief threat to free speech in democracies was not the state, but the “social tyranny” of one’s fellow citizens. And yet today, the civil libertarians who style themselves as Mill’s inheritors have for the most part failed to refute, or even address, the arguments about free speech and equality that their opponents are making.
The two ancient concepts of free speech came to shape our modern liberal democratic notions in fascinating and forgotten ways. But more importantly, understanding that there is not one, but two concepts of freedom of speech, and that these are often in tension if not outright conflict, helps explain the frustrating shape of contemporary debates, both in the U.S. and in Europe—and why it so often feels as though we are talking past each other when it comes to the things that matter most.