Friday, October 9, 2020

Do Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies help fund domestic terrorism? - Paige Donner

by Paige Donner

The rise in cryptocurrencies and the recent explosion of DeFi (decentralized finance) make this an important question.

With banks starting to get into the cryptocurrency business, it looks as if this new finance mechanism is here to stay. However, financial institutions and the government need to pay close attention because the same person-to-person aspect that makes it attractive, also leaves it vulnerable to funding terrorism, both overseas and in our own cities.

We’ve all heard claims about people investing $200 in Bitcoin back in 2012 only to see their stakes make them wealthy. We also hear about people getting scammed by crypto “investments” or losing the key to their cryptocurrency accounts and losing all access to their wealth. It’s the Wild West out there.

But when huge institutional investors start piling into Bitcoin and Ethereum, it’s time to pay closer attention. Notably, in July, the Office of The Comptroller of the Currency issued a letter permitting US banks to offer cryptocurrency custodial services. 

What is cryptocurrency?

While many eyes are glued on the upcoming presidential election, I believe that today’s real upheaval is occurring in our financial systems, something that’s both exciting and potentially very dangerous. For those unfamiliar with how cryptocurrencies work, here’s a quick rundown:

The currency is based upon something called Distributed Ledger Technology (“DLT”) or “blockchain.” Techies call the resulting system “Web3.” Web3 works through a networked system of computers that a consortium of individuals and groups of individuals maintain. This networked system tallies who owns the cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, as well as the transactional relationships (i.e., debtor-creditor) taking place among cryptocurrency owners. It creates a form of peer-to-peer banking, with no third parties or regulators.

The best analogy is to compare cryptocurrency to the Hawala banking tradition practiced extensively in Middle Eastern, African, and other cultures. That system also circumvents banks. Instead, it is peer-to-peer, with one person conveying cash to another via trusted middlemen. At its core, it is the practice of sending remittances. Because it doesn’t necessarily use banks, the US Treasury Department notes Hawala’s implications for money laundering.

Hawala is, therefore, like the fundamental feature of cryptocurrencies -- peer-to-peer transfer of funds. The blockchain code contains an instruction that automatically enters every transaction into the decentralized ledger that the network computers maintain.

No central authority offers oversight or regulation because cryptocurrencies make central banking unnecessary. This is perhaps why governments have reacted as they have. Still, last month, Wyoming authorized Kraken, a dominant cryptocurrency coin exchange, to be the first hybrid crypto-fiat currency bank established in the country. U.S. regulatory institutions and banks are also cracking their doors open to cryptocurrencies.

A recent video presentation features Fox’s Jeanine Pirro in a friendly debate with a leading financial adviser of the Palm Beach Research Group, Teeka Tiwari. Ms. Pirro calls Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies “Funny Money,” while Mr. Tiwari calls them “The future of money.” 

The Pirro-Tiwari debate will soon be reflected more broadly in America. What if, 20 years ago, half of Americans said they didn’t believe in “email and the internet thing” and refused to use them? Had they persisted in this belief, would they be able to lead productive lives in today’s world? We may be facing that same technological leap forward today.

The risks of cryptocurrency and implications for domestic terrorism

There are serious downsides to cryptocurrency, though. The machine-written computer code risks imposing economic slavery because of its lack of human control. It excludes people who are not technology-oriented or lack internet access (i.e., the poor). And, just like Hawala, it is an agile way to transfer money to terrorists or illegally fund an election campaign.

An increasing number of above-board institutional investors (e.g., Ark Investments) are making strong arguments for Bitcoin and companies like Visa are going all in. But outside of the main companies -- Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, Jaxx, Binance, Bitgo,, etc. -- the cryptocurrency fringe is a scary place with some major bad actors, especially in Decentralized Financing (aka, “DeFi”).

A few early adopters I’ve spoken with, after getting scammed by crypto “traders,” not only lost their money but could no longer even get regular bank accounts. How can you function as a responsible citizen without a bank account?

Players on the fringe of these cryptocurrencies would just as soon see your bank close your accounts, all the better to usher you into their underworld of the ‘unbanked.’ Promises of 3000% gains in a month are roping in a lot of naïve people. Like the Donkey Boys in Pinocchio, there are plenty who can be lured with promises of ease and riches, especially in these uncertain times. 

Even more worrying is the way cryptocurrency can help fund terrorism. On September 29, French authorities arrested 29 people for allegedly sending cryptocurrency “vouchers” to jihadists. Cryptocurrency also invites hacking:
The recent $200 million hack of Singapore-based major cryptocurrency exchange KuCoin has been making headlines, but the difference between this attack and others in the past has been the hacker’s blatant utilization of everyone’s favourite new crypto frontier - DeFi (decentralized finance).
The U.S. government has already struggled with a prototype of computer-based banking and attacks on our monetary system, with money going both to thieves and, perhaps, terrorists. In 2007-2009, the favored way to hijack our monetary system was the Automatic Clearinghouse Transfer (“ACH”). You know ACHs as automatic deductions from your checking account.

What you probably don’t know, but criminals do, is that ACHs had a loophole: It was possible to strip money from anyone’s account by knowing only the bank account number, the bank routing number, and the name on the account. If you could get into the system, you did not need a pin, a signature, or a written authorization. The operational loophole essentially created a peer-to-peer bank transfer -- and people in banking knew about it.

In 2008, I was involved in a criminal case in Los Angeles County Superior Court that was the first case to establish, in sworn court testimony by ETrade bank officials, that anyone could initiate an ACH transfer with account numbers, routing numbers, and the account holder’s name. However, it wasn’t until late 2009 that the FBI paid attention. By then, criminals had stolen over $100 million from US small businesses and government accounts holding public funds.

The government clamped down on ACH fraud, but cryptocurrency creates the same problem on a greater scale and with even more dangerous implications than theft. This year, Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters are waging war in American cities. A big question is the source of their funding. It’s entirely possible that it’s being done through untraceable cryptocurrency transactions. Those transactions can filter dark money through PACS and can make cross-border, peer-to-peer fund transfers possible, instantaneous, and undetectable. 

This crypto-adoption is funding the complete disruption and upheaval of the US economy and the dollar. It undercuts how we get paid, run businesses, and how we pay for mortgages/rent, food, electricity, and transportation. This disruption is coming at the exact time of our decidedly divisive election during a once-in-a-century pandemic. 

At an individual level, I have no other advice then to urge caution. At a national level, we can only hope that the government is paying close attention.

Paige Donner is an entrepreneur focused on enterprise solutions that blockchain technology offers small businesses, in particular smart contracts. She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax.


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Big Promises From Macron - Bruce Bawer

by Bruce Bawer

After years of criminal neglect, the French President promises a responsible approach to Islam.

Beset by Communist riots, the China plague, and a campaign-season spike in Trump Derangement Syndrome, Americans have rarely been so disinclined to look abroad. But despite our stateside navel-gazing, life in Europe goes on, for better or worse. Take France.

Last Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron delivered what, on the face of it, seemed to be a remarkable speech on Islam. Macron, it will be recalled, has played both sides of the fence on this one. In 2015, while serving as Minister of the Economy, he described mass immigration as “an economic opportunity" – this at a time when French suburbs were packed with Muslims who were quite obviously a huge economic liability. Macron pointedly dismissed French voters’ concern about the nation’s failure to integrate newcomers: “This is not a subject on which we must govern by the polls,” he said. “History has shown that when we sometimes follow the will of the people, especially in difficult times, we are wrong.” Of course, immigration policy in Western Europe has never have anything whatsoever to do with the will of the people.   

Two years later, Macron remained sanguine, chiding those who “confuse terrorists with asylum seekers and refugees” – as if terrorism were the only problem created by the influx of Muslims into Europe. 

But now he’s changed his tune. In his Friday speech, he rolled out a new program intended to defend French laïcité, or official secularism, from “Islamist separatism,” which he explicitly characterized as an existential threat to the Republic. “Secularism is the glue of a united France,” he proclaimed, and Islamists are pursuing “a conscious, theorized, politico-religious project” that holds Islamic laws to be “superior to those of the Republic” and that spurs Muslims, in effect, to shun mainstream society. He even said – sacre bleu! – that Islam “is in crisis” and warned of the danger posed by those who seek to establish a “caliphate.” (Note that in Europe, people who say such things are routinely characterized by the mainstream media as wide-eyed Islamophobic conspiracy theorists.) Macron also admitted that one reason why “Islamist separatism” had been allowed to fester was the “cowardice” of French authorities; while adding that France’s colonial past was part of the equation, he rejected excessively broad efforts to blame that colonialism for the situation of Muslims in France “who have never known colonization.”

By way of response to the challenge of Islam, Macron introduced a five-part program aimed at “strengthening secularism and consolidating republican principles.” First, public services would no longer agree to special concessions to Muslims – for instance, no separate swim times for Muslim women, and no tolerance for Muslim bus drivers who turn away immodestly dressed female passengers. (Interesting that this wasn’t already a firm policy.) Second, athletic, cultural, artistic, and other associations will be scrubbed of any hint of Islamist “indoctrination.”  Third, secularism will be more strongly emphasized in schools: parents will no longer be able to pull kids out of music or swim classes (both being haram), school instruction will be compulsory for everyone over the age of three, and “foreign interference” will be prohibited. Fourth, the government will abet the formation of “an Islam of the Enlightenment” in France, which will involve “the development of high-level Islamic studies in universities” and the establishment of an “Institute of Islamology.” Fifth, disaffected Muslims will be encouraged to appreciate and even love the Republic, a task that will oblige French leaders to carry out a “reconquest.”

This last word is an apparent reference to the Spanish Reconquista, the series of medieval military actions by means of which the Iberian peninsula was gradually liberated from Muslim occupiers. The government, asserted Macron, needs to “mobilize the nation for a republican awakening.“ At the same time, he promised not to “manage consciences” – a line that brings to mind the purported assertion by Queen Elizabeth I that, in promulgating the Anglican Settlement, she had “no desire to make a window into men’s souls.”   

Macron’s announcement caused consternation on both sides of the issue. Rim-Sarah Alaoune, a member of the law department at the University Toulouse-Capitole, chastised Macron for failing to address (what else?) “white supremacy.” European Parliament member Manon Aubry described Macron as being “obsessive” on the subject of Islam and charged him with “stigmatizing Muslims.” And the Turkish Foreign Ministry blasted Macron, stating: “Nobody should try to subject our sacred religion, which means ‘peace,’ to wrong and distorted approaches under the pretext of ‘enlightenment.’” (Of course, Islam doesn’t mean “peace,” it means “submission.”) Meanwhile, MP Eric Ciotti called Macron’s proposal weak, noting that, among other things, it didn’t ban veils on mothers accompanying kids on school trips. 

It’s hard not to agree with Ciotti. One would like to believe that Macron can rid public services, associations, and schools of Islamic (or, as he insists on saying, Islamist) influence, but – to put it mildly – that’s an extremely tall order. Ditto the plan to convert Muslims who hate France into ardent Francophiles. And how exactly do you forge an “Islam of the Enlightenment”? We’ve all said for years that Islam needs to undergo a Reformation, as Christianity did – but does Macron really think that Islam can be metamorphosed, by government fiat, into something radically different from itself? Will the Koran be dramatically abridged, à la the Jefferson Bible, with the Medina verses omitted and perhaps a couple of nice doggy stories added in an attempt to eradicate Islamic cynophobia?

To be sure, Macron is far from the first European leader to float the notion of an Islam 2.0 for twenty-first-century Europe. Tariq Ramadan – the Muslim Brotherhood front man, serial rapist, and self-described bridge-builder who, for a while there, had a massive following among his coreligionists in Europe – made “Euro Islam” the center of his vision of a happily Islamized continent. But secular Islam looks more and more like a pipe dream; the political scientist Bassam Tibi, who pushed the idea for years, wrote in 2016 that he’d given up on it. “There will be no Euro-Islam,” he pronounced, observing that European Muslims were increasingly “isolationist” and that “the parallel society has triumphed over integration.” I guess Macron didn’t get the memo.

Then again, when you take into account Macron’s intended expansion of Islamic education and his determination to beef up the teaching of Arabic in the public schools, the whole thing starts to look not like a program for the secularizing of Islam but, rather, like a blueprint for propping up public laïcité while actively promoting private Islamic observance – a blueprint born, one imagines, of pie-in-the-sky hopes that, when the Muslims take over, they won’t replace the Napoleonic Code with sharia law.

Let’s face it. Muslims make up roughly 10% of the French population. In a generation, that will more than double. No Western country has been more victimized by large-scale and horrific acts of Islamic terrorism. The suburbs of major cities are constantly expanding no-go enclaves and the traffic in urban centers is routinely blocked by armies of praying Muslims. Aggressive bullying in the schools is endemic, as is barbaric Muslim gang crime. (In his 2013 book La France Orange Méchanique, Laurent Obertone described his country as besieged by “a new type of ultra-violent crime” that he characterized as a “violence of conquest.” Things have only gotten worse since then.)

Macron’s speech only hinted at some of the myriad ways in which Muslim refusals to cooperate, and Muslim demands for accommodation, cause administrative nightmares for schools, sports teams, youth clubs, and other community groups. As long ago as 2005, a document known as the Obin Report catalogued in frightening detail the systematic hobbling of instruction in French schools by recalcitrant Muslim parents and children. That report should have led, fifteen years ago, to comprehensive action of the sort that Macron now proposes. But nothing happened then, and it’s hard to imagine anything happening now.

So no, I can’t get excited about Macron’s speech. If, during his years in power, he’d exhibited some remote hint of a Trump-like readiness to take on massive, stubborn, deep-seated, hot-button challenges on a nationwide scale, one might respond to his latest initiative with at least a degree of enthusiasm. As it is, one needs to remind oneself that the French, who love high-flown rhetoric, are good at making stirring speeches that vow sweeping transformation and that ultimately come to nothing. One must also remember Angela Merkel’s 2015 statement that multiculturalism had turned out to be a “sham” – an admission that soon enough was dropped down the memory hole. I fervently hope I’m wrong about this, but Macron’s big plans seem likely to end up in the same place.   

Bruce Bawer


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Kamala Harris won — if the prize was awarded for the most lies in a debate - Andrea Widburg

by Andrea Widburg

While Mike Pence never lost his focus or his gentlemanlike demeanor, Harris smirked, cackled, sneered, and lied her way through the debate.

The vice presidential debate is over. If the winner is the person who quietly dominated the room, fought off two antagonists, never lost focus, and landed one deadly blow after another, then the winner must be Mike Pence, hands down. However, if the score was for the person who lied incessantly and refused to answer a critical question, Harris is the winner.

Before getting to the lies, the most important moment of the evening was Harris's refusal to answer when asked about packing the Supreme Court. Pence had cornered Kamala, telling her to answer whether she and Joe would pack the Supreme Court. It was a question that required a "yes" or a "no" answer. Instead, Kamala squirmed, lied, smirked, and played the race card, all the while hoping no one would notice she hadn't answered. Pence noticed, though, and he put it on the record:

And then, as I said, there were the lies. Pence masterfully rebutted as many as he could, but an easily uttered five-second lie may require a longer rebuttal, and the moderator worked hard to deny Pence the chance to correct the record. The following are just some truths to rebut Kamala's many lies:

Trump never called the Wuhan virus a "hoax."

Trump never called American troops "losers" and "suckers."

It's a lie that Trump praised white supremacists at Charlottesville. He's repeatedly denounced white supremacy, including at the last debate. If Kamala's looking for a racist, she should look at Biden.

There was no serious evidence of a Russian bounty on U.S. troops.

Trump did not call Mexicans "rapists."

There was no "Muslim ban." Instead, Trump relied on information the Obama administration created about terrorist nations and banned those nations pending greater security measures.

Biden's response to H1N1 was a disaster, and the U.S. was saved only by luck.

On the virus, Trump acted fast, saved lives by stopping travel from China (over Biden's objections), made America's outdated test system functional, earned praise from beleaguered Democrat governors, used the Defense Production Act to provide everything medical teams needed, and killed pointless regulations blocking the development of treatments and vaccinations.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have vowed explicitly to repeal Trump's tax cuts, offering instead a plan to raise taxes on all Americans. What would be especially damaging is Biden's plan to raise taxes on corporations, which would destroy small businesses. Large businesses would meet those taxes by raising prices for consumers, cutting wages, laying off employees, and outsourcing work overseas.

Trump's economy delivered huge wage benefits to American workers, especially women and minorities. His economy ended only because the Democrats used the Wuhan virus as an excuse to shut down America, which would, they hoped, prevent Trump from winning re-election.

America's air and water are cleaner under Trump than under Obama and stayed ahead of those Europeans still signed on to the Paris Accord.

Biden wants to ban fracking:

Kamala supports the Green New Deal.

Even the New York Times says Biden has not been transparent about his health.
President Trump has boosted U.S. manufacturing and obtained beneficial trade deals with China (thanks to his tariff war) and with Mexico and Canada. Even CNN and Biden conceded that USMCA was better than NAFTA. (Kamala was against the USMCA deal.)

Biden has been wrong about everything when it comes to the Middle East. He was both for and against the Iraq war (causing him to lie), he stood at Obama's side as ISIS rose, he opposed taking out bin Laden, was part of an administration that could have saved Kayla Mueller from al-Baghdadi but didn't. He also wants to reinstate the Iran deal that saw $1.7 billion sent to Iran's mullahs.

Harris has attacked judges for their Catholic faith.

And for the last word on Kamala's lies, Ann Althouse thinks Kamala blinked a lot because of her false eyelashes. Au contraire. She blinked so much because she was lying so much.

Kamala was helped in peddling her lies because Susan Page, the moderator, consistently attacked the Trump-Pence record. She balanced those attacks by refraining, for the most part, from challenging Kamala on her or Biden's history, asking them only easy hypotheticals about what they would do better than Trump. I wonder why.

Image: Vice presidential debate. YouTube screen grab.

Andrea Widburg


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Democrats Want You to Pay the Media’s Bills - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

While small businesses go under, Democrats are bailing out the media.

The media is dying. Its business model is defunct. Its bias has alienated most of the country. In the latest Pew survey, the only group that still trusts the media are Democrats.

And while so many millions are out of work, Democrats are bailing out the media.

The wave of consolidations and bankruptcies is sweeping like a fire through major papers. Cable news will be a casualty of demographics and the end of bundling. The end of network television is less than a decade away. Brand names like CNN and MSNBC will soon be where Time, Newsweek, and other news magazines ended up once subscriptions collapsed.

The media is dying, but it’s not about to die gracefully. It just needs to find money. Lots of it.

Big Tech billionaires have bought classic newspapers and magazines like Time, The Washington Post, and The New Republic, but those are vanity projects and even Jeff Bezos doesn’t have enough money to subsidize the entire ossified infrastructure of the media.

But the only people who have more money than the Amazon CEO are the American people.

The media’s Plan A has been sponging off Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook, pressuring them to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into its operations. Its Plan B is blurring the line between lefty activist non-profits and its newsrooms with organizations like Report for America being funded by Facebook and Google to embed activists into local newspapers.

Is that going to pay the media’s bills? No. That’s why there’s Plan C. And Plan C is you.

H.R. 7640: The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced in Congress, backed by a coalition that includes Report for America and the National Newspaper Association, and would offer tax credits for newspaper subscriptions and tax credits for paying the salaries of the radical  activists working there. There's also a $5,000 tax credit for advertising in newspapers.

At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, when families are faced with losing their homes and businesses, Democrats have decided that they should aggressively subsidize a dying industry at the expense of everyone else whose jobs are seen as “non-essential”.

The countless stores, gyms, bars, salons, and other small businesses going out of business in the epidemic of Democrat lockdowns and lootings could use this kind of bailout. But the Democrats insist that their media messaging operations are vital and should be subsidized.

While Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who introduced the bill, claims that it will fund “local newspapers”, those local newspapers are largely owned by national operations and hedge funds. While actual local businesses go out of business, Democrats are proposing a bailout for media investors.

Rep. Kirkpatrick’s press release touts support from from the News Media Alliance whose board is stacked with the heads of McClatchy and USA Today, huge national chains with a combined thousands of papers, not to mention the CFO of the New York Times, and a VP at the Washington Post. Are these the local small businesses Democrats want to subsidize?

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act has over 40 Democrat sponsors and nearly 20 Republican sponsors. Democrat sponsors include some of the House's most extreme figures like Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Rep. Andre Carson.

H.R. 7640 would be an outrage at any time, it’s a particular outrage when so many Americans are out of work and so many small businesses are going under that Democrats and some Republicans want to provide a $250 tax credit for newspaper subscriptions, a tax credit covering half of $50,000 salaries for media hacks, and $5,000 credits for advertising in newspapers.

Companies that own dozens, hundreds, and thousands of papers are lobbying Congress.

They keep claiming that the bill will help save “local journalism”. But how does the Local Journalism Sustainability Act  define local journalism? Not based on the paper, but the readers. As long as 51% of the paper’s readers live in the same state, it’s considered a local paper. Even if the paper is a subsidiary of a national chain whose real headquarters is in New York or D.C.

Or alternatively, they live within 200 miles of each other. Depending on how you measure, Washington Post readers in New York and New York Times readers in D.C. would be “local”.

That’s some “local” journalism. And it’s no accident that it was written this way.

There’s nothing local about this bailout. It will mostly go to subsidize the huge newspaper chains that are lobbying for it, while bribing businesses and readers to fund their failed business model.

Even while Democrats are destroying businesses with viable business models, they’re trying to keep the media alive by exclusively offering tax credits for their political allies.

It’s sleazy, it’s slimy, and it’s just the beginning.

Democrat organizations like Acronym’s Courier Newsroom have been setting up fake local papers while Report for America has been hollowing out papers by embedding radical activists into newsrooms. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act is testing the business model for converting the media into a bunch of political non-profits backed by taxpayers and lefty donors.

Beyond media associations, backing for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act comes from Report for America, and the American Journalism Project, which is advocating the transformation of the media to a non-profit model. Report for America is an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is backed by the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation is a leading backer of Black Lives Matter.

While these donors already back a network of radical messaging operations, proposals like the Local Journalism Sustainability Act allow the media to ease into the transition by having it both ways, maintaining corporate ownership, while having their operations subsidized by tax credits.

As the Left sets up new complex interplays between corporate media and its non-profits, the line between journalism and political advocacy blurs into a strange twilight zone in which non-profits subsidize media operations and taxpayers subsidize corporate chains as if they were non-profits, while creating something that looks very much like a state media operation.

The internet has been slowly digesting the separate parts of the media, and it doesn’t pay the bills. The ads and subscriptions that funded local newspapers were wiped out by the internet. Streaming dooms cable channels and local news, leaving behind a lot of online video. But even digital media is being crushed by social media. Vox, Vice, the Huffington Post, and all the digital lefty outlets were hit with layoffs after facing the impossibility of actually turning a profit.

The media can’t survive on its own terms. Its business model is defunct. Its shakedown strategies aimed at Google and Facebook have silenced countless conservative voices, while pushing social media to spam its content, but won’t preserve the media as a viable institution. The hedge funds and private equity firms that own the media will cut costs, consolidate, and dump. The tech and communications firms that come into possession of media outlets will shrink and then dispose of them. That doesn’t mean that the media will die. It will ‘Pravdaize’.

CNN, MSNBC, and the Huffington Post will be deemed “essential” forms of journalism that must be protected by subsidizing their operations, much as newspapers would be subsidized.

The media will become a public institution. Its funding will come from taxpayers in a thousand different ways and  the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is the least of it. Media activists have been cooking up a large package of tax credits, subsidies, law changes, tax code restructurings, and assorted proposals to transform the media from corporate properties into state media.

Imagine PBS and NPR multiplied by a million.

Congress should not be bailing out media tycoons while Americans go hungry. If Americans want local papers, they can buy them. And if they aren’t, maybe it’s time that the big chains asked why they’re losing subscribers and why Americans aren’t buying what they’re selling.

A majority of Americans don’t like and don’t trust the media. They’ve divested from it. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act wants to bribe Americans to read the paper with their own money.

A better idea might be to have the media pay its taxes and let Americans keep their money.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.


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Is It Possible to Curb the Extreme Bias of the BBC? - Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Hat tip: Dr. Jean-charles Bensoussan

Tim Davie, the BBC’s new director general, wants to make the BBC’s reporting impartial.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,771, October 7, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: For decades, there has been a steady stream of complaints about the BBC’s anti-Israel bias. Yet other than criticize the BBC publicly, there was little anyone could do. That may have changed. In June 2020, Tim Davie became the BBC’s new director general. He wants to make the BBC’s reporting impartial. This would be a good occasion for the publication of the secret 2004 Malcolm Balen report about BBC reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Former Israeli ambassador to the UK Zvi Shtauber told me in an interview in 2005:
The BBC is a problem in itself. Over the years I had endless conversations with them. Any viewer who looks at the BBC’s information on Israel for a consistent period gets a distorted picture. It doesn’t result from a single broadcast here or there. It derives from the BBC’s method of broadcasting. When reporting from Israel, the mosque on the Temple Mount is usually shown in the background, which gives viewers the impression that Jerusalem is predominantly Muslim.
Shtauber summed up his remarks by saying it was almost a daily task for him to react to BBC distortions about Israel.

There has been a steady stream of complaints for decades about the BBC’s anti-Israel bias—more than enough to fill a book. Camera UK maintains a special monitoring site solely to focus on the BBC’s anti-Israel bias.

Here are a few recent examples. Senior BBC producer Rosie Garthwaite is working on a new documentary critical of Israeli actions in East Jerusalem. She has admitted to sharing inaccurate pro-Palestinian propaganda on social media. She deleted a false map from her personal Twitter account that greatly overstated alleged Palestinian land loss to Israel, and she has been accused of sharing other false or controversial claims about Israel on social media. Garthwaite has wrongly suggested that Gaza has only one border, and that that sole border is controlled by Israel. This is just a sampling of her anti-Israel propaganda.

Senior BBC journalist Nimesh Thaker used the Twitter account @notthatbothered to belittle antisemitism. He promotes extremists like Jackie Walker, who was expelled from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s chairmanship due to her antisemitism. Thaker has also used an anonymous social media account to support a text against Jewish presenter Emma Barnett after she spoke out about the personal impact of antisemitism on her life.

Jewish activist David Collier wrote that one need not wonder why the leftist fringe group Jewish Voice for Labour is so often given BBC airtime. He added that people like Thaker write the news that millions of people read each day. He concluded that nothing in Britain bears more responsibility for the spread of the false anti-Israel narrative than the BBC.

One can go on and on. As Ambassador Shtauber observed, “Several key positions in the BCC are held by extreme leftists.” He added that the BBC publishes its personnel advertisements in the left wing daily The Guardian.

With so many biased journalists, it is not surprising that many cases of one-sidedness—including those not related to Jews or Israel—occur. Yet up to now, there was little anyone could do other than criticize the BBC publicly.

Previous Conservative governments have ignored the problem of BBC bias, but the situation may now be changing. In June the British government appointed Tim Davie as director general of the corporation. He has criticized the BBC’s lack of impartiality in terms similar to those of many of its critics. At a BBC staff meeting in early September, Davie made the striking statement: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.”

The big question is whether and to what extent a director general can turn a body permeated with biased journalists like the BBC into an impartial one.

British Jewish lawyer Trevor Asserson, now living in Israel, invested his own money from 2000 to 2004 in four well-documented studies detailing the BBC’s systematic bias against Israel. He concluded that the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East is infected by a widespread antipathy toward the country. This distorted reporting creates an atmosphere in which antisemitism can thrive.
Asserson noted that the BBC’s monopoly derives from a legally binding contract with the British government. He defined the BBC’s 15 legal obligations under its charter and then showed instances in which the BBC breached many to most of the guidelines.

In his first report, Asserson wrote that at the BBC, “Vitriolic comments are part of facts or unattributed quotations.” He analyzed two extremely biased portraits of Sharon and Arafat that had appeared on the BBC’s website, noting, “An unattributed comment implied Sharon uses unbridled violence”—a charge Asserson exposed as a lie. About Arafat, he noted that the BBC website described him as heroic, selflessly devoted to public duty, hard-working, and the possessor of natural leadership skills. Arafat’s lifelong engagement in terrorism was overlooked.

After Asserson published his report, both portraits were removed from the BBC website.

In his second report, Asserson provided evidence that the BBC failed to give adequate prominence to many topics that would give a negative image of the Palestinians.

In his third report, Asserson compared the BBC’s reporting on British soldiers in Iraq to that of Israeli troops in the conflict with the Palestinians. He wrote that in Iraq, “Coalition troops are described in warm and glowing terms with sympathy being evoked for them both as individuals and for their military predicament. In contrast, Israeli troops are painted as faceless, ruthless and brutal killers.” He and his coauthor showed how widespread the BBC bias was by offering a large number of widely diverse examples.

Asserson’s reports had some effect. In November 2003, the BBC created a senior editorial post to advise on its Middle East coverage. A former editor of the BBC’s 9:00 News, Malcolm Balen, was selected for the position. The then-head of BBC News, Richard Sambrook, told Asserson that his reports contributed to the decision to create the position.

In 2004, Balen undertook an internal inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The report was never released, which led to a series of legal battles. After eight years, the Supreme Court decided that the Balen report is exempt from The Freedom of Information Act. The BBC had, however, to disclose its legal costs on the matter, which were about half a million dollars at the time. One wonders why, if the inquiry found that its reporting was impartial, the BBC would spend so much to keep it secret.

It would be helpful if sources in the Jewish community availed the new director general with all of Assserson’s material. It may save him much time trying to understand the manipulations of part of the BBC staff.

Honest Reporting was one of those who at the time made a major  unsuccessful effort to get the Balen report published. It could now suggest to Mr. Davie to retrieve this report from the BBC’s safe and finally make it public. It may show that the BBC heads, already more than 15 years ago, knew that their company was biased in its Mid East reporting.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center, a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and author of The War of a Million Cuts. Among the honors he has received was the 2019 International Lion of Judah Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism.


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Turkey Rekindles the Armenian Genocide - Raymond Ibrahim

by Raymond Ibrahim

And the U.S. unwittingly aids its NATO ally’s jihad.

As it has done in other arenas where “extremists” are attacking moderates or Christians—from Syria to Libya to Nigeria—Turkey is spearheading another jihad, this time against Christian Armenia.

Context: Fighting recently erupted in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which borders Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Although it is ethnically Armenian, after the dissolution of the USSR, the territory was allotted to Muslim Azerbaijan.  Since then, hostilities and skirmishes have erupted, though the current one, if not quenched—an Azerbaijani drone was shot down above the Armenian capital and Azerbaijan is threatening to bomb Armenia’s unsecure nuclear power plant—can have serious consequences, including internationally.  

By doing what it does best—funding, sponsoring, and transporting terrorists to troubled regions—Turkey has exacerbated if not sparked tensions.  Several reports and testimonials, including by an independent French journalist, have confirmed that Turkey is funneling jihadi groups that had been operating in Syria and Libya—including the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Hamza Division, which kept naked, sex slave women in prison—to this latest theater of conflict.

The “quality” of these incoming “freedom fighters”—as the Western mainstream media, particularly during the Obama era, was wont to call them—is further evidenced by their attempts to enforce sharia, Islamic law, on some of their more secularized hosts in Azerbaijan. 

After asking, “Why has Turkey returned to the South Caucasus 100 years [after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire]?” Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, answered in a statement:  “To continue the Armenian Genocide.”  This is a reference to the well documented massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, 750,000 Greeks and 300,000 Assyrians—a total of 2.5 million Christians—slaughtered at the hands of Turks and in the name of jihad

While Pashinyan is correct in characterizing the latest hostilities as a reflection of Turkey’s attempt “to continue the Armenian Genocide” of the nineteenth-twentieth centuries, in fact, the continuum of Turkic attacks on Armenia stretch back more than a thousand years ago, when the Turks first cleansed the Armenians from their ancient homeland, also in accordance with jihadi ideology.

Then and now, Azerbaijanis participated.  During one of the eleventh century jihads on Armenia, the great cross of an ancient church was torn down, mocked and desecrated, and then sent to adorn a mosque in Azerbaijan; more recently, after hostilities erupted, Azerbaijanis surrounded the Armenian embassy in Washington, D.C. this last summer, while chanting about jihad.

The Armenian prime minister continues:

For Turkey, however, continuing a genocidal policy is not only a means of implementing Armenophobia, but also a pragmatic task. Armenia and the Armenians of the South Caucasus are the last remaining obstacle on the way of continued Turkish expansion towards the North, the North East, and the East, and the realization of its imperialistic dream.

It is no longer merely the Karabakh issue, nor a security issue of the Armenian people. It is now an issue of international security, and today, the Armenian people are defending also international security, assuming what may be a new historic mission.

In other words, he is saying that only Christian Armenia (Georgia would be included too) stands between Turkey and some sort of unification with the many Muslim nations to its east (the “Stans,” e.g., Turkmenistan).

Certainly Turkey’s ambitions are not to be doubted.  Whether by citing history’s most sadistic jihadis as paragons of virtue and emulation, or by transforming the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, or by helping to destabilize moderate Muslim governments and slaughter Christians with its jihadi militias, Turkey’s imperialistic dreams of resuccisitating the Ottoman Empire have been increasingly on display.

The editor-in-chief of Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper, recently called for as much in an article partially titled “Turkey is a global power. Now it’s time for Azerbaijan to rise.”  After saying that Turkey had taken  “a century-long hiatus” from its “geopolitical” ambitions and its “region-builder mind that founded very powerful empires on earth,” the Turkish daily claimed that “Our aim is not to spread conflicts but to replace, reinstate what rightfully belongs to us. Our aim is to keep alive and maintain our region, our people, our resources, our identity, and belonging.”

Despite all this and as it was during Obama’s role in the “Arab Spring,” the U.S. finds itself on the side of the jihad, even if unwittingly.  “The international community, especially the American society,” Pashinyan warned, “should be aware that U.S.-made F-16s are being used to kill Armenians in this conflict.”  Because both the U.S. and Turkey are NATO members, Turkey is acquiring and using against Armenians weapons from the U.S.

And so history continues to repeat itself—in all ways.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.


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Death to Free Speech in the Netherlands - Again - Judith Bergman

by Judith Bergman

The Netherlands fails Natan Sharansky's "Town Square Test"

  • "[T]his is not just about my freedom of speech, but about everyone's..." — Geert Wilders.
  • "But for all of us it was absolutely obvious that we all wanted to live in a society where people can.... present their views... and not to be punished for this. It is called the town square test, where every person can go in the center of the town, say what he or she thinks, what she believes, to insist on their right to promote these views, and will not be arrested and will not be punished for this. And if that is possible, that is a free society. If it is not permitted it is a fear society. And there is nothing in between." — Natan Sharansky, former Soviet dissident, November 30, 2004.
  • The Netherlands is a party to the European Convention of Human Rights, article 10 of which states the following: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers..."
  • In its case law, the European Court of Human Rights has stated that Article 10 protects not only "the information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive but also those that offend, shock or disturb; such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness without which there is no democratic society. Opinions expressed in strong or exaggerated language are also protected."
  • What seems offensive is often extremely subjective.... Speech with which everyone agrees does not need protection.
  • In the light of the case law of the European Human Rights Court, which specifically protects the political speech of political actors and political campaigns, it is difficult to see how the question Wilders posed could legitimately be limited in accordance with article 10 (2). Wilders did not incite to violence, nor did he jeopardize national security or public safety or any of the other concerns noted as relevant to limiting free speech.

A Dutch appeals court recently upheld the conviction of Geert Wilders for supposedly insulting Moroccans in comments he made at an election rally in 2014. Pictured: Wilders speaks in the Dutch Parliament in The Hague on September 19, 2018. (Photo by Jerry Lampen/AFP via Getty Images)

A Dutch appeals court recently upheld the conviction of Dutch politician Geert Wilders for supposedly insulting Moroccans in comments he made at an election rally in 2014. At the same time, however, the appeals court overturned Wilders' conviction for inciting hatred or discrimination against Moroccans.

At an election rally in The Hague in March 2014, as leader of the Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), reportedly the country's most popular opposition party today, Wilders asked those present, whether they wanted "more or fewer Moroccans?" After the crowd chanted "fewer, fewer" Wilders said, "We're going to organize that."

Wilders was prosecuted and convicted in December 2016 on two counts: First for "deliberately insulting a group of people because of their race." Second, for "inciting hatred or discrimination against these people." Wilders did not receive any punishment then, nor will he now: Judge Jan Maarten Reinking stated, "The accused has already for years paid a high price for expressing his opinion," referring to the fact that Wilders has lived under constant police protection for more than a decade and still receives constant threats. Most recently, Al Qaeda issued a threat against Geert Wilders, among others. "Terrible news," Wilders called the threat.
"I was already on their hit list, already have two fatwas from Pakistan and now another call for murder from al-Qaeda. Disgusting. This has cost me my freedom for 16 years, something that I would not wish on my worst enemy."
In his reasoning for upholding the verdict for "insulting a group of people because of their race," Reinking said that Wilders' comments "can contribute to polarisation within Dutch society, while in our democratic, pluralistic society, respect for others, especially minority groups, is of great importance". Reinking added:
"Although offensive statements are protected to a certain extent by the right to freedom of expression, in this case the suspect has gone too far and is thus guilty of a criminal offense."
There was no nod to the primacy in a free society of being able to speak freely without the fear -- as in the former Soviet Union -- of being hauled into court by the state. As the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky stated:
"But for all of us it was absolutely obvious that we all wanted to live in a society where people can.... present their views... and not to be punished for this. It is called the town square test, where every person can go in the center of the town, say what he or she thinks, what she believes, to insist on their right to promote these views, and will not be arrested and will not be punished for this. And if that is possible, that is a free society. If it is not permitted it is a fear society. And there is nothing in between."
"The Netherlands has become a corrupt country", Wilders stated after the verdict.
"Moroccans who set our cities and neighborhoods on fire usually get away with it... but the leader of the largest opposition party who asks a question about Moroccans with which millions of Dutch agree, has been convicted in a political trial. Because that is exactly what this is... the judge has disposed of... freedom of expression... And this is not just about my freedom of speech, but about everyone's. I am of course glad that the accusation... in the earlier conviction, by the court, when it comes to inciting discrimination, has now become an acquittal. That incitement to hatred has not been proved either... But convicted – albeit without punishment – for group insult, in a political trial".
Wilders was presumably referring to riots that recently took place in several Dutch cities, in which young Dutch-Moroccans, among rioters from other immigrant communities, reportedly engaged in "rioting, public assault, threatening behavior and violating the emergency order put to stop the unrest".

Wilders also announced that he would appeal the verdict of the appeals court to the Dutch Supreme Court. "Of course we will appeal and we will go to the Supreme Court because the verdict and the guilty sentence are ridiculous," Wilders said.

The Netherlands is a party to the European Convention of Human Rights, article 10 of which states the following:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers...
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
In its case law[1], the European Court of Human Rights has stated that Article 10 protects not only "the information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive but also those that offend, shock or disturb; such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness without which there is no democratic society. Opinions expressed in strong or exaggerated language are also protected".

Also, according to the European Court of Human Rights' case law,
"...the extent of protection depends on the context and the aim of the criticism. In matters of public controversy or public interest, during political debate, in electoral campaigns... strong words and harsh criticism may be expected and will be tolerated to a greater degree by the Court".
Asking whether voters want fewer Moroccans in their city or country may seem, to some, offensive. However, what seems offensive is often extremely subjective. In Morocco, in May, actor Rafik Boubker was arrested for "blasphemy" for posting a video in which he told people "to make their ablution with wine and perform prayers with whiskey." The video reportedly "angered millions of Moroccans. The actor rapidly released another video, apologizing to his fans and followers for the statements".

In the Sudan, in 2007, the authorities sentenced an English teacher to two weeks in prison and deportation for "insulting Islam," because she had allowed her primary school students to name a teddy bear a common man's name there, Mohammed. Meanwhile, she was threatened with death.

Freedom of speech means the right to offend. As Sigmund Freud, quoting the neurologist John Hughlings Jackson, reportedly put it, "the man who first flung a word of abuse at his enemy instead of a spear was the founder of civilization". Speech with which everyone agrees does not need protection.

In the light of the case law of the European Human Rights Court, which specifically protects the political speech of political actors and political campaigns, it is difficult to see how the question Wilders posed could legitimately be limited in accordance with article 10 (2). Wilders did not incite to violence, nor did he jeopardize national security or public safety or any of the other concerns noted as relevant to limiting free speech.

It will now be up to the Dutch Supreme Court to determine whether it wants a "free society" or a "fear society". As Sharansky notes, "There is nothing in between."
Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

[1] Monica Macovei: A guide to the implementation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, p 16, (Human rights handbooks, No. 2, 2004).

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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