Later On

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The First Amendment is now missing the point, if it’s not irrelevant altogether

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In the Washington Post Jonathan Capeheart has a very thought-provoking audio interview, accompanied by a report that includes an interesting quotation from the interview. That reportbegins:

“We’re in a period analogous, truly analogous, to the time in Europe just after Gutenberg mechanized the Chinese invention of the printing press,”Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, told me. “After Gutenberg, any Tom, Dick or Martin Luthercould print whatever they want, and it took a hundred years to figure out, to sort it all out.”

The 11th episode of “Cape Up” is all about the state of journalism in the age of social media. “Confused,” is how Ibargüen describes it. The former publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald pointed out that while two Supreme Court decisions have shaped our present-day understanding of the First Amendment as it pertains to newspapers and broadcast television, “The law of First Amendment as to Internet … simply isn’t settled.”

In an effort to “help shape First Amendment law” in the digital age, the Knight Foundation and Columbia University announced in May the creation of the Knight First Amendment Institute at the Ivy League school in New York. Ibargüen told me that when such cases come before the court, “I want somebody at the table, somebody at the courthouse that is saying, ‘Let’s err on the side of transparency. Let’s err on the side of free speech.’ ” But what he said next highlighted the unanswered legal questions facing all of us: Congress, companies, courts and consumers.

That’s not to say that everything is black-and-white. We know it isn’t. The First Amendment itself isn’t. Although, the First Amendment is fairly clear. It says, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, a redress of grievance.” Five phenomenal rights. But they also don’t say, well, what happens if it is not Congress? What happens if it’s Google? … Think about it. Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have more ability to control what we know or think we know than anything in history. Than anyone in history. Than any government has ever had.

We talked about the power of search-engine programmers to mold what we accept as facts. “Even algorithms have parents,” Ibargüen said, “and the parents, the programmers, imbue the algorithm, consciously or not consciously, with some kind of values.” He went on to talk about what happened when you typed “thug” into Google. The ensuing controversy forced changes, so now when you type the word in you get an array of “thug” choices to search. “Somehow that algorithm knows what it is supposed to present,” Ibargüen told me, “and that affects what we think and what we think we know.”

Continue reading.

And read this as well: how corporations are programming you—that sounds like corny science-fiction, but it’s behavioral design: it’s here now and it works. On you, and me.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2016 at 12:37 pm

North Dakota prosecutor Ladd Erickson is unfit for office

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

A North Dakota judge has dismissed a “riot” charge against “Democracy Now!” journalist Amy Goodman. At least one other journalist has been arrested and faces felony charges, all for covering climate change and pipeline protests in the state. There appears to be no evidence that Goodman actually participated in any rioting. She was basically charged for giving publicity to protesters, some of whom may have “rioted” as defined by state law. That seems evident in statements prosecutor Ladd Erickson has given to the Bismarck Tribune. Like this one:

“I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of the state.”

Or this one:

“She’s a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions,” said Erickson, adding that her coverage of the Sept. 3 protest did not mention that people trespassed during the incident or the alleged assaults on guards.

“Is everybody that’s putting out a YouTube video from down there a journalist down there, too?” he asked.

Well, yes. The fact that Goodman may have been covering the protests from a point of view that’s friendly to the protesters doesn’t mean she’s culpable for the actions of those protesters who may have broken the law. There’s no “advocacy exception” to the First Amendment’s free-press protections. In fact, at the time the First Amendment was written and passed, there was no ideal of an “objective” press. All press was advocacy press.

These arrests and charges are an affront to both the free press and the right to protest. They’re also ample evidence that Erickson isn’t fit to be a prosecutor. He clearly doesn’t understand the First Amendment. Or — even worse — he understands it just fine. He just chooses to ignore it.

Whether Erickson keeps his job will be up to the voters of McLean County, N.D. But it’s important that he be sanctioned. Here’s why: It seems doubtful that Erickson ever thought these charges would stick. (If he did, all the worse.) This was a clear attempt to intimidate Goodman. It was also a warning to any other reporter, writer or journalist who may consider covering any future protests. Goodman had the benefit of a national platform, good attorneys, and a strong and vocal network of supporters. The next reporter may be a freelance journalist or blogger, or work for some small advocacy publication. The Constitution protects them, too.

If Erickson can abuse his power in this way without suffering any professional penalty, there’s no disincentive to dissuade him or some other prosecutor from doing it again. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 October 2016 at 11:30 am

Barrett Brown reports from prison

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Barrett Brown writes in The Intercept:

I never really got a chance to play any pen-and-paper role-playing games growing up, so being thrown into a prison system in which such things as Dungeons and Dragons are relatively common constituted one of the silver linings of my 2012 arrest, along with not having to deal with an infestation of those little German roaches that had colonized my kitchen or having to see “World War Z.”

As it happens, I’d actually learned about the prevalence of tabletop games among inmates a few months before my own incarceration, in the days after the FBI first raided both my apartment and my mother’s home in March 2012 and seized laptops and papers without yet making an arrest. As they themselves noted in the search warrant, which the late Michael Hastings published at BuzzFeed, the focus of the investigation was my collaborative journalism outfit Project PM as well as, the online repository where we posted our ongoing findings on the still-mysterious “intelligence contracting” sector (which has since been moved here). The warrant listed HBGary Federal and Endgame Systems — two firms on which we’d focused particular attention — as topics for the FBI’s search. This was revealing. A year prior, a raid by Anonymous on the servers of HBGary had revealed, among other things, the firm’s leading role in a conspiracy by a consortium calling itself Team Themis to conduct an array of covert operations against WikiLeaks and even journalists like Glenn Greenwald, prompting a congressional inquiry that would ultimately be squashed by a Republican committee chairman.

It’s often been reported, incorrectly, that I was the one to reveal the Themis conspiracy, different aspects of which were in fact discovered more or less simultaneously by several parties shortly after HBGary’s emails were made public. My own initial role, which began when I was informed of the hack as it was being conducted, was merely to explain developments to the press. But as it became clear that the media was losing interest despite clear evidence there was much more to the story, I began working with a rotating team of volunteer researchers to determine further details of Themis and related programs by searching through the remaining 70,000 emails that the hackers had seized and following up on the various mysterious references found therein. Although we made a number of significant discoveries and managed to shed light on other matters, the press didn’t generally realize the significance of these things until later.

On the other hand, I did get to indirectly gum up the works at Endgame Systems, which, though one of the four firms involved in Themis’s proposed operations against journalists and activists, managed to avoid being mentioned in most of the press coverage that followed the original exposure of the plot. You see, Endgame’s execs had insisted in one particular email thread that its name never appear in any Themis operational materials, explaining that the nature of the firm’s central activities was such that any public scrutiny would lead to disaster, and that this was a particular concern of their partners. Other emails ended up working against it, though, as I was able to pique the interest of Bloomberg Businessweek by forwarding this hilariously sinister “NO ONE MUST EVER KNOW” exchange to a contact I had there. A few months later, the magazine ran a long feature on Endgame revealing its ability to seize control of computers across the world and that it was offering this service to unknown customers outside of the U.S. government. This in turn prompted sufficient discomfort that the firm had to stop doing this, or at least claim to have stopped. Perhaps that’s why Endgame Systems was listed on my search warrant — and never mentioned again in a single other filing by the government in my case.

But the chief enemy I’d made was apparently the Department of Justice — because when Team Themis was exposed, the emails revealed that the whole indefensible conspiracy had been set in motion by the DOJ itself, which had made the necessary introductions when Bank of America came to the agency looking for advice on how to go after WikiLeaks. There were no known consequences for anyone at the DOJ; a congressman’s calls for an official inquiry were shot down by Lamar Smith, the relevant committee chair, who proclaimed that the DOJ itself should handle any investigation. Whether the DOJ took Smith’s advice and investigated itself for secretly arranging a corporate black ops partnership is unknown. Rather, it was my head that was to roll, in retaliation for my efforts to keep the story alive in articles I continued to write for The Guardian as well as for my occasional successes in causing difficulties to Themis participants like Endgame and the intelligence contracting industry as a whole, which regularly hires ex-government officials at high salaries and thus has a working relationship with most federal agencies. And so when the FBI came for my laptops and left that search warrant listing the entirely legal journalism entity I’d been using to lead an investigation into the state-affiliated firms that the warrant also listed, I knew from the brazenness of this move that I’d eventually be arrested and charged. I didn’t know for what, exactly, but that was OK — the DOJ didn’t know yet either. Eventually they resorted to indicting me on charges related to another firm, Stratfor, that wasn’t even listed on my search warrant, which were so flimsy that they eventually had to be dropped in favor of a vague “accessory after the fact” count.

Anywho, after that first FBI raid I started reading those little guides on life in prison that one finds online and noticed several references to role-playing games. When I got to the jail unit at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Worth shortly after my arrest, then, I immediately started agitating in favor of a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons or whatever was available, to begin ASAP, with the wooden table in the little corner library to be requisitioned for our use. A huge black guy awaiting trial on complicated fraud charges happened to have the basic mechanics memorized; I drafted him to be the dungeon master. Soon enough I’d also managed to recruit a white meth dealer who was familiar enough with the game to help the rest of us create our characters, a large and bovine Hispanic gangland enforcer who wanted to try the game and was at any rate influential enough to help us secure control over the table, and a fey Southern white guy for atmosphere.

With unlimited paper and pencils provided by the federal government, we had everything we needed except for a set of variously sided dice. It turned out that this was generally handled by making a spinner out of cardboard, a paperclip, and the empty internal plastic tube from an ink pen. This latter item is impaled loosely on the paperclip, itself positioned in the center of the cardboard, on which has been drawn a diminishing series of concentric circles divided into 20, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 equal segments, respectively. As we attended to this chore at the wooden table, an inmate sitting nearby realized what we were making and proceeded to tell us about a cell mate he’d had during a previous bid who’d used something similar. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 3:45 pm

Strange charge of anti-Semitism leveled against Donald Trump because he criticized banks

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

One would have had to have been in a coma for the past eight years not to realize there has been an ongoing Wall Street banking conspiracy in the United States. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) tallied it up and found it amounted to $16 trillion in secret loans from the Federal Reserve – an unfathomable bailout never approved by Congress. On May 20 of last year the U.S. Justice Department documented a vast conspiracy by global banks in the foreign currency markets with the banks admitting to the felony charges. The former heads of Federal regulatory agencies have written books about the conspiracy. Frontline and Sixty Minutes have produced documentaries on it. Banking whistleblowers have organized to fight it in an effort to save the country. A major motion picture, The Big Short, was released this year which put one aspect of the conspiracy into layman’s language and was based on a book by Wall Street veteran, Michael Lewis. Wall Street On Parade has chronicled the ongoing banking conspiracy for the past decade.

But yesterday, after Donald Trump made a reference to a banking conspiracy in his speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, a writer at the New York Times quickly pointed the anti-Semite finger at Trump, quoting Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and others. The Times wrote:

The remarks drew criticism from some who said they resembled prejudicial language used by anti-Semites. ‘Whether intentionally or not, Donald Trump is evoking classic anti-Semitic themes that have historically been used against Jews and still reverberate today,’ Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights discrimination, said in a statement.

The full transcript of Trump’s speech was made available by Time Magazine. There is only one reference to the words “bank” or “banking.” Trump said the following:

The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure. We’ve seen this first hand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.

Most Americans believe, for good reason, that global banks, including those on Wall Street, are actively engaged in a concerted wealth transfer system from the 99 percent to the 1 percent. That America now has the greatest wealth and income inequality since the 1920s further buttresses the wealth transfer reality.

After the financial crash in 2008, the Federal Reserve fought for years in court to avoid providing details of the money it funneled to the global banks during the years of the crisis. When the Fed finally lost the court battle, the Government Accountability Office tallied up the secret Fed loans, all of which had been made at super low, below-market interest rates without any public disclosure. The final tally came to $16.1 trillion in cumulative loans. Yes, we said “trillion.” (See chart below from the GAO report.) . . .

Continue reading.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton (for whom I shall vote) will vigorously support and push banking reform. She has said that the best way to regulate banks is to put bankers in charge of regulation, a strategy followed by President Obama that really has not worked all that well.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 October 2016 at 9:24 am

Posted in Business, Election, GOP, NY Times

Preparing the way for Donald Trump: It did not happen overnight

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Dana Milbank has an interesting column in the Washington Post. From the column:

… [T]he Trump fiasco has been more than two decades in the making, going back to Newt Gingrich’s destruction of civility, Bill Clinton’s personal misconduct, a Supreme Court that, in Bush v. Gore, delegitimized democracy, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney squandering the warm courage of national unity after 9/11, a bipartisan cycle of revenge in Congress, angry liberals portraying Bush as a war criminal, the fury and racial animus of the tea party and the birthers, GOP leaders too timid to tamp down the excesses, and Supreme Court decisions that allowed anonymous groups to spend unlimited sums poisoning the airwaves with vicious and false political speech.

My colleagues and I in the news business deserve much of the blame. Fox News essentially created Trump as a political figure, validating his birther nonsense and giving him an unparalleled platform before he launched his campaign. The rest of the news media, and most visibly CNN, gave the entertainer undiluted and uncritical coverage (at least until he secured the nomination), sacrificing journalistic integrity for viewers and readers. If you don’t report on Trump’s latest action, utterance or outrage, you won’t get the clicks or the ratings. And the combination of social media and a news industry fragmented by ideology allows an increasingly polarized public to choose only information that confirms their political views. . .

Technically Bush is a war criminal for ordering the torture of prisoners. Torturing prisoners is a war crime.

But the point is, Rome didn’t fall in a day.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 October 2016 at 3:01 pm

Donna Brazile denies that she assisted Clinton against Sanders—but she did

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

After the prior Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned in disgrace in July after Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks released emails showing that the DNC had actively engaged in derailing the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders to tip the field to Hillary Clinton, the woman who replaced Wasserman Schultz as Interim Chair of the DNC, Donna Brazile, is under the gun for putting her finger on the scale for Hillary Clinton.

On March 12, 2016, Brazile was serving in the dual capacity as a Vice Chair of the DNC and a contributor to CNN. The recent WikiLeaks release of emails shows that on that date at 4:39 p.m., Brazile sent an email to Jennifer Palmieri, Communications Director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, titled: “From time to time I get the questions in advance.”

The title clearly conveys that Brazile was referring to questions that would be asked the very next day at the March 13, 2016  CNN Democratic Town Hall at Ohio State University in Columbus. Only Clinton and Sanders were scheduled to appear on stage, as other Democratic challengers had dropped out. CNN’s Jake Tapper and TV One’s Roland Martin were to serve as moderators. Questions were to come from both of the moderators as well as Ohio voters in the audience. The Town Hall was a pivotal event, coming just two days before Democratic primaries in five states: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.

Brazile’s email indicated that she was worried that Clinton might be tripped up by a question on the death penalty. Brazile wrote:

“Here’s one that worries me about HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton].


“19 states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. 31 states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Should Ohio and the 30 other states join the current list and abolish the death penalty?”

The next evening at the Town Hall, Clinton did indeed receive a question on the death penalty.

Despite the unambiguous violations inherent in the title, text and outcome of Brazile’s email, she is flatly denying that she leaked a question to Clinton. In a prepared statement, Brazile said:

“As it pertains to the CNN Debates, I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.”

CNN now appears to be throwing Brazile under the bus. The Wall Street Journalreported last evening that CNN is denying that it leaked the question to Brazile but it believes “a broadcast partner on the town hall may have shared the question.” That now puts TV One’s Roland Martin squarely in the cross hairs.

Another leaked email shows that . . .

Continue reading.

It’s interesting how frightened the Democratic party establishment—the great number of corporate-oriented Democrats who are funded by various special interests—were of Bernie Sanders. His campaign, if not sabotaged, might well have carried the day. (Full disclosure: I voted for Bernie in the primary.)

Later in the post:

All of this is playing out as corporate media ignores a major Federal lawsuit that has been filed against the DNC and its former Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, by Sanders’ supporters who have produced a growing mountain of evidence that Sanders was cheated out of a fair primary process. (See related articles below.)

Written by LeisureGuy

14 October 2016 at 8:54 am

Posted in Democrats, Election, Media

Donald Trump, through his lawyer, accuses the NY Times of libel. Here is the Times‘s response.

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From this report in the NY Times:

Marc E. Kasowitz, Esq.
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres Friedman LLP
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019-6799

Re: Demand for Retraction

Dear Mr. Kasowitz:

I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.

You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from (our) website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.


David E. McCraw

More here on how Donald Trump views (and treats) women.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 October 2016 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Law, Media, NY Times

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