Tag Archives: news

MAGA: Many Are Getting Arrested

We live in inter­est­ing times …

Today’s brief will not be about the ever-grow­ing list of fed­er­al indict­ments and crim­i­nal guilty pleas encoun­tered thus far in the Trump-Rus­sia spe­cial coun­sel pro­ceed­ings.

Instead, we find our­selves see­ing guilty ver­dicts and plea deals entered in rela­tion to a slew of seri­ous, tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed crim­i­nal com­plaints that have come as a byprod­uct of those inves­ti­ga­tions. Think of them, col­lec­tive­ly, as the ulti­mate exam­ple of “fol­low the mon­ey.”

In court today, Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort was found guilty on eight of the eigh­teen offens­es he had been charged with, the jury hav­ing been dead­locked on the remain­ing ten and a mis­tri­al declared, for which pros­e­cu­tors can poten­tial­ly look at con­duct­ing a retri­al of those lat­ter charges.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Man­afort is due to stand tri­al in Wash­ing­ton, DC on sev­en entire­ly dif­fer­ent crim­i­nal charges next month.

Mean­while, Don­ald Trump’s for­mer per­son­al lawyer Michael Cohen plead­ed guilty to eight crim­i­nal counts of his own in an effort to stave off the threat of a lengthy tri­al and poten­tial­ly far more severe con­se­quences for his wrong­do­ings.

In these pro­ceed­ings, Cohen intends on plead­ing guilty to five counts of tax eva­sion, one count of bank fraud, one count of mak­ing an unlaw­ful cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tion, and one count of mak­ing an exces­sive cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion.

Cohen fur­ther admit­ted to hav­ing paid out hush mon­ey at Trump’s direc­tion (though not by name), an act that was appar­ent­ly intend­ed to influ­ence the out­come of the elec­tion.

Evi­dence uncov­ered dur­ing the course of the Man­afort and Cohen pro­ceed­ings also sug­gests pros­e­cu­tors might go after oth­er indi­vid­u­als whose names have come up in the course of these cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions, includ­ing Stephen Calk, the banker who pro­vid­ed the Man­afort loans and who alleged­ly attempt­ed to use his influ­ence in a failed bid to secure a posi­tion with the Army.

Fur­ther updates will be post­ed as these sto­ries con­tin­ue to devel­op.

When It’s Radicalization By Any Other Name …

Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones has been the sub­ject of con­tent dele­tions and plat­form bans by a num­ber of com­pa­nies over the past two weeks, includ­ing Apple, Face­book, Spo­ti­fy, YouTube, YouPorn, and Pin­ter­est, with com­pa­ny spokes­peo­ple cit­ing Jones’ repeat vio­la­tions of net-abuse poli­cies and fail­ure to abide by plat­form pub­lish­ing require­ments as the com­mon themes and caus­es of ter­mi­na­tion.

Before mov­ing on to my own com­ments on the sit­u­a­tion, I’d like to share two respons­es which I felt were par­tic­u­lar­ly mea­sured and insight­ful:

On to the big­ger pic­ture, then.

First, can we agree it’s time we backed off and left Alex Jones to his well deserved fate? The man made his bed, now he’s wel­come to lie in it and go back to being the pari­ah he was before Don­ald Trump put him in the spot­light.

Sec­ond, can we please stop call­ing it cen­sor­ship? Jones doesn’t lack a plat­form of his own. He’s been self-pub­lish­ing through his per­son­al InfoWars web­site and sell­ing prod­ucts through his online store for many years. Fram­ing this as de-plat­form­ing is miss­ing the point. Not only does Jones have a media com­pa­ny he can use any time he wish­es with­out lim­its, but it was his own deci­sion to ignore the rules of third-par­ty plat­forms on which he’d gross­ly over­stayed his wel­come.

While some aspects of the sit­u­a­tion could have been han­dled dif­fer­ent­ly (I’ll get to that lat­er), over­all there is no sym­pa­thy due. Jones has been pok­ing and throw­ing rocks at this par­tic­u­lar bear for years, know­ing in the back of his mind that one day it was going to wake up and slap the ever-lov­ing shit out of him. The only unex­pect­ed part was how long it took.

To those who cry ‘free speech,’ I note that free­dom of speech has nev­er been about free­dom from log­i­cal con­se­quences or free­dom from crit­i­cism. Both hap­pen in the real world, and in this case sev­er­al key busi­ness­es have come to the con­clu­sion that they’d rather not let Alex Jones use their net­works as a vehi­cle for dis­in­for­ma­tion, defama­tion, and alleged defama­tion.

While Amer­i­can defama­tion laws and safe har­bour pro­tec­tions insu­late from law­suits caused by user-sub­mit­ted con­tent, they don’t do any­thing to stave off the bad PR and bruis­ing to cor­po­rate image that come from asso­ci­at­ing with a per­son who’s made liv­ing off of trolling the pub­lic in some of the most base and ugly ways imag­in­able.

As wis­er jour­nal­ists have point­ed out, Jones’ flout­ing of Accept­able Use Poli­cies, harass­ment of inno­cents, oth­er­ing of minori­ties, and seem­ing inabil­i­ty to sus­tain polite rela­tion­ships with oth­er human beings online rise to the lev­el of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, but not the First Amend­ment.

Sim­i­lar argu­ments could be made against numer­ous impres­sion­able Jones fans who’ve tak­en him too lit­er­al­ly over the years and engaged in harass­ment, vio­lence, and defama­tion, some of which ris­es to the lev­el of crim­i­nal behav­iour.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Followup: Charlottesville

Quick update to Tuesday’s sto­ry …

It was wide­ly observed by atten­dees and report­ed in the media that Neo-Nazis arrived armed and well-pre­pared at the ral­ly in Char­lottesville, then moved in lat­er to attack counter-pro­tes­tors with bats and oth­er weapons as police took a hands-off approach to a good por­tion of the vio­lence.

Giv­en that author­i­ties have his­tor­i­cal­ly been quick to respond with over­whelm­ing shows of force in the instances of the DAPL Water Pro­tec­tors protests and the Black Lives Mat­ter protests, it came across as noth­ing short of infu­ri­at­ing when a major show of force was not tak­en dur­ing the Char­lottesville riots in the midst of a far more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.

In an arti­cle that ProP­ub­li­ca released over the week­end, reporter and wit­ness A.C. Thomp­son not­ed, “State police and Nation­al Guards­men watched pas­sive­ly for hours as self-pro­claimed Nazis engaged in street bat­tles with counter-pro­test­ers.” He then went on to name the main orga­ni­za­tion­al and tac­ti­cal fail­ures at the event and describe them in nau­se­at­ing detail.

I’m glad oth­ers point­ed me to this arti­cle, as I’d missed it in the ini­tial media shuf­fle that took place when the riots began, so thank you for that.

Now, it’s only been a few days since the riots, and it can take time to con­duct a for­mal inquiry into the police response, but here’s a spoil­er: when author­i­ties appar­ent­ly had sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness “for a long time” and went on to make errors such as fail­ing to sep­a­rate camps of pro­tes­tors and going easy on Nazis who phys­i­cal­ly attacked offi­cers, the optics of the over­all sit­u­a­tion don’t look good. As Thomp­son fur­ther notes, “Sev­er­al times, a group of assault-rifle-tot­ing mili­tia mem­bers from New York […] played a more active role in break­ing up fights,” after riot police failed to ful­ly inter­vene.

I’m not sure how to respond to that, besides not­ing the same con­clu­sion oth­ers have acknowl­edged many times: white priv­i­lege, it’s a thing.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the fact police didn’t mount a stronger response to stop the fight­ing and the way they failed to arrest more of those involved in the fight­ing are things that work to the advan­tage of far-right insti­ga­tors, who love the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be cast as vic­tims of left­ist vio­lence.

In oth­er words, let­ting Nazis slug it out with Antifa for a few days isn’t just a shit­ty idea, it’s actu­al­ly a recruit­ment win for Nazis and their ilk.

I’m sure this isn’t what author­i­ties want­ed, but regard­less of whether it arose through acci­den­tal blun­der or planned non-inter­ven­tion, that’s now the real­i­ty they’re going to have to deal with, as will many oth­er cities who are cur­rent­ly fac­ing spin-off ral­lies in the wake of the mess in Char­lottesville.

It will be inter­est­ing to read the results of a for­mal inquiry, if one is ever con­duct­ed into these mat­ters.

On Hate: Charlottesville And Beyond

Dur­ing one more in a long line of racist clash­es in the Unit­ed States, one pro­test­er was mur­dered and at least nine­teen oth­ers injured after a Neo-Nazi from Ida­ho attend­ed the “Unite the Right” ral­ly at Char­lottesville, VA, and pro­ceed­ed to dri­ve his car into the crowd.

A run­ning theme with white nation­al­ists, Neo-Nazis, and oth­er hate groups is they’ve tried repeat­ed­ly to avoid the name they’ve earned for them­selves while still try­ing to per­pe­trate all of the moral and crim­i­nal wrongs his­tor­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with their move­ments. To vary­ing degrees, they will advo­cate fer­vent­ly in pub­lic spaces for the advance­ment of racism, social seg­re­ga­tion, racist pro­pa­gan­da, hate speech, acts of vio­lence, and even mur­der, but if recent news cov­er­age is any indi­ca­tion, many seem unable to stom­ach the idea of get­ting caught or called out for their dis­gust­ing behav­iour.

This, in and of itself, speaks vol­umes.

Remem­ber — if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then racist apol­o­gists be damned, it’s a fuckin’ duck.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Until now, I haven’t been report­ing on the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States because news on the sub­ject has been ubiq­ui­tous, and many tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als and media out­lets have been call­ing the sit­u­a­tion for what it is.

Today, this changes. I don’t feel it’s appro­pri­ate for a per­son to stand on the side­lines and wait for oth­ers to do one’s duty in the midst of a mat­ter this impor­tant. I’ve writ­ten on Cana­di­an pol­i­tics on this site in the past, and arguably US pol­i­tics can have just as sig­nif­i­cant an impact on any­one liv­ing north of the bor­der due to wide­spread export of Amer­i­can cul­ture, val­ues, and geopo­lit­i­cal influ­ence.

At the same time, lin­ger­ing con­cerns remain on the polit­i­cal and finan­cial affil­i­a­tions of some media out­lets, the impact of com­pro­mised jour­nal­ism in an infor­ma­tion dri­ven soci­ety, and the pit­falls of the rat­ings-dri­ven sys­tem hold­ing sway on most TV-based media deliv­ery plat­forms which tends to cap­i­tal­ize on dra­ma and suf­fer­ing while often fail­ing to deliv­er con­text and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive.

While there are many media groups who are doing high qual­i­ty work and pro­vid­ing in-depth jour­nal­ism, the mixed nature of tech­nol­o­gy and its use (or mis­use at times) means it’s wise to ensure infor­ma­tion is reg­u­lar­ly fact-checked and fur­ther research is con­duct­ed to under­stand con­text and estab­lish a broad­er per­spec­tive of cur­rent events.

The unfor­tu­nate thing about pol­i­tics is that despite hav­ing great impor­tance in dai­ly life, it fre­quent­ly tends to be treat­ed as a spec­ta­tor sport. Media com­pa­nies run round-the-clock news cycles and make mon­ey from it, peo­ple talk to fam­i­ly and friends about what’s going on in the world, some offices run pools on what they think the next big change might be, but how many of us are actu­al­ly will­ing to roll up our sleeves and get involved?

When was the last time you talked with a Con­gressper­son, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, or MLA? Have you ever read leg­isla­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion to learn the issues? When was the last time you fact checked a polit­i­cal state­ment? Ever been part of a pub­lic com­men­tary hear­ing? Heck, when was the last time you vot­ed?

Here’s why polit­i­cal engage­ment mat­ters:

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Victoria Times Colonist to Remove Online Commenting

This week, our local news­pa­per announced it was remov­ing the com­ment sec­tion in future posts. This comes in the wake of a fair­ly well-estab­lished trend of promi­nent media out­lets, includ­ing Pop­u­lar Sci­ence, decid­ing to do the same in order to bring the empha­sis back to the con­tent, and curb wide­spread abuse of writ­ers and their audi­ences by unpleas­ant dri­ve-by com­menters.

And tru­ly, noth­ing of val­ue was lost.

First, what many major out­lets have real­ized by now, many of them through rather hard lessons, is that jour­nal­ism isn’t just a busi­ness, it’s a del­i­cate bal­ance, a deep search for the truth. By its very nature, this demands well-devel­oped com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills and keen social com­pe­tence on the part of its researchers and pre­sen­ters, and a care­ful­ly craft­ed envi­ron­ment in which to con­vey the infor­ma­tion to the audi­ence.

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Keeping Our Perspective on War

When one takes a bird’s-eye view of bat­tle and civil­ian casu­al­ties by the num­bers, the results as shown above are shock­ing.

All of this helps one main­tain a healthy sense of per­spec­tive, and reveals that not only do present-day news chan­nels and dis­trib­u­tors exag­ger­ate the fre­quen­cy and feroc­i­ty of con­flicts on a reg­u­lar basis by flood­ing the pub­lic space with over-report­ing and embell­ish­ments, but we almost invari­ably are fed infor­ma­tion to arrive at a mind­set that makes us for­get on a dai­ly basis the major pow­ers have not fought one anoth­er since World War 2, and today’s war deaths (mil­i­tary and civil­ian) are minus­cule in com­par­i­son.

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Financial Corruption and Value Dilution in Higher Education

I’d been brows­ing through the news recent­ly for a col­lec­tion of arti­cles to share on a rather broad top­ic: the influ­ence of mon­eyed inter­ests on the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem. This is a long­stand­ing inter­est of mine, hav­ing grown up dur­ing a time when a year in uni­ver­si­ty cost about $1,200, and hav­ing watched tuition rates and liv­ing costs bal­loon expo­nen­tial­ly ever since. But what shocked me into get­ting the links to this post up that much soon­er is this emerg­ing sto­ry from the US:

The Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion on Tues­day said it brought fraud charges against ITT Edu­ca­tion­al Ser­vices Inc. and two of its top exec­u­tives, alleg­ing they mis­led investors about the loom­ing finan­cial impact of two bad­ly-per­form­ing stu­dent-loan pro­grams on the for-prof­it edu­ca­tor. […] ITT formed the stu­dent-loan pro­grams to pro­vide off-bal­ance-sheet loans for ITT’s stu­dents in the wake of the finan­cial cri­sis, when the mar­ket for pri­vate stu­dent loans dried up and for-prof­it schools cre­at­ed new ways to help stu­dents pay their tuition bills.”

source: Wall Street Jour­nal

Let us fur­ther expand on the dia­logue sur­round­ing mon­ey in edu­ca­tion for the ben­e­fit of those who haven’t been as immersed in the debate:

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