Googling Censorship

So, this story is out, and tell me why I’m not surprised. I noticed it from John Hinderaker at PowerLine, and he linked on to PJ Media, which has a long story by Paula Boyard up. I suspect it going to be a long series by many of us on this matter. It’s both frightening and interesting. Here’s some of it.

Google revealed in a blog post that it is now using machine learning to document “hate crimes and events” in America. They’ve partnered with liberal groups like ProPublica, BuzzFeed News, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to make information about “hate events” easily accessible to journalists. And now, there are troubling signs that this tool could be used to ferret out writers and websites that run afoul of the progressive orthodoxy.

In the announcement, Simon Rogers, data editor of Google News Labs, wrote:

Now, with ProPublica, we are launching a new machine learning tool to help journalists covering hate news leverage this data in their reporting.

The Documenting Hate News Index — built by the Google News Lab, data visualization studio Pitch Interactive and ProPublica — takes a raw feed of Google News articles from the past six months and uses the Google Cloud Natural Language API to create a visual tool to help reporters find news happening across the country. It’s a constantly-updating snapshot of data from this year, one which is valuable as a starting point to reporting on this area of news.

The Documenting Hate project launched in response to the lack of national data on hate crimes. While the FBI is required by law to collect data about hate crimes, the data is incomplete because local jurisdictions aren’t required to report incidents up to the federal government.

All of which underlines the value of the Documenting Hate Project, which is powered by a number of different news organisations and journalists who collect and verify reports of hate crimes and events. Documenting Hate is informed by both reports from members of the public and raw Google News data of stories from across the nation.

On the surface, this looks rather innocuous. It’s presented by Google as an attempt to create a database of hate crimes — information that should be available with a quick Google search, it should be noted. But a quick glance at the list of partners for this project should raise some red flags:

The  ProPublica-led coalition includes  The Google News Lab,  Univision News, the  New York Times,  WNYC,  BuzzFeed News,  First DraftMeedan,  New America Media,  The Root,  Latino USA,  The Advocate100 Days in Appalachia and  Ushahidi. The coalition is also working with civil-rights groups such as the  Southern Poverty Law Center, and schools such as the  University of Miami School of Communications.

ProPublica poses as a middle-of-the-road non-profit journalistic operation, but in reality, it’s funded by a stable of uber-liberal donors, including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and Herb and Marion Sandler, billionaire former mortgage bankers whose Golden West Financial Corp. allegedly targeted subprime borrowers with “pick-a-pay” mortgages that led to toxic assets that were blamed for the collapse of Wachovia. The Southern Poverty Law Center, of course, is infamous for targeting legitimate conservatives groups, branding them as “hate groups” because they refuse to walk in lockstep with the progressive agenda. And it goes with out saying that The New York Times and BuzzFeed News lean left.

A perusal of the raw data that’s been compiled thus far on hate stories shows articles from a wide array of center-right sites, including The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, The Washington Times, National Review, and the Washington Examiner. It also includes many articles from liberal sites like BuzzFeed News and The New York TimesOne story from PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson is included in the list. It’s a report about a Sikh ad campaign aimed at reducing hate crimes against members of their faith community. Many of the articles are simply reports about alleged hate crimes from sources running the gamut of the political spectrum.

ProPublica vows to diligently track “hate incidents” in the coming months. “Everyday people — not just avowed ‘white nationalists’ — intimidate, harass, humiliate and even harm their fellow Americans because of the color of their skin, how they worship or who they love.” [Emphasis added] Note that they’re not just focusing on hate “crimes.”

It’s easy enough to figure out the direction of this project by taking it for a test drive. A search for “Scalise” returned four results, one of which didn’t even mention Steve Scalise, the congressman who was shot by a crazed leftist in June. A search for “Trump” during the same time period yielded more than 200 results. A search of the raw data resulted in 1178 hits for Trump and not a single mention of Scalise.

Note that Google, which recently fired an employee for expressing his counter-progressive opinions, thinks this information could be used to “help journalists covering hate news leverage this data in their reporting.” What do they mean by “leverage this data”? They don’t say, but an email sent to several conservative writers by a ProPublica reporter may give us some indication. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer along with some others received this from ProPublica “reporter” Lauren Kirchner:

I am a reporter at ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom in New York. I am contacting you to let you know that we are including your website in a list of sites that have been designated as hate or extremist by the American Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center. We have identified all the tech platforms that are supporting websites on the ADL and SPLC lists.

We would like to ask you a few questions:

1) Do you disagree with the designation of your website as hate or extremist? Why?

2) We identified several tech companies on your website: PayPal, Amazon, Newsmax, and Revcontent. Can you confirm that you receive funds from your relationship with those tech companies? How would the loss of those funds affect your operations, and how would you be able to replace them?

3) Have you been shut down by other tech companies for being an alleged hate or extremist web site? Which companies?

4) Many people opposed to sites like yours are currently pressuring tech companies to cease their relationships with them – what is your view of this campaign? Why?

In other words, nice website you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

There is an update to that story dated August 19th.

ProPublica came out today with the expected hit piece on Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, and others they disagree with, repeating the Southern Poverty Law Center’s smears and legitimizing the dishonest group’s hate list. In the article titled “Despite Disavowals, Leading Tech Companies Help Extremist Sites Monetize Hate,” Lauren Kirchner along with two fellow journalistsactivists documented the recent blacklisting of “hate websites” by tech companies and, although they didn’t come right out and say it, strongly implied that this should be the norm. They accept without question the hate designations bestowed by the SPCL and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The article leaves no doubt that ProPublica — which is working with Google, remember — wants to see more blacklisting. They will not rest until every one of the names on SPLC’s dubious 900-member hate list is purged from the Internet. Make no mistake. They are marshaling forces to pressure advertisers and tech providers to take conservative sites down. Just take a look at this list of Christian groups that made the listbecause they haven’t jumped on the LGBTQ bandwagon. […]

Do read it all at Is Google Working with Liberal Groups to Snuff Out Conservative Websites?

In a related matter, one of the reasons, beyond simple convenience, that I’ve stayed all these years with WordPress.com is their often pledged word, “WordPress and its parent company Automatic do not censor, period.” I’ve always found that to be true. But perhaps that just changed as well. From Fast Company.

“Fascist” is often an epithet used to demean an opponent, but for alt-right organization Vanguard America, it’s a badge of honor. As of last night, the group lacks a website where it can proclaim that message. Going to its URL bloodandsoil.org leads to a message from site host WordPress that reads, “This blog has been archived or suspended in accordance with our Terms of Service.”

That’s somewhat surprising. A few months ago, I asked WordPress about its hosting of Vanguard America, United Dixie White Knights of the KKK, and several other far-right organizations for a story about hate sites and their tech providers. The stock answer was that WordPress and its parent company Automatic do not censor, period.

Vanguard America’s website as of last night.

Now mind, I’ve never been to that website, for me they are beyond the pale. But freedom of speech means the freedom to offend. And they have just as much right to speak as I do, or for that matter as <insert violent left-wing organization here> does.Gives me a sort of chilly feeling and reminds me that it is about time to back up the website again, out of reach of all the hypocrites.

 

Eclipse Day

Yep, today is the big day. For me, it’s the second time in my life that I get to see (if it’s not cloudy) a total solar eclipse. I’m not overwhelmingly excited, but it is very interesting, and yes, I do have my glasses ready! 🙂

Here’s a bit about the legends surrounding the events from around the world, from National Geographic. Enjoy – And don’t forget your glasses, how will you read NEO if you’re blind, after all!

video.nationalgeographic.com/video/101-videos/solar-eclipse-101

Viking sky wolves, Korean fire dogs, and African versions of celestial reconciliation—these are only some of the many ways people around the world, and through the ages, have sought to explain solar eclipses.

People in equatorial Africa will be treated to a rare view of a total solar eclipse this Sunday, November 3. Those living on the eastern North American coast, northern South America, southern Europe, or the Middle East, will get to see a partial solar eclipse.

“If you do a worldwide survey of eclipse lore, the theme that constantly appears, with few exceptions, is it’s always a disruption of the established order,” said E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. That’s true of both solar and lunar eclipses.

Join Nat Geo and Airbnb #LiveFrom a geodesic dome on August 20 to talk to astrophysicist Jedidah Isler and photographer Babak Tafreshi about the science behind the upcoming total solar eclipse.

“People depend on the sun’s movement,” Krupp said. “[It’s] regular, dependable, you can’t tamper with it. And then, all of a sudden, Shakespearean tragedy arrives and time is out of joint. The sun and moon do something that they shouldn’t be doing.”

What that disruption means depends on the culture, and not everyone views an eclipse as a bad thing, said Jarita Holbrook, a cultural astronomer at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa.

Some see it as a time of terror, while others look at a solar eclipse as part of the natural order that deserves respect, or as a time of reflection and reconciliation. (Related: “Pictures: Solar Eclipse Creates Ring of Fire.”)

SWALLOWING FIRE

Many cultures explain eclipses, both solar and lunar, as a time when demons or animals consume the sun or the moon, said Krupp.

“The Vikings saw a pair of sky wolves chasing the sun or the moon,” said the Griffith Observatory astronomer. When one of the wolves caught either of the shining orbs, an eclipse would result. (Read “Vikings and Native Americans” in National Geographic magazine.)

“In Vietnam, a frog or a toad [eats] the moon or the sun,” Krupp added, while people of the Kwakiutl tribe on the western coast of Canada believe that the mouth of heaven consumes the sun or the moon during an eclipse.

In fact, the earliest word for eclipse in Chinese, shih, means “to eat,” he said.

Keep reading at Solar Eclipse Myths From Around the World

Saturday Pictures; Collusion Edition

Saturday again, it is. And that means time for the weekly roundup of pictures, cartoons, and maybe a video or two. Enjoy!

Speaking of actual history, and do notice how lonely Britain was.

 

Have a better next week!

 

 

Democrats and History

A famous American wrote (and spoke) these words in what basically amounts to a free speech case.

Any man has a right to publish his opinions on that subject [slavery] whenever he pleases. It is a subject of national concern, and may at all times be freely discussed. Mr. Gruber did quote the language of our great act of national independence, and insisted on the principles contained in that venerated instrument. He did rebuke those masters, who, in the exercise of power, are deaf to the calls of humanity; and he warned them of the evils they might bring upon themselves. He did speak with abhorrence of those reptiles, who live by trading in human flesh, and enrich themselves by tearing the husband from the wife—the infant from the bosom of the mother: and this I am instructed was the head and front of his offending. Shall I content myself with saying he had a right to say this? That there is no law to punish him? So far is he from being the object of punishment in any form of proceeding, that we are prepared to maintain the same principles, and to use, if necessary, the same language here in the temple of justice, and in the presence of those who are the ministers of the law. A hard necessity, indeed, compels us to endure the evil of slavery for a time. It was imposed upon us by another nation, while we were yet in a state of colonial vassalage. It cannot be easily, or suddenly removed. Yet while it continues it is a blot on our national character, and every real lover of freedom confidently hopes that it will be effectually, though it must be gradually, wiped away; and earnestly looks for the means, by which this necessary object may be best attained. And until it shall be accomplished: until the time shall come when we can point without a blush, to the language held in the Declaration of Independence, every friend of humanity will seek to lighten the galling chain of slavery, and better, to the utmost of his power, the wretched condition of the slave.

It sounds really good, doesn’t it? Many have assumed that it is Lincoln, but it was said when Lincoln was 9 years old. It was said in defense of a man, a Methodist minister, accuses of fomenting a slave revolt, in Baltimore. There was a statue of the man who wrote it also in Baltimore. It was removed the other night, by the government. So who this guy?

He is Roger Taney, the very man whose decision on Dred Scott did as much as any single man to propel the (not so) United States into the Civil War. In fact, that decision with very little extension would have reinstated slavery in the whole country, with very few options for its removal. “The Dred Scott decision held that “[…]”the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect,”

Steven Hayward says this:

[…]which by implication legalized slavery throughout the entire U.S. and prohibited Congress henceforth from stopping its spread in the territories. All that was needed, as Lincoln pointed out, was one more case extending the principle Taney laid out to make slavery legal throughout the North.” How does a man get from one to the other?”

Funny how the Confederate battle flag, and now statues, didn’t start to come down until Republicans became ascendant in southern states. Democrats who had a monopoly grip on the South for decades had lots of time to take these steps, but didn’t. You’d almost think they were opportunists.

Indeed, one would, but it is sort of a side issue, nothing about that we didn’t already know.

Which leads to the next question: what the hell happened to Taney? That’s a long story, but can be summarized briefly by the proposition that Democrats ceased to believe that slavery was a national sin—indeed they came to believe it was a positive good. (See Calhoun, Alexander Stephens, George Fitzhugh, etc.), and the first version of identity politics was born. In other words, Democrats aren’t that much different today than they were in the 1850s.

That is, unfortunately true. Democrats, the party of slavery, and plantation owners, and their sycophants, since sometime before the Mexican War, which they supported to attempt to gain more slave states. Quite the legacy, isn’t it.

By the way, Rev. Gruber, the Methodist Minister, won.

Charlottesville

So we had ourselves a riot in Charlottesville last weekend. I wasn’t too surprised, I’ve been expecting it, frankly. Daniel Greenfield in Frontpage Magazine tells you why.

A functioning society requires a middle ground. There has to be someplace where different sides can meet and negotiate their differences. Extremism happens when one or both sides eliminate that middle ground. And then all that’s left is a brutal fight for power.

The left is up on its high horse after the latest violence. But it’s the Democrats who allowed themselves to be taken over by the left. The extremism boosted Black Nationalist racist groups which were quickly mainstreamed.

Democrats demand that Republicans condemn Neo-Nazis. And certainly everyone should make their disgust clear. But Democrats have publicly endorsed Black Lives Matter. And Black Nationalists are just another racist hate group. Who operate with the support of the Democrats.

The Confederate memorial crisis was an utterly unnecessary confrontation pushed by Black Nationalists and exploited by Neo-Nazis.

After the Civil War, Americans achieved a modus vivendi. The Union was preserved, but the South was allowed to honor its dead and its leaders. The campaign against Confederate memorials was the best possible present that the Neo-Nazis of the Alt-Right could have received. And so both sets of extremists fed on each other. That’s how it works. And the blame goes to the left which lit the spark.

He’s right and that modus vivendi he speaks of is the last and likely best legacy of Abraham Lincoln, aided by Generals Grant, Sherman, and Lee. It was a wonder of the ages, a hard fought civil war ending without hangings, proscription lists, and a partisan campaign. Only happened in America. And here are extremists, from both sides, throwing it away around 150 years later.

And you know, in life as in physics, an action is always operated on by an equal and opposite reaction. We just saw the opening salvo of that reaction. If the BLM and the others continue, it will get worse, and it will spread. And given the left’s opposition to free people, and democratic government, as we’ve seen in the last six months, it will get worse, perhaps much worse, because it will spread from the fringes to the mainstream who want nothing to do with these hate groups but like that perhaps apocryphal Polish colonel, who when asked what he would do if he marched his regiment between the Soviet and Nazi German forces, replied, “Attack in both directions and die gloriously”.

Never think it can’t happen here. We don’t do ‘blood and soil’ patriotism here in America like they do in Europe, but we have something much more powerful. We have an almost religious belief in the ideals of America, and unravelling them has never been, and I doubt it will be now, permitted. Not by any of our overdone government bodies, but by the average person, who has been watching aghast the last few years, and no longer recognizes the America we once knew and loved.

Well, in 1781 the wheel came full circle, as the Revolution completed. Will it again? No one knows but I would never bet against the American people, especially on a bunch of rag tag extremists from either (or both) sides.

The president is taking a lot of criticism for his statements on the matter. John Hinderaker of PowerLine says this:

Today the White House released an additional statement that specifically addressed white supremacist groups:

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

Trump’s various statements have failed to satisfy just about everybody, including many Republicans–Scott, for one. Trump’s position may or may not be politically wise, but I am sympathetic to it. What his critics want him to do is denounce white supremacist groups to the exclusion of anyone else. The problem with his statements, in the eyes of critics, is they are too even-handed. Trump’s denunciation includes both the white supremacists in Charlottesville and the fascist “antifas” who counter-protested, as well as other hate groups.

This seems entirely appropriate to me, as the Charlottesville violence resulted in large part from the fact that the “antifas” showed up, spoiling for a fight. The videos I have seen suggest that the “antifas” were at least as responsible for the violent clashes as the white supremacists. Both deserve to be repudiated, and fascists who riot and try to shut down other people’s speech are just as reprehensible as racists.

Yup, and as far as I’m concerned anything else is partisan political spin. Especially most of what the formerly main stream (and now mostly fake) media are putting out. As were the riots themselves.

Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

How sad is that? Almost makes you cry, doesn’t it? We all like the fact that reports say the Millenials are the most conservative generation since the ‘Greatest Generation’, but there is nothing to celebrate in an American generation being risk averse. Ben Domenech wrote about it in The Federalist, and it’s worth commenting on.

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

OK, a break, I simply can’t resist…

We have an abundance of evidence on this front. Millennials are extremely reluctant to invest or risk their capital. UBS found that in the wake of the financial crisis, millennials appear more risk-averse than any generation since the Great Depression. Brookings has analyzed the sense of displacement driven by technology, seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her” as a prediction of the world as it will be when millennial values drive society. And Megan McArdle has written eloquently about the fear of failure of any sort, even in the smallest ways, that animates young Americans. […]

Once there was a country born without an inheritance. It was a civilization carved by the rejected refuse of the old world, by the religious freaks, criminals, bastards, and orphans. They were the type of men and women willing to risk all to cross the wine-dark sea in search of their fortune. They came from all the corners of the world, and in this land they worked the good earth and made their way. In time they built marketplaces and cities and governments, and threw off the shackles of their far-off, old-world rulers to make their own law. Where other revolutions had been crushed, they prevailed. They risked it all, and won.

Still, some were restless. So the risk-takers pulled up stakes and moved further west, finding the edge of civilization and making their homes there, and bringing their language and their law with them. They were called to the promise of the golden light of the horizon, so they journeyed west and further west, from sea to shining sea.

But the risk-takers never stopped. Their families had come from nations where inheritance was all—where blood was royal or serf, and the class of those who sired you charted your future, not the ability of your mind or the strength of your will. This truth they denied, and out of this audacity was birthed a society that, slowly but surely, through march and blood and slaughter, embraced the equality of all under law. […]

This is an American inheritance, but it is not a birthright. It must be claimed. And it is an open question whether the children of the children of those who rescued the old world will claim it. […]

There is comfort in the safety gained. But, slowly and surely, there is something lost, too—an idea that once lived here, in this new world. It was a belief that we are not prisoners of our destiny, that the world we pass on can exceed the one we were born into. This is not a uniquely American belief, but a human one, although not all cultures acknowledge or honor it. It was here in America where this belief was uniquely understood from our inception in our creed. We are born with an equal claim to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of what lies beyond that far horizon. To deny this is to break faith with our own humanity, rejecting what is best in ourselves.

I don’t have a lot to add except that if you care about America, or especially the idea of America, you need to read Ben’s article and apply it to yourself, and especially encourage those coming after us to take the longhorn by his horns, and risk it all. That is what won America. My life hasn’t been what I dreamed of as a boy – I didn’t get rich, nor did I marry Ann Margeret. But I have had a hell of a good time, and while I never worried overmuch about tomorrow, I made due allowances and did what I perceived to be my duty. No man can do more, nor should he ever wish to do less, to paraphrase Robert E. Lee.

I’m reminded of an American girl from Brooklyn, about 150 years ago, or so. It seemed she had it all, a doting daddy, a reasonable education, and more money than she knew what to do with. As it happened she went to England, and rumor had it had an affair with the Prince of Wales, and married the son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had a son, who became perhaps the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the very dark days after Dunkirk, he quoted a poem, which pretty well summarizes the American experience.

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright

It still is, if we make it so.

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