Monthly Archives: November 2015

Media Distortion: It’s Not Just a Russian Thing

When many consumers and presenters of “news” review anything involving Russia, there seems all too often to be an almost a priori patellar and Pavlovian reaction. Why?

The reasons are multiform as I will attempt to delimit.

In search of the Manichaean. This describes much of mainstream media (MSM) to a tee. The dualistic view of the world as either good or evil, the good guys and the bad guys. Apodictic proof with blinding certainty. The reflexive application of forced and absolute moral certitude when parsing and deconstructing any issue, especially of international import. Once you understand that, then you can see precisely the reality disconnect of the western MSM to what’s actually happening in the Middle East, especially as to Syria, Turkey, NATO, Russia and the fight against IS and its host of initialed aka’s.

The first question without fail. In every media analysis and appearance of mine especially as of late as to anything Russian-Syrian in context, my prolegomenon necessarily consists of “Here’s what the media don’t understand and can’t fathom.” Just think of that, before I even begin to assess and attempt to describe the salient issues I must start with an explication of the media disconnect. And if there was ever an Exhibit A of the effects of having a rodeo clown media to distract and redirect the attention and perception of the audience – a sleight of news, if you will – this is it. Imagine, the first rule of media analysis is not to believe the media.

The crow and mice studies. In a 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society entitled “Social learning spreads knowledge about dangerous humans among American crows,” murders of corvids when threatened by mask-wearing experimenters not only remembered the particular facial configuration of the masks but effectively conveyed the “grudge” to others within the community and their offspring. And speaking of crows, Donovan Crow cites a 2013 Emory University study that found that mice trained to fear a specific odor presented to them would actually pass their emotions and fears on to their offspring and future generations. Hatred, fear, distrust are not only communicable and communicative but inheritable and inherited.

Connection, please? Much of the almost reflexive reaction to anything Russian is in so many instances based on years of Cold War ideology and recurring media and popular culture incantations, rote recitations of decades-old ideology as to anything Moscow-centric. This from observers too young to even remember Cuban Missile Crisis days, grainy footage of a furious Khrushchev at the UN or anything vaguely causative of their Russian view. I respectfully submit, it’s learned and perhaps genetic. And when American MSM repeaters (versus reporters) regurgitate these hoary memes and tropes along with news chatterbox gaggles with mynah bird (switching from the crow theme deliberately) yammerings about the deliberately diabolical posturing of anything Russian, well, can you not see this connection?

Boris Badenov. When I as a wee lad of the 60’s I faithfully watched Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, two identical shows with different names. But I digress. Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale were favorites. Badenov, whose surname is a play on 16th-century Russian Tsar Boris Godunov, “was revealed in an advertisement as an active member of Local 12 of the Villains, Thieves, and Scoundrels Union.” Like the crow that was taught by fellow corvids to fear, I was conditioned through seemingly innocuous and playful cartoons who the enemy was. And I respectfully submit, like mice who inherited olfactory aversive stimuli, that disposition and worldview was passed on.

Acronyms, initalisms and utter confusion. I can remember first hearing various commentary as to the mindlessness and futility of the Vietnam adventure. When leaders were dismissed as benighted hawks with no rational understanding of a war whose participants were without the slightest understanding of who the participants were. Who was the enemy (harkening back to the initial Manichean discussion)? Villagers of all ages, “Mama Sans,” even kids were known secrete a grenade and detonate it while an unsuspecting GI was duped into showing kindness or inattention. Well, by comparison to today’s theater of war Playbill, that was child’s play. Enter al Qaeda, AQI, ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh, Boko Haram, Khorosan or al-Nusra Front. Most Ted Baxter echo chamber, media sockpuppets are still trying to distinguish Sunni from Shia, Persians from Arabs – not to mention distinguishing the taxonomy of moderate rebels, rebels, terrorists and central casting “bad guys.”

Historical nescience. Tolstoy remarked that history would be a wonderful thing if only it were true. I submit that history would be a wonderful thing if only it were read and appreciated. There have been countless references to Russia’s support of Assad’s Syria as though it were a strange Russian preoccupation or obsession versus the product of decades-long cooperation and bilateral relations. History is indeed a wonderful thing if one cares to even read it.

The neocon con. No term today is more overused (next to “hilarious”) than neocon. Or misunderstood. Neocon is not synonymous with conservative or paleocon or even liberal interventionism. It is a unique and historically singular political and ideological denomination that permeates much of the American political discussion. From the hallowed halls of government to the vaunted pages of opinion, neocon A-Listers write the script that the media as amanuenses transcribe almost verbatim. And virtually unknown to Mr. & Mrs. Sixpack and to the members of today’s narcotized MSM is this ideology that taints the discussion. When a neocon opines about Russia or Syria or intervention, knowing the script and ideological fundamentals explains the perception and description that the MSM produce.

Think tanks, institutes and propaganda factories. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the concept of Deep State. Peter Dale Scott citing Washington Post reporter Dana Priest defines it as “two governments: the one its citizens were familiar with, operated more or less in the open: the other a parallel top secret government whose parts had mushroomed in less than a decade into a gigantic, sprawling universe of its own.” What I’m referring to isn’t anything vaguely top secret, secret or even hidden. No, I refer to groups and think tanks and organizations and consortia with websites and Twitter and Facebook accounts and nothing to hide or fear that frame the perspective and are architects of opinion. They are the architects of our battles.

The presumption of correctness and authenticated validity. The final problem that contributes to the collective disconnect that many have is the presumption of correctness that media websites provide. They seem legit, appear valid and are presumed authenticated. With the trappings that accompany blogs, sites and pages, the pathetically susceptible reader is duped into believing that what appears before her eyes is true. Yet despite the stories of bogus claims and allegations, fraudulent war scenes, misquoted casualty data and the like, there’s not a resounding call to validate, authenticate and verify.

Clarity, limpidity and pellucidity as to any and all matters bellicose require and demand accurate reference, historical perspective and a decontamination of anachronistic historical memes and narratives.

It’s that simple.

Whither Probable Cause

Now you see it. Now you don’t. The vanishing and disappearance of probable cause.

As a tyro prosecutor, slogging through the criminal courts system, I’d often joke that the definition of probable cause was “He probably did it” because it seemed that whenever the standard was required for arrest or search, it was always miraculously and sometimes magically met. Probable cause or PC hereinafter (before its more contemporary referencing) denotes the belief and suspicion framework that established the basis for initial and incipient law enforcement involvement. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution refers to it as, again, that initial threshold.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. [Emphasis supplied.] U.S. Const. amend. IV.

PC has been taken to mean those conditions and facts that are present, say in the case of PC to arrest, when an officer has knowledge of such facts as would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime. And further, the officer must be able to articulate the facts and circumstances forming the bases for such probable cause. Er, theoretically, that is.

So, what seems to be the problem? Simple. Enter the mystical, magical world of legal semantics and euphemisms. My beloved profession gave you not only PC but reasonable doubt, reasonable suspicion, prima facie, preponderance of the evidence, proof evident and presumption great, clear and convincing – all designed to denote various articulable levels and gradations of proof that are supposed to be readily accessible to the public. Let me give you an example.

Let’s assume arguendo I ask you what you ate for breakfast and you replied, “A bagel. Toasted.” Let’s assume further I demanded that you prove it. Prove it how? By what standard? You could enlist a PC standard of proof. Or perhaps provide a prima facie case of your breakfast fare. You might up the degree of proof by proving your breakfast case by the preponderance of the evidence, where it would me more likely than not that you ate the referenced bagel. Or, to really impress your interrogator, prove you consumed the item beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. If this is confusing, join a very large club.

But let’s make this even more complicated. And I refer to the aforementioned definition of a constable’s necessity and ability “to articulate the facts and circumstances forming the basis for probable cause.” Let’s take a DUI roadblock where drivers are corralled into an area wherein each is inspected for evidence of illegal inebriety. Or a border search where suspected illegals are stopped and isolated en masse. The officer(s) made no prior determination, no evidence evaluation. Nothing. Everyone was “dragnetted” and ordered into an area and therefore presumed guilty. Whither probable cause?

Stop and frisk (or stop, question and frisk) is the source of great controversy and media attention, especially here in New York. The Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio392 U.S. 1 (1968), gave us the Terry Stop that was codified by legislatures. Stop and frisk is not profiling (which, by the by, is not per se verboten). The criterion employed to stop and detain a suspect – as opposed to arresting them – is  reasonable suspicion. Now, this is in no wise meant as a tutorial on detention law but rather an exhibition of the ambit and range of the tissue thin compartmentalization and variations of juridical euphemism.

And let’s wade into the even more complicated. Think of accident investigations, fingerprinting, lineups, drug sniffing dogs, drug courier profiles (to be distinguished from the more offensive and in fact illegal forms of “profiling,” such as stopping someone merely because of race or ethnicity), cyber crimes, just to name a few. What probable cause was and is required then? And now, think what happens if a law enforcement agent merely thinks or suspects you’re a terrorist or involved in alleged terrorism or anything “shady.” Probable cause requirements are being whittled and pared and shredded. But what about the Fourth Amendment, court orders and judicial review? And what was that business about no warrants issued without probable cause? As we have seen, the public has been so frightened (and deservedly so) by the specter of another 9/11 that these constitutional formalities are seen as trifling due process etiquette. After all, it’s axiomatic that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

The times they are a changin’. Does this sound familiar?

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication. [Washington Post]

Can they even do that? (I believe they just did.)

And one more wrinkle. With the advent of “Minority Report” predictive policing utilizing algorithms and the like such as the UK’s CRUSH (Criminal Reduction Utilising Statistical History) as well as NSA mass vacuuming of metadata, not to mention the data and information that you’ve most probably consented to being uploaded and utilized by virtue of your mobile phone and cloud agreements, citizens may very well have consented to the government’s access to everything and anything thus obviating the necessity of even advancing a preliminary probable cause determination.

Cue Taps. Probable cause is sadly becoming an historical vestige, an anachronism. Diluted and disposed of, whose utility and protections have been obliterated through our hysteria over terrorism and the public’s acceptance of and habituation to ubiquitous, Panopticon surveillance.

Probable cause. So long, old friend.

LIONEL PODCAST: How and What to Think in the 21st Century

David White (April 4, 1916 – November 27, 1990), the man who gave life to Larry Tate.

I explained Ted Baxter; meet Larry Tate. Wikipedia describes him as Darrin Stephens’ “profit-obsessed boss . . . [whose] opinions turn on a dime to appease a client in an attempt to land a deal.” Sound familiar?

And did someone say Kurds? This will clear up who they exactly are.

LIONEL PODCAST: The Myth of Thanksgiving and Thanks. It’s About Luck Versus Gratitude.

It’s a crapshoot. There’s gratitude and there’s luck. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

LIONEL PODCAST: America’s Suicide Pact

Why are you so worried about “debates.” They’re not debates. They’re beauty pageants. Mindless media diversions. Psychotic interludes. Charm school rejects and sleight of hand. Bought and paid for political hacks playing the ol’ switcheroo. Just look at the topics that seem to command so much of our collective attention. Look at what we find interesting, critical and what we ignore and reject altogether. Look at the attention that our media will pay to underinflated footballs and other pseudo-controversies; it is beyond my comprehension. We have sealed our fate and guaranteed are doom. If this country fails it will not be because of invading Visigoths over the horizon but because of the collective collapse of our society due to our profound nescience and intellectual torpor. Or something.

LIONEL PODCAST: The Systematic Devolution of Human Culture and the Rise of the Poseur

This is what we’ve become. Lost. Disconnected. Narcissistic beyond any realm of comprehension. And it’s posh and cool to be profoundly nescient. Mention TPP and watch the vapid look . . . from the Ted Baxter sock puppet media. Just keep us amused. Give us surface level stories. Nothing too deep or profound.

On Putin. Borrowing from the US’s history, Putin may now blame ISIS for the downed plane and invade and take over any country (teeming with natural resources and energy wealth) that he wants so long as he makes a tenuous connection between it and “training” or support. He can then say the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud. Or, better to strike them there than they strike us here. And we can’t say anything.

Who said bacon? Watch for yourself.

LIONEL PODCAST: If You Vote You Can’t Complain

George Carlin, America’s prophet said it best. He speaks to the futility and illusion of choice and substantive differences.

I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote – who did not even leave the house on Election Day – am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created.

Unavoidable verity. It is tragically true. But we love the game, the pageantry, the pro forma exercise in the noble pursuit of the belief that today, choice exists and choice is targeted. Emma Goldman said that if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. (In fact, may have been attributed to that quote.)

The abecedarian fundamentals. Lionel’s Manifesto.