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.

 

The Swamp and Machete Report.

Senator Steve King had a few things to say about a couple;e of his colleagues, who scuttled the ‘Skinny’ Obamacare repeal the other day,, after promises going back to the corrupt passage of the monstrosity.

He’s right in all details, of course.


There was a knife attack in Hamburg the other day, which killed one and wounded several. The perpetrator shouted Allu Akbar, or Aloha Snackbar, or something. The police are puzzled by what the motive may have been. I’m puzzled that the Germans keep electing such cretins as Mutti Merkel, but I’m a simple man who believes in right and wrong, and self-defense, as a person, and a society.


Joe Klein writing at Warsclerotic has some very appropriate thoughts about the war going on between the deep state (in the State Department) and the President.

The State Department’s own “deep state” is trying to sabotage President Trump’s foreign policy agenda. From the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran, Qatar and climate change, the State Department, under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is reported to be in “open war” with the White House. Key high level positions remain vacant as Obama holdovers “continue running the show and formulating policy, where they have increasingly clashed with the White House’s own agenda,” according to the Free Beacon. Secretary Tillerson has reportedly run interference to protect the Obama holdovers from being removed, allowing resistance to President Trump’s foreign policy agenda to flourish within the State Department.

The first casualty of this internal coup by the State Department’s deep state is Israel. The shadow of the Obama administration’s anti-Israel bias was reflected in a report the State Department released on July 17, 2017 entitled Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. It praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for reiterating “his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means.” The report referred to what it called “significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.”

The State Department report brushed aside clear evidence of a continuing barrage of incendiary rhetoric appearing on official Palestinian Authority and Fatah social media outlets and of inflammatory statements by Palestinian officials, including Abbas himself. Instead, it claimed that the Palestinian Authority “has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence.”

The State Department report conveniently skipped over the fact that Abbas remains committed to paying regular salaries to Palestinian terrorists imprisoned for killing Jews and to terrorists’ families. Their perfidiously named “Martyrs Fund” has a treasure chest of about $300 million dollars. That blood money comes in part from foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority, some of which is contributed by American taxpayers. President Trump has spoken out against the ‘pay to slay Jews’ terrorist payments, but the State Department has turned a blind eye. Obama holdover Stuart Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, is reported to have steered Secretary Tillerson into making the erroneous claim that the Palestinian Authority had ceased spending U.S. taxpayer funds to pay terrorists, according to the Free Beacon’s sources.

Yep, and a good part of this also goes back to the failed GOP leadership in the Senate. That is a large part of why all those Obama appointees are still scattered around the government (and there are tons of them). The Senate under McConnel just can’t find enough votes as the majority party to confirm (with 51 votes out of 100, or 101 is Pence is in the chair). Or maybe they don’t want to, they seem to be more considerate to the Democrats that to the Republican rank and file that elected them. I suspect that Draining the Swamp™ will proceed much better after more than a few GOP Senators get primaried.

 

Of Covers and Kids

This is cool if you haven’t seen it. When the President got back to Joint Base Andrews and walked across the tarmac to Marine One, the rotor wash apparently blew off one of the Marine honor guards’ cover. Then this happened.

Look, this is neither the Apocalypse or the Millenium. It’s just the boss guy trying to do the right thing for one of the guys. That it didn’t go so well just adds to the charm. I do think it speaks well of Trump that he did this, especially since it was obviously a spur of the moment thing. Not all that many senior folks do, anymore.


This is rather remarkable. From PowerLine.

James McPherson, writing in the Washington Examiner, makes a remarkable observation: the leaders of Europe have no children. France’s Emmanuel Macron has none. Same with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister Theresa May, Italian prime minister Paolo Gentilon, Holland’s Mark Rutte, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Lofven has no biological children.

The prime minister of Luxembourg is also childless. I mention him not to cherry pick, but because it means that of the six founding members of what evolved into the European Union, five are now led by childless prime ministers or presidents. As George Weigel says, this would have been unimaginable to one of the founders of modern “Europe,” Konrad Adenauer, who was the father of eight.

It’s also unimaginable in the U.S., at least for the time being. President Trump has five kids. There hasn’t been a childless American president in my lifetime.

Some people can’t have children. Others choose not to, a decision I fully respect.

Still, there’s something eerie about the fact that Europe has no many childless leaders, even if you don’t agree with McPherson that those who lead nations should have skin, in the form of descendants, in the game. It seems extremely unlikely that a Europe that valued children highly would elect childless leaders in country after country. The electoral success of such leaders heightens the suspicion, supported by declining birth rates among non-immigrant Europeans, that Europe is committing demographic suicide.

May or may not be the end of the world, but it is rather strange, I think. Of course, it also could be argued that it is a reflection of their society, which may well be true. I like McPherson’s point, that leaders should have skin in the game, Kids to carry on, as it were. If I recall it was John Maynard Keynes, the economist that made deficit spending so popular, to the point that countries are going broke from it, that said, “In the long run we are all dead”. True enough, of course, we all will be. But it sounds a little different when one realises that he, too, was childless, and so one could argue that kicking the can down the road to avoid pain, was, for him, a valid strategy. Whether it was, or not, for countries that intended to go on into the future is a different question.

Sunday Pictures and a Bonus Video

Another week to sum up. Dana Loesch brings it – the truth, that is.

Meanwhile, the usual (paid) suspects are rioting in Hamburg at the G20, their old buddy Mayor deBlasio is junketing over there leading them while, as always shirking his duties. The NY Post has had enough.

I think we all can sympathise. A few more from there,  from PowerLine.

 

I’m beginning to think a whiff of grapeshot might well be in order. But I’m old fashioned like that.

Wrapping up the week, from PowerLine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heh!

Headlines of the Week

 

 

 

And, of course,

 

Happy Sunday!

Grenfell Tower

So let’s try to unpack this horror a bit, shall we? I happened to watch it almost in real time (on Sky) and I was appalled as it went up. As I said yesterday, it reminded me of the WTC more than anything – essentially all the heroism in the world from the emergency services (and they were, as always) of very little utility, the effects were more like the actions of a particularly malevolent god than anything else.

The best general write up I’ve read as to underlying causes was, not surprisingly on The Conservative Woman. In the immense comment stream, it degenerates a bit into partisan backbiting. Well, what doesn’t these days?

But here’s what I think I know.

  • It’s a high rise (24 stories) with one staircase and two elevators. Not uncommon, there or here, but one must always remember that once you get past roughly 10 floors the fire department is restricted to internal access. 150 feet is about all mobile equipment can reach.
  • Supposedly it was constructed to contain fire, reinforced concrete construction, fire doors and such. Normal stuff, not all that expensive, usually effective. Failed here.
  • A cladding was applied to the building, for appearance and insulation. Some reports say it was not fire resistant. It’s possible it wasn’t, but apply enough heat and almost anything will burn. What appeared to happen here is that fire got behind the cladding and into the insulation. I’ve heard that insulation described as Celotex (may or may not be true), but almost all insulation will either burn or melt, and if it does behind the cladding, it will form a flue (much like a chimney) and heat will rise very quickly feeding the flames. That is what the fire looked like on TV.
  • No sprinklers. May or may not have mattered in the public spaces. Which is all that is usually required. If they had been installed in the apartments may well have contained it, and most also have an automatic alarm, both local and fire department, which would help. Apparently, this building grandfathered the requirement, but best practice would have seen them installed.
  • No (or inaudible) local fire alarm. Inexcusable, in my mind at least.
  • Open windows. England has little air conditioning, and none here, so windows were open, increasing draft for the fire. Well, not really a lot you can do about that.
  • Lots of immigrants in the building. Not a big deal, maybe, but cultural practices do matter. May have been lots of flammable artifacts about, prayer rugs, this, that, and the other. I have also seen immigrants here cooking over open flames (improvised firepits and such) very dangerous in a multi-story building. Don’t know, but might be worth looking at. Also were firedoors kept shut? Canada, for instance, requires that the door to a connected garage have an self-closing mechanism.
  • One that will surprise Americans. There are reports of an exploding refrigerator. That’s something that just doesn’t happen here. Why? Because we use CFCs for refrigerants. If they leak and burn, they can cause phosgene poisoning, but the systems are sealed and pretty much bulletproof. Never, not once, in the last 50 years have I heard of a problem. Europe is different. They use Isobutane, essentially what we call LP gas. Yeah, the same stuff that we use in our barbecue grills, and sometimes stoves and furnaces where natural gas is not available. I won’t have it in my house for any reason, not least because, unlike natural gas, it is heavier than air and will accumulate, and a very small spark (static electricity from a woolen rug, say) can set it off. The other thing is, it’s a small molecule (unlike CFCs) and much harder to seal permanently. LP is every bit as flammable as acetylene that is used for welding, in fact, Oxy-propane is very often used for cutting torches because it burns hotter. Now get a leak in your refrigerator, and a spark in the thermostat, and you have an explosion, and not a small one. Why do they do this? Because the EU has banned CFCs for environmental reasons (we’ve changed our formulations too. The new ones aren’t as effective, but less damaging to the ozone layer).¹

Overall, this was a systemic failure, old Murphy was working overtime. The problems just piled one on the other, and as a result, likely more than a hundred people are dead and died horribly. If I understand the building was council owned (rather like an overpowered city council combined with the zoning board) and managed by a (no doubt connected) non-profit. Strikes me as plenty of room for corruption to sneak in as well, although I have no proof of anything like that. But the one thing we know about bureaucrats is that they can almost never be forced to take responsibility for anything. I doubt anything different than that here.

And yes, the pseudo pious virtue signaling, blame passing, and all those games have already started. Not to mention the wingeing about how we don’t have enough money.

¹ ISOBUTANE

Rep Scalise, and an Attack on the Republic

(Photo: Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency)

[I have some things to say about the Grenfell Tower fire in London, but it won’t be today. So far, I start thinking about it, and I just sit here and cry, not least because of the parallels to the WTC back on 911. The worry over my niece that was working in lower Manhatten that day still haunts me, and the pictures from this disaster bring it all back, terribly strongly. Maybe tomorrow.]

So, let’s talk about something perhaps more evil. The assassination attempt on Steve Scalise and a bunch of other Republican Representatives. Lots of time I don’t agree with any of them, you know that, but they are our elected representatives, and we should assume they are doing what they think is right. That goes for the Democrats as well. We are a representational republic, if you don’t like what they do, vote against them.

The weapon was apparently an AK 47 variant, not that it matters, it could have been anything including a bolt action. Much of the problem was that while I suspect many of these guys have carry permits, who carries a gun at baseball practice?  I don’t, you don’t, I doubt anybody does, but yesterday it would have been a Godsend.

That said, Rep Scalise being there likely saved us from a massacre, as leadership, he is entitled to security. And a couple of very brave Capitol Police officers saved the day. I don’t know whether they took the gunman out or the responding locals did, but they at least bought time for that response.

It’s no easy thing to go up against a rifle with a handgun, but Special Agent David Bailey and Special Agent Crystal Griner are beyond doubting real American heroes. Agent Griner was apparently wounded in the attack and we obviously wish her all the best. Both agents were as well as two others, and we pray for them all.

The perpetrator is dead, which is a good outcome, as Jonathon Turley reported earlier today the penalty for attacking Congressmen with intent to kill, ranges from 25 years to death, as it should. This was not a terrorist attack, at least as we generally perceive them. He was a 60-year-old supporter of Bernie Sanders, and opposed virulently both Trump and Clinton. As usual, he was likely just crazy, not that the current environment doesn’t aggravate that. None of this rebounds to Senator Sander’s fault, it is purely the responsibility of the perpetrator. Sen. Sanders released a statement which said this.

 

Fair enough, you will all remember that Senator Sanders also defended Ann Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley. I almost never agree with him, but he’s an honest and an honorable man.

We are already, unsurprisingly seeing the attack turned into partisan politics, especially by the press, which seemingly will do and or say anything to get noticed these days. Which of course is why they have become irrelevant in the first place.

But it is time, indeed it is well past time, to cool the rhetoric in this country some. The witchhunt and the defenses against it are becoming much too likely to precipitate violence, and as we saw this morning, that is not in any of our best interest. We don’t need to agree, but we do need to agree to act civilly, if we don’t this will become the precursor of who knows what. I was asked today by a British friend whether we are getting ready to kick off Act 4 of the “Cousin’s Wars”. My answer was that I hoped not, but I feared we are.

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