Saturday, August 12, 2023

A Sabbath thought

Most Christians celebrate the pagan day of the Sun as their holy day. They justify that by saying that Christ rose from the dead on Sunday.  But he did not.  The women found the empty tomb on Sunday morning, which implies that he rose on the Saturday.  As it says in Matthew 28:

"After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead"

So Saturday is again the proper holy day

Friday, August 11, 2023

Still hanging in there

I am still in the grip of an ailment that deprives me of all of my energy. As before, however, I am battling on and have written something for (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH), which see

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Another semi-hiatus

I am still in the grip of some mysterious illness that both gives me pain and saps me of all my energy. But you can't keep a good blogger down so I have once again written something for that I think will have wide interest

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Still ailing

Despite still being rather fragile with ill health, I have managed to write something that I think will be of wide interest. It is now up on (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

Tuesday, August 08, 2023


I am not very well today so no blogging. I hope to be back tomorrow

Monday, August 07, 2023

Using vaccines as a political weapon, U.S. military leaders have wrecked the force’s combat readiness and morale

Under pressure from Republicans in Congress, the Defense Department announced at the start of this year that it would no longer require American service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The policy change faced fierce resistance from the military’s top brass, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. In a memo sent in January repealing the requirement for soldiers to be vaccinated, Secretary Austin continued to credit the vaccine with “the many lives we saved … and the high level of readiness we have maintained.”

But critics of the military’s COVID-19 policy, including active and former service members who spoke with Tablet for this article, tell a different story. They say that the requirement for troops to receive the new vaccines, which included those with natural immunity after recovering from previous COVID-19 infections, was damaging to morale and hurt the military’s combat readiness. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has repeatedly pointed to medical data which suggests that enforcing mass vaccinations on a generally young and healthy population may have actually caused an increase in non-COVID-19 related health problems in the force, though the Defense Department has not provided him or Tablet with a clear interpretation of that data.

By the time the Pentagon announced it was ending the mandate, 96% of service members across the armed forces had been vaccinated. However, a significant number of troops declined the shots, objecting on religious, scientific, or medical grounds. Of those objectors, 8,339 were kicked out of the military, a loss that was particularly acute coming in the midst of the worst recruitment crisis in 50 years, which saw the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force all struggling to attract or retain members. The number of ejected objectors might continue to rise, as more service members who declined to get the jab are penalized for “refusing to obey a lawful order.” Many of those who were forced out, meanwhile, were given a “general” discharge rather than an “honorable” one, putting them at a disadvantage for future employment.

While a 96% compliance rate suggests general cohesion and a functioning military, the lurking reality is that a large percentage of troops who got the vaccine appear to have done so under duress. Tablet spoke with eight active and former service people for this article who come from some of the Army’s most prestigious units, as well as the Coast Guard. They paint a picture of a force that is divided and embittered and say that many of their compatriots resented being forced to take the shots against their will or even conscience in order to keep food on the table for their families. One soldier estimated that as many as 90% of his unit didn’t want to get the shots, and that many who caved now feel they should have held out for the mandate to be repealed. Another said he only knew three people in his entire platoon that got the shots “of their own volition” prior to the implementation of the mandate.

John Frankman, who declined the shot and left the Army in July 2023 after eight years of active service, including three as a Green Beret, told Tablet, “I’m getting out specifically because of the shot, even though it’s not mandatory anymore. I’ve lost out on enough opportunities, it doesn’t seem worthwhile for me to stay in.”

An Army infantryman from an elite unit who wished to remain anonymous told Tablet that he saw a senior noncommissioned officer from his unit tell a group of vaccine holdouts that they “were the reason America was in decline.” A paratrooper who spoke with Tablet anonymously said that leadership in his unit began an intense campaign to pressure soldiers to get the COVID-19 vaccines months before the Army officially implemented its mandate on Aug. 24, 2021. The paratrooper says that he heard a company commander in his unit say that he would “make my soldiers’ lives as miserable as fucking possible until they get the shot.”

They paint a picture of a force that is divided and embittered and say that many of their compatriots resented being forced to take the shots against their will or even conscience in order to keep food on the table for their families.

For the commanders, meanwhile, who were tasked with enforcing public health positions that turned out to be false, there are now concerns about reputational damage. “Soldiers know your position. You can say some untruths [and] no one’s going to give you a hard time about that,” said one former company commander. “But when you’re changing the story every week and obviously just saying nonsense because your higher command is telling you that … I saw personally that we were alienating our rank and file in a big way. We were losing their trust, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”

In many cases, commanders embraced these policies with a commitment that went beyond the zeal for enforcing Army policies that is common among junior officers, according to the paratrooper. Rather, he calls the push to make soldiers get the COVID-19 vaccine the single most “divisive and destructive” event he witnessed in the military in more than a decade of service. As he would later write in a formal complaint submitted to the Army that was reviewed by Tablet, the COVID-19 vaccination “became by far the most important issue in our brigade and in the division.” That memo continued:

In order to get reluctant soldiers to take these experimental vaccines, commanders […] were encouraged to use all manners of persuasion and bullying, and even to do things that were plainly illegal (such as denying soldiers the right to attend career-enhancing military schools based on their vaccination status).
From the military’s standpoint, the mandate was not just a matter of life and death but also of national security. If infections swept through the ranks due to troops refusing to take available vaccines, not only would that destroy morale and discipline, but it could also leave the country unable to respond to an attack or emergency.

The problem with this argument is twofold: First, COVID-19 never posed a significant acute risk to healthy young people—the very demographic that overwhelmingly makes up the military—which means the vaccination drive was, at best, unnecessary. And secondly, according to several sources, the military’s approach to the vaccines, rather than emphasizing combat readiness, was used as a disciplinary tool to enforce political conformity and punish independent thought and ideological dissent.

“I’ve seen everything from [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell] repealed to gay marriage legalized to people are allowed to put gay pride flags in their offices now,” said a member of an elite infantry unit with over a decade of service. The jarring thing, he explained, was that the same military that boasts about its tolerance became rigidly intolerant on the question of bodily autonomy and vaccines. “You can get exemptions for religious beards if you’re Muslim, you can get an exemption to wear headgear, instead of your issued hat. That’s fine. I’m all for it … If you can do the job you should be allowed to do it … But then for a vaccine that’s violating the Nuremberg Code, and all of the sudden we’re the problem, that’s what’s bizarre to me.”

Many of those who refused the vaccines did so on the grounds that the mandate violated the Nuremberg Code of ethics for “permissible medical experiments.” The first line of the code reads, “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” Those citing the code point out that these COVID vaccines had not even finished their clinical trials at the time troops were being pressured and/or mandated to take them, and were therefore being asked to sacrifice their Nuremberg derived rights. Health authorities in the U.S. dismiss that claim on the grounds that the vaccines had received emergency authorizations and were therefore not strictly “experimental.”

With two exceptions, all the soldiers who spoke with Tablet insisted that they remain anonymous—even those who are already out of the service. One former officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the Army’s legal branch, said: “The fact that I am not subject to the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice], that there is no way that they can touch me, and yet I still don’t want to identify myself, should tell you something.”

That attorney, along with several other soldiers interviewed for this article (all of whom come from different backgrounds and do not share a clear set of political views) painted a disturbing picture that went beyond concerns about vaccine mandates. Given how intensely polarized national debates around COVID became, the Pentagon’s vaccination push—even in a best case scenario—was likely to cause some dissension in the ranks. But according to these current and former service members, the policy was not the result of medical or warfighting needs. Rather, they say that the emphasis on vaccinations was part of a larger push to overtly politicize the military—one of the only institutions left in the U.S. that still retains a degree of broad bipartisan support.

It may be tempting to dismiss this account as merely the grumbling of an isolated group, but their concerns echo a larger public debate. A series of recent reports, insider leaks, and congressional hearings have highlighted the tension between the military’s newfound adoption of ideological causes and its traditional warfighting mission. Indeed, there is no real question that the military has become more ideological in recent years since the top brass, moving in step with the White House, now openly touts the embrace of progressive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies. The debate is over whether such policies strengthen the military, as leaders from Secretary Austin down insist they do, or cripple it as whistleblowers, watchdog groups, and conservative politicians have claimed.

Last October, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar acknowledged that the military uses racial preferences as a criteria for acceptance to military service academies like West Point and ROTC contracts. The crucial point in Prelogar’s argument, and one that has been echoed by dozens of senior military leaders, including in an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court last fall ahead of its ruling on affirmative actions policies in university admissions, is that engineering racial diversity is not simply a moral or social good but an imperative of warfighting. “It​​ is a critical national security imperative to attain diversity within the officer corps. And, at present, it’s not possible to achieve that diversity without race-conscious admissions,” Prelogar testified to the Supreme Court last October.

This is how the difficult and divisive questions about vaccinations—were they really necessary for healthy young people? Did the government and medical authorities misrepresent their risks and benefits?—became truly explosive. The Pentagon now treats its medical policies, diversity goals, and national security missions as inseparable if not interchangeable. That makes it nearly impossible for the military to do an honest internal assessment of how specific decisions affected the force and the nation’s overall warfighting capacity.

While the Pentagon at present may be ill-equipped to act as its own auditor, there is still a vital need for a clear-eyed assessment of how and why the military imposed vaccine mandates, and what the consequences of those mandates have been so far.




Sunday, August 06, 2023

TrialSite in the Crosshairs: NewsGuard Attacks Any Media Countering “Official Truth”

Billing itself as “TRANSPARENT TOOLS TO COUNTER MISINFORMATION FOR READERS, BRANDS, AND DEMOCRACIES,” the nominally privately-owned NewsGuard is a fact-checker and browser tool which purports to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to truthful information. This firm has come under fire from both conservative and progressive media sources for its single-minded focus on allowing only one official version of reality to be presented to the public. Recently, NewsGuard contacted TrialSite (TSN) for the second time, essentially threatening to defame the site if it fails to take down or correct specific stories. All of this occurs in the context of 1) TrialSite currently suing the Trusted News Initiative for antitrust violations, and 2) a federal judge ordering the Biden administration to quit communicating with social media in efforts to stifle the First Amendment.

This article takes a look at the ”fact checker” and finds an obviously state-sponsored entity. Notably, while NewsGuard has critiqued TrialSite for publishing stories about problems with the COVID-19 vaccines, TSN has in fact, been one of the very few willing the publish the good, the bad, and the ugly about these medical products. In other words, TrialSite is one of the few objective media specializing in biomedical and health research producing unbiased news and analysis covering a range of points of view and data sources. TrialSite’s founder brings over two decades of direct experience developing FDA-compliant systems for clinical trials for the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies; this compares to the NewsGuard health editor that has exactly zero pragmatic real-world experience not only in life sciences but in healthcare generally. Why would this group try to harass TrialSite? How about what appears as blatant attempts of censorship?

Former CIA Director on advisory board

The Federalist, a conservative media source, offered us some insights into NewsGuard in 2022. They reported on NewsGuard advisory board member Michael Hayden, the “former” Central Intelligence Agency director (many folks believe there is no such thing as an ex-spy). Hayden is quoted as saying he is “perfectly fine” with misinformation as long as it serves purposes he approves of. The ex-spook served in the George W. Bush administration and also presided over the National Security Agency during the intelligence failure that was 911; a failure of cataclysmic proportions.

He commented on the fact that he was one of 50 intelligence veterans who signed a group letter prior to the 2020 election asserting that the indisputably true Hunter Biden laptop story was actually Russian propaganda. And the laptop contents tend to show that “then-candidate Joe Biden was lying when he denied ever discussing Hunter’s business with him, ‘or with anyone else.’”

The Federalist reports that actually, Joe Biden had met with Hunter’s partners and also “stood to personally profit from his son’s potentially criminal overseas ventures.” Also, NewsGuard is, “being deployed in schools to indoctrinate students regarding acceptable news sources.” As per this outlet, the “claims of Russian disinformation surrounding the laptop were disputed by the FBI, the Department of Justice, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and the Department of State all before Election Day.”

Report from the left

From the other side of the political spectrum, all the way back in 2019, The Black Agenda Report offered more scathing critiques of NewsGuard. Billing itself as “News, commentary and analysis from the black left,” this outlet argued that “it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the US.” In one example, MintPress Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh was “informed that it was under review by an organization called NewsGuard Technologies, which described itself to MintPress as simply a ‘news rating agency’ and asked Muhawesh to comment on a series of allegations, several of which were blatantly untrue.”

Yet an examination of the fact-checker shows that it is both funded by and connected to “the U.S. government, neo-conservatives, and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy.”

The Report notes that NewsGuard was then lobbying hard to get its news site rankings “installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools, and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States.” And “Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security…is on News Guard’s advisory board.”

Mainstream media misinformation given a pass

Per this left-wing media, NewsGuard’s bias can be seen in its high marks for CNN and the Washington Post, both of which have a history of their own misinformation. For example, in 2016, CNN reported that it was illegal for folks to read WikiLeaks releases and also “illegally colluded with the DNC to craft presidential debate questions.”

This CNN-Hillary Clinton collusion was quite clear at the time to savvy media consumers. Then in 2017, CNN published “a fake story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Donald Trump was under Senate investigation. That same year, CNN was forced to retract a report that the Trump campaign had been tipped off early about WikiLeaks documents damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later learned the alert was about material already publicly available.”

And the Washington Post, “whose $600 million conflict of interest with the CIA goes unnoted by NewsGuard, has also published false stories since the 2016 election, including one article that falsely claimed that ‘Russian hackers’ had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid.” Other NewsGuard advisors included Richard Stengel, a former Undersecretary of State who called his old government job “chief propagandist.”

And he has said that he is “not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population, and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.” Hypocritically, while NewsGuard judges media firms for transparency, its own “Securities and Exchange Commission Form D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the company ‘declined to disclose’ the size of its total revenue.”

$749,387 from the Department of Defense

Further lack of transparency can be seen in the fact-checker’s “our investors” webpage. That page’s statement is, “Revenue Sources: NewsGuard’s revenue comes from Internet Service Providers, browsers, search engines, social platforms, education providers, hospital systems, advertising agencies, brand safety providers, researchers, and others paying to use NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels and associated data.”

Yet publicly available data shows a $749,387 award from the US Department of Defense in 2021. Was this to vet COVID-19 information covering for Big Pharma?

And yet another conservative source, PragerU, has pointed out that “NewsGuard is partnered with Big Tech companies (like Microsoft), Big Pharma (like the PR firm for Pfizer—the maker of the COVID vaccine), government agencies (like the Department of Defense), and even national teachers unions (like the American Federation of Teachers) ‘to combat disinformation, especially around COVID-19 and elections’ according to the World Economic Forum.

They want to control the narrative on any and every topic—from climate change, COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to elections, Planned Parenthood, and the WEF (to name just a few!).”

Military contractor

Despite its limited description of its “investors” NewsGuard does acknowledge being a military contractor. Its own site says that its purview includes, “Equipping defense and military personnel with tools to track state-sponsored narratives---NewsGuard’s analysts are experienced journalists trained to identify and track state-sponsored disinformation sources and narratives targeting Western democracies. Using OSINT [Open-Source Intelligence] methods and a thorough, journalistic approach, NewsGuard’s team captures data and insights about disinformation sources and narratives that can be used by defense personnel as an early warning system about emerging threats and layered on to existing open-source collection and analysis tools to provide an additional layer of human-intelligence insights.” They go on to state that, “In 2020, NewsGuard was selected as a winner of a contest run by the National Security Innovation Network, a joint State Department and Department of Defense group seeking solutions that would help the agencies ‘evaluate disinformation narrative themes in near real-time.’ In the ensuing project, NewsGuard’s Misinformation Fingerprints were combined with AI/ML social listening tools to monitor content containing state-sponsored mis- and disinformation and to identify state-sponsored sources publishing those false narratives.”

NewsGuard censored lab-leak theory of COVID-19

It has been noted by a US House Judiciary Committee witness that “NewsGuard and the Global Disinformation Index, both taxpayer-funded, are urging advertisers to boycott disfavored publications and direct their funding to favored ones. The organizations have been caught spreading disinformation, including that the COVID lab leak theory is a debunked conspiracy theory, and seeking to discredit publications which accurately reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop, such as the New York Post[.]” A military contractor with the CIA director on its advisory board deciding what we are allowed to hear---What could go wrong?

Finally, the chap who harasses TrialSite this time is the group’s health editor. This questionable organization’s health editor is a graduate from Columbia College in Chicago and has exactly zero healthcare experience. Couple that with TrialSite’s founder who has spent over two decades developing FDA-compliant clinical and regulatory systems for some of the largest pharmaceutical companies on the planet including a sizable Pfizer contract in 2006. TrialSite's network of experts know far more about FDA-regulated research than anything NewsGuard can muster. Plus, how can the organization hire a health editor with no pragmatic healthcare experience? Well, that tells you something else about NewsGuard. This serves as a front to protect the markets of the largest media companies, and likely, as a front for more nefarious state-sponsored censorship, although this is not conclusively proven just because a key advisory director is ex-CIA director and they get sizable DoD contracts. It most certainly smells and doesn’t bode well for democracy.