TracyvFAU and the Threat to Free Speech (Video)

In this forthcoming series of interview vignettes Attorneys Louis Leo IV and Matthew Benzion, alongside James Tracy and others, discuss Tracy’s 2016 case against Florida Atlantic University, the 10-day trial and misleading “fake news” media circus that surrounded the event, and the unfolding implications for free speech in higher education and broader social discourse.

Blockbuster WSJ Investigation: How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

Naked Capitalism
by Jerri-Lynn Scofield

Jerri-Lynn Scofield has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The WSJ published a comprehensive investigation Friday, How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results, that provides fodder for ongoing or new antitrust investigations of the company,  both in the US, and worldwide:

THE JOURNAL’S FINDINGS undercut one of Google’s core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power—that the company doesn’t exert editorial control over what it shows users. Regulators’ areas of concern include anticompetitive practices, political bias and online misinformation.

Permit to me quote from the WSJ’s takedown at length – although I encourage readers, if possible, to read the entire (paywalled)  version, for it contains a wealth of information, as well as lots of cool graphics:

Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

• Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBayInc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc.and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

• Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.

• Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.

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South Park Targets Gender-Demarcated Sports and Transgender Athletes

The most recent episode of Comedy Central’s South Park focuses on how transsexual athletes are “breaking” multiple records in various organized sports demarcated by gender.

This week’s show features a pro-wrestler Randy Savage-like antagonist who demolishes “her” competitors at the “Strong Woman” meet, to the tune of the “Strong Woman” theme song, which sounds remarkably similar to Blue Oyster Cult’s 1977 monster homage, “Godzilla.”

As expected, the episode has earned the ire of major media and pro-transsexual commentators, who point to South Park creators’ “transphobia.” This dynamic is anticipated in the show’s featured “PC babies”, the offspring of South Park’s excessively PC male (he/him) school principal and his body building female (she/her) spouse.

Sophia Narwitz, a male at birth who now identifies as a woman, writes at RT that the phenomenon has reached limits worthy of lampooning.

Trans athletes like Rachel Mckkinnon are destroying cycling records. Mary Gregory broke four women’s powerlifting records in a single day. Two transgender students won top prize at a girl’s state championship track event. And there’s many more similar stories. But one cannot question or criticize this new phenomena as the media and far left reactionaries pile on with hate and accusations of bigotry. 

Their mindset is muddying the water of a topic that needs debate. LGBT activists can argue that trans athletes don’t have an edge, but they do. I myself am biologically male. Hormones may have refined my features, softened my skin, and given me boobs. Some muscle mass may have even been redistributed or lessened, but much of it remains the same, as does my unchanging skeletal structure. If I was to train and then compete in sports, I would have an edge. 

The episode also pokes fun at how federal legislation is arrived at, and has a “happy” resolution where South Park school girls who through a newly-created law establish a gender-specific gaming club where they give the incredibly “successful” trans athlete a true run for “her” money.

Is the show “funny”? That arguably depends on whether one considers transgenders a marginalized group. Given the transgender movement’s now considerable influence on public policy and much of the corporate sector, one may certainly contend that South Park’s creators return full circle to what made the cartoon a household name–thoughtful (albeit often crude) criticism of mainstream institutions and culture.

Students Witnessing California Shooting Produced Active Shooter ‘Instructional Video’ Months Ago

Event goes down amidst national debate on preparation/response methods to active shooter situations

VC Star/USA Today
(November 14, 2019)

When sophomore Elijah Mims, 15, performed in an active shooter training video for a class project earlier this school year, the Santa Clarita native never thought he’d actually be running for his life.

“We were just preparing for the worst, but we never thought anything would occur in a suburb like Santa Clarita. It’s such a lovely place,” Mims told USA TODAY in a phone interview.

In the instructional video, Mims played the role of a “person who was hiding,” later demonstrating to students how they could safely escape an active shooter situation. On Thursday, Mims found himself a few feet away from an armed classmate. He sprinted into an empty classroom, where he huddled quietly with dozens of other students until police entered the room.

“The video helped me out since I reacted right away and was able to do what I needed,” Mims said.

The school shooting that killed two and injured at least three people at Saugus High School Thursday comes amid a national debate around how to prepare for and respond to active shooter situations, with some schools and policymakers advocating a range of tactics — from “bulletproof backpacks” to curved hallways.

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A New Kind of Tyranny: The Global State’s War on Those Who Speak Truth to Power

John Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
(November 5, 2019)

“What happens to Julian Assange and to Chelsea Manning is meant to intimidate us, to frighten us into silence. By defending Julian Assange, we defend our most sacred rights. Speak up now or wake up one morning to the silence of a new kind of tyranny. The choice is ours.”—John Pilger, investigative journalist

All of us are in danger.

In an age of prosecutions for thought crimes, pre-crime deterrence programs, and government agencies that operate like organized crime syndicates, there is a new kind of tyranny being imposed on those who dare to expose the crimes of the Deep State, whose reach has gone global.

The Deep State has embarked on a ruthless, take-no-prisoners, all-out assault on truth-tellers.

Activists, journalists and whistleblowers alike are being terrorized, traumatized, tortured and subjected to the fear-inducing, mind-altering, soul-destroying, smash-your-face-in tactics employed by the superpowers-that-be.

Take Julian Assange, for example.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks—a website that published secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources—was arrested on April 11, 2019, on charges of helping U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning access and leak more than 700,000 classified military documents that portray the U.S. government and its military as reckless, irresponsible and responsible for thousands of civilian deaths.

Included among the leaked Manning material were the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), a quarter of a million diplomatic cables (November 2010), and the Guantánamo files (April 2011).

The Collateral Murder leak included gunsight video footage from two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicoptersengaged in a series of air-to-ground attacks while air crew laughed at some of the casualties. Among the casualties were two Reuters correspondents who were gunned down after their cameras were mistaken for weapons and a driver who stopped to help one of the journalists. The driver’s two children, who happened to be in the van at the time it was fired upon by U.S. forces, suffered serious injuries.

This is morally wrong.

It shouldn’t matter which nation is responsible for these atrocities: there is no defense for such evil perpetrated in the name of profit margins and war profiteering.

In true Orwellian fashion, however, the government would have us believe that it is Assange and Manning who are the real criminals for daring to expose the war machine’s seedy underbelly.

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House Votes in Favor of Disastrous Copyright Bill

Senate Can Still Stop CASE Act

Electronic Frontier Foundation
(October 23, 2019)

The House of Representatives has just voted in favor of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) by 410-6 (with 16 members not voting), moving forward a bill that Congress has had no hearingsand no debates on so far this session. That means that there has been no public consideration of the serious harm the bill could do to regular Internet users and their expression online.

The CASE Act creates a new body in the Copyright Office which will receive copyright complaints, notify the person being sued, and then decide if money is owed and how much. This new Copyright Claims Board will be able to fine people up to $30,000 per proceeding. Worse, if you get one of these notices (maybe an email, maybe a letter—the law actually does not specify) and accidentally ignore it, you’re on the hook for the money with a very limited ability to appeal. $30,000 could bankrupt or otherwise ruin the lives of many Americans.

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Reflections on Media and Politics