America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship

Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

Arriving behind the anti-Trump “resistance” and the Russia-gate “scandal” is a troubling readiness to silence dissent in the U.S., shutting down information that challenges Official Narratives…

A stark difference between today’s Washington and when I was here as a young Associated Press correspondent in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is that then – even as the old Cold War was heating up around the election of Ronald Reagan – there were prominent mainstream journalists who looked askance at the excessive demonization of the Soviet Union and doubted wild claims about the dire threats to U.S. national security from Nicaragua and Grenada.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)

Perhaps the Vietnam War was still fresh enough in people’s minds that senior editors and national reporters understood the dangers of mindless groupthink inside Official Washington, as well as the importance of healthy skepticism toward official pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community.

Today, however, I cannot think of a single prominent figure in the mainstream news media who questions any claim – no matter how unlikely or absurd – that vilifies Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country. It is all Russia-bashing all the time.

And, behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity are increasing assaults against independent and dissident journalists and news outlets outside the mainstream. We’re not just entering a New Cold War and a New McCarthyism; we’re also getting a heavy dose of old-style Orwellianism.

Sometimes you see this in individual acts like HuffingtonPost taking down a well-reported story by journalist Joe Lauria because he dared to point out that Democratic money financed the two initial elements of what’s now known as Russia-gate: the forensic examination of computers at the Democratic National Committee and the opposition research on Donald Trump conducted by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

HuffingtonPost never contacted Lauria before or after its decision to retract the story, despite a request from him for the reasons why. HuffPost editors told a BuzzFeed reporter that they were responding to reader complaints that the article was filled with factual errors but none have ever been spelled out, leaving little doubt that Lauria’s real “error” was in defying the Russia-gate groupthink of the anti-Trump Resistance. [A version of Lauria’s story appeared at Consortiumnews.com before Lauria posted it at HuffPost. If you want to sign a petition calling on HuffPost to restore Lauria’s article, click here.]

Muzzling RT

Other times, the expanding American censorship is driven by U.S. government agencies, such as the Justice Department’s demand that the Russian news outlet, RT, register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires such prompt, frequent and detailed disclosures of supposed “propaganda” that it could make it impossible for RT to continue to function in the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

This attack on RT was rationalized by the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” that was, in reality, prepared by a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. Their report included a seven-page addendum from 2012 accusing RT of spreading Russian propaganda – and apparently this Jan. 6 report must now be accepted as gospel truth, no questions permitted.

However, if any real journalist actually read the Jan. 6 report, he or she would have discovered that RT’s sinister assault on American democracy included such offenses as holding a debate among third-party candidates who were excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates in 2012. Yes, allowing Libertarians and Greens to express their points of view is a grave danger to American democracy.

Other RT “propaganda” included reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and examining the environmental dangers from “fracking,” issues that also have been widely covered by the domestic American media. Apparently, whenever RT covers a newsworthy event – even if others have too – that constitutes “propaganda,” which must be throttled to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it.

If you bother to study the Jan. 6 report’s addendum, it is hard not to conclude that these “hand-picked” analysts were either stark-raving mad or madly anti-Russian. Yet, this “Intelligence Community Assessment” is now beyond questioning unless you want to be labeled a “Kremlin stooge” or “Putin’s useful idiot.” [An earlier State Department attack on RT was equally ridiculous or demonstrably false.]

And, by the way, it was President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified under oath that the analysts from the three agencies were “hand-picked.” That means that they were analysts personally selected by Obama’s intelligence chiefs from three agencies – not “all 17” as the American public was told over and over again – and thus were not even a full representation of analysts from those three agencies. Yet, this subset of a subset is routinely described as “the U.S. intelligence community,” even after major news outlets finally had to retract their “all 17” canard.

So, the myth of the intelligence community’s consensus lives on. For instance, in an upbeat article on Tuesday about the U.S. government’s coercing RT into registering as a foreign agent, Washington Post reporters Devlin Barrett and David Filipov wrote, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the network and website push relentlessly anti-American propaganda at the behest of the Russian government.”

In the old days, even during the old Cold War and President Reagan’s ranting about “the Evil Empire,” some of us would have actually examined the Jan. 6 report’s case against RT and noted the absurdity of these claims about “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.” Whether you want to hear the views of the Greens and Libertarians or not – or whether you like “fracking” and hate Occupy Wall Street – the opportunity to hear this information doesn’t constitute “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.”

The U.S. government’s real beef with RT seems to be that it allows on air some Americans who have been blacklisted from the mainstream media – including highly credentialed former U.S. intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – because they have challenged various Official Narratives.

In other words, Americans are not supposed to hear the other side of the story on important international conflicts, such as the proxy war in Syria or the civil war in Ukraine or Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Only the State Department’s versions of those events are permitted even when those versions are themselves propagandistic if not outright false.

For example, you’re not supposed to hear about the huge holes in the Syria-sarin cases, nor about Ukraine’s post-coup regime arming neo-Nazis to kill ethnic-Russian Ukrainians, nor about Israel’s evolution into an apartheid state. All right-thinking Americans are to get only a steady diet of how righteous the U.S. government and its allies always are. Anything else is “propaganda.”

Also off limits is any thoughtful critique of that Jan. 6 report – or apparently even Clapper’s characterization of it as a product of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies. You’re not supposed to ask why other U.S. intelligence agencies with deep knowledge about Russia were excluded and why even other analysts from the three involved agencies were shut out.

No, you must always think of the Jan. 6 report as the “consensus” assessment from the entire “U.S. intelligence community.” And you must accept it as flat fact – as it now is treated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other mainstream news outlets. You shouldn’t even notice that the Jan. 6 report itself doesn’t claim that Russian election meddling was a fact. The report explains, that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

But even quoting from the Jan. 6 report might make an American reporter some kind of traitorous “Russian mole” whose journalism must be purged from “responsible” media and who should be forced to wear the journalistic equivalent of a yellow star.

The Anti-Trump/Russia Hysteria

Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.

An early shot in this war against dissenting information was fired last Thanksgiving Day when the Post published a front-page article citing an anonymous group called PropOrNot smearing 200 Internet news sites for allegedly disseminating Russian propaganda. The list included some of the most important sources of independent journalism, including Consortiumnews.com, apparently for the crime of questioning some of the State Department’s narratives on international conflicts, particularly Syria and Ukraine.

Then, with the anti-Russia hysteria building and the censorship ball rolling, Congress last December approved $160 million for think tanks and other non-governmental organizations to combat Russian propaganda. Soon, reports and studies were flying off the shelves detecting a Russian behind every article, tweet and posting that didn’t toe the State Department’s line.

The New York Times and other leading news organizations have even cheered plans for Google, Facebook and other technology companies to deploy algorithms that can hunt down, marginalize or eliminate information that establishment media deems “fake” or “propaganda.” Already Google has put together a First Draft coalition, consisting of mainstream media and establishment-approved Web sites to decide what information makes the cut and what doesn’t.

Among these arbiters of truth is the fact-check organization PolitiFact, which judged the falsehood about “all 17 intelligence agencies” signing off on the Russian “hacking” claim to be “true.” Even though the claim was never true and is now clearly established as false, PolitiFact continues to assert that this lie is the truth, apparently filled with the hubris that comes with its power over determining what is true and what is false.

But what is perhaps most troubling to me about these developments is the silence of many civil liberties advocates, liberal politicians and defenders of press freedom who might have been counted on in earlier days to object to this censorship and blackballing.

It appears that the ends of taking down Donald Trump and demonizing Vladimir Putin justify whatever means, no matter the existential danger of nuclear war with Russia or the McCarthyistic (even Orwellian) threats to freedom of speech, press and thought.

WTF Chart Of The Day: America’s Youngest Child Brides & Grooms

Between 2000 and 2015, at least 207,468 minors were married in the United States.

As Statista's Martin Armstrong notes, despite an overall fall in child marriage since 2000 (25,583 to 9,247), there are still a shocking number of young children legally married in the country. Only 14 percent married other minors, meaning 86 percent wedded an adult.

As the infographic below shows, the youngest to marry since 2000 were three ten year olds.

Infographic: America's Youngest Child Brides & Grooms | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

According to Frontline, the three girls married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in Tennessee in 2001.

While certain conditions have to be met before a minor can marry, and consent from a parent or judge is usually required, every state in the U.S. allows children to marry to some extent.

In Oregon and Nebraska, for example, the lower limit is set at 17.

In 26 states, there is no minimum age for marriage.

Ben Garrison On Mending A Fractured America

Authored by Ben Garrison via GrrrGraphics.com,

Earlier this week I was on the Jesse Lee Peterson show out of LA.

It was a short segment early in the morning and we briefly discussed the NFL kneelers. I spoke about how they offended the fans, the veterans, and US history in general. I pointed out that black Americans have just as much stake and heritage in this country as anyone else. The first person to die in the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks, a black man. There were black Minute Men. I mentioned Andrew Jackson and the black battalion that was vital in defeating the the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

Peterson had one call for me – a woman who angrily denounced Andrew Jackson and how those slaves were forced to fight. I was taken aback by this, because those men were heroes and veterans to be honored regardless of slavery. Shamefully, some of those men did not get their freedom, but it does not take away from the fact that they put their lives on the line for their country. I might have added that nearly 600,000 ‘privileged’ white men died in the Civil War to end slavery.

The kneelers seem to have forgotten that.

Increasingly our country is divided.

 

Civility is being replaced by name calling–and even violence.

 

People want others with whom they disagree to lose their jobs.

 

Accusations of sexual impropriety are widespread.

 

Censorship is being implemented by the tech left.

 

Rational debate is replaced by name calling and fear.

 

Racial hatred is very real and always has been, but it seems worse nowadays—and our first ‘black’ president, Obama, actually set back race relations.

 

Too many people now hate our country, our history and our culture.

What is that culture? For most of our history it has been predominately European and Christian. For years we’ve had a huge influx of immigrants ‘of color’ who have a lot of children. White people will soon be a minority in the USA. There are some on the alt right calling for the protection of whites by means identity politics and segregation. Many black nationalists also want the return of segregation, after they fought so hard against it. Muslims naturally segregate themselves and demand special food, special treatment, and Sharia Law, which is completely at odds with our Constitution. The rich are getting stupendously richer and segregate themselves in gated communities. Three men in America now control more wealth than the bottom half of the US population.

Immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are now encouraged to keep their own cultures and languages. Some consider the traditional melting pot to be offensive – they say it’s ‘racist’ and ‘nativist.’

The end game of that kind of thinking will be the proliferation of ‘no go’ Balkanized zones in the United States. Trump’s brand of nationalism may be the glue needed to keep our country together. At least for a while longer.

President Trump Accelerates Drone Strikes In Somalia

President Trump’s expansion of war is most evident in the skies of Somalia where an acceleration in drone strikes have been reported.

U.S. Africa Command has conducted fourteen airstrikes since August bringing the year’s total to eighteen. The increased tempo of airstrikes started in September between the Kismayo and Mogadisu region.

Earlier this month, we reported on Trump’s administration hitting a new milestone – when U.S. Africa Command launched its first airstrike against the Islamic State-linked fighters – further accelerating the US presence..

Defense One highlights this momentous achievement…

U.S. Africa Command has released data on 18 strikes this year, more than four times the average over the previous seven years. 

The escalation of U.S. Africa Command presence in Somalia was made possible by president Trump’s order in March that ”allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct lethal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area of active hostilities in support of partner forces in Somalia.”

Defense One outlines a majority of the airstrikes have been situated around Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia where a mixture of Al-Shabab attack zones and support zones reside.

Back in October, Al-Shabab blew up a truck bomb in the capital killing 300 making it one of the nation’s worst terrorist attack ever. The devastating bombing was in response to President Trump and Somalia’s newly elected president forming new military efforts to combat the rise in Islamic State-linked fighters in the country.

Drones have been responsible for most of the airstrikes and what the report states it’s impossible to verify how many ‘extremist’ have been killed.

Defense One notes,

The Bureau for Investigative Journalism estimates that the strikes have killed as few as 88 people and as many as 124. The group also says it has tracked nearly 30 strikes for 2017, about a dozen more than the Pentagon claims.  

Micah Zenko, a writer at foreignpolicy.com, outlines (dated Nov 09) that in 5+ months Trump has bombed Somalia 17 times verse Obama bombed Somalia 29 times in 7+years. The explanation for Trump’s rapid bombardment is the geographical spread of  strikes in the country is much larger, plus he authorized a new enemy back in March – ISIS.

Earlier this year, the US military reported about 50 US troops were stationed in Somalia providing training and advice for the Somali military, but as of lately the figure now stands at 500.

Before President Trump, the US military has always maintained a small presence in the region. Now it seems with the geographical spread larger and a new enemy in the region defined; the endless wars will most certainly continue further enriching the US-military industrial complex.