Alternative Media

Noam Chomsky: Defeating ISIS Starts with the US Admitting Its Role in Creating

It would take remedying the massive damage inflicted on Iraq in order to deal with the turmoil in the region.

We air the second part of our two-day interview with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. Chomsky is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. As Iraq launches an offensive to retake Tikrit and Congress prepares to debate an expansive war powers resolution for U.S. strikes, Chomsky discusses how he thinks the U.S. should respond to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Below is an interview with Chomsky, followed by a transcript:


AMY GOODMAN: Today, part two of our discussion with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. On Mondayon Democracy Now!, Aaron Maté and I interviewed him about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran to Congress. Today, in part two, we look at blowback from the U.S. drone program, the legacy of slavery in the United States, the leaks of Edward Snowden, U.S. meddling in Venezuela and the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations. We began by asking Professor Chomsky how the U.S. should respond to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to think of anything serious that can be done. I mean, it should be settled diplomatically and peacefully to the extent that that’s possible. It’s not inconceivable. I mean, there are—ISIS, it’s a horrible manifestation of hideous actions. It’s a real danger to anyone nearby. But so are other forces. And we should be getting together with Iran, which has a huge stake in the matter and is the main force involved, and with the Iraqi government, which is calling for and applauding Iranian support and trying to work out with them some arrangement which will satisfy the legitimate demands of the Sunni population, which is what ISIS is protecting and defending and gaining their support from.

They’re not coming out of nowhere. I mean, they are—one of the effects, the main effects, of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—there are many horrible effects, but one of them was to incite sectarian conflicts, that had not been there before. If you take a look at Baghdad before the invasion, Sunni and Shia lived intermingled—same neighborhoods, they intermarried. Sometimes they say that they didn’t even know if their neighbor was a Sunni or a Shia. It was like knowing what Protestant sect your neighbor belongs to. There was pretty close—it wasn’t—I’m not claiming it was—it wasn’t utopia. There were conflicts. But there was no serious conflict, so much so that Iraqis at the time predicted there would never be a conflict. Well, within a couple of years, it had turned into a violent, brutal conflict. You look at Baghdad today, it’s segregated. What’s left of the Sunni communities are isolated. The people can’t talk to their neighbors. There’s war going on all over. The ISIS is murderous and brutal. The same is true of the Shia militias which confront it. And this is now spread all over the region. There’s now a major Sunni-Shia conflict rending the region apart, tearing it to shreds.

Now, this cannot be dealt with by bombs. This is much more serious than that. It’s got to be dealt with by steps towards recovering, remedying the massive damage that was initiated by the sledgehammer smashing Iraq and has now spread. And that does require diplomatic, peaceful means dealing with people who are pretty ugly—and we’re not very pretty, either, for that matter. But this just has to be done. Exactly what steps should be taken, it’s hard to say. There are people whose lives are at stake, like the Assyrian Christians, the Yazidi and so on. Apparently, the fighting that protected the—we don’t know a lot, but it looks as though the ground fighting that protected the Yazidi, largely, was carried out by PKK, the Turkish guerrilla group that’s fighting for the Kurds in Turkey but based in northern Iraq. And they’re on the U.S. terrorist list. We can’t hope to have a strategy that deals with ISIS while opposing and attacking the group that’s fighting them, just as it doesn’t make sense to try to have a strategy that excludes Iran, the major state that’s supporting Iraq in its battle with ISIS.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that so many of those who are joining ISIS now—and a lot has been made of the young people, young women and young men, who are going into Syria through Turkey. I mean, Turkey is a U.S. ally. There is a border there. They freely go back and forth.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s right. And it’s not just young people. One thing that’s pretty striking is that it includes people with—educated people, doctors, professionals and others. Whatever we—we may not like it, but ISIS is—the idea of the Islamic caliphate does have an appeal to large sectors of a brutalized global population, which is under severe attack everywhere, has been for a long time. And something has appeared which has an appeal to them. And that can’t be overlooked if we want to deal with the issue. We have to ask what’s the nature of the appeal, why is it there, how can we accommodate it and lead to some, if not at least amelioration of the murderous conflict, then maybe some kind of settlement. You can’t ignore these factors if you want to deal with the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about more information that’s come out on the British man who is known as “Jihadi John,” who appears in the Islamic State beheading videos. Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as that man by British security. They say he’s a 26-year-old born in Kuwait who moved to the U.K. as a child and studied computer science at the University of Westminster. The British group CAGE said he faced at least four years of harassment, detention, deportations, threats and attempts to recruit him by British security agencies, which prevented him from leading a normal life. Emwazi approached CAGE in 2009 after he was detained and interrogated by the British intelligence agency MI5 on what he called a safari vacation in Tanzania. In 2010, after Emwazi was barred from returning to Kuwait, he wrote, quote, “I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started. But know [sic] I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.” In 2013, a week after he was barred from Kuwait for a third time, Emwazi left home and ended up in Syria. At a news conference, CAGE research director Asim Qureshi spoke about his recollections of Emwazi and compared his case to another British man, Michael Adebolajo, who hacked a soldier to death in London in 2013.

ASIM QURESHI: Sorry, it’s quite hard, because, you know, he’s such a—I’m really sorry, but he was such a beautiful young man, really. You know, it’s hard to imagine the trajectory, but it’s not a trajectory that’s unfamiliar with us, for us. We’ve seen Michael Adebolajo, once again, somebody that I met, you know, who came to me for help, looking to change his situation within the system. When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders, they will inevitably feel like outsiders, and they will look for belonging elsewhere?

AMY GOODMAN: That’s CAGE research director Asim Qureshi. Your response to this, Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: He’s right. If you—the same if you take a look at those who perpetrated the crimes on Charlie Hebdo. They also have a history of oppression, violence. They come from Algerian background. The horrible French participation in the murderous war in the ’90s in Algeria is their immediate background. They live under—in these harshly repressed areas. And there’s much more than that. So, you mentioned that information is coming out about so-called Jihadi John. You read the British press, other information is coming out, which we don’t pay much attention to. For example, The Guardian had an article a couple of weeks ago about a Yemeni boy, I think who was about 14 or so, who was murdered in a drone strike. And shortly before, they had interviewed him about his history. His parents and family went through them, were murdered in drone strikes. He watched them burn to death. We get upset about beheadings. They get upset about seeing their father burn to death in a drone strike. He said they live in a situation of constant terror, not knowing when the person 10 feet away from you is suddenly going to be blown away. That’s their lives. People like those who live in the slums around Paris or, in this case, a relatively privileged man under harsh, pretty harsh repression in England, they also know about that. We may choose not to know about it, but they know. When we talk about beheadings, they know that in the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza, at the points where the attack was most fierce, like the Shejaiya neighborhood, people weren’t just beheaded. Their bodies were torn to shreds. People came later trying to put the pieces of the bodies together to find out who they were, you know. These things happen, too. And they have an impact—all of this has an impact, along with what was just described. And if we seriously want to deal with the question, we can’t ignore that. That’s part of the background of people who are reacting this way.

AARON MATÉ: You spoke before about how the U.S. invasion set off the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, and out of that came ISIS. I wonder if you see a parallel in Libya, where the U.S. and NATOhad a mandate to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi, but then went much further than a no-fly zone and helped topple Gaddafi. And now, four years later, we have ISIS in Libya, and they’re beheading Coptic Christians, Egypt now bombing. And with the U.S. debating this expansive war measure, Libya could be next on the U.S. target list.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s a very important analogy. What happened is, as you say, there was a claim that there might be a massacre in Benghazi, and in response to that, there was a U.N. resolution, which had several elements. One, a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, which apparently Gaddafi accepted. Another was a no-fly zone, OK, to stop attacks on Benghazi. The three traditional imperial powers—Britain, France and the United States—immediately violated the resolution. No diplomacy, no ceasefire. They immediately became the air force of the rebel forces. And, in fact, the war itself had plenty of brutality—violent militias, attacks on Africans living in Libya, all sorts of things. The end result is just to tear Libya to shreds. By now, it’s torn between two major warring militias, many other small ones. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil. It’s just a disaster, total disaster. That’s what happens when you strike vulnerable systems, as I said, with a sledgehammer. All kind of horrible things can happen.

In the case of Iraq, it’s worth recalling that there had been an almost decade of sanctions, which were brutally destructive. We know about—we can, if we like, know about the sanctions. People prefer not to, but we can find out. There was a sort of humanitarian component of the sanctions, so-called. It was the oil-for-peace program, instituted when the reports of the sanctions were so horrendous—you know, hundreds of thousand of children dying and so on—that it was necessary for the U.S. and Britain to institute some humanitarian part. That was directed by prominent, respected international diplomats, Denis Halliday, who resigned, and Hans von Sponeck. Both Halliday and von Sponeck resigned because they called the humanitarian aspect genocidal. That’s their description. And von Sponeck published a detailed, important book on it called, I think, A Different Kind of War, or something like that, which I’ve never seen a review of or even a mention of it in the United States, which detailed, in great detail, exactly how these sanctions were devastating the civilian society, supporting Saddam, because the people had to simply huddle under the umbrella of power for survival, probably—they didn’t say this, but I’ll add it—probably saving Saddam from the fate of other dictators who the U.S. had supported and were overthrown by popular uprisings. And there’s a long list of them—Somoza, Marcos, Mobutu, Duvalier—you know, even Ceaușescu, U.S. was supporting. They were overthrown from within. Saddam wasn’t, because the civil society that might have carried that out was devastated. He had a pretty efficient rationing system people were living on for survival, but it severely harmed the civilian society. Then comes the war, you know, massive war, plenty of destruction, destruction of antiquities. There’s now, you know, properly, denunciation of ISIS for destroying antiquities. The U.S. invasion did the same thing. Millions of refugees, a horrible blow against the society.

These things have terrible consequences. Actually, there’s an interesting interview with Graham Fuller. He’s one of the leading Middle East analysts, long background in CIA, U.S. intelligence. In the interview, he says something like, “The U.S. created ISIS.” He hastens to add that he’s not joining with the conspiracy theories that are floating around the Middle East about how the U.S. is supportingISIS. Of course, it’s not. But what he says is, the U.S. created ISIS in the sense that we established the background from which ISISdeveloped as a terrible offshoot. And we can’t overlook that.


Has Technology Changed Us?: BBC Animations Answer the Question with the Help of Marshall McLuhan

In January, we featured series of short animations from BBC Radio 4 addressing the question “How Did Everything Begin?” In February, we featured its follow-up on an equally eternal question, “What Makes Us Human?” Both came scripted by Philosophy Bites co-creator Nigel Warburton and narrated by X-Files co-star Gillian Anderson (in full British mode). Now that March has come, so has the next installment of these brief, crisp, curiosity-fueled productions: “Has Technology Changed Us?”

In a word: yes. But then, everything we do has always changed us, thanks to the property of the brain we now call “plasticity.” This we learn from the video, “Rewiring the Brain” (right below), which, balancing its heartening neuroscientific evidence with the proverbial old dog’s ability to learn new tricks, also tells of the “attention disorders, screen addictions, and poor social skills” that may have already begun plaguing the younger generation.

Marshall McLuhan, of course, could have foreseen all this. Hence his appearance in “The Medium is the Message” (top), a title taken from theUniversity of Toronto English professor turned communication-theory guru’s famous dictum. The video actually spells out McLuhan’s own explanation of that much-quoted line: “What has been communicated has been less important than the particular medium through which people communicate.” Whether you buy that notion or not, the whole range of proclamations McLuhan had on the subject will certainly get you thinking — in his own words, “You don’t like these ideas? I got others.”

The other two videos in this series, despite their short length, get into other intriguing related concepts: “The Fourth Revolution” that comes as a result of life in a “mass age of information and data,” and the workings of “The Antikythera Mechanism,” the first computer ever built. Our personal technology has certainly come a long way, but we shouldn’t fall into complacency about it, lest, as Anderson says in this series, it all wrecks our attention spans and “education will all have to be delivered in two-minute animations.”

Related Content:

How Did Everything Begin?: Animations on the Origins of the Universe Narrated by X-Files Star Gillian Anderson

What Makes Us Human?: Chomsky, Locke & Marx Introduced by New Animated Videos from the BBC

McLuhan Said “The Medium Is The Message”; Two Pieces Of Media Decode the Famous Phrase

Marshall McLuhan: The World is a Global Village

A History of Ideas: Animated Videos Explain Theories of Simone de Beauvoir, Edmund Burke & Other Philosophers



Last October, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper hid in a closet as shots rang out in the halls of the Canadian Parliament. The “terrorist attack,” which tragically took the life of Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on sentry duty at the National War Memorial, was the act of an unstable 32-year-old man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Zehaf-Bibeau, whose father was Libyan, had converted to Islam in 2004 and had no known ties to any terrorist group. He’d been living in a homeless shelter and had long-term problems with substance abuse. His attack – along with another that occurred near Montreal shortly before it, in which another man with a long history of mental illness ran over a soldier with his car – were seized on by politicians and the media to push forward new tools needed to fight “Islamic extremism” both at home and abroad.

Soon after Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack, Canadian pilots joined in NATO airstrikes on ISIL targets in Iraq, drawing the country into renewed war in that nation – a conflict former Prime Minister Jean Chretian had wisely avoided in 2003. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Harper government crafted legislation further empowering Canadian security services at the expense of rights guaranteed to Canadians under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Due to the Conservative majority in Parliament, and aided with support from the Liberal Party, the final bill, C-51, easily passed its second reading – despite being more wide-ranging than most observers expected. One glaring example was a provision in the bill allowing police to engage in what were previously illegal searches and seizures in terrorism cases.

If made into law, Canadian judges will now be able to issue “disruption warrants” in terrorism cases that “would give cops and spies the go-ahead to ‘enter any place or open or obtain access to anything,’ copy any documents and install or remove anything they see fit.” Some of the language in C-51 defines terrorism so broadly, it appears that anyone who disagrees with neo-liberal aims – whether in economic or foreign policy – could be tarred with the “terrorist” brush.

The Public Debate

Thankfully, there have been strong voices opposing the bill. The NDP, the left-leaning Official Opposition party, along with Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, have demanded more hearings on C-51 before it is passed into law. Many Parliamentarians have also said they will vote against it if substantial amendments aren’t made to the final bill.

The Conservatives and their Liberal allies talk as if terrorism is an existential threat. The desire of some sensible people in Ottawa to further study and debate C-51 provoked this response from Conservative MP Daryl Kramp: “Time is of the essence. I don’t want Rome to burn when Nero fiddles. The terrorism threat is real.”

While it’s unlikely that the second largest country in the world will catch on fire anytime soon due to the actions of “lone wolves” like Zehaf-Bibeau, Kramp and others like him have showed themselves unable to avoid using such tired metaphors. And it’s this fearful attitude that has already led the government to legalize “preventive arrests” – a process wherein Canadians can be “detained without charges and arrested without warrants.” Bill C-51 goes even further in eroding constitutional rights than the eight pieces of anti-terrorism legislation already passed by the Canadian government since 2001.

Besides the objections put forward by the NDP and the Greens, in an unprecedented display of unity, four former prime ministers and five former Supreme Court justices sent a letter to the Globe and Mail national newspaper on the subject of C-51. In an important passage, they stated, “Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security.”

A few sensible commentators have also noted that the money that will be spent as a result of the bill – not to mention the costs of bombing ISIL in Iraq – could have a greater impact if it were used to help the mentally ill in the country, not only regarding possible acts of terrorism but also mass shootings at schools and in other public places that have claimed far more victims.

Criminalizing Dissent

In recent years, the Canadian government has also created a new class of terrorist: “anti-petroleum extremists.” These dangerous subversives have, according to a report issued last summer by Canada’s federal police, the RCMP, “aligned themselves with violent aboriginal extremists. As the petroleum industry expands its operations across Canada, criminal activity associated to the anti-petroleum movement will increase nationally.”

The Conservative Party in general, and Stephen Harper in particular, are known to be very friendly with the petroleum industry, especially tar sands producers who wield significant influence in the country. In December, the Harper complained that it was “crazy” for opposition MPs and environmentalists to demand more regulations on the industry to combat global warming. He has also used his majority rule to muzzle government scientists, especially those researching climate issues, placing restrictions on their right to speak to the press or the public.

Although there is a vague clause protecting “advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression” in the text, Bill C-51 doesn’t define when these protected behaviors cross over into the “promotion” or the actual commitment of terrorist acts. For example, C-51 makes clear that hurting the country’s economic interests in any way falls under this definition. Thus, blocking a pipeline or organizing a protest without permission from authorities could be considered terrorism if the bill becomes law.

It isn’t just environmentalists who are likely to be targeted under C-51. Non-violent animal rights activists and anti-capitalists are other groups that federal authorities have labeled “extremists” of late. The bill could even make most forms of non-violent protest and civil disobedience technically illegal, especially when those activities haven’t been pre-approved by authorities.

Conservatives used to talk about the difference between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” regimes. Totalitarian regimes, associated by conservative intellectuals with the Soviet Union and its most extreme surveillance state in East Germany, were considered worse than authoritarian governments like the Latin American military dictatorships supported by the West.

But recent revelations from the trove of documents provided by Edward Snowden revealed that the CSE, Canada’s version of the NSA, is up to similar tricks as the U.S. agency, and is only accountable to a single retired judge. Add C-51 into the mix and we’re on the road to creating a state the totalitarians of old could only dream of.

If history teaches us anything it’s that governments rarely relinquish new powers once they’re acquired. Laws like Bill C-51 are likely to stay on the books regardless of who takes over the government in the upcoming election. Canadians need to raise their voices in opposition to Bill C-51 before it’s too late.



The following is an excerpt from “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” published last month by Nation Books.

For years, the outsourcing of defense and intelligence work was, with good reason, controversial in political circles. But in the last years of Bill Clinton’s administration, the president authorized the CIA’s creation of the first US government–sponsored venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, designed to invest in cutting-edge Silicon Valley companies. The firm, named after Ian Fleming’s fictional character “Q,” who masterminds James Bond’s spy gadgets, was founded on September 29, 1999, when the intelligence agencies came to realize they couldn’t produce the technology required to make sense of the vast amount of data they had acquired.

The firm’s mission is to “identify, adapt, and deliver innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency and broader US community.” This process provided a way of tapping the resources and creativity of Silicon Valley—which undoubtedly had gained a technological edge over government in the post–Cold War period—without the burden of trying to directly recruit the free spirits of Palo Alto into government bureaucracy.

Under the guise of In-Q-Tel, the CIA has invested in hundreds of start-ups, including a company called Keyhole, whose satellite mapping software became Google Earth. In-Q-Tel proved immensely successful in its first five years, bringing revenue into the agency and, more significantly, allowing it to discreetly co-opt technologies and companies that would exponentially enhance its spying capabilities without causing the public to ever raise an eyebrow.

The practice of tapping tech companies for government work, then, began to shed its taboo and appear increasingly attractive to other governmental entities. For example, NASA and the US Army, inspired by the success of In-Q-Tel, are currently planning to develop their own venture capital firms in its image. Thanks in part to In-Q-Tel, the already substantial for-profit investment in the intelligence area was expanded significantly under President George W. Bush, such that it constituted about 70 percent of the intelligence budget by 2007.

This was just the ticket for former National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter to ride when Congress terminated his pet program, Total Information Awareness, in 2003. The program’s aim was to “revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify, and identify foreign terrorists—and decipher their plans—and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts.” Poindexter was stymied in his efforts by a Congress concerned about big government’s threat to privacy.

In this burgeoning market of government/tech synergy—the core of the military-intelligence complex—for-profit corporations play a deceptively important role in disguising the extent of government spying on its own people. As is the case with the government’s seizure and exploitation of the massive data collected by Google, Facebook, and other Internet companies, there is an illusion that this information is simply an enhancement for shoppers and social networkers, rather than the means by which our government keeps tabs on all of our activities—from the political to the most personal.

For that reason, when Poindexter’s program was nixed by Congress, it was a natural fit to turn to a private, clearly for-profit Silicon Valley start-up called Palantir, in part with CIA funding. Palantir is the premier company for unraveling and interpreting dense tangles of information—data sets—for intelligence and law enforcement agencies. It offers software that, in the company’s own words, “connects data, technologies, humans and environments” and, as a bonus, a staff that pays house calls to clients’ offices to customize its programs.

But, as the ACLU notes,

“We don’t know the degree of entanglement between the company and the agencies in terms of how the software is operated. And depending on the details of how it’s used, its deployment could be anything between a good, efficient use of government resources, and a true totalitarian nightmare, monitoring the activities of innocent Americans on a mass scale, collecting the records of those activities and leaving them open for suspicionless exploration by government analysts. Unfortunately, everything we know suggests that it is likely close to the latter.”

Palantir, entrusted to mine that massive trove of personal data on behalf of both local and federal governments, was Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program renamed and repackaged. Sure enough, it would blossom without him, a testament to his doing more than anyone to make the nightmare of a Big Brother government that knows the desires, fears and habits of each and every soul a frightening reality.

Palantir’s work for the spy agencies is highly classified, and the company has a very active public relations operation aimed at creating a benign impression of its intentions and stressing its non-spy activity, which includes data integration of investment bank knowledge bases as well as “philanthropy engineering.” According to the company, this engineering involves working on “creating slavery-free supply chains, addressing small-plot farmer food security, improving global health and fighting disease outbreaks, providing humanitarian relief in the wake of natural disasters, and more.” But it is clear that the company, from its inception, had made its primary function the designing of surveillance programs for the spy agencies. In fact, Palantir would not have managed to stay in existence were it not for a multimillion-dollar investment and substantial technical support provided by the CIA.

When the CIA and NSA first approached Palantir with funds and support in 2004, the Palo Alto–based “computer software and services company” was a fledgling start-up. Since then, as a contractor for top intelligence agencies—as well as some major private banks, like JPMorgan Chase, and multinational corporations—Palantir is valued at $9 billion and has become the most successful among the numerous CIA-backed data analyzation companies.

Peter Thiel, whose PayPal investment had left him a billionaire, founded Palantir. He was convinced that the tactics that had allowed PayPal to predict credit card fraud would work in identifying terrorists. Other investors, however, were not as convinced, and by 2005, a year after Palantir was incorporated, the company was without a single customer or investor other than Thiel.

Palantir was rescued by a referral to In-Q-Tel. It was that fortuitous contact that resulted in a $2 million CIA investment and the subsequent success of Palantir. But far more important than the CIA’s injection of financial capital was its support—access to the CIA’s secret databases, in-house technical experts, and a rolodex of prospective clients on the Hill. These would give Palantir the lift it needed over the next three years.

Alex Karp, Palantir’s CEO—a hipster exec who obtained his PhD in philosophy at the University of Frankfurt (earned, he might remind us, under the mentorship of the eminent philosopher Jürgen Habermas) and a JD at Stanford Law School—is possessed of “progressive” politics and software engineering ignorance. This eclectic persona is enormously useful to Palantir, which effectively plays the role formerly assigned to the Total Information Awareness program: a monstrous government snoop, mining our most intimate data.

This point was obviously not lost on Poindexter—seemingly the complete antithesis of Karp in terms of personal style and political outlook—as he was casting about to keep his program alive after Congress shut it down.

Palantir has a carefully honed image as a sort of countercultural spy outfit committed to privacy and individual rights in the pursuit of national security. The company’s home page and other marketing devices reek of a virtuous win-win alternative, speaking to the concern imbedded in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution that spying on the citizenry is an intrinsically doubtful proposition in a free society and needs to be carefully regulated. Paying homage to that notion, Palantir makes much of its built-in “audit trail,” which presumably prevents unauthorized use of private data by individuals working within a government agency. The company plays up the supposed virtues of this mechanism in the “privacy and civil liberties” section of its official website:

“Palantir’s immutable and real-time audit logging technologies help ensure compliance with applicable policies designed to protect privacy and civil liberties. Palantir’s audit logs can be configured to capture the information a particular customer requires in order to identify behavior that might indicate misuse of data. Audit logs can record everything from login attempts to specific user search queries to user views of individual records. . . . Using Palantir, an investigator is able to quickly sift through large amounts of auditing data, identifying suspicious activity, and drill down to that activity to determine whether there may have been a violation of law or policy.”

But the grievous problem with this formula is obvious on two counts. One is that using the audit trail to monitor a government agency’s or private corporation’s spying activity is totally self-enforcing. If a company decides to be indifferent to that trail, the Palantir system continues to mine the data just fine. However, a more serious concern is that it may not be an aberrant individual employee who is using the software to monitor a private citizen’s activities but, in fact, the organization itself.

This is of course routinely true of the NSA, FBI, and CIA, as we have learned through the years from the revelations by whistleblowers of unauthorized spying activities. It is far more likely that the Palantir-designed audit trail will be used to identify not agency-approved practices that violate the law but, rather, that rare whistleblower within the organization who dares to tell the truth about such illegal practices.

So there you have it. So-called private companies that either are directly funded by the US government or profit from US government contracts move to destroy organizations and individuals who dare to expose the reach of government and corporate power—a classic manifestation of the government’s threat to our constitutionally protected freedoms. But because for-profit private companies are used as proxies to engage in such nefarious behavior, the government threat to freedom goes largely unnoticed. Hence the prowess and danger of the military-intelligence complex.

Get ready, Alberta, for the glories of the First Ten Year Plan

Ten Year Plan

So, about that Ten Year Plan. Let’s take a very deep breath and try to get to the bottom of the strategic thinking behind what’s going on in Alberta.

Even though his Progressive Conservative Party still has about two years left to run in its mandate, recently passed a law that says there shouldn’t be an election for one more year, and nobody knows for sure what he plans to do, Premier Jim Prentice would like to call an early election because he wants to make changes so momentous, so sweeping, so astonishing that a new mandate is essential.

Or so he repeatedly says.

Don’t worry, he adds, we’ll have a plan for that… a Ten Year Plan. (Details to follow.)

Prentice never quite makes it clear, but his strategy seems to be to produce a budget that makes a lot of dramatic promises about cutting spending and call it a Ten Year Plan, then call a snap election while the opposition is still reeling and before anyone can think too deeply about what’s wrong with the Big Idea, such as it may be, or what the true alternatives might be.

There will likely not be much discussion of alternatives once the election has been called because the only parties with meaningful advertising budgets are Prentice’s Tories and what’s left of the Wildrose Party after its leadership defected to the PC benches. Both are now parties of the far right by Canadian standards.

Conveniently for the government, Alberta’s election laws make advertisements by other groups that “take a position on an issue with which a registered party or registered candidate is associated” illegal during the election period.

Just the same, Prentice has vowed, “This will be the most significant budget in modern times in the province.” The budget, he said, “will have impacts on every single person” in Alberta!

Why all this apocalyptic stuff? Well, that’s easy to explain. Notwithstanding Prentice’s omnipotent position as master of the mighty, enduring and forever united Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, ordinary Albertans are grumbling skeptically in surprising numbers about the idea of an election just now.

A lot of them see it as self-serving — Alison-Redford-style self serving, as a matter of fact — and figure it’s bad form at best, outright illegal at worst, to toss out the fixed-election-period law before it’s been tried once, or even politely repealed.

Plus, if the economy gets worse, the government is bound to grow less popular. Predictions like that of the Conference Board of Canada yesterday, which said Alberta is in for “two years of tough times” are another reason for the PCs to want an election now, not… after two years in which the fruits of their bad management are evident.

In addition, despite their bad habit of voting Conservative no matter what, Albertans are surprisingly resistant to changes in existing social democratic programs, public health care in particular. Some of them suspect we may be in for an application of the Shock Doctrine, with low oil prices as an excuse for attacking public services.

The suspicion may even be dawning — as it most certainly dawned on the premier’s advisors at Navigator Ltd. in the East British Colonial Building on Wellington Street in Toronto — that Prentice isn’t really all that congenial a fellow, and is far less likely to grow on Albertans the way Ralph Klein did even if he does the same dumb stuff.

Given all this, the PC Party and its high-priced advisors must be thinking, they need to get the election out of the way right now before the Opposition parties can get their ducks in a row. Well, all’s fair in love and politics, so what did you expect?

To do that, though, Albertans must be persuaded that without a mandate, and a plan, the Legislature will become the Dome of Doom, and possibly crumble into the North Saskatchewan River.

So what are the details of the cataclysmic changes that are to be included in the Ten Year Plan?

“There have been no decisions made,” Prentice proclaimed, but “it’s pretty clear in the circumstances that we are in that whoever is the premier had better have a mandate.” (Transcribed from the Edmonton Journal.)

As noted in this space yesterday, that’s the thing about Prentice’s policy pronouncements: no matter how many times he promises an exciting climax, a decisive moment, a Ten Year Plan, there never seem to be any details when the curtain is pulled back.

So, Alberta, here’s what we surmise: You’re going to have an early election whether you want it or note.

Prentice might or might not tell you when it’s going to be before he calls it. You may or may not have a few of the details before the election actually takes place of about how this notion of weaning the government off resource revenues might work, especially if there are to be no tax or royalty increases, both of which the premier seems to have already ruled out.

What you will have, Prentice has promised it (like he promised term limits), is that ten-yearplan.

And that, Prentice is bound to argue, is significant enough, even momentous enough, to require a snap election!

Now, I may not have to tell you that in the past, multi-year economic plans in one-party states haven’t exactly had a terrific track record. (Sorry, we’re not allowed to mention whichone-party state we have in mind, that being a Political Convention in Alberta.) Bureaucrats in the capital city (hint: not Edmonton, but at a similar latitude) tend to set unrealistic quotas but not bother to set measurable goals, or, if they do happen to set them, to keep making changes. The whole thing ends in tears.

But I don’t think you have to worry about that this time in Alberta because — as befits the political movement that doesn’t necessarily believe in either evolution of gay-straight alliances in public schools — the Prentice Government’s real Ten Year Plan is likely only to pray really hard for a return to high oil prices plus a couple of pipeline approvals while taking swipes at public employees to the cheers of the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Diversification of the economy? Oh, there will be promises made, but don’t expect any action or details. The Fraser Institute has already said we shouldn’t diversify the economy — after all, there’s nothing like owing your soul to the company store — and since Monday’s speech to the Edmonton Rotary Club we know the Fraser Institute is where Prentice gets his economic analysis.

After a successful election based on a Ten Year Plan with no details, sometime in Year Four of the plan the PCs can call another election and argue we need to elect them to one more massive majority so they can complete the Ten Year Plan, details to follow. Then everything will be rosy, or even Wildrosy, until the election after that.

The government can then get Navigator to use GroupThink ™ — I’m actually not making that part up — to come up with a catchy election slogan for a party not quite halfway through its First Ten Year Plan. Like, say, 4+4=10!

Having to hold an election every five years is inconvenient, of course, but it’s what you get when you became part of a federation long before you became a one-party petro-state. Still, thanks to GroupThink ™, that problem can be overcome.

Before you know it, it’ll be 2023 or so and time for yet another election before the Ten Year Plan finally runs out in 2025. Actually providing details of how it’s going to work can be put off until after that election.

A Second Ten Year Plan (details to follow) would get the PCs through to about 2035, by which time The Dynasty will have been around almost as long as … that other government … and Premier Prentice can be invited to the White House by President-for-Life Scott Walker to receive the Presidential Medal of Pipelines.

There, I think I’ve explained it. GroupThink ™. Ten Year Plans. And the Most Significant Budget in Modern Times. That’s all you need! Certainly not any details.

Search Tells You If, When, And How Much YOUR Doctor Was Paid By Big Pharma

Is your doctor on the payroll of the mega pharmaceutical companies? If you want to find out if your doctor’s aggressive push for Viagra could be stemming from financial interests, there’s a government website that can do just that.

The Open Payments Data website presented by the government reveals to you the depths to which your personal care provider could be controlled by Big Pharma’s institutions. From physicians to teaching hospitals, you can even identify the company making payments.


Why Eating Fats Really Doesn’t Make You Fat

Barbara Minton

Does eating fat really make you fat? Is butter bad for you? Store shelves are still loaded with low-fat and-fat free products, so it seems that many people are on board with this notion. But recent evidence is showing that we’ve been told a big fat lie, and that eating fat does not cause weight gain or disease anymore than eating chicken can turn you into a bird.

Dr. Mark Hyman, the physician called in to help President Clinton recover from his bypass surgery,warns that it isn’t the fats, but rather processed carbohydrates that make us fat and sick. He points toa review of data from the British Journal of Medicine that shatters the myth that fat causes obesity and heart disease. Researchers found that while lowering saturated fat in the diet may lower total cholesterol, it’s actually lowering the good kind of LDL cholesterol, and not the bad kind.

The green light on eating fat given by Dr. Hyman even includes saturated fat. Another of the studieshe notes refuted the idea that reducing dietary saturated fat improves cardiovascular health. Researchers summarized the evidence related to dietary saturated fat and risk of coronary heart disease, stoke, and cardiovascular disease. They found that there was no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.

One of the characteristics of dietary fat is its ability to make people feel satiated and complete after eating a normal-sized meal. When there is less fat consumed, the tendency is to try to find the feeling of satiety by eating more starchy and sugary foods. But since these cannot match the feelings produced by fats, the outcome is to eat even more and more starches and sugars, which can lead to tremendous weight gain.

Interestingly, a study from the University of California found that most people who have a heart attack also have normal overall cholesterol levels. But Type 2 diabetes is prevalent in this cohort, probably the result of eating so many processed carbohydrates.

What fats does Dr. Hyman suggest we eat? Here’s his list:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, pecans, but not peanuts
  • Seeds including pumpkin, sesame, chia and hemp
  • Fatty fish including sardines, mackerel, herring, and wild salmon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grass-fed sustainably raised animal products
  • Saturated fats such as extra virgin coconut butter

“The American public became participants in the largest uncontrolled experiment in history,” says nutrition authority Kris Gunnars, referring to the fact that we have been advised for more than four decades to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol, even though there was no evidence to support that advice.

Gunnars notes that the experiment has not turned out well, and we are still suffering the consequences in the form of the obesity epidemic, which began shortly after the low-fat guidelines were issued (followed by the diabetes epidemic). While these events are only correlational, it seems that low-fat eating has led to people dismissing such healthy whole foods as butter, meat and eggs, and replacing them with processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and low on the nutritional scale.

Several large studies in the past few years have found no advantage to the low-fat diet. “Despite miserable results from these studies, many nutritionists all over the world continue to recommend the low-fat diet,” says Gunnars.

Another doctor, Weston Price, knew all this as far back as the 1930’s. He was a dentist who searched for an answer to tooth decay in many parts of the globe by studying the diets of indigenous people. He found that butter and other saturated fats were staples in the diets of populations displaying supreme health. When butter and other saturated fats were a central ingredient in the diet, children grew to be robust, sturdy and free of tooth decay.

The dietary guidelines of The Weston Price Foundation were posted in the year 2000, before the natural health movement got underway, and they are echoed in many of today’s natural health articles.

The Weston Price Foundation’s guideline for fats is: Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller pressed sesame and flax oil, and the tropical oils — coconut and palm.


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